Sunday, November 6, 2016

Jeez, You Two, Get a Room!

I just saw a link to an interview President Obama gave to Bill Maher on religion in public life. As usual, Obama was vacuous and dishonest. He acknowledged that an atheist would have trouble being elected to public office in the US, and said that "we should foster a culture in which people’s private religious beliefs, including atheists and agnostics, are respected." This is the same kind of gaseous platitude he routinely uses to discuss gay people or feminism (or race, for that matter), and I'm not gratified.

I suppose the key word here was "private," since Obama himself has expressed disrespect for people's "private religious beliefs," presumably because those beliefs were publicly stated and acted on.  (Martin Luther King Jr. and Mohandas Gandhi, for example, were nice guys but a couple of unrealistic idealists who didn't understand the cold hard facts of life as Obama does.  They didn't keep their religious beliefs "private" either.)  And most of Obama's fans do the same. So does Maher, whom I hold in contempt. (Why? Because he's contemptible.)  But no one is obligated, under either the First Amendment nor the more general principle of toleration, to respect anybody else's beliefs. Nor, under the same principles, is anyone obliged to keep their beliefs "private." (I'll start doing so when liberal Christians start.) What we are obliged to respect is people's right to hold beliefs and express them -- even publicly -- though we are free to disrespect and criticize them.  Maybe that's what he meant, but it's not what he said. Thanks, Mr. President, but no thanks.

I have the impression that when most people use the word "freedom," they're thinking of a comfortable and easy condition, perhaps because they're thinking of their own freedom, not of others'.  Living in a free society will be comfortable in some ways, but often very uncomfortable in others.  Not only you, but other people have the right to express their views, hold their opinions, and attend the church (or no church) of their choice.  And since other people's beliefs are often highly offensive, it can be uncomfortable not to be able to silence them.  But being uncomfortable won't kill you.

(And if anyone is distressed because I disrespected the sacred person of Our POTUS, I can only say that if he doesn't want to be criticized, he should keep his "private" opinions [and his religious beliefs, which he has often talked about in public] private.)