Monday, May 21, 2007

Free Speech

My wife and I got into a discussion about free speech. She said there should be a line drawn. I disagree. I think free speech is the ultimate of all freedoms. Other than yelling fire in a crowded movie theatre, or anything else that would endanger others, we should be free to say whatever we want.

She said "So you think it is okay to tell your boss he is an idiot?"

I had trouble conveying the freedom to say something, and using discretion are totally different. I agree we should use discretion when choosing our words, that is the smart thing to do. But no law should be passed that stop us from speaking our minds. She started getting upset and crying, then she said she hated the way I was since I became atheist. She said I was like her Dad, who is an atheist.

I don't feel like I can voice my opinion to my wife without her getting upset.


Jamie G. said...

It sucks that she is blaming your opinions simply because you are an atheist. Atheism doesn't encompass those views, only that you don't believe in any deities. You may need to explain to her what an atheist simply is, and that no two atheists are the same in their personal, social, religious, or political views (much the same as Christians). I doubt that your entire worldview changed when you declared your non-belief. I am sure it wasn't a black/white issue for you, but a gradual process, at least it was for me.

One of the things that really helped my wife was when I explained that not only am I an atheist, but a secular humanist and then described to her how I came to that conclusion and what secular humanism entails. She said that made much more sense to her and helped her feel at ease about me since she understood what I was ''against''.

Anyways, sorry to sound preachy. That sucks and I wished things were working out better for you two.

Anonymous said...

Pardon me for picking nits (or thank me if you prefer), but it sounds to me like you and your wife really do agree that a line should be drawn somewhere -- as you appear to draw one with your "Other than . . ." remark. Perhaps it's more of a disagreement about just exactly where the line should be drawn.

Your point on discretion reminds me of something Mark Twain wrote: "It is by the goodness of God that in our country we have those three unspeakably precious things: freedom of speech, freedom of conscience, and the prudence never to practice either of them."

I can't help thinking that your wife may feel like you're calling her an idiot, indirectly, whether you mean to or not. Many people who cling to religion are afraid of questions that are not constrained by the familiar and comforting mental barriers of this or that faith . . . the kind of questions that someone committed to the principles of free speech would not hesitate to ask if they occurred to him. If you start questioning one thing once held dear, why not other things?

We all have moments of insecurity. This is true regardless of what I see as the ultimately trivial matter of opinions on religious beliefs. It could be that she really needs reassurance that she is not being seen as an idiot herself, or being valued less as a person -- as a wife -- because her beliefs are not completely shared by you.

Or I could be all wet. Still, there's often a gap between what we intend to say and what the other person actually hears. Don't forget to take that into account.

Good luck and best wishes,


john evans said...

Thanks for watching and commenting on my videos. I just read all your blog entries. I really enjoyed them. You are going through much the same things that I recently did. My kids were a little older perhaps. It is not an easy transition for anyone but it IS a transition. My wife was not at all happy with me for announcing to the kids that I no longer believed in god or heaven. My boys (11 and 14) are now leaning toward atheism but my 16 year old daughter was brainwashed too well I am afraid and may always be a christian. Her new boyfriend thinks it’s cool that I am an atheist so there is hope! I applaud your courage and honesty and wish you the best with what is a tough situation.. Would be happy to talk more any

Anonymous said...

I'm an atheist and think your wife is right. You tend to think discretion and freedom of speech as something completely different. But your wife is correct that freedom of speech/expression and censorship are the opposites in a dichotomy.

Last month, I was woven in this dispute too. The part where you are correct is the following. As an Atheist I think everyone must be able to think on their own and hence be a Free Thinker. The next step would be freedom of speech and freedom of physical actions. The difference is that silent thoughts do not hurt anyone. But expressions may hurt someone. In extreme cases one could call upon hatred, voice this, spread propaganda against a person with the message to kill it, and actions may follow. If you agree on total freedom of speech and expression, you would accept this without limitation. Fact is that almost all countries have provisions that limit free speech when it used to incites hatred. I think everyone favors some limitation of free speech, even regulated by law. I assume you do not contest this.

Now, the case that you and your wife dispute is whether one is free to insult someone else. (I assume your with is theist, but it doesn't matter much for my narration)

As an atheist you contend that we are the successors of animal not from a god. So you accept that people are not fully rational and for a large part emotional. It is by our nature to determine if a situation is dangerous that we not only seek for cause-and-effect relations but also label it as good/bad. Just like you would label your boss as an complete asshole - describing him as your enemy rather than your friend. So you and your wife agree that humans may do violent/hostile deeds. You as you think people are not much different from animals. Your wife may see humans as sinners (from God). Despite the different point of departure, you two basically come at the same conclusion.

I do not believe your wife thinks that there are legal provision needed to stop you from insulting your boss. But it does not go against atheism to agree that people should be penalized for exceeding, violent behavior. Because, humans are not fully rational, and you may think that we should protect ourselves against violence.

While being in dispute with your wife, you tried to convey. But your wife was very correct that censorship and freedom are their direct opposites (rather than complete different things). You must accept this and tell her she is right. I think your wife is not upset about you because you are incorrect.
She very correctly showed you the dichotomy, and you refuse to see it. That is what upsets her. You rather (try to) stick with your opinion and defend it by saying she is wrong refusing to she here point of view. It is possible she came to the conclusion that you are an arrogant prick since you (try to) pretend you know it better than she. She has full right to be angry at you.

As an atheist I know it is very easy to be seen as an arrogant person. We are quite confident that we have the truth on our side. It is our pitfall.

Good Luck

Anonymous said...

I agree with you on the freedom of speech, we should have it. maybe what you were trying to convey was a since of responsibility and speech?