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Jan 172015
 

In the wake of the murders of the Charlie Hebdo journalists there is a continuation of the debate over free speech (and expression). Amongst those making a contribution are those who say things like “I believe in free speech, but …”.

As soon as someone sticks a “but” into a sentence like that, you begin to wonder if they are really in favour or not. Usually it turns out they are not.

And one of the points raised after the stereotypical “but” is the issue of offence. Which is a tricky area because who likes being offended? Or to be more precise, who likes their personal sacred cows to be offended? And perhaps that is the tipping point – if your intention is to offend someone or a group of people, perhaps you should re-consider.

But if you are intending to criticise someone’s beliefs – religious or otherwise – it is perfectly justifiable. And yes using humour to make fun of someone’s beliefs is just as much criticism as a long, tedious, and boring blog posting. Any offence caused is a byproduct of the criticism, so perhaps this blog posting should be “The right to criticise includes the right to offend.”.

And in most cases the criticism comes in response to offence caused – if you create a religion that requires human sacrifice, you can expect a Charlie Hebdo cartoon mocking your religion.

And all religions include ridiculous and offensive aspects. After all the depiction of a mythical sky-daddy and impugning the godless nature of the universe causes offence to atheists.

So if you want free expression like the cartoons of Charlie Hebdo banned because they are offensive, I’ll be asking for all those religious tomes like the bible and the koran to be banned because they are offensive – to me. Your rights as a believer in fairies, angels, and other imaginary and infectious friends do not trump my rights as an atheist. Just as my rights as a godless and amoral unbeliever do not trump your rights as a believer.

 

Jan 102015
 

(Stolen from a Facebook posting)

Sounds daft doesn’t it? Because the killers themselves would have claimed they were doing it for islam. And of course there are plenty of feeble-minded bigots who are now attacking muslims and islamic places of worship.

Now don’t get me wrong: I have no patience with organised religion and think anyone who believes in an imaginary infectious friend in the sky needs their head examining. But they have a right to believe anything they want.

They just don’t have the right to inflict it on the rest of us.

Within any community (religious or otherwise), there are two sorts of people, and yes I’m being overly simplistic here. There are the majority who go along with the community and obey the dictates if they are not too inconvenient. And there are the zealots who take it to the extremes. And amongst the zealots there is a deranged minority who want to inflict the standards of their community on everyone. Some of them use violence to do so.

Now there was some idiot on the news today who claimed that despite Charlie Hebdo publishing a cartoon insulting to christians, that it wasn’t christians shooting journalists. True enough, but it there are christians murdering abortion doctors and harassing those entering abortion clinics, so it is not as if there are no christian terrorists.

Now comes a bit of a leap of faith: These terrorists whatever their faith, have more in common with each other than their co-religionists. They all espouse an extreme form of their faith, are compelled to inflict it on everyone, and resort to violence to pursue their goals.

Their most significant attribute is terrorism and not their religion. Their crimes overwhelm their faith and make their religion irrelevant.

An alternative way of looking at it is a quantitative approach. There were 3 killers involved in the attack on the offices of Charlie Hebdo and the kosher supermarket. The number of muslims in France is not known precisely, but a figure of about 3 million seems a reasonable approximation for this sort of calculation, which if you work it out makes the number of killers in this incident just 0.0001% of the muslim population of France.

So why were there only three killers? Because muslims as a whole are not terrorists.

Besides which, there is nothing we could do to annoy the killers more than to deny their islamic nature.

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