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Aug 22 2012

Bacon sparks hate crime investigation in NYC & thougtful discussion at FTB

There’s a lot of wacky claims made by religion and the jihad against bacon, sweet salty innocent bacon, is one result. FWIW, I like bacon, I think bacon tastes good on everything including ice cream. But some wayward bacon left in a New York City park before the Muslim holiday Ramadan raised concerns over religious intimidation:

WaPo– The Staten Island Advance said the message was left Tuesday on a reporter’s voicemail. The caller said “It was not any … anti-Muslim act, and I did not want to offend anybody.”

The NYPD is investigating the incident as a possible hate crime. It was informed of the call but declined to discuss it. Three packages of bacon were found Sunday in a section of the New Dorp Beach park. Muslims are barred from eating pork because pigs are considered unclean.

I’m not sure why Muslims and Jews aren’t supposed to eat pork. But I used to date a vegan body-builder who told me every day that not only was meat unhealthy, she came from a culture with a religious belief that human souls could be in the animals and therefore slaughtering and eating them was murder most foul. There are other spiritual beliefs that human souls could be in other animals, in some cases even plants and inanimate objects. Before you decide those are esoteric cough-foriegn-cough beliefs, any belief where a specific place or object is haunted by ghosts might fit that classification.

As atheists go I’m a live and let live kind of godless guy. Which is to say I’m not an atheist activist outside of these virtual pages, for now — not that there’s anything wrong with that! Like anyone else growing up in the era of astrology and Reagan’s America, I’ve been around wacky beliefs all my life and have come to tune them out to some degree. They only really bother me when they’re hurtful to people who don’t buy into the theology underlying the belief, they only worry me when they build up enough social inertia to be forced onto the rest of regardless of how we feel.

So, for example, if there was a government mandated ban on eating meat because there might be souls in the animals, or a moratorium on using a certain kind of lumber because great Aunt Betsy spirit might be living in the trees, that’s worrisome. Those beliefs are not usually hurtful, they certainly don’t have the kind of political popularity here in the US. No harm no foul.

But the belief that human souls are magically implanted into a certain kind of microbe the moment sperm meets egg does cause harm and it is backed by the most powerful nexus of religion and politics on earth. So if you believe in that particular kind of magic, that’s fine. Sing it from the rooftops. Don’t use products derived from blastocysts, don’t use forms of birth control that interfere with fertilized eggs implanting, feel free to serenade the rest of us with your religious beliefs on sidewalks and street corners.

But the moment you decide it’s a great idea to force these beliefs onto the rest of by the power of the Small Government State apparatus regardless if we share them, stop and think how you might feel if a group of Hindus took over your city council and criminalized barbecue. Because you know damn well, the second a bunch of Hindus outlawed meat, or the minute some Wiccans said you can’t cut down a  tree in your yard no matter what, because it’s murder, you would scream repression, you would howl about your religious liberty being infringed at the top of your lungs, and you would transform into an internet Constitutional scholar faster than Optimus Prime turns into a truck.

10 comments

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  1. 1
    jamessweet

    Side note on “sweet, salty innocent bacon”: Pork is probably (at least IMO) the least ethical meat to eat, especially if you are getting it from US factory farms. Pigs are freakin’ smart, like dog-level smart. And on top of that, in US factory farms they probably have it the worst of any other animal barring laying hens. (And I don’t care all that much about the hens because, you know, I don’t think they are that smart…)

    That said, I’ve basically gone back to eating pork, despite having tried to avoid it for so long. Pigs are smart, fascinating creatures…. but the poor bastards just taste so damn good. Sucks to be them. :(

  2. 2
    richardelguru

    When I saw the hed I wondered what Kevin had done that was so awful.

  3. 3
    Gregory in Seattle

    So we have reached a point where absent-mindedly forgetting your groceries behind is a hate crime? Un-fucking-believable.

    As for why the prohibition against pork, anthropologist Marvin Harris proposed in , Pigs, Wars, and Witches: The Riddles of Culture that it was because the Middle East is a terrible place to raise swine: they territorial animals and are not suited to a semi-nomadic lifestyle, they need mud (and thus water) to survive the heat, and as omnivores, they need a large variety of food such as fruits, roots and grains that can be eaten by humans. The economics of survival meant that goats, sheep and kine — migratory ruminants able to get by with relatively little water — were superior choices. Being necessary, the ban was embedded in cultural law. Since cultural law had allegedly been handed down by God, and because cultural law was enforced by God’s representatives, they ended up with a divine law that exacted harsh penalties for even touching a pig.

