We must stop being so damned respectful, Dawkins tells London free speech rally

ONE of a number of high-profile speakers at yesterday’s Rally for Free Expression in London, Professor Richard Dawkins said that people should “stop being so damn respectful”. Without freedom of speech, Dawkins added, society would be:

In a scientific, technological, moral dark age.

Philosopher A C Grayling was one of the speakers at yesterday's rally. Photo: Tom Morris

According to this report, Dawkins also slammed the decision by the organisers of a literary festival in Jaipur, India, for “kowtowing to a violent threat” by rescinding an invitation to the author Salman Rushdie. Their decision was based on a demand by “some local Islamic scholar”. Dawkins joked about how, unlike Islamic scholars

A true ‘scholar’ studies more than one book.

Another speaker, Anne Marie Waters from the One Law for All group, which protests against sharia law in the United Kingdom, said that freedom of expression was “the greatest freedom we have” and that included “the freedom to offend”.

Accusations of Islamophobia against those who reposted the Jesus and Mo webcomic was one of a number of incidents highlighted by speakers. Susan Zhuang from the University College London Atheist, Secularist and Humanist society spoke of the reaction to the posting of the cartoon to their Facebook profile:

Maybe we were naive but we never thought it would come to this.

The university’s student union demanded that the group remove the cartoon, but the group declined and launched an Internet petition to defend freedom of expression.

The blogger and activist Rhys Morgan, who had been previously threatened with libel for saying that a clinic operated in Texas by Stanislaw Burzynski was charging hundreds of thousands of dollars to cancer patients for unproven treatments, also spoke of being threatened by his sixth-form college to remove the Jesus and Mo cartoon from his Facebook account. He said that the staff at his college “implied that [he] would be suspended or expelled”, saying that the image offended Muslims. He also said that he had got threats of violence including someone saying that his house would be burned down, and he was called a “God-hater”.


33 responses to “We must stop being so damned respectful, Dawkins tells London free speech rally”

  1. The Woggler says:

    Damn right. Friday was a good day for secular Britain, and yesterday4 rally sounds like it was a great success. Religion is on the defensive in this country, and all the religious can only whine about being persecuted. They need to learn that they do not have an automatic right to be right, and that their ridiculous beliefs are pathetic. It’s the 21st century, for Seti’s sake.

  2. AngieRS says:

    Well, this is the first I’ve seen or heard of it since the demo. Not one paper I’ve read or the BBC seem to have carried it. Not entirely unexpected though, I s’pose.

  3. 1859 says:

    ‘Freedom of expression = Freedom to offend’…This is the difficult one.If I offend someone by referring to their race, I can, rightly so, be prosecuted in law. But if I offend someone by referring to their sexuality, their origins, their religion or whatever, there’s no law of the land to hunt me down. So what will these offended people do?
    Become even more embittered and more entrenched in their own belief systems. So ridiculing the stupidities of any religion may have the opposite effect – it doesn’t make those being ridiculed change their minds, instead it pushes them deeper into their bigotry because that is their whole world, it is all they have. If secularists want to change hearts and minds, offending the God Squad may give the humanists a badly needed boost and a laugh, but what’s the point if you have simply created another enemy – an enemy that’s now even more determined not to be brow-beaten and laughed at?

  4. Har Davids says:

    1859, just by being a humanist or secularist you automatically become an enemy of religion and the people who still hang on to it. Religion has had its way for centuries, stifling social progress, science, life in general. Now that people in the West are losing their faith and their respect for it, the believers are feeling the pinch; they can’t get away with their bull-shit any longer. Even many believers have become cherry-pickers and are no longer toeing the line for 100%. You imply there should be a reasonable discussion between secularism and religion, but that’s just impossible because reason and religion don’t get along too well. The proof: the Crusades, the Inquisition, Jihad, 9/11 and that’s just a few examples.

