Hypocrisy Hits Home
Blasphemy laws are a problem for everyone, not just atheists. But all too often it seems no one takes much notice of them because the most common victims of blasphemy laws happen to be atheists and secularists. It would seem that most people don't really care that atheists are imprisoned and murdered under these unjust laws. Recently however this problem has hit home in Pakistan where a Christian woman has been sentenced to death for blasphemy against Islam.
Now, seeing this story caused me to ask a question. Why is this one woman's life seemingly more valuable and important than all the atheist lives that have been lost under these unjust blasphemy laws? The reality is that it isn't any more important at all, but rather that the label she wears as a Christian makes people see her differently. As a result of that label people who know nothing of her, even whether or not she's actually a decent person, are rushing to her defense. This is a stark reminder of just how little theists in general seem to care about the lives of fellow humans who happen to wear the label of atheist.
There is however a silver lining here. You see, we now have common ground because we can point to this and say without reservation that these laws are detrimental and dangerous to everyone. Of course, atheists like myself have been saying this all along.
You see, there is a perception, especially amongst Christians here in the US and Muslims both here and abroad, that atheists want to push our own agenda and force our ideals upon everyone. But this simply isn't true. The truth is that the only agenda most atheists have is to try and secure the freedom and equality of all human beings. This isn't an atheist agenda and it isn't just about atheists. This is about all of humanity and our agenda seeks to benefit everyone on this planet.
I don't support "gay rights", I support human rights. I don't support "atheist rights", I support human equality. I don't fight for atheists or some atheist cause, I fight for the cause of humanity. I may disagree with what you believe, but this doesn't mean I don't value you as a human being. I want you to be free to believe what you want and express that belief in any public forum in any appropriate way that the law allows for. I don't want your children to be denied the right to pray in school if they choose, but I don't want that prayer to be shoved in my child's face or for him to be made to feel like an outcast because he doesn't follow your beliefs. I, like nearly all other atheists, just want an even playing field and equality across the board.
A Worldwide Problem
Pakistan is most certainly not the only place this is an issue. There are many other countries which utilize blasphemy laws and that offer just as stiff a penalty for it. Even here in the US many states have outdated blasphemy laws still on the books that an overzealous prosecutor can use to unjustly violate other's first amendment rights with should he so choose. Most recently a young teen was charged under an outdated blasphemy law for taking a picture of himself posing with a statue of Jesus in which it appeared the statue was performing fellatio on him. Regardless of how immature or childish you may think this act, it most certainly was not a criminal offense. And I have to wonder if this prosecutor would have been so eager to press for a criminal conviction if this had been a statue of Shiva or Buddha? I'm very doubtful that he would have.
You see, these sorts of laws only serve to offer special privilege to some and force others relinquish their right to speak their mind. This is why the atheist agenda is all about equality, because it is only when we are all treated equally that we can claim to be being fair with our fellow man. It is only when every person has a voice and is allowed to speak their minds that we can find a way to live peacefully with one another. When a voice of opposition is silenced it means there can be no discourse on the matter. If you want to be respected you have to allow those who disagree with you to voice their grievances and engage in honest and open discussion.
Would You Fight for Me?
This seems like such a simple question. I'm sure most of us would answer yes very quickly, but I wonder if we truly understand the question and what it implies. At the heart of this question are a few others such as, are you willing to put the value of human life above even your beliefs? Would you be willing to fight for equality for homosexuals even though homosexuality goes against your beliefs? Would you be willing to fight for an atheist's right to speak his mind even though his opinion is a direct assault on your beliefs? Are you willing to fight so that even those whom you dislike or disagree with are treated fairly and equally?
My heart goes out to this young Pakistani woman and her family. I truly hope that she is not murdered unjustly, and made to be yet another in a long line of victims claimed by religion. If I were able I would speak on her behalf, even beg for her life if need be. She most certainly does not deserve this. I would do those things because I value human life and the ideal of equality above all else.
I would fight for you. I do even now as I work with other activists to raise awareness, to speak out against injustice, and even to protest. My only agenda is freedom and equality for all humanity. These are ideals that are worth fighting for, and whether I like you or not or whether I disagree with your beliefs, I will fight in whatever way I can that you are free to voice your beliefs, to practice them, and that you are never disabused of your rights for them.
Photo Credits: Jim Monk