Linguistic relativity, an adressable issue in an atheism awareness raiser?

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Discussion by: Steven93

As professor Dawkins labours to raise awareness of the importance of critical thinking and of how religion is a hinderance to it, he raises the interesting point of not labeling children as a 'Christian child' but rather as a 'child of Christian parents'. In doing so the child is given a chance to choose for itself. Furthermore awareness is raised that the deity in question does not have to propagate itself 'naturally' just because this it is deemed inherently so by the community that the child belongs toCould phrases such as 'Oh my God',' thank God he arrived on time','Cleanliness is Godliness' and other variations on this theme be in need of a reviewing by an awareness-raising atheist?

Linguistic relativity (known to some as the The Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis) postulates that specific types of language and/or specific usage of that language could influence the way we think and how we act towards others and could shape the entire culture of a people.

This is not a new concept but has, in my opinion, not been sufficiently extrapolated to take a look at the things we say in general. These common day to day utterances, platitutes if you will, concerned with religion are in my view a reinforcing factor for religion and should best be avoided.

Do you think this is a valid point?

31 COMMENTS

  1. I’m trying to raise awareness around the phrase “christian children” by editing pages at wikipedia that use this phrase (or similar such as muslim children). It’s easy to find such pages if you do a google search such as this.

    “christian children” site:wikipedia.org

    And once you find them, it’s easy to edit them.

    As per your question, it seems like a reasonable idea. Using phrases like “Oh my laws of physics” instead of “Oh my God” would certainly get attention.

  2. Steven Pinker discussed the Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis in one of his books. It was one that I only got from the library and don’t own so I can’t recall now if it was the language instinct or the blank slate but I remember he was very critical of the hypothesis. I don’t remember the details but I think his criticism was that many of the claims aren’t supported by experimental data or are based on myths. For example, the claim that eskimoes have 100 words for snow isn’t true at all.

    I think in general people waste an inordinate amount of time worrying about questions like this that aren’t really significant at all. To argue about what a word “really” means is a philosophical error IMO, its essentialism the idea that words have some absolute meaning (e.g. Plato’s idea of forms). Pinker’s view which I agree with is that all word definitions are simply conventions there are no objective answers to questions like “what is marriage”. (I use this example because I remember a lot of word that I thought were pointless went back and forth on the definition of that word in particular in the comments on an article about gay marriage a while back)

    So I think its kind of pointless to worry about whether you say “gesundheit” or “God bless you”. Those sayings have and will continue to evolve no matter what. I think thinking people should focus on issues that matter and leave the trivialities of language to trivial people.

  3. There are certain phrases like “Oh my God!” that are almost clichés and as such, people don’t even think about the meaning of the words, so I really don’t think it makes much difference if a particular phrase is used or not.

    • In reply to #3 by The Truth, the light:

      There are certain phrases like “Oh my God!” that are almost clichés and as such, people don’t even think about the meaning of the words, so I really don’t think it makes much difference if a particular phrase is used or not.

      Acknowledging my limited philosophical or linguistic knowledge, I respectfully disagree with this in some measure (and thus agree with Steven93 and others regarding linguistic relativity).

      Cliches are common: but almost by definition we hardly think about them and the world models they imply. I agree that ‘Red Dog’ is right to say we shouldn’t waste time on truly pointless definitions or expend mental energy on worry. But…

      I do think the assumptions underlying cliches have some effects, that how we speak can subconsciously shape beliefs as well as consciously using our beliefs to shape what we say. Thus, the barely conscious metaphorical use of language, such as in cliches, can encourage and expand the limited truism of a metaphor into frank unreason, with harmful results. For example, the commonplace comfort at funerals, ‘X is at peace’, can encourage ideas, maybe only barely formed in consciousness, that the person is not just metaphorically resting, but merely asleep and actually still alive – albeit ‘no longer with us’ [or in the body]. In that view, what starts off as a well meant saying ends up implying that the bereaved are wrong to grieve as there has not been a ‘real’ loss – and indeed the bereaved often feel guilt at their grief, or think that a strong belief in the afterlife is a real answer.