  5. barriejohn says:

    As far as I can see the media have unanimously decided to ignore this event. If I were a religiot I might be accusing them of conspiracy!
    However, the BBC did report the news that Professor Dawkins will be debating the nature of human beings with Rowan Williams on 23rd February. Apparently, Ann Widdecombe was unavailable on that date.

  6. 1859 says:

    That’s because Ann Widdecombe is not a human being.

    Har Davids: I can’t argue with anything you’ve written. But surely experience has taught us, you can’t get people to change their opinions and adopt yours by humiliating them.

  7. ZombieHunter says:

    The religious are always the ones who go around looking for things to be offended by there simply is no pleasing them, if they aren’t itching about jokes or cartoons or opera’s then they’ll find something else to bitch about and play the persecuation card and the violent ones are going to be violent anyway the important thing is that we never give in to them.

  8. L.Long says:

    Voicing your opinions in public rallys/debates/or just talking is no different then the dogmatists do in church or in public whenever they wish.
    The secularists did not get into anyone’s face a call them stupid or whatever, they did not go into their churches and yell at them.
    So it was not some nasty name calling and the dogmatists can get over themselves, they have had it coming to them for generations….Deal!

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  10. 1859 says:

    Be careful people – This sounds like you hate them as much as they hate you – just one more mob despising another mob. And how far have you got? You have pushed your intelligence as far up your own arseholes as your enemies have pushed their brains up theirs. Yes, telling the world that Winnie the Pooh is the new Messiah is way off the stupid scale, BUT humiliation, ridicule, piss-taking, belittling etc., only pushes people to hold on to their idiotic fantasies with even more fanaticism. Just ask yourself ‘Where has Fundamentalism in religion come from?’ If you want other peoples’ minds to be more open to your ideas don’t give them any more reasons to be your enemy.

  11. Stonyground says:

    I think you need to get over to the letters section at Richard to find out how wrong you are. Many people have converted from religion because their beliefs have been challenged. How far have we got? a hell of a long way actually although there is still a long way yet to go.

    How dare you suggest that I am just as bad as the kind of thin skinned dimbulbs who kick off because their wickle feewings were hurt by a cartoon? People who would shut down freedom of expression are a dagerous menace and need to be confronted, as do the useful idiots who stick up for them.

  12. Teresa says:

    1859 has put it very well in that last post.
    To say that it is ok for athiests to loudly and publicly humilate, ridicule etc. religion and the people who believe in it because those that believe in religion do that and worse to those who don’t agree with them is to put forth a tu quoque argument.

    Some recent news making actions of atheists remind me of the actions of adolescents. From adults we expect an understanding of appropriate time and place. We expect an ability to anticipate the results of actions. We expect adults to work towards long term goals. So we expect adults to consider whether an action will further or hinder obtaining a long term goals and act in a manner that furthers long term goals.

    Certainly at home I enjoy the cartoons, songs, podcasts, videos …

    Legal action, books explaining science and humanist ethics further athiests’ goals.

    But I think 1859 has summed it up neatly:
    “If you want other peoples’ minds to be more open to your ideas, don’t give them any more reasons to be your enemy.”

  13. Newspaniard says:

    8 Minutes worth on YouTube

  14. Adam Tjaavk says:

    BTW &BTW

    Welcome to the International Darwin Day Foundation website


  15. AngieRS says:

    Teresa, they are our enemy and they got that way by reading their bloody holy book, with no help from anyone, certainly not by riducle and humiliation. That is just plain ridiculous to even suggest. These people are NOT interested in intellectual discussion or discourse, that’s is plainly obvious to anyone who even bothers to look to see why the protest was held in the first place.
    If ridicule and humiliation can be counted as tools with which to oppose these people who hold no value in civil society in this or any other country which does not follow islam, then I shall use them. For as long as a religionists calls for my death for being LGBT, for as long as they seek to deny me my human rights and for as long they refuse to sit down and talk then I will oppose them, through this medium or any other.
    And if push came to shove, I’d happily pick up a far heavier tool with which to defend me and mine.

