Friday, December 24, 2010

Christmas Special: fides non virtus est.

Today's thoughts:

First of all, while re-reading some of my posts I noticed that my ideas are quite rapidly evolving - absolutely a good thing, but it does look funny on such a polemical blog where I viciously argue why I'm right and then immediately alter my position. For example, I said in 'The Trials of Atheism' that I disliked the term "atheist" because it implied such certainty - that there WAS no divine. "Agnostic" seems better because it admits you can't know either way.

But I've changed my mind on that one, and here's why: since there is no evidence for a supernatural, to be religious requires actively augmenting your understanding of the world with faith. Atheism is the default position - it requires no leap of faith and thus is the legitimate position (I'll get to why faith does not constitute legitimacy - that's what the article proper is about). To put it another way: agnosticism is the victim of the golden mean fallacy, claiming that both theism and atheism are of equal validity and thus we should mediate between them. But atheism does not insist that there is no god - instead, gods are not among the things that atheists believe exists. They simply haven't augmented their worldview with unsubstantiated faith.

This leads very neatly into the main point I wanted to make - that faith is not a virtue; it is instead one of the most significant, and thus dangerous, fallacies that we humans can make. Faith is not simply limited to religion, though - in fact, faith is what makes religion the blight that it is. I would say that I have no problem with religion itself, but faith and religion are so inextricably bound up that they are essentially one and the same.

It's important to make a distinction here: between faith and belief. Whenever one criticises faith, it is retorted that everything is based on belief regardless of your religiosity, and that to criticise theists is to ignore your own unsubstantiated position. Here, faith and belief are taken to be interchangeable (which theologians, in an absolute master-stroke the likes of which have never been repeated, have convinced us all are a beautiful expression of spirituality). But they are not interchangeable and are instead quite distinct.

To believe in something is to think it true, based on available and skeptically-examined data - when the data changes, your belief changes with it. A belief doesn't have to be correct, it simply has to have evidence supporting it (even if this is "scientists have found that..." - skepticism allows you to reasonably believe what a scientist says, even though being a scientist does not automatically make someone right).

To have faith in something is to think it true, because you think it's true. It really is the ultimate in existential arrogance - to claim the existence or non-existence of something based solely on whether you deem it to be so. Faith can change, obviously, but here the motivation is one's own whims rather than external evidence. Godwin alert: Faith is just as much about claiming that the Jews are a threat to the Aryan master race as it is about religion. If it's unsupported by evidence and motivated by subjective forces rather than external ones, it's faith.

Consider: you see a ball being put in a box. Or hell, someone tells you there's a ball in the box. You now believe that there is a ball in the box. You don't have to be right, but you still have sufficient reason to believe that. On the other hand, if you simply see a box and decide there is a ball in it - that is faith. You've no reason to believe it other than what you have yourself decided. One of those is a legitimate worldview and the other is not. Here's why:

Faith, as the ultimate in subjectivity, requires no justification. It is a strongly held belief that receives no verification and no constraints, and thus is license to declare whatever you want to be true. Encouraging people to believe, and thus do, whatever they want is diametrically opposed to society; faith is the antithesis of civilisation. We have laws which we apply to everyone, because we acknowledge an objective reality in which we all interact. We (ought to) have leaders who aim to have the best understanding of reality, so that they can make the best possible decisions. Faith denies all of that.

Yet it is trumpeted loudly as the greatest virtue, theologically speaking. Those without it, let alone those who deny it, are lacking spiritually and apparently lead deeply unfulfilling lives. As I said before, this is the master-stroke of theology - to take the weakest aspect of religion (ie. it being wrong) and making that its selling point, THEN to attack those who call bullshit. It's like stoning to death the kid who pointed out that the emperor wasn't wearing any clothes.

Moderate theists (I refrain from saying "believers" given my earlier distinction) will often claim that it's wrong to point to all the extreme examples of religion since there are so many loving, peaceful religious people who properly understand God's message. Faith, for them, is not about violence and subjugation, but rather kindness, joy and inner peace. Their's is the "right kind" of faith. Except... when you attempt to give faith any kind of legitimacy, you give ALL faithful legitimacy. If you say that whatever you believe is right, then suicide bombing or honour killings or even goddamn genocide are all right. The moderate who justifies their religiously conservative lifestyle with faith is ultimately no different to the extremist who justifies mass murder with faith. The moderate certainly gets no moral high ground over the extremists - any promotion of faith enables extremism and self-justifying violence.

The second reason faith is such a detriment to society is the necessary compartmentalisation that goes on in the minds of the faithful. Because it is not possible to maintain completely rational, skeptical thought AND maintain faith, the faithful must suspend the former to preserve the latter. This opens them up to all kinds of manipulation because if something is presented under the guise of faith then it will slip past that person's rationality. This is how we get perfectly normal, loving people who vehemently oppose gay marriage. It's how people throw their money at blatant religious scams or join dangerously insane cults. It's how we get WWII, the Cold War and all its proxies, all the genocides of the past century and the Age of Terror in which we now live.

It's, ah... it's not so good.

TL;DR - Faith is promoted as a wonderful thing in today's society, when it can only ever be an enabler for extremism, violence and manipulation. If you want to make a good person do bad things, use faith. Suspend their rationality - tell them that it diminishes them as a person - and they are at your command.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

A Further Refutation

...of the Brain in a Jar hypothesis (ie. the Matrix theory).

Some may not have been swayed by my discussion of Descartes and the nature of objective reality; they could well claim that even if there is such a reality, it would be beyond the perception of and thus irrelevant to the BiaJ. And quite right they are that such a brain would not experience the objective reality but would instead perceive an entirely subjective reality.

So where does the relevance of objectivity come from? Well, apart from the fact that we could plausibly be brains in jars, what evidence is there AT ALL that this is in fact the case? Similar to the Truth as Opinion post below - just because something is plausible does not make it true. Especially when there is, by definition, not a shred of evidence to support it.

Furthermore, so what if it is ultimately revealed that the world we experience is in fact psychologically engineered? Without the evidence to support such a claim and with it instead wholly pointing towards our perceived reality (remember that this is evidence, not conjecture) as the true one, we should rationally accept that we experience the true reality. It may turn out that the skeptics are right, that the true objective reality is beyond our perception, but we currently have as little reason as they do to believe this is the case. Namely, none.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Opinion ≠ Truth

Today's thoughts:

As one might say in an unnecessarily obscure reference, "hey guys what's going o-BLARGH!". My politics exam is in three days and thus I've found it necessary to contemplate all aspects of life except political theory.