      I’d assert that many utterances are suffused with metaphorical and quasi-spiritual assumptions. With reference to another thread, personal pronouns arguably reify – capitalise – e.g. ‘me’ and ‘self’ into ‘I’ and ‘Self’. Thus even simple, everyday sentences can give the idea of a mysterious existence of mind (‘Mind’) somehow beyond/behind/above the material world. Again, phrases such as ‘Laws of physics’ can give rise to a feeling that, since there are laws, there must be a Lawmaker. Platonic Idealism or grammatical structures are surely not the only sources of false ideas of exalted realms, but I’d argue they are woven into everyday discourse and do start all kinds of imaginary hares running.

      • In reply to #5 by steve_hopker:

        In reply to #3 by The Truth, the light:

        There are certain phrases like “Oh my God!” that are almost clichés and as such, people don’t even think about the meaning of the words, so I really don’t think it makes much difference if a particular phrase is used or not.

        Acknowledging my limited philosop…

        I’m not denying that its a good idea to choose your words carefully. And I agree there are certainly some linguistic conventions that people should try to change. For example, as a feminist I try not to use words like “c*nt” and if I have to use a gender neutral pronoun I will usually pick “she” rather than “he”.

        Setting linguistic issues aside though for me there is another issue here and it may be a way that I differ from many others on this site. I’m mostly on the left on political issues. But ever since I’ve been aware of politics one thing that bugs me a lot from people on the left is PC nonsense. There is almost a little cottage industry in the US of people whose job seems to be to get offended by something someone said in a comedy club or in an off the cuff remark.

        I actually have a theory as to why the US left is like that: they are so incompetent at doing things that matter that they focus on trivial things where they CAN win and pat themselves on the back thinking they’ve accomplished something.

        But back to atheism, I don’t want us to turn into one more bunch of whiners who get upset over trivialities — when the wrong prayer is muttered at an event or when someone says “God bless you” without even thinking about what they are saying. Its one of the reasons I like Dawkins compared to some others in the atheist community, he tends to focus on things that matter not trivial bullshit. IMO worrying what words people mutter at funerals or when someone sneezes is trivial bullshit. We should focus on other things.

        • I don’t mind women calling someone a prick. Too much scrupulousness in that respect is almost more trouble than it’s worth, surely? And perhaps even counter-productive? And isn’t the first part of your post in contradiction to the last?

          in reply to #16 by Red Dog:*

          In reply to #5 by steve_hopker:

          In reply to #3 by The Truth, the light:

          There are certain phrases like “Oh my God!” that are almost clichés and as such, people don’t even think about the meaning of the words, so I really don’t think it makes much difference if a particular phrase is used or not….

          • In reply to #18 by jburnforti:

            I don’t mind women calling someone a prick. Too much scrupulousness in that respect is almost more trouble than it’s worth, surely? And perhaps even counter-productive? And isn’t the first part of your post in contradiction to the last?

            Sorry, I can see how that was confusing. I was just being honest that even though I think PC stuff is trivial I don’t completely ignore it either. But there is a difference between me just being honest about my personal choices around speech and saying that I think its an important issue. I never said people shouldn’t choose alternatives for expressions like “god bless”. If they do that is fine. I do that too most of the time. I’m just saying its not something that I think merits a lot of discussion. Which come to think of it means I should probably just shut up about the whole thing ;-)

          • The worst thing about PC is it alienates much of its natural constituency. Herstory? Didn’t catch on and made most of us laugh. There are more convincing ways of avoiding phallocentric history, more convincing and, more to the point, less distracting. Hey Ho. Peace.

            In reply to #19 by Red Dog:

            In reply to #18 by jburnforti:

            I don’t mind women calling someone a prick. Too much scrupulousness in that respect is almost more trouble than it’s worth, surely? And perhaps even counter-productive? And isn’t the first part of your post in contradiction to the last?

            Sorry, I can see how that was…

        • In reply to #16 by Red Dog:

          In reply to #5 by steve_hopker:

          In reply to #3 by The Truth, the light:

          There are certain phrases like “Oh my God!” that are almost clichés and as such, people don’t even think about the meaning of the words, so I really don’t think it makes much difference if a particular phrase is used or not….

          I differ with you re “that PC stuff”. I think PC comments usually just boil down to common curtesy. Those opposed generally want carte blanche to employ whatever insulting, belittling terminology they choose.

        • In reply to #16 by Red Dog:

          In reply to #5 by steve_hopker:

          I’m not denying that its a good idea to choose your words carefully. And I agree there are certainly some linguistic conventions that people should try to change. For example, as a feminist I try not to use words like “c*nt” and if I have to use a gender neutral pronoun I will usually pick “she” rather than “he”.

