Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Post 899, In Which I Do Not Blaspheme

Today was International Blasphemy Day. The purpose of the day is "to remind the world that religion should never again be beyond open and honest discussion." I support the principle behind the occasion--it is important to protect the right of free speech that has so often been denied by religious authorities with more power than they should have had, and it is equally important to remember that ideas are not immune to criticism simply because they are based in faith--but I have chosen not to participate. I have little respect for religion itself and not much more for most religious organizations, but I respect and love a lot of religious people. If I were to blaspheme publicly for the sake of blaspheming, I might succeed in making the statement the day is meant to make, but I would also likely offend many people I've no reason or desire to offend.

A couple of years ago a close friend of mine observed that I "care about people more than ideologies or institutions"; as this came from someone whose opinion I value very highly, I was quite flattered by her observation. I don't know that it's always true--I often let my ideologies get in the way of my concern for people--but I certainly try to make it true. Ideals are important to me, but ultimately I believe the living, breathing human being standing in front of me is far more important than whatever ideology separates us.

That said, I believe it's for the good of the world that there are also people who are willing to offend, to be in-your-face and confrontational in order to make the rest of us question our ideologies. I simply am not one of these people and couldn't be if I tried; confrontation makes me physical sick, knowing that I've offended someone makes it impossible for me to think of anything but that offense for days or weeks thereafter. If everyone in the world were so weak-kneed, we might never have any wars, but we might also never effect meaningful change. I like to think there's room in this world for both warriors and peacemakers. If it doesn't offend you, I'll stick to being the latter of the two.


Julie said...

I don't know that "people who are willing to offend, to be in-your-face and confrontational" are generally the most effective in making positive change. It often seems to me that people who are making the loudest noise are making it over (in my opinion,) incorrect ideas. I think people who care about people have a better chance of making lasting, positive change.

Yodame said...

I am still wrestling with this issue almost daily. It does make me wonder how many people are gone that could have spoken out about any kind of issue and made a difference but instead took their ideas with them to the grave where they did no good. I think the real trick is learning how to speak out and make a difference without hurting others in the process, if that is possible. I get that ill feeling for weeks afterwords too when I've said something and it's horrible. I'm still getting schooled about speaking out which is rather new to me and I'm making mistakes along the way. However I'm considering it my therapy after feeling like I've walked around like a ghost my entire life while trying not to offend people (which is also a horrible feeling to shoulder). Then I ask myself, if there were only 3 people on Earth, would I go around speaking out about things or would I just go about living my life every day. The latter sounds like a much more preferable way to live. Like I said, I wrestle with it. I like what you are saying and it will always be the high road, caring about others first should be tops.

Rebecca said...

I like your approach. Of course, I tend to be one of those people who can't keep her mouth shut (despite the fact that I am totally with you on obsessing over offending people). I think we're both necessary. We need people working on the micro level (with the PEOPLE, not the IDEAS), and people working on the macro level. It doesn't happen without both.

Mr. Fob said...

Julie: You have a point--some people who yell a lot are just pumping out hot air. But I don't think that's true of everyone who falls into the "warrior" category I've (somewhat arbitrarily) established. For example, I haven't ever known you to be in-your-face or confrontational, but you do strike me as someone who will speak her mind without fear of offending, if you believe what you have to say is important. And I admire that in you, and I think your confidence allows you to say a lot of things that need to be said. I set up a false dichotomy by implying that one cares either about people or ideologies--most ideologies are based in concern for people to one degree or another, and in a way it just comes down to which people your concern is focused on.

Yodame: Yeah, feeling like a ghost is no fun. You're right--the ideal way would be more a Middle Path kind of approach.

Rebecca: Thanks. I think you've stated what I was trying to say more accurately (and less self-congratulatorily) than I did. It's not so much that some people care about people and others don't, but more that some are looking at the micro while others focus on the macro.

Julie said...

You're right Ben, I'm a definite speak my mind kind of person! =)

TK said...

I say 'amen' to Julie.

And also,'Amen' to Yodame's 'the real trick is learning how to speak out and make a difference without hurting others'.

I also consider myself lucky to have the 'latter of the two' in my family instead of the 'former of the two'. :)

TK said...

Oh - and thank you for not blaspheming. Showing respect for that which others hold sacred is always appreciated - regardless of your opinion of their beliefs.

Most people would rather be shown respect than agreed with!

Mr. Fob said...

Julie: Yes, I know, because you tell me when you think I'm being dumb. :)

TK: If I'm completely honest with myself, I'd rather everyone in the world just agreed with me, but I'll settle for respect.