Free Speech, Freethinkers, Westboro Baptist Church, et al.

“When the axe came into the Forest, the trees said, ‘The handle is one of us'” – Aesop

The above quote references a fable which carries the moral that is vital in understanding the intricacies and importance of how yielding the rights of others can very well endanger our own rights.

The fable tells the story of a man who went into a forest and asked the trees to provide him an axe handle. The trees obliged by giving him a small ash, to which the man fashioned the handle and proceeded to clear the forest. Upon seeing this, an old oak said, “The first step has lost us all. If we had not given up the rights of the ash, we might yet have retained our own privileges and have stood for ages.

Strange Bedfellows…

I have taken a fair amount of heat for supporting some rather controversial Supreme Court decisions, such as their ruling in favor of the nefarious Westboro Baptist Church. No, I have no love for these people, their message or their particular brand of hate. If one of those famous Kansas tornado’s showed up and wiped the whole lot of them off the face of the earth, I cannot say that one single tear would leave my eyes. But the call from the many to silence them is an emotional one, not a pragmatic one. Inasmuch as their rhetoric can tend to boil the blood, they are within their rights as United States citizens to speak out.

As a commentator and pundit, I also reason that my colleagues should do their level best to write, blog and report on every instance when the WBC chooses to exercise their rights. Some say that this is giving them publicity, but I disagree. I see it as exposing their vitriolic bigotry for the world to see, because the court of public opinion weighs a more heavy decision on groups like this than any legislative court ever could. Ignorance does not become a Freethinker, and pretending that groups like this do not exist is only burying our heads in the sand.

Free Speech…

The right to free speech should be one that is most dearly held. The abrogation of that right should not be predicated on whether or not that speech insults us, demeans us or offers opinions that counter those of another human being. Freedom and liberty for all is just that, for all. This is the whole point of why we hold debates, protests and circulate petitions to effect change with respect to corporate sponsorships and the efficacy of charities and other public organizations. You cannot have one without the other, or you end up being no different from the pigs in Orwell’s “Animal Farm,” who stated,

“All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others”

The American Family Association has the same right to circulate petitions to boycott Home Depot and JC Penney Stores for their support of the LGBT community as do our organizations have the right to petition the advertisers of the Excellence In Broadcasting network (Rush Limbaugh) for disparaging a young woman named Sandra Fluke. What we need to do is take sides, and work in whatever capacity we have to sway the public to understand why our point of view that reflects equality among humanity and neutrality in our government is morally superior to the points of view of the WBC, AFA, etc.

Voices Of Reason…

As I have stated literally hundreds of times over the past several years, the Freethinker community that comprises atheists, agnostics, humanists, secularists and even a subset of the sectarian community have something more powerful than the biggest bombs and the longest guns. We have our voices and our ability to reason. The very second that we take up arms or attempt to force another group into silence, we have lost.

Groups like American Atheists, Inc., The Freedom From Religion Foundation, Center for Inquiry, Secular Student Alliance and the like are vital to our cause because they give individuals access to information that will allow them to become more effective in their activism, even if that is limited to paying dues to support various efforts, including billboards, legal challenges, amicus briefs, promotional and support items, organizing rallies, conventions, protests and counter-protests.

Individual and smaller group efforts such as those put forth by my fellow commentators, bloggers and the producers of Internet radio shows like American Heathen Radio, ReapSow Radio, God Discussion, and television shows like The Young Turks and Atheist’s Perspective on News and Events are just as vital to our cause as the national groups.  Collectively, we all have something to contribute and if we attempt to silence the voices of unreason, then we are, in effect, attempting to silence our voices of reason.

Common Goals…

It is through our collective disdain for the mistreatment of other human beings that brings us together, even when we disagree with the means of getting our message across. We need to make sure we are not the trees in Aesop’s fable. When we advocate for the removal of the rights of any one of us, we run the risk of silencing ourselves. We may be young saplings now, but we are well on our way to becoming mighty oaks.

Think about it…

 

  41 comments for “Free Speech, Freethinkers, Westboro Baptist Church, et al.

  1. numenaster
    March 15, 2012 at 1:26 pm

    Well said. Plus, counter-protesting WBC is an amusement everyone should get a chance to try. When they came to Portland the group I joined to out-sing them and block their message with our own was some of the most fun people I’ve hung out with in many a day.

