The Blasphemy of Anti-Blasphemy: the aftermath of Charlie Hebdo

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Freedom of speech is the most vital organ of a healthy and functioning liberal democracy, let alone that of a free society.  Without this index of liberty, all disputes and complaints about what is wrong with our political systems would be automatically muted.  It is for this reason that on January 7 in the Paris offices of Charlie Hebdo, theocratic forces resolved to sever this organ of freedom in the most heinous act of religious terror the world has witnessed in a century.  It was not a casually inflicted wound, but a stratagem of war surgically executed with a clear message for the free world: those who dare to commit thought crime are subject to a corporal punishment.  If 9/11 was an attack on the civilian and economic infrastructure of one western superpower, then Charlie Hebdo was a barrage on the heritage of free thought to which all of western civilization owes its existence.  No gesture of sympathy can eulogize the sacrifice made by these fallen heroes, or memorialize the legacy they left, more than extolling freedom of expression as the supremest of virtues.

In this essay, I would like to put into perspective the challenge today of protecting free speech against the creeping threat of theocratic invasion and have an honest discussion about whether ideological or provincial factors caused young men to lapse into homicidal mania and butcher scores of innocent people over one month ago.  This event has also reignited accusations of “anti-Islamic racism”, a slander which does not hold water when judged against the diverse and pluralistic tone of Charlie Hebdo’s platform.  But if this tragedy has taught us anything, it is that we seriously need to renormalize our attitude of discussional fairness to be more accommodating toward unpopular and heterodox opinions.  For, such extreme opinions offer the only insurance policy that our society is not at the disposal of tyrants and bullies, let alone religious psychopaths.

On January 7 two gunmen, Cherif and Said Kouachi, stormed the offices of Charlie Hebdo- an anti-religious, anti-authoritarian magazine- and killed 12 people.  Two police officers were also killed.  We know the two brothers were both French Algerians, born in the slums of north-east Paris, and orphaned at an early age when their mother committed suicide.  Much like the prophet Muhammad who also lost his mother as a young child, the Kouachi brothers soon found meaning and purpose in a life calling them to the frontlines of a cosmic war.  Cherif was a former pizza delivery boy who was convicted in 2008 of being associated with recruitment activities for Al-Qaida in Iraq, the sentence of which he served out 18 months in prison.  Therefore, it is fairly certain that these two men early on had been fully indoctrinated and programmed into cold-blooded assassins, under the impression they were carrying out instructions handed to them by the prime mover of our universe.

In spite of how this tragedy in Paris has shaken the free speech community, it has also fostered solidarity throughout the entire stratosphere of civil discourse.  Personalities and figures drawn from across the political spectrum have come out in sympathy with the besieged victims of Charlie Hebdo, if not become more emboldened than ever to defend our sentient freedoms.  A reactive column in The Guardian (an outspoken left-wing publication) rightly recognized that “faithophobia” is warranted when these faiths degrade the value of women and incite its followers to hate speech.  The confusion affected by the logically twisted syntax of neologisms like “Islamopobia” begs the question of why a more inclusive term like “faithophobia” hasn’t circulated into the cultural domain of mainstream media.  Afterall, have the Christian and Jewish faiths never been ridiculed by the antireligion community?  The manufacturers of the “Islamophobia” industry only seem pressed to supply this term to an emotional market feeling endangered by the mental imperialism of rational scrutiny. Everytime Islam’s impregnable convictions face the threat of incredulity, mass production and demand for the self-victimhood meme surges through the roof.

What is more nuanced, if not ironic, however, is the committed end to which Charlie Hebdo actually practiced “faithophobia” as a professional philosophy: their cartoons vulgarly satirized all religions, only so they could be accused of discriminately baiting after Islam.  This inflationary charge is symptomatic of how our political culture needlessly pampers to Islamic sensitivities.  Undoubtedly, Charlie Hebdo is a left-wing publication notoriously known for its irreverent stances on a multitude of social and political issues that resonate strongly with egalitarian idealists.   For instance, besides being valiant defenders of animal rights and equality, the profile of their staff has been described as leftist, far leftist, and even anarchist.  Thus, by adding progressives to their trophy list of intended casualties, the Islamists have made it clear that no one, irrespective of their political stripe, can be spared from the wrath of the almighty creator.

