Pope Francis puts in his two denarius’ worth on Charlie Hebdo.
Pope Francis on Thursday condemned killing in God’s name but warned religion could not be insulted, weighing into a global debate on free speech ahead of a rapturous welcome in the Philippines…
“If a good friend speaks badly of my mother, he can expect to get punched, and that’s normal. You cannot provoke, you cannot insult other people’s faith, you cannot mock it,” he said.
If a man smite you on your right cheek, offer him your left also. But if he insults your mother, POW!
I wonder if he remembers that Muslims consider it an insult to say that Mohammed is not God’s prophet, or that Islam is not the true faith, or that Allah is not the one and only true God? Has he forgotten how the Gospel itself insults all men by calling them sinners who deserve to be punished in Hell? In fact, it’s an insult to our intelligence to even claim that the Bible is the inspired word of God. But perhaps he meant that only religion is off-limits for insults. Well, religion, and his mother. But that restriction also rules out any preaching of his own religion to others.
There are indeed limits to free speech: terroristic threats, libel, slander, child pornography, and such like. And even legitimately free speech, such as insults, can become problematic if taken to extremes (for example, by flooding the social networks with harassing tweets and insinuations in order to try and destroy a person or drive them offline).
But let’s face it: religion itself cannot exist without the freedom to explicitly or implicitly criticize other people’s religious beliefs. If we outlaw criticisms of religions, then proselytizing and/or conversion no longer exist as legitimate options. If you want to be religious in a free society, and to have the right to preach your Gospel, then you’re going to have to suck it up and accept the fact that other people have the right to say things you don’t like about the things you believe.
And by the way, isn’t it great to be a secular skeptic? You can’t insult my religion because the only thing I believe in is reality itself. If you disagree with reality, if you mock and insult reality, if you outright deny reality, don’t expect me to feel sorry about it. I might pity you. Or I might just laugh. But your insults and mockery have no power to do any real harm to reality. (You can do harmful things based on your rejection of reality, and if they’re harmful to me as well, then I’ll get mad. But your words, by themselves, do not harm reality.)
The reason religion is too weak to withstand criticism is because it is a fiction, a massive, ongoing, role-playing game that people keep going by loving it and believing it. Insults are harmful to make-believe because they take the fun out of believing, and that has the potential to shut down the whole game. That’s why the Pope wants special protection for religion. And that’s precisely why it does not deserve it.