Je suis Charlie

The events of Wednesday remind me that there are still people who want to bend us all to their beliefs through violence and terror, who wish to obliterate free speech, who wish to impose their narrow minded dogma on the rest of the world.

I will say it straight: I do not believe in God, a god, gods, or supernatural powers of any kind. The liberal in me says that if people want to believe in a religion, that’s fine as long as they don’t harm anyone else with it. Yet, I somehow feel like I have to “tiptoe round”, not say the wrong thing, not offend, for fear of killing the sacred cow. Even if religion was banned (and I’m not into banning things per se – I’m a liberal, remember), there would still be people who react like this, whose ego cannot tolerate anyone having a different viewpoint, no room for an opinion other than theirs. For these people, religion is just a convenient vessel for this feeling of righteous indignation that they use to justify any number of atrocities.

I have values and beliefs too, you know. Although I may not believe in a deity, I do try to live a moral life. Not because a scripture tells me to, or because I fear fire and brimstone, but because my conscience tells me it is the right thing to do. These will surely come across in my writing and in conversation if you ever meet me in person. Religion is not a moral guide. However, I can be ridiculed, mocked, argued with as much as anyone dares. I don’t have a little umbrella of religion protecting my stance on issues. And that’s the way it should be. As long as nobody is instigating hatred and harm, then what’s a little criticism? It hurt your feelings? It offended you? It made you feel angry? I get that. But to kill a dozen people and terrorize an entire city? Does this seem an appropriate and measured response?

For people who still don’t get the difference between freedom of speech and hate speech, let me spell it out:

“You believe in a non-existent sky fairy and are therefore fair game to be mocked” – that is freedom of speech.

“I hate [insert religion here]. Followers of [religion] should leave our country.” – hate speech and totally unacceptable.

My heart goes out to the people killed at Charlie Hebdo and the people of Paris and supporters of freedom of speech everywhere.