The Authoritarianism Meme

The lessons of Charlie Hebdo actually follow from a thread of controversy that erupted a while ago when a certain Sam Harris bumped heads with the “liberal” establishment of political correctness, on the Real Time show, in Fall 2014.  His egregious offense was trying to counsel the public about the psychological anatomy which motivates such murderously ambitious projects, like the Charlie Hebdo massacre. Dr. Harris, a secularist and neuroscientist, threw himself into the frying pan by presenting the following syllogism: if 80 percent of British Muslims think animating the prophet is a prosecutable offense, it shouldn’t be surprising to occasionally find these widely accepted dogmas violently translated into barbaric acts of terror- even if they are only carried out by statistical minorities.  For, Islam supplies both communities with the same reasoning that propels their engine of thinking.  To further echo Harris’ thesis, the Pew Research Center conducted a poll trying to gauge popular opinion in the Muslim world on the subject of applied Sharia law.  The results were far from promising.  In Pakistan and Bangladesh, 80-90 percent believe that Sharia should be the law of the land.  Accordingly, 80-90 percent of those Sharia supporters surveyed in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Egypt, and the Palestinian territories believe that adultery should be punishable by death; a similar fraction in Egypt and Jordan are in favor of the same punishment for the crime of apostasy.  One is inclined to surmise what on earth could induce so many people to adopt a punitive philosophy of such uniform cruelty.  To answer this moral riddle, a recourse must be taken in the canonical texts of Islamic law which are found in the sayings and teachings of the prophet Muhammad.  For instance, take the Islamic view on apostasy and adultery:

“It is not permissible to shed the blood of a Muslim except in one of three cases: A soul for a soul, a adulterer who has been married, and one who separates leaving his religion.”

The Quran also proscribes an equally disapproving condemnation of apostasy:

They wish that you should disbelieve as they disbelieve, and then you would be equal; therefore take not to yourselves friends of them, until they emigrate in the way of God; then, if they turn their backs, take them, and slay them wherever you find them; take not to yourselves any one of them as friend or helper.

I do not see any controversy in admitting that the tide of Muslim support for such draconian laws can only be rationalized by the most authentic and puritanical reading of Islamic theology.  To put this into some philosophical context, bear in mind that Plato had once postulated a transcendent reality which is unitary, absolute, and unadulterated by the artificiality of our inhabited world.  That is to say, this simulated world we live in is augmented by each generated degree of sensory experience: every enjoyable moment, feeling, and memory from life obscures the clarity of truth and is to be shunned upon.  By dissolving this kind of celestial wisdom over centuries of theology, Muslim minds have been cemented into a matrix of dogma that requires them to believe their morally disfigured world can only be terraformed by the divine tractor of Sharia law.

In this respect, the censure of free speech and the dictatorship of sexual ethics is not just a threat posed by a tiny fringe at the outlier of broadly dispersed opinions.  To the contrary, it represents mainstream currents of Muslim thought, solidified over manifold generations under the authoritative care of Islamic jurisprudence.

What makes moral intolerance of the theocratic kind so dangerous lies in its circular nature: by the mere act of assertion, it exempts itself from the requirement of further demonstration of its claims.  We are invited to find comfort in the thought that no existential conflict is too strifeful to be delegated by a benign dictatorship, even though our moral intuitions tell us better.  Even a moral dictatorship of the most benign form in theory, would have to be the most malign in practice, for its exactness of justice could only be effected through the unrelenting force of coercion.  If afforded the opportunity, and by appealing to our most primal need for conformity, such authoritarian memes can wield the power to unlock our most tyrannical demons and erode the columns of our greatest erected achievements.  If we have endured the struggle of our own existence for so long, it has not been because we were born to fear authority; but because we have grown to mock it.

Cosmic Terrorism: Fascism in a Supernatural Dress

In the face of such glaring facts, one would think that clipping the claws of this Hobbesian beast, namely the articles of Islamic faith, is way overdue.  Not so, claims Karen Armstrong- a noted British historian who is instead more worried about atheists like Sam Harris “because this is the sort of talk that led to the concentration camps in Europe. This is the kind of thing people were saying about Jews in the 1930s and ’40s in Europe.”  And so the political witch trial of “Islamophobia” continues.  But more annoyingly, this respected scholar of history is unscrupulously rewriting the past and doing so with the pen of religious apologetics.

