Obscene and Not Heard

God and I were discussing language and its power to define and its power to offend. He made me realize that those two things both come from the same source, they come from an agreement between people. Words mean what they mean because we have agreed to assign that meaning to a particular group of sounds, to a particular group of letters. And the words that offend, not by their meaning but by their, I don’t know, essence, the words that we bleep out on TV or obfuscate with asterisks in “polite” publications, they are offensive not by some inherent characteristic of their pronunciation or of their existence, but because we have agreed that they will be considered offensive.

So the obscenity is in the mind. This got me wondering what words might I want deemed obscenities, not out of arbitrary need to have some new swear word, but instead because of the character of its meaning. Sure there are obvious suspects, things like “genocide” but I wanted something less clear cut, something that not everybody would agree with.

Having thought about it for awhile, I’m not sure that I can come up with any word more obscene than “worship.” “Worship” takes its object out of the realm of critical thought. It goes beyond even mere “faith” for its irrationality. God says he doesn’t need to be worshipped, that despite what it says in the Old Testament, he’s actually got pretty good self-esteem with or without us cheering him on. And if God doesn’t need it surely nothing else does. So how about it?

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