Letter: Taboos have led to censorship for millenia

Re: “Conservative alums criticize Yale Press” (Sept. 3). I agree with John Bolton ’70 LAW ’74 that the Yale Press’s refusal to print controversial cartoons of Muhammad in a book it is releasing on the controversy generated by those very same images is an act of “intellectual cowardice.”

Yet it is ironic that the Judeo-Christian world is so outraged by the censorship imposed by the Muslim world on the image of Muhammad. The Old Testament is full of censorship. The face of God could not be looked upon, nor his name (Yahweh) written or spoken — hence the 5,000-year-old text-message abbreviation YHWH.

Ham is cursed (Genesis 20-28) for “viewing” his father Noah’s nakedness, and the 3,000-plus-year history of racism begins.

And unless my memory fails me, one of the central pillars of the Protestant Reformation was the taboo against images: hence the ransacking of Catholic churches and the breaking of statues and desecration of stained glass and painted images. (Ever use the word “iconoclasm”?)

So Bolton and his friends shouldn’t get too huffy and puffy in their smug rejection of Muslim taboos.

Indeed, if I recall correctly, the Christian crusaders slaughtered a few folk in propagating their own taboos.

Paul Keane

White River Junction, Vt.

Sept. 4

The writer is a 1980 graduate of the Yale Divinity School.


  • Hieronymus

    Yes, and the Constitution, representing a 5,000 year leap and a protection from such action, guarantees citizens’ freedom to write, think, and even print what they will.

    (On a personal note: Thanks for the reminder of the superfluity of DIV; the lack of rigor and fundamental worthlessness of the DIV “education” should put it on the top of the list should Yale ever downsize.)

  • EstherWHamtaff

    Mr. Keane, your letter is astoundingly intellectually vapid and entirely beside the point. It seems you are unable to differentiate between a letter that says, ‘Censorship under the implicit threat of Islamist offense is cowardly,’ and a letter that states, ‘Ba-humbug, I hate Muslims because I am a chauvinist.’ In fact your inability to draw such a distinction is so magnificently ridiculous that I almost wonder if you are actually an ironic post-modernist engaging in a performative enactment of the vacuity of the Yale Divinity School.

    It seems to me that you didn’t actually finish reading the letter in question; rather, you saw that a group of commentators who could be construed as vaguely ‘conservative'(horrors!) wrote a letter that expressed opposition to something Yale did which had a vague connection to Islam. Quickly concluding that this could only be explained by a subversive effort initiated by Sarah Palin to impose a theocracy upon the United States, your knee-jerk response was to write a letter whose whole substance amounts to “Waa-waa, Christians and Jews have done things I don’t like, Waa-waa.”

  • AnonymousPhDStudent

    It’s almost as if the Judeo-Christian world has matured somewhat over the past several millennia…


    I’m pretty sure no one who criticized YUP’s cowardly actions was involved in the Crusades.

  • The World

    You got into Yale and are capable of writing a letter this empty and stupid?

    You should demand your tuition back.

    You are either too stupid, or too intellectually dishonest, to be a Yale grad. Just because a church decides to not have statues in it’s church as a method of worship IS NOT censorship. It WOULD BE if they yelled and screamed and demanded no other churches did. But that’s not really what we are talking about here, is it?

    Next time a bunch of Lutherans riot and destroy a Catholic Church because they are “offended” by a Crucifix, let me know.

    Till then, try thinking. You might learn something.