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Free speech and religious fundamentalism - Comments

Atheist Mike's Avatar Comment 1 by Atheist Mike

About time we started denouncing the exceptional position granted to the religious when it comes to free speech. Very good video and outstanding presentation.

Fri, 08 Jul 2011 04:46:03 UTC | #847552

Alan4discussion's Avatar Comment 2 by Alan4discussion

The US constitutional claim to "free speech", is regularly used as a liars', con-man's, religinut's and posing village idiot's, charter!

Fri, 08 Jul 2011 08:45:41 UTC | #847587

stevenwood21's Avatar Comment 3 by stevenwood21

Truly a magnificent speech by someone I have long admired.

The RI is a wonderful venue but seldom has such a powerful voice been heard there in recent times.

Fri, 08 Jul 2011 09:05:33 UTC | #847591

mjwemdee's Avatar Comment 4 by mjwemdee

Excellent. I found tears coming to my eyes as I listened to this. Johann's spirit (not a term that is the sole property of the religious) is truly amazing.

Fri, 08 Jul 2011 09:46:28 UTC | #847596

Cartomancer's Avatar Comment 5 by Cartomancer

I try not to be politically partisan, I really do. I know I sympathise with left-wing politics far, far more than right-wing politics, which is why it makes me uneasy that pretty much everything coming from the right-wing media these days seems either vile, fatuous, narrow-minded, self-serving or dangerous. We should all strive to be just as critical, if not more so, towards the opinions we agree with as we are towards the ones we don't. There is always a nagging doubt in my mind that I am only seeing what I want to see.

But... this recent episode has highlighted for me quite how vast the disparity is. The worst people can dredge up about the leading journalists on the left is that they engage in unclear citation practices in pursuit of rhetorical effect. On the right, by contrast, we have a culture of deep-rooted corruption, the criminal invasion of the privacy of murder victims, bribing the police, hampering police investigations, blackmail and extortion of politicians on the select committees set up to investigate them - the kind of gutter-press unscrupulousness that would make Josef Goebbles say "steady on there".

But I welled up a bit too when Johann mentioned the history of gay pride marches.

Fri, 08 Jul 2011 09:59:36 UTC | #847600

DaveGilbert's Avatar Comment 6 by DaveGilbert

Truly inspiring. Nice one Johann.

Fri, 08 Jul 2011 10:08:14 UTC | #847601

Zalvation's Avatar Comment 7 by Zalvation

I have posted this on my Facebook site in support and to further spread the news ...

Fri, 08 Jul 2011 10:14:39 UTC | #847602

helen sotiriadis's Avatar Comment 8 by helen sotiriadis

this was extraordinary -- very moving.

Fri, 08 Jul 2011 10:28:29 UTC | #847605

josephor's Avatar Comment 9 by josephor

Pure Class, if you are not moved by that speech then you are not alive.

Fri, 08 Jul 2011 10:52:54 UTC | #847611

skeelo's Avatar Comment 10 by skeelo

Great stuff Johann, keep up the good work!

Fri, 08 Jul 2011 11:25:09 UTC | #847618

sandman67's Avatar Comment 11 by sandman67

passionate, intelligent, moving and well argued from start to end.

A shining example of how to push secularism.

Well done Johan

Fri, 08 Jul 2011 12:09:23 UTC | #847629

Jason72's Avatar Comment 12 by Jason72

Comment 7 by Zalvation :

I have posted this on my Facebook site in support and to further spread the news ...

Done the same

This is a perfect example of why we need to push for a "free" society not just from religion but from anything that threatens our basic right to disagree and to say that we disagree without fear.

Fri, 08 Jul 2011 12:20:24 UTC | #847634

Kalasin's Avatar Comment 13 by Kalasin

I was so touched by this speech. I didn't agree with the anti-religious thrust of what he was saying, but I passionately believe that he should have the right to say it. I hope I would have the courage to die for his right to criticise my religion and every other religion. I can tell that I would disagree with him on a number of political and religious issues, but the guts of what he said was so truly admirable. What an incredible, passionate and intelligent spokesman for your beliefs, guys. I might write to him to thank him for having the courage to say what he does. While I believe that free speech was the product of Reformation Christianity, whatever its origins I think it's an ideal to which atheists, Christians and people everywhere can aspire.

