15.1.15

I really appreciate...


What I now will write is perhaps self-evident, but I say it anyhow. It's somehow, vaguely, an introduction to the "real post" which will follow.

Normally, this blog is not about religions, politics... But, for once and with what has happened here recently, I would like to take the opportunity to say how happy I am to live in a free, secular, country like France, more particularly in Paris, La Ville Lumière / The City of Lights...

The secularism, "laïcité" in French, the separation of religion and state, is for me something which in today's world should be obvious. This involves acceptance of all religions, but none being compulsory. Few states (and religions) have until now accepted this, fully or even partly! However, "laïcité" is a must for democracy!!

There are still strong religious feelings in some French communities. What these communities and their members must learn and accept is that such feelings are private, individual, and especially - their own beliefs must not be imposed upon others. Here, in France, we live together in a democratic state, not under any particular religion. It's all about the defense of secularism and at the same time a struggle against religious fanaticism, of any religion. This includes of course the right to be non-religious!

Also, and again more generally speaking, I believe it's time - and the"Charlie Hebdo" event may hopefully give the push - for some religious leaders to do some self-appraisal and seriously consider the meaning of tolerance and the need to adapt to today's society! A complication is of course that Islam is split and has no clear leader, no "pope" or "archbishop" who speaks for the entire religion. 

... and I would like to recommend them - and others -  a re-reading of Voltaire's "Treatise on Tolerance" (1763).

   



"The free communication of ideas and opinions is one of the most precious of the rights of man." (Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen)



"Imagine... You may say I'm a dreamer, But I'm not the only one, I hope some day you will join us, And the world will live as one." (John Lennon)





Maybe nothing to directly do with this, but...

Something I really appreciate with the city - and the street where I live - is that, turning to the right or to the left when I go out, I will within a minute or two reach everything I need to survive … and a bit more:

I can find uncensored books, newspapers, magazines... I can find food from all countries... I will meet people of all origins... 

This is what the street looks like in the evening. Many shops remain open till late, not neglecting the bars and restaurants. 





50 comments:

[G@ttoGiallo] said...

Gosh, I positively agree with this!

French Girl in Seattle said...

Well done Peter, the adopted Parisian! Your love of the City of Light shines through. :-) I am with you all the way, especially now that I am an expat in the US. Loved all your photos of the beautiful windows. Veronique (French Girl in Seattle)

Unknown said...

I appreciate your blog and the suffering of Paris and France this past week. I live in NYC and was a block away from the WTC when the first plane hit, so I have also felt terrorism.

However, I would say that your post rings many false notes to this believer. Stating that my religious beliefs should remain private and individual is a means of silencing me. I don't separate my beliefs from my actions, just as your political beliefs are likely put into action, or your beliefs on community or public art are.

Beliefs of all kinds have a place in a democracy and we are well served in being truly tolerant and not just accepting of those that make us feel OK (e.g. non-religious beliefs that conform with ours). You seem to be caricaturing believers as intolerant and wanting to impose on them your brand of tolerance. Why do I have to follow this when others push all sorts of beliefs into the public sphere all the time. Why is my belief in God less valid to speak about (and try and convince others of) than the latest diet or political candidate others believe in?

Also, tolerance and goodwill are not values the Charlie Hebdo writers seem to have placed a lot of stock in. Especially in France where minorities feel alienated, why push people to feel mocked and less included? Can French democracy not accept being truly multi-cultural?

Julie said...

The previous commenter has many lines of thought worth considering. They would be more worthy, though, if they had a real name (or even non-de-plume attached to them. Somewhere I could go to see what else this commenter may have to offer me.

Unknown said...

Ms. Julie:

I have no blog, but enjoy Peter's blog and photos.

NYCEmigrant

Peter Olson said...

Dear "unknown":
Of course you must be able to express your religious feelings, if you have some. Of course you can wish to persuade others to follow your beliefs and must feel free to do so, but not impose them by threat (or worse). What I also wished to say is that religions (all of them) must adapt to today’s society. All religions have been modified during the centuries – some more than others. They must do so also today. Would we like to live with Christianity as it was during the inquisition days?

Julie said...

Here, in Australia, we live accordingly by the tenets of liberty, equality, and fraternity, even though we do not have a Bill of Rights. We have a constitution, but it does not address the sphere of the individual, rather concentrating upon the various states of this continent whcih came together as a commonwealth in 1901.

We came to LEF by osmosis, by our tendency to being "laid-back" and "she'll be right". In our constitution, however, there are links back to the Westminster system, from which our social mores flowed. So there is a firm foundation of the separation of powers, of church, of justice, and of state.

