Sunday, 21 October 2012

Protecting Religious Rights

My friends disagree with me.

Not that religious rights need to be defended, we agree on that.

We disagree on how much protection they should have. Because as anyone who read my rant about the "Campaign for civility" could tell, I think that while people should be allowed to believe what they want, those beliefs should be as open to scoff, and ridicule as any other.

My premis was (is) that faiths make claims that are extremely offensive. I used the example of unbelievers deserving to be burned in hell, but I could just have easily gone with the claim that a woman is exactly one half the value of a man.

Someone very close to me after hearing my arguments from that blog post could not understand how someones faith could be offensive to someone else who did not share it...
RF [Respected Friend]: But if you dont believe in the qur'an or bible then why would it's claims about burning in hell bother you?

Me: Because people who accept the doctrine, accept the judgment it contains: that people without faith deserve eternal punishment.

RF: But thats just their belief, it doesn't mean anything... You dont have to take it seriously so why be offended.

Me: Because it can and does impact me. Our values create the laws and policies that we live by.

RF: But even if you feel that way you cant allow something as insulting as that video. People find it personally offensive...

...Aaaaaaand thats were I feel a point needs to be made.

An insult to a faith is not the same as a personal insult, an insult to a belief system, or a politics, or philosophy, or school of science, or model of thought, or even an economic system...  is not the same as a personal insult.

But faith is often given a special protected status in our culture, people will claim that anything that insults a faith can be taken as a personal insult without justification beyond the claim of faith.

For the vast majority of the faithful, this is because religion is the one belief people hold that they claim absolute knowledge.

Religious people dont think god exists they know he does, and they know what god is and what he wants of his creation. Many of my religious friends actually refuse to use words like "belief" because they are too ambiguous. Yet we know different religious systems contradict each other, they cannot all be right... But they could all be wrong.

So at least some of these people who claim an insult to their faith is a personal insult are taking offense about a false belief, a mistake, an error, or a self delusion.

And we let them do it.

As a society, we let religion make outlandish and contradictory claims. We let them make these claims with no evidence. We let them hold to practices and morals that are centuries out of date. We even let them discriminate on race, gender, and sexual orientation.

These values are reflected in society, they are used to justify laws and public policy.

I'll use the example of Islam because it was a muslim protest that prompted my original post:

People have tried to pass anti-blasphemy resolutions to the UN that would essentially make it illegal to say there was no historical evidence for Muhammad (or even to say he was just a normal man)

In the UK there are current attempts to get the courts to recognise sharia law, and multiple sharia councils are cropping up around England to enact sharia without waiting. Where this is really disturbing is that these councils are handing down rulings on legal matters like inheritance, and they are doing so according to quranic tradition - Sons get a full share and daughters get a half share.

These councils are run by people who also hold the belief that woman may be beaten if they dont obey their husbands.

Similar movements exist in the US and parts of Europe.

Personally I think any father who would rise their daughter as if she was worth less than a son is a fool at best. To tell a person they are worth less than another because of their gender is more than wrong it's a breach of basic human rights.

I think therefore that religion must be ready to get as good as it gives.

And its not just doctrine... People have used irrational and emotive attacks for as long as there has been debate, and people of faith are not exempt.

Claims of civility did not stop religionists drawing Charles Darwin with the body of a chimp, in fact it became a visual cliche of the age:

Perhaps more disturbing is that it continues to this day as a practice of those whose faith demands they do not accept any creation story but their own, and find themselves attacking the man to undermine the concept.

And the attacks do not stop at illustrations. Godwin's law remains a common go-to argument for many (but not all) people of faith who use "Reductio Ad Hitlerum" when they find themselves losing an argument on ration grounds.

I've experienced this myself, and have, in perfectly reasonable and quiet discussions been told that without faith to guide me I am no better than Hitler, and only the promise of salvation stops people from stealing raping and killing every day.

It's a claim made in a hundred youtube videos.

As my friend said
"You dont have to take it seriously"
And she was right, I dont have to and for the most part I dont.

I can live with views like that being expressed about me, and I demand only that god develops skin as thick as mine.

If we start limiting speech based on what may offend someone, redacting content from public sources on grounds of potential insult, then many religious works will have to become censored and radical/fundamentalist sermons will be blocked from youtube. In short "religious" freedoms would be the first ones to go...

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