          Interesting. Cunt is one of those words in the lexicon that’s meaning separates the UK and the US by the common language. Coincidentally, my newly discovered Macquarie Dictionary of Australian English defines it differently again.

          Like fanny, the non-American English definition is totally different to the American English definition too.

          Fanny:- A British, South African, Australian, New Zealand, and Irish term for the female vulva.

          Fanny:- A North American term for the buttocks.

          In Scotland it takes on a whole new dimension as the clipped version of fannybaws, a derogatory glasgow term, which is cuntybollocks in Northern Ireland, which is a word meaning stupid bastard, most commonly used at the end of a sentence.

          Innocent enough for an American to shout out fanny, not so much for the Brit, even less so in Scotland.

          I remember watching a hour BBC documentary on the subject of the word “cunt”, it’s etymology, historical application and use as a modern vulgarity.

          Feminist appear to be wanting the word back…

          ” Despite criticisms, there is a movement among feminists that seeks to reclaim cunt not only as acceptable, but as an honorific, in much the same way that queer has been reappropriated by LGBT people and the word nigger has by the black community. Proponents include Inga Muscio in her book, Cunt: A Declaration of Independence and Eve Ensler in “Reclaiming Cunt” from The Vagina Monologues. The word was reclaimed by Angela Carter, who used it in the title story of The Bloody Chamber and Other Stories; a female character described female genitalia in a pornography book: “her cunt a split fig below the great globes of her buttocks”. The feminist blog Courageous Cunts makes use of the word to point at skewed genital norms and empower women to appreciate their bodies.”

          I also remember seeing Germaine Greer talk about the word in the TV series “Balderdash & Piffle”, Wiki has this to say about that show…

          “Germaine Greer, who had previously published a magazine article entitled “Lady, Love Your Cunt”, discussed the origins, usage and power of the word in the BBC series Balderdash and Piffle. She suggested at the end of the piece that there was something precious about the word, in that it was now one of the few remaining words in English that still retained its power to shock. Greer also alludes to the fact that the word vagina, which is considered the non-vulgar term, was a Latin name given by male anatomists for all muscle coverings, meaning “sword-sheath”. She considers it contentious as cunt has no such meaning, it simply refers to the entire female genitalia (she also mentions that vagina is applied purely to the internal canal).”

          Language is a strange, yet wonderful meme. We’d be stuffed without it, though it’s not without it’s problems.

          I like Stephen Fry, a highly educated Atheist, and his attitude to the subject of language…“A clip of Stephen Fry talking about Language at The Prince’s Teaching Institute 10 Year Lecture Series, held at The Royal Institution in June 2012″

          …and this one too…

          Stephen Fry Kinetic Typography – Language

          … a true wordsmith if ever there was one.

          For anyone interested…Stephen Fry on the Irish Language.

  4. As a life-time non-theist, I have few of these verbal habits – although at times I’ve caught myself before using common ones – and say ‘oh my goodness’ instead of the much over-used shorter version.

    In the throes of passion, I have uttered ‘no god’ instead of ‘oh god’ – easy to remember, even while so distracted, and my lady accomplice wasn’t likely to notice and possibly spoil the occasion…. 8-)

  5. During French revolution, the word “monsieur” (Sir, or mister) was banned because it literally means “my lord”, and was therefore royalist by nature. People were to use the word “citizen” instead. Two hundred years latter, the French use “monsieur” without it meaning anything like royalism.

    Conclusion : don’t piss people off with their language history ; solve the real problems and language history will not be a relevant problem any more.

    I’m enough of an atheist in a secular country to use “God only knows” or “Adieu” without being conceivable that I’d be using them literally. I don’t need to burn church buildings either. I don’t protect my eyes when I look at a cross.

  6. Of course, following your prior de-frocking (may we assume?), if she misheard ” no good*, you might discover what excommunication can feel like. Procedures are slightly different for atheists.

    In reply to #6 by CdnMacAtheist:*

    As a life-time non-theist, I have few of these verbal habits – although at times I’ve caught myself before using common ones – and say ‘oh my goodness’ instead of the much over-used shorter version.

    In the throes of passion, I have uttered ‘no god’ instead of ‘oh god’ – easy to remember, even while…

  7. Instead of “Oh my God”, say “Blow me down!”(a favorite of Popeye’s) or “You don’t see that everyday”. “Thank God” = “What a relief” or “that saved our ass”. I do think that it helps the cause if people realize that the assumption of religious belief or attribution to God is offensive to many.