    And I ended up feeling sorry for nearly every one of the sad-eyed young people in the little WBC group. They seem to know they’re trapped, and just numbly stand around with their signs looking beaten.

  2. March 15, 2012 at 1:40 pm

    Well spoken my friend. I could not agree with you more. I am certainly guilty of wanting a more reasoned society. But just because we don’t have that as of yet does not mean I have the right to take away the rights of the unenlightened.

  3. March 15, 2012 at 1:46 pm

    Couldn’t agree more.Our voices are at different volumes and are heard in their own unique pitch but the message is much the same.One of those points that needs to be made every so often just to keep reasonable people reasonable.
    As far as the Westboro twits go, I hope to see them at the upcoming rally. I’d like to ask them why? Why do they bother? They aren’t out to recruit, they aren’t trying to save, they are just telling us we are going to hell. Can’t they find better use of their time? What is it they want?
    I agree we should keep reporting when they pop their true christian heads out from under the bible but should anyone be offended by them anymore? They have made a mockery of themselves. The people who counter protest are far more interesting than they themselves are. Nobody is shocked by the message they have anymore. A great example of how granting such people freedom of speech is the best way of putting a stop to their message.

  4. March 15, 2012 at 3:52 pm

    “The very second that we take up arms or attempt to force another group into silence, we have lost.” Bravo, Sir!! Bravo!! We can’t claim to be freethinkers if we demand that everyone think as we do. Freedom and liberty … live it … love it … now fight for it!

  5. March 15, 2012 at 4:12 pm

    Well said.

  6. machintelligence
    March 15, 2012 at 9:08 pm

    “I disapprove of with what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.” Misattributed to Voltaire — meant as a summary of his ideas in “Essay on Tolerance”

    • Dave The Sandman
      March 16, 2012 at 8:21 am

      Sorry geezer….just playng Devils Advocate Joker Card:

      So you defend the right for the Ayatholla to declare an Islamic Fatwa on Salman Rushdie and declare it is the duty of all Muslims to murder him?

      You defend the fatwa placed on Theo Van Gough that resulted in some loon stabbng him to death on a street?

      You defend the fatwa placed on the Danish cartoonist that resulted in some crazy armed with an axe invadng his home and threatening to murder his kids?

      History perhaps? How about the Christian “fatwa” placed by the Pope against Elizabeth 1st declaring that any Catholic who murdered her would be doing Gods work and receive automatic absolution and a free golden ticket to Heaven?

      Or the Templar battle cry: God Wills It! ?

      Or how about me posting an offer of $1M for the person who tracks down “machintelligence” and murders him and his family in their beds?

      See where Im coming from bro? You still defending that right now?

      • steve oberski
        March 16, 2012 at 10:35 am

        Major category error here.

        All secular democracies have laws regarding incitement to violence, the fact that it is illegal in most jurisdictions to foment violence or murder is hardly an abrogation of free speech and in fact help to protect those who exercise free speech from violent rebuttal.

        Most countries also have laws covering libel and slander, although some would argue that they are too onerous in some jurisdictions.

        • Dave The Sandman
          March 17, 2012 at 5:58 am

          The point I was making is that this phrase – “I disapprove of with what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.” – is more often than not trotted out without thinking it through.

          In its strict interpretation it does defend the right for hate groups to issue “fatwa” style decrees.

          There is no disclaimer or proviso about what is legal or incitement in there….

          I’d be happy if I never heard it ever again. To me its just some smug empty set of words that can be used and abused, and is employed most often as a form of conversational snare drum snap.

  7. Norman Lycan
    March 15, 2012 at 9:39 pm

    Mr. Steffani said,

    “As I have stated literally hundreds of times over the past several years, the Freethinker community that comprises atheists, agnostics, humanists, secularists and even a subset of the sectarian community have something more powerful than the biggest bombs and the longest guns.”

    I can’t deny that you have said it hundreds of times, because I’m kinda new here. What I can say is that you just said exactly what I have been saying since I arrived. Not all freethinkers call themselves atheist, and if we can find the common ground to unite, we will be a serious political force with which to be reckoned.

    But, you mentioned American Atheists. Dave Silverman and I used to email each other on an occasional basis, and I consider him to be a very bright person, but the contribution on his website was caustic. I caucus with atheists, because I’m 6 out of 7 atheist myself, just like Richard Dawkins when he’s not in front of a camera. But, the idea presented that perhaps one should stop and think about what you adopt as belief based on what science does not yet know erupted into words like “fundy” and “troll”. And it has happened here too.

