The only offense is not a legal one with blasphemy
No one can try to use my blog as an example of blasphemy for the Christian religion, and have me sent to prison. Not that anyone would, given the Religious Hatred Act already protecting the right to express a negative view and disagreement about religion.
Last Thursday by 148 to 87 the House of Lords abolished the offense of blasphemy.
So will I be trying to write ever more polemic attacks on Christ and his followers, hounding them and subjecting them to ridicule and laughing at them?
Well that is not my style. Manners as far as I can make out is one example of morality, the ability to be civil to one another. There is nothing wrong with being satirical.
For example the last prosecution for blasphemy in the UK was in 1922. The point was that a mistranslation in the original Hebrew suggested that the messiah would enter Jerusalem riding simultaneously two donkeys. One of the gospel writers actually writes that Jesus did ride two donkeys at the same time when entering the city – perhaps as a way to make the prophecy appear to have come true. A member of the National Secular Society made the point by drawing Jesus as a circus clown to be able to perform the trick. The months of hard labour he did deteriorated his health and he died soon after.
The question is do we legislate for manners, or do we consider that there is a protocol to social interaction which we would consider normal and ones that we would consider uncouth, bad taste. Perhaps even immoral. However we would not consider them illegal unless there was a greater public good. Dropping litter is bad manners but there is a public cost to society; there is a legal sanction prohibiting it with fines to counter such behaviour.
However the blasphemy law was an example of a public cost to society sanctioned on the statue books. For one, it was not well used. It favoured the Church of England over all other denominations and faiths. Potentially it was a matter of sensibility – and the law should not be about that.
However, if someone was to write a blog full of obscene vulgar language insulting people of the Christian faith in that fashion I would consider that bad manners. Also I would point them to Christopher Hitchens – for it is not about shocking and outraging people but demonstrating the theist argument.
When Dawkins wrote in The God Delusion that the Christian God was:
a petty, unjust, unforgiving control freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully
This is not bad manners. It is a view that is backed up by some pretty damning evidence called the bible. If you want to question the rendering then make the argument. You think the reason flawed, go ahead. But to make the cry of blasphemy – one petition on the 10 Downing Street website actually called for a law that retrospectively could have Dawkins put in prison for his book (not many signatures) – is to call for the point of contention not to be discussed, not to be aired.
Such a thing is not part of a pluralistic democracy at ease with itself. If you are offended by such discussion, well so be it. That is your right – but I am not constrained to cave in to such emotions that you have chosen to have on the subject. A fundamental principle is the right to disagree and the freedom to do so without penalty on matters of thought. To not be able to express them is nonsense – and the law is better for getting rid of blasphemy.
Unless we would rather allow people to legitimately complain with legal sanction people that name teddy bears with a name that corresponds to most people’s and someone called a Prophet.
Or a society that debates all matters of thought and finds strength and common purpose from doing so in the battle for ideas.