Once you attempt legislation upon religious grounds, you open the way for every kind of intolerance and religious persecution.
– William Butler Yeats (Irish poet) – remarks on the adoption of the Irish Constitution of 1937
The UK took a step forward a while ago when the blasphemy laws of the country were finally ditched. And other countries in Europe have also gotten rid of the same anachronism. But there is a renewed call for blasphemy laws to be introduced – this time in Germany. The story is here.
“Those who injure the souls of believers with scorn and derision must be put in their place and in some cases also punished,” said Bamberg Archbishop Ludwig Schick on Wednesday.
Punished? I wonder what he has in mind – thumbscrews? The rack? Burning at the stake?
I think some religious people look longingly at those countries where politics and religion are the same thing. Islamic countries in particular have what they want – torture and death to the infidels. But Bishop Schick would probably think twice if the Pope decided to send him to Iran, say, to do a bit of missionary work. Or maybe Saudi Arabia, where the mere possession of a bible is a criminal offence. One man’s “true” religion is another man’s blasphemy, after all.
The religious lose sight of the fact that it is only in a secular society that everyone has the right to follow their particular religion without interference. Indeed, religious people have the protection of the law to carry on their faith unhindered, although they also have to put up with the inconvenience of not being allowed to punish those who do not share their faith.
When you get down to it, any religion (or lack of it) is blasphemy to any other religion. And of course, in this case, the bishop must have his own religion in mind when he is calling for blasphemers to be punished. He cannot really have Muslims, Sikhs, Hindus and every other religious persuasion at the top of his list when he calls for new blasphemy laws. He himself is a blasphemer according to other religions.
When the church was in charge of things in England, it was a time of terror. When the Catholics had the upper hand, they were burning Protestants; when the Protestants were in charge, they were burning Catholics. People with old scores to settle could accuse their rivals of blasphemy (or witchcraft) and see the state carry out their dirty work for them. The same kind of thing goes on today in other countries, but in Europe, at least, the Enlightenment helped us to start to outgrow the intellectual backwardness that is religion.
We are living in what is called a multicultural society nowadays, which means that there are many diverse beliefs out there. Everyone is entitled to their own beliefs as long as they do no harm to others, but we have to make sure that there is no possibility of a return to the dark ages. The bishop’s proposal for blasphemy to be a criminal offence seems mild, though, compared to the intention of others to make the whole world an Islamic republic. Everyone wants their own religion to be in charge, and punishment (even death) to everyone else.
Even though the bishop claims he wants protection for all religions in order to “preserve human dignity,” it seems like a contradiction in terms to me. What dignity is there in being punished for speaking out against, or satirising, or just not believing in religion?
Religion is bunk – ask any religious person if they think the other fellow’s religion is the “true faith” and see what reaction you get. How much protection do these people really, really think should be afforded to religions which, by definition, are pure blasphemy in relation to their own religion?
Religions, however, are united by one thing – a common hatred of atheists. They see no problem with attacking non-believers. Some religious people of my acquaintance have wasted no time in condemning me – telling me in no uncertain terms that I am hell-bound and they are looking forward to watching my unending torment for eternity from their blissful vantage point in heaven. Charming, I’m sure So what about legal protection for atheists?
Oh, yeah, we – and every religion – got it when they scrapped the blasphemy laws. Let’s keep it that way.
In the meantime, for your entertainment …