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Life of Brian: The most blasphemous film ever? (bbc.com)
111 points by vanilla-almond 22 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 101 comments

For all the commenters laughing at those silly religious folks who protested the film, consider this: is there anything you hold sacred? What if a film came out that satirized, I don't know, science, or abortion, or same-sex marriage, or racial equality? Admittedly, such a film may not have much comedic value, but I suspect it would nonetheless induce a decent amount of outrage, at least with the average reader here.

You may protest that this is a false equivalency, that the above-mentioned things are different from Christianity, which is merely belief. But that would simply be picking and choosing what you personally feel is open to ridicule - what's left is, by definition, sacred.

You may say, "I'm secure in my beliefs - go ahead and mock." Well, to be honest, we'd be in the same boat, you and I. As a Christian, I suppose I wouldn't mind watching "Life of Brian".

But to put ourselves in the shoes of the protesters - would you want the next generation to grow up in an environment where, say, the science of evolution is the target of mockery? (I imagine in some parts of the US that's not so far from the truth.) My point is, laughter is a powerful weapon. And children laughing along at the jokes may not catch all of the nuance outlined in the BBC article. Even if nothing is sacred, some things may still be important enough to try to influence the culture over.

Were the protests silly? Did they end up achieving the opposite of what they intended? Sure. But that's a matter of results, not purpose.

Maybe we should all learn to think twice before we laugh.

"You may protest that this is a false equivalency, that the above-mentioned things are different from Christianity, which is merely belief. But that would simply be picking and choosing what you personally feel is open to ridicule - what's left is, by definition, sacred."

Is it? You've tried to distill things down to belief or sanctity, but if we go one step further, we're talking about opinion. E.g. "It is my opinion x is sacred."

The actual false equivalency to me would be that we can freely strip down facts and science to mere opinion and sanctity. "The Earth is sphere-like is an opinion and I hold it sacred." Sure, people are welcome to question facts, but the bar is higher if you actually want others to believe your version.

And that's the difference. If I have a differing view challenging a fact or theory, well, prove it. Do the work beyond just opening my mouth. Science is always trying to self-correct. One man in the system may hold firm to a belief without merit, but his colleagues may not, and what is provable lives on. But if one decides to have a different religion or decides gruyere is better, they don't have to prove anything to anyone, except maybe themselves.

If there is a time where the science of evolution is mocked and laughed at, because of the inherent bar of provability, I think we'll be fine either way.

"Maybe we should all learn to think twice before we laugh."

I personally think it would be healthier for people to learn to accept constructive criticism and be the butt of a joke once in awhile.

Which, if we get back to the heart of the matter (rather than "science"), The Life of Brian isn't just mockery for mockery's sake. It's satire and satire is meant to provoke and challenge thought, to raise questions. It is the opinion's humorous version of an opposing scientific view. The bar of quality is not so high as a scientific proof, but satire generally only works when the questions it raises are valid.

Thanks for the response. Many fine points, here and in sibling comments. There was one point I did want to reply to:

"It's satire and satire is meant to provoke and challenge thought, to raise questions."

That's a good way to separate mockery and satire, but unfortunately on sensitive subjects I get the feeling that some people may be so used to getting the former that it's hard to distinguish the latter. Humour can open up a conversation, but it can just as easily shut it down. And with a movie, it all comes down to the one watching; even well-meaning satire can end up being received as mockery, by both those who agree with the views presented and those who disagree. The result may end up being less thought-provoking and more calcifying pre-existing opinions.

Anyhow, I didn't intend to stir up debate re. science vs. faith. There's a much longer conversation that could be had there. My original intent was simply to try to provoke a bit of empathy, regardless of what one's beliefs may be.

> Science is always trying to self-correct.

You guys sound like the teenager whose parents (priests and theologians) are "always going on about that" wrt his drug usage. "No mom and pop. I don't have a drug problem. I can self-correct myself any time I want in time for Varsity."

Is there anything I hold sacred? No. Well there probably is, but I would hope someone would point out that I am doing so and ridicule my silly assumption or inculcation.

