BEWARE OF "DEFAMATION OF RELIGION" CENSORSHIP!1
D. M. Murdock 2
There's an ill wind in the air that should chill the blood of any thinking person: The odor of censorship based on "religious" sensitivities. The recent debacle in Ireland over "blasphemous libel" being criminalized there highlights this controversy and its odious implications. Although the Irish situation evidently is not what it seems—i.e., a return to the European Dark Ages, when the Catholic Church reigned supreme and terrorized non-believers into submission—the brouhaha does underscore a push in many parts of the world either to enact anti-blasphemy laws or to increase their scope.
While many have interpreted Ireland's insertion of an anti-blasphemy clause in a Defamation Bill recently passed by the Irish Parliament as a sign of such censorship, its authors claim it was designed to have the opposite effect, by making it virtually impossible or useless to prosecute such purported "crimes." As it turns out, the anti-blasphemy statute has been in the Irish Constitution for decades, as have other such laws in various Westerns countries, including the rest of the United Kingdom. Indeed, it was only in 2008 that these laws were overturned in Great Britain, where they had actually ensnared not a few people in prior centuries. In the 1820s, for example, popular Church of England minister Rev. Dr. Robert Taylor was imprisoned twice on blasphemy charges for preaching that Jesus Christ was a mythological figure based on numerous other gods, goddesses and heroes in the ancient world. His punishment was so infamous and egregious that Charles Darwin expressed concern about suffering the same fate for his writings on evolution. Yet, compared to past eras, Taylor got off lightly; indeed, when we hear of anti-blasphemy censorship, sinister images of the Inquisition immediately come to mind.
In spite of the fact that the Irish architects of this latest anti-blasphemy legislation apparently hope that it will never be used or successfully prosecuted, the sum effect is that, based on charges of "causing outrage" among the religiously sensitive, the Irish police can legally enter a suspect's house, arrest him and seize any offending material, including books, videos and audios, etc. Concerning the phrase "causing outrage," Irish Times writer Michael Nugent wryly remarks, "The problematic behaviour here is the outrage, not the expression of different beliefs." Moreover, under such a law, practically any book could be called "offensive," including the Bible, which possesses much offensive language about a wide variety of people, including non-Israelites, women and homosexuals.
The hijacking of the U.N.
This disturbing trend of anti-blasphemy censorship is epitomized by the passage—once again—in March 2009 of the "defamation of religion" ban by the Islamist-dominated U.N. "Human Rights" Council. Although this U.N. Resolution is "non-binding," and the words "defamation of religion" were removed from it in April 2009, free speech watch groups fear that it is only a matter of time, in consideration of the increasing Islamist dominance, when it will become "binding." What such a development would mean is anybody's guess: In addition to "offensive" websites being shut down and bloggers being arrested—acts already occurring—will U.N. troops be allowed to enter into homes and seize "blasphemous" literature or worse?
Also, religion is not a "human" and as such does not possess any "human rights" that can be protected by the Human Rights Council. Indeed, "defamation" by its very definition involves a person, not an abstract concept like religion.
In addition, the fact that some of the worst offenders of human rights in the world hold the most sway over this council ranks as a black mark upon civilized society. In reality, the anti-defamation of religion resolution itself clearly to violates the U.N.'s "Universal Declaration of Human Rights."
Under a "defamation of religion" ban, we would be forced to keep silent about the following atrocities and brutalities of religious fanaticism:
punishment for being raped
oppression of women, misogyny, sexism
child abuse and marriage
cruelty to animals
defamation of nonbelievers, including hate speech, personal attacks, calumny, slander, libel, insults
discrimination against nonbelievers
the stripping of basic human rights, etc.
The hate speech and insults, of course, come into play when nonbelievers are called "heathens," "heretics," "blasphemers," "sinners," "satanists," "infidels" and so on. The sleep deprivation rears its ugly head when people are forced out of slumber at various times of the day—as people sleep at different times, having diverse jobs—by loud and obnoxious noises designed to force them to pray.
What is "blasphemy?"
The philosophical and legal quagmire with such legislation centers around the definition of "blasphemy." Practically every religion, sect and cult possesses concepts that are blasphemous to another. As an important example, while Christians believe that Jesus Christ was the Son of God, Muslims consider him a mere prophet, albeit an important one. Calling Christ the "Son of God," however, is viewed as "blasphemous" within Islam, as is not believing in Mohammed as Allah's final and most important prophet. Under such anti-blasphemy legislation, therefore, all Christian literature could be confiscated and Christians arrested, because at its very core, Christianity would represent "blasphemous material" that could cause—and has caused—outrage many times in the Muslim world, explaining in part why the Bible is banned in such fundamentalist Islamic countries as Saudi Arabia.
Furthermore, the punishment for blasphemy according to the Koran includes death and maiming, as stated at Surah 5:33:
"Those that make war against God and His apostle and spread disorder in the land shall be slain or crucified or have their hands and feet cut off on alternate sides, or be banished from the land."
Obviously, many people would object strenuously that there is any relationship between God and all this bigotry, cruelty and gore—to suggest otherwise would be extremely offensive to them and cause them outrage. This notion of a violent, cruel and enslaving God who approves of such behavior would offend their religious sensibilities, leaving its purveyors themselves open to charges of "blasphemy."
Freedom of speech is vital to human civilization
In the end, we all must share this planet. Based on the recent stellar rise of the "New Atheism," it is clear that a significant segment of society fervently rejects religious doctrine that has caused an untold amount of misery and suffering. Yet, religious fanaticism continues to destroy humanity's civil rights with an endless string of atrocities.
The passing of laws designed to remove the human right to honesty in protesting such oppression and carnage represents an atrocious miscarriage of justice that belongs to the Dark Ages, when men and women were jailed, tortured and murdered for not following what was repulsive to their innate sense of morality and decency.
People of conscience and clarity—not blinded by unscientific and uncritical religious beliefs—must be free to object and criticize oppressive and brutal religious practices, or we as a species will lose our integrity and our collective soul—and that terrible spiritual loss will represent the real "defamation of religion."
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