I’ve talked about how religion steps on free speech to serve its own ends in society, but that’s not an entirely fair charge. It is not only religion that does this. As I mentioned a couple weeks back, sometimes a non-religious agency will do the same thing. It seems to be the nature of those in power to try and shut out any dissenting voices. The societies that are the most stable are those where honest disagreement is allowed, and that the excesses of the governing party can be exposed to the public. This serves the dual simultaneous purpose of forcing the leaders to be less corrupt, and of informing the populace so that corrupt leaders can be democratically removed.
Any time free speech is abrogated, you can pretty much guarantee that there’s some shady shit going down behind the scenes. It is for this reason that I am afraid of China:
A Surrey-based reporter says China’s Ministry of State Security is threatening his family, life and livelihood for his critical coverage of the Chinese government… some of [Tao Wang’s] reports have been critical of the Chinese government and its practices. NTDTV is one of the few networks with dissenting views that broadcasts in the Communist nation. He said the threatening phone calls began a month ago and have become increasingly harsh, escalating to the point of death threats.
Mr. Tao reports for the Falun Gong station NTDTV. For those of you who don’t know, Falun Gong is a pseudo-religious group in China that has been the subject of a targeted government crackdown. The Chinese government has identified practitioners as cult members whose activities undermine the social and economic progress of China. The idea of punishing someone for their beliefs should be immediately chilling to those of us in the secular movement, as it is precisely the same activity taken by theocratic fascist regimes against those who do not believe. Religious heterodoxy is a crime in China, which completely invalidates any claims it might make to being a progressive secular state.
So while I am not a fan of religion, I stand by my commitments that any country that wishes to model long-term secular values has to guarantee freedom of thought and expression to all people. We can neither favour nor be prejudiced against people based on their belief.
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While I agree with what you say (and will defend your right to say it!), I do question whether this statement is actually true, or if we just want it to be: “The societies that are the most stable are those where honest disagreement is allowed.”
Many empires survived thousands of years with little challenge (Roman, Greek, Huns, Egyptians, etc) and varying levels of “honest disagreement” (is Fox news “dishonest disagreement”). Even today Cuba and China are very stable dictatorships which allow very little dissent.
By comparison, governments are often easily brought down when the truth gets out about what they’re actually doing.
I’m sure there’s some data out there on the interwebs (although again correlation != causation), but I’m sceptical.
That’s true. The society described in 1984 is basically inert, that’s how stable it is. I just wouldn’t want to live in it.
I don’t believe that any of the societies that you listed survived for “thousands” of years.
Furthermore, I don’t consider a society ‘stable’ if it has to periodically quell rebellions and revolts (i.e. the only possible expression of dissent is a violent one).
Granted: there will always be those who consider their only viable outlet to be violent, but typically (taking the gunpowder plot and the Unabomber as exemplars) they are behaving violently not because the gov’t refuses to *hear* them, but because the gov’t refuses to act on what they say.
None of your examples can say the same (to the best of my knowledge).