One observation that has cropped up a lot seems to be the implicit assumption that the truth is a matter of opinion. In mainstream public discourse this is never overtly stated - no one says "there is no objective truth, we are all the gods of our little solipsistic universe, let's pack in all this interaction and just use our psychic powers to create the universe that is perfect for just ourselves". No one says that. Because it's retarded and demonstrably untrue*. However, we give creedence to this suggestion when we allow opinion, as a standalone concept, to enter our enquiry into truth - whether it's specifically religion or simply any supernatural, unscientific concept.

This is particularly demonstrable in our understanding of history. "History is written by the victors", it is often said and this is doubtless true. However, what many people mistakenly take from this aphorism is the idea that it is the past itself, rather than humanity's cataloguing of it, that is subjective. The past happened: it is solid, immutable fact. We can see this from the causal effect it has on later events, right up until the present (if you're a determinist, you keep going into the future). If the past was fluid there would be no tangible present, because there would be no foundations for our current reality.

Yet this is exactly what is implied when people reject scientific analysis. We don't (and indeed, can't without time travel) know for sure what happened in the past, but that doesn't mean it didn't happen. Evolutionists have pieced together our best understanding of the origin of the species based on observable evidence, but still creationists believe that their opinion is more worthy because anything else conflicts with their beliefs. What monstrous arrogance. Yet we validate this when we give them equal time in a discussion. We promote the virulent idea, and this is one that is rapidly spreading in just such a fashion, that belief is just as valid as evidence. We're implying that there is no truth, no reality and this implication is itself nothing but the beginning of a slide into the misery, despair and suffering of another Dark Age.

Actually no. It's maybe two-fifths of the way into such a slide.

*(Rejection of subjective reality) Descartes sought to find just one utterly incontrovertible truth, and believed that with this anchor he could draw further truths about reality. Whether or not he was successful in the latter endeavour, he certainly found his ultimate truth. "I think, therefore I am". Inescapably, you exist. Even if you live in a Matrix-like world where your every perception is in fact carefully engineered and not objective at all (Descartes imagined a demon in this role, existing as he did before psychotic self-aware computer systems) you cannot get past the fact that to experience this engineered reality you must still exist. To exist there must be an objective reality, even though you may never experience it. QED.


Saturday, November 6, 2010

Emotional Revisionism

Now I'm happy. There's no accounting for taste.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Emotional Voyeurism

Somewhat against my better judgement, but otherwise with a dearth of creativity, I've decided to log my recent emotions and psychological tropes. It's a chance to break the mould, despite the fact nearly every post I've written has been breaking the mould I've already set myself. I should point out at this juncture that my current mood is uniformly negative - this glumness is no doubt what's motivating this post. Still, it's never been more apt to say...

Today's thoughts:

- Lonely. Quite apart from Anna's absence (we shall get to all the derivative emotions of the Annabsence shortly) I've found myself rather alone over the past week. There've been one or two people whose company I've enjoyed greatly, but other than that I've simply not seen anyone. Most people are too busy and the ones that weren't cancelled on me anyway. This absence of interaction is really not good for me.

- Friendless. Having recently spent an excellent night of revelry and debate with my best friend, I was shocked to reflect on our discussion and realise that he is in fact a Burkean conservative. This may not matter (or even mean anything) to most but it's really shaken me - I'm a passionate altruist and am thus genuinely unsure of how to connect with someone who's so vehemently against changing the status quo. Stupid? Petty, even? Doubtless, but it's still getting to me days later.

- Ennui (it's not an adjective but fuck it). I currently find myself damned to relentless purgatory, where a combination of friendlessness, fatigue and obligation to study have prevented me from really doing anything. That's not to say I've actually achieved any study - I'm just trapped at home trying to convince myself I'm a diligent student. When there really, truly is nothing to do all day, a kind of listless yet nagging feeling sets in and effectively puts a kibosh on enthusiasm or interest. Nothing can hold my attention for more than about fifteen minutes (I'm typing quickly). As a result I've become obsessed with finding something to do, such that I find myself blogging at 4am rather than sleeping (which is stupid, because sleeping is the most efficient pastime there is).

- Bereft. Anna has for two or so months been on a magical mystery tour of world, while I've been diligently studying (ha!) at home. This has been fantastic for her, obviously, and even rather good for me - it's reaffirmed just how passionately I care about our relationship. However, I got over that reaffirmation roughly one month ago and am now just feeling miserable. Studies done (and then reported about on show that love - that ethereal thing - acts much like an addiction and time spent away from its object actually causes withdrawal-like symptoms. So that's my excuse.

- Jealous. This has quite markedly never been an aspect of our relationship - to the extent where people feel moved to comment on and even encourage it. It's just never been a problem... until now (dun dun dun!!). I assume this is just a derivative of the bereft-ness, but I'm really lashing out against any strangers I see her meeting or acquaintences I see her making. I don't like it and I'm desperately worried it might become a permanent fixture. Fuck.

- Sexually frustrated. Really don't need to explain this one, but it's got to the stage where other people's sex lives piss me off. Even just oblique references make me fume, and this guy's really not helping.

That's it for my mope. I am unapologetic - sometimes it's good to get your anxieties out into the world. Isn't that what psychologists say? Advertise your emotional vulnerability through the most public medium possible? I'm pretty sure that's right.

TL;DR - I have emotions. In the finest musical tradition, too many negative ones have compelled me to share them with an unprepared and unwilling audience.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

For the thinking man on the go.

Someone pointed out to me that my excessively long posts would be greatly improved by the inclusion of a TL;DR feature. I agree entirely, and shall start retconning immediately.

I just hope the TL;DRs don't turn out longer than the posts themselves...

Thursday, October 14, 2010

The Trial(s) of Atheism

Ok, first of all I haven't blogged much at all recently. You know how it is.

Now, today's thoughts:

Few things irritate me more than commonly accepted and unquestioned assumptions. Hell, just assumptions in general. Basing key beliefs and arguments on entirely unverified and unexamined claims is complete anathema to me and what kills me is that no one seems immune to it. Atheists are key offenders here - not by the volume of their transgressions but because they should know better, especially my heroes like Richard Dawkins (Christopher Hitchens, though, seems better at this).

With this in mind, I've created a list of basic assumptions and oversights atheists tend to make, especially because it's important to understand ourselves properly when debating theists. Otherwise, we risk looking so ignorant of our own position that we'll just be dismissed out of hand and cmon... that's the theists' job.

1. Who are we?
This one is quite often taken for granted, not without some justification. We're atheists, after all. Everyone knows what atheists stand for. We don't believe in God or a supernatural - it's not too hard a concept to grasp, it it?

