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Old 01-29-2008, 09:54 PM   #1
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More Anti-Freedom Religious Leadership

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The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, has called for new laws to protect religious sensibilities that would punish “thoughtless and cruel” styles of speaking.

Dr Williams, who has seen his own Anglican Communion riven by fierce invective over homosexuality, said the current blasphemy law was “unworkable” and he had no objection to its repeal.

But whatever replaces it should “send a signal” about what was acceptable.

This should be done by “stigmatising and punishing extreme behaviours” that have the effect of silencing argument.

The Archbishop, delivering the James Callaghan Memorial Lecture in London this afternoon, said it should not just be a few forms of extreme behaviour that were deemed unacceptable, leaving everything else as fair game.

“The legal provision should keep before our eyes the general risks of debasing public controversy by thoughtless and, even if unintentionally, cruel styles of speaking and acting,” he said.

The last conviction under Britain’s blasphemy law was in 1979. The Government recently indicated it is willing to amend the Criminal Justice Bill to abolish the offences of blasphemy and blasphemous libel.

The High Court last month refused to allow a prosecution of the director general of the BBC for blasphemy over the screening of the controversial musical, Jerry Springer - The Opera.

In 2006, Parliament passed the Racial and Religious Hatred Act, which creates an offence of inciting or “stirring up” hatred against a person on the grounds of their religion. But the act was so watered down during its passage through Parliament that its critics fear it will be almost useless.

Dr Williams said: “It is clear that the old blasphemy law is unworkable and that its assumptions are not those of contemporary lawmakers and citizens overall. But as we think about the adequacy of what is coming to replace it, we should not, I believe, miss the opportunity of asking the larger questions about what is just and good for individuals and groups in our society who hold religious beliefs.”
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Of course that good and just business for groups that hold belief is at the expense of the more sinful groups of unbelievers freedom.

Just defer to the slogan below
Quote:
George Orwell
If freedom of speech means anything at all, it is the freedom to say things that people do not want to hear
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Old 01-29-2008, 10:12 PM   #2
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I agree with you; such laws are fraught with problems, and run completely contrary to the free flow of ideas that democracy was founded upon.

I find myself interested in the possibility of such laws being inspired by that of Islamic interests in squelching criticism against its religion. I am interested only because it is believed by some that the iconoclast controversy of the Byzantine Empire was inspired similarly by Islamic taboos against it, and only manifested in the empire, due to its gradual disintegration at the hands of their armies.

Of course, someone may correct me if I'm wrong here.
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Old 01-29-2008, 10:31 PM   #3
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Those Islamic PR groups like MPAC and CAIR don't seem to have any issue in opposing material critical of Islam regardless of it's merits (it's the purpose of those groups, it's not inherently a bad thing). In countries where free speech laws aren't as liberal as the US they can push for state censorship. The thing with those censorship laws is that various groups (Christians, Jews, Hindus etc.) seem more than happy to unite against a common enemy (religious vilification - not vilification by the religious). And it all gets couched in language like respect, anti-racism, decency, informed discussion and anything that doesn't imply silencing critics and open debate.

What is particularly galling about demands for respect is the complete lack of respect some of these gangs show for sinners and infidels of certain types (how often does one see an interfaith Unite Against Homophobia or Celebrate Free Speech campaign).
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Old 01-29-2008, 11:00 PM   #4
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Originally posted by A_Wanderer
And it all gets couched in language like respect, anti-racism, decency, informed discussion and anything that doesn't imply silencing critics and open debate.

What is particularly galling about demands for respect is the complete lack of respect some of these gangs show for sinners and infidels of certain types (how often does one see an interfaith Unite Against Homophobia or Celebrate Free Speech campaign).
This ends up being the ultimate secularist argument against relativism and its vague notions of acceptance we call "tolerance." The Straussian argument against this, before Republican neoconservatism completely neutered this movement, was that relativism/tolerance did not hold up, logically, because it meant the possibility of "tolerating" those that were inherently "intolerant," and, as such, relativism, essentially, meant that intolerance was equally valid to tolerance. In other words, at some point, the logic falls apart.

Instead, the alternative offered was to reclaim the traditional values of a free, democratic society, which was summed up in terms of the Enlightenment values vaguely summarized as that of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. That is, by holding up these values as "the ideal," instead of "tolerance," it effectively makes the statement that, no, we do not have to tolerate the intolerant, because they are wrong.

Granted, as a movement, they were certainly quick to sell out, and probably took too much of Machiavelli's The Prince to heart, to the point that those they were trying to exploit to further their agenda unexpectedly destroyed them, so I'm not stating this as an endorsement of neoconservatism. On the other hand, I think that the lesson speaks for itself; we cannot further the cause of freedom by passing laws that curtail it. And laws that mandate "respect" for religion run completely contrary to Western democratic ideals.
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Old 01-29-2008, 11:39 PM   #5
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I feel that respect for ideas not only implies a degree of acceptance but also a measure of legitimacy. How can one respect ideas that are mutually incompatible to ones own convictions; I should be free to give a preacher that damns me to hell for unbelief the same ammount of respect that he gives me. Freedom to make judgements about ideas and people and freedom to express those ideas strike at the core of freedom of thought and freedom of speech.

Something bordering on being a free speech absolutist at least guarantees that for any intolerant verbal diahrreoa that spits from any quarter then it will be answered those that can counter it openly. But that is dependent on a society where people can live with others free speech and conditions where intolerant speech doesn't invariably tend to violence (what makes censorship so insdious is that it conditions people to think they don't have to respect other peoples free speech; that when they mandate what others are allowed to say they are doing the right thing). The childish reactions to offensive speech where the easily offended (and overly domineering) give off infantile whines and seeths of hurt feelings and sensibilities are no cause for censorship. When they start making threats of violence or do things like burn down embassies or shoot dead a filmmaker before stabbing a justification upon his chest the fault and responsibility must rest solely on them. Rewarding such violence by ceeding their demands is wrong and as Melon says it betrays what many see as good values in a free society.

I think that Melon raises a critical point on Enlightenment values; those values are dumped on from left to right (for instance the stereotypical lefty "cultural relativist" and right-wing "faith based conservative"). All the while those values underpin the liberal democracies that pretty much all of us live in, they nurture the individualism and justify the freedoms we enjoy; some are willing to throw the term "Enlightenment fundamentalist" about as if it is pejorative, I feel that regardless of ones political affiliation or lack thereof defending things like civil rights, free speech, secularism, freedom of inquiry and rationalism is a good thing and that the tangiable benefits of those ideals make a persuasive case against such critics.

Just a last bit; anti-freedom people will pay lip service to free speech when it suits there aims; people who support Danish Cartoonists right to free speech but would ban Piss Christ are first order hypocrites.
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