Tuesday, November 25, 2008

First, they came...

I'm a nanny-state liberal hippy socialist goth non-comformist anti-'War On Terror' anti-'War On Drugs' type. Therefore, some portion of the people who potentially could read this may be surprised that I am about to speak out against 'Political Correctness'. But for the sake of the world, as many people as possible need to speak out, even if their voices seem swallowed up by the abyss of the web. And, should I speak out, more people will have spoken, than had I not.

I am referring, some may know, to a UN resolution spearheaded by 'Muslim states'. When it probably passes later this year, it will lay the groundwork for treaties that will encourage anti-blasphemy laws. What is currently set is asking the world as a whole to enact laws against the 'defamation of religion'. There are several problems with this idea.

First off, how does one go about defaming a religion? "defamation [...] is the communication of a statement that makes a false claim, expressly stated or implied to be factual, that may give an individual, business, product, group, government or nation a negative image."-Wikipedia article on defamation, final edit of November 17, 2008. Continuing the resolution's habit of referring to religions as entities unto themselves, how would such entities be defamed? The religion itself is its collective teachings, which are not, legally speaking, true. (At least not around my neck of the woods. The question of how this would apply to rival theocracies, attempting to enforce their laws over the internet, segues into)

Point two: it's somewhat rare, but some things are religions in some countries, and not in others. The most obvious example is Scientology. A sufficiently determined international effort could trick them into losing all sorts of protections in various countries by manipulating tax codes, but more reallistically: again: sometimes, it's a religion, and sometimes not. With any organization free to pursue this bizarre patchwork status, the anti-defamation laws can't apply sensibly.

So, as 'defamation' here either means something that people can do involuntarily, or can't do at all, I'll demonstrate something now:
All religious dogma contains elements of falsehood, treasured and nurtured for the course of the religion's existence. Such falsehoods frequently create, sustain, or justify social injustices, all throughout their existence, such as slavery or the caste system. Any religion that refuses to have its teachings examined critically ('ideological confrontation'?) is implicitly forfeiting the right (privelige?) to be taken seriously by the world as a whole. The resolution positively notes the contribution of religions to culture and knowledge, but conveniently ignores the many times when religion has, confronted with some significant advance or irreplaceable knowledge, utterly screwed the pooch. It then goes on to conflate 'defamation of religion', whatever that is, with defamation of religious people. In I hate it when people like this book, I said, in essence, that people who liked that book were perfectly entitled to their factually indefensible opinion. That didn't mean that I hated them as people, or condoned violence, etc, etc. In essence, this resolution makes the case against incitement, but asks for protection from criticism.

It's probably best if I stop here for now, before my momentum carries my into talking about organized religion and power.

Regardless. The voices must be heard. Tell a friend. Tell a neighbor. Tell the world.

(Edit: and Sum ergo cogito, cogito ergo dubito: Freedom of speech is far too complicated to let religion get in the way looks to say what I want to say, in a more coherent and collected fashion.)

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