Young school boy shouts profanity at Trump rally

I agree. No one here has proposed that level of hyperbole, though I wouldn’t find it unreasonable that there could be some quality said hipster sees in a smoothie that he or she does in fact hold sacred. But, would you maintain that secular humanists don’t hold their values sacred? Are the evangelicals right that atheists shouldn’t use the word “good” because without (their) God the term is meaningless and nothing is forbidden? What word should Jefferson have used instead when he wrote, “The most sacred of the duties of government [is] to do equal and impartial justice to all its citizens”?

That is an interesting definition, but yes, “religion” is a porous and hard to define category whose meaning changes over time and from place to place.

Nor am I. Luckily cultural relativism doesn’t enter into it. It works just as well if you get a bunch of people together trying to precisely define common words like “salad,” or identify consistent differences between a “bread” and a “cake,” or between a “bag” and a “box.” I really did mean that all human categories are porous.

Well, secular humanists I’ve met would get very exercised if you used the word “sacred” around their values. Just as they get quite exercised when I tell them that humanism is a religion like any other; after all, it makes little difference whether you place a human-like god on a pedestal or place humanity on a pedestal.

As an ex-would-be-theologian, ex-Quaker, probably Zen Buddhist, I would go no further than to say they are “very attached” to their values. But attachment has something of the same meaning as religion (res + ligio, the things that bind.)
Anyway, how do we get from here back to Trump and the values of his supporters? Is Trumpismus a religion?


I drop it and admit I don’t have any better answer or segue. I am, however, surprised at and curious about a Zen Buddhist expecting precise definitions for words attempting to describe complex aspects of reality and human experience.

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I didn’t say I’m a very good one. My problem is, I can’t let go of theology and sociology of religion.

Edit - a less flippant answer would be to say that the words are not the reality. If you believe that only experience is the true guide to how things are, however, you run into Sweeney’s problem: “I gotta use words when I’m talking to you.” Especially on the WWW. And the way to try to persuade people that the fixed grounds of their belief are in fact illusory, when those people are invested in a culture based on books which are regarded as sacred, is to be able to manipulate those words in the same sphere of discourse that they inhabit.
I gave up trying to persuade people years ago, but old habits die very hard.


I, as a non-native-speaker, used to think myself totally immune to that mistake. After all, I had completely understood the difference between these words the first time I learnt them. Why should I ever confuse the word meaning “dein” (your) with the word meaning “du bist” (you’re)? Or, for that matter, what do “dort” (there), “ihre” (their) and “sie sind” (they’re) even have in common?

Then I spent some time in an English speaking country (Canada). My pronunciation of English improved. And my subconscious finally realized one thing about those words that I had known at a conscious level for a long time: THERE ALL PRONOUNCED THE SAME. I hope no one thinks I am offending they’re language when I say that their is something wrong with the English language.

The question of whether atheism/secular humanism/etc. is a religion is a very delicate one that depends very much on the definitions of the terms and the context in which you use them.
If I accept your definition that

I would very much insist that secular humanism is a religion, because otherwise a world view that I mostly subscribe to would be excluded a priori from being able to “hold societies together”. Likewise, when the context is “all religions are equal, everyone may choose their religion”, then I will define “religion”, “belief system” and “wold view” to be the same.
When people are supposed to respect things other people hold sacred, I will insist that I hold some things sacred, too.

But then, as an atheist, I have spent some time making my rejection of “religion” explicit, but then I have been talking about a much narrower definition of “religion”. And I would consider it an unfair rhetorical trick to take the label of the things I oppose and apply them to something much broader until I feel forced to support it. Unfair debaters will switch back to the narrow definition the very moment that I admit that “religion” in the broad sense can be a good thing.

