Yes, a free press was attacked in Paris when gunman slaughtered cartoonists at the satirical Charlie Hebdo newspaper. But it was not just a free press that was attacked, and not enough people are recognizing that.
The freedom to choose a religion, along with the freedom to choose NO religion, was attacked in Paris. The freedom to criticize a religion was attacked. The freedom to be unbound by the dictates of a faith you do not share was attacked. The statement made by the terrorists was not about foreign policy or domestic policy. It was not about the use of force or respect for state authority.
This was about a group of people who decided that the feelings of their omnipotent friend were hurt, and who took it upon themselves to commit murder because someone ELSE did not follow THEIR religion’s mandates.
And that is unconscionable.
Freedom of religion does not oblige ME to live by the restrictions imposed by YOUR religion (nor does it oblige you to live by the restrictions — or allowances — of mine). If your faith says you can’t spell out the name G-d, well, then, by God, YOU don’t do that. But you don’t get to stop me. You don’t get to stop me from drawing a picture of Mohammed. You don’t get to stop me from picking up sticks on a Friday night, or picking up chicks on a Saturday night (although my wife’s religion might have something to say about that). You don’t get to stop me from eating shrimp or cheeseburgers. You don’t get to stop me from officiating at the wedding of two atheists, two Christians, two Jews, two Scientologists, two men or two women. You don’t get to decide that. And I don’t get to make you eat cheeseburgers or shrimp. I don’t get to make you attend a gay wedding.
But what happened in Paris — that was an attack on freedom from religion. We were just told, violently, that some ideas are not to be criticized, that when someone is revered by an intolerant few, that person must be respected by everyone, under penalty of death.
No. To hell with you. Not how it’s gonna work.
I have no trouble being respectful of anyone’s faith. Tell me not to make fun of the pope, and I won’t. Tell me not to make fun of the pope or you’ll kill me, and I’m gonna make fun of the pope. Or Mohammed. Or the Governing Body of the Watchtower Society in Brookyn. Or Pat Batcrap Crazy Robertson.
Religion has a privileged position in our society. It’s considered uncouth to mock it unnecessarily. LACK a religion, and you can be presumed immoral. LACK a religion, and you can be presumed arrogant or rude or full of yourself.
Maybe, but we don’t go around gunning people down for questioning evolution by natural selection.
No one else gets the privilege religion does. If you’re a Democrat, you don’t get to demand that people not criticize the Democratic Party. Same goes for Republicans. Same goes for fans of TV shows, musical genres, movies or anything else. You like Star Wars better than Star Trek? LET’S FIGHT! Only in religion do we suddenly tell people, Thou shalt not evaluate and critique what I believe. No matter how ridiculous it is (his strength was in his hair? AYFKM?). No matter how debunked it is (how many animals were on that boat?). We’re supposed to be respectful.
No. To hell with you. Not how it’s going to work.