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The Passion: Response to Rationalists & Humanists

Response to Rationalists and Humanists re “The Passion”

The Society for the Promotion of Community Standards (Inc.) repudiates the misrepresentations of its own Scoop media release dated 7th April 2004, made today by the NZ Association of Rationalists and Humanists (Inc.) in its press release, but thanks this religious organisation for directing readers to the Society’s article entitled “Response to Chief Censor Bill Hastings Attack On The Passion Re-Rating.

The NZARH failed in its press release to inform readers that it had made a submission to the Film and Literature Board or Review unsuccessfully arguing that the classification of The Passion of the Christ should be retained as R16. Its submission had all the hallmarks of a religiously driven effort.

Thoughtful readers who really want to understand the Society’s position, which successfully argued for a R15 classification, will assess the Society’s position based on its article not the NZARH’s deliberate misrepresentations.

The Society does NOT accept that “Violence in films that promote Christianity = Good violence" as claimed by NZARH.

This is a simplistic and immature response to the Society’s carefully stated position.

Nor does the Society hold that “Violence in all other films = Bad violence”.

For example, the Society takes the view that the violence depicted in Saving Private Ryan, an R15-rated film and discussed in its press release, is apposite with respect to the intentions of the film-maker and the historical record. The film has been assessed by the Classification Office as NOT likely to be injurious to the public good, if it is restricted to persons 15 years of age and older. The Society accepts this judgement. Of course it recognises that some people may find the violence depicted to be offensive and/or disturbing and these individuals should not view the film. That is why a censor’s warning note has been issued “Contains graphic and realistic war scenes”. It sees the wisdom in Jack Valenti’s view (Chief of the Motion Picture Association of America) that “every young person should see this film to understand the cost of their redemption.” (A view expressed recently in an interview on BBC Hardtalk). Of course this does NOT mean that Mr Valenti (or the Society) would literally want every young person to view it, for as noted some of those aged 15 years and older may have a strong aversion to the depiction of the violence of war. The Society recognises that, following the classification of any film and the issue of a censor’s descriptive note; the judgement call must be made by the person for whom the film is intended, as to whether or not they attend. All the above, applies to The Passion.

For further discussion on the Society’s position see: “Gratuitous Violence not the same as historical violence” (NZ Herald 27 Feb. 2004)

The Society finds it laughable that NZARH should try and lampoon its position as “Sex = Bad” and “Sex is disgusting”. Its position is the very opposite: Sex is VERY good. However, sex that degrades, demeans and dehumanises persons is harmful and wrong (e.g. gang rape, sex with a comatosed person as dealt with in “Kill Bill – Vol. 1”, exploitation of young girls for prostitution by pimps and others).

The Society repudiates the claim that it holds to: “Good violence should be shown to everyone, including children”.

NZARH has clearly got their heads in the sand. SPCS made its submission to the Review Board arguing that the rating of The Passion should be R15. Clearly, a level of maturity is required by viewers to put strong violence, as depicted in The Passion, into proper historical perspective.

We hope this is helpful.

Finally, readers need to be alerted to the fact that secular humanism is a religion and has been recognised as such by the US Supreme Court in 1961. Nevertheless, many Humanists deny the significance of the Court's assertion.


John Dewey described Humanism as our "common faith." Julian Huxley called it “Religion without Revelation”. The first Humanist Manifesto spoke openly of Humanism as a religion. Many other Humanists could be cited who have acknowledged that Humanism is a religion. In fact, claiming that Humanism was "the new religion" was trendy for at least 100 years, perhaps beginning in 1875 with the publication of The Religion of Humanity by Octavius Brooks Frothingham (1822-1895), son of the distinguished Unitarian clergyman, Nathaniel Langdon Frothingham (1793-1870), pastor of the First Unitarian Church of Boston, 1815-1850.

In the 1950's, Humanists sought and obtained tax-exempt status as religious organizations. Even the Supreme Court of the United States spoke in 1961 of Secular Humanism as a religion. It was a struggle to get atheism accepted as a religion, but it happened. From 1962-1980 this was not a controversial issue.

But then Christians began to challenge the "establishment of religion" which Secular Humanism in public schools represented. They used the same tactic Atheists had used to challenge prayer and Bible reading under the "Establishment Clause" of the First Amendment. Now the ACLU is involved. Now the question is controversial. Now Secular Humanists have completely reversed their strategy, and claim that Humanism is not at all religious, but is "scientific."

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