Surprise! Church Patriarch wants blasphemy to be punishable by law.

It is said that the Catholic church lost its best argument when it stopped burning people at the stake.  In that spirit, the head of the Russian Orthodox Church is taking steps toward securing the sanctuary every person who cannot defend his position wishes for: being able to punish those who do not treat your position with de facto reverence.

Head of the Russian Orthodox Church Patriarch Kirill is in support of the idea of criminal prosecution for blasphemy similar the performance of the female punk band ‘Pussy Riot’ in Moscow’s main cathedral.

“The law must protect not only symbols of secular importance, but also objects with sacred meaning for the believers and guard their religious feelings from insults,” Kirill was quoted by the RIA Novosti news agency as telling a conclave of the Orthodox clergy in the Russian capital on Saturday.

When arguing with believers, they often ask how I’d feel if they mocked my beliefs.  My answer is always the same: go for it.  Mockery is a double-edged sword.  If you mock something that can be defended, it’s you that winds up looking like the fool, not your target.  If you mock my beliefs, I will merely defend them.  I don’t need to demand that anybody treat them with respect out of hand.  And, if you thought my beliefs were ridiculous, I wouldn’t want you to.

But that’s just me.  I actually care about whether my beliefs are true, not whether or not they’re bowed to (I trust their defensibility to take care of that).  It is the dream of every guardian of folly to be able to punish those who vocally disrespect the ridiculous.  Sadly, Russia’s going to make that dream come true for a large group of exactly that type of person.

About JT Eberhard

When not defending the planet from inevitable apocalypse at the rotting hands of the undead, JT is a writer and public speaker about atheism, gay rights, and more. He spent two and a half years with the Secular Student Alliance as their first high school organizer. During that time he built the SSA’s high school program and oversaw the development of groups nationwide. JT is also the co-founder of the popular Skepticon conference and served as the events lead organizer during its first three years.

  • Glodson

    Being new to this whole atheism thing(you can tell, can’t you?), it is funny to see how in my recent past I held ridiculous ideas in high regard just out of some base respect level I should have for the religions. It seeps into your head. It is hard to compartmentalize. I found myself often finding my respect for my christian beliefs bleeding over. I guess this is how some can act with such hatred to an atheist. Finding someone that rejects all these superstitions can be threatening.

    The thing is I don’t think I would have gotten much farther than doubt. My own atheism is something I can credit to many influences. One of the odder ones is Ancient Aliens, long story. But encountering a blog, several blogs in fact, that were quite vocal about their disdain for religion and forthright with some serious blasphemy served to jar a part of brain. At some point, I got the religious safety cap off my ability to reason and turned all I had learned on my religious beliefs.

    They didn’t last long.

    Of course, this is why men like Kirill want these laws. They need that buffer of undue respect to keep religion safe from criticism. They want us to come up with ideas like NOMA to allow their religious superstitions to exist unopposed. We really are a threat, just by existing. We are even worse when we talk.

    And for that reason, I hope you never shut up. ;)

    • Loqi

      (you can tell, can’t you?)

      I, for one, am actually rather surprised by this.

    • Nate Frein

      I second Loqi. Your arguments with Tumeyn were a delight to read. And, of course, your snark is legendary.

      • Glodson

        @ Nate: Thanks. I always read what I’ve written and cringe just a little. I can’t help be look at my own arguments and try to pull those apart too. But I’m glad people are, at least one person, is reading those and enjoying them. In a way, you can see my own path to atheism in those post(part of it) as I would read counter-apologetics and try to work around them best I could. Didn’t work. Hell, I ended up finding this blog because of that odd quick of confirmation bias that drives people to seek out a dissenting source just to see how wrong it was. Turns out, I picked a bad source to be designated as wrong.

        @Loqi, Well, I’m not new to arguing on the interwebs. I cut my teeth in a few out forums. I’ve been less active at my hold haunt because I’m bored of trying to refute the same point again and again, made by the exact same person.

    • baal

      No, I couldn’t tell. You do have a edge of a zeal that many ‘converts’ have but I have to say you fit right in.

  • Rando

    How much longer until they go full blown “Muslim Extreamist” on us and wave signs around that say Behead anyone that insults the pope!”?

