Je suis Charlie

13 01 2015

What are the limits of freedom of speech? This was the major topic of discussion tonight at AAFW in the context of the Charlie Hebdo massacre. There were at least some who suggested all speech should be free, but the discussion of incitement of groups to violence categorically defined as hate speech is generally agreed upon to be restrictable. However, offensive or malicious speech not intended to incite violence? This is where I at least draw the line.

Charlie Hebdo’s pictures were racist, and rather insulting. Boko Haram Welfare Queens was especially despicable. However, in particular, this was not the issue at hand as defined by the attackers; it was explicitly the depiction of the Prophet Mohammed . The idea that the dead deserved this is infuriating. This might be an expected reaction, but deserving? No.

This however, is a very specific issue instead of a general free speech issue. The issue is that of criminalization of blasphemy, explicitly under most interpretations of Sharia. I know that a large portion of the worldwide Muslim population disagrees with this, but a large portion do. In Saudi Arabia, Raif Badawi was recentlly publicly lashed for having a liberal website that was supposedly against Islam. In Egypt, a young man has been turned in by his own father to be imprisoned for posting atheistic comments on facebook. I am explicitly annoyed at the tenet of the faith that human images should not be made, especially images of Mohammed. This extreme iconoclastic belief has robbed humanity from our collective culture, the art and history that has been destroyed in the name of it.

This is not inherent to all adherents of Islam. Malala and her father work against such extremism in Pakistan in the name of their faith. The mayor of Rotterdam, himself a Muslim, recently said, “And if you do not like it here because humorists you do not like make a newspaper, may I then say you can fuck off.”

Blasphemy and religious defamation laws are not unique to Islam however. We in Canada still have blasphemous libel as part of the Canadian Criminal Code Section 296. Ireland has a professor of Trinity College threatening to use libel laws to prevent people from re-posting the Charlie Hebdo images.

I do not condone attacks against people, especially in the recent climate of the anti-semitic attacks in France, the Pegida march in Germany, the Boko Haram massacre in Nigeria. I do not condone the works of Charlie Hebdo. They were crass and in very poor taste. I wish to see more pluralism, and understanding between people. However, certain concepts such as blasphemy, extreme iconoclasm, and defamation of religion must be rejected, even if the others claim it is an integral part of their religion that must be tolerated. Donc pour aujourd’hui, je suis Charlie.

Harrison Gross


2012 in review

31 12 2012

The stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

600 people reached the top of Mt. Everest in 2012. This blog got about 6,300 views in 2012. If every person who reached the top of Mt. Everest viewed this blog, it would have taken 11 years to get that many views.

Click here to see the complete report.

Church Sanctioned Slave Labour

31 05 2011

Another day, another story that makes the Catholic Church look more and more like an international crime syndicate than an institution of worship.  From the New York Times:

An estimated 30,000 women were sent to church-run laundries, where they were abused and worked for years with no pay.

What did the these women do to deserve such horrendous treatment?  So terrible that it likely violates human rights laws?  Did they commit crimes that even the most liberal-hearted of people could never forgive?  No.

Their offense, in the eyes of society, was to break the strict sexual rules of Catholic Ireland, having children outside wedlock.

Once again, the supposedly moral Catholic Church flouts any sense of morality in order to keep a tight control over all things sex.  From the sheltering of child rapists to punishing women who do not adhere to the Church’s rules of sex, this institution has, time and time again, proven itself to be fundamentally backwards when it comes to such matters.  So backwards in fact that the strict rules created a climate of mistrust in rejection towards women who did not adhere to the Church’s rules.

In this climate, the shame of giving birth to an illegitimate child was so great that many unmarried mothers were rejected by their families. They were taken out of “decent society” and put into Magdalene laundries by members of the clergy, government institutions and their own families.

Even women who were raped were forced into these laundries.

Add all of that to the fact that some women were sexually abused in these laundries and this becomes less about morality on sex and more about typical patriarchal dominion over life.

What’s just as troubling is the fact that this is not a new story.  This matter came to light 10 years ago but the women are still awaiting an apology.  Why does this sound all too familiar?   The Catholic Church is not held to any responsibility except that for which it determines for itself.

The government of Ireland deserves to join in the shame for it’s complicity in these events.  Not surprising given this is the country that made blasphemy illegal.  Perhaps this should be a lesson to those who believe the mix of government and religion to be a good thing.  It seems accountability would go down the drain in such a scenario.

Let’s review; Sexual relations with children: Good.  Sexual acts – being raped included – committed out of wedlock that lead to the birth of a child : Bad.  Punishment?  Slave labour.

And here I thought the Church wanted its followers to go forth and multiply.  Obviously, this is only the case in Ireland if you meet their strict and unrealistic standards first.  Or maybe they just want to control.


What’s Wrong With The Anti-Choice Movement

28 05 2011

I wish this actually surprised me.  A Wisconsin man was charged with attempting to kill an abortion doctor.   Why am I not surprised?  Because the “pro-life” movement has never been about life.  Its aim is to force woman into a Christian-dominated patriarchy that seeks to wrap its claws around everything it means to be a woman in what is supposedly a free society.

Now, of course not all in the anti-choice movement hold onto such dangerous aspirations.  I have conversed with those who do feel this is a life issue.  However, the most vocal and well-funded are those that belong to the group described above.

The story out of Wisconsin is one we’ve heard all too often.  A strange, lone man, holding anti-abortion signs outside an abortion clinic.  The 2006 film Lake of Fire shows a common trend among those who kill abortion doctors and the description above fits that trend.

I do not believe that those preaching anti-choice rhetoric are ignorant of the impact their words have on men like Lang.  They’ve made a living out of using language to manipulate people into believing this is a battle for life when their true intent is social engineering.  They can condemn the actions of the Lang’s of the world all they want but until they admit that their words may play a role in the actions those statements of condemnation are hollow.

I want to take this space to reaffirm my allegiance to those in the pro-choice movement here at UW.  I’m not intending to name anyone but if you are reading this then you know who you are when I say that you have someone on your side that will speak out against the deplorable efforts of the anti-choice movement that frequents our campus.


Welcome to AAFW!

26 05 2011

This is the new blog for the Atheists, Agnostics, and Freethinkers of Waterloo (AAFW)! We will be filling it up with videos, articles, and other content related to atheism, religion, science, and anything else that touches on those topics.

If you want to know a bit more about who we are, please visit the About page, or our Facebook group.