Defending the Offensive

  (21 April 09)
  by Greg Spearritt

I seldom agree with much that Australian columnist Jane Albrechtsen has to say, but on the issue of free speech I’m behind her 100 per cent. (Her contribution and that of David Marr’s to the recent IQ2 debate on this topic are well worth hearing.)


‘Openness’ is prized by the Sea of Faith Network because it is a necessary condition for allowing genuine autonomy of thought – that is, for treating people as grown-ups capable of deciding for themselves what they should think. It means being able to hear and assess all points of view, whether ridiculous, sublime, unorthodox or even offensive. No topic should be taboo for us.


For centuries we in the West have been – as Don Cupitt puts it in The Meaning of the West – outgrowing “the repressive boarding-school culture of the Church”. Now the State, if Albrechtsen and other commentators are to be believed, is showing signs of stepping into the breach.  


BTW, Cupitt has an interesting sidelight to this free speech issue:


Blasphemy used to be an offence directly against God, and God punished it with suitable thunderbolts; but today blasphemy is an offence against human religious susceptibilities, and no more than that. With the disappearance of the sacred, blasphemy has come down in the world.


(The Meaning of the West, SCM 2008, p.129)




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