Why are religious symbols so offensive?


IN Queensland this week, a young school student was apparently told was told to remove a small cross she was wearing because it was deemed offensive to other religious traditions.

Another child in the same state was told to remove a necklace which featured Saint Christopher.

It comes the same week that a popular Norwegian TV anchorwoman was ordered not to wear a necklace with a tiny cross while reading the news on air. The order reportedly came after the station received complaints.

Siv Kristin Saellmann acquiesced to the demand to remove her cross, but said: “What I don’t like is that people out there can just call in and tell my boss what I should and I shouldn’t wear.

“I didn’t wear the cross because I wanted to be provocative,” she said. “I am a Christian, but right now I see the cross everywhere. It’s part of the catwalk. It’s part of fashion. It’s not like only Christians wear the symbol. I didn’t think that people would react.”

In Canada, lawmakers are considering a bill that would ban the wearing of “conspicuous religious symbols” and religious clothing such as turbans and scarves by public sector workers in Quebec.

The prohibitions would apply to civil servants, teachers, police, firefighters, doctors, nurses and public day care employees.

Meanwhile, France has reaffirmed its ban on “overt” religious symbols — headscarves, Jewish skullcaps or Sikh turbans for example — from French state schools.

There is a strange anti-religious hysteria going on. In this curious secular world, wearing a veil is tantamount to issuing a challenge to a fight. And so is wearing a cross.

Why are public signs of religious faith so offensive?

What the secular cultural elite seem to find most objectionable about religion is that it is able to express a powerful sense of faith. And that is sometimes seen as subversive in a society insecure about its own values.

We once considered one’s right to display religious symbols a freedom.

When did we start caring so much about whether someone was outwardly Jewish, Christian, Muslim or Hindu?

It seems there are always ways around silly restrictions.

Christians are forbidden to wear crosses in most Muslim-controlled nations but a contractor in the Middle East got around that problem when he asked a local jeweller in a Muslim country to make three gold fish necklaces.

Second century Christians used the fish symbol to avoid persecution when identifying themselves to other believers.

The Muslim jeweller, who had no idea of their real significance, later reported he was now making them for Muslims who thought the fish symbols fashionable.


15 thoughts on “Why are religious symbols so offensive?

  1. ?? ““I didn’t wear the cross because I wanted to be provocative,” she said.”
    Really? If not to be ‘provocative’ why DO christians wear crucifixes.
    …or hindus turbans, or moslems explosive jackets etc. etc.

    And while, as always, I dispute the ‘right’ of others/ ‘authorities’ to dictate my personal choices (including the religious-based dicta that I must wear clothes at all! 😉 ), I think that it goes without saying that if one chooses to live in any given social group one obliges oneself to live by the dictates of that group.

    And if that social group, from long and bitter experience/history, determines that any particular activity, political-view, style of dress or any other provocative thing threatens the peace and stability of the group then it has the right (responsibility!) to issue edicts accordingly.

    As an anarchist I have no problem with that: my problem arises when I’m not allowed to opt out of the group.
    So, in the contemporary idiom:- Suck it up!


  2. So veils and crosses in public are out (unless you wear a designer crucifix al la Paris Hilton), but muffin tops and revealing designer gear for young girls are still in.
    As one smart British commentator said : “People seem to prefer a cross dresser to a cross wearer’’.


    • Well, as the Lord once rebuked me for being a hypocrite: “Away with your crucifix (around my neck) and instead “prove by the way you live that you have repented of your sins and turned to God.”

      Someone said, “If Christ were put to death with a. 38 Special handgun, would you wear this around your neck? If Jesus were put to death in an electric chair, would you place a miniature one on your dashboard as a sign of faith? What if by lethal injection? Would you have its representation prominently placed on the wall of your home?”

      The Crucifix is just a symbol that we can live without if we had to, after all it is Jesus Christ the Lord of All we are to venerate—give honor to, not Christian symbols.


      • I believe that’s right Mon. Too many worship the symbols, or even the book, instead of the Christ. If the symbols, or The Bible, didn’t exist there would still be God,

        John 5:38-40
        38 nor does his word dwell in you, for you do not believe the one he sent. 39 You study the Scriptures diligently because you think that in them you have eternal life. These are the very Scriptures that testify about me, 40 yet you refuse to come to me to have life.


      • By the way, what on earth is this religious horror regarding the “revealing designer gear for young girls” all about??
        Or boys?
        Or young/middle-aged men and women?
        Or old ‘Wrinklies’?
        Or babies?