Have to get right down the list of definitions, to the very end, to find a secular usage of sacred. Which then makes a circular religious dependency: "treating a policy or law as though it had religious significance, deserving of sacred separation".

I'd argue we have almost a duty to hold precisely nothing sacred of itself, perhaps especially those held sacred. "Because that's the way it is" and "because some people 1,000 years ago said so" are damn poor reasons to leave something alone. Heresy and blasphemy should be especially encouraged. If there really is a $deity, it can handle a little ridicule, or it would have created beings that did not ridicule the system.

> Maybe we should all learn to think twice before we laugh.

I couldn't agree more. What we choose to ridicule matters greatly.

The institutions, systems, social mores and assumptions I am so wholly a part of I no longer see them, those are deserving of endless and ongoing ridicule at every opportunity. At least until a majority wonder if the historic choices are actually the best approach or conclusion. I want extensive heresy of government, the system - any and every system, human choices, churches and all organised religions, of buildings and social habits. They are all choices, sometimes made a very long time ago. That includes the multiple, wildly diverging and mutually exclusive views held by all the different sorts of Christians. Ridicule the silly edifice they built, and rules they make, but not who they are.

On matters of biology or what you cannot choose, well those are fundamentally different. You can't change an accident of birth, the processes of biology or ageing, the car crash that cost you your legs, or skin colour. Yet I don't hold those sacred either, just that they not be used as a means of discrimination, repression and othering. Targeting $other for being that way is not OK. Making reference to $self and ridiculing $self's disability, upbringing, biology, features and culture is perfectly fine.

Science stands up pretty well to ridicule because once people are done laughing you can come back with facts. Religion on the other hand, once you have temporarily broken the hold it has via blind faith is left with ... nothing.

Which is why religious folks are so easily threatened.

Laughter is a fantastic weapon because it is most effective against pompous bullies.

> What if a film came out that satirized, I don't know, science, or abortion, or same-sex marriage, or racial equality?

You are wasting your time. All people of faith believe that everyone else's beliefs are based on insane delusions and that their beliefs is based on evidence and truth and so they cannot do an unbiased comparison of their beliefs with others. Comparing belief in e.g. rights for sexual minorities with e.g. Islam is always going to be seen as a false equivalency. Just like the Muslim is going to see a comparsion of belief in e.g. feminism as a false equivalency with Islam. You see, the Quran is based on truth while feminism is based on an insane delusion.

They can't both be right. At least one of them is wrong.

> All people of faith believe that everyone else's beliefs are based on insane delusions and that their beliefs is based on evidence and truth

Plenty of people of faith do not believe that, even within the Abrahamic monotheistic religions, which are known for being particularly exclusionary.

I want to hear more.

Yes, for instance Life of Brian itself contains a scene which mocks transgenderism.

It seems that we haven't outgrown blasphemy. We merely go from one regime to another regime. And specifying the new blasphemies can itself be blasphemous.

I found it remarkably sensitive toward transgenderism.

It was absolutely withering on stupidity, though. Stupidity will always get the sand kicked in its face, even though The Stupid are a by-god majority everywhere you look!

Some of The Stupid were even out protesting it, but brought along the wrong signs.

>I found it remarkably sensitive toward transgenderism.

Yes, although it does give Reg the last word, who claimed that Loretta was struggling against reality.

Regardless, that scene would I'm sure be regarded as too offensive to be released nowadays. The BBC article either didn't notice or they simply ducked the issue. My original comment, an innocuous statement plus link to a YT clip of the scene, was flagged and removed by HN.

Non-Christians in the West have suffered for centuries under the moral rule of Christianity [1]. This was one of their outlets. Moreover, religions are not based on science, and therefore the comparison is moot.

> And children laughing along at the jokes may not catch all of the nuance outlined in the BBC article.

Children miss a lot of nuance in contexts. To assume such is always going to be nefarious..?

[1] I witnessed it first hand as atheist growing up in a Catholic region.

I just began watching the first episode of Monty Python's Flying Circus (the TV show) for the first time last night (it was released almost 50 years ago today), and I could not believe how insanely funny it was.

