You would have hated me as a child.
I was raised in a very religious household. But I was also born with The Knack. Religion, and Christianity in particular, doesn’t much care for sperglords. They tend to ask all sorts of obnoxious questions, they poke holes in your fragile narratives, and they generally cause all sorts of frustrating trouble.
I’m no longer religious, though I appreciate its value to others. I followed the up-and-out trajectory. As any sperg would, I started taking it seriously. And then I found out that that’s impossible. And then I found out nobody else did. After a while you wonder what the point is. And then you just stop believing.
The strange and unique thing about my experience is the particular things I got hung up on. Usually deep philosophical things, playing games with ideas that didn’t matter. But sometimes they mattered very deeply, and I couldn’t resolve the contradiction.
One night, on the way home from a youth group outing, the youth pastor is telling me about her friends. They’ve just started a wonderful Christian small business, and they need all the support they can get from the community. Their business? They re-cut popular movies, editing out the swear words and replacing them with Christ-approved cusses, so that they would be safe for Christians to watch.
16-year-old me immediately jumped to the obvious question: how does this make any sense? Let’s take, say, a Quentin Tarantino movie. Do you really watch this movie and think “the most immoral part is the word ‘fuck'”? To me, I would think a gratuitously violent movie with polite language wouldn’t be any more God-approved.
I probably should have dropped this. But it kept bothering me. Because, you see, one of the ten commandments is “don’t take God’s name in vain”. Another commandment is “don’t murder”, but there’s nothing about portraying murders. If God is all-powerful, he can be arbitrary too. And it’s pretty hard to argue with that one. You could argue that “fuck” is not subject to this rule. But goddamn, “goddamn” sure is. If you think about what the Bible says, maybe these people are on the right track.
So lets prax this out. The bible says don’t use God’s name in vain. Let’s take this at face value. Use God’s name in vain? Sin, go to hell. Use God’s name legitimately, you’re A-Ok. “God damn!”, hell. “God please help”, heaven.
So what happens if you say “Dios damn”. Did you just sin? If the answer is no, then this is just a qualified version of “the word doesn’t matter, intention does” and at that point, the actions of the Christian small business make no sense. So let’s shelve that branch, and say “yes. Yes it counts”. The Bible says don’t use the name. It doesn’t say don’t mean the name.
The weird thing about languages (well, one of many) is that new ones pop up all the time. You can invent them. There are people who are fluent in Klingon, after all. So, does that mean “joH’a damn it” is a sin? Like I said, lets assume ‘yes’.
I’ve been working on this project. I’m designing a new language, completely from scratch. Like a version of Lojban people actually use. I’ll be repurposing existing phonemes as much as possible, for convenience sake. I’ve decided that the English phoneme “the” is my language’s word for “God”.
If taking the Lord’s name in vain is meant in this literal fashion, we have a remote execution bug. By inventing a language and assigning the meaning “God” to an arbitrary phoneme, I can retroactively convert people into sinners and send them to Hell.
As those of you with basic literacy skills have been yelling into your screen for the past five minutes, “that’s goddamn crazy”. Of course it doesn’t work like this. Nothing would ever work like this. Nobody would ever think like this.
Words invoke a ‘use/mention’ dichotomy. You can either pass them around as pointers, or dereference them to values. But you don’t want to be sloppy about it. That’s how you get buffer overflows.
In my Aspergic analysis, I was stubbornly insisting on mentioning the name of God, never using it. This is somewhat absurd, but less so than you’d think. Consider again the Christian business. They, too, are mentioning curse words. If they interpreted the commandment to mean using curse words, then their edited versions would be just as bad. After all, whether I say “fuck” or whether I say “shucks”, the meaning is clear.
So flip it around. I say “goddamn traffic, I’m an hour late again”. Did I take God’s name in vain? If we’re going by use rules (as most people naturally would), I’d say the answer is no. When I said that phrase, I didn’t mean anything remotely religious. I wasn’t sincerely asking God to smite the Volvo going 70 on the Sea-To-Sky Highway. I was expressing frustration using a cathartic set of syllables. I was mentioning God’s name, not using it.
This is why most normal people look on that fellow’s business and think it’s silly and foolish. Everybody knows that the Bible is saying not to use God’s name in vain. But this man, who can’t possibly be so stupid as to not get this, insists that it says not to mention it. He makes a business out of it, duping others out of their cash.
Once upon a time, there were two minor celebrities on Twitter: Alice and Bob. They both felt very strongly about Skub, and used their fame and influence to advocate in favour of it.
Unfortunately for them, various trolls felt just as strongly that Skub is not part of a healthy balanced diet, and they made sure to let Alice and Bob know about it.
For daring to be pro-Skub in public, Bob got insults. People called him a bastard, an asshole. He got threats of doxing. He got “joking” death threats in his DMs.
For daring to be pro-Skub in public, Alice got insults. People called her a bitch, a cunt. She got threats of doxing. She got “joking” rape threats in her DMs.
Do you think that God thinks Twitter is misogynistic?