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Stardate 17.031

Ascent out of Darkness ~ Armchair Philosophy from the 'Silly Beliefs' Team

Skeptic

Christian says God does not "exist"

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Why in modern times does God never intervene to help his devoted followers, or to smite his detractors, and I mean unambiguously intervene, the way he used to in the Bible? You know, stopping the Sun in the sky, resurrecting dead folk, entering into public competitions with lesser gods, turning women into pillars of salt, and parting large bodies of water to allow refugees to escape their tormentors?

As disasters rage, Christians plead with God to answer their prayers, and even when they're consistently ignored, almost as if God wasn't even listening, or at least didn't care, these aggrieved Christians continue to sing his praises, assuring us from amongst the rubble of their destroyed homes or as they tend to their dead, that they're sure God will do something next time, and hey, while he did allow Granny to be brutally killed, he did at least save their goldfish. Praise the Lord.

In primitive times the hand of God was ubiquitous, his 'Made By God' label was seen stamped on simply everything, from simple rocks to hairy goats to the lights in the heavens, he even found time to stroll with Adam and Eve in their garden. If you needed help overthrowing a warring neighbour, God was there on the battlefield with you, and conversely, if you strayed regarding any of God's dictates, God was there drowning you in a worldwide flood, or giving you boils. But now, in modern times, and even not-so-modern times, meaning the last 2,000 or so years, God has been worryingly absent. Prayers have consistently gone unanswered. Untold wars have been fought in his name, but God never became personally involved, and never even revealed which side he might have supported had he turned up. Bad people prospered, and good people suffered, and still God never lifted a tentacle. Did God slip in the shower all those years ago, and die a few days later in hospital? What might explain our modern world where God is never seen, never heard from, never felt, where no matter what injustice man might inflict on his fellow man or what natural disaster might take innumerable lives and cause untold suffering, God merely watches from the shadows, does nothing and then skulks off before he is seen?

We wondered where God was in a post a while back — "Is God on vacation?" — and in recent comments God's mysterious inaction was again highlighted. Ron recommended that we read an article by self-described theological troublemaker and Orthodox Christian, David J. Dunn Ph.D., which appears to be his attempt to explain why God never pops around for a coffee and hasn't even figured out how to send a silly Tweet, even though both Donald Trump and the Pope have.

Dunn's article has the title: God Does Not "Exist", and the subtitle, 'What Atheists And Christians Both Get Wrong About God'. Right off the bat it should be obvious that when an Orthodox Christian starts out by saying that God Does Not "Exist", you just know that his entire argument will somehow revolve around showing that God does actually exist. Christians, they're nothing if not cunning.

Dunn begins by saying that, 'Atheists and Christians share a remarkably similar view of God. They think of God as a kind of big person, a category mistake which perpetuates misunderstanding.'

We should mention that when informed atheists talk of God (with a capital G), we are referring to the god of the Bible (and often the Torah and sometimes the Koran), and when we talk of gods (without a capital G), eg when we say that there are no gods, we are referring to the thousands of gods of other religions as well as God. God, like the name Bruce, is a specific name referring to a specific god. The great majority of gods actually have real names, like Zeus, Thor and Maui, only the god of the Bible doesn't have a name. Christians are like ignorant hillbillies who have a dog and simply call him Dog. Not much thought involved. I mention this because in their discussions Christians almost always assume that atheists become atheists because of what we've read in their Bible, and that every time we mention a god they naively assume we are talking about their God. Whenever a Christian enquires, Do you believe in God?, they are not thinking of some elephant-headed god from the Hindu religion. Only one god has ever entertained their thoughts, and many are quite surprised to learn that non-Christians are silly enough to consider other gods. The reality is that the strongest reasons to be an atheist have little to do with the Bible and it's petty god, Christianity is merely one of many religions that is automatically rejected when the very notion of powerful creator gods is rejected. Aspiring atheists don't have to spend a couple of years dismissing Christianity, then some more years reading up on Islam to dismiss it, then moving onto Hinduism etc. If you instead focus on the arguments for gods in general, then once they collapse then all the more well-known gods collapse as well. Knock out the foundation and the entire edifice crumbles.

So why do both atheists and Christians 'think of God as a kind of big person'? The answer is simple, it's how the Bible clearly describes God. If we are to ignore the Biblical description, if we are to accept that it was just primitive man putting human attributes onto an imaginary god, then what other sources can we consult to get a true description of God? Well, there are none. Outside of the Bible there are no reliable and believable accounts of humans meeting God and then writing up a good description. Just as the 'Star Wars' movies are the only places where Jedi and Wookies are mentioned, they're not spoken of in the 'Harry Potter' world for example, the Bible is the sole source of information about God. If it didn't exist then we would have no knowledge whatsoever of God. If we are to discount what the Bible says about God's attributes, about his love, his power, his jealousy, his strange love of a circumcised penis, then we must accept that we are totally ignorant of what God is really like, and anything anyone suggests God might be like, if not derived from the Bible, is pure guesswork. So atheists and Christians aren't making a mistake in thinking 'of God as a kind of big person', since it says so right there in their holy book. If we are to dismiss what the Bible says about God, then we must also dismiss its claim that God is real. It's all or nothing.

Dunn then states that, 'There are two kinds of atheists', but his argument is just confusing semantics, since he correctly concludes that, 'Both are united in their view that something should only be believed if there is evidence. Far too many Christians agree'. Note how he criticises Christians that make important decisions based on what the evidence points towards. For example, just because there is no good evidence for the Tooth Fairy, Dunn's argument would be that a lack of evidence is no reason not to believe in the Tooth Fairy. Dunn's dismissal of the usefulness of evidence, if he actually believed what he's saying and applied it equally to everything and not just God, would see him believing in all manner of nonsense.

We agree with Dunn that apologetics is nonsense, but then he says that, 'Atheists sit around asking why God does not prove God's own existence'. No, we don't, we don't believe God exists, so we don't waste time wondering why he's not making his presence known. That's as silly as saying we sit around asking why Superman doesn't step in and save the world. Only believers, since they believe he's real, try to figure out why God is absent. Hint: he's not real! What mystifies us, what we would ask if we were to sit around, is why Christians believe that there's an invisible spaceman out there somewhere that's watching them in the shower?

Moving into his argument that God doesn't "exist", Dunn then gives the impression of agreeing with us. He writes that,

'But God is not a being. God is not the highest being. God does not, technically speaking, exist. You exist. I exist. Superman exists (in the imagination). Our ideas of God also exist. But God is not in those ideas. God is beyond human conception. That from whence existence comes must be beyond existence itself.'
He had the right answer but then he lost it again. He confusingly said that, 'Superman exists', then explained that bogus claim with, 'in the imagination'. That same convoluted logic also explains God, in that it could also be said that God exists (in the imagination). But rather than go with common sense, Dunn argues that, 'God is not in those ideas. God is beyond human conception'. What ideas is Dunn referring to? He's clearly referring to the ideas we all have about God that have been gleaned from the Bible, since as we've said, there is no other source. The Jews talked about the Egyptians, Babylonians, Assyrians, Greeks and Romans and sometimes mentioned the gods of these ancient cultures, but not once did any of these other cultures write about witnessing any of the miraculous works of the Biblical god. Isn't it strange that when the Sun stood still in the sky or stars fell to Earth or the dead walked the streets of Jerusalem, no one else noticed, or at least didn't think it weird enough to mention in any of their historical documents? So again, the Bible is the sole source of information we have about God, and supernatural miracles aside, we know without doubt that many of the scientific and historical claims made in the Bible are false, so if they couldn't even get simple facts about the world around them correct, eg bats are not birds and the world isn't flat, why should we believe they could somehow gets the facts about how the universe was created correct?

But the silly thing is that Dunn is on our side, he agrees that the Bible and its description of God is utterly false, that when God is described as acting like a person with human-like motives and emotions, flooding the world to kill homosexuals, smiting a Hebrew for trying to protect the Ark of the Covenant, parting the Red Sea, getting virgins pregnant, all these stories about God acting in the world are bogus, or to quote Dunn, readers are making 'a category mistake which perpetuates misunderstanding'. The difference is that we believe those Bible stories are bogus because they never actually happened, whereas Dunn believes they are bogus only because the Bible misrepresents the god who performed those miracles.