  8. I tend not to use the word god as I do not like it and what it stands for but am unsure whether its use really has any great effect. I am not fond of recommending the non-use of words as it puts us on a slippery slope to political correctness, where reality is replaced by a sanitized euphemism.

    However, to make a point I often refer to by gots, rather than bigots. The exact etymology of bigot is unclear and contested but there is a theory with some evidence that it comes from the Germanic bei Gott (with god) and may have been a pagan insult against their oppressors.

  9. On some occasions I have deliberately tried to eliminate terms such as “thank heavens”, “OMG”, “there but for the grace of god go I ” etc from my word stock, but I think I’m fighting a losing battle. Though these words and phrases have no more relevance for me than say, “crossing my fingers”, they convey an impression of being in possession of a Christian mindset. This can confuse others, especially when dealing with people from a non-English speaking background.

    Still trying but I think it’s an uphill battle. I look forward to the day when I can say “thank god….” and have it mean no more than the Thor in Thursday .

    • It seems to me like the difference between prejudice and discrimination. I recognise that I have certain prejudices against a couple of minorities which I don’t approve of but which manifest themselves (to me) automatically – they result, I suppose from my age and background. They arise unbidden but , because I recognise them for what they are, my unconscious, quick moving though it may be, does not get a chance to act on them. In other words, I’m mildly prejudiced but apart from the occasional inward flinch, nobody knows about it. As it doesn’t seem easy to excise characteristics like this, I just cope with them and move on. Equally, I’m occasionally mildly superstitious (at the “touch wood” level) but don’t think it important enough to do anything other than laugh at it and be tolerant. More positively, I notice that my children are less automatically prejudiced/superstitious than I and this seems to me to be a satisfactory trend.In reply to #11 by Nitya:*

      On some occasions I have deliberately tried to eliminate terms such as “thank heavens”, “OMG”, “there but for the grace of god go I ” etc from my word stock, but I think I’m fighting a losing battle. Though these words and phrases have no more relevance for me than say, “crossing my fingers”, they c…

      • In reply to #12 by jburnforti:

        It seems to me like the difference between prejudice and discrimination. I recognise that I have certain prejudices against a couple of minorities which I don’t approve of but which manifest themselves (to me) automatically – they result, I suppose from my age and background. They arise unbidden bu…

        Hi again.
        Prejudice is such a horrible word and represents such a horrible concept, however I think everyone on the planet would harbour some form or another. I guess the trick is in not let it influence our behaviour and lead us to discriminate. Good thing your children are unaffected.

        When it comes to superstition, I know that I’m squeaky clean. I’m forever chiding others on their superstitious behaviour. No lucky days, colours, clothes, words, or practices of any kind that I’m aware of. Ha ha. In fact I’m the first to point it out when others indulge. I usually know the likelihood of a certain outcome eventuating, and I don’t hold back ( with my nearest and dearest anyway.)

        Others have suggested that I would be quite comfortable being included in the Buddhist fold, ( apart from that pesky reincarnation aspect). Instead, I strongly resist being labeled.

    • In reply to #11 by Nitya:

      On some occasions I have deliberately tried to eliminate terms such as “thank heavens”, “OMG”, “there but for the grace of god go I ” etc from my word stock, but I think I’m fighting a losing battle. Though these words and phrases have no more relevance for me than say, “crossing my fingers”, they c…

      I would encourage you to keep fighting the battle to change the sayings you use, even if it feels like you’re losing sometimes. I do not agree with all of the comments people have made in this discussion: the words we use are very important and the meaning of each IS important. Otherwise, people wouldn’t have a pigeon what we’re chalking about!

      Of course, the use of language changes over time, but wouldn’t it be better if these changes were driven and directed by conscious enhancement of the existing usage, rather than a downward trend that comes from widespread sloppiness? I have read a number of books written in earlier generations and I have to read them very slowly because the words used – and the sentence structure – is so different from contemporary writing. When I look at them however, I often feel that their use of language was more correct (and often more precise) than our is today.

      Also, the words that an individual uses will speak volumes about who they are and their underlying mindset/belief/worldview. If you, as an atheist, use the word ‘God’ in a laissez-faire manner, it DOES give the impression to others that you have no objection to that Being. In other words, the casual use of the word suggests that there is something in your psyche that accepts the concept of God. They may not consciously think about it, and they are unlikely to say, “Oh, does that mean you believe in God?” – but it does create an impression that you may not want them to have.