But this isn't necessarily the most satisfactory definition. Ever since I became "atheistic" I've preferred to call myself agnostic because I felt that such certainty in the non-existence of the divine was itself a kind of unsubstantiated faith. I've stopped that now, mostly because it's just easier to say atheist but also because I've learned that this is the way the vast majority of atheists think as well.

The problem is that the name implies a certainty that we just can't back up. We might be able to prove beyond doubt the falsity of Christianity or Islam or any other number of religions, but we still have no way of proving the non-existence of a divine (by its very -supposed- nature). This is something that theists pick up on when they say "atheism is a religion too" or "atheism requires just as much faith as religion", and because we're unaware of this contradiction we don't understand what they're talking about and just ignore them. They think we can't answer and claim a victory. No one wins.

I think we need to be clearer in defining what atheism means, whether it's to each other or when it comes up with theists. A good article I read the other day basically said that atheism is a silly moniker since it simply refers to a *normal* person. Here, "normal" means someone who hasn't augmented their understanding of the world with delusions - we do not, for example, call people who don't believe in leprachauns "a-leprachaunist". I can see, though, that "atheism" is a useful name for separating those who aren't theists from those who are. We just need to specify that this is what we stand for, and not let our opposition assume we're simply antagonistic hypocrites.

2. Why are we antagonistic hypocrites?
I've brought this up before but I'll go through it again. Everywhere you turn you can see examples of atheists mocking theists with patronising laughter and derogatory comments, as if their delusion marks them as inherently flawed, irrational and imperfect beings. Surely you can tell by my last adjective there that I'm gearing up to say: so is everyone. Everyone is delusional to some extent, everyone acts and thinks illogically and it is UTTERLY hypocritical to assume that atheists, lacking this one delusion, are infinitely better than theists.

So what's the problem with religion, then? I'm an aggressive, anti-religious atheist yet I claim that their delusion is simply one of many. The issue with religion is that it is inherently illogical and inherently destructive. Illogical because not only is the suspension of rationality and reality essential to maintaining faith, but the more a person is willing to embrace this delusion, the more they are held up as a paragon of faith to be emulated. Destructive because until God or any divine being comes forward and reveals their divinity properly, our only religious instruction comes from those who claim to speak for God. These people now wield unaccountable and authoritarian power over devout believers and I hardly need to list all the myriad examples of where this goes wrong. I couldn't, anyway - they are as numerous as they are microscopic, for the most part.

However, this new, unpatronising atheism does not entail accommodation or compromise. You may have noticed I still used to word "delusion" throughout that paragraph, even though nearly every theist would find that offensive. In our debates - even our arguments - with theists, we should be polite, clear and not become smugly complacent on the intellectual high ground. This does not mean, however, that we must be careful not to offend or upset. Our very position already does that - it's our starting point. We cannot be afraid, out of such a fear, to avoid calling things what they are. A delusion is a delusion, and pretending otherwise only waters down the discussion and compromises our own position.

Stand strong and be fair.

3. Where does morality come from?
Here is a theist trope that crops up again and again: atheists are immoral because without God there is not source of morality. Atheists know this is preposterous; after all-

If you are a good person just because of what may or may not happen to you in the afterlife, you are not a good person.

Atheists are genuinely interested in morality for its own sake, particularly the aggressive ones. It's their motivation for being so aggressive in the first place. Going deeper, evolutionists can point to morality being a series of evolutionary traits ensuring the continuation of the species. We can all see why "don't kill members of your own species" is a particularly good way of ensuring there will still be a species.

But a question remains from this: whose morality is correct? People kill, despite that evolutionary trait. Who is to say that they are wrong? It is actually impossible to give an airtight, concrete answer as to why we should adopt a certain system of morality - or maybe it's not impossible, but it has certainly eluded us and will continue to for some time. We can say that people can feel harm and suffer, and as a result we should not inflict harm and suffering upon them (this is certainly the basis of my personal morality). But this is based heavily on the empathy we feel at such pain, and ultimately there's no good reason why we should follow this except out of choice.

Straight away, theists have found and exposed a big hole in atheist philosophy. We can immediately see the appeal of religion here - God is the source of morality. That is all the justification that is required. Where atheists lack a root and an anchor for their morality, theists need only look as far as their god, and it is from this distinction that atheists are called out on their morality. And you know what? I really don't have a good answer. It is one of most poignant and pressing issues of atheism, and yet it is so often brushed aside as a theist's desperate stab at their own atheist strawman.

This is one reason why it is so important not to feel inherently superior - by dismissing anything said by theists out of hand, we ignore their valid criticisms and only weaken our own position. Not just in the eyes of our opponents, but within ourselves as well.

4. Why this obsession with dividing people?
Now for the most part, atheists aren't at the forefront of dividing people into groups. But they do go along with it, and in doing so risk fracturing the atheist position. I'm referring principally to the creation of the "New Atheist" subgroup, into which controversial, aggressive atheists like Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens (yes, I do know more than just those two) are seconded.

Everyone knows the maxim "Divide and conquer" and it is especially relevant here. Look at how fractured theists are, yet they are still far, far stronger than us. We cannot afford to be divided amongst ourselves, yet more and more I'm seeing criticisms of "Gnu" Atheism from other, more passive or accommodating atheists. By allowing ourselves to be siphoned off into that group, we've damaged the legitimacy of the aggressive atheist position. People can just say "oh, he's not passionate or rational - he's just unreasonably angry like all Gnu Atheists".

It would take far to long to go through every reason why atheists are justifiably angry, and as Greta Christina has done a bang-up job already, I'll just link to her instead. But it's also important not to mistake an unyielding passion and a willingness to offend for simple anger. Though Christina herself calls it thus (and shows why anger is a legitimate and important response) it is too easy a word to just dismiss along with the person it's applied to. They're offensive because they're angry, not because they have valid but challenging arguments to make. They're motivated to act by anger, like immature children, not because they care passionately about humanity and the individuals who comprise it.

TL;DR - Simply declaring oneself an atheist does not absolve one of critical thinking. There are plenty of assumptions atheists make and they urgently require our attention, lest the movement devolve in smug hypocrisy.

Thursday, September 2, 2010


Stolen from XKCD, obviously.

TL;DR - It's a comic.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

That's a wrap

Today's thoughts:

It's definitely time to wrap up this whole determinism thing, but before I leave it I just wanted to pitch some quotes by a smarter man than I, Richard Taylor. These are from his article "Freedom, Determinism and Fate".

"Every single philosophical argument against the teaching of [determinism] rests upon the assumption that we are free to pursue and realise various alternative possibilities - the very thing, of course, that is at issue."

Translation: Every argument against determinism is necessarily based on determinism being untrue to begin with.

