Recently, my more religious sister criticized me for speaking out against theistic belief. Instead of discussing my criticisms of theistic belief, she simply stated that everyone is entitled to their own opinion. I have actually heard this claim made by a lot of people and not all of them were theists. A few silent atheists have also be critical of speaking out against ancient superstitions stating that everyone is entitled to their own opinion.
I problem here is that I don’t disagree that everyone is entitled to his or her own opinion and yet these people seem to be implying that I do. I never said people aren’t entitled to their own opinions. In fact, not only have I repeatedly talked about my support for the freedom of religion, I have actually gone to congress and personally lobbied in favor of free speech. The second some Congress-person, Senator, or even the President tries to push a law restricting people’s right to have their own opinion, I will be right there to fight for those rights. Of course everyone is entitled to their own opinion.
What they are not entitled to however, is for their opinions to be protected from criticism. The fact is that we all acknowledge this. We all not only criticize other people’s opinions on a daily basis, but no one in their right mind would claim that it was immoral to do so. No one has a problem criticizing what Hitler did to the Jews. Nor do people have an issue criticizing the KKK for their views. Tom Cruise is continually criticized for his religious beliefs and mainstream Christians and Jews are usually right there at my side criticizing the more fundamentalist believers in their own religions. But the moment anyone criticizes their beliefs, they attempt to over dramatize the criticism with claims of intolerance and/or hate. Insinuations are made that their free speech is being taken away. I don’t hate Christians. I have many Christian friends. I certainly don’t hate Jews. For starters, I am a Jew. Plus my family is Jewish and I love them very much… even my overly religious sister. But I do take issue with what these people believe and so while I will fight for their rights to have their own opinion on religious matter no matter how ridiculous and silly those opinions might be, I will also criticize those opinions if they are ridiculous, silly, and/or dangerous.
In my view, dangerous opinions lead to dangerous actions. And when they do, we need to stand up and strongly criticize those dangerous actions and be critical of the beliefs which lead to those actions. Now again, I am not talking about outlawing those dangerous opinions and beliefs, but I am talking about being critical of those opinions and beliefs. I supported the ACLU when they defended the KKK’s right to march peacefully. But if the KKK wanted to march peacefully in my town, I would be on the sidelines being very critical of their beliefs and arguing against those views.
I think it is pretty hypocritical of theists to claim some special protection from criticism for their beliefs when they seem so willing to criticize other people’s beliefs. Why is it that they think that criticizing political opinions is okay, but criticizing religious views should be forbidden? As I stated before it isn’t even all religious views that they seem to think should be protected; just their religious views and the religions which are closely related to their religious views. Judaism and Christianity should be protected and maybe Islam, but not necessarily. Other religions it seems like should definitely not be protected like Scientology, Mormonism, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Satanists, Wiccans, etc.
In my view however, no opinions should be above criticism. I believe in the market place of ideas and in that market place all ideas and beliefs are welcome and should be equally open to criticism. Let the best ideas and beliefs win. But it seems that the believers in the Abrahamic religions know that their beliefs are ridiculous, silly, and have no valid evidence supporting them. So they don’t want to compete in the market place of ideas because they know their ideas will lose. So instead they try to protect their failed ideas from any and all criticism. How sad.