What is so bad about an atheist movie? Asks Larissa Dubecki in The Age today. The atheist movie in question is called The Golden Compas, a fantasy based on His Dark Materials, the trilogy of novels by Philip Pullman. In the novel, a 12-year-old girl named Lyra sets out on a quest to expose a malevolent governing body called “the Church”, which answers to the “Vatican council” and kidnaps children for experimentation.
The film caught the ire of Catholic League and other US fundamentalist groups calling for a boycott for pushing an atheist agenda onto children.
Larissa writes that perhaps Christians who feel the need to censor material viewed in a secular society need to be reminded they don’t have a mortgage on determining good and evil.
Larissa correctly points out that whatever your religion, there’s cinema to offend. The Passion of the Christ offended Jews for its bloodthirsty depiction of the last days of Christ; Water offended Hindus; Bowfinger Scientologists; Hollywood Buddha Buddhists.
Precisely. However it is the extend and the vigour of the reaction by the so-called offended is what’s really important. It is one thing to call for religious followers to avoid seeing a movie and completely different to say, smash a cinema or to threaten physical violence against the cast. Curiously, Larissa completely forgets the M-word. You know, those easily offendable peace-loving Muslims that murdered Theo Van Gough for making a movie and placed fatwa on Salman Rushdie; and who can ever forget the crowds torching buildings and murdering in response to offence caused by the cartoons of Mohammed.
I don’t blame Larissa, she only writes for the most painfully politically-correct left-wing newspaper in Australia. I don’t know that such references to Muslims would even make it through The Age’s self-censorship process. Or perhaps she’d rather avoid any potential death threats from peace-loving Islamists.
Here at Lattenomics we think Larissa should be asking a much more fundamental question: is it OK to cause religious offence? After all religions are just a set of ideas, they are not immutable hereditary characteristics such as race. If we live in the society that truly values free speech the answer has to be a loud and clear YES! This means we should be able to offend any religious group and they should be fee to retaliate and defend their ideals in a non-physical way. That is the only way the ideas can be tested and ignorance and bigotry confronted.
Here at Lattenomics we defend the right of directors to make Atheist films but that doesn’t mean that Christians should have no right to protest and boycott such films as long as such protests are non-violent. We do however condemn such actions as the murder of film-makers, death threats and physical violence. These are the acts of intellectually bankrupt bullies that would harass rather than debate.
If Larissa is genuinely concerned about the freedoms or speech and thought, she should do an article about the Victorian Religious Vilification laws instead. Unlike boycotting Christians, these laws serve to place some ideas beyond legitimate criticism and prevent any critical examination of certain religious ideas. They are a form of state censorship and present a modern equivalent of blasphemy laws the people in the West fought so hard to repeal.