To some Penn Jillette, the Las Vegas-based magician, is a celebrity. He has over a million followers on Twitter and he even has an show on the interwebs. So of course, with credentials like that, he is more than qualified to set the world straight in terms of what is wrong with it. On September 11, 2010, Penn Jillete posted the following tweet which was retweetn well over on hundred times…
Imagine no religion.
With all the discussion about terrorism, Ground Zero Mosque, September 11th, and the ongoing war, these three little words upset me the most. With statements like this, I don’t considere Penn Jillette anyone of high regard, I see only blindness and nativity in people that think like this. By no means am I a religious nut, or even religious for that matter, but I find extremely offensive the idead that all religions are mideval beliefs based on mythology with archaic rituals that are to blame for much of wars fought. Religion is not the cause of wars and strife and holocausts, the cause of such crimes are people. To be honest, much of the ethnic cleansing has been done in the name of progress by secular intellectuals, people not too unlike Penn Jillette, with his absolutism and answers to the worlds problems. If people don’t discriminate based on religion, the would based on their tax bracket, If people did not discriminate bases on skin color they would based on the size of their sex organs, if they didn’t discriminate based on religion try would on their choice of extra curricular activities. Yes, I could imagine a world with no religion but the death toll would not change, the towers would still have come down, we still would be fighting a war half the world away, and Penn Jillette would still be a pin head.
All rights, including freedom of speech, have limitations and building a mosque near Ground Zero is the architectural equivalent of yelling fire in a crowded building. All Americans have the right to practice their faith in the accordance with his or her believes but they do not the the right to impose said beliefs upon any other person. There have been numerous cases where an establish religious organization has tried to put a symbol of their faith in clear public view. In many situations, the religious symbols have been forcibly removed under court order. Issues not unlike this have already gone to the supreme court.
In 2009, the US Supreme Court heard a case about a cross put up to honor fallen veterans. In the middle of a desert, this cross stood to pay homage to our war dead, and someone was offended enough to take the issue to the Supreme Court.
Cases like this have come up in court before, even though there is a separation between church and state, it doesn’t mean that one can impose their believes on others and place religious symbols in public view. Freedom of Speech also does not guarantee you unlimited and unfiltered speech. The classic example of the limits of Freedom of Speech is that one can’t yell fire in a crowded building. Building a a mosque in the ashes of Ground Zero is the architectural equivalent of yelling, “In yo face, bitches.” Islam is not unique to building religious structures over the those of other peoples. There is little coincidence that the Dome of the Rock is built over looking the ruins of the Jewish sacred places. This is not unique to Islam, conquistadores in Mexico built much of their colonial cathedrals using the same building block used to house mesoamerican gods.
The wounds of September 11 will take a long time to heal and all that went though it should pray together not build apart. We should build bridges not walls, and if you think you are building a bridge make sure you block the view of the locals!
Lest we forget, peace be to all the peoples of the book, even those that got the abridge edition!