Digital Communications Manager
It’s International Blasphemy Day!
Why do we need such a day? The Center for Inquiry (love your work!) chose Sept. 30 as International Blasphemy Day to commemorate the “Danish cartoons” that were published in 2005 on that date and to comment on the mass violence that followed. If you don’t remember those events, here’s a brief overview: A newspaper in Denmark published satirical drawings of Muhammad, and, in response, some Danish embassies were firebombed. Approximately 250 people are estimated to have died as a result of the riots and demonstrations.
So, we honor our right to blaspheme on this day, and think and fight for those of us in parts of the world where we can’t. Many countries in the world still have blasphemy laws that are actively used to persecute those in the country who dissent against religion. Just last week, a woman in Indonesia was sentenced to two years under the country’s blasphemy law for reciting an Islamic prayer before eating pork.
Let’s back up for a second. What’s blasphemy? As someone who grew up atheist, I’ve had to google that question a lot this week. I have to admit that I still don’t fully get it. What I’ve come to understand is that it is something about disrespecting god (I’m not capitalizing it) or religion or religious rules or something like that. It can be anything from taking the lord’s name in vain, to criticizing religious beliefs and practices, to eating pork, to watching a TV show that Christians don’t like. These happen to be all of my favorite hobbies and pastimes. And that’s the problem with blasphemy — it’s a broad concept with a lot of different rules, and depending on who you’re talking to and what their specific version of their religion is, blasphemy could be almost anything. I’m sure I accidentally blaspheme someone’s religion all the time every day, and I’m sure you do, too. I’m sure I’ve blasphemed on the way into work this morning, and I’m sure I’ll blaspheme on the way home.
Although the name “Blasphemy Day” is a silly one, and to be honest, I’ve treated it as a joke all this week, it’s unfortunately something we actually need to talk about seriously. For some people on this Earth, it’s a very real crime. Both socially and legally, people’s lives can be affected by others’ reactions to their perceived slights against gods. People have been killed, exiled from their home countries, arrested and fined. And even in countries where this free speech is allowed, folks have been made to feel ostracized.
I don’t have a solution to the legal persecution people face in other countries, but I have an approach to blasphemy in the United States: to make a joke out of it. Comedy has always been a wonderful defense against the overly serious. It’s hard to not take the side of the person who is giggling in the face of someone angrily waving a picket sign, especially over something as nonconsequential as blasphemy. As we like to say at the FFRF, blasphemy is a victimless crime — and it really is. No matter how much I blaspheme, intentional or not, it doesn’t affect anyone else’s day ever unless, of course, the person chooses to get mad at me about it.
So, this week and every day after, I’ll take the lord’s name in vain, and watch bad TV shows, and make great godless jokes, and I’ll have a good laugh about it. I encourage you to do the same. Get out there this Blasphemy Day and have a good time blaspheming. Let people know that you are just going to enjoy life, and maybe they should stop bothering you about blasphemy and try doing the same thing.