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Happiness, Freedom, Equality, Rudeness: Welcome to Denmark!
Hank Pellissier   Mar 26, 2011   Ethical Technology  

The miniscule Scandinavian nation is a world leader in multiple best-nation categories. But is it a role model for technoprogressives?

The fevered goals of the Enlightenment are still hot today in the cold, flat, windy peninsula and archipelago of 400 islands that contains fewer inhabitants than Maryland. Once the base camp of ravaging Vikings, Denmark is now the world leader in multiple harmonious categories. 

I’ve already admitted in another article that I am addicted to international comparison charts, and there I pointed out that Denmark is #7 in Peace and #7 in Women’s Equality, plus it is the fifth wealthiest nation per capita in the world.

Those categories, however, are just Denmark’s weak spots! In numerous other desired benchmarks, it ascends to the summit. Check out this ranking of the World’s Happiest Places, for example…


Ha, Ha, Ha! Jolly Danes are #1! 

In Most Democratic, the southernmost Scandinavians are also at the upper peak. Since we’re on the subject of fairness, let’s check out how they rank on the Least Corrupt chart… once again, the Danes are victorious. What about Most Egalitarian? Same again. In Press Freedom, the little nation was also #1 in 2009, a characteristic they displayed in their publication of the Mohammed cartoons. What about Engineering (citations per paper)? Yes, #1, again. Sorry I’m so predictable. 

Let’s hurry through some more categories: #1 in Best Countries for Business, #1 in Best Countries for Entrepreneurs, #1 in Clean Technology / Sustainable Development, and oops! Denmark slips to #3 in Fewest Prisoners Per Capita, and #3 in Most Charitable.

To summarize the above, here’s a rundown on the Danish dynamo:

#1 Happiness
#1 Most Democratic
#1 Most Egalitarian
#1 Least Corrupt
#1 Press Freedom
#1 Engineering
#1 Best Country for Business
#1 Best Country for Entrepreneurs
#1 Clean Technology / Sustainable Development
#3 Fewest Prisoners Per Capita
#3 Most Charitable
#5 Per Capita Income
#7 Women’s Equality
#7 Peace

Quite impressive! Is Denmark the planet’s most advanced nation? Should the rest of us— the lagging barbarous nations of the world—be following in their footsteps?

If anything at all is “rotten in the state of Denmark,” it isn’t visible from a distance. One has to query inhabitants, so I tracked down a Dane to pester with questions. Joern Pallesen is a blogger at Transhumanisten. The 59-year-old Copenhagen dweller is an admiring reader of Susan Blackmore and Nick Bostrom, and his son is Denmark’s reigning under-18 Youth Chess Champion.  

Here are the highlights of my jabbering with Joern. Status-scornful Danes generally refer to each other via first names, so this report will adhere to that custom.

Hank: I’ve heard that Denmark’s egalitarianism is reflected in its language and social manners—can you tell me about that?
Joern: We use gender-neutral word like sin, which has no equivalence in English. An example is “Enhver sin mening” which means “Everyone has his-or-hers own opinion.” In formalities we are also a lot more “rude” than American, French, Germans, and even Swedes. We rarely start a sentence with “Please” and we hardly ever use “Sir” or “Ma’am.” Additionally, we never use the often-false expressions like the commonly-used American greeting: “Nice to meet you.”

Danes are also the least gelotophobic nation on earth. Gelotophobic translates as, “fear of being laughed at.” An Aarhus Univerity study revealed that only 1.67% of Danes have this, due, in part, to our high degree of freedom of expression. Interestingly, Denmark has found itself in confrontations with Arab nations in the aftermath of the Muhammad cartoon crisis, and Arabs are at the opposite end of the scale; 33% of them suffer from gelotophobia. 

We are also not overly respectful of authority, and political correctness is widely frowned upon. There is little respect for politicians. The general opinion is that any really INTELLIGENT man or women would consider it below themselves to waste their time as parliamentarians. Rather, they would aim for top-posts in the private sector. “Bad manners” are also on the loose in schools, where pupils show little of no respect for teachers. All in all, I would say that Danes are less cowed by status than anyone else I can think of.

Hank: I have heard that Danish wages are near-equal for most occupations. Can you provide some information regarding this?

Joern: It is true, we are the most equal in the world in terms of income. For example, a doctor at a public hospital makes less than $70,000/year (starting wages) and a garbage collector—or, to use the politically-correct term, “Renovation Technician”—also earns $70,000 on average. In Denmark, the income for the 10% richest is only five times higher than the 10% at the other end of the scale, whereas in the USA the difference is 16 times higher.

Hank: Do you think having wage equity results in numerous benefits for society?

Joern: Yes. In a book titled The Spirit Level: Why More Equal Societies Almost Always Do Better, the authors found a strong connection between income disparity and social-and-health problems. Mental illness is five times higher, risk of ending up in jail the same, risk of getting murdered is many times higher, there are more drop-outs from school, number of teenage-mothers is higher, number of drug-addicts is higher, violence is more severe, social mobility is low, etc. etc. A large number of statistics consistently show that the USA, England, and Portugal do poorly in all of these areas, compared to Japan and the Scandinavian countries. In addition, the authors claim that the same is true when you compare the USA state-by-state.

Hank: How would you change the United States, to make it more egalitarian like Denmark?

Joern: First and foremost: a change of mentality—coming to terms with outdated models of who works and who cares for families. Then I would mandate, for starters: public childcare, higher minimum wage, more equal pay, more flexible work schedules for families, and redesigned family and medical work leave.

Denmark should invite over here a greater number of Americans—preferably of a Republican bent—to show those enemies of the state, extensive welfare, high taxation, etc. that there are many advantages in our system, not only for the poorest 10%, but also for the wealthy, in terms of mutual trust, lower crime rates, and so on.

Hank: Are there categories that you see Denmark lagging behind in? Reasons that people would not like Denmark?

Joern: Denmark is doing very poorly in Life Expectancy. We’re ranked #36, tied with the United States. We eat more meat per capita than anyone else in Europe, and we have bad habits, i.e., too much smoking, cheap and lousy foodstuffs, and Danish teenagers drink more than any other teens in the world. Paradoxically, Denmark is also the nation with the highest per capita sales of organic food.

Hank: My editor, Mike Treder, is curious about Denmark’s “citizen consensus councils.” Are they uniquely Danish?

Joern: “Consensus” is a high-value word in our small nation, where there is a fair amount of mutual respect and cooperation. The layman has reasonable respect for the expert, without being submissive. Experts do not ignore the sentiments of the people, and ordinary folks listen to experts, but with a “healthy” amount of skepticism. This attitude is very much the opposite of the EU, whose aim it is, according to many Danes, to merely use the lowest common denominator.

There is a heavy “battle” going on between adherents of National sovereignty and EU-supporters. Danes do well in their attitude towards cooperation, and consensus is “hot” in Denmark. An example of this is the infamous Danish climate-sceptic Bjorn Lomborg, who has received millions from the government for his “Copenhagen-Consensus” conferences.

Hank: Do you see Denmark as a role model, a desired society for technoprogressives?

Joern: This may disappoint you, but I’m not convinced that egalitarianism is a prerequisite for technoprogressiveness. Judging from a list of the top 50 universities for engineering and technology, technoprogressiveness appears to have little to do with equality. The top five universities are all American, and three of them Californian, epicenter of transhumanism!

In terms of technoprogressiveness, I’d point to Israel as a role model. Israel registers more patents per capita, has a higher percentage of scientists and engineers, and Israel is not a particularly equal society, as its income disparity is greater than in any EU country.

I would suggest that techno-progressiveness is a function of having a sufficiently large elitist group of people with a higher education, having attended the best universities, and having atheist beliefs. Repeating myself: In terms of technoprogressiveness, I don’t count Denmark as a better place. What counts is not income equality—indeed many suggest the very opposite! —but rather the existence of a techno-elite, as in California, with fine universities, and of course a flow of funding. It is the size and strength of a country’s elite, in terms of science, that is the determining factor for techno-progressiveness.

I would also suggest that FREEDOM is of greater importance than equality, in relation to techno-progressiveness. Let me give you a small story that illustrates the inhibiting power of religion: A Turkish teacher has received a warning for talking about Darwinian evolutionary theory, as it is not part of fifth- and even eighth-grade curriculum, and we are talking here about an officially secular society! Freedom of expression is of paramount importance in all areas of life, period!

Hank: What is the transhumanist scene like in Denmark?

Joern: The Transhumanist scene in Denmark is very small, as witnessed by only eight members of the Danish H+ chapter. In comparison, the Israeli chapter has 45 members. A Danish web-based and user-accumulated news-site (180grader) has a transhumanist user-group of seven members, but so far only one article has been added. It is strikingly clear, that ALL of these members are political liberals, meaning, over here, Republicans, who fight for economic reforms, i.e. cutting down on welfare, lowering of taxes etc.—arguing feverishly that the Scandinavian Model is NOT supporting progress. These people are all voting for the new party, Liberal Alliance, or are, at times, apolitical.

Hank: Thanks very much, Joern. I’ll be visiting Denmark with my family in June, and we’ll continue this discussion. I’ve told my children that Danes are happy, rude, and devour huge quantities of meat, and they assure me that they will fit right in.

Hank Pellissier serves as IEET Managing Director and is an IEET Affiliate Scholar.


In regards technoprogressivism:
I have two questions:

1) I wonder if technoprogressivism could be more widespread in a country like Denmark with wider exposure and education.

2) I wonder is something similar to China’s “economic zones” could work for the world at large. Where 99% (arbitrary percentage here for illustration) of the world functioned like Denmark (and other Njordic countries), but the remaining 1% functioned like the more competitive US or Israel in order to bring the fruits of technoprogressiveness to other 99%.

I have misgivings about it, but off the top of my head, it seems like a way to satisfy everyone and bring peace to the world.

Whether or not “technoprogressiveness” is at all causally related to egalitarianism, here are a few Danish “technoprogressiveness” stats relating to programming languages etc.:

—PHP, the most widely used server side web scripting language, was made by a Dane, Rasmus Lerdorf.

—Turbo Pascal, one of the most successful Pascal variants ever, was made by a Dane, Anders Hejlsberg.

—Delphi, also one of the most successful Pascal variants ever, was made by a Dane, Anders Hejlsberg.

—The web application framework Ruby on Rails was made by David Heinemeier Hansson, a Dane.

—the world’s leading web usability expert is a Dane, Jakob Nielsen.

—C#, one of Microsoft’s three major programming languages, was the brainchild of a Dane, Anders Hejlsberg (yes, him again).

—Anders Hejlsberg also played a crucial role in the development of Visual J++ and Windows Foundation Classes.

—C++, the most important programming language, was written by Bjarne Stroustrup. And, yes, he is also a Dane.

Java wasn’t written by a Dane, but then again who would want to write a programming language where you cannot tell whether an integer variable has the value zero by design or by mistake and which also lacks unsigned numerical data types 😊

We Danes are not only rude, - some of us are also unashamed of bragging -# ; - )

My son, the Youth Chess Champion, just reminded me that SKYPE was the invention of Dane Janus Friis and Swedish partner Niklas Zennström. It was sold to Ebay in 2005 for $ 2.5 B.

My son is using Skype for elitist training together with a few other top youth players. They make use of a board at ICC.

Denmark also has the largest number of Facebook users per capita - about 35%
@ iPan—interesting idea of yours.  I think you might be right but maybe the percentages should be 90% and 10%—thanks!

Interesting reading indeed.  Especially for a Danish expatriate.  Here unemployment is rampant, teenage pregnancy rates unbelievable, education level the lowest amongst all Western nations and it shows in people’s general attitude and health.  Reading this interview with Joern Pallesen makes me almost want to move back to Denmark - if only I could stand the climate…

“Hank: How would you change the United States, to make it more egalitarian like Denmark?
Joern: First and foremost: a change of mentality—coming to terms with outdated models”

Yes, something is un-rotten in Denmark; however it is a small nation with, as you wrote, Hank, a population the size or less than Maryland’s. And America is saddled with a Madisonian ‘system’, if it is a system, a super-confrontational system befitting the 18th century. The cornballs who own America are nostalgic for 1776, Ben Franklin and all that, even someone as astute as George F. Will falls for such misplaced sentimentality. In fact it is so ingrained in America IMO (as it appears at this time) it would take another generation or two—30 to 60 years—for the situation to change. Try actually talking to those pigheads about it, you get a dyspeptic response. As a house of worship is the only place aside from an intentional community to escape from social darwinism, academia is the only way to escape from rightwing intellectuals who play for keeps. At this time and for the forseeable future they are going to push their families as high up as they can and step on as many people as they can on the way up. You know what this country is like: enormously productive; enormously bloodyminded and tasteless. There hasn’t been a country such as America since ancient Rome.

In the interview, I compare Danish / European “Liberals” to Republicans. Someone has pointed out to me, however, that a Republican should rather be compared to our Conservatives.

Liberals then, in a classical European sense, is what you Americans call LIBERTARIANS, and I believe this is the political philosophy of choice for most Danish Transhumanists.. , - if I’m wrong, they’d better come forward and correct me !

There is also some confusion about the term “progressiveness”. We all, - well,  nearly all, - agree that progress is a self-evident good, but which political philosophy should we go for ? - I have spottet various discussions here at IEET about just that, (not surprising of course).

In one article, Mike Treder writes:

“Conditions simply don’t exist today in which classic libertarianism either makes good sense or can attain broad popularity. Perhaps they never will”.

How ironic then, that a new DANISH party - “Liberal” - read: LIBERTARIAN Alliance stands to gain 10 % of the vote in the upcoming elections later this year ! - In Denmark, of all places ! - If you knew, however, how sick and tired classical “liberals” over here are of the “Scandinavian Model”, which, according to these liberals / libertarians is IMPEDING progress, you’d probably understand.

The point is, that there is a huge difference in US and Danish perspectives, and this would also explain why Danish Transhumanists / technoprogressives appear to be far more libertarian than over here, or perhaps it is only due to the fact, that we are so few..
Also, - on second thoughts, - my impression that most US Transhumanists are liberals in the American sense: left-wing if you like, - is maybe wrong ?..

I suggest you all take the worlds shortest political test:

Ps. According to this test, I am a Liberal myself, - does that make me a “progressive”.. ??

“Also, - on second thoughts, - my impression that most US Transhumanists are liberals in the American sense: left-wing if you like, - is maybe wrong ?”

Hard to say. My impression is rightwing libertarians, and in America rightwing libertarians predominate over ‘leftist’ libertarians, outnumber progressives because America is a rightwing (as distinct from conservative) nation. I’m a member of Alcor, the largest—which is not saying much—cryonics foundation, and since they are located in Arizona, many of the staff are rightwing. Not the executive director, he is from elsewhere and very sophisticated, however if one is raised in a state such as AZ, one tends to gravitate towards rightwing libertarianism; otherwise one might harbor a sense of being outnumbered and marginalized. If someone wanted to be a flaming democratic socialist vegetarian in a rightwing state, that someone might not be the most integrated person you would ever meet. IMO libertarianism is too dominated by rightwing libertarians, and is more a philosophy of business ethics than it is anything else. Libertarians do work hard—but so do Commies and fascists. And what they do might turn out to be counterproductive. AND, to go out on a limb, how do we distinguish between a criminal and certain libertarians? if a guy is a libertarian who sells methamphetamine he is, say, an apothecary. A gang member who sells meth is considered a criminal. Sure, it’s semantics, however there’s more to it.
Deep down I think libertarianism is a display in the political mausoleum, only useful because creative people got fired up by Ayn Rand, Friedman, Hayek and other icons, a couple generations ago—as in anything there’s a great deal of celebrity-worship involved. Only thing I actively dislike is how a greenhorn discovers libertarianism, anarchism, minarchism, and thinks it is the greatest thing on Earth, that it’s tantamount to the hidden secret of the cosmos, thinks “why doesn’t everyone else go for it?”, as if it were God or something. But we can communicate with more knowledgeable libertarians if it actually is communication; sometimes, too often, it appears we are merely talking past each other.

BTW, if you don’t mind another historical diatribe, a difference between Denmark and America is what happened after WWII. After the Nazis evacuated from Denmark, there was an overhaul in Denmark and other western European nations; in America there have been reformations- however more unruly in nature. In the postwar period the ‘60s saw an overhaul in the U.S., however it wasn’t as peace ‘n’ love as an outside observer might have wanted to think of it as being. For those killed/injured in riots, it wasn’t so peace ‘n’ love; for those drafted it wasn’t so peace ‘n’ love. But then, before the Nazis vacated Denmark you had a few million casualties in western Europe during the war; and that wasn’t so peace ‘n’ love, was it, Joern? any surgeon will tell you that blood accompanies major surgery.


Your point about “not so peace ‘n’ love” is well taken, and let me tell you that close to every single Danish individual feels deeply indebted to all dead American and British soldiers, without whom we wouldn’t be so - relatively - peace n ‘love in this day and age.

We may be relentless critiques of American society at large, but we DEEPLY appreciate US commitment to FREEDOM and DEMOCRACY.

Above all, perhaps, we admire your 1. Amendment. Even in Denmark, we don’t have a similar protection of the most precious of Human Rights: Freedom of Expression !

Mike Treder:

There ain’t nothin’ like a good joke !

- And you’re absolutely right of course, - it is a “fact” that US is far more conservative than any European country, - I’d say that all Danes are aware of this. - On the other hand, the US is perhaps also far more “liberal” = Libertarian than any European country.

In Denmark you also often see (US) Democrats being compared to our ruling “Liberals” / Libertarians, but then our new party, “Liberal” / Libertarian alliance accuses “Liberals” of behaving as Social Democrats, - the point being, that if they don’t , they’ll be out of business /government real fast over here..

Nope, - it sure ain’t easy to keep track..

Ps. Now secretary general of Nato, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, was leader of our Liberal party and prime minister for 10 years.

@ Mike..

It’s worse than that Jim! Now all parties both sides of the Atlantic are merging Libertarianism into one solid immovable grey gooey mass that aspires to take over the entire world. Just comply and vote for your Libertarian of choice!

Latest soundbite by UK Labour-Libertarian party leader Ed Milliband is promoting “real alternatives”, and the poor fellow is trying to convince us and himself there is one?

We all see the problems, that’s easy! Who can see the solution? .. Anyone? Please?

i agree. danes are really rude and bragging a lot.

For information on what lead Libertarians and friends are actually doing worldwide, please see:


First, I would like you to know that I really enjoyed reading this, which I believe is describing Denmark rather neutral and accurate. It was great to get a peek behind the facts and statistics so to say. However, not everything is like the fairytales of Hans Christian Andersen. Not long ago the British newspaper the Guardian had an article on Denmark [LINK:
], which I found to be depicting Denmark too positively. However, I did like one of the user comments from Haanpc, a Japanese–Canadian living in Copenhagen. He noted something along the lines of ”I like Denmark, it’s a great place to live, however there are many race issues.” I believe this to be true, though partly it could be due to the directness or ”rudeness” of Danes in general. I’m not trying to start a discussion on racism in Denmark, or claim that Danes are xenophobic, I just want you to note that we too have our challenges.

(Speaking of press freedom, the Grenadian decided that the comment should be ”removed by a moderator because it didn’t abide by our community standards.”)

Anyway, I think Joern is right when it comes to transhumanists mainly being liberals in Denmark. However, I am a proud member of Socialdemokraterne (a Danish party very like the British Labour Party) and I am a transhumanist, the co-founder of a newly started website I hope that as transhumanism gains more ground in Denmark, we will see an increase in the diversity and background of transhumanists, so that debates will vary more and we will see more divergent thoughts on all matters of life.

I am not sure how one can measure technoprogessiveness, but I too _feel_ that Danes are not very technoprogressive, however if we define technoprogressivness as a combination of scientific and technological development, Danes do make an impact on the world scene.

To list a few examples: Niels Bohr constructed the atomic model and is often considered the father of quantum mechanics. Holger Bech Nielsen, independently of Nambu and Susskind, was the first to propose string theory. The first person to measure the speed of light was Ole Rømer (who also inspired Fahrenheit to create a universal temperature scale initially based on the Rømer scale). The first person to stop a beam of light was Lene Hau. Hans Christian Ørsted discovered electromagnetism (one of the four fundamental interactions in nature). Valdemar Poulsen discovered magnetic storage, which is use in everything from credit cards to hard drives. Jacob Ellehammer made an airplane in 1905 and a helicopter in 1912. In computer science, Danes have also made an impact. Three of the four founders of Borland Software Corporation were Danes. Turbo Pascal was made in Denmark. C++ was developed by Bjarne Stroustrup. Janes Friis, is one of the two developers of Kazaa and Skype. The fastest java-script engine, V8, used in Google Chrome was made in Denmark. In addition, to many other things, like moving-coil loudspeakers (Peter L. Jensen), the first commercial typewriter (Rasmus Malling-Hansen), the pH scale (Søren Peder Laurtiz Sørensen) etcetera.

I know there are plenty more examples and to me this shows that even though I _feel_ that Danes are not very technoprogressive compared to people of other nation states, we do have a very technoprogressive elite at our universities and in the private sector. It may not rival that of say California, but it is large and great ideas are being conceived. I am not in a position where I feel I have proficient evidence to say if technoprogressiveness has anything to do with equality or not, but I prefer more equal societies, and I think socialism is the future of humankind, as globalization increases. We need to take care of each other, across borders, because we are all humans, and being human is more important than being Israeli, Danish or American. At least this is my take on the world and the future, feel free to dismiss it.


