Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Atheist Blasphemy Challenge Looks Sophomoric

I understand the danger of corporate religious power, and the part strict dogma plays in isolating people, and ruining lives. I can almost fathom the possibility of a return to medieval patterns of dealing with perceived heretics, and blasphemers. I have been on the wrong side of the gavel in ecclesiastical edicts determined by false charges and I have seen the devastating wicked power which can occur at the hands of religious leaders.

To most people these things are a fantastic possibility - like tilting at windmills, or yelling at monsters under the bed at night - few people in the western world live under any serious ecclesiastical threat.  The few of us who have experienced it, even under its greatly diminished power compared to medieval times, understand its dark under belly.

In the Muslim world, and in the superstitious boundaries of a highly charged animist Africa people are loosing their lives.  Muslim reformers are being imprisoned and murdered.  Women and children are being tortured and thrown out on the streets as accused witches.

Enter stage left the Atheist Ireland response to the recently enacted blasphemy law in Ireland.  Their 25 blasphemies, which they posted online the day the law went into effect look like a sophomoric publicity stunt in comparison to the people whose lives are on the line in a real life situations.

The response by Irish authorities to the 25 blasphemies has been next to nil.  I will be completely surprised if this ends up amounting to anything more than a group of people shouting obscenities at one another to get attention, and finding like a group of junior high kids standing on a street corner trying out their four letter words that no one was listening to them anyway.

Many of the atheists responding to the blasphemy law have been intelligent, well spoken,  and considerate people.  I have a number of atheist friends whom I count among people I trust most in this world, but for the crude and abusive ranters I have no respect.

Step aside little kids!  Let the people who have the scars from the battle fight the war.  We are the ones who know where the battle lines are really drawn, and understand what the real dangers of religious power look like.  I think the Irish blasphemy law is really what designers say it is:  made to make prosecution nearly impossible.  It is a toothless lion.  All the four letter words in the world can only bring up an indecency charge, and that quite frankly might be worth slapping a few nasty little boys with.


Jarred said...

I must say that I like this blog post more than your Examiner article on the same subject, Phil. I like how you acknowledge the potential troubles of blasphemy laws in this, as it's something I felt was missing in the article.

I agree that the atheist response to blasphemy laws -- and not just the Irish one -- are quite silly and even sophomoric. Then again, I never understood the idea of being blasphemous just for the sake of being blasphemous.

Having said that, though, I do tend to get concerned over blasphemy laws. After all, who ultimately determines what is blasphemous? I've known people who find the act of comparing Buddha and Jesus to be wholly blasphemous and get quite offended over it. (As an aside, I find it curious that many people who do this will also go off on rants about "political correctness" and insist that people "don't have the right to not be offended.") I suspect that there are some people who even find any criticism of their theology blasphemous. And if these people get any say in what qualifies as blasphemous when it comes to the law, it could be a frightening experience.

I hope you're right that the law in Ireland proves to be toothless. But I admit I'm a bit concerned.

But don't worry. I have no intention of running around screaming blasphemies in protest. ;)

Pastor Phil said...

Hey Jarred,

The Examiner articles play a different part, and are not first person story lines, even if they are commentary. So, I linked to here to complete some thought.

I am concerned for the atheist cause as a whole. The noisy, cursing, childish crowd among them hurt their own reputation. I have really good atheist friends who do not act like some of the ridiculous things I have seen written in the last 5 days.

Like you, I do not like the blasphemy law, but it is a better choice than the free reign of judicial decision which could occur under an unchanged Irish constitution without a background law defining it.

Jim Hogue said...

You do have a point. Most of the list put up by the Atheist group lacked specific impact. some of it just seemed bizarre.

It won't amount to much until someone is actually facing a 25,000 pound fine. that's a hell of a sum. The anti-defamation laws in Melbourne Aus. were kind of a joke until they hauled in their first victim.

I guess what I hate about this is the idea of anybody being threatened by "the church" for being and acting like a non-believer. I keep thinking about Paul in Acts 17. His whole approach was missional. He left Mars Hill with new disciples and an invitation to come back. That's what I want to do.

The Gospel does not need defense. It needs distrubution