1 Dr Potter Nobody Has A right not To Be Offended
Offence and Free Speech
Anonymous Iraq Casualties
not TO BE OFFENDED!
(Investigator 117, 2007
It's Sunday morning in Brighton, UK, and all is peace. It's the one morning of the week when I am less likely to turn on the bedside radio, because the usual weekday programmes are replaced with hymns and an assortment of 'clerics' mostly Christian but increasingly others – Muslim, Hindu et al.
Even secular news commentaries are slanted to include 'moral exhortations' – this morning, it was a broad spectrum of theologians from several 'faiths' expressing concerns about proposals to expand 'embryonic research', which they defined as yet another example of humankind's 'sinfulness', arrogantly attempting to 'play God'. Every day of the week the BBC's morning programmes gives us "Thought for the Day" where speakers claim to be giving us insight into the mind of their creator. On Sunday it's worse: full 'worshipping' services are broadcast, culminating near eventide with "Songs of Praise".
This Sunday, (16/9/07) most of early news services consisted of items with a religious bias. The Archbishop of Canterbury described his hope that when the Prince of Wales became the monarch, the title "Defender of Faiths" (note the plural case!) would replace the existing one. Then reference to recent Prime Minister Blair's advocacy to expand the number of "faith schools", which seems to have received on-going government support. Then an item reporting the resignation letter sent by Zimbabwian Archbishop Neube to the Pope, following accusation against him by the Mugabe regime of a 'sexual affair' (his alleged partner being a consenting adult female; totally unacceptable conduct for a Catholic priest!).
Finally, an update on "missing" Maddie McCann. We were told the parents were attending Sunday mass at their own village church in Rothley, Leicestershire, and for the umpteenth time reminded of the child's parents' Catholic convictions and their special pilgrimage to Rome for the blessing of the Holy Father. For the true believer, the McCann's highly publicized Christian commitment is obviously evidence of their 'innocence'!
That so much on-air time is readily available to those hawking beliefs the majority of people now regard as superstition appears incredible to those, like myself, who have spent a lifetime campaigning for a secular society. The 'loss of faith' in today's Britain is greater than ever before. Less than 6% of the general population belongs to a church (or mosque, synagogue, temple or whatever) – and half that figure is children. In England, 2007, most weddings do not include a religious ceremony; increasingly priests are disappearing from funeral services. Put bluntly, in today's Britain, religion has lost its significance.
Parallel with the rapidly increased momentum of decline in belief during the last half century, has been a lessoning of the restrictions placed upon "free thought". After hundreds of years of the Blasphemy Act (1697-98), legislation that made it an offence to "defame the name of a god or gods", the last imprisonment under this Act was in the early 1920s. The last prosecution, leading to a fine of £500, was in 1977 (the action was largely initiated by the infamous Mary Whitehouse against the editor of Gay News, for publishing the poem The Love That Dares to Speak its Name. He was also given a suspended prison sentence).
As a teenager in the late 1940s I was a regular speaker for the Rationalist Association of South Australia (long defunct!) in the Adelaide Park. Our meetings always attracted a good, very argumentative audience. Almost always I took a Bible with me to the platform and frequently my contributions revolved around the absurdities of Scriptural tales, atrocities and the faulty morality of that atrocious book. Many Christians (always a good sprinkling of Catholics) attended and argued bitterly and probably left the meeting feeling they'd 'put that little upstart in his place'.
But not once in the years when these meetings were one of the highlights of my life, did anyone claim the speaker "had offended them" by ridiculing their treasured religious beliefs! [Of course not only Christianity came under attack; I often quoted Islamic and Buddhist texts (with much less hostility to the latter), but I don't remember any devotees of non-Christian communities participating.]
Sixty years have passed and it is a very different world. The United States of America was founded by freethinking heretics but is being 'taken over' by the religious right. Symbolically, in the 1950s, God's name appeared on their currency notes. Whereas Abraham Lincoln made no secret of his not being a Christian, such a view today would immediate exclude a person being a viable presidential candidate.
Grounded in the mid-West, fundamentalism flourished, creationist thought took root, the Republican Party of Abe Lincoln, founded primarily to abolish slavery and 'modernize', culminated in Ronald Reagan and George W Bush, both, to a great extent, basing themselves on Biblical prophecy. (The latter claims God speaks to him direct – and told him to "go invade Iraq"!)
