Letter Inciting Religious Hatred
In response to the post- September 11th move to introduce a law preventing "incitement to religious hatred" Peter Atkins took Blunkett by the horns.
This letter is intended to be an incitement to religious hatred. I believe it is not yet a crime to encourage people to despise religion and almost all it stands for, but as time is running out for freedom of expression, I thought it appropriate to try and save the world from itself before it is too late. My incitement is as follows. There is almost no level of human behaviour at which religion can be respected. First it is a denial of the power of the human intellect to reason out understanding. Second, it is an encouragement to adopt laziness as a mode of argument, for any statement corresponding to "God did it" or "it is God's will" is tantamount to the self-deceiving concealment of ignorance. Third, most religions are infinitely deceitful in the manner in which they offer, without a shred of evidence and in the face of opposing evidence, an eternal reward for self-control during the only life each of us has (the self-control, of course, including the self-control necessary to steer airliners into skyscrapers). Fourth, the self-destructive cultural conditioning of religious upbringing not only blights individual freedom but sets humanity against humanity, with consequences made dramatic by September's events but which actually pervade the world order.
If such a litany of contempt is not reasonable foundation for religious hatred, I do not know what is. If one is so contemptuous of religion for the blight and havoc it causes, why should one be kept from expressing one's hatred?
I am, of course, not expressing hatred of individuals, for many believers (including professional believers such as bishops and mullahs) of all persuasions I consider to be my friends. But I am expressing my contempt of religion. Will any new act of Parliament distinguish between the two?
(This letter first appeared in the Times Higher Education Supplement, 18th October 2001.)