Gareth Cliff faces BCC tribunal for blasphemy

Gareth Cliff recently reported on the “Teddy Teacher” Gillian Gibbons, who was sentenced to 15 days in jail in Sudan, for the crime of allowing her class to name a teddy bear ‘Mohamed’. The case in itself raises a few questions, or at least eyebrows. Given that the children chose the name democratically, that the parents raised no issue with the name, that the entire school was aware of the name, and that the incident itself happened months ago, one may wonder what this single woman did to deserve this punishment when her entire class of six- and seven-year-olds, their parents, and the rest of the school staff, should have been in jail with her. Also, one may wonder why it is so terrible to name a bear Mohamed, but fine to name a child Mohamed? But I digress…

The point of this post is that 5fm DJ Gareth Cliff dared to say on his show that if a God is offended by the use of his name by a mere mortal, offended enough to make it a commandment, then that God is petty (can i get a gasp?). Personally, I find Cliff’s logic infallible. I would add that if a God is so injured by the taking in vain of his name that he has to ban people from doing so at peril of their eternal peace, then that God must truly be a weak, snivelling thing to boot. I would like to thank Gareth Cliff for his excellent insight.

But not so, 5fm listeners. No indeed, there was much wailing and gnashing of teeth, and one listener wrote in to Cliff personally about his blasphemous ways, and then was shocked and apalled when he did her the courtesy of reminding her that there is no God, no Tooth Fairy, and no Santa Claus either. Given the number of exclamation marks in her original email, and her inability to spell the word ‘you’, I could have guessed that her reaction to that factual dissemination would not be good, and indeed it was not. Cliff is now facing a tribunal of the broadcasting complaints commission over the whole incident.

What amazes me is that people genuinely believe that the commission is meant to step in to shield them from insults against their imaginary friend, just because he’s popular. People honestly believe that religion, for some reason, deserves more respect than any other position a person may hold. You can insult people’s politics, their taste in movies and their choice of music, but woe betide anyone who dares to insult their made up stories about how the world works! No, indeed, as soon as someone starts going on about religion, we have to shut our mouths and nod respectfully. May I add that the next time someone expects this, you give them the respect they truly deserve: fix a smile on your face, hold your hands up to show they are empty, nod vigorously, and slowly start backing away until you are about 4 metres away from them, then break into a flat sprint in the opposite direction.

Because if the religious deserve any kind of respect, it’s the same respect you would give to the clinically insane.

25 Responses to “Gareth Cliff faces BCC tribunal for blasphemy”

  1. Makes sense. The church is, after all, a highly revered institution.

  2. If people are so sure of their God, then they shouldn’t mind when we poor, blind unbelievers ask tricky questions like that. Could it be that the listeners are incensed by Mr Cliff because the question was such a good one?

    More likely she (like most of her kind) didn’t even think about what had been said and just reacted because the words ‘God’ and ‘petty’ were in the same sentence.

  3. Great post. Good points you raise.

    I am also quite upset with this whole Gareth Cliff (awa Deon Maas & The Golden Compass) debacle. Not because of what Gareth said, but the way the public (more specifically, the religious right) acted on it!

    What happened to Free Speech? What happened to people’s intellectual capacity to be able to listen to someone else’s opinion without having to accept it or reacting to it?

    I raised my own thoughts on this topic over at my blog:

    http://zavibes.com/index.php/gareth-clilff-accused-of-blasphemy/

    Have a read. Have your say.

  4. Do have a look at the Facebook group that has been started to protest against Gareth.
    http://blogs.thetimes.co.za/britten/2007/12/05/will-consumer-pressure-impact-on-gareth-cliff-and-5fm

  5. *Snigger* You said imaginary friend :>

  6. […] got on the bandwagon and thought it clever to imitate the Maas debacle by calling the Christian God petty. His aim, I’m sure, was to fabricate a similar awareness around his personal […]

  7. Religion justifies exactly the same respect as any other human idea. no more, and maybe given the levelof evidence a whole lot less.

