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Bizarre and Offensive

Entry 1718, on 2015-05-13 at 20:32:50 (Rating 3, Religion)

They say that people who live in glass houses shouldn't throw stones. Before criticising another person we should all be careful that we are not open to criticism for exactly the same thing ourselves. Some groups in society are more susceptible to this sort of thing than others. Those groups tend to be the ones who are not open to self criticism and don't question their own assumptions. And yes, the first group which comes to mind is religious people!

I am thinking of a specific case here: an Auckland man who objected to a statue of the Hindu god Shiva being built by his neighbour.

He thought the marble statue was "bizarre" and "offensive" and that "Religiously and culturally it's a bit insensitive to us and I can't believe they're able to do this. Part of our property looks at it and it's part of a religion we don't agree with." Plus, bizarrely, he compared the Hindu god Shiva to a Nazi swastika.

Sounds like this guy is a bit intolerant of strange superstitious beliefs, doesn't it? So it might surprise you to know that he is a Catholic!

So let's look at his issues: he thinks the statue (and presumably the associated beliefs) are bizarre and offensive. He doesn't like people displaying symbols associated with a religion he disagrees with. And he sees some connection with Naziism.

Here's what I find bizarre and offensive: a God who tortures his own son (or himself depending on your interpretation of the myth) by having him nailed to a cross which is supposed to, in some undefined way, save believers from the sin which is an inherent part of their nature as created by that same god.

I find statues of a dude hanging on a cross bizarre and offensive. I find some silly myth about a virgin birth which is completely inconsistent with other myths of the same religion bizarre and offensive. And I find the belief that bread and wine turns into the body and blood of Christ which his followers then consume bizarre and offensive.

Actually, to be honest, I find those things bizarre but not offensive because how could I be offended by something so pathetically absurd?

I can see Christian symbolism in many public spaces around the town I live in, including churches and cathedrals which are extravagant and imposing symbols of Christianity. I don't find these offensive though, in fact they are quite inspiring (not in a religious way I hasten to add). But even though I'm an atheist and less than half this country's population is Christian these symbols of a religion I don't agree with don't bother me.

And let's talk about the Nazis. Well first, any comparison between something you disagree with and Naziism leaves you open to disqualification as a result of various variations of Godwin's Law. Plus there is ample evidence of cooperation between the Catholic Church (although some of it is overdone, I agree) and the Nazis but I can't recall too much cooperation between Hitler and Hindus.

So why would any reasonable person who is a Catholic dare to even mention the subject of Hitler and religion? That is bizarre and offensive!


Comment 6 (4371) by OJB on 2015-05-16 at 17:58:59: (view earlier comments)

The main reason the person was upset is because the statue represented a religion different from his own. That was also the main reason he made the Nazi reference which I found ironic considering the history of the Catholic Church. There is no reason to think the structure would have caused any problems if it was religiously neutral.

I think the builder (whose religion actually is very relevant) should have realised this would potentially cause problems but considering all the conspicuous Christian structures around the country (as I mentioned in the post) I don't see one statue as being that significant.


Comment 7 (4372) by richard on 2015-05-17 at 03:35:15:

Just to clarify, I of course agree (as already had mentioned) that the fact that the builder had a religion in opposition to the neighbours had relevance. I was just trying to avoid applying any significance to that it was Hinduism in particular. I suspect neighbours do complain about religiously neutral structures that are overly conspicuous (and thus just plain annoying), all the time, but it doesn't hit national headlines.

Considering other Christian structures, or Islam, or Budhist structures is a red herring. Do you think the complaint would have been made about the very same statue erected in the grounds of a Hindu temple? No, I don't think so either. Apples and Oranges.


Comment 8 (4373) by OJB on 2015-05-17 at 11:54:58:

Again I have to say that I saw no reason to think that the problem was anything other than the religious symbolism of the statue. It's not primarily that it was too big, blocking the view, or anything else. It was just that it was a religion different from the person making the complaint. And it didn't need to be Hinduism, could have been anything contrary to Catholicism: I suspect that some sort of Islamic statue, the IPU, FSM, Buddha, etc would have been rather unwelcome too.


Comment 9 (4374) by richard on 2015-05-17 at 15:05:34:

Um, I am the one stating it didn't need to be Hinduism, but good we agree anyway. Well unless you happen to think there is some clear evidence in the article that the Catholic would have also complained about a Hindu statue he couldn't see (either inside or outside the Hindus house), I think your view is a bit presumptuous to be honest. It is more likely the Hindu has had such statues for a long time prior to this one, with no complaints. Clearly at very least it's both, which I have been agreeing with all along.

Put simply, if the religions and statues were in reverse, I would still suggest that it is the person erecting the imposing statue, that is displaying the intolerance for his neighbour. But hey, totally understand the opportunity you saw for the article, and the motivation to defend its grounding on the basis of assuming religious intolerance by the Catholic alone. :)


Comment 10 (4375) by OJB on 2015-05-17 at 23:43:59:

I think we agree on most of this. The article mentions no other reason for the objections apart from religious intolerance. If the Hindu had complained about a Catholic statue (or other obvious symbol) I hope I would have written something similar about it. It just happened that this story was about an intolerant Catholic.

I fully realise that religious intolerance isn't confined to one particular religion. For example, there are plenty of horrendous examples of believers in fundamentalist Islam demonstrating extreme intolerance to other religions, along with almost everything else!


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