January 7-8, 2015

I grew up atheist (and weird), in the south, in a fairly small town. I got hassled by some people (mostly because I was weird), and proselytized by other people, some of whom tried to be nice about it.

I was never really tempted by religion, though. I may have lied to my first serious long-term girlfriend about possibly believing in God. If so, I knew it was a lie at the time.

Anyway. I suppose it’s really easy to grow up under those circumstances and wind up as one of those strident atheist types, always wanting to tweak the religious folks, wanting to be offensive & invade their space in the same way that their religion always seemed to be invading mine.

But instead I mostly grew up really hating proselytizing of any variety. Which in turn means I find someone like Richard Dawkins to be 100x more annoying than the happy Christians who attend church next door to our house. Especially since they never come over & knock on our door & try to convert us or anything.

I watch them out the window on Sunday mornings & they’re always so happy to see each other in the parking lot as they walk in together.

There have been plenty of examples over the years of my being a jerk, mostly about important things like music, or people being dumb on the Internet. I’m in no way saintly. Although I have tried pretty hard over the past 10 years or so to be nicer to people, generally, across the board.

It’s kind of tough to see the news happening in France, and see the reactions on Facebook and Twitter, and to look at the recaps of the many & varied obnoxious racist & anti-Islamic cartoons run by that magazine over the years, and to feel like I’m expected to fall in line in support of blind allegiance to absolute “freedom of speech” without consequences.

Of course the consequences shouldn’t be murder. But that doesn’t mean the rejection of all consequences. Hurting people’s feelings is a shitty thing to do. Attacking minorities is a shitty thing to do. Doing it under the guise of “satire” is no less shitty. The consequences, at minimum, of making people feel bad for one’s own petty amusement, is the slow eating away of your humanity.

It’s also kind of frustrating to see all of my liberal American friends weighing in on this as though it’s some kind of ultimate abstract Enlightenment vs. Fundamentalism issue.

France was one of the major Colonial powers. There has been more than enough third-world blood shed for the hands of every single “enlightened” man, woman & child in France.

France occupied (and dominated) Algeria from 1830 until they abandoned it (on the losing end of an 8-year war) in 1962. Liberte, Egalite, Fraternite – unless you were a Muslim Algerian.

Is this important? Algerians make up the single largest group of immigrants to France. The unemployment rate for African immigrants in France is 6 percentage points higher than that for natives of French ancestry. (And with an aggregate unemployment rate of 10%, that’s pretty significant).

Happy people are somewhat less likely to do desperate terrible things than unhappy people. People with jobs and families and a sense of belonging and a sense that the future will be as good as or better than the present generally don’t have as much time for indoctrination and hate.

So it seems to me that the naive optimal solution is to try to work as hard as we can to make space so that more people can be happy, and fulfilled in their lives. If worshipping some god somewhere is helpful in that regard, then more power to them. I may personally think that it’s sort of silly to want to believe in some mystical sky being who has strong opinions about how we should behave, but I can generally keep those thoughts to myself.

I certainly feel more confident about the positive outcomes from that than I do about the likelihood of positive outcomes from publishing smug, obnoxious, clearly racist cartoons that make fun of people for wanting to worship their god & be happy.

So yeah, sure, I believe in Freedom of Speech. But as an American, I believe in First Amendment Freedom of Speech. It’s an interesting amendment. Half of it is about freedom of speech. The other half is about freedom of religion.

January 7-8, 2015

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