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Tuesday October 17th 2017

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Against Hate Speech

By Peter Molenaar

My father’s recent “cardiac event” made time for the two of us to revisit family history. Ancestors had been burned at the stake or otherwise repeatedly dunked under water until dead…and the bullies of childhood left marks as well. Nonetheless, in his medical practice, father treated religious people with devotion.

Why then did that man on TV say: “No woman should even consider dating an atheist, given that such a man must lack a moral compass.” Forgive me, please. None of us is at war with God.

Father believes consciousness is a product of the evolution of matter. Sentient life forms are recognized, while human consciousness is acknowledged as most precious. Secular humanism is then the basis of his morality.

Meanwhile…

Blowback from the Charlie Hebdo event has compelled Pope Francis to declare: “You cannot provoke. You cannot insult the faith of others.” I believe this appeal for tolerance represents progress.

Right-wing hate speech is of course a mechanism by which social chauvinists impose subordination. Science knows that the recipients of hate messages suffer long-term physical and emotional damage. Hence, most of the modern world has outlawed such speech.

To take just one example, it is illegal in Canada to incite hatred against any “identifiable group.” By “group” is meant “any section of the public distinguished by color, race, religion, ethnic origin or sexual orientation.”

In this country, however, the oppressor’s right to speak supersedes the right of the oppressed to be free of such speech. On the one hand, this imbalance of principle imparts resistance. On the other hand, it serves the capitalists by aggravating divisions among the people.

My atheist father gave service even to the extremist who taught: anyone thinking God could love sinners is eternally condemned. So oddly enough, I believe there is hope.

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