Sunday, 21 October 2012

Freedom from religion? Or freedom from opposing ideas?

Hello my fair readers. I begin today's article by saying that I am unashamedly Christian and that I don't mind if that turns some readers away. Frankly it's my blog and I will occasionally post things that others find opposite to their ideoligcal or personal views. That being said I continue on with today's topic.

I often get into debates with agnostics or atheists regarding Christianity, why I do so is still somewhat of a mystery to me as it is rarely productive. True I make no secret of my religious beliefs, which has made me a target of anger and criticism in the past, but I should hopefully know better at this point than to engage in pointless debates with people who just sincerely don't want to hear my point of view on the matter. Which of course brings me to today's subject.

In a recent, more friendly chat I had with an atheist acquaintance he told me he supported both the seperation of church and state, and the campaign for a freedom from religion. This is a term I had heard of before, but wasn't quite sure of what it meant so I asked him to clarify. He explained the term meant that he supported the view that the discussion of religion and faith should be removed from the public sphere and regulated into the private one and into a person's household.

This of course shocked me to no end. I asked whether that he meant for atheism to disappear from the public forum as well, and to his credit he answered 'No I'd just rather all religious debate disappeared so we wouldn't have to hear about it anymore, but I'd still insist there's no God."

Now none of what he'd said there is bad at all, but the very idea of simply removing a point of topic from the public sphere is one that strikes me as totalitarian in nature.

I of course should clarify something here. I am a rabid opponent of racism, hate speech, revisionist history, and the greatest sin of all, Holocaust denial. Any of those items are hateful, usually carry violent undertones, and are meant only to provoke hostility in a crowd. These things are in my opinion not defended under free speech, just like inciting violence or panic isn't. None of these things are appropriate or acceptable in civil discourse, just as copious name calling or profanity is considered impolite and obscene to public debate.

The idea that religion can be used to incite similar hate speech or intolerance is not false, but that goes against the thousands of other religious or faith based initiatives to do exactly the opposite such as promoting peace, justice, care for the poor, and forgiveness in society. So to be clear, attempting to ban religious discourse in public based on that category falls flat.

Now to return to the matter at hand, the term 'freedom from religion' implies that a person who is not a believer would be able to go about their daily life and never have to encounter a religious message or slogan (presumably unless they pass a church or mosque ect). That implies I would hope that a religious person could go about their daily life and never have to encounter an atheist banner or slogan.

I somehow though doubt that is the sincere wish of the atheist who promotes the idea.

Consider this, an atheist does not regard himself as religious, nor would his own banner or slogan be considered religious under the law. So I must presume that 'freedom from religion' does not include 'freedom from atheism'.

Now I can understand some out there asking 'Yeah, so what?' well in rebuttal let me put it this way. If society is 'free from religion' but not free from atheism then a religious or faithful person will most likely have to endure slogans, banners, chants and other atheist items without complaint while being unable to mount a rebuttal in the public forum themselves. I regard this as totalitarian in nature. It merely silences an idea that an atheist finds disqueting, is this idea hateful, bigoted, aiming to incite violence, or provoke people? No, the simple belief in God does not do that. While it will of course sometimes spark heated debate it is not meant to be used as a message to spread hate, bigotry, and ignorance (anyone who claims otherwise is deluded or no true servant of the Lord and merely a self-centered bigot).

So for someone to claim they want 'freedom from religion' I hear echoes of 'I want to silence the opposing view point'. While this may not be forefront on the minds of many who adhere to this idea, I am quite certain that most of its ardent defenders clearly want a society where they are free to preach their own spiritually dead message, while using the power of the state to silence any view point which would contest them and regulate the worshippers to their homes and churches rendering any response they might have mute.

Not only is that abhorent and un-democratic, but it flies in the very face of what most atheists would believe. They believe they have reason and logic on their side, well silencing the other end of the debate is not reason or logic. It is naked brutality masked as concern for society. I don't agree with anyone who supports this idea and I would encourage others to chastise the holders of it. It is not an idea which people who live in a democratic society should hold to, nor is it one which anyone who believes in logic and reason should want to see undertaken.

I am sometimes criticized for my belief in 'censoring' holocaust denial, or hate speech. Well what does someone who wants 'freedom from religion' preach? Civil discourse? No. They preach no discourse at all and merely wish to dictate to us what we can and cannot hear. That is the exact opposite of what I stand for in society.

I like to believe that we live in a free and open society which doesn't allow for bigotry and hate speech to run rampant. If we close one door of civil public discourse, how many more can be closed to satisfy people?

I finish with this, 'freedom from religion' is no freedom at all, but merely totalitarian urges masked behind lofty idealism. If you don't agree with a view debate it, if you don't wish to participate in said debate ignore it. What one cannot do is silence any opposing view point in a debate! If one cannot speak their mind than how can civil disocourse in society exist at all?

1 comment:

  1. "Freedom from religion" assumes that people just want to be away from religion altogether... just another vocal minority pushing to force the rest of us to conform to them. If I was in power, I'd outlaw special interest groups...