PS: Having listed all those inventors and inventions, I am sure you will label me as a bragger; however, I have two takes on this. 1) Since Denmark is so small, many Danes like to point to great achievements, in order to feel more important and/or to not be neglected internationally, personally, I call this romantic local patriotism. Many a Dane would assume a total collapse of the world, if Denmark were to disappear, though the world would hardly notice. 2) I don’t really care for nationality, I think personality, thought and behavior is more important. I actively try _not_ to see a person as being American or being Chinese, but primarily, as being a human with thoughts that have been influenced by different control systems based in specific geographical areas of our world. So normally I would not accumulate a specific list of strictly Danish achievements, since I see them as achievements of humankind, but since the topic is on Denmark specifically, I felt it was necessary to underline my view of Denmark having a technoprogressive elite, even though the average Joe may not be technoprogressive.

PPS: Here is a nice and very short (two pages) whitepaper titled: Why Danes are smug: com-parative study of life satisfaction in the European Union


@Heimdall - Thanks for sending in the information.  I appreciate the list - it is a great addition to the article.  I am also glad that you are representing a socialist transhumanist group.

I think it’s a bit misleading to describe the US as more “conservative” than Europe. In some ways it’s very progressive. It certainly *is* more capitalist, and one indicator of this is the fact that “socialism” isn’t a dirty word in Europe (even in the UK, even after Blair). I still remember how Obama’s opponents in 2008 were trying to extract political mileage by branding him “socialist”, as if this were the worst insult possible (something like “fascist” in contemporary Europe). And I still remember Obama’s excellent response: “next they’ll be calling me a communist because I shared my toys in kindergarten”.

I guess if there’s one lesson to draw from this it’s that technological progress and excellence is compatible with many different political systems. But we also need to take account of the fact that Denmark is a very wealthy country. I wonder whether technological progress would be so compatible with equality of wealth in poorer countries.

@Hemidall. You most certainly are guilty of bragging as I was in my comment 😊, but I do feel Danes’ achievements in the sciences and IT are of clear relevance in the context of the present discussion.

It is neither surprising nor particularly unfair, given the small size of our country, that the majority of Americans, Asians etc. do not know a whole lot about Denmark, but isn’t it a bit annoying that the image of our country we have been promoting is that of a quaint fairytale country? While it may conceivably attract tourists it suggests, quite incorrectly in my opinion, that all we have to offer is our past. Similarly, I feel the tendency to view Scandinavia as either a socialist utopia or an example of the dangers of communism often gets in the way of a more nuanced appreciation of what makes our cultures/societies special.

This is great Hank…i want to move there…PG

@Hank Pellissier

Well Transhumanisten is actually a kind of news website, so it is not so much a socialist transhumanist group. My partner and co-founder, is very apolitical, and even if he was interested in politics, I think he would vote for the liberals. Nevertheless, I like the sound of a group, since I feel alone out there 😉 At least one could hope that more socialist in Denmark would become transhumanistis so that a diversity would flourish 😊 Again, great work on this piece. I hope you and your family will have a great time over here 😊

@Henrik Thiil Nielsen

Hehe, yeah well 😊 I think that due to the fact that I have been resided in Denmark for most of my life and attendant Danish schools, I am very aware of the impact Denmark has had internationally over the course of the last few hundred years. I am amazed at how only 5.5 million people can affect the world, as is being done. However, I am equally amazed at how Sweden or New Zealand seems to be doing the same. To me it is not the nationality that counts, but the great quality of work being made in very small societies. I mean population wise Denmark, or New Zealand for that matter, are only haft the size of New York. But all this is sort of off-topic, so I’ll leave it at that 😊


You are ALL more than welcome in Denmark..

- or.., wait.., - come to think of it.., this is probably our weak spot, as suggested by Heimdall. - So, - on second thoughts, - tourists are welcome, especially the one’s with plenty of bucks, and provided you don’t stick around for too long.. : )  - ( told you we are rude ! )

We would certainly also be more than pleased to see the return of expatriate Kit Krassel, but.., let’s not make a secret of it: We are not very pleased with MUSLIM immigrants, - at least not those who insist on playing by their own rules and would have us “natives” shut the f.. up..

So now that we have established what a truly great little Kingdom we are, - run according to the very best of political philosophy etc., - let us face the issue of Xenophobia: Last year I wrote a blog-post, which begins with this observation: Our little nation has been divided into two groups of about equal size: One group of ASHAMED Danes, - ashamed of fellow Danes, who have turned into racists, - read: Islamophobes ! - The other group then being PROUD Danes, - proud of being at the forefront of what has been called the “Clash of Civilizations”, and rather pissed off with the first group, whom they consider arrogant, politically “correct”, - in short: the “I-am-better-than-you-you-are-a-racist”.

So in which group would you say I belong, judging from my answers to Hank’s fine questions.. ?

If you think this issue is important, then read my post: , - and find out, - we certainly like the “quaint fairytale country”, but we’d rather move this discussion into high gear than merely patting each other on the shoulder..

This is not to say, that this is in any way a more important issue, - I just notice a couple of comments to the effect, that this rose-red picture we are painting simply cannot be completely true, and I for one am not at all afraid of confronting these rumors about our nation also being quite Xenophobic.

I wrote this article largely because I am fascinated by Denmark’s egalitarianism—the comparatively equal wages for everyone, compared to the USA.  I wish the USA could move in this direction but it isn’t - it is moving towards greater inequity.

“danes are really rude and bragging a lot.”

If America does institute universal healthcare in say 2020 or thereabouts, its chief value may turn out to be for treating casualties of the violent crime that might exist at that time—America is not as violent as it was during the Civil War, but it is not Denmark in THAT respect. It’s not merely who we are, it also depends where in the American behemoth one resides or is familiar with. Boulder and Berkeley are much different politically from Mobile and Mongomery. One can live in Berkeley and get away with saying religion is primitive escapism/buffer/emollient/refuge/anodyne. However in a rightwing state, 1st Amendment rights are diluted by the interest in not having one’s face punched in by a redneck who doesn’t like the opinions of one o’ them thar groucho marxist- john leninists. At least the king of Denmark isn’t pushing FrankenChrist politics as George W. Bush did. BTW, virtually no one at IEET is actually painting a rose-red picture of Denmark. I visited Denmark in 1989 (which was admittedly too long ago to be relatable to the conditions of today) and had no problem. In Finland, though, the direct message was—the Finns aren’t shy—“we enjoy having you visit, but don’t try to live here”; and Europeans can’t be blamed for looking out for their interests if America, no wilting violet itself, is pretty vicious about looking out for its interests. No one can accuse America of not being muscular in its assertiveness; America is so rough & tumble, Hank, there is no way it could not be moving towards greater inequity; perhaps radical conservatism, the most unpredictable of ‘ideologies’, accounts for America’s unpredictability. I would like to get involved if it were possible to talk to people in America, really communicate, yet that is subversive, you had better call the House Un-American Activities Committee to request a subpeona. Because once you actually get ta tryin’ to actual-lee communicate, it is a gateway to communism. Get it? communicate= communism. Next thing you know them lib’rals’ll start feedin’ ya granola, which everbody knows is jus plum full o’ mary-jew-wanna.

The relative egalitarianism in Denmark is at its heart part of the core wisdom of Christianity. When you strip away the myth, get rid of the fantastical, what is left (in part) is a message of peace through economic justice.
When the Muslim cartoon issue first broke out, I sided with the liberal faith camp that said they should not have been published because they disrespected a group’s idea of the sacred. I was wrong. As I learned more about the issue, and about an agenda to use tolerance to inculcate intolerance, my respect for the Danes grew.
Can you be economically egalitarian and not socially egalitarian? I think there is a correlation. And, part of the equation must also be freedom of the press and freedom of expression. That may also mean not being polite.
(Here’s the but) But, we must also somehow have protections against slander and against libel. There is a point when “rudeness” crosses a line in support of a propagandist agenda. The lesson of the Danes is to use transparency to not allow tolerance in support of intolerance. Extremeists that paint those with whom they disagree as AntiChrist and Satan or Nazi are sowing seeds of dehumanization. It is the kind of thing that allows a Rwanda to happen.

There are no excuses for rudeness - period. There are no excuses for fascism - period. There are arguments for the conservation of cultural identity, and I cannot see a problem with nation states protecting this, however.. xenophobic? Really? Is that really how Danes see themselves? If so then something is definitely wrong in Denmark?

Multiculturalism is here to stay, the world is a much smaller place now, and there is no turning back now, therefore we should be promoting “acceptance” and not merely tolerance.

Secularism builds the foundation for religious and cultural acceptance, but should not protect the rights of any group above the rights and protection of the individual. That way all cartoonists will be able to sleep nights and live without fear.

You’ve got something crucial there Dor, especially for today re the Mideast: visiting Scandinavia you can see how important Christianity is and how it wasn’t important to the Nazis, though it was to most Germans. Scandics are upper Germans, high nordics. However not merely xianity, also nordic mythology is important, I saw pictures of elves (some sans clothing) and so forth all over Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Finland; it gives one an idea of where such as the Hobbit derived from. It is important to be fair to America, too, albeit without being smarmily-patriotic because one risks being even worse than our supposed enemies—as we are the ones on top, they are, in the scheme of things, proles. As they only really care about themselves, we who are in the U.S. (most IEET are American) only care about America, about our families. Remember, though a nation may be an abstraction, a family is real, is flesh & blood. A nation is loved because it protects the interests of families and commercial interests. etc. IMO saying the military protects a Constitution is flag waving, bunting; what if the Constitution is outmoded?
Am not a naif concerning Denmark, after seeing the Scandic region and hearing Finns say “we like you but go back home fairly soon”, the message is not lost, the message is: America is still somewhat open to immigration, but not Scandinavia—tough sh*t, and this is acceptable because Scandinavia is civilized while America is not; no need to go into pedantic detail. What I do not at all accept is being preached to by rightwing transhumanists, some friends said last week they will help me set up a business, which will have to be a 501(c)3. One has to be carnivorous to make it here, because though Americans don’t like complainers, the squeaky wheel gets the grease (e.g. the meek do NOT inherit the Earth). To be American you do have to fight and that will not change anytime soon. America is simply, obviously, too large, too complex to devolve at this time. I spent a winter in Arizona and was bombarded by rightwing propaganda of all sorts, including the obligatory “get married, have children so you can share our misery”. No thankyou, rube. Being conned by elders when young is inescapable, after all they built this world. However after wasting time with Anton Wilson, FM, and Leary transhumanism, that is IT, the jig is up. We can’t play the same games in the 21st century, no matter how serious the games are they are still games. It was so discouraging having Christian and libertarian rubes try to convert (con) me here at IEET, that sinking feeling of “oh, no, Hell does exist, Hell is right here on Earth; Hell is wherever you hang your hat.” Hell is having insecure people try to rope you into their religious/secular faiths, because misery loves company.


On behalf of approximately half of all Danes, - the PROUD half of us, that I’ve mentioned in an earlier comment,  - I’d like to express how delighted I am to read your statement, with which I agree 100 %, that:

“The lesson ( of the Danes ) is to use transparency to NOT ALLOW TOLERANCE IN SUPPORT OF INTOLERANCE”.

On freedom of expression in the form of “Rudeness”, “slander”, etc. :
Yes, - there IS a line that should not be crossed. In Denmark this line is when you incite to VIOLENCE against any specific group, nothing more, nothing less. The Nazi party is not forbidden in Denmark, neither is the Islamist group Hizb-ut-Tahrir, that is forbidden in nearly all Arab nations, nor is Scientology, nor is a Kurdish Tv-station sending from Denmark, a fact that had the Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan walk out on us during a state-visit, - just to give you a few examples.

Our line of reasoning is this: It is NOT “rudeness”, “slander”, etc. that is causing dehumanization. On the contrary, we believe inhuman acts are far more likely to happen, when people are NOT allowed to speak their minds, no matter what, - save incitement to violence.
When Islamic fundamentalist lunatics, nazi dittos, scientologists, born-again-Christian lunatics and name of host of others yourself, are allowed to speak their minds, it becomes blatently clear to any normal, intelligent human being just how far out these groups ALL are, and THAT is exactly what pulls their “teeth” out, and why you don’t see a lot of extremist violence here in Denmark, unlike a lot of other places, - at least that is what half of us believe.


“There are no excuses for rudeness”..

Your problem is this: Who decides what “rudeness” is.. ? - If we are talking about, say, blasphemy, then of course the deciding part will be Priests, Mullahs, etc., but let me tell you this: You will hear from secular-minded Danes all the time, that:

“It is deeply offensive to lend ears to lunatic religious bullshit, - it is deeply insulting, and it hurts the innermost of our deepest convictions, - our beliefs in basic human rights, such as equality of men and women, to mention just one such right”

I take it that you get my point ?!

I am also utterly delighted to read your statement, that:

“Secularism builds the foundation for religious and cultural acceptance, but SHOULD NOT PROTECT THE RIGHTS OF ANY GROUP ABOVE THE RIGHTS AND PROTECTION OF THE INDIVIDUAL”

That, in fact, is the very ESSENSE of where I stand myself, and it is 100 % in line with - again - the PROUD part of us Danes.

Allow me to mention one representative of the ASHAMED: It is another famous Dane, - for whom I have the deepest respect, - and whom some of you are bound to know: Jacob Holdt, famous for his “American Pictures” - .  - I am quoting here from his website:

“Most popular lecture on racism, oppression, poverty and social injustice with more than 6,500 presentations in American and European Higher Education” - ( my note: including 20 times in U. C. Berkeley, 17 times in Cornell, 14 in Harvard, 10 in Stanford, 9 in Yale )
Jacob Holdt has said about the present climate in Denmark:

“..hate-filled rhetoric reminiscent of anti-Semitic propaganda of the 1930′s..” -  “has become an accepted part of the Danish political debate”.

Finally, if anyone cares to know more about where I stand in all this, read my blogpost at

Equality has got to do with A LOT more than simply equal pay, and my personal opinion is that ethnic segregation, which is also still a fact of life in the US, must also be dealt with. For starters, - don’t shy away from it.., - I sense a tendency in the US, which is very understandable, - but it was never a good policy to shove anything under the carpet, - stick your head into the bush, - so to speak..

“I sense a tendency in the US, which is very understandable, - but it was never a good policy to shove anything under the carpet, - stick your head into the bush, - so to speak.”

Or beyond the Palin!
It is what we don’t want to discuss that affects us: physical appearance just for example; frankly, most Americans down in their cups tell me they think exotic people aren’t very pretty, Justin Bieber and Britney Spears are their ideals. Joern’s comment on rudeness is important also because it is PROBABLY better to say we hate someone and ignore them than to string them along, with the caveat if we are not diplomatic to violent persons they might knock out a few of our teeth.
The question one might ask oneself is: would I move to Denmark if it were presto change-o offered to me? In my case, yes; however many or most transhumanists would not want to move to Scandinavia, the universal complaint from Rightists is “Scandinavians don’t DO anything”, translated to mean Scandinavians aren’t productive enough, the corollary being they ought to shake things up more and perhaps study the Laffer Curve. Place portraits of Reagan on their walls.
The mere fact we are having such a dialogue at IEET demonstrates the civilized nature of Denmark. However let’s not become too chirpy at this time concerning a more copacetic world; the Mideast for instance will go through countless convulsions which will be exciting to watch from a skybox but extremely bad for the teammates battered on the field. I witnessed the cluelessness of the counterculture decades ago thinking they would take over the world by legalizing marijuana or something; in 1968 there was even a fad for violent revolution (the succeeding fad was a 180 degree turn towards going ‘back to nature’, rustic living) however it is difficult for a hippie to aim a gun when he is high as a kite.

“but it was never a good policy to shove anything under the carpet, - stick your head into the bush, - so to speak.. “
LOL - we stuck our head into the bush for not 4 years, but 12.

“...only care about America, about our families. Remember, though a nation may be an abstraction, a family is real, is flesh & blood.”
I agree that the rules we use today are going to become archaic and emphasis on only near-in relationships is one of the things I’m concerned about. Now, we can go along with that because 1.)globablization is fairly new. Until relatively recently our neighbor was our neighbor. As we move forward, that is getting less and less true. When the coal miner and the capitalist were in regional proximity, we could use political action. The more global we are, the more the affluent are able to isolate themselves and there is very little pressure that can be applied. 2.) in theory at least, we can rise above our stations in life. We have not thus far in the developed world operated under a caste system. Now blend genetic engineering (if even for only medical and helath issues) with technological enhancement and you’ve got a physical/biological divide. Inequality is now hardwired into us. How do you avoid having a slave class, or worse, a spare parts class?
This can not be the goal or intension of transhumanism. So, to avoid it we must evolve so that our care and compassion extends beyond our family and close network.
As for the politeness issue, I’m listening but I still don’t understand. If we can come with civility and our fears and concerns, we can figure a way out of it. If we can count on the majority to keep the radical, would-be-violent wing in check, we can figure a way out of it.
But what happens when the extreme is a majority? What happens when the few who would use violence are supported by the many who might not personally resort to violence, but who through propaganda can be made to believe the violence is justified? If we start calling each other Evil and Nazi and raising the specter of the Civil War, we are seeking to paint a solid line of right and wrong. Throw that into the mix when you’ve got a rise in apocalyptic world views and 900+ hate groups in the US, many of them armed militia, and it isn’t pretty. (I was just in a UMC denomination discussion group on homosexuality and was told that “Satan is dividing the church” to which I pointed out that I had just been called Satanic. This is no joke.)
So, help me understand how trying to tone down the rhetoric doesn’t help?

“(I was just in a UMC denomination discussion group on homosexuality and was told that “Satan is dividing the church” to which I pointed out that I had just been called Satanic. This is no joke.) So, help me understand how trying to tone down the rhetoric doesn’t help?”

The United Methodist Church is that homophobic? Jesus H. Christ!
But what is only really wrong with Christians is they are smarmy, insincere; their rhetoric is far too fluffy to matter if it is toned down or not. Naturally, you mean rhetoric in general, however Christian rhetoric being so smarmy is indicative of something wrong. Conning in the name of Jesus isn’t too good is it?
Christians are charitable, fairly tame, their views on homosexuality are vicious, yet they own their children and do have the right to inculcate their families with homophobic memes—though they don’t comprehend that others can inculcate THEIR families with homophilia; it’s an oversight, very common, nothing can be done for the time being about such blind spots. Dor, I wouldn’t worry about apocalypse, odds are it wont get too far out of hand. Probably not much worse here than in the ‘60s, and you of course do remember that era; as long as you keep your head down you can make it. Don’t listen to Panglosses, but don’t listen to apocalyptics either—they are trying to spook you. We have to walk a tightrope—however we always did. Here’s a tip: if you get involved with h+, avoid the Rightists involved like the plague, it’s their job to dig into us.. they are trapped by their situations, their stations, their families, etc. Turning it into a joke at their expense is the way to go, that way it’s merely teasing, not contentious.
Materially things will improve, though you have to be more careful than ever about dealing with people; Bob Dylan got it just so:

“though the rules of the road have been lodged,
it’s only people’s games that you have to dodge…”

I love this debate between dor and postfuturist. I guess the question basically boils down to: how far should we tolerate the intolerant, and if the answer is “not very” then how should we express our (justified) intolerance.

One comment I want to make in this context is that “rudeness” is culturally dependent: something that is considered “rude” in one culture (e.g. pointing tyensoles of your feet at someone in Asia) is considered quite normal in others. In some cultures you pretty much have to be rude and provocative just to get people attention, in others you’ll just lose face.

A related issue is how disgusted we should be when confronted with behaviour or views we find unacceptable, assuming this is for good, secular, rule-utilitarian reasons, and (again) how we should express that disgust. Maybe it’s OK that some of us are more tolerant and understanding, others are more polemic. Good cop bad cop and all that.

By the way, bombing Libya is rather rude, even violent…but maybe justified?

“The United Methodist Church is that homophobic? Jesus H. Christ!”

There were only 6 people in the thread at the time, so maybe I shouldn’t generalize. That said, I wasn’t hearing this kind of dehumanizing language two years ago in the mainline denomination.
As for the apocalyptic meme, I’m not so much in that camp. A frined of mine sent me a book blurb for a book called “The fundamentalist mindset:psychological perspectives on religion, violence and history” by Strozier, Terman, Jones and Boyd, Oxford University Press. In the blurb in asking why violence emerges in some sects it says “The contributors to this book identify several factors: a radical dualism, in which all aspects of life are bluntly categorized as either good or evil; a destructive inclination to interpret authoritative texts, laws, and teachings in the most literal terms; an extreme and totalized conversion experience; paranoid thinking; and an apocalyptic world view”.
In the 60’s, there was a rejection of conformity that lead to the social upheaval. What we are seeing is a rejection of personal freedom. Is there a difference?
I know Theo van Gogh was Dutch, not Danish, but his is one of the most important cases. His film “06/05” should have got much more sidespread attention than it did. He was fighting for freedom of speech and rightly so. But is there such a thing as too much? Are lies or protests at gravesides really the kind of speech we need to protect?
And BTW, I lived in a suburb of Chicago when the Nazis marched on Skokie. I saw them march a block from my home. The idea was to protect free speech we have to protect all speech. Now 30+ years later I really question if it has to be all or none.

“In Denmark this line is when you incite to VIOLENCE against any specific group, nothing more, nothing less.”

yes, my head agrees but my heart, oh my heart, it breaks. There are soldiers and generals and the soldiers get their strength from being able to feel self-righteous about their actions.