The entirely of Dunn's argument that follows in his article hinges on his claim that, 'God is beyond human conception'. What this means is that we mere humans are totally incapable of understanding what God is like, or why God does things, or how God does things. We are as incapable of conceiving the nature of God as a mushroom is incapable of understanding quantum mechanics. So what this means is that ignorance reigns if we are asked any question about God, any question at all. And yet Dunn destroys his argument by spending the rest of his article telling us things about God, things that if God is truly beyond human conception are things we should not be capable of knowing or understanding. Let's look at some of the things Dunn reveals about God:

'God is not a being. God is not the highest being.'
And Dunn learnt this about God how? He doesn't say. But he does go on to say,
'That from whence existence comes must be beyond existence itself.'
Again, who told Dunn this, and why should we accept it as true? How does he know that something that is beyond existence, which surely means it doesn't exist, can yet somehow create things? If it is true, how can Dunn hope that we might conceive what it means, since conceptions of the nature of God's existence should be beyond us, and beyond Dunn too, so how did he come upon that truly confusing explanation for how God acts? And children owe their existence to their parents, does that mean parents 'must be beyond existence itself'?
'God is not like us. God cannot, for instance, tell a joke. This is not because God does not have a sense of humor, which is clearly false (just look at the platypus). This is because the moment God says, "Your momma's so fat," your mom becomes HUGE!'
Again, how does Dunn know that God can't tell a joke, but does have a sense of humour? That seems to be some pretty detailed information about God, and gives him an attribute which makes him seem like 'a kind of big person', something Dunn insists he is not. And why does Dunn believe God doesn't tell jokes simply because what he says will immediately become true? How did he discover this inconvenient fact about God? Even humans can think certain things without acting on those thoughts, so Dunn's God sounds pretty weak and pathetic if he's incapable of having a thought without it coming to pass. And in my view, if God existed he could tell a joke, and being all-knowing he would know all the best jokes, but you couldn't tell him a joke and make him laugh. Jokes only work if the punch line comes as a surprise, but since God knows everything, he already knows the punch line, and so no surprise means no laugh.
'God is. God does not have a mind, like we do. God is mind. God does not have a will, like we do. God is willing. God does not make decisions, as we understand it. God does what God has always decided to be in and for Godself. God does not have parts.'
Yet more detailed info about the nature of God, even thought, again, this sort of conception is supposedly beyond us. Although, when Dunn claims that, 'God does not make decisions, as we understand it', and 'God does not have parts', then it's true that I don't comprehend. But information about God that I don't understand is effectively no information at all, it could be gibberish for all we know. Gibberish only turns into knowledge when comprehension kicks in, and since Dunn insists that comprehension is forever beyond us, then everything Dunn might tell us about God remains as useless gibberish. We can't logically tell people that God's nature is beyond our conception, that he doesn't have a mind or a will or can't tell a joke, if we can't understand what those statements actually mean. If we do understand why he can't tell a joke, and Dunn explained why we can, then he's not completely beyond our conception. Elements of Dunn's argument conflict with each other.
'God creates not because God chooses to create. Rather, creation is the consequence of God being God (a God who relates). We human beings think about things, make up our minds, ask questions, and choose some options over others. For God, there are no options in any meaningful sense of the word. By way of analogy, one might say that God could have chosen not to create in much the same way that you or I could choose to eat a baby. Is it an option? Yes. Is it a live option? No! It is practically unthinkable.'
Dunn started his argument by stating that it's a mistake to 'think of God as a kind of big person'. And yet here he describes God as 'a God who relates', you know, like a person might relate to other persons. Then he finishes that paragraph with an analogy of how humans think, saying that, 'No! It is practically unthinkable' that God might not have created the universe. And yet Dunn has already insisted that 'God does not have a mind, like we do ... God does not make decisions, as we understand it'. It's totally bogus to say that 'It is practically unthinkable' for God to have made a certain choice when arguing that we have no conception of how God thinks, or indeed if he even thinks at all.

Next Dunn does what all Christians do, he picks quotes about God from the Bible that he expects us to accept as truthful, even though his article revolves around the argument that much of what the Bible claims about God can't be believed, for example when it talks at length about God's nature, and why and how he did things. Why would his God lie in most of his claims detailed in the Bible, and tell the truth in just a handful, and how does Dunn know which is which? I'm utterly mystified how some people can call themselves Christians and at the same time argue that most of the Bible stories aren't true, even going so far as saying that God doesn't exist. Without accepting the claims made in the Bible, Christianity makes no sense.

So here's one of the few Biblical claims that Dunn does believe:

'"The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handywork" (Psalms 19:1, KJV). There are vestiges of God in creation, but only for the eyes of faith. Creation is a kind of icon, a window to the divine. Faith is not reason. Nor is faith the opposite of reason. The Christian tradition has always taught that faith is higher than reason. Reason looks ahead and sees things in the distance. Faith tries to see just beyond the horizon. Faith is not belief despite evidence. Faith is falling in love. When you are in love, evidence is irrelevant.'
For a start, that Bible quote doesn't say that evidence of God's handiwork is 'only for the eyes of faith'. Dunn deviously doesn't quote anymore of that verse, because it makes other claims that are quite laughable:
'The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge. There is no speech or language where their voice is not heard. Their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world.' PS 19:1-4
Have you heard the heavens talking to you, imparting knowledge? If it's there we should all be able to see and hear it, but since we clearly can't, then Dunn's silly excuse is that we don't have faith. How pathetic. Are we to believe that the primitive, ignorant goat herders that wrote the Bible could see the clear evidence for their god, but centuries of the world's most brilliant scientists, even those that were Christians, couldn't see it, and still can't? And even if there was something about the cosmos that suggested it was artificially created by some intelligent designer, there would be no good reason to just blindly assume that designer must be the Christian God, it could have been an Aztec god or an Egyptian god, or more likely, not a god at all, but an advanced alien civilisation playing around with high energy physics.

Dunn's misleading description of reason and his childish view of faith ends with him saying that, 'Faith is not belief despite evidence ... evidence is irrelevant'. What intelligent, informed person would ever argue that 'evidence is irrelevant'? Apart from his superstitious belief in God, I guarantee that in the rest of Dunn's life evidence will be found to be of paramount importance. When he sees evidence that his car tyres are dangerously worn, his milk has gone sour or that his accountant is ripping him off, I doubt that he dismisses such evidence as irrelevant.

Dunn finishes by arguing that,

'Atheists and apologists both fix their minds on anthropomorphic ideas about God. ... But evidence of God is just not possible, not in any meaningful way. You cannot prove your existence if you are beyond existence itself.'
First note that Dunn now again claims that, 'evidence of God is just not possible, not in any meaningful way', and yet we've just debunked his earlier assertion that, for the faithful anyway, evidence of God can be seen in the heavens, and can be understood in a meaningful way. This is the annoying hypocrisy and dishonesty of Christians, highlighting certain Bible verses, suppressing others, and contradicting themselves all in an attempt to get us to believe their fantasy. As for why we focus on 'anthropomorphic ideas about God', again it's because the only "reliable" source of information we have is the Bible, and the Bible describes God as a person, with human-like characteristics, only much greater of course. Remember that the Bible tells us that we resemble God, thus God must also resemble us:
'Then God said, "Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and ... So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.' GE 1:26-27
So are we to believe that Bible verse, or are we to believe Dunn, that we shouldn't think of God as a person, that he's so unlike us that we haven't got a glimmer of hope of ever comprehending his nature? Should we believe the Bible and that God loves us, you know, in the sense that a person could, or that he cares for us, or that he has a plan for us, or that he watches over us, or that he wants us to follow a certain moral code, or that he decided to perform miracles to bring about certain outcomes, or that he resurrected his son to forgive our sins, or that the concept of son and sins even makes any sense to God? According to Dunn the answer is a resounding no to all those questions, God does not act or think or decide in the way the Bible claims, and in fact God does not even exist in the way the Bible describes and in the way we mere humans might understand. Dunn ends by saying that, 'evidence of God is just not possible, not in any meaningful way. You cannot prove your existence if you are beyond existence itself', which true to his word, is a statement about God that is indeed incomprehensible. What would it mean to be 'beyond existence itself', and yet confusingly, still have some form of existence which allows you to create a universe and numerous life forms and interfere in their day to day lives?

