I was thinking about the growing number of people who show contempt for free speech as they believe the State needs to silence opposing “dangerous” opinions. It is an approach that is alien to my way of thinking. Perhaps it is time to consider that the rise of anti-free speech sentiments might be connected to the rise of the post-Christian world. After all, it is clear that not all world views value free speech. We know, for example, that two large non-Christian world views, Islamic fundamentalism and atheistic communism, disdain free speech and do everything they can do to silence unapproved speech which they deem “harmful.” We also know many countries in the West which at least have a remnant of respect for free speech have been shaped by Christianity in the past. If free speech is indeed a value derived from Christianity (perhaps as an offshoot of recognizing the importance of free will), we would predict the rise of the post-Christian world would lead the rise of anti-free speech sentiments. While I am not claiming an established, causal connection, I would like to raise this as a hypothetical proposal.
As we all know, much fuss has been made of the fact that the Millennials are less religious than older generations. But this is not the only way the Millennials differ from previous generations. For example, a few years back, a survey found that over 40% of Millennials believe that the government should outlaw speech that is deemed offensive to minorities. Apparently, these young people would not agree with George Orwell’s famous quote: “If liberty means anything at all, it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear.”
In fact, here is a breakdown by generation.
|Generation||Age||Oppose Free Speech||Religion is Important to You|
Wow. Don’t need statistics or a graph to notice that relationship. But just for fun, let’s plot the % of people who think religion is important on the Y-axis and the % of those who oppose free speech on the X-axis:
Now that’s a correlation! The less important religion the more likely someone opposes free speech.
What about the percent who have a very strong conviction that God exists? Here are the data:
|Generation||Age||Oppose Free Speech||Certain Belief in God|
And here’s the graph (with % certain belief in God on Y-axis and % who oppose free speech and X-axis):
So both increasing secularism and atheism are correlated with a decreasing commitment to free speech. Interestingly enough, this trend is also seen in the New Atheist’s favorite cultural comparison:
Food for thought, eh?