Religious freedom really matters. New Zealand Christian Network has a keen interest in publicly proclaiming and defending the right to religious freedom here in New Zealand. This is important, as it’s becoming more and more obvious that there’s a lot of deeply ingrained prejudice and even hostility toward religious people in our country.
Last weekend there was a very disturbing illustration of that. A talkback radio host expressed the desire that all religious people in New Zealand should meet together and catch COVID-19 and then die from it, so that “we won’t ever have to hear from them ever again”. On Monday, it was also available as a podcast. It has been taken down since, so we can’t provide the whole segment, but here’s the heart of it…
Honestly, it is quite surprising that publicly wishing the death of all religious people in New Zealand is now considered okay by NZ broadcast standards. Would this type of language be acceptable about any other group of people in New Zealand?
However, let’s take as charitable an interpretation as we can. He most likely doesn’t wish to see a million or so (religious) New Zealanders dead. So, what might be a more accurate understanding of what this host is really trying to say? Maybe he is wishing that all religion would end? Or maybe he hopes religious people would just give up speaking?
But we have to ask the question: is either of these scenarios (death to religious people, death to all religion, or the removal of freedom of speech for the religious) really what we want in New Zealand? Countries that have gone down this road (like the Soviet Union or North Korea) don’t strike me as very pleasant places to live…for anybody.
Freedom of religion, which our host seems to have forgotten about, is in a lot of ways the ultimate freedom. It is deeply tied in with freedom of speech, and with human freedom in general. It’s an integral part of the basic freedom that allows anyone (Christian, Muslim, Atheist, Slob, Whatever) to think and live the way they want to, and not just how the government or the majority want us to. Remove freedom of religion, and then watch the dominoes fall in all aspects of freedom.
How about instead of wishing the people that we disagree with would just die, we instead fight bad ideas with good ideas? How about we take the time to consider more generously why someone might be religious (or not religious)? I’d be interested in hearing this radio host’s story of why he hates religious people so much. Maybe there is a lesson there we could all learn from (and hopefully it wouldn’t involve killing!).
I will continue this line of thinking in a later article, where I’ll explore some of the reasons why the non-religious might hate religious people so much and what can be said in response to those reasons.
“These are the victors who
valiantly surrendered life
to keep our island home
a land of peace and liberty.”