What do you expect from 10-year-olds growing up in a trump-supporting household? To refrain from voicing a political opinion, because it will most likely just be copied from his parents? Or to express said opinion more politely than adults would?
This is only newsworthy because of two assumptions:

  1. Kids can’t have an opinion (not even a wrong one)
  2. Bad language is especially bad for kids.

Number 2 seems to be typically American, though I would have classed it as a “conservative” opinion, and number 1 is international, but something that I’ve strongly disagreed with ever since I was a kid myself.




Nah, it drives us native speakers of it up the wall at times.


Surely, and I don’t think I am nitpicking, as an atheist you simply reject theism. Western atheism is in any case pretty much the rejection of the various personal god concepts of the Abrahamic religions. (Buddha isn’t a god and the Jains have a cosmology rather than a theism, which runs on karma but with strong elements of predestination. In neither case does “atheism” make sense as a position.)

A serious problem in discussing this sort of thing in the West is that many Westerners have a concept of how religions work that is actually extremely exclusive. Although early Western scholars did a great deal of good work on the recovery and understanding of Hindu and Buddhist scriptures, they were seeing them from an essentially Christian perspective - so Buddha is seen through a Jesus-prism which is quite inappropriate, and there were many attempts to try to identify a trinity in the Hindu pantheon.

If you take the population of the Earth as a whole and want to use a blanket term “religion” you pretty much have to deBiblicise your thinking. I’m reminded of the story about a university debate in Scotland on Protestant/Catholic relations. At one point an indignant academic shouts “There’ll be nae bishops in Scotland!” “Sit down,” says his friend, “You’re an atheist”. “Aye, but I’m a Calvinist atheist!”

I hope this is a joke because I am unaware of any language of which I know more than a few words (about 5) which doesn’t have homophones.

At least English doesn’t have many nontechnical words which have the same spelling but different meanings and pronunciations (e.g. Russian zamok, castle and zamok, lock - the stress is different and the o is pronounced differently.) There is unionised and unionised, as well as periodic and periodic, but un ion ised and per iodic are not lilely to turn up outside chemical textbooks.


I grew up in a liberal household surrounded by and with lots of friends in conservative households. Yelling “XYZ [pick your curseword]” in public would’ve resulted immediately in some form of punishment (in my case, likely a spanking and/or definitely a talking-to). Don’t try to sell me on some form of “conservative parents are worse parents” because that’s bullshit on a general level. This particular parent letting their child project the worst of their politics is failing their child.

No. It’s newsworthy because parents should be teaching their children to express their opinions in a respectful way, instead of acting like a trump.

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Entirely true. However, I am also a materialist, so I’ve already been using a slightly broader definition of “religion” to base my rejecting on. There are, of course, some that I reject less strongly than others because they include fewer of the elements that I disagree with. I won’t enumerate those elements here because there’s no room in this thread for that.

Oh, and I’m definitely a Roman Catholic atheist.

Mostly joking. But most of the “joking” part is that homophones are a problem.
The only languages that I know more than five words of that have more homophones than English are Chinese and Japanese, and they’re famous for it.

And English does have many nontechnical words which have the same spelling but different meanings and pronunciations (homographs).
I will read a book, I have read a book. To lead. A lead pencil.
And then there are the countless verb-noun pairs which are spelled the same, and sometimes stressed differently. Sometimes depending on your regional variant.

And I only noticed how many homonyms (different meaning, same spelling, same pronunciation) there are in English when I found a Japanese-English vocabulary list online. It was just a lot more confusing and ambiguous than a Japanese-German one.

But no, I don’t consider it a “problem”, and I know that there are many other languages that show the same properties.

Yikes. A spanking?
I’m no parent myself, but as a scout master (in Austria) I’ve been in charge of more than one ten-year-old in public. And for most values of XYZ that would have merited a mild talking-to. Had I spanked any of them, I’d probably be in prison right now. And had I learned of parents spanking their kids for using bad words in public, I would have called Child Protective Services. But that’s a different decade and a different country from your childhood (you are over 20, right?).

And to avoid misunderstandings: I don’t want to accuse your parents of doing anything wrong, I just want to underline the message that America really is more sensitive to children using bad words than many other cultures.