“By the way, bombing Libya is rather rude, even violent…but maybe justified?”

The Obama administration doesn’t want to overthrow the Libyan regime, only keep the regime from showing “no mercy” to its opponents, who are called “greasy rats” by Qaddhafi (perhaps if they were “clean rats” Qaddhafi might like them more?), “drug-fueled mice” and “cockroaches”. Qaddhafi himself might need to meditate on anger management issues. The air campaign is not dissimilar to Kosovo in 1999.
Of course this has nothing to do with Denmark; Denmark doesn’t bomb any nations, so we should tell such to rightwing libertarians when they say “Scandinavians don’t DO anything”. Well, Denmark certainly doesn’t bomb or invade other countries. BTW, the reason I went to Scandinavia in 1989 was that the region had a reputation for low crime, and while there I could leave the suitcase on chairs at train stations for hours while sightseeing and the grip would still be on the chairs upon return to the stations.

How do you all like the following quotes, which are attributed to Voltaire, and is another essence of my own convictions: 

“I (may) disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it”

“I (may)  detest what you write, but I would give my life to make it possible for you to continue to write”

That includes “Mein Kampf”, all “holy books”, Mao’s “Little Red” etc. etc. , simply because inhuman acts are allowed to happen only when “ordinary” folks are being prevented in going against such madness, - i.e. speak their minds freely.
It is no coincidence, that Arab, Chinese, Russian and many more authoritarian rulers are trying their best to block internet-access, accuse dissidents of insults against state, religion etc.

If I may express myself in ordinary street-language: Rather a little “rudeness” than false politeness, i.e. licking someones ass you really detest, but dare not say so..

“It is no coincidence, that Arab, Chinese, Russian and many more authoritarian rulers are trying their best to block internet-access, accuse dissidents of insults against state, religion etc.”

Qaddhafi may be the most bizarre sort of ruler, however as you note above, larger nations are more autocratic as per their reach. Then there’s a mixed nation such as America: one day an American control freak is saying “you gotta grab the dollars before they get away from you—and knock the other guy
down!”; then the same person will go to church on Sunday and sob about infant Jesus lying in the manger.
America really is a nation of contrasts, but then it isn’t the only one, is it?

“Denmark certainly doesn’t bomb or invade other countries” ????

Just for the record:

Denmark has the second highest number of soldiers in Afghanistan, measured on a per capita basis.

We are also at the “front-line” in Libya, - ( with 4 outdated F-16 jet-fighters.. # ; - )  , - that is the undeniable truth, but on Libyan state-run news agency Jana this becomes:

“The fact that Denmark which has been conducting for years a campaign against Islam and Muslims through blasphemous caricatures of Prophet Mohammed lEADS THE BOMBING reveals that this aggression is a war of the crusaders against Muslim peoples, including the Libyan people, with the aim of terrorizing Muslims and eradicating Islam.”

“‘The fact that Denmark which has been conducting for years a campaign against Islam and Muslims through blasphemous caricatures of Prophet Mohammed lEADS THE BOMBING reveals that this aggression is a war of the crusaders against Muslim peoples, including the Libyan people, with the aim of terrorizing Muslims and eradicating Islam.’”

God bless free speech.

Gosh, I stand corrected, Joern; fifty lashes as punishment.

One would never have known Denmark is an imperialist country.

@ postfuturist—Denmark has a history of imperialism, or at least minor colonialism.  It is still the de facto ruler of the huge island of Greenland, and I think it has some dominion of the Faroe Islands?  and it used to be the ruler of the “Virgin Islands” in the Caribbean -  they were called something else then.  Danes still visit those islands out of nostalgia or to view the Scandinavian architecture that exists there.  I believe Denmark had a colonial city in India as well.  It sounds incredible to Americans but I am quite sure of these facts. Joern or any other Danes who read this, please correct me if I have made any errors.

If this keeps up we’ll soon be told that Denmark invaded Germany in 1940, not vice versa.

@ postfuturist - a nice long list of former Danish colonies and possessions can be found here:
It includes about a dozen forts on the Ghanian coast of Africa that I forgot to mention.
Of course, this list does not include the enormous real estate that Vikings ravaged and conquered.  Ireland, Great Britain, Normandy, Russia, Paris, and large parts of the Mediterranean I believe.  That would require another long list.

Denmark today is what matters for a progressive site, not the Vikings. But then, Denmark, as any nation, looks out for its interests somewhat at the expense of other countries. I don’t mean to complain too much about America, how it is more violent than Denmark—though the U.S. is more violent the demographics of the two states are not comparable. Don’t even mean to complain much concerning George Bush, for if change derives from ugly dislocation then Bush ought to be on Mt. Rushmore; when previously was there such ugly dislocation as in the last decade? Also, how long will Scandinavia remain as it is? will outside pressures worsen it? what internal pressures are there in Denmark, Joern? how quickly is the population aging? what are the projections for immigration into Denmark?

Like Hank I stand ready to be corrected by Joern or any other Dane (or non-Dane for that matter), but my impression is that there has been a major shift to the right in Denmark over the last ten years or so, as in other traditionally progressive (if that’s not a contradiction in terms) coumtries such as Sweden and The Netherlands, with immigration being a main driver.

None of which is to say that the picture portrayed Hank and others of Denmark as a progressive and egalitarian country is incorrect, but it’s indeed important not to romanticize it. As Hank points out Denmark shares with other European nations an imperialist, colonialist past, and you don’t have to go back to the Vikings to find it. Plus it’s a monarchy: how progressive is that?

Is Denmark a monarchy.. or a democracy? who’s the real authority in Denmark?

Great remarks everyone, and I do love your sense of humour !

No, - Hank is not wrong, which doesn’t surprise me one bit, ‘cause my impression is that he really knows what he’s doing, - and seeing everything in a historical perspective is always illuminating.

As for the present situation, Peter Wicks’ observation about “a major shift to the right in Denmark over the last ten years or so” is very true, but it must be emphasized, that this shift should be seen in the light of immigration and multiculturalism only. The great majority of us still support the welfare state, and only a minority wish for less state regulation, less equality and so on.

Multiculturalism is THE issue above all else, and yes, that is true for ALL of Europe, save Sweden perhaps.

If any Swedes would have come across this article, - (a pity they haven’t..), - and read all the commments, they would most certainly have told you all about what the Swedes call “The Danish sickness”, which in their view is our unwillingness to accept the multicultural “utopia”.
There is more of a consensus in Sweden, but “evil” Danish tongues would say, that this is only due to rampant political correctness over there and a very different attitude towards freedom of expression.
This probably sounds odd to you, but without going into too much detail, you’ve got to remember that the Swedes were neutral in WW2, - they are not a part of Nato, and also Sweden is 10 times the size of Denmark. If you would ask the Swedes, they’d probably say also, that they are simply better humans.. - Many Swedes consider Danes to have a “duck-pond” mentality, - as in Hans Christian Andersen’s story: We don’t like those who do not “fit” in with the rest, whereas they see themselves as more cosmopolitan.

What I think about this ? - Here’s my answer: Danes and Swedes suffer very much from a MUTUAL INFERIORITY COMPLEX !

As for the other European nations, they have all adopted the Danish position, which is that multiculturalism has been a failure in Europe. Angela Merkel has stated this very directly, - so has Sarcozy, and so has Cameron in England. It is almost as if these statements have been orchestrated, and I suspect they have.

In France the daughter of right-winger Jean-Marie Le Pen now stands to get more votes than Sarcozy in the next presidential elections ! - Yep, - you have better believe it: Europe is moving to the right !
So is it the ugly face of the old racism ? - To some extent yes, but most Europeans don’t like what they are seeing all over: Ghettos in all big cities, crime rates on the rise, Sharia law gaining a foothold, mainly in England, and so on.

Peter Wicks is right: It IS important not to romanticize and we need to consider not only progressiveness, egalitarianism, commitment to human rights etc. , but also our “darker” sides. It is all deeply complicated, but what makes all this even more difficult is the fact, that so many people seem unable to distinguish between legitimate concerns, criticism of orthodox religion and so on, and outright racism. It has a hell of a lot to to with the past, colonialism etc. , but YOU know this better than anyone perhaps !

The Danish Queen has no authority whatsoever. We keep her - for a while.. : ) - because everyone likes her and she has been Queen for almost 40 years. Besides, - she is thought to be worth millions in publicity, - she simply SELLS well ! - Other than that most Danes agree completely: The monarchy is certainly not very progressive ! - Yep, - guess we’ll have to do something about that.. - Same thing with separation of state and church which is not complete in Denmark, - another area where those Swedes are ahead of us.. - maybe Hank should check them out.. # ; - )

Not only did Sweden stay neutral and thus avoid the decimation suffered by the rest of the continent, it also got rich arming the Nazis. Indeed contemporary Sweden, like Denmark is in many ways a role model, but this aspect of their history tends to be overlooked, perhaps more than it should be.

Only two more things to add to Joern’s excellent analysis.

1. Yes that’s exactly the situation with the Danish monarchy, as well as the Dutch, Swedish, British, Spanish. (Belgium is a bit of a case apart, the king plays a somewhat more active role because of the countries dysfunctional linguistic/political problems.) A quaint anachronism eventually to be replaced by a German/Italian/Greek-style presidency (nothing against the US and French strong presidencies, but it would be an unnecessarily more radical change, a figure-head presidency can more directly fill the monarch’s shoes).

2. Yes also to distinguishing legitimate concerns and racism. Recently I came under criticism from several friends for suggesting that Cameron had point in calling for a “hard-nosed defence of Western values”. But I think he’s right (although it might be better not to call them “Western” values). I don’t care what colour, religion, sex, sexual orientation or ethnic identity you have, but if you don’t respect basic freedoms, human rights, democracy, and have a basic commitment to maximizing people’s overall wellbeing, then quite frankly you can piss off to another planet.

Oh hang on was that last bit rude? I must be becoming Danish…

“but it’s indeed important not to romanticize [Denmark]. As Hank points out Denmark shares with other European nations an imperialist, colonialist past, and you don’t have to go back to the Vikings to find it. Plus it’s a monarchy: how progressive is that?”

No one at IEET is romanticizing Denmark; I like Denmark & Scandinavia because the crime rate is lower, because there aren’t as many fundamentalists, and though it is a monarchy, in America the upper crust is a monarchy of sorts. So it can be expressed in a platitude: six of one, half a dozen of another; if you like relative harmony, then Scandinavia is for you; if you like the hurly burly of aggressive change (the GOP/Tea Party/Rightist libertarians are now the ones advocating wrenching change), America is your cup of tea.
THe legacy of colonialism is less important than now; fortunately the racial aspect isn’t quite as bad as it appears. It’s more a matter of we don’t care about Arabs and Shiites; and they don’t care about the West. The West perceives the Mideast as where its petrol is shipped from. And the Mideast generally returns the indifference. Hate yes, but also merely indifference.

BTW it isn’t fair to criticize Sweden for its role in WWII: Swedes were trapped between the Third Reich and the Soviet Union. Does anyone hold Switzerland culpable for its neutrality in the war?, for the way Switzerland, as Sweden did, placated both the Axis and the Allies? we here in America always felt cozily protected by the Atlantic & Pacific.

“If any Swedes would have come across this article, - (a pity they haven’t..), - and read all the commments, they would most certainly have told you all about what the Swedes call “The Danish sickness”, which in their view is our unwillingness to accept the multicultural “utopia”.
There is more of a consensus in Sweden, but “evil” Danish tongues would say, that this is only due to rampant political correctness over there and a very different attitude towards freedom of expression.”

Can you please say more about this? Is there less multicultural diversity in Sweden? If not, how do they get to “more consensus”? What do you mean by “rampant political correctness” and how does that relate to multiculturalism? (I had a friend who lived there that described the Swedes as more repressed/depressed compared to Americans.)

Every time Hank posts an article like this, I just get depressed that I’m an American.

Flaws or not, I wish I didn’t live in a country that is only defined by it’s idiocy and denial. Is there a country more cognitively dissonant or neurotic than America?

“(I had a friend who lived there that described the Swedes as more repressed/depressed compared to Americans.)”

Yes, for one thing, in December ‘89 I noticed winters in the Scandinavian region cause Swedes and others to be more somber. In the arctic circle—in Norway—there were people who were severely depressed from the four hour days (the Sun would rise at 10 AM and set at 2 PM). But, again, Sweden and the rest of the region is less violent than America, in general the crime rate is lower—and that COUNTS.


“Is there a country more cognitively dissonant or neurotic than America?”

Perhaps not, however the GOP/Tea Party/ Rightist libertarians/ fundamentalists, are IMO primarily to blame. With eight years of Clinton and two years of Obama the Democrats have demonstrated they can at least adapt relatively smoothly to changing circumstances; while Rightists no longer have a Cold War to unify them, nor a Reagan to lead them—so they are clueless. What concerns me most of all about America is who the GOP is going to elect president in 2016. America is attached to the GOP- Democrat duopoly and as you know they go back & forth between the two parties. I’m concerned the GOP will elect another Nixon or a Warren G. Harding.
Cripes, that is a sobering thought.


@postfuturists…I think you’re being a bit kind of the Swedes there. The fact is that the various memes of fascism, racism, and eugenics were rampant in Europe (including the UK I should add) at the time WWII broke out. In Sweden eugenics, especially sterilisation with some degree of coercion, persisted until the mid-1970s.

But perhaps you are being a bit unfair on the US? It’s one of the first countries, if not the first country, ever to have been established with a constitution explicitly based on the values that progressives now hold dear. Yes there’s a lot of neurosis and hypocrisy, and yes there’s a lot to learn from other countries, but many of the problems there are largely common to other countries.

Oh and another wonderful invention of the US: positive psychology. The synthesis these guys have made between Eastern and Western traditions combined with good, solid empirical evidence is truly breathtaking, and in my view one of the most promising developments humanity has witnessed over the last couple of decades.

“Do Secularists Contribute to Social Divisiveness?”
by Russell Blackford..

“Democracy and disagreement

Let me make one concession at the outset. If I express any controversial idea, there is a trivial sense in which it causes social division. I.e., there will be people who’ll oppose me, and we’ll be divided by our disagreement. I will fall into one camp, they into another.”

Read more here…



“Secularism builds the foundation for religious and cultural acceptance, but should not protect the rights of any group above the rights and protection of the individual. That way all cartoonists will be able to sleep nights and live without fear.”

I think that’s about right, although we may differ with regard to the ultimate rational for respecting “the rights and protection of the individual”. For me the allocation of individual rights is an example of a rule that satisfies utilitarian principles because societies that maximize overall well-being tend to be the ones where individual rights are respected. The distinction is important because if we consider individual rights as somehow “sacred” or absolute then we are unlikely to convince those with a different cultural background. If on the other hand we can demonstrate that people tend to be happier overall in societies where such rights are respected, then we are likely to be more convincing. I also think there’s a distinction to be drawn between what we tolerate in our own countries, where we have a vital interest in protecting those freedoms, and what we tolerate in other countries.

“Multiculturalism is here to stay, the world is a much smaller place now, there is no turning back now, therefore we should be promoting “acceptance” and not merely tolerance.”

The problem comes where multiculturalism implies acceptance of non-respect of individual rights. The “smaller world” argument works both ways: certainly we can’t just ignore other cultures, but the vastly increased interaction between cultures can bring them closer together. And then we can worry about excessive uniformity, and encourage cultural diversity, not least to preserve/increase the resilience of our global civilisation. But all without prejudice to the respecting of certain fundamental principles (i.e. rules).

@Peter Wicks

“I don’t care what colour, religion, sex, sexual orientation or ethnic identity you have, but if you don’t respect basic freedoms, human rights, democracy, and have a basic commitment to maximizing people’s overall wellbeing, then quite frankly you can piss off to another planet.”

‘Couldn’t have said it any better myself, but then of course I AM Danish..

Also, - let’s call a spade a spade, so “Western values” is just fine, although psychologically speaking I do agree with you, - so keeping a fine balance in order to avoid a complete communication breakdown is an intelligent strategy to be sure, as long as such a strategy is based on your own reasoning. It should never degenerate to self-censorship out of fear, intimidation, etc. - and political “correctness” is NOT my cup of tea !

& everyone, including SWEDES.. - (anyone out there ? )

I am short of time tonight, so be patient and I’ll be back with some comments about Sweden, - but just for starters: Sweden is NOT such a peaceful place ! - Consider these figures from Interpol,  - (sorry, no link), - from 2002 I believe, and it has only gotten worse since then:

Crime rates pr. 100.000 (Interpol stats.) :

Homicide / Murder : Sweden 10.01 , USA 5.61 , Denmark:  3,72

Rape: Sweden 34.77 , USA 31,77, Denmark 9.22

Serious assault: Sweden 43, USA 318,55, Denmark 24,08

So long..


@CygnusX1 and @Peter Wicks

I completely agree with both the Russell Blackford essay and the comment:
“The problem comes where multiculturalism implies acceptance of non-respect of individual rights. The “smaller world” argument works both ways: certainly we can’t just ignore other cultures, but the vastly increased interaction between cultures can bring them closer together.”

Here’s the point I’m trying to make:
1.) we need laws for libel and slander. Without them, whoever has more economic resources gets to own what is true, or more accurately, what isn’t. We should not allow state-sanctioned falsehood.
2a.) in an age when corporations have the rights of individuals, we need to reconsider what speech for corporations means. Just as the state should not be permitted to intentionally spread falsehood, neither should corporate media
2b.) we need to protect truth in labeling for commercial products, especially consumables.
3.) The lesson of the Methodist church is that when we moved from the US as the owner of the church to each nation being able to have equal status (a move I actually support because otherwise its colonialism), the church is moving way far conservative. Secular liberalism is likely dwarfed by less progressive forms of government globally.

If I have some redress to oppose those who would intentionally lie to forward their agenda, I can live with being called Satan (that is, of course unil someone else makes that decision for me).

“But perhaps you are being a bit unfair on the US? It’s one of the first countries, if not the first country, ever to have been established with a constitution explicitly based on the values that progressives now hold dear. Yes there’s a lot of neurosis and hypocrisy, and yes there’s a lot to learn from other countries, but many of the problems there are largely common to other countries.”

You are correct; but I am only familiar with the U.S., it takes decades of being an expatriate to know a country well enough to discuss its pros & cons.
I saw all four of the nations of Scandinavia in 1989, and the impression at the time was that it was somewhat less violent, and the people didn’t dump their religion on me as they do in America. Or practically hagiographize a politician, as they do here. When I was in your country, Joern, no one said “the king of Denmark is a wonderful man”; in America ‘conservatives’ (who conserve nothing as far as is known) talk as if Reagan never went to the bathroom in his whole life. For me Denmark would be a better place, but for a more active person it might be boring. Donald Trump thrives on the excitement and unpredictability of America—plus all the other hotspots around the world he visits. To me it appears as too much excitement, too much unpredictability.


Is there less multicultural diversity in Sweden?

There is far MORE diversity in Sweden, compared to Denmark. In this article :  , - it is reported that nearly a quarter of Sweden’s population is now foreign born or has a foreign-born parent.  In Denmark it is about 10 %.

The Swedish “Consensus”:

Consensus in Sweden has got a lot to do with gender-equality, and the country is considered the most gender-equal in the world. Sweden was the first country (1968) to introduce a work /life model with equal rights and responsibilities . In 1974 they were the first to offer wage-based parental leave to fathers, -  to give you just two examples of the world renowned “Swedish Model” , which is basically a combination of welfare and a free market.

The saying goes also, that “Swedes are a conflict-avoiding species”.. , - at that “It is common in Sweden to be quiet, adopt and “stay low””..  – The Social Democrats lost power in 2006, but before then they were in power for generations.

This consensus then, combined with said “conflict-avoiding” national character, probably also explains the “rampant political correctness” to some degree, and it may explain also, why the new “right-wing” government has carried on with the same immigration-policies as those of the Social Democrats. It came as a big shock to everyone in Sweden, - and indeed in the world, - that the anti-immigration “Sweden Democrats” got 6 % of the votes in the 2010 elections, so there are signs of the Swedish consensus cracking up..

On Swedish/Danish relations: (Please bear in mind, that you are reading the words of a DANE here !)

In 2009 the Swedish journalist Lena Sundström wrote a book with the title: “The Worlds happiest Nation”, - which, as you may have guessed, is a book about Denmark, as seen from the Swedish side.. – It is a harsh criticism of Denmark’s tough immigration policies, our “duck-pond mentality”, our “racism”, - and for this effort she was given Sweden’s great journalist award..  : )

A Danish writer and journalist of the same status as Lena Sundström then published a book about Sweden, called “Absolute Sweden”, which , you guessed it, is a harsh criticism of the multicultural Swedish “Utopia”, the political correctness, the lack of freedom of speech, etc.
“Absolute Sweden” is not a very popular book over there, to say the least, and Jalving was even turned down when he was scheduled to speak at he Swedish publicist Club.

I could go on telling you about Swedish company “Interactive Security”, who are monitoring and moderating reader’s comments and have the biggest Swedish newspapers as their clients. It is “tough shit” in Sweden to have any opinion published that is displeasing to the editors, and opinions are for the most part left to professionals. In Sweden it is believed that the masses are in need of education from “above”, - those who “know better”, - read: the Swedish state.
There is much more to say about the limited freedom of speech in Sweden, but this will have to suffice..

