ACH Study Groups
Ben & Fran Gilmore – Cofounders
7659 Gingerblossom Drive
Citrus Heights, CA 95621
October 13, 2015
This is a letter to our friends –
"I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.”
[Evelyn Beatrice Hall (1868 – 1956), who wrote under the pseudonym S. G. Tallentyre, was an English writer best known for her biography, “The Life of Voltaire” She also wrote “The Friends of Voltaire”, where you will find the opening quote (above). Hall’s quotation is often cited to describe the principle of free speech.]
We think of “free speech” as a God-given liberty. Yet nothing exists without laws to govern it. “Do not shout ‘fire’ in a crowded theater.” “Do not misuse God’s name.” “Speak politely.”
“Liberty” is not a “license” to cause damage. Liberty is the right to my thoughts and opinions. If I cherish mine, I must defend yours, else ours will not be protected.
That does not say that all thoughts and opinions are equally valid or true. Truth is not subject to majority opinion! You have the right to be wrong.
To say that all speech is of equal value is to deny that absolutes exist. Can one be absolutely sure that absolutes don’t exist? Human nature is such that we like people to agree with us. We tend to avoid discussing opposing opinions. Other (annoying!) persons thrive on argument.
A true love for the truth requires that we discus opposing, or new views and opinions. Not to enhance self-esteem, but to increase in knowledge and wisdom. Some subjects are truly important. Like discussions of the nature and character of God. Does God exist?
In a small mostly Muslim village in Pakistan (1977), the village elders had come to visit. They were happy to discuss God. I pointed out that God is all powerful, all present, all knowing, eternal. They were in full agreement. When I added that God was forgiving, loving, merciful, patient, … the village elders remembered an appointment and had to rush off. Had they stayed, I might have used God’s creation to illustrate the true character of God. How He loves us and provides for all of us.
Some subjects seem important because of tradition or personal pride. “Discussion” degrades into “argument” over inconsequential things, like techniques of baptism, fish on Friday. We can agree to disagree without rancor.
I believe we are wrong to consider major differences equivalent (equal). Why should we be afraid to discuss the views of Protestants and Catholics, Christians and orthodox Jews (Note – There are Christian Jews), believers and unbelievers. The truth is out there. Both parties have a vested interest in discovering it. Human nature is what degrades discussion into argument where nothing is gained. Respect for one another’s views, opens the door for discussion among those willing to consider opposing opinions.