Proud and happy to blaspheme.

Catholicism is the official religion of the Malta, and they take it pretty seriously there.

Maltese law prohibits vilification of or giving offense to the Roman Catholic Church, which is also Malta’s official religion.

In Malta, it is a criminal offense to utter publicly any obscene or indecent words, make obscene acts or gestures or in any other way offend public morality, propriety or decency.

“From January to September [2012] there were 99 convictions for public blasphemy, compared with the 119 convictions from January to July 2011,” the report said.

Ok, first, for an organization that burned scholars at the stake and recently protected a posse of child rapists while ignoring their victims, it takes a lot of brass (or, in this case, a lack of shame) to insist that you are the guardians of morality, propriety, and decency.

Second, even in the United States I recently got a first hand look at how Catholics can have the standards of decency twisted.  In the morality debate on Sunday (in which Matt Dillahunty took a veritable wrecking ball to the opposition), I was refuting Mark Miravelli’s assertion that god is looking out for us when I said:

“If our morality comes from god, we’d expect to see some enforcement of justice beyond what human beings do.  I mean, why make laws if you’re not going to enforce them?  Who but the most foolish lawmaker would expect speed limits to work without some sort of penalty in place for speeding?

But this is not what we see.  When justice is administered in this world it is always meted out by the hands of people who would catch every criminal if only we had omnipotence.  This is precisely what we’d expect to see if humans were the ones creating and enforcing moral rules, but it’s utterly bizarre if a god who values justice is anywhere at play.  I mean, if you think we’ve caught every priest who has ever forced himself on a child, your optimism has extended well into delusion, and you’d think that if god had any place to intervene, this would be it.”

The Catholics in the audience boo’d, as if I was somehow wrong for bringing up the fact that priests who have pledged virginity don’t have a nasty habit of raping children (with the implication that the Catholic Church was, and probably still is, also remiss for hiding that fact).

I mean, who jeers at the condemnation of child rapists?  Oh yeah – people who value the RCC’s PR more than they despise the rape of children.

Sadly, the point was made during my closing statements, which means I didn’t have another go at the podium (again, thankfully, Matt Dillahunty clobbered them).  But I wanted another round so I could address the audience to say “To all of you who boo’d at the mention of child rape, as if bringing up the Church’s crimes was a greater offense than covering them up, you are what is wrong with the world.”

Indeed, protection for this kind of backwards morality is what gave birth to concepts like blasphemy.

I was also on a multi-faith panel at Reasonfest.  I took the chance during my opening to explain why I thought compassion and reason were the basis for morality, and then to explain why this prohibited me from quietly tolerating various religions by explaining a facet of all the religions represented on the panel was in conflict with those ideals.  For Islam, I straight came out and said Muhammad was a pedophile for marrying Aisha at six years old and then having sex with her at nine years old.  I also said that to admire such a man, as if he was a better person than virtually any person on the planet today, represented an incalculable amount of moral confusion.  If Muhammad wasn’t a pedophile, then that word has become meaningless.

During his opening, the Muslim representative responded by asking “Does everybody think it’s wrong to hurt a child?”  Everybody but Matt Dillahunty raised their hand (Matt knew where he was going with it).  The Muslim then pointed out that we must think all doctors are evil, because they must often give children shots.  But we don’t mind because the trade off in well-being is very much on the well-being side of the scale.

I was really shorted time during the panel, so I didn’t have the chance to say “Ok, you’re right.  What was the tradeoff for the nine year-old girl forced to have sex with a grown a man?”  It might be for the best, since I’m not sure I could’ve kept myself from adding “…you sick, twisted fuck.”

Ironically, later in the panel the same Muslim accused atheists of having subjective moral standards, in which case (and I’m not joking or exaggerating) “you might as well have sex with children.”  It was everything I could do not to scream “You defended that in your opening!”

“…you sick, twisted fuck.”

I was going to call him on it, but I got cut off by the Jewish representative and then was not permitted to finish during one of my turns.  The whole panel was frustrating, but the point is that people like the ones discussed in this post should never be able to rely on threats and “propriety” under the euphemism of “blasphemy” to keep their moral confusion nice and safe.  When the option is between failing to draw attention to immorality and blaspheming, it seems only fear or religion (or both, usually) would move us away from the latter.  In that sense, a blasphemer is a very good thing to be, and I am proud and happy to blaspheme.

