A Short Digression on the Pig

‘All religions have a tendency to feature some dietary injunction or prohibition, whether it is the now lapsed Catholic injunction to eat fish on Fridays, or the adoration by Hindus of the cow as a consecrated and invulnerable animal (the government of India even offered to import and protect all the cattle facing slaughter as a result of the bovine encephalitic, or “mad cow,” plague that swept Europe in the 1990s), or the refusal by some other Eastern cults to consume any animal flesh, or to injure any other creature be it rat or flea. But the oldest and most tenacious of all fetishes is the hatred and even fear of the pig.

It emerged in primitive Judaea, and was for centuries one of the ways—the other being circumcision—by which Jews could be distinguished. Even though sura 5.60 of the Koran condemns particularly Jews but also other unbelievers as having been turned into pigs and monkeys—a very intense theme in recent Salafist Muslim preaching—and the Koran describes the flesh of swine as unclean or even “abominable,” Muslims appear to see nothing ironic in the adoption of this uniquely Jewish taboo.

Real horror of the porcine is manifest all over the Islamic world. One good instance would be the continued prohibition of George Orwell’s Animal Farm, one of the most charming and useful fables of modern times, of the reading of which Muslim schoolchildren are deprived. I have perused some of the solemn prohibition orders written by Arab education ministries, which are so stupid that they fail to notice the evil and dictatorial role played by the pigs in the story itself.

Orwell actually did dislike pigs, as a consequence of his failure as a small farmer, and this revulsion is shared by many adults who have had to work with these difficult animals in agricultural conditions. Crammed together in sties, pigs tend to act swinishly, as it were, and to have noisy and nasty fights. It is not unknown for them to eat their own young and even their own excrement, while their tendency to random and loose gallantry is often painful to the more fastidious eye.

But it has often been noticed that pigs left to their own devices, and granted sufficient space, will keep themselves very clean, arrange little bowers, bring up families, and engage in social interaction with other pigs. The creatures also display many signs of intelligence, and it has been calculated that the crucial ratio—between brain weight and body weight—is almost as high with them as it is in dolphins.

There is great adaptability between the pig and its environment, as witness wild boars and “feral pigs” as opposed to the placid porkers and frisky piglets of our more immediate experience. But the cloven hoof, or trotter, became a sign of diabolism to the fearful, and I daresay that it is easy to surmise which came first—the devil or the pig. It would be merely boring and idiotic to wonder how the designer of all things conceived such a versatile creature and then commanded his higher-mammal creation to avoid it altogether or risk his eternal displeasure. But many otherwise intelligent mammals affect the belief that heaven hates ham.’

Hitchens. C. 2007. God Is Not Great London, Great Britain: Atlantic Books (2008) p. 37-38

The Holy Quran Experiment

Muslims are often accused of following a religion that has no place in Western culture. This made us wonder: What about Christianity? – A religion that has influenced our culture greatly.

For this experiment we have purchased a Bible and have disguised it as the Holy Quran. We then highlighted a couple of shocking verses that are in great contrast with modern Western values. Let’s see what happens when we read these passages from the Bible to some people while leading them to believe these passages are from the Quran.

“And if ye will not for all this hearken unto me, but walk contrary unto me; Then I will walk contrary unto you also in fury; and I, even I, will chastise you seven times for your sins. And ye shall eat the flesh of your sons, and the flesh of your daughters shall ye eat.” [1]

“Let the woman learn in silence with all subjection. But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence.” [2]

“When men strive together one with another, and the wife of the one draweth near for to deliver her husband out of the hand of him that smiteth him, and putteth forth her hand, and taketh him by the secrets: Then thou shalt cut off her hand, thine eye shall not pity her.” [3]

“If a man also lie with mankind, as he lieth with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination: they shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them.” [4]

What are your initial thoughts?

‘This sounds ridiculous.’ ‘Well, I didn’t know that this kind of stuff was also in this book.’ ‘How can anyone believe this? It sounds incredible to me.’ ‘Cutting off people’s hands, I mean, apparently that’s just the way they are.’ ‘If you have been raised with this book and these kinds of thoughts it’s going to influence the way you think.’ ‘To me this sounds like they want to oppress you and force you to believe what they believe.’ ‘The woman wants to help and as a result her hand gets cut off.’

If you were to compare this to the Bible, what are the biggest differences?

‘Hearing this, I would think the Quran is more aggressive.’ ‘Especially with things like cutting off people’s hands.’ ‘I think the Bible has a lot more positive things in it.’ ‘The story of the Bible is told very differently.’ ‘The biggest difference what you just heard here is the role of the woman.’ ‘The Bible is a lot less harsh and a bit more peaceful.’ ‘The world is changing and I think they have to adapt to it.’ ‘Most of our people have experienced the freedom to make their own choices and freedom of speech, and having that freedom allows you to think differently.’ ‘It bothers me that some people see these old writings as the absolute truth.’

Well, we have a little surprise for you. These beautiful verses from the Quran are actually from the Bible.

