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Friday, December 31, 2010

Intellectual freedom: The Pope may recognize it, but secularists, not much

In "Secularists should recognize that the pope's fight is their fight" Wall Street Journal (December 30, 2010),Daniel Henninger writes,
It has been odd in recent years to see prominent atheists make so much effort to diminish Judeo-Christian belief. In the modern world, and certainly in the U.S. from the Pilgrims onward to the Bill of Rights, religious practice has been bound up in the idea—now the principle—of individual freedom. I don't think secularist arguments alone for individual freedoms have sufficient strength and fiber to stand against their current opposition. Benedict's fight for freedom and that of recent Nobel Peace Prize winner Liu Xiaobo are the same. Wojtyla and Walesa proved that once already.
The trouble is, if the recent history of the use of new laws against “offending” anyone is consulted, it’s abundantly clear that vast numbers of Western secularists are perfectly happy with state thought control, as long as their pet peeves, itches, and scratches get a reprieve.

Canadian-born columnist Mark Steyn summed it up beautifully for the Ontario legislature recently:
Truth is no defense. No one was disputing the truth of what I wrote. Nobody was arguing that it was libellous or seditious or false, for all of which there would be appropriate legal remedy. In essence, the plaintiffs were arguing that they had been offended.

Well, offensiveness is in the eye of the offended. I have no way of commenting on that one way or another. It's not possible, in the legal sense, to mount a defense to the accusation that you've offended somebody - which is why the human right "not to be offended" should not exist in a free society. That's the first and most basic thing that this system failed.

I was rather alarmed by the number of Canadian journalists who were quite happy to serve, in effect, as eunuchs of the politically correct state.
(Steyn had been charged in three jurisdictions in Canada for saying things that happen to be true (or at worst, easily defensible)about Islamists, so he was asked to appear at the legislature and and explain.

To restore anything like intellectual freedom we would need to begin by reducing secularist influence, in favor of traditional assumptions about the dignity of the person, embodied in the Bill of Rights.

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