Christians, on their death, expect to have a relationship with God, their loving heavenly father, and while alive they follow his moral code, including the Ten Commandments. But if Dunn is correct, if God is not some sort of being and not a person that thinks like we do or experiences the world like we do, then how could God have developed a moral code suitable for us, and wouldn't this wished for relationship be like having a love affair with an invisible cloud? Remember that Dunn has claimed that, 'God is not like us ... God does not have a mind, like we do ... God cannot, for instance, tell a joke ... God does not make decisions, as we understand it'. God appears to be woefully unqualified to tell us how to live our lives. And if Dunn is correct in that, 'God does not, technically speaking, exist', and that 'God is beyond human conception', then clearly the loving relationship with God Christians are anticipating on their death is impossible.

What evidence or reasoning has Dunn offered that his view of God is correct? None whatsoever. When he asserts that, 'God is not a being ... God does not, technically speaking, exist ... God is beyond human conception', he gives no hint of how he knows this. It's pure guesswork, and not only is there no evidence to support it, the very nature of his argument claims that finding any evidence to support his argument is quite impossible. That's because actual evidence of God would be beyond our ability to comprehend, meaning we wouldn't recognise it if it stared us in the face, with Dunn claiming that, 'evidence of God is just not possible, not in any meaningful way'. It's a devious argument since it can never be proved or disproved, which really makes it quite useless. Any fool can say that some event, like lightning, earthquakes or disease, is caused by processes that we will never understand, as indeed the religious have maintained over the millennia, but accepting the realisation that we'll be forever wallowing in our own ignorance is not something that intelligent, non-religious folk take lying down. Dunn may be resigned to not understanding the origin and workings of life and the universe, throwing up his hands and insisting that it's all 'beyond human conception', but this is just the sign of a man that has given up, that isn't even willing to try to find some answers to life's mysteries. God did it, somehow, and that's good enough for him. If the progress of humanity relied on people like Dunn, we'd still be living in caves covered in filth and afraid of our own shadow.

So why is Dunn, an Orthodox Christian, going to such silly lengths to get us to doubt the traditional Bible stories about God? The most likely answer is that Dunn is cunningly trying to answer the nagging and embarrassing question of why God is never seen intervening to help his devoted followers. Dunn desperately wants to explain why we can't detect the hand of God, no matter where we look, and he seems utterly convinced that we never will. No matter how much of the universe we explore, no matter what amazing technological tools we develop, no matter what dire crises confronts humanity, Dunn is resigned to the fact that we will never — ever — find evidence of God. So how does he reconcile a universe with no hint of a God with the bold claim that God is nevertheless real? Dunn morphs the Biblical God that could project a physical presence into a God that is by definition impossible to find. No matter what argument or evidence a scientist presents against God's existence, Dunn simply replies that God doesn't work or think that way. What way? Any way that you can think of, God is way beyond our conception, and always will be. We can search the entire universe and declare it god-free, and Dunn will simply give the haughty reply, Well of course it is, because God is somewhere else, somewhere where you can never go. Hmm ... how convenient, always just out of reach, always just over the horizon. 'You're looking for God?,' says the annoying Christian, 'Oh, what a shame, you just missed him, he was just here!'

Of course this revisionist thinking is nothing new. In ancient times religious men said gods lived in caves and lakes, but when men started exploring caves and lakes and found no gods, the religious men moved the gods to mountain tops, and when eventually they too were explored and gods not found, religious men claimed the gods lived on the clouds with harp strumming angels. You get the picture, aeroplanes forced the gods to relocate out past the Moon, and then as instruments scanned the heavens, soon the entire visible universe wasn't big enough a place for God to hide. So once again desperate believers confronted with the realities of life are forced to find a new place to hide their god, a timid, shy god that is apparently quite keen to stay hidden.

Any god that is outside our universe and desperate to stay there, and totally unwilling to interact with us or even reveal his existence in any way that we can comprehend or detect, is effectively no different to no god at all. Think of a two versions of Santa Claus, a Santa Claus that doesn't exist except in children's stories, and a Santa Claus that does exist, but has retired and no longer delivers a single toy at Xmas. As far as his believers are concerned, the children, it makes no difference whether he is fictional or retired, either way they are toyless, so the reason why he never turned up with toys is irrelevant to them. Likewise a God that is hiding his existence from us is really no different to a god that isn't there at all. Either way we are on our own.

So the reality is that if people were to accept Dunn's argument, that the Biblical idea of God is just simplistic notions created by primitive man that didn't know any better, and that we haven't got a hope of ever having a relationship with God, anymore than you could have a serious discussion with a blueberry muffin, then there's no reason to remain a Christian, based as it is on a book of comforting but wholly misleading lies. So while Dunn's argument may appear to explain God's mysterious absence, it does so at the expense of destroying all the reasons that brought believers to Christianity in the first place. It shoots itself in the foot. If Dunn's God is real, then he's forever out of reach, both physically and intellectually, and the personal relationship between God and man described in the Bible is a cruel fiction. If the relationship is a fiction, then the loving God we learn about in the Bible is also a fiction, no more real than Darth Vader, Superman or Harry Potter. Thus it makes no more sense to base your life around the Bible stories than it would to base your life around the Superman comics, naively waiting for your saviour to descend through the clouds and save the world.

There's also another reason I'm dismissive of Dunn's approach. Whenever I consider a new argument about God, I like to test how reasonable it is by replacing God with another fantasy being, it could be Zeus or Osiris, but it's better to use a being that every sensible adult accepts without doubt as being truly imaginary and make-believe. For example, Santa Claus or the Tooth Fairy. So, Dunn's argument was entitled: 'God Does Not "Exist" — What Atheists And Christians Both Get Wrong About God', and let's say a Christian reads it and comes away believing that God is real, and that the logic of his argument effectively explains why we can't find him sitting on clouds. But let's now reconsider the argument when it's entitled: 'Santa Does Not "Exist" — What Adults And Children Both Get Wrong About Santa'. Apart from the word God being replaced with the word Santa, the logic is the same — 'Santa is not a being ... Santa does not, technically speaking, exist ... Santa is beyond human conception' — so you should come away believing that Santa is real, and that this argument explains why we can't find him at the North Pole. In my view, when an argument, whatever that argument is, allows you to "prove" that Santa Claus is real, then there is a serious flaw in your argument. An argument may sound great when you only consider God's existence, but if you swap out God and replace him with Zeus or Osiris or Santa or leprechauns, and the logic of the argument still works, and you've now "proved" that Zeus and leprechauns are real, then your argument is nothing but beguiling twaddle. Any argument that "proves" nonsense is nonsense. It doesn't matter whether you can detect the flaw in the argument that allows it "prove" the existence of both God and Santa, all you need realise is that it's clearly broken and can be ignored.

Often when I compare the supernatural powers of God with those of Santa, Christians accuse me of just being silly, but this isn't a valid criticism, it's more that they hate that God can be compared to a child's fantasy. But to keep them happy, instead of swapping God with Santa in Dunn's argument, let's swap God with the Muslim god Allah. Again we are confronted with the same argument, 'Allah is not a being ... Allah does not, technically speaking, exist ... Allah is beyond human conception', and if we accepted the logic of the argument when dealing with a god called God, we must accept it for a god called Allah too. So now Muslims have just "proved" that their god is the real god that created the universe, but how can that be if Dunn has already "proven" that the Christian god did all the creating? Again, any argument that allows conflicting religions to "prove" that their god is the real one obviously has a serious flaw, and as such is quite worthless as an argument.

So, if nothing else, Dunn was right with the title of his article, God Does Not "Exist". He just needs to lose the quotation marks. God, as around 7 billion normal people understand by the term God, does not exist.

Posted by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 08 Dec, 2017 ~ Add a Comment     Send to a Friend
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Nudity or violence — which is worse?
Resident Evil

The other day I had to listen to a male relative tell me how repulsed he was on seeing a male cyclist walk into his local café in revealing lycra, arguing that like the policy in that Rangiora café, lycra shorts should be banned everywhere. His childish argument was that he didn't need to be reminded that other males had genitals. This led to another person telling an even more horrific story of when they once had to walk past a group sunbathing and swimming naked on a remote beach. Now some years later, the shock of that revealing incident still haunts them. Clearly the naked human body with its naughty bits is something most people wish to be shielded from, since the sight of it is apparently traumatic, except perhaps in the privacy of their bedroom and bathroom, although for some, maybe not even there. Did you know that some Catholics in the Lycra banpast, especially girls at Catholic boarding schools, were forced to bathe while wearing a chemise so as not to gaze on their own naked body? And I know couples that even today are quite reluctant to be naked in front of each other. While you may think that such Victorian attitudes are rare these days, we would argue otherwise, that our society is in fact becoming more prudish, not less. This fact hit home for me yet again that night as I relaxed in front of the TV and the extreme contrast was once again revealed of how scared we are of nudity and yet at the same time how enamoured we are with blood curdling violence.

