A contest of ideas

Quote from Rowan Atkinson

Quote from Rowan Atkinson

What I love so much about democracy and Freedom of Speech is that we can have an open and honest exchange of ideas. We can debate issues, we can question. We do not have to follow any doctrine blindly and unquestioningly.

Today we do not have to buy anything off the rack, we can customise it to suit us and the same goes with our belief systems.

One size does not fit all and so as we grow we listen and observe, we debate and we reason, constantly re evaluating the beliefs we hold dear. At least that is how it is for the women in my family. My mother was brought up a Catholic and now considers herself a Humanist.

Humanism is a philosophical and ethical stance that emphasizes the value and agency of human beings, individually and collectively, and generally prefers critical thinking and evidence (rationalism, empiricism) over established doctrine or faith (fideism).


I was brought up Catholic and now consider myself to be someone without a label. I really don’t care one way or the other if God exists as it makes no difference whatsoever to how I live my life. I value all the loving, caring, tolerant Christian principles and have made them mine. My choices in life have nothing to do with fear of Hell or hope of heaven.

My daughter who had Christian schooling for a couple of years is now an Atheist at the tender age of 16. We respect the decision that she has come to as she did not come to this decision lightly. She has a love of history and does not like what she has learned about religions part in wars or how God has been used as an excuse to persecute and kill others. She did not like her school’s teaching about homosexuals and neither did I. The biggest factor in influencing her thinking I think has been science. She is very good at science and could see that some of what she was being taught had a religious and not a logical basis and lacked evidence. She was not free to debate this lack of logic at the school and this unwillingness to defend their position on both religion and science lost them her respect. We respect debate in our home and think that it is healthy.

Atheism is usually defined incorrectly as a belief system. Atheism is not a disbelief in gods or a denial of gods; it is a lack of belief in gods. Older dictionaries define atheism as “a belief that there is no God.”


Any belief system that does not want to debate issues, that tells me that I must think a certain way without a compelling argument as to why their way is correct has no attraction to me or to my mother or daughter.

I do not have to agree with you in order to be able to see that you gain value and happiness from your belief system. I do not need to convert you to thinking like me because I know that my way is not the only way and nor should it be.

We should cherish the contest of ideas that we still have in most western countries and we should fight for our right to think differently and to question and to make our own decisions.

As Rowan Atkinson said, a law which says you can only debate ideas if they are not religious ideas, is a very strange law indeed.

It is certainly not the kind of law I would expect to see in a democracy.


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If you agree with me that’s nice, but what I really want to achieve is to make you question the status quo, look between the lines and do your own research. Do not be a passive observer in this game we call life.

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