By Andrew L. Seidel
Freedom From Religion Foundation
Today is International Blasphemy Rights Day, a lovely little celebration put on by our friends at the Center for Inquiry. On this day, we celebrate and exercise our right to speak freely, even if that speech criticizes religion or is considered blasphemous. On this day, we stand in solidarity with our nonreligious brothers and sisters around the world, many of who are arrested, punished and persecuted for exercising the rights we enjoy here.
The Freedom From Religion Foundation’s charitable arm, Nonbelief Relief, has worked to help those brothers and sisters, particularly the blasphemous bloggers of Bangladesh. This summer, Nonbelief Relief wired emergency stipends to 11 different threatened Bangladeshi nonbelievers. That work continues, and Rafida Bonya Ahmed, who was grievously injured during a machete attack that killed her husband Avijit Roy last year, will be speaking at FFRF’s convention next week.
Bill Donohue, the Catholic League’s resident bloviator, is particularly upset that people might choose to blaspheme his god and his church. Indeed he claims that CFI “harbor[s] a special hatred of Catholicism.”
So in honor of International Blasphemy Rights Day and in honor of Mr. Donohue, let me just say: Damn the pope. This pope, as we’ve pointed, is all talk, not action. He’s no different than the host of popes before him, except that he might be a little better at public relations. In short, the pope is still a moral hypocrite. That’s why my colleague at CFI, Paul Fidalgo, has dubbed him “Pope Fluffy.”And while we’re on the subject of Catholicism, if you consider yourself a Catholic, you owe it to yourself take a hard look at the beliefs required by your Church’s religious law.
A right worth having is a right worth exercising. And the right to blaspheme is vital. As Justice Robert Jackson put it in the Barnette decision, one of the seminal cases protecting the First Amendment: “Those who begin coercive elimination of dissent soon find themselves exterminating dissenters. Compulsory unification of opinion achieves only the unanimity of the graveyard.”
Jackson knew more than most about “exterminating dissenters,” lessons he learned while serving as a prosecutor at the Nuremburg Trials. Jackson is also remembered for his powerful dissent—one of the best ever—in Korematsu, the case that upheld U.S. internment camps for citizens with Japanese heritage.
So today, exercise your right to blaspheme. Damn the gods you were taught to believe in or the irrational dogma you grew up in. Should you face opposition, remember the words of Robert G. Ingersoll, who defended a man against a blasphemy charge in New Jersey in 1887: “Any church that imprisons a man because he has used an argument against its creed, will simply convince the world that it cannot answer the argument.”
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