Should Religion Be Protected from Criticism?

On Thursday, March 26, 2009,
the U.N.’s Human Rights Council approved by a bare majority a proposal
by Muslim nations urging passage of laws around the world to protect
religion from criticism. The proposal, put forth by Pakistan, urges
states to provide "protection against acts of hatred, discrimination,
intimidation, and coercion resulting from defamation of religions and
incitement to religious hatred in general. The proposal is non-binding. 

The reasoning seems to be that
if religions are not criticized or questioned, that the "religionists"
of that particular religion will have no cause to violently protest.
Blackmail pure and simple. 

Now I may not be criticizing
religions per se but I am criticizing how religious adherents of particular
religions seem blind to the greatest moral outrage of the 21st
century: gender inequality.  

Adherents of Islam are shutting
girls’ schools, cutting girls’ genitals, marrying girls off at 13,
keeping women and girls locked up, "honor" maiming and killing them,
and depriving them access to the full panoply of reproductive health

Adherents of Catholicism and
of other branches of Christianity are using psychological blackmail
to discourage a healthy attitude about sexuality, denying access to
choices in reproductive health, urging fertility beyond human capacity,
and painting abortion as the greatest crime (all blame on the woman)
even though abortion throughout human history has been ubiquitous across
all cultures.  

Religion can be a positive
force pointing us toward concern for out fellow human beings and respect
for all people and the planet. It can also be a scourge upon the land.
Examples of both types abound.  

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