        How do human bodies in any circumstance come to be pronounced ‘obscene’ ~ even insofar as the pages of the Crimes Act.?
        What could possibly induce someone to put undies and a frilly BRA!! on a two-year-old playing at the beach?

        The human animal functions in exactly the same way as any other creature, yet there’s this whole sanctimonious phobic-neurosis about our species alone.
        One might suggest we get out own ‘spiritual’ house in order before we start telling god how to run his.


      • Bryan/Monica,
        I recall years ago, when my Dad (Methodist/Uniting Church Lay Preacher etc) stated that in the Protestant tradition, there was little place for a Crucifix in particular (with the figure on it) because the important thing is the empty cross reminding one of the principle that neither the cross nor the tomb was the final word. It was the Resurrection that was the most significant thing.



      • Hi Rian,

        Yes, I agree with your beloved Dad.

        It’s a Catholic versus Protestant thing I think because it wasn’t until I started going to Pentecostal churches that I was told that the Catholics focus too much on the death of Christ (their crucifixes almost always have Jesus on them) and not enough on His resurrection power. And I believe it to be true.


    • I’d like to think that the promulgators of the dress rules were motivated by more than the enforcement of their own convictions about style. I could be wrong, of course: nuns habits and such obviously weren’t imposed because they looked pretty. They were designed to make a point. Unfortunately anyone who sets out to make a point invites attack from a differing point of view.
      ….or even just from someone who’s looking for a fight.
      Even your god’s not exempt from that basic rule.

      ………But do tell:- how many crusades or inquisitions (in whatever guise) have been fought over, or by, muffin-tops?
      And HOW many atrocities have been committed in the name of the ‘Star of David’ or the ‘Cross of Jesus’, etc?

      Some things need to (and should) be outlawed for the greater good.
      And dissenters should be free to leave.


  3. I basically agree with dabs… ‘when in Rome’ and all that, but what intrigues me is the rejection of any individuality. We seem to be ‘labeled’ and then put in groups. “Don’t think for yourself… this is how you should think… or else… don’t wear that, don’t wear this, don’t eat pork on fridays, if you get raped… it’s your fault, or in the west it’s “Because she was wearing a mini dress and drunk…. ” so it’s STILL her fault. And then the language changes: Refugees become illegal detainees, so we hunt people smugglers and link it all back to terrorism, while torturing women and children all in the name of ‘security risks’ we can’t talk about. How convenient. How stupid.

    There are many intelligent people out there who simply believe in nothing…. unless it threatens them directly. In a true democracy they see wearing a swastika or a turban or a cross or a tee shirt or green hair or burquas or whatever… as a human right. You can hang from your curtain rod in the shower dressed as the KKK singing ‘Born Free’ for all they care, and are mostly amused by it all … especially all the time and money wasted on it’s use as a political football.

    So in a nutshell, they see people who get offended by symbols as either stupid or immature.

    No-one can offend you unless you choose to be offended … and all stuff.
    Stupid people elect stupid people.

    Who in turn elect more stupid people.

    The right in America are now calling His Holiness a Marxist.

    I rest my case.


    • Have you been reading my diary again Jimbo?! 🙂
      However, since we can’t fix the world ~ a task beyond even the god of all the universes ~ my stand is that we MUST have (or be prepared to fight to the death for) the right to opt out of any particular part of it; or entirely.

      But even that easily-stated principle isn’t very straightforward: there are many, many more than fifty shades of grey in almost every circumstance.

      eg. as regards the ‘rape’ question:- I’ve always remembered a line from Dave Allen —> “A woman can run faster with her skirt up than a man can with his pants down.”
      “Sentiment without action is the ruin of the soul”
      -Edward Abbey


    • PS…..and I never could see the point or purpose of ‘belief’ in ANY circumstance.
      Since every instant changes everything, and no two instants are alike,
      what benefit is there in ‘believing’ ~ anything?
      ……and I think the lesson lies in the reality that (as far as we know) no other organism in all of creation has, operates according to, or needs ‘Beliefs’.
      Neither are they a tiny fraction as destructive and murderous as we are, having lost our own ‘innocence’.

      I’d suggest ”adaptability’ is a far more valid ambition in the scheme of things than ‘belief’.


  4. While I don’t hold with worship of symbols (nor of worship of the bible) I see no reason to ban them for those who wish to wear them in private life.

    I do see a need to ban them in certain organisations, work places, etc., and particularly so for clothing that like motorcycle helmets makes identification difficult.


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