Everybody’s a blasphemer

Q: Atheists are others are protesting a new law in Ireland, under which a person can be found guilty of … Continued

Q: Atheists are others are protesting a new law in Ireland, under which a person can be found guilty of blasphemy if “he or she publishes or utters matter that is grossly abusive or insulting in relation to matters held sacred by any religion, thereby causing outrage among a substantial number of the adherents of that religion.” The penalty is a fine of up to about $35,000. Should Ireland or any nation have a law against blasphemy?

I’m certainly no fan of that old time religion, but I do prefer that old time blasphemy to the new version that purports to be more tolerant. The old kind criminalized critiques of the one True religion, with a capital T. The new Irish kind criminalizes critiques of any religion.

Those of us who point out that emperors of all religions have no clothes continue to be considered blasphemous by any standard. But what are we to do about those poor believers required by their religion to blaspheme against other religions? Those who believe that the New Testament is to be taken literally blaspheme against Jews when they recite Mathew 27:25: “The blood of Jesus will be on all Jews and on their children.” Those who endorse the First Commandment, “You should not have any gods but Yahweh,” are blaspheming against those who promote Jesus, Allah, or one of the 7000 other god candidates. In fact, I’m blaspheming against Orthodox Jews by violating the Third Commandment, the one against taking the Lord’s name in vain. Technically, I should only write G-d.

By such criteria, I doubt there’s a writer on this panel who’s not a blasphemer. But wait, there’s an out! You are only guilty of blasphemy when thin-skinned religionists display bad manners. The crime of blasphemy has little to do with what you say, and lots to do with how others feel: so insulted and outraged by it that they want you silenced and punished. In other words, those uncivil libertarians opposed to free speech determine what is blasphemy.

Who among us believes that every Sunday people literally eat the body and drink the blood of Jesus Christ, that the angel Moroni led Joseph Smith to a magic stone which helped him translate gold plates from Egyptian hieroglyphics into English, and that the Qur’an was given to Muhammad by the angel Gabriel? Some may believe one of these stories, but nobody believes all three. Everyone thinks at least two of these three religious stories are foolish. And speaking of foolish, I’ve often been given a biblical explanation from Psalm 14:1 for why I am: “The fool hath said in his heart, there is no God.” I’m not outraged by such a comment, but I would be outraged were someone punished for telling me what they believed to be true. Atheists don’t insist on the right not to be insulted, just on the right to be treated as others.

Many new religions sprang from blaspheming old religions, from questioning or criticizing the “sacred.” The dominant religion in this country was a protest religion, reflected in its name, Protestant. If I said we would be better off if we had no sacred cows, that could be construed as a criticism of the Hindu religion. And if I said that blasphemy shouldn’t be punished because it’s a victimless crime, well that, too, could be considered blasphemous.

Herb Silverman
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  • Paganplace

    I just don’t see how they expect this law to be practicable. Not that we all couldn’t use a little religious civility at this point, but this is just rife with unintended consequences and ripe for abuse.It just happens to follow on the heels of another bout of major Church abuse scandal being all over the news, too. One wonders if there’s a connection. If they tried it in America, I’m sure a lot of Evangelicals would consider themselves martyred by it, if they weren’t allowed to say massively-offensive things about everyone else’s religion and people who don’t obey their ‘sacred’ beliefs, while trying to prosecute anyone in sight for criticizing their agendas.

  • laboo

    I concur with the opinions expressed above, and would only add that I suppose one intent of this law is to protect “all religions” (although I suspect part of the intent was also to mollify one, or two, specific religions) — but it attempts to do this in the wrong way.Unfortunately, rather than divorcing secular (“state”) law from all religious (“church”) law, it effectively does quite the opposite by putting all religious law on an equal footing with secular law — such that members of ANY religion who feel offended can revenge their offended feelings by appealing to secular authorities. This, in effect, establishes ALL religions, not just the chosen one — and at the very least, this potentially does great harm to those who believe in NONE and wish to say so publicly. Hence it’s not only bad, but dangerous law. I say this as a Christian.

  • LAltman

    Herb, be grateful. This is our chance to stop all those angry theists from blaspheming Secular Humanism! (At least in Ireland). And if perchance we collect those $35,000 fines, think of all that money we could use to finance First Amendment litigation.

  • TomMelchiorre

    And we thought the 57 Muslim countries of the OIC (Organization of the Islamic Conference) was the only collection of religious morons to make religious blasphemy a crime. Looks like the Catholics in little ‘ol Republic of Ireland wanted to–and did–beat them to the punch in the PR department, and on more expansive religious scale. Makes you wonder what the spillover will be in Northern Ireland between the Protestants and Catholics. Ah, that ‘ol time religion.

  • freethought

    I have seen Thomas Baum sign off with the comment “Take care, be ready” before. At some point he will perhaps explain what that means. I fear I already know. The rapture? Oh, goody.

  • sibonnesmom

    When I first heard about this new law I immediately thought that the Irish Government was trying to protect any of its cartoonist who might decide to draw a cartoon depicting some version of “Allah” with a bomb in his turban!

  • ThomasBaum

    Herb Silverman You wrote, “Those who believe that the New Testament is to be taken literally blaspheme against Jews when they recite Mathew 27:25: “The blood of Jesus will be on all Jews and on their children.””Those that take the New Testament “literally” should see that since they say it is the “blood of Jesus” that “covers” our sins than this statement of Mat 27:25 means that “all Jews and and their children” are covered by the “blood of Jesus”.Rather amazing isn’t it that what some people use to “condemn” the Jews is actually just the opposite.The Holy Spirit speaks thru people quite often unbeknownst to the person being spoken thru.The Jews were and still are God’s “Chosen People” for the simple reason that God not only chose them but formed them.Being the “Chosen People” does not mean that they are better or anything of the sort, it just means that they are the “Chosen People”.Any law against “blasphemy” is simply wrong and as you have pointed out: “One man’s blasphemy is another man’s belief”.Take care, be ready.Sincerely, Thomas Paul Moses Baum.

