The freedom to express non-belief in other’s religious beliefs…and to totally disregard them…is fundamental to enjoying freedom of religion…even for a sectarian fundamentalist religious person…
Take hat wearing in church. The New Testament demands it of women. Today, next to no-one does it. It was probably non-believers that first pointed out how stupid and infantile a superstitious belief it was. Now most believers agree. Believers have a lot to thank non-believers for…
As an academic, I value the free exchange of ideas. As such, while I
understand the social pressures to avoid contentious discussions on
politics and religion, I find this a form of intellectual cowardice.
One’s political views and/or religious beliefs should not exist in an
impenetrable and inviolable bubble wherein they are protected from
criticism or scrutiny. Needless to say, I fully support the legal codes
that are meant to protect individuals from discrimination. As someone
whose family escaped execution in Lebanon (see here),
I am only too aware of the evils of religious intolerance and hatred.
That said I am unsure that in secular liberal democracies, one’s
religion should fall in the same all-encompassing protective category as
one’s sexual orientation, biological sex, or race. We don’t choose our
race, sexual orientation, or biological sex but we do choose whether or
not we wish to adhere to and believe in particular religious narratives.
If the religious beliefs are antithetical to Western liberal values
(e.g., religiously-sanctioned hatred of members of otherwise protected
classes such as religious minorities, women, or homosexuals!) then to
“discriminate” against such beliefs is perfectly natural. As a side
note, I should mention that religious folks typically disagree with the
premise that one’s sexual orientation is innate, and will often offer
religious “remedies” to the “problem” at hand (see here)!
I should also add that religiously founded institutions are afforded
legal protection to discriminate against those of other faiths or those
possessing no faith (see my earlier post on the topic here)! Such is the
beauty of religion. It seeks maximal protection for its narrative
whilst openly discriminating against others in endless ways.
What about Hate Speech laws? These are fine when they are meant to
protect against calls for violence against groups of individuals (e.g.,
“Let’s kill Jews. They are the enemies of God.”). On the other hand, to
mock, offend, or criticize religious beliefs should never be construed
as illegal hate speech lest we give up our most fundamental human
rights: freedom of conscience (which includes freedom from religion) and
freedom of speech. Modern-day blasphemy laws (often disguised as Hate
Speech laws) are antithetical to the definitional ethos of Western
liberal democracies (see here and here
for two of my earlier posts on the topic).
People have every right to
practice their religious convictions in private (not as an intrusion on
others in the public sphere) and the rest of us have every right to
reject, mock, and criticize these beliefs.
There is no such thing as
freedom from religious offense. If you live in the West, you should
accept that your religious views are not sacrosanct to those who do not
share your faith…“