Halaal cross buns and Christian hypersensitivity

That Sheffield-refugee 6000 has beaten me to the draw on this one (and also on Red Bull pulling their blasphemous ad) – both posts are worth a read. Errol Naidoo’s outraged newsletter regarding Woolworth’s latest offence against women, children, God, Naidoo, decency and family values hasn’t arrived yet, so we can’t be sure just how much offence Woolworths have caused, but it seems to be quite a lot. You see, they had the unfathomably insensitive idea of putting a Halaal certification on hot cross buns.

Yes, hot cross buns – those delicacies eaten over Easter, a religious festival that some Christians refuse to celebrate because of its pagan origins. But no matter how offensive it might be to have the obvious pointed out to you (and it often is), these buns have always been halaal. And kosher. And the relevant stamps have been on the packaging for years now. From next year, you’ll be able to buy the buns without the relevant stamps, but they will be the same buns as before – still kosher, still halaal. But the hypersensitive Christians among us will at least then be able to go back to burying their heads in the sand, and forget about this full-scale assault on all they hold dear.

But since when have hot cross buns been considered a religious food, in any case? For quite a while, at least according to Wikipedia, which tells us that they were “eaten by Saxons in honour of the goddess Eostre”. We should certainly boycott those blasphemous Saxons, then. And how is this worthy of a boycott threat to Woolworths in any case (not to mention a front-page story in The Mercury), when all Woolworths are doing is reminding a significant proportion of their client-base that these buns won’t result in whatever damnation the eating of something without a halaal stamp is supposed to cause?

There are more serious things to worry about. Not only genuinely outrageous things, like the occasional evils committed in the name of religion (like the girl who recently died during an attempted exorcism) , but also (less serious, of course) things like consistency. These buns are sold year-round, and again, have been for years (with the halaal stamp). If hot cross buns have special significance to Christians, I’d imagine that significance to be strongly linked to Easter. So, if you want an extra thing to hyperventilate about, dear Christians, consider boycotting Woolworths until they also agree to only sell hot cross buns between certain dates, specified by you (or God, if you can get her on the line).

The fact that Woolworths have capitulated to this hypersensitivity is absurd. The complainants should simply have been told to grow up and remember that they live in a multicultural society, where they can’t demand special respect for grievances such as these. Judging by the jokes and mockery from other Christians on Woolworth’s Facebook page and on Twitter, this threatened boycott would probably have resulted in approximately a dozen fewer hot cross buns being sold, and surely that’s a worthwhile price for Woolworths to pay to avoid lowering the bar on what counts as significant offence even further?

On a related (albeit tangential) note, consider this billboard I spotted in Camps Bay recently:

We probably won’t see any claims of copyright infringement emerging from Tiger Brands, because of the default respect that is afforded to religion. Perhaps if the Laugh it Off folk had used this logo on a t-shirt there would be some complaint from the copyright holders, but here it would no doubt simply be considered a light-hearted and excusable appropriation of their logo. They wouldn’t mind this usage, in other words, because the association with this church is by default a positive association. Well, seeing as I’m an anti-natalist as well as an atheist, I’ll henceforth boycott All Gold until they sue that damn church. Perhaps.

Of course I won’t, partly because I don’t care, and because I might have done the same thing if I were involved in the billboard’s planning, and the same (no-) thing if representing Tiger Brands. It’s not worth a fuss, and can only be considered offensive from a position of deep insecurity (and of course, the same sort of response can be found among atheists also). And if Christians want to boycott Woolworths over this, all they will achieve is diminishing their own credibility, as 6000 points out in the link above. As for me, this Easter I’ll hopefully be able to enjoy some hot question buns, as in previous years, thanks to my blasphemous wife:

Insha’Allah, of course.

Supernaturalism and threats to reason

Note: While a few paragraphs towards the end of this are verbatim repeats (or slight edits) of content from a previous post, I considered the repetition justifiable as this post attempts to make a broader point, using the same example.

One way to divide nature – at least human nature – at its joints is to observe that the ordinary person’s approach to epistemology is that of either naturalism or supernaturalism.

Naturalism, in broad summary, holds that epistemology is closely connected to natural science. There is an increasing tendency amongst naturalists to hold that social sciences which do not verify their findings through results in the natural sciences are at best placeholders for an eventual, more mature, position which does incorporate the findings of the natural sciences, or, at worst, are epistemologically useless.

Cognitive science, as well as more general research in the fields of decision-science and heuristics of decision-making, allows us to understand far more about what people believe, and why, than we could previously understand. Despite this, much activity in social science proceeds as if these scientific revolutions are not occurring around them, and that that we are still somehow adding value by theorising about culture, literature or individual psychology. Continue reading “Supernaturalism and threats to reason”

Another victory for the hypersensitive?

Mybroadband.co.za – one of the largest online South African communities – seem to be following the terrible precedent set by some of the responses to Sax Appeal, and will henceforth not allow religious discussion on their forums. The decision to do so is reported to follow “getting many complaints of intolerance, blasphemy and the like”. This serves as another example of hypersensitivity winning the day, and of special treatment being afforded to the complaints of the religious. There is cause to doubt that this censoring move is premised on a desire to simply eliminate controversy on the forums in question, as that would require limiting discussion of topics that offend people like me: intelligent design, moral argument based on metaphysical premises, or philosophically illiterate discussion of materialism, to mention but a few threads that can also be found on those forums. We’ll wait to see whether topics such as those are moderated or banned. If so, I have no complaints – there are more than enough places that do allow robust debate on matters metaphysical.

Continue reading “Another victory for the hypersensitive?”