Sunday, April 22, 2007

In the name of all that's supposed to be holy.

I don't do religion. I don't believe in gods or goddesses or supernatural spirits. Frankly, the whole notion of an invisible character in the sky, all knowing and all powerful strikes me as silly. For me, the greatest and most worthy of human endeavours is in the arts. True creation, fueled only by courage, curiosity and determination, art is that which truly illuminates. That being said, I do not begrudge anyone their beliefs, their idols or their gods. I recognize that the act of belief has a power unto itself and that such belief can give great comfort to those who choose to seek it.

Just the same, I recognize that religion like any powerful force can be used to do wrong. Crusades, jihad, inquisitions, all are the sins of organized religion and they have a long and terrible cost. Creatures like Fred Phelps and his lunatic enclave of inbred fanatics seek to do harm to others in the name of their particular brand of faith. With the freedoms guaranteed by secular rule, I am within my rights to disagree and speak against such individuals and organizations. Still, it would never occur to me to disrupt a service, even at Phelps Westboro Baptist. And I would certainly never stoop to desecrating his altar or destroying his Bible.

Sadly, that consideration is not repaid in kind. Jen at the News Blog reports that a group of more than 80 Christianists staged a protest against writer and monologuist Mike Daisey. As a performer, I can assure you that there is no more daunting place to be than alone onstage. When it goes well, it's all adrenaline and chocolate. When things don't click, it is a small eternity of discomfort and self-doubt. These ignorant, self righteous zealots, determined to be offended, rose en masse during Mr. Daisey's performance in Boston and began to walk out. But not being satisfied with simply disrupting the event for the artist and the true audience, they got on stage and poured water over his hand written notes, destroying them.

With their damage done, they continued to file out of the theatre and not one of them had the courage or the good grace to explain their actions or engage in dialogue with either the artist or the people in attendance. I'm sure that in their little empty hearts and heads they felt that they had struck a blow for decency because the artist used naughty words and discussed issues of the body and the bawdy. No doubt their actions were premeditated, no doubt they felt quite proud of their ignorant behaviour. No doubt these are the same sort of folks that whine and moan about the quashing of free speech when they aren't allowed to insert their faith into the lives of others and into the schools, governmental institutions and the laws of the free people among whom they live. Evidently their idea of freedom includes the desecration of art. I don't feel sorry for them but they are deserving of pity.

They chose the path of confrontation. They made a determined effort to cause harm. And they performed their callous act in the most cowardly possible fashion. If this is what they have gathered from the teachings of their Bible, then their Bible is nothing but a sham. Their faith is a lie. They are no better and little different from those that would seek to rule by their own very human interpretation of a god's word. They are no different from the clerics of sharia, I hope their god forgives them, I don't.

You can read Mike Daisey's response to and see the video of this vulgar scene at his site mikedaisey.com.

15 comments:

Proteus454 said...

(Testing, testing...and if you've already been hit by a MONDO double or triple post, I sincerely and humbly apologize)

Proteus454 said...

I've been ruminating over a few things of late, PSA, and I thought I'd take this opportunity to pick yer brain, given that you've made this post.


First of all, you state that you don't begrudge people their beliefs on the grounds that they "can give great comfort".

Dodging the obvious "So do hard drugs" retort, this seems a somewhat obtuse dismissal of the obvious - namely that yes, it can "give comfort" but it's an open question as to whether that makes it right or acceptable.

Quite apart from the fact that it basically amounts to, for example, shutting your eyes and pretending with all your might that the rabid wolf in front of you is going to wander off, there's also the point that it can and does impede attempts to improve the situation.

At the end of the day, it's all shit that somebody made up at one point or other. Is the ability to place "faith" in such things over fact and reality a virtue? Doesn't refraining from pointing out the destructive - and fundamentally nonsensical - nature of "belief" in general out of respect to the Good, Nice Believers help lend a sheen of credibility to those who think (for example) they have a divine imperative/mandate to be horrible to others?


There's also the curious caveat "THEIR Bible is nothing but a sham". I'm aware that different printings and editions exist between different flavours of Christianity, but surely enough is the same to conclude that they and the Good, Nice Christians are using the same book. In fact, really, it IS the same book. Same message et. al.

Why, once again, the deference and caution? And why the assertion "Their faith is a sham"? Why assume that "faith" is By Definition A Good Thing when such is clearly not the case?


