Respect my atheism…OR ELSE!!

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Right then, this is how it goes. As an atheist, I find talk of religion offensive. If you claim that your god exists you are basically undermining my lack of belief and mocking my lack of religion. As a result, I demand that anyone talking about religion, wearing religious clothing or items, be chastised, lose their job, and for repeated infractions face the possibility of death by atheist fundamentalists acting in the name of no god. Sound reasonable?

No, of course, it doesn’t. It sounds fucking stupid. My lack of religious beliefs isn’t your problem and the fact that you might believe in some god or religion doesn’t in any way impact my lack of belief and nor does it hurt me. You believe, I don’t. I don’t expect you to “respect” my atheism. I don’t care if you don’t. It’s your call, you can mock it, insult it, say whatever you like about it. My atheism won’t be hurt nor demand retribution. Atheism can be cool like that.

So why is it expected, and sometimes agreed, that religion shouldn’t be insulted? That its followers shouldn’t be offended without a price being paid? Keep in mind, atheism is our default state as a species, we have to learn about gods. Why should your god, or your feelings, be protected?

Right now in Batley, Yorkshire people are protesting outside a school because a teacher dared to show an image of Mohammed to the pupils. As we know this is terribly offensive to devout Muslims, and that’s fine, but why is that anyone else’s problem? They’re demanding that, because they are offended, the teacher should lose his job and some Muslim interest groups are clearly priming the canon against him. I don’t get it at all.

Why would the thoughts, deeds or actions of a non-believer affect your religion? I get that you could be offended but that’s okay, walk it off. Your god will still be your god, your faith will still be your faith, and nobody has actually been hurt. Let’s see how some of the protestors frame it.

“The kind of message that’s going out from this school is quite dangerous for all children. You’re giving out the wrong information, you’re setting a wrong mindset, which doesn’t help community cohesion,”

Seems reasonable on the surface, but is it? Community cohesion? Surely that’s about respecting people’s differing beliefs, understanding that people don’t see the world the way we do. I don’t recall it being about “Look, just follow our rules because that’s the respectful thing to do”.

“So the thing is, if something happens, anywhere in any part of the world about the prophet Muhammad, we Muslims are very sensitive. We are not maligning anybody else, we just want to say, don’t make fun of our prophet. That’s all we want,”

I’m sorry that you’re sensitive. I imagine that can make things quite difficult. Perhaps it would be better to be less sensitive and focus on your life and beliefs without stressing as to whether other people agree? I still don’t understand why people shouldn’t “make fun” of a prophet. Sure, it upsets you but so what? You’re upset, you’ll be okay. Anyway, you’ve said it now. You can go home. Right?

No, of course not. They want punishment, they want their beliefs to be “respected” in a way that sits uncomfortably close to “obeyed”. The thing is, I don’t sit around drawing pictures of their prophet, I don’t burn people’s holy books. I genuinely don’t see any value in doing so. But if other people choose to do these things then so what? Let them be, say they’re “wrong” in your eyes but that’s where it ends.

Hassan Mahmood said the protest was about educating people and raising awareness with the hope of increased community cohesion. “This is about generating that positive awareness so that there’s no sort of untoward reaction and there’s no disruption or disharmony in the community,”

I think protesting outside the school, disrupting life and demanding people lose their jobs for offending your religious sensibilities is disharmony enough. Say your piece and go home. We should never as a nation tolerate outright discrimination on the grounds of religion but nor should we infringe upon the freedoms of others because of religion.

We should embrace a multicultural society. But a melting pot is a melting pot, if we don’t tolerate all takes on this without acting in a ridiculous manner we’re never going to move forwards.

To paraphrase the late, great Dave Allen. May your god, or lack thereof, go with you.


What do you think?

Written by Hayden Hewitt

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It’s an issue that just keeps giving. No other religion in the UK gets this level of protection and defense and such preferential treatment should not be encouraged.
In other places I have gone so far as to make the argument that, based on behaviours and attitudes, this kind of fundamentalist, conservative response constitutes a ‘Far Right’ pattern.




Another related problem is the large group of people who say they support freedom of expression but then in the next breath say you shouldn’t be allowed to offend Muslims, essentially because some Muslims will get really angry and commit violent acts. They don’t really see the contradiction and they think they’re just being reasonable.

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