In this episode of Sacred Tension, Lucien Greaves and I talk about the attempted assassination of free speech hero Salman Rushdie, the Fourth Tenet of the Satanic Temple, the importance of offense in a pluralistic democracy, how Surveillance Capitalism destroys the marketplace of ideas, and much more.
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9 thoughts on “Sacred Tension: The Freedom to Offend | Lucien Greaves”
Another great conversation. I would agree we have the right to offend, and in certain contexts it may be needed and appropriate. But having come out of the evangelical countercult apologetics movement where offense is conflated with truth-telling, and being in a culture where offense is part of the mainstream of polarization, I prefer to engage in hospitality and neighborliness whenever possible.
That’s one of the things I love about you. Me too. I’m never deliberately offensive to anyone, and Satanism being offensive is rarely the first thing on my mind. Instead, I have the deep sense that I am *in my very nature* offensive and a blasphemy. It isn’t what I want to do, it just is. I’m thinking of calling this “natural blasphemy.” I never intend to be blasphemous, but my nature (queerness, skepticism, lack of faith, deep appreciation for the dark and bizarre, a love of the forbidden) are all intensely offensive. There are people who want me dead because of these things.
This is why I’m such an ardent defender of offense and free speech — there are people who are offensive by their nature because they innately chafe some particular doctrine, and they need to be protected.
That’s a very interesting observation. I usually think of offense in terms of speech or actions, but you point out that some individuals and groups, just by their existence, function as an offense. Whatever is said or some merely reinforces the emotional and moral perception of offense. This needs to be accounted for more thoroughly by those of us working in religious diplomacy. We must grapple with moral offense by mere existence touching multiple domains. That seems to be a much more challenging issue to respond to than offensive language and actions.
hey! I’m thinking about what John said and trying to reconcile the right to offend with the first tenet of compassion. I’m thinking that both compassion/hospitality and the right to offend are two sides of the same coin, where one has to exist for the other to exist. My right to offend isn’t so I can purposely offend people, it’s so I can be comfortable and open as myself. My identity and existence can be “offensive” to some people, even unintentionally. That also means it supports the right of others to be comfortable and open as themselves too, whatever religion or sexuality etc. I think that’s mighty compassionate.
Gets dicey when we have open hate and bigotry though–can certain speech silence other speech? Will we have to set some priorities and make some free speech sacrifices? That’s a huge different conversation that you and Lucien touched on well–just wanted to speak on reconciling the first tenet and the fourth tenet. Have a nice day everyone 🙂
Brock, thanks for taking the conversation further and wrestling with how this relates to TST principles in life’s application as I do the same from my different vantage point. I appreciate the conversation.
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Yeah, the Tenets all have to be held in balance. When isolated, they can become distorted and unethical. The practice of absolute free speech without compassion just results in trolling and social breakdown.
Also, a crucial feature of free speech is free association. We can’t have one without the other. We can choose who we associate with, and a community can decide what kind of people they want within the community. That isn’t in contradiction with free speech or the right to offend. Protecting minorities within our community is necessary.
What I don’t think we should do is legislate, dox, or commit acts of violence against people who use dehumanizing speech, even if such speech is denigrating. I think that harmful speech is, unfortunately, the cost of a pluralistic society.
you should post a transcript so folks with hearing disabilities can also access the podcast
That’s on the agenda! I’m a one man team so it might take some time for me to figure out how to do that efficiently, but I’m definitely going to try to make it happen