I am a non-believer in any form of religion. I am a firm believer in equality. I am a "contingent" believer in freedom. I believe that speech would be better if it were true. I believe religion would be better if it were not proselytized. I believe politics would be better if it were not co-opted by those with money. I believe society would be "better" if taxes were filtered down to those who came into the world with significant disadvantage, be it lack of a home-life, poor edication, or a disability.

I admire Peter's post, whilst acknowledging that he resides in a small part of Paris, that does not necessarily represent the majority of Parisians.

I live like wise in Sydney Australia. I live in a well-educated, upper-middle class suburb, the likes of which the vast majority of citizens will never know. Perhaps, they do not want to know.

Unknown said...

Peter:

Most religious people in France and elsewhere do nothing violent to impose their beliefs on others. That shorthand is a caricature and an easy shorthand for prejudice and dismissal of the beliefs of others.

While I love France and Paris in particular, the unthinking conformity of the society leaves a lot to be desired. So much conformity under the guise of "pas normal." I can see where religious people in general and religious minorities especially would feel alienated by a society that professes acceptance, but only accepts a narrow range of beliefs and actions in reality. Place on top of that open scorn and misunderstanding of people's deepest beliefs and it's not a great situation, not tolerance or understanding in the deepest sense of the word.

Marginalizing communities is a powder keg as Ferguson, MO shows us. Last week should bring that discussion into the open, not tired allusions to a new Inquisition.

Unknown said...

Julie:

"I believe religion would be better if it were not proselytized."

Well, good on ya' as the saying goes (I love Oz, as well). Why is religion so singled out in this manner by people who are educated and otherwise "tolerant"? We all proselytize all the time, for diets, political candidates, TV shows. Facebook would be dead without this activity.

I do it to and more often about a new book or a new author more than the awe, mystery and deep comfort that I find in my faith. Why is the religious part of my life off limits in a tolerant society? Why do we not want to hear what motivates and moves people at their deepest level? As a religious person, I love hearing about this from believers across all spectrums. It is such a deeply human thing to lock away or hide.

I weighed in today because I see people profess that tolerance is really just freedom from religion--something that is not part of polite society or your social circles. Where America's legacy is helpful is to see that our Constitution allows both freedom from a state religion and freedom of religion--the ability to live this actively in society. Both are needed and both enrich society. Is France only embracing the first?

Peter Olson said...

Julie: Thanks for these long comments! I think I would agree to almost all of what you say, very close to my own way of thinking. Just one detail about "my" street: It's in an area which is something in between, neither the most fashionable, neither what Fox News refer to as "no-go-zones".

Anonymous: I believe we are getting closer to each other in our thoughts here. I didn't mean that the most people try to impose their beliefs. In reality, very few people are really religious, Christians or Muslims or ... But there are some minorities with very strong feelings, indoctrinated, who believe that they are the only ones who are right. This is where I feel that some real religious leaders (if they exist) have an important role to play.

Unknown said...

Peter:

I honestly think you underestimate what religion is and what role it plays in people's lives if you think that few people hold religious beliefs or a minority is indoctrinated. That is so dismissive of the deepest parts of my experience and who I am.

I can understand that you may not have faith or don't know others who do. I would think that this is a problem in France as a whole as people think they can cast on to others what their experiences are and what those experiences mean to them. Perhaps listening in good faith to why people hold their beliefs is a good place to start instead of putting those beliefs in a box to shunt aside.

My spiritual and religious beliefs are not a matter of indoctrination so much as a lens that I think fits reality the best. These are more deeply seated in me than any belief I have about politics or how society should work. I am asking that you not be dismissive of me or others like me.

Kate said...

I am having problems leaving my comments on your blog, Peter.

Peter Olson said...

Dear Anonymous, Be sure that I respect people with religious beliefs and everybody has the right to believe what they want. Now, when it comes the role it plays in people's lives - talking about France already, I don't have any percentage figures right available, but the firm believers are very few today. Then there are some who are very very firm and believe that they are the only ones who know the truth. That's where we may have a problem.
Once more, I'm happy to have your comments here, even if we still may have some differences in our way of thinking! :-)

Peter Olson said...

Kate: You are not a "robot", are you? :-) Hope you will manage!
I think that the robot check is needed. I had several hundred spams per day...

Jane Hards Photography said...

