In a recent post about Sharia law I commented that I think religion is nonsense to which a reader responded.
“Something I think is also an important component of respect: not calling the beliefs of billions of people nonsense”.
Firstly the number of people who believe in something doesn’t prove its legitimacy. I’d also like to say that I think there is an important distinction that needs to be made here. Saying I believe religion is nonsense is criticising an idea. I’m allowed to believe what I want and I’m allowed to voice that opinion.
I am not allowed to vilify or assault the people that hold those beliefs. I didn’t call regions people stupid. I cannot threaten to blow up their temples or indoctrinate their kids, I will not knock on their doors with pamphlets or legislate to force my way of life on them. You and I must respect people, you don’t have to respect ideas, that is the distinction I make.
Any idea or belief is open to criticism. The culture around religion of holding it sacred and unquestionable has been the cause of great horror and tragedy throughout human history. It’s only through criticism and debate; the slow march of human questioning and the pursuit of truth that religion has given ground on things like slavery, human rights and whole litany of other issues.
Being able to say I think religion is nonsence is a fundamental freedom I don’t apologise for.
“To criticize a person for their race is manifestly irrational and ridiculous, but to criticize their religion, that is a right, that is a freedom. The freedom to criticize ideas, any ideas – even if they are sincerely held beliefs – is one of the fundamental freedoms of society.” -Rowan Atkinson