You want to ban hate speech? Isn’t that what religion is?


I was on a panel discussion this past weekend on free expression.

In such discussions, there are always those who are proponents of banning ‘hate’ speech because they say it causes emotional distress and can lead to discrimination.

My response is that much of religion is hate speech. Have they read the Koran or Bible recently?

Whenever I hear a sura of the Koran, I feel distressed. And by the way, every time we hear religious edicts that say apostates should die, or that women are subhuman, can’t that also be considered adding to the discrimination apostates or women face?

We have been tortured, executed and stoned to death with ‘Allah O Akbar’ ringing in our ears:

(The singer says, with Allah O Akbar, we have been totured, executed and stoned to death.)

Nonetheless, you can’t ban religion because it is hate speech.

Of course I know when people defend the banning of hate speech, they don’t mean banning religion – that’s always off-limits; what they usually mean is that they want a ban on the uncompromising criticism of religion.

I say let the religious bigots – and for that matter all bigots – express themselves freely.

And we will too.

Speech – however distressing or hateful – is not the same as physical harm.

And anyway, you can’t stop hate with censorship. You can only stop it by challenging it head on.

Comments

  1. busterggi says

    Well, yes but its mutual hate speech.

    That’s not much of a defense but then, I’m defending people who keep telling me I’m going to Hell because I don’t believe in their flavor of deity, so its the best I can do.

  2. julian says

    Nonetheless, you can’t ban religion because it is hate speech.

    You can, and should, limit its expression.

    Speech – however distressing or hateful – is not the same as physical harm.

    Yes it can be particularly during formative years.

    Look at gay teen suicide rates here in the U.S. in overly religious communities. Without even going into how the free expression of that religion creates the attitudes that make violence against gays permissible and how we need to limit it (particularly in schools), the conflict created by holding an identity that’s seen as illegitimate, even evil by every authority figure in your life should be enough to place guidelines on the kind of free expression those authority figures are allowed

    Emotional trauma is not beneath physical trauma. It’s ridiculous pretend it is.

    • ... says

      Great. Roll out the censors! That’ll end well, it always does.

      If you seriously think that you can license censorship and that it will not be used by religion instead of against it, then you’re more lala than the believers.

      • julian says

        And I’m reminded why “free-speech” is another meaningless buzzword these days. Thank you. I’d almost forgotten.

        • ... says

          Julian, sonny boy, let me make this simple. If you want to shut me up, you’d best pick up a gun and come after me. Because anything short of that will not work.

          So, my response to little thugs like you is: BRING. IT. ON!

          • Paulo says

            I don’t think anybody has ever hurled the word “thug” in a comment with such degree of lack of irony and of self-awareness.

            I give your comment a 9.98 for that.
            You could have gone for a 10 had you been “brave” enough to add “bully”.

    • notatheist says

      “And anyway, you can’t stop hate with censorship. You can only stop it by challenging it head on.”

  3. Bjarte Foshaug says

    Here’s something I wrote on a different occation:

    As a thought experiment, imagine a ruler of some foreign country (preferably a white, western, secular one, otherwise we might just have to “respect his culture”) who said and did all the same things that the biblical god supposedly said and did (ordering genocides, demanding rape victims to be stoned, threatening to force anyone who disobeys him to eat their children etc.). Now imagine the reaction if someone in our part of the world publically sided with this disgusting monster. My guess is that they would be met with public outrage and charges of “hate-speech”. Leftist radicals would organize protests wherever they went, and we would see attempts to have their views censored. Substitute our imaginary dictator for an equally imaginary god, and much of the indignation suddenly turns against those who criticize the same evil. If this is not hypocrisy, then nothing is.

    Of course there is such a thing as real hate speech, but what the pro-censorship crowd needs to keep in mind is that most of the haters are also conspiracy theorists who think their particular hate-group is already in charge of everything. To censor their views only confirms their paranoid delusions, allows them to play the martyr-card and gives them a certain credibility in the eyes of those who are already predisposed to see conspiracies everywhere: “They have to censor my views because they can’t defeat me with arguments”. So in a sence, by censoring their views, you are actually doing them a favor. The response to abuses of free speech should always better use of free speech, or the extremists have already won.

  4. says

    Do you consider the incitement of violence to be a separate issue? As a US citizen, that’s generally how I think of hate speech, but I see that the US definition is far narrower that those used in by other nations. For the record, I’m in favor of our incitement restrictions, and I think they could be enforced a bit more aggressively when it comes to radical anti-choice groups’ targeting of OBGYNs.

  5. Gregory in Seattle says

    “Speech – however distressing or hateful – is not the same as physical harm.”

    As Julian points out in #2, speech can lead directly to physical self-harm. Right on cue, ellipsis goes into hysterics.

    I would think that speech, in and of itself, should not be banned. However, more should be done in the United States to make the purveyors of hate speech accountable for the consequences of their speech.