    I know who I am, and the reasons I argue my position, and no one scares me. But, what strategy do you think you can execute to unite freethinkers under a single flag? I think everybody understands the honesty behind “I don’t know”.

    NL

    • steve oberski
      March 16, 2012 at 10:40 am

      Since you seem to have special insight into the mind of Richard Dawkins, could you let me know what his favourite colour is ?

      • Norman Lycan
        March 16, 2012 at 8:39 pm

        You embarrass yourself. Mr. Dawkins decribed HIMSELF as a six out of seven atheist in his book, “God Delusion”. It’s okay, no foul, no hard feelings. But, I would guess the color thrust upon you is “flush”.

        NL

    • March 16, 2012 at 12:46 pm

      Of course I mentioned American Atheists. I am the Georgia State Director for American Atheists. Why would I not include them?

      • Norman Lycan
        March 16, 2012 at 8:31 pm

        Mr. Steffani,

        Internet communication is difficult. One cannot use gestures or tone of voice to imply subtleties. We are often misunderstood. I don’t know how to fix that. Smiley faces doesn’t get it done. Anyway, I was not saying you should not mention AA, I like Dave Silverman, he has always treated me with respect. His staff is a different story. He needs a shorter leash.

        I only brought it up because what WE are proposing is a tough row to hoe. Putting hardline atheists in a room with secular leaning religionists could get ugly. Hell, you can’t even put them in a chatroom with an agnostic without demeaning labels flying.

        We are both staring death straight in the face, and I would like to leave a better place for my children to live. But, consider this, that even if religion is eliminated from the planet, we are left with the human condition. Greed, corruption, graft, fraud, and I have some trepidation that if it occurred that some individuals would actually lose their pseudo-moral compass. It’s the nature of addicts.

        I am certainly willing to interact with you from the agnostic perspective, to help you form a plan. You have my email.

        NL

  8. Dave The Sandman
    March 16, 2012 at 8:02 am

    Hmmmm…. this is an interesting tickler for me as here Uncle Al our views diverge…and maybe its because Im a Brit and we have a whole different outlook.

    Case example: Our version of the WBC was Anjem Choudry’s shabby hate group Islam4UK. They made a habit of picketing the funerals of soldiers killed in the Iraq and Afghan wars, and like WBC would scream abuse and wave highly offensive placards. The outraged/angry/potentially violent public had to be kept away from them with police cordons. Eventually they escalated their hate ins and started picketing Memorial Days and Rememberance Day meetings, even burning “poppies” at one. The public reaction resulted in the group being banned and proscribed, and their activities and placards deemed a hate crime. I dunno…maybe we Brits are just a little more sensitve around respect for the dead, and especially dead troops. Ask almost an Brit (myself included) and you find they agree with that move.

    Case example 2: We have our own white power hate groups…ours is the EDL. They like to march through minority community areas screaming abuse and making tacit threats. Result? Heavy restrctions appled to when and where they can do this because of public outrage and the fact that their little hate ins usually end in some sort of small scale riot. Public reacton….everyone is pretty happy with that. We Brits dont like packs of rabid skinheads stomping down our high streets playing racist bully boy for the day. Again…gotta say I agree.

    Case Example 3: During the dark days of the Thatcher “Norsefire” style 80s administration the IRA were banned from speaking on TV. So news programmes had to overdub voice actors to run their statements. Public reaction? Ridicule and outrage….it was univerally condemned, despite the fact that the IRA were an active terrorist group setting bombs off in UK high streets. Why the apparent contradiction here? Because what the IRA were saying didnt advocate violence, it tred to justify and explain their political postion. And they didnt go round picketing funerals. Odd eh…and I agreed and condemned the dumb restrictions. The policy was soon revoked.

    I guess what Im tryng to get across is where do you draw the line between FREE speech and HATE speech?

    Do you draw a line when Rush spends three days more of his 30 year career of mysoginy and bigotry and racism, arguably mainstreaming such conversation so it becomes considered accepted civil discourse?

    Do you draw the line the day some attendee at a funeral picketed by Christian or Islamic hate groups kicks off and a fight starts?

