Pope Francis, Freedom Is My Religion

EspañolOn Thursday, January 15, the Catholic Church’s highest authority commented on the Paris terrorist attacks. Pope Francis said that while freedom of speech is a “fundamental human right,” it should have its limits and not be used to offend. He added: “You cannot provoke people, or insult other people’s faith. You can’t make fun of someone’s faith. You just can’t.”

Pope Francis's comments on the Paris terrorist attack ignore the Bible's commandment to "turn the other cheek."
Pope Francis’s comments on the Paris terrorist attack ignore the Bible’s commandment to “turn the other cheek.” (Taringa)

Moreover, he said “it is true one cannot react violently,” but that it’s “normal” for people to react to certain provocations. He even gave an example: “If Dr. Gasbarri [Vatican official in charge of the pope’s travels], a great friend of mine, curses my mother, he should expect a punch. It’s normal!” the pope exclaimed, apparently without realizing what he’d just said.

I don’t quite agree with the pope’s statements. Truth is, an ideal society where no one is ever offended does not exist, and will never exist. A perfect society can’t exist because humans aren’t perfect.

There are as many varying definitions of happiness in this world as there are individuals, and the same goes for our perception. What may be considered an insult to one may be humorous to another, and completely irrelevant to someone else. That’s just how human beings are.

Whether or not a person believes in a particular religion is simply an individual choice, not unlike the choice to cheer for a particular soccer team, adopt a certain political ideology, hobby, or sexual preference.

These decisions can be shared by others, but we cannot expect the whole world to approve of them. This is where tolerance comes in.

What is the limit of tolerance? The answer is simple: aggression. I can do whatever I want so long as I do not harm others. That is my right as an individual, and yours as well. Anyone can say I’m good, or evil, mock me, or congratulate me. Their only limit is aggression.

Any ideology, religion, or person can and should be criticized by any means that do not involve violence.

I’d like to say to my countryman, Pope Francis, that I too have a religion. My religion is freedom, and it has been tolerated by neither terrorists in Paris, fundamentalists in the Middle East and Africa, revolutionaries in Latin America, nor authoritarian governments around the world.

We’ve come a long way as a civilization, and the vast majority of us do not kill each other over verbal disputes. We should not turn our backs on that progress.

The only we all get to practice whatever religion we want, express ourselves freely, or choose our own path toward happiness, is through freedom. Let’s defend our freedom, instead of making excuses for murderers.

Francis, you are one of our most important global leaders, and so I ask you — I beg you — defend freedom at all costs. After all, it’s what makes us human.

Translation by Daniel Duarte.

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