No Repression Of Expression

Observatory

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The appalling events in Paris are still unfolding after the Islamic extremists’ attack on the staff of Charlie Hebdo magazine, but one thing is clear; around the free world a deep sense of outrage is overcoming the usual liberal breast-beating. The attitude of ‘Why did we fail these people?’ is for once notable by its absence. The barbaric deaths of writers and artists for expressing themselves within a free society is now facing further tests, as extremist parties become a magnet for the disenfranchised, the criminal, the embittered failures of society.

One of the two suspects at large is known to have spent time in a French jail on a previous conviction for terrorism, and it’s a mark of a civilised society that he did not face the kind of penalty that European nationals face in repressive states. The problem now is what documentarian Adam Curtis calls ‘Oh Dearism’, wherein the only public response to outrages is ‘Oh Dear’ and setting up a hashtag. The logical answer would be for millions upon millions of cartoon images to flood the world with the approval of mainstream Islam, but that will never happen.

As the son of atheist parents who worked in science and law respectively, I was raised to appreciate the needs of people who seek out systems by which they can live, but I must admit I find the trappings of religion utterly absurd, especially in extreme Christian or Muslim forms which harm others, and am tired of having to defend my own atheism. Every day, around King’s Cross station (now the de rigeur filming spot for any news team talking about ‘likely terrorist attacks’) I wade through a ring of people paid to hand out brochures encouraging me to believe in a fantasy figure who advocated stoning women to death.

Any religion based on fear, cruelty, arrogance, misogyny, homophobia, racism, cowardice, egocentricity and contradictory fantasies from virgins in heaven to demons in hell deserves to die out, and the sooner the better. Kindness, respect, equality, bravery, selflessness, fairness, humility and honesty are all concepts better served by concentrating on each other, our fellow men and women, instead of vengeful gods. It’s time now. Elvis has left the building.

17 comments on “No Repression Of Expression”

  1. Vivienne says:

    Couldn’t agree more. Lifelong atheist, but tending (under pressure) to become anti-theist.

  2. Ness says:

    I’d agree with you but then atheists are defined by their lack of belief in a higher power – even an especially talented British author. Still hope doesn’t belong to any group, religious or not so let’s all try to believe in that.

  3. Carya Gish says:

    Thank you for this. I grew up with Charlie Hebdo and its team, who have been regular contributors to various newspapers, radio, TV for over 40 years, have published books, has exhibitions, etc. It’s as if, I don’t know, people had gunned down the entire Blackadder and The Young Ones teams in one big terrorist attack (I’ve been trying to find an equivalent for two days).
    My parents are really shocked, all their favourite cartoonists are dead. It was weird to see familiar faces like Philippe Val on British TV! I didn’t like the newspaper’s vulgarity (my dad did!), but it was their trademark and behind their often unsavoury humour they said a lot of truths without any compromise.
    As an author and small publisher, I feel personally attacked, and it has affected me more than I thought it would. I usually don’t do hashtags and the likes, but this time, it’s gone too far, so I have shared articles etc. about it because in Europe, you don;t attack artists and writers, that’s it.
    And I am staunchly anti-religious and think the only thing France got right is its secularism – I hate the pedestal religion is put on in this country. I think the best way to reply is to write more, paint more, draw more and publish more. No newspaper here have reproduced the cartoons – it’s a disappointment. I do hope this will create a debate in Europe about being too tolerant of intolerance and religious privilege.

  4. Carya Gish says:

    oops sorry for the typos in the previous message.

  5. Roger says:

    “Every day, around King’s Cross station … I wade through a ring of people paid to hand out brochures encouraging me to believe in a fantasy figure who advocated stoning women to death”

    As good believers, they don’t need to be paid. Mohammed was probably real, not a fantasy figure, and was just as enthusiastic about stoning men to death as well if he didn’t share their sexual tastes. For some reason, they never approach me- do I somehow exude an aura of extreme atheism. I wonder?

