I guess free speech is okay until someone gets hurt, huh?

Seems as if everyone is falling over themselves not to offend those twitchy Muslims these days. The latest casualty in the rising free-speech death toll is the annual festival of satire in Valencia. I didn’t know anyplace had an “annual festival of satire”. Sounds like a swell idea. Of course, this year, censorship has kicked in hard, which is bitterly ironic, since such a thing seems to negate the very purpose and function of satire.

According to the linked article, this festival has been going on for four centuries — clearly one of Europe’s many fine long-standing traditions — and, in it…

giant sculptures of the high and mighty are placed in the streets for the public to mock before being destroyed in an orgy of gunpowder and flames. It has survived attacks by the Roman Catholic church, various puritanical rulers and the Franco dictatorship.

Well, it looks like it isn’t surviving Al Qaeda and its wannabees. Guess which figures of the high and mighty won’t be publically mocked this year. If you said anything to do with Islam, go to the head of the madras.

You see, our fine turbaned friends have figured out something very special and important in terms of controlling behaviors and tearing down freedoms. All you have to do is threaten extreme violence, then occasionally follow through on it, and people will go all cowardly and lily-livered on you faster than you can say “Allahu akbar!” Of course, what you’ll end up with is a global reputation as a gang of psychotic, hair-trigger lunatics, which will be the sort of outrage that can only be answered with even more reactionary violence. But in the end you’ll get what you want: entire populations cowering in fear, terrified even to say “Hi, how do you do?” for fear you’ll whip out your AK or trigger that explosive vest your mom knitted you. For all the decadent West’s bleating about its precious “freedoms,” it’s obvious they’re all too willing to check them at the door when faced with the thought that you might just go bugfuck and blow them up, right, Muslim brethren?

Note the phrasing used by the mayor of Valencia in his not-too-veiled warning to the festival: that artists should “temper freedom with a sense of responsibility” when referring to religious subjects.

This, translated, means simply “Don’t dare do anything to piss off the Muslims, because we all know how they get!” Congrats, mayor, in one fell swoop you’ve neutered your 400-year-old festival, given religious radicals exactly the kind of control over your culture (and minds) they’ve always wanted, and sent the world an unambiguous message: Religious terrorism works!!!

I wonder how long it is before the Christian Right in this country catches on?

PS: If you’re Muslim and reading this: Mohammed can eat my balls!

The Christian Fantasy

In a recent forum debate with a Christian, the subject of the “burden of proof” was raised and the frustrated Christian was complaining that it seems “unfair” that Christians should bear that burden simply because they’re making the claim. Don’t atheists bear a burden of proof? Shouldn’t they have to disprove God? Don’t “both sides” bear the burden of proof?

While he eventually agreed with my explanation, he was still unwilling (unable may be more accurate) to provide any evidence to support his claim. He then made an accusation intended to impugn my character…which backfired. Trying to get back to the burden of proof issue, I asked him to provide evidence or argument to support the Christian fantasy.

Realizing that I had just made my own claim/accusation, I thought I’d give him an example of how one actually defends a position. Enough people enjoyed the following that I thought I’d post it here, as well. Without further ado, my defense of the position that Christian religious beliefs are fantasy…

Fantasy: an imaginative or fanciful work, esp. one dealing with supernatural or unnatural events or characters.

Any story with unicorns would be considered fantasy. Does one need to prove that unicorns don’t exist in order to relegate them to the realm of imaginative or fanciful? Of course not. Stories containing unicorns are fantasy until unicorns are demonstrated to exist.

The same is true for stories with magic (supernatural, not prestidigitation). Do we have to prove that magical spells that allow one to become invisible or fly don’t work in reality? Of course not. Stories with supernatural magic are fantasy until such time as supernatural magic is demonstrated to exist.

Does a story have to be entirely imaginative or fanciful to qualify as fantasy? Of course not. Portions of the Harry Potter books take place in England, a real place, and involve many mundane items and characters we witness in daily life (beds, fireplaces, castles, etc.) Thus, the reality of some portion of a story has no bearing on whether the story is classified as fantasy. (The common examples is that Spider-Man lives in New York and the reality of that place infuses the story with a “sense” of reality, but those elements don’t take Spider-Man out of the “fantasy” realm.)

Does a story have to be predominantly fanciful to qualify as fantasy? No. If someone were to write a book (and I’ll bet someone has) that had an ordinary schoolgirl in the real world, who had a unicorn as a pet – the book would be on the fantasy shelves even if everything except the unicorn were mundane. Thus, any story which contains a single fantasy element could be fairly classified as a fantasy.

Do religious stories, which certainly include fanciful, supernatural elements typically get exempted from the fantasy category? Yes….but only by the implied fiat of believers. We are trained to generally afford religion a “hands off”/”special category” respect that it simply hasn’t earned.

The Ancient Greek gods are now considered fantasy and mythology, because almost no one considers them to be real. Stories of druidic magic are considered fantasy by anyone who doesn’t believe in druidic magic.

As no supernatural claim has ever been proven true (and anyone who can do so will earn a quick $1M – oh, and they’ll completely change the world we live in, more than any person in history), those who believe in the Christian religious stories are no different from those who believe the Hindu religious stories, the American Indian religious stories, the ancient Greek/Celt/Roman/Norse religious stories…or those who believe druidic magic is real.

The Christian religious stories contain supernatural elements that would be described as magic by any non-believer (creation, parting of a sea, virgin birth, resurrection, walking on water, water to wine, multiplication of food). The fact that believers prefer to label them miracles is largely irrelevant, as religious miracles are supernatural.

This alone supports the idea that Christian religious stories can be classified as fantasy. Add in giants and other fanciful creatures, and the claim is strongly supported.

Just as we don’t have to disprove unicorns and “Expelliarmus”, we don’t have to disprove the claims of the Bible. Until they can be demonstrated to be true, they fall in the same category….