Every other dinner party or so, someone brings up a broad topic that one way or another ends up with me defending my often ultra liberal ideals and anti-theism. I am somewhat of a Libertarian, and what you believe in and do yourself, is completely your business and OK with me as long as you’re not forcing it on anyone else or actually hurting someone (offending someone doesn’t count as hurting).
One recurring theme I revile is the arrogant elitism many of my debaters have. An hour or so into the conversation, my experienced and fact-checked rebuttals and anecdotes make it hard for anyone to really stand by institutional religions, and in a last-ditch effort, they say “but without religion, the average people will go crazy. Who can control them? What will stop it from going to total chaos?” and some even take it up a notch, trying to flatter me with “You’re smart, you don’t need religion, but most people do.”
Scoffs are usually my initial reaction, because the above truly upsets me. I was a stupid child. I didn’t even grasp the phenomenon of numbers properly till I was in 6th grade, and thought that if the numbers on each side of a decimal point were identical, means that it’s a good grade on my report card. I was an avid believer in the Catholic Church’s teachings, and even had a brief stint with Opus Dei. I grew up thinking Charles Darwin was a demon, because my 5th grade Maths teacher said that once in class. It wasn’t till many years later that I actually read Darwin’s books, and realized that if I ever chose an idol or hero, it would most definitely be him.
So, technically, I was really stupid. I was one of those “normal people” who elitist conservatives think “would go crazy and chaotic without the religious influence.” If I hadn’t had access to the necessary books, I probably would still be that conservative, complacent person. If the censorship of theories like the Big Bang and Natural Selection had actually worked, I wouldn’t be a biologist on my way to master in behavioral neuroscience. If the censorship of books that cast doubt on faith, even if fictitious, like Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code, actually worked, I would have never discovered the man who has become one of my favorite novelists.
I feel cheated, because I grew up a victim of censorship. I also feel angry and betrayed, for the people one would usually trust, such as clergymen and officers of the law, are actually insecure and manipulative elitists that think they know what’s best for you and me. But I am happy today that with the prospects of the Internet and duty-free shops, whatever the General Security and Church/Mosque do, is useless, and makes you go “Awwww, how cute!” at their Dark Ages-style method of crowd control.
Today, via my blog and the talks I give to young people all across the country, I try to fill the gaps censorship has torn in people’s minds. Give people the necessary information, and let them decide. Who are you to look down upon others and assume they aren’t worthy of the knowledge you possess? To assume their decisions will be the wrong ones? Heck, who are you to even decide if it’s the wrong decision?
EVERYONE deserves to know everything, and absolutely no one has the right to dictate what anyone else can read, write, watch, listen, say or think. Stop being an elitist, give people a chance, and stop flattering yourselves.
A print version of this article appeared in Issue 2 of MARCH’s FREE Newsletter distributed all over Lebanese campuses. A web version of the newsletter is available here.