"Metaphysics and logic are weak indeed in the face of an opinion nourished by invincible pride, and most men would sooner lose their very souls than be divested of that dignity which they imagine rests upon their freedom of will"

Translation: Arguments against determinism come from our enormous pride in our free will, NOT from logic or science.

So there. It's an excellent article but I can't find any free links to it.

The second point I wish to address arose from listening to Tim Minchin's song "Ten Foot Cock and a Few Hundred Virgins". While a brilliant song (so, so brilliant) the thing he says at the start really irritates me. More so because I would have expected more from him, of all people. Basically, he rather patronisingly suggests any "religious people" leave the room because it is about "anal sex and God". Which it is (God bless it).

What pisses me off is the self-satisfied tone of his voice which is matched by the laughter, or snicker, of the audience. This is what being a smug atheist is all about - lumping all religious people together as a bunch of fucking retards. I think I've made it fairly clear on this blog that I dislike religion a lot, and that I will actively try and limit it's impact on society. Furthermore, I think that remaining religious shows a lack of critical thought and a wanton suspension of evidence. But that doesn't make them lesser people or even less intelligent. They're lying to themselves and ignoring empirical evidence, for the most part more than atheists. But that doesn't make atheists innocent of this kind of delusion, simply innocent of it with regard to religion. This is where I get infuriated with their self-aggrandising arrogance and in-jokes.

That said, there ARE such people out there who are stupid, loud, proselytising, arrogant, deluded, violent and most of all hateful. And believe me, given the chance I would curb-stomp those motherfuckers into next week.

And it will be glorious.

Secondly, we're really not going to make friends this way. Really. Atheism as a movement is a lot like feminism - the only way it's going to succeed is by converting (deliberately bad word choice) the opposition. Religious people are already defensive in the face of unbelief - I know this first-hand because I was one of them. It's disproportionate and I really have not been able to explain why. The obstructively cynical would say it's because they know deep down they're wrong, but fuck those people.

The point is, people like music despite how glaringly insipid/crass/tasteless it might appear to the rest of us, but shoving those facts in their face won't change their minds. Justin Bieber is a prime example of this (not that I'm comparing religious types to impressionable hysterics with unhealthy perceptions of love) (/hypocrisy). So let's be a bit nicer, a bit less hypocritical and we'll all reap the benefits as people open themselves to rationalism and respect for people as people.

Good night!

TL;DR - Arguments against determinism are based on unsound argument and monstrous arrogance, rather than good logic/science. Also, atheists shouldn't act like they're inherently superior to theists, just because they've freed themselves from one more delusion.

Monday, August 9, 2010

And another thing...

Today's thoughts:

I realise I didn't quite finish my post about determinism last week - I got a little distracted by semantics and trailed off about halfway through. I had two points I wanted to add to that post but I can only remember one of them.

No wait, I totally just remembered the other one. OK - here's a different way of looking at determinism. Think back to a past event (a major event is probably easier here) and look at all the factors that brought it about. The past is concrete, and we can observe how all those factors brought about that event. Determinism simply observes that at any given moment, all those factors exist - it is just the event itself that has not occurred. The present (and therefore the future) is as concrete as the past. We simply do not have hindsight allowing us to observe those factors.

Second point: determinism is irrelevant! Yay! We might not have free will, but by and large that doesn't really mean much. As I've already said, it's not like fate where one event is pre-decided and will occur no matter your actions. Determinism simply says that your actions are decided by the past and will decide the future. Furthermore, the human mind may not have free will but it is still conscious. Enjoy that! It's nigh-on impossible to comprehend all the determining factors that influence your mind and since most of them are subconscious it's not really worth worrying about. Determinism simply disproves superstitious notions like fate, "true love" and divine intervention - just like common sense does.

It's been a long day at work and I can't really think how to end this post, so I'll just bow out. But everyone should go and listen to "Secret Alphabets" by Kasabian.

TL;DR - Just because we can't see all the factors that determine an event doesn't mean they weren't already there, and thus immutable. Also, who really cares if we don't have free will? We're still conscious and that, surely, is what's important.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

These are pictures I've taken from the comments on FSTDT, and they are so wonderfully apt for the internet that I've decided to share them here.

Determined person, free of will

Today's thoughts:

I have a confession. I am a determinist, unflinching and unapologetic.

While determinism (i.e. a belief that every action, decision and happenstance are determined causally by prior events) might seem an excellent excuse to grope people at parties, I've learnt the hard, painful way that this only works on other determinists. Who are drunk.

So rather than keep digging that hole, here is an examination of free will from a determinist perspective. Free will suggests that I am able to do anything with my mind (not telekenisis, you nonce, but think anything or imagine anything). However, this rather broad statement is immediately punctured by some causal truths - such as the fact that I can only act or think based on my surroundings.

Acting based on environment is obvious (I can only sit on a chair if there is a chair to sit on, etc.) but I understand that thinking would be altogether more controversial. Consider this, however: try to imagine a totally new colour. Not a new shade, but a totally new colour. It's not possible, is it? Now imagine a shade of, say, blue that you haven't seen before. Might be hard to remember all the shades of blue you've seen but it's still possible. This is because:

The mind can extrapolate but it cannot be original.

The new colour example might seem a bit off - I mean, colour is reflected light and we perceive that light only in a limited range, so new colours are not physically possible. But that's exactly my point - our environment, our surroundings, have shaped and limited our minds.

Looking slightly closer, even if I don't have the capacity to imagine anything, I at least have the free will to think and act as I wish, albeit limited by my environment. Surely? Well, consider the way in which environment (be it past or present) influences your free will. Examine your thoughts and where they have come from, and you will see that they are all built on the foundations of previous thoughts and experiences. I can trace the lineage of this very essay back to thoughts I had years ago when considering to what extent criminals were a product of their upbringing. Again, this is because:

The mind can extrapolate but it cannot be original.

The thoughts about criminals and upbringing were themselves based on previous thoughts or experiences, and so on. The big debate between nurture and nature is itself wholly subsumed by determinism, since either one has taken place in the past and is therefore irreversible (time travel and associated paradoxes notwithstanding). I cannot begin to imagine all the minute details, flickers of thought and barely noticed experiences that have shaped my mind and this is a very important point in itself: the human relationship between the macro and the micro.

The macro is what each individual sees and comprehends around them. We each have a very good relationship with the macro because it is the world as we see it. It follows, then, that we have an extremely poor relationship with the micro - that is, the world around us that we do not see. It seems very obvious to say that humans use superstition to fill the gaps between the macro - that is what superstition is - but it is far more widespread than you may think and is used to justify belief in just about any logical inconsistency.