I assumed that because of it's age, it would be at least a bit outdated.

Perhaps it was just way ahead of it's time?

You may also like The Goon Show. [1] It's a BBC radio comedy show that ran in the 1950s, and was way ahead of time. Some episodes make references to then-current events that are little known nowadays such as guerilla war in Malaysia, but many are timeless. Episodes "The Canal" [2], "The Jet-Propelled Guided NAAFI" [3] and "The Whistling Spy Enigma" [4] are among my favourites. They have a very playful style and a refreshing lack of cynicism and profanities.

John Cleese has said that the Goon Show "influenced us enormously", and many well-known Monty Python's sketches like "The Funniest Joke in the World" [5] can be traced to the Goon's jokes like dropping 1918 calendars on Berlin to force Germans surrender (in episode "World War One").

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Goon_Show

[2] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-69K1MQ4YJE

[3] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rwSQ0CBQuA0

[4] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4nMjk--OVR4

[5] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W9FzUI8998U

Are you also familiar with The Men from the Ministry ? Written by Edward Taylor and John Graham.

For some reason, it also made a successful radio show in South Africa, Finland and Sweden. The latter two are translations (but set in UK like the original). Taylor wrote new episodes for Finland even after the show was discontinued in UK.

I think it was the goons that had a lovely little sketch of the 100 metres standing still race. The gun fires and they stand straight up, then it's all done as a stop motion thing.

As historical aside, but possibly relevant, Monty Python was a surrealist reaction to the hopelessness of living in Britain in the 70s. Life was shit, and escapism pretty much a requirement to make it through. It thrived in that ecosystem, and someone would argue we're back in a similar situation today, just under different causes.

I've been watching yes minister again and the themes are eeriely familiar. I also found out there was a 2013 relaunch that fell flat. If only they had waited another 6 years!

It's possibly the best political satire bar none. I've probably watched it a good few times and will continue to watch it. Best is, that it even lines up beautifully with some of the stuff that goes on in Indian politics here to this day!

There was also an Indian spin off sometime in the nineties.. did sort of ok but iirc got called since it ruffled a few feathers here

If I remember right, they looked at what political issues were the same at the time as some X years before, and those are often then things which still apply, which gives it a beautiful timeless quality.

It was a decade before I was born, but my understanding is that they had high level sources leaking material and were therefore very relevant to what was going on at the time.

One of those sources was on PM Harold Wilson's staff. :)

They took a lot of ideas and turned them up to absurd. One or two turned out to be actually happening like they thought they'd only imagined. Others were grounded on real events.

One of the two writers, Jonathon Lynne I think, went to Oxford or Cambridge, and took part in the debating society. He mentioned something I heard mentioned again recently regarding Boris Johnson and his government cronies university and school days - so perhaps no wonder it seems horribly familiar again. Something roughly along the lines of university debate club being filled with self-important overblown and pompous asses, sure of their right to rule the world, and to be in the right by mere opening of their mouth, endlessly spouting crap and winging it. Yes Minister was born here. :)

A decade or two later all those pompous asses were populating the government and opposition benches, spouting the same crap.

> Life was shit

Because, like, no Facebook and stuff?

An economic recession so big that Thatcher seemed like a good idea.

Seinfeld is another show that aged well like Monty Python. Some situations in Seinfeld wouldn’t happen anymore due to cellphones and new technology. Monty Python is nice because a lot of it is fantasy or general humor not situational like Seinfeld.

Cellphones in particular have essentially invalidated so many situations based on not being able to get in touch with someone or having to make advanced arrangements and missing the connection, etc.

Heck, most of Connie Willis' earlier books--which I do like but also involve people running around and constantly not being able to locate someone--really don't make sense in a world where people carry phones.

The biggest issue I've heard about Seinfeld is that people claim it's derivative...Not realizing that Seinfeld is actually where a lot of the ideas started.

It always blows me away how well it has aged. As for being ahead of its time, we might miss some of the context: at the time, cross-dressing apparently caused some controversy, which doesn't readily occur to me while watching them now.

