Tuesday, May 20, 2008

The cult of Freedom

by Capt. Fogg

It's my personal observation that the average Englishman has a better vocabulary than the average American, but it's not a point I want to argue. That the British are just as full of self-righteous idiocy as anyone is an argument more to my liking, and I have evidence. According to The Guardian, a London teenager has fallen into the hands of the Linquistic Inquisition and is facing prosecution for having publicly used the world "cult" to describe the cult of Elron Hubbard, known as Scientology.

The crusade to rid language of any words that might somehow be construed to be offensive, is raging on both sides of the Atlantic. Such things thrive in inarticulate America, but apparently the Brits ( it seems to be allowed to call them that but don't call the Japanese Japs) are just as bad.

Why isn't Scientology a cult, and whether it is or whether it isn't, why is that a bad word? My casual readings in Archaeology frequently contain mentions of the cult of Isis or Venus or the Magdalene or the Virgin Mary. It derives from the Latin word for worship, but apparently, what's good for one Scholar is bad for another - we must consult the oracle.

The very American Merriam Webster dictionary defines cult as:
  • formal religious veneration
  • a system of religious beliefs and ritual; also : its body of adherents
  • a religion regarded as unorthodox or spurious
  • a system for the cure of disease based on dogma set forth by its promulgator
  • great devotion to a person, idea, object, movement, or work.

The veddy British Oxford dictionary adds that the word sometimes describes a religion that exercises excessive control over its adherents, but then all of these definitions can apply and have at times applied rightly and honestly to any religion at all. In fact these are all definitions of religion and that includes the fact that every religion is unorthodox to other religions.

"
Scientology is not a religion, it is a dangerous cult" read the confiscated placard peacefully displayed at a peaceful demonstration in front of the opulent London Headquarters of the Church of Scientology. Would it have been less "offensive" if it read: "Scientology is not a cult, it is a dangerous religion?" Who can tell, because either statement is, in my reading, equivalent. Someone is telling us however. Someone, some authority not derived from the will of the governed has an arcane system by which their dark stars favor a word on one day or denounce it on another and it sure as hell works in mysterious ways. By mysterious, I mean stupid.

If any speech offensive to someone looking for offense is actionable, then do I have the right to have the Gospel of John confiscated and half the works of Martin Luther banned for vicious condemnation of the Jews? Should the finally deceased Jerry Fallwell have been arrested for saying God Didn't listen to Jews or that the AntiChrist was a Jew? Forgive me for being confused. If Christianity or Islam or the cult of Refafu claims that whatever religion I might have is dangerous to any soul I might have, then Christians or Sufis or any other cultists anxious to discuss the error of my ways should be silenced and prosecuted along with anyone standing at any pulpit, who describes anyone else as a sinner, apostate, heretic, gentile or reprobate. The wages of sin is death? as a member of the Church of Sin and a committed sinner, I'm offended. Call the police! Call my lawyer!

Of course, in the interest of preserving my own freedom of speech I'm not hoping to see any such thing, but I am hoping that whatever mysterious and invisible entity there is that decides what I may or may not say -- and whatever dangerous cult surrounds it -- will reveal itself unto me so that I can dedicate myself to offending it.

Cross posted from Human Voices

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7 Comments:

Blogger Libby Spencer said...

Well said Fogg, as always. It's frightening how much the UK is becoming like the US afer 9/11. In some ways I think they're more authoritarian.

5:30:00 PM  
OpenID expatbrian said...

I profess no great mastery of the language, but this story is just silly. Who gives a damn what anyone, let alone a teen calls a cult? What law did he break? Is this actually the 21st century or are we to return to witch hunts?

Afterall, its not as if he had displayed the word BUSH on a sign or t-shirt. That would have been truly be obscene.

7:34:00 PM  
Blogger JonBoy said...

Freedom of speech is a largely American concept as far as I can tell. Something similar has been going on in Canada, but they have focused on economic punishments, but bypassing the court of law entirely. In Germany and other parts of Europe there are things it is illegal to say or especially write.
In America, of course, it is called PC. But at least here a large enough portion of people will have none of it that they have not yet fully censored anything but the universities.
I cannot say that I see 9/11 having anything to do with it.

8:27:00 PM  
Blogger Capt. Fogg said...

9/11 was just another excuse. I do understand the concept of slander and libel, but religions seem to be immune from being charged, yet we're not supposed to criticize them.

Who is behind this insanity?

10:10:00 PM  
Blogger expatbrian said...

By any definition, Scientology and the other religions are cults. The fear of god and everything else we're supposed to fear all help to keep us in our place; the place where we will do anything and believe anyone who convinces us that only they can protect and save us.

12:57:00 AM  
Blogger Libby Spencer said...

Jonboy, maybe it's just that I've noticed the reports more since 9/11 but it seems all governments are becoming more authoritarian to me. I've noticed it in Canada as well. As Fogg says they've used it as an excuse.

And of course Scientology is a cult. It's been to referred to as such by many people over the years. This is the stupidest prosecution I've seen in a long time.

6:10:00 AM  
Blogger Capt. Fogg said...

Let's hope it gets a lot of publicity and there is some reaction against this kind of censorship.

10:55:00 AM  

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