International Blasphemy Day got me thinking about the concept of blasphemy. What exactly is blasphemy? I know that the Church I was brought up in (Roman Catholic) didn’t think too highly of it. According to the New Advent Catholic Encyclopedia
While etymologically blasphemy may denote the derogation of the honour due to a creature as well as of that belonging to God, in its strict acceptation it is used only in the latter sense. Hence it has been defined by Francisco Suárez as “any word of malediction, reproach, or contumely pronounced against God: (De Relig., tract. iii, lib. I, cap. iv, n. 1). It is to be noted that according to the definition (1) blasphemy is set down as a word, for ordinarily it is expressed in speech, though it may be committed in thought or in act. Being primarily a sin of the tongue, it will be seen to be opposed directly to the religious act of praising God. (2) It is said to be against God, though this may be only mediately, as when the contumelious word is spoken of the saints or of sacred things, because of the relationship they sustain to God and His service.
Apologetics at its best. So basically, blasphemy is saying bad things about god. Since it is usually in the nature of speech, but not always, and can be against the saints too, some of the depictions in my last post would surely be classified as blasphemy.
What bothers me about the etymology of the word is that it is a made up word designed to protect a contrived conception – god. In other words, like sin, it really doesn’t exist, because god doesn’t exist. Think about it.
Blasphemy is a sin against the virtue of religion by which we render to God the honour due to Him as our first beginning and last end.
But, God is a artificial construct of the human brain. (There are some of you out there who would disagree with that, but that is the assumption I make through 270 posts on this blog, and I’ll continue it here). In effect, god doesn’t exist in reality, only in conception. God is a mere idea, one many people wish to be true, but one that, until convincing proof comes along, is not. Blasphemy is meant to prevent us from insulting this idea. I ask, why do ideas need protection from insult? Do we protect political ideas? Sociological ideas? Ideas of fashion? Is there a word to describe the insulting of Republican ideology? Or Fascist ideology? Or communist ideology? No. The human language has no word, or even a concept, to describe the derogation of political ideas, (except maybe free speech). If an idea is self-evident, as the one about gods is supposed to be, it needs no protection. It needs no bolstering. It should be widely accepted, impervious to any harm, because it it true.
What this looks like to this outside observer is further evidence of the idea that religion is a meme, which is a cultural idea that spreads like a virus via speech, actions , rituals, etc. Memes were first postulated by Richard Dawkins in the The Selfish Gene, to explain the transfer of cultural ideas, of which religion is a prime example. Blasphemy is a concept made up out of whole cloth by religion to protect itself from questioning and scrutiny. What reason would a omnipotent, presumably self-assured god have with protecting himself from insult? How can one possibly hurt a supreme being with words and thoughts? Clearly, blasphemy is not meant to protect god from having his feelings hurt. The only reason for it to exist is to protect the idea of god from being abandoned, which in turn shelters the men and women of religion who use it to control their adherents, to keep them in line, and ensure their continuing obedience towards their particular church. So blasphemy is a form of self-protection, an almost automatic defense mechanism to protect the meme.
This is why Blasphemy Day is necessary. People need to see that their god can be “blasphemed” with no adverse consequences. A “true believer” should logically acknowledge that. Once the common mindset accepts the notion that blasphemy is a non-existent concept, it’s a natural step to conclude that god doesn’t exist. There may be some additional steps in the middle, but the ultimate conclusion is inevitable.
At least, one can hope.