      I, on the other hand, am a Christian, and I do not use phrases like ‘Oh My God’ because I personally believe that using the word lightly does it an injustice. That’s my view, so I seek to use words that (hopefully) express something of who I am.

      Other postings on this discussion topic have suggested using substitute phrases like “Oh My Laws of Physics”. This is just silly. As far as I know, phrases like “Oh my God” fell into common usage in a Judeo-Christian culture as a form of oath to the Supreme Being. One cannot make an oath to the laws of physics, but it makes sense to make an oath to a person – or a Supreme Being, if there is one. So, for the person who believes that there is no Supreme Being, it’s best just not to use those kinds of sayings. At least that would be consistent with your belief.

      • In reply to #25 by Lonevoice:

        In reply to #11 by Nitya:

        On some occasions I have deliberately tried to eliminate terms such as “thank heavens”, “OMG”, “there but for the grace of god go I ” etc from my word stock, but I think I’m fighting a losing battle. Though these words and phrases have no more relevance for me than say, “c…

        I agree completely with your assessment. I have a very good friend who is a Coptic Egyptian, who as yet is not aware of my status as an atheist. Being orthodox, her language is laced with religious terminology. I try very hard not to include the everyday religious references that are scattered freely though common speech as I feel this will lead her to a false conclusion. I do intend to tell her of my lack of belief eventually, but I’ve put it off so far because I realise that she will worry about the fact that I’m going to burn for eternity.

        I have a habit of casually inserting “good heavens” as an exclamation. I know that my friend picks up on this, so I try very hard to change my wording. I feel dishonest in my relationship with her simply due to my offhand linguistic foibles. Being mindful of one’s speech patterns is not easy. Habits of a lifetime are hard to break.

  10. Realistically a child born to religious parents will be indoctrinated into it and to expect parents to do otherwise is a battle in futility, therefore why fight over the inevitable. More importantly, accusing parents of child abuse on the basis of a “label” is counter productive and will only create bad press. Most adults that claim religious faith don’t know what they believe in and as such aren’t religious and they don’t care..
    I complained about the use of the word “insurgent” during the early part of the war, which has a specific meaning and was used instead of the correct word “partisan” for obvious reasons. I found that most people had no idea what the meaning of either word was and didn’t care. TV channels refused to discuss it and stated they used the Macquarie Dictionary, whose staff refused to be drawn on the matter, fight the battles you can win. Personally I think there is a case to be made for more humour, belief is silly and no one likes to look or feel silly, not unlike the smoking campaign, they made it uncool.

    • In reply to #13 by Grahum Bin Larfin:

      Realistically a child born to religious parents will be indoctrinated into it and to expect parents to do otherwise is a battle in futility, therefore why fight over the inevitable.

      Yep, just look at those loonies in the Westbro Baptist Church to see how that works. Nathan Phelps had to wait until he come of age and conspire a plan to escape the churches clutches becoming estranged from his extended family in the process. Brave man if you know the circumstances of his story. Escaping this kind of in-doctrinal brainwashing is very rare. The story of King Sisyphus and the perpetual boulder rolling springs to mind. Sometimes though, we do see a boulder getting to the top of the hill.

      More importantly, accusing parents of child abuse on the basis of a “label” is counter productive and will only create bad press.

      That would be true if it was an accurate assessment of the situation, but it isn’t. It is not just the labeling of children that Richard Dawkins relates to a type of child abuse, although that does annoy him, it is the mental baggage that comes with the label and subsequent indoctrination. Mental abuse of a child is still child abuse. Telling a child it may well burn in hell for eternity for stealing a cookie, or even touching itself in a way the church deems inappropriate, is mental abuse, especially if the child firmly believes it to be true. In RD’s anecdote from “The God Delusion”, it was the thought of a wee pal going to Hell for the crime of being Protestant, a label applied to another child, that caused the friend such consternation and torment…more-so than the real physical abuse the wee girl had suffered at the hands of a male adult.

      Most adults that claim religious faith don’t know what they believe in and as such aren’t religious and they don’t care..

      Yep, even those that think they are “expert” don’t know the history of their faith or have accepted some theologically bastardized version of it. We see it all the time on these pages and I’m enjoying reading the ignorance over on an “RC versus Atheist” forum recently. They haven’t got a clue.

