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Freedom From Religion
"Of all the tyrannies that affect mankind, tyranny in religion is the worst." -Thomas Paine
Would Paine be charged with "blasphemy" and hauled off to the Middle East for execution?
"The legitimate powers of government extend to such acts only as are injurious to others. But it does me no injury for my neighbor to say there are twenty gods, or no God. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg." -Thomas Jefferson
I've undergone a mild transformative awakening these past two weeks. For many years I tried to stay out of the religious questions, the smears, the ambitions of competing religious orders, the propaganda of those who would denigrate their competitors -- you probably know the usual culprits. Except for the blatantly silly cults like the Mormons, Scientologists and Jehovas; I mean I'm only a human and a satirist.
But now, faced with a sustained, coordinated assault on freedom of expression, all of it emanating from one direction with one clearly-defined goal, I'm starting to dig in my heels and take Thomas Paine's warning to heart. Article after article by angry Muslim writers seek to end the First Amendment in America, but only in regard to their religion of course. We just won't be allowed to talk about Islam freely, and the manner in which we discuss their religion will be dictated by ... whom?
"Freedom of thought is the only guarantee against an infection of people by mass myths, which, in the hands of treacherous hypocrites and demagogues, can be transformed into bloody dictatorships." -Andrei Dmitrievich Sakharov
I've read half a dozen Muslim writers, and a few others, this week arguing that we must clamp down on speech in the United States, but I've found not a single one that stood up to defend the concept of freedom of expression. Nor did I find the term "theocracy" or acknowledgment thereof, which is the reality in a number of Muslim countries today. We can't discuss freedom of speech and religion without taking note of theocracy, entrenched, official religious institutions and their dogmas. Do we really want to cast off the lessons of the Enlightenment and take a step several centuries backward? Rash, poorly thought-out rants seek simply to exploit this current hysteria, in my opinion.
"Once you attempt legislation upon religious grounds, you open the way for every kind of intolerance and religious persecution." -William Butler Yeats
I've seen enough from the local religions, where my small western town is essentially drowning in churches and Walmart shoppers. These show up at the front door on Saturday mornings, book in hand, ready to fish for new members and new revenue streams. I've considered penning a lengthy pamphlet to hand back, one that offers the opposing arguments concerning their central mythology. But if new church v. state legal erosions come to pass, could such a pamphlet be the first step to death row?
Where I live, for a sizable fee of course, you can even attend "prophecy school.' I sh*t you not. They're raking in the rubes by the planeload barely a mile from where I type this. The would-be prophets must book early though because classes are limited to, "between 300-400 to keep it to a smaller more intimate setting." There they also speak of an, "ever increasing government of God." The "students" of this "prophecy" program are reminded that the, "word "tithe' means "tenth' and it is a way of honoring God with the first 10% of our income." Honoring whom? They really pack "em in for the live event stuff, and so be advised, "...no refunds will be given 21 days prior the event."
As Jesus said, "All sales are final."
"No one expects the Spanish Inquisition!" -Monty Python
I'm afraid many of us see the world differently, very, very differently. I'm simply not impressed by your fairy tales, whomever you are, as they were concocted by primitive peoples who would run away from a vacuum cleaner. I'm hoping that the rationality of progress will show these myths to be less than proven, and their iron traps on the minds of millions will rust and crumble away over time.
Thus we have the ultimate fear of the religious zealot (the professional Mumbo Jumbologist), that his fancy talk will one day lose all power over his minions. In this competition, this lust for power, it's not the spiritual kind of magical power that accumulates, but the very real political kind which results from influencing the flock, the group mind. Uniformity of thought and monolithic conformity is to be desired.
Organizations with so many members are by nature dangerous. They soon insulate themselves from conflicting messages, and then they seek to eradicate the opposition, to tear down society's barriers, which keep them in check. For why should they be restrained? After all, they are correct in all matters. God said so.
"Religious bondage shackles and debilitates the mind and unfits it for every noble enterprize, every expanded prospect." -James Madison
We in the U.S. have enough problems with the local religious zealots without a sustained assault by angry foreign fundamentalists who would seek to interfere in what we can or cannot say here. I've laid out my basic case for defending free speech, but the crux of it is that we must tolerate ideas that we personally oppose or find "blasphemous," or else we simply don't support freedom of expression. And if you don't support freedom of expression, you'd best take more than a couple minutes' rant figuring out what it is you do support.
People have a right to disagree. People have a right to satirize. People have a right to "insult." People have a right to "blaspheme." People have a right to tell you that you're wrong.
Like it or not, you can disagree all you want legally in America. What you cannot do is banish speech you find objectionable. Once that becomes an established norm then any speech can be banned. If we were to toss the First Amendment in the dumpster in response to the Muslim world's current demand for sacredness, why could we not just ban Islam in America?
Why not ban all mention of that religion and eradicate it here?