evidence

Freedom of Expression and Religion

There are many ways to approach the relation between freedom of expression and religion.

First things first though, I have to formulate their definitions. Sometime ago I was listening to a discussion regarding the value of religion. Various participants used the word “religion” without clarifying their definition and point of view. The discussion almost became a shouting contest revolving around “it is … “ and “it is not … “.

Freedom of expression: the extent to which someone is free thus allowed to express him or herself.

Religion: in general religion is a belief system based on a divine revelation of supernatural origins that is the foundation for beliefs, teachings, assumptions and reasoning rooted in the interpretation of the divine revelation.

I grew up in a religious household. I was religious for a large part of my life and understand why people can choose their chosen religion. At the core of the choice there is the personal need to feel able. The need to feel able to do X or Y is very personal and subjective. Some people feel that by believing in a belief system they can develop a personal relationship with a certain inner strength and inner truth about the world around them. I understand that and it motivates people to help others enormously.

Thing is, religion as we know it today is more than a personal relationship between you and your belief system. Religion is a word that encompasses many phenomena in the world today like scripture, guidelines, community, institutions, politics, political power and religious law among others. Because the word “religion” can be interpreted in so many ways I tend to use it very cautiously.

When freedom of expression and religion clash though thing become messy. I grew up in the Netherlands and I appreciate open criticism and open discussion where politeness and evidence are part of the exchange of arguments. I actually think it is important to allow criticism and satire to reflect on the issue.

When people feel insulted, that happens. Everyone can feel insulted for it is part of life. Freedom of expression allows for criticism, discussion and when done politely with evidence new understandings can be found. People disagree, agree to disagree and part ways. It is too bad some secular and religious individuals and groups behave fanatically and violently.

Recently a Dutch sticker angered Saudi-Arabia. Some people do not agree with Islam, that is old news…