“Blasphemy is required to weed out people who would restrict our speech, not for fear of us insulting people, but for us questioning concepts.”
Intellectual blasphemy questions things that religionists do not want questioned. This can include historical queries, for example, was there really an exodus of Jews from Egypt, lead by Moses? (The answer is no.) Scientific progress sometimes requires the questioning of societal taboos - which in a religious community, often means it is necessary to explore blasphemous conclusions. The very concept of blasphemy is anti-scientific and harms the search for truth. If dogmatic taboos are stifling free thought, the promotion of intentional blasphemy can be a breath of fresh air through the stale corridors of religious conservatism.
“All great truths begin as blasphemies.”
George Bernard Shaw1
In Pakistan the law is used to prevent any criticism of Muhammad, including literary and historical criticism2. In Egypt Mitwalli Ibrahim Mitwalli Saleh was arrested in 2003 and charged (2 months later) with "contempt of the Islamic religion" for questioning, in an unpublished work, Muslim beliefs such as the murder of apostates and the ban on Muslim women marrying non-Muslim men3.
Emotional blasphemy is a personal catharsis for someone who has struggled against their own religious convictions. To purge themselves and revel in the new freedom that comes from abandoning religious beliefs, a person can go through a phase of blasphemous expression. This is healthy and normal, and should even be encouraged, to help lighten the mood of society in general, and allow people to see religious conventions in a more balanced, humorous light.
Blasphemy as warfare: In the battle against overbearing churches, who seek to limit the extent of free thought, the forceful ridiculing and questioning of the religion's tenets serves as an example to society that the church does not deserve special exemptions from freedom of expression.
The point of blaspheming is not to insult, but to show people how absurd some of the superstitious or religious dogma is. The better you can show up and discredit the doctrines, the better. Blasphemy is required to weed out people who would restrict our speech, not for fear of us insulting people, but for us questioning concepts. The point is not to be evil, but to make people realize how absurd the concept of blasphemy is.
“There is a constant need for us to question our own beliefs, and the beliefs of those around us. It creates a healthy atmosphere of skepticism and intelligence, and prevents people from coming to unreasonable conclusions. The way our brains work mean that we frequently misinterpret events and data, and in particular, we always think there is more rationality and evidence for our beliefs than there is. This all matters because when beliefs become unquestioned, a community can become increasingly divorced from reality. This is especially true when individual leaders or belief-based authorities claim to be acting in accord with a divine principle, such as God's will. When it comes to disputes, religionists can come to deny any chance of compromise. In the adult world of democratic politics, compromise in disputes is what keeps things from breaking down: you give a little in one area, but have to give up in another. However arguments based on differences in religion or belief often contain parties that believe the issue has universal, absolute and cosmic significance. They will not compromise on their position. Malise Ruthven in his book on fundamentalism warns that this is particularly dangerous4. It is how religious cults are formed. In extreme cases this leads to complete social rejection and the possibility of suicide cults, as has been seen many times in history for example with Charles Manson's followers and the 900 who died when the People's Temple suicided. These groups always start out with borderline, but common, beliefs and slowly become more delusional over time. In all cases followers lacked an instinct to ask questions about the beliefs. It is religion that gains most when people cease asking deep questions about beliefs, and it is truth that suffers most. In the name of truth and common sense, do not let even trivial-seeming beliefs take hold without double-checking them, because once beliefs are trivialised, a slippery slope can take you down into madness!”
Blasphemy is a voluntary code: If you have beliefs, you will find that some thoughts and actions are blasphemous. You should therefore abstain from those. But you can't expect others to adhere to these rules if they do not share your beliefs. If they take their beliefs seriously then religious communities can manage their own internal rules without the need for formal legislation in law.
Bias: Existing legislation favours only those heavy, domineering branches of religion that have, historically, had power over states. To provide a free market for religious ideas, this bias should be removed and blasphemy laws, where they stand, should be abolished in order for all religions to have an equal basis in society.
Open Debate: Questioning and ridiculing religion means that religionists have to defend and demonstrate their claims. If their religions are based on rational truth and evidence, then this will be no problem for them. Anti-blasphemy laws prove that monotheists are insecure about their religion, and the brave ones can support, in the name of peace and free debate, their abolition.
Religious Plurality: There are so many religions, with so many obscure and irrational beliefs, that it seems that if we let them define blasphemy under the law, the free world would end! It is impossible to avoid blaspheming against some god or other, once you take a look at how many gods and religions there are. The only answer to this dilemma is to abandon the concept of external blasphemy, and leave it as a voluntary, personal restriction and not a legal one.
Opposing blasphemy laws is in the interest of the global community, of tolerance and of the advancement of critical thought and compassion.
