About Rationally Speaking

Rationally Speaking is a blog maintained by Prof. Massimo Pigliucci, a philosopher at the City University of New York. The blog reflects the Enlightenment figure Marquis de Condorcet's idea of what a public intellectual (yes, we know, that's such a bad word) ought to be: someone who devotes himself to "the tracking down of prejudices in the hiding places where priests, the schools, the government, and all long-established institutions had gathered and protected them." You're welcome. Please notice that the contents of this blog can be reprinted under the standard Creative Commons license.

Friday, October 21, 2005

Soccer, to be played the Islamic way

I am a soccer fan, as is consistent with my Italian heritage. I haven't figured out whether this is a matter of nature or nurture, or more likely a complex interaction between the two, but it's a fact. Now I have to be careful if I ever decide to play again (and, indeed, a little bit even if I'm simply watching a game), because of a fatwa issued about the "godly" way to play soccer.

It turns out, according to the Saudi newspaper Al Watan, that God is particularly concerned with the way players dress, act, and especially follow rules issued by the "evil" Jews and Christians, especially Americans (apparently God doesn't realize that the game barely makes it to the TV screens in the US, and that it was invented in its modern form in England, building on an earlier version played in Renaissance Florence).

Here are some of the new rules concerning soccer to be found in the fatwa (which is technically a "legal opinion" that can be issued by any Islamic scholar, with the predictable result that fatwas often blatantly contradict each other -- again something that God doesn't seem to notice):

* Players can't wear t-shirts and shorts, because those ain't Muslim clothing. Too bad, since I'm told by several female friends that it is a pleasure to see 22 men in underwear, usually characterized by nice legs and firm butts. Oh well, easy come easy go.

* The real reason (shall we say the "goal"?) of playing soccer is to prepare your body for the struggle of jihad. Forget the World's Cup (which, incidentally, is going to be played in Germany in June '06, and Italy made it to the final round!).

* Direct quote (from an English translation of New York Times' writer Goeff Porter): "Do not play in two halves. Rather play in one half or three halves." What is this, Car Talk? (For the non-US readers: Car Talk is a wonderfully delightful weekly show on American Public Radio. It features two brothers who talk about car repair, but is in fact an excuse to have fun and run a commentary on American society. One of the brothers' signature comments, around the half-time of the broadcast, is "we'll be back for the third half of the show," clearly a violation of the rules of math and logic...)

* Finally, players should spit in the face of those ungodly companions (or opponents) who, upon having scored a goal, run to the border of the field to be hugged and kissed by their teammates. God absolutely frowns on such public displays of affection among beings carrying XY chromosomes.

Well, gotta go, I have to check the Italian TV and see what A.S. Roma (my favorite soccer team) did yesterday in the European competitions. I heard they won, which means I'll get to see a lot of hugging among men in shorts and t-shirts...


  1. Interject religion into anything and you'll end up with some bastardized, malformed entity loosely based on the original.

  2. dennis:

    Let's try to narrow categories down a bit to be more precise.

    How about just religion without self-imposed limitations/boundaries? I.E. a refusal to apply the most stringent of it moral rules to its own self?

    Deciding that one particular type of concept is evil (and anyone associated with is likewise) and adhering to that notion come what may, is not remarkably different than the fundamentalists of whatever sort, shape or description. But such thinking is at least, if not possibly more dangerous, because the one who thinks that the cure is to eradicate religion, believes he himself is not in the same category.

    In the end such an individual winds up being equally as dangerous, because he wants to “wipe out” another belief system of his choosing.

    Same principle there.


  3. I would say let them have their own league with their own rules as long as they don't force it on everyone else. Ahhh, but that's the problem (with religion) isn't it?

    I'm trying to picture soccer being played in robes and turbans. :-)

    c [cal?] said:
    "In the end such an individual winds up being equally as dangerous, because he wants to “wipe out” another belief system of his choosing."

    I have been frequenting a number of atheist/naturalist/rationalist type boards over the last couple of years. One thing that seems to be common among the adherents of these related philosophies is a lassaiz faire attitude toward religion. Let them have their religion as long as they don't force their rules and rituals on those of us who are not followers. If religion were to pose no threat, there would be no call to wipe it out. As we have seen around the world though, there is a real threat.

