I initially planned a post of this nature on my personal and low traffic blog, but trashed it a mere few sentences in.
After reading Sam Harris’s article to the same effect, I became inspired again and completed a new post on the matter – this time upgrading it to New Anthro (because it does have implications for our future).
And then I got nervous and trashed this as well, a few hours before it was scheduled to go live.
Free speech is fundamental and I hate that, in Australia, I am allowing myself to be bullied out of it by a few aggressive and immoral individuals. They dodge standing national laws and demand – through fear and intimidation – that everyone submits to the laws of their personal ideologies.
Now, just as a personal note, I don’t consider myself anything. I’m not a theist, nor am I atheist any more than I am a believer or a nonbeliever of the literal existence of Humpty Dumpty. No-one would ask me to hold an opinion one way or another because the whole idea is absurd. To me, the obsession with deities and “life after death” rate just as high.
That said, I don’t care what anyone else thinks and practices in private. Unlike some nonbelievers (as opposed to unbelievers), I have no interest in pursuing any such individual on their private stomping grounds (please keep this in mind; I am not interested in the debate about religion, nor do I seek to render one mute over another).
It is only when they expect me to play Simon Says with their invisible friends that I go a little like Hulk (that is, foamy at the mouth and growl a bit and not green and shirtless).
Laws based on ‘cos my book says so, are nonsensical and unjustifiable. Even adherents know this or we would still have mass stoning events, slaves and believe handing over women, as though they were a piece of meat, to a mob to be acceptable, to name a few.
I expect moral laws in which one can express themselves openly and honestly to be essential for an ethical and improving society. The right to offend is essential – sometimes the best and/or more accurate ideas come from uncomfortable locations. Let the ideas be weighed and measured by the populous and see it they pass the test.
In one respect, the continual disgust felt towards actions carried out by characters like those of the Westboro Baptist Church stand as a true testament to the increasing morality of the majority. Violent or oppressive behaviour aimed at such people only brings one down to their level. It’s far better to take the high road as a whole and leave such disgraceful attitudes to the ages. It is, after all, beneath one. They’ll eventually fade away if they are ignored.
Such an attitude, I would hope, others would express if someone offends their particular faith. A measure of value and truth is how well an idea stands up to critical investigation, after all. If the faith is so paranoid about such scrutiny, well that’s telling.
It shouldn’t matter if someone breaks religious law when they are not an adherent to that religion. In my colourful life, guess I would have broken many rules applicable to the followers of Hinduism, Buddhism, Christianity, Norse Myth, the Olympian Gods and any other faith brought to the table. I don’t know if that says anything about me really – other than I’m not interested in that particular doctrine.
My values are instead based on national law and empathy.
Nothing can be out of bounds in discussion for an open and free democratic country like Australia. By all means, it can be abhorrent, but not out of bounds. One should not be made fearful of “witch” burning mobs, beheading or other practice some idiot wants to revive from an age before effective sanitation simply because they offend someone else.
Yet drawing a stick figure and giving it the wrong name could lead to violence on the street, burning of flags and threats of terror in lieu of any actual national laws being broken.
That’s not on and politicians, as upholders of the constitution of the given state, should be brave enough to say, “Look, these morons created such media because they knew you would start jumping around like a headless chook. While I think they’re actions were pretty pathetic, you’ve made yourself look pretty silly too in how you’ve reacted. They said ‘jump’ and you did.”
While I’m not interested in following the example of such people, the truth of the matter is nothing more than that; they know how to incite behaviour objectionable in most secular states and let a few unbalanced people fill in the blanks, leaving the rest of us fearful and questioning just whom has moved in next door.
I’m not a fan of undertaking such activities, but I detest feeling like I’m unable to talk about it in fear of hateful retaliation. Through apologetic denouncement of the inciters by politicians and silence by the media and the general public, when we should be unified in deploring acts of terror, hate and reckless vilification, based entirely on religious law, we undo our own constitutions.
Too often we hear paranoid fears over government controls regarding environmental and social regulation (eg. it’s my liberty to smoke, that is, kill myself for corporate profit, if the truth be known), but where is the discussion regarding liberties against personal ideologies?
We don’t see outrage about the above behaviour in such discussions. In fact, the loudest protests for personal freedom tends to come from individuals with an ideological values package which includes many faith-drawn conclusions; eg. anti-abortion, anti-stem cell research, anti-equality for sexual preference etc. Where’s the freedom of the individual when we cannot choose aspects of what we do, what we can research and whom we can share our life with?*
If the Hump-Dumptians were out on the streets with signs “Behead all those who scramble eggs”, “death to those who mock aviaries” and other signs to the same effect, with as much hatred and vilification as that seen by other groups, we have the right to protest. While they have the right themselves to protest and to personal lives lived within religious law, they do not have the right to impose such personal laws on the wider community through fear and intimidation.
If instead, the Hump-Dumptians said, “it’s against my faith to eat egg or question the spiritual meaning of birds”, so be it. That’s completely acceptable. In a society of growing morality, the right to dissent needs to persist. Poor choices will eventually be weeded out through articulate and intelligent criticism.
It’s one thing to play a game of Simon Says with your invisible friend and quite another to demand others join in as well or face violence / murder. Such behaviour should not be acceptable and we have the right to say so.
*Such questions usually return the “floodgate” reply. Again, free and open debate will lead to the most rational conclusions. Censorship and blind taboo do nothing to improve human flourishing.