  16. AngieRS says:

    And btw, I really hate it when someone comes on a forum calling everyone “people”, to me, it exudes a kind of authority over others and I won’t be doing with that but it’s a free country…

  17. Brian Jordan says:

    So we’ve got to go into some hole and corner to whisper to the wall that their “holy” books are made-up shit, have we? I once asked on the old RDF forum why people spent so much time arguing with religiots who didn’t look a bit like changing their minds. I was told of the much larger number of uncommitted people who were looking on: the effort was mainly being expended to show THEM what a load of rubbish the religiots were spouting. So lets face it: there’s no dealing with the zealots but it’s vital that they’re not allowed to hoodwink or browbeat the uncommitted or doubtful with their censorious dogmatism.

  18. john.c says:

    “If I offend someone by referring to their race, I can, rightly so, be prosecuted in law. But if I offend someone by referring to their sexuality, their origins, their religion or whatever, there’s no law of the land to hunt me down”

    No one can change the colour of their skin,anyone can change their religious outlook if they listen to reason and are willing to face the posibility of being wrong, That the diference between racism, and being offensive to religion.

  19. 1859 says:

    What has concerned me when reading some of these blogs is the amount of vitriolic HATE in some ‘people’ on this site. If you want to change the fucking world STOP hating so much. I don’t want to live in a world where I have to meet hate and intolerance with my own hate and intolerance. It’s time (and yes I’m taking the old high ground here – so shoot me down by all means) -it’s time some of you took off your diapers and took a deep breath to understand what your own shit smells like. What I’ve been talking about is BEHAVIOUR. No, of course we shouldn’t hide in corners and mumble atheist mantras into each others ears. Be proud, be argumentative but do not be like your enemy – when you fight too long against the dragon, you become the dragon.

  20. john.c says:

    When you are dealing with people who have no respect for the law, want to undermine and bring down our tollerant society and replace it with a repressive theocracy, you nave to be resolute, strong, and if nessesary willing to act.Hate is not a usefull emotion , cold blooded logic would be more appropriate than hate, The enemy hide in plain sight amongst the moderates of their creed, taking advantage of the general publics willingness to tolerate diferences,yet they have overwhelmed areas with their numbers,leveraged themselves into power, look at the financial backing of the muslim candidate in tower hamlets,corrupt and devisive methods, they operate their own legal syatem under our tollerance of “arbitration services”,at every turn, we have given up ground to them, We need to forget the tollerant sympathetic approach, and start with a “we will tollerate you while you deserve it”outlook instead,
    We should crack down on sharia courts, faith schools and devisive teachings, there should be an authorised re-edit of the koran, and if they are not willing to buy into it they should be kicked out. Your high ground is a fine place to stand if you want to make yourself a target, this war will be fought in the trenches, and we need to fight it while we are still a majority.Between the pathetic leftist apologizm, and the right wing stormtroopers, there has to be a sensible middle ground, but compromise requires both sides of an argument to give ground , and up to now , its been one sided.

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  22. L.Long says:

    Sorry 1859 but I have not seen much ‘hate’ on these pages.
    The loud strident speech as been against belief. More has been done in the last 20yrs by ‘militant atheist’ then was done in the previous 200yrs.
    I’ve not seen any one say ‘hateful’ stuff against WLC or his like, although we all agree that his beliefs are (insert expletive of choice).
    I am one of those who speak out strongly against various forms of dogmatic BS but I do not hate any of them. Some like Pat Robertson I can even envy their ability to lie and convince so many to send them money. I wish I had the moral blackness to take advantage of ignorant highly delusional people.

  23. Bob says:

    Well, we do seem to have the faithers on the back foot at the moment.

    Baroness Warsi, govt. minister no less, has kicked off with the usual canard associating “intolerance of religion with totalitarian regimes”.

    We’re winning and it scares them.