I watched them on original release and I feel the semi constant (ironic) homophobia and women-as-drudge and cross dressing really palls. some days I think python is the original "women aren't funny so we don't have any" meets "dressing up as women us funny because we're men" thing.

Some stuff is excellent but not all. It made more sense when the BBC interstitial was contemporary. (Goodies did the same thing with itv ad break intro pattern). The 'fake end of transmission' was also done by Spike Milligan. It got so we'd stay watching ten minutes after broadcast in case something was coming back.

One time in 1974 the BBC cancelled the broadcast for pompidou's death and we rang to complain. Outrage! How dare surreal humour be stopped for some french presidents carcass?

Given Chapman's homosexuality it has to be ironic. The cross dressing and ooo you are awful mincing stuff: It just doesn't seem funny to me any more.

Saw them live in the seventies, they were an excellent ensemble and Niel Innes (rutles) deserves more recognition for his pythyon role (he brought the kings theatre, edinburgh to a standstill reprising Elton John's 'tommy' gig with one chord)

Terry Gilliam nude at a piano and John Cleese nude as BBC presenter felt like some of the first male nudity on screen.

I always thought it as a comedy tradition and related to both Shakespearean puritan prudity that women working as actresses are also prostitues advertising and therefore should be banned. Plus the British public school "traditions" based upon good ole imperial anti-decadence as the peak of messed up presenting itself as the peak of morality (see Roman gladiatoral combat and its professed purpose).

The concept of the boarding schools were because they worried the compassion of women raising young men would make them too weak. Their whole foundation was frankly of the "so misogynistic it winds up automatically homosexual because women can't be considered people by them". I state homosexual as opposed to gay because it refers to behavior rather than preferences. Surprisingly the majority won't choose celibacy over their preferred gender - so women are subsitited for men despite a preference for them. The crossdressing speaks to both the "boys club" society and the "easy to laugh at" - comedy actors are usually about average or below in attractiveness.

Graham Chapman also was very to the "ubermanly men". It could have been a "stop being stereotypical" thing - a "it should be laughed at because the mincing is ridiculous" attitude.

I liked but mostly didn't love a lot of the Python silliness. There were some funny skits but I merely enjoyed like Holy Grail. I didn't really go around quoting it all the time.

Life of Brian is the Python that really aged well for me because it does have that satirical element that goes deeper than most of the things they did.

I don't think that cross-dressing for laughs was controversial unless the UK in the 70s was way more conservative than Germany or the US in the 60s.

I immediately remembered several movies with Peter Alexander from the early 60s like "Charlys Tante" or Billy Wilder's "Some Like It Hot".

Although in the latter there are several scenes going beyond "men in women's clothes are funny" and homosexual acts are evoked in the viewer's minds (but of course never actually called on screen).

If you watch the 1979 "debate" with those two old fops, ou find that most or all of the current BBC article is sourced from that show.

Coincidentally, youtube suggested it to me last night, and I watched it. That Archbishop of whatever was generally lying when responding to Cleese's (very commonly held) points about how nobody tells you we don't know who wrote the Gospels, or even in what city, and that there's quite a bit of argument about when they were written. And even more about the common content, and why it's in different orders in each gospel (except John, which is really different, and Jesus is 40 years old at the time of the crucifixion). It was as if the two old fops hadn't even watched the movie in question. I'm surprised Palin and Cleese didn't just tear into them. Maybe I'm just used to folks live-tweeting events like that nowadays.

There has always been a lot of argument about the gospels, as they put forth a radical idea that is unacceptable to many. However, just because people argue about it does not take away from the claims made there, or the internal consistency of the accounts. Are there claims of inconsistency? Sure, but they don't stand up to inspection.

Monty Python was a genius comedy troupe, but all you have to do is look at the sad life that Cleese ultimately led to see they may not be a source of inspiration for how you should lead your life.

The disciples of Jesus on the other hand were, with one exception, killed for their beliefs. The one exception being John, who died in exile on an island.

