My friend Ellery Schempp, the plaintiff in Abington Township v Schempp, gave a talk on International Blasphemy Rights Day, which was last Sunday, about the importance of blasphemy. Below the fold, a transcript of that talk:
We meet today to affirm and celebrate the freedom to criticize and disagree with religious doctrines and religious philosophies. I celebrate all of us who are blasphemers, heretics, and in apostasy.
Freedom of personal religious beliefs cannot be secure unless there is also separation of church and state, separation of elected government from unelected claimants to god’s personal email address.
We have seen what blasphemy laws have done to us. Women called witches in Salem were killed because of finger-pointing — witches were said to be not only blasphemous, but satanic–whatever that means. Mary Dyer, a Quaker woman, was publically hanged to death right over here on Boston Common on June 1, 1660. In fact, three members of the Society of Friends were condemned to death and executed by public hanging for their religious beliefs under the legislature of the Massachusetts Bay Colony. Others lay under sentence of death at Boston in the same period, but had their punishments commuted to that of being whipped out of the colony from town to town.
Unitarians were condemned for denying the Trinity. That is blasphemy, heresy, apostasy all combined.
When I see what some bishops and preachers have done, I confess that I have some sympathies for Satan. Now, I am not in favor of evil, or anti-social acts, but I do sympathize with sinning.
And for blasphemy, I want you to know that Santa–y’know, Santa Claus—well, Santa is just a rearrangement of the letters in Satan! Christians have been fooled for long.
Heresy and apostasy are religious concepts and have no place in civil government. We always must ask, “Is this the business of government?”
Where would we be as secularists, Humanists, freethinkers, non-believers, atheists if blasphemy and heresy laws were enforced? How can we allow the power of civil government to be used by religious authorities, full of their own self-importance, to criminalize beliefs? Who is to define blasphemy or heresy? Should this power be given to unelected religion-dependent ‘authorities’ with a self-protecting agenda?
Democracy requires that religious doctrines be separated from good social policies.
We must be free to reject all notions of invisible angels and demons, invisible spirits and gods, invisible cherubims, seraphims, and Beelzebubs.
And notions about “natural law”, which is a purely religious invention with no basis in science.
Throughout history, churches have tried to capture the power of civil government to foster their own agendas, and feather their own nests. But no church or religious group should have power over secular government.
Separation of government from religious doctrines is the central unifying principle for all believers and non-believers. I applaud Humanists, Atheists, Secularists, and Liberal Religious people for holding to strict separation of church and state.
The core concept of “secular” means governmental neutrality without favoritism toward believers. Freedom from religious intrusions is essential to a vital democracy and for all secularists.
Blasphemy, heresy, apostasy are purely religious doctrines with no place in a free society.
So, I say unto you, Go thou and blaspheme and sin. Sinning is good for the soul. Blaspheming and heresy are good for the mind.