John Walker's Electronic House

Family Guy, And On Being Offensive

by on Feb.17, 2010, under The Rest

Family Guy enjoys being offensive. It does it with glee. As creator Seth McFarlane likes to say, they’re an “equal opportunity offender”. I’m struggling to think of a subject they haven’t made wildly inappropriate jokes about. Racial stereotypes, paedophilia, infanticide, rape, degenerative disorders, disabilities, the Holocaust… A large part of the point of watching the programme is gasping in shock with your hands clasped to your mouth, unsure if you’re stifling a cry of horror or a laugh.

There have been other programmes that have taken this “no taboos” rule to more effective and more shocking places, such as the astonishing Wonder Showzen, and Drawn Together. But these were on cable. Family Guy is on at primetime on Sunday nights on Fox. Having been cancelled twice by the network, it’s proven itself fairly invincible, and with McFarlane’s new contract breaking all records they know they’re not going anywhere. And to embrace this the most recent episodes having been pushing things further and further, including as many digs at Fox as they can cram in. Last Sunday’s was particularly shocking. At least, I thought so at first.

The story focuses around Chris, the dimwitted teenage son, asking a girl with Down’s syndrome out on a date. Immediately you can make some pretty strong arguments pointing out how non-offensive this is, as Chris has absolutely no problem or concern about her disability. He’s attracted to her, and wants to go on a date with her. It’s only Stewie (the baby) who thinks there’s anything strange about it. But there’s no point in persisting with that, because it absolutely is offensive. It’s all out, hell-for-leather offensive. In fact, see if you can spot any joke they didn’t manage to get into the following truly gob-smackingly offensive song:

However, what happens next is of interest.

Chris goes on the date, and the girl is a jerk. She’s rude, selfish, unfair and manipulative. He has a horrible time, because she’s a douchebag. And I’d argue that this might just be the most inoffensive portrayal of a disabled person in television history.

Writers fall over themselves to ensure that anyone with a disability is heroic. Just being alive makes them brave! Those poor dears. Even the mighty Steven Moffat fell apart completely when putting a paraplegic character into Press Gang. It’s the precise opposite of equal opportunities. It’s patronising, and it’s embarrassing. Family Guy did an awful lot better.

There’s a larger question about the “equal opportunity offender” position to be asked. For instance, Family Guy does jokes based on gross racial stereotypes. It doesn’t do this because it believes that Asians can’t drive, or black people can’t swim, or whatever racist meme they’re picking up on. It does this because making jokes based on such notions are so ludicrously offensive. The presumed intention is not racism. It’s shock. The question is, how is an outside observer supposed to distinguish between a joke about all black people being criminals, and a joke about saying that all black people are criminals because you shouldn’t? And if that distinction isn’t apparent, is there a distinction at all? In a few decades will we look back on the days of Family Guy, Drawn Together, The Sarah Silverman Program, and so on, and see it as any different from the unironic racism on display in 1970s sitcoms?

The argument is that they’re offensive to everyone, not picking on any one group or minority. And that’s true. No one goes un-mocked, whether deaf, old, Latino, white, gay, disabled or murdered in gas chambers. To treat one group (by whichever choice of grouping you might pick) as special is offensive. To say, “It would be fine if McFarlane only picked on white middle class Americans” would be the highest hypocrisy.

But at the same time I’m tempted to believe McFarlane is a sociopath. The jokes will upset people. And not always people who deserve to be upset. (Plus I gave up watching another of his shows, American Dad, because the volume of homophobic jokes led me to wonder if he really did have a problem with gay people. And because it’s not very funny.) No rape victim deserves to be mocked. But Family Guy mocks rape victims. It mocks rapists too. And it mocks people who are offended by jokes about rape.

This particular episode has come to more attention because Sarah Palin has spoken out about it. And not out of the blue. She has a son with Down’s syndrome, and the episode makes a direct reference to her. The teenage girl with Down’s explains that her mother is the former governor of Alaska. It’s a reference that really doesn’t make much sense – Palin has a baby son, this was a teenage girl. But it was a deliberate provocation of the lunatic far-right politician. I’m not sure what the purpose of the reference was, but it was presumably simply just to be another shocking thing to say. One that, I’d argue, didn’t work particularly well. There’s a million reasons to mock Palin, but her having a disabled son doesn’t seem like it’s one of them. But when you have no rules, no boundaries, no taboos, such reasoning doesn’t apply.

