I have the right to offend you, and your God

By: Dan Baker, Student Voices writer

For those who do not speak french, the label attached to the AK-47, translates as "this shoots" and the latter "satire", with a play on words as they are both pronounced the same in french. 

I have often been faced with debates regarding Religion and it usually ends in offense. Religious sensitivity is a social epidemic, and it is infringing on our civil liberties, freedom of speech, and the values of the free society in which we live. It seems in the 21st Century, people are determined to be offended or even seeking to be offended. I believe that people really need to develop a thicker skin when it comes to faith, and accept it as a subject which is not sacrosanct.

The reason I am so vocal with regards to religion is as follows. Supernatural beliefs only create unnecessary fear and worry in the minds of those who are most impressionable. I find it unfathomable that I should be expected to keep quiet as children are taught lies about how the world began, how old the earth is and that if they touch themselves they are going to an imaginary place to suffer and die for eternity. To quote Bertrand Russell "I do not myself feel that any person who is really profoundly humane can believe in everlasting punishment." I concur with this statement, magical and superstitious thinking is something from the dark ages, and not something we should see in modern society. Most dangerously, Christianity and Islam promote the idea of a second life. The idea that death is not only not a bad thing but that there is a better place to go after, an almost suicidal poisonous belief system which is diffused into society. Why shouldn't I have the right to publicly and directly question those indoctrinating their children with such a treacherous belief system. 

Do not fear, there is a silver lining to my right to offend, you have the right to disagree with me. It's magnificent. Freedom of speech means one can say or write anything one chooses. If we could only say things that did not offend, the true essence of freedom of expression is infringed and the principle of the liberty is withdrawn. The same right which protects people’s rights to say things I find objectionable, for example when Donald Trump says he would like to ban muslims from the United States, is precisely what protects my right to object to his nonsensical and xenophobic comments .

“We are avenging Mohammed!” the islamic extremists shouted as they conducted their heinous crimes against the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo in Paris on January 7th 2015. The terrorists violently opposed the liberties of a free world, the ability to poke fun and satirise anything. One thing you have to bare in mind, when reading comments saying Charlie Hebdo provoked the fatal attacks by drawing and mocking the Prophet Mohammed, is that words do not kill people. The artists and editors of Charlie Hebdo did not storm a mosque in the middle east because they were offended by the islamic laws and practices. They realised that they have the right to be offended, and maybe upset, but not to start shooting people. The scrutiny of religion or philosophy is a key foundation to our society. To put it simply, you have the right to dislike the way I dress, but you do not have the right to tell me or force me to change the way I dress. I have the right to mock your religious beliefs, your political beliefs, your ideas, and even you, but you have the right to be offended by this. This is the definition **tolerance**. 

Anyone who believes we should not be able to offend is essentially supporting a totalitarian regime where we can not say a bad thing against the supreme leader. Replace the supreme leader with a subject which is 'offensive' and we have essentially created a state rather like North Korea. Furthermore, I find it hard to be schooled on morals by people who support this idea of some absolute power deciding what I am permitted to say. If any opinion legitimately expressed can be ousted on the premise that it is an offense or an insult to an individual, this is the foundation of a new and terrifying regime of tyranny and censorship. The notion that a democracy can function without the freedom to offend is preposterous. Open discours is certainly going to lead to offense. Polite conversation is not constructive in legislation or decision making. People can scream, shout and ferociously debate but they don't shoot at each other, this leads to a functioning tolerant yet pluralist society.  

I like to think that everyone is capable of thinking for themselves and formulating their own opinions. By allowing someone to believe something which is false, you are conducting the greatest injustice. I believe rational debate and discours can **enlighten** the public. It is not by believing in magic or superstition that humanity has made such advances in technology or science. Here is something everyone should bare in mind the next time someone offends you. Shut up, be quiet and respond with a valid argument. Developing a thicker skin is part of life, because being offended will happen throughout life. The right to say such things is called freedom of speech, and it is a vital piece of the free society in which we live.
I have the right to offend you, and your God I have the right to offend you, and your God Reviewed by Student Voices on 12:35 Rating: 5

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