August 02, 2007

The Improved Man will be a king over you (and give women their dowries as appointed)

Cultivating KnowledgePharyngula: Desecration: it's a fun hobby! discusses how to best desecrate a Quran in the privacy of one's own home as a form of protest against irrational hate crime laws.

However, destroying books is IMHO deeply wrong. And traditional modes of desecration have too much of the stink of intentionally making somebody who likes a particular symbol feel bad. So what about a more constructive form of desecration, to play with the information itself? I think indeed "overwrought sanctimony must be met with disrespectful insolence". One might respect something and yet play with it. It is when play and respect become mutually impossible one has lost one's humanity. And this is especially true for textual literalists.

I hacked together a small Markov chain program that constructs a new medley text out of another, based on its statistics. Then I fed it the first chapters of the Quran, Genesis (to annoy Christians and Jews), OT III (to annoy Scientologists) and finally Ingersoll's The Improved Man (to give atheists and agnostics like myself a boot too - I like his writings). That is insolence to about 5 religions at the same time.

The text is as bisarre and silly as you can expect, with occasional good parts:

"The Improved Man will be a king over you. And give women their dowries as appointed;"

"And Judah took a garment, and laid by her vail from her, and give it (their own) interpretation. But none knows its interpretation except Allah, and who fought and were slain, I will speak: peradventure there shall thirty be found on all thetans."

"And God said, Let there be postponement until (he is in) ease; and that you lay down your arms, and take witnesses from among the good things which Allah has enjoined you with unbelief and for the bombing, transport to Teegeeack (Earth) and put me into the ark, and it is that of which he hath to my father's house: Then shalt thou go, and I was a cunning hunter, a man as I love, and bring you as a Protector."

"For their riches were more than Leah, and the Atlantic area ones to Las Palmas and there is no blame on you and you should enter the garden of palms and vines with streams flowing beneath it; he has in it all kinds of fruits; and give full measure and weight and do not find a way for them. These are the inmates of the worlds."

Of course, the most constructive insult possible to fundamentalism is textual analysis, putting the text into its historical framework just like has already been done with the Bible. Hmm, it might actually be fun writing some software to do automatic text analysis of various holy scriptures, figuring out where they are imitating each other. But that is for another evening.

[ 3 Aug 2007: Just noticed that Similar Diversity has already done a lovely visualisation of the similarities between major religious texts. ]

[ The Python program I used is here. It is a very simple and inflexible dissociator, that doesn't scale well. It really should be hashtable-based. ]

[ Just remembered a Nobody Scores! cartoon that may have inspired this. We'll see if I keep my head. ]

Posted by Anders3 at August 2, 2007 02:30 AM