From Blasphemy to Blasphemy Rights

Last year, the Center for Inquiry celebrated “International Blasphemy Day” on September 30th. At the time, it was the fourth anniversary of when the Muhammad cartoons were published in a Danish newspaper.

What was supposed to be a day celebrating the right to free speech — including criticism of religion — became a free-for-all for mocking faith. To me, it was counter-productive to the actual goal of getting people to think seriously about the problems with faith.

There was also a big kerfuffle between current and past CFI leadership over the tone of the “holiday” and that became a story in and of itself.

Not this year, though.

In a move I completely support, CFI has renamed the occasion “International Blasphemy Rights Day”:

The name change is meant to “emphasize the important connection that we think there is between blasphemy and the right to free speech,” said Ronald Lindsay, president and CEO of CFI.

Lindsay said some critics “interpreted blasphemy in its crudest form” but “blasphemy is a wider concept than that.”

Although many people scoffed at last year’s campaign, he said, the center believes religion is not, and should not be, immune from criticism.

“Religious beliefs should be on the same level of political beliefs,” Lindsay said.

It’s a smart move on their part.

I would hope people use the occasion to show people the importance of putting religion under the microscope and treating those beliefs like we would most other kinds of beliefs — with close scrutiny and warranted criticism.

I think it’s just a wasted opportunity if you use the day to say something like, “Fuck Jesus and Allah!” You could do it. But what would that accomplish? Like-minded friends might cheer you on, while everyone else just ignores you (at best) or retaliates (at worst). Would you really be getting a message across to the people who need to hear it the most?

The day should be about protecting everyone’s right to blaspheme. In some countries, that’s not allowed. In those places, you can face the death penalty for committing the victimless “crime.” Think about how we can conquer that sort of behavior instead of focusing on how you can piss off a group of religious people.

(via The Invisible Pink Unicorn)

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What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • http://www.myspace.com/timtationsmusic Tim D.

    Somehow I feel this is appropriate.

  • Aj

    You have the right to do it, but you better not unless you might offend someone? Fuck that, I liked the principle of Blasphemy Day, it’s got a wild and rebellious spirit that should be attractive to people. What will it accomplish? They ignore you? Mission accomplished. This was a triumph. I’m making a note here, huge success. If you start thinking these people have a right to not be offended, then you’re diminishing yourself, and only encouraging them to be offended about more things. How do taboos break, how do attitudes change? People purposely push boundaries and challenge them. Even if they retaliate at least they know you’re there, and you’re not going to take their shit. Rebelling against unjust rules is an end in itself.

  • http://thegodlessmonster.com/ The Godless Monster

    I understand why they did what they did (and see the utility of it), but there’s something to be said for sticking it to “the man”.
    It shouldn’t be an “either-or” scenario. Nothing like “good cop-bad cop” to keep them on their toes.

  • Epistaxis

    Different name, but can be celebrated in exactly the same way.

  • http://allusiveatheist.blogspot.com T. Ray

    So I shouldn’t say, “Mohamed was not a prophet.”

    Instead I should say, “I have the right to say, ‘Mohamed was not a prophet.'”

    Is that about right?

  • AJPIII

    Atheists, Non-theists and Secularists could invent a few more celebrations without waiting for some “inspiration” like boob-quake or anniversaries lets get into the “spirit” of “holiday” creation by co-opting events like every “faith” does for example lets own “Midsummer” and start to add a few new dates on the calendar with either a bit of revelry making or quietude and solemnity such as (Happy) Heresy Day, Halloween can become Big Boss Bashing Day and even a weekly “observance” such as God-Free Tuesdays (The tag line is you got Sundays WE are taking Tuesday!)

  • http://secularshawshank.wordpress.com Andy

    I’m with Aj.

    The whole “what will that accomplish?/that’s not ‘constructive'” argument is a tad misplaced when it comes to Blasphemy Rights Day. The whole point is that, on the appointed day, we all engage in “blasphemy” arbitrarily. Think about it: If you support Blasphemy Rights Day, but you also discourage people from engaging in blasphemy “in its crudest form,” then are you not basically, albeit unwittingly, reinforcing the very taboo you profess to be against? So blasphemy’s OK—just not that kind of blasphemy? C’mon people. The objective of Blasphemy Day is—in part—to piss off religious people (in order to make a larger point). Can we admit that, at least?

  • Joost

    I support the right of anyone to be as blasphemous as they like.

    I don’t really think that just pissing people off is all that effective. But like I said, everyone should be able to piss everyone off, and maybe a day dedicated to that is a good idea.

    All I want to say is: think about what you want to achieve with your blasphemy. And with that, I seem to agree with Hemant if not in practice, then at least in spirit.

  • Ms. Crazy Pants

    The whole problem with blasphemy is that really anything can be termed as blasphemy. The mere fact of not believing is blasphemy. Even if you follow one religion’s rules, that is suddenly blasphemous against another religion or flavor of the same religion.

  • http://vancouvermoose.livejournal.com/ VancouverMoose

    I have sympathy for some of the the people who say “Fuck Jesus and Allah!”

    I get the impression that some of them are saying this because it’s all they know how to say.

    Hopefully they will be exposed to a wide variety of blasphemous examples.

  • Christophe Thill

    Be a serial blasphemer ! Next Friday, have a pork and beef sandwich !

  • muggle

    Fuck that shit. I’ll say whatever I fucking want, like it or lump it. Frankly, I don’t think much of CFI (how’s that for blasphemy) and I’m not waiting for dictates from on high on how to conduct myself like some simpering Catholic wuss trembling in fear of hell waiting for proclamations out of Rome. Again, fuck that shit.

    (In case, you’re wondering that’s largely why I don’t think much of CFI or the humanist movement; because they seem to think they’ve somehow earned the right to tell other nonbeleivers how to behave. Scantimonious prigs. Fuck them too.)

    I too am with Aj 100% down the line.

    So blasphemy’s OK—just not that kind of blasphemy? C’mon people. The objective of Blasphemy Day is—in part—to piss off religious people (in order to make a larger point). Can we admit that, at least?

    Damn straight. Thank you, Andy. What the hell exactly is the point of it if not that? Besides, since when were rights ever had by raising your hand, clearing your throat and going, “ahem, can I please have my rights respected? Pretty please?”

    Get serious.

    Tim, loved the video. Gonna have to post that to my wall 9/30!

  • Hitch

    Blasphemy day has to exist as long as the concept of blasphemy exists.

    To use rude language already has words for it: “using rude language”.

    As for the rest, well, it kills, silences, persecutes and all the other lovely things. To proverbial hell with that. It’s just a way to prevent good ideas from being discussed and realized.

  • J. D. Mack

    (In case, you’re wondering that’s largely why I don’t think much of CFI or the humanist movement; because they seem to think they’ve somehow earned the right to tell other nonbeleivers how to behave. Scantimonious prigs. Fuck them too.)

    Guess what, muggle? CFI *has* earned the right to tell other nonbelievers how to behave. And so have you. And so have I. And so has everyone else who can speak or type. It’s called expressing an opinion.

    What the hell exactly is the point of it if not that?

    (referencing Andy’s [post)

    The purpose of Blasphemey Rights Day is to draw attention to the ridiculous laws in some countries that make blasphemy a crime, and to point out that these laws have the potential to spread if we don’t make a stand. If you want a “Piss Off the Religious Day,” start your own. In fact, why would you even celebrate “Blasphemy Day” at all since it comes down from on high from CFI?

    Finally, muggle, if you’re going to get all on your high horse about how you’re the kind of person who will say what you want, show some courage and use your real name when you post. Otherwise, I’m not impressed.