In fact, when evil is being enacted out of religious motivation in your presence and your options are to announce your opposition or to lend tacit endorsement, blasphemy is the only moral choice of the two.  So for all you would-be blasphemers in Malta, Bangladesh, or in any of the many cultures across the globe so obsessed with their cherished myths that they’ll inhibit actual people, I will blaspheme plenty in your place – with a smile on my face and a song in my heart.  And I’ll start by saying that anybody who would implement a standard against blasphemy is a coward, the lowest of the low, and deserves nothing but the most profound disrespect.

Looking at you Islam and Catholicism.

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.

  • Art Vandelay

    That was a nice dose of Indignant JT to kick off the day. I’m not sure how I would have reacted if I was in the audience when they booed your condemnation of pederasty. I think most Catholics are at the very least enablers of it simply by virtue of funding the Vatican with full knowledge of how much money they’ve spent on covering it up but they do it through this cloud of cognitive dissonance. Booing someone who’s condemning it though? If there’s such a thing as objective immorality…they nailed it.

    • Phillips Howard

      When the Muslim guy spoke you looked like you were enraged and getting ready to lose it.

      I appreciate that, but atheists have also defended things that enrage me, like unrestricted abortion for any and all reasons.

      If, for example, aborting a healthy “fetus” just because “it” is a female is not abuse, then nothing much is.

      • Nate Frein

        If, for example, aborting a healthy “fetus” just because “it” is a female is not abuse, then nothing much is.

        I can defend my brother’s right to smoke cigarettes without defending his choice to do so.

        I can defend a woman’s right to bodily autonomy without defending her reasoning behind her decision. Restricting abortions doesn’t fix the underlying cultural problem behind the decision to abort a fetus because it is female. More than likely, the abortion will still happen, just under more dangerous conditions.

        Remove the massive cultural difference in value between daughters and sons, however, and you will effectively reduce the number of abortions due to the gender of the fetus.

        But go ahead. Continue to straw-man the position instead of working in a direction where you might actually make a difference.

      • Nate Frein

        …like unrestricted abortion for any and all reasons.

        This reeks of male (and religious) privilege. Yeah, how dare we advocate for the human rights of women! How dare we advocate for giving the same bodily autonomy men enjoy!

      • iknklast

        I see this aborting female fetuses claim all the time. Can you give me a citation where I can find out how common that is in this country? This has recently become THE talking point for people on this site complaining about atheists. If female fetuses are being selectively aborted in this country in large numbers, one would assume that our sex ratio would be heavily skewed toward male, like in China. It is not. I think this is just so much hand-waving, because the anti-choice activists want to wave the flag of feminism. They aren’t anti-woman! See? They are the ones standing up for the rights of female fetuses! I actually saw one person claim that half the fetuses aborted were female! OK. Possibly. That would be expected if abortions were not sex-selective.

        Put up or shut up. Data…from a reliable source.

        • Andrew Kohler

          ” I actually saw one person claim that half the fetuses aborted were female! ”

          And I’ll bet the other half were male! :-O (Are you sure this statement was not intended ironically!?)

          Actually, it would be more accurate to say: I’ll bet the other half were male, plus a small percentage of intersex. One wonders, though: is this person taking intersex fetuses into account? Perhaps claiming that half of abortions are female fetuses and half intersex fetuses? In which case, why does this person not care about discrimination against the intersex? Somehow I doubt that intersex fetuses ever have crossed his or her mind. Also, I’ve been told that more males are conceived but are less likely to be carried to term because of a higher rate of lethal abnormalities, as noted by Randomfactor infra. If I am correctly informed, in the case of abortions performed early on without knowledge of the sex of the fetus, a majority are probably male.

          The argument that several people have made that addressing cultural bias against female children is the proper response to sex selective abortions is superb, and I’ll be sure to remember it when inevitably I hear this brought up again. Kristine Kruszelnick of Secular Pro-Life [see? like Glodson already has noted, not all secularists support abortion rights! and not all religious people oppose them!] used it in debate with Matt Dillahunty, for example.

