Freedom of speech means you must shut up

And while I’m at it, why don’t I just quarrel with Michael Shermer’s piece too. He doesn’t resort to the childish abuse of ‘the New Atheist Noise Machine,’ but there’s plenty to quarrel with all the same.

Whenever religious beliefs conflict with scientific facts or violate principles of political liberty, we must respond with appropriate aplomb. Nevertheless, we should be cautious about irrational exuberance…Anti-something movements by themselves will fail.

Oh really. Such as abolitionism for instance? Anti-war movements? Anti-imperialism movements? Some anti-something movements fail, others don’t. And the ‘new Atheists’ aren’t merely against something anyway, so it’s just more straw. (People do produce a remarkable amount of straw on this subject.)

Positive assertions are necessary. Champion science and reason, as Charles Darwin suggested.

But…they do. What’s he talking about? Of course they champion science and reason. Does he mean to the exclusion of criticizing religion? But what if they think (as they do) that religion competes with and/or damages science and reason? Are they forbidden to discuss that? If so, why? How can that possibly be justified? Especially when that’s not usually said about other ideas – champion birdwatching but don’t criticize destruction of habitat; champion feminism but don’t criticize sexism or subordination; champion education but don’t criticize ignorance. That’s childish; it’s self-helpish nonsense.

Promote freedom of belief and disbelief. A higher moral principle that encompasses both science and religion is the freedom to think, believe and act as we choose, so long as our thoughts, beliefs and actions do not infringe on the equal freedom of others. As long as religion does not threaten science and freedom, we should be respectful and tolerant because our freedom to disbelieve is inextricably bound to the freedom of others to believe.

That’s the worst one of all, because it implies that criticism is incompatible with the freedom to think, believe and act as we choose – which is a stark contradiction, apart from anything else that’s wrong with it. But it’s also just damn silly, and an attempt at silencing or impeding free inquiry and criticism and thought. It is, frankly, deeply obnoxious to pretend that the freedom to think, believe and act as we choose somehow entails the silencing of people who think and believe differently and want to say so. It’s a completely inane thing to say, because it tells us to shut up so that other people can talk without hearing anything they don’t like. The logic is ridiculous, and the political import is revoltingly craven.

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