Supporting The Act Of Speaking, If Not The Content, Is Important

Charlie Hebdo cover

The massacre at the Charlie Hebdo magazine office in Paris this week showed the breadth and width of views and comments on ridiculing religion. A lot of Muslims think that killing someone who ridicules their religion is a good thing while other Muslims and non-muslims don’t think that is rational. Of course you have some people who want to blame the victims for their own deaths or complain that Charlie Hebdo was being racist. Ideas should be allowed to be expressed even if those ideas are stupid and need to be ridiculed.

Comedian and atheist Bill Maher said in a recent interview:

“This has to stop, and unfortunately, a lot of the liberals, who are my tribe — I am a proud liberal,” Maher said.

“No, I’m not turning on them,” Maher said. “I’m asking them to turn toward the truth as I have been for quite a while. I’m the liberal in this debate. I’m for free speech. To be a liberal, you have to stand up for liberal principles. It’s not my fault that the part of the world that is most against liberal principles is the Muslim part of the world.”

Maher claimed the attacks were supported by mainstream Muslims throughout the world.

“I know most Muslim people would not have carried out an attack like this, but here’s the important point,” he said. “Hundreds of millions of them support an attack like this, they applaud an attack like this. What they say is, we don’t approve of violence, but you know what, when you make fun of the prophet, all bets are off.”

Bill Maher on Paris Attack: ‘There Are No Great Religions—They’re All Stupid and Dangerous’

I don’t agree with those “That religion is worse than other religions…” arguments. All religions taint humanity. It’s just some are in the news more, lately, for their atrocities but most all religions have had a turn at the murder window over our long history.

I support free speech in general. I support the act of speaking being unencumbered by the government, religion, or the public. Even if the ideas being expressed are stupid or offensive, people should have the right to say those things.

I also support the idea that one shouldn’t be protected from the reasonable consequences of one’s speech. If someone says something stupid or hateful then we should be able to let that person know that it is stupid or hateful.

Words can hurt people’s feelings but they rarely deprive people of their life, liberty, or property. Words can lead to depravation but the words themselves don’t do it.

Publishing a photo of the prophet Muhammad doesn’t cause the Muslim to stop being a Muslim, it doesn’t close a mosque, or convert people to another religion.

People of different religious beliefs who interact in the world should know, at some point, their beliefs might be offended.

Being angry about being offended is reasonable. Rioting or murder is not a reasonable response to being offended.

Writing about the offense in a blog is reasonable. Blasphemy laws are not reasonable.

Political leaders or media outlets who give into the calls for censorship actually diminish what it means to have freedom of speech and will never move society to a point where murder is never an option as a response to offensive words.