      I complained about the use of the word “insurgent” during the early part of the war, which has a specific meaning and was used instead of the correct word “partisan” for obvious reasons.

      Well, there have always been insurgents in Afghanistan. Being an insurgent does not exclude one from also being a partisan. I guess it depends on the time and context of the individuals being described as the insurgents. The Taliban, for example, became the insurgents in 2004 when the new elected Afghan government got into play. But it could be argued, that technically, they were insurgents from 2001 when they were ousted and the Afghan Interim Administration (AIA) and subsequent Afghan Transitional Administration (ATA) were put in place by the coalition.

      “The United States Department of Defense (DOD) defines it [insurgency] as “An organized movement aimed at the overthrow of a constituted government through use of subversion and armed conflict.”

      The key word here is constituted. Defining what a constituted government or authority in this case would make a difference to the overall view. Some may well be within there rights to claim the AIA as the constituted authority.

      “The Afghan Interim Administration (AIA), also known as the Afghan Interim Authority, was the first administration of Afghanistan after the fall of the Taliban regime and was the highest authority of the country from December 22, 2001 until July 13, 2002.”

      I found that most people had no idea what the meaning of either word was and didn’t care.

      True, I think we all got the jest of what was being inferred when the media referred to the Talban as insurgents or rebels.

      TV channels refused to discuss it and stated they used the Macquarie Dictionary, whose staff refused to be drawn on the matter, fight the battles you can win.

      I’d never heard of the Macquarie Dictionary before, I can see why the Macquarie definition makes it a lot easier to dismiss your complaint out of hand. I love this place for expanding my knowledge, cheers.

      Personally I think there is a case to be made for more humour, belief is silly and no one likes to look or feel silly, not unlike the smoking campaign, they made it uncool

      Now you are talking more along the lines of my style. You need to be careful though, lest you be called out for being shrill, strident, uncouth or not adopting the proper tone. Undeserved respect and all that jazz.

  11. Sorry to bang on but I didn’t explain the difference, as I see it. Prejudice is what I sometimes feel, acting on it by denying someone parity with others on the basis of my prejudice would be discrimination.

  12. I have noticed that, some years after I ceased to be Christian, “Jesus!” became one of my more demonstrative exclamations, usually to express astonishment or exasperation. When I was a Christian, I would never have so “taken the Lord’s name in vain.” In England and New Zealand, both relatively godless countries, it was quite a common usage, though it may have gone out of fashion now. In any case, it is an instance of a name being used thus only when belief in its traditional signification has ceased but the name still carries cultural overtones that have a desired impact.

    • In reply to #17 by Cairsley:

      I have noticed that, some years after I ceased to be Christian, “Jesus!” became one of my more demonstrative exclamations, usually to express astonishment or exasperation. When I was a Christian, I would never have so “taken the Lord’s name in vain.” In England and New Zealand, both relatively godless countries, it was quite a common usage, though it may have gone out of fashion now. In any case, it is an instance of a name being used thus only when belief in its traditional signification has ceased but the name still carries cultural overtones that have a desired impact.

      Funny thing, because it annoys my mother so much, taking the Lord’s name in vain that is, I cringe when someone uses it in both our presence. I’m not sure why, I have no qualms about contesting my mothers beliefs otherwise, when the subject is raised. I guess it is a vestigial remnant of indoctrination from my childhood. I couldn’t care less about it’s use otherwise.

      Ireland, a once very conservatively religious country is famed for using “Jesus Christ” as a pejorative, pronounced “Jaysus Crooyst”.

      Americans like to add the “H” in the middle, there are a number of hypotheses as to where and why the “H” gets inserted, some seem reasonable enough

      The Irish sometimes throw a “feckin’” in between the names, as in “Jaysus feckin’ Crooyst”. I’d have thought the practice would have been frond upon in what was once a very Catholic nation.

