Happy Blasphemy Day
Today is Blasphemy Day! Hurrah, we know have a good reason to act immature about religion for a day while pretending we’re working for some sort of noble humanistic purpose.
All right, that came across as overly critical. Here’s the deal: I absolutely support people having the ability to commit blasphemy. Whether it’s to make a good point, a bad point or no point at all, everybody should be allowed to do it in relation to whatever religion or deity they feel like – just as anybody should be allowed to insult and belittle the strongly-held beliefs of any political or special-interest group you care to name. I’ve said some pretty insulting things about homeopathy, crystal healing and the religious right in my time, after all.
So, I support the right to blaspheme. But would I condone it? Well, that depends…
You do not need to be deliberately insulting in order to make a point about religion. You do not need to be mocking or condescending in order to criticize even the most outlandish religious beliefs. Some people will always accuse any criticism of their religion on the grounds that it’s offensive or blasphemous, but here at least we can reply by pointing out that we weren’t trying to offend. If I speak my mind and somebody is outraged by it, that’s their problem. But if I set out to annoy them, if I find their figurative weak spots and exploit them solely for my own amusement…well, I’d find it a lot harder to justify my actions.
‘Blasphemy Day’ is a chance to point out that we atheists will not be silent just because we annoy some religious people. Theists take for granted their right to proselytize (in the USA and Europe, at any right) and refuse to be silenced when they get a negative reaction for it. We shouldn’t be knocking on people’s doors or shouting from street corners, but we should be able to speak our minds without fear of accidentally stepping on somebody’s fragile toes. We should be able to produce films, books and paintings that affront religious sensibilities without fear of censorship or even death. We should, in short, be confident of our right to offend, if offense is the inevitable outcome of saying what we believe to be true. It’s a right that should be shared by everybody, theist or atheist alike.