Fri, 08 Jul 2011 12:38:14 UTC | #847639

God fearing Atheist's Avatar Comment 14 by God fearing Atheist

Good speech Johann.

His case for free political speech has a direct analogy in the way academic scientific research is conducted.

Fri, 08 Jul 2011 12:46:09 UTC | #847641

Zelig's Avatar Comment 15 by Zelig

I think Hari gave a good and important speech there about an incredibly important subject. However, he effectively finessed the real issue by making it appear that the opponents of free speech (in the west) are mainly religious dogmatists. If only that were true! The most powerful opponents of free speech in the west are not the religiously inclined; they are, on the contrary, the bulk of the so-called "liberal-left". Hari is a notable exception among this group, and it's disingenuous to pretend otherwise.

Fri, 08 Jul 2011 13:35:25 UTC | #847656

ridelo's Avatar Comment 16 by ridelo

Hear, hear!

Fri, 08 Jul 2011 13:45:06 UTC | #847665

KenChimp's Avatar Comment 17 by KenChimp

"For numberless centuries society unquestioningly accepted the proposition that certain men were created to be slaves, whose natural function was to serve priests and kings, nobles and great lords, men of substance and property that were appointed slavemasters by almighty God. Further, this system was reinforced by the established doctrines that all men and women were owned, their minds by the church, their bodies by the state. This convenient situation was supported by a considerable body of authority, morals, religion, and philosophy.

Against this doctrine, some two hundred years ago, was openly raised the most astonishing heresy the world has ever known, the principle of liberalism. In essence, this principle stated that all men were created equal, and endowed with inalienable rights. The words inalienable rights mean rights which cannot be taken away, which belong to a man, as his birthright.

This principle appealed to certain intractable spirits, heretics, atheists and revolutionaries, and has since, in spite of the opposition of the majority of organized society, made some headway. As a doctrine, it has become so popular that it is rendered lip service by all the major states.

But it is still so distasteful to persons in authority and seeking authority that it is nowhere embodied as a fundamental law, and is continuously violated in letter and in spirit by every trick and expedient of bigotry and reaction. Further, absolutist and totalitarian groups of the most vicious nature use liberalism as a cloak under which they move to re-establish tyrannies and extinguish the liberty of all opponents. Thus religious groups seek to abrogate freedom of art, speech, and the press; reactionaries move to suppress labor; and communists to establish dictatorships, all in the name of freedom."

Excerpt from "Freedom Is A Two-Edged Sword", John Whiteside Parsons, 1950

What Parsons had to say about the state of freedom is no less true today than it was in 1950 C.E.

The solidarity of religious groups against freedom of speech which some or all of these groups find "offensive" in nature is nothing more or less than the attempt to use their political power within the international community to disguise tyranny as liberalism and enshrine their brand of tyranny as, not only protected by international law, but as a portion of international law.

This is why I insist that these organizations are dangerous and have no place within rational, liberal, free-thinking society. Therefore, they have no justifiable place within the body politic of the United Nations, nor within the body politic of any democratic republic.

Fri, 08 Jul 2011 13:46:05 UTC | #847666

josephor's Avatar Comment 18 by josephor

Comment 15 by david2

The most powerful opponents of free speech in the west are not the religiously inclined; they are, on the contrary, the bulk of the so-called "liberal-left". Hari is a notable exception among this group, and it's disingenuous to pretend otherwise.

In my opinion that is an absurd statement, totally baseless. Can you provide examples of this?

Fri, 08 Jul 2011 14:00:50 UTC | #847668

Metamag's Avatar Comment 19 by Metamag

Comment 1 by Atheist Mike :

About time we started denouncing the exceptional position granted to the religious when it comes to free speech.

LOL, I heard this sentiment a decade ago, and in every subsequent year. There is no progress in this at all.

More money needs to be poured into clear public advertising and mocking of silly superstitions, especially islamic ones, we need to become strident and keep pushing the envelope.

The most powerful opponents of free speech in the west are not the religiously inclined; they are, on the contrary, the bulk of the so-called "liberal-left". Hari is a notable exception among this group, and it's disingenuous to pretend otherwise.

That too.