Fate and karma are big examples here. You may think that fate and determinism are synonymous, but in fact determinism obliterates the idea of fate. Fate operates under a kind of waypoint system, where a certain event is fated to happen regardless of what transpires up until that point. This "logic" is often used in time-travelling stories, where the protagonists know they must cause *some event* to happen in the future and set about making it happen. It doesn't matter that it's happening differently to how it originally did: as long as it happens, everything will stay the same.

This is completely ridiculous, if one looks even a little bit closer to examine to micro (sorry to beat you over the head with my made-up terminology). Consider every single minute implication of doing things differently. The world you end up in is very different to the world you left behind. Ultimately, fate implies a series of predermined waypoints that will occur regardless of how a person acts. This is examining only the macro - one event that we notice (say, meeting a spouse or winning a lot of money) is deemed to be fated and the rest simply ignored. But to look at the micro, to examine the minutiae of every action and occurrence, will reveal that it only happened due to prior circumstances (you met your spouse because you were in the same place at the same time - what events led you there? What events led them there? Etc ad nauseum).

Karma, you will find, is even more ridiculous. Not only that, it is entirely self-centered. It presupposes that every event is the result of careful planning on the part of the universe especially for you. Every single person is simply a mindless actor whose entire existence hinges around your actions. I mean, look at it - either everyone has free will which justifies karma but makes it impossible to implement (how can karma use someone if they have free will?) or we have no free will (to facilitate karma) which renders karma pointless.

But people will continue to believe in these things, both from an unerring human aura of self-entitlement and self-centredness as well as from only examining the macro, the readily and unthinkingly observable in the world around them. A short exercise in logic, to examine one's presuppositions and consider that which is not immediately apparent, shows these to be false. As it does for nearly every other superstition out there. Humanity can only benefit, and benefit hugely, from the widespread adoption of micro-examination. Let's get to it, people!

Just to finish on a lighter note, here is a thought I had a few days ago but didn't get around to posting:
If you hold in a fart too long, can it become hiccoughs? Cos.. cos that happened to me.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Today's thoughts:

Ok, this is a quick distillation of the THREE HOUR DISCUSSION I've just had with a couple of girly friends when I crashed their girls' night. We'd argued, loudly and drunkenly, for hours about whether ultimately "religion poisons everything".

In the end, everyone except me and Grace bailed on the discussion (only sheer bloody-mindedness kept me going) but we managed to boil down our cases to a basic two-premise logical argument. At that point, we realised we pretty much agreed.

My argument:
P1. There is an aspect of the human psyche which means that invariably people will inflict/proselytise their beliefs onto others
P2. The infliction of belief on others is a fundamental cause of human suffering
C. The holding of belief is a fundamental cause of human suffering (ie. poisons everything)

It turned out that Grace only disagreed with my first premise, in that she didn't believe INVARIABLY beliefs are inflicted on others. I could have kept arguing but I think it was a time for hugs and reconciliation.

I'm happy :)

Monday, July 12, 2010

Heart of Darkness

Today's Thoughts: (has my formatting changed? Like, did it used to be a lower-case T in "thoughts"?)(Is it retarded to say "lower-case T" but make the T upper-case? These are the thoughts that keep me awake at night)

First of all, I thought I'd write a bit about my prose style. Despite the fact that it makes perfect sense to me, I can entirely understand that it would read to most people as a garbled, convoluted mess with clauses being inserted where has no clause has ever been designed, or desired, to go. Also, the sentences are really long.

The reason for this, mes amis, is once again the way my brain works. I simply write the way I would speak, and that entails a lot of pausing and inserting in bits of information that I feel are relevant to that exact part of the sentence. For this reason, my favourite bits of punctuation are hyphens, brackets and ellipses... as I'm sure has become obvious.

A measure of deeper introspection that I undertook yesterday revealed that the reason I insist on adding these clauses is because I have an almost paralysing fear of being misunderstood. When I'm talking to someone about something important I'm crippled by the fear that should they misinterpret what I'm saying, regardless of whether I later clarify it, the damage is already done. For this reason I'm constantly trying to erase variables in my words and provide a solid foundation of understanding in what I'm saying, as I'm saying it, as it occurs to me. Needless to say, my speech gets very stilted and frankly I think writing is a better medium for me since it allows me to consider my words.

Now, on to today's topic. This one gets extra spacing to separate it from the above paragraphs because it's super important. Or, well, super grave. Last night I finished a detective novel I had been reading on and off for some time. It was a combination of life in Venice and the usual gritty cop stuff - this time prostitution, human trafficking and sex slavery. Feel-good stuff that might have stirred anger and revulsion in me, but is what you expect in thrillers these days (jaded Western consumer that you are).

What I didn't expect, could never have anticipated, is the sheer horror to which the last few chapters were devoted. Without going into the greatest detail (the book is called A Venetian Reckoning by Donna Leon, if you want to read it)(don't) the plot was revealed to concern the creation and distribution of snuff films, including a soul-defiling description of the filming process. I was so revolted I literally threw up - nothing spectacular, just a reacquaintance with dinner in the back of my throat, but the anecdote still stands.

Having not slept, there are various lines of thought that have visited me, and it seemed relevant to bring them up here like so much veal schnitzel. I can't completely remember the minutiae of my thoughts, but the broad topics are as follows

Censorship: Should I have not read the book? Was it better for me to remain ignorant and unthinking of this horror (there really is no other word for it) than to have the knowledge of the world but also the sickening feeling of despair and impotence? And given that the book was from my old high school's library, are there places where such literature should not be made available to the general populace?

Armed with hindsight, I think reading the book was the right thing to do. While I would rather not have done so, if I had been actively given the choice it would have been nothing short of cowardice to refuse. A cowardice born of the futile, ineffectual and self-destructive - but entirely human - desire to view the world as we would want it to be rather than how it is. As for the school censorship, I honestly believe that the book should be included and even promoted. Nothing shakes a private schoolboy's smug sense of self-entitlement like graphic depictions of third-world living, gang rape and the grotesque desecration of the human spirit for profit. Or maybe it wouldn't... that is even more horrifying.

Action: The investigation of the book is centred around the murder of three prestigious businessmen, who it later turns out are the ones who place the orders for and distribute the snuff films. The murderer, when she is apprehended, reveals that she was an entirely complicit member of their people-smuggling/prostitution business. However, upon seeing one of the films she realised that these three people must die. Change through the system is ineffectual and as a result success is far from guaranteed. So the question is: is violence permitted in order to serve the cause of humanity?

