blasphemy

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Apparently Michael Nugent of Atheist Ireland is a “crackpot sitting in an attic” (Atheists challenge blasphemy law – Times Online):

A spokesman for the Department of Justice said that Ahern did not “have the luxury of time to deal with some crackpot sitting in an attic somewhere sending around quotes that are intended to be blasphemous. I would suggest this person spend ¤5 on a copy of Bunreacht na hEireann, which contains the reference to blasphemy being against the law.

Actually Michael Nugent has a sizeable Twitter following – nearly 14,000 followers now – so he’s some crackpot.  I hope this story will run and run, and I wonder when the first prosecution for blasphemy will occur.  However, apparently “A garda source said there will be an investigation into whether the publication of the quotes is against the new law”, so maybe a test case is looming?

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Ireland begins the new year with a new law banning blasphemy, with a maximum fine of €25,000. Atheist Ireland objects to this law and has published a list of 25 blasphemous quotes that would fall foul of this absurd anachronous legislation (Atheist Ireland Publishes 25 Blasphemous Quotes | blasphemy.ie).  The 25 quotes are from a wide range of individuals (some of questionable reality!). For the purposes of the new Irish law, blasphemy is defined as the publication or utterance of matter that is grossly abusive or insulting in relation to matters held sacred by any religion, thereby intentionally causing outrage among a substantial number of adherents of that religion, with some defences permitted (though I’m uncertain what defences are permitted).  Here are the 25 quotations:

List of 25 Blasphemous Quotes Published by Atheist Ireland

1. Jesus Christ, when asked if he was the son of God, in Matthew 26:64: “Thou hast said: nevertheless I say unto you, Hereafter shall ye see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven.” According to the Christian Bible, the Jewish chief priests and elders and council deemed this statement by Jesus to be blasphemous, and they sentenced Jesus to death for saying it.

2. Jesus Christ, talking to Jews about their God, in John 8:44: “Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him.” This is one of several chapters in the Christian Bible that can give a scriptural foundation to Christian anti-Semitism. The first part of John 8, the story of “whoever is without sin cast the first stone”, was not in the original version, but was added centuries later. The original John 8 is a debate between Jesus and some Jews. In brief, Jesus calls the Jews who disbelieve him sons of the Devil, the Jews try to stone him, and Jesus runs away and hides.

3. Muhammad, quoted in Hadith of Bukhari, Vol 1 Book 8 Hadith 427: “May Allah curse the Jews and Christians for they built the places of worship at the graves of their prophets.” This quote is attributed to Muhammad on his death-bed as a warning to Muslims not to copy this practice of the Jews and Christians. It is one of several passages in the Koran and in Hadith that can give a scriptural foundation to Islamic anti-Semitism, including the assertion in Sura 5:60 that Allah cursed Jews and turned some of them into apes and swine.

4. Mark Twain, describing the Christian Bible in Letters from the Earth, 1909: “Also it has another name – The Word of God. For the Christian thinks every word of it was dictated by God. It is full of interest. It has noble poetry in it; and some clever fables; and some blood-drenched history; and some good morals; and a wealth of obscenity; and upwards of a thousand lies… But you notice that when the Lord God of Heaven and Earth, adored Father of Man, goes to war, there is no limit. He is totally without mercy – he, who is called the Fountain of Mercy. He slays, slays, slays! All the men, all the beasts, all the boys, all the babies; also all the women and all the girls, except those that have not been deflowered. He makes no distinction between innocent and guilty… What the insane Father required was blood and misery; he was indifferent as to who furnished it.” Twain’s book was published posthumously in 1939. His daughter, Clara Clemens, at first objected to it being published, but later changed her mind in 1960 when she believed that public opinion had grown more tolerant of the expression of such ideas. That was half a century before Fianna Fail and the Green Party imposed a new blasphemy law on the people of Ireland.

5. Tom Lehrer, The Vatican Rag, 1963: “Get in line in that processional, step into that small confessional. There, the guy who’s got religion’ll tell you if your sin’s original. If it is, try playing it safer, drink the wine and chew the wafer. Two, four, six, eight, time to transubstantiate!”

6. Randy Newman, God’s Song, 1972: “And the Lord said: I burn down your cities – how blind you must be. I take from you your children, and you say how blessed are we. You all must be crazy to put your faith in me. That’s why I love mankind.”