    This prejudice was enforced because there were Middle Eastern cultures that emphasized the impracticality of the pig. The Canaanites venerated the pig, as only the settled wealthy — ie, kings with palaces and the temples of powerful gods — could afford to keep them. This emphasized swine as being abhorrent to a god who still (at the time the Jewish laws were being formulated) demanded henotheistic devotion and a mostly nomadic lifestyle.

    In Islam, the hatred of pigs likely comes from three sources: the Jewish prohibition (Muhammad adopted most of the laws of kashrut), from similar cultural prohibitions in pre-Islamic Arabian culture, and from the way that the superpower of the day, the Romans, venerated pigs.

  4. 4
    Irreverend Bastard

    Bacon is a hate crime?

    What is this I don’t even

  5. 5
    hexidecima

    the idea that a god, supposedly omnipotent and omniscient, cares about what someones has always struck me as rather quaintly pathetic. Yep, this god cares more about a bacon cheeseburger than oh, making sure some child doesn’t die of hunger. Allah/God etc is just as petty and stupid as the humans that invented it.

  6. 6
    robb

    @Gregory in Seattle. interesting reasons pigs are shunned. i always kinda figured it was a practical reason–if you don’t cook pork well enough you can get trichinosis.

  7. 7
    Gregory in Seattle

    @robb #6 – I’ve heard that come up quite often, but facts make that extremely unlikely. There is evidence that swine were domesticated several times in different cultures: the Tigris Basin about 13,000 years ago, Asia Minor and Cyprus about 11,500 years ago, in China about 8,000 years ago and in Europe (the modern Sus domesticus) about 6,000 years ago. If pigs were such a threat to human health, domestication would never have occured, and certainly would not have continued.

  8. 8
    Anne Marie

    It’s a little weirder than just accidentally left behind bacon:
    “Three packages of uncooked bacon were left behind along with a note, which was signed by someone who used a code name and referenced a web site, Police Commissioner Ray Kelly told reporters Monday.  The web site mentioned in the note contained references to the raw bacon, Kelly said.”

  9. 9
    andrewriding

    The modern justifications against pork consumption I hear today are mainly that pigs are disgusting abhorrent incestuous and very much not-monogamous.

    Reality being what it is the choices of what to eat are fairly complicated and multifacted so there’s probably not a single simple reason they made swine so anathema, but the impracticality of it and the Roman influence do seem like good primary reasons before people in the middle east went looking for more and more reasons the revile pork like they do.

    I’m sure you can picture lots of later influences that could cause a kind of positive feedback loop in those cultures but at the same time those odd little social dynamics are a bit tricky to talk about as the reason for this particular norm.

    That said non-Muslims do seem to really frequently use pork in ways that appear innocent or close to it, in order to take actions against Muslim people. It’s very easy for anyone above the poverty level to get some bacon and use it in non-food ways and it gets a really strong reaction out of Muslims, so much so that in workplaces and the like you an easily just talk about pork and subtly recruit non-bigot coworkers to help you make the Muslims uncomfortable or even unwelcome without ever taking any action that could really be traced to you.

    If people could just magically recognize intention we’d be disgusted by what a lot of people have managed to do with pork, but since we can’t there’s very little you can do to recognize if a person is just having some culture shock and wants to talk about it or if they’re trying to get their hate on secretly.

    That said I wish Islam and religions in general hasn’t left the reason behind decisions totally in the dark, so that when conditions change they COULD just say “ok, pigs are practical for us to raise and/or eat now so the ritual impurity thing no longer applies here. Take secular precautions though.”

  10. 10
    jaytheostrich

    As far as I know, it’s forbidden to EAT pork products. I don’t see how just having pork around is enough to make Muslims go crazy. It’s not like people are sneaking bacon grease into their food. If they can’t even handle being reminded that pigs exist, then they are wayyy too oversensitive. I see it more as just one more way Muslims expect the rest of the world to bend over backwards to meet their standards, which seems to be spreading all over the place in the ‘offend noone’ society. Just my opinion.

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