In comment #18 of my last blog post, a person by the name of Sean said:
This site is just as bad as religious fundamentalism, because you are trying to put your views into other peoples minds and judge everyone else on your own terms, when there are plenty good people who just keep their beliefs to themselves and judge their actions by it.
I have heard this argument many times, both in person and online. For example, I once argued with a girl who had a Bad Religion (the punk rock band) t-shirt on who said I was just as bad as the fundamentalists are because I'm out there evangelizing atheism and materialism in the same way that fundies are evangelizing hellfire and original sin. I thought it was rather ironic, since she was a fan of Bad Religion - a band that has dozens of songs that evangelize atheism and materialism (a bit more irreverently than my own writing does, I must say).
Commenter Sean is basically saying the same thing. Sean thinks it is immoral for me to enthusiastically promote atheistic ideas to whoever wants to read about them. And like the punk rock girl that I once argued with, Sean has a bit of irony in his position: Sean is taking advantage of the free speech that I afford my commenters so that he may promote his idea to me.
If it is immoral for me to promote my ideas through a communication medium, then isn't it also immoral for commenter Sean to promote his ideas through the same communication medium?
What happened is that Sean got confused. Honestly it's no big deal because it happens all the time, but it is important to note it and correct it when it happens. Sean, like the punk rock girl, confused the act of delivering a message with the message itself.
Both Sean and the punk rock girl were essentially arguing against free speech when they criticized my atheistic evangelizing. It makes me sick to my stomach when I hear anyone argue against free speech, even if it's to suppress ideas that I don't agree with, because idea suppression artificially and pre-emptively defeats the suppressed, while undermining and making illegitimate the suppressor.
Is it immoral to share your ideas with those who wish to listen? No. And if it was immoral, then it would also be immoral for Sean and the punk rock girl to tell me so.
Is it immoral to suppress another's attempt to share an idea? Yes. There's nothing wrong with declining to hear another's idea, but to stop them from expressing it is immoral. Why? Because suppressing anyone else's value expression is immoral, just like it is immoral for others to suppress your own value expression. I have always believed in a free marketplace of ideas, where all ideas are freely available to whoever wishes to learn about them, and those ideas are left to stand solely upon their own merits.
Here is the point: Ideas themselves may or may not be immoral, but making those ideas available to those who wish to learn about them is never immoral. Racism (an idea) is immoral, but explaining to another person what racism is (sharing the idea), is not immoral.
Similarly, fundamentalist Christianity is immoral, but explaining what fundamentalism is to someone is not immoral. Fundamentalist Christians are immoral for the ideas that they believe in and act upon, not for their willingness to share those ideas.
As an anarcho-capitalist, I want to see free competitive markets in place in all sectors of society. And a free marketplace is loaded with competing products (or ideas). Some of those products are good, and some are bad. The bad products (and the good ones as well) should never be suppressed or otherwise artificially made unavailable. And the consumers (or truth seekers) should be free to choose whatever product they want to. The morality question comes into play when a given product is chosen, not simply because that product is available to be chosen.
So what makes those fundies immoral anyway? The immorality of the worldview that they subscribe to, that's what! Is it immoral for a fundie to share his worldview with me if I ask him to? Absolutely not! In fact, it would be rude (and possibly immoral) for him NOT to! But what if I don't ask the fundie for his ideas, yet he walks down the street with them written on a posterboard (or maybe written on a blog)? Is it immoral then? Again, absolutely not! I don't have to read his posterboard and I don't have to read his blog.
Idea suppression is immoral. Idea sharing is not. Subscribing to an idea can be immoral if the idea itself is immoral. But merely encountering such an idea is not in itself immoral.
Commenter Sean and the punk rock girl are both subscribing to an immoral concept: idea suppression. I, on the other hand, am subscribing to a very moral concept: free speech. If atheism is to win the battle of the minds, it cannot do so (and must not do so) on the basis of the suppression of ideas. Instead, it must win the battle based on the merits of its ideas.
And now I will leave you all with a quote from Noam Chomsky: "If you're in favor of free speech, then you're in favor of freedom of speech precisely for views you despise. Otherwise, you're not in favor of free speech."