‘What the fuck!’ ‘Seriously?’ ‘What the hell?’ ‘I did not see that coming.’ ‘That is really unbelievable! That is sick, that’s really sick.’ ‘Are you for real?’ ‘Well done. You really got me.’ ‘It’s all just prejudice really, I always try not to be prejudiced myself but apparently I already am. It’s just something you do, unconsciously.’ ‘It has a lot to do with the media of course.’ ‘It’s important to keep thinking rationally when it comes to these things; try to think logically about things and use it to your advantage.’ ‘Of course I’ve heard Bible stories when I was young, and I went to a Christian school, but I really had no idea this was in there.’

– Courtesy of Dit Is Normaal, “The Holy Quran Experiment”

[1] Leviticus 26:27-29
[2] 1 Timothy 2:11-12
[3] Deuteronomy 25:11-12
[4] Leviticus 20:13

Orwell on Orthodoxy

‘Orthodoxy means not thinking – not needing to think. Orthodoxy is unconsciousness.’

– Orwell. G. 1949. Nineteen Eighty-Four London, Great Britain: Penguin Books (2008) p. 56

Je Suis Paris

‘We’ll always have Paris.’

– Wallis, H.B. (Producer), Curtiz. M. (Director). (1942). Casablanca [Motion Picture]. United States: Warner Bros.

The Fallibility of Written Codes

‘The court considers it has obligation to add comment to its verdict. By the force of evidentiary conclusions you, Captain William Bligh, stand absolved of military misdeed. Yet officers of stainless record and seamen, voluntary all were moved to mutiny against you. Your methods, so far as this court can deserve showed what we shall cautiously term an excess of zeal. We cannot condemn zeal. We cannot rebuke an officer who has administered discipline according to the Articles of War, but the Articles are fallible, as any articles are bound to be. No code can cover all contingencies. We cannot put justice aboard our ships in books. Justice and decency are carried in the heart of the captain or they be not aboard. It is for this reason that the Admiralty has always sought to appoint its officers from the ranks of gentlemen. The court regrets to note that the appointment of Captain William Bligh was, in that respect, a failure. Court is dissolved.’

– Rosenberg. A. (Producer), Milestone. L. (Director). (1962). Mutiny on the Bounty [Motion Picture]. United States: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

The First-cause Argument

‘Perhaps the simplest and easiest to understand is the argument of the First Cause. (It is maintained that everything we see in this world has a cause, and as you go back in the chain of causes further and further you must come to a First Cause, and to that First Cause you give the name of God.)

That argument, I suppose, does not carry very much weight nowadays, because, in the first place, cause is not quite what it used to be. The philosophers and the men of science have got going on cause, and it has not anything like the vitality it used to have; but, apart from that, you can see that the argument that there must be a First Cause is one that cannot have any validity. I may say that when I was a young man and was debating these questions very seriously in my mind, I for a long time accepted the argument of the First Cause, until one day, at the age of eighteen, I read John Stuart Mill’s Autobiography, and I there found this sentence: “My father taught me that the question ‘Who made me?’ cannot be answered, since it immediately suggests the further question ‘Who made god?'” That very simple sentence showed me, as I still think, the fallacy in the argument of the First Cause.

If everything must have a cause, then God must have a cause. If there can be anything without a cause, it may just as well be the world as God, so that there cannot be any validity in that argument.

It is exactly of the same nature as the Hindu’s view, that the world rested upon an elephant and the elephant rested upon a tortoise; and when they said, “How about the tortoise?” the Indian said, “Suppose we change the subject.” The argument is really no better than that.

There is no reason why the world could not have come into being without a cause; nor, on the other hand, is there any reason why it should not have always existed. There is no reason to suppose that the world had a beginning at all. The idea that things must have a beginning is really due to the poverty of our imagination. Therefore, perhaps, I need not waste any more time upon the argument about the First Cause.’

– Denonn. L.E., Egner. R.E. Ed. 1961. The Basic Writings of Bertrand Russell London, United Kingdom: George Allen & Unwin (1962) p. 587

Bertrand Russell delivered the lecture Why I am not a Christian (of which this is an excerpt) on March 6, 1927 to the National Secular Society, South London Branch, at Battersea Town Hall.

Building a Global Civilization

‘It is important to realize that the distinction between science and religion is not a matter of excluding our ethical intuitions and spiritual experiences from our conversation about the world; it is a matter of our being honest about what we can reasonably conclude on their basis. There are good reasons to believe that people like Jesus and the Buddha weren’t talking nonsense when they spoke about our capacity as human beings to transform our lives in rare and beautiful ways. But any genuine exploration of ethics or the contemplative life demands the same standards of reasonableness and self-criticism that animate all intellectual discourse. As a biological phenomenon, religion is the product of cognitive processes that have deep roots in our evolutionary past. Some researchers have speculated that religion itself may have played an important role in getting large groups of prehistoric humans to socially cohere. If this is true, we can say that religion has served an important purpose. This does not suggest, however, that it serves an important purpose now. […] That religion may have served some necessary function for us in the past does not preclude the possibility that it is now the greatest impediment to our building a global civilization.’

Harris. S. 2006. Letter To A Christian Nation p. 29