7. James Kirkup, The Love That Dares to Speak its Name, 1976: “While they prepared the tomb I kept guard over him. His mother and the Magdalen had gone to fetch clean linen to shroud his nakedness. I was alone with him… I laid my lips around the tip of that great cock, the instrument of our salvation, our eternal joy. The shaft, still throbbed, anointed with death’s final ejaculation.” This extract is from a poem that led to the last successful blasphemy prosecution in Britain, when Denis Lemon was given a suspended prison sentence after he published it in the now-defunct magazine Gay News. In 2002, a public reading of the poem, on the steps of St. Martin-in-the-Fields church in Trafalgar Square, failed to lead to any prosecution. In 2008, the British Parliament abolished the common law offences of blasphemy and blasphemous libel.

8. Matthias, son of Deuteronomy of Gath, in Monty Python’s Life of Brian, 1979: “Look, I had a lovely supper, and all I said to my wife was that piece of halibut was good enough for Jehovah.”

9. Rev Ian Paisley MEP to the Pope in the European Parliament, 1988: “I denounce you as the Antichrist.” Paisley’s website describes the Antichrist as being “a liar, the true son of the father of lies, the original liar from the beginning… he will imitate Christ, a diabolical imitation, Satan transformed into an angel of light, which will deceive the world.”

10. Conor Cruise O’Brien, 1989: “In the last century the Arab thinker Jamal al-Afghani wrote: ‘Every Muslim is sick and his only remedy is in the Koran.’ Unfortunately the sickness gets worse the more the remedy is taken.”

11. Frank Zappa, 1989: “If you want to get together in any exclusive situation and have people love you, fine – but to hang all this desperate sociology on the idea of The Cloud-Guy who has The Big Book, who knows if you’ve been bad or good – and cares about any of it – to hang it all on that, folks, is the chimpanzee part of the brain working.”

12. Salman Rushdie, 1990: “The idea of the sacred is quite simply one of the most conservative notions in any culture, because it seeks to turn other ideas – uncertainty, progress, change – into crimes.” In 1989, Ayatollah Khomeini of Iran issued a fatwa ordering Muslims to kill Rushdie because of blasphemous passages in Rushdie’s novel The Satanic Verses.

13. Bjork, 1995: “I do not believe in religion, but if I had to choose one it would be Buddhism. It seems more livable, closer to men… I’ve been reading about reincarnation, and the Buddhists say we come back as animals and they refer to them as lesser beings. Well, animals aren’t lesser beings, they’re just like us. So I say fuck the Buddhists.”

14. Amanda Donohoe on her role in the Ken Russell movie Lair of the White Worm, 1995: “Spitting on Christ was a great deal of fun. I can’t embrace a male god who has persecuted female sexuality throughout the ages, and that persecution still goes on today all over the world.”

15. George Carlin, 1999: “Religion easily has the greatest bullshit story ever told. Think about it. Religion has actually convinced people that there’s an invisible man living in the sky who watches everything you do, every minute of every day. And the invisible man has a special list of ten things he does not want you to do. And if you do any of these ten things, he has a special place, full of fire and smoke and burning and torture and anguish, where he will send you to live and suffer and burn and choke and scream and cry forever and ever ’til the end of time! But He loves you. He loves you, and He needs money! He always needs money! He’s all-powerful, all-perfect, all-knowing, and all-wise, somehow just can’t handle money! Religion takes in billions of dollars, they pay no taxes, and they always need a little more. Now, talk about a good bullshit story. Holy Shit!”

16. Paul Woodfull as Ding Dong Denny O’Reilly, The Ballad of Jaysus Christ, 2000: “He said me ma’s a virgin and sure no one disagreed, Cause they knew a lad who walks on water’s handy with his feet… Jaysus oh Jaysus, as cool as bleedin’ ice, With all the scrubbers in Israel he could not be enticed, Jaysus oh Jaysus, it’s funny you never rode, Cause it’s you I do be shoutin’ for each time I shoot me load.”

17. Jesus Christ, in Jerry Springer The Opera, 2003: “Actually, I’m a bit gay.” In 2005, the Christian Institute tried to bring a prosecution against the BBC for screening Jerry Springer the Opera, but the UK courts refused to issue a summons.

18. Tim Minchin, Ten-foot Cock and a Few Hundred Virgins, 2005: “So you’re gonna live in paradise, With a ten-foot cock and a few hundred virgins, So you’re gonna sacrifice your life, For a shot at the greener grass, And when the Lord comes down with his shiny rod of judgment, He’s gonna kick my heathen ass.”

19. Richard Dawkins in The God Delusion, 2006: “The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction: jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully.” In 2007 Turkish publisher Erol Karaaslan was charged with the crime of insulting believers for publishing a Turkish translation of The God Delusion. He was acquitted in 2008, but another charge was brought in 2009. Karaaslan told the court that “it is a right to criticise religions and beliefs as part of the freedom of thought and expression.”