> sad life that Cleese ultimately led

Ummm... https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Cleese

I'm not sure I understand what you're saying here. Seems like a pretty interesting life to me, but you know, facts don't matter any more. He's still alive too, which the "ultimately led" part makes me think you're thinking of someone else, Graham Chapman, perhaps?

Also, bit of a diversionary argument that the author of the movie's life (sad or otherwise) is a source of inspiration for anything. Cleese was arguing with upper crust britons. The points that Cleese made, and that were ignored by said britons in favor of putting words in Cleese's mouth are the issue here. I also think that the (semi-legendary) fates of the apostoles is also diversionary. Those fates, true or false, fact or legend, really don't have too much to do with how Cleese and Palin's arguments were treated by the Bishop and Muggeridge.

"Sure, but they don't stand up to inspection."

Please elaborate.

He can't because it's not true. Any reading of Matthew/Mark/Luke will net you a set of stories that are similar, but every story is not included in all 3 gospels, and the order is a bit different.

Wikipedia maybe says it well: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Synoptic_Gospels

> they include many of the same stories, often in a similar > sequence and in similar or sometimes identical wording. > They stand in contrast to John, whose content is largely distinct.

This is reasonably well known among scholars, but not super common knowledge. I believe this is clearly what Cleese was complaining about, and what the Bishop tried to gloss over by claiming that knowledge is commonly imparted by religious education.

There's also things like the "Johannine Comma" (https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Johannine_Comma), and the ending of Mark (https://uk.answers.yahoo.com/question/index?qid=201104301236...), if you want to dig deeper.

This statement is in response to the broad claim of inconsistencies in the accounts. If anyone needs to elaborate, it is the original claimant.

Is there a claimed inconsistency you would seek to have explained?

Nowhere did I say they were inconsistent - merely that different gospels have different stories, or different versions of the same story, and they appear in different orders. This is beyond dispute. It's also not something that christianity as a whole makes clear. The Gospel of John is radically different than the other 3 gospels. You can see that by reading maybe a page of each one. Beyond dispute.

Not the point, thank you for playing.

John Cleese claimed that a "public school" education netted him a negative impression of christianity. Cleese referred to the received christianity as garbage. Cleese went on to remark that upon looking into the Gospels, one finds that there's a good deal of confusion about who wrote them, when they were written, and even in what language and what city. This is true, by the way. The Bishop of Bath and Wells or whatever brushed Cleese's observations off by claiming that Cleese just didn't pay attention, that all that was laid out in front of everyone. I sincerely doubt that any of that is front and center, because that (after of course, The 7 Day Creation) is the main thing about christianity. Admitting that the foundational documents are of obvious human construction, contain non-unified views of Jesus, and don't even have all the same stories in the same order blows a huge hole in the side of organized christianity. The Bishop of Bath and Wells (or whatever) was definitely lying and trying to cover that aspect of the new testament up.

All this talk of banning films seems so anachronistic now. And George Carlin's 7 dirty words routine [1] and its related Supreme Court legal fight is now nearly 40 years old as well.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Seven_dirty_words

American expectations of censorship are so interesting, as the whole society was formed by film and radio's attempts to market to the whole country at once, specifically restrictive middle America.

Its clearer now that broadcasting hot spots of New York City and Los Angeles were not prudish about content in the early 20th century, while the Oklahoma's of the nation only wanted fully clothed people, speaking very cordial language, as long as all the actors were white or portrayed segregated culture. Strange to think how that influenced a dynasty of casting decisions still seen today.

Yeah, I think it's interesting how we didn't have nearly as much formal government censorship, but that commercial interests converged on the same sorts of outcomes.

And yes, I think the history is especially interesting around visible versus invisible minorities. Plenty of people in the Hollywood of old were GLBTQ and got away with it because they could hide it. But that didn't work for racial bias.

There was rampant government censorship, it was at the state level all because the Supreme Court said motion pictures weren't protected by the 1st amendment in 1910, reversing itself in 1950s after the damage was done and culture wide censorship was expected by American families. Circumstances like this are why industries don't lay off on lobbying.

