Irreligious Criticism is Not Bigotry

It’s a good moment to remind people that while criticism of people’s race or sex is likely out of order (Rachel Dolezal notwithstanding), criticism of ideologies and proponents of those ideologies is not only fair game but very often necessary for social progress.

Religion is an ideology. Religion is not analogous to race or sex. One cannot be raceless or sexless. However, one can be religionless (atheist), and this is thanks to the western value of secularism, which has provided the opportunity for individuals to be emancipated from religion.

The United States is the zenith of progress in this area (at least ideally), having actually formed as its basis a godless constitution that explicitly walls off government from religious rule.

It is not time to take this for granted. We have to step up to the challenge secularism is facing from the parties of God and their apologists.

The family watched Monty Python’s The Life of Brian last night. It’s one of the most important films ever made. What makes it so important is that shows how absolutely absurd religious belief is.

Scene from Monty Python’s The Life of Brian

Just a bit of the way in, it occurred to me that an attempt to make a similar movie about the absurdity of Islam would likely be met with hate crime charges—perhaps even vigilante violence. As we have seen this past week, a European court upheld the conviction of a woman for talking about Muhammad’s sex life (to put it charitably).

That is is okay to mock Christianity but not Islam is an obvious double standard, and not one that I suspect is without ulterior motive. One of the ways Christians Christianized societies was to forbid criticism of Jehovah, Jesus, and the faith. It took us centuries—and we’re still struggling—to get out from under that oppression.

We are seeing the project of Islamization take a similar trajectory, with western states, nominally Christian, unreflectively taking the lead in protecting Islam from criticism and satire, and in so doing thwarting the emancipation of women, homosexuals, and free thinkers from this irrational system of regressive ideas.

Irreligious criticism and satire is neither racist nor bigoted. Stop characterizing anti-Islamic criticism as such. You’re no friend of freedom and reason when you do.

Published by

Andrew Austin

Andrew Austin is on the faculty of Democracy and Justice Studies and Sociology at the University of Wisconsin—Green Bay. He has published numerous articles, essays, and reviews in books, encyclopedia, journals, and newspapers.

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