There are very few things Richard Dawkins and I would agree one but here is one. Let me set it up for you. A one-minute advertisement for prayer paid for and made by the Anglican Church in England has been banned from being shown in cinemas because it may offend people. Now I am confused, what is it about prayer that would offend people? And on this Richard Dawkins agrees with me. Here is what he said to the Guardian newspaper:
“My immediate response was to tweet that it was a violation of freedom of speech. But I deleted it when respondents convinced me that it was a matter of commercial judgment on the part of the cinemas, not so much a free speech issue. I still strongly object to suppressing the ads on the grounds that they might ‘offend’ people. If anybody is ‘offended’ by something so trivial as a prayer, they deserve to be offended.”
Dawkins’ nails it. What it is about our society that we are so scared of offending people that we will stop a one minute advert about prayer? The problem is that we, as a society, have a shared belief that to offend anyone is to hurt them irreparably. This has been used by so many different groups and, in the end, it is a way of intimidation and bullying. If you say that I have said something that has offended you I immediately become the oppressor and you the victim and in our society everyone sides with the victim without ever asking whether they really are a victim. Therefore, because we are scared of being an oppressor, we will ban things that some people might say they take offence at. In the end, this silences dissident voices in our society that may not agree with modern orthodoxies through intimidation.
What we need to do is to get back to a real and workable definition of tolerance where there is an open and frank exchange of ideas. Even if some ideas offend our modern sensibilities.. Only when we do this will we be able to get away from a silly idea that a short advert by a Church would be offensive to anyone.
If you haven’t seen the ad in question you can watch it here: http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/nov/22/cinema-chains-ban-advert-featuring-lords-prayer