  • Greg G


    Welcome to the Evil Atheist Conspiracy, that I deny exists. Have you received your decoder ring, that doesn’t actually exist. Just remember to never admit that there is an EAC.

    • Zinc Avenger (Sarcasm Tags 3.0 Compliant)

      Smoothly done.

      *Totally-not-existent EAC secret handshake!*

    • Glodson

      The first rule of EAC is you don’t talk about EAC.
      The second rule of EAC is you don’t talk about EAC.
      The third rule is if someone says “I concede,” goes limp, or trolls out, the debate stops.
      The fourth rule: multiple people per debate.
      Fifth rule: No shirt, no pants… (Not sure why).
      Sixth rule: Debates go on as long as they have to.
      And the last rule of EAC is that if this is your first night, you have to hate God.

  • Timothy W.

    In his previous job ,Patriarch Kirill was Head of the Russian Orthodox Parishes outside the former USSR. He wanted to take over close control of the Cathedral in London which for years had pursued a largely independent line under a highly respected Bishop who died in 2003. Kirill organised groups to oppose the bishop, a long standing UK resident, who had been appointed as the Administrator of the Diocese. Kirill gave his blessing to these people who noisily walked around the Church during the most solemn parts of the Liturgy, when people stand in silent reverence, collecting signatures for petitions against that lawfully appointed Bishop. Orthodox Christians regard this behaviour as scandalous and blasphemous.

    I would be very happy to see Patriarch Kirill stand trial for blasphemy.

  • baal

    It’s worth mentioning that the Russian church is quickly becoming Putin’s left hand. That an established (establishing?) religion can be harnessed to benefit a totalitarian surprises no one (here at least).

    • Andrew Kohler

      Pope Pius XII, anyone?

      I’m reading about the denazification of Germany, and some of the Germans whom the US government interviewed said that part of the blame for Hitler rested with the US and other countries for not boycotting the 1936 Olympics and for the Catholic Church because of its concordant. I agree with both, but at least the US (albeit belatedly) came to oppose Hitler. Pope Pius XII though….

  • Art Vandelay

    It is said that the Catholic church lost its best argument when it stopped burning people at the stake.

    I never actually heard this. Truer words have never been spoken.

  • Andrew Kohler

    “If you mock my beliefs, I will merely defend them.”

    If someone mocks my beliefs, I will probably get angry (depending on the subject). I will then proceed to point out how asinine their mockery is and deconstruct all of their arguments. The beliefs I hold unalterably are the ones for which the other side has repeatedly failed to offer compelling counterarguments and/or to address my concerns adequately. For example, the people who oppose marriage equality are unable to offer any solution as to what gay people should do other than “deal with it.” Some of them are apologetic about it, on occasion, but that’s not much. Their position requires turning off compassion, so to tell with it. I have mentioned elsewhere on this blog that I read through the entire House of Representatives debate on the federal DOMA and most of the Senate debate, and same goes for the Federal Marriage Amendment and the outrageous Marriage Protection Act which would have *prohibited courts from hearing challenges to the DOMA* (as is happening now)–that was HR 3313, 108th Congress (I still know that off the top of my head, btw–and it passed in the House, too!) So, I’ve reviewed more than enough information (especially as they keep recycling canned responses for the most part) to speak with certitude. And when people challenge it, I certainly will be mad, but I won’t start crying and telling them they can’t say that because it huwts my feewings; I’ll point out how bankrupt their position is.

    Now let’s see: which response is more effective? Addressing your opponents’ arguments and dismantling them, or saying that they’re making you sad and should stop talking? In most debates, the latter response would lead people to think “Well, (s)he’s really not got a very good argument, or isn’t good enough at debating to handle this.” And yet, this isn’t the reaction to blasphemy laws, or at least not nearly as much as it ought to be. Then again, my reaction to blasphemy laws tends to be “How DARE you tell me what I may and may not say?” and, of course, to blaspheme up a storm, so I suppose I forget to point out how aforesaid laws represent the lack of substance inherent in their arguments.

    In general, anyone who thinks respect can be legislated does not deserve to be accorded respect in the first place. (See also the odious efforts to ban “flag desecration”–the passage of which is the only thing that would ever make me feel the desire to desecrate a flag, as I deplore acts of destruction.)