Armstrong suspiciously neglects to mention the conciliatory history between antisemitism and religious messianic theocracy in the early 20th century.  In France, the Action Francaise zealously marketed conspiracy theories of “Jewish capitalism” actively plotting against French society.  This paranoid and hysterical political faction was commissioned by a group of anti-republican intellectuals who were grudgingly nostalgic for a historically Catholic France, untainted by the enlightenment values of liberalism.  With so much clerical and monastic resentment against the “Judeo-Masonic regime” for importing secularism into France, it was only natural that the Catholic church provided a handsome sum of political and economic support to this coalition of demagoguery.  They even employed a brigade of paramilitary thugs, known as the Camelots, to implement their hateful and violent agenda- a “holy war” against the Jews[1].  In Germany and Austria, it was the racial enthusiasm of Adolf Stoecker (a court preacher), Karl Lueger, Houston Stewart Chamberlain, and many other noise makers who launched the antisemitic project by synthesizing Christian identity politics with ethnocentric fervor.  Now, you don’t need to be too imaginative to grant Islam a share in this enterprise of cosmic fanaticism.  Through Armstrong’s distorted lens of history, the holy texts which facilitated the ovens for the Jews may be harmful; but civilized atheists who warn us about the genocidal capacity of these evil dogmas are certainly more dangerous! Forget about references in the Quran and hadith sanctioning murder of cartoonists and Jews in Paris, what we should really lose sleep over is the secular finger pointing out such literalized horrors.

If rewriting history is not just dishonest alone, it most certainly is packaged with dangerous consequences.  For, our reflexive tendency to linearize unexplainable human behavior with social and economic circumstances, often flowers from the soils of historical and logical fallacies in general.

Following the massacre in Paris was a cultural showcase of self-punishing excuses and justifications for what happened at Charlie Hebdo.  This reflective mutilation was first hashed in the form of mining out esoterically hidden suggestions of “bigotry” and “racism” in Charlie Hebdo’s content.  Then, there was the attempt to humanize the Paris murderers through the medium of economic and social contextualisation.  Reza Aslan was already peddling the argument of “social, political, cultural, ethical” factors before and after the incident, as were so many other contemporary apologists.  In accordance with this mantra of compulsory humility, Ismael Hossein-Zadeh, from the Center for Research on Globalisation, asserts that “many of the frustrated youth in the Muslim world (as well as in the belly of the beast, in the core capitalist countries) are flocking into the ranks of militant anti-imperialist forces and employing religion as a weapon of mobilization”. The take home message seems to be that any dislocation imparted to the social cohesion of society must be scapegoated onto capitalism and imperialism:

In light of the chronic economic recession and the resulting social tensions in Europe, major European capitalist powers must also be pleased with the timing of the terrorist actions as such actions tend to be quite useful to the goal of diverting attention from economic problems. Conditions of economic distress tend to provide fertile grounds for the rise of fascism. Not surprisingly, fascistic sentiments against Muslims and other immigrants seem to be on the rise in Europe, just as such sentiments targeted the Jews and other minorities during the 1930s economic depression and gave birth to fascism in Europe.

When we treat totalitarian ideologies as collective artifacts of social and economic phenomena, we also risk obscuring what they fundamentally stand for and likely expose ourselves to the perils of their concealed agenda.  Therefore, I would like to take a moment to disentangle the laces of fascist idealism from the academic language of socioeconomics.  To the credit of Hossein-Zadeh, he notes (in the same article) that early 20th-century fascism colluded with institutional Christianity throughout the duration of the totalitarian experiment.  However, he overestimates the relationship between fascism at the time and the womb of economic insecurity which supposedly gave birth to it.  In Germany, Austria, and in Italy national socialism polled stronger amongst the intellectual elites and middle-classes, when compared to the general populace.  Jews were more likely to face discrimination at the universities and be expelled from student organizations; or to be up against envious businessmen and merchants in commercial trade who bitterly resented the success of their Jewish rivals and consolidated such frustrations through the outlet of antisemitism[2].  By 1931, university support for Hitler was double that of the population at large, and the book burnings of 1933 were largely staged by professors and students[3].  In retrospect, these were grievances of an affluent and privileged class, not so much the anguish of neglected workers and laborers.  Furthermore, the fascists in all countries inherited the anti-capitalist rhetoric of their socialist predecessors by relentlessly defacing their adversaries as “the bourgeoise” regiments who had plundered society.  Indeed, Italy’s Mussolini was originally a rank-and-file member of the international socialist movement and the same revolutionary ideas impressed into him throughout his political youth were later incorporated into his comprehensive program of fascism.  In Germany, the Marxist scholarship of Werner Sombart and Johann Plenge paved the way for the central organizational policies of the national socialist government.  As the chemist Wilhelm Ostwald once pronounced “while the other nations still live under the regime of individualism, we have already achieved that of organization”[4].  Whatever the constitutional nature of totalitarianism was perceived to be, it most certainly was not a discontinuous event which suddenly sprang into existence from the nebula of social and economic uncertainty.  To the contrary, it was the cumulative product of a continuum of utopian brainstorming which sought to vaporize the free spirit of the individual and skeletally recast him with the flesh of dutiful servility.

