“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech … .”
— The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
The right of free expression is fundamental in America. We are allowed to say almost anything without criminal recriminations. I can call the president any number of derogatory terms, I can call out the leader of the Republican Party, and the only thing that can be done to me is a civil lawsuit for monetary damages if what I say is determined to be defamatory and false.
We have almost no limits on free speech, wisely so I think, as the best way to ensure that we do not become a fascist dictatorship.
I think it is crucial that all people have the right to say what is on their mind and to be able to tear apart an idea and see if there is truth in it. Truth of course is a slippery thing.
You wouldn’t think so. By its definition it should be an easily discernible fact. Truth should be something that we can objectively identify, quantify and test for constancy. In many ways that is the goal of defining something as “the truth.” However, our perceptions can be deceived. We all view the world with a set of prior experiences. Those experiences color and alter what we are seeing.
It’s like when you are sunglass shopping. You try on several pairs of glasses, the yellow lenses, the Blublockers, the red-hued lenses and the smoky ones. Each set of glasses alters what you are seeing. At first you are very aware of the difference between your naked eyes’ view of the world, and the change that occurs when you have a set of glasses on.
But over time, usually a very short period of time, your brain adjusts to the colorized view of the world. It begins to compensate for the filter and brings the colors back into line with what you know to be the “true” colors.
This was my experience with observing one of the proselytizers on the Third Street Promenade. I am fascinated by this one guy. It doesn’t hurt that he’s really cute, but it’s his shtick that got me.
His name is Louis, and his organization is TruthDefenders.com. He shows up with his shroud covered mannequin, Lazarus, and several poster boards with various statements against multiple religions. There’s a screen, upon which he projects various PowerPoint presentations on why the Qu’ran is wrong, why evolution is a joke, etc. He has an open microphone and wants people to come make statements or ask him questions and then he, very politely, tells them how wrong they are, how right he is and how they are ignorant of the truth. All of this, by the way, is apparently videotaped. I’m not sure why.
I have not engaged with Louis, yet. I have spent six weeks just watching him and the small band of merry men who accompany him. There are a few regulars who appear to do battle with him on the topics of the day, one of whom brings his own video camera to tape Louis’ responses.
Doing battle with someone over interpretations of the Bible, the Qu’ran or any other religious text is about as exciting to me as trying to mow the grass at Dodgers Stadium with a toenail clipper.
But what got me, and what I couldn’t see at first, was that he isn’t actually defending anything. He’s attacking Islam, Buddhism, Judaism, Bahai, all other world views that don’t align with his narrow view of what the Bible stands for.
To be fair, I haven’t approached him to discuss any article of faith because I don’t want to engage him on what Jesus says, or what the Qu’ran means. I don’t believe you can argue against someone’s faith. I intend to engage him on why he must be so denigrating to other religions. For example, one of the pictures he puts up is the Qu’ran as a roll of toilet paper. Another is of a Qu’ran being burned.
He has the right to do what he wants, and say what he pleases, but I’m curious if his goal is to be informative or inflammatory — but I think I know the answer.
David Pisarra is a divorce attorney who specializes in father’s rights and men’s issues with the firm of Pisarra & Grist in Santa Monica. He is the author of the upcoming, “A Man’s Guide To Child Custody.” You can pre-order the book by e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org or (310) 664-9969.