          • iknklast

            Unfortunately, this statement (about half of aborted fetuses being female) was not meant ironically.

            With the data on sex ratios in this country, which are always close to 50:50, it is obvious that if gender specific abortion is being carried out, the numbers are negligible. This is just a new ruse to be seen as pro-woman. And few of the shouters have even the most basic understanding of statistics.

      • Ibis3

        So there are some reasons you find valid to support reproductive slavery? How nice.

        If, for example, aborting a healthy “fetus” just because “it” is a female is not abuse, then nothing much is.

        1. Why the scare quotes for “fetus” and “it”?
        2. Would you have the same moral objection if they invented a spermicide that only destroyed XX or XY sperm? Or if they separated male/female sperm before IVF? Or are spermatazoa sacred too?
        3. If your problem is the valuing of males over females by society, the way to combat that is not by treating women as incubating machines, asshole.

        • Randomfactor

          I would guess that there IS some sex-selection in IVF, but that it goes in the other direction. So many birth defects selectively target males that it wouldn’t surprise me if there is an overall preference for girls. And 100x like your #3, Ibis

          • Michael Busch

            There is some sex-selection in IVF / sex selective abortion in the US, mostly in the name of “family balancing” – people who already have only daughters or sons want a child of the other gender. This is disturbing in terms of the gender-role codification that it assumes, but is a relatively rare practice in the US. Estimates from Wikipedia are that it is relevant to at most 1% of full-term pregnancies and a few percent of all induced abortions in the US at this time. Sex selection is a far worse problem in South and East Asia.
            And, as stated by others, the solution to prevent sex-selection is to change society to not value one gender over another.

      • Loqi

        I’ll start listening to your anti-abortion talking points once we institute an organ donor draft. Until the government starts forcing people to donate kidneys en masse, you can shove your ideas on the subject back into the orifice from which you pulled them.

        • Andrew G.

          Also livers, which unlike kidneys can grow back after having had enough taken out for a useful transplant.

          • John Horstman

            Yeah, I like that one and bone marrow especially, since the harvesting is invasive and painful (like pregnancy and childbirth, but not as bad), but the impacts are temporary (like most pregnancies). This heads off the objection that we’re drawing a bad analogy because once you lose a kidney, it’s gone, while pregnancy typically only causes problems that last a few years at most.

          • M

            Also just straight up blood donations. They’re painless, easy, and you grow back your lost blood in a few months with no ill effects. Yet we still don’t mandate them.

      • Glodson

        Others here have addressed the abortion concerns, and I’ve as well in other threads. Repeatedly.

        But I’m going to address the other factor in your reply. To defend the moral authority of the Catholic Church, some feel that it is necessary to excuse the pederasty of some of the priests and the cover-up by the Church. It is directly tied to a defense of Catholicism as a moral authority. To defend the moral authority of Mohammed, one must account for his child bride, for his pedophilia. These two examples are examples of sickening acts that many religious people feel the need to defend in order to validate their moral superiority derived from their religion.

        Now, when an atheist makes an argument for something other than then non-existence of god, it is not related directly to this person’s atheism. My social justice concerns do stem from my atheism, but that’s more a function of my response to living in a godless universe.

        One argument that an atheist made that angered me was that the government should outlaw all religions. But that has little to do with his atheism directly.

        A Catholic who defends the pedophile priests, the condemnation of contraception, and extreme pr0-life bullshit is doing so in a direct response to their religious beliefs. When a Muslim defends the child-bride of Mohammed or the treat of women by Islam, they are doing so in direct response to their religious belief. When an atheist defends a statement, it is more indirectly related to their atheism. As such, their belonging to the group of atheists and stances on issues like abortion aren’t directly related.

        So, your objection is nonsense. Further, atheism is not monolithic. Not all atheists hold the same position on, well, anything. In essence, rather than commenting on the problems related to the issue at hand in this thread, you brought in an unrelated objection in which you feel that is somehow morally equivalent to the statements made in the opening post. They aren’t, and this isn’t related at all. If you want to talk about abortion, there’s plenty of active threads on it, in this very blog.

