A friend of mine sent me a link to this article on Laurence Kalnin’s new book The God’s Truth which I found rather disturbing. I do not know why we have to keep learning the lessons of censorship but Mr. Kalnin, a professed atheist like myself, is making the argument to censor holy texts–the bloodthirsty parts of The New Testament, Old Testament, Koran and so forth. What a bad idea!
First of all, censorship never accomplishes anything except to drive interest to a book and increase sales so if you want Muslims to read all the “murderous parts” of the Koran then feel free to try that experiment. Second of all, there are numerous religious followers who read their holy texts every day and never commit any sort of holy crime. People bring their personal baggage to religious texts and use them to support opinions, politics and hatred. Take away the texts and they’ll find another way to justify their actions. Maybe indoctrination won’t be as easy but often you have a new cult emerge that just makes shit up to get people on board. If we are to demand anything, it should be “mandatory critical thinking skills” as a class requirement in our public schools.
Yes, the aforementioned texts are filled with violence but we have to be careful to keep them in context within the time period they were written. This is why atheists object to the Bible being used as a foundation of law–it’s outdated. We are not going to be able to force literalists to calm down by censoring these books. I mean what does Kalnin expect to happen–“Whoops, can’t find that section of the Old Testament where it tells me to stone homosexuals, guess I can’t do it.” No, you idiot–ever hear of the Internet?!
Per the author: “It is unlikely religions will self regulate so the way forward is for governments to correct and restructure our provisions for ‘religious freedom’ in accordance with our laws and social standards and the definition of religion, a system of faith and worship.”
So you want to hand over censoring abilities to the government? That is the most horrendous idea imaginable. Read your history, Kalnin.
Lastly, what about the rest of us? Why do I not have the right to read the “bad parts” of religious texts as an unbelieving atheist? Is the government going to do a check to find out who is a fanatic and who is not and then hand out passes to unbelievers to read what they want? I cannot abide by censorship in the name of safety. It is lazy thinking on how to resolve our differences with what is a clash of cultures. I don’t dismiss that words can be dangerous, but if we are to start with the religious texts I’m sure the government can find political texts that might incite violence too and there we begin to lose our freedom of expression.
If you want take out extremism, drown it in the absurd. Make it so that no one can take it seriously. Atheists have a lot of work to do on popular culture. It is not the government’s job and any sane atheist and humanist freethinker is against censorship as an answer to religiously-driven violence.