Among the issues most commonly discussed are individuality, the rights of the individual, the limits of legitimate government, morality, history, economics, government policy, science, business, education, health care, energy, and man-made global warming evaluations. My posts are aimed at thinking, intelligent individuals, whose comments are very welcome.

"No matter how vast your knowledge or how modest, it is your own mind that has to acquire it." Ayn Rand

07 February 2009

Religion Demands Unearned Respect

On 18 December 2008, the United Nations General Assembly passed a nonbinding resolution, with strong advice to its members, that condemns "defamation of religion." You can read that resolution here. The United States, more than half of the European countries, India, and Japan opposed it. The 57-member Organization of the Islamic Conference pushed strongly for it and was backed by Belarus and Venezuela. It passed with an 83-53 vote, with many abstentions.

The resolution frequently conflates racial and ethnic discrimination with religious discrimination. It implies that any unfavorable evaluation of a particular religion and its beliefs is intolerance. It deplores "the negative projection of certain religions in the media ...., particularly Muslim minorities following the events of 11 September 2001, ...."

It says "that defamation of religions is a serious affront to human dignity leading to the illicit restriction of the freedom of religion of their adherents and incitement to religious hatred and violence,"

It stresses "the need to effectively combat defamation of all religions, and incitement to religious hatred in general,"

It reaffirms that "discrimination on the grounds of religion or belief constitutes a violation of human rights and a disavowal of the priniples of the Charter of the United Nations,"

It states that "education should contribute in a meaningful way to promoting tolerance and the elimination of discrimination based on religion or belief,"

It then launches into a list of 24 numbered paragraphs. Some say:

2. Expresses deep concern at the negative stereotyping of religions and manifestations of intolerance and discrimination in matters of religion or belief still evident in the world;

5. Notes with deep concern the intensification of the overall compaign of defamation of religions, and incitement to religious hatred in general, including the ethnic and religious profiling of Muslim minorities in the aftermath of the tragic events of 11 September 2001;

7. Expresses deep concern in this respect that Islam is frequently and wrongly associated with human rights violations and terrorism; [This is the third time Muslims and/or Islam is specifically noted, while no other religion is specifically noted.]

8. Reiterates the commitment of all States to ..... respect for all religions, religious values, beliefs or cultures and [to] prevent the defamation of religions;

9. Deplores the use of the print, audio-visual and electronic media, including the Internet, and any other means to incite acts of violence, xenophobia or related intolerance and discrimination against any religion, as well as targeting of religious symbols [Muhammad with a bomb in his turban!];

10. Emphasizes that, as stipulated in international human rights law, everyone has the right to hold opinions without interference, and has the right to freedom of expression, the exercise of which carries with it special duties and responsibilities and may therefore be subject to limitations as are provided for by law and are necessary for the respect of rights or reputations of others, protection of national security or of public order, public health or morals;

16. Urges all States .... to take all possible measures to promote tolerance and respect for all religions and beliefs and the understanding of their value systems and to complement legal systems with intellectual and moral strategies to combat religious hatred and intolerance;

18. Underscores the need to combat defamation of religions .... through education for all, ..., including access to free primary education for all children, both girls and boys, [No mention of those Islamic areas where schools for girls are bombed by Islamic enforcers.]

19. Calls upon all States ..... to ensure that religious places, sites, shrines and symbols are fully respected and protected, ....;

21. Affirms that the Human Rights Council shall promote universal respect for all religious and cultural values and address instances of intolerance, discrimination and incitement to hatred ....;

Now, I do not believe governments should discriminate against religious beliefs as such. They can and must discriminate against one kind of action, the initiated use of force. So, if a person holds a belief, religious in nature or not, that he is allowed to use force to keep others from exercising their right to freedom of speech, to freedom of conscience, and to freedom of the press and he acts upon that belief to use force to prevent others from their equal rights, then government must protect its citizens from this initiated use of force. To do this, government may reasonably watch with special diligence those persons whose religious or other beliefs state that they may use initiated force to attain their ends. To do anything else would be irrational. Government should not assume, however, that someone holding to a tradition of belief will necessarily choose to act to initiate the use of force, even though that belief may allow and even encourage it. But, Government can watch and be prepared to pounce if such a person's actions reasonably signal an intent to act upon the violent belief.