Summing up: Sweden easily competes with Denmark in terms of techno-progressiveness, and we share support for the Scandinavian Model, but (wildly..) disagree about immigration issues and freedom of speech.

Finally: The Danish Government today came out with a new proposal for the reduction in CO2-emissions: A new tax on HUMAN CO2 emissions ! -  It is being proposed that all Danes will have a little chip embedded into their bodies, and taxes, - (Shit - yet another !), - will be payed according to measurements done by the chip. It has not been decided just yet where exactly this chip will be embedded..

This final notice written on APRIL…....

Freedom of speech has once again been put to the test today, with tragic consequences. Some twisted April fools joke? I think not! Time to reflect on “your” values and sentiments, and this is the “real lesson” - how we each decide to think and act!

I am a fan of Sam Harris and of course I believe we have an absolute right to burn the Koran or any other book that we choose.  I went to a San Francisco Atheist party and they had a Bible-throwing contest for kids and my daughter won.  This is quite acceptable to me, to express displeasure with literature that displeases us.

I also believe that there should never be any laws against Blasphemy—that is obviously an infringement on Free Speech and it does nothing except protect intolerant religions from the (truthful) barbs of their critics.  Obviously, this is something Danes know about due to the uproar about the Muhammad cartoons.

Both the ignorance of the antagonist and protagonist has been manifest today, and the real infidels have shown themselves. It makes me sick to my stomach that the innocent have to pay for this disgusting and juvenile episode. So what happens next?

What’s the solution folks?

@cygnusXI..good question! And an even better one is what *should* happen next. One thing that’s happened already is that I’ve downloaded The Moral Landscape, and I’m pretty sure that was money well spent!

But I want to come back to my earlier “good cop bad cop” comment. Harris is essentially playing (quite polite but essentially) bad cop in his comments: not by deploring the savagery (that’s obvious), but by pointing the finger so clearly at moderate Muslims for failing to clearly “pick the right side” in this good fight (for tolerance, for humanity, for freedom of speech, for the triumph of reason and goodwill over irrational fantasy).

And he’s quite right to do so…as long as somebody plays “good cop” and shows some empathy with the poeple (i.e. The moderate Muslims) he’s criticizing. Above all we need to guard against any excessive feeling of superiority, and the same goes for our attitudes towards fundamentalist Christians (or perhaps their moderate apologists, to pursue the analogy), and even racists. Ultimately all these phenomena are expressions of a dark side of humanity, which we all share to a greater or lesser extent. Context is crucial (remember the Stanford prison experiment?) and none of us can say for sure how “we” would have behaved if we were for example brought up in the Third Reich, if that is even a meaningful question (it’s after all counterfactual).

I guess what I’m saying is that even in the face of behaviours and attitudes that we find most objectionable we need to be able to say “There but for the grace of
God”, even if sometimes we might judge it better to take a more polemic stance.

it is terribly sad that the UN workers were killed by an Afghan mob. 
But I agree with Sam Harris—
the book burner didn’t physically harm anyone, he just burned a book.

The murderers behaved in a barbaric manner that reinforces
the by-now-rather-rational belief that Islam is inherently violent.

Episodes like this happen frequently in Nigeria.  And in the Sudan.  And in Indonesia.  Christianity burned Joan of Arc and “witches” and “heretics” at the stake, and in Nigeria (again) today there are Pentecostal ministers who urge their congregations to execute “witch children.”  Sam Harris and Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens and Ayaan Hirsi Ali and others are leading criticism of religion today, implying that the world would be better off without it, and I think their audience is increasing.

I think the emergence of atheism as a larger demographic is going to cause a lot of social upheaval.  I think in the future there will deepening scorn and dismissal of all religions.  Karl Marx started it, but it is far from over.

“The murderers behaved in a barbaric manner that reinforces
the by-now-rather-rational belief that Islam is inherently violent.”

However Islamics aren’t stupid, they know the West doesn’t care about them, though there are positive intentions combined with the negative: in Libya for instance the West does want to prevent Gaddhafi’s regime from quote showing no mercy unquote (as Gaddhafi said publicly). Yet the West mostly thinks of the Mideast as where a sizable fraction of its petroleum is shipped from. On their part, the Mideast mostly thinks of what it can get from the West; doesn’t matter what it is—doesn’t matter if it’s candy bars or whatever.
So nobody trusts anyone else.

Just like free speech is not the issue underlying hate speech, so, too, violent religion is not the issue underlying religion.
We have got to start realizing that we live in an interconnected world. The all-or-none ways of thinking and speaking only provoke that of which we are most afraid. Darwinism triggered a religious orthodox backlash.
Did someone in Florida have a right to burn a sacred book, well, yes. Was it a responsible thing to do to not consider how it might impact Christians in other parts of the world? No. To use a quote from David Mamet, the actions in Florida “were an explanation but not an excuse.” Only the people who did the killing were responsible, but you don’t smoke at a gas station.
I do not believe the world would be better off without religion. I believe the world would be better off without violence and superstition. To achieve that we need compassionate boundaries.
You are most likely right that in the future there may be an increase in the dismissal of religion. The amount of upheaval that creates will depend in large part on the tone and manner on the part of atheists.
Is it perceived as being a shift of attraction or one of coercion? The folks at the top of a system are supported by a larger number in the middle. It is how economics work and it is how faith works. By focusing on anti-superstition you have a chance to get the support of the moderate and progressive faith communities as long as getting rid of “my God told me to do it” doesn’t try to get rid of ethics and morals as well. Being antagonistic toward faith is likely to alienate that middle rung and risks driving them to take a more conservative, entrenched stance.
Lead with the intent: a world of more compassion, kindness and reason. Lead in peace and let people figure out for themselves what it means about their personal beliefs.

Perhaps at this point it’s helpful to define what we mean by “religion”. According to wictionary it can mean any of the following:

1. A collection of practices, based on beliefs and teachings that are highly valued or sacred.
2. Any practice that someone or some group is seriously devoted to.
3. Any ongoing spiritual practice one engages in, in order to shape their character or improve traits of their personality.
4. An ideological and traditional heritage.

So what is it exactly that we’re against here? I would posit: adherence to beliefs that are not founded on evidence and are therefore unhelpful. Clearly this intersects with the first and fourth of the above definitions of “religion”, but the scientific method itself is also a religion, potentially in all four sense: it is a set of practices based on beliefs and teachings that some of us (including myself) hold dear; many people are seriously devoted to it, some (this is obviously the most tenuous one but I don’t find it totally unreasonable) may even see it as a spiritual exericse helping to shape their character, and in particular to improve their knowledge and cognitive capabilities, and it’s certainly part of our ideological and traditional heritage. Amen.

So if we accept these definitions then we cannot (assuming we revere the scientific method) be against all religion. Whether we should be against all beliefs (such as the existence of God) that are not founded on evidence depends on whether we believe (and have good reason to believe) that such beliefs are necessarily unhelpful. Personally I would question this hypothesis. Some beliefs are self-fulfilling (some more than others), and for such beliefs it seems more important whether they are inherently positive than whether they are founded on evidence. I’m not sure exactly what this means with regard to our attitude towards traditional religions, but my first instinct Hank - and I need to think about this further - is that you are going too far in predicting (and appearing to approve of?) “deepening scorn and dismissal of all religions”, even if you mean by that theistic ones.

Also the idea that Islam is an inherently violent religion seems to me to be an example of a potentially self-fulfilling belief.

@ Peter..

I understand your points but “good cop, bad cop”, or polarizing good and bad/evil is not helpful, and is where the root of the problem lies. As you must be aware there is no such thing objectively as “good” and “evil” out side of the minds of men. Sam Harris accepts this, although his goal is still to uncover some objective morality, (which would also support your position on utilitarianism).

There is however, an objective tenet that has stood the test of all religions and philosophies and for thousands of years.. “Do not do unto others that which you would not have them do unto you!” – The golden rule of all philosophies, (except maybe hedonism).

I do not believe that objective morality exists, although we utilise utilitarianism every day to support our indifference and our exceptions towards who remains poor, starves and suffers from death and disease. Thus utilitarianism is not sufficient and will always remain deficient.

I don’t believe Sam Harris is pointing the finger at moderate Muslims? There is no right or wrong side for any innocents in this dilemma. Would you take offence on your holy book being burned and your faith insulted – yes? For the peaceful Muslim this must surely have nothing to do with freedom of speech, nor the triumph of reason and goodwill over irrationality?

Once again, it is easy to paint all religious followers with the same tainted brush.

“Even in the face of behaviours and attitudes that we find most objectionable” we need to be able to decide for ourselves what is right and what is wrong. And believe it or not there are Muslims that are as human and thoughtful as any one of us deem to be.

@ Hank..

Yes indeed I agree absolutely, however the actions by Terry Jones and his church of 60 members was carefully orchestrated and politically motivated, (in the guise of faith and belief and polarisation of good and evil). So effective in fact that 12 people, (and may be more soon), had to lose their lives, and now the Obama administration has been thrown a dilemma to match the enormity of the Libyan rebel crises! What will he do? Stand for freedom of speech? Arrest the minister? What if the minister continues on his glorious crusade of political gauntlet?

So what do “we” do next? Outlaw whole religious faiths on the grounds of their inherent sensitivity towards criticisms? How can we hope to do that?

The atheist it seems would be just as willing to provoke the same response as the so called Christian denomination above? Is this helpful? How can we guide individuals to decide for themselves what is right and what is wrong?

@ Dor..

Once again, well said.

Logically and rationally and without any reference to religious faith or philosophy, and being purely scientific..

If we know that action X results in actions Y which is unacceptable and non-constructive, then we must, with knowledge and by way of wisdom/experience, refrain from action X.


“Would you take offense on your holy book being burned and your faith insulted?”

I don’t have a “holy book”, and here I really am with Harris et al. No books are holy. Deal with it. As for “faith”, I believe in ideas that are supported by evidence and/or help to propel us towards a better world (not necessarily always the same thing for reasons I’ve explained previously). If someone wants to “insult” that faith I consider that to be their problem rather than mine.

“We utilize utilitarianism every day to support our indifference and our exceptions towards who remains poor, starves and suffers from death and disease.”

Please give me evidence.

“I don’t believe Sam Harris is pointing the finger at moderate Muslims.”

Have another look at the link you provided. It’s all about the Muslim community, most of whom are “moderate” in the sense that they are not themselves extremists, but whom Harris criticizes for blaming provocateurs such as Wilders and Phelps for indiscriminate violence committed by their fellow Muslims.

In any case you seem to have *mis*understood, rather than understood, some of my points. Basically my point was that it’s OK for people like Harris to adopt a strident tone (which he most certainly does) *provided* that there are enough people around to take a more empathetic attitude towards the people (moderate Muslims) he’s criticizing. Yes of course there are Muslims that are as human and thoughtful as any one of us deem to be. But Harris is still right to criticize the Muslim community, including moderates who are insufficiently vocal in their condemnation of violence committed by fellow Muslims. As Hank put it: “the book burner didn’t physically harm anyone, he just burned a book”.

@CygnusXI (again!)..

“So what do “we” do next? Outlaw whole religious faiths on the grounds of their inherent sensitivity towards criticisms? How can we hope to do that?”

Certainly not. That’s what the communists tried, and we rightly condemned them. We should only outlaw behaviour that clearly transgresses our fundamental values: a good example of rule utilitarianism in action. But constructive, even robust, criticism is an appropriate response, *provided*, as noted above, that it is matched by empathy. We should not allow fear to keep us from making justified criticisms, but we should watch out for those feelings of superiority that tend to accompany such criticisms, and compensate for them by nurturing and expressing empathy for those one is criticizing.


As usual I *almost* completely agree with you! Some quibbles though. Darwinism is not an example of all-or-none thinking, as you appear to imply. It was a brilliant piece of scientific theory, amply demonstrated since then. One of those ideas that makes you think, “now why didn’t we think of that before?” Yes it probably provoked a backlash, in fact as I’ve suggest previously fundamentalism in general, in both Christendom and Islam can probably best be seen as a neurotic response to the increasing difficulty of maintaining traditional religious beliefs in the face of modern scientific knowledge. But that’s not a reason to halt progress.

See also this ( exchange between Dawkins and Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams. Rowan was the dean at the college where I studies, and he’s good, good man. (Once got arrested for holding an Ash Wednesday service on the runway of a Trident missile base, to give you an idea.) But as London Times columnist Matthew Parris once wrote, we should still tell him when he’s talking old cobblers, which he does rather a lot. Dawkins does a very good job of it.

thanks for your comments everyone—I am rethinking my position.
someone stated that the goal should not be anti-religion but anti-superstition and to that I agree.  But it is difficult, probably impossible, to convince people that what they believe is superstition, not religion, so I am not sure that approach wold work.

I can’t help comparing the Terry Jones Koran-burning to what happened in Denmark when the newspaper published the Mohammad cartoons.  I keep thinking that the Islamic retaliation makes many people in the West want to back away from Free Speech.  And if the West keeps backing away from Free Speech when faced with religious sensitivity, what is the end result?  Will all highly-sensitive religions be granted immunity from criticism and prosecution?

Ironically, the Catholic Church is now under-going more criticism than it probably ever has in its history.  No one seeks to grant it any immunity from critique, but Islam - because it represents a non-Western creed and we’re afraid of appearing intolerant?—needs to be critiqued with equal vigor.

@ Peter..

Once again, I sense some indignation when I question Utilitarianism as philosophical ideal? Perhaps “this is your faith/belief system” that you hold dear? As for providing evidence - you must be joking? Every nation state adjusts policies for the so-called “greater good” of it’s citizens? The current trend of economic cut-backs and hardships manifest is but one example. Yet ask yourself why half the world is still starving when it need not!

I will revisit the link, and point taken, good people should not bury their heads in the sand, but “my point” is stop ranting at the good guys and blaming them for the wrongs of the few, be they Muslim or even allegedly Christian!

This Koran-burning is very similar to the Denmark publication of Muhammad cartoons, which met with violent retaliation around the world.  A Muslim group has also offered a $2.2 million reward to kill Terry Jones.  Extreme Islamic reaction, with violence, has become commonplace - the death of Theo van Gogh for his “Submission” film, Salman Rushdie in hiding after his “Satanic Verses” was published, etc. etc. 

It seems to me there has to be united world-wide condemnation of Islamic opposition to Free Speech, or these episodes will continue to happen.  Otherwise, fear of Islamic retribution will curtail Free SPeech - but perhaps that has happened already.

@Peter Wicks

No, I am not trying to say Darwinism is an example of all-or-none thinking. Sloppy writing on my part. Sorry.

“I don’t have a “holy book”, and here I really am with Harris et al. No books are holy. Deal with it.”

When the Regime commanded that books with harmful knowledge
Should be publicly burned and on all sides
Oxen were forced to drag cartloads of books
To the bonfires, a banished
Writer, one of the best, scanning the list of the Burned, was shocked to find that his
Books had been passed over. He rushed to his desk
On wings of wrath, and wrote a letter to those in power ,
Burn me! he wrote with flying pen, burn me! Haven’t my books
Always reported the truth ? And here you are
Treating me like a liar! I command you!
Burn me!
- Bertolt Brecht

@dor..point taken 😊 ALL books are holy, especially then ones that tell the truth (and help us to lead better lives. We just shouldn’t single out one above all others or get upset when a few copies of some of them are burnt.

@CygnusXI..Yes you’re certainly right that I have some degree of emotional attachment to utilitarianism. The point is not whether one should ever take offense at anything, but whether one should allow should allow such feelings to blind one to atrocities committed by people who share one’s beliefs, ideals or whatever. It also matters what those beliefs and ideals are. Utilitarianism is important because *by definition* it leads to the greatest good provided it is implemented correctly. As a concept it just can’t, logically, be wrong. I know I’m making quite a strong statement there (rather a la Harris I guess), and coming surprisingly close to moral realism (like Harris I don’t generally consider myself a moral realist, I see these as matter of choice rather than of truth), but if utilitarianism is leading to bad results it must be because it’s misapplied.

To clarify though: I’m talking here about the concept, not the label: we might decide that the word “utilitarian” has overly cold and calculating connotations. Certainly the concept can be, and often is, used to justify injustices. Just about any moral argument can be misused in that way. But when correctly applied utilitarianism works. Moral frameworks that do not respect utilitarian principles (i.e. the need to make trade-offs, to balance costs and benefits, to put the common good above individual interests or ideals) are basically forms of romanticism, which when applied to politics have a tendency to do great harm.

What exactly does it mean to be “responsible”, - not to “smoke at the gas-station” ?

Well, - it all depends on the situation, but at times it is just another word for cowardice. Take the situation before WW2, when Danes were advised by their own “responsible”, - (“dialogue”-seeking ), - government to not provoke the Nazis “unnecessarily”. Had Danes not risen to the occasion and taken to resistance, - i.e. started “smoking at the gas-station”, what kind of reputation would we have today ? - Something like this perhaps: Oh yes, those Danes showed real empathy for the Nazis and were very responsible, so as to not cause upheaval, or a Nazi backlash. How deeply shameful that would be !

Psychologically speaking, - I think there is a certain amount of wisdom in the Christian “attitude” of “loving your enemy as yourself”, i.e. compensating for criticism with empathy. Any criticism should be measured by it’s constructive power rather than it’s power to cause communication breakdowns, upheavals etc., but it is important to say, that at times upheaval, - and with it VIOLENCE , - is more constructive and also unavoidable. Revolutions are at times peaceful, but for the most part not..

Empathy is a highly valued human virtue, but first and foremost we should feel with the suppressed, the victims of all kinds of intimidation, - women, homosexuals, apostates, blasphemers, - CHILDREN !
Just one example: I take it you’ve all read about the 14-year old Bangladesh girl, who was whipped to death for “having an affair” - read: who was RAPED - with a married man ? - Kind of hard to feel any empathy with the perpetrators here…

What is needed is not empathy for those we criticize , but - as Hank says - strong CONDEMNATION of Islamic opposition to Free Speech, - indeed,  condemnation of barbarism everywhere. It is nonsense to say this is being unkind to the moderates, the democratically-minded, - in my opinion it is very much the opposite.

I agree with CygnusX1, who tells us it is “Time to reflect on “your” values and sentiments, and this is the “real lesson” - how we each decide to think and act! - This I have done, and here is one example of how I have personally decided to act:

May 20, - 2011 is Draw Muhammad Day II, and I am planning to post a drawing on my blog. I am convinced that this is not in any way an irrresponsible expression of feelings of superiority, but an expression of empathy and solidarity with the subdued, the victims of intimidation.

Remember this: “All that is required for evil to prevail is for good men to do nothing” !


It is suggested we use superstition in place of religion. May I suggest IDEOLOGY instead. There is something “dusty” about “religion” and “superstition”. The ideologies of Nazism and Communism are responsible for more deaths than orthodox religions, - (counting over the last 100 years or so, that is..), - and who will contradict me when saying that all religions are ideologies..

My personal choice is this: Rather smoke at the gas-station than dying of shame, - i.e. be a “good” man who did nothing..



I would prefer Denmark, as the per capita number of fundamentalists is lower. In Denmark rightist religion doesn’t affect politicians as much; while in America a George Bush will push smarmy ‘compassionate conservatism’, which is tantamount to replacing a leftist welfare state with a rightist one—a rightwing socialism.
Andrei Sakharov said of the Soviet Union, “Communism is a more extreme form of capitalism, you have the same alienation and criminality.” Under Communism the game was “you will pretend to work, we will pretend to pay you”; in America it is “we will pretend corruption is not trickle-down, and you will pretend to be grateful”, a negative symbiosis:
“Here’s your food stamps, now get away from me!”
So the entire ‘society’ becomes corrupt, not merely those at the top. We’re all aware the demographics of a Scandinavian state differ from behemoths such as America, Russia, China. I wouldn’t want to live in China as it is a dictatorship; Russia is unknown, a riddle wrapped in an enigma. America is the best of the three giants, however the only dependable refuge in America is in a house of worship because it is the opposite of ‘reality’ (reality = dog eat dog commercial existence).

Wictionary again: “ideology = a body of doctrine, myth, belief, etc. that guides and individual, social movement, institution, class or large group.” Absolutely can’t do without it. Commmitment to free speech, human rights, democracy…these are all ideologies. Utilitarianism is an ideology, and so (potentially) is transhumanism.

Compensating for criticism with empathy is not a specifically Christian idea, but it does mean more than measuring criticism for it’s constructive power. We don’t need strong condemnation of Islamic opposition to free speech; what we need is strong commitment by Muslims to free speech. Whether that is encouraged or hindered by “strong condemnation” very much depends on who’s doing the condemning, under what circumstances and how, and mm this context I remain convinced that nurturing empathy for those we criticize is likely to lead to far more positive results than if we just loudly condemn.

Let’s take the perpetrators the rape and subsequent murder of the Bangladeshi girl that you mention. If you ask me how I feel about that, the first word that springs to mind is disgust. But who are we actually criticizing here? We can all agree that their actions were grotesque, but they’re not listening, so it’s a bit pointless. The people Harris might criticize, in the style of his reaction to Friday’s massacre, are the people who tend to make excuses for them, rather like those among the Boston Irish who supported the IRA when they were killing babies and teenagers. (But violence is sometimes necessary, right? If you’re a real revolutionary and don’t want to die of shame.)

