Dear Friends, Freethinkers,
I am honoured and pleased to be today in Oslo among founders of the International Association of Free Thought. My mandate was given to me by several Polish organizations, including the Polish Rationalist Association, the K. Lyszczynski Association of Free Thinkers and the Polish Association of Atheists who have all unanimously approved the draft of the Freedom of Conscience Manifesto. This is a very encouraging sign proving that the ideas of the Manifesto are powerful and able to gather around them a movement hitherto dispersed and disunited in my country. They have assembled in this hall the free thinkers from several countries. It was high time to do so, taking into consideration the unprecedented offensive of the religious fundamentalism of all stripes.
Among the ideas that unite us, one is the most important and it opens the Manifesto: Humankind was born free.
The right to think freely, freedom of conscience is the precondition for all other freedoms, for all other human rights even the most basic ones. Man can suffer from hunger and still remain a human being. Deprived of conscience, Man becomes an animal. Freedom of conscience implies the free inquiry of each idea, critical thinking of any established truth, the rejection of any dogma, starting with the religious one that feeds obscurantism and fanaticism.
One would think that the Enlightenment and the centuries that followed it, marked by the great success of science, have crushed religions ("ecraser l’infame") along with religious wars, their hatred of progress and freedom. But we learn, alas! that in the 21st century the sound of bells and the muezzins or cantors chants continue their efforts to mute the voice of freedom of conscience. In fact, they will simply accompany the much more discreet sound: the rustle of money. Because, contrary to their statements, it is the interests of the rich that religious institutions have been representing for centuries. Today it is not different. It is not by chance that under the rule of neoliberal dogma, conservative political forces have allied with churches to protect the interests of capital. If humanity is to continue its path toward freedom, it must face the sacrosanct tripartite alliance of the throne, the altar and the stock market.
Nature has created neither titles, nor religions, nor Churches, nor censorship or property. Gods, Churches, superstitions are no more than human artefacts. What mankind has done, it can undo.
I am here also as a feminist, representing at least that part of this movement, which openly and strongly condemns the oppression and discrimination of women by religions. Misogynist and patriarchal, religions deprive women of their human rights, including the right of woman to freely dispose of her own body, or they grant women the status of a half-human being only. This is not the time, nor place to present the struggle, still unfinished, of women for their freedom, their emancipation and equality. But it would still be worthy to recall that women often massively participated in the liberation movements and then they have been sent back to the kitchen, be it the case of the French Revolution or of many other revolutions and movements, e.g. in Algeria, Iran or Poland. Without ensuring equal freedom to half of humankind, we cannot dream of a free humankind. So, I would say: Humankind — men and women — was born free.
I come from Poland, an undisputed leader in the field of clericalization of life, which within 20 years has managed to change a State atheism into a religious state. Poland, crucified today, starting with the so-called parliamentary cross and ending with a cross in all the nurseries, with the ban on abortion, the offense against religious feelings, catechism at public school and the church being the largest landowner - prove that atheism and free thought cannot be imposed by public force. Reason is the only force that can do so.
Freedom of conscience as any freedom can be claimed in the streets but it arises in the head. It’s in the heads of people that reason can overcome ignorance, science can overcome obscurantism, free inquiry can overcome dogma. It is in the heads that we have to win the battle for freedom of conscience as a precondition for human emancipation.
Still more conscience, more light!