As someone who lives elsewhere now, than there place of birth I understand how you can adore a place you make home. Often more so than those born there. Your love of this city always shines through your words and images. As the partner of a cartoonist who often has to take a step back and lampoon through art, the world I appreciate your thoughts on the subject of religion and government. Excellent article, personal, yet far reaching. wise words from you

Jane Hards Photography said...

Excuse typos, it's been a long week.

Jeanie said...

Bravo, Peter. You could not have stated it better. Your passion and love of Paris shines through and your feelings are spot on. And, I confer it was fun to get a look at the street where you live! Thank you for saying something it is so very important to hear these days.

Julie said...

Unknown:

Thank you for your thought and comments here. I value hearing them, even when I disagree.

I use the word "proselytize" in one of its many denotations. Rather than advocating or promoting a belief, I use proselytize when the speaker attempts to convert the listener, rather than just advocate their own belief systems. I enjoy (!) hearing people support their faith, but it is when they cross the Rubicon to "conversion" that I take a step back. I accept that you, and others, have a great and abiding faith in something that mystifies me. It is when people with faith insist that it is based on an empirical reality that I become intolerant.

I support freedom from religion where the state is involved, because that is the only way to support tolerance. I cannot tolerate a Jew or a Muslim, a Hindu, or a Buddhist, if my state is inter-twined with Christianity. I support freedom OF religion, but that does not mean that I support relious actions within a non-sectarian state. Freedom OF religion for mine, is the freedom to have faith and to have belief, but not to impose them upon others who may disagree, or to subsume to your faith a paramountcy within the state.

Studio at the Farm said...

Peter, I couldn't agree with you more!!! Religious belief is a personal and private matter, not to be imposed on others. Bravo to you for writing this post!!!
Kathryn

French Girl in Seattle said...

Dear Peter. I am leaving a second comment. Could not resist. PLEASE reassure me and let me know that you don't live in one of Paris' "No-Go zones?" ;-) Nothing is more entertaining when you live abroad than listening to would-be experts who know nothing about your homeland and still spew their venom about it (Maybe the TV news channel that shall not be named should hire you as a Paris correspondent next?) Watch this if you have not already. ;-) http://www.liveleak.com/view?i=28b_1421201170
Veronique (French Girl in Seattle)

Thérèse said...

J'adhere surtout a une de tes phrases:
"the meaning of tolerance and the need to adapt to today's society!" tous cotes confondus dans une societe occidentale qu'il ne faut pas renier.

The Sabbatical Chef said...

Very well said, Peter! Merci.

Synne said...

You are pointing to some of my favourite things about Paris and France. The variation and secular values of the society should give room for everybody. Peace will prevail!

Lois said...

Wonderful post! Thank you.

Vagabonde said...

I totally agree with your post Peter, about Paris, about tolerance and laïcité. Having been brought up in Paris not far from where you now live I understand the diversity and beauty of this area, and miss it. I also read all the very interesting comments. Being from Paris it has been very difficult for me to live in the USA, and it still is, mostly because of the in-your-face religiosity. They say they have separation of church and state but it is not quite true and I could find many examples - having to swear on the Bible when taking a public office, saying prayers in government meetings, talking about religion when running for an election, etc. Another example, just yesterday I read in our local newspaper that the city was giving away their leftover state money to a “Christian ministry” instead of a secular charity – this happens all the time in Georgia. US Fundamentalist Christians constantly try to change public schools to their likings by censoring library books or placing Christian religious texts on public property, and stopping women’s rights (and closing abortion clinics.) In addition gay people would have had full legal rights years ago except for the attempt of Christian religious people to force their theological beliefs on the US nation. They have a great hold of the US. A little bit more secularism and less religion would help a lot.

Vagabonde said...

I just reread your post and say that I also totally agree with your phrase “laïcité” is a must for democracy!!” It is. This is why Paris has become a city loved internationally since the French revolution – which got rid of the nobility but also the strong hold of the Catholic church on the people. This is why almost 4 million people marched for freedom in France and many in other countries, too.

It is very difficult to speak with a practicing Christian American here because they cannot accept the fact that in a democratic, pluralistic society, they should keep their religion to themselves, at least in public. Here in West Cobb County, Georgia (New Gingrich’s county – a former US Speaker of the House and conservative Republican) people usually ask you, the first time you meet them or soon after “to which church do you belong?” About 87%+ of the people go to church every Sunday – compared to 4.5% of French going to church regularly, so it is quite a difference and of course, they cannot be as tolerant. A poll showed that most US citizens would rather elect a gay president than one without religion, like an agnostic or atheist. Trying to talk about religion here is pointless and this is why they do not have real free freedom of expression. Just a few miles where I live, where you can count at least a dozen or more Christian churches, Kennesaw citizens are protesting the right of Muslim people to create the first mosque. It is understood here that freedom of religion means freedom of the Christian religion and forget about the others or non-religious!

