Wednesday, February 25, 2009

The answer to the problems of free speech is always more free speech

I was reading this excellent article by Johann Hari(link via Jabberwock). It is a long one, but its worth it. Its in response to an article he wrote earlier this year which had the editor and the publisher jailed. The conditioning of the world currently is such that religion has become a very delicate topic best avoided. Johann Hari has put his arguments through so eloquently that you can't but just nod in total agreement. The article invoked very strong reactions from religious fundamentalists. The article explains how fundamental human right to free speech is compromised under the umbrella of "religious issues" throughout the world and even in the UN.

I argued this was a symbol of how religious fundamentalists – of all stripes – have been progressively stripping away the right to freely discuss their faiths. They claim religious ideas are unique and cannot be discussed freely; instead, they must be "respected" – by which they mean unchallenged. So now, whenever anyone on the UN Human Rights Council tries to discuss the stoning of "adulterous" women, the hanging of gay people, or the marrying off of ten year old girls to grandfathers, they are silenced by the chair on the grounds these are "religious" issues, and it is "offensive" to talk about them.

This trend is not confined to the UN. It has spread deep into democratic countries. Whenever I have reported on immoral acts by religious fanatics – Catholic, Jewish, Hindu or Muslim – I am accused of "prejudice", and I am not alone. But my only "prejudice" is in favour of individuals being able to choose to live their lives, their way, without intimidation. That means choosing religion, or rejecting it, as they wish, after hearing an honest, open argument.

I am a religious person. I believe in a supreme power and hence live by believing things will be fine tomorrow or maybe the day after if it is not today. As a christian, Bible is the answer to all my questions, worries and anxieties. Bible is a part of my daily prayers. As a child when I started reading the book of Psalms, a lot of the chapters did not go very well with the basic concepts of christian values of forgiveness and love your enemies. Slowly, I figured out a handful of chapters I liked and stuck to them like a recorder. Psalms 23, 91, 100 & 121 of the 150 chapters :). I would only read one of these or the proverbs or read the new testament.

It is said it is unacceptable to argue the Bible. As my father explained it, the bible can be interpreted in many different ways, it is the written word, arguing over it without the one who wrote it explaining what was exactly meant is very dangerous. Take what you makes sense to you and go back for the rest latter in the years. (He was pretty scared that after one of our Bible study classes we were just going to argue bad and give up on it.) The so-called custodians of the religion today weren't the ones who wrote it or the ones who even heard the sermons. So they are as good as us when it comes to interpreting the written word. Theological seminaries where the bible is taught I am told a lot of other books/subjects revolving around the history of the place and times is taught as well, which brings in factual or circumstantial evidence which ofcourse the commoners are unaware of. That is the advantage we give our priests. God has given us brains to evolve as human beings and not to stagnate as men and women of the garden of Eden. There is this story in the bible Matthew 25:14-30 that goes such,

A landlord had 3 servants. Since the landlord was going far away for a few years, he called all the 3 servants and gave then x amount each. 2 of the servants invested this money in various other activities and made some more. While the third servant dug a hole and preserved it. When the landlord returns, the other 2 servants had more to offer while the 3rd one had nothing more to offer. The landlord then takes away what was given to the 3rd servant since he hadn't used it anyway and the other 2 are given more.

This story as you can see can be interpreted in a couple of ways and I have heard a couple of them but the only one that appealed to me was, God gives you talent and brains to use it and not to preserve it, so use it. Not using it is a sin.

So the religious books should be open to discussions only then would we be able to evolve to laws relevant to the current times. We can not read Genesis and say God created us naked and that is how nature meant us to be right?

Coming back to the point, the article is not a provocative article, it is only provocative to those who are uncomfortable counter-arguing it.

The protesters said I deliberately set out to "offend" them, and I am supposed to say that, no, no offence was intended. But the honest truth is more complicated. Offending fundamentalists isn't my goal – but if it is an inevitable side-effect of defending human rights, so be it. If fanatics who believe Muslim women should be imprisoned in their homes and gay people should be killed are insulted by my arguments, I don't resile from it. Nothing worth saying is inoffensive to everyone.

..The answer to the problems of free speech is always more free speech.

and nothing else. Its never ever violence.


S m i t h a said...

wow, the man said what i've been trying to say. thanks for the link.
btw, many interpretations? oh c'mon. He couldn't write clearly and get it right the first time? If the fault is with men, trying to interpret it, then that means He couldnt get 'us' right the first time! either way, He is incompetent and less than intelligent author :P

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