Fri, 08 Jul 2011 14:39:46 UTC | #847680

Zelig's Avatar Comment 20 by Zelig

Comment 18 by josephor :

Comment 15 by david2 - The most powerful opponents of free speech in the west are not the religiously inclined; they are, on the contrary, the bulk of the so-called "liberal-left". Hari is a notable exception among this group, and it's disingenuous to pretend otherwise.

In my opinion that is an absurd statement, totally baseless. Can you provide examples of this?

You're a comedian, right?

Fri, 08 Jul 2011 15:34:25 UTC | #847697

AtheistEgbert's Avatar Comment 21 by AtheistEgbert

Johann is clearly suffering from a backlash over his dodgy journalism. He's learned a valuable lesson, and don't we all make stupid mistakes? Clearly we learn to make disagreements without resorting to destroying a person.

Those speakers who represent us, who have developed a maturity and self-confident in doing so, have a responsibility to speak on behalf of us, and part of that responsibility is not to enter into a personality bubble.

Johann Hari still retains my respect and support, but I don't always agree with him. His speech moved me near to tears, not because of my atheism, but because I'm a sane person (like perhaps others out there) living in an insane world.

It is time to stop the insanity.

Fri, 08 Jul 2011 15:37:47 UTC | #847698

Vogon42's Avatar Comment 22 by Vogon42

I've only just found out about Hari's little problem from this video followed by a quick Google. To be honest, I'm not wildly enraged if he has peppered articles with genuine quotes that he pinched from someone else, it doesn't amount to misrepresentation of their views.

I say that because I will probably now upset his supporters by saying that for a long time I have regarded his articles as propagandist, hastily written and inadequately researched with the result that I considered them unreliable. That is why I did not reproduce them at a time when I had the right and the authority to do so in a significant publication in the Arab world (Fisk, on the other hand, I printed).

Hari seems to me to represent the self-righteous views of London's liberal clique and his articles adopt their prejudices and reinforce them without seeking a mature understanding of the wider reality. This creates a parody of the world, where everything is black and white.

In my view, there is an important conflict going on between atheist thinking and religiosity and both sides are trying to grab strategic salients. To present that as atheism facing a massive onslaught while its own advocates are shouted down is just as misleading as the Pope's claims that Christianity is being persecuted in England.

Hari makes some important points - not unique ones, by any means - but I feel his history as a propagandist rather than a journalist makes his contribution to debate pretty insignificant.

PS: Is David2 by any chance referring to hate-speech and holocaust-denial laws, in which case he has a genuine point. Every view should be challenged by argument and discussion, not by making it illegal to express that view.

Fri, 08 Jul 2011 16:22:47 UTC | #847707

AtheistEgbert's Avatar Comment 23 by AtheistEgbert

Comment 22 by Vogon42 :

Hari seems to me to represent the self-righteous views of London's liberal clique and his articles adopt their prejudices and reinforce them without seeking a mature understanding of the wider reality. This creates a parody of the world, where everything is black and white.

What mature view is that? Please expand.

Fri, 08 Jul 2011 16:35:58 UTC | #847713

ewaldrep's Avatar Comment 24 by ewaldrep

I've never heard of him before but he is definitely on my radar now. I admire his irreverence and acuity.

Fri, 08 Jul 2011 16:44:35 UTC | #847717

Vogon42's Avatar Comment 25 by Vogon42

What's with this word "mature"?

It is the considered view of a formerly senior journalist who has read some of the stuff he wrote about my corner of the world.

Comment 23 by AtheistEgbert :

Comment 22 by Vogon42 :

Hari seems to me to represent the self-righteous views of London's liberal clique and his articles adopt their prejudices and reinforce them without seeking a mature understanding of the wider reality. This creates a parody of the world, where everything is black and white.

What mature view is that? Please expand.

Fri, 08 Jul 2011 16:45:00 UTC | #847718

Dcg's Avatar Comment 26 by Dcg

It's a shame that he doesn't display the same moral outrage or self- righteousness about plagiarising other peoples free speech.

