I am a liberal atheist, by which I mean that I do not seek in any way to persuade others to my belief that there is no god of any kind, nor do I seek to encourage others to adopt a rationalist stance on the matter. If people wish to believe in a god or gods – and there do seem to be quite a few gods in religious belief systems – and enjoy their beliefs, that is their right … but, inevitably, because this is a law blog I introduce a Benthamite caveat…provided it does not cause more harm to others than it provides pleasure to believers.
I used to teach Jurisprudence… a subject, sadly, which many universities now consign to the larder of obscure options and which legal regulators appear no longer to regard as a subject which will help the young lawyer become an expert in conveyancing, prosecuting and defending criminals or become a highly paid maven on mergers and acquisitions or… indeed…. legal work of any kind. Be that as it may.
It was Voltaire who said “If god didn’t exist, it would be necessary to invent him” and history reveals that it was remarkably convenient to have a god and a structured system of rules as an instrument of social control. I hesitate to go further lest I find myself banged up at a secure police station in West London for breaching the Racial and Religious Hatred Act 2006.
I would like it to be perfectly clear, as a liberal atheist,(Lest some police officer is behind with his ‘nickings’ this month) that I have no intention of breaching s. 29B of the Racial and Religious Hatred Act because I am, just that, a liberal atheist – tolerant, inclusive, relaxed and laid back, about the things fellow human beings believe in.
I would, however, like to commend a piece written by Professor Turley, a US academic, on Blaspemy laws.
Professor Turley writes in USA Today…
Perhaps in an effort to rehabilitate the United States’ image in the Muslim world, the Obama administration has joined a U.N. effort to restrict religious speech. This country should never sacrifice freedom of expression on the altar of religion.
I leave you with one thought – is it sensible to have prime ministers, presidents, ayatollahs, et al who believe in so many different gods, running our various countries? Perhaps the world would be better served without the influence of so many religions? I am just asking, in a spirit of reasoned debate, and not inciting.
PS… One of the great ironies of Jeremy Bentham is that he designed the Panopticon, a prison designed is to allow an observer to observe (-opticon) all (pan-) prisoners without the prisoners being able to tell whether they are being watched, thereby conveying what one architect has called the “sentiment of an invisible omniscience.”