Blasphemy in Russia may soon be punishable by jail time.

Welcome to Medieval Times.

Russian lawmakers are trying to make blasphemy a punishable crime.

Russian lawmakers are calling for jail sentences of up to three years for anyone guilty of offending religious feelings, in a move that could further tighten the bonds between President Vladimir Putin and the resurgent Orthodox Church.

Why are they doing this?

“All these actions are aimed at destabilizing the centuries-old spiritual and moral foundations of Russia, discrediting traditional values and, in essence, serve to ignite civil strife and undermine the country’s sovereignty,” the Duma resolution said.

The declaration has no binding force but sets the tone for legislation that Yaroslav Nilov, head of the Duma committee on civic and religious groups, said would be presented to parliament as early as this week.

Nilov said a proposed amendment would introduce criminal responsibility for offences against religious beliefs and feelings and impose a jail term of up to three years.

Yes, criticism is destabilizing to centuries-old traditions and values.  This is a good thing!  Otherwise the people of the 21st (and 22nd, and 23rd) centuries might wind up living by the same values as people in the 18th.  If those beliefs have become ridiculous in the light of modern knowledge, they should be discredited.  This does not “undermine the country’s sovereignty,” it whittles away ideas that melt when exposed to the lukewarm light of criticism.

Think about what you’re saying of those values by providing them legal protection.  What use do ideas defensible by their merit have for such protections?  Any self-respecting theist would be outraged at the insult, but most of them will be relieved that they can now hold ridiculous beliefs without being told their beliefs are ridiculous.  Such is the believer’s dream in the 21st century: the privilege of being gullible without the societal discomfort gullibility would ordinarily bring.

We’ll just have to be twice as irreverent here in the States.

  • Greg

    Unfortunately, that is a Russian tradiiton. When the atheists were in charge, they ran the Gulags.

    They just didn’t finish the job.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/wwjtd JT Eberhard

      You say “atheists”, plural, as if their atheism had shit to do with the Gulags. It didn’t.

      • Foma Andreyevich

        You’re delusional.

        • Joe

          As in JT is delusional, or Greg? If JT, please demonstrate how atheism led to the Gulags.

        • Drakk

          You know, unlike quite a few religions, there’s nothing to mandate that atheists kill believers.

          Are we forgetting the astronomers who were disappeared after sunspot research was considered unmarxist? Stalin’s own marshals, admirals and commanders? The 2000-odd intellectuals killed for supposedly anti-Soviet beliefs or works? Let’s not pretend it was all about religion, it was anything Stalin thought fell under the nebulously defined “anti-Soviet” label. And it was because he was a paranoid maniac who wanted loyalty to the state itself to become a religion, and all the other faiths were getting in the way of that.

          • Foma Andreyevich

            Who said that it ALL had to be about religion?

  • anonymous

    Not blasphemy, but “offending religious feelings”. Basically, it is the same as the infamous Article 282 of Russian Penal Code, the only aim of this law is to allow Putinist courts to throw anybody they want into jail and claim it was justified by the law.

  • Baal

    The Friendly Atheist’s coverage of the Texas highschool with a bible verse run through shows that the xtians here would support blasphemy laws here. I wonder if they’d use hate speech expansion or their bs argument that criticism chills their right to religious speech and is thus not ok (like they’re doing under ‘religious freedom’ to deny health care and anti-discrimination laws).

  • Art Vandelay

    At the end of the day, isn’t this just like coming right out and saying “Look…we’re really insecure in our beliefs and incapable of defending them with anything resembling reason”?

  • Fr. Christopher Pietraszko

    I’m a big supporter of giving one another to hurt other’s feelings, because that is what they are “feelings.” Now if someone is so vindictive that they seek out for the sole purpose of psychologically tormenting a person to derive pleasure, well that is called harassment. But if the issue is a matter of speaking what is considered to be a truth, and it hurts people’s feelings, then there should be no law against that. I am thinking of people who wear crosses and have been fired for a symbol of their faith that has “offended” some very soft athiests. If people would learn to realize that we are not the sum-total of our beliefs, perhaps when we face disagreement we won’t take it so personal. Rather we might be able to have an actual intelligent conversation.

    However, I do believe that, while a government has no business making secular laws pertaining to doctrinal religious beliefs, I do think it is a worthy task to respect freedom of religion. This is a value that is perhaps becoming less and less supported over the last few years. And while it is understandable that a non-believer would be apathetic towards those who do not fit into the same system of thought as them, that is still not an excuse to protect someone from harassment. It must go both ways.

    I think a lot of this recent law making is simply in response to some of the hate-crimes that have been occured recently by some zealous members of Russian society. They of course do not represent the sum total of intelligent atheists out there that I enjoy a good debate over a beer or two.

  • Fr. Christopher Pietraszko

    * Freedom to hurt…

    ** still not an excuse to cease to protect someone….

  • http://togetherforpeace.com Apollos

    “Such is the believer’s dream in the 21st century: the privilege of being gullible without the societal discomfort gullibility would ordinarily bring.”

    A persons puerile behavior is hardly discomforting. Gullibility and *ignorance* is the plight of all humanity.

