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To Argue Freely

July 20, 2014

“Freedom of Speech” by Norman Rockwell (1941-1945), National Archives at College Park (NAID 513536) (PD)

Give me the liberty to know, to utter, and to argue freely according to conscience, above all liberties.”

John Milton, Areopagitica

Tolerance once meant we lived side by side with one another, without resorting to violence. Despite our differences, not because of our uniformity.

Tolerance once meant we were permitted to defend our opinions (sometimes actually arguing with and convincing opponents of our viewpoint, other times swayed by their arguments). That was considered free speech. Now it is considered in bad taste.

All viewpoints are today taken to be equally valid. All should be tolerated without comment, lest the mere opposition to them be classified as intolerance or, worse yet, terrorism.

Where differences do exist, we choose to ignore their merits, falling back on the mild observation that “each man to his own”. This may suffice where the differences are insignificant. Vanilla v. strawberry ice cream. Not all opinions are, however, so harmless.

  • Hitler considered extermination of the Jews a worthwhile goal.
  • The North American Man/Boy Love Association (NAMBLA) views sex between adults and minors as acceptable, even beneficial, to the children being violated.
  • The Southern Poverty Law Center currently lists 993 hate groups operating in the United States. These include Neo-Nazis, skinheads, and black separatists like the Nation of Islam, all of whom advocate racism.

Tolerance on these distorted terms is, in fact, extremely dangerous. It allows evil to take root and thrive unimpeded. It undermines rather than extending freedom of speech, leaving violence as the only recourse when differing opinions morph into actions impacting the rights of others. Hitler had concentration camps – and ovens – constructed. NAMBLA lobbies to eliminate “age of consent” laws, and decriminalize pedophilia.

“If freedom of speech is taken away, then dumb and silent we may be led, like sheep to the slaughter.”

– George Washington

That we allow ideas we find offensive to be discussed does not require we remain silent. To the contrary, the Founding Fathers envisioned vigorous debate in the public square. The American judicial system is built upon a belief that from dispute and argument truth will emerge.

Nor does open-mindedness to new ideas require that we omit any critical filter, when analyzing their merit. That is mere sophistry. One need not drink bleach to recognize its poisonous nature.

In the interest of harmony, we have adopted a “live and let live” attitude. While in many cases laudable, that approach supports peaceful dealings only when both sides adopt it. Recall the misguided attempt by British Prime Minister Neville (“peace for our time”) Chamberlain to appease Hitler by allowing Germany to annex portions of Czechoslovakia.

Some issues – religious and otherwise – require that we take sides.

And the Lord spoke to Moses, ‘Go to Pharaoh and say to him, “Thus says the Lord:  ‘Let my people go… ” (Exodus 8: 1).


From → Christian, Law, Religion

  1. betternotbroken permalink

    Tolerance on distorted items lead to enabling. A powerful post.

  2. ‘One need not drink bleach to recognize its poisonous nature.’ Love it…perfectly said. And I agree with betternotbroken, that to tolerate what is offensive and/or impacts the rights of others is, indeed, enabling. By not standing up to abuse, personal or global, we permit its continuance. As always, I enjoyed your thought provoking words.

  3. This was great, not only the quote but when you said we have adopted the live and let live, I agree that we should be tolerant but to a point, if we all go by live and let live is saying everything goes, so if everything goes it tends to lead anarchy or worst. There has to be some form of basic values.

  4. Thanks, Charly. I value your input. I think though we’re in the minority.

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