    Eat well, stay fit, Die Anyway

  4. anonymous:

    OK - we can narrow things down a bit- let's say fundamentalist religion.

    I am one of those non- believers (atheists if you prefer) who is enough of a pragmatist to know that wiping out religion is out of the question. The majority of the human race seems to need a belief in magic to survive, and I'm willing to grant them that.

    Just refrain from from shoving it down my throat by attempting to take over the government or use my hard earned tax dollar to support their voodoo. At the other end of the spectrum, beating on my door in an attempt to save my mortal soul, is very annoying . In between somewhere you'll find inane stuff like not playing a game in shorts and t-shirts, and a thousand other things the religious do to not only flaunt their religiosity, but to make it necessary for the non-religious to acknowledge, if not bow to their god(s).
    I still maintain however, that religion distorts what may otherwise be simple, clearcut undertakings with the dogma of an unknown being who communicates with only certain chosen people, for example, Moses, Abraham, any number of popes, Joseph Smith, Pat Robertson and yes, George W Bush.

    Do I think we would be better off sans religion, yes. Do I believe that is a achievable or even desirable goal given human dependence on supernatural spirituality, no. As "die anyway" said I think you will find that most non-believers strike the same pose.

    But I must insist that the religious respect my beliefs if I am to respect theirs.

  5. Respect. We show others the ultimate respect, when we are not afraid to give them the most direct and caring response for the situation that they happen to find themselves in.

    Raises the question, is there a way or reason that we might be able to de-politicize for the good of ourselves and others?

    I strongly believe that there is the benefit to stepping back once in awhile and asking myself why it is I am thinking in a particular way. Am I thinking this way (politically or religiously) because it suits me, and just me alone? I have observed that self-interested people (religious or not) get into increasingly more difficult political battles that are really only a matter of "my will over yours". That, of course, is futile and advances absolutely nothing of worth for the good of humanity.

    By suggesting such, am I a trying to neutralize other people and myself to any sort of activism over political issues whatsoever? Not at all! I think the fact that you have noticed that some people of faith can be hypocritical merely means that “freewill” does exist on the “other side” of faith. That is, choices matter no matter who I claim to be. My concern about your position, Dennis, is that you are moving us and yourself to a political climate where freewill cannot exist.

    Trust me. If such freedom isn't here for me, it won't be around for you either.


  6. Interesting how the apologists of religion like to say how nice and respectful they are of everyone and everybody's ideas (in spite of the massive display to the contrary in real life). They just happen to conveniently forget that they have to be respectful and tolerant (or at least pretend to in public) not because of what their religion says (since they can always "interpret" according to their conveniences), but exactly because the societies where they live are NOT based on religion.

    Western society went through the process of the "Enlightenment", and that's the main reason why we are free today - no kings with "divine rights", priests nominating government or any ridiculous thing like that. In countries still "in the Middle Ages" (or earlier), they still can kill, torture, whatever, whomever they feel like is not living the rightful godly life.

    I'm sure there are lots of people who'd like to see that back to Western societies too - at least until it's their turn to be the abused, of course.

    After all, American born and raised muslims (or whatever) are very different from Saudi Arabia or Iranian semi-civilized muslims, for example. There was an interesting sociological research paper on this a while ago, I can get the whole reference if anyone is interested.
    (it was called "Modernization, cultural change, and the persistence of traditional values", something about measuring the societies secularity and values and quality of life, and how for example christians in Nigeria are more similar to nigerian muslims, and Indian muslims are more similar to Hindus, and catholics in the US are more similar to protestants than to european catholics, etc).


  7. Now talking about serious things like football... (I mean the one you really play mostly with the feet)

    Bravo, forza azzurra! A world cup without Italia would be as absurd as Formula 1 without Ferrari. :-)

    Now, if you guys happen to play Brazil... mi dispiace! And no talking about 1982, OK? :O)

    Although I do have an impression Germany will win this one... (my very own conspiracy theory)



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