I’m still going back over a few recent news stories, highlighting and commenting on stuff that happened while I was feeling too lazy to blog about it at the time.
The latest example is a couple of things the Friendly Atheist brought to my attention. Firstly, a report on Blasphemy Day, which I’m hoping to be able to join in with again the next time September 30th comes around. We had fun last time.
Here’s Hemant’s summary of why it’s important and what it’s about:
It’s not about mocking religion or calling a believer names.
It’s about the freedom of speech and the idea that religion (along with other strongly-held beliefs) should be open to criticism.
No one should be able to silence you because they don’t like what you say.
For our part, let’s make sure we’re not just calling people names and mocking things for mockery’s sake. It does fall to us to explain what we’re doing, and what we’re trying to achieve, when we say and do things that offend other people’s sensibilities. Obviously, something with a name like “International Blasphemy Day” has to be all about crossing lines, but the lines we should aim to cross are ones that will challenge and discomfit people. There are other lines, further off, which will just make people roll their eyes at us and think we’re being obnoxious – and I think there comes a point where insistently defending our right to cross those lines as well becomes unhelpful.
However. We also do not cower and grovel in response to being shut down. Last time, university societies exercised their rights to religious freedom by such actions as quoting Richard Dawkins and drawing Mohammed stick figures. The religious response included hostility, verbal abuse, violence, and destruction of property. If we don’t do anything the godly don’t like for fear of upsetting anyone, that’s called a theocracy, in practice if not on any official documentation.
There are people who will always be offended unless we’re sitting quietly and subserviently and not expressing ourselves. Sometimes these people deserve to be told “Fuck you if you think you can shut me up”.
People who threaten atheists with death or their property with vandalism for daring to express their beliefs? Definitely fall into this camp.
On the other hand, here’s a fine example of how not to do it. Sure, it’s this guy’s right to burn any copy of any book that he owns, including the Koran. But he’s clearly not just standing up against basic oppression for the right to express beliefs that the majority might not agree with. He’s using this as a gimmick to preach about the “dangers of Islam”, and telling people that the Koran is a sure path to Hell. And he says he got the idea from Everybody Draw Muhammad Day.
To many believers, who may not read the kind of blogs likely to give them the full story, and whose first reaction to a blatant and provocative criticism of their beliefs is not likely to be positive, this guy with his anti-Islamic aggression might seem to be doing much the same thing as us. (“Us” being anyone else participating in International Blasphemy Day with similar intentions to my own.)
We really can’t ignore this. It won’t work to simply blame those believers for being over-sensitive, without explaining our point, and laying out clearly why they should have nothing to fear from us. If their belief system really is too puny and weak to handle any kind of dissenting view even being expressed within earshot, then fine, screw ’em and blaspheme away. But if we’re going to claim to be doing something compassionate and meaningful, for a better reason than gratuitous offense, we need to actively distance ourselves from people like this who are just trying to give Muslims a hard time.
So, yeah. Neither a dick nor a pussy be, I guess.