Which leaves me confused about what I think. I find Family Guy very funny. I’d be a hypocrite to say otherwise. And a big part of that is being astonished by the things it says and shows. But then I also would never wish to apply its principles to my life. I believe in satirising and mocking those who are deserving. But then to make such a statement I’ve apparently appointed myself arbiter of who deserves to be mocked – a ridiculous position to put myself in. Family Guy doesn’t act in such a moralising and hypocritical way as I. So no, I’ve no fixed position on this at all.

But for one. I believe it’s okay to be offended. As a white, middle class, 30-something male perhaps I’m in too luxurious a position to make such a statement. But am I now once more applying the same patronising attitude? It’s okay for me to be offended because I’m white and middle class enough to be able to handle it! I’m turning into Chris Morris’s character on Brass Eye: “But what about people less middle class, less educated than me? Builders or blacks for instance?” So let’s go back to the beginning: I believe it’s okay to be offended. I get my fair share of mocking, often cruel, for being a Christian. I see jokes about Jesus or my faith that offend me. My response isn’t to call for the perpetrator to be silenced. It’s to be offended for a moment. It’s not a nice feeling. I live through it.

There’s a difference between being offended and being persecuted. And when we, as a society, treated offence as persecution, we belittle persecution.


34 Comments for this entry

  • Sam

    How do you feel about South Park? There’s some offensive stuff there too, but it’s dealt with more subtly, I think. And when I laugh at South Park, I laugh harder.

  • LewieP

    I think the worst thing about Family Guy is that is it a missed opportunity.

    It could have a far better impact on it’s viewers (and be at least equally funny) if they did actually give a damn about what it was that the ridiculed, as opposed to just looking for any target that they can.

    Regarding South Park: I remember watching the episode “Conjoined Fetus Lady” with my Mum (who has a physical disability), and we were both laughing most of the way through, but then at the “I learnt something today” bit, my Mum started crying, because the message was really poignant to her.

    Despite the dick jokes and the foul language, South Park generally has some pretty worthwhile things to say about the topics that they cover.

  • John Walker

    Sam – I occasionally enjoy South Park, but I think it’s falling over itself to be inoffensive. It’s so determined to be balanced and apolitical that I think it’s lost much of a significant voice. In fact, I think Lewie is right, but I think it’s a poorer programme for what he describes.

  • Nick Mailer

    South Park is highly moral (indeed, moralising) satire. Family Guy is nihilistic. Both are vital, and show just how “junk carbs” is (and always was) The Simpsons.

    But actually, Family Guy is not as nihilistic as one might first believe. Take the race jibes: the joke is on us. So long as we recognise the hideous stereotypes it so easily makes grotesques of, its point is well made. The horrible truth that it screams at us is that the jokes still work. The reason that they still work is not the fault of Family Guy, but is more telling than any lecture on racial essentialism.

  • John Walker

    It’s interesting how angrily Parker and Stone portrayed Family Guy in South Park. They really seemed to despise it.

  • Nick Mailer

    Because Parker and Stone are stern moralists who disapprove of Family Guy’s nihilism (so memorably symbolised in Cartoon Wars).

  • Bobsy

    I think the difference between South Park and Family Guy on offensiveness is that Family Guy chooses its targets and makes it absolutely clear that they’re going to get it. It picks out a subject and jabs the knife in, often quite viciously. Whereas South Park’s approach is to swing a cudgel of offensiveness around aimlessly and not really care who it thwacks.

    Problem is, in such a highly subjective medium as comedy, there’s always going to be stuff that crosses the line and is unacceptable to a viewer. It’s just the nature of the beast. The operative rule is that the more offensive a bit of material is, the more funny it needs to be to cover it. Offensive and unfunny is horrible, inoffensive and funny is often a bit boring.

    Even so, nothing works for everyone; my personal sticking point is Alzheimer’s. I’ve been unfortunate enough to witness it first-hand in a relative of mine who died from its effects, and I know very well that there’s simply nothing funny about it. I doubt that many people who’ve had personal experience with the condition would be able to make jokes about it. But there are jokes, because from the outside a disease which affects memory sounds like it should be funny, or at least have potential for comedy. But I can never laugh, because I know that when parts of your mind just fade away it’s truly heartbreaking to behold.