World politics are determined by economic factors, rather than religious belief, and a major determinant in the policies of those controlling today's productive resources revolves around oil reserves.
Look at a 'mineral' map of the world for immediate understanding of why so many are occupied killing each other in today's Middle East. When one nation invades and occupies another, the natives resist; but the first principle of political propaganda is to refuse to recognize the resisters as 'patriots', defending their homeland. The Nazis never battled with resistance fighters but with "bandits" and "terrorists". So today, those fighting against the US occupiers are "devil-inspired" followers of the 'terrorist' bin Laden [an individual armed by the USA, always a bitter enemy of Saddam Hussein whose Iraq was a "secular state" and who offered full support to George Bush senior at the time of the first Gulf War!] That's how it is.
For reasons that should be obvious to anyone who thinks, it helps the 'powers that be' in the USA, Britain (and Australia!) to describe it all in terms of Islamic terror versus Christian civilization. (Significantly and ironically, only one topic takes up more space, overall, in today's media coverage than 'religion' – that's 'terrorism'.)
An aspect of today's 'modernized' world is the influx of immigrants from the Islamic world into Western Europe. Under the cloak of 'remembering the Holocaust' comes the demand to 'make diversity work'. But rather than tackle this issue in a rational manner, rather than progress along the path of encouraging open discussion of contending views, replaying the past battles of 'freethinkers' everywhere, the governmental manipulators, the international 'leaders' of the nations engaged in the economic world struggle, choose the safer (for them) option of maintaining the status quo.
Rather than free and open discussion they maintain the divisive and exclusive autocratic fundamentalist factions, and eliminate any attempt to rationally examine and challenge these universally outmoded traditional beliefs. Civil peace must be achieved by suppressing any "free and open discussion", prevent any objective search for material truths rather than the less-challengeable spiritual truths.
So new offences are created. People are given a new 'right' – the right not to be offended.
The London "Times" carried a letter which encapsulates this 'new' approach to 'free speech'. A Tourist Guide described how he had taken a party around Vienna, showing them a beautiful baroque monument, built by public subscription to thank God for saving the city from the Plague. He added that apparently nobody ever asked why the Almighty had sent the Black Death in the first place, killing millions of good decent, God-fearing citizens. One member of the group regretted his guide wasn't a broadcaster on Radio 4. Another, anonymously, complained to the tour company about his remark and the Guide was officially reprimanded for "causing offence".
It is quite wrong to argue that all opinions must be respected. In a civilized society, all people deserve respect, but opinions do not. Reinhard Heydrich had an opinion known as the "Final Solution" at the Wannsee Conference in January 1942. Why should any intelligent person "respect" that opinion? As an atheist I find many religious sentiments, particularly in relation to women and gays, offensive, but I fanatically support the right of these people to freely express their point of view irrespective of how objectionable I believe those views to be.
OFFENCE and FREE SPEECH
Bob Potter (# 117) argued
that people have
no right not to be offended. The Bible, with qualifications, agrees
Jesus sometimes used blunt
talk that offended:
Not Jews only, but every
eventually take offence over the Christian Scriptures. This follows
- All people are deceived in their beliefs; evil in conduct; therefore condemned by God; and must repent or perish. (Romans 1:18-32)
- This message would be preached worldwide. (Mark 13:10)
Despite their offensive
don't want to offend:
So far as it
you live peaceably
with all. (Romans 12:18)
May he strengthen your hearts so that you will be blameless and holy… (I Thessalonians 3:13)
For he chose
radiant church, without
stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless.
1:4; 5:27; Colossians 1:22)
Bob Potter went on to show that some people promote the right not to be offended so as to "make diversity work" in today's multicultural societies. Such a right would presumably promote peace by stopping religions and ethnic groups from criticising one another. However, it would also stifle debate, and undermine science, which relies on free interchange of ideas.
In the West we value "freedom of speech". But should we support free speech for terrorists when they use it to indoctrinate kids as suicide bombers with the goal of establishing Islamic states that suppress free speech?