  24. Despairing says:

    My husband and I were discussing, just the other day, how society needs to be less afraid of causing offence. We likened the phrase “I’m offended” to children crossing their fingers or shouting “veinites” in the playground. I don’t believe that it should, necessarily, give automatic immunity. The person who has allegedly caused offence need not offer an immediate retraction for fear of censure.

    However, whilst I agree with much of the sentiment against using aggressive posturing to put down those who have a different opinion (though I take the point that reasoned debate doesn’t much cut it with the faithful), I also feel that the British contingent among us are missing a trick here.

    The traditional culture, certainly on the mainland, has been to use laughter as a means of bringing society into line. Oswald Mosely did cause some nasty flare ups in various parts; however, for the most part, he was met with hearty laughter and derision. It seems to have fallen out of favour in recent years, as everyone has begun to take themselves so very seriously, which is a terrible shame, as I really believe it to be a very effective tool. It is a traditional British way of letting someone know that they have over-stepped the boundaries of what the majority will tolerate.

    I’m not suggesting that the Police should adopt it for dealing with criminal activity, of course, but in the kind of situations we’re talking about here – matters of a difference of opinion and who should have the last word – it can be deployed to devastating effect, and without an ounce of violence or vitriol. A good chuckle when you hear something nonsensical is surely the best way to let someone know, without being directly antagonistic, that they might need to revisit their thinking. Exceptionally effective against the more pompous end of the spectrum.

    I should point out that I’ve nothing against people of faith, per se. Only the ‘pushers’. Anybody who believes and practices their faith within their homes and places of worship, or even standing on a box in the street, is welcome. As far as I’m concerned, at any rate. That’s what freedom of speech / expression / religion is all about.

    So perhaps secular society should simply reclaim its heritage and have a good laugh at the ninnies who seek to impose their faith on those who do not wish it.

    Incidentally, I’ve not seen anything yet that indicates what outcome might have been applied, had the complainant in the Bideford case been someone of another faith, rather than someone of no faith. Any thoughts?

  25. barriejohn says:

    @john.c: re authorized re-edit of the Koran.

  26. barriejohn says:

    @Despairing: I agree with you wholeheartedly. A lot of people seem to have accepted the line that satire was an invention of David Frost & co. in the late 1950s, yet if you look at cartoons from the 18th Century onwards it is clear that ridiculing the pompous and powerful has been a British passtime for centuries. That is what jesters did in the Middle Ages, and we read of similar behaviour in ancient societies as well. For those who were in those days virtually powerless it probably saved their sanity!

    Re what would have happened if Mr Bone had been a Muslim, for instance: the outcome would have been the same. As I tried to point out above, the case was won on a technicality, regarding the orders which govern council meetings, and NOT on the grounds of human rights or equality. It looks to me as though council pryaers will be back (officially) very soon, with no appeal!

  27. 1859 says:

    @Despairing. Excellent post. Humour that exposes stupidity, humour that does not scream humiliation into an opponent’s face, is sorely missed. We need another Alf Garnet (Till Death Us Do Part)to do for all religions what Johnny Spiet did against the political and social establishment in the 60’s (now you know how ancient I am !!)…ah the good old days…

  28. Stuart Hamilton says:

    If you say that god(s) don’t exist you are accused of offending any passing religiot and condemed for it, but if religiots say that god(s) exist that offends me just as much. The only difference is that god(s) don’t actually exist.

  29. barriejohn says:

    Stuart Hamilton: It creases me up with laughter to see people of different “faiths” ganging up against us rational atheists, because not only do WE deny that their gods exist, but THEY deny that one another’s gods exist!

  30. 4 SHITS SAKE!!!!!!!!!!!! NEVER WAS NO FUCKWAD IN DA SKY!!!!!!!!


  31. James says:

    “My husband and I were discussing, just the other day, how society needs to be less afraid of causing offence.”

    As Mark Steyn said last year, what’s required in a multi-cultural society is not “sensitivity training” but “insensitivity training”.