I’m not selling that. All I’m selling is that parents who attend a Trump rally are pretty likely to express the same opinion, using the same words. And I don’t expect parents to prevent their children from saying things that they might say themselves. I don’t expect parents who support Trump to recognize calling Clinton a bitch is “the worst of their politics”.

I consider it unfair towards the ten-year-old in question that a fuss is being made about him specifically doing what thousands of the adults at Trump rallies have also been doing. And his mother made the right call when she kept the media away from him and defended him.
We don’t know what she told her son — maybe he got that talking to, maybe she told him that she agreed with him.

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Physically, yes. Mentally…uh…

Yeah. I should’ve clarified–I went to an evangelical xtian school early on and got beat for just about everything I did (DIAF, Principal Ferguson you mealy-mouthed jackass). It was sorta their thing. At home, rarely. I was writing from the standpoint that the conservatives I know would be seriously pissed if their kids were yelling such things and especially in public (I know two that are planning to vote for trump, the rest I’m not sure about).

Point taken.


Nope, we know. I do wish our English classes in high school and middle school at least tried to explain why it is such an oddball, and how it evolved over time. I was able to guess some of it but had to take a linguistics course in college before it stopped annoying me whenever I thought about it.

I read once about a blind guy who didn’t realize homophones and near-homophones could be different words until he started learning to spell as an adult, kind of the inverse of your situation and an exaggerated version of what most native speakers experience.

Well, it would be very difficult to have true homophones in Italian. At least I can’t think of any, nor how they would be spelled. Multiple meanings, sure. That’s what happens when languages write in an orthography designed for their own sounds. Mandarin, the other language I’ve ever taken, is the other far end of the spectrum when spoken. But the writing is unambiguous, and spoken idioms and many cultural practices are frequently based on homophones.


German uses the same word for castle and lock too! It always made a sort of intuitive sense to me, as the two things serve similar purposes on different scales. It also works as a synecdoche.

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I am sure you are right (I don’t know enough Italian to register) but why exactly?

a nearly perfect one-to-one mapping of written language and speech, so the most you could get is a word with two different meanings

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Ah. I now see the point the OP is making. And of course in Italian word stress is accented in print, unlike Russian or English. Thank you.

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I’m not sure I am right. I just can’t think of how 2 words could be
pronounced the same and spelled differently when b Italian spelling is
completely phonetic.

The Italian Wikipedia has an example, but if this is the best they could find homophones are incredibly rare…

Un caso emblematico – in italiano neutro (o standard) – è anche /alˈlɛtto/ [alˈlɛtːto], cui possono corrispondere ben sei grafie diverse: <a letto>, <al letto>, <all'etto>, <alletto>, <ha l'etto> (in pronuncia tradizionale, con cogeminazione di ha /a/ davanti all'articolo determinativo l[o]), <ha letto>.

Well, Russia recently passed a law making the four most common anatomical swear words illegal. Bitch (suka) is still legal for the moment, but “whore” will get you fined.*
In the case of the US, though, I think it may be polarisation. The country with the biggest pornography industry and the biggest obsession with “free speech” may have the largest number of adults reacting to it.
I used to stay fairly frequently in an hotel in Bavaria, and on several occasions I took non-German-speaking British engineers with me. I had to tell them that the “pornographic” magazines on the hotel bookshelf were just ordinary German magazines, because front page nudity wasn’t anything out of the ordinary (this was the 1990s, things may have changed.) Had I taken some of the people from our operations in Kentucky or N Carolina, I think their Baptist heads would have exploded.

*Edit - Umberto Eco says that to understand what a culture spends a lot of time doing you need to see what is forbidden by law. The application in the case of swearing in Russia is obvious. As a student, I remember someone who, having spent a year working in factories in both the US and the USSR, was able to say that the Soviet and US blue collar classes had evolved more or less the same swearing phrases by convergent evolution.


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