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What is blasphemy today?

Thanks to Jonathan West for the link.

Is there anything left of the concept of blasphemy? We argue whether civilisation can survive without it or tolerate it all

The Irish Atheists' web campaign against the new Irish law on blasphemy seems to have shown up the absurdity of the concept; but in the same week the attempted murder of Kurt Westergaard, the Danish cartoonist, showed that some people take it very seriously. In a different light, Anjem Choudary's threat (now withdrawn) to march through Wootton Bassett suggested that he had found something that looks very like blasphemy even for society which laughs at the memory of Mary Whitehouse.

So is it possible for a sense of something like blasphemy to survive the death of organised religion? What would happen, for example, to a young man found relieving himself on the teddy bears and wilting flowers left at the site of a road accident? Are some forms of blasphemy a kind of hate speech, and should they therefore be controlled? Civilisation seems to depend on a balance between unwillingness to take offence and reluctance gratuitously to give it. But where do we draw the line?

Monday's response
Ophelia Benson: Religion is exactly the kind of institution that needs to be exposed to criticism, not exempted from it

Wednesday's response
Nick Spencer: In the past, blasphemy was a form of hate speech, uttered not just against God but against everyone and everything

Friday's response
Jeremy Havardi: Blasphemy laws are a blight on any society that values freedom of speech

Continue to site for links to the 3 articles



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[UPDATE 29-Aug]Humanists accuse West... 61 Comments



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