Another example of the socioeconomic interpretation is to be found in an article written by Pankaj Mishra, in The Guardian, in which he rallies for a “new enlightenment” and tries to plot the events of Jan. 7 against the axis of European humanism:

The French Revolution actualised the Enlightenment’s greatest intellectual breakthrough: detaching the political from the theocratic

Assimilation policies in secularised Europe failed to secure the rights of Jews, or to save them from discrimination and contempt, provoking a desperate Joseph Roth to remark that he preferred Europe’s old “fear of God” more than its “so-called modern humanism”.

Like Armstrong, Mishra airbrushes the historical alliance between European antisemitism and institutional religion.  The author diffracts antisemitism through the illusory prism of a “secularized Europe”, still entrenched in racially motivated thinking.  Does Mishra actually believe the antagonism towards the invitation of secularism and pluralism into early 20th-century France was to be faulted upon secularism itself? He relishes for a “new enlightenment” while denying the irrational doctrines which spawned the original anti-enlightenment movement and vigorously opposed the revolutionary virtue of  “detaching the political from the theocratic”. Is this skewed review of history perhaps done in anxiety that Islam today may be held in contempt, as the Catholic church was a century ago? Armstrong’s comments alone are just ahistorical.  What Mishra is doing, however, is more contrived: he is using historical convolutions to morally reconstruct the psychology of terrorism.  As we have already seen, such misstatements of history can easily buffer the way for social and economic narratives of terrorism:

You don’t have to be a Catholic, or a Marxist, to acknowledge that Europe is beset by serious problems soaring unemployment, the unresolved crisis of the euro, rising anti-immigrant sentiment…….The problems of Muslims in France mostly stem from the country’s abnormally exclusive employment and education system. Some of these Muslims, who see the holy trinity of liberty, equality and fraternity as a cruel hoax, will embrace radical Islam and violent crime – the possibility, in general, of achieving manhood through senseless killing. Others will find through Islam a reconciliation with private pain.

We are reminded, once again, that it is the social stratification of society provoking a medieval festival of sadism worldwide, whether it is burying children alive, executing apostates, selling women as commodities in rape markets or murdering free expressionists.  Supposedly, militarily armed religious commandos don’t go out of their way to sabotage a conference on free speech in Copenhagen because they find such meetings infuriating; they do so because economists, urban planners, and community leaders have failed them.  Of course, such a diagnosis begs the question of why citizens languishing at the mercy of a neglectful society- whether in Paris or Copenhagen or London- should choose to relieve their distress by murdering innocent cartoonists, of all people; especially cartoonists who happen to hold a particular penchant for satirical profanity and cannot possibly shoulder any liability for the destitute of their killers.  The specificity of these convergent trends of violence raises additional questions which have so far been blind spots in the social and economic analysis of terrorism.  Afterall, the nature of social unrest lies in its tendency to spread indiscriminately and nonspecifically.  For example, mass riots (which are plausible examples of economical and social blowbacks) send a uniform message of rebellion by subverting everything in their path of fury and multiplying social disorder at every corner within reach.  However, what if those rioters ventilated their rage exclusively towards, say, television shop owners?

Intuitively, the phenomenology of cosmic terrorism may be reduced to wage gaps and social forces.  However, inferring a Muslim “reconciliation with private pain” presupposes the existence of such pain in the first place.  Furthermore, is the source of this suffering to be faulted upon the material forces which bind or break society? I hesitate to believe any measure of true happiness or despair can be univariately fitted to socioeconomic disparities.  Some reputable studies on crime, well-being, and economic prosperity have already cast doubt on this hypothesis.  In fact, one such investigation in two cities in the UK quantitatively ranked individuals on happiness as a function of economic variables and found economic challenges were not among the determining factors.  In fact The Guardian referenced this study in one column:

Harlow – the post-war new-town in Essex – takes the dubious prize of being the unhappiest town in the UK, whereas Fermanagh in Northern Ireland is the happiest. The former scored 6.8 (out of 10) in terms of their life satisfaction, while the latter scored an impressive 8.2. And we learned about the surprising difference in the levels of happiness of Colchester and Ipswich. Fewer than 20 miles separate the similar-sized towns – both with populations of between 100,000 and 200,000 – and share similar levels of material living standards. Yet the residents of Ipswich are happier, scoring 7.7 to Colchester’s 7.1.