    Perhaps I should say then that I don’t begrudge people for making jokes about Alzheimers, because they’re doing it from ignorance, and ignorance is, of course, bliss. But in truth I do begrudge a little bit, because it is still a bit mean, and it’s affecting me personally. But on the other hand it’s only comedy. And as great and important as comedy is and can be, it doesn’t actually matter. David Frost didn’t become the most renowned TV journalist of his generation because he did That Was The Week That Was, he became it because of his Nixon interview.

    I do love comedy, more than I love most things in the world, but I’m under no delusion that it really matters in the long run.

  • Robert Morgan

    “I doubt that many people who’ve had personal experience with the condition would be able to make jokes about it.”

    I’ve got personal experience of Altzheimer’s (my gran), and I absolutely would make jokes about it – probably moreso than, or at least the same as – before. The emotional weight adds poignancy, but not a self-righteous humourlessness.

    This is not that unusual, to belittle the things you fear or have suffered through humour. You’ve only got to think about what happens at war.

    And look, it was one of the worst things to happen to my mother and yet she found some parts of the thing itself funny AT THE TIME. My gran couldn’t remember who my mum was, she was ebbing away, and then for a moment, she slipped back into focus to… tell her she’d put on weight, tapping her tummy and frowning. See, funny.

  • Nick

    I think to say comedy doesn’t matter in the long run is to do it a great disservice. It is extremely helpful psychologically to be able to laugh at times of great sadness, for example.

    As for Family Guy, I think you sum it up pretty well, though I think more recently it borders into just being mean spirited at times.

  • Jambe

    The final sentence of your post was quite nice.

    The South Park fellows are Christian moralists and MacFarlane is an atheist (and probably relativist).

    You’re confused as to what you think because cognitive dissonance is intrinsic to moralism; moralism requires absolutist stances from which self-contradictions inevitably arise. The only way to stop being confused is to abandon the notion that ANYTHING in this world is absolutely right or wrong.

    Your post is built on several appeals to “yes or no, black or white” answers which cannot exist. Examples:

    Is it right or wrong to joke about ethnicity?
    — disabilities?
    — religion?
    — crime victims?
    To laugh at any of the above?
    To support or allow any of the above, tacitly or explicitly?

    None of those questions have answers which are always satisfactory. Moralism and absolutism of all kinds burn up when confronted by context. Only by ignoring context — by operating entirely from within the confines of a cultural paradigm — may one place ultimate value in a moral framework.

    A great example of your own CD in action, John, is from a recent Rum Doings. Nick repeatedly shot holes in your notions of booby-propriety. You had no logically sound retort and the discussion ended in a few laughs about ogling. As Nick pointed out on more than one occasion, if you examine human constructs IN CONTEXT you realize they are entirely reducible to arbitrariness, our own instincts or both. The next obvious question is, “If morals are ultimately arbitrary, why is one person’s morality any better or worse than that of anyone else?”

    The simple answer is no morality is the correct one because there is no arbiter capable of determining for us what that morality might be (alas, The Real Jesus isn’t really on Twitter).

  • Sam

    For me, the line has never been crossed. I’ve never heard a joke about anything and been offended by it. In fact, I’m not even sure I’ve ever been offended by anything.

    I’ve been pissed off at idiots being racist, sexist, etc; but only because they are *actually* like that.

  • Mike Arthur

    Interesting post. Personally I really don’t find Family Guy funny. I don’t find it’s because it’s so deliberately offensive (which it is) but more than it’s a shotgun approach to humour, it seems Mr McFarlane just makes a joke every two seconds and I find about one in ten of them actually funny. I prefer comedy where every punchline is actually funny and is in some sort of context. Sometimes the barrage of irrelevant one-liners around familiar characters in Family Guy just feels like I’m watching a bad episode of The Fast Show.

    As for the offensiveness, it’s a hard line to draw. I completely disagree with Jambe’s and other philosophies that say all morals are relativistic because all humans without mental instability seems to be able to agree on some core morals (such as killing a healthy newborn baby isn’t a terribly nice thing to do).

    I guess the struggle with humour is to have something that is edgy and culturally challenging but without trivialising a difficult subject. I’d agree with the commenters that said laughing at horrible things that have affected you can be a way of dealing with them. However, I would bet a large amount of money that if any of Mr McFarlane’s loved ones had been raped then he wouldn’t be making jokes about it.

    It’s very easy as a rich white man to make lots of “ironic” jokes highlighting the fact that society is messed up but I’m not sure that everything Mr McFarlane laughs at is so obviously culturally unacceptable that everyone is in on the joke.

