Friday, August 29, 2014

Freedom Of Speech Is A Two-way Street

A young man came up to me on the street after work trying to "enlighten" me with the spirituality of an Indian guru by the name of Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. He told me that attachment to this material world is a problem and that once one can grasp the knowledge that we are spiritual beings one can seek the true happiness. I listened while he went on for about 30 seconds and then he tried to offer me some books in return for a donation. I settled on a free pamphlet instead, which I read on the subway going home. It's got a lot of spiritual ideas and metaphysics that I don't hold to, but nonetheless was an entertaining read.

This experience made me think about freedom of speech. In a free society, everyone has the right to believe whatever they want and be open about it. You have the right to believe the craziest shit imaginable and be open about it in the public square, so long as it respects secularism. And this is true for the Hindu, Mormon, Muslim, Scientologist, Christian and Wiccan alike. But I also have the right to publicly criticize your beliefs however harshly I want. You can't tell me that you have the right to force me to acknowledge your beliefs but that I don't have the right to criticize them. It doesn't work that way. You have the right to be open about your beliefs and I have the right to criticize them.

Freedom of speech is a two-way street.

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