Today, September 30th, is International Blasphemy Day, designated to commemorate the publication of 12 editorial cartoons in the Danish newspaper, Jyllands-Posten, which depicted the Islamic prophet, Muhammad in less than favourable and deeply satirical ways. The result was widespread violence, riots, and even murders by Muslim fundamentalists and extremists. On this day, people are encouraged to openly criticize religion and, yes, to blaspheme. Whatever that means.
Blasphemy laws exist in many parts of the world such as Sudan, Afghanistan, and Saudi Arabia, with attempts to make it an international crime an ongoing concern. A number of countries are pushing for an international law that would make blasphemy a crime, and imposing a worldwide ban on insulting or criticizing religious beliefs or customs. This should scare the hell out of you because a law like that can only be used to opress and silence opposition to even more heinous crimes. It means you and I will no longer to criticize and ridicule criminal states like Saudi Arabia for their catalog of human rights abuses if they explain that it's part of their religious culture. The justification pushing worldwide blasphemy laws comes from outraged Islamists who figure that destroying property and murdering people is a fair balanced response to a few political cartoons or some idiot making an atrociously bad film about the prophet Mahummad.
This is why we need to crush any attempts to institute blasphemy laws. We, as evolved, civilized human beings, must not shy away from speaking out when religion trumps human rights. At these times, blasphemy, heresy, and ridicule are some of our best weapons.
And if you think only Islamic states have blasphemy laws, think again. While it may not mark you for death, laws against criticizing relision exist, in differing levels of extreme, in surprising places. These include Australia, Germany, the Netherlands, Greece, and even my own country of Canada.
In the spirit of the day, let me quote my favourite writer, Mark Twain. "Blasphemy? No, it is not blasphemy. If God is as vast as that, he is above blasphemy; if He is as little as that, He is beneath it."
And so, is your god above blasphemy, or beneath it.