20. Pope Benedict XVI quoting a 14th century Byzantine emperor, 2006: “Show me just what Muhammad brought that was new and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached.” This statement has already led to both outrage and condemnation of the outrage. The Organisation of the Islamic Conference, the world’s largest Muslim body, said it was a “character assassination of the prophet Muhammad”. The Malaysian Prime Minister said that “the Pope must not take lightly the spread of outrage that has been created.” Pakistan’s foreign Ministry spokesperson said that “anyone who describes Islam as a religion as intolerant encourages violence”. The European Commission said that “reactions which are disproportionate and which are tantamount to rejecting freedom of speech are unacceptable.”

21. Christopher Hitchens in God is not Great, 2007: “There is some question as to whether Islam is a separate religion at all… Islam when examined is not much more than a rather obvious and ill-arranged set of plagiarisms, helping itself from earlier books and traditions as occasion appeared to require… It makes immense claims for itself, invokes prostrate submission or ‘surrender’ as a maxim to its adherents, and demands deference and respect from nonbelievers into the bargain. There is nothing-absolutely nothing-in its teachings that can even begin to justify such arrogance and presumption.”

22. PZ Myers, on the Roman Catholic communion host, 2008: “You would not believe how many people are writing to me, insisting that these horrible little crackers (they look like flattened bits of styrofoam) are literally pieces of their god, and that this omnipotent being who created the universe can actually be seriously harmed by some third-rate liberal intellectual at a third-rate university… However, inspired by an old woodcut of Jews stabbing the host, I thought of a simple, quick thing to do: I pierced it with a rusty nail (I hope Jesus’s tetanus shots are up to date). And then I simply threw it in the trash, followed by the classic, decorative items of trash cans everywhere, old coffeegrounds and a banana peel.”

23. Ian O’Doherty, 2009: “(If defamation of religion was illegal) it would be a crime for me to say that the notion of transubstantiation is so ridiculous that even a small child should be able to see the insanity and utter physical impossibility of a piece of bread and some wine somehow taking on corporeal form. It would be a crime for me to say that Islam is a backward desert superstition that has no place in modern, enlightened Europe and it would be a crime to point out that Jewish settlers in Israel who believe they have a God given right to take the land are, frankly, mad. All the above assertions will, no doubt, offend someone or other.”

24. Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor, 2009: “Whether a person is atheist or any other, there is in fact in my view something not totally human if they leave out the transcendent… we call it God… I think that if you leave that out you are not fully human.” Because atheism is not a religion, the Irish blasphemy law does not protect atheists from abusive and insulting statements about their fundamental beliefs. While atheists are not seeking such protection, we include the statement here to point out that it is discriminatory that this law does not hold all citizens equal.

25. Dermot Ahern, Irish Minister for Justice, introducing his blasphemy law at an Oireachtas Justice Committee meeting, 2009, and referring to comments made about him personally: “They are blasphemous.” Deputy Pat Rabbitte replied: “Given the Minister’s self-image, it could very well be that we are blaspheming,” and Minister Ahern replied: “Deputy Rabbitte says that I am close to the baby Jesus, I am so pure.” So here we have an Irish Justice Minister joking about himself being blasphemed, at a parliamentary Justice Committee discussing his own blasphemy law, that could make his own jokes illegal.

I particularly like the Mark Twain quotation; and I note the vile quote from Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor to the effect that I am not fully human (I blogged this at the time).  Visit blasphemy.ie for more information about their campaign for the repeal of this  anachronistic and repressive legislation.

Apparently PZ Myers is visiting Ireland to give a few talks in February.  Should be interesting (see quotation 22 above).

Happy New Year, everyone.

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A rather good sounding student arts festival began this weekend in St Andrews (BBC News -Students take to festival stage).  Included in about 70 performances held in 12 venues around the town, the On the Rocks event also showcases the talents of the local non-student community.  There’s a variety of performances, from Shakespeare to Peter Pan, and a film festival, complete with competition.  So, what’s the problem?

Well, it turns out that one of the performances is Jerry Springer: The Opera over which a considerable kerfuffle was raised a few years ago, when a production was aired on the BBC.  Perhaps that’s why the BBC News report focusses on this item.  It’s what’s generated another mouthing-off by bonkers christian agitator Stephen Green.  Of course his defeat in his blasphemy case against the BBC’s showing of Jerry Springer: The Opera not only revised UK blasphemy, but reputedly reduced him to the verge of bankruptcy.  Unfortunately his vile Christian Voice organisation is still active, and still upset by the Jerry Springer show, as the BBC report relates:

Christian Voice branded the university a “cess pit” and members will be handing out leaflets ahead of the performances.

