Free Speech, Blasphemy, And the Symbol of Christ: Best Comments of September 2020

This month we discussed free speech, the subjective symbol of Christ, and much more.

I wrote an article titled Free Speech and Misreading the Paradox of Tolerance in which I expressed my frustration with how leftist internet distorted the words of one of the 20th century’s greatest thinkers and why, as minorities, it is paramount that we defend free speech. If a precedent is set for stifling speech, that will inevitably come back to hurt minorities most of all.

S, who lives in Europe, had this insight in response to the article:

The political climate in Western European countries is a good example of how silencing can make the problem worse. Mainstream political parties have tried to ignore and shun extreme right-wing parties here for decades, and failed to effectively engage with their talking points because they blatantly looked down on them (and by extension on the people who vote for them or even partially agree with them). As a result, these right-wing parties have now convinced a significant part of the population that they are addressing inconvenient truths that the established parties and mainstream media outlets are censoring, when really they are just spreading misinformation and racist garbage. Vilifying them only entices more people to try the forbidden fruit of unpopular opinion. And because reactions to supporting such parties can be very negative, people feel that they have to commit to it, and it starts to become their identity, which makes it all the more difficult to change their minds.

This leads us to the age-old conundrum: does stifling certain toxic ideas actually lead to a resurgence of those ideas? Or does it effectively shift the overton window away from them, creating a society where certain ideas are anathema, and greater diversity is therefore possible?

Azura Rose added this insight:

Yeah I hear you on this. In my view, tolerance is about maximizing the diversity of voices that can be heard. When an idea is toxic enough that it is shutting down different people from being able to speak, that is when I will not tolerate it anymore. Homophobia, for example, shuts down the speech of queer people and leads to a loss of diversity in ideas. But there would be a difference, to me, between hateful homophobia that shuts me down entirely, and misunderstandings of queerness that are open to my responding. The former is reducing my ability to speak, the latter is not and is an opportunity for growth.

Like, my mom not understanding trans stuff at all but being willing to listen to me is different from the bigots who deny me my right to discuss my identity or who would push me out of the public square entirely.

Lastly, while I’m not entirely sure how to verbalize this at the moment, I’m definitely connecting this to the idea of epistemic injustice (which is violence to someone towards their capacity as a knower). Offensive ideas that do not violate someone’s ability to communicate their own self-knowledge is different from epistemic violence and might be a good framework to look at this through?

I’m personally something of a free speech absolutist (with the exception, of course, of slander, libel, and threats of violence) but I am more than happy to entertain other perspectives. If you have any thoughts to add to this discussion, in agreement or disagreement, please feel free to leave a comment below or write me an email.

I wrote another article this month titled Seven Satanic Dichotomies in which I explore how the inherent tensions within my Satanism are not a bug but a crucial feature which gives my Satanism its vitality. One of these tensions was “Ecumenism vs. Blasphemy:” the tension between working with other religions for a greater cause, and even honoring certain religious symbols like Christ, while also blaspheming those very same symbols. This tension is rooted in nontheism, and the conviction that symbols are relative.

A commenter in my Discord community had this to say:

“I love and hate the symbol of Christ, depending on context.” This resonates with me strongly. The story of Christ, when understood as a story of hope defeating injustice, can be quite inspiring. There is even something genuinely satanic about Christ, when he questions the religious and political authorities of his time. That is a Christ worth identifying with. At the same time, it is Christ who, according to catholic theology, is quite literally represented and embodied by the very people who spread hate against LGBT, have abused their power to destroy the vulnerable souls of children, who make people feel bad about their sexuality, etc. This Christ, like the Christ of right-Wing ideologies or evangelical Christian nationalism deserves every blasphemy we need to overcome and heal the pain inflicted by him. I love your text and really enjoyed how you interpret Eliphas Levi’s baphomet.

This tension will, without a doubt, befuddle some onlookers even more. If you find yourself confused, do read the original article, and please feel free to leave a comment below or send me an email.

That’s it for September 2020. I’m looking forward to another month of conversation.

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