FUCK YES IT IS. Jesus, it's more than permitted - it should be expected. We can sit around - all any country does is sit around - and talk about how awful it is that Congos or Bosnias exist, and (to paraphrase the game Far Cry 2) cluck our tongues and send our next tax-deductible donation. Sometimes, we'll even take action. We'll impose sanctions, as we did in Iraq, or allow peacekeepers to protect foreign nationals, as we did in Rwanda. But it is a fallacy that you can always achieve change through the system. Perhaps in some cases you really can, eventually, but the suffering we are tolerating in attempting to reach this wet and idealised belief in pacifism is simply beyond what is humanly and humanely acceptable. There is a difference between those two, incidentally.

Voltaire said "All men are guilty of the good things they did not do".

Muse best summed up this feeling with their two songs
Butterflies and Hurricanes - this is directed at the individual. It is up to them to "be the best" and "change the world".
Take a Bow - this is directed at the perpatrators of any crime against humanity. Put simply, "you will burn in hell for your sins".
Also, Hysteria provides some good additional material, since the film clip is pretty much a snuff film it itself.

Finally, Anna has just turned up and declared that "Heart of Darkness" is an excessively melodramatic title for a blog post. So! a justification of that. Upon completing the book last night, all I could think of was Kurtz's dying words from Heart of Darkness - "The horror, the horror". I thought I understood what he had seen in humanity's heart of darkness. If that sounds melodramatic (and it kind of does to me, now) then maybe you should read A Venetian Reckoning after all. You'll... you'll understand.

Thursday, July 1, 2010


Sex, for better or worse (usually worse), is objectifying. I remember reading that and feeling offended by the sentiment, but I've come to realise that it's quite true. Sex is a physical pursuit and it is not intellectual stimulus that you are seeking. You can be attracted to someone's mind - pretty much what relationships should be based on - but for sex itself the mind is not an overly important feature. More of a hindrance, if anything.

I've just then come to the conclusion that this is probably because we were having sex before we'd invented higher reasoning. The two simply aren't connected, at least at a conscious level.

Back to the ad, I think the real issue here is that "objectifying" and "misogynist" are considered to be synonymous. Jane Caro again picked up on this, pointing out that this ad was clearly a fantasy and that almost everyone would see it as such. Sexy women being sexually attractive do not hurt the cause of feminism; they're simply a fact of life and frankly they make it rather pleasant. What is truly insidious in the media is the portrayal of women's minds, or at least their behaviour.

Take porn magazines, for example (I've only ever read Anna's - I went from zero to internet porn pretty much instantaneously). Pictures of boobies and vulvas (although vaginas get a good look-in too. These things are pretty much gynaecological periodicals) by themselves are not misogynist or unfeminist. However, the text that surrounds the picture is a grotesque mockery of male/female interaction and it is this that is so damaging to gender equality.

A hot naked chick by herself is only going to leave the "reader" sexually satisfied, whereas a paragraph on how manly it is to fuck all the chicks you can as roughly as possible with no considersation to their physical/emotional wellbeing, with a supposed woman affirming this, is going to massively shape someone's understanding of gender relations. Even a well-adjusted adult would find it hard to resist being lured into the magazine's persuasive (read: macho) tone, and female agreement renders the damage almost irreversible.

This is probably the main reason I love the film clip for "Destination Calabria" (apart from the fact that it's AWESOME). Other film clips, particularly rap videos, depict gender relations and they are almost invariably misogynist, depicting women as entirely under the thumb of men. Moreover, the more women a man has the more man he is. However, Destination Calabria doesn't do that. It just so unashamedly shows sexy women being sexy and it doesn't make me feel like subjugating women at all.. it makes me feel really good and just that little bit more appreciative to the whole female gender.

So there's the problem, in summary. It is not the sexual objectification of women that is damaging, but the affirmation that there is nothing more to a woman than sexual objectification. This extends to nearly every portrayal of gender in the media - it's not the portrayal itself but the implication that there is nothing more to that gender.



Oh, and today's thoughts: (I'm too frustrated to get my post in the right order)

Having watched an excellent episode of the Gruen Transfer tonight, I learned that they were doing a special report online regarding portrayal of women in the advertising industry and with little else to do at 3 in the morning I went and watched it. I'm currently... (checking) ... 10 minutes in and already I've been moved to type out a new post due simply to the comments of the guest panel member, Melinda Tankard Reist.

I can't remember how they pitched her, but she's essentially your run-of-the-mill feminist - nothing too crazy, though they did presciently sit her next to Todd rather than Russel. For those who may take offense at my apparently casual linking of "crazy" and "feminist", you know what I mean. Anyway, all they've done is play an ad with sexualising content and then discussed whether it's ultimately sexist or simply an undeniable facet of the advertising industry (the two are far from mutually exclusive).

However, Melinda keeps bringing the conversation down with unconsidered and self-absorbed comments. For example, the first ad they've played is a rather crass affair from Lynx (should we expect anything less?) in which seemingly endless numbers of bikini-ed women fight tooth and nail to get to a man who has recently sprayed himself with Lynx deodorant. I'll discuss my own impressions of this ad later on, but for now a run-through of what she has said.

Firstly, she believes the ad portrays women as "mindless, hyper-sexualised robots" with no consideration for their "inner beauty", and secondly she derides the ad as misogynist because it only portrays sexy women. Interestingly, the best refutation of this came from the other woman on the panel, Jane Caro. She pointed out, quite rightly, that all this ad is is a sexual fantasy. However, she didn't particuarly elaborate on this so I'll take that up myself:

People are attracted to attractive people. That is the point of attractive people. Every single person finds different things attractive but ultimately most people have a very similar idea of what is attractive. The reason for this is that there are a number of biological responses to physical attractiveness (here's a full article) that exert a powerful influence on the mind. Humans are biologically wired to want sex, and they are biologically wired to want sex with an attractive mate (to bring about healthy babies!).

On a more psychological (don't let that term fool you into thinking that any scientific psychology will be applied here) level, everyone wants to be attractive. We desperately, desperately want our gender of preference to find us physically attractive and go to great lengths to achieve this. Speaking as a man, women seem to have a supreme advantage in the fact that they can actively be attractive, whereas if a bloke is deemed attractive it seems to be an accidental or passive affair and anyone who actually tries is a "sleaze". Maybe I'm just bitter about my mediocre looks...

But that is all this ad is setting out to achieve (and it does achieve it) - presenting a product to a man that will make him physically attractive to women. Sexy women, too. So the sales pitch is twofold

1. Buying this product will get you sex with biologically attractive women and
2. Buying this product will make you physically attractive, just as so many men wish they could be.

That is damned good advertising and I can only commend Russel for having the balls to admit that he really liked this ad.

Part II

Friday, June 25, 2010

Everything within the state, nothing without. Also games. Lots of games.

