International Blasphemy Day was the concept of the Centre For Inquiry in response to the outrage over the Mohammed cartoons controversy. The Day is designed to commemorate the controversy and to celebrate free expression and everyone’s right to mock, ridicule and blaspheme religions. It’s also important in the face of increasing censorship of free speech, with things like blasphemy laws being passed in Ireland last year, among other places. The problem with this kind of ridiculous law-making is that it makes opinions illegal. Anyone is free to believe what they want, therefore anyone is free to believe that someone else’s beliefs are complete and utter bollocks. This is not a place for law.
The argument is that religious ridicule leads to the incitement of violence. Which is rubbish. Religious belief leads to the incitement of violence in many clearly recorded cases. Ridiculing said religions usually only leads to members of that religion calling for violence against the intolerant. Oh, the crushing irony.
It’s perfectly reasonable to hold any opinion you like. If you go online and tell people to attack any religious group then you are certainly inciting violence and should be brought to justice for that. Just like when the religious call for the heads of the infidels. In the same way that you should be dealt with harshly by the law if you actually do violence against anyone, for any reason. But if you go online and say that you think any given belief is a load of rubbish and that its adherents are a bunch of willfully ignorant losers, then that’s actually fine. You’re perfectly entitled to that opinion. Just like the religious are entitled to their opinion that the Earth is only 6,000 years old, or that a fella that liked nine year old girls was the conduit for god, or whatever.
Would you expect to be jailed for saying that anyone who voted for Tony Abbott in the recent general election is an idiot and should be ridiculed?
Of course not. What makes religion so special that it has to be treated differently?
This crosses well with Banned Books Week, because it’s usually religious wowsers that crap on about banning books. I mentioned Harry Potter in the title to this post as so many Christians in the US called for the book to be banned because it celebrated witchcraft. That still astounds me. It’s okay for them to tell children that a Jewish zombie that was his own father is the saviour of the world AND MEAN IT while it’s not okay for a work of fiction to celebrate a young man rising above adversity and defeating a powerful evil.
Have a look at that Banned Books page (linked above) and prepare to be astounded at some of the books that people have called out. According to the site, “People challenge books that they say are too sexual or too violent. They object to profanity and slang, and they protest against offensive portrayals of racial or religious groups–or positive portrayals of homosexuals.”
Oh no! Don’t let on that the gays are actually, you know, human or something.
The most confronting things in human nature need to be discussed. Taboos are things that cause division and ignorance. Fictional representations of real human issues are often the best way to generate debate of this kind of thing. Unless a book is a direct work of hate, deliberately targeting a given person or group, then there is no reasonable excuse to ban it. Some things might be considered too intense for kids but that’s a whole different debate. You might remember my post about the Taboo panel at Worldcon where classification of books was mentioned. And soundly shouted down. When it comes to kids being exposed to questionable material, that’s a matter of parenting. Know should what your kids are reading and vet anything that might disturb them. (Incidentally, if you’re an especially religious person, I would suggest that your indoctrination of your kids is doing way more harm than any book they’re likely to read.)
Reading and triggering thought and debate is essential. Banning books is just endorsing ignorance. I should declare a certain bias – my own books would certainly be considered blaphemous by pretty much every religious group. But I held this opinion long before I wrote those books. In fact, I’d love a religious group to call for my books to be banned – you can’t buy publicity like that. Come on, you fuckers – come and have a go!