The Human Rights Council yesterday voted to pass a non-binding resolution, that is, a statement without legal force, which condemns defamation of religion. 23 countries voted in favor. Current member nations of the UNHRC are Azerbaijan, Bangladesh, Cameroon, Canada, China, Cuba, Djibouti, Germany, Jordan, Malaysia, Mauritius, Mexico, Nigeria, Russian Federation, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Switzerland, and Uruguay. How countries like Saudi Arabia, Djibouti, China, Nigeria, and Cuba get on the Human Rights Council is not mysterious; that they nonetheless are members, and that their membership is no mystery, induces despair. (Washington Times editorial; Associated Press report)
It should be noted that earlier this week, the Main Assembly of the UN rejected proposed blasphemy "legislation" and upheld freedom of speech (read more at UN Watch). Nonetheless, the resolution which was passed indicates that the representatives of Armageddon and fantasy are yet marginally more effective than those of us with a reality-based worldview.
While I still have the liberty to make my views on the matter known, I would like to observe that Muhammad was warlike and unpoetic, and he most certainly did not have any special relationship with supernatural powers. Neither did the Buddha, who was mostly an unsagacious ninny; nor Jesus, whose teachings were at best derivative and at worst reprehensible. The Hindu pantheon is silly. The Jewish people would be more interesting without theism. Zen is nonsense; the Tao that is Tao is nonsense, too.
I could -- and usually do -- offer similar put-downs for all kinds of religious belief. Deities are psychosocial constructs with no reality outside of the human mind. To think otherwise is to be, unequivocally, wrong. To address such wrongness as "the pluralism of an enlightened society" is to deny that the terms truth, reason, civilization, and enlightenment have any meaning beyond their pious use in politics.
To follow the specific examples into general principles: All varieties of theistic and supernatural belief are unmerited and dangerous. It is doubly dangerous to fuse the moral authority of any institution of values (e.g., religion, though there are others) with the legally sanctioned authority of violence -- i.e., government. We are duty-bound to remain vigilant against such fusion: and are all responsible, when vigilance goes slack and the people with the guns gain the right to dispense moral judgment. You don't want the people with the guns making such calls.
The right to defame, electively and without sanction, must be defended; freedom of speech means less and less as the fictitious right not to be offended continues to ascend.
More on this topic in the next Boston Atheists podcast, as we explore the meaning and implications of Dutch parliamentarian Geert Wilders' op-ed in the March 8 Boston Globe, on the topic of Islam and freedom of speech. The right to defame, electively and without sanction, must be defended; freedom of speech means less and less as the fictitious right not to be offended continues to ascend. I am unsure how I can respond effectively, as an individual. Suggestions are welcome -- let me, us, know what you think on the Meetup message board, or here at the BA blog.
Recommended reviewing: Christopher Hitchens, in a panel discussion with Shashi Tharoor, eloquently argues for the eradication of all taboos.