Today's thoughts:

Today has not been a day for independent or original thought, since I have been preparing for my Politics exam. It is very important to me to do well in this exam, and to prove how well I connect a desire to succeed with actual study, here is a list of all the things I did instead of studying:
Played on guitar
- Bassline from The New by Interpol
- Henrietta by the Fratellis
- Thick as Thieves by Kasabian
- British Legion by Kasabian
Played on piano
- The Pink Panther by Henry Mancini
- Easily by Muse
- Hysteria by Muse
- Futurism by Muse
- Kids by MGMT
- Random improv
- Pussy by Rammstein
- Haifisch by Rammstein
Games played
- Oblivion
- Medieval: Total War
- Deus Ex
- Minesweeper (oh god, so much Minesweeper)
- Solitaire
- MS Pinball
- Hearts (these last four were when I almost studied for a bit)

However, some study must have happened because I learned stuff. Totalitarianism differs from authoritarianism in that the latter only seeks or manages to control the government. Totalitarianism seeks to control society, from arts and culture to the hearts of minds of the populace. Furthermore, while Fascism, Nazism and Stalinism are all totalitarian philosophies, the USSR in the post-Stalin era was not totalitarian but simply an "authoritarian bureaucracy".

Elements of a totalitarian regime, according to Friedrich and Brzeznski, are
- single party system, usually with a single leader
- ideology promoting the creation of the "new man"
- terroristic state police
- inwardly directed economy (desire for autarky or self-sufficiency)
- state control of media and aggressive use of propaganda

Deus Ex truly is an excellent game. Despite the archaic graphics, the world it creates manages to be entirely immersive and believable. It is set around 2052 and while democracy still exists it has withered and corrupted; the people are dying of plague; terrorism is rampant and the government's response has eroded individual freedoms. You play as a nanotechnologically-augmented agent, a prototype in a world where mechanically-augmented humans are common but considered freaks. The game questions whether democracy is inherently flawed and corruption inevitable, whether augmented humans are the next evolutionary step or simply the destruction of the individual and whether terrorism can be justified in the pursuit of liberty. I highly recommend it if you can get a copy of it.

Oblivion is excellent also. Truly a beautiful work of art as well as a compelling gaming experience. But goddammit. They introduced a levelling system which had not existed in previous titles, the idea of which was to make enemies and treasure in the game improve as the player improves so that there is always a challenge. However, the result is that there is no tangible improvement in the player, and if you don't work really hard to exploit the game then enemies will soon become far more powerful than you. The levelling of treasure and items ruins any semblance of immersion the game offers, which is kind of the point of it. Bethesda Softworks, lift your game. Also, thankyou for lifting your game in Fallout 3. I'm looking forward to New Vegas.

Did you know, I deliberately have not bought Red Dead Redemption so that I might possibly pass at least one exam (also, it's apparently the most misogynistic game ever) but my capacity (or rather my burning, unremitting desire) to seek constant stimulus means that this was an empty if noble gesture.

That's it for games. Sorry, that's where my thoughts have been.

Oh, Toy Story 3 is great. If children are all as cute as Bonnie I may reconsider my blanket ban on any children within a 20-foot radius of me at any given time...

Thursday, June 24, 2010

It's a Rammstein kind of day

Today's thoughts:

Neitzsche devised (or consolidated, at least) the philosophy of nihilism which bases itself off the principle that there is no intrinsic value or meaning in existence. To me, this is quite demonstrably correct but it seems more of a starting point than the focus of an entire philosophy. Philosophy necessarily starts from the premise that "God is dead" because how can a lover of wisdom believe that which is demonstrably untrue?

I like the word "demonstrably".

Rammstein's videos are all watchable, but some are more watchable than others. They can be divided into three categories:
Supremely watchable Includes videos such as Haifisch, Ich Will and Pussy
Reasonably Watchable Includes videos such as Du Hast, Sonne and Mutter
Watchable Includes videos such as Ich Tu Dir Weh and Links 2 3 4

I do not argue against the existence of a God or gods or any other conceivable higher power when I say that "God is dead". Instead, I mean that God in a Judeo-Christian-Islamic sense cannot be taken as literally true - even if there is a higher power, our contemporary understanding of it is based on interpretations of a series of books that were written and compiled by people as a means of explaining their own existence in a frequently hostile and inscrutable world. This is all readily apparent simply by objective reading.

This is not to say that all religious texts are evil - there are some passages that are quite humanitarian and indeed form the basis of our own legal system. However, once you start to pick and choose from a religious text the passages that suit you best, you cannot possibly accept that as an objective reality. You can persuade yourself otherwise, and many do, but ultimately you are simply describing the reality you would like to live in, not the one you do live in.

Reflecting on a discussion with Anna as to whether female feminists are entitled to sometimes hate men. We agreed that it was understandable but I felt that it was counterproductive to the feminist cause. Anna felt that this was irrelevant as not everyone can be a political entity at all times and that sometimes people have emotions.
The overwhelming perception of feminism (among men, at least) is that it is comprised of bigoted man-haters who blame men for all problems experienced by women/all of humanity ever. This has some basis in fact but in no way represents the huge majority of feminists, yet it sticks in people's heads because it is so exceptional and noticeable. As a result, the cause of feminism is set back by alienating so many potential supporters.

If a woman has had a bad experience with a man/men, and chooses to blame ALL men for this, this is understandable. However, from a feminist perspective, should she be expected to move beyond this and create a more realistic, inclusive viewpoint? In my belief, she definitely should. First, to do otherwise is contrary to the definition of feminism. Second, if a woman cannot be expected to be bigger than her personal prejudices, then we cannot expect the same from men. If neither side refuses to meet the other halfway and set aside personal feelings instead of shared ethics, nothing gets achieved. Feminism will never achieve anything meaningful until men become feminists too, and if some of the most vocal feminists are those who openly despise men then we cannot expect men to sign up under their flag.

Till Lindermann is a really excellent individual.

Love is there for everyone. Hate is there for those with an excessive preoccupation with themselves.

Feminism really needs a name change. It's hardly an inclusive and egalitarian title for a movement whose entire purpose is to be inclusive and egalitarian.

Name change and existential repurposement...

Having done nothing for a while, and not been particularly happy with what I've done so far, I pondered the existence and purpose of this blog. I love long, thought-provoking blogs (see Blag Hag and Jabberwock) and wanted to create my own, on the entirely cavalier assumption that words would flow from my fingertips with the same ease and grace as they appeared to from my idols. This proved untrue.