First-century Christians opposed the "free speech" of men who attended meetings to subvert Christianity for financial gain or to draw off followers. (Titus 1:10-11)
There is no ultimate right to free speech. Modern legal systems, for example, take "offence" at someone who starts a human stampede by shouting "Fire!" or who misdirects paramedics because he dislikes the injured person. The Bible goes further and condemns liars, deceivers, and false prophets. (Acts 6:13; Mark 10:19; 13:22; Romans 13:9; Ephesians 4:25; I John 4:1; Revelation 2:2; 21:8)
penalties for slander and libel, i.e. defamation. And this agrees with
In the New Testament the
is translated "blaspheme" when referring to criticisms of God, and
evil of", "slander" or "insult" when referring to people:
Potter also commented on the Iraq war, suggesting American "occupiers" are there for the oil. Nearly every opinion-writer calls the war "a mess" and repeats the claim about oil.
A Lebanese newspaper said:
Although weapons of mass
were not discovered in Iraq, UN resolutions also required the
of WMD programs. Saddam's "programs" may have moved to Syria and
there with aid from North Korea. In 2007 Israel bombed a secret
in north-west Syria:
Consider also what Saddam's regime was like:
The Kurds of NE Iraq have taken on democracy, have comparative peace, and are becoming prosperous. If all Iraq has not benefited equally, blame the perpetrators including foreign terrorists of whom 4000 have been killed.
Most killings in Iraq after Saddam's defeat in 2003 were by Sunni and al-Qaida murderers killing indiscriminately but also targeting anyone working to rebuild Iraq such as police, oil workers and teachers.
Critics who misuse "free speech" to blame builders and peace-keepers for the deeds done by murderers, inspire the murderers to kill even more innocents for the propaganda value!
Some argue, "Saddam killing his own country was not our problem. If we say it was then we're complicit in the Darfur genocide for not intervening there." However, inability to remove corrupt regimes everywhere simultaneously does not imply complicity but implies inability!
What if Saddam had not been toppled? What do evil men do when they realize no one will stop them? Do they become good?
When Hitler realized no
one would stop him,
because stopping him could cost a few thousand lives, he set out to
the world – and then stopping him cost 35,000,000 lives! Evil people
stopped continue their evil: Child molesters keep molesting until
liars keep lying, serial killers keep killing, stalkers keep stalking,
drug users keep using drugs, thieves keep stealing, etc. It's as the
North Korea illustrates the point. Decades of negotiations to persuade North Korea to discontinue its atomic bomb project, including a "Sunshine Policy" of billion-dollar bribes, led to North Korea collecting its bribes but repeatedly reneging its part of the deal – and it now has atomic bombs! (Kagan & Kagan 2000; Alford 2008)
Similarly, had Saddam not
been stopped it
would have been full go ahead with WMD. Without the Iraq war we could
have nuclear bomb projects in North Korea, Iraq, Iran and Syria
cooperating and therefore more advanced, and 4000 foreign terrorists
in Iraq would be active elsewhere.
The building of a "Pipeline Exclusion Zone" of ditches and razor wire to protect pipelines from insurgents has raised Iraq's oil production to pre-war levels and was achieved because Americans stayed! (Fletcher 2008)
Secondly, the US does not need to "control" Iraq's oil. The US is itself a major oil producer and could be self-sufficient simply by reducing speed limits to 50mph.
Thirdly, technology should soon make conversion of shale to oil cost-effective – "shale" is the stuff that becomes oil if left in the ground another million years. And guess what – US shale deposits vastly exceed even Arabia's oil reserves!
The purpose of the Iraq
invasion was to hinder
the spread of WMD and offer Iraqis democracy and the prosperity and
of law that usually come with it.
Critics misuse their "freedom of speech" when they undermine Iraqi democracy by comforting al-Qaida murderers and condemning peace-enforcers.
The Bible says:
The Bible implies –
because the Christian
message offends – that there is no right not to be offended. However,
natural to take offence at speech that incites people to injure each
defames character, exploits victims with lies, or misdirects blame away
from perpetrators onto the innocent.
Alford, P. The Weekend Australian, January 19-20, 2008, p. 20.
Chulov, M. The Weekend Australian, October 21-22, 2007, p. 15.
Fletcher, M. The Weekend Australian, February 2-3, 2008, p. 12.
D. & Kagan F.
W. 2000 While
America Sleeps, St Martins.
142, 2012 January)