Tuesday, 27 January 2009

Freedom of speech

gaggedFreedom of speech. It’s what we are told we have but the reality couldn’t be more different – even in the so-called liberal countries of the west.

Far-right Dutch politician Geert Wilders currently faces prosecution. And for what? Exercising his freedom of speech! Now we may not agree with what he says, and we may even find his views contemptuous and abhorrent, but does that mean he does not have the right to express his opinion? Heck – the UK even allows the ideas of the 20th century’s greatest mass murderer – Adolf Hitler – to circulate freely through sales of his book Mein Kampf. So why do we try to muzzle Geert Wilders and not Adolf Hitler?

Geert Wilders doesn’t like a certain religion. And he accuses that religion of supporting violence. But if what he says is not true, then isn’t the best way we should oppose him is through logical argument and not threats of imprisonment? Is it really a criminal offense to oppose a religion? And don’t religions themselves strongly oppose – often violently - other religions?

With the prosecution of Geert Wilders we are heading into very, very dangerous territory. And how long before it becomes illegal for atheists to express their ideas? What if religious people feel that criticism of their religion is akin to hatred? Will Richard Dawkins be locked up for his “attacks” on religion?

The great irony of course is that religious texts themselves are full of violence and hatred. It is not possible for me to single out any ones in this blog – I could probably be prosecuted for “hate speech” – but I’m sure you know what I’m talking about. In fact, certain passages are so violent that if they had in fact been made by atheists, they would almost certainly be illegal. That is the great irony that atheists have to live with now. And even in the afterlife when they are being roasted (or boiled) in hell…

Buddhist hell One vision of hell. Can’t say I’m looking forward to it...