Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Fundamentally Wrong Headed

In association with the Dubious Digressions Division

There are quite a few things I'd like to blog tonight but I haven't had the time. My trouble with blogging is that I spend a great deal of time reading posts on all types of blog on all sorts of topics. Actually, that isn't the problem. In fact, that isn't a problem at all, it's very interesting. The problem is the length of a standard Earth day. Well, it's just not long enough. I mean, look at the time. How did it get so late so quickly?

It's still not too late to write a little bit about the Incitement to Religious Hatred Bill. It seems like the government is on a hiding to nothing here. I mean, look at this:
8. Will religion be defined? Will the definition include cults?
In keeping with similar legislation, the proposals do not define the meaning of religion. “Religious hatred” is defined as “hatred against a group of people defined by their religious beliefs or lack of religious belief..."
Home Office
So, who's protected? Christians, Muslims, Scientologists, Satanists, Branch Davidians, those who believe that the world is ruled by a talking marshmallow called Gerald...
(Credit to Jim Bliss for Gerald. Jim tries to play Devils Advocate in support of the bill but can't quite bring himself to commit to the cause.)
It's a nonsense straight away. How do you define religion? Anyone? Apparently, it's going to be down to the courts. I bet that's a buck they're looking forwards to receiving. And on this one part of one paragraph, there's another problem. I'm an atheist but I don't need a law to protect my "lack of religious belief". I normally find rational thought does the job reasonably well without any need for legislation.

Jim actually gets to the heart of the problem for me though. Ultimately, religion is a personal choice. As such, it cannot be justified as an addition to the Incitement to Racial Hatred laws. There is huge difference between attacking someone for their race and attacking someone for their religious beliefs.

For example, read this email interview with Stephen Green. It's as spectacular a piece of circular reasoning as your ever likely to find. After this law is brought in, will I still be able to call him "wrong headed"? What about "sadly deluded" or "a crazy man who hears voices inside his head" or "a troublesome god-botherer"? What about "a dangerous fundamentalist nut job"?
99% of the country might agree that these are accurate representations of Mr Green's position but will it still be legal to say so after the bill becomes law? How far would I have to go before I became guilty of incitement to religious hatred? I don't really know and I'm not sure anyone else does either.

But perhaps the worst thing of all is that Mr Green and myself agree that it isn't good idea. Of course, Mr Green just wants to retain the right to attack religions other than his own. Still, even the slightest possibility of an agreement between Mr Green and myself is mildly embarrasing.
(Petition link also via mediawatchwatch.)

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