Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Intolerance from the religious right?

Ed Darrell says, in a comment:
Here in the U.S. there is an active movement, led by religionists like James Dobson and D. James Kennedy, to deprive atheists, liberal Christians, Jews, Muslims, and other groups whose ideas border on the religious from the right to expound those views, or in some cases, from the right to hold such views.

As James Madison pointed out, the right to hold such views is one of the most essential rights there is in a democracy, especially in a democratic republic.

Oppressors generally claim that the oppressed don't need the rights they ask for. One of the first refuges of oppressors whose moral paucity is on display is to claim the oppressed are "rude" and should therefore be censored.

Rethink this.
Indeed? Well, what you are talking about would be, in effect, the imposition of something like a theocratic regime. That is a serious charge - if you can substantiate it. But the only substance I know of in that claim is its frequent assertion by the New Atheists.

Conversely, in these days of relativism, drawing lines is considered "rude", and anybody seeking to make an absolute truth claim will cause eyebrows to be raised. Even if the claim is blindingly obvious, like: "Smoking is stupid.".

Now it should not be considered rude to make such truth claims (as we are being told). What is rude is to make absolute truth claims and then seek to deny people who have dissenting views the right to express them. It was Christians who fought for this - in Europe - and it was the lack of this that led to the Pilgrims leaving for the New World, seeking a new tolerant society. This definition of tolerance should hold both for atheists and "religionists". If we are to live in a truly tolerant society, both sides must accept this.

I have no experience of Christians trying to repress opponents, except where it is truly and pointedly seeking to be offensive, and even then under freedom of speech legislation they have generally been unsuccessful ("Jerry Springer: The Opera" - truly and pointedly? Do you think that they would have gotten away with jokes directed at the religious heart of Islam?). However, I hear plenty of people on both sides of the Atlantic being given positive media coverage as they push for the banning of faith schools, the removal of people from positions of influence if they don't subscribe to naturalism and so on.

So I can give examples of intolerance directed against religion. Can you give actual examples of intolerance directed against atheism?