  • LorettaHaskell

    As entertaining as it may be to hear the claims and protests, should this law against blasphemy pass, it would certainly be a mistake. Harkening back to the days of the Salem Witch trials might be more progressive. And, think of the consequences for talk show hosts (are there any in Ireland) and their listeners.Well, it’s just a bad idea, although if it did pass, it might force a conversation on the hypocrisy that many of the groups driving this law would have to confront.

  • lepidopteryx

    Silverman voiced exactly what I was thinking when I read the thesis question. Since blasphemy is subjective, any time a person chooses one belief system over another, they blaspheme those they did not choose. It may not be done maliciously, but it it is what it is nonetheless. It doesn’t bother me for other people to say that my gods or my path is not real – it’s real to me, and that’s all that matters to me. So why should it bother anyone else for me to say that I don’t believe their god(s) or path are real, as long as it’s real to them?

  • DAN46

    Its troubling that this question would even be asked. Of course there should be no laws against blasphemy. Speech, even insulting and outrageous speech, is harmless, and to outlaw it is an absurd, an insult to civil liberties.

  • vince33x

    It’s funny, in the USA you can criticize and mock any of the Christian Faiths – especially Roman Catholicism – and you’ll more than likely be applauded by the popular culture but if you dare criticise Jews or Judaism, the ADL will hound you to hell and back! It has used numerous legal tactics to bankrupt those it believes have any likelihood of success in changing peoples’ opinions.So it really depends on whose ox is being gored.

  • pelicanwatchcb

    I guess the Irish are trying to achieve equal opportunity intolerance. And this is supposed to be

  • pelicanwatchcb

    It looks like the Irish are trying to achieve equal opportunity intolerance. And this is supposed to be progress?

  • jonesm2

    Is wearing a Darwin fish on your T-shirt considered blasphemous?

  • Farnaz1Mansouri1

    It’s funny, in the USA you can criticize and mock any of the Christian Faiths – especially Roman Catholicism – and you’ll more than likely be applauded by the popular culture but if you dare criticise Jews or Judaism, the ADL will hound you to hell and back! It has used numerous legal tactics to bankrupt those it believes have any likelihood of success in changing peoples’ opinions.So it really depends on whose ox is being gored.Posted by: vince33x Because if you did, you’d see your co-Christian bigots blogging, publishing, screeching all over the place.I will say that when the Christians are busy protecting their oxen from the Muslim bogeyman, they must, occasionally, take time out from goring Jews.

  • Farnaz1Mansouri1

    Those who endorse the First Commandment, “You should not have any gods but Yahweh,” are blaspheming against those who promote Jesus, Allah, or one of the 7000 other god candidates. In fact, I’m blaspheming against Orthodox Jews by violating the Third Commandment, the one against taking the Lord’s name in vain. Technically, I should only write G-d.As for the Third Commandment, opinion is divided. Strictly speaking, this only applies to Hebrew in a permanent medium. Hence, some Orthodox Jews dispense with the hyphen.

  • Farnaz1Mansouri1

    Herb,I’m with the other blogger on the Darwin Fish.The Darwin Fish one, albeit by a slim majority.

  • ThomasBaum

    Does anyone know what the “word” is when someone takes what one or some do and apply it to all?By all, I mean, for a partial list,: All men, all women, all Christians, all Jews, all Moslims, all Hindus, all Atheists, all (fill in the blank) religious belief, all Americans, all Iranians, all (fill in the blank) nationalities … I think you get the point.This “word” seems to be pretty prevalent among the human species, don’t you think?Sure seems to be kind’a prevalent among some of the posters on here.Sometimes it can be good to step back and take an “honest” look at oneself and try to “see” if one happens to fit into such a mode of looking at “others”, some may refer to it as “mob mentality”.We all have many “labels” whether self-imposed or imposed by others but ultimately we are all human beings.Take care, be ready.Sincerely, Thomas Paul Moses Baum.

  • vince33x

    Come on Farnaz: “bigoted?” Typical of someone, usually on the Left who has no argument. I suppose your statement: “Almost no Christians/Catholics know the first thing about Judaism, so rather than “criticize it,” they attack Jews.” is not a bigoted belief. I mean, how do you know?

  • arminius3142

    Hi, Thomas Baum,Good post, thanks. What you are talking about, as I see it, is As far as I am concerned, there is but one tribe, Humanity, all of it. We are all God’s children.

  • ThomasBaum

    arminius3142Hi, good to hear from you, actually I am nowhere near as formal as my signature on these posts may indicate, virtually no one calls me Thomas, just Tom.I sign my full name for the simple reason that it is my name.It sure does seem to be the “us vs them” mentality and it has been with us, I would say, since the beginning of mankind or soon thereafter.I would like to mention two things out of the bible that, I think, pertains to this very well.It is for Jew and Greek (Gentile) and in this case Greek (Gentile) stood for everyone that was not a Jew which means absolutely all of humanity.And for those that try to cram the bible down other people’s throat but seem to conveniently rip out page one “”Let us make man (humanity) in our image, after our likeness”, it most definitely does not say “some of”.Wish you well.Take care, be ready.Sincerely, Thomas Paul Moses Baum.

  • cj2407

    “In other words, those uncivil libertarians opposed to free speech determine what is blasphemy.”wait, what? is he making a joke here, in calling them “uncivil” libertarians? certainly the viewpoint held by these “thin-skinned religionists”, that everyone should conform to their subjective standards of their religion, is not at all libertarian.