        If you want to comment on how religion is needed for moral guidance, do so.

        • Highlander

          To defend the moral authority of Mohammed, one must account for his child bride, for his pedophilia.

          Not to mentioin his systematized genocide, rape, theft, slavery, murders and forced conversion.

          • Glodson

            And the same things we find in the Bible, and even the history of the Church.

            In short, religion really doesn’t have much of a leg to stand on as a moral authority.

      • M

        Well then. Men are the majority of violent criminals, so obviously the response is to keep men tied to the home unless in the company of a trusted female friend and/or guard dog that will stop them from committing crimes.

        What? That’s a huge violation of men’s liberty? The better response is to deal with the root causes of crime, including poverty, problematic representations of masculinity, poor education, and the high availability of illegal guns? I agree. But then why is your first response to “women might make bad choices” to restrict women’s liberty, instead of changing the variables leading to that bad decision? You know, dealing with poverty, the societal denigration of women, the “glass ceiling”, slut-shaming, lack of protections for pregnant workers, lack of paid parental leave, and more. The proper response to gender-selection abortions is to celebrate women as much as we celebrate men, not banning all abortions for everyone on the off-chance that this abortion is gender-selective.

      • BabyRaptor

        And your opinion is completely worthless, because you just openly condoned enslaving women to their bodily functions, and your only offered defense is something that cannot even happen in this country. Congratulations, you just showed what an immoral jerk you are.

        Maybe when the pro-forced birth side starts dealing in reality and facts instead of religion, heart-string tugs, lies and blown-out rhetoric, decent people could take you seriously. Until then, please just shut up, live your lives, and stay out of mine.

        • Glodson

          I just want to note that this style of argument is one in a long line of trying to frame anti-abortion nonsense in a way which the person making the argument can claim to be pro-women.

          Instead of addressing any underlying cultural reason as to why a woman would selectively abort a fetus based on sex, just bring it up as a “reasonable” objection to abortion. I’ve seen people argue that women could be coerced into abortion as a “reasonable” objection to abortion. Again, they fail to address the underlying problem in which a woman is denied her bodily autonomy through pressure from an outside source, and ignore women who are coerced into carrying a pregnancy to term by various methods as well.

          In the end, it is an attempt to try to pit women’s rights against abortion rights. It is shallow and sophomoric as the problem these scenarios isn’t abortion.

  • iknklast

    I was just approached by a student in my class; she is taking Comparative Religions, and when her teacher pulled up something on the internet, she saw my picture. We talked a bit, and it is evident her teacher, teaching about atheism, knows little to nothing about her topic. The teacher (a Catholic, according to my student) divides atheists into – wait for it – mean and not mean. She showed a video of a famous “mean” atheist “bashing” religion. My student was unable to remember the name of the incredibly famous atheist, so I couldn’t answer her, but she says she will come back and tell me who it was. My guess? It isn’t a “mean” atheist, just a person saying something these kids thought they would never hear. (I’m sort of betting on Dawkins, but the name rang no bells for my students. Of course, they also almost all forgot the name Marie Curie between the lecture and the test in my class, so that might not mean anything).

    I have a huge library of freethought books, and I’m trying to decide which would be the best resources to ease my student into an understanding of atheist thought – the understanding her teacher didn’t give her. My student says she’s very interested. I’d love input from anyone here – which books do you think are best for this student? She’s got good reading skills, so we don’t need to dumb it down for her, but we probably don’t want the most brutal right off the bat.

    • Nate Frein

      Atheism for Dummies, perhaps? While I haven’t had a chance to read it (waiting for my next paycheck to be able to order it), reviews and excerpts paint it as aiming at informing believers.

    • Zinc Avenger (Sarcasm Tags 3.0 Compliant)

      Why Are You Atheists So Angry?: 99 Things that Piss Off the Godless by Greta Christina is a fine book. Many purchase options (including ebook) here.

