This site is not maintained. Click here for the new website of Richard Dawkins.

Blasphemy laws

An interesting take on blasphemy.

Against Blasphemy Laws Disclaimer: the views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the official position of the EPPSP or of its members.

Firstly I find no way to prove blasphemy. I understand that it’s possible to prove that this or that person was offended, though the extent of that offence is personal, and therefore difficult to correctly categorize or quantify.

But to prove blasphemy itself?

Surely it must be proven that a crime has occurred before a person can be convicted of committing the crime?

If so, then I feel that the offended party should first have to prove that the words could have offended the god or gods of the offended religion, then prove that those words did actually offend said deity.

And, as a ‘religious authority’ is not ‘the deity’, it cannot pretend it is of sufficient affinity with it’s ‘almighty’ as too presume to speak directly for him/her/them, the religious authority’s claim of blasphemy must therefore be seen as no more than opinion, for any more than that and the ‘religious authority’ itself becomes Blasphemous by presuming to know the mind of its God.

Without a god’s direct testimony that he was offended, surely no crime has been proved to have been committed.

Which I feel brings one reasonably to the conclusion – If one is accused of blasphemy, could one make a legitimate defence of Omniscient Corpus Delicti?

Just as you wouldn’t prosecute someone for suggesting that Snow White’s relationship with the dwarves was sexually perverse, how can you convict someone for disrespecting a god which, short of him appearing in court, has no more substance than any other fairy tale?

Has the ‘crime’ not therefore only occurred within the confines of the mind of the offended party?

Secondly Blasphemy Laws are inherently discriminatory Any blasphemy law is automatically discriminatory against atheists. The simple fact is, it is never going to be possible for an atheist to claim offence against a prayer, hymn, ritual, or other ‘witch-doctory’ – one cannot be offended by ‘words against god’, when one’s belief is ‘there is no god’.

It is therefore intrinsically discriminatory to bring a law whose very nature is designed, not only to exclude the opinion of a minority (currently) group, but to compound the discrimination with punitive measures.

As it is the nature of humans to air their views, atheists will become the most persecuted under any blasphemy law.

As a ludicrous example of what would be needed to bring equality to any blasphemy law…

If there are blasphemy laws to protect the delicate sensibilities of the, indelicately, non-sensical, then surely it would only be right and fair to have anti-blasphemy laws to protect those conversely afflicted.

An Anti-Blasphemy Law would ensure that no theist would be able to offend a nontheist by holding up a deity as worthy of worship. This would of course require citizens to remove all religio-spiritual bling, so as not to subject themselves to prosecution for AAB – Accidental Anti-Blasphemy.

Thirdly What is to be considered Blasphemous? Is this image a blasphemy?

Or is it merely fatherly advice about cleanliness? After all, we well know the saying!

Or perhaps, he’s just having a laugh about what he’s making the Jewish brothers do?

Although, looking closer, it does look very suspiciously like the old man’s after Adam’s old man doesn’t it?

I think what is most important to remember is – The only way one can consider the picture blasphemous is if one assumes two intellectual positions.

  1. That the painting is a sufficient representation of ‘God’ and ‘Adam’ for any viewer to instantly assume that this is who they are meant to represent.

  2. That the pose is sexual. If one assumed it to be instructional, it would not be offensive and thereby not blasphemous.

That’s the problem with Blasphemy – it’s totally subjective. The author/creator of a work should never be held responsible for the observer/reader’s perception.

How to decide Justice? When a claim of blasphemous offence is upheld, then true justice, where the guilty offender is punished fairly and the offended feels the punishment is sufficient, is almost impossible to achieve.

The following dialogue is a thought experiment only; my hope here is to show that the prosecution of Blasphemy is fraught with difficulty.

No offence is meant, the following dialogue is patently fiction.

“Jesus-f**kin’-Christ! Abraham, this Belly Pork you’ve brought is rank! Take it back to Cohen and Muhammad’s Prawn and Pork Emporium and have one of the Paedo-Priests we keep there chop up a fresh one; and we’ll have none of that barbaric Halal/Kosher bollocks this time! The last inhumanely killed one, was still kicking when it got here! I was sickening! Tell the kiddie-fiddler it’s for the midwinter solstice beer and shagfest, so it’s got to be good enough for Jehovah to have sex with! Bung him a bag of sweets, they all seem to have a sweet tooth for some reason. Feel old Cohen up for a sack of those black market crispy foreskins he’s got under counter; prawn cocktail flavour are always good! And tell Cohen’s Sikh slave, I need his two youngest daughters for the ceremonial spit roast again; they went down very favourably last year! But DON’T tell him that; he’ll want more money. And, Oh yes, bring his best looking sheep too.” “For the sacrifice your Holiness?” “Er-r-r- Ye-e-e-sss for that!” “Right, Pope, I’ll get to it.” Abraham, a typical religious sycophant, starts to scurry away. “Hold your horses! You know you can’t leave without kissing my ring.” Abraham stops and looks hesitant. “Come on, come on, my haemorrhoids are killing me!”

And so to a number of questions…

  1. Is the dialogue blasphemous?

  2. To whom is it blasphemous?

  3. Is the dialogue more blasphemous to one religion/cult than another?

  4. If a piece is considered blasphemous to numerous religions/cults, is it therefore more blasphemous and so will incur multiple fines?

  5. If it is to incur multiple fines, who will decide which religion/cult gets to put the blasphemer on trial first?

  6. How would the size of the blasphemy be assessed?

  7. Would each blasphemy be given a blasphemy score from a pan-religion/cult assessed scale, or merely would classified as ‘more blasphemous’ or ‘less blasphemous’?

  8. Would the classification of the grade of blasphemy be assessed by the courts or individual religious bodies?

My answers?

  1. The dialogue is only blasphemous if you choose to think those named are figures from the various religious fictions.

  2. Only those whom have been indoctrinated by the various religious fictions would find it blasphemous.

  3. I’ve been considering this almost since I first conceived the dialogue. I don’t know if it’s possible for me to assess it because I’ve not been indoctrinated by all the religions/cults equally. (My religious background, or rather, my family’s traditional faith is Protestant).

4,5. One would assume that if a piece were considered blasphemous by more than one cult, there would have to be a pre-trial to assess various aspects.

6 My only answer here is a funny one. One could have the offended party in the witness box and have them let out a scream of anger, sufficient to express their personal level of outrage felt.

7, 8 In the true spirit of one-up-man-ship that the all religions of ‘peace’ so relish, it seems very likely to me that every level of blasphemous offence would quickly be elevated to gain a death sentence. So, I would hope that secular impartial courts would decide!

So, what do you think, is the offence of blasphemy provable? Or, would the pre-trial interfaith quibbling tie any ruling up for years, maybe even, decades?

My conclusion is simple,

Any Blasphemy law skirts the territory usually occupied by ‘thought crimes’ in dystopian authoritarian science fiction. Any Blasphemy law is counter to the principles of free speech on which Europe stands and should be stricken from law.

Peace, Crispy Sea This post was collated from four posts previously published on the Blasphemy Page of my Too Many Questions Blog



Comment RSS Feed

Please sign in or register to comment