  13. Some time ago, I read the (interim) autobiography of a young, very intelligent, autistic man, the title something like “Mondays are Blue” in which he comments that he understands he has no sense of humour, no sense of irony. Extrapolating, he probably has had to have explained that “weighing your words carefully” is not done with scales. Meaning, then, depending on so many factors, seems to me to be a very rough-hewn thing and most rules of usage evolve in mysterious ways. Sometimes, it’s possible to achieve a minority consensus for change like “gay” and the usage catches on or is pressured into acceptance but words like God or Good Heavens will find their own level, won’t they? Is much to be gained by forcing a process which will probably take place anyway? Noone now flinches for religious reasons when we say Bloody (by Our Lady) for instance. And those especially sensitised to religious (!) words, I would guess, are reading an importance into their use which isn’t there or, anyway, will change. As long as it was fun to call redheads “Ginger”, it may have been tedious for them, but would censoring, however done, have achieved anything other than more ridicule?

  14. I wonder how useful it would be?

    “in the beginning was the word”

    that phrase sums up the problem for me. as an atheist i often call out to god or indeed jesus christ (albeit when angry and use his middle name as well). as rationalists we love to debate and test the words used to hold down their meaning. they only have value if they have true meaning.

    sadly, if you subscribe to the idea that “the word” is an actual “thing” (i.e. religious) you’ll never understand the debate beyond an argument as to who can use words the best.

    much of our language has biblical references, it’s important to understand them for what they are rather than worry about their content.

    as long as Einsteins “god does not play dice” will be picked up by xtians as proof Einstein believed in god (i.e. the concept of god I hold) it’ll be an uphill struggle (agnostic ex-jew believes in jesus) but I don’t know if there’s any need to self-censor.

    In the beginning was not the word but I believe linguistic skills have always been associated with intelligence and therefore power. in the dark ages people believed words had magic powers. I see it as no surprise that modern day american televangelists speak in a slightly olde-english manner as though the word “thee” carries more magic than “you”.

    use words without fearing the consequences i say. if people think you’re more religious than you are yuou can always blaspheme a bit! or subvert. if you hear someone fart say “bless you” if you’re a cat you can say “cleanliness is next to godliness” while licking your arse (not something i’ve ever heard a non-religious say tho)

  15. In essence, sound bites like “Oh my God, “God damn it”, “Oh for Gods sake”, “Good God”, “For Jesus sake”, “Jesus H Christ”, “Jaysus feckin’ Crooyst” and so on, should never have got started.

    The ungodly would have no need to say it unless mocking.

    The godly would know that it is one of the big ten and saying it is blasphemous to the point of damning ones soul, unless they believe the bible is wrong on this and God doesn’t really exist.

    Worse than damning ones soul, which is a lot of mumbo jumbo bollocks, people were put to death for blasphemy.

    In Britain’s last blasphemy execution, 20-year-old Thomas Aikenhead was executed for the crime in 1697. He was prosecuted for denying the veracity of the Old Testament and the legitimacy of Christ’s miracles.

    Thank feck I, or most here, didn’t live in 1697 or earlier. I wonder how many untold number lost there lives for the imaginary crime of blasphemy? Is it any wonder there was a lot of believers about back then, even if they were only playing pretendy Christians.

    So what we have, is the story of a mythical person getting a private audience with a mythical deity, whereupon said mythical deity gives an un-witnessed rule, Exodus 20:7, along with some other rules, to the mythical person who allegedly passes that rule onto a crowd of other mythical people. So far so good.

    Some 13 centuries later, enter another mythical man who might be a mythical deity, perhaps the same deity that handed out the rules to the other earlier mythical man, but not the mythical deity just yet. Now an anonymous man wrote that this new mythical man, who might be the mythical deity, just not yet perhaps, that the rule of taking his name/ his fathers name/ his essence in vain, pick one of the three because they are all one in the same, but they’re really not, will never be be forgiven.

    Mark 3:29 “but whoever may blaspheme against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin”

    All straight forward enough, yes? Err…No…not that easy. Enter stage left the plethora of expert theologians and their multiple interpretations of what the verse is is really saying, what is really meant by the word “blasphemy”, and what “never has forgiveness” is really a message for, and the word of the mythical person/deity/essence goes to ratshit and anything the pious experts say, goes.

    Go figure that one. You couldn’t make that shit up…oh, wait a wee minute…it is made up.

    All very funny, except this nonsense cost human suffering, misery and ultimately, human lives.

    Religion poisons everything.

  16. I support the position that this is a valid concern. See bible truth and magistrates as ‘arbiters of fact’ What a court does is dispute resolution, so the rulings of courts are ‘truths’ not ‘facts’ A bible truth, traditionally, is considered to be a fact to many, so this might be the best place to start looking at relevance of the The Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis.

    The attack of the theocrats addresses this too.

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