My point is that if we are to criticize such people, we must simultaneously take care to nurture empathy and avoid any “holier than thou” kind of feelings. Can I, as a Brit, feel empathy for IRA sympathisers? I can and I must. Precisely because they have at times (thankfully no longer?) constituted a large segment of ethnic Irish opinion, both within and outside the Republic. If we can’t see things from the point of view of such people, then the danger is that we do more harm than good, which of course (by definition) is worse than doing nothing.

So: yes to courage, yes to action, yes to provocation if you’ve carefully thought through the consequences (have you?), yes to constructive criticism, yes to condemnation in the face of acts that are not just wrong but grotesque. But no to criticism without empathy or any sense of perspective.

@ Hank..

Quote – “It seems to me there has to be united world-wide condemnation of Islamic opposition to Free Speech, or these episodes will continue to happen. Otherwise, fear of Islamic retribution will curtail Free SPeech - but perhaps that has happened already.”

Well if you can draft a petition to the UN, then I will certainly sign it. You are correct, we all need to work at the problem and world-wide condemnation of violence should be the first step. Yet will it really make a difference to the mindset of theocratic nation states and their citizens?

The world view has to change eventually to one of non-harm and non-violence and acceptance of criticisms both political and theosophical. It is not an easy journey, and whilst the UN places great determination with the progression and documentation of human rights of the individual, it appears it has no draft secular sanctions policy to deal with the slaughter of innocents from religious fundamentalism.

In other words, it is easier for the UN to draft universal edicts on what we “should” do, as opposed to what we “should not” do. International by-laws have a long way to go. But then again, people would generally oppose many forms of “global social contract” and any introduction of civilian restrictions to freedoms?

@ Joern..

Thanks for your thought provoking comment and also picking up on my earlier comment, and in highlighting why I worded it so specifically.

I still say we should proceed tactfully, there are many ways to crack a nut, the gentle erosion by tapping or by using a sledgehammer. However, that said, I still support the idea of the call to action of “Draw Muhammad Day”, because it was in direct “response” to the serious death threats against individual cartoonists, whose rights to both life and freedom of speech must be protected.

The “gentle tapping” therefore must proceed, but there is still a “tactful grey line” that we should take care not to cross too soon?

Now in a “perfect world” no one would ever be offended at all, and would not be moved to offence or to anger or violence. There are two key philosophies that I know that highlight this ideal..

1. Buddhism – constant mindfulness, right intention, right speech, right action.
2. Christianity – total forgiveness, “turning the other cheek”, humility.

The links below highlights the situation presently here in the UK regarding incite to racial hatred and the limits on free speech here in the UK. Now with all due respect, I found these slogans funny and I make no apologies for this despite what I have said above. Yet I must realise also, that the reason is because I am agnostic, and not a devout follower of either religion. Thus I do need to empathise not only with the notion of offence, but also empathise with the current situation and contemplate the consequences of my actions?

“Militant Atheist” found guilty of religious harassment”

“The jury of ten women and two men, at Liverpool Crown Court wasn’t having it. It took them just 15 minutes to find Mr Taylor guilt of “religiously aggravated intentional harassment, alarm or distress” after viewing the “grossly abusive and insulting” images in court. The cartoons—which had been cut from newspapers, magazines and other mainstream publications—included one showing a smiling Christ on the cross next to an advert for a brand of “no nails” glue. In another, the Pope is shown wearing a condom on his finger. Others featured Islamic suicide bombers at the gates of paradise who are told, “Stop, stop, we’ve run out of virgins.”

“The National Secular Society have supported Mr Taylor. They claim that new laws dealing with “religiously aggravated offences” amount to a blasphemy law in another guise.

” Terry Sanderson, president of the society, said: This is a disgraceful verdict, but an inevitable one under this pernicious law….[paraphrase].. In a multicultural society, none of us should have the legal right not to be offended. This law needs to be re-examined urgently.”


“Philosopher convicted for placing Chip Shop Christ spoof in Church”

” A philosophy tutor was yesterday found guilty, at Liverpool Crown Court of religious harassment for leaving literature – including a spoof ad for No More Nails that showed a smiling Jesus Christ on the Cross – in the prayer room of John Lennon Airport…

Another image found was of Islamic suicide bombers at the gates of paradise being told, ‘Stop, stop, we’ve run out of Virgins. Another was of two Muslims holding a placard demanding equality alongside the caption: “Not for women or gays, obviously.’ “


@Peter Wicks
very, very well said.

It is one thing to speak truth to power, to stand up in the face of an injustice and through an action of personal integrity shine light that allows both the perpetrators and those who would support them the absence of such integrity. It is another to adopt a stance of self-righteousness, whose purpose is to antagonize, which because it lacks as a goal change, behaves in like and kind with that which we admonish. The former is civil disobedience, the latter is “smoking at a gas station.” (I am sometimes guilty of this myself.)
The printing of the cartoons was a very different kind of action. It was an action to uphold free speech *in the place where they were published*. The intent was not to spark the backlash (that was not only violent, but deceptive) but to not allow a deference to tolerance to undermine the foundation of what creates tolerance. It shone a light on the contradiction and was therefore a lesson for the world.

“So: yes to courage, yes to action, yes to provocation if you’ve carefully thought through the consequences (have you?), yes to constructive criticism, yes to condemnation in the face of acts that are not just wrong but grotesque. But no to criticism without empathy or any sense of perspective”

I’m trying to figure out where exactly we disagree.. - The above was VERY well written, and I go along with each and every word !

Notice also what I wrote earlier:
“..keeping a fine balance in order to avoid a complete communication breakdown is an intelligent strategy to be sure, as long as such a strategy is based on your own reasoning. It should never degenerate to self-censorship out of fear, intimidation, etc.”

So have I carefully thought through the consequence ? - I HAVE, - honestly ! - My conclusion, however, is that a policy of appeasement will not do the job, - rather it is counter-productive to securing democracy and human rights in the long run. Bowing to the King of Saudi Arabia as Obama did and praising the “great religion of peace” is sickening to me, - just as it was sickening to hear general.. Petraeus was it.. just now on the news using the same kind of FALSE rhetoric. I would not hesitate to call it by it’s right name: BULLSHIT !

However, like you, I strongly dislike the attitude of “Holier-than-thou”, and I don’t give a sh.. for pastor Jones, who in my view is just as big an idiot as all the other religious lunatics, but we should ask ourselves this question: What does it say about the general public, that it takes someone like pastor Jones to play the role of the little boy in “The Emperors new Clothes” ? - It tells a story of people who, due to fear, intimidation, political correctness, etc., - and therefore SELF-censorship, -  are shying away from speaking their minds. I read the amusing story told by Hank himself about the Bible throwing contest that his daughter won, - why on earth is no-one doing the same using the Quran, or for that matter any other “holy” book ? - THAT is why someone like pastor Jones is gaining his undeserved “fame”, - so there you have my explanation for doing “blasphemous” acts myself, like planning some “Mo & Jesus” drawing and posting it on my blog, - among other “blasphemous” acts..

On “ideology”:
Yes, - you are right again, - I should have added “ABSOLUTIST” ideologies, - which Democracy is NOT. - This being said, I am actually some kind of “absolutist” myself, but that would require a longer explanation.. - However, - here’s a hint: When someone with an absolutist ideology would come into power by democratic means.., - well, - that is where I am no longer democratically minded, - it would have required me to accept someone like Hitler, had I lived at that time..

We all know that Bibles and crucifixes are confiscated at airports in Saudi Arabia and tossed in shredders and smashed.  And the punishment for “smuggling” Bibles to Saudi Arabia can be death.  And that radical Muslims have been regularly burning, spitting on and urinating on Bibles.  Add to this Christian churches regularly being attacked in Pakistan, Indonesia, Egypt, etc.

It is self-righteous hypocrisy for radical Muslims to act aggrieved about a single Koran being burned—because they themselves do not offer respect or tolerance for other creeds. 

I am in agreement with the pundits who say that the Koran-burning is just an “excuse” for radical Muslims to behave violently.  I also agree with a commenter (not on this site) who half-sarcastically remarked that radical Muslims “acted offended” if we do anything less than bow down to their belief system.  I also distrust that they are sincerely “offended” - the violence seems perpetrated for political reasons.

I suspect that moderate Muslims are even more intimidated by radical Muslims than non-Muslims are.  It would be great if they expressed their “moderateness” more publicly, but this has not occurred.

I know what empathy looks like.  I lived with Quakers in Costa Rica in 2008-2009 (there’s been a community down there since the 1950’s—conscientious objectors from the Korean War).  Their school is robbed regularly by thieves because the Quakers refuse to put bars on the windows.  So what happens?  Do the robbers change their ways, transformed by the trust and openness of Quakers?  No of course not.  They rob the Quakers more and more often because they are easy targets.  They are victims.  They are prey.

It seems self-destructive to me to feel empathy for one’s oppressors - if, while doing so - you are leaving yourself, and your children, and your community, and your way of life, defenseless.

Is anyone seriously suggesting that “turning the other cheek” is an effective political strategy?

It is not only radical Muslims who are aggrieved, if by “radical Muslims” we mean people who have thought about their faith and have a radical, fundamentalist/political take on it. It is ordinary people on the streets of Pakistan and other Muslim countries. Doubtless they are being whipped up into frenzy by radical imams, but they themselves are not the radicals. They’re just ordinary, confused, angry men and women. They are not using the Koran-burning as “just an excuse”: they are genuinely offended by it.

Hank you are certainly correct in saying that moderate Muslims are more intimidated by radical Muslims than non-Muslims. Non-Muslims, even in Muslim countries, generally don’t risk getting stoned if they don’t tow the line. There but for the grace of God…

Empathy doesn’t mean refusing to lock your doors. I live in Brussels, where burglary is rampant, so I have a lock and a house alarm. That doesn’t stop me empathising with the drug addicts who are so desperate for a fix they’ll do anything for some ready cash. It’s not the same thing at all.

I’m not suggesting that we should feel empathy for our “oppressors” (but hang on, who’s actually oppressing *us*? I certainly don’t feel very oppressed, in fact I’m rather comfortable in my own house, exercising my right to free speech without the slightest fear) while leaving ourselves defenceless. By all means let’s defend our community (which one though? The West? Securalism? Transhumanism? Humanity?) and our way of life. But let’s do so with empathy.

Empathy doesn’t mean turning the other cheek. It means understanding, at an emotional level, what is driving the behaviour of those we wish to criticize. Just as a detective needs to empathize with the criminal in order to catch him, so we need to empathize with those we wish to criticize (or indeed condemn) in order to defend our way of life - and more importantly our values - most effectively.

“Is anyone seriously suggesting that “turning the other cheek” is an effective political strategy?”

Personally I believe there is a difference between “turning the other cheek” and empathy. “Turning the other cheek” may or may not involve any empathy at all; it may simply be a stance for non-violence. Empathy may or may not involve non-violence; it is a stance for being sensitive to seeing things from the perspective of the “other”.
What I mean here by “empathy” is trying to understand how a message is received. What is the context of the person with whom you’re trying to communicate and how will they hear what we are trying to say?
Currently, for some in the Arab world (Islamic world?), the context is “The West wants to destroy Islam.”  This isn’t true. Our goals are to erradicate puritanical, violent Islam but we are not at war with Islam. Note, though, that the burning of the Qu’ran is met with burning Obama in effigy and burning a representation of the US flag. The Qu’ran burning was not perceived as speaking to free speech, it was perceived as an act against the symbol of Islam itself.
At this time, there is a power vacuum in several Arab states. People there are making a choice between democracy and something other, perhaps theocracy. Sending a message that the main symbol of Democracy (the US, talking perceptions here) may be against Islam is unwise at best.
Empathy is about understanding symbols, about being able to place ourselves in the shoes of the other and trying to feel their needs, hopes, fears, etc. When someone is violent towards us, the last thing we want to do is to try and understand them. Sometimes maturity calls us to do just that. Empathy doesn’t mean we let people be violent towards us or ignore violence directed towards us, but it does mean we seek to see if our actions and reactions as viewed by those with whom we’re dealing are likely to escalate a situation. It is the difference between strategy and reacting because it feels good (which is what I think the Florida action was more about).

“Empathy doesn’t mean turning the other cheek. It means understanding, at an emotional level, what is driving the behaviour of those we wish to criticize. Just as a detective needs to empathize with the criminal in order to catch him, so we need to empathize with those we wish to criticize (or indeed condemn) in order to defend our way of life - and more importantly our values - most effectively”

Again, I agree 100 %,  and as a concrete example of how this is done, I have just provided a download link to the marts - 2011 issue of English language Al Qaeda Magazine “INSPIRE” on my own blog. I did that also as a protest after reading, that “The National Crime Squad” of the Dutch National Police has threatened to shut down Public Intelligence -  - if the magazine is not removed from the site..

Download INSPIRE magazine here:  - It is your chance to:

“understand, at an emotional level, what is driving the behaviour of those we wish to criticize”.

Ps. I was thinking, that it is maybe not easy to relate all this to technoprogressiveness /technoprogressives, but it is certainly highly relevant to HAPPINESS, FREEDOM, EQUALITY and “RUDENESS”, - so I’m confident you all feel we are focusing and on the right track..

@Joern…“so I’m confident you all feel we are focusing and on the right track.. “

Yes indeed - this is a crucial discussion, and if Hank (as evidenced by his latest comment) doesn’t feel we’re straying too far off topic, that’s good enough for me.

But since we’re really getting into it: I want to speak directly to your plan to post a drawing of Mohammed on your blog. By way of justification you have offered the following: “My conclusion, however, is that a policy of appeasement will not do the job, - rather it is counter-productive to securing democracy and human rights in the long run.”

The “job”, I take it, is (as Hank put it) to defend our way of life. I’m all for that. “Appeasement” got a bad name in the run-up to WWII because Germany’s neighbours, including Britain, chose to opt for diplomacy rather than confrontation, and it backfired (i.e. just gave Hitler more time to arm). Does this mean that diplomacy is always a worse option than confrontation? Of course not. So when should we confront, and when should we be diplomatic?

Let’s take some extreme examples. Here’s a time to confront: when somebody’s about to commit a crime, you have the power to stop it happening, and no time for diplomacy. Here’s a time to be diplomatic: when someone is in a state of extreme emotional disturbance, isn’t really posing any threat to anyone but is just getting on everyone’s nerves.

Which picture most resembles the Muslim world today? Well obviously it’s a bit of both. There are people out there actively plotting to commit heinous crimes in the name of Islam, and I’m not remotely interested in empathising with them. I’m interested in preventing them from carrying out their plans. Then there are the people burning effigies of Obama, who are obviously in a state of considerable agitation, but are not actually directly threatening anyone.

Now who do you think is going to be most pleased to see pictures of Mohammed on May 20: the people we’ve seen protesting on the streets, or the people who get their kicks from plotting terrorist attacks, and who need the agitation to get cover and support for their activities? Think about it.

yes this is a very fun exchange!  Peter—I didn’t know that you lived in Brussels.  What is that like?  I have heard that there are many “no go” zones there, Muslim areas where the Belgian police don’t go.  Is that true, do you know? and what are your feelings about that?

dor—I might agree—I think you have a very good point about the timing of the Koran book-burning.  The revolutions in Arab nations indicate that they are seeking a new direction - hopefully democracy! - and it is perhaps not wise to present the USA as being opposed and disrespectful to their culture.  Perhaps.  But I am not totally convinced.  I am feeling rather disillusioned, pessimistic, and cynical about the relationship between Islam and Western democratic ideals.
I have hoped for this, like many, I thought Obama with his madrassa background, African heritage and middle name would appeal to the Islamic world, but such is not the case. I do not see the “jihadists” and “mujahadeen” as simply defending Islam.  Do you?  Do you also regard 9/11 as a defensive act? Perhaps our different opinion on this has to do with religion as well—you are a Methodist - is that right? and I am a militant atheist.  As a Methodist, you are undoubtedly more patient with other religions than I am.  But I think you should examine what the definition of religion is for you, and what the definition of religion is to a radical Muslim.  You are a kind person to seek a connection with other people, but you must be careful that the connection actually exists, and that there is a possibility of compromise. but also important! This is where our “intellectually serious” (to important the phrase from Nikki Olson’s recent post “transhumanism for children”) discussions take on a very practical edge. How we deal with the challenge of Islam, especially here in Europe with our large Muslim population, is arguably rather more urgent than educating people about the Singularity (although the one certainly doesn’t exclude the other).

How do I feel about no-go areas in Brussels. I guess I’m a nit like the frog in the saucepan that is slowly heating up. Personally there’s no part of Brussels where I wouldn’t feel safe to walk, but that may be as much ignorance and wishful thinking as sound judgement. And if you knew what the police here are like you might judge that it’s best they stay out of those areas anyway.

In any case the main problem facing this country is not the Muslims. It’s the ridiculous limguistic squabbling. If you can’t even choose a government because half the country wants to separate and the other half don’t want to let them (and anyway they can’t agree what to do with Brussels itself), how can you deal with real issues (such as getting yourself a decent police force?). And this is supposed to be the capital of Europe…

Re your response to dor: I don’t think anyone is suggesting that the “jihadists” and “mujahadeen” are simply defending Islam (have you seen Charlie Wilson’s War by the way?). Obama did, initially,  appeal to the Islamic world, but as with so many of his supporters in the US this was based on unrealistic expectations. I’m not sickened by Obama bowing to the kind of Saudi Arabia: I’m more interested in how quickly our investments in renewables pay off so we no longer have to do prop up that obnoxious regime to avoid economic collapse. We don’t need empty heroics from Obama, we need sound pragmatic leadership, and this is IMO more or less what he’s giving us.

I’m not a militant atheist. I was brought up by active churchgoing parents and stopped believing in God at age 23. Until then I worked on the assumption that the evangelical account of Christianity was true, even though at heart I didn’t believe it, on the strength of a homemade version of Pascale’s wager. Like dor I guess this makes it easier for me to empathize with the religious mindset. But the important thing isn’t how easy it is, but whether it’s helpful. As dor put it: “it is the difference between strategy and reacting because it feels good.”

“I do not see the “jihadists” and “mujahadeen” as simply defending Islam. Do you? Do you also regard 9/11 as a defensive act?”

Are you being serious or trying to provoke; I can’t tell here. I’ll assume you’re being sincere and that by “militant atheist” you don’t assume you and I are combatants in any way.
No, I do not see puritanical, violent Islamists as merely defending Islam. The seeds for 9/11 go way back. For the puritanical, violent Islamist I think they may even go back to the crusades. In the US, I have no concept of grudge on that kind of scale; I barely know US history. But that isn’t true for many, many people around the world. Which makes me (and other Americans like me) prone to being short-sighted and short-sightedness is the enemy of strategy. It is good for tactics, bad for strategy.
Here’s the thing with religion it is multidimensional. Part of it is what we know or believe about God, which is what is perhaps most salient to an atheist.  That aspect breaks out into all kinds of dimensions such as theological beliefs, mythology, religious education/indoctrination, rituals, etc. But, perhaps a bigger part of religion is culture, ethnicity, community, family heritage, politics, etc. They’re all intertwined.
So, no. My definition of religion and that of a radical Islamist are different. (My definition and those of a Creationist are different too.) Peter said it very well, there is a time to confront and time for diplomacy.
Separation of Church and State is our default setting. You can destroy a Bible without thinking that it is destroying America. If that is not the paradigm, if the state has always been enmeshed with the faith in aperson’s mind, than an action against one, is an action against the other. True in the Arab world, true in the Bible belt.
We can deny that because we don’t think that way or we can say “some people do think that way” and figure out a different course of action based on the perspective of the person with whom we’re dealing. If we deny it and say “well, they should think that way”, we run the risk of being coercive. It is taking a stance of “I’m right and you’re wrong” and that leaves no room to actually figure out how to create something win-win. (again, not talking radical here, talking mainstream).
BTW,today we’re talking Islam. The same applies to emerging technologies going mainstream. Coercision or attraction?

Back to the topic of Denmark: let’s say Denmark is 10 percent “better” than America, and living in the Midwest where I live is 10 percent “better” than living in Dixie (the “best” regions are IMO New England and the Northwest), so I or someone like-minded would hypothetically be, say, 20 better off in Denmark than living in the Bible Belt if we were to move to Scandinavia. And we take into account America is far more productive—productive but, again say, 20 percent more violent, than Denmark. So I wont move there! however if Denmark were 95 percent less violent, then it would make sense to relocate—but that is definitely not the case from what I saw in 1989 which was before immigration increased into Scandinavia. Surely it is worse now than in ‘89.
Christianity, Dor, in Denmark as in elsewhere has a negative effect as well as the positives you have mentioned, that you apparently—without knowing you—embody. Fo brevity’s sake one negative, a very negative one, is that subconsciously virtually all Christians save for Christ Himself want to crucify others. And don’t say otherwise: a study of the collective subconscious will reveal that to be so. A fact.

@ Peter—I also find the Flemish-Walloon split very fascinating.  What would you like to see happen?  I am personally in favor of a split, not that I am in the least involved.  I just am in favor of small units because I think they serve democracy better.  I am also a fan of Flemish culture, I like the cities, architecture, art, and the people I’ve met.

@ dor—I am not being deliberately provocative, I am just trying to determine your viewpoint.  I have a pen-pal in Germany who is an “apologist” - she thinks Europe should fully accommodate Islamic requests as a way to atone for imperialism.  I find that stance frightening and naive.  I also know that there are QUakers and Gandhi followers who think empathetic passivity can be successful in all circumstances.  My background is in history, which makes me quite cautious, perhaps paranoid.  History has demonstrated humanity’s near-infinite capacity for atrocious behavior.  I also have a background in religion, a Masters in Buddhism actually, but I have lost any hope that religion can provide peace in the world.  Well, sorry to be grim, but there’s the facts on me.  So I am imagining that our viewpoints are quite different, and aren’t going to mesh anytime soon.  But thanks again for contributing to the discussion.

