Mark Owen

Curse the gods and die?

Curse the gods and die! That is the message of blasphemy law.

Never mind that the gods don't exist, religion insists that governments jump to their dictates and institute laws to protect the honour of these non-existent entities, laws in some cases that demand death to the transgressor.

Yes, literally death, as in that beacon of enlightenment, Pakistan.

In February 1995 two young Pakistani Christians, one only 14 (who was in fact only aged 11 at the time of the offence), were condemned to death for blasphemy.  They had allegedly written anti-Islamic slogans on the wall of a mosque. The death sentences resulted in a worldwide outcry and even a statement expressing her shock by Pakistani Prime Minister Ms Benazir Bhutto. Judges meeting to consider an appeal against the sentence in Lahore had to face bloodthirsty crowds of Muslim fundamentalists, demanding the death of the 'offenders'. They even threatened that if an appeal was allowed the judges and their families would be murdered.  In the end, of course, they even murdered Ms Bhutto. And all this in the name of an insubstantial shadow.

But the murderous Pakistanis continue on their evil way. In recent times a Christian woman, Asia Bibi, has been sentenced to death for blasphemy and is currently on death row, awaiting a verdict in an appeal. Meanwhile, Islamic agitators are trying to get the United Nations to enact a blasphemy law worldwide, in effect trying to have Sharia law applied to all of us.

Britain has its own (ridiculous) blasphemy law, as does Australia and other countries. But At least in these countries you are not likely to be stoned to death for 'insulting the deity'. It was amusing to see British blasphemy law some years back come up against the intractable difficulty facing religionists - which deity is being insulted? Under British law anything that insults the Christian deity, Jesus of Nazareth, the Bible or the beliefs of the Church of England is considered blasphemous. When British Muslims tried to use British law to bring Salman Rushdie and his publisher, Penguin Viking, to heel on blasphemy charges the Chief Metropolitan Magistrate, Sir David Hopkin, rejected such a proposal and in April 1990 the High Court upheld the magistrate's decision.

Blasphemy law has also been a very contentious issue in Ireland and Italy, two countries with a strong Catholic background. Quite recently the Irish legislature created a quite unnecessary division within the community by enacting blasphemy statutes punishing those 'who utter or print statements deemed grossly abusive or insulting in relation to matters held sacred by any religion, thereby causing outrage among a substantial number of the adherents to that religion.' Heavy fines were set. And this in a country where the dark heart of the Church has been revealed in all its naked ugliness! And, of course, it is a one-way ticket for the believers. They can insult atheists and agnostics, as has the Pope and various prelates all the time, and do so with impunity. And more, they can peddle their false notions and nostrums, e.g. virgin births and resurrecting gods, without let or hindrance. Free speech for religion but not for others!

Blasphemy laws, wherever they are enacted, are essentially a form of censorship and a denial of human rights. And the existence of such laws draws attention once again to the essentially weak nature of religious belief. Unable to produce any real proofs of the wonders they espouse, religionists must fall back on protecting their cherished and erroneous beliefs through human law! How pathetic!

And even if one granted the existence of deities to blaspheme, which of the thousands of deities is the one whose almighty dignity is being maligned? Seems, m'lord, that the plaintiff must needs first prove there is a deity to blaspheme before the case proceeds any further.

A final question for our governments: why do we continue to send vast sums of money to aid repressive - and unenlightened - regimes like Pakistan?

Mark Owen, 2010 -

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