02 March 2008

Taking the piss in the name of Religious Tolerance

It would appear that our friends over the water are finding themselves in a multi-cultural morass. Whether it is Sikhs shutting down a play because it is too critical of the culture in the United Kingdom, an angry muslim killing a film-maker in the Netherlands, or angry Christian's opposing a play it would appear that European citizens are slowly losing their rights of free speech. This is not yet a serious problem in the US, at least not a litigious one but it could be if our own opinion of hate speech continues to imitate our European friends. Further it will be a problem when we allow any further inculcation of religion into our political life, and federal and state run institutions and practices.

Britain is curently reviewing the idea of strengthening its blasphemy laws because people can be offended by words that hurt their dieties. A huge problem with the British approach is that it has a state religion and its people are by and large giving and liberal. So when new communities defined by their faith come in demanding the same kind of state dispensations the Brits of course can see no reason not to invite these other religionists in.

This is one of the great lessons about why liberal democracies would be wise indeed to follow the lead illustrated in the US constitution and not allow any such state religion. If you do, and you are a suitably liberal democracy, you are faced with two equally unpalatable choices. Firstly, you could hypocritically say no and take the just our religion is the one that deserves respect by the state approach. Or you can start inviting all the faith communities to the trough. This second option would appear to be the one many in Britain want to follow. It would be hard to get the Anglican church off the dole and many people like the tradition of it. People realize though you cannot allow the one and deny the others.

Better to respect them all by giving people the opportunity to practice their faiths (so long has such practice doesn't violate human rights, or democracy etc) and respect none by official government action.

This will prevent idiots like Rowan Williams the Archbishop of Canterbury from making slyly self-serving proposals like allowing Sharia law into British jurisprudence. It would prevent the adoption of special treatments like protection from critique and ridicule through hate speech law and blasphemy laws. All such protection means is the following. I have no arguments against your position or ridicule, nor reasons to change you stance of hate toward my doctrine, so I will now whine and go hide behind a law or two that absolves me of having to do any serious intellectual work.
No one has the right to not be offended, or their favorite ideas not challenged. No one has the right to have their opposition silenced by law provided that opposition isn't violent. At least they shouldn't have such rights. It is inimical to honest discussion, thought, debate and free inquiry.

But if you think I am wrong and you favor more religious practice in government, more concern for religious sentiment in our politics, and more protection from critique, satire, etc limited by some silly law that decides for you what you are allowed to read, hear, see and ultimately say then watch the following.

"I think its about people afraid to lose their power."
Actress in a play cancelled by Sik violence.
Pay very close attention to Dolores Umbridge, whoops I mean Fiona Mactaggart MP, Minister for Race Equality and what it is she is actually saying.

Part I of dispatches, Offensive

Part II


Part IV

Part V


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