Do not scroll to the bottom of this post if you are offended by sexualized religious imagery.
|Via Fox News|
A friend posted an image on his Google+ account. It is a provocative image, currently making the viral rounds, of an artwork that took a religious symbol and transformed it into a realistic portrayal of human genitalia.
Immediately, and predictably, there were complaints from his circles. Here are some excerpts from one unhappy G+er in particular — a person from a country, language and culture very different from mine (as I was soon to find out):
Some other people in the thread, myself included, talked about the need for free speech in art, and how a provocative work can inspire new thoughts and conversations about old ideas. Plus, the link between ancient fertility symbols and later religious imagery is an old and learned idea.
"What is the intention of this? Bring attention? Pretend to be artistry? Some symbols should be respected, believing or not... Some world symbols should be treated with great care."
He kept going:
"Why do something that will offend a lot of people? When we put down and idea or principle we should put other in its place. Not all are evolved, not all like this kind of thing.He claimed not to be religious, but went on to explain why religion needed special protection from criticism:
But believe or not, this symbol is the comfort of millions of people. In the serious and desperate moments of our life we can pray for [...] help. And it works with millions! So, this is a matter of ethics too. Respect others first. What kind of conclusion do you think that who made this want to provoke on the viewer? There are thousands of other ways to bring attention much better and safer [bolding mine] than this one."
"The need of God do not originate from supernatural sources but from our inner, our fragility in life. The human race have not been so much desperate as now. Drugs, pornography, lack of values, egotism. All this are a "testimony" of our superiority... Com on give a look at a newspaper and see TV news for just a few minutes and think."
"There is no reason to put down religious symbols. No matter if we believe or not, they help millions!"
"You are really offending millions that believe on this. Put this on your house wall but you have not the right of publish this. You are offending! [...another insistence he is not religious...] You should remove this."
"One wrong thing do not justify the other. We can not compare all the wrong things in the world because we would be here forever. ---- The fact is that this image offend a lot of people. ----- This is a public place and it exist for sharing. It gives no one the right to offend others. Every one have the right of keep his concepts PRIVATELY."Most of the original thread had dropped out at this point, including the original poster. I gave another explanation of what I saw as the artist's message, and gave a link to similar portrayals throughout history, with the philosophical question of who gets to decide what is "sacred".
He started to get internet angry:
"What you consider sacred or not do not concern here as long as you keep it private. This is a public place! YOU want to impose an image on a public place. YOU are defending something that you knows is wrong. This is no place for it."I tried to end the conflict peacefully but firmly, concluding, "I don't know you, but I do know I that I'm glad you are not in charge of censoring art and speech where I live."
That's when he threatened me:
"Yes you do not know me. I am not a censor and yes, you are lucky I am not where you live. You are the aggressive person here not me. I am just defending a symbol so caring by millions. Defending from an idiont tentative of make ridiculous one of the best examples of a decent human being. If you have or not faith I do not give a shit. But this image DO HARMS."
I should point out, again, that all of my comments were simply academic and artistic rationales for why the artwork was useful to public discourse about religion and philosophy. The only reason I have not quoted myself in full is because my descriptions of the artwork would spoil the reveal. And you're dying to know what the image was, aren't you?
Be forewarned that this image can and will offend the pious. I chose not to share it openly on my professional and family social networks because it is polarizing, and without proper explanation it could make me seem as if I were either prejudiced against a certain religious group, or simply a great big pervert.
Still want to see it? Oh, come on... you know where this is going by now.
The extremist was a young, male Latin American commercial photographer from Rio de Janeiro. His latest post is a quote from Oscar Wilde, "Art is the most intense mode of individualism that the world has known."
Was I trolled? If so, I congratulate him. But if not, I think we have a good example here about how the passions of religious belief can easily be provoked into more violent feelings — regardless of country or culture.