Regarding Charlie Hebdo: Monotheists For Blasphemy

We the undersigned are members of, or inspired by, millennia-old monotheistic faiths originating in the Middle East. We believe in a transcedent God who created the universe but who human beings are able to relate to by means of ethical action. In the words of one our prophets, Micah, this God wants us to do justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with Thy God. Construed broadly enough, following the teaching of Spinoza, those committed to social progress and scientific rationalism are members of the monotheistic family, although in a radically anti-iconic form. Within the family of monotheistic faiths there are certainly disagreements — some rationalists are atheists, Muslims[ are unhappy with the Christian belief that God has a body, Christians who prefer to emphasize mercy over law – yet these all amount to family quarrels. In fact we believe all human vs. human violence amounts to family quarrels because we believe the ultimate source of everything can be imagined as a parent to all human beings. God is not really a parent, but that is a handy short-hand for how humans can relate to It.

We hereby promise not to be offended if you depict our God as fat, ugly, uncool, masturbating, defecating or having sex with a walrus. This is because God does not have a human body. Therefore if you drew a cartoon of a man with a long white beard shooting lightning out of his hands having sex with a walrus you would not have successfully drawn a picture of God having sex with a walrus, since God is infinite and has no forms. It might even be more dangerous to draw a picture of God doing something great – say helping your country or football team win – because that would be more likely to cause the dangerous mistake of idolatry – confusing the transcendent God with particular human power struggles. If you drew a picture of God playing a video game and ignoring Hiroshima or the Holocaust we would say you are raising an important point about the problem of evil.

We promise not to take offense if you depict any of our prophets as fat, ugly, uncool, defecating, masturbating or having homosexual or heterosexual sex. We do not know how our prophets looked, and have precious little knowledge of their sexual behavior. It is certain that they all defecated. As I mentioned we believe the prophet Micah stated that all God requires of us is “do justly, love mercy and walk humbly with your God”. We respect the prophets because of what they and the ethical behavior it inspired. If your cartoon depicting the prophet Micah having sex with Mickey Mouse causes people to swerve aside from a commitment to justice, mercy, and humility we would like to urge you to reconsider. For obvious reasons we will not urge you to consider by means of threat or legal action, as this does not show a commitment to justice or mercy or a humble acknowledgment of our own fallibility.

Many of us venerate heroes of the enlightenment – Thomas Jefferson, Voltaire, John Stuart Mill, James Madison. We are okay with cartoons depicting any or all of them performing oral sex on an elephant, being spanked by a dominatrix, or being defecated on by a gorilla. We feel their ideas are strong enough to be evaluated on their own merits.

According to some readings of Christianity and the Zohar the bodies of the most vulnerable are an image of God. As luck would have it they have already been raped, murdered, and degrade in real life so we do not need depictions by satirical cartoonists of the degradation of the vulnerable as such images are available in history books, newspapers and the internet. However if satirists provide further images of the degradation of the human, it’s hard to see how that would really make things much worse.

We invite all members of monotheistic faiths to sign on to this statement.


2 thoughts on “Regarding Charlie Hebdo: Monotheists For Blasphemy

  1. I ran into someone on the interwebs who said that because that faith had said not to depict so and so, THAT is why it is offensive if you do depict so and so.

    It struck me about how a lot of religions often command their practitioners to do this or that – or they like their worship malls this way or that. But it struck me – a religion that reaches out…and tells everyone else what to do as well! And this guy said you were being offensive if you didn’t kneel to their command! I’m not sure if he was muslim, but I’d say he was a practitioner of their faith, in a way. He was certainly a believer.

    I’m sure many things we do also cross the line with Zeus or the Aztec gods as well. I mean, you could believe in their offensive actions list just as much.

  2. Mikey says:

    I participated in an official state tour of Arstotzka. We were heavily shepherded and only exposed to the areas which Octovalis considered to show the country at its best, and naturally this included a visit to Museum of Arstotzka in Grestin. The American and Italian grockles who had shadowed me on the trip scuttled about taking photos and gawping at the grotesquely impressive statues and paintings while the Arstotzkan natives shuffled their families facelessly from shrine to shrine, the two groups never making eye contact with each other.

    My experience was different. During Octovalis’ early years he had scourged the country of churches and monasteries and Grestin Cathedral had miraculously escaped the destruction. As his youthful idealistic zeal gave way to the maniacal hubris which characterised his later reign, he saw the cathedral as a useful framing device for over 3000 portraits and sculptures of himself and created the Museum of Arstotzka.

    The first and overwhelming impression is of sickly cheap grandeur. The gilding of the frames is gilt itself and this gilding too has it’s own gilding. Apparently at Octovalis’ instruction, it is impossible to look in any direction, anywhere in the building, without seeing an image of the man in some posturing regalia. This is most noticeably exemplified in the massive ceiling mural depicting Octovalis’ disembodied unsmiling head. While my Western companions were clearly impressed by the unsubtlety of the situation, the citizens of Arstotzka saw only a fitting honour to their great leader, posing proudly for a cherished picture, if they could afford a camera.

    Of course there was no deliberate remnant of the Christian heritage of the cathedral. The interior decorations were in the latest Soviet styles, which clashed miserably with the lofty vaulted arches. It was this clashing which led me to my change of perspective. Focussing narrowly on an area of the ceiling which was visible and largely unaltered, I fell into a reverie. The lines drew my eyes up, and my soul lifted with them. Yet it wasn’t up, it was somewhere deep. There is no more I can say about that experience, other than that I was profoundly moved.

    It was only later that I reflected on the curiosity of having come so close to God in what I would have described as a Temple of Evil. My only explanation is that Octovalis failed to paper over the message written by the Christians who built the cathedral because they built it into the stone itself. You just had to look at the gaps.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s