Pedro Timoteo wants to know which of the following two signs are offensive:
Sign A: There is a God.
Sign B: There is no God.
I replied to his post stating that both are offensive. They are both false statements and I believe false statements are offensive.
However, many other statements are true but can be offensive to many people. Consider this sign:
Fuck, I don't like paying my taxes.
Here is a statement that is not false, but yet offensive. I'm uncomfortable with my children reading statements like this but I have difficulty explaining why. For most people, swearing is considered to have a time and place. In general, we don't swear in public places (at least, we're not supposed to). We don't swear at work, in school, around children or the elderly or in church. I threw in church because I think that we unconciously consider some places (or people) 'sacred'.
Jonathon Haidt discusses this in 'The Happiness Hypothesis'. Even 'liberals' who claim that the sacred is a myth find certain places near and dear to them. Consider your loved ones, where you got engaged, that first car, or that place in nature that you once stood and contemplated the universe - now imagine someone is urinating on them. Perhaps this is offensive to you.
Haidt writes that it's part of our psychology to be offended by things that disgust us. All swear words refer to things that we find disgusting - bodily fluids and waste materials, corpses, sexual impulses, etc. We also swear to attack the sacred to elicit an emotion of disgust. The French say "Tabernacle!", we might yell, "Motherfucker!" both of which are meant to bring up negative images of traditional sacred objects.
I agree with Haidt when he says, "...conservatives have a better understanding of moral development." (Pg. 178, The Happiness Hypothesis) We don't want children growing up in a world that allows the humiliation of our sacred objects in the public sphere. It's important that children learn that there are things worth holding as sacred (parents, teddy bears, home, etc). We want them to respect people and places that hold significance and not destroy those things that others hold sacred. To do this, children need to know what sacred things 'are' and have a chance to build their own. Swearing in public is offensive because it elicits the same emotions as watching someone humiliate a loved one (albeit, not as severe). And, in public or in our homes, we deserve the right to not have our sacred objects attacked.
Thus, I think I can safely propose two comments about offensive behaviour:
1. We will not allow the promotion of untruths as this is offensive.
2. When we feel we want to be offensive (swear, sell Baby Jesus Butt Plugs, criticize religions, etc.) we'll be careful to keep it out of public places.