Today has been designated “Blasphemy Day”, as many if not indeed all readers will be aware. The last time I addressed the issue of blasphemy, I pointed to Judges 6:25-32. The passage suggests that a true God can defend himself and needs no human defenders: “If Baal really is a god, he can defend himself when someone breaks down his altar.”
This time, I’ll note that the 1 Kings 18:27 presents Elijah as mocking (perhaps blaspheming?) Ba’al, suggesting that Ba’al might be going to the bathroom and thus unable to respond to the cries for action coming from his prophets. (I found a sermon online that goes one step further, calling Elijah a “Baal Buster”). The Bible also calls idols “dung pellets” and in other ways insults other deities or images of them. This in spite of the fact that the Bible also contains a law that prohibits (in most translations) “reviling the gods” (Exodus 22:28).
If we were to make blasphemy illegal, it would not only infringe on freedom of speech. It would potentially mean that the Bible itself ought to be illegal, since it insults other religions.
Isn’t it easier to assume that, if God finds behavior offensive, he (or she) can deal with it on his (or her) own? The Elijah story I mentioned involves fire from heaven, after all? And if God doesn’t do anything about it, then should we take greater offense at blasphemy than the one being blasphemed?
I don’t like the idea of “celebrating blasphemy” or being intentionally offensive. But neither do I believe that human beings have the right to never be offended by what others say. And thus, even if I obviously will not be participating in Blasphemy Day, I am grateful for the United States’ historic defense of free speech and the right of people to commit blasphemy without being stoned to death or otherwise punished. Because the same amendment to the constitution that allows people the freedom to declare and observe Blasphemy Day also prevents either the blasphemers or religious conservatives with whom I might disagree from silencing me.