If ideas were sheltered

Imagine if ideas were sheltered. Imagine if no criticism were allowed, to spare people's feelings and protect their faith. Imagine a world where climate change denial cannot be debunked. Imagine a society in which equality is suppressed in favor of preserving religions. Imagine the terrible existence in which the ignorant delusions of the ancient past are the dominant ideas of how the world works and should be run.

Imagine if ideas were sheltered...

We focus so much on feelings that we forget what freedom of religion is all about. It seems many think it means that people can believe what they want, no questions asked. It seems many think it means that religions are benign identities that should exist as they always have and forever will exist. Many are simply confused about what the freedom to believe means.

Freedom of religion is ONLY about the right to believe; it does not protect beliefs from being pointed out as the illogical falsehoods they are. We must respect people's right to believe, but we must NOT shelter any ideas, including religions, so as to keep faith in them alive. If an idea cannot withstand scrutiny, then only the idea is killed, no people, and it didn't deserve to keep on existing.

Scrutiny and criticism, often in the form of satire and comedy, force one to actually think. If one keeps on believing, then the only harm done is hurt feelings. But to censor reality to protect people's feelings seems sort of arbitrary and stupid. If one does realize one's beliefs are incorrect, then no one is hurt. The idea is weakened, but ideas are not worth protecting, except with rational arguments, of course.

One does not simply pray away the stupid. It requires honest discussion, which in turn requires free speech.

Imagine what would happen if we shelter the idea that global warming is a lie. No one is allowed to argue against it, even with science or logic, because that would be insulting. This could have disastrous effects. Silencing critics can actually cause harm, while allowing them to tread freely, i.e. upholding the ideals of free speech, will only hurt feelings, arbitrarily, I might add.

Ideas are not people. Ideas can influence people, and in a sense, people can be categorized according to their collective ideas. But ideas are abstract concepts, nonetheless, not people. The way they influence the world and its people is why they must go through a grueling and perpetual hailstorm of criticism, in which they are put to the test.

Ideas are not owned by anyone. Ideas belong to all of humanity (or all sentient life), even those who disbelieve, and so it is within one's rights to criticize. It should not be prohibited to lay out an argument against dearly held beliefs, even if these beliefs are more or less benign.

Bigotry is, indeed, very oppressive, especially when it is insitutionalized bigotry based on religion.

If I believe in ghosts, most would hopefully disagree. Shouting that I'm wrong and stupid right to my face is quite rude and socially peculiar, but to argue rationally is not. If the person with the belief does not wish to argue, it is their right to decline participating and it would be wrong to continue discussing with them. To write articles and books, hold lectures, and make jokes about ideas is within the rights of the disbeliever, though (and believer).

Islam should be criticized as a massive falsehood; there's a reason why the evidence and logic agree with atheists. More importantly, the conservative, Islamist, and theocratic elements of Islam should be fought, just like the same characteristics in other religions, like Christianity, must also be pushed back.

To question the validity of religion is simply about determining what is true or not; this can have political consequences, but regardless affects people negatively, as they live with a deluded belief. To criticize religion from a political point of view is not about dissuading people from believing; it is about pushing the belief in the right direction. Because ideas are not static; they do change over time and there's nothing that says all beliefs must be equal or that any belief is compatible with the modern world in its current state.

I am a liberal; I am for free speech; I am Charlie Hebdo. Je suis Charlie!

In a political sense, Islam must be reformed, not abolished. The goal is not to eradicate Islam, but to move it from a religion with generally conservative and theocratic properties to one that is mostly liberal and secular. The progressive voices within Islam must be heard; this cannot be achieved by shaming critics into silence.