To add to your second point, a lot of European and Middle Eastern people changed their names to blend into the white majority power as their subgroup was not seen favorably for most of the 20th century and were many times not considered to be part of an amorphous “white” group which meant worse treatment in jobs housing credit and court rulings, this issue and distinction has mostly evaporated with "white" being expanded and reduced to skin tones in the later 20th century in the US with there very little interest or cognizance of pre-US heritage. This just being another example how invisible minorities and ability to "pass" to attain privileges, where people with different skin tones and visible phenotypes simply could not change those things and discovered that people with other similar phenotypes experienced surprisingly similar outcomes.

If you made a similar film about Muhammad today it would be banned everywhere. Things haven't changed that much

I'm not so sure, because the Life of Brian didn't make fun of Christianity, although it did poke fun at the throngs that were searching for a messiah. Similarly, I think you could pull off a comedy about a bunch of Bedouins in 7th century Arabia who are generally ignorant of the actual current of change in their time and seeking a different, abortive attempt at overthrowing the established order.

I mean a similar film. I can't imagine it to go down easily.

In this case I really think it mattered more that a bunch of people who didn't see the film had preconceived notions about it and took it upon themselves to make a stink. Certainly that could happen in the Muslim world as well, as happened with the Satanic Verses. But that didn't have to happen (although it might have been good for publicity).

Banned? You'd get assassinated, like Theo van Gogh.

The article mentions in passing that some councils in the UK banned the film:

> In Britain, opposition wasn’t as fierce, but there was plenty of it. Some local councils banned the film, a measure which did it no harm at all: people would simply flock to the nearest city where it was showing.

This is a bit confusing but we have the BBFC who gave the film an AA (14 or over) age rating when it was released in cinemas, and then mostly 15s for the home releases, and most recently a 12A.

On top of the BBFC we have local councils who licence venues for entertainment, and some of those councils banned cinemas from showing the film.

Some of those bans were pretty long. I think Glasgow had a 30 year ban.

It's not a good situation.

In my country (Spain), there are religion classes from primary school all the way until university. For public (state managed) schools - which are the majority - students choose between religion or an optative class, which usually consists of either ethics, morals, or world religion from a non-believers perspective (sort of anthropological studies).

Every year, the religion teacher at my school would organise a day together with the other class' teacher, where students of both classes would spend the hours together, and the activity chosen was a showing of Life of Brian.

I've always remember that as a beautiful idea. It's a movie that roasts everyone from believers to left wing associations, and yet with pretty clean humor - so it was an amazing tool to teach students of both "sides" the lesson that it's ok to laugh at yourself and to get along with others.

What I find hilarious about that debate with the bishop is that they apparently missed the first five minutes or so of the film and didn't understand that Brian wasn't in fact Jesus. What made it more funny is that this should have become painful obvious even without that bit of context.

Of course the absurdity of it is that the film's biggest target for ridicule was the left wing of British politics at the time. It barely touched actual Christianity.

But as the article mentions, it was the next film that leaned in to the criticism of Christianity (albeit mostly mocking the modern day Church and not Christ).

Like most people at the time, it was the Not the Nine O'Clock News skit that everyone knew of and were talking about afterwards. I only saw the cringe worthy debate when it was repeated, some time after Mel Smith's far more mature debate. :)


Muggeridge and the bishop sounded incredibly pompous and anachronistic, even in 1979. The Catholic church particularly organised a fabulous publicity campaign for the Pythons. Every few days yet another fossilised Arch something-or-other relic turned up in the news to complain of a film they hadn't even watched.

I thought Meaning of Life carefully directed at ridiculous Papal edicts and Catholic dogma, vs equally ridiculous CofE flavoured Protestantism, rather than anything against Christianity itself. It was wildly heretical - against the church, but not blasphemous. And had the Galaxy Song, so should have been far more successful than it was. :)

Wasn't there a scene later in the movie where the actual Jesus was shown (without any mockery) in contrast to Brian? I think this week was just a case of interpreting the movie on the worst light to create an opportunity for virtue signaling. I notice it when people I disagree do this and wonder how often I do this myself without noticing.