  • Nick Mailer

    “It’s very easy as a rich white man to make lots of “ironic” jokes”

    Now *that’s* offensive.

    And there is no line – and God forbid there should be one.

  • Mike Arthur

    Yep, I’d agree it’s offensive. I fully include myself in the above category however, I’m not pretending I’m sitting in an enlightened tower of wisdom here. I’m just saying that it’s far easier to say “that rape joke isn’t offensive” when it’s never affected you or someone close to you. There is no universal line, you are right on that, but there’s some jokes that people simply aren’t amused by, some that cause irritation and some that cause people to relive incredibly traumatic experiences.

    There is a line, it’s just further than anyone ever pushes. I’m sure there are things you would find hurtful and offensive if someone went out of their way to analyse your life and find specific triggers for any trauma you’d experienced. My point is that middle-class, heterosexual white people are less likely to have obvious triggers than those in other groups.

  • Bobsy

    I should clarify my saying that comedy doesn’t matter before it’s too late. My excuse is that I was writing at post-midnight and words were cloying to the inside of my brain and refusing to tumble out, so that I had to make do with wearily poor vocabulary.

    When I said comedy was important, but that it “doesn’t matter” I was trying to take the long view, the political view. I don’t believe comedy can change the world. It can help galvanise change, sure, but it doesn’t create it.

    I think comedy can have it’s greatest effects on a personal level. It can move you, offend you, release tension, bring events into sharp relief and possibly even change your mind, but it’s not going to start a revolution or a war (not even Danish political cartoonists can do that).

    Peter Cooke was asked on the satire if it could change society, and his response (probably paraphrased, since I’m quoting Linda Smith quoting him in a rather edited interview) was that it would be as effective as cabaret was in the Weimar Republic in halting the rise of Hitler. I think I’d agree with that. We shouldn’t put to great a sense of worthiness on comedy as a whole.

  • Mike Arthur

    To append to my previous comment, I think people should be able to say whatever they like, the government shouldn’t restrict people’s right to expression, particularly in art. My “line” that I mentioned wasn’t meant to be “beyond this point you are breaking the law and you will be banned” but more “beyond this point I think you are a bit of a dick”.

  • Bobsy

    Actually, the Linda Smith/Peter Cooke bit in full:

    I think the only thing you can achieve with satire is to make people laugh.

    I think Peter Cooke summed up the effect of satire really when he set up the Establishment Club and he was asked did he think it would change society, and he said he expected it ‘to be as effective as cabaret in the Weimar Republic was in halting the rise of Hitler’.

    So I don’t think you can get grandiose ideas of what satire can do to change the world but what it does do is, I think, people who have perhaps thought a thing that you say in the form of a joke… when they hear it, someone else doing it and in that way, I think it cheers them up and makes them think ‘Oh it’s not just me then, other people think that’ and I think that’s a very valuable thing, it’s a little tonic for the troops really because they don’t feel isolated, like it’s just them.

    Okay, satire/comedy not being the exact same thing, but it still stands I think. And of course Peter Cooke was part of the first wave of new offensiveness in comedy in his generation, notably performing a mocking impression of then-PM Harold MacMillan… to his face.

  • innokenti

    “There’s a difference between being offended and being persecuted. And when we, as a society, treated offence as persecution, we belittle persecution.”

    Can’t help but agree.

  • Ian

    McFarlane’s shows do very little for me, if I’m honest. Not because they’re offensive, I HAVE laughed at jokes in Family Guy and American Dad that were more than a little raw. It’s just because that sort of humour isn’t my cup of tea. I don’t really think the jab at Palin’s son was necessary, I don’t really think it had a point to make and I didn’t find it funny but if McFarlane wants to put stuff in that’s just for shock value (at best) then he’s got every right to do so.

    It’s easy to be hypocritical about these things, though. As others have said, the “well that’s not funny because it’s effected me” approach. I’ve got a cousin who’s got severe cerebral palsy and I had a good friend in primary school who had down’s syndrome so I used to overreact slightly when people made jokes about those things. Now I keep it to myself as I realise there’s plenty of stuff I laugh at that others have reason to find offensive.

  • Birky

    I used to be a big Family Guy fan, but since about series 5 I’ve lost interest. Again nothing to do with offensive content, but just because there is nothing new in the humour anymore. The shock of McFarlane ‘going there’ was short lived.

