Blasphemy laws lead to dictatorships and theocracies

Once it is illegal to criticize or mock a religion, all a man has to do is associate themselves with that establishment to receive the same protection. Throughout history religion and power have gone hand in hand. It’s one thing to assert authority through a family name or abilities, but quite another to claim an authority that comes from god, an indisputable divine supremacy. Many men have claimed to be doing the will of god and therefore any opposition they have declared to be blasphemous.

No god or adult in a position of government authority should ever be exempt from ridicule. That doesn’t mean everyone should mock every religion and politician, it simply means such action cannot be made illegal in a free society. No one should be able to claim power by silencing all opposition under threat of imprisonment or death. There is a reason why the Founding Fathers of the United States wrote the First Amendment guaranteeing Free Speech. There is a reason why the Constitution begins with “We the People.” If the Founding Fathers wanted a dictatorship, they would have created one. They desired something different, something morally superior. A society based on individual rights and liberty; a society where neither politicians nor clergymen are above the law or deserving of protection that would violate any individual’s right to voice opposition.

There are people pushing for a U.N. resolution that would make blasphemy an international crime. These people stink of ignorance and hypocrisy. How many Muslims demanding a blasphemy law have no issue with constant mockery of the Jews or desecration of a Bible? Do they really seek protection for all religions, or only Islam? The naïve apologists out to appease the violent acts of extremists are also in support of these laws. Rewarding violent behavior will never bring peace; it will only spawn further violence.

The most ignorant statement regarding free speech was from Turkey’s Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. “Freedom of thought and belief ends where the freedom of thought and belief of others start. You can say anything about your thoughts and beliefs, but you will have to stop when you are at the border of others’ freedoms.” This statement stands in opposition to all of human progress. Under this mentally debilitating ideology our societies would be forever stagnant. Every advancement in science and social progress has come from the challenging of other people’s ideas, not ending thought at other people’s beliefs. A belief is worth nothing if it cannot withstand scrutiny. A belief that has substance rests on knowledge, not fear and condemnation of criticism.

Some things to consider in regards to an international blasphemy law:
• Would religions that contained scripture blasphemous to other religions be banned under the blasphemy law?
• Who would decide what was criticism, what was satire, and what was blasphemy?
• Could the teaching of evolution be considered blasphemy?
• Would mockery of Scientology be considered blasphemy?
• Would this law apply to any absurdity as long as someone believed in it?
• Would atheist beliefs be considered blasphemy?

Without historical context, freedom is largely unappreciated. It’s easy to lose something if you don’t understand the value of it. Today it’s hard to imagine facing torture for declaring that the earth revolves around the sun. Galileo was brought before the Inquisition in 1616 for making such a “blasphemous” statement, and was given the choice of either recanting his opinion or face medieval torture. Not surprisingly, Galileo recanted and then spent many years under house arrest.

In other countries people have been arrested for stating there is no god on their Facebook page. Women in a punk band were arrested for protesting a Russian politician. The Kuwaiti Parliament passed a blasphemy law that would kill or imprison anyone perceived to insult Islam. Anyone identified as a critic of the Dear Leader is imprisoned. Thousands upon thousands of Syrians have been killed for protesting government. This is what happens when men are held in higher human value than other men. This can happen without religion, but typically claims of divine justification are used to suppress others.

This world does not need international laws of speech that resemble the censorship rhetoric of the Nazi Party. We need international laws that mirror the spirit of the original Bill of Rights of the U.S. Constitution. Everyone should talk about religion and politics openly without fear. It’s OK to have something more than a superficial relationship with family and friends. Sometimes debates can get heated. Sometimes people can be disrespectful and crude. The way to deal with this is not to be a coward like the people promoting blasphemy laws. Deal with criticism and mockery through skilled argumentation, integrity and resolve. Overcome your opponents with your mind and strength of character. And if you find yourself in a position where you cannot reasonably defend a belief, have the humility necessary to abandon it. Do not resort to silencing others in fear that they may have a better argument. Do not resort to silencing mockery in fear that inside the ridicule may be a grain of truth.

“Respond intelligently even to unintelligent treatment.” – Lao Tzu (6th century B.C.)

James Kirk Wall

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