Some reflections on the Islam Cartoon protests

I’m a Christian and yes I am offended when God is mocked or made fun of.  Of course we live in societies where there is free speech and it’s wrong for a government to compel people to have faith.  In fact, many Christians hold the idea of free speech very dear as the freedom that allows people to mock and insult our beliefs is the same that allows us to preach and proclaim our beliefs.

However, the other side of free speech is respect and responsibility.  Largely secular societies and atheists must understand how precious and personal religious faith can be to an individual.  To me, attacking Jesus Christ is even worse than insulting my mother.  It is deeply offensive. When you use free speech to be offensive about something so personal, something so precious then it’s inevitable that people will be hurt, they’ll be offended, they’ll be angered and they will voice that anger.

I’m glad that we can have robust political and yes, religious debate between the different world faiths – that is good and healthy.  What these cartoons seem to have done is step over the line, away from serious debate into making cheap shots.  The Gossip columnist cries “freedom of speech” when they report on the children of celebrities … This is the same misuse of free speech.

We should be free to say whatever we want – but we should be respectful and responsible enough not always to – full well knowing the impact a badly chosen word or comment can make.  The only way I know that I can say what I want is if I know everyone else can as well … But we should all be able to choose to be silent – To know when not to speak, to be aware that our words have an impact, our free speech has consequences – particularly when we use it badly.

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