    • FredBloggs says

      Even if you thought such laws would be a good idea, it is really difficult to pin someones act down to anything specific they’ve been told. Imagine someone with far-right leanings, who reads Mein Kampf, watches far-right material on YouTube, etc, and then goes out and bombs a synagogue. Who would you hold responsible?

      We have way too much constraint on free speech in the UK – someone recently was jailed for (admittedly foul) racist tweets whilst drunk. This can’t be a good thing:

      http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2012/mar/27/student-jailed-fabrice-muamba-tweets

      • oldebabe says

        Agreed. There should be no overall restriction on speech, and if restricted, only if it is obviously tuned to incite dangerous action, i.e. shouting `fire…’. in an enclosed area – an old description, BTW, embraced by our laws.

        Younger people these days seem to be more impacted by what people say… it’s hard for this old person to understand why, as in my youth I learned that `sticks and stones will break my bones, but names will never hurt me’ – and they didn’t (and don’t) if I didn’t let them. Nowadays, it seems people everywhere take umbrage at even the potential of a `slight’…

        Words are what we say, not necessarily what we do. Obviously, I’m not minimizing the potential danger of outright bias/bigotry/hate, as there is a big difference between that and just disrespectful talk or nasty words. And also obviously, I’m not minimizing the emotional hurt that people, especially children, experience, BUT I think it’s not honest to teach kids (or tell adults) that they should expect no disagreements or insults, whether deserving or not. That one need not put up with it, is the responsibility of each of us.

        • julian says

          And also obviously, I’m not minimizing the emotional hurt that people, especially children, experience,

          Except of course, you do. Because us young things are such pathetic brittle things.

          Fuck you. Your self-righteousness and your holier than thou attitude.

          Younger people these days seem to be more impacted by what people say

          I would like to see the evidence for that. Unless it’s one of those things you old people just naturally know. Like how ingrateful we all are and how you all had it so much worse than we did.

  6. ... says

    I notice that there’s a typical attempt to muddy the water with the issue of incitement. There is an exact meaning of that term. If a mob-boss tells his henchmen to murder another, he is charged, rightly, with murder. If someone tells a mob to commit a lynching, that is also incitement. If someone says “kill this abortion doctor” it’d also be incitement. On the other hand, if someone says that they consider abortion and murder to be equivalent – sorry, not incitement. You may agree or disagree, but it is not incitement to violence. Anymore than abortion absolutists – those who are genuinely pro-abortion, rather than merely pro-choice may be charged with incitement for things like Dr. Gosnell’s hideous crimes

    It’s depressing to see supposed “skeptics” needing areopagitica 101, but there it is.

    And I repeat – if julian thinks his precious little duck feelings are so hurt that it’s okay to shut me up, he’s invited to try. Bring it on, big boy. Worse than you have tried and failed.

  7. says

    The term “hate speech” is commonly used in the USA to refer to incitement, so the question of whether the policies currently up for debate cover both or are separate from the regulation of incitement is a honest one. So is the question of where to draw the line. We agree that the message “abortion is murder” does not in itself constitute incitement. What if that message is disseminated along with fliers containing the name and home address of a certain OBGYN, accompanied with a picture of that OBGYN’s face overlain with a gun site? Is that incitement? If a follower of the disseminating organization later murders said OBGYN, is does that then make it incitement?

    • ... says

      Incitement is the direct call to murder someone. What you’ve described sounds close, but I’m not entirely convinced. One could argue it’s part of a “name & shame” campaign.

      • RW Ahrens says

        But such campaigns have led to murder before. It is a hard argument that this isn’t an incitement to murder, as the overlay of a gunsight is an obvious statement. Without that gunsight overlay, I’d agree with you.

        • ... says

          It’s certainly a tricky one. It’s one of those where you’d certainly want them to knock it off, the question is, does it pass the threshold of the law?

      • says

        I think the legal threshold for incitement should reflect the reality of the context. When abortion providers are routinely the victims of violence, the threshold as to what speech constitutes incitement should be lowered. There is already a different standard for what constitutes an illegal threat against important members of government like the PotUS. But it shouldn’t just depend on the importance of the person. The lever of protection should reflect the likelihood the target will become the victim of a physical attack.

  8. Jeff says

    I found this and the comments interesting. I’m not one for this free speech. I think it goes too far. I should have the right not to pass a roadside billboard saying, “Jesus can save you”. Then my six year old daughter asks quickly if she will die. Anyone that implied to my daughter that she was going to die would wake up in a hospital. But again it’s the religious, so there is nothing I can do. I do not accept ones right to spread perversity and filth. I am fed up with it.

    • ... says

      I should have the right not to pass a roadside billboard saying, “Jesus can save you”.

      Well you don’t. Sorry, that’s the way things go. Or would you like the religious to demand that they have the right not to pass atheist billboards or atheist signs on busses? There’s a lot more religious people than atheists, and you’d better not forget it.

