November 1, 2018

Free Speech is For Atheists Too

mic on a stand
One of the many important things about the right to free expression is that it is supposed to apply to all of us and not just to some people. It is supposed to apply to both atheists and religious believers, for example. It is also worth noting that just because we have the right to free expression does not mean that anyone must listen to us. The guy standing on the busy street corner preaching at passersby may have the right to do so, but this does not mean that you cannot ignore him and go on your way. It also doesn't mean that you could not instead choose to stand your ground and engage in some free speech of your own.

When one of the many evangelical fundamentalist Christians living in Mississippi bangs on my front door and tries to talk to me about Jesus, I am under no obligation to listen. I can shake my head in disgust and shut the door if I want to. Alternatively, I can speak my mind. After all, this person has just interrupted me for an extremely stupid reason and is currently standing on my property. I can point and laugh if the mood strikes me. Or if I would prefer, I can explain that I do not believe in gods and that I find the notion of someone peddling this sort of nonsense to be objectionable.

I can be polite about how I react if I want to, but I don't have to. As long as I don't assault or threaten the Christian, it should be okay for me to express myself. That said, there are plenty of things I would not say in such a situation. This is Mississippi, and I'd prefer not to have to explain to the evangelical fundamentalist Christian sheriff's deputy why I told the pushy Christian at my doorstep what I really think of her religion. It is not that I necessarily think I would be arrested for something like this, but I'm not nearly as confident that I wouldn't be as I would like.

Free speech is for atheists too, at least, it is supposed to be for atheists too. Unfortunately, I don't imagine we would have to look too far to find some examples where atheists may need to think twice about what we say in a way that probably doesn't apply to religious believers.