26 November 2014

Here's one reason why atheists get angry

A local "anti-terrorism" court in Pakistan has sentenced a media mogul and three TV performers to 26 years apiece in prison for blasphemy. The blasphemy consisted of staging a dance to accompany a song about the marriage of the Prophet Muhammad's daughter. This "malicious act," the court claims, "ignited the sentiments of all Muslims of the country and hurt [their] feelings." This Pakistani news source notes that the sentence may not be carried out by the central government, but it's the thought (or lack of it) that counts. There is no more contemptible non-violent expression of religious intolerance than blasphemy laws, especially when blasphemy, in spite of religious claims of exact knowledge, exists in the eye of the beholder or, as some have said of this particular case, it can be prosecuted selectively for political reasons.

A Pakistani case might be considered none of my business, but while I claim no authority to change another country's laws, it's certainly my prerogative to call them stupid when the label fits. I needn't assert a universal human right that I can't prove in order to suggest that laws should not be imposed to protect religions from insult.

Thinking about this makes me wonder whether we in the U.S. could amend our Constitution to forbid federal and state governments from passing laws against blasphemy. Some may assume that the First Amendment already covers this, but nitpickers will argue that the laws "respecting an establishment of religion" covered by the existing amendment are only those that would establish some denomination on a tax-supported basis, while the nature of the "speech" protected by the same amendment remains a subject of controversy. Redundant or not, why not a Blasphemy Amendment? We'll have to come up with a better name for it before it becomes just plain Amendment XXVIII, but while Americans identify the concept of blasphemy almost exclusively with militant Islam atheists might find many unexpected allies in such a venture. It would definitely be interesting to see who in America would come out against such a proposal, though the Catholic League is the only high-profile entity I can even imagine doing so. Still, once the full scope of such an amendment becomes clear, we might be surprised at how much the attitudes we attribute to Muslim backwardness still survive here, once someone suggests that we should be free forever more to mock God.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

According to Wikipedia there are still laws regarding blasphemy on the books in a few states. Not that they'd be able to prosecute them, but as evidence that they did once exist and, for whatever reason, were never repealed.