If You Could, Would You Outlaw Certain Religious Expressions?

Someone posted this photo of a Creationist exhibit in Oklahoma to Reddit Atheism the other day, with the headline “This should be illegal”:

No, it really shouldn’t.

This works both ways. Their right to speak equals our right to speak (as always, this doesn’t apply to slander, libel, and incitement to violence).

And when we mock the religious for having so little fortitude that they view the slightest criticism of their ideas as an unpardonable attack, let’s not forget that we too can be accused of the same thing. If your atheism is so weak that you’d criminalize Creationist bullcrap if you had the chance, yours is not a particularly robust world view.

Maybe the headline was facetious — but I’ve seen this kind of censorious thinking before, and it was completely serious then.

Censorship in the name of “progress” (or any other cause) means we’d actually be moving backwards in time.

Yes, certain religious practices ought to be restricted or outlawed: faith healing and child exorcisms come to mind. But in the United States, speech is protected in a way that actions aren’t, and facile demands to muzzle religionists are bad news for all 318,000,000 of us, whether or not you believe in God. When others’ rights are eroded, so are ours.

I can think of many religious expressions that I’d love to see die out, but none that I’d like to outlaw (beyond the things that current legislation and jurisprudence already criminalize, such as this and this).

If you had the power to declare religious speech against the law, could you see yourself wielding it?

About Terry Firma

Terry Firma, though born and Journalism-school-educated in Europe, has lived in the U.S. for the past 20-odd years. Stateside, his feature articles have been published in the New York Times, Reason, Rolling Stone, Playboy, and Wired. Terry is the founder of Moral Compass, a now dormant site that poked fun at the delusional claim by people of faith that a belief in God equips them with superior moral standards. He joined Friendly Atheist in 2013.