Blasphemy

What is blasphemy? The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines blasphemy as ‘the act of insulting or showing contempt or lack of reverence for God‘. In some parts of the world blasphemy laws used to exist but were abolished years ago. In other parts of the world such laws still exist, and I dare say they are used to suppress criticism of religion. A number of countries have laws on their books permitting imprisonment for blasphemy, and others have the death penalty.

Whilst we have the dictionary definition, nonetheless different people will interpret what it means to blaspheme in different ways. To be critical of a religious belief is, to some, perfectly justifiable and part of a valid discussion in the role of religion in society. Questioning God’s words in the form of a critique is also seen as acceptable. To others, doing these things is a form of blasphemy and seen as an outrage.

Recently a school-teacher in West Yorkshire has come under fire for using a caricature of the Prophet Muhammad in a discussion with their students about racism. There have been calls for their sacking and protests outside the school where they work. The situation has ignited discussions on what is and is not permissible when it comes to religious debate. I don’t know whether the teacher is a Muslim, but whilst I would not condone anyone going out of their way to be deliberately insulting and nasty to Muslims, discussing religious beliefs and values, and criticising them where one feels it’s prudent, is part of our right to freedom of speech.

There’s another side to this. To be blasphemous is to be disrespecting God, who has rights (or so some say). I have to wonder why an all-powerful, omnipotent, omnipresent deity would be so hung up on whether or not every human liked them or not. I have to wonder why such a being would need rights, as defined by human terms, since they could reset the entire universe with a snap of their fingers if they so wanted. God’s rights do not supersede human rights – not as far as I’m concerned. After all, God is prepared to kill those who speak badly of them – that seems like a tremendous over-reaction to me (Leviticus 24:16).

If God cannot take criticism, do they have any business wielding the power they possess? If religions are so vulnerable to any form of criticism, are their foundations all that solid? To maintain a compliant, faithful population by threatening to imprison or kill anyone who speaks ill of religion is to rule by fear and hate. That doesn’t seem especially in keeping with the common mantra that the religious have greater morals than the irreligious…

5 thoughts on “Blasphemy

    1. Indeed it does. Given God’s penchant for cruelty and mass murder, why would they have greater rights than the people on this earth? Is God’s ego so fragile that they cannot withstand criticism?

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      1. A few examples of God’s ‘morality’….

        1 Samuel 15:2-3. I quote:

        ‘I will punish the Amalekites for what they did to Israel when they waylaid them as they came up from Egypt. Now go, attack the Amalekites and totally destroy everything that belongs to them. Do not spare them; put to death men and women, children and infants, cattle and sheep, camels and donkeys’

        Leviticus 10:1-2 sees two men killed for starting a fire.

        Deuteronomy 22:20-21 – a woman who has had premarital sex must die.

        In Numbers 14:29-33 complaining about their plight sees God leave people to die in the desert.

        Joshua 10:11-14: As they fled before Israel on the road down from Beth Horon to Azekah, the LORD hurled large hailstones down on them from the sky, and more of them died from the hailstones than were killed by the swords of the Israelites. On the day the LORD gave the Amorites over to Israel, Joshua said to the LORD in the presence of Israel: “O sun, stand still over Gibeon, O moon, over the Valley of Aijalon.”

        So the sun stood still, and the moon stopped, till the nation avenged itself on its enemies, as it is written in the Book of Jashar. The sun stopped in the middle of the sky and delayed going down about a full day. There has never been a day like it before or since, a day when the LORD listened to a man. Surely the LORD was fighting for Israel!

        Genesis 38:6-10: Judah got a wife for Er, his firstborn, and her name was Tamar. But Er, Judah’s firstborn, was wicked in the LORD’s sight; so the LORD put him to death. Then Judah said to Onan, “Lie with your brother’s wife and fulfill your duty to her as a brother-in-law to produce offspring for your brother.” But Onan knew that the offspring would not be his; so whenever he lay with his brother’s wife, he spilled his semen on the ground to keep from producing offspring for his brother. What he did was wicked in the LORD’s sight; so he put him to death also.

        So, it seems that if we apply God’s morality, as per the Old Testament at least (believed by billions to be the Word of God), it seems pretty dubious to me. But returning to the subject of God’s ‘rights’, aren’t we supposed to judge God by different standards of morality? That’s usually your ‘go-to’ argument round about now… so why hold God to human standards of ‘rights’?

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