What if Richard Dawkins, in a public lecture in Singapore, had said exactly what Pastor Rony Tan had said about reincarnation, karma, and Buddhism? What if it made its rounds in cyberspace and YouTube? Would the Internal Security Department have given him a phone call? Would he have transgressed the The Maintenance of Religious Harmony Act (1992)?
Restraining orders against officials or members of religious group or institution
8. —(1) The Minister may make a restraining order against any priest, monk, pastor, imam, elder, office-bearer or any other person who is in a position of authority in any religious group or institution or any member thereof for the purposes specified in subsection (2) where the Minister is satisfied that that person has committed or is attempting to commit any of the following acts:
(a) causing feelings of enmity, hatred, ill-will or hostility between different religious groups;
(b) carrying out activities to promote a political cause, or a cause of any political party while, or under the guise of, propagating or practising any religious belief;
(c) carrying out subversive activities under the guise of propagating or practising any religious belief; or
(d) exciting disaffection against the President or the Government while, or under the guise of, propagating or practising any religious belief.
The answer would be in the negative because he is not “in a position of authority in any religious group or institution or any member thereof” unless Atheism has become a new religion of the masses. Would he be liable by law to any other charge from the Singapore law code?
And what if he had said something incendiary about Christianity like what he wrote in his book:
“”The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction: jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully.”
Will he draw angry knee jerk reactions from red-faced Christians? I am sure there are those who will give him an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. The majority will just shrug it aside. Some would invite him to a debate. Which was what happened and you can watch it in Richard Dawkins-John Lennox Debate. It is wonderful when intelligent civil discussions can take place in a meaningful way over controversial, volatile issues.
Hopefully one day the issues raised by the Pastor Rony Tan’s webcast on Buddhism and homosexuality can be intellectually dissected and discussed and everybody, Christians and Buddhists and gays, can get enlightened in the process, or at least have their say.