"One cannot provoke, one cannot insult other people's faith, one cannot make fun of faith... There is a limit. Every religion has its dignity... In freedom of expression, there are limits," declared Pope Francis this week in reference to last week’s Islamic fundamentalist terror attack on the French magazine Charlie Hebdo.
“If my good friend... says a curse word against my mother, he can expect a punch," Pope Francis explained. "It's normal. You cannot provoke. You cannot insult the faith of others. You cannot make fun of the faith of others... anyone who hurls insults should expect retaliation.”
I totally agree with the Pope that deliberately provoking other people with insults against their faith solely for the sake of making fun of it is pointless, in bad form, and poor taste. Free speech should be voluntarily tempered with intellectual responsibility and respect for the sensibilities of others.
Pointing out the facts, the truth and the reality of a matter is the essence of responsible free speech. “Each person not only has the freedom but also the obligation to say what he thinks in the name of the common good,” Pope Francis admitted. “No one can kill in the name of God... This is an aberration.”
The Pope is candidly acknowledging in this instance the reality that the jihadist fundamentalist Islamic religion espoused by followers of Al Queada and the Islamic State is an enemy of liberty. When any religion is employed for the purpose of murder and/or stifling basic human freedoms that religion becomes an enemy of liberty.
When governments like Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Iran, Afghanistan and many others use religion to restrict the rights of women, forbid free thought and expression, or otherwise oppress the people with absurd, unreasonable draconian laws, that religion becomes an enemy of liberty.
When statist governments embrace religion and proclaim a government God it is done for the purpose of providing an imaginary foundation to support its statist practices and therefore that religion, that government God, becomes an enemy of liberty.
When religious statists across the world point to free thinkers and atheists like me to characterize them as terrorists, as I discussed in my last post, it amounts to a deliberate provocation against my personal freedom, dignity and humanity. It is a threat to my very existence, and as such I must regard their religion as an enemy of liberty.
They should expect retaliation from me of the kind Pope Francis approves. If some of that retaliation comes in the form of satire, scorn or ridicule against the religion they would employ to oppress me, it is perfectly justified in the name of responsible free speech.
It is not deliberate provocation; it is retaliation; it is pointing out the facts, the truth and the reality of the matter in the tradition of Voltaire, Thomas Paine, and many of the other great free thinkers in history.
The reality as they pointed out so eloquently in their writings is that religion is often the enemy of liberty.