Voltaire’s Voltage

An abundance of disturbing events bear out the fact that radical Christianity, like radical Islam, is quite capable of violence, and contrary to what Rush Limbaugh and Ann Coulter would have us believe, the examples are numerous – Alex Henderson

Hans Kung, the theological professor the Vatican refused to allow to teach, once asked the question if people are for or against France. He was merely introducing the element of nuance into perspectives, underlining that yes or no answers often do not suffice.  On some matters I am certainly for France. It gave us such sacrilegious gems as Voltaire and is a country that we have come to regard as being at the forefront of ensuring religion does not intrude on the lives of its citizens. Its vibrant secular tradition has long protected its citizens from religious encroachment. 

Even in terms of Irish history French culture is something to be envied. When French troops landed in the 18th Century as part of a bid to help oust the British they were disdainful of the Irish fondness for priests and their pope. Their view was that the Irish needed liberated from more than just the British.

It was French leftwing magazine Charlie Hebdo, with its huge circulation, that challenged Islamic intolerance through its decision to publish the Danish cartoons that so enraged the Imans in 2006 when other media outlets were vying with each other to lift the Cowardice Cup. The enraged clerics, driven by censorious zeal, took the magazine to court accusing it of racism for having made ‘public insults against a group of people because they belong to a religion.’ Charlie Hebdo, probably to the chagrin of those fellow leftists, who shamefully sold the pass on the matter, won the case.

Now the Piss Christ incident in Avignon has exposed a few cracks in the edifice of secularism in France while reinforcing suspicion that the recent burka ban was specifically against the intrusion of Islam rather than religion per se.

The religious thugs that destroyed the Piss Christ work of Serrano belonged to Civitas, a group that states its objective is to re-Christianize France. This dovetails neatly with the resentments toward the country’s strong secular tradition shown by the right wing archbishop of Vaucluse, Jean-Pierre Cattenoz. He, in the style of fellow Christian bigot Jesse Helms, claimed Piss Christ was "odious trash’ and demanded that it be removed from the gallery walls. None of his business what people care to look at even if it is upsetting to his own brand of superstition. No one was dragging him by the scruff of his odious neck and forcing him to tour the gallery.

All of this has helped fuel the Christian sponsored "extremist harassment" which prompted the owner of the gallery, Yvon Lambert, to talk of ‘a return to the middle ages.’ Gallery director Eric Mézil took the view that the attack was a modern form of the "inquisition" against the art work.

It is in the political timing of the controversy that adds an ominous aspect to it.   Serrano’s photograph had previously featured in the country several times, provoking little ire. Gallery director Eric Mezil claimed that what ignited the protests were comments from French President Nicolas Sarkozy in support of France’s Christian heritage.  Referring to a demo the day before the Psalm Sunday attack where 1000 Christian protestors took to the streets, Mezil said: ‘clearly we saw in Saturday's demonstration that a Catholic fringe wanted to take the president at his word, with extremely violent appeals.’  Sarkozy is suspected in some circles of having encouraged Christian populism as an electoral ploy aimed at tapping into the country’s growing anti-Muslim sentiment.

Equally portentous was the vacillation of the French culture minister, Frédéric Mitterrand. Initially he appeared to take a progressive line when he condemned the attack as an act of vandalism against creative freedom and expression.  Later however, he hobbled the forcefulness of his own critique by adding that art work could shock audiences.

And what? In their separate ways and days Galileo shocked as did Teilhard de Chardin via their own creativity, driving the dictators of Catholicism into paroxysms of rage.

Promoting one religion over another instead of forcing it all back into its caverns is hardly the way to tackle the phenomenon. France, hopefully, will strive to maintain the porous vibrancy of its healthy secular tradition and not allow religious zeal of whatever hue to suffocate it.

Religion will always be shocked by reason. Time to increase the voltage.


  1. Interesting article Anthony,

    Shame to think that the French secular traidition is under threat. The rise of Christian and Muslim extreamism is a very serious issue and there are too many politicans and media outlets in Europe and America who are willing to exploit these deluded fanatics.


  2. The rise of Islam in western europe is far more dangerous than a tiny Christian fringe element. By 2050 if current immigration and birthrates stay the same Muslims in France will be the majority. What after that-maybe women being forced to wear burqas on the Champs Elysees? Multiculturalism is a disaster and must be stopped now. Stop the uncontrolled immigration.
    It's a lesson Ireland should learn as well. Don't let your country be overrun by the multicultural agenda.

  3. Rory,

    it would be a sad day if secularism went under to the benefit of the loons.


    is it any worse than the rise of the Christian right in the US? Imagine Bachmann as president. The kids could be taught Earth is 6000 years old and that humans and dinosaurs roamed the planet together.

    I don't think the Maths work out for your demographic predictions in France. The Muslims I imagine would need to be much bigger than the 5 million they currently are.

    Multiculturalism is a fact of life. It is less the problem than cultural relativism where some cultures are allowed to subvert universal rights.