    • John Horstman

      Honestly, the portal isn’t a terrible place to start:
      Michael Sandel’s Justice is sort of an overview of many extant ethical/moral frameworks, many of them secular, so that’s a good resource for people to learn about not-god-based moralities. As much as I hate to recommend him for anything, Chris Stedman is probably one of the most conciliatory high-profile atheists, so Fathiest might actually not be a terrible choice (I have not read it, other than problematic excerpts that people have challenged). Greta’s book is great, so I’ll second Zinc Avenger’s suggestion. The Hitchens-edited The Portable Atheist might be a good step after the student has some understanding, as it covers a lot of ground from widely-divergent perspectives.

      Of course, some of the best ways to get to know what atheists think is to read their writings on things other than religion/atheism specifically, and especially fiction. To that end, I’d recommend Mark Twain (especially Letters from the Earth, which *does* deal specifically with Christianity), Douglas Adams, Kurt Vonnegut, and Philip Pullman. Also Roald Dahl.

  • Dan Marshall

    Sick! I can’t believe people would boo calling out the widely-known problem the catholic church has with child-raping clergy. What in the hell is wrong with these people? And comparing raping a 9 year old with a doctor giving a child a shot? Yeah, fuck islam and catholicism.

    • Nate Frein

      He may have been trying to argue that Mohammed “married” the girl, but didn’t “consummate” the marriage, and that the marriage was necessary to “protect” Fatima from…something.

      • Jeff

        He married her at 6 and raped her at 9 to protect her from those who would marry *and* rape her at the age of 6. Classic case of destroying the village in order to save it.

      • vorjack

        IIRC, the marriage of Aisha and Muhammad was a political match within the community. The greater good may have been the stability of the community.

        • Anonymous Atheist

          So that could excuse the marriage, but why only wait till age 9 to start having sex? He had plenty of other wives to keep him occupied, he easily could’ve waited till she at least reached puberty.

          • baal

            The other part of the idea is the consummation of marriage. To some degree, the marriage isn’t real until sex happens. This is related to the biblical ‘rape is ok if you marry her’ line – it’s not rape, it’s per-ceremony consummation of marriage. This thinking also shows up in the idea that you should only marry virgins and that a non-virgin is not a fit wife. It’s also pretty easy to see how this entire line of thinking is all about men controlling women’s fertility in much the same way you’d think about controlling the birth rates of livestock (right down to blood lines and all).
            So for the prophet (profit?) to not consummate his marriage to Aisha was a bit of a political matter. The whole concepts of rape and body autonomy simply aren’t relevant to folks who adhere to the ‘consummation of marriage’ world view.

            I think my comments are also a pretty good reason why we should continue to oppose the Ahbramic religions, in particular their insistence of the male dominated house hold model.

    • tubi

      And comparing raping a 9 year old with a doctor giving a child a shot?

      He basically just called Mohammed a “needle-dick.” Pretty sure that’s grounds for some kind of punishment in Islam.

    • Glodson

      What in the hell is wrong with these people? And comparing raping a 9 year old with a doctor giving a child a shot?

      It tells you the lengths people will go to in order to defend their religion. If someone from another religion made the comment, I’m sure the guy would have scoffed at it and jumped to explain how evil that religion is. It is part showmanship to trick their audience. And I think it is part an attempt to resolve the moral dissonance they feel when confronted with the truth.

  • Matt Dillahunty

    I did respond to the booing with a comment. What I really wish I’d have said was:

    “When JT cited priests molesting children, that wasn’t an argument that ‘Christianity is morally bankrupt because of child rape…or the cover up’, it was merely an acknowledgement that Christianity doesn’t seem to do much to correct that situation. We know Christianity is morally bankrupt for plenty of other reasons.”

  • Loqi

    I wonder if there are boos from the pews when a local priest gets exposed as a child rapist.

    • M

      Probably just shocked silence, because it could never happen here. Their priest was always so nice, so friendly, he went above and beyond to help children! Never mind that that’s also classic grooming behavior …

      • just someone

        Either that or they line up to defend the scumbag to the hilt while throwing his victims under the bus.

        • iknklast

          William Lobdell has a couple of good stories on that from his days as a religion reporter (and practicing believer). People defending the priest at the expense of the victim seems to be the norm in some places.