    Do you draw a line when a pack of rabid white power goons kicks off a riot when some opposite group fights back? Or when a member of the neo-nazis, empowered by the hate speech shoots up a Jewish daycare centre or museum? Or a Beck follower shoots up a TIDES centre? Or a Gods Army goof executes a bunch of people at an abortion clinic? Or another executes a doctor while hes in a church? Or the mass media figure who egged that event on by constantly calling him Tiller The Baby Killer for a year or two?

    The line between free and hate is a difficult one to define, but to this Brit it is an essential one to enforce. And if someone has to be forced to shut up to protect the public from threats and abuse so be it.

    I guess another salient factor is that Brits trust the government a lot more than Americans apparently do.

    Anyways…..good article bro…

    • Dave The Sandman
      March 16, 2012 at 8:09 am

      This makes my position maybe a bit clearer:

      Lets look at what happened to Zombie Mohammed Ern recently: Ern wasnt advocating violence but was the victim of violence. Id argue he is the victim of a hate crime, and in the UK that court case would have had a whole different result. Ed was having a laugh, hs attacker was a hateful bigot.

      See what Im getting at? Ern wasnt a hater….

      • Dave The Sandman
        March 16, 2012 at 8:26 am

        Further thoughts….see my response to machintelligence’s post at 6 above.

        Guess given the squishy response box any debate to my points would be best started as a new post.

        En Garde my fellow Al fans 😉

      • March 16, 2012 at 12:47 pm

        He was a victim of an assault and battery crime.

    • March 16, 2012 at 12:45 pm

      Dave,

      The line is drawn on action here in the states, and that action includes calling for the death or assault of another human being. There is a vast difference between those WBC clowns holding their signs up and spouting their nonsensical dribble about god hating this or that and another group firebombing a building, calling for the execution of another human being or advocating violence toward another group. We do separate those here, which is why we have laws against inciting riots, and why assault charges can be levied for communicating threats.

      • machintelligence
        March 16, 2012 at 2:00 pm

        True. It is assault to say “I’m going to punch your lights out!” and assault and battery if you try to do it.

  9. rapiddominance
    March 16, 2012 at 6:14 pm

    I’m with you on the WBC thing, too.

    I don’t know what your thoughts are on this, but there is something unsavory about having to advocate for THEIR rights to free speach, too.

    If there is anything good about their existence, its that their extreme nature can be useful in discussing and understanding some of the evil behavior we see from certain religious types that are not quite as obvious and publicized.

    I’m now venturing off into opinion . . .

    My UNspecialized OPINION is that it becomes nearly impossible to affect positive change on believers who are approaching the WBC extreme. The reason I think this is because such behavior is innately evil* and THEY KNOW IT subconsciously. Before ruling out this possibility, think what it would have to be like as a former WBC protester to come to terms with the human damage he or she has caused?

    Actually, its not the damage per say. Evil people aren’t concerned with human collateral damage, in and of itself. Its the perception of being evil. A narcassism incapable of bearing this burden. Of having to know and ACCEPT who they are among fellow humans.

    *No religious context intended.

    • rapiddominance
      March 16, 2012 at 6:34 pm

      I’m going off on a side road here and if you want to delete this thing please do so and I’ll stay on track in the future.

      I’ve been thinking about dictators lately, especially since the other night when I read one of your threads. Their narcissism strikes me as their most dangerous quality and I think that’s why they eventually go out into crazy land (where everything becomes disproportionate; secret police raids, tortures, holidays to commemorate their personages, statues of themselves, etc., etc.,).

      What is it in a person who destroys human life that he or she (usually its a he) would still expect to be loved and adored by the people whom they’ve terrorized? That’s the thing–They won’t accept mere obedience; you HAVE to love them, as well.

      (Note one more good reason we all have a stake in protecting free speech and in using it wisely.)

  10. Norman Lycan
    March 16, 2012 at 9:35 pm

    I’m still with you Mr. Steffani,

    Since America began, religion has been put in its place, practice how you like, as long as it is inside of federal law. You cannot perform human sacrifice, but as long as it is within the law, it is protected. And you made a very good point, if you squelch the speech of a wacko Baptist church, how far behind follows the squelching of freethinkers. I do support the right of Westboro baptists to humiliate themselves in front of the entire globe. This is the world wide web, and atheists think I do that every time I speak. I think there is some irony hidden in there.

    NL

    • Dave The Sandman
      March 18, 2012 at 9:23 am

      “Since America began, religion has been put in its place”

      Uhhh huh? Where would that be pray tell?

