Is Profanity Necessary?

BobbyCWhen NRR began, I took great pride in having an internet based radio program/ podcast because FCC Regulations did not apply to internet based broadcasts. As the show continued to grow in popularity we continued to speak freely with the idea that if you did not like the content feel free to find another show. I kept this mentality for a long time.

Over time as the community began to expand and our listenership saw a tremendous amount of growth the thought crossed my mind that perhaps we should try to “clean up” the show and make it more “family friendly”. I need to pause here and make it perfectly clear that the decision to go PG-13 was my own. It had nothing to do with contracts or at the direction of any particular person. I had several reasons for going “family friendly”: 1) I wanted to have civil conversations with Christians and I figured most Christians would not be willing to come on a show that used a lot of profanity and 2) I wanted a show that a mom taking her children to school on Monday morning could listen to it on the way and the children be able to hear some form of rational thought before getting bombarded by all the Jesus shit from their friends and teachers. I have heard arguments that it is not my place to try to decide what is/is not appropriate for children that is the responsibility of the parents. I know that we will not say anything that children would not or does not hear in a public school setting but I felt that we should not contribute to the problem. Although these were, in my opinion, great reason’s for cleaning up the show, I failed to realize that my co-host felt her free speech was being regulated and this bothered me. I’ve always said I wanted everyone associated with our show to speak freely but how can they be expected to do so when forced to adhere to a strict PG-13 rating? So the decision was begrudgingly made to return to the old format. I say begrudgingly because I felt we may lose those listeners who enjoy the PG-13 format and the goal is to increase our listenership not decrease it and I felt by returning to an explicit show may do just that. I realize there will never be a time that we satisfy every listener and to attempt to do so would only drive me crazier than I already seem to be.

I share all of this because I recently read an article by Reverend Alex Moreschi of the Episcopal Church titled Why Profane?  His article has given me a new perspective on profanity and with his permission I am sharing it within this article.


Why Profane?

    In recent years I have found myself particularly interested with this question, “what does it mean to be profane?” When I was growing up, I never used profanity; long into high school, when my peers were cursing about various things, I did not “swear.” As I moved into my final year in high school, I began to make up for lost time; I guess the unspoken profanities built up over the years. At any rate, I never really stopped using profane words in my everyday speech. Perhaps my father had me listen to too much George Carlin growing up or perhaps I was just less emotionally mature than my contemporaries. At any rate, I have always found profanities to be able to express deep emotion that otherwise might not be able to be expressed.

    Since this time, I have thought much more deeply about the use of profanity and its relationship to vulgarity. The profane speaks against the sacred; such words, as George Carlin points out, these profane words can make the language of a sentence all the more powerful. Profanity, when it is used intentionally, can express our feelings and emotions in a way that normal words seem unable to describe. And so I find myself an apologist for the profane.

    Yet, there seems to be something more here. I am not an advocate for screaming profanities in front of small children, for example. Thus a distinction in my mind was created. This distinction is one that is often lost in our modern rhetoric and that is this: there is a difference between the profane and the vulgar. The profane we have discussed, but the vulgar is that which is done without thought. Vulgar speech has no intent, no positive content. While the profane can be used for positive points, to express inner desires and passions, the vulgar serves no higher purpose. We should not be afraid of the profane, nor to use it when it is appropriate for human expression.

    Beyond speech, the profane also speaks to where I find myself. While I am ordained in the Episcopal church, hence being a parson, I have found myself breaking bread more often with those whom The Church might call profane. I live and eat and drink with the unchurch, the over churched, and those who have come to reject all notions of faith or religion. I have found my place on the margins of our religious visual scope. While I worship at The Altar each Sunday, I find myself more often with atheists, agnostics, anti-theists, and those who chose not to identify. I have found that this is where I belong, in the bars, the coffee shops, the places where those who have rejected religion altogether go for community. I am an apologist, both for the Church, and particularly for those who have rejected the Church. I am not politically correct, nor am I saintly. I am a flawed human that thinks too much and does not listen enough. But I sit with those who are lost, or angry, or hurt, or apathetic, and I try to hear their stories. I am learning what it means to be sacred. Found within are merely my thoughts, nothing more than the ravings and musings of a profane parson.


I want to thank Reverend Alex for writing such an amazing article and for allowing me to share it with everyone who reads this post. No Religion Required will continue using profanity but it is my hope that we never cross into being vulgar for that is not what this show/blog is about. If you happen across this article and have not listened to No Religion Required I hope you will consider it and hopefully you will find a community that will open their arms and welcome you into the NRR Family.




One thought on “Is Profanity Necessary?

  1. Deborah Mc Taggart April 18, 2016 at 3:53 AM Reply

    I have always found the notion of profanity to be silly. Creating words that are then forbidden to speak makes absolutely no sense to me. Not to mention that you can choose to make any word “profane” that you want to. In the Victorian era, saying “bloody” was considered profane. “Damn” was once considered quite profane and now it doesn’t cause most people to bat an eye.

    The other part of the idea that I find ridiculous is when people attempt to convey “profanity” without actually saying or writing it. We all know what %$@%^W#@ probably means, and saying “frick” or “fudge” is equally obvious. I don’t know about anyone else, but my mind automatically substitutes the actual word for the fake one, so pretending not to say it is just lame.

    Swear and express yourself! Everyone already knows what your’re saying anyway.

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