The Charlie Hebdo attack: time to declare my values again

Here’s what I believe:

  • You have a right to your opinion, whatever it may be.
  • I have a right to my opinion, whatever it may be.
  • You have a right to state your opinion, but not to shout it into my ear. I have the right to not listen to your opinion.
  • I have a right to state my opinion, but not to shout it into your ear. You have the right to not listen to my opinion.
  • You do not get to threaten me with violence, or death, for having, or stating, my opinion. Certainly you don’t get to actually kill anybody.
  • I do not get to threaten you with violence, or death, for having, or stating, your opinion. Certainly I don’t get to actually kill anybody.
  • If you and I disagree, I am happy to have a respectful discussion where we can collaborate to get closer to forming an agreement. Should agreement not be possible, we need to agree that we disagree, and that is fine.

On that benchmark: nobody is forced to buy, read, or believe that some magazine or other prints. Nobody has the right to threaten, or incite, violence against their writers, cartoonists or editors. Certainly nobody has the right to kill. And that is the same if they make fun of Mohammed, Jesus, the Buddha, Mao, or Ghandi. Or you and me for that matter.

I’d hate to live in a world where somebody, some group, whoever, asserts to have the sole truth, on whatever subject. I will oppose any such world. Many opinions are much better than one opinion, regardless of the subject. Even if many of these opinions are silly, wrong, offensive, or whatever they may be, it is better to have many because from many opinions, new insights come, and this world needs more insights, not fewer.

And for those people who think that their religion is the single, unchangeable truth — and that could be Muslims, Christians, Jews, Hindus, adherents of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, or anybody — consider this: if the founder of your religion, or his closest friends, were teleported into today’s world, and went to mosque, or to church, synagogue, temple etc., would they recognize their religion? I’m more familiar with Catholicism than any other religion and can unequivocally state that St. Peter would be utterly bewildered trying to understand what is going on in St. Peter’s cathetral. People from 500 years ago would recognize today’s Catholic church, maybe even people from 1000 years ago, but certainly not people from 2000 years ago. Even within the lifetimes of the people present at the creation of Christianity, there was a substantial disagreement — documented in the bible — about whether Paul’s version of christianity was indeed what Jesus intended. I’d be very surprised if it were any different for most other religions.

Love beats hate. Tolerance beats dogma. At least in the world I want to live in.