I watched the movie 'Unbreakable' (and there's a couple of hours I'll never get back) where near the end an intruder breaks into a family home, immediately killing the husband and then tying the wife and two teenage daughters to metal wall fixtures with wire, the wire cutting through their wrists and causing bloody, painful wounds. Their terrifying ordeal lasts for at least a day and night, maybe longer, and it's implied that the wife and maybe the daughters are raped over this period, or else why keep them alive when the husband was quickly killed in cold blood? The hero (Bruce Willis) eventually arrives and following a violent struggle strangles the murderer. The women's wrists are freed, but unfortunately it's too late for the wife, and she slumps to the floor dead. Viewers are forced to grapple with the suffering of the women, the terror of their situation, the murder of the husband, the violent struggle and slow strangling of the attacker, and finally the death, not the rescue, of the wife. As I said, it seems obvious that one or more of the women were sexually assaulted, but this was never shown, the women weren't even shown semi-clad or with ripped clothing. Why is it felt that we can see, indeed need to see, drawn out graphic violence, traumatic suffering and grim death, with the assumption that we won't be emotionally harmed in the slightest, and yet showing the rape, or even the wife naked after the rape, would have been too shocking? We couldn't find a screen shot from the movie, but a similar screenshot from a different movie should set the scene for you:

The Girl Next Door

It's from 'The Girl Next Door', a horror movie based on true events, which was the abduction of a 16 year-old girl who was repeatedly tortured and raped, and finally murdered. But at least, by keeping her clothed, they were caring enough to protect her modesty while torturing and raping her. There's no happy ending, but based on all the cruelty and suffering, and the lack of graphic nudity and sex, it's truly a movie for the whole family. Pass the popcorn please.

After the 'Unbreakable' movie, thanks to some channel surfing I then caught a few minutes of a British TV show, a murder-mystery, set maybe in the 1930s. The lady of the house is found murdered in the drawing room, her clothes covered in so much blood you'd swear she'd been bathing in it. A trembling maid is sitting on the stairs, her hands also dripping blood. A white cat then walks all over the bloody corpse, with the police making no effort to stop it, and then plods across the carpet leaving a trail of bloody paw prints. Just prior to the murder, we're shown the lady of the house perving at a young man in her bath, and in a flashback we're shown the lady of the house in the bath, but with both her and the young man, all we are shown to suggest that they are naked is their naked shoulders rising from soapy bath water. Again, it's felt that the body of a clothed murdered woman covered in blood is something we absolutely need to see, and yet seeing the naked body of the same smiling, beautiful woman in the bath is something that must only be hinted at, lest it give us nightmares. Explain to me again why violence and bloody gore is preferable over joyful experiences and the natural beauty of the naked body?

Most movies and TV shows today only ever hint at nudity, a bare back or thigh, perhaps some underwear sliding to the bedroom floor and a blurry flash of flesh as they jump under the covers, they almost never actually show real nudity, and often when they appear to, it's actually prosthetics or nude body stockings or CGI. And they certainly don't show real sex, just as they never show the actors really getting tortured or shot and killed. And yet strangely, we are often shown a character's "fake" death in slow motion and in graphic detail with blood and guts spraying everywhere. And if we're lucky, we'll get to see the bloody body again as the police examine the crime scene, and then, if we're really lucky, again in the morgue, cut open on the autopsy table as a doctor explains exactly why their gruesome wounds were fatal. If we're really, really lucky, we'll get to relive the murder several times over as the witness to the murder experiences numerous flashbacks. Somehow we're expected to view realistic torture and death over and over again in many movies (albeit faked), and take it in our stride, but if we were to see a naked body (real or faked) ... what? ... we'll all be traumatised for life? WTF?

As an example of this hypocrisy, there was some brief full frontal female nudity in the first episode of the sci-fi TV show 'Stargate SG-1'. While they showed this on both US and NZ TV on its original broadcast (1997), amazingly they have now edited this scene out on the DVDs available in the US. I read on the Internet the comments of one American father who wrote that he's glad they edited out those few seconds of female nudity (there is no other nudity in the entire series), since he's been wanting to buy the series and watch it with his young son, but refused to do so while the nudity remained. You may not be familiar with 'Stargate SG-1', but there are more people shot, killed, stabbed, tortured and blown up in the series than in a dozen 'Rambo' movies. Usually not as graphically as those movies or as seen in many modern TV crime shows, but people are still tortured, shot and killed, meaning there is still a lot of death and suffering that viewers have to come to terms with (if they can be bothered to think about it). This guy's comments show how warped some people's values are, that he has no problem with all the violence and death, or with his young son watching it, indeed he wants his young son to see it, but he was shocked and sickened by a few seconds of nudity in one episode, which wasn't in any way gratuitous. And it wasn't just this one American prude, the distributors were forced to delete the scene before releasing the DVD to the American public.

Both nudity and sex are legal and perfectly natural, and something most people want to experience over and over in their lives, and yet nudity and sex, real nudity and sex, must never be shown, while murder and other violent acts, which are illegal and abhorrent, and something most people never want to experience in their lives — ever — are shown over and over again in extreme detail. In most crime TV shows entire episodes revolve around a violent death or crime of some sort, a crime that isn't left to our imagination as it used to be in the old Alfred Hitchcock movies, we get to view it in graphic and disturbing detail. We've argued with people over the years that they, and the censors, have no problem with movies that show untold people being raped and tortured and killed in all manner of grisly ways, and yet they argue that we must never see naked people having sex, or even naked people not having sex, just innocently strolling naked from the bedroom to the fridge. ModestyDon't you ever find it weird how strangely self-conscious beautiful women are in movies and TV shows, ensuring that the sheets are always pulled up around their neck during and after sex, and if they must get out of bed they take the sheet with them so their lover won't see them naked? And while we're not allowed to see them naked as they leave the bed, we are allowed, unfortunately, to see them get shot in the head with blood and brain matter splattering all over the wall, and even then somehow they still manage to maintain their modesty with that sheet as they fall to the floor, dead. Maybe it's just us that's sick, in that we'd prefer to see a live naked woman than a dead clothed one.

Or then again, maybe it's not us, maybe it's those with a fixation on viewing the violent deaths of others. Is that the level society has sunk to, where watching sickening violence is preferred over natural beauty? We just have a niggling feeling that something's not quite right here.

On the TV news we're shown real scenes of unarmed black men being shot in the back by US policemen as they run away, terrorist bombs exploding in crowded markets and the bloody aftermath of dead bodies and limbs, young children in Syrian hospitals screaming in pain as doctors remove shrapnel, bodies being pulled dead from devastating earthquakes and washed up on the shore after human smuggling boats capsize, starving children in Africa that look like stick figures and are near death, video of people that have suffered horrific facial injuries and graphic shots of surgeons operating on them. And on and on this parade of distressing and shocking images goes. And we're not saying we shouldn't be shown them, we need to see them so that we can be aware of what's happening in the world and respond appropriately. We shouldn't be sheltered from the harsh side of reality. But why do those in charge of the media think that we can handle seeing a chest sliced open by a surgeon or a face that was disfigured by a shotgun blast, but that simply seeing a woman's nipple, let alone a penis, or Zeus forbid, an erect penis, will corrupt society and send us spiralling back into the barbarous and uncivilised dark ages?