      • Jeff says

        “Well you don’t. Sorry, that’s the way things go.” I would be bracing yourself for change with this friend. Similar to the Italian court ruling that banned crucifixes in public schools, (later overturned), that recognised that the crucifix can be “emotionally disturbing for some”. This is what comes. You will see more and more of this around the world as people wake. The religious are free to believe whatever they want to believe, and to practice this in their homes and churches. When they bring their intolerant filth out onto the streets, they will have to expect to defend it.

        “..the religious to demand that they have the right not to pass atheist billboards or atheist signs on busses?” That’s fine with me. Keep your beliefs to yourselves. Simple. Everyone respects everyone. This is the future.

        “There’s a lot more religious people than atheists, and you’d better not forget it.” This too of course will change as the internet educates the world. Religion is all but doomed. It is intolerant, divisive, perverted ideology that we have the right to not come across.

        • ... says

          Well, in the first instance, I do not grant you the right to bully others regardless of the clout you have. But I’m not foolish enough to think that simple moral arguments will be heard.

          Yes, against an aging, defanged Christianity this stuff works. Against other players? Well, let’s look at nice secular Canada, where girls get separated off from the boys, and the menstruating girls away from the rest because they’re considered unclean. At taxpayer’s expense.

          You might think it’s funny and clever to insist that other people be shut up because you don’t like what they say, but that wind will turn, you had better believe it. Take this:

          I would be bracing yourself for change with this friend. Similar to the Italian court ruling that banned crucifixes in public schools, (later overturned), that recognised that the crucifix can be “emotionally disturbing for some”. This is what comes.

          Oh, yes indeed. You think that’s a win for secularism, genius? Who do you think is being “emotionally disturbed” here? I’ll tell you: the same people who are “emotionally disturbed” by the presence of Jews in the classroom, and “emotionally disturbed” by teaching the Holocaust as fact, and “emotionally disturbed” by teaching evolution by natural selection as fact, and “emotionally disturbed” by open homosexuals in government…

          It is only ever the side of superstition that can profit from shutting down free expression. And furthermore, if you can’t take the heat from a freaking billboard what makes you think you’ll be able to stand up against real religious fanaticism?

          • Jeff says

            “Well, let’s look at nice secular Canada, where girls get separated off from the boys, and the menstruating girls away from the rest because they’re considered unclean. At taxpayer’s expense.” I don’t know of this and so cannot comment. This is religion in the schools or no religion? I don’t understand the point you make with it.

            “You might think it’s funny and clever to insist that other people be shut up because you don’t like what they say..” No not funny or clever, just right.

            “Oh, yes indeed. You think that’s a win for secularism, genius?” Yes, this is an obvious win for secularism.

            “Who do you think is being “emotionally disturbed” here? I’ll tell you: the same people who are “emotionally disturbed” by the presence of Jews in the classroom, and “emotionally disturbed” by teaching the Holocaust as fact, and “emotionally disturbed” by teaching evolution by natural selection as fact, and “emotionally disturbed” by open homosexuals in government…”. No. The Italian court simply acknowledges here that the crucifix can be emotionally disturbing for children of other faiths or of no faith. A recognition that one should not be forcibly subjected to it. In the classroom a child has no choice because he or she must be there. And now a recognition comes that the public domain is exactly the same. We are forced to go into public to go about our day. We should not be subjected to religious symbols, that may be disturbing for some.

            There is a distinct difference here between religion and every other prejudice or dislike, or whatever may be considered offensive. You can give analogies of porn, holocausts, homosexuals etc. There is no comparable other. With religious symbols you declare your belief and what you believe of others. I know when I come across a burkha wearing woman what she thinks of me and also what she thinks of some of my fellow man. I see no difference for example, to someone wearing a “God hates fags” t-shirt. If you are going to come out into the public wearing that hate, expect a fight. You should not be able to tell a persons beliefs or what they believe of you or anyone else simply by what they wear. If they do, you should have a right of reply to it.

            Many ride on high horses here, on their way to fight intolerance and to ensure the religious are not discriminated against and are free to spread their hate and divisiveness. The irony being of course that intolerance of others is being accepted. A case maybe of the tolerant tolerating intolerance. They slowly wake to it now I think. I am fed up with coming across the insanity that is religion. I should have a right to a freedom “from” religion.

    • ... says

      . I do not accept ones right to spread perversity and filth. I

      I got some nations that agree with you. You might want to move there:

      Iran
      Saudi Arabia
      Afghanistan.

      Enjoy!

      Oh, sorry, not what you wanted? Well too bad. You just have to learn to suck it up.

  9. John M says

    And ye shall eat the flesh of your sons, and the flesh of your daughters shall ye eat. — Leviticus 26:29
    And thou shalt eat the fruit of thine own body, the flesh of thy sons and of thy daughters. — Deuteronomy 28:53
    And I will cause them to eat the flesh of their sons and the flesh of their daughters, and they shall eat every one the flesh of his friend. — Jeremiah 19:9
    And then there’s this statement, which could only be found in the Bible:
    Happy shall he be, that taketh and dasheth thy little ones against the stones. — Psalm 137:9

Leave a Reply