I've been reading on Craig's blog about an attempt to have September 30 declared International Blasphemy Day. While I don't have any particular drive to blaspheme :) what I do find important about the idea of the day is that blasphemy is a matter of offence, and the truth is that it is not at all difficult to offend other people. Pretty much any religious idea or statement about religious doctrine or practice, for or against, can be deemed blasphemous by someone else. It is the nature of such things that where beliefs differ, offence will occur. People, generally, are easily offended.
On 9 July 2009, a law was passed in Ireland making blasphemous libel a crime for material "that is grossly abusive or insulting in relation to matters held sacred by any religion, thereby causing outrage among a substantial number of the adherents of that religion; and he or she intends, by the publication of the matter concerned, to cause such outrage". Matters held sacred by any religion: can you see how easily (and inappropriately) that law could be deemed to have been broken?
Some time before the law was passed, a debate was held at the Guardian Hay Festival between Stephen Fry and Christopher Hitchens. It was a wonderful rambling conversation that examined many different issues relating to religion and blasphemy. The whole debate is 78min and can be downloaded here, but this nine or so minutes below is a good representation of the kind of points they make. It is not important whether you are religious or not, atheist (as they both are) or not, offended by what they say or not. I think this debate would be thought-provoking for anyone on the subject of blasphemy.
The primary focus of the Blasphemy Day movement and indeed this website is not to debate the existence of any gods or deities...Without honest, open discussion religion can become a fence within which freedom of mind and will is contained and captured. Questioning, criticism, accountability, doubt ~ all are necessary and should remain legal. This is not to say that inciting any kind of action or violence against believers or non-believers is okay. Other laws govern that kind of action in many countries. But the right to think and express those thoughts, whether warped or wonderful, should be protected by society and its laws.
The objective of International Blasphemy Day is to open up all religious beliefs to the same level of free inquiry, discussion and criticism to which all other areas of academic interest are subjected.
What do you think? Let me know what you think about the debate, too, if you end up listening to it. And in the spirit of the day, I have a recommendation for anyone who knows the Old Testament in the Bible. You don't have to love it or read it every day; you just need to be familiar with it. I'd like to recommend The FOB Bible. From the linked page:
The Old Testament re-imagined through poetry, verse, closet drama, e-mail, and short story. At once irreverent, whimsical, sexy, feminist, and poignant, this ain't your mama's Bible, and you sure didn't learn this in Sunday school.I find this description apt. I like the way the pieces explore and question various ideas in the Bible, and without the need to come to any particular conclusion. Not only that, but it's really well-written. Here's one reading ~ it's a fun one and pretty much the only of the Youtube readings that isn't mumbled or otherwise inaudible (favourite line is when New Testament god 'whistled in disbelief and the air around him filled with tinkling bells and minty freshness'). I really wish the one about Abraham was there. I love that one. I also have no doubt that it, and several of the other pieces, would be labelled blasphemous by someone, because the authors dare to think and feel and bring new perspective to old words set in stone. Enjoy.