Saturday, January 02, 2010

The Irish Inquisition

By Capt. Fogg

I watched Julia Sweeney in Letting Go of God on Showtime the other night. Seeing how her thought processes led her at first to reject Biblical literalism and finally Theism and religion in general, put a big smile on my face since it mirrored my own in so much detail. For some reason it seems like the large majority of atheists I know come either from Roman Catholic or Jewish backgrounds but I won't speculate here about the reasons.

There is evidence that religiosity in the US is on the decline, with fewer people seeing religion as a solely positive influence and more feeling that religious teachings are out of date, but of course the opposition makes a lot of noise and has a lot of political power. I don't know whether any of the above applies in heavily Catholic Ireland, but the anti-blasphemy law which went into effect yesterday is sure to be challenged and the high profile of some of the challengers is sure to cause considerable embarrassment to those who have to enforce it. Whether Catholics in Ireland are as likely to let go of God as they are elsewhere, those in Ireland who have and those of other traditions are going to have a field day.

The Irish constitution extends religious freedom only to Christians and that may be a surprise to many who see Europe in general as moving away from belief and from Church domination. It's worthy of curiosity to see whether the ordinary practice of other religious traditions will constitute blasphemy as well. Will it be blasphemous to say that Jesus was not the actual son of God but permissible to accuse Jews of murdering him and of eating Christian babies? I guess we'll see. Will showing Letting go of God be punishable? Will it be illegal to publish Nietzsche, or Dawkins? Michael Nugent, chairman of Atheist Ireland calls this idea
"dangerous because it incentives [sic] religious outrage, and because Islamic states led by Pakistan are already using the wording of this Irish law to promote new blasphemy laws at UN level."

Dangerous indeed and so diametrically opposed to American views of religion -- at least as reflected by those who wrote the Constitution -- that an attempt to import it to the US wouldn't be surprising. I remember former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani's attempt to close the Brooklyn Museum because of a painting he considered blasphemous. ( it wasn't) Many people still wish ihe could have been successful.

The US constitution certainly does not grant special rights to Christians or to any other religious groups and that fact seems to be a massive thorn in the side of the religious right; a thorn they'd love to remove and I will be amazed if some Republican doesn't attempt to introduce something similar by next Christmas. The test of the Irish law is in whether it outrages a large number of people and if we had such a law within the viewership of Fox, we can be sure that outrage would flow forth like a mighty flood of medieval values upon the land and our courts would grind to a halt whild civilization is one again snatched from the jaws of victory.

(Cross posted from Human Voices)

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  • Few have been more critical of religious organizations over the years than Jehovah's Witnesses. Yet they are universally recognized as a nonviolent people. They're 'weapons' are words only.

    Would that all followed that example. Then you could have groups of uncompromising principles existing side by side with like groups espousing different principles. And you wouldn't need laws such as this one, which carry so much potential for abuse.

    It's the only practical way in a pluralistic society.

    By Blogger tom sheepandgoats, at 7:02 PM  

  • The Irish laws aren't exactly violent - they only take your money for insulting the Church, not your life, but it can be argued that it was secular enlightenment that forced them to go that way, not divine revelation.

    You're quite right about pluralistic society and apparently that's just what the Irish parliament(the Church) is afraid of.

    By Blogger Capt. Fogg, at 10:27 AM  



    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 1:24 PM  

  • I'm sure you meant to make sense but. . .

    By Blogger Capt. Fogg, at 9:40 AM  

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