  8. “Clinically insane” ? Over on Randi’s fora they are discussing whether it is an addiction. It’s certainly certifiable.

  9. So who is the average 5fm listener?

    According to yesterday’s poll http://www.5fm.co.za/webpoll/poll.aspx

    Astrology is…
    * evil (9%)
    * hogwash (42%)
    * eerily accurate at times (50%)

    Comments on the rounding of the percentages aside; if we take it that the first and third options reveal a belief that astrology is a real phenomenon then the critically reasoning minds out there number AT MOST 41% – There is the possibility that of that 41% there is an understanding that astrology is not real but some of those voters believe in another form of woo. That number dwindles the more we think about it because of the “special protection” mentioned previously. So even if it was to go to a popular vote from the listeners out there, the result certainly wouldn’t be in favour of free speech. As Penn & Teller said; “popular sure don’t mean right”.

  10. residentRsole Says:

    I’m just waiting for some radio/T.V. personality to insult the Flying Spaghetti Monster.

  11. chris salmon Says:

    Disgusting. What gives Christians or Islam followers the right to judge others and tell them what opinions to have, and even worse punish them for THEIR beliefs.

    Time for religion to exit the planet, it is crap. If people want to practice religion, let them do it in their own forums or at home. Public forums are not for religous people to impose their views. I am in 100% agreement with the writer above.

  12. i’ve often wondered why it is that atheists and agnostics don’t send around petitions and organize boycotts when our feelings are hurt? I think it may have something to do with the fact that most atheists are such because they are independent free thinkers, which makes getting them incensed and organized somewhat like herding cats. On the other hand, I believe the bible may have been correct in referring to the religious as god’s sheep… their natural tendency to follow the crowd allows them to be much stronger at organizing facebook groups.

    I think Pratchett said it best in Small Gods:

    The merest accident of microgeography meant that the first man to hear the voice of (the God) Om, and who gave Om his view of humans, was a shepherd and not a goatherd. They have quite different ways of looking at the world, and the whole of history might have been different. For sheep are stupid and have to be driven. But goats are intelligent and need to be led.

  13. Ms. Flake, re Pratchett: O yeah! Long been a supreme wisdom, to my mind.
    Then there’s this, from my friend (imaginary) Mayor of Manhole, Mississippi Leroy Tecumseh van Buren: “It’s not the things we don’t know what get us into trouble, it’s them things we knows for sure what ain’t so!”

  14. I have now added another most hated phrase to my list of 1.
    Top most hated phrase: When countries/people/anything is referred to as African, as if it were some homogeneous mass,
    Newly added most hated phrase: When people say they “believe” (or not) in scientific theories/facts.

  15. Bast: Couldn’t agree more. Saying you ‘believe’ in evolution/gravity/quantum mechanics is like saying you believe in rocks. As if your belief or non-belief has any impact on the existance or truth of the thing. Drives me nuts.

  16. Oh and here’s some more water woo brought to you by a man named Johann Grander. A friend recently proudly showed me his stainless steel tube containing memory water which he stirs his tea with or something. And told me about this amazing technology that works…
    http://www.grander.com.au/
    http://www.grander-technologie.com/en/grandereffekt/index.php

    I don’t know if I should continue being his friend.

  17. residentRsole Says:

    Bast: Have you tried talking to your friend about it (without being condescending) ? I suggest that you trick him into thinking critically. Be nice. If he is a good friend, don’t drive him away over something like this. James Randi has friends who are religious and so does Dawkins. Look, if he refuses to consider your viewpoint and starts talking about black helicopters, just smile and leave.

  18. residentRsole Says:

    What gives Christians or Islam followers the right to judge others and tell them what opinions to have, and even worse punish them for THEIR beliefs.

    Might is right.