  4. AM,
    I read it in the London Telegraph which may very well mean its a load of bull. But there it is below so take it for what its worth. I would agree with Merkel, Sarkozy and Cameron in saying that multiculturalism has been a failure.

    "France is facing the problem that dare not speak its name. Though French law prohibits the census from any reference to ethnic background or religion, many demographers estimate that as much as 20-30 per cent of the population under 25 is now Muslim. The streets, the traditional haunt of younger people, now belong to Muslim youths. In France, the phrase "les jeunes" is a politically correct way of referring to young Muslims.
    Given current birth rates, it is not impossible that in 25 years France will have a Muslim majority. The consequences are dynamic: is it possible that secular France might become an Islamic state?

  5. Ryan,

    In today’s world multiculturalism is with us. I think multiculturalism is better than monoculturalism. The problem is in cultural relativism, whereby aspects of a particular culture which violate people’s rights within that culture is justified or tolerated on the grounds of that culture being specific and allowances being made for it. Everybody should be allowed to pursue their own culture but those cultures must be embedded in universal human rights.

    I read that extract you provided from the DT and I am of the view that it is trying to create alarm.

    The alternative to multiculturalism is the widespread suppression of alternative cultures.

  6. Anthony while in them thar hills whilst contemplating a mystery like how come your belly button is always filled, with grey fluff and as we all know your belly button is designed for retaining salt as you eat your chips in bed,well a cara after a few bottles of good alter wine I had a vision and its here my tale becomes in line with this post, didnt I see yer man Jesus walking about with a strainer on his head,does that make me some kind of visionary a cara and more importantly can I make some dosh outa it,?

  7. Marty,

    but did he take a piss?

  8. Anthony a cara he might have, one thing for sure we were pissed,I asked him to turn the lake into 85% proof but he told me to f##k of.might have had his strainer on back to front.

  9. Marty,

    he wouldn't have walked on the water of that lake

  10. Ok - this is my first contribution to your blog. Dinosaurs and Men still roam the planet together - look at the House of Commons and House of Lords - maybe this isn't a good analogy on your site :/

  11. Rob,

    that trumps all other arguments! No real case to be made against that now.

  12. Rob Miller dont know if you,ve ever seen a 12th July parade here a cara plenty of dinosaurs and dipsticks there,with the exception of our Robert he is the exception rather than the rule,he is the orange opposite of our John Mc Girr both so articulate,yet so wrong!

  13. @Marty - I am a Portadown native, so I am aware of these musical marching dinosaurs, obviously I have a tangerine coloured view at worst/best that this didn't come to mind first :D.

    You'll have to enlighten me on John McGirr and Robert?

  14. Rob Miller a cara this will earn me" brownie "points with Anthony,you can follow the musings of these two gentlem here on the TPQ as a matter of fact there are quite a lot of really interesting and often diverse opinions expressed here Michaelhenry aka Mickeyboy is a gegg and our resident psf cheerleader ,he doesnt half shovel some shit but he chucks a fair bit to a cara,the craic is 90 and the level of debates are excellent and educational,and for sure you.ll not die of boredom in this circus,

  15. Marty,

    "Rob Miller dont know if you,ve ever seen a 12th July parade here a cara plenty of dinosaurs and dipsticks there,with the exception of our Robert he is the exception rather than the rule,he is the orange opposite of our John Mc Girr both so articulate,yet so wrong!"

    Thanks for the endorsement! If I err I'm in good company in regards to Voltaire. "One hundred years from my day there will not be a Bible in the earth except one that is looked upon by an antiquarian curiosity seeker." Within fifty years of that pronouncement Voltaire's house was owned by the Geneva Bible Society and his very printing press was churning out the Bible. Per chance in a century from now your house may be occupied by the dinosaurs of the Orange Order and your stereo may be blasting out the Sash. On that note Marty I'm off back to Jurassic Park.

  16. Robert not a chance of this house falling into the hands of the lol. the thing will probably fall to bits before me my friend,and I reckon I,m on my last legs,but safe journey back to the past mo cara, I was standing at the bar the other night and this wee Chinese guy was standing at the side of me,so I asked him "do you know martial arts like Kung Fu and Ju-jitsu ?" he replied "why the f##k you ask me that is it because I,m Chinese ?" I said"no its because your drinking my f##kin pint "..just heard on the radio that Gadaffi may have slipped into Jordan...has that woman no shame...rioting has now broken out in Dublin the gaurds were called to Argos where they caught 50 looters,they were all waiting at collection point B....on hearing the news that water cannons are now available,,rioting has now broken out in Ethiopia..Manchesters gay village was on fire during the riots,police and firemen were at the scene along with a cowboy,a construction worker and a red Indian,..dont know whats more disturbing..my mum saying that my sister is a lesbain or my dad winking at me and saying trust me son she isnt!.....thats the last time that kid will eat my porridge or sleep in my bed said the polar bear...Josef Fritzl has spoken out in anger at the recent riots,blaming the cause on irresponsible parenting he said "youd never see my kids out on the street like that"