I guess what I'm trying to ask, overall, is this. You seem to be a non-believer of the "Moderate" variety, given to the puzzling and frankly lagomorphically bisecting assertion that Faith that doesn't involve sparkly love is Notfaith. That despite all evidence to the contrary, the whole-hearted and closed-minded assertion of the existence of the invisible is perfectly acceptable and makes sense IF the invisible commands humanistic behaviour.

*shrugs helplessly* What's the dillyo?

Anonymous said...

still lame

Grog said...

Proteus:

Just what religious faith do you know of that advocates being rude and insensitive towards others?

That wasn't religious discussion, that wasn't religious advocacy - that was at the very least an act of rudeness, an attempt to shout someone down.

Why? Well they won't say.

In some respects, the nature of the disruption almost approaches assault.

How "christian" of them.

...and no, I don't expect their faith to be all "sparkly bits"...but they have no right to impose it upon others in such a disruptive, rude fashion. (At least with Fred Phelps, you know you'll hear him)

theo said...

Anonymous said...
still lame

Oh I'm anonymous,
Oh yes I am,
I trolls the internet,
For days on end,
Commenting here,
And commenting there,
Calling folks names,
Though seldom with flair,
Bitching and moaning,
It's what I do best,
Intelligent commentary...
I leave to the rest.

pretty shaved ape said...

proteus, what i'm trying to find is the balancing point between freedom of expression, belief and autonomy. i'm pretty selfish about my understanding of what is important. and just as i will fight tooth and nail to follow my own ideas and ideals, i have to allow that others won't share those ideas and ideals. i refuse to allow others to impose their beliefs on me and i would feel pretty crooked denying others their beliefs, regardless of how daft they seem to me. that is, up until the point that the beliefs of others unjustly infringe on the freedoms of anyone else. there's an awful lot of gray in these issues and not much precision. when my mom was in the final stages of her cancer, she returned to the faith of her childhood and i hope that she found some small comfort in the words and ideas of that faith. at a certain point it doesn't matter if it's real or true or shit that got made up. if a placebo works and does no harm, why would i object?

what matters to me is how one acts upon those feelings and ideas. when i said that "their bible is nothing but a sham" it is not a condemnation of the book itself but rather the book as filtered through the humans reading and interpreting it. some of the most wonderful people i've ever known were devout in their beliefs. my non-believer's survey of the major religions leads me to the conclusion that most faiths start at roughly the same place, a guide to living for social animals. and while i don't believe in god, i do recognize that over the course of centuries, much of the wisdom housed in the various articles of faith ring true as that, guides to living. don't kill, don't steal, forgive. all valuable lessons. when i say that their faith is a lie, it means that what they do in the name of their faith is corrupted by the human impulse to control others. i am not a theologian but my lay understanding of christ's teachings center on things like judge not and do unto others. if you and i were to assemble a gang and disrupt a mass, pouring the sacramental wine over the only copy of the bible in the church, we would deserve all of the condemnation heaped upon us.

the people that attacked an artist at his work, made an intentional show of their judgement. they acted in a large group, abandoning charity for that judgement. they were perfectly free to never experience the artist or his work. they were free to express their disdain in civilized fashion, they could have written letters to editors, preached to their fellows, hell, they could have picketed the theatre. all reasonable and protected forms of expression. instead they formed a shock troop, frightening an author and intruding on the freedoms of the rest of his audience.

bottom line, it doesn't matter to me what a person believes in, what matters is how they behave, how they treat others. the virtue comes not from the belief but from the exercise of that belief in civil society. the bisecting point is when one espouses a set of teachings and then acts in a manner contrary to those teachings to the detriment of others. i'm no philosopher, but i hope that helps to clarify my point.proteus, what i'm trying to find is the balancing point between freedom of expression, belief and autonomy. i'm pretty selfish about my understanding of what is important. and just as i will fight tooth and nail to follow my own ideas and ideals, i have to allow that others won't share those ideas and ideals. i refuse to allow others to impose their beliefs on me and i would feel pretty crooked denying others their beliefs, regardless of how daft they seem to me. that is, up until the point that the beliefs of others unjustly infringe on the freedoms of anyone else. there's an awful lot of gray in these issues and not much precision. when my mom was in the final stages of her cancer, she returned to the faith of her childhood and i hope that she found some small comfort in the words and ideas of that faith. at a certain point it doesn't matter if it's real or true or shit that got made up. if a placebo works and does no harm, why would i object?