> Wasn't there a scene later in the movie where the actual Jesus was shown (without any mockery) in contrast to Brian?

Yes. And at the beginning as well.

The other guy wasn’t better. His assumption was that because 14 years old don’t know much about Christ or Christianity, after watching this obvious satire comedy made by people who produce many more comedy inthe past, all of sudden that’s all they would believe regarding a Christian religion as a whole. There is so many problems with this even when you go back in times it was debated. I would say there was more harm actually to give someone like that a voice on nationl TV to fearmonger parents that their kids are in danger. It also gives an author too much credit. I mean think about making a silly movie that has altered thinking process of a whole nation. There is never been a single movie like that and there never will be. And baning that movie just proved again why US had to part from Brits frankly, and how different America really is.

I don't follow your last point. It was Ireland and Norway that banned the movie, not Britain. Some British and American towns banned it, I believe mainly as a result of lobbying by evangelical Christian groups, and all did so sight unseen. America was the place with the most widespread demonstrations against the movie though.

So how does USA and Britain doing the exact same thing, to roughly similar extent prove any difference or historic need to separate?

>Of course the absurdity of it is that the film's biggest target for ridicule was the left wing of British politics at the time. It barely touched actual Christianity.

I wouldn't say that. The main plot of the film is a regular guy accidentally becoming the head of a major religion, despite his protests and his exasperation, all the way to being crucified like Jesus.

The Judean People's Front stuff is at most a B-plot.

Oops, I got confused and thought this was "Life of Brine", the discussion about the video "A Year Ago I Put Saltwater in a Jar"!


I can never understand why religious people can be so insecure about their religion. If you believe that the all-powerful creator of the universe is on your side, why would you care in the slightest about some movie?

Because the critical component in organized religions is social control, and one of the most critical factors in social control is maintaining the 'social proof field'. If everyone believes something it enhances the belief, but if there are non believers they diminish the social proof field in the vicinity of their social graph.

Alone these 'heretics' are not a threat, but as soon as two get together it's no longer about one lunatic deviant who you can ignore, but a social phenomenon.

The more you have heretics the stronger their social proof field becomes, enticing people away.

Religions are much more understandable as social movement and political constructs that lean heavily on propaganda rather than as methods of investigation into the nature of reality.

The same way that the ideologues on the left and right are so insecure about their politics. It's an attack on your ideology.

Religion is about belief.

Organised religion is about control. Heresy was just as serious as blasphemy - both could get you executed. Can't have people saying anything against the church, they might start to question their tithes.

I think for many of them, though not all, a secret they would never admit is that they don't really know whether they believe or not. And some simply do not believe, but would not want to admit that because it would be embarrassing given all they have said in the past. And I think these people very much want to believe, so they resent anything that tries to tug them away from delusion. But they still cry at funerals.

it's about ego. if you insult my god, you are insulting me. what you are telling me implicitly is that you don't respect me, you don't care about me and my feelings. religion is an identity. it works for any identity not just religions : country, ethnicity, language and even football team.

True; note also that the personal ego is a social phenomenon, like much of the human consciousness, and it gets amplified proportionally to the size and the strength of the community.

This is also the main reason psychedelics are illegal in many areas, in my opinion. Society benefits from that ego being nice and protected, and psychedelics have a way of breaking the ego down and reconstructing it slightly differently.

My take is that religious people protest in this way go show their membership in and loyalty to their tribe. It’s for this reason that Jehovah’s Witnesses preach on the street corner as well.

They know they won’t change anyone’s mind. But the action of standing up for their beliefs makes them feel like part of something. Part of their tribe.

Presumably, that all-powerful creator judges not just the individual but entire societies by their actions, so by allowing such films to be made the religious might become guilty by association.

They ban films and books for the same reason that some authorities may ban articles and images of certain events that took place at Tiananmen Square in 1989.

It's similar to a trademark - if you don't defend any even small slight or 'misuse', it becomes worthless and meaningless. Apparently.

Because the all-powered creator will not stop the movie, which I guess shows the weakness of the god. So they have to act for him instead.

