Freedom of expression is the cornerstone of all human rights, but it is dangerous to exercise that right. This is obviously so in a totalitarian regime, but even in a democracy the expression of ideas that challenge deeply-felt beliefs can actually put your life in danger. Ideology and religion are the commonest source of violence against those who publicly express disagreement with some dogma. Surely it is good to be passionate about your ideas and defend them, but passionate defence of one’s ideas seems only too often to lead to crimes of passion. So is passion about ideas not a good idea?!
WHAT IS YOUR DANGEROUS IDEA?
“By ‘dangerous ideas’ … I have in mind statements of fact or policy that are defended with evidence and argument by serious scientists and thinkers but which are felt to challenge the collective decency of an age. … Writers who have raised ideas like these have been vilified, censored, fired, threatened, and in some cases physically assaulted”.
DEATH THREATS FROM THE RELIGIOUS
The fatwa on Salmon Rushdie and the Danish cartoonist are well known and publicized. But those are just crazed Islamists, right? Well, it seems Christians can be just as lacking in brotherly love and tolerance. If you want every religious fanatic of any stripe to want you dead, speak out as an atheist.
DEATH THREATS FROM THE IDEOLOGUES
Here is an appalling account of how passionate patriotism affected the life of one public figure that used his celebrity to promote ideas that ‘offend’.