(good to hear from you.)
I was going to counter with the Quakers, the Amish and the emergent church movement but I don’t want to send off even a whiff of trying to evangelize you. : )

@ Peter Wicks—I agree that the Flemish/Walloon problem is Belgium’s biggest.  Personally, I hope it splits up - not that it involves me in any obvious way.  I just like the notion of tiny independent nations, I think it provides better democracy.  What is your POV?  by the way, I am meeting Joern in Copenhagen in early June, you’re invited too!  I will buy you a Carlsberg.

@ dor—I am not being deliberately provocative, I am just trying to determine your POV.  I have a German pen-pen who is a total “apologist” - she thinks Europe should accommodate Islam in every way to atone for its imperialism.  Yikes!  And of course there are Quakers and Gandhi followers who think empathy and passive resistance is always the best path.  I primarily studied history, which has made me cautious and paranoid - it seems there is no limit to humanity’s ability to commit atrocities.  I also have a Masters in Religion but I have totally given up on it as a force for assisting the world.  So that’s who I am.  Thanks again for contributing so generously to this discussion.

@postfuturist - after I visit Denmark, I will send you a full report!

“I was going to counter with the Quakers, the Amish and the emergent church movement but I don’t want to send off even a whiff of trying to evangelize you. : )”

Yes, and within Islam there are Sufi and other sects, spin offs; Islam is not monolithic, however the Quran is not a pacifist tome either. Jesus was a pacifist for the time He lived, was enlightened beyond all others in saying “forgive your enemies”. Unfortunately if you forgive your enemies too much you might live to regret it.

“I also have a Masters in Religion but I have totally given up on it as a force for assisting the world. So that’s who I am.”

Don’t blame you at all, Hank; far too many people (men, mostly) have perverted religion/spirituality into control-freak devices. Yet that’s general: in politics you start out with the Paris Commune but end up with Gulag; you start with posey-dancing Bavarians but end up with Himmler’s camps. Pol Pot wanted autarky, but ended with an entire nation turned into a camp. As for Denmark, most of you would probably become bored with Denmark and return home
—I would probably eat one too many pastries and die there of congestive heart failure.

@dor…“If we deny it and say “well, they should think that way” then we risk being coercive”. I would putnit slightly differently. We risk failing to understand sufficiently well how they actually *do* think that we miss opportunities or walk headlong into traps (like Iraq). Sometimes it’s necessary to be coercive, but without empathymyou’re likely to screw up.

@Hank..I’ll be in Beijing early June :( but another time definitely!! Likewise if any of you are ever in Brussels….

I’m not convinced that tiny independent nations serve democracy better. I think federal structures like in US, Spain and Germany are the way to go. The problem in Belgium is that the Flemish no longer want to subsidize the economically backward Walloons. In that respect they’re a bit like Republicans (and indeed they tend to vote well to the right). There’s a lot I like about Flemish culture as well but compared to the Dutch they’re very passive-aggressive; that’s something that they share with the Walloons. In a way Belgium is like a microcosm of the world: everyone talking about grievances (and “condemnation”) and not enough people looking for win-win solutions. More tragic than fascinating…

Btw I also know people here who allow themselves to be unduly influenced by guilt about our colonial past, and I share your view that this is frightening and naive. But I still think your making a false association between empathy and passivity. Think about how it works in your personal life: sometimes you have to make hard decisions that cause suffering, but you’d be a bad father/husband/friend/colleague if you were unable or unwilling to empathize with those you are causing to suffer. Apart from anything else you’d be likely to cause unnecessary suffering, and also be taken by surprise when they react badly. Empathy helps young prepare. What we’re basically talking about here is emotional intelligence.

@Peter Wicks

Thanks for giving me the opportunity to state my position “loud” and clearly. It is crucial to choose the best of strategies, - we agree on that much, - so I regret having to express myself a little hastily here, but I hope my message comes across “loud” and clear enough..

Your are one fine psychologist, - I’ll give you that, - but all the same your wise words about “time for confrontation” / “time for diplomacy” are somewhat trivial, as I don’t think any of us disagree on that.
Same thing about “no criticism / confrontation without PERSPECTIVE”, - it’s just that our “Cost-Benefit”-analysis, - if I may call it that, - varies, and perhaps your “emotional intelligence” is causing you to be slightly irrational ..  –  ( By the way, I’ve read the book ).

So what is flawed /irrational in your way of describing things..

You write: “Here’s a time to be diplomatic: when someone is in a state of extreme emotional disturbance, isn’t really posing any threat to anyone but is just getting on everyone’s nerves”.

Well, - “Someone” IS posing a real threat, - just ask Kurt Westergaard (bomb in Turban), Flemming Rose (Cultural Editor of newspaper Jyllands-Posten), Swedish cartoonist Lars Vilks, Seattle cartoonist Molly Norris, (Draw-Muhammad-Day),  - who ISSUED AN APOLOGY, but to no avail.. - think about THAT .., - Robert Redeker, French philosophy teacher, who merely wrote an article in French newspaper Le Figaro, and a loooong list of other victims of intimidation: 

(Add to these pastor Jones).

How do you think these people feel about so-called “responsible” apologetics, who are not only reacting with self-censorship, but condemning the presumptuous for their “deliberate” and “confrontational” writings, drawings, statements etc.

My message – and the message from all others who are planning to participate in DM2 - is this: Terrorizing ONE of us is terrorizing us ALL. Bullies just love it when they succeed in isolating the courageous from the cowards, - (or is it the other way round..
: ))  , - and this is exactly what happens when we start moralizing and condemning victims instead of the perpetraitors !

So there you are: I may be wrong, but to the best of my judgment, a crystal clear message is what will do the job of defending our values, and hopefully “exporting” them to the Arab world. You all know why focus is on Muslims,  be they Arabs, Persians, Indonesians, Nigerians, Turks etc., but of course the same goes for China, Russia, etc., - it’s just that they don’t have the same habit of constantly issuing Fatwas.

This clear message should be: We will NOT be bullied, we do NOT play by your rules, i.e. we poke fun at whoever we find “worthy” of it. Religious freedom is included in basic (Western ..) Human Rights, so anyone is completely free to worship whoever they wish, including the Devil himself, - as long as you keep it private and among yourselves. You are also completely free to tell me and try to convince me and anyone else what I should think / believe, - but NEVER EVER try to impose your (narrow-minded) rules on ME !

It is not even right to call this strategy “confrontational”. It is merely carrying on living our lives in accordance with OUR cherished values, - freedom of expression etc. – It is how WE believe humanity moves forward, and if anyone perceives this as being “confrontational”,  - well, - there isn’t much I am prepared to do about it, emotional intelligence or not..

Ps. In Copenhagen I’m working with people from all over the world, many of them Muslims and I get along with ALL of them just fine. I tell them loud and clear what I think too, and it is my experience that this strategy is far more likely to engage people in constructive dialogues than shying away and saying things you don’t REALLY mean, but say only because it is what you are supposed to say, according to what is considered correct and “responsible”

By the way, anyone with just a little knowledge of body-language could tell easily, that general Petraeus didn’t mean a word of what he said, - maybe some Wiki-leak document will prove me right in the future.. # ; - )

Thanks for the response Joern.

I hope you’ll agree that the following is a fair summary of your argument: the best way to defend and export our values is to send a loud, clear message to those who are committing or threatening to commit violence in the name if Islam that we will not be bullied.

You are then contrasting this with “so-called responsible apologetics”, by which I guess you are referring to people like Hank’s German pen-pal who thinks that Europe should atone for it’s past sins by fully accommodating Islamic requests. If it’s a choice between the two, I’ll definitely go with your approach.

But I still have problems with it. First of all it *is* confrontational: you are not just going about your business, you are going out of your way to do the very thing they are objecting to, in order to pass your message. Secondly, the “message” you are sending will be received not only by the bullies, but by sensitive people who are sincerely offended by what you are doing, but who are not themselves threatening anyone.

And while I certainly wouldn’t go as far as Hank’s pen-pal - honestly I would much rather join in a “draw Mohammed” exercise than see the West “fully accommodating Islamic requests” - there is *some* truth in the idea that we should take both our past and our present dominance into account. The sad truth is that we have been, and in some cases still are, propping up obnoxious regimes in Muslim countries in order to feed our own addictions (in particular to oil). I’m not suggesting that we should cower in guilt over this - the fact is that we’re homo sapiens, not homo angelicus - but we should perhaps stop and ask ourselves who, looking at the global picture, has been bullying whom.

You ask how I think the victims you mention feel about self-censoring apologists. I would guess it will depend on their personality. In any case I want to live in a world where such things don’t happen, and I certainly agree that nothing they have done in any way justifies the threats or violence they have endured. But you have not quite convinced me that drawing pictures of Mohammed, in the current climate, is a good idea, and I don’t *think* it’s because I’m allowing empathy to cloud my judgement. That said, I certainly *have* been influenced by my Christian upbringing, including the idea of “turning the other cheek”, and I’m sure this partly explains why we are coming to different conclusions on the matter.

Victims of Intimidation: (..believe I provided a corrupted link above..)

@ Peter Wicks
Once again, well said.
I’m pretty unfamiliar with blasphemy laws in Europe. That is a concept that seems outdated to me; we don’t have that here. To find someone (criminally?) guilty for cartoons seems to prove a lack of sense of humor and a thin skin.
But the actions in Florida were different. There are no such laws that prohibit such actions. That is what Karzai used against us when he suggested that Jones should be arrested. From the context of his culture (even though he, himself, likely knew better) such an offence *should* be punishable.
I would posit, with nothing but intuition to back be up, that Terry Jones’ motive was to incite exactly the response we are seeing. He wanted to show the world that Muslims are violent and he did.
Joern, I suggest your motive is very similar. When you say “stand up to bullies”, you don’t by any stretch of the imagination think that the radical Islamists are going to hit themselves on the forehead and say “OMG, what was I thinking! Of course they have a right to publish those cartoons!”
You will be right, they will be wrong. And people could get killed. And those in that region who might otherwise support democracy (thinking it the lesser of evils) may be influenced or manipulate by fear, by prejudice, by disgust or by indignation to redo that cost-benefit analysis. Which, they may ask themselves, really is the lesser of the evils - theocratic authoritarianism or government with no respect for God? Not a question any of us would be asking, but we’re not in that context. Moreover, it may make them suspect of the Muslims who DO support liberty and democracy.
Political correctness is “don’t call me chick in the workplace”. Political strategy is setting a goal and figuring out the best way to reach it.

“Ps. In Copenhagen I’m working with people from all over the world, many of them Muslims”

Strange thing is: in the Mideast Islamics are probably every bit as violent as they are portrayed as being. But outside the region they are often less domineering than other faiths- maybe because they have to be on their best behavior when they go abroad. What is grating about many Christians in America is they think your business is their business, and they say they want to save your soul albeit they can’t even save their own souls. And as I was attempting to tell dor, that matters because their churches are something real, they are not imaginary such as seraphim, leprechauns, or the CIA sprinkling pixie dust on a paranoid’s frosted flakes.

I think there’s a disagreement on this topic because atheists (like me) probably regard the Islamic sensitivity to Mohammed cartoons and Koran burning with a different perspective than people (like Peter) who has respect for religion.

If I made a youtube video that said that Santa Claus was a shit-eating fool, and people went crazy and killed me, there would be unanimous agreement that I was completely innocent of provoking my murder.  I would not be called a inflammatory blasphemer who deserved to die.

Religion, for an increasing number of people, is just as stupid and ludicrous as Santa Claus, but a lot more harmful.  Nonetheless, we are told that we must respect religion, we are discouraged from ridiculing it, we are told free speech does not include satirizing the idiocy we see in “faith”, and we’re called names like provocateur and hate-monger for expressing our feelings of scorn for religion.

Demanding “respect” for religion is a bullying tactic of religionists, that provides no equality or free speech to those with dissenting viewpoints.

“in politics you start out with the Paris Commune but end up with Gulag; you start with posey-dancing Bavarians but end up with Himmler’s camps. Pol Pot wanted autarky, but ended with an entire nation turned into a camp.”

Come to think of it, the above may be a bit… slippery slope.

great pdf. Thanks for sharing it

I take all your points, Hank, with the caveat that some of us would rather attend a halfway decent church or other religious house of worship than for instance a GOP or rightwing libertarian meeting. One can think of religion and or spirituality as rightwing socialism—or better yet: default socialism—people can’t get along but they can get together in spirituality/religion even if it is pretentious. Better spiritual/religious pretension than a GOP gathering.

@Hank…I don’t quite share your analysis of the reason for our disagreement. First of all there isn’t a necessarily contradiction between being an “atheist” and having “respect for religion”. My outlook on life is essentially an atheistic one, and that doesn’t stop me having some respect for religion: it very much depends on the religion, and how it is practiced.

So there must be some other reason (than the fact that you are an atheist) why you see all religion as “stupid, ludicrous and harmful”, in spite of fairly obvious evidence to the contrary (good deeds motivated by religious belief, historical role of Christianity in shaping our modern, secular beliefs and values, the honest and careful attempt of many decent people to adapt their religious beliefs and practices both to reality and their own intuitive sense of what is good).

We are told we “must” do a lot of stupid things by a lot of stupid people, so that in itself is not a reason to get all angry. Just ignore them, and be happy you live in a country where you can largely live the life you want to lead without fear. Many, indeed probably most, people on this planet don’t have that luxury.

Personally I believe that free speech *does* include satirising the idiocy that some people see in (religious) “faith” (you have to have faith in something by the way: atheism is also a faith), and limitations on free speech must be allowed only in the most exceptional cases. Incitement to violence is one of them, but (within limits) I agree that satire doesn’t fit this category. You are not “inciting” anyone to commit violence by drawing a picture of Mohammed. But again, that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a good idea.

I agree that demanding respect for religion is used as a bullying tactic by religionists. But it can also be used for better purposes, and to mean something else than denying your right to equality and free speech. In my case, I encourage (“demand” is too strong a word) respect for *some* manifestations of religion primarily because it is a way to respect others.

I think dor has it right: part of the motive for people committing acts of provocation is that the reaction that ensues confirms their worldview and provides a nice ex-post justification for their behaviour. What if, instead, we all just calmed down and focused on building a better world? It’s boring, I know, but perhaps less people will get killed as a result.

Thank you guys for this discussion.
I heard the following: that the most urgent concern for you is to protect free speech. In an effort to address the bully tactics of those who would try to scare people into not criticizing Islam (or any fundementalism for that matter), taking actions that are deliberately provocative is perceived as a legitimate course of action because it aims to make the people who are perpetrating the injustice (e.g. trying to limit speech) take responsibility for their actions. Your audience for the actions is those who would limit your speech, so it is as much people who would call for “tolerance” as it is the Islamists. It is about the principle. You see any move to limit speech as “blaming the victim.” You think, like Dennett, that because God is a fiction and that fiction instills “ideas to die for”, it is dangerous and should be erradicated. Because that is part of your agenda, the more violent and irrational people who hold a religious belief behave, the more it supports your cause and furthers your agenda. You are seeking a paradigm shift and as such the more incidents of irrationality you can expose the more it will contribute to the tipping point. In such a light, if tremendous destruction results from an action it is not only justified, it is perhaps in the service of the long term goal which is to eliminate religion altogether.
As stated above in many different ways, I respectfully disagree. I do not believe my faith is a delusion, though perhaps my sense of hope is. I believe we are responsible for our actions and part of responsibility is considering the consequences.

I don’t believe your sense of hope is a delusion, dor. Without hope, we might as well stop breathing altogether.

As for your faith, based on the comments you’ve made here it doesn’t seem particularly delusional either. It’s been some time since I found God particularly meaningful concept, but I haven’t given up on the idea altogether. Like spirituality, perhaps the trick is to find a definition that is both meaningful and positive, while otherwise being as close as possible to the way the word is actually used currently.

With that in mind perhaps I should correct what I said in my reply to Hank: I’m not *quite* an atheist. I think it’s more that over the years I have associated the word with very primitive, naive ideas of what it could mean, and consequently haven’t found it very useful. Also, and partly for this reason, I have tended to associate with people who also don’t find the concept of God particularly helpful, or at least don’t like to talk about it. Perhaps this needs to change.

I apologize for perhaps over-emphasizing my point of view in the earlier post.  I do think postfuturist, dor, and Peter Wicks all have very reasonable opinions.  By the way, there is nothing particularly original about my ideas—I’m just a believer of the strident atheism that Dawkins, Hitchens, Harris and others espouse.

That said, I agree with postfuturist that progressive CHristians are generally my pals politically, far more so than atheist Republicans.  I have Unitarian, Quaker and Reformed Jewish friends, Methodists, too, even Catholics, that I disagree theologically with, but that is not crucially important compared to the larger social issues that we have in common.  In San Francisco where I live, and in other cities as well, there are many religious groups that have worked hard for gay rights, peace, alleviation of poverty and other important causes, and I’m deeply grateful for that.  Their humanitarianism and generosity often stems from the supposed words of Jesus, who I suspect never existed, but if the words that are attributed to him create good deeds, I am grateful for that.

I agree with Peter Wicks that perhaps we should all “calm down and focus on building a better world.”  It is hard to disagree with that.  I am not 100% convinced that 100% freedom of self-expression is the ultimate goal.  Peace is probably a superior goal, but…

I sympathize with Joern - I am of the opinion that his cartoons are NOT instigating a violent confrontation, the violent confrontation has already commenced and it is radical Muslims that triggered it, not Europeans. The radical Muslims injected bodily harm and death into the disagreement, not the Europeans.  The Mohammed cartoons are a unified effort to defend liberties, and we must remember that the cartoons are Non-Violent.  Rude, perhaps, but non-violent.  Were Gandhi and MLK “violent” when they led peace marches?  Can they be blamed for any violence that occurred due to the marches?  I think not.  Gandhi and MLK used “freedom of assembly” to state their protest and Joern will use “freedom of speech” to express his solidarity with others who are being oppressed for exercising the same right.

for dor, yes, I think you’re right, atheists are seeking a paradigm shift.  I hope, of course, that no violence results from this. but… well… the atheist stance is that there is already enormous violence due to the Religious Meme, so anything that can upend that meme would supposedly, eventually, reduce violence.  The definition of religion has become sufficiently vague lately, but I believe that it’s safe to say - if I can speak for all atheists - that non-logical religionists i.e., irrational faith and dogma believers, are regarded as the biggest problem (by atheists).  I am hopeful that change can occur, the paradigm shift, through the simple application of secular education.

my gratitude to everyone for taking the time to engage in this discussion and I apologize for any “impoliteness” on my part.


In an earlier comment I said that I considered Pastor Jones to be an idiot and just another religious / RELIGULOUS.. lunatic, so what makes you think my motives are the same ? – All I know about his motives is what I’ve been reading in the local newspaper, which said that Jones’ motive was to “rock the boat”..

From German magazine “Der Spiegel” I gather that former members of his congregation in Cologne, Germany, have spoken of his hate-filled sermons and insistence on “blind obedience.” –

Jones was expelled by them in 2009…

Of course I do not want to show the world that Muslims are violent, - is that really the impression I’m giving you ? – Good grief ! – “Muslims” are NOT violent, but it is self-evident that SOME Muslims are, and my motive is getting the message across to these radical Islamists, that violence is futile, ‘cause we will NOT be subdued. I’m hoping then, for the very opposite of what you’re suggesting, namely that they will realize they are wasting their time with such “tactics”. The message apologetics are sending, is that violence DOES work, so who is really “responsible” here..  – I am not saying I have any absolute answers , - all I know is, that it is something I’ve thought deeply about, and my conclusion is, that appeasement, apologies, self-censorship, going into hiding, etc. , is not the right strategy.

Hoping those radicals will accept our right to express ourselves as we see fit is probably a bit much to hope for, but I do hope they will realize that democracy IS superior, and actually I see signs of this happening right now all over the Arab world ! – Even the Muslim Brotherhood APPEARS to be moving in that direction..

Your gloomy speculations about possible negative consequences amounts to what I will call “SOFT BIGOTRY OF LOW EXPECTATIONS”,  a marvelous expression I am borrowing from Daniel Pipes, who has written a surprisingly optimistic article about the possible outcome of the current revolts. One of Pipe’s conclusions is this:

“One has the sense that the past century’s extremism — tied to such figures as Amin al-Husseini, Gamal Abdel Nasser, Ruhollah Khomeini, Yasser Arafat, and Saddam Hussein — has run its course, that populations seek something more mundane and consumable than rhetoric, rejectionism, and backwardness“.

Before you know it, - we will no longer call them “Radicals”, but technoprogressives..  #; - )


“..outside the region they are often less domineering than other faiths..”

