THE BLOG

Dangerous ideas

04/08/2008 04:42 pm ET | Updated Nov 17, 2011

My lovely friend Pamela (of Frogblog fame) brought this item from Illinois to my attention.

"Rep. Monique Davis (D-Chicago) interrupted atheist activist Rob Sherman during his testimony Wednesday afternoon before the House State Government Administration Committee in Springfield and told him, "What you have to spew and spread is extremely dangerous . . . it's dangerous for our children to even know that your philosophy exists!" "This is the Land of Lincoln where people believe in God," Davis said. "Get out of that seat . . . You have no right to be here! We believe in something. You believe in destroying! You believe in destroying what this state was built upon.""

Eric Zorn who wrote about this in the Chicago Tribune noted wryly "Apparently it's still open season on some views of God". He also noted that apart from on his blog "Davis' repellent, un-American outburst received no attention whatsoever"".

Now this is all fine, and I had the reaction that Eric had and that Pam knew I would have to the item (and to another one about Monsanto's activities, but that is another story), yet another example of the intolerance of the religious believer. But on second reading the thing that jumped out at me was the phrase "it's dangerous for our children to even know that your philosophy exists". It didn't take long before I knew why this seemed so familiar. It is the attitude of the Saudi Arabian authorities to Christian converts and missionaries - kill them, jail them. It is the attitude of the North Korean or Pol Pot governments to any dissent from the party line. It is the attitude of Catholic authorities towards any heresy. The attitude of Hitler towards communists. The attitude of Stalin towards private entrepeneurs. The attitude of the French revolutionary government towards any deviation. The attitude of Joe McCarthy on HUAC. The attitude of creationists to evolution (that dangerous idea).

And it is the current attitude of the US government towards Cuba and Venezuela and Nicaragua. In all cases the approach by political, economic and religious fundamentalists is not simply to claim that their way is the best. Not simply to think that people will choose their way because of its demonstrated superiority. Not simply to engage in a free market place of ideas. Not simply to debate, to allow free discussion which evolves towards either a consensus or a diversity. No, the opposing view must be prevented from existing, indeed it must never have existed, must be declared an un-idea, expunged from history books, photoshopped out of photos. Children prevented from learning that there are alternative religions, and indeed an alternative non-religion. The public must not be allowed to know that there are alternative economic philosophies to unregulated capitalism.

A strange view of democracy to be held by a Democrat.

But not a strange view to be held by someone so uncertain of the validity of her own beliefs that she does not want to know, does not want it to be known, that any other belief is even possible.

The Watermelon Blog explores all kinds of ideas and has no intention of testifying before the House State Government Administration Committee in Springfield.