As well as several recent posts – [Secular Politics] [The Art of Freedom] [Freedom Regained] – there are a number of other items and events on the topic of freedom. [Still to publish a complete review of Baggini’s Freedom Regained, referenced in the above – but a recommended read.]
Prompted to post this after seeing the headline “Atheism is Freedom” and thinking that’s really a matter of context – the context for that particular atheist being Iran. Freedom really is a matter of degree.
Last night I listened to @BobChurchill and @BenedictRogers in a “Young Professionals in Foreign Policy” event at the Royal United Services Institute in Whitehall. It was a light-touch facilitated conversation driven almost entirely by audience interaction, around the UN Human Rights Declaration Article 18 on “Freedom of thought, conscience, belief, etc. … ” often annoyingly abbreviated simply to “Religious Freedom”. Both speakers are more sophisticated than that. Practical experiences of the political complexities of violations and of “getting things done” abounded, and the level of agreement from their Atheist vs Christian perspectives was pretty well summed-up in Ben’s closing remarks:
Art.18 is there to defend freedom for every human being.
Too often Christians speak up for Christians,
Muslims for Muslims, atheists for atheists.
Freedom should be defended [by all] for all.
Political complexities considered – that’s maybe too good to be true, but of course it’s not just realpolitik and hypocrisy that compromises such freedom. The fact is any enlightened freedom worth fighting for still has its constraints and restraints – values against which its quality is judged.
Atheism is freedom, freedom from believing in a god. It’s not freedom to believe [in] nothing. That’s chaos and anarchy. Many of us atheists have had to qualify what atheism means for us – at root it’s a negative belief defined by what it doesn’t believe or believes not to exist – somewhere between anti-theism and agnosticism; I’ve personally gone for non-theism in these days of new-atheism. But on the positive side, as a basis for actual beliefs, I’ve in the past gone for naturalism (many old links in the side-bar) and more often than not humanism or simply a secular rationalism. But too often rationalism tends to be hijacked by those that consider science – scientism – to be the only measure of rationality. But what’s in a name? The question is, what values come with the label.
I see the upcoming A C Grayling talk at Central London Humanists is on “Humanist Values” with a blurb that suggests humanist supporter Grayling chooses, for preference, the label naturalist. [Post note – my write-up on the Grayling talk.] Much has been made in recent debates about the value of humanism being the absence of “imposed” codes – which does indeed look like freedom if your context is of a more totalitarian persuasion. In a generally freer “western” context humanism (or naturalism) does still require a set of values to which we can subscribe, which we are still free to question and can adopt / adapt / improve over time. Successful evolution comes with a degree of conservatism, a generation-to-generation fidelity and fecundity of the established species. Species of value. A valuable freedom worth defending.
Unfettered freedom is not only an illusion; it makes no sense. It would not be desirable even if we could have it. Choices are not meaningful unless they reflect values, and values cannot be meaningfully chosen unless we already have some.
Julian Baggini – Freedom Regained
[Post Note: More on Humanist Values (for later)]
[Post Note : Paul Mason’s Grauniad piece on “bogus” identity politics – I beg to differ, it’s ultimately about identity.]
[Post Note : Kenan Malik on inherited Western / European / Christian / Islamic / Greek values etc. My recurring point is that naming a set of values as “ours” is about subscribing to them, not a proprietorial claim of ownership or originality, nor to contrast or distinguish them from the values of others. The more we share the better. The claim is simply an affirmation.]
[Post Note : And – on 13 May 2015, post #GE2015 – values topical in politics and media as measures to limit protections on free expression – of hate & prejudice – are proposed & debated. Links to be collected. This is the basic news story. Cuts both ways – on extremists and “critics”. And the Grauniad take. Samira Ahmed’s documentary piece. Graundiad on “Universal Values“.]
[Post Note : Baroness Warsi – on emphasising and promoting positive values, rather than negative legislation.]
[Post Note : More from Sarah Brown on Racism a cross-post of this. My initial response on identity and parallels between racism and religious hate speech was what about “Ethnicity”. See also Framing Islamaphobia law, and UK reworking Human Rights Act story. UK Muslim Myths. Time for a consolidated post from these holding snips.]
[Post Note : Even the Conservatives call time on Pamela Geller.]