National director of Christian Voice, Stephen Green, said: “The university and the students in it have rather lost touch with any notion of civilised behaviour.

“It’s all very well for the principal to bleat on about freedom of speech, but freedom of speech comes with responsibilities.

“It’s all very well for her to say we trust the students, but they don’t trust the students enough to mark their own exam papers so there’s a lot of duplicity and hypocrisy going on at St Andrews.”

I don’t know whether CV agitators will be handing out leaflets at the event, but I do wish the hypocritical twerps would just accept defeat and naff off into the distance. (For some more links about Stephen Green, see Stephen Green, Christian Voice and vaccinations, and also this Wikipedia page, which gives some more information on Stephen Green, Christian Voice, and their objectionable opinions and policies.)

Update:  Barrie’s also covered this story over at The Freethinker (Green resurfaces to protest against JSTO) – according to The Courier (Protests against Jerry Springer musical) there was one protestor on Saturday evening (a St Andrews theology academic), and about 20 CV drones, including Green on Sunday.

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There’s a report at Yahoo news (Cardinal says atheist’s theories “absurd”) with more information on the present Vatican conference I mentioned yesterday.  In a bizarre but typically tortuous statement,Cardinal William Levada, head of the Vatican‘s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, said

the Catholic Church doesn’t stand in the way of scientific realities like evolution, saying there was a “wide spectrum of room” for belief in both the scientific basis for evolution and faith in God the creator.

“We believe that however creation has come about and evolved, ultimately God is the creator of all things,” he said on the sidelines of the conference.

But while the Vatican did not exclude any area of science, it did reject as “absurd” the atheist notion of biologist and author Richard Dawkins and others that evolution proves there is no God, he said.

I suspect that the phrase “creation has come about” is a bit of a giveaway, leading to the statement about a god being the creator of all things.  As The Freethinker has pointed out, the cardinal misrepresents Dawkins here.  Amusing, particularly with the next paragraph:

“Of course we think that’s absurd and not at all proven,” he said. “But other than that … the Vatican has recognized that it doesn’t stand in the way of scientific realities.”

This is a peculiar and irrational thing to say.  Proving a negative is after all rather difficult.  It seems to me that the evidence of proof lies not with those saying there is very unlikely to be any supernatural deities but with those that aver the existence of a deity.  What evidence does the Catholic church (or indeed any set of religious believers) have for the existence of their deity (or deities)?

Francis Ayala, one of the speakers and described as a former priest and professor of biological sciences and philosophy at the University of California, is reported to have made a firm statement that “Intelligent Design” is blasphemous to both science and religion:

“It is not only not compatible with Christian faith, it is just blasphemous because it predicates from the creator attributes that we don’t want to have from the creator,” he said.

Perhaps he’s been mis-cited by Yahoo News, but I don’t see how something can be blasphemous against science, and I don’t see that reference in the actual quotation used in the article.  And when phrased in that way, it doesn’t represent a particularly robust objection to ID.

I’ve never really wondered about the religious beliefs of scientists before starting this blog, but occasionally they are made apparent.  I’ve blogged recently about Simon Conway Morris, and I noted here the reference to Ayala as a former priest.  Are the other scientific speakers selected on the basis of their theist beliefs?

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Hot on the heels of his latest slapdown from the ASA, it’s reported by The Scotsman (Jerry Springer sparks holy row at St Andrews) that he and his band of fellow fanatics, Christian Voice, are taking exception to a theatre group at St Andrews University planning to put on a production of Jerry Springer: the Opera.  This, you may recall, was the opera which led to Green’s defeat at the hands of the courts (though apparently he made such a fuss it’s theatrical run is supposed to have been curtailed.  At the time it was reported that the judgement was to lead to his bankruptcy, but that appears not to have happened.

Interestingly, the lad who is behind the staging is a practising Christian, but presumably he reckons that since Christianity has survived for two millennia against sterner opposiion than an opera, the various churches have nothing to fear.  Not so Stephen Green, who’s previous legal action against “Jerry Springer, the Opera” led to removal of blasphemy laws (good result) and his near bankruptcy.  You can read Christian Voice’s press release here.  It’s a typically bonkers statement.  And adds further support to the suggestion that Christian Voice is something of a one man band.

MediaWatchWatch’s take is here: Springer’s back!

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