To the point, blasphemy laws intrude on the right of free speech and reflect a religious affectation meant to control what others say about theologically based matters. The idea of offending religious sensibilities to the point of punishment is in and of itself disgusting and distasteful, but there are venues where such regulations attempt to control any defamation of religion.

Such censorship goes against the entire concept of free speech and by doing so seeks to control the thoughts, actions and speech of others free from such constraints. In December of 2010, the Organization of the Islamic Conference’s resolution against "defamation of religion" passed in the United Nations General Assembly. Defamation of religion is an issue repeatedly addressed by some member states of the U.N. since 1998. Up to now, the resolution is nonbinding on U.N. member states.

The Pakistani led OIC want the United Nations to recognize "blasphemy" as a principle of international law, thus limiting free speech rights of more than half of the planet’s population. Free speech is on the line as blasphemy laws base themselves on levels of outrage meaning that a simple statement like “God is Not Great,” may offend slightly or outrageously. Such a rule tramples free speech because it is based on emotional response in levels of anger, the variance that may range between 0% offensiveness to 100%, making it difficult if not impossible to measure.

Levels of anger include, annoyance, irritation, aggravation, displeasure, fury, and rage to name just a few. How does one go about selecting the proper level for inflicting punishment? In Ireland blasphemy is defined as any statements that are "grossly abusive or insulting in relation to matters held sacred by any religion, thereby causing outrage among a substantial number of the adherents of that religion," and punishable by a $36,081 fine.

That seems a little harsh for a victimless crime. Hurt feelings, injured egos, and bruised beliefs come with life and living. If the worst thing that ever happens in this world is to have one’s feelings abused, whoever it is should consider themselves fortunate. Although Ireland’s law seems a bit harsh, it is kid stuff when compared with the Pakistani Penal Code.

According to Section 295-C of the Penal Code, “Whoever by words, either spoken or written, or by visible representation, or by any imputation, innuendo, or insinuation, directly or indirectly defiles the sacred name of the Holy Prophet Muhammed (peace be upon him) shall be punished with death, or imprisonment for life and shall also be liable to fine.”

Conversely, many of those pushing for such laws feel no conflict when criticizing entire groups of people that actually exist in the flesh and can be offended and angered by “imputation, innuendo, or insinuation.” For instance, “Great Satan and nigger” are terms I find especially offensive, but under the rule of free speech as odious as I find them, I cannot limit the speaker without limiting myself.

For true freedom, it is necessary for tolerance of others views, beliefs or words. Proposed blasphemy laws are not only intrusive to the rights of others rights, they intrude unnecessarily into the lives of others and encourage despotism. Perhaps, in the prosecution of such cases it should be required that the primary stakeholder or master be required to show up as the plaintiff with no proxy’s, stand-ins or substitutes. Any punishment handed out must follow the same rule.

The idea of blasphemy law is not only offensive it is unreasonable and dictatorial in nature. A relic of the Middle Ages, blasphemy laws allows mob rule and political sabotage especially in third world counties. When considering the benefits of free speech vs. blasphemy laws, I am required by reason to side with free speech. Prosecution of thoughts, ideas and speech based on religious doctrine is nothing short of The Inquisition revisited.

Update: According to a World Public Opinion poll 13 or 20 nations support the right to criticize religion. Support for the right to criticize religion was strongest in the United States at 89 percent (and only nine percent in support of government restrictions). Interestingly, one-third of respondents felt that governments "should have the right to fine or imprison people who publicly criticize a religion because such criticism could defame the religion." Of course, the strongest supporters of restrictions on criticism of religions are in Muslim countries. Additionally, those supporting restrictions are among the most impoverished countries in the world.

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Comment by Ted Foureagles on August 1, 2013 at 10:09am

Loren Miller said:

"I mean, seriously, does no one remember the phrase, Sticks and stones can break my bones But Words Will NEVER Hurt Me?"

Perhaps societies that feel a need for blasphemy laws should as punishment make the offender stand in a court of law as the offended chants those words.  Hey, it worked on the playground!  Of course, the only time I uttered them I promptly got hit with a stick.

Some societies that enact such laws do so because true believers are trying to banish anything that they see as sullying their cherished beliefs.  Others, for example those with more ambiguous 'hate speech' laws seem to be attempting to forestall uncontrolled use of the stick.  That is, they are caving to the bullies.

I grew up (such that I did) in a place completely controlled by the Ku Klux Klan, and so have my ideas of what constitutes hate speech, as I imagine Jewish survivors of the Holocaust do and my Native American ancestors did.  Suppressing it, especially by legislating against it, is an attempt to forget it or at least cast it in the light in which we want to remember it.

We do not have a right to not be offended, and when we assert that we do we do ourselves a disservice in blocking off a channel of reality.  One of my dear Navaho friends has a bumper sticker on his truck that reads, "The Only Good Indian Is A Dead Indian".  Of course this doesn't reflect his view, but serves as a reminder of what was once a prominent view of many.  Those who ignore history...


Comment by Frankie Dapper on August 1, 2013 at 1:48am

To permit blasphemy laws is to cede individual freedom to religious institutions.

To permit blasphemy laws it to recognize the power of the institution in defending its turf and inculcating its propaganda.

To permit blasphemy laws in any country is a condemnation of the government and its people.

Comment by Donald R Barbera on July 31, 2013 at 4:07pm

For me, blasphemy is a victimless crime.People bear insult and injury everyday without needing a law to protect them from harsh words. Religion is now out of the closet and only the most devout can work up enough faith to  believe all they are told. Science, communications and technology have made religion irrelevant except for its placebo effect, that can be easily achieved with a visit to your psychiatrist, practicing yoga, meditation, medication and education.It is difficult to write on the subject without denigrating someone's belief's, but if there is a God in the universe, it so far removed from human affairs as to be nonexistent. The personal "genie" god does not exist as  the curtains have been pulled back and Oz is naked.

Comment by Michael Penn on July 31, 2013 at 10:58am

I agree 100% with Loren on this.

Comment by Loren Miller on July 31, 2013 at 8:44am

To criminalize blasphemy is to criminalize WORDS, words which harm nothing and no one.  Those words may point up a blind spot in someone's favorite belief system, but the only harm they can possibly do is harm that any person who alleges such harm ALLOWED TO HAPPEN.  I mean, seriously, does no one remember the phrase, Sticks and stones can break my bones But Words Will NEVER Hurt Me?

The people pushing for such legislation, at some level or other, KNOW that they are on the wrong end of this fight, that their pretend-god cannot stand up to reality.  For that reason, they want it set apart from reality, shielded, exempt from scrutiny, criticism or mockery.  Sorry, fellas, not going to happen.  Religions, gods, and prophets are now under more scrutiny than perhaps every before in human history, and they are not doing well under such close attention.  Such examination finds the lies, the contradictions, the downright impossibilities which these iron age belief systems want their followers to swallow whole and accept Without Thought.

The problem is that there are people who have freed themselves from these anachronistic beliefs.  They LIKE their new-found freedom, and they are not willing to return to the shackles those beliefs insist upon.  Some of them dig further, examine deeper, probe into those ill-considered beliefs ... and they tear them apart, and sometimes rudely.  The believers may attempt to respond with one form of apologetics or another, but ultimately, their arguments, like their dogma, have insufficient strength to hold the day and they fall to pieces.  So now they attempt to legislate a portion of our free speech rights away in order to salve their offended feelings and dismantled beliefs.  To them, I say again for the umpti-umpth time:

No one...
No One...
NO ONE ... Has The Right NOT To Be OFFENDED.

You don't like the heat?  Door to the kitchen is THAT way. ====>

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