The US is one thing, Europe is another, and I’m afraid you are out of touch with reality here.. – Over here there is a growing concern over home-grown radicals, and if I may remind you, many of the 9/11 terrorists lived in Hamburg – Germany, - the London bombers were well educated English Muslims, and the terror attempts against Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten were also carried out by locals. The majority are law-abiding citizens, who “merely” wish to live a life in peace and prosperity , but we do have to deal with a number of loony Mullahs and their brainwashed Jihadis.

here’s some quotes I like:

Quotation by Richard Dawkins: “Many of us saw religion as harmless nonsense. Beliefs might lack all supporting evidence but, we thought, if people needed a crutch for consolation, where’s the harm? September 11th changed all that. Revealed faith is not harmless nonsense, it can be lethally dangerous nonsense. Dangerous because it gives people unshakeable confidence in their own righteousness. Dangerous because it gives them false courage to kill themselves, which automatically removes normal barriers to killing others. Dangerous because it teaches enmity to others labelled only by a difference of inherited tradition. And dangerous because we have all bought into a weird respect, which uniquely protects religion from normal criticism. Let’s now stop being so damned respectful!”

quotation by Nobel Prize-winning physicist Steven Weinberg: “Religion is an insult to human dignity. Without it, you’d have good people doing good things, and evil people doing evil things. But for good people to do evil things, it takes religion”.

What about “evil” people doing good things? Religion has pulled people out of the gutter countless times.

One thing this discussion has done is to make me think more deeply than I had done recently about the extent to which I am actually an atheist. I still don’t think I quite am. It just doesn’t seem to be an important enough cause to be worth espousing.

Which is not to say that Dawkins is wrong. (I think Weinberg is: completely over the top and one-sided.) Theistic religion is, in a sense, “nonsense”, and the idea of revelation is especially silly when taken literally. I think Dawkins was right to take 9/11 as a signal that we should be less respectful of religion. It indeed showed how lethally dangerous can be.

But there must be limits, and I think it’s unfair for Joern to accuse dor (and by extension myself, since I share his “gloomy expectations”), of “soft bigotry”. There must be limits to optimism as well, otherwise we all head off the cliff. I think ostentatiously drawing pictures of Mohammed is more likely to make things worse than better. I may be wrong about this, and I hope I am, but it certainly doesn’t make me a bigot.

Intentions are important, however, and the intention to pass the message that violence is futile is certainly honourable. But let’s also think not only about what message is intended, but also how it will be received, and by whom. Many Muslims who oppose violence in all its forms will be offended by this. I guess the message to them is supposed to be, “If you don’t want us to do this, then do your best to stop others committing violence in the name of Islam, and in the mean time take this as an opportunity to shed some of your superstitions.” I just hope someone will make this clear to them.

“The US is one thing, Europe is another, and I’m afraid you are out of touch with reality here.”

Sure, Joern, I haven’t been in Europe for over two decades, but this quote of yours above would appear to be in some discrepancy with your comment on the soft bigotry of low expectations expressed by Pipes. Right above you indicate Islamics in Europe are a greater threat than I think they are—and I am not exactly nature’s optimist!

@Peter Wicks and everyone..

I don’t mean to “accuse” anyone, - you certainly do not deserve that, - you all come across as decent folks and I haven’t detected any shortage of brainpower either (!), - AND I’d drink a Carlsberg or two with all of you anytime : )

I guess our disagreement, - if any, when it really comes down to it.., - boils down to differing projections about negative /positive impact of “provocative“, “confrontational” and “irresponsible” anti-Jihadist acts like, for instance, joining the Party on Draw Muhammad Day.

I may write a few more comments tomorrow, - I will then also “enlighten” you all about where I find myself on the “Militant atheist-agnostic-New Age- True Believer” axis.. , - in case any of you wondered..

The following piece by Pipes blames Islamic militants for the anti-Jones murders; however it depends on whose ox is gored: if an anti-Iraq war protester had burned an American flag in 2003 which somehow had resulted in murders, Pipes would have accused the “peaceniks” of being the instigators:

@ the Pipes article
The Pipes’ article doesn’t really shed much new light on the discussion. Hank is every bit as persuasive a writer as Pipes.
“By contrast, Barack Obama characterized the Koran burning as “an act of extreme intolerance and bigotry,” while calling the violent responses “dishonorable and deplorable.”
I strongly agree. This is true-true.
“However distasteful, Jones’s act is both legal and non-violent. He is not responsible for the 43 deaths; the repugnant, barbaric ideology of Islamism is to blame.”
I strongly agree. It was not a reaction that could not have been anticipated.
This is not an either/or topic. This is a question of who benefits (what do the Islamists gain, what does the pastor gain, what would those who would limit speech on religion gain, what does civilization gain) and whose overall strategy receives the net gain. Moreover, IF the GOP has an agenda to limit speech on religion (the US does not *yet* have anything resembling blasphemy laws), as evidenced by this article, that agenda also got furthered. This article points out the bipartisan nature of the condemnation.
The point that Pipes makes, that U.S. representatives should be placing the blame on Islamists is correct.
Did he have a right to do it? yes. Was that action wise? That gets answered by “what is the net result?” and the metric for that depends on the underlying agenda.


It is not that I feel my “confrontational” strategies require further justifications, but here are a few more thoughts and observations:

I have noticed time and again in discussions with “responsible” apologetics, that their ultimate argument is the assertion, that ordinary Muslims will be genuinely offended, - (cartoons, burning Qurans, etc.).
Now, I don’t know if this is far-fetched and could even be perceived as an insult, but for some reason the psychological mechanism of PROJECTION comes to mind. It is the mechanism by which we project our OWN fears onto others.
What I’m suggestion here, is that people of a religious bent are actually THEMSELVES “genuinely offended”, - that they subconsciously feel it is their own religiosity that is being attacked and questioned..
– Just a thought..

Apologetics fail to protect freedom of expression against the (increasing..) threat of violence from religious fundamentalists,
—WHICH IS MOST OFTEN DIRECTED AT THE DISSIDENT VOICES OF MUSLIM GAYS, WOMEN, AND APOSTATES.  This is a very important , but often overlooked fact, that Muslims are their own worst enemy, and it is THEY who suffer the most.

I tell apologetics, that it is a matter of choice who you find to be in most need of protection. My choice is clear: If any “ordinary” Muslims are “genuinely” offended, I can live with that, - I will lend my support to dissidents any time.

Furthermore, apologetics: “INFANTILIZE Muslims by assuming that they require special protections from criticism and satire”. This approach “marginalizes the voice of LIBERAL Muslims and legitimizes the voice of the fundamentalists”.

At a conference in Copenhagen, featuring Flemming Rose, - (cultural editor of newspaper “Jyllands-Posten”), -  as well as Muslim bloggers, journalists, and human rights activists, a prominent Danish anti-racism lawyer accused Rose of “having launched an attack on a vulnerable minority by commissioning the cartoons”.

The bemused Danish lawyer was then lectured by two of the above mentioned LIBERAL Muslims:

U.S.-based Egyptian blogger Mona Eltahawy spoke of “the need to defend the right to offend whether through cartoons or even burning the Quran”, -  and that “Muslims should be treated as adults not ”five year olds apt to throwing tantrums.”

Asmaa Al-Ghoul, a Palestinian blogger from Gaza, said hat “Hamas’ religious fundamentalism in Gaza shows what happens when religion is put before freedom of expression”.

Apologetics must ask themselves who - and what - exactly it is they mean to protect..

Ok, - I could go on and on about all this, but I promised to also reveal my own “faith”, so a few words about that, which I think will maybe come as a surprise..

I really don’t think we are doing ourselves and each other a favour by using terminology like “militant atheist”, as opposed to “true believers” , the problem being that it becomes very hard to see any sort of common grounds.
I am definitely an atheist in the sense that I totally reject the idea of a Deity apart from, above or beyond the natural world, but that is not to say I exclude the possibility of consciousness being inherently a part of what is. On the other hand I reject atheism in the sense that, besides there being no Deity, there is also no such thing as order, intentionality, or even purpose, - in other words the extreme /dogmatic.. atheist view that 1. The Big Bang happened for no reason 2. Life happened by chance 3. Life sucks and then you die.
This illustrates the problem with the concept of atheism. I for one consider myself an atheist / non-believer of any Deity, but reject the idea of a completely coincidental universe devoid of any meaning. I therefore feel it is possible to find common grounds, we just have to “update” / modernize the concepts of both atheism AND “believer”.

In the words of Henry Markram, director of The “Blue Brain”- project:
“The Universe may have evolved the brain to see itself, to become aware of itself“..

Just a thought..

We are, many of us, both atheists and true believers, it just depends on the topic. The idea of idolatry - false gods - is that we each make our beliefs into idols to be worshiped. The more entrenched we become in a belief, the harder it is to see an alternative view and the more militant we get in defending that belief.
Spiritually you and I are very close. I believe the bible is sacred when used for growth that promotes civilization and, when it it used to perpetuate hate and violence, it is just a book. Even if I am “just projecting”, I do not treat my bible the way a Muslim would treat the Qur’an. They are not both just Holy books - they have different meanings, and are different symbols, within their cultures.
“U.S.-based Egyptian blogger Mona Eltahawy spoke of “the need to defend the right to offend whether through cartoons or even burning the Quran”, - and that “Muslims should be treated as adults not ”five year olds apt to throwing tantrums.”
The original publishing of the cartoons was an action taken in the country to protect the rights and laws within that country. It was correct, justified and brave. It took me awhile to learn that, but it is true.
I perceive the actions in Florida as different. One is a defensive action, one is meant to be an offensive action. By responding to (or initiating) an action out of “this is the response in this situation” short circuits our thinking. It prevents us from seeing a larger picture. Jones knew when he burned the Qur’an the reaction it would provoke at home and abroad. It is Judo - using the weight of an opponent against him or herself. It is how the GOP has consistently gotten people to vote against their own self-interest.
Will the action bring about what you desire - greater free speeach and peace? Or, is it perhaps time for a new tactic?Is it perhaps time to support the right and question the motive?
I’m sorry for not being able to more clearly be able to express the distinction I’m trying to make.
Again, I agree that the original action of publishing the cartoons was right, appropriate and brave.

There’s always a code, not a Bletchley park, KGB or CIA code, but a more subtle code. The Islamics’ code is saying—in part—You have your nationalism, we have ours: pan-Arab, pan-Shiite, pan-Islamic. We will fight for what we perceive are our interests, they are more or less saying.
Americans often say America is the ‘greatest country in the world’, which is quite boastful when you think about it, it’s almost saying “there is no ‘us’ in the world, only ‘us’ versus ‘them’.” Unfortunately for the flag-wavers, every nation thinks it is the best in the world. Danes probably think their country is the ‘greatest’, don’t they, Joern? Nationalistic boasting is a code, and the code is translated “we are the greatest and the rest of you countries can just Drop Dead”; there may be more to it, but that’s about it.
Religion has a code as well: ‘religious values’ is IMO code for family values, for what are religious values without family values? what are the Vatican, the UMC, Islam, LDS, Focus On The Family, Oral Roberts University, and virtually all of it without family values? Joern, what do the Lutheran churches in Denmark and Scandinavia as a whole amount to without family values? a hill of beans?


“Americans often say America is the ‘greatest country in the world”.

Maybe so, but on the other hand “Americans” are also extremely self-critical, - just read some of the comments here ! – In our home we occasionally receive American students who spend 6 months in Denmark, and not one of them has been a “flag-waver”. Of course there are deluded ultra right-wing, nationalistic, patriotic hate-mongers, who see themselves as God’s own warriors in the battle against evil, - (I hear that 24 percent of republicans say “Obama may be the Antichrist.” ?!), - but in general I find “Americans” very reasonable, - proud in some ways, self-critical in others, and I don’t quite recognize America as a nation of flag-wavers.

The same is true about us Danes. We have our own share of proud and deluded nationalists, but thank *** they are nowhere near to being the majority. At the other end of the scale we have people who have become so ashamed of being Danish, that they will no longer even admit they are Danish when traveling abroad ! – like I’ve said: We have been divided into two groups of about equal size: the proud and the ashamed, but it is probably closer to the truth to say, that the great majority is a bit of both, so – as you Americans, I think we are quite reasonable.

As for the Arab world, I choose to believe the same “silent majority” of reasonable and democratic-minded will emerge out of the current chaos.

This being said, I think it IS sometimes US against THEM. Only an hour ago I read a great article by a Lutheran Danish priest, who addresses just that. I wish I could translate all of it, but here are some passages, basically Google-translated: ( The article is a response to a representative of the ASHAMED Danes, who points out the apparent double-standards of approving of Danish emigrants, who try to hold on to their Danish culture and identity, while demanding of Muslim immigrants that they either be assimilated, or else… ) :

When / if “Hells Angels” move into your backyard..

I live in a Jutland rural parish of 800 inhabitants. It does not sound like much, but nevertheless we have many foreign guests:

Here lives newly arrived Germans, Estonians, Poles, Zealanders, Copenhageners, Brits, Australians and Americans.

It is no problem and if a further 10 ordinary American families suddenly chose to settle here in our beautiful and exotic region, then it would probably create no trouble.

They would be well received and in general we would see it as beautiful and good that they kept so many of their home country’s traditions as possible.

But what if newcomers consisted of 10 Hells Angels bikers, who came to town with their families and they insisted in the name of tolerance to keep not only their outlandish dress and language but their peculiar Hells Angels culture with its religious cult with black angels from hell?

What if there were a couple of Hells Angels children in each year group at school and the parents demanded that their norms apply on an equal footing.

In other words: What if they insisted that the parish in the future should be two-culturally with the Hells Angels culture as one of the two cultures?

Yeah, then the rest of the population (including the other newcomers) would very quickly insist that the worshippers of hell’s angels either renounce their faith and their way of life and let themselves fully assimilate into our parish or that they immediately leave the parish and instead settle elsewhere.
Not because we are intolerant and against freedom, but among other things to preserve the parish as a place for free and tolerant people.

(To call it openness and freedom of religion to make way for a hostile culture, is to use language to lie, like the word multicultural almost always a euphemism for a two-polar society, ie. A polarized society.)

We would therefore here in the parish give supporters of Hell’s angels religion a choice. And it’s not unthinkable that we would aid their choice like we supposedly did in the town of Thyboron some years ago, when the Hells Angels chose to enrich the culture of this fishing village with its presence in the summer:

When3- 4 shiny chrome Harleys had sunk to the bottom of Thyboron port, the “culture-enrichers” chose to turn the headlights.

And I do not think it was this physical act itself, which made the difference. No, it was probably the comedy of the situation which did the trick:

To watch a fat, tattooed and leather clad biker from hell with an open mouth studying his pride while it sinks to the bottom of Thyboron port and watching the smiling fishermen. IN A SOCIETY WHERE YOU LAUGH EVERY TIME YOU SEE A “BIKER”, THEIR TERROR WILL NEVER WORK.

Are they now intolerant in Thyboron? No, there is nothing to suggest that , but they know the difference between right and wrong.

People ARE different and should be treated accordingly. There is a difference between people,  in cultures,  religions and civilizations. Some are good and some are evil. Some are about freedom, about love and equality others about power, hatred and terror.

These last mentioned should of course be kept at bay.

So in which box does this Danish Lutheran priest belong, according to you ? – Is he a “flag-waver”, or “just” someone who knows the difference between right and wrong..

My personal opinion is this: I am completely in line with the priest here, BUT ! – I have written him a comment, which goes like this: “Great article, but I would have liked you to also aim your “bullets” against your own, the self-righteous holier-than-thou. Hopefully, you do just that every Sunday morning, but it is nice to know there are people like Pat Condell, the outspoken critic of religion, who is a rhetorical genius and who spares no-one, be they Islamists, fundamentalist Christians or even Atheists. Do hear him point his finger at self-righteous Christians in this latest video:

@ Joern
I love that video! thank you for sharing it. It represents the point of view (more or less) of the emerging church paradigm within Christianity. It represents my view of Jesus.
As for the Hell’s Angel article, also a good share. It says those who come and live in our land need to abide by our laws. Our laws are designed to ensure “freedom, about love and equality” and tolerance extends only as far as that boundary. Move outside freedom and equality and it is no longer an issue of culture but one of human rights. We are “true believers” in freedom and equality. (I don’t think you can legislate love.) That is what makes New York (among other multicultural cities) the amazing place it is: you get both culture and law.
Now let’s assume the Hell’s Angels in Thyboron port are behaving within the laws there, they were not raping, pillaging, dealing drugs and whatnot. There is a sense of peaceful coexistence though they may still have parties, and still ride on motorcycles and still live for sex and rock and roll. Now, the good people of Thyboron post a you tube video of pushing a Harley into the port. What purpose does it serve? What response might it elicit?
Your point about code is very well taken. We see among the extreme Islamist and the extreme Christianist a similar commitment to one right way for values. We see among even the moderates in Christianity a holding onto something related to protecting procreation as the pinnacle of a faith doctrine. That makes the video Joern shared relevant. It starts getting off topic but would be interesting to explore in a different thread.

What Joern writes is quite valid yet why would a flag-waver necessarily want to study for six months in Denmark when he or she could study abroad in a more rightwing nation? or, say, for instance someone advocating embryonic cell experimentation probably would not want to spend six months studying at the Vatican.
BTW, deciphering of code works for virtually all intra-national issues as well as international. When Bush’s (Bush referred to himself as ‘The Decider’) administration promised that “up to 6000 border agents” would be dispatched to America’s border with Mexico the code was immediately decipherable, “up to 6000” border agents can mean anywhere from two (2) agents to 6000. Bush wasn’t really an incompetent president, though—albeit he was very slippery; as Nixon, Bush was a fairly decent person but as a politician he was a weasel weenie, a tricky-dick.
Too devious for his own good.

Come to think of it, Joern, perhaps the only thing wrong with Americans is they trumpet their exceptionalism too much. If Americans say one time too many they live in “the greatest country in the world” they are tempting fate—America can’t clobber into submission every nation opposing it; America has its hands full as it is with Afghanistan & Iraq (fortunately, Obama saw right away Europe will eventually have to take care of the Gaddhafi dilemma without the U.S.)
Do Danes continually remind the world of Danish exceptionalism? Do Danes say they are “the greatest country in the world”? if so I wont ever go to Europe again because in such a case the situation is worse than one might think.

postfuturist, - I love your way of expressing yourself:

“someone advocating embryonic cell experimentation studying at the Vatican”
- HA! - that’s a good one, but actually it just might have some positive impact.. - (choose yourself which way around..)

Bush “a weasel weenie, a tricky-dick” - Great expressions and very funny. I have no trouble understanding what kind of a person a “tricky-dick” is, but I’ll have to look up “weasel weenie”.. , - thanks for teaching me : )

Now, - although you try very hard to hold on to a rather negative view of “God’s own country”, I will insist that “America” is a lot more than some flag-waving Bible belt, and I’m sure you’ll agree with me. It is true of course, that the impression one gets depends on the people you meet, which papers you read, etc., but I should tell you also, that I have been a couple of times in the US, mostly in California, where my wife has close family, but years ago I also travelled from New York, -  (Dor’s amazing place where you get both culture and law, - and I agree), - down to Florida and then west through Texas, ending, (WHERE ELSE !), - in California, where I worked for a while for a rich American/Danish family. All in all, I feel I’m justified in saying that America is full of very reasonable people, many of whom are longing for a more egalitarian society. It is a country of extremes, yes, - but it is impossible to just hate America, you simply cannot avoid LOVING America too, - if so, - it is you who are in need of some examination.., - well, - just my opinion.. : )

Now, - “Do Danes say they are “the greatest country in the world”?

Actually Yes, - and I will even admit to being one of those Danes !! - I fail to see what is wrong with that. Take a look at the list Hank has compiled, and then ask yourself just why we should not be proud of our country ? - That is NOT to say we are in any way perfect, - it is just that I cannot think of a better place, so let’s be fair and say RELATIVELY speaking, the greatest nation, - risking here that you now think I’m worse than you thought.. : )

It is true that our climate sucks, it is true also that Denmark can be a pretty boring place, it is true our teenagers, and, come to think of it, all others too, - drink as if there was a hole in our souls, - we do stuff ourselves with pastries, - lots of people are using anti-depressives and.. I could go on and on, - but there ARE reasons why our life-satisfaction score is the highest in the world, and the sad fact is, that things are simply even more messy everywhere else.

Ok, - to finish this, - a friend from the US told me about an NYT-article, in which the happiest person on earth was found to be:

a Jewish-Asian (most educated and intelligent)
over 65
Living in Hawaii!

Ps. What an insult that is to us Danes. I demand an apology !

The best conversations I ever had were in Scandinavia whereas in America it is the usual big power financial manipulations. Materially America is a better nation to live in IMO, our agriculture is Tops (the joke is: the American farmer is outstanding in his field), yet if one lives in Denmark one has much better friendships, as America is about wealth and power- which is how it clawed its way to the pinnacle of nations; America is no magic kingdom created by God, Joern. What you might not quite comprehend is there is no such thing as the ‘American system’; Communism WAS a system but capitalism is no genuine system, it is all being made up as we go along. We talk about consuming the economic ‘pie’ however no pie exists, we are making THAT up as we go along. It may be valid to say America is the ‘best’ nation, but is this saying a whole lot? because nations treat each other like garbage, civilization does not exist in international relations. Even what we are doing to Libya is bad, unfortunately we don’t know the alternative to war against an
a**hole who calls his own people cockroaches, rats & mice and says he will show them no mercy. It looks bad on CNN and in the newspapers if we don’t make a show of bombing Gaddhafi’s forces. In other words, frankly, public relations is the same in or out of a nation, America’s great power position is called into question if we don’t play the role of Austin Powers fighting Doctor Evil. What did we do to Iraq? we merely removed Saddam so there is no returning to the status quo ante… what will happen later is anyone’s guess. In Afghanistan we spent a trillion dollars, killed many thousands so now Afghanistan is at the level of Chad. The joke was we could only bomb Afghanistan UP to the Stone Age (a fatalist jest is always humorous when it involves those other than ourselves getting squished like bugs).
IMO, America is a bad country, yet better than the rest. No need to go on about what a great Constitution America has, or its liberty. What good is it all if civilization is a fairy tale from the future rather than from the past?