what matters to me is how one acts upon those feelings and ideas. when i said that "their bible is nothing but a sham" it is not a condemnation of the book itself but rather the book as filtered through the humans reading and interpreting it. some of the most wonderful people i've ever known were devout in their beliefs. my non-believer's survey of the major religions leads me to the conclusion that most faiths start at roughly the same place, a guide to living for social animals. and while i don't believe in god, i do recognize that over the course of centuries, much of the wisdom housed in the various articles of faith ring true as that, guides to living. don't kill, don't steal, forgive. all valuable lessons. when i say that their faith is a lie, it means that what they do in the name of their faith is corrupted by the human impulse to control others. i am not a theologian but my lay understanding of christ's teachings center on things like judge not and do unto others. if you and i were to assemble a gang and disrupt a mass, pouring the sacramental wine over the only copy of the bible in the church, we would deserve all of the condemnation heaped upon us.

the people that attacked an artist at his work, made an intentional show of their judgement. they acted in a large group, abandoning charity for that judgement. they were perfectly free to never experience the artist or his work. they were free to express their disdain in civilized fashion, they could have written letters to editors, preached to their fellows, hell, they could have picketed the theatre. all reasonable and protected forms of expression. instead they formed a shock troop, frightening an author and intruding on the freedoms of the rest of his audience.

bottom line, it doesn't matter to me what a person believes in, what matters is how they behave, how they treat others. the virtue comes not from the belief but from the exercise of that belief in civil society. the bisecting point is when one espouses a set of teachings and then acts in a manner contrary to those teachings to the detriment of others. i'm no philosopher, but i hope that helps to clarify my point.

wicket said...

"If this is what they have gathered from the teachings of their Bible, then their Bible is nothing but a sham."

So, Ape, is that the only conclusion you could come up with? Gave it a lot of thought, did you?

Ti-Guy said...

God save us from the holy-rollers...

Good thing I wasn't there. I'd have kicked their arses.

pretty shaved ape said...

you have a point to make wicket? please show us the wealth of your thought on the matter.

wicket said...

Your statement categorizes a book as a "sham" based upon the rude and abusive behaviour of a group that purports to follow its teachings. Is it not possible that the book itself is not to blame,but that the individuals themselves should be held responsible for their choice to act in the manner they did?

aweb said...

If it wasn't for the water pouring, I could see this as a valid form of protest against something. Buy tickets and leave in "disgust" as some point...that's not a terrible thing to do. It might be slightly disruptive and rude, but as protests go, that would be tame. It even helps support the artist with a lot of ticket sales and publicity. If that was all that had been done, I wouldn't see the problem at all. But not even stopping to say what it is that you are protesting against...that's just weird and immature. Someone must've noted that they would sound like total idiots if they actually said, out loud, that they are objecting to foul language. Of course, they ended up looking like idiots anyway, but when you're staging a silly protest against a one-man stage show, there's not really a way to avoid this.

I wonder if this group has ever gone into a strip club, paid the cover and the required drinks, then left enmasse when the nudity started. Or maybe they buy DVDs with bad language and silently throw them in the trash later, thereby boosting sales. Those protests would make about as much sense...

Oh, and Wicket, you may want to actually read the comment PSA made above (the long one). Something is said that fits almost exactly with what you just noted.

Anonymous said...

"Good thing I wasn't there. I'd have kicked their arses." -- Ti-Guy

I just bet you would have, Ti-Guy. Brave, brave Ti-Guy. I bet you are a man to be feared.

Ti-Guy said...

Thank you.

pretty shaved ape said...

um, anonymous, you need to work on a new line. the brave, brave thing is a little tired.

wicket, please read the comment above. in the interest of brevity, the bible itself is just a book. sometimes poetic, sometimes wise. it is the book that mother theresa followed but it is also the book that jim jones, david koresh and fred phelps have used. the book is not the villain. that is why i said that THEIR bible is a sham.

to a certain degree the bible is a vessel, some choose to fill it with spite, others with compassion. those that choose to use it to do harm make their bible a sham and their faith a lie.

had i wanted to condemn the book itself i would have said THE bible...

pretty shaved ape said...

hmm, wicket be a cricket. shocked i am not.