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That's Blasphemy!

Entry 1340, on 2011-11-08 at 20:51:50 (Rating 3, Religion)

A podcast I listened to recently discussed the idea and relevance of blasphemy. Even a country like New Zealand, where religion is largely irrelevant to the majority, has blasphemy laws and it's technically illegal to say something like this: "Jesus was a cynical invention of the evil leaders of the early church", even if there might be good reason to say that it's true. OK, I'm waiting to be arrested for stating that blasphemous idea in public.

Of course no one has ever been convicted because of an act of blasphemy here and there has only been one court case, many years ago, which failed. So the whole thing is a bit of a joke really, like a lot of laws of this type.

You could say these laws were originally more relevant because at the time they were formulated society took religion a lot more seriously and it was an important part of life in that era. But like many other laws, time has made what might have been a reasonable idea obsolete and irrelevant. But the law is so silly and trivial now that's it's not even really worth removing.

A case could be made to say that some people would be offended by blasphemous statements and should be protected. But should they? Isn't it a problem for the person who was offended, not the person who made the statement? If I say "Christianity is silly and based on ridiculous superstition" an appropriate response by someone who disagrees is to show how I am wrong through the presentation of facts. Relying on laws specifically designed to protect a belief system instead of presenting evidence to support it just shows that I am probably right in criticising it to start with!

The same applies to other organisations. An employee of Apple was recently fired for criticising the company on his Facebook page. So what? If he was wrong in his criticism why didn't someone correct him, and if he was right Apple should do something about it. Individuals, organisations, and companies should welcome criticism. Otherwise how will they know when they need to improve something?

I should say here that I don't know what the specific criticism of Apple was, and I do agree that there are some opinions which shouldn't be allowed. If a person is inciting violence, hatred or other socially unacceptable responses then they should be stopped in some way.

But if they are just saying something like "the historical evidence for Jesus is very weak" or "Apple uses cheap labour in China to keep its costs down" then sure, that's fine. If the statements are true then they should be made public, if they're not then someone should refute them.

Religion has been given a "free pass" on so many things in the past, and continues to enjoy special treatment even today. If a religion is real and true and if a religious figure (Jesus, Allah, or whatever) is so powerful and great then surely they should be able to defend themselves. Why would they need a law which most people would consider a joke? That just makes the religion look even sillier than it did to start with!

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Comment 5 (2981) by OJB on 2012-01-11 at 19:28:30: (view earlier comments)

The issue is, of course, what "good faith" and "decent language" actually mean. I guess, like many laws, it is open to interpretation. It certainly seems like the law itself has a fairly high standard required for a prosecution to be successful, plus there is the point that no one wants to use it anyway.

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Comment 6 (2982) by INRI on 2012-01-12 at 01:04:02:

Many laws are general in nature or poorly written and therefor need case history to be built up to aid interpretation.

Ironically, Jesus was reportedly killed for blasphemy per the Gospel of Mark as copied below for your readers information.

Mar 14:61 But he held his peace, and answered nothing. Again the high priest asked him, and said unto him, Art thou the Christ, the Son of the Blessed?
Mar 14:62 And Jesus said, I am: and ye shall see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven.
Mar 14:63 Then the high priest rent his clothes, and saith, What need we any further witnesses?
Mar 14:64 Ye have heard the blasphemy: what think ye? And they all condemned him to be guilty of death.

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Comment 7 (2983) by OJB on 2012-01-12 at 11:27:42:

The thing about blasphemy is that it is just a tool for repressing disagreement with a dogma. Jesus himself said that blasphemy against the holy ghost (whatever that is) was inexcusable (am I right on that?) yet he was condemned for blasphemy himself.

The whole idea in any form is nonsense. No subject should be protected from criticism, as long as the criticism doesn't incite violence and other antisocial outcomes. But existing laws cover that so again, blasphemy laws are just unnecessary.

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Comment 8 (2984) by INRI on 2012-01-14 at 00:32:08:

You could say he was “Hitchslapping the Pharisies”. No sooner had Jesus healed the blind and dumb (Matt 12:22) than the Pharisies accused him of achieving this using Satan rather than the Holy Spirit.

So in Matt 12:31 Jesus says, "Therefore I say to you, any sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven men, but blasphemy against the Spirit shall not be forgiven.”

So in the same sentence he says any blasphemy can be forgiven except against the Spirit. Perhaps this just a way of saying you guys are so far off the mark and going in the wrong direction that there is no way back. The juxtaposition is stark. He is basically saying, if you want to know what blasphemy is look at yourselves not me. He saves his scathing criticism for those who deserve it most. Just as you would rail against unthinking fundamentalists.

So you and Jesus are very much alike. You both take a position against the current theological thinking of the day. You are both prepared to give a reasoned presentation of your positions. You both disagree with violence.

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Comment 9 (2985) by OJB on 2012-01-14 at 19:24:31:

Yes, although in many countries those who think they take Christianity seriously are seen as the mainstream or the conservatives, in fact at the time (and assuming he existed at all and that the stories bear any resemblance to reality) Jesus was a real radical, much in the same way as people like myself would be seen today. It's all rather ironic really, isn't it?

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