    I think what will be interesting (as John hinted at) is what happens in a generation or twos time. Once we’ve forgotten the the 1950s racism and the 1970s sterotype based shoes that Family Guy responds to, how will we relate to it’s use of offensice content. WHile I’m not suggesting we’ll all forget what Polical Correctness is, I suspect Family Guy will bring up a lot of blank looks at best, or at worst just become actually offensive to people without that background of naive offense.

    (This started out as a longer comment which became a blog post – if you’re really that interested, my blog is the one in the website link)

  • Roland

    One problem with Family Guys approach to humour are the people (a few who I have the misfortune to work with) who enjoy it BECAUSE it makes fun of ethnic groups,disabled people etc and this is similar to their tabloid like view on the world.

  • Thants

    My problem with Family Guy isn’t that it goes for shock value, it’s that it long ago gave up on doing anything else. I enjoyed it early on, but it seems to have gotten so focused on being shocking that it often forgets to make any jokes.

    It’s like watching a show based on “The Aristocrats”.

  • Jambe

    @Family Guy: as Birky noted, it was better prior to season five, after which it was essentially an endless run-on of non-sequitur silliness. I still catch an episode from time to time, but I’m not often impressed. I tend to let the Twitter and YouTube crowds aggregate the funniest clips. That way I don’t have to trudge through the whole of each episode.

    @Mike Arthur: morals are relative. Ubiquitous social behaviors point to INSTINCTS, not to pseudo-spiritual, indefinite notions of “morality”. Infanticide violates our natural tendencies toward fairness evaluation, self-preservation and speciesism, and therefore we tend not to engage in it.

    We DO engage in it, though, often on a massive scale. The God of the Old Testament commanded mass infanticide to keep heathen blood from contaminating his chosen people (here we see a somewhat-evolutionary parallel to male lions killing the cubs of other males post-coup). Google “child sacrifice” for countless reports of infant-slaying throughout history up to modern times.

    No moral claim is universally defensible. The three commonly-flung-about examples of infanticide, murder and incest are nothing more than distracting straw-men; societies usually proscribe such behaviors because A. societies wouldn’t exist if such behaviors were allowed in all cases and B. there are definite evolutionary forces at work compelling against such behavior.

    I don’t mean to seem haughty or accusative or anything, I just can’t bear the nonsensical suggestion that absolute moral truths exist. They do not, and EVEN IF THEY DID, we would still end up disagreeing about how to implement them in reality, where infinite contexts exist because of perception bias.

  • Swift'sgaylover

    Satirists need to learn from the master

    “Yet, Malice never was his Aim;
    He lash’d the Vice but spar’d the Name.
    No Individual could resent,
    Where Thousands equally were meant.
    His Satyr points at no Defect,
    But what all Mortals may correct;
    For he abhorr’d that senseless Tribe,
    Who call it Humour when they jibe:
    He spar’d a Hump or crooked Nose,
    Whose Owners set not up for Beaux.
    True genuine Dulness mov’d his Pity,
    Unless it offer’d to be witty.
    Those, who their Ignorance confess’d,
    He ne’er offended with a Jest;
    But laugh’d to hear an Idiot quote,
    A Verse from Horace, learn’d by Rote.”

  • Davus


    I agree wholeheartedly. Pick any supposedly innate or universal moral principle and there will be examples of people acting in direct contradiction to those principles, and believing they were right to do so. Furthermore any attempt at trying to derive absolute moral principles from the natural world or any kind of empirical data is doomed to fall into the naturalistic fallacy. You can argue that human beings have naturally evolved in such a way that we usually refrain from infanticide, but you cannot derive a universal ‘ought’ (moral principle) from this ‘is’ (empirical fact about human beings). There is nothing innate to the material properties of the universe that magically gives rise to absolute morals. Therefore, any attempts to justify a universal moral principle must resort to an appeal to divine edict or some other equally arbitrary and immaterial source. In other words the only way you can say that a moral principle is truly universal is by arguing ‘because it just is’.

  • Gassalasca

    I’d be interested to hear how other people commenting here feel about The Simpsons, i.e. whether they agree with John and Nick or not.

  • Lewis Denby

    I do love Family Guy. But I find it to be at its funniest when it drops the hideously offensive thing and just makes a really clever joke that almost no one will get. I think I actually applauded when Peter compared the look of his elbow to a symbol on the International Phonetic Alphabet chart.