Freedom of religion was really intended to be about freedom of conscience and it was intended that one could act upon one's beliefs, with one very important proviso. Everyone has this same right, but it would clearly be impossible for any individual to exercise his right to freedom of conscience and to use his belief system to guide his actions, if anyone had the right to impose his beliefs upon others by using force. People of different religious belief have often come into conflict with one another, even when those differences were relatively minor. After centuries of such conflicts among Christians in Europe, the philosophers of the Age of Enlightenment came in many cases to recognize a very practical need for freedom of conscience and freedom of religion. But, they also came to understand that the individual had to be allowed to think for himself and to choose his values. These chosen values were required to help guide actions he would take in living his life. But, everyone had this same need by virtue of being human, so this right to freedom of conscience was universal. In America, we developed our Constitution and Bill of Rights in recognition of this fact.

No one, and no religion, has the right to impose its values and beliefs upon others. Many religions have tried to do this historically, as have other belief systems such as socialism (whether fascist or communist) and environmentalism. No one is obliged to give those belief systems respect, though they commonly demand it. No one is required to be silent when they see reason to criticize those belief systems, though religions, socialism, and environmentalists have often tried to silence them. We are only required not to initiate the use of force.

Though Christians did often use force to advance their religion, that religion is fortunate in that Jesus was not a proponent of using force to spread his beliefs. He did not gather armies and attack nearby peoples and impose Christianity upon them. Islam, on the other hand, is the religion made up by Mohammed, who did lead armies to attack non-believers and did advocate either killing non-believers or treating them as second-class citizens in Islamic countries. He also believed that anyone accepting the religion of Islam should be killed if he changed his mind later. This unfortunate tradition of belief in the use of force as a means to spread their religion has caused disproportionate numbers of Muslims to adopt the use of terrorist tactics in our present times. Of course, there are some people of other religions who have also resorted to terrorism, but most of the present-day God-worshiping religions have fewer terrorists operating in the name of their religion.

There are several references in the U. N. resolution requiring respect to the symbols of a religion. These are clearly intended to require countries to abridge the right of the people to publish cartoons critical of Islam. This is an overt attack upon freedom of expression, freedom of speech, and freedom of the press.

It was ironic that the paragraph requiring States to provide education for both girls and boys, did not mention the fact that in those countries practicing Islam, the education of women is least valued and sometimes prevented entirely by violence in the name of the religion. Of course, this provision also stated that it was the responsibility of the state to provide education, which is wrong. Other provisions also made it clear that the state was to use education to squelch any rational discussion of the merits of various beliefs and value systems, particularly if they claimed to be of a religious nature. The State was to demand respect for all religious beliefs and values.

Frankly, all religions are made up by man. This is particularly obvious in the case of Scientology, Mormonism, and Islam, since they have roots in the recent past. In stating this fact, I am making it clear that I do not respect any religion. Furthermore, none of the religions offer an adequate and rational philosophy for living a human life on this earth. Clearly, I am defaming all religions. Clearly, I am defaming Islam more than most. All religions are false beliefs and harmful to mankind. Of course, people should be free to practice a false religion, provided they do not use force against others while doing so.

So, according to the United Nations, it is the responsibility of the United States government to force me to take sensitivity training and to force me to stop writing of these matters on this blog. It even seems clear that the U.N. is saying that I am inciting hatred and violence against all religions, especially Islam. I would deny this and say that I am simply rejecting the idea that Islam has the right to force me to respect it or to adopt its beliefs as my own. If Islam were to be amended to renounce the use of force, then I would oppose it only because it is false. At this time, I must oppose it because its principle tenets include the claim that it is proper and a duty of Muslims to use force to spread the religion. Of course, I also oppose any other system of beliefs and values which allows for the initiated use of force. This will include any effort by the U.S. government to make me respect religions or any effort by the U.N. to make me do so.

Contrary to the U.N.'s assertion, the only responsibility I have before rational law in the excution of my freedoms is that I do not initiate the use of force against others. I do not have a responsibility not to hurt the feelings of the religious. If I do so, this is not a valid reason to restrict my freedom of conscience, of speech, or of the press. That government which would do so would be a tyranny.

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