Alexa said...

Peter: In a word—amen! The things you love about France (and Paris in particular) are the same ones that make me want to live there again.

Virginia said...

Peter,
I too appreciate your frank and sensitive post. As you and I have had many discussions about our beliefs, although we differ on that, I think we both respect and accept each other's religious and non religious convictions. In the end we should all strive to live with each other in acceptance and try our best to live our lives in a way that honors our differences and similarities. I am a Christian but rather than trying to push my beliefs on others, I try as best I can to live my life as an example of my faith. In the last years, I have become more and more disappointed in the narrow minded and judgmental actions of many that profess to be Christians. Of course the same can be said of other religions as well. Thank you for opening your blog for this dialogue. V

JudyMac said...

Great words, Peter, and I totally agree with you, but as you can see, opening the table to a discussion about religion and/or politics is like opening Pandora's box. One must be prepared for both the best and worst to come flying out. I've always heard that there are two subjects one does not discuss in polite company (unless you know your company extremely well and have nerves of steel) and that is religion and politics. But your post is not out of line at all, not by any means. Keep up the good work!

Julie said...

There are three topics worthy of being discussed in public: religion, politics, and economics. The rest is mere chit-chat.

JudyMac said...

I will not take the bait!

Julie said...

That is a shame ...

Vagabonde said...

I second Julie’s comments – « There are three topics worthy of being discussed in public: religion, politics, and economics” Although my 3rd subject would be books instead of economics. In France these are good subjects to talk about but in the US, for some reason, they are not and it makes discussing pretty bland. They prefer to talk about spectator sports … One of the reasons, maybe, is that here people of different views do not discuss, they shout. I really enjoy reading people’s opinions on these subjects, which are such important subjects for citizens of the world to understand each other. Being polite and staying silent does not help understanding of all the different cultures.

Peter Olson said...

The more I read your different comments here, the more I'm happy that I did dare to talk about politics and religions. So nice to see that different opinions are expressed! Maybe economics soon? :-)

MadAboutParis said...

Merci Peter and an additional Merci for showing photos of your corner of Paris.
Extremism in ANY religion/belief system is complex but violence as a solution must be reckoned with.
May the memory of good people bless our days.

Karen said...

What a thoughtful and insightful post, Peter. I wish the comment section had a "Like" button so that I could "like" so many of the comments made about it.
Living in the US, I have many friends who insist that we are a "Christian" nation and will not be swayed by facts or logic. Nice to know that there are others who are more enlightened in this world if not in my little area of the world.
Like Vagabond, I'm in the south and part of "The Bible Belt" so it can be frustrating.

Cezar and Léia said...

Buongiorno Peter! Thanks for sharing this post! Great one!
Miss you my friend,
Hugs
Leia

Susan said...

Being a Christian and having read all the comments, I see one thing missing. The rule of law. Any religious or non religious person should be held accountable by law for the tragedy that took place in France. What about freedom of speech for religious people who want to share their faith because of the joy and peace it has brought them? Is that violent and against the law? No. If there are people who bother you by doing that, avoid them.

Rob said...

Thank you Peter, very good article and discusion. Everyone has their own political and religious
beliefs. To discus these beliefs opens the door to knowledge of each other and builds tolerance and acceptance. We have the right to speak freely. Yet there is a responsibility to not to force others into our beliefs.

A partial quote from Marcus Tullius Cicero (106-43 BC), ..."mistakes mankind keeps making century after century...Believing personal gain is made by crushing others...Attempting to compel others to believe and live as we do."

Peter Olson said...

Susan, Thanks for your comments. I see no contradiction with what you state and what most of us are claiming here and in the comments. Yes, we need laws, but shouldn’t they be established by a secular, democratic, state? One problem is today, still, that some countries, by law, allow only one political system, sometimes combined with only one – or no – religion. The freedom to speech should be there for everybody, religious or not, in political opposition or not and this, I believe, can only be made in a secular, democratic, state. However, laws should not allow you to express clear menace towards persons or groups of people, that’s different. I may not agree with all cartoons or statements in Charlie Hebdo, but I feel confident to say that they are quite in line with these principles, that’s why I think it’s important to defend what they represent. Maybe we must also take into account that a long time French tradition has been to make more “violent” cartoons than what would be tolerated in many other countries.

