Earlier this week comedian/actor/presenter/author/and general know-it-all Stephen Fry was in the papers after he described God as “capricious”, “mean-minded” and “stupid” during a TV interview in Ireland.
The police were called in. An investigation was launched. An Irish Inquistion (a version of Monty Python’s Spanish equivalent) was put on standby (I made that last bit up, just in case you were checking for fake news). Thankfully, however, the matter was quickly/quietly dropped after detectives said they could find no ‘injured parties’.
Turn the clock back 130-odd years and Nietzsche said “god is dead.” How much more blashemous can you get?
Phew! In other words, they failed to find enough (or any?) people who were significantly offended by Fry’s blaspeming. But what if they had?
In 2009, Ireland introduced a ridiculous new blashemy law which prohibited publishing or even uttering anything “grossly abusive or insulting in relation to matters [held] sacred by any religion”. It sounds like something so-called Islamic State might do, or perhaps a law from the Dark Ages. Still, this law was implemented in 2010 and carries the threat of a 25,000 Euro fine.
Where are you supposed to begin with something like that? It’s a complete dilution of common sense. People seem to have this notion that we’re not allowed to insult God. Or even to question him/her/it. Wrong.
Turn the clock back 130-odd years and a chap called Nietzsche declared “god is dead.” How much more blashemous can you get than that? Of course, what the bad boy of the Enlightenment meant was that science was on the up and the Church (god bless it) was on the way down. He was right, too.
Before the Enlightenment, people had this romantic view that god controlled pretty much everything, that kings were divinely ordaned and so on. Now, of course, we know Prof Brian Cox controls the universe and that kings and queens (and princes) are as falible as the rest of us (just much much richer). So, what does all this mean?
Well, the problem with our age is one of literalism: people take things too literally. They read the Bible/Koran/whatever and they take it literally, when much of it is symbolic. People think God is an old man with a big white beard. Or maybe Morgan Freeman. He’s neither. He is not even a he. He is something else entirely, what another philosopher, Martin Buber, called ‘wholly other’.
You can’t see him, smell him, touch him, hear him or feel him (not literally), so it follows you also can’t insult him (literally).
The power of buying a newspaper
The Yorkshire Evening Post and its sister paper The Yorkshire Post (together with the whole of Johnston Press) has launched a campaign against so-called ‘fake news’.
The campaign includes a fact checking service, which will allow readers to flag up questionable content, which will then be investigated, the results being published.
This is laudible and something newspapers have, perhaps, been slow to cotton onto in the new digital age of facebook-dominated gossip. In short, we are urging you (the reader) to buy more papers, if only because you can trust them and additionally, you know that if mistakes are made they are rectified. With newspapers, everything is above board, the process of journalism is transparent, the intention honest and noble and clear for all to see. All the things facebook isn’t, borne as it is on the whimsical tides of prejudice, hearsary and utter flimflam.
But there’s another reason to buy a paper and it’s to do with lifestyle. Our brains are addled by the tyrrany of technology, an unrelenting bombardment demanding we are constantly alert. This, in turn, is driving an increasing number of people to seek out mindfulness classes. They don’t just want to switch off, they need to.
If you’re at that place, you could begin your journey by switching the mobile off and buying a paper. It might be old fashioned but at least it’s honest.