  6. Helen Martin says:

    I don’t feel the need to defend my beliefs (or lack of) and do not understand why some people think theirs need defending with extreme violence. Our newspaper asked today if Islam is so fragile it needs this type of defense. The obvious answer is that no, it doesn’t. If Christianity took that attitude your heading image here would put your life at risk. That image, however, makes a very important point and self examination is usually healthy. It would do Islamists good to take a serious look at the drawings that are appearing.

  7. admin says:

    I think they’re paid now, Roger. After the Mormons started hiring employees to hand out brochures, you no longer have to be a believer to do this as a part-time job.

  8. Vivienne says:

    To be serious about this, I think this country should be much more like France in its secularisation of education. Children are always going to be given their parents’ views first, but these all need challenging. I read a book which tried to assess why women in Nazi Germany did or did not toe the line, and those that thought for themselves had been encouraged in this attitude at home, but liberal parents are still in a minority. Christians may comfort themselves that they are inclusive but this ws not always so. Anything based on non-reason, which is what all religion is, cannot be fought with reason, which is humanity’s greatest attribute.

  9. Martin says:

    I find it consistently very strange that this allegedly all-powerful supernatural creator firstly needs constant fawning praise from his/her creations suggesting that God is a severe narcissistic personality, and secondly that the same omnipotent being is allegedly so easily offended. As an atheist the constant use of fairy tales to justify all kinds of misogyny, homophobia, racism etc really gets on my tits! And what really annoys me is that I am supposed to respect the beliefs of these idiots even though they are demonstrably false. I will respect intelligent debate, I will not respect belief in something because ” God told me to believe it”, ever!

  10. Fiona says:

    A friend of mine in the US put up the Je Suis Charlie picture as a Facebook profile pic as he felt very strongly about what happened and the impact on freedom of speech. This does not mean he necessarily agrees with the politics of the publication.

    This is the comment my friend received about his profile pic from a friend of his (she’s American): “So you’re a racist, islamaphobic shitty publication? You can be against the killings without deifying the victims.”

    When he tried to point out that it was about freedom of speech she then said that free speech means not being persecuted by your government.

    I posted this as the reply (nicked from Twitter): “There are very few graver instances of missing the forest for the trees than debating the content rather than the principle of free speech.”

    I do wonder about people sometimes.

    Personally, I have no love for religion of any kind for the simple truth it always seems to be about hatred and persecution of someone, whether it’s women, gay men and women, another religion or a different faction of the same religion.

  11. Adam says:

    The Frank Turner song ‘Glory Hallelujah’ sums up my thoughts on religion exactly (and in a very tuneful way). Go and give it a listen (and buy his albums from his website if you like what you hear!). I can’t help but thinking that we are living in a more frightening and fractured world than 30 years ago, although that could be my mid-forties perception rather than a youthful idealistic take on the world. Either way, I don’t feel the need to hashtag or pray my way through life!

  12. K Page says:

    Well said, Mr F.The voice of reason.

  13. Ken Mann says:

    I’ve looked at the cartoons on-line and I expected to find some super-duper offensive thing. The reason I expected that is that some publications I respect said they chose not to reproduce them because they were so offensive and they didn’t want to upset readers just to make a point. They’re just cartoons. I’m baffled.

  14. admin says:

    Interesting comments here. I missed out the single most important result of theological refutation – that it comes about through knowledge and education. Religions were formed when people thought the earth was flat, if they thought about the earth at all.

  15. John Griffin says:

    Organised religion is about social control, which is why I donate to secular causes. Free schools and faith schools must be abolished as must the stranglehold churches have, especially on primary schools.

  16. Steve2 says:

    “The logical answer would be for millions upon millions of cartoon images to flood the world with the approval of mainstream Islam, but that will never happen.” I’m with you here Chris, I can’t see how this spiralling situation is going to be stopped without the Islamic senior clergy’s active involvement- although I’m not sure that would reign in the extreme fanatics. Anonymous’ statement yesterday was a surreal moment, makes you wonder and fear what’s next.

  17. JB says:

    When did people think the earth was flat? Never.

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