      On your money; in your state houses & Congress; in your courthouses (see further the Ernest Perce recent atrocity called justice); in your military (Jesus Killed Mohammed sprayed on a Bradley as a way of winnng hearts and minds); subverting your national motto from an inclusive one to an exclusive one; as an intrinsic and essential part of the whorehouse system of elections and representation (ie how many atheists are there as reps); n your national debate via a whorehouse media (see further Park 51 white noise); in your schools, your classrooms, your education policies; in science policy (cos Jeebus cries when stem cells is aboozed); and now apparently between the legs of your wife/girlfriend/female humans.

      The only place Religion has been “put in” in the US is EVERYWHERE!

      cue snare drum snap.

      • Norman Lycan
        March 18, 2012 at 4:36 pm

        That tirade was probably not worthy of response. But, I will because I’m bored and Mr. Staffani hasn’t opened a new thread. The simple fact of the matter is that this country was originally populated by people fleeing religious persecution in Europe. They wanted to practice their beliefs in peace without government interference. We are actually lucky that the movers and shakers of that political environment were freemasons, George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, and several sympathisers. But, they had never heard of evolution or natural selection, they were simply driven to ensure that this country did not become a mirror of Europe. Benjamin Franklin was a weathy individual, as was Washington. Franklin donated generous sums of money to local churches, and Washington owned many slaves. So any inference that the U.S. Constitution is some kind of holy document is absurd. It has been ammended 27 times.

        So you think this country should be perfect, with justice for all. Freethinkers should be equally represented. Well, yes, in a perfect universe. Democracy is not a perfect institution, because it allows the brainwashed to vote. Therefore, your expectations are not only unrealistic, they are also absurd. It is what it is, and we fight on the battlefield directly in front us.

        NL

        • John Morales
          March 18, 2012 at 4:42 pm

          The simple fact of the matter is that this country was originally populated by people fleeing religious persecution in Europe.

          Before that, it was uninhabited, right?

          • Norman Lycan
            March 19, 2012 at 7:29 pm

            What? It had been inhabited for tens of thousands of years by people who hunted the mammoth!!! Then Europeans came with superior weapons and nearly annihilated them to near to extinction. Another proud moment in American history. Add a dash of slavery for a hundred years, capitalistic social disparity, and voila!! the model for the western world!!! Humans are ridiculous.

            NL

          • John Morales
            March 20, 2012 at 5:21 am

            The simple fact of the matter is that this country was originally populated by people fleeing religious persecution in Europe
            [but also]
            It had been inhabited for tens of thousands of years by people who hunted the mammoth!!! Then Europeans came with superior weapons and nearly annihilated them to near to extinction. Another proud moment in American history. Add a dash of slavery for a hundred years, capitalistic social disparity, and voila!! the model for the western world!!!.

            You see no problem with this, do ya?

            (I would boggle were I surprised)

            Hint: Your country was declared in 1776; was it really declared by Europeans fleeing from Europe?

  11. abusedbypenguins
    March 16, 2012 at 10:21 pm

    People who are in their own permanent twi-light zone(Craized religious people) don’t get it when you point and laugh at them. The best thing to do is to observe them from the stand-point of a cultural anthropologist studing bizzare behavior in primates.

  12. Dave The Sandman
    March 17, 2012 at 6:38 am

    Good points Uncle Al (and the other Al Fans) and I do take them into consideration (and I was aware of the US applicaton of incitement to violence etc).

    However, to a lot of Brit “chattering classes” like myself we sit in slack jawed aghastedness at the amount of blatant and overt racism and sexist bigotry that is present in the US society and media. To this observer from outside the gold fish bowl, who has spent at least two decades watching from afar, it seems the amount of what Id call “toxic conversation” is increasing and its becoming mainstream for members of the right wing political and religulous reich, and then is drip feeding into the whole mainstream of society. I think that may go some way to explaining the results of the Pew Poll last year showing how far US society is out of kilter with the rest of the west in terms of social attitudes, especially towards the LGBT community and minorities (ourselves included there folks….we atheists are less socially accepted than rapists????).

    Over here in EuroLand we draw link lines a lot more easily….maybe its a European societal reaction to the rise of fascism in the early to mid 20C. We think that allowing hate speech to be injected into the national conversation will result in the hate becoming ever more socially acceptable, and so we react a lot differently and take steps to apply the release valve…and if that means you get shut up forcefully or restricted in where and when you can speak that hate then so be it. Better that than “NorseFire”.