Recent economic trends also shed light on some of these debated issues.  Take as a benchmark example the previous decade (from 2000-2010), which was clearly marked by economic hardships and political turmoil throughout the entire world.  In fact, in America the experience has been strenuous compared to the previous era of economic growth and technological boom.  Up until this year, America was suffering from the worst post-war recovery; its economic productivity since the recovery was averaging about 1 percent, about half of the average from 1947-2007, not to mention the sluggish growth of its labour market (which fell more than half compared to the previous decade).  However, crime is also substantially lower than it was two decades ago; overall, it has dropped by a third across the entire U.S., whereas in some big cities, like in New York and Los Angeles (the latter of which had double-digit unemployment) some crimes fell by as much as 90 percent (even in spite of the fact that abortion rates are at their lowest level in four decades, according to the Guttmacher Institute); in Estonia, since 1995 the murder rate has fallen by 70 percent, as have robbery and car theft, and crime has continued to fall even in spite of the 2009 recession which drove unemployment to 19 percent.

This is not to smudge any positive relationship between the road to prosperity and the economic vehicles needed to get there.  It is only to widen our field of view when attempting to fathom the erraticism of human behavior, a correction requiring a more comprehensive set of tools and inferences than economic metrics can provide.

Furthermore, France is a particularly ironic example of economic negligence to use, as it is one of the most socialised economies in the rich world.  Progressives regularly cite France as a shining model of social paradise, often benevolently envying them for their relaxed way of life and limited working hours.  The French economy has had some of the highest progressive taxes in the rich world, the highest minimum wage (above 50 percent of median income) compared to most rich countries, its spending on welfare has exceeded the OECD average, and in fact up until the Charlie Hebdo massacre there was great political debate in France about whether or not it was going to curb its excessive social spending.  In fact, Mishra attempts to demoralize globalisation and disown France’s economic woes into the culpable hands of corporate elitism by speaking of a  “stunning loss of a sense of possibility for young Europeans everywhere – events made intolerable for many by the invisible bondholders, exorbitantly bonused bankers, and the taint of venality that spreads across Europe’s oligarchic political class” and decries motions to “cut spending on the welfare state while giving tax breaks to corporates..” even though France leads Europe in applying progressive tax policies to castigate these wealthy oligarchs and already has a swollen welfare state.  Evermore, according to the study by the Pew Center, cited earlier, religious extremism is not only generally insensitive to the variables of education and age, but in some local cases the correlation is even inverse:

Across the countries surveyed, support for making sharia the official law of the land generally varies little by age, gender or education. However, in the Middle East-North Africa region, Muslims ages 35 and older are more likely than those 18-34 to back sharia in Lebanon (+22 percentage points), Jordan (+12), Tunisia (+12) and the Palestinian territories (+10).

If economics cannot decipher authoritarian pathology, then I am more disinclined to concede that it can unravel the mystery of terrorism.  A recent study investigating the link between Islamic militancy and poverty took a comprehensive sample of 6,000 residents in four provinces in Pakistan, demographically normalized to the entire nation, and surveyed them on popular attitudes toward militant Islamic groups.  Interestingly, the results revealed that dislike for Islamist groups was actually three times stronger in the poorest urban centers than in the entire nation as a whole.  Furthermore, poor residents nationwide expressed aversion for militant groups two times more than middle class Pakistanis.  The authors concluded:

Overall, the findings suggest that arguments tying support for militancy to individuals’ socioeconomic status — and the policy recommendations that often flow from this assumption — require substantial revision.

The Creator of the Universe is Offended

Inflicting violence and mayhem upon a liberal magazine does not result from just emotive impulses flaring up in a random universe that dealt someone a bad hand that day (e.g. getting fired from work).  Economic stresses may very well register with the economic decisions individuals make in securing their own welfare.  However, no paradigm of economic wisdom can articulate what exactly urges one to go out of their way and slay another human being on the grounds of punishing thought crime.  The laminar terms of “social and economic injustice”, as we have seen, are often employed by theocratic apologists to discolor the ideological tinting of terrorism, even when such acts are committed solely in the name of religion.