Joern, your only mistake might be to think some of us don’t love America.
Actually, some of us “love” (like) America, we merely do not like the people who run it, the U.S. was designed by geniuses to be run by fools. Naturally, they have to compromise, politics is the art of the possible—but such doesn’t necessarily mean they who run the show are not fools anyway. Perhaps I complain about American rightwing libertarians too often, however they do appear to be the inverse of Communists; Communists think if we place the proles in power magically the world is transformed. While rightwing libertarians think if we radically reduce the state then somehow the stealing, lying, killing, maiming, etc., will cease. It very well may be America is so buffered from reality that is is prone to utopian illusions. During and immediately after WWII, Europe learned a lesson America has not learned since its Civil War. And you KNOW it, Joern; all Europeans know it, deep down.
How about this, Joern: if DNA calls the tune and we dance to it, if life is a Darwinian crap shoot then I accept America warts and all.

@everyone…I’m back! Took a break from my online exploits for a few days (including a lovely weekend in Berlin. Hope you missed me! 😊

@Joern…I expect to be in Copenhagen briefly in May and/or June (unfortunately not when Hank is there), so perhaps we’ll have an opportunity to indeed meet over some Calrsberg! It would be a pleasure…

Your attitude towards atheism (and by extension spirituality?) echoes strongly my own, so indeed I think we’re not very far apart, and I’m certainly willing to consider that there may be an element of projection in my tendency to empathize with “ordinary” Muslims.

As you say, to the extent that there is (still) a disagreement it concerns our respective expectations regarding the likely consequences of “confrontational”/“provocative” actions. In any case, as a good “rule utilitarian” I don’t believe in trying to analyses in detail the likely consequences of every decision we take, and I do think you have very good arguments for suggesting that the benefits of such action outweigh the costs in this case.

One comment I want to make though is to question your use of “apologetics” (I think you mean “apologists” by the way) to describe people who think provocative acts should be avoided. Some people may wish to make excuses for those committing acts of violence, but that doesn’t seem to include anyone commenting on this thread, and I don’t think we’re really trying to find excuses for those who are offended. What you do seem to be saying, though, is our willingness to empathize with such people is somehow misplaced, and we should rather empathize with the “real” victims (of violence, discrimination, curtailment of liberty). But as dor said it doesn’t have to be either/or, and a bit of empathy for the “unjustifiably but nevertheless genuinely offended”, if I can call them that, may help us to refine our message as I alluded to in my previous comment, for example by encouraging us to explain even more clearly why we decide to perform such actions.

Well, - postfuturist, - I’d say we are having a great conversation here too, and maybe I am naive or don’t have the guts - or balls.. - to face this “Darwinian crap shoot”, but it is my hope that these transhumanistic pursuits of ours are NOT an expression /extention of it.. - To me it is what transhumanism is all about: Taking control of our destiny, i.e. “dancing” gracefully no matter what the tune, thus reshaping /fine"tuning"DNA, which in turn will call some higher order tune, which.. - I guess that’s my kind of “hopium”, and one reason why I am quite optimistic on behalf of mankind.

I will not argue with you about “fools in charge”, but I still think you are TOO critical. I agree with you about Utopists left and right, but, repeating myself, there are many reasonable folks in between, and actually I don’t care too much about this nation or that nation, - I have met great INDIVIDUALS in each and every nation I have visited, quite a few of them Americans, at home or abroad, and now I am “meeting” many more through IEET : )

Life doesn’t suck, and you are being TOO critical of “your own”. There is absolutely NO comparison to what Afghanistan was before. There are loads of challenges to be sure, but millions have returned home, hundreds of thousands were killed during more than a decade of civil war and there are now a number of positive developments we don’t hear enough about.

The same in Iraq, - US did not “merely” remove Saddam, - he butchered and gassed as many as a million of his own people, and despite sectarian violence, there is a degree of democracy.

Libya: It’ a mess alright, but preventing a massacre in Benghazi was the right thing I’d say, very much unlike the former Yugoslavia massacres, with Dutch UN-soldiers playing the role of passive spectators.

The US deserves FAR more credit than it gets, and less blame too.. - That is not to say it can do without a change of mentality, but let us be fair at least..

@Peter Wicks

Yep, - we DID miss you, - Welcome back #;-)

I’ll have to check the difference between apologist and apologetic, - if any. We use the same word - apologetic -in Danish, - these days frequently used as a criticism of political leftists and their unholy alliance with Islam(ists).

I’ll be very pleased to buy you a Carlsberg or two in Copenhagen ! - Send me a mail when you know what time you’ll be here:

transhumanisten (at) live (dot) com

“but it is my hope that these transhumanistic pursuits of ours are NOT an expression /extention of it.”

If anyone thought so they wouldn’t want to blog very often at IEET, would they? at least there is no argument against pure science. And people fear death so much, h+ is probably our only hope; as you know, the simple yet valid equation is fear of death= violence.
However I disagree with you on criticizing America- no matter how he was criticized, George Bush was not criticized enough; he received a pass because his dad was Reagan’s vice president. But please understand my beef isn’t with America, it is with the GOP and the Tea Party, mostly, and some rightwing libertarians. Not all rightwing libertarians, as most of them appear to be far more sincere than the GOP and the Tea Party. It is better to be honest and say I despise the GOP-Tea Party than to be a trimmer because in this case I detest the GOP and there is no way around it. Naturally gratitude is important albeit one has to negotiate the currents between the Scylla of warranted acceptance, and the Charybdis of uncritically allowing the wool to be pulled over one’s eyes, as the GOP is doing to so many decent conservatives. Since Watergate it has been very difficult to trust the GOP; what Reagan did was to accelerate the endgame of the Cold War—but it was the only lasting achievement of Reaganism; and after what has occurred since ‘89, I sense my debt of gratitude has been paid to the GOP (for helping to finish up the Cold War before America went bankrupt in addition to the GOP), it has become tantamount to ancient history. Besides it was those in Eastern Europe who are as much to thank. Today the GOP-Tea Party is a heavy weight dragging us down into the currents, so I have to fight them—they wont like anyone anymore if we knuckle under to them; and if they have to hold others in check, so too is the reverse. I will be all over the GOP/Tea Party sc*mbags like a bad suit because, Joern, it was they who declared economic war on November 2nd of last year. Here is where the code comes in: the GOP Tea Party are saying,
“we will do what we want; if you let down your guard we will have at you. This is our country”.
Unfortunately they are correct about the last clause, it IS their country, nothing you can write can disprove such. The squeaky wheel gets the grease and the GOP is a rusted old squeaky wheel only good for nostalgia’s sake. You can deconstruct what I write all you want,
I don’t care what people think anymore, one has to do what one’s conscience tells one to do and if it doesn’t work out, it doesn’t work out and that’s that. Attempting to be everything to everybody in America is the very quickest way to completely fail. One can’t be an invertebrate and say
“um…but then again who are we to disagree, that is, please don’t take offense; I uh ..don’t want to to get hurted the poor wittle bittle wealthy GOP’s feewings, sob sob”
What does “nice” mean if there is no sincerity to back it up? Now, Joern, of course you don’t advocate for anyone be uncritical, but at the same time you are not an American and being in California or wherever you were for a relatively short time was not enough to know the U.S. well.
On the other hand, I did overestimate Denmark by going by what I was told in the ‘70s, and saw & heard there in 1989. I do not really KNOW Denmark, however I know America and one has to walk a tightrope here, America is a big power. One doesn’t want to be cynical yet one also does not want to be a chump, a sucker manipulated by all and sundry. The ‘60s- ‘70s had a positive legacy, unfortunately many became giddy with the possibilities, perhaps influenced too much by the ‘age of Aquarius’, the let it all hang out mentality. But you let it all hang out too much and it will be chopped off. You don’t need to be told how even in Denmark you have to be careful; even in the Vatican; even in Monaco, or Switzerland—everwhere. So if you move to America you might be wise in multiplying justified caution by a certain percentage; it is a matter of trust—what on Earth can you do without trust?

There’s a great deal to cover concerning what the situation in America is. Joern, you say I’m too critical of America, yet very few of us can be all things to all people; perhaps sovereign individuals can—for instance Bill Gates, Soros, etc.—attempt to please everyone. Tell us, though, how can all the factions of such a titanic, overheated nation such as America be placated by the rest of us? what happens in real life is people tell little lies all the time to help smooth things over. A bit.
It may be I am projecting an American way of perceiving things on Denmark, however aren’t you seeing America via your lights illuminated from Denmark? what turned me off was ‘glimmers’. It was said over & over “there are glimmers of hope”, which is true enough. Sadly, that is all they have been, glimmers. We can’t live the life of the second half of the 21st century now, any more than we can live today’s life with tomorrow’s technologies. There have been too many absent-minded intellectuals, but luckily today’s breed appears to be learning from the misapprehensions of the past; the negative side is that too many outmoded memes have been propagated and are still in circulation, everyone at IEET knows it of course, albeit they may not know of the sheer ‘mass’ of those outdated memes.
It is no exaggeration to write at this time of how so many are smothered in those bad memes. I find it revolting how the GOP continually, gloatingly, dumps those bad memes on susceptible Americans all the time. Sure, it may be similar in Denmark, yet surely it isn’t done so brazenly. Or the take the level of crime in America, violent crime: if Denmark was as violent as America it would be unbearable; but in America we can throw money at every violent ‘problem’ (or at least such has been the case until now). Everyone wins save for the taxpayer. The courts, cops, even the criminals win because eventually they are eligible for programs private sector and public- usually public; so everyone win but the taxpayer. You have to take these things into account, you can’t say it will all work out because academics say so. It’s real problems not always solvable by the sophistry of those safe on the outside looking in.

“however aren’t you seeing America via your lights illuminated from Denmark”?

Yes, you are right, I was just going to say that you have to bear this in mind, and when I say that America isn’t given the credit it deserves while receiving too much criticism, I guess I’m talking from a European perspective. Europeans would have voted overwhelmingly for Obama, and Tea Partiers are the laughing stock of most. Believe me, I’ve heard so much Bush-bashing, that I very nearly developed an allergy, even if I agreed with most. I’m sure I’d feel different if I was in Bible-belt-land for even a short period of time. - So, again, I don’t think we really disagree, - as you say, it is very much a matter of perspectives.

Still, - what happened to the “Yes, we CAN”-enthusiasm ? - You do appear to be very pessimistic about the future, and I still can’t figure out exactly why.. - no matter how much I “deconstruct” your words..

@Joern…thanks, I will!

@postfuturist…I’m inclined to share Joern’s curiosity regarding your pessimism about the future. My guess is that it stems from anger, but this can easily turn into defeatism. What would really interest me is to learn where you find reason, if any, to be hopeful (not least about the US).

“Still, - what happened to the ‘Yes, we CAN’-enthusiasm ? - You do appear to be very pessimistic about the future”

Not pessimistic in the material sense, or why blog here? but what living will be like in the future we do not know. Actually I’m more enthusiatic today (communicating with northern Europeans is invigorating) and will return to futurism.
Now, since you spent awhile in California (months?), speak English, and have American friends, you know more about America than I know about Denmark, however you may not know what the GOP is really like… doesn’t matter how kind we are to them, they don’t care, so there is no purpose in trying not to hurt their feelings.
What is done is done, of real concern is who the GOP is going to run for president in 2016. Obama will probably win next year which is a like a stay of execution. What concerns me is: things will slowly improve, so just when the situation is looking up—say in 2016—will another time-waster be elected? Republicans are spoilers, they are largest “conservative” (old-fashioned) party in the world, their task appears to be a levelling one, to bring everyone down to the same misery loves company level.

“My guess is that it stems from anger, but this can easily turn into defeatism. What would really interest me is to learn where you find reason, if any, to be hopeful (not least about the US).”

Am only irritated at the last decade being wasted, and the GOP House being elected in November, that’s all. If things have to change by unceasing maneuvering, then I accept it—but do not have to ENJOY it. It’s not people making mistakes, it’s making the same mistakes over & again is what is disheartening. To err is human, to err the same way again and again is asinine.


@post-postfuturist..I love the change of name! 😊
And I share your sense of irritation: one of my current bugbears is the craze for “austerity”: after an orgy of debt (pre-2008) we now have an orgy of austerity, when what we should be doing is setting inflation targets of around 5% and letting Western countries devalue. That would give the Chinese something to think about it…and more importantly get people (and banks, pension funds etc) spending money again.

If we were to scroll back to review all the comments on this topic, not one poster wrote Denmark is ‘better’ than America. In Denmark circa ‘89, though, not one person tried to peddle bad religion and politics, whereas RIGHT AFTER commenting on this thread yesterday a Catholic here in the Midwest sidled over to argue that an abortifacient is ethically the same as partial birth abortion; how it doesn’t matter if one is poor because in God’s eyes we are all equal, to cap it off how we need a flat tax. So I posted a mild challenge on the ‘Stormfront’ (a white separatist org, headquartered in West Virginia), because the best defense is the mild offense—took me fifty years to realize it.

...we might be able to win white separatists (not supremacists) over to h+, as you know some of them are already interested. At least we’d have some common ground with them, what with their interest in that which is Nordic. We can tell them someday they can have their own transhumanist ‘Aryan’ communities on Mars or wherever. Good thing about extremists is, they are (to write it diplomatically) willing to think outside the box.
You can’t reason with hardline Communists, they only care about workers, as if technicians aren’t as important as proles. But h+ needs all the ‘friends’ we can win for it; and all the funds we can grab onto. “Nothing is free: not gas, grass, or ass” 😊

In the interview I mention Bjorn Lomborg, director of Home Page.aspx

Lomborg, who has won a number of prizes and was named “Young Global Leader” (2005) by the World Economic Forum is highly controversial, but whether or not one is with him or against him in the climate-debate, you’ve got to give him this: He is a true TECHNO-PROGRESSIVE.

One of his main arguments is that environmental challenges must me met with Research and Technological developments rather than “just” reducing CO2-emissions etc. - There is, says Lomborg, too much focus on rising sea-levels and not enough focus on technological solutions.

Now, - it is not my intention to start a discussion here, - I just thought Lomborg, who is an atheist (I think) and a homosexual, could serve as a representative of the Consensus-seeking Danish technoprogressives.
I am well aware that this is risky business, since a lot of people hate Lomborg and even find him “dangerous” in terms of the future of mankind, but then I kind of like being slightly provocative.. : )

Watch Lomborg on Letterman’s Late Show, apr. 12 - 2011 :

I know what most of the people I work with would say about this idea 😊

Personally I think he makes some good points, but indeed I think he’s a bit too much of a hate-figure to usefully play that role. At least he would need to make some effort to build bridges with the environmental community, otherwise we risk reinforcing the current widespread perception that technology is fundamentally incompatible with preserving what we love about our “natural” (i.e. pre-industrial) environment.

Naturally, what makes someone appreciate a country such as Denmark might be thoroughly subjective; I liked Denmark because, for instance in 1989 one could leave a suitcase at a train station while visiting a locale and be virtually certain it would be there on return to the station. And so forth—the Scandinavian region appeared to be relatively peaceful then. While a white separatist/ supremacist might appreciate the Nordic-ness of Scandinavia.
BTW, if it were possible to communicate with Communists, I would; however at this time it is easier to talk to white separatists (who now often call themselves ‘white nationalists’). At any rate, IMO even though such fringes are only one-percenters we need all the ‘friends’ (allies) we can get; and often fringes are open to the unusual, perhaps because one definition of an open mind is where the brain has not yet fallen out entirely 😊

We here at IEET do not discriminate on the basis of one’s race, creed, national origin, gender-orientation, or the fact that one is a totalist who secretly wants to put people in concentration camps and hit them with coshes!

@postfuturist..“if it were possible to communicate with Communists, I would.” how are you defining “Communist” here, and what makes you think it’s impossible to communicate with them?

That is to say, Peter, hardline Communists who are serious (violent) about doing revolution.
Communists I talked to were all nonresponsive; however the following is from a crudely eloquent white nationalist; please understand I’m not shilling for them, they think my heredity is shabby (“mutt” is the most common description):

“Society ultimately exists because of mutual human weakness and mutual survivalistic objectives. Transhumanism aims to improve to human through scientific means, that is to say, improve their survivalistic capabilities.
Many transhumanists have an ironically humanistic element to their grand view in that they believe that by vastly improving human survivalistic capabilities, they will somehow be more capable of functioning positively within society. However, there is a very real possibility that the opposite could happen.
By removing human weakness, and thus making them far more self sufficient, self reliant and self contained, they would have little or any reason to participate in society at all for reasons other than amusement, which they could probably find greater amounts of by themselves or through other means.
Afterall, why cooperate with people you dont like, live under rules you dont like, in conditions you dont like and suffer the often negative effects of compromise, when you could have a far superior quality of life living independently as an unstoppable survivalisitic force? In the quest to remove human weakness from the equation, one could quite easily imagine something of an ‘emotional dimmer switch’ which will allow someone to tone down or switch off problematic elements such as empathy, sympathy, loyality, fear etc so that one can maximise their survivalistic effectiveness.
In such hypothetical situation it is not impossible to imagine that a literal superbeing, instead of being a more productive member of a society, would instead view society and lesser humanity much in the same way modern humans often view insects within their home - as unwanted pests to be removed or mercilessly exterminated.
I personally like transumanism and the persuit of perfection in general, afterall, survival is the name of the game, however, I think the utopian transhumanists, like most utopianists more often than not set themselves up for a very big and ironic fall, destroying one objective through the successful completion of another.
I suppose the utopian transhumanists at least make a clever error in that they identify the root of the ‘problem’(human nature) and seek to fix the problem at the source, whereas social determinismist attempts to create utopia are just extremely flawed to the point of being dangerous (as evidenced by numerous welfare states).
White Nationalism however, is not social deterministic, and is not aiming to create utopia, though some individual white nationalists may be trying to do this. White Nationalism is just tribalism. The reason the majority of political entities the world over have been based in the territorial claims certain genepools have to them, is because unlike civic national models, which require a strong central belief system which all members must adhere to, ethnic nationalism/tribalism, is hard to ignore, and is deeply rooted in human nature, and thus making it a very sturdy building block for any society.
Afterall, how many things in life generate the kind of unconditional love found so commonly as that amongst families? Few.
Will it last forever? probably not, in many ways humans come together so that they can one day break apart as they become individually more survivalistically adept, however in the short term, in the here and now, this works, and works very well, and is a far safer, more logical and more practical alternative to the insanity that is global citizenship based egalitarianism, social determinist monoculturalism and humanist internationalism.”

Something not making sense is the accusation that Danes are rude; how are they ruder than others? At any rate—as a change of subject—the following is what few people outside Scandinavia know:
“Denmark was the only occupied country that actively resisted the Nazi regime’s attempts to deport its Jewish citizens. On September 28, 1943, Georg Ferdinand Duckwitz, a German diplomat, secretly informed the Danish resistance that the Nazis were planning to deport the Danish Jews. The Danes responded quickly, organizing a nationwide effort to smuggle the Jews by sea to neutral Sweden. Warned of the German plans, Jews began to leave Copenhagen, where most of the almost 8,000 Jews in Denmark lived, and other cities, by train, car, and on foot. With the help of the Danish people, they found hiding places in homes, hospitals, and churches. Within a two-week period fishermen helped ferry some 7,200 Danish Jews and 680 non-Jewish family members to safety across the narrow body of water separating Denmark from Sweden.
The Danish rescue effort was unique because it was nationwide.”

“Something not making sense is the accusation that Danes are rude; how are they ruder than others”?

“Rude” understood as informal, unconventional, anti-authoritarian, and in this sense not at all an accusation, but rather a compliment.
Not so if you ask anyone feeling insulted or hurt by our “rudeness”, which is then seen as blasphemous, Islamophobic and even racist.

“Rude” depending on who you ask then. In “The Emperor’s new clothes”, the “rude” boy who points out that the Emperor “has got nothing on"is either a folk hero or a threat to the social hierarchy.

“Rudeness” then, is a very important element in securing “happiness, freedom, equality”.

Thanks for mentioning the rescue of Jews in WW2. How “rude” of us to disobey the Germans..

Ps. I see that Hank is being accused of authoritarianism and what is worse after publishing his “Ban Baby-making” article. I find this to be extremely unfair and I would have loved to comment on that and defend his views, but I’ll be offline a couple of days.

@ Postfuturist..

In your previous post, (which I missed first time round - thanks for highlighting it), I am curious..? How far do you agree with those comments? Especially with the views expressed in the last paragraph?

And if you do agree with the last paragraph, why do you feel it not possible that globalisation may extend to promote and create Universal humanitarian values, rights and citizenship?

Note, this is not a trick question, I really want to know?

“In your previous post, (which I missed first time round - thanks for highlighting it), I am curious..? How far do you agree with those comments? Especially with the views expressed in the last paragraph?”

If you’re referring to the ‘white nationalist’ (actually white separatist) quote from someone whose handle is “Max Victory”,
I didn’t write any of it nor agree with any of it; posted it to demonstrate what WNs are thinking and that some of them are vaguely aware of transhumanism probably because they are intrigued by the possibility of designer white babies or something related.

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