“The law is a ass”, famously said Mr Bumble, in “Oliver Twist”. This is, of course, totally unfair to the ass, which may be ornery, cantankerous and, well, asinine, but the poor animal is incapable of cruelty or injustice, as is too often the case with the law. We could have expected that by now blasphemy would be completely off the books. But God – or at least belief in Him – is not dead, and blasphemy is still illegal in no less than seven European countries : Denmark, Austria, Finland, Spain, Greece, Italy and Ireland. England was part of that list until 2008 ! Blasphemy as a crime was abolished in France as part of the French Revolution, in 1791. Until then, insulting God was equivalent to insulting the monarch, King by divine right. The revolutionaries had not forgotten that twenty-six years earlier a 19-year old knight of the realm, François-Jean Le Febvre de la Barre, was condemned for profanation of a wooden cross in Abbeville, and had his tongue cut out before being (mercifully !) decapitated and burned at the stake. Today French law prohibits verbal attacks against individuals (insults, libel, slander and inciting to hatred) but not criticizing or ridiculing opinions, religious or not. A famous contemporary French author, Michel Houellebecq, has written, with impunity, that “Islam is the most dim-witted religion”, but would be condemned by law were he to have written “Muslims are dim-witted”.
In Islamic countries, not only is blasphemy illegal but is punished by death, including (as in Leviticus 24:10-23) by stoning (rocks not too big, not too small). Though the word “blasphemy” is never once mentioned in the Koran, apostasy, denial of the faith, is considered its equivalent. In Islam, to insult Allah, His Prophet or the Koran is to renounce the faith. According to the ahadith, even to fail to recognize the goodness and blessings of God is to commit the worst of sins !
Blasphemy has been defined as a “crime without a victim”. God cannot appear in court. For this reason, blasphemy has come to mean offending … believers ! It never seems to occur to non-atheists that their religious beliefs and practice offend atheists. Frankly (as becomes the author of this Blog) I don’t give a damn what they call me or what they say about my denial of Christian or any other faith. I will still continue to ridicule their religion, not only because of its absurdity but because it blinds people, especially impressionable youth as well as gullible adults, to the truth.
The knight de la Barre was found to have a copy of Voltaire’s “Dictionnaire Philosophique” in his home. Don’t let anyone catch you reading this Blog.