    Words, as well as actions, have consequences.

    Look guys, Im not being judgemental. Its your gaff, your rules. 99% of the time whatever position you take Id be right there by your right shoulder with every drop of support I could give.

    But I can not, will not and will never defend the so called rights of hate groups like the WBC, KKK, or neo-fascists to do what they do. These groups are not circus clowns, nor in any way amusing. They are, to me, a dangerous viper you are nestling to your breast at your own peril.

    As I said, its a ticklish topic….

    • Norman Lycan
      March 17, 2012 at 4:55 pm

      Dave,

      Your theme continues to be that at some point the wackos need to be removed from annoying clear headed individuals. Mr. Steffani’s point is that those who write the laws and command the police are not freethinkers. They are politicians. And if you empower them with the right to silence the wackos, what prevents them from deciding tomorrow that freethinkers are wackos?

      An example, the “Occupy Wall Street” movement. People fed up with fatcat bankers sucking billions of dollars out of the economy while producing nothing. Meanwhile the mentally ill are homeless and wandering the streets trying to survive.

      City after city invented emergency legislation to allow police officers to forcibly end their demonstration. Evict them from public property, while they are the public.

      Mr. Steffani is clearly correct. When you silence the voices of the people, the voice of reason goes silent as well.

      NL

      • Dave The Sandman
        March 18, 2012 at 9:08 am

        Norman

        Perhaps I and almost all Brits place their trust in the government because we consider it a safe option.

        This is despite historical abuses such as those at Peterloo or, in my youth, in respect of the Miners Strikes during the dark days of Maggie Thatcher. When our police forces act improperly or the government oversteps its mark heads always roll, even if it takes a while we always make sure some high ups pay, as well as the ones who committed the offences against the people. The idea that it is a case of “Today Islam4UK, Tomorrow the Richard Dawkins Foundation” is utterly ridiculous. Try that during a heady round of British Pub Rules Conversation and youd be laughed out of the room with cat calls of “Paranoid Quack”, potentally covered in beer suds. Pub Rules Conversation is our favorite form of verbal full contact sport in the UK. Watch any Parliamentary Debate and you will see it in its more polite and restrained form.

        I find the Occupy opression utterly disgusting, as an old socialist more so than you probably….

        BUT….

        The reasons that your US police have morphed into some Blackwater style paramilitary strike force who arrest kids for farting in class and have gone mace crazy at the whims of a political whorehouse executive branch are complex and too nuanced to discuss in short form posts like this. But if you are looking for a culprit walk into the bathroom and take a good long look in the mirror. “We The People” bear the ultimate responsibility for what goes on in the US, and if you fear the government then its your own damn faults for allowing it to go on unadressed. “E we elect them/E we eject them….”.

        Politcal and social scientists have put a lot of work into studying and identifying the links between the social acceptance of toxic hate speech and how that results in the growth of direct violence and opression. Theres a stack of good academic research on it. A swing by the website of the SPLC will give you some leads.

        And me…..just like I do with evolution and climate change, if the research suggests direct links then I aint gonna argue with it.

        We locked Moseley up and broke his fascist party up. You guys let the nazis march recently up the Mall. Our EDL is a hated fringe group of extremists, you yanks have real problems with neo-nazi white power terror and quas-linked secessionist soverign staters – and people who are bare faced enough to stick racist bumper stickers on their cars (in the UK that car would have been keyed and its windows bricked within minutes). You have Westboro screaming hate and abuse at funerals, we proscribed Islam4UK and sent Anjem Choudry to do interviews on CNN 😉

        As I said….

        Your gaff…your rules.

  13. Norman Lycan
    March 18, 2012 at 5:19 pm

    Sandman said:

    “Perhaps I and almost all Brits place their trust in the government because we consider it a safe option.”

    That must be like when the king of england was refused a divorce from his wife because he could not get her pregnant, by the catholic church. Then centuries of religious persecution followed. And those refugees actually settled America then kicked your asses when you tried to own it, twice. But, now you contend that somehow England has it’s finger on the pulse of reality. You have a billionare queen who serves no purpose except a figurehead.

    How convenient your percieved reality. Yet you trust your government. The reason your government stifles free speech is the same as it has always been, to protect their power. It may serve your purpose today, but, what happens when you are labeled the voice of dischord?

