What does the "H" stand for, and why is he on a pogo stick?

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Today is International Blasphemy Day, intended to "dismantle the wall which exists between religion and criticism." 30 September was chosen as the anniversary of the Danish Mohammed cartoons:

The newspapers which chose to publish these cartoons were in many cases blamed for the outpouring of violence which followed. This unfortunate yet inevitable sequence of events clearly demonstrated a dangerous misconception that had piggy-backed into the 21st century on the shoulders of ignorance, fear and apathy, that all religious beliefs and ideas deserve respect and are beyond criticism or satire.

International Blasphemy Day is a movement, not just a day, to remind the world that religion should never again be beyond open and honest discussion or reproach. Our future depends on it.

Wikipedia reminds us that Biblically-based blasphemy demands stoning to death as earthly punishment

And he that blasphemeth the name of the LORD, he shall surely be put to death, and all the congregation shall certainly stone him: as well the stranger, as he that is born in the land, when he blasphemeth the name of the Lord, shall be put to death. (Leviticus 24:16)

and eternal torment as heavenly retribution:

And whosoever shall speak a word against the Son of man, it shall be forgiven him: but unto him that blasphemeth against the Holy Ghost it shall not be forgiven. (Luke 12:10)

(Mark 3:29 is slightly less assertive, merely suggesting the possibility of eternal torture: "But he that shall blaspheme against the Holy Ghost hath never forgiveness, but is in danger of eternal damnation.") The Blasphemy Challenge reminds us that "[r]eligious dogma has one chief means of support: Our unwillingness to criticize it in public:"

If we talked about religion the same way we talk about science, history or other fields involving truth claims, dogma would wither in the light. The Blasphemy Challenge, by addressing a truth claim of Christianity, is intended to provoke this sort of conversation.

What is a thought-inducing provocation to some may be a thought-stopping incident to others, however. Center for Inquiry is promoting a Blasphemy Contest, but CFI's Paul Kurtz has "serious reservations about the forms that these criticisms take:"

It is one thing to examine the claims of religion in a responsible way by calling attention to Biblical, Koranic or scientific criticisms, it is quite another to violate the key humanistic principle of tolerance. One may disagree with contending religious beliefs, but to denigrate them by rude caricatures borders on hate speech.

Who determines what is disagreement and what is denigration? Who decides whether a Communion wