Monday, June 23, 2008

Just Religious Superstition?

I first heard George Carlin when I was a kid. He was one of the early shock comedians, engaging in juvenile, potty-mouth humor that appeals to the immature. It was popular for kids to buy or bootleg his tapes, so I occasionally heard his routines at friends' homes. Some learned to repeat Carlin's routines, so you could hear his schtick on drugs or profanity in the hallways at school.

In this AP story memorializing Carlin upon his death, a 2004 interview is cited where Carlin defended his use of harsh language.
"The whole problem with this idea of obscenity and indecency, and all of these things - bad language and whatever - it's all caused by one basic thing, and that is: religious superstition. There's an idea that the human body is somehow evil and bad and there are parts of it that are especially evil and bad, and we should be ashamed. Fear, guilt and shame are built into the attitude toward sex and the body. ... It's reflected in these prohibitions and these taboos that we have."
Carlin is certainly welcome to his opinion. But he is wrong on this count. Or at least, his view is skewed enough that it fails to account for the real reasons that society aspires to a higher standard when it comes to profanity. Not that profanity hasn't achieved greater general acceptance during my lifetime, but there is still a more pure touchstone that society at least romanticizes about.

Although some religious thought sees the body and its sexual exercises as inherently evil, it is far more common for religion to regard the body as a sacred creation of God. Sexuality is regarded as spiritual and special. It is to be reverenced.

I suspect that even Carlin recognized this in his own familial interactions. Failure to do so diminishes the ability to enjoy the types of relationships humans hold most dear and leads to all kinds of dysfunction.

Dropping the F-word and other coarse and bawdy references to human intimacy is considered blasphemous because it detracts from sacred nature of humanity's most intimate expression. The fact that some misuse this expression is no excuse for others to do so. You can call this religious superstition. But Carlin's secular I-know-better-than-all-the-stupid-religionists insistence is itself a form of superstition. It comes complete with its rites and observances.

Another reason that we regulate profane expression is that children's minds are not fully equipped and are unprepared to grapple with such concepts. I wonder if Carlin thought it was OK for his daughter to view pornographic films when she was young. I suspect that he did not, although he was into drug use. Part of the reason we regulate such junk is that society generally believes that children should be shielded until they are capable of classifying and filtering content themselves.

George Carlin was a genius. But like many geniuses, he led an unbalanced life and engaged in skewed thinking. He could be very funny. But he could also be very wrong, as he was on this subject.

15 comments:

Anonymous said...

And now, after all those years of mocking God, religion, and especially Christianity, he is burning in hell.

Anonymous said...

What an awful thing to say.

I don't think he's burning in hell. I think he's being forced to watch Donny and Marie re-runs.

As bad as that is, it's not as bad as burning in hell.

Democracy Lover said...

The religious superstition Carlin referred to is a far cry from a sense of the sacred. Mature humans can easily understand that treating one's body with respect and treating others with respect is an important value. That does not mean they need to build in a guilt and shame toward sex and the body.

Religious superstition is not spiritual, it usually deflects us from the spiritual. We get wrapped up in obvious nonsense like 6-day creations, virgin births, resurrections, etc., and the belief that our understanding of what we choose to call God is superior to everyone else's understanding.

As for profanity, like it or not, it is part of our culture. Assuming we don't shelter our children in religious schools or compounds in the desert, they will hear most of Carlin's 7 words while in elementary school. Most will go on to become responsible and mature adults in spite of this verbal trauma. These words are attractive to youngsters precisely because they are forbidden and cause such consternation in adults.

Reach Upward said...

I'm content to let God determine Carlin's eternal status. I'm not fit to be anyone's eternal judge. But the Donny and Marie quip was good.

While it is true that children will be exposed to Carlin-style profanity quite early in life, Carlin's argument is essentially that profanity exists only as a superstitious construct. In effect, he contends that profanity and indecency do not in reality exist.

I can only assume that he is also suggesting that respectfulness is an unnecessary superstitious construct. At least, it seems he built a career around this concept.

I think that most people believe that respect is an important construct. It is a significant basis for all law, both domestic and international. It is violation of respect for ourselves and for others that gets us into trouble as individuals and nations.

Democracy Lover said...

I certainly agree that respect one's self and others is an important concept and essential to a moral life and a functioning society.

As a comedian and social critic, Carlin pointed out that reason the 7 words were so upsetting is that they referred to human sexuality and excretory functions. Both of those are quite normal human activities but the body-spirit duality introduced in most Western religions makes it unacceptable to speak about such things in "polite" company.

The Christian idea of the body as sacred (God's Temple, etc.) is often just another justification for suppressing those natural instincts and feelings that aren't holy enough.

P.S. Carlin was married to the same woman for 36 years until her death in 1997. He remarried a year later and he died 2 days before their 10th anniversary. It seems he was able to enjoy the types of relationships humans hold most dear as well as any of us.

Anonymous said...

I think you should read some of the sexploits of one Joseph Smith Jr. and his affair with Fanny Alger. Fanny was Emma's hired girl. Joseph had her bent over every piece of furniture in the Smith household. Emma caught Joseph "pouring the coals" to Fanny and all hell broke loose. Yes Joseph had finally knocked her up. Fanny was banished from the household to fend for herself. And what did Joseph do? Well, Joseph just went out and found another teenaged girl to have sex with. Joseph would continue this behavior of screwing young girls for the rest of his life. George Carlin was a saint compared to Joseph Smith Jr. Judge not lest ye be judged.

Reach Upward said...

You should research your anti-Mormon tripe a little bit better than that.

Anonymous said...

The truth sometimes hurts. You have been brainwashed bythe LDS cult since day one. You are powerless and you have given your mind and spirit to a "made up" religion. How you can continue to propagate this pack of lies to your childred is beyond me. Hopefully someday they will all see the light and shed the chains of the godless LDS. In the meantime I invite you to educated yourself about the life of Joseph Smith Jr. Joseph was a pathalogical liar, a cheat, a scoundrel, an adulterer, a child molester, a thief, a murderer, a convicted criminal and all around despot. His last act on the earth was the murder of two innocent bystanders. But dont take my word for it, look it up yourself. And for the record Brigham (Bring the girs to me) Young wasnt much better. Two peas in a pod. Two men who commanded their own death squads. Check out the Mountain Meadows Massacre sometime. Brigham Young ordered those killings. Men, women, and children murdered by the good Mormons of Utah. The men and women shot in the head and the children had their throats slit. Why do Mormons love to slit throats of children? I imagine you are in the Mormon group that demies the massacre ever happened. Well it did in fact happen and 120 innocent Christians were brutally murdered by your fellow LDS killers. But dont take my word for it, look it up yourself. Im sure you will call it "Mormon Tripe."

Reach Upward said...

And may God bless you as well.

Anonymous said...

Well at least you know when you are beat. In the end the truth always prevails. You have chosen to ignore the truth and perhaps that is in the best interests of all concerned. Keep worshiping Joseph Smith Jr. Keep worshiping Brigham (Bring me young girls) Young. Keep drinking the Mormon Kool-aid. Keep wearing the magical underwear. Keep sending 10% to the Big House in SLC. And above all, keep filling your poor children's heads with the lies provided by Brother Joseph the biggest pathological liar who ever walked the face of the earth. I pity your children. They had nothing to do with this gigantic ruse. God will look after them even though you have abandoned them.
ps When are you going to tell them about Joseph Smith Jr. and Fanny Alger? You wont and you cant. I would call you pathetic but that would be a compliment.

y-intercept said...

My guess is that George Carlin has used all of the seven words you can't say on TV in multiple times and in unique combinations since his descent. (he, he, he).

It is easy to project superstition on anyone's belief in the sacred.

Anonymous Coward is correct that loud charismatic religious leaders often have weird, unhealthy attitudes to sex. Of course the politically powerful of all stripe have the same problems and tend to subject the people under their dominion with sexual oppression.

The hypocracy of religious leaders seems to have more to do with political power than with religion thought.

That aside, Democracy Lover does a good job presenting the traditional religious view where people seek to overcome their base nature.

This traditional views seems to be better for people on the whole than the progressive view that makes defining one's sexuality the primary focus of life.

Democracy Lover said...

I always find y-intercept's comments intriguing. "...the progressive view that makes defining one's sexuality the primary focus of life." ??

There are some individuals, both gay and straight, who make defining their sexuality the primary focus of their lives. That trait has little to do with their political beliefs, or even their religious beliefs. It is more likely that it stems from a confusion or conflict within their own minds regarding their sexual orientation.

It's a bit off topic, but I just can't help reacting to such an assertion.

Reach Upward said...

Anon: No, I sincerely meant it when I said, "... may God bless you ...." As admonished by Jesus (Matt 5:43-44), I have prayed for you and I sincerely wish you the best.

Initially, I thought of many great ways to address your contentions, but, as instructed by the Lord (D&C 31:9), I have chosen to "revile not against those that revile." His word is good enough for me. I'm sorry if that robs anyone of a good argument.

Anonymous said...

Every evil and discusting deed done by Joseph Smith Jr. has been documented by history. Joseph Smith has a record and the truth cannot be changed. Joseph Smith was one of the most evil and discusting creatures that ever walked the face of the earth. You and the LDS cant change what he did you can only ignore them. Joseph cheated, he stole, he robbed, he raped, he murdered, he had sex with children, he had sex with other men's wives, he lied constantly, he castrated men who would not share with him. He was an evil despot. The LDS has taken away your thought process. The LDS has instructed you to ignore the evilness of Joseph Smith Jr. The facts and the truth are staring you in the face and you are ignoring them. Would you allow Joseph Smith Jr. to have sex with your 13 year old daughter? Of course you would. Joseph is your God.

Anonymous said...

No respone from the guy who knows all. Didnt Joseph "reveal" any answers to you? So you would allow Joseph Smith Jr. to bed your 13 year old daughter. That doesnt say much for you and it speaks volumes about the mind set of the LDS. If Brother Joseph preferred 13 and 14 year old girls, just how old were they when Joseph started taking notice of them? Were they nine years old? Maybe ten years old? Just imagine your 13 year old daughter and good Brother Joseph on their "wedding night." Imagine Brother Joseph violating her time after time, hour after hour. And to think, Brother Joseph is your rock and your salvation.