But then I realised that the most likely cause behind this was that my mind simply works in a different way. Namely, it's all over the fucking shop (the layman's term is hypomania) and as a result, my thoughts never quite consolidate themselves into "ideas" because I'm always three thoughts ahead of myself. Incidentally, that wiki article makes hypomania sound like a really great thing to have but in my case it has only ever brought me grief. Sod it.

Thus my blog has been repurposed, hopefully to the delight of all: I'm simply gonna list all the random thoughts I can remember having throughout the day, and maybe even show my train of thought for the general amusement of all. Here goes...

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Or not.

Fuck no. I've totally changed my mind on having nothing to write about, because I just visited Jack Chick's website. And on this website was a wonderful little pile of excrement called "Is Allah Like You?". Needless to say, Jack's writing about Muslims here and thus needless to say, it's a wild ride of wife-beatings and heavily-implicit racism. However, it is also surprisingly well versed (HA) in Qur'anic verses.

Since my favourite Chick-critic Jabberwock is busy reorganising his site and thus hasn't recently done any of his vaunted Chick Dissections, I thought I might give one a whirl. The main problem here is that J is funny and I am not, but I think you'll find that Chick's works are hilarious by themselves.

So prepare thyselves for "Is Allah Like You?"

Procrastination (from the other side)

Case in point - having written the French essay I've now not posted anything here in days. I'm even stymied for something to write now. Hmmm.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010


You know, it really is amazing what a motivated blogger one can be when one is staring down the barrel of a French culture essay:
Me: "Be cool, man! You're only 800 words and about French popular music!"
Essay: [in a Southern drawl that is inexplicably also French sounding] [Cajun?] "Shut it you varmint - git back to blogging"

I'm simply worried that we've all got off on the wrong foot - me with my hit-the-ground-running criticisms of religion, you the reader with your absence of readership. So here are some happy pictures to make us all feel good:

Hey cmon, man. We're trying to move away from all that name-calling. How about something a little friendlier?

That's better. Heh heh, this one never gets old - it's like a philosophy major in 500x625 format.

And this one, too. More of a psychology major, I guess, since it forces you to examine what the FUCK possessed Disney to come up with someone like this.

Hey man, easy. We're moving away from all this stupidity God, that really is a facepalm. My soul hurts.

That would explain it. Let's move onto something that we can all agree on...


And now for an explanation.

Thought it might be worth explaining why my URL has the word "fasiq" in it, and what that weird squiggly thing at the top of the page is (it's the Arabic for "fasiq").
Fasiq: One who is disobedient or rebellious to God.

C'est moi! I've read other definitions that describe it as "one who knowingly and flagrantly disobeys God's laws" and the modern Arabic translation is "punk". Hmm - am I cool enough to be a punk? Let's stick with the first two definitions.

Also, please don't get the impression that I have some vendetta against Islam or Muslims (despite the fact that I use their word for agnostic and my very first post was defending the mass offending of Muslims worldwide) - I have a beef with religion and religious totalitarianism, and it must be said that there are currently many more prevalent examples of Islamic totalitarianism to be incensed by.

However, the whole Christian fundie movement (especially in America, but I have to be careful not to insult the American guy in my Politics tutorial) is capable of really really infuriating me too - Fundies Say the Darndest Things is a masochistic ritual I engage in regularly to remind me why people shouldn't be allowed to inflict their opinions on other people. Seriously, fuck them (par exemple).

Just to get the ball rolling...

As a first post, I thought I'd recycle some old opinions of mine. This is what I had to say on Facebook in response to criticism against Everybody Draw Mohammed Day.

People will always be offended by something; it is inevitable. Take the depiction of sexual activity (whether it's actual porn or just a sex scene in a movie) - here is something that will offend MANY people due primarily to their religious beliefs. Should we thus remove any depiction of, or even reference to, sexual activity from society just to appease these people's puritanical sensibilities? Is morality, or even just societal ethics, to be dictated by the most-offended person? So a Muslim might be (again, *might* be) offended by my depiction of Mohammed. I am offended (and I genuinely am) by the implication that as a result, I may not depict Mohammed. Why does their offense trump mine?

All this arguing is moot, however, since that is NOT the point of Everybody Draw Mohammed Day. The point is not to say "hey everyone, let's take advantage of our right to free speech by deliberately insulting a certain faith". You want to read that again?? That is NOT the point. Everybody Draw Mohammed Day exists because certain extremists believe that they can threaten and coerce us into following their dogmatic view of the world. It exists as a means of saying "we are not scared of your threats, and will not let fear prevent our right to free speech". This all came about due to the controversy of South Park's episodes 200 and 201.

There is a large backstory to this controversy. Early in the show, in the episode Super Best Friends, Mohammed is part of a team of super heroes made up of the prophets from various major faiths (in which case, surely it would be offensive NOT to portray him?). Anyway, no one cared or thought South Park had done anything offensive (plus he had the power of fire.. bitchin). This was, however, before the Jyllands-Posten controversy which I freely and vehemently state was a deliberate and racist attempt to provoke the reaction it did, in order to create backlash against the Muslim community. The reaction, however, caused a swell of fear throughout the Western world and it became taboo to portray Mohammed (purely out of fear - effective terrorism much?). When South Park again tried to portray Mohammed in Cartoon Wars Part 1 and 2, they were censored by Comedy Central, despite the fact that the episodes were about standing up against fear and coercion while AT THE SAME TIME saying that we shouldn't offend people's sensibilities just because we can. This was a repeated but much more focused theme of episodes 200 and 201. In response to the implicit (but never explicit) depiction of Mohammed in 200, both the show's creators and Comedy Central received death threats (and there was recent speculation - not sure how accurate - that the Times Square bomb scare was targeting Comedy Central). As a result, even mentioning the name Mohammed was censored from 201 and Kyle's final speech (even though it didn't mention Mohammed once) was bleeped out. Due not to the "offense" of the Muslim community (were they offended?) but instead to the violent and extremist fundamentalists who believe that anyone who doesn't agree with them must die (that truly is the sensibility of Qutbist extremists).

To summarise: I will not refrain from acting simply out of the fear that it will offend someone. Invariably I will and it is counterproductive to both society and human experience to worry about doing so. That said, there is little justification in acting simply to be offensive - it serves only to harm and displays a worrying sadistic streak. Everybody Draw Mohammed Day, while it may offend some Muslims (though I think to claim they'll all be offended is a little maternalistic and patronising) is about standing up to those who threaten us with violence on account of dogmatic religious beliefs which we do not share. THAT is why I will be drawing Mohammed on May 20.

As it happened, I didn't draw Mohammed on May 20. I got utterly sick and tired of all the bickering and unpleasantness that it evoked that I sat it out. In fact, my post on Facebook, with words to that (but more profane) effect, was what made me think I should get a blog. You live and learn.