The Parisian Islamists boasted to “have avenged the Prophet Muhammad”.  In 2011, Charlie Hebdo was firebombed for deciding to print its edition with an offensive cartoon of Muhammad on the cover (it is also worth mentioning that the magazine republished the famous Danish cartoons in 2006 which provoked so much Muslim outrage).  In recent years, France was targeted by Al-Qaida for banning face-covering headscarves in accordance with its firmly implemented secular laws.  The gunmen could have targeted any institution symbolizing the political or economic oppression of demographic minorities, even though the Islamic guerrillas produced no manifesto or list of grievances to validate such a theory of “blowback”.  It is more likely that this savagery was set into motion by a 1400 year old prescription of morality imposing the death penalty for crimes of blasphemy and impiety.  If you find this attitude too cynical, just rewind to the early and formative period of Islam, when Muhammad had ordered Ka’b B. Al-Ashraf, a Jewish poet, to be assassinated after the Battle of Badr because the latter had composed insulting words against the apostle of God:

The Prophet said, “Who is ready to kill Ka’b bin Al-Ashraf who has really hurt Allah and His Apostle?” Muhammad bin Maslama said, “O Allah’s Apostle! Do you like me to kill him?” He replied in the affirmative. So, Muhammad bin Maslama went to him (i.e. Ka’b) and said, “This person (i.e. the Prophet) has put us to task and asked us for charity.” Ka’b replied, “By Allah, you will get tired of him.” Muhammad said to him, “We have followed him, so we dislike to leave him till we see the end of his affair.” Muhammad bin Maslama went on talking to him in this way till he got the chance to kill him.

The gruesome details of these stories (recorded in the biography of the prophet, The Sira and the Hadith) play out like a scene from a Martin Scorsese movie when someone gets “wacked” in the middle of the night because they misspoke about the dear bosses.  That is at least to be said of the most fallible and narcissistic of mortals.  However, it is a more difficult task to try and wrap one’s head around the emotional psychology of universe-creating agencies and the enigma of exactly how it is possible for such superluminal entities to be “hurt” in the first place.   If this is to be called spiritual philosophy, then its underlying wisdom may be rehearsed as follows: the all-powerful mover of our universe was doing just fine for about 14 billion years of uninterrupted supervision, seeding and patterning the heavens with trillions of his signatures of creation (if not occasionally wiping them off as well)- until one day a couple of those creations conspired to ambush him with an arsenal of cruel words.  If colliding galaxies and meteors extinguishing planetary ecosystems won’t faze the first cause, you can be rest assured that names and symbols will.  I submit that this is not contemplative wisdom, but fragile egoism of a kind deeply wired into the ethical hardware of Islamic doctrine and furthermore amplified by every altercation it has with any challenge to its claims.

Freedom of Speech, But

The Iranian government condemned the attacks in Paris, but stressed the impermissibility of insulting religious faith; and in some Orwellian twist of doublethink, Pope Francis has corroborated the Iranian position by affirming that freedom of speech is a “fundamental human right” but religious faith must be respected.  Its occasionally comforting to see two of the world’s oldest competing theocracies finding common ground in their bipartisan assault on freedom of expression.

Freedom of speech creates an economy of ideas which are fluid and mobile enough to allow the exchange of error for truth in the event that someone is mistaken about their convictions.  Its a device for surveying all possible modes of knowledge in the overall phase space of human ideas.  Thus, it is not only tolerable, but morally incumbent upon us to mock and defame religion- especially the Islamic religion.

The rigidity of moral absolutism can only be broken, not reformed.  We often forget that the death of humans is a tragedy, while the death of ideas is a triumph.  Our civil discourse is imprisoned by the tyranny of consensus and yet it’s survival depends upon the emancipation of dissenting views.  This false synthesis of vice and virtue is a volatile mixture with annihilating consequences.  As rational agents we are endowed at once with the faculty to reason and to laugh at the absurdities and ironies of our world.  Accordingly, we must disrespect propositions which demand that some cosmic renaissance took place in an ancient desert and was revealed in the mental auditorium of nomadic delusions.  Let us defend offensive speech for truth’s sake.  And if we abound in error, then let us celebrate our fallibility.  For there is no higher virtue than the right to be wrong.

References:

[1] F.L. Carsten (1980).  The Rise of Fascism.  Berkeley and Los Angeles, CA: University of California Press

[2] F.L. Carsten (1980).  The Rise of Fascism.  Berkeley and Los Angeles, CA: University of California Press

[3] T. Ferris (2010).  The Science of Liberty.  New York City, NY: Harper Collins

[4] F. Hayek (2007).  The Road to Serfdom (Definitive ed.).  Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press

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