30 September 2014

Happy Blasphemy Day!

Laws are made to protect and defend the people and to guarantee their full human rights and liberties. But this is not the case with blasphemy laws. These laws violate the right to freedom of religion or belief, the right to freedom of expression, the rights of minorities and ultimately the right to life. Blasphemy laws are weapons of religious oppression, persecution and discrimination. They target religious minorities including atheists, agnostics and freethinkers, religious apostates and dissenters. Blasphemy laws are used by religious extremists to justify and sanctify tyranny, hatred, intolerance, forced conversion, intimidation and violence. Blasphemy laws protect a religion or some religions from criticism at the expense of human rights and dignity.—Leo Igwe (Statement to the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights)
Things which corrupt moral sentiment, as obscene actions, prints and writings, and even gross instances of seduction, have, upon the same principle, been held indictable; and shall we form an exception in these particulars to the rest of the civilized world? No government among any of the polished nations of antiquity, and none of the institutions of modern Europe, (a single and monitory case excepted), ever hazarded such a bold experiment upon the solidity of the public morals, as to permit with impunity, and under the sanction of their tribunals, the general religion of the community to be openly insulted and defamed.—James Kent (People v. Ruggles)
There exists, I believe, throughout the whole Christian world, a law which makes it blasphemy to deny or to doubt the divine inspiration of all the books of the Old and New Testaments, from Genesis to Revelations. In most countries of Europe it is punished by fire at the stake, or the rack, or the wheel. In England itself it is punished by boring through the tongue with a red-hot poker. In America it is not much better; even in our own Massachusetts, which I believe, upon the whole, is as temperate and moderate in religious zeal as most of the States, a law was made in the latter end of the last century, repealing the cruel punishments of the former laws, but substituting fine and imprisonment upon all those blasphemers upon any book of the Old Testament or New. Now, what free inquiry, when a writer must surely encounter the risk of fine or imprisonment for adducing any argument for investigation into the divine authority of those books? Who would run the risk of translating Dupuis? But I cannot enlarge upon this subject, though I have it much at heart. I think such laws a great embarrassment, great obstructions to the improvement of the human mind. Books that cannot bear examination, certainly ought not to be established as divine inspiration by penal laws.—John Adams (Letter to Thomas Jefferson, 23 January 1825)
Truly I tell you, everything will be forgiven to the sons of humanity for their sins and whatever blasphemies they utter; but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit can never have forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin.—Jesus (Mark 3:28-29)
Blasphemy has been defined as speaking disrespectfully of my phemy; one does not observe among the followers of one faith any disposition to accord immunity from ridicule to the followers of another faith. The devoutest Christian can throw mud at Buddha without affecting his own good standing with the brethren; and if Mahomet were hanged in effigy from the cross of St. Paul's, Protestant Christianity would condemn the act merely as desecration of a sacred edifice.--Ambrose Bierce (The Dead Lion)
This law, reduced to its simplest terms, is this: 1. Whatever is sacred to the Christian must be held in reverence by everybody else; 2, whatever is sacred to the Hindu must be held in reverence by everybody else; 3, therefore, by consequence, logically, and indisputably, whatever is sacred to me must be held in reverence by everybody else.—Mark Twain (Is Shakespeare Dead?)
In fact, if truth be told, it would be simpler and quicker to say what is not blasphemy than it would be to give a complete account of what is. What’s not blasphemy? Ummmmmm…well to be honest that’s such a short list that there doesn’t seem to be anything on it. Let me put it this way – blasphemy is anything some pious group of thugs says it is at any particular moment when they want to shut people up by having them killed. It’s basically just any old thing; see? It’s whatever They say or do that We don’t like – that’s all.—Ophelia Benson (“Defining Blasphemy”)

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