Freedom from offense is not a human right

Atheists are frequently called out for offending religious people even when all we’re doing is stating facts about religion, even citing verses from their holy books. The use of personal offense as a defensive mechanism often serves to shut down the freedom of speech religious people want.

The conversation below, taken directly from our Facebook page, is a classic example of the rationale of many religious people. Hamid was responding to an image about Islam that he found offensive.

(All comments are presented below with grammar and spelling errors left intact.)

Hamid
It's insulting
You know how we feel about the prophet Muhammad .
So why do this ?

Atheist Republic
If it's insulting to you, don't look at it.

Hamid
Doesn't matter if I look or not why should you post something that offends and insult others?

Atheist Republic
Why should I censor myself based on other people's feelings. People that are sensitive to certain content are in full control of what they are exposed to.

If I get insulted by the Quran, do I have the right to tell you not to post verses of the Quran? No. You have every right to post Quran verses. If I don't like it, I should not read them. But I can't come to you and demand not to post them.

Hamid
It's because of respect for other people if you can't promote your world view withouth these kind of cheap tactics then you just show how intellectually deficient you are . The Quran never teaches us to mock other people only that one side it on the wrong and other on the right . Al your doing is causing rifts and tensions between two parties . As a human you should help promote understanding instead the opposite don't you think ?

Atheist Republic
We are trying to promote freedom of expression. The Quran teaches us to kill infidels. If I find that insulting, should we ban the Quran? No we should not. Because expression of ideas should be free. That is the point of this post.

Hamid
Freedom of expression of this type is counter productive to the aims and objectives you wish to achieve . Because all your getting from this is a few cheap laughs and a lot of angry and insulted Muslims . The Quran teaches peace ad tolerance the verses you are referring to is specifically for the battle field in a war and not a general ruling .

Atheist Republic
I don’t think so. For example the annual “Everybody Draw Mohammed Day” event has been very successful in showing that we can’t stop freedom of expression. It is very effective at making its point. When limitations to freedom of expression are challenged, everyone benefits, even Muslims.

Also, please refer to this Hadith:
"The Prophet said, "The blood of a Muslim, who confesses that Lâ ilâha ill-Allâh (there is no god but Allâh), cannot be shed except in three cases: 1. Life for life (in cases of intentional murders without right i.e., in Al-Qis̩âs̩ – Law of Equality in punishment); 2. A married person who commits illegal sexual intercourse; and 3. The one who turns renegade from Islâm (apostate) and leaves the group of Muslims. [9:17-O.B]" — Sahih al-Bukhari, 9:83:17

In other subjects of debate, this line of reasoning isn’t typically used. Attacking someone personally, especially in a way unrelated to the topic at hand, is out of bounds, but it’s not considered offensive to strongly state something that the other person happens to disagree with or to question what the other person is saying.

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People engaged in political, economic, or scientific conversations are expected to hold their views up for critical analysis. Yet, this is not demanded of religious people, even when they are subjecting others to their beliefs through legislation or other public policy. Fundamentalist Christians demand that intelligent design be taught alongside evolution in public schools and yet they refuse to hold creationism to the same degree of scientific scrutiny as evolution, and get offended when anyone else tries.

Religion doesn't require logic or critical assessment of its adherents, so it relies on “taking offense” as a defense mechanism. It has become popularly accepted that it’s taboo to question other people's beliefs when religious or spiritual convictions are involved; if someone does question them using facts, history, or logical persuasion, they are somehow violating that person’s rights by causing offense and this is generally seen by society as perfectly acceptable.

What do you think? Should atheists speak out about God and religion when it’s safe and possible to do so? Should we avoid speaking out because religious people might get offended? Share your thoughts by replying to this email and we might include them on our website. Please let us know if you wish to remain anonymous.

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