Tag Archives: Freedom of speech

Jordan Peterson demonstrates the importance of free speech

Jordan Peterson argues for freedom of speech and the power of articulate speech.

Also, the power of non-violent response to those attempting to prevent free speech.

I think he sets a great example – I wonder if I would be able to do it though. Such provocation.

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Secularism is important

Book Review: The Secular Outlook: In Defense of Moral and Political Secularism by Paul Cliteur

Price: US$26.95; NZ$53.97
Paperback: 328 pages
Publisher: Wiley-Blackwell (September 7, 2010)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1444335219
ISBN-13: 978-1444335217

It’s funny how some people allow their emotional reactions to interfere with their understanding of, and reaction to, words and their meaning. Almost 40 years ago I had a problem posting a letter to an address in the former East Germany. The women behind the counter in the post office refused to accept it because its address included the words “German Democratic Republic.” While she muttered things like “Soviet Zone,” and I was expecting her to starting foaming at the mouth, her colleague had to take over and provide me with the correct stamp.

Some people react the same way to words like secular and secularism. They equate these with atheism, or “worse.” So they animate their definitions of such words by their personal aversion to denial of their gods.

Pope Benedict XVI often warns of the “moral dangers” of secularism and many theologians and apologists wilfully equate secularism with attempts to destroy or eliminate religion.

Definitions and common understandings of words are important- especially where there is emotional baggage. So the first chapter of Paul Cliteur’s book is welcome – and probably necessary. “Atheism, Agnosticism, and Theism” reviews the possible definitions of these words and argues the case for a consistent and accurate meaning – taking 50 pages to do so.

And far from secularism being hostile to religion Cliteur sees it as “an essential precondition for the free development of religion. . . . It would be a serious mistake to consider the values espoused in the secular outlook as in any way inimical to religion or the rights of religious believers. On the contrary, secularism is the only perspective under which people of different religious persuasions can live together.”

The book devotes much of its content to justification of free thought. Chapter 2 argues that criticism of religion as central to free thought.

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Religion in public life – two approaches

Two different approaches to the problem of religion in public life were in the news recently. I think they are worth contrasting.

1. Copenhagen Declaration

This was a document accepted World Atheist Conference: “Gods and Politics”, held in Copenhagen from 18 to 20 June 2010. Some people worry about atheists organising and making declarations. it seems to them a bit too much like religious dogma. However, I think this declaration is great. One could quibble at the edges, change a few things, ask for a few deletions or additions. But, I think as as a general declaration it really accords with the Universal declaration of Human Rights. I can’t see why any reasonable person could disagree with it. You can download the Copenhagen_Declaration as a pdf file.  It reads: Continue reading

New Zealand has bigots too

I actually thought this wouldn’t happen in good old New Zealand. We are a tolerant lot and seem quite happy with our largely secular society. But there’s always some die-hards wanting to spoil it, isn’t there?

This press release from the NZ Atheist Bus Campaign describes how the NZ Bus company has reversed their approval of the adverts because of public complaints.

The NZ Atheist Bus Campaign, which late last year raised in excess of $20,000 from public donations, has met a set back in their plans. Nationwide bus company NZ Bus, who had tentatively approved the campaign’s ads on buses in major city centres, have now rejected them.

NZ Bus stated that they have received a number of complaints from the public about the proposed ads, which read “There’s probably no god. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life.”

Spokesperson for the Atheist Bus Campaign Simon Fisher says “It’s concerning that peaceful atheist messages are not allowed on buses while religious messages are often seen on buses and in public. Messages of atheism are rare in New Zealand and we aim to raise awareness for the one-third of New Zealanders who are unconvinced by the claims of religion.”

Organisers of the Campaign tried to reach a resolution with NZ Bus, and later attempted mediation sessions through the Human Rights Commission. NZ Bus refused to participate in these mediation sessions. Because they are refusing to discuss the matter and reach an agreement, the organisers of the Campaign are now investigating the possibility of taking this case to the Human Rights Review Tribunal.

Simon Fisher says “we’re disappointed at the response from NZ Bus and plan to look at options going forward. We owe it to the thousands of Kiwis who have supported this campaign with donations and messages of support.”

Advertisements with identical wording ran in the United Kingdom, Canada, Germany, and Spain. Similar campaigns also ran successfully in Croatia, Finland, Holland, Italy, America and across the Tasman in Australia.

“We are gravely concerned that in New Zealand we’re unable to present an atheistic message, showing that we do not have the same practical freedom of expression as in other first world countries. It highlights why this campaign is so necessary.” said spokesperson Simon Fisher.

The Campaign will continue to accept donations for advertising, see http://www.nogod.org.nz for further details.

Why don’t these complainants identify themselves? Let us hear their arguments. A complaint to the Human Rights Review Tribunal might provide us that opportunity.

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