I wish everyone I know would watch this video by Penn Jillette. It opens on a silly note, but then gets into some very important points. He talks about atheists from Muslim countries who are stuck between the hostility of their own culture and Americans who hate them as “Muslims.” He distinguishes strongly between regarding an idea as wrong and hating the people who hold it.
That last point is central to liberalism. I should go through the standard explanation that I’m reclaiming the term from the people who appropriated it to mean massive governmental authority, but it gets repetitious. I’ll just link here and note that my liberalism is the opposite of what’s now more honestly called progressivism. You can “progress” toward anything, whether it’s desirable or not.
It’s not just the people who rage against Muslims who need to be more liberal. It’s also a lot of people whom I know. It’s people who think it’s OK to call people they disagree with Nazis but berate the ones who object to such insults. It’s those who demand that I denounce everyone in loose coalitions because a few are loose cannons. It’s the ones who claim free speech doesn’t include “hate speech,” defined as speech they hate. It’s the people who want to silence all expression that offends them, including mockery of that attitude.
Penn isn’t the most philosophically rigorous of libertarians and atheists, and his style sometimes gets on my nerves. But at his best, he presents a wonderful sense of benevolence, and he reminds us that we should try to get along even with people we seriously disagree with. He points out that with few exceptions, they aren’t bad people. This video is Penn Jillette at his best. Skip to 1:25 if you don’t like the comedy at the start.