A year or so ago I watched a TV documentary on tourism in the Greek Islands, and the locals said that a few decades ago nudity on the beaches was normal and widespread, but now it's rare. (And I can personally confirm that nudity on European beaches as a whole has declined considerably.) While they were filming on some beaches, if a rare naked bather did walk past, and even though they were in the distance and it was hard to tell if they were even male or female, they still felt they had to protect us viewers by censoring the blurry stick figure with big black dots. Consequently I slept well that night, no nightmares of beautiful naked bodies on sun-drenched beaches. Thankyou TV censors. We've watched TV news items where some women campaigned for the acceptance of breast feeding in public, and they've been opposed and abused not just by men, but other women as well, both arguing that it's obscene and offensive. How bad has it got when even women argue that their own bodies are offensive? Last year during a publicity stunt in a "naked restaurant" in Hamilton, NZ, TV3's now defunct current affairs show 'Story' featured the "accidental", fleeting and completely innocent shot of the genitals of a nude waitress, Cafe waitresswhich was quickly followed by a flood of complaints from viewers and groveling apologies from the show's presenters. Almost every night we see images on the news and in movies that we genuinely do our utmost to erase. Everything from real images of wars and disasters to movie images of torture, murder, rape and rampaging zombies devouring screaming humans, and yet a fleeting glimpse of a beautiful, semi-naked young woman, who wasn't being killed or killing anyone, or even having sex, she was just walking past, this was the image that people complained about and was the image that generated profuse apologies. We just can't get our heads around how so many people can believe that a glimpse of a woman's nipple or pubic hair or a penis or even a naked behind can be so damaging to our psyche, even though you'll notice in the image of the waitress that you see none of those shocking things. Apparently there is something so disturbing about the naked body that we must be shielded from ever catching sight of it. And yet we can all, even children, be flooded with images of graphic violence and unspeakable suffering and apparently not be affected by it at all. One aggrieved mother railed on the program's Facebook page,

'That live nude shot was not necessary! I get that you wanted to show this new restaurant etc but my young daughters and I didn't need to see a vagina, a parental guidance warning would have been appreciated!!!'
She was so annoyed that she felt her complaint warranted three exclamation marks. She was of course wrong in that viewers were given plenty of warning, and seriously, what could one perhaps expect to see at a "naked restaurant"? But that wasn't all she was wrong about. We don't understand why many women, who of all people should know their own body best, want to falsely insist that they've seen a vagina, and worse still, that it was truly traumatic. Even the waitress later made the same mistake in identifying her body parts, saying, 'Okay so it's a vagina, so what?' Clearly more public shots of naked women are desperately needed (or should that be pubic shots?), if only as a public service, with informative labels attached, when even women don't know that the vagina is internal to the body, it's as unseen as her womb or her liver, and the correct anatomical name for a woman's visible, external genitalia is vulva. The only person that might have viewed her vagina would be a gynecologist. Men don't get caught naked and say, 'Oh dear, my towel dropped and she saw my prostate'. And yes, there are untold euphemisms for both male and female genitals, but vagina is no more a euphemism for vulva than prostate is a euphemism for penis. Both women and men (even some educators!) mistakenly believe they are being quite clinical and grownup when they use the word vagina, although many more are still reluctant to say it, and have actually created real 21st century euphemisms for the word vagina, such as veejay, vadge and vajayjay. That's progress for you.

To her credit, the waitress couldn't understand what the fuss was about, but is the typical woman repulsed these days when she sees herself naked, or her friends in the changing rooms at the gym? And if they claim they're not, then why are they so upset when they see a naked woman on TV? What's the difference? What's happened to humanity when we've sunk to a stage where men and even women are repulsed by the sight of female genitals, and in their ignorance, even mislabel them? Surely this childish mislabelling, by both men and women, shows that hiding the naked body creates not only ignorance, but worse still, implies that it deserves to be hidden, that it is something to be ashamed of, and not something an impressionable young girl should ever have to see on TV. And if you have young daughters, you should probably cover any full-length mirrors in the bathroom and bedroom to prevent traumatic shocks while bathing and dressing. You don't want to scar them psychologically for the rest of their life.

But seriously, all this is especially mystifying since we all see nudity every day of our life — at the very least our own, while showering and dressing — and it doesn't faze us at all, in fact most of us are perfectly comfortable with our own nipples and naked asses, and many of us actually love seeing the naked bodies of our lovers, or those we wish were our lovers. Why are most adults happy to see shocking and disturbing acts and graphic violence portrayed in movies and on TV, and often watch it alongside their kids, that is if their kids can be tempted away from their computer games where they're shooting drug dealers and raping prostitutes, and yet if they see some innocent nudity (other than when they're secretly watching porn), they get all upset, screaming that it's offensive and disgusting to see others naked? Apparently the only place where nudity is acceptable is in their private sexual fantasies. Even on the TV news a while back we once again had the male news readers almost retching when they showed a picture of Tiger Woods without a shirt on, and then again later on when a similar image of Russia's President Putin was shown shirt-less on a horse, with them moaning that there is no reason we need to see pictures like that, especially around meal time. And they were serious. Even though it wasn't even nudity, they apparently felt that it's inappropriate to see adults that aren't fully clothed. As repulsed as they were by what they were screening, it seems they were showing these pictures as a public service, with the implication being that we should all condemn and ridicule people that think bare flesh is acceptable outside the privacy of the bedroom or bathroom (besides that is, by supermodels and porn stars with the "perfect" bodies). We're really appalled at how prudish many people are becoming, insisting that the only time we should see other adults naked, real adults that is, and not just "movie" adults, is when we're having sex with them.

And yet, these same adults see no problem in embracing a recent trend in movies and TV shows that feature a "hero" that in days gone by would have been, without a doubt, the villain. They're fans of TV shows such as 'The Sopranos', where the main character was a crime boss and murderer, or 'Dexter' where the "hero" was a serial killer. Some movies that portray villainous or criminal characters as heroes would be 'Ocean's 11' (George Clooney), 'The Fast & the Furious' (Paul Walker), 'Payback' (Mel Gibson), 'Scarface' (Al Pacino), 'Pitch Black' (Vin Diesel), 'Hannibal (Anthony Hopkins), 'Gone in 60 Seconds' (Nicolas Cage), 'Heist' (Robert De Niro), 'V for Vendetta' (Natalie Portman), 'The Bank Job' (Jason Statham) and even 'Pirates of the Caribbean' (Johnny Depp). Usually they achieve their goal of making the viewer root for the hero, even though this means accepting criminal behaviour, by making the "hero" better looking and/or wittier or simply less villainous than the other villain. Then we have current TV shows like 'The Walking Dead' where violent death is the theme, and each week we have people being murdered, children being abducted and women being raped in TV crime shows like 'CSI: Miami', 'Criminal Minds', 'NCIS', 'SVU: Special Victims Unit', 'Criminal Intent', 'Suspicious Minds', 'CSI: New York', 'NCIS: LA' etc. I actually don't watch those crime shows, since I find their enactment of violent crimes too realistic and depressing. Then we have most people, including many kids, watching untold people being killed in movies like 'World War Z' and 'Rambo'. How many violent deaths do kids witness in movies like 'The Lord of the Rings' or 'Star Wars' or even 'Harry Potter', how many innocent people die when the silly 'Transformers' decide to fight their battles amongst the skyscrapers of populous cities rather than an empty desert? How many men, women and children die in these movies without the viewer ever giving them a second thought, as long as the hero survives? In so many movies the deaths of strangers, of people on the street or in opposing armies, are shown as being quite natural and inevitable and nothing to lose sleep over. We're taught not to care about strangers who die in distant lands.

Kill Bill Look at these screenshots from the movie 'Kill Bill', showing Uma Thurman in a sword fight with many Japanese samurai. From top to bottom, the first shows her wielding her samurai sword against an opponent, the second shows the result of chopping his head off, the third shows her ripping an opponent's eye out, the fourth shows a woman whose arm she has just sliced off, and the last image shows her killing an opponent with a tomahawk to the head. This is just a small fraction of the graphic violence from that lengthy sword fight, let alone what is seen in the entire movie, which was followed by a second movie, 'Kill Bill: Vol 2', which was just as violent, and just as successful at the box office. I'm using 'Kill Bill' as an example because I found a website that provided all those screenshots (and many more), but there are untold other movies that could provide equally violent and disturbing scenes of human suffering. And these movies are all wildly popular, big name movies that have all appeared uncensored on our TV, some numerous times, where anyone from adults to young children can watch them.

Just off the top of my head, here are some more shockingly violent and bloody movies I can recall viewing over the last few years: 'From Paris With Love' (John Travolta), 'The Punisher' (Thomas Jane), 'Django Unchained' (Jamie Foxx), 'Natural Born Killers' (Woody Harrelson, Juliette Lewis), 'Taken' (Liam Neeson), 'John Wick' (Keanu Reeves), '300' (Gerard Butler), 'Die Hard' (Bruce Willis), 'Shooter' (Mark Wahlberg), 'The Expendables' (Sylvester Stallone, Jason Statham), 'Crank' (Jason Statham), 'Resident Evil' (Milla Jovovich), 'Blade' (Wesley Snipes), 'Hitman' (Timothy Olyphant), 'Once Upon a Time in Mexico' (Antonio Banderas), 'Death Race' (Jason Statham), 'Faster' (Dwayne Johnson), 'The Last Stand' (Arnold Schwarzenegger), 'Dredd' (Karl Urban), 'Kingsman: The Secret Service' (Colin Firth), 'Shoot 'Em Up' (Clive Owen) and Mel Gibson's movies 'The Passion of the Christ', 'Apocalypto', 'Mad Max' and 'Braveheart'.

