Wednesday, December 08, 2004

Important to Remember
Rowan Atkinson in reference to a proposed British law to forbid criticism of religion (via Andrew Sullivan): "To criticise a person for their race is manifestly irrational and ridiculous but to criticise their religion - that is a right. That is a freedom..
The freedom to criticise ideas - any ideas even if they are sincerely held beliefs - is one of the fundamental freedoms of society.
And the law which attempts to say you can criticise or ridicule ideas as long as they are not religious ideas is a very peculiar law indeed.
It all points to the promotion of the idea that there should be a right not to be offended. But in my view the right to offend is far more important than any right not to be offended.
The right to ridicule is far more important to society than any right not to be ridiculed because one in my view represents openness - and the other represents oppression."

True. But this is also precisley the objection I've raised before to condemning a person's contribution to public debate because they are religiously based. The entire idea of freedom is, in fact, the ability to debate ideas free from restraint. Towards that end, it is necessary to include all ideas in the debate. It was Voltaire who said "I may disagree with what you have to say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it." I am increasingly bothered by the number of my peers that tell me they think religious beliefs should be banned from public discourse. There is simply no reality in which a secular belief is inherently better than a religious one.

Lileks illustrates this point today as well: "From the most recent Entertainment Weekly, a review of 'Wife Swap': 'Any show could force a vegan mom to live with a gun-toting dad . . . but this one does it with love. Adding to the fun of playing Who's Crazier? (this week it's tattooed punk rockers who take their kids for piercings vs. Southern Baptists who punish their daughter by making her write Bible verses) . . .'

Is it too late for me to vote for the family that takes the kids to a shop to have needles driven through their skin as slightly crazier. The proper response — and by that I mean the one right-thinking moderns are supposed to have, automatically — is that whoo-boy, they're both nuts! Bible verses? Eww. Piercing the kids? Eww too, although, you know, ear piercing used to be considered odd, and, whatever. As if getting Junior an eyebrow ring is somehow as peculiar as making your daughter write 'Love thy neighbor as thyself' a few hundred times."

Liberal popular culture has brought us to the point where hedonism is considered more valuable than moralistic religion. That scares me. No, religion should not be valued above other belief systems, or personal anarchy of thought, but it certainly should not be subjugated to them either. It's all worth considering. Please feel free to comment.

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