Monday, April 26, 2010

The Religious Assault on Liberty: When Religion Coerces the Individual

Secularism-as-a-religion is by far not the only threat to liberty. Religion too can mount insidious molestations on freedom. In the newest incarnation of the Muhammad cartoon uproar, Comedy Central’s South Park, which offers puerile but wickedly intelligent social commentary on a ‘nothing is sacred’ basis, has been under attack. Creators, Matt Stone and Trey Parker, have received loosely worded death threats for their portrayal of Muhammad – a sacrilege for many Muslims.

The threats have prompted increase police security and an unfortunate back-down by Comedy Central, which censored the cartoon. As has been discussed on ANR before, such kowtowing to radical demands is foolhardy.

At the base of the debate comes the value of the individual’s or the group’s rights. Like the radical secularists in France who are attempting to ban the burqa, the radical Muslim’s here are drastically encroaching on the right of the individual to behave as they see fit. The claims of sacrilege and a religion’s right to not be insulted are a group’s claim that attempts to subordinate the individual to the power of a few elite. In this case, the elite is the fundamentalist Islamist leadership which has determined what constitutes ‘correct’ in the eyes of their creed.

The desire to oppress the individual in the name of religion is a pernicious aim that has far too often claimed victims over the course of history. Religion, like any other influential grouping of people, should have no special rights over the individual. Each man or woman should be free to choose how to associate with others, as long as such associations do not have destructive effects on third-parties. However, such associations should have no rights to force others to adhere to their voluntarily agreed upon memes.

As offensive as South Park may or may not be, groups do not have any special privilege to not be offended. By calling for such special treatment, fundamentalist Muslims are only deepening the cultural divide and severely trampling on the fundamental rights of man. They should accept the fact that coercive force will never convince the alleged offenders to toe the line. Instead, they should work to educate others about their beliefs and affirm their own convictions regardless of what occurs in the ‘outside’ world.


  1. Josh--

    Sorry if I haven't had a chance to chime in your latest ANR posts — my new job has ripped up my free time, though I'm sure you don't mind the absence of my agitation. Still, I've been following the South Park controversy somewhat, and all I can say is, if there was ever a Bill Maher monologue written to Josh Grundleger, last weekend's show was a gift-wrapped agreement to your above views.

    Enjoy, and I'll have my RSVP out to you soon.


  2. Karl~

    Maher certainly brings some levity to the issue, but he does have some strong points. I might even take it a step further. These aren't just attributes of our 'culture' that are non-negotiable, but tenets that are necessary for stable and just society to exist, regardless of cultural constraints.



"Reading makes a full man, meditation a profound man, discourse a clear man." - Benjamin Franklin

Please leave comments!