  • Randomfactor

    I wonder whether they would have booed if JT had said something about the urgent unmet need to provide “assistance for all those who in the past suffered such violence, necessary measures against the guilty.”

    Which is what some guy in Italy was supposed to have said the other day from beneath a funny hat.

  • Michael Busch

    One of the biggest problems with the Catholic church is that the hierarchy has set up a culture where the priests have little independent accountability and oversight. There is one part of that culture that I find particularly bad:
    Relatively few priests are pedophiles – the best estimates of the incidence that I have seen place it no more than a few times higher than in the general population. But far too many of them are never charged and continue to rape children. Part of that is because the hierarchy’s culture is _already_ set up to favor cover-ups. A large fraction of priests aren’t celibate – some are gay and have consensual relationships with other adult men, many are straight and have consensual relationships with adult women. So when a very large fraction – upper limit of perhaps 50% – of the priesthood and hierarchy are already covering up things they falsely perceive as being unethical, it is far too easy to cover up the real and truly horrific crimes of priests who rape children (or priests who rape adults – as the case of Cardinal Keith O’Brien illustrates).

    • Nate Frein

      This is exactly why I get annoyed when apologists throw up examples of pedophilia outside the church to defend pedophilia inside the church.

      For example, using the fact that some teachers engage in pedophilia. But the fact remains that either the teacher is dealt with, or the institution ends up paying a very dear price, like Penn State did for Sandusky.

      • invivoMark

        Penn State got a massive fine, got restricted from bowl games for four years, and couldn’t give out scholarships.

        Can we please force the Catholic Church to pay a massive fine, be restricted from public proselytizing (including pope visits, interviews, or TV appearances), and restrict them from hiring new priests? I mean, Sandusky was one guy; the Catholic Church has so many guys, it should be eligible for a thousand years of the same penalties, right?

        • Michael Busch

          The massive fines have happened, although probably not proportionately:
          The Roman Catholic Church has been ordered to make settlement payments of $2 – $3 billion for abuse cases over the past 60 years or so. That’s perhaps 5% of the total value of the Church’s current assets.
          The fines to Penn State for covering up what Sandusky was doing were a similar percentage of the university’s endowment, but that was for covering up one abuser.

          • Michael Busch

            Approximate scaling: if the Catholic Church were to be fined as much for covering up each reported and substantiated case of sexual assault so far as Penn State was, the settlements would be roughly 10x what they have been, and so ~50% of the Church’s current assets.

          • Michael Busch

            And, as JT said, the current number of reported and substantiated cases is far lower than the true world-wide number. So if the Church were to be held to the same standards for complicity as Penn State has been and all cases were reported, it would either be bankrupted or – more likely – be compelled to give up a couple of percent of its current annual revenue yearly for several decades.

      • Andrew Kohler

        “This is exactly why I get annoyed when apologists throw up examples of pedophilia outside the church to defend pedophilia inside the church.”

        While this is an excellent reason indeed to be annoyed at this particular line of apologetics, it also should be noted that “Well, lots of other people do the same bad things our people do!” is really not a very impressive defense. Imagine a convicted murderer in a high-profile case complaining that there are lots of other murderers, too. As if that weren’t sufficiently absurd in itself, further imagine that this murderer claimed divinely granted moral authority to regulate everyone else’s lives.

    • Michael Busch

      Something I should have phrased more carefully before, and which no one should falsely conflate: “pedophilia” isn’t the same as “sexually assaulting children”, although something near 90% of sexual abusers of children do meet the diagnostic criteria for pedophilia.

      • Azkyroth

        although something near 90% of sexual abusers of children do meet the diagnostic criteria for pedophilia.

        Citation? My recollection was that I’d read that the majority are “situational offenders” who assault children because of some combination of availability and vulnerability.

        • Michael Busch

 . Report derived from work by a group at the Mayo Clinic, published 2007. May be behind a paywall depending on where you are.
          Most are not exclusive “true pedophiles” and may also have sex with other adults. And note that a situational offender who sexually assaults vulnerable children can be and very often does meet the diagnostic criteria for pedophilia. Those abusers who are not rapidly caught are those who seek out situations where there is minimal oversight and victims who are less likely to report being abused.