Julie said...

Peter

I spent an entire weekend at a secondhand book market down near the Parc Georges Brassens down in the 15th. I was astounded by all the marvellously old books full of cartoons of their time, that were straight to the point, and wasted no time going for the jugular when necessary. Charlie Hebdo is of that lineage.

Ruby said...

I am only just catching up on blogs and was sure to find a post on these sad events. I completely agree with what you say in this post.
The fundamental right that is basis of all other rights is freedom of speech. It should never be curbed or restricted. While it is everyone's right to practice whatever they believe, no one should impose their beliefs or lack of it on others.

I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.
- Voltaire
In these hard times, we must be united and vigilant and defeat terrorism. Cheers.

Richard said...

Very interesting responses. I'm not taking any sides, but I'm wondering what folk think of the decisions to ban Dieudonnee?

http://www.newyorker.com/news/news-desk/french-law-treats-dieudonne-charlie-hebdo-differently

Peter Olson said...

Richard: There should be a distinction between "attacking" faiths, beliefs, political opinions... and people or groups of people. There is a distinction in French and European laws. This is what makes the difference between the (so said) comedian D's different statements and Charlie Hebdo's cartoons.

Julie said...

As the artiucle points out, two different, quite old, laws in action.

Charlie Hebdo blasphemes a religion, but blasphemy has not been a crime since c. 1809. Dieudonnee makes racist and religionist remarks about the followers of religion, which is a crime against a law of the late 19th C.

One is fair comment, the other is incitement.

Anonymous said...


Hamlet: Act 1, Scene 3

And keep these few precepts in thy memory:
Give every man thy ear but few thy voice...hear everyone's opinion, but reserve your judgment...

But these precepts...of course...come from an Englishman...

Maria

Anonymous said...



We Americans know from day one that Fox News is a joke!
We always knew it's just a silly show, not to be taken seriously.
We Americans know that Fox News is extremist. In all countries there are people who say stupid things! I never understood why French tv or radio journalists would say that there are places in New York City and Los Angeles that resemble Iraq, Afghanistan...same if they are popular neighborhoods...

As the GREATEST country in the world, we do
have so many prestigious television news channels:
CBS , ABC, CNN...just to name a few.

Such a shame the French don't know this!

The American constitution guarantees freedom of expression. It is part of the fundamental laws of this country. This country gives its people the freedom to evaluate on their own what is valid and what is not.

Maria










Anonymous said...


And why are we so surprised that M. Peter likes his
neighborhood? The city where he chose to live?

His adopted country?
Wait a minute! Last I heard he
still seems to be a subject of the King of
Sweden?

As a person of good breeding he knows that
he has to honor the roof (the sky?) that shelters him!
If you make a living in a foreign country, would
you constantly criticized it, always making
comparisons with your country of birth?
As my father used to tease me: Do animals of pure breed bite the hand that feeds them? :o)

Peter Olson said...

Dear Maria,

Of course I know that there are some excellent US news channels. I hope I could be as convinced as you that all Americans know that that Fox News is extremist, badly documented... :-)

Anonymous said...


From Maria.

Dear Peter,

Of course they know! And yet some ( a lot) of them watch the show because they find it entertaining! Baby Boomers for example, just out of curiosity to hear which "disparate" they would come up with.

But Baby Boomers also watch Bill Maher's show. Mister Maher is a person who likes to do his homework, researching throughly before he faces his audience...
For example, last week he was telling us a certain facts in the accusations of Fox News about Birmingham. Is there a percentage of truth in the findings of his team's members?
His show is on YouTube for everybody to watch.

Americans, however, did not care to give a hoot in heaven :o) when they found out, a few years ago that a certain news chain in France said that certain areas of New York and Los Angeles looked like Afghanistan and Iraq. I wrote this in my comment in your blog. My entire French family told me about it. I wish I remember which channel's journalist spoke about this "disparate"
Perhaps it was called Nouvelles Renard?

Which nation should apologize first?
Which nation should sue first?

Why did we Americans chose not to create a brouhaha out of this affront?

Do you want to read something entertaining about Fox News? Suzanne Venker's theory of how women should stay home and depend solely on their husbands's salary?
The entire nation relished this piece of trash!

This show was two years ago......

http://www.slate.com/blogs/xx_factor/2013/12/10/suzanne_venker_goes_on_fox_news_to_argue_that_women_unlike_men_don_t_have.html