  19. I say argue the point. God is literally petty. The bible should have countless examples of this. Old testament mind you. He is also shown to be spiteful, wrathful and easily talked out of things.

    I think when people say bad things about god, the christians immediatly think about the baby jesus.

    You cant say bad things about the baby jesus.

    You`ll make the baby jesus cry.

    Gareth Cliff made the baby jesus cry in 2007 and they raked his ass over hot coals and fed him to the sodomites.

    Please send this to all the people you know or YOU will make the baby jesus cry.

  20. All jokes aside, and please excuse the spelling, but in fairness I cannot agree that Cliff’s logic is infallibe. People in power illict a certain amount of respect merely by their position in a social heirachy.

    A child does not say “hey you” to a teacher without the risk of detention.

    A soldier does not refer to his commanding officer in a familiar fashion without having his ass handed to him for being disrespectful.

    Lawyers refer to the presiding judge as “Your Honor” or “Your Worship”.

    An all knowing, all powerful being capable of creating an entire species and everything that species needs to survive deserves a certain level of respect from said species. Though shalt not take my name in vain is the law governing that respect.

  21. babyacid: yes, but a judge is hardly going to find you in contempt of court for calling your teddy bear ‘you honour’. A teacher is hardly going to give you detention for calling a teddy bear ‘Ma’am’, especially if you meant it fondly. God, on the other hand, according to the lawgivers in Sudan, will get very upset with you indeed. And it’s not even his name you’re taking in vain, it’s the name of his prophet. So yeah, under that circumstance, i’d say Cliff is right. Petty. A kind and loving (and unpetty) God would understand the intention behind the act, and that the person who committed the blasmphemy was an ignorant innocent.

    (Remember, I am paraphrashing his argument – if you want to pull his logic apart, use his exact wording, not mine. His doesn’t actually reference the commandment, i just thought it was a relevant point to remind people of. )

  22. Didnt know you were paraphrasing and none of my arguments were aimed at the teddy bear issue. I was merely saying that the pettiness of the commandment can be argued.

    I totally agree with you on the teddy bear issue being petty though. That is just special on so many retarded levels.

  23. Cliff’s exact words were as follows:

    Blasphemy should not be a crime. If God is great, why would he be so easily offended by what a mortal man says? If God has such an ego, then he must be petty.

    I paraphrased the issue: it’s only a crime because it’s a commandment. As far as commandments go, it seems strange to me that God puts misuse of his name on the same level as killing and stealing. I mean, sure, he deserves respect, but is not affording him that respect really as big a deal as, say, killing someone? According to God, yes. Which does seem a bit petty.

    But enough of arguing hypotheticals. God doesn’t exist. Therefore it’s all a moot point anyway. Trying to decide the motives and intentions of an imaginary figure is a fun theoretical exercise, but really shouldn’t be the basis for people being imprisoned.

  24. […] This and the furore over local 5fm DJ Gareth Cliff’s supposedly blasphemous comments (see moonflake’s blog for a summary of his woes)have moved me to get […]

  25. I will not pretend to understand the thought behind jailing this teacher, but God did not jail her, humans did. To argue against it as though it is the will of god is to assume that the people that jailed her have a perfect understanding of God’s word. That is obviously inncorrect logic.

    Mr. Cliff works for a broadcasting company. That company has customers that it wants to keep happy. when customers complain, the company is being smart and acting within thier rights to placate thier customer. The right to free speech is not an issue here. Everyone should have the right to speak thier ideas without fear of harm or imprisonment. However, there is no reason that anyone should be gauranteed a prominent venue to speak thier ideas in. Mr. Cliff has to keep his employer happy or risk thier ire. I do not know anyone for whom that does not hold true.

    I am shocked by the hysterical reaction of the original article and the subsequent comments displayed here. The lack of critical thinking is appalling. It seems that as soon as God is brought into the discussion, many of you here lose all objectivity and become as frantic to protect your belief system as you accuse the other side of being.

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