  • Lewis Denby

    For the record, South Park leaves me absolutely cold.

  • Mike Arthur

    @Jambe: Your points are academically interesting but I don’t think they really apply to the real world. If you are honestly saying that there is nothing wrong with killing a child, that’s just a societal construct, then you have some serious issues. Human rights laws seem to declare a basic set of areligious moral codes. These may be derived from various religions but all major religions, even those with no common roots, seem to agree that murdering isn’t a nice thing to do.

    You can abstract things to higher planes all you want but I’m willing to bet if someone came to your house, punched you in the face and nicked all your stuff and claimed that they simply had a moral system where these things were acceptable then you wouldn’t just say “oh, fair enough then”.

    Your worldview is based towards the creation of morals through evolutionary instinct, if I’ve read you correctly. I’m a Christian (who does believe in evolution, incidentally) so that’s probably why we differ on believing in absolute good and evil. However, there’s not really any more basis for your viewpoint than for mine, I’d argue, so I’d drop the “nonsensical suggestion” chat, it’s a bit patronising.

  • Jambe

    Mr Arthur, your equivocation disgusts me. I said nothing about MY views regards infanticide because they’re IRRELEVANT. That’s all I’ll say about that.

    I wasn’t being patronizing. You appeal to a deity as the source of absolute moral truth, yet you cannot produce this entity or any verifiable evidence that it exists. The very notion of such a being is non-falsifiable. You might as well say, “Absolute good and evil exist because the garden gnome guarding my pansies tells me these things at night.”

    Now THAT was patronizing.

    Likewise, you cannot defend your supposed “basic set of areligious moral codes” anymore than you can defend your belief in the existence of a preternatural entity. What’ll you appeal to? The UN? Geneva? Pah! If you honestly believe the views espoused by those organizations are “universal” then you either shelter yourself from world news or you look on it with the rosiest-tinted glasses imaginable.

  • zipdrive

    I’m afraid Jambe’s logic is flawless. There is no way to ascertain a certain moral viewpoint as absolute.

    I say “fear” because of what accepting this may allow people to do, accept or excuse…this stance shows morality to be a relative matter, a thing of taste, just a viewpoint which can make it easy for people to reject what I (and most other people) consider moral and embrace philosophies in which murder, rape and/or cannibalism are acceptable; maybe even under the auspice of overcoming biological drives to be above them, or other such nomenclature.

    I’m not sure I’ve made my point, but what the heck.

  • cmichaelcooper

    I think it’s a mistake to assume that McFarlane necessarily finds any of it funny. But he knows what works in his genre and he gives his writers the freedom, and possibly moral flexibility, to exploit those things that work.

    The result, I believe, is a show that makes it very clear that to become offended to the point of ranting and raving, or even turning the program off really doesn’t matter.

    Or maybe the point is that we’re all so twisted that we won’t turn the show off. Maybe he’s really saying “What the hell is wrong with you?”.

    I enjoy family guy because I believe that all targets are fair targets, and I’ve experienced a number of things that the show makes jokes about. I think it’s meta. The joke is not funny because of the content, but because the joke is about X.

  • Mike Arthur

    @zipdrive: His logic may be flawless but sadly using impeccable logic doesn’t necessarily make you correct, just justifiably wrong. There may be things in this universe (such as love) that can’t be proved through classical logic or reproducible science.

  • Jambe

    I simply appreciate clarity and honesty in argument.

    ZipDrive: moral relativism doesn’t preclude holding ethical opinions. It simply entails realization that all ethical frameworks and all “moral” thought is relative — that is, interconnected & dependent on the context of the individual moralist or ethicist (or group thereof). It also forces you to remember that, no matter how strongly you hold a particular ethical belief, it’s ultimately just an arbitrary decision. Moralism and ethicism is active — it’s people making choices. I think this is hugely important to remember given man’s tendency toward dogma.

    @Mike Arthur: if you derive your ethical views from invisible entities and written traditions, fine. I have no problem with that insofar as such ethical views don’t lead to egregious violence or draconian restrictions (the US-led bombing of Cambodia during the Vietnam conflict or the forcing of women to dress wear a burqa, for example).

    Again, I just favor clarity and honesty. And I reserve the right to call people who base their worldview on millenniums-old oral traditions and superstitions silly, just as such persons could call me an unfeeling Vulcan automaton (or “somebody who could never ‘prove’ love” or any other such hackneyed trope).