Cautious, careful people always casting about to preserve their reputation or social standards never can bring about reform. Those who are totally in earnest are willing to be anything or nothing in the world's estimation, and publicly and privately, in season and out, avow their sympathies with despised ideas and their advocates, and bear the consequences.

Susan B. Anthony (1873)

I believe in getting into hot water; it keeps you clean.

G. K. Chesterton

Heresies and Dissent

… Jepthah then mustered all the men of Gilead and fought Ephraim, and the Gileadites defeated them. The Gileadites seized the fords of the Jordan and held them against Ephraim. When any Ephraimite who had escaped begged leave to cross, the men of Gilead asked him, Are you an Ephraimite ?, and if he said, No, they would retort, Say Shibboleth. He would say Sibboleth, and because he could not pronounce the word properly, they seized him and killed him at the fords of the Jordan. At that time forty-two thousand men of Ephraim lost their lives.

Judges 12, verses 4 to 6,
from The New English Bible, 1970.

During Britain's era of religious persecution (well, the one in which the protestant Christians persecuted one another, anyway) various folk noted, and commented acidly upon, the fact that there were some things one was obliged to say, regardless of whether one actually subscribed to whatever they meant (if anything), in order to be considered acceptable in various social circles. The tale above equipped such folk with the word shibboleth for such sayings. The same phenomenon appears equally in other contexts, so the word has settled into the English language to do a steady job describing the minor hypocrisies of each succeeding age.

shibboleth: A word or custom or principle regarded as testing a person's nationality or social class or orthodoxy; a party catchword [see Judges xii 6].

The Pocket Oxford Dictionary of Current English, fifth edition (1969).

This area of my web-site is dedicated to saying sibboleth – refusing to subscribe to these dogmatic platitudes, pointing out what they would mean if they hadn't been reduced to ways of saying I conform, and offering an alternative view.

Allegedly, it was one of Voltaire's biographers, not the man himself, who characterized his position on free speech with something along the following lines: I do not agree with what you have just said, but I would lay down my life in defence of your right to say it. However, (fortune claims that) Voltaire did say:

It is clear that the individual who persecutes a man, his brother, because he is not of the same opinion, is a monster.

That some folk will find the pages here inflammatory says more about those folk than about the views here expressed. Those who flame without thought be warned: I'm apt to quote without mercy. If I seem to be saying something I do not explicitly say, be aware that you may be reading things into my words, which were not there. I make no apologies – for I shall not say what I do not mean – yet I shall listen patiently to those who reply calmly to what I do say.

If you permit yourself to read meanings into (rather than drawing meanings out of) the evidence, you can draw any conclusion you like.

Michael Keith, "The Bar-Code Beast"
The Skeptical Enquirer Vol 12 No 4 p 416

and finally, my friend Conor's exquisite summary of an article by Georges Monbiot in The Guardian on 2001/September/18th:

reason begins with t; anger begins with d.

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