Listening and Freedom of Speech

Dominic Burbidge has an insightful essay What It Means to Listen: Free Speech from the Perspective of the Abrahamic Religions posted at the The Witherspoon Institute’s website. He makes the point that Judaism, Christianity, and Islam have a different view of reality from Secularism.

Free speech arguments in Western Europe or North America often demand that persons subject their beliefs to rational discourse and debate. This is supported in the traditions of Abrahamic religions but not through the separation of believer from belief that is characteristic of liberal individualism. For someone of an Abrahamic faith, beliefs are subject to rational evaluation as coherent wholes, which are therefore refuted by an alternative system of thought that is able to display greater unity, coherence, and breadth of application.


The liberal argument for free speech envisages a free exchange of ideas that exposes the irrationality in other systems of thought. What the person of Abrahamic faith resists is not this but the way in which the method of exposing irrationality solidifies a position of moral relativism through which traditions of thought are rejected en masse as forms of indoctrination, dismissing in turn people’s capacity to reason from within them.

From the point of view of a Christian, I’ll note that the Bible describes a God who seeks a personal relationship with each of us. He speaks to us about how we should live while in that relationship. He speaks of how we should relate to the rest of his creation, but in doing so he tells us how to exercise self-control rather than how to control others.

Thus, I believe that people should be generally free to express their ideas and take their own choices, even those I find wrongheaded, so long as they aren’t harmful to others. There is a strain of Progressivism/Modern Liberalism with intellectual roots in soil such as the Prohibition Movement. In many cases the Prohibitionist urge to control the behavior of others (for the others own good) came from what I see as a confused view of Christianity as viewed through the lens of Modern Liberalism. (There’s a long essay lurking in that thought.) That misunderstanding is a source of some of the intellectual tension between Secularists and Believers.

In any event, Burbidge’s essay is thought provoking. Read the whole thing.

Quote of the Day

καὶ ἡ εἰρήνη τοῦ Χριστοῦ βραβευέτω ἐν ταῖς καρδίαις ὑμῶν, εἰς ἣν καὶ ἐκλήθητε ἐν ἑνὶ σώματι:καὶ εὐχάριστοι γίνεσθε. And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to which also you were called in one body; and be thankful.

—Colossians 3:15

Slip, Sliding Away

You remember all that talk about how legalizing gay marriage wouldn’t require priests, ministers, or rabbis to conduct same-sex marriage ceremonies in violation of their religious beliefs. There wasn’t going to be any slippery slope, or so we were told.

Two ministers in Idaho are facing up to 6 months in jail and up to $1000 in fines for each day that they continue to refuse to perform a same-sex wedding that a gay couple requested last Friday.

Houston, We Have a Problem …

… with the First Amendment. A group of Christian ministers is suing the Houston city government over a so-called “human rights” ordinance. The Houston Chronicle reports that

[c]ity attorneys issued subpoenas last month during the case’s discovery phase, seeking, among other communications, “all speeches, presentations, or sermons related to HERO, the Petition, Mayor Annise Parker, homosexuality, or gender identity prepared by, delivered by, revised by, or approved by you or in your possession.”

Glenn Reynolds notes that they wouldn’t do that if they feared beheading.

If I were subject to such a subpoena, I would file to have it quashed as the Houston preachers have. If I had to respond to the subpoena, I would probably have to provide my copies of the Bible because of passages such as Leviticus 20:13 or Romans 1:26 … 32. I’d also have to turn in my copy of the Quran because of passages such as 7:80 … 84 which refers to the Biblical story of Sodom and cites homosexuality as a graver sin than adultery.