What makes you think that God didn't find the movie funny?

Well some of his followers certainly thought that.

> I can never understand

They can't understand either

Is it hard to understand defending your society's values?

What values are being attacked by the movie? The movie doesn't make any claim to be factual.

When an omniscient and omnipotent entity is on your side, yes.

It's a lot less frustrating to not bother reasoning about the actions of irrational people.

There is something to be said about the certitude of the cynical nihilist. There is no such thing as beauty, or good, or truth. Anything goes, who am I to tell anyone anything about values? They might become a better person for it, the horror. Who am I to tell myself, my spouse, my children, my brother and sister, my neighbor what I believe is beautiful, is good or is true? Let us drift through the valley of sorrow carried by the whims of the collective fads, sporadically titillating our biological pleasure centers to get some relief. Utopia dawn upon us, any moment now.

This kind of puritanical worldview has now taken over so many aspects of culture.

If you said a joke 10 years ago, i.e. blasphemed against some sacred topic, you can't host the Oscars anymore.

It was stupid then and it's stupid now. It sure looks like humans need to fill the void of religion with something.

there is no void. Plenty of humans (myself included) live not only without believing in god but without a need to believe. “It’s easy if you try” I think what is needed is some basic education and security in life.

My comment was less about religion as belief in God and more about religion as its societal impact. Humans who believed in something with devotional fervor instituted blasphemy laws and censorship. Today's humans believe in other things with equal zealotry and are utilizing the same tyrannical solutions.

All interesting stuff.

But scratching my head as to why things like this end up on Hacker News? Seems to happen a lot these days.

From Guidelines (https://news.ycombinator.com/newsguidelines.html):

> On-Topic: Anything that good hackers would find interesting. That includes more than hacking and startups. If you had to reduce it to a sentence, the answer might be: anything that gratifies one's intellectual curiosity.

I'd say this type of thing most-definitely applies here.

It really does depend whose intellect is being satisfied.

This little thread of mine is an intellectual discussion.

However, I'm fully aware that many in this community deem fit to vote me down for having it.

Curious, indeed.

I also note that the title of this post has changed since I posted my first comment. To something slightly more egregious to people of faith.

Christian faith, I presume you are referring to? Because there are many other 'people of faith' who are not Christians, and who won't be offended in any way by Life of Brian.

It's getting far too predictable here...

A lot of us HN readers are geeks and love Monty Python. I still use the Holy Hand Grenade of Antioch to explain why Zookeeper needs 3 nodes but not 1, 2, or 4. (Though in contrast to the Pythonic instructions 5 is actually OK.)


Though if interested in learning more, I recommend watching this 4-part debate on the subject from 1979.


Tech people like Monty Python

I'm with you.

Maybe this trend is inevitable because people spend a lot of time here (as I do). It's a forum after all. Focus on tech and intellectual pursuit gets diluted in general conversation.

And that's really a loss.

Weekends definitely wander a bit.


Look, I don't know about you, but if I die in a shooting I would prefer that the guy who did it didn't plan it on the same knock-off imageboard that people go to for obscure fetish porn. It's the principle of the thing, I would prefer they have the decency to maintain their own comms infrastructure.

I would prefer they have the decency to maintain their own comms infrastructure

They will, but now instead of a well known place where the police/FBI know they are going to go, they'll be deeper underground.

Sort of like the whole shutting down craigslist and other personals sites because they were a haven for sex trafficking - so instead of having a well-known place where law enforcement could find illicit activity, the activity was driven farther underground and harder to find.

I understand the point but personally I think law-enforcement is equally useless in both situations. With the latter the bar for entry is higher. Argal I'll have the peace of mind of knowing that the shooter isn't an amateur and that they didn't come across the idea while looking for Vore.

Hacker News is becoming like a Reddit for tech!

'Tech' is fine.

A bit of philosophy is ok. In a way. (Though religion and politics can fall in to that category and start fires)

But recently I've seen quite a bit of 'non-tech' stuff.

Just an observation.

Also: I am not Brian.

I am ... and so's my wife.

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