Freedom of Speech ≠ Freedom from Criticism:

A commenter on the Chris Hedges Calls for Suppression of "Radical Christian Right" Speech thread writes:

A little time spent at the local Big Box Bookstore showed me that Hedges is part of a larger group of authors. Here are some more titles that one can find simply by walking around in Barnes/Hastings/Borders:

"Religion gone bad: the hidden dangers of the Christian right"

"Piety & politics: the right-wing assault on religious freedom"

"Atheist universe: the thinking person's answer to Christian fundamentalism"

"Thy kingdom come: how the religious right distorts the faith and threatens America"

It appears that demonizing Christians is a well-funded activity, and that Hedges is hardly alone in his efforts. If there were a bunch of books in Big Box stores proclaiming the dangers of Judaism, Islam, or atheism, I'm sure it would be viewed with alarum by the self-appointed defenders of diversity.

But demonization of Christians is no problem, no big deal, no sweat. How very interesting.

Criticism does not equal censorship, and not all criticism is "demonizing." I haven't read the books, but given that the commenter is happy just to note the titles, let me respond to the titles: It's not only the exercise of free speech rights to complain about the perceived hidden dangers of the Christian right, but also — if done right — perfectly proper. Surely there are many things on which reasonable people can disagree with the Christian right, and even see the Christian right as dangerous. Likewise, they can conclude that it "threatens America," which is to say threatens certain values that the writer thinks (controversially, but not implausibly) are central to America as the writer conceives it, or that it jeopardizes "religious freedom." Again, perhaps some particular arguments to this effect may be unsound, unduly harsh, or even "demonizing." But nothing in the titles demonstrates this.

Moreover, two of the titles represent commonplace (albeit blunt) religious disagreement. Of course some people think "the religious right distorts the faith," just as some people think that liberation theology or for that matter Catholicism distorts true Christianity. That has been the substance of legitimate theological debate for centuries. Some of that has indeed reached the level of demonizing, but much is legitimate religious debate that is essential if one believes that the true meaning of the faith is an important theological question.

Likewise, of course atheists are entitled to claim that their position is "the thinking person's answer to Christian fundamentalism," just like much Christian argument claims to be "the thinking person's answer to atheism" or to non-Christian religion. Atheists believe Christianity is just plain wrong, and many see Christian fundamentalism is especially wrong, since fundamentalism tends to make more and more literal claims about supernatural events (something that atheists find particularly implausible) than does less fundamentalist belief. It's perfectly proper for them to argue that thinking people should reject this view. It may be a bit rude, if you interpret the title [plausibly] as suggesting that Christian fundamentalists are less proficient or less committed critical thinkers, but again it's far from Hedges' calls for censorships, or even from "demonizing."

Freedom of speech is not the same as freedom from criticism; unfortunately, both many on the left and many of the right often forget that.