From Orac today I learnt of the latest attempt by the religious to claim the entitlement they clearly believe is their birthright, namely to prevent anyone from criticizing their delusions. Apparently the United Nations has just backed an anti-blasphemy measure proposed by Islamic countries. Although this is currently only advisory to other UN members, the religious nuts clearly won’t stop there unless they absolutely have to. This is an issue of free speech – no one has a right to never be offended. Orac has a good expose of the dangers with this, and there’s no need for me to repeat the arguments here. Check out Orac’s post Anti-blasphemy = anti-free speech for the details.
I wanted to comment on one point though – fallacious logic from the Dutch government. Apparently the Dutch may scrap the current legal ban they have on blasphemy, effectively expanding hate speech to include it. The bit that caught my eye was the flawed justification for it:
The statement said there was no difference between insults aimed against people based on their race, religion, sexual orientation or handicap.
No no no no wrong wrong wrong. (Sigh.) We’ve been through this before. The argument is a false analogy. It’s quiet simple really. Race, handicap, sexual orientation are things that people ARE. Religious beliefs are IDEAS. They are not analogs. They are different things altogether. You should not criticize people because of their race, sexual orientation etc because these things can not be right or wrong, they just are. And we are all human beings, we should not be criticized for being black, being gay, whatever. But an idea (such as believing in the tenets of a religion) can be right or wrong. (Usually wrong, actually, in the case of religion, although that is besides the point with respect to the logic.) It’s really discouraging that the government of such a modern democracy apparently relies on such piss poor logic.
And look at the argument – it is nothing more than an argument by analogy – almost always fallacious. Here is their argument. It goes something like this:
- We all know that ________ (insert preferred thing - racism, homophobia – something no one can disagree with) is bad.
- Criticizing religion is just like _________ (same thing as in 1. above)
- Therefore criticizing religion is bad.
You’ll notice, no actual evidence facts or logic are offered to show that criticizing religion is, actually, bad. And as I wrote before, when someone argues by analogy, you can be pretty sure it’s because they don’t have any facts, evidence or logic to support their position. Because if they had any facts, evidence or logic they would presumably present it. Now maybe someone can come up with a reason we shouldn’t criticize religion. I can’t think of a valid reason off hand, but perhaps there is one somewhere. But one thing is for sure, saying it’s just like racism isn’t it.
All ideas should be open to criticism. But no ideas should be subject to criticism more than religious ideas – they’re the ideas, out of all the ideas out there, not backed by evidence and in many cases clearly contradicted by the evidence. Which is of course why they want to ban criticism – because they know their delusions won’t stand up to investigation.