[Buddha-l] Return of blasphemy?

Dan Lusthaus vasubandhu at earthlink.net
Fri Nov 4 17:06:07 MDT 2011


> As for your proposal to substitute denigration by the slightly more
> useful criterion diffamation, I am afraid I don't share your lukewarm
> enthusiasm. "Truth" and "true" are not exactly  the first ideas that pop
> up when I see a religion.

That's true! One could restate the definition of defamation more bluntly:

""the offense of writing or saying something bad about someone
that is not true and makes people have a bad opinion of them,"


Using lies in print or orally to turn public opinion against someone (or 
some group, etc.)

This is not about the "Truth" claimed by a religion, but about factual 
statements made about a religion, e.g., the blood libel; or Hinayana 
Buddhism promotes selfish nirvana devoid of compassion; etc. To accuse the 
Vatican of conspiring to rule the world -- without being able to provide 
evidence and proof -- would be defamation. If you have the proof, then not. 
To point out that the Vatican has accomodated and shielded child abuse on a 
massive scale is not defamation, since the evidence is overwhelming (as it 
is for similar charges against Tibetan clerics in the late 19th-early 20th 
c). Similarly, to point out that Muhammed's favorite wife was Aisha who was 
six when they they were betrothed and nine when the marriage was 
consummated, while, according to the Hadith, she was playing with her dolls, 
is not per se defamation (numerous leading clerics today defend this as an 
ideal worth emulation, though others have tried to push the age of 
consummation up to age 13 or so, and some are reticent to discuss it, given 
the negative impression it gives outside the muslim world), but to go 
ballistic on it rather attempt to understand it in its context, i.e., to use 
it polemically can become defamation, if observing the fact is accompanied 
by a horrifying psychological profile that, in fact, has no basis except in 
the modern imagination.

(which of the following is defamatory, and which is not?)

Similarly, viewing Buddha as a "deadbeat dad" for fleeing home just as his 
pregnant wife is about to give birth straddles a line. This would be 
denigration, if used to demean Buddha and or Buddhism, but not defamation, 
since it is true to the facts as accepted by the tradition.

These sorts of historical/biographical matters are easier to sort out in 
terms of facts and falsities (what used to be calumnies, etc.). Ideological 
or theological matters would be harder to deal with, but there again, the 
issue would hinge on whether one presents the opponent's position 
accurately, or the degree to which one is distorting it or turning it into a 
straw man.

> Your conclusion sounds about right to me.

I still stand by:

>> "Which criticism is "fair" (and we should be even more afraid of a
> culture that does not tolerate criticism)?

But was sarcastic when writing:

>>Maybe in the post-modern
>> world, we all need to become duplicitous denigrators like Ramadan,
> finding a way to maintain a veneer of "tolerance" as we promote our lies. 
> "


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