I've been meaning to get my thoughts out about this issue for quite some time but I never had anywhere to put them. I figured I might as well put them here.
In my introduction post on this site I talked a little bit about the religious situation in my home country, Norway. You'll never really get the whole story by looking at statistics, but I can say quite certainly, speaking from personal experience, that Norway is not a very religious country. Norwegians are, however, extremely careful when talking about religion.
Earlier this month, Norwegian author Håvard Rem published a speech (Only in Norwegian, I'm afraid) he had written for secular youth undergoing the coming-of-age ritual this year (sort of like a secular confirmation), entitled "It's okay to hate". In his speech he talked about how the secular youth in Norway should not feel afraid of criticising religion, of asking questions and "hating" faith. "Hate" is a word that sounds ugly and intolerant, and naturally, Rem faced the backlash of a nation too afraid to offend. The president of The Norwegian Humanist Association released a comment (again, only in Norwegian... :/) disapproving of Rem's speech, calling it inappropriate, saying that criticism of other world views is not accepted in these kind of speeches. The president of The Norwegian Humanist Association. When even she seems to disapprove of encouraging free thinking and the questioning of other beliefs, who can we count on for support?
Rem might have been a bit harsh in his wording, but even though he uses the word, his message was never one of hate. He enlightens an issue that is largely ignored in Norwegian society today, finding the courage to stand up and criticise when we disapprove of something. We shouldn't be afraid of "offending" religious people when defending our stance, because it's important to raise questions. Religious people aren't made of glass, and if they can't take a little criticism then maybe they aren't as confident in their beliefs as they think. It's okay to get angry when people try to shove their religious beliefs in your face. It's okay to get angry when a negative side to religion is glossed over. Why shouldn't it be? Is religion somehow protected against criticism?
I fully agree with Rem, and applaud him for being one of the few merciless voices against religion on Norway today. Too many of us try desperately to be open minded and respectful, thinking that religion is off limits. We don't think about the consequences of religion because we are too blinded with tolerance to really see them. We CAN criticise, and we should.