    “Yes, criticism is destabilizing to centuries-old traditions and values. This is a good thing! Otherwise the people of the 21st (and 22nd, and 23rd) centuries might wind up living by the same values as people in the 18th.”

    Criticism?! I don’t think that walking into a religious place of worship, violating its codes of conduct, and creating a scene, is what I would constitute *criticism.*

    Do you encourage people here in America to do this? Walk into a church, walk up to the front and put on a concert? Is this criticism?

    You know, another way to destabilize values and traditions is to simply kill them. Stalin would certainly be a huge fan of yours as he *criticized* the religious and made atheism the official doctrine of the state. Yup, he certainly did not want to live by the outdated values of the 19th century.

    • Joe

      I’m assuming that you are talking about Pussy Riot? What they did was criticism. Their performance was intended to criticise Putin’s presidency and the growing ties between the church and state. You can criticise their actions all you want, but they had legitimite criticisms.

      Also, I think we are going to have to propose a corollary to Godwin’s law to apply to Stalin. Yes, he was an atheist. No, that does not mean that all atheists are like Stalin, or want a return to Soviet Russia.

      Just because one way to destabilize tradition is to kill them does not mean that it is the only way. Guess what – it is possible to criticise someone without killing them! A shocker, I know, but true.

      • http://togetherforpeace.com Apollos

        Indeed, I am criticizing their actions, as it was *not* their criticisms that walked into a religious place of worship and behaved in a way that was not appropriate in such an environment.

        If people showed up in Mosques during prayer and began to shout and scream, all for the purposes of being twice as irreverent, then they are provoke social unrest in a way that would potentially create huge problems. It would be incumbent upon the government to prevent people from finding such actions a permissible way for them to express their criticisms.

        *However*, whatever actions a government would take they would have the arduous task of clearly outlining how certain forms of critique would be exempt from such legislation; assuming they value this concept of free-speech.

        Ultimately, Eberhard fails to contextualize Russia’s actions in light of its history and the challenges it faces today.

        • Joe

          If someone started to shout and scream in a mosque, I would expect someone to ask them to leave, and if they refused, then the police could be called. If they still refused to stop, then sure, some sort of reprimand would be appropriate (although, not 3 years jail time). However, I would expect the same if it happened in a coffee shop, or a supermarket. The content of the speech should not be penalised, and the form only because it is causing a disruption.

    • Drakk

      [...] Gullibility and *ignorance* is the plight of all humanity.

      So…religion, basically.

      Criticism?! I don’t think that walking into a religious place of worship, violating its codes of conduct, and creating a scene, is what I would constitute *criticism.* Do you encourage people here in America to do this? Walk into a church, walk up to the front and put on a concert? Is this criticism?

      Is this as big of a straw man as it seems, or do you have evidence that such a scenario would occur if not for these laws. I really don’t get your point here. “Criticism” is when someone says “Your beliefs are full of shit, and here’s why…”. As it seems, this law would deny even that, seeing as the religious seem to be offended and hurt by anything that isn’t total acceptance of their particular fantasy.

      You know, another way to destabilize values and traditions is to simply kill them.

      Given the context of your next few words I assume you mean “kill the people who believe in them”. I’m not sure what you thought obfuscating that statement would achieve, but it didn’t work. Of course I want religion gone, at least from the public sphere, preferably from the entirety of human thought, but I want it to happen non-violently, through willing deconversion driven by acceptance of the fact that religious arguments are weak and unsatisfactory.

      Stalin would certainly be a huge fan of yours as he *criticized* the religious and made atheism the official doctrine of the state. Yup, he certainly did not want to live by the outdated values of the 19th century.

      Not sure if deliberately disingenuous or stupid. Murder is not criticism. Stalin did not enter into any reasoned debate with religious believers. Nor do I agree with the idea of creating an atheistic state – not if that includes suppression of freedom of belief. I’d like to live in a predominantly atheist one because that means dealing with less religious crazy in my everyday life (and usually correlates positively with things like civil rights and level of education), but the government should have no say in what people are allowed to think.

      • http://togetherforpeace.com Apollos

        Criticism need involve nothing more than expressing ones disagreement of another’s position and explaining why.
        I understand, many people would rather engage in puerile asinine behavior, eg twice as irreverent, than pursue the more challenging route of building relationship and discussing fundamental issues that undergird it all, such as: what does it mean to be human? what is the role of science, religion, government, etc..? What informs our understanding of concepts such as: freedom, rights, peace, happiness?

        Given I haven’t seen what the legislation says, and whether any exemptions are made, I don’t know what the implications of its passage are.

        I am religious. I am not offended nor am I hurt by another person believing that intentionally ridiculing religion and those who profess to follow one, is somehow a meaningful or beneficial approach towards those you disagree with.

        Science observes the empirical. These *facts* does not speak of value, worth or meaning.
        You value some form of argumentation. You consider the line of reasoning advocated by the religious to be inadequate. Your philosophy is not the empirical, it is not the *facts. Your value of a certain form of argumentation and what constitutes a satisfactory position is nothing more than a fabrication of yourself, language, society and culture.