I'm sure you all remember the sort of loving, serene image of Jesus that Mel Gibson pushed in his movie 'The Passion of the Christ', a movie that many churches argued was entirely suitable for young children. If not, here's a typical shot from the movie. And yes, that's his blood on his face and hands, it's not that they served ribs dipped in barbecue sauce at the last supper.

The Passion of the Christ

And before we're accused of being hypocrites for watching these violent movies, and enjoying many of them (but certainly not 'The Passion of the Christ'), our complaint is not that we are shown realistic violence in movies (swamped with images of realistic violence even), it's that at the same time images of casual nudity and realistic sex are banned. Society is utterly screwed up over this matter, the general view being that images of realistic, bloody, disturbing acts of violence are perfectly acceptable, utterly harmless and a great source of entertainment, while nudity, if shown at all, must be very fleeting, must avoid exposing the genitals, and sex must only be suggested by movement under the sheets and by appropriate moaning and facial expressions.

Stock photo violence

Look at the above stock photo of a man threatening to cut the throat of a frightened woman. It's for sale by a reputable company on the Internet, and you can buy it to use in a publication, report or on your webpage. It's deemed a perfectly acceptable and respectable image, able to be viewed by anyone and everyone. Yet search as you might through their huge database of stock photos, or the databases of other companies that sell stock photos, and you won't find photos of loving couples having sex, or even of naked bodies not having sex. A photo of terrifying violence against a woman is fine, a photo of explicit love would be totally unacceptable.

What is society teaching us when in our movies it's OK, enjoyable even, to watch a man sadistically kill a beautiful woman in graphic detail (eg 'Kill Bill'), but it's not OK, it's disgusting even, to watch a man have loving sex with a beautiful woman in graphic detail? Surely, since your typical adult loves sex and abhors murder, we've got this backwards? Movie directors, censors and the movie-going public apparently have no problem with shots of bodily fluids as long as those fluids are red and not white, such as the following shot that was the climax of the movie 'From Paris With Love', a shot of a man shooting his fiancee in the forehead in slow motion. Admittedly he had just discovered she was a terrorist with a bomb, and she needed to be stopped, but why did the director insist that we see the extreme detail of blood spurting out the back of her head, when an earlier scene of the young couple about to get naked and have sex stopped abruptly at the bedroom door? The camera paused outside long enough for us to hear a few excited giggles. Apparently the director thought that the viewers' imagination could easily flesh out what was happening off-screen, but when it came to the young woman's later violent death, our imagination was apparently found lacking and the director believed he needed to show how soft flesh responds to high speed bullets.

From Paris With Love

Likewise the director of the Judge Dredd movie 'Dredd' staring Karl Urban also believed that viewers needed to see how flesh responds to bullets, in this case as one rips off the side of a face:

Judge Dredd

So that's a quick example of the readily seen and accepted violence on our big and small screens, and we're sure they were all images that you enjoyed seeing. No doubt we've given you plenty of choices for a rental movie this weekend. But hang on to your seats because now we're going to show some truly disturbing and shocking images. They're not from TV shows or the movies since these sorts of filthy and distasteful scenes are banned from our screens in the name of common decency. In years past before censorship laws came of age, they were even said to scare the horses. We had to go to some very shady websites to find these examples, websites that are so scandalous and unsavoury that they've only recently found their way out of the dark web, the source of all things illegal. I discovered that my library's free wi-fi bans their access, even though they will happily rent me movies like 'Kill Bill' on DVD.

Naked

Naked

Naked

Naked

Naked

Naked

Naked

Naked

Naked

Naked

Naked

After viewing those images of innocent nudity you're no doubt utterly scandalised, somewhat nauseated, and truly thankful that our censors and moral gatekeepers don't allow such filth on our screens. But before you compose a strongly worded email to us, or rush to contact your therapist requesting an urgent session to discuss what you've just seen, perhaps you could first explain why it's thought that viewing graphic, realistic violence is deemed a lot less harmful, and far more preferable, than viewing innocent nudity? Like it or not, you've now seen examples of both, so why is violence in movies quite OK, as long as they keep their clothes on?

And again, we're not campaigning to have all the realistic violence cut from our movies and TV shows, we're complaining about the hypocrisy. As I've said, I do find some of the violence far too realistic and depressing, but we're not calling for a ban, we'll simply avoid those movies and TV shows. We're arguing for common sense and equality. Apparently adults, and children too, can watch adults shoot, stab, strangle and beat others to death, can watch adults torture others, can watch adults rape and abuse others, can watch innocent men, women and children die violent deaths in not just natural disasters, but as pawns caught up in fights between superheros and villains, and come away totally unharmed. Some of these violent acts will have been real, and viewed as news footage, but the great majority will have been fake, although totally realistic, and created solely for entertainment. If we can view an inordinate amount of realistic violence over the years, whether it be real or fake, and not be harmed — and we don't believe most people are harmed — why do people think we will be harmed by viewing nudity and sex? Where is the evidence for this? And if the modern consensus is that we won't, then why is it censored from our screens and our beaches?

You are probably in one of two minds. You either think nudity in movies or on a public beach is offensive and needs to be banned, and nudity involving sex doubly so, or you think that innocent public nudity is natural and quite harmless, and if graphic sex was shown in movies it would probably be viewed as titillating, and if not, it certainly couldn't be any more shocking than graphic violence, which we're quite accepting of. So, if you're the first sort and think nudity and sex is offensive, why are they both legal and so sought after by most everyone, especially in their private lives? By legal we mean that innocent public nudity is not an offence if it's not intended to cause offence, eg sunbathing naked at the beach, and sex is perfectly legal between consenting adults, although maybe not on the beach. And if you concede that nudity is harmless, perhaps even quite nice if viewed in a bedroom on satin sheets, why does it suddenly become offensive and shocking out on the patio in a deckchair? This is what you need to explain and justify, how and why a naked body goes from beautiful and alluring indoors and in private, to disgusting and repulsive outdoors in public, whether that's a real body in the real outdoors or a celluloid body in a movie. To us this seems as irrational as insisting that a burger looks delicious if seen outside on a barbecue table, but revolting if seen inside on the kitchen table.

Sunbathing on beach.jpg

Let's try a little thought experiment. Think of a Hollywood actor or actress, one you view as very sexy, in a scene from a favourite movie. Now imagine you're lying on a remote beach in Hawaii and suddenly you see them walking along the shore, naked. Would this stunningly handsome or beautiful, and very sexy person that you had previously only viewed clothed, have now morphed into someone gross and offensive, someone you can't even now look at without a feeling of revulsion? We doubt it, in fact being naked has likely only made them more enticing. So why if this happened in real life would you think it was offensive, and then quickly call the police, or at least avert your gaze? What's changed, why has the naked body gone from very sexy in your imagination to very offensive in reality? Clearly the body hasn't changed, only your attitude to it has. So again, depending on the location, why does seeing a naked body evoke such polar opposite reactions, how do you justify flipping from desire to disgust?

If, on the other hand, you're the second sort and you view nudity and sex as natural and normal and not something that would shock you if spied at the beach or in the movies, then why does society generally work towards keeping it hidden, even though there's no real legal or ethical requirement to do so? Is it just a matter of numbers? Do the prudes greatly outnumber the carefree, liberal people in society? Or are the prudes small in number but just fanatically outspoken, ensuring their puritan views are heard, especially in regards to the law, censorship and public morality, while the rest of us carefree folk are out enjoying life, and not trying to enforce our enlightened views onto others?

