On Free Speech vs. Religious Respect: in five sentences

Either people believe in free speech or they don’t. Some cultures do, but many do not. It’s inevitable that people who do not believe in free speech will feel outrage at the behavior of those who do believe in free speech. Leaders of the latter decide how that outrage is expressed.

All religions, including Judaism, Christianity, Islam, and Hindu have had phases of violence, and also tolerance (or peaceful protest), in their response to what outrages them.

11 Responses to “On Free Speech vs. Religious Respect: in five sentences”

  1. Paul W. Homer

    Does any culture actually believe in the right to say 100% of whatever you want? Hate speech, criminal conspiracy and inciting people to violence I believe are often restricted, aren’t they?

    To me the problem is that thinking whatever you want is fine, but ‘speech’ is meant for communication, and communication is often meant to convince people to act. Some actions need to be restricted and some people are too easily manipulated.


      1. Tim Shakarian

        Hate is a subjective term. Any religious, cultural, or political critique can be considered “hateful”. Any bully can choose to react violently to any critique. At one point in history discussing Heliocentrism incited violence.

        The freedom to have an opinion is critical. If you can’t express that opinion, there is no good in having one. It is not speech that incites violence, it is ignorance. Let’s not yield to pre-enlightenment bullies who attack this great freedom that has contributed so much to our progress.

        1. Scott Berkun

          Your point about heliocentrism are apt: it was religious leaders who determined how to respond to what offended them. They had many choices, like all leaders do, and in different eras every major group that was more conservative than others had times of more violent responses and more peaceful ones. Whenever I see a group act out in violence, I look up. Someone with influence has advocated that response by choice.

  2. Steven E. Harris

    At first I was going to suggest that “later” should be “latter,” but upon a third reading, I think you meant “former.”

  3. Dave Rodenbaugh

    Your post reminds me of the article from Sam Harris, written about the same time:


    Truly freedom of speech is the hardest freedom to embrace in its purest form. Someone called me out on it once and their comments made me think about it (this was in reference to me denouncing a skinhead’s comments and right to say his racist nonsense) so things like this hit home for me.

  4. Sean Crawford

    In his postscript to Revolt in 2100 Robert Heinlein wrote:
    It is a truism that almost any sect, cult or religion will legislate its creed into law if it acquires the political power to do so, and will follow it by suppressing opposition, subverting all education to seize early the minds of the young, and by killing, locking up or driving underground all heretics. This is equally true whether the faith is Communism or Holy-Rollerism; indeed it is the bounden duty of the faithful to do so. The custodians of the True Faith cannot logically admit tolerance of heresy to be a virtue.

    He goes on to say that over here our multitude of faiths has resulted in tolerance.

    In another book he points out it is a natural law that religion always support (my words) the power structure. (my application:) The Japanese could safely leave religions alone in their Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere, while keeping their own belief in Emperor worship.

    I don’t remember any hate speech laws until after Dad came home from fighting the Nazis.

    1. Yo

      That truism makes sense but, without putting to fine a point on it, Capitalism also fits that description but is rarely called a faith.

  5. Sean Crawford

    As you say, Yo, capitalism is a faith, and one of it’s sects is market fundamentalism. I learned that capitalism was a humorless faith when I read about the show “bible” for writers of the Star Trek franchise. You may recall the original series had a women run planet (off stage) that comically changed their computer voices, and an organized crime run planet, again humorous, with Kirk playing poker with gangsters, but the series bible said no business run planet, which ruled out satires like Kornbluth’s Gravy Planet (ale Space Merchants) Perhaps the cold war at the time had something to do with being serious, but I don’t any sic-fi could satirize business even today. (Although the written sf can)
    By the way, Paul Graham has an essay that looks at power called Things You Can’t Say.


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