        The power that you grant your framework, as though you have it founded upon some truth that has been demonstrated in an empirical, a *factual* way, is as much an attempt at creating meaning and significance as any religious person.

        • Drakk

          Criticism need involve nothing more than expressing ones disagreement of another’s position and explaining why.

          Good. We agree on this issue. “Your beliefs are full of shit” is simply a more powerful expression, one that “I disagree” doesn’t properly convey.

          I understand, many people would rather engage in puerile asinine behavior, eg twice as irreverent, than pursue the more challenging route of building relationship and discussing fundamental issues that undergird it all, such as: what does it mean to be human? what is the role of science, religion, government, etc..? What informs our understanding of concepts such as: freedom, rights, peace, happiness?

          I don’t see how religion of all things should be involved at all in these questions. It’s not like they support their positions with facts or coherent arguments. I’m going to go so far as to say they’ve got nothing of importance to contribute. Note that I refer to religion, not religious people. If people have good ideas to contribute they can do so regardless of what they personally think, but I’m not going to pay attention if their ideas start with “So once upon a time there was this talking snake…”

          I am religious. I am not offended nor am I hurt by another person believing that intentionally ridiculing religion and those who profess to follow one, is somehow a meaningful or beneficial approach towards those you disagree with.

          Great.

          You value some form of argumentation. You consider the line of reasoning advocated by the religious to be inadequate.

          Entirely correct.

          Your philosophy is not the empirical, it is not the *facts. Your value of a certain form of argumentation and what constitutes a satisfactory position is nothing more than a fabrication of yourself, language, society and culture. The power that you grant your framework, as though you have it founded upon some truth that has been demonstrated in an empirical, a *factual* way, is as much an attempt at creating meaning and significance as any religious person.

          Entirely incorrect. I accept the scientific method because it appears to work, as demonstrated by nearly everything I own and use. Nobody has successfully managed to build skyscrapers by praying. You are also incorrect on your second point, I do not look for meaning or significance in anything because I do not think they exist, objectively. I can subjectively grant personal meaning to objective facts if I wish – and I do. Like the fact that life is (quite literally) made of stardust. Or that every breath I take warms the rest of the universe. Or the fact that my existence alone has irrevocably altered the path of every particle in the universe. There is plenty of personal comfort and philosophical significance that I can derive from fact alone. I don’t need magic sky fairies.

          • http://togetherforpeace.com Apollos

            I accept the scientific method too.
            You are correct, skyscrapers are not built via prayer.
            You have most certainly granted your framework meaning and significance. I never said anything about looking. Whether you call such meaning/significance, objective or subjective is irrelevant at this point.
            Bottom line, you have created for yourself some form of meaning and significance.
            You take personal comfort and philosophical significance from whatever you place value and worth in. You take a fact and *you* place value and worth in it. Being made of stardust hasn’t told you how you should value such a fact. It hasn’t told you, hey Drakk, I want you to take personal comfort in me. That stardust we’re made of doesn’t care whether you take comfort from it or from magic sky fairies…you telling me, hey Apollos I take comfort from being made of stardust vs hey Apollos, I take comfort from magic sky fairies…is of little difference seeing as you’re the one who determines what to place value and worth in.

          • Drakk

            The reply button has vanished for your latest post.

            I accept the scientific method too.

            That is encouraging to hear.

            You are correct, skyscrapers are not built via prayer.

            More generally, nothing is achieved through prayer.

            You take a fact and *you* place value and worth in it. Being made of stardust hasn’t told you how you should value such a fact. It hasn’t told you, hey Drakk, I want you to take personal comfort in me. That stardust we’re made of doesn’t care whether you take comfort from it or from magic sky fairies…you telling me, hey Apollos I take comfort from being made of stardust vs hey Apollos, I take comfort from magic sky fairies…is of little difference seeing as you’re the one who determines what to place value and worth in.

            But I base them on facts. I take comfort only in things I know to be true – for that matter, I am only capable of taking comfort from things I know to be true, because if I attempted to do otherwise, I would know I was deluding myself purposefully, and I could not be comforted. For this reason I can find no comfort in magic sky fairies.

            So yes, essentially, what I’m saying is “My way is better, because there is evidence.” If you disagree with that single statement I’m not sure you can honestly say you accept the scientific method.

            I have also read your blog entries on this, I’ll address them here.

            Anonymous asked:

            Except that his (does he actually mean me? -Drakk) meaning has the ability to be proven. It is factual. Your meaning is nothing.

            Without wishing to put words in Anonymous’ mouth, I’d like to restate what he said:

            “Except that the factual basis of his meaning has the ability to be proven. It is factual. Your meaning is based on nothing factual.

            Do you see the problems with this? The scientific method does not give us facts that tell us what we should or should not value.

            But nothing ever will. The only person who can choose what to value is that person themself. I only suggest that significance based on fact is better than significance based on wishful thinking.

  • seraph

    art.14 of Constitution of Russia “The Russian Federation is a secular state.”

  • Foma Andreyevich

    //You say “atheists”, plural, as if their atheism had shit to do with the Gulags. It didn’t.//

    You’re delusional.

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