Bikini drying

And we're not pushing that our movies should be full of gratuitous nudity and graphic sex either, merely that when it is appropriate to the story then it is shown in a natural and realistic manner. Nor are we suggesting we make all our beaches nude beaches either, since some locations clearly aren't appropriate for that sort of thing. Too cold. We're simply pointing out that it's just utterly ridiculous that when a body is naked or having sex then it must be hidden behind a sheet, but when that same clothed body is being penetrated by a bullet or knife, blown apart by a car bomb, or having its limbs sliced off with a samurai sword, then not only can it be shown, but it will be shown in all its gory, bloody detail, often in slow motion and extreme close-up. Why the double standards? And if we have to see one sort of body and one sort of act, why has society decided that it's harmless and entertaining to see realistic, bloody, disturbing acts of violence carried out on clothed bodies, and that it's obscene, disgusting and clearly harmful to see bodies naked, even beautiful bodies, let alone naked bodies in a loving embrace or having sex? Why do we allow the gory and censor the beautiful? Graphic scenes of cruelty, hatred and violent death, perfectly OK, even for kids, but scenes of love, intimacy and passion combined with naked bodies, or even naked bodies without any sexual element, such as sunbathing on a beach, definitely not OK. Society has spoken. End of story. But perhaps we should be questioning what society has decreed, since surely running away from innocent nudity and towards disturbing violence instead is a sign that society is seriously screwed up? Perhaps society needs to be taken down a dark alley and with the aid of an electric cattle prod, given a serious talking to?

We'll finish with the question that we started with, nudity or violence — which is worse? The question is not which scene do you recoil from in disgust if you see it on our big and small screens. Obviously for most people the answer is nudity, the question is which really does the more harm to our psyche and our relationships? And of course the question is moot, it's already been decided that nudity, not violence, is far worse, and is what would cause the collapse of society if allowed past the censors. What's not so clear, to us anyway, since we must have missed a crucial memo, is how the sight of innocent nudity, or even actual sex, carries the seeds of our destruction whereas viewing realistic graphic violence is nothing but harmless entertainment. Even for the children.

There was an aspiring saying from the last century that went: 'Make love, not war', and yet these days our movies push just the opposite message, with realistic scenes of war flaunted and realistic scenes of love censored. We're not so sure that glorifying violence and condemning nudity is really the way forward.

Posted by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 26 Nov, 2017 ~ Add a Comment     Send to a Friend
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Comments:

  1. Comment by Rene, 12 Dec, 2017

    Hya, and good analysis on the classic argument of "It's fine to slaughter people, just don't use too many naughty words and cover up the breast when you cut out the heart or someone will be offended!".

    I think it all boils down to the Bible itself. The religious get their guidance for life from the Bible, and the Bible CLEARLY has no issues with grotesque violence and barbaric behaviour, gleefully describing it in detail every chance they get. So the implication to a Christian is that God loves suffering, as it brings you closer to Jesus (quote from Mother Theresa BTW), and that horrific violence is a natural part of our sinful natures and thus cannot be removed, only directed well. I mean, even Jesus himself said "bring him to me so that I may slay him" and he's the example of all that is good, right?

    However look at sex ... everyone is capable of slaughter in holy rapturous ecstasy (in the name of God of course) they cannot stand the idea that someone might not want to fuck them, or that they might be fucking in a way that they cannot appreciate, and thus all sex is immoral. If THEY cannot appreciate the pleasures of humanity's touches, than NOBODY should, and since being judgemental is second nature to Christians, they judge all sex that isn't for the job of making Christian babies to be immoral somehow. Apparently they forgot that the Bible itself said "go forth and multiply" and that God would have given them the desires and parts, and that Eve was to be a COMPANION to Adam and not just an incubator, or that "virgin" just meant "unmarried" back them (she could have been the biggest slut in Bethlehem for all we know, but she never married and thus was a virgin by OUR modern definition for some reason) but no matter. God clearly loves violence and hates sex, and thus they feel the need to suck up a little more to him by carrying on the beliefs, and naturally imposing those values on everyone in earshot. After all, all love is GOD and OF GOD and supposedly NOTHING is greater than God, but an orgasm doesn't need his involvement to make you feel the best you physically/mentally could ... and it's done with a HUMAN lover, not God. They HATE that idea ...

    It's pure hypocrisy of course, but then they need an excuse to justify God's love of slaughter and ironic punishments, and thus the blind spot. Otherwise they'd have to admit that their god is a tyrant who's got issues with human's basic COMPETING passions and thus not worthy of worship. Easier to just stab the heathen who suggests it in the name of God and hope he likes the devotion you show in emulating him. <lol>

  2. Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 12 Dec, 2017

    Hi Rene. We also suspect that the underlying reason most people find violence and vengeance acceptable and entertaining (at least on the screen) and nudity and sex shameful (on or off the screen) is due to the Bible's insidious influence. Devout Christians, Jews and Muslims all derive their moral code from the stories in their holy books, stories which all share the same god, many of the original stories and most certainly the same submissive, backward attitudes. Believers are weaned on the graphic and often totally unjust violence and vengeance in the (fictional) origin stories of their ancestors, as well as learning that their god is utterly obsessed with controlling every detail, major or minor, that is connected to sex, and who, at the same time, is utterly appalled, disgusted and repulsed by it all. The sex that is, not the violence, he just loves the violence, the more barbaric the better.

    In the first book of the Bible we're told that God made Adam and Eve and that, 'The man and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame'. This clearly states that they were not ashamed in being naked, and implies that God their creator didn't find the naked human body offensive either, after all, he had specifically designed us to look and function the way we do. And more importantly, having created them naked, God apparently intended that they remain naked, that nudity was natural and normal and nothing to be ashamed of. He made no attempt to clothe them. And as you say Rene, the naked Adam and Eve were instructed by God to go forth and multiply, to shamelessly put their genitals together and produce new life, and their offspring, which were also born naked, were to do likewise. And importantly, we were all to have great fun doing it. After all, God deliberately gave us the orgasm, it wasn't something invented by hippies in the 1960s.

    Unfortunately, this idyllic lifestyle quickly took a turn for the worse when a talking snake decided to have a little chat with Eve, and everything went downhill from there. Next thing they knew they were being evicted from their Club Med home and forced out onto the street, brother was soon killing brother, tribes were warring with each other, and God was joining in the melee by confusing languages, spreading lies, picking favourites and encouraging genocide. Suffering, sometimes on a monumental scale, had entered the world. The orgasms were still great, but they were now usually tinged with a deep guilt, which naturally lessened their overall appeal, meaning that many god-fearing people tried to then suppress their god-given urges and live a life of near celibacy, or in the case of Catholic priests, absolute celibacy. And no, sex with little boys isn't "real" sex and so it doesn't count. It's not clear what turned God from a caring creator who strolled naked with Adam and Eve in their garden of an evening into a vicious, homicidal megalomaniac that now abhorred sex, and the naughty bits needed to perform it, but change he did. Apart from the first verses of the first book of the Bible, the rest have God baying for blood and threatening to torture for all eternity anyone seen naked or having sex for purposes other than procreation. That means no sex for pure enjoyment, no sex if you're unable to produce children for any reason or are beyond the age of child-bearing, no homosexual sex, no sex if you're pregnant, and no masturbation, because all these activities fail to produce kids, the sole justification for Christians to have sex. Some centuries ago the Church even taught that it was better for a son to rape his mother than to masturbate, since at least the rape might result in a child for God. God even saw no problem with raping Mary to get himself a human son that he could then reject, leaving Mary to raise him, and then later return to have him tortured and killed.

    Many Biblical stories are well known, but most people, Christian or non-Christian, would be hard pressed to find one that at it's core doesn't involve the use of violence and/or injustice to achieve it goals, and in the stories where sex, the body and/or nudity is involved, find the view that it's not repugnant and shameful. Of course women will know this because they need to know how long they must shun contact with others during their periods because they are filthy and unclean. Because Christians are told they must love God and follow his moral code in order to emulate his ways, and because his stories often involve him slaughtering entire civilisations, or even having a father murder his own beloved daughter, then of course Christians are going to view violence as perfectly acceptable and nothing to be repulsed by, because it's the tool of choice of their beloved heavenly father. Likewise, because God only views sex as a necessary evil, and the naked body merely the disgusting tool that is needed to procreate, then when not doing the vile deed in some darkened room, sex and the naked body must be consciously kept hidden form public view, and anyone who transgresses this behaviour, accidental or otherwise, must have shame and disapproval heaped upon them.

