LET'S GET READY TO RUMBLEE! In this corner, weighing in at reason, FREEDOM! And in the other corner, weighing in at oh, come on, FEELINGS! DING! DING! Let the fight commence! Freedom of speech and freedom of the press are out most important liberties; they are what let our societies progress, with criticism of bad ideas and the promotion of new ideas. However, many people want to limit what can or cannot be expressed, based only on feelings and without facing the arguments.
One thing about which people are very sensitive, understandably although irrationally, is religion, mostly their own but also the religion of minorities. We should accept that people believe differently and should try to respect each other as human beings, but we do not have to like or respect any belief. Respect does not mean one cannot have an opinion about others' beliefs, even if that opinion is offensive to those who have the belief. For example, this is my interpretation of Christianity:
In the beginning of time, God (who is male, even though he is the only deity, which would mean there is no need for him to even have a gender) created everything, everything, everything; that includes all the bad things, like diseases that suddenly began to spread at various times in history, but not because they changed through the processes of evolution. God also created man, with an organ for reproduction, even though there was no woman. Then he created woman from man's rib, but last I counted, I have the same amount of ribs as women do. I also don't know from where these first two people's sons got wives; it's a mystery for the ages and the biggest problem with any belief that says all of mankind originated from two individuals; it's a very shallow gene pool.
He also created a tree with fruit that could impart knowledge, basically. (I have also read he created the tree just to give Adam and Eve free will, and that it has nothing to do with obtaining knowledge from the fruit.) But he told man and woman they could not eat this magical fruit. My guess would be because, if the fruit does impart knowledge, intelligent people are harder to control.
When they ate the fruit, these two humans apparently "brought" sin into the world, which is odd. If God purposefully created the tree so they had a choice to obey like good little slaves or disobey like "sinners", would sin not already exist as it is based on bad choices and they already had free will? At any rate, when they did eat the fruit, God was pissed that they did not blindly obey him, so he thought it was a good idea to blame every human who would ever be born for their "sin" and thus send them to hell to be tortured for all eternity—for having ancestors who ate fruit. This, of course, means that even though sins should be actions that are immoral, we can apparently inherit them based nothing on what we do: actions mean nothing; only blind obedience is important. I also find it kind of weird that Christians believe we inherit sin; many Christians do not believe in evolution, which is based on inheritance.
God realized that if he wrongly blames all humans for the "sins" of two people, everyone goes to hell and he has no one to boss around. So, what to do? What to do? What to do? Oh, right! God raped an innocent woman (unless she did cheat, which is more plausible), had her give birth to himself, and then sacrificed his own life to himself to forgive all sins, en masse. God, almighty as he is, cannot just simply forgive, like a normal person, apparently. And if anyone, should God not realize you cannot blame a person for someone else's crimes? If we do blame people for the sins of forefathers, the police should just go ahead and arrest everyone for rape and murder, as most people probably have ancestors who did something horrible like that. And if all sins are forgiven, why does hell exist? Well, of course, you must blindly obey God to go to heaven. This means that if you lead a perfect life full of altruism and good deeds, but you do not worship God, you go to hell. Whereas people like Hitler would go to heaven if they simply worship God.
And all that is not to mention what a cold-hearted bastard God seems to be, as he ruins lives, kills people, and of course sends us to hell for eating fruit. Christians often say atheists hate God. As a general rule, I take offense to that. Atheists do not hate God; they NOTHING God. But I have to say that I would not even want to worship the Christian deity, if I believed in him, because I resent dictators; leaders who treat their subjects like slaves are evil, and since God sends us to hell for simply not blindly believing in him, the only conclusion is that he is a power-hungry dictator. And the whole message of Christianity seems kind of stupid: Blindly obey God's arbitrary rules or go to hell, regardless of how good a person you are.
And what about the divine plan? If God did, indeed, give us free will, how can he have a divine plan that includes our independent actions? And if God has a plan that includes death and destruction, how can he be considered good? To me, it all sounds like a very weak attempt at reassuring us that things will be okay despite bad things happening. Why would God even have a plan for us? Did he create us only so he could fulfill his divine plan? And this leads to the next question: For whom is the divine plan made—God or humans?
There are certainly many questions I would like to ask God, if he ever returns from that long vacation. Or perhaps, when he died as Jesus, he went to hell for all the atrocities he has committed over the years. If God exists and the world is fair, which it is not, God's reign of terror should end.
Like I am entitled to this opinion, other people are, of course, entitled to criticize my opinion. And then I can criticize their opinion of my opinion, and so on. If one voices an opinion publically, then one can also expect that others will voice theirs, so it goes both ways, of course. However, people often get riled up and harass, even hate, people over whatever does not fit within their own narrow frame of mind, especially regarding religion, and a public apology is demanded because someone was arbitrarily offended.
Nonetheless, I am very supportive of religious freedom. I dislike how all religions other than Christianity, especially Islam, are seen as completely evil by conservatives in the west, while Christianity is considered as something noble and good, even when it has many of the same problems as Islam as well as some of its own. I have seen plenty of ignorant conservatives say Muslims do not deserve a place to pray or should not dress in a specific way. "They should adapt to our customs," people say, even people I know, as if to say one must conform to one set of traditions to live in the same society. And this is often because of ideologies of nationalism and supremacy, not seldom religiously motivated, but most often tribalism. We are too obsessed with borders: "This is ours. That is theirs. Everyone should stay where they belong." And I am wondering, where they belong? We are all people! Why does it matter to what invisible deity we pray or within what imagined borders we came to be?
Let's move on to the next topic: words. Words hold power in the way they are used and received, but not in and of themselves. This is why racial slurs are not considered offensive if they are used by the "race" or ethnicity toward which they are supposed to be derogatory; the context matters, so if someone with a minority background uses the hate word for their race, then it is obvious they do not mean it in a hateful way. Likewise, the context of how other people say these words matter. However, of course we ought to be mindful in our usage of words which may commonly hold power over many people.
The basic truth is that people will, at times, be offended in a society with free speech. That is just the way it is, and that is the way it will continue to be; it is, in fact, the way it should be, as it shows how diverse we are. Everything offends someone; the only way to have a society in which no one is offended is if everyone, indeed, has exactly the same opinion on everything, even arbitrary things like music and films. To give an extreme example: Muslim extremists are offended by western life, so does that mean we should move to the desert and subjugate our women? It is an intriguing idea, but ultimately, I do not think I could stand all that sand. Christian extremists are offended by how women use their bodies, so does that mean we should control their bodies for them?
Here is what I think we should do: We stop categorizing and simply see each other as people. It is not a goddamned team sport; it is not fucking chess; it is not white versus black. There are no sides; we are all equal individuals and we should be treated as such. But we generalize and we place into groups; we obsess and obsess and obsess. None do this more than right-wing nutjobs, defining what one must be like to be a true citizen, while at the same time spouting empty rhetoric about personal freedom. However, there are leftists who seem to do more or less the same thing, although they do it with the intent to include people, while right-wingers care only about themselves.
We should never have to take anything on blind faith, and our voices should not be silenced because they may make someone feel bad that we do not agree, even if the topic is something they see as the truth of the world, such as religion. Many people seek to stifle important conversations regarding such things as religion, so they or someone else can avoid being offended. However, the moment we try to control what we are allowed to think and feel, either with laws or social ethics, we are going down a slippery slide that will lead us to a dystopian hellhole.