No restriction to freedom of opinion, art and the press out of respect for religious bigotry!
For a clear commitment to the values of Humanism and Enlightenment!

”Humankind", able to split the atom and communicate via satellites, has to have the maturity to do so. Certain people or groups of people can erect sacred rules (rules that are untouchable). They can deny any critical intervention and thus perpetuate faulty reasoning in the future. This practice is and has to be a totally unacceptable practise in our modern society."
(Manifest des evolutionären Humanismus)

In response to worldwide protests, triggered by the 12 Mohammed caricatures published by the Danish newspaper "Jyllands Posten", the Arabian League approached the United Nations with an open request for censorship. The UN Parliament ought to come to a decision that prohibits “insulting attacks against religious beliefs”. Even if most Western politicians, in their statements appreciate the freedom of opinion, art and the press, they still try to demonstrate in the same breath their deep sympathy for “hurt religious feelings” and their disgust concerning the assumed “bad taste” of Mohammed caricatures. (These, in reality, are far more harmless than, for example, Monty Python’s “Life of Brian.”) Even in this subtle way, fundamental civil liberties can be sacrificed on the altar of diplomacy.

The current affair benefits some German politicians who are willing to censor (including those of other Western nations). For many years now, different factions of the CDU/CSU party have tried to stem the tide that promotes censorship. They did this by attempting to tighten paragraph 166 of the penal code, with the support of the churches. In fact, up until now, all Christian attempts to prohibit the “audacious criticism of religion” failed. However, due to the active support from Islamic fundamentalists, this attack on civil rights could succeed in the foreseeable future. (By the way, here you realize that the crucial fronts in the “fight between the cultures” don’t proceed between the Islamic and Christian world, but between the “exponents of Humanism and Enlightenment” on the one side, and different “enemies of the open society” on the other side!)

Today, a clear statement for the values of Humanism and Enlightenment is absolutely necessary. It should be obvious that under the conditions of a highly technical world we rely on the “enlightening nuisance of criticism”. Therefore caution is advised, when too much consideration for religious feelings is demanded. The reprimand to “hurt religious feelings” is used by religious powers in the first place to protect their own bigoted world view, the same as they would a memorial that is under national protection. The consequences of such immunity to criticism are catastrophic. Any person who is able to back away from any criticism will barely develop the skills to let wrong ideals die before other people have to die for wrong ideals.

As a consequence, we have to demand from every believer – not only from the Muslims - that they have to deal with criticism of their beliefs. Nobody is allowed to be beyond the fresh wind of criticism, not even when the criticism reveals the absurdity and ridiculousness of ones own persuasion. To be sure, nobody likes to hear that. This view is also considered to an extremely high degree “politically incorrect”, and when seen in the bold light of day, one cannot dismiss the fact, that a large part of people’s belief, is highly ridiculous. Therefore, it is no wonder that criticism on religion often comes in the form of satire. Otherwise, it would not be possible to do justice to the topic. You could either embrace or regret that. However, one thing is certain, without the support of the mockery of Enlightenment; it would not have been possible to tame European Christianity. Not until humankind started to laugh about the perilous, intellectual distortions of Christianity, and human, all too human weaknesses of their religious leaders, were they able to overcome those fears that had been instilled by centuries of fears of hell and the devil. Only then were they able to extend a clear refusal to religious missionary zeal.

If the philosopher of the Enlightenment of the past had not taken heart to hurt religious feelings, the pyres would still burn in Europe. In view of the real danger, that we might be steering towards an age of religious war, we need in the current situation, not less, but many more voices in an open debate, that are critical of religion.
The times in which ideological openness are sacrificed for the delusion of religious revelation should finally have come to an end.

We request:

All attempts to restrict the freedom of opinion, art and the press have to be ceased immediately. That means, instead of tightening §166, it ought to be cancelled without substitution. Religions should not get a charter from the legislators to immunize against criticism. A person, who wants to allow censorship, wants to prohibit thought.

On an international level, we must decisively fight against and outlaw in the strongest terms and threaten with sanctions, the practise to arrest, torture and murder critics of religion. Those against these measures will be highly ostracized and sensitive sanctions will be levelled against them. The Implementation of human rights has first priority. Religious traditions as well as economic interests have to subordinate themselves to this goal.
Those responsible in the media and in politics, have to finally stipulate reasonable conditions for an open debate on religion. For many representatives of the media, the fear of "injury to religious feelings" has created "scissors in the head“. Persistent critics of religion have little chance to say anything in Islamic countries. The same applies to Western Europe. Thus many statements, critical of religion, do not have a chance to be published because of anticipated resignation and self-censorship.

Those, who criticize foreign religions (as in Jyllands Posten), should put their own house in order first. Whoever criticizes Islam from the perspective of enlightenment, should not omit criticism of other world religions (especially to related religions such as Judaism and Christianity). It is possible to find the same apocalyptic hallucinations that are fixated on authority and determine current Islamic fundamentalism in deeply religious groups, such as Christians and Jews. It creates a wrong picture when you only find fault with Muslims. (In this spirit, we refer Jyllands Posten as well as other one-sided critics of Islam to the caricature illustrated below and entitled, "prehistoric museum“. This is printed below and on behalf of the Giordano Bruno Foundation). By the way, there is no fear that some bigger newspaper will print this caricature.

Global booming fundamentalism is not least an expression of serious political, economic and social evils in the world. Western politics should try to remedy these shortcomings, instead of sacrificing the principles of the Enlightenment on the altar of a short-sighted diplomacy. The latter would be missed only because fundamentalists tend to interpret every concession made by their ideological enemy as a sign of supremacy of their own belief system.

Everyone, who feels attached to the values of Humanism and Enlightenment, should take heart to come clean publicly. It is time to give people a piece of one’s mind, especially with respect to religion. We must no longer avoid formulating explicitly what we stand and fight for. The continuation of the project of enlightenment not only needs intelligent minds but also those who can walk proud.

Die deutsche Version der Petition finden Sie hier


Dr. Michael Schmidt-Salomon (V.i.S.d.P)
Giordano Bruno Stiftung