    Of course many people today would argue that they're not all that religious, and thus the Bible views of violence and sexuality don't inform their views. But we'd argue that for most, they are likely wrong. They might then say that we atheists just want to blame God for everything, even what we see in the movies, but today's movie censorship laws are merely a slightly modified version of that which was forced on us decades ago by the Christian Church and a society that was far more supportive of the Church, eg the Hays Code. Think of the views that most people, religious or not, have of homosexuality, masturbation, pre-martial sex, nudity, abortion and divorce through to capital punishment, parent's hitting children, retribution, suicide, theft, murder and even President George Bush's war against Iraq that he called a 'Crusade', saying that you were either with him or against him, a quote from Jesus. For nearly everyone, their views on these topics come from the Bible. Try explaining why homosexuality or masturbation is wrong without any reference to the Bible stories, or try arguing for retribution without thinking of the Biblical phrase, an eye for an eye, or arguing against suicide without mentioning the idea that our life belongs to God.

    We may now be a secular society, but the reality is that many of the laws and customs of our present society are founded on the Biblical worldview of our Christian ancestors. And many of them are just plain wrong, and the world is only slowly starting to realise that an ancient book written by ignorant Bronze Age goat herders is not the best place to look for ideas on how to lead a good life. Look at how attitudes and laws concerning such things as homosexuality, abortion, suicide and even masturbation have changed for the better in recent years. All these involved the wholesale rejection of Biblical views. Look at people that bemoan these changes and they'll likely have a Bible under their arm or at least make some mention of God and their faith. We're not a Christian country, as some falsely claim, but there is no doubt that our society is riddled with age-old Christian beliefs, and their influence has been widespread over the centuries. Take the Pacific Island cultures. They didn't have a problem with nudity until after contact with Europeans. Accounts from Christian missionaries reveal that they had their work cut out trying to instil a sense of body shame in the carefree natives. But now, centuries later, Pacific Island cultures are more ashamed of nudity, and more religious, than even the European Christians that brainwashed them. Only after becoming Christians did Pacific Islanders start to view the body differently. Many people may have now forgotten exactly why their parents told them to cover up — Because I said so! — but push them for a plausible answer and soon you will run up against the Bible as the source, or an admission of complete ignorance, that they simply don't know why nudity is bad. We'd challenge any reader to explain why public nudity is bad, without referring to the dictates of some sky fairy.

    Graphic violence easily finds its way onto our screens, while sex and nudity is hurriedly wrapped in a trench coat and marched down to the police station to be booked for obscenity. As it was in the Bible, so it is still.

  3. Comment by Murray, 14 Apr, 2018

    Morning! I'm pretty late to the blog entry, but I felt the need to share thoughts.

    My most crystal sharp exposure to this attitude came some 20 years ago. My friends have three children and this was when they were pretty young, obviously. A video of "The Terminator" was procured for the evening's entertainment. I expressed some reservations if the movie was appropriate for kids, but the parents waved me away. Okay.

    So, we watched Arnie kill and maim dozens of people in his brutal quest for Sarah Connor. An entire police station annihilated. Not a blink of concern for inappropriate viewing.

    Then the plot reached the moment when the two hunted fugitives find safety long enough to catch their breath and unclench, if only for a few hours. They're desperate and hurting and exhausted. They've grown close in their desperate attempt to escape. We are now witness to a thoroughly plausible and certainly not gratuitous (unlike so many movies) scene of the two nude characters making love (as opposed to "screwing their brains out").

    The wife and mother watching the movie had never seen "The Terminator". She wasn't aware of such a scene. She went volcanic on us for not warning her of such a disgusting moment and letting her children see it.

    It baffled me then and it baffles me now.

    There's this belief that runs thru our world that male humans are on a hair trigger, where the sight of one curvaceous ankle will turn us into slobbering simians of rampaging, red-eyed lust. Various religions around take this "axiom" to heart and require women to be smothered in layers of clothing. Maybe there is a more secular fear deep down that any human, especially teens, will see a nipple and plunge into wild bouts of bunny sex, leading to unwanted pregnancies and STDs.

    I dunno.

    As for acceptance of violence, it may be partly due to desensitization. Violence is part of the adventure in a story and writers have to keep upping the ante so consumers stay on the edge of their seats. For example, I finally saw Hitchcock's "Psycho" for the first time in the 1990's, but was well aware of many of the details, especially the legendary "shower scene". Well, the scene came and went and I was stunned all right. Stunned at how tame, and even "innocent", the scene came across to my sensibilities. I was not thinking in any critical fashion towards Hitchcock or the audiences some 35 years earlier. It was a staggering example of how... sophisticated... numb... we had become in the interim.

    And, that's about it. On with the day!

    Cheers!

  4. Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 14 Apr, 2018

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts Murray. While I personally can't remember anyone going ballistic over encountering a sex scene in a movie, I can recall many examples of my fellow viewers exhibiting extreme embarrassment, often looking away, when suddenly confronted with scenes involving nudity or sex. And yet, the violence never really fazed them.

    So why are we accepting of graphic violence in our movies but not sex or nudity? You're right that there is this bullshit notion that, 'male humans are on a hair trigger, where the sight of one curvaceous ankle will turn us into slobbering simians of rampaging, red-eyed lust'. I'm looking at you Muslims, and even some of you fundamentalist Christians. I suspect the religious upbringing that most people are subjected to, even in more liberal societies, is what informs their stance on sex and public nudity, and that stance is all about promoting shame and embarrassment and concealment. When you really push people to explain why sex must be hidden or why nude beaches should be illegal, their first answers are normally quite empty, eg it's what my parents taught me or it's what society demands. When you try to understand what underpinned their parents' or society's demands, it nearly always rests on primitive codes of conduct found in old holy books. Some god told their ancestors that sex was dirty and disgusting and that the naked body was ugly and shameful and thus both sex and nudity must be avoided where possible and always concealed from the public gaze. Let's remember that the Bible's New Testament proclaims that while sex is permissible within marriage for procreation, celibacy is the preferred option for everyone. I have yet to hear someone successfully argue that sex and nudity must be kept private due to some reason that doesn't ultimately fall back on silly beliefs found in some old religion.

    The reality is that banning graphic sex and nudity from movies merely creates ignorant prudes. And any argument that claims that graphic scenes would be dangerous, that people will blindly emulate what they see in the movies is shown to be bogus and hypocritical since these same people permit graphic violence in movies with no fear (or evidence) that viewers will copy the violence.

    I agree when you say that, 'Violence is part of the adventure in a story and writers have to keep upping the ante so consumers stay on the edge of their seats'. Moviegoers keep demanding something new, better special effects and unexpected twists on old stories. But while this helps explain why violence has become ever more pervasive, graphic and realistic in our movies, we must remember that sex is very often part of the story too. And this is nothing new, sex in storytelling is as ancient as violence in stories, and many famous tales would make no sense if the sex scenes were removed. Look at the Bible, it's not just graphic violence, it's also replete with stories involving sex and naked bodies, with the violence and sex often interrelated.

    So, if because of desensitisation, movie violence must get more graphic to keep the stories believable and the viewers interested, why don't the sex scenes have to keep pace? The reality is that while there is just as much implied sex now as there ever was, as in heaving naked shoulders and moaning under the sheets, there is probably much less nudity in movies now than there was in the recent past (in the 1970s and '80s for example), and yet people keep flocking to the new releases. Why aren't moviegoers pushing the producers and directors to make the sex scenes more graphic and realistic, as they apparently are doing with the innumerable scenes of violence? Why are modern viewers happy to have the sex scenes regress to match the old-fashioned and conservative values of their great-grandparents, and yet still clamour for more realistic violence? Why do people have no problem seeing a beautiful clothed woman shot full of bullet holes and collapsing dead in a pool of her own blood, but wouldn't want to see her walk naked along a sun-drenched beach?

    I was recently flicking through a book by Martin Howden on the TV show "Game of Thrones", and by coincidence came across him commenting on this issue of sex versus violence on our screens as it related to that show. He noted that,

    'Peter Dinklage has no problem with filming the sex scenes. "Those scenes are fun," he said. "We get so much flak for it, but what's wrong? I just find it to be so sad, people get in such an uproar about breasts, but not chopping people's heads off." [Game of Thrones] Author Martin himself said, "I get letters about that fairly regularly. It's a uniquely American prudishness. You can write the most detailed, vivid description of an axe entering the skull, and nobody will say a word in protest. But if you write a similarly detailed description of a penis entering a vagina, you get letters from people saying they'll never read you again. What the hell? Penises entering vaginas bring a lot more joy into the world than axes entering skulls".'
    The only thing I'd disagree with in those comments is that unfortunately it's not 'a uniquely American prudishness'. Although America in general certainly has a severe case of prudishness, many countries are following their lead and adopting their 'Less nudity, more violence' mantra, and let's not forget that the Muslim countries are even worse.
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