The Satanic religion is inherently blasphemous in the eyes of most other religions. It is an anti-religion and pro-blasphemy. Its patron saint is Satan, which is (suitably) a symbol of the enemy of God, as well as a symbol of death. Its tenets are Atheism, materialism and world-embracing attitude that flies in the face of spiritual religious sentiments. The art of blasphemy is not as simple as it may first seem. Saying "Jews have big noses" in order to ridicule Judaism is not blasphemy: it is racism. Personal attacks and racists target individuals, whereas blasphemy targets ideas and concepts.
Whereas Anton LaVey articulated the blasphemous nature of his new religion when he codified Satanism, it was not without precedent. The historical strains of thought that led up to the rise of Satanism had seen intentional blasphemy become a viable option for the irreligious. Aleister Crowley (1875-1947) indulged in "deliberate and sustained blasphemy" according to the careful historian Prof. R. Hutton5.
For Satanists (and secular Humanists, when they think about it) attributing Human suffering to "sin" and rejection of god is insulting. Disabled people do not like to be told that they are suffering for the sins of Adam and Eve, their parents, or themselves. It is not right, and damnit, it is downright blasphemous to tell a Satanist that his life belongs to Christ, that God loves him (a dangerous delusion), that we are inherently evil or sinful (we don't need the guilt) and so on. These things are seen to be by Satanists and many other freethinkers such as our fellow atheists & Humanists to be dehumanizing and guilt ridden sources of destitution. God itself is blasphemy in our eyes, blasphemy to Human nature, and an affront to truth.
Most countries have blasphemy laws. In historically Christian countries, they largely protect only Christianity, even if they remain unused and considered non-democratic and obsolete. On the other hand, Muslim countries' laws protect Islam in a much stricter way. Pakistan and Saudi Arabia are examples of countries with very strict blasphemy laws.
Countries which fell to particular religions have tended to adopt Blasphemy laws protecting that religion against criticism and ridicule. This is because the clerics and powerful within the religion, which historically were the most educated, knew that their most potent enemies were the truth and popular opinion. The religions that do not need their ideas protecting from critics (i.e., religions that are truer) have left no legacy of blasphemy laws in places where they had power. Such religions are few.
Religions will naturally want to extend their censoring of criticism as far and wide as they can. In a globalized world, it is no good preventing only locals from publishing websites that question dogma. Take the publication of Salman Rushdie's Satanic Verses. Published and wrote in England, the book was primarily a Western fiction. Yet, Muslims in Islamic countries declared a fatwa (legal statement) against Rushdie, putting a price for his murder. We can note that Muslims feel that blasphemy is blasphemy no matter where or who you are.
A short video (with a score by Siousxie and the Banshees) which depicted a nun's fantasies over Jesus Christ was banned due to its blasphemy, simply because it wasn't the type of idea that Christian religionists like to think about.
“Unused for decades, the UK's blasphemy laws had come to the fore since 1979 before being abolished in 2008. Blasphemy laws were invoked when closed-minded religious bigots wanted to stifle the free speech of others, such as in R. v Lemon 1979 when a poem about Jesus was published in a gay magazine. In Pakistan they are used to, for example, block any scholarly discussion of any aspect of Muhammad's life2. The publications in question are not personal insults or hateful literature; they are not professional or political, they are largely expressive, emotional or scholarly. That blasphemy laws are used in such a way - to protect concepts from being questioned - is not only wrong and closed-minded, but undemocratic.
The final straw was that the UK's blasphemy laws only protected Christians - not Muslims or Jews - and historically only the Church of England. It was deeply prejudiced, intolerable and confusing that we still had such laws. Thankfully the European Courts, British legal community, Lobby groups and British politicians have spoken out against the blasphemy laws. Good riddance, the world is now a fairer place.”
"Blasphemy and Censorship: Christianity and Islam" (2012). Accessed 2013 Jan 17.
The Triumph of the Moon: A History of Modern Pagan Witchcraft (1999). 2001 paperback edition published by Oxford University Press, Oxford, UK.
Fundamentalism (2007). First edition 2005. New edition now published as part of the “Very Short Introduction” series. Published by Oxford University Press, Oxford, UK.
Islamic Fundamentalism and Modernity (1989). Published by Routledge.
p9: "Against the charge that Muhammad had copied from previous scriptures Muslims developed the doctrine of Muhammad's illiteracy, which implied his complete inability to read the scriptures. The doctrine was based on the application to Muhammad in the Koran of the adjective ummě. Which was alleged to mean 'illiterate'. The word occurs a number of times in the Koran in both singular and plural, and appears to have been taken from the Jews and to mean 'Non-Jewish' or 'Gentile' or 'unscriptured'."
p32: "in 1986 [In Pakistan] a law was passed prescribing severe penalties for those wrote or spoke disrespectfully about the prophet Muhammad. This law appears to have been used to prevent the application of modern historical criticism to any aspect of his career."