This is not Mo
Blasphemy Day is marked every year on September 30th, the anniversary of the publication in 2005 of 12 cartoons representing or lampooning the Prophet Muhammad by the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten. Groups of Muslim clerics blasted the publication of the cartoons, protests were seen in many parts of the world, many were killed, a Danish Embassy was bombed.
Blasphemy, according to my old Funk & Wagnalls, is: “Impious or profane speaking of God, or of sacred persons or things.” The same Funky Wagnalls tells me that sacred means: “entitled to reverence or respect.” Blasphemy Day is a celebration of free thought and free speech, two things truly worth fighting for.
Blasphemy has often been, and still is, a crime in many locales. But by any standards of modernity, humanity, and decency, blasphemy is no crime at all. On the contrary, blasphemy is a right and a duty (to free thought and speech, remember!). So one Blasphemy Day a year is a nice start, 365 Days of Blasphemy a year would be a better one.
The sacred must be poked viciously and repeatedly because it’s so often a weapon wielded by the powerful. Truly important things in our lives: meaningful relationships, knowledge, art, fun, will survive lightheartedness, irreverence, and ridicule. It is the bullshit sacred, the faith based taboos and pious pronouncements of puffed up blowhards inserted without warrant into our lives and culture which must protect themselves from blasphemy to survive.
As mentioned earlier, Blasphemy Day is a response to attempts by groups of Muslims to force silence and obedience from Muslims and infidels alike. Of course there are millions of Muslims who have never called for censorship of opposing opinions; should their faith based opinions be protected from ridicule? Well, no. Are their opinions more important then the lives of artists and thinkers like Theo Van Gogh, Kurt Westergaard, Molly Norris, Taslima Nasrin, Salman Rushdie? Are their opinions more important than the freedom to think our own thoughts and express ourselves? Are their opinions more important than the freedom of a little girl to make a goddamned spelling mistake?
Why should anyone revere stories of an ancient folk hero/slaver/warlord with a 6 or 7 year old wife, or any other advertised prophecy, revelation, or message from outer space? When the reverence is demanded and threats of violence are thrown in the idea of obeisance becomes even more insulting. Why should one kind of opinion be closed to criticism and ridicule? Why should salesmen who spout nonsense, no matter how seriously they take themselves, be protected from the laughter of the non-buyers?
Modern secular people won’t be dictated to by every cultist and ideologue with a microphone. Thought and speech will be free, dissent will find outlets as it always does in ridicule, mockery, and satire and every other form of blasphemy creative people can muster. But we don’t have to wait for the rank hypocrisy to grow so great that the dams burst. We can keep the blasphemous spirit alive in our hearts and more importantly on our tongues all year long (and isn’t that precious?!). The emperor has no clothes, it’s our job to point and to laugh.
Greg Lammers is the American Atheists Missouri State Director. He works with freethought groups and individuals in the state and the region to promote secular values and godlessness. He’ll be blaspheming here, he lives in Columbia Missouri with his wife Katie and their young son Henry. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org