Fri, 08 Jul 2011 17:27:20 UTC | #847735

Nunbeliever's Avatar Comment 27 by Nunbeliever

Johann Hari is in my opinion one of the best "promoters" for homosexuality out there. I am sick and tired of this bunch of self-proclaimed defenders of homosexuality who seem to have hijacked the whole gay movement for the moment being. They state that they defend the rights of sexual minorities while in reality they do little more than spread the same old myths about homosexuality the media has been expoliting for decades. Gays are for example seen as ultra superficial narcissistic drama-queens who engage in unorthodox sexual activities and don't really care about anything deeper than what floral set to decorate their new designer apartment with or which of their fifty pairs of sunglasses they should wear when they visit their over paid beautician next tuesday before attending that lavish cocktail party with nude drag-queens.

There has to be countless of gays and lesbians out there who lead perfectly normal lives but who are frustrated with the whole present gay movement. I think we need more people like Johann Hari. Smart, serious people who actually have something important to say. People who don't just seek attention for the sake of it! People who give homosexuals a good name and who don't give power to old myths and stereotypes. People who can show the world that homosexuals and other sexual minorities are people just like any other. Much like we need atheists who will show religious people that we are not evil bastards but normal people. Many of us are even quite charming! Don't get me wrong. People may lead lavish superficial lives all they like. Personnally I am not particulary fond of such life style choices, but of course they are free to live their lives as they wish. What I on the other hand find problematic is the fact that these people seem to have hijacked the whole gay movement. This is the picutre of sexual minorities they are sending out. Consciously, because it attracts attention. People who criticise their life styles as lavish and superficial are labelled bigots and homophobes. I fucking hate this! Its like a bunch of atheists would dress up as anti-christ and go out and parade the streets. They would of course have the right to do so, but if they were claiming to represent atheists in general I would condemn them as harshly! And this is not just my opinion. I have quite a few gay friends who more or less agree with me. I know a gay couple who wanted to take part in a recent gay parade but who felt like outsiders when they wore suits and ties. At the party afterwards they got a lot of negative comments regarding their choice of clothes. This is not productive!

Fri, 08 Jul 2011 17:29:17 UTC | #847736

Pitchguest's Avatar Comment 28 by Pitchguest

Comment 18 by josephor

Comment 15 by david2

The most powerful opponents of free speech in the west are not the religiously inclined; they are, on the contrary, the bulk of the so-called "liberal-left". Hari is a notable exception among this group, and it's disingenuous to pretend otherwise.

In my opinion that is an absurd statement, totally baseless. Can you provide examples of this?

I've wondered the same thing of david2, but I've never gotten an answer. I guess he just likes to throw out ridiculous statements now and then, and not back them up with actual facts, statistics and reputable sources.

Fri, 08 Jul 2011 17:53:48 UTC | #847744

Vogon42's Avatar Comment 29 by Vogon42

Nunbeliever, I read that with interest. Thank you.

Actually, Atheist Egbert, I will expand more. Recently, someone with a small but to them very important business interest in Dubai asked me for my view about a Hari article on the Emirate, because it made them feel morally compelled to end their business involvement there, even though it would have meant wrecking their relationship with a North American agent who was very important to them, potentially losing worldwide sales.

As a result, I did a fairly detailed breakdown of the article. First of all, I would say my impression was that it was better than those I read five or six years ago, when I decided all of them could go on the spike. As far as I could tell (and there were a couple of things I couldn't check) the Dubai article was factually correct in every respect. However, as journalism it fell down because it lacked balance, so the picture he presented was far starker and more condemnatory than was justified. As I recall, there was also a failure to follow any lines of inquiry that might have shifted the spotlight of blame away from the chosen target - the vile sheikhs.

Now, there are certain negative consequences of propagandising news. While your fellow thinkers may applaud you, as soon as those you are criticising see that your criticisms are unbalanced and are motivated by political interests they lose interest in you. It is only if they see that your protests are just and fair that they may stop to think and question what they are doing.

In addition, an unbalanced criticism that panders to London chic opinions can damage the interests of ethical businesspeople worldwide.

I seriously doubt that Hari comprehends the consequences, at all sorts of different levels, of what he writes.

Fri, 08 Jul 2011 17:55:27 UTC | #847745

josephor's Avatar Comment 30 by josephor

Comment 20 by david2

You're a comedian, right?

I can assure you I'm not joking, can you please enlighten me and show me the funny bit, maybe we can all laugh together.

Fri, 08 Jul 2011 18:28:24 UTC | #847751