    NL

  14. Tony
    March 20, 2012 at 1:43 am

    Norman:

    That tirade was probably not worthy of response.

    Your response to Dave the Sandman showcases why I think people have called you a troll (note, I have not called you that, nor am I calling you that now). He brings up perfect examples of how religion has *not* been put in its place in this country. On paper and solely by the power of the Constitution, it has, sure. Unfortunately, religion has permeated the United States since it began. Many times, it’s had a negative impact. His point is that religious belief is ubiquitous in the United States-and that it has been for the entire history of this country. While you appear aware to some degree of the founders of the US, by treating Dave’s post as a “tirade”, and then not even addressing the points he brings up (which are completely valid in a discussion about whether or not religion has been put in it’s place in the US), you display some characteristics shared by trolls.
    If you don’t see why its relevant to discuss the massive ways religious belief exerts its influence on the United States (and has for centuries) *and* then mention the intentions of the US founders in crafting the Constitution as if that’s supposed to end the discussion, it sure comes off as if you’re uninformed, but trying to sound like you know what you’re talking about.

    By the way…his name is Al Stefanelli. As someone who incorrectly referred to Edwin Kagin as “Edward” several times, I apologized when I realized what I had done. Thus far, I’ve seen you refer to him as “Mr Steffani” and “Mr Staffani”. Just figured I’d mention this to you before you do it for the seventh time.

    • Norman Lycan
      March 20, 2012 at 8:54 pm

      Tony,

      You make a fair point, but you said “Constitution, it has, sure. Unfortunately, religion has permeated the United States since it began. Many times, it’s had a negative impact. His point is that religious belief is ubiquitous in the United States-and that it has been for the entire history of this country.”

      Actually, I was the first to say that this country was lousy with religion, from it’s beginning. Remember, I mentioned the “Freemasons”. Well, they really are a centuries old organization started by the people who traveled freely from country to country, building temples and cathedrals. They we the very best at what they did. But, because they came from many countries, and spoke different languages, they had to learn to work together. Thus, the necessity for religious tolerence. Basically, as long as one was excelling at his job, you do not give him grief about his religion or heritage. It was an early form of freethought, before the technological revolution. Now at the same time, I do not subscribe to ideas formed under archaic circumstances.

      Now, while Britain might claim that they have stifled hate speech, it moves toward the Scandanavian laws that prevent you from saying Islam is bullshit!!! Not a good trend. And now consider the religious hatred that ripped apart Northern Ireland, between the Catholics and Protestants. Terrorists groups plotting on the royals. That is not solved, it is simply a truce. So, I do not talk down to any British freethinker, I just refuse to be talked down to.

      Democracy doesn’t work, because it’s a human institution imagined by humans who are groping in the dark. Bush thought that a democratic vote would transform Afghanistan into an ally in the region. It transformed them into democratically elected religious leaders. There are some societies so backward they are not ready to join the western world. Bad gamble.

      So you can call me a troll, if you wish, but, prosecution of cartoons of muhammed? If you consider that progress, I don’t understand you.

      NL

      • John Morales
        March 20, 2012 at 9:52 pm

        Democracy doesn’t work, because it’s a human institution imagined by humans who are groping in the dark.

        What mode of government isn’t a human institution imagined by humans?

        • Norman Lycan
          March 21, 2012 at 8:01 pm

          All governments are human institutions, and check your newspaper, none of them work.

          NL

          • John Morales
            March 21, 2012 at 11:01 pm

            Well then, if nothing works, then the least bad is de facto the best, no?

            “Many forms of Government have been tried and will be tried in this world of sin and woe. No one pretends that democracy is perfect or all-wise. Indeed, it has been said that democracy is the worst form of government except all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.”

            (Winston Churchill, 1947)

      • John Morales
        March 20, 2012 at 10:31 pm

        I just refuse to be talked down to

        I do it all the time (look up condescension), you merely refuse to acknowledge it does happen. 😉

        • Norman Lycan
          March 21, 2012 at 8:10 pm

          You may look down on anyone you want, even me. But, you miss the point, if you look down on me, you better bring your best game, because I will be back in your face. As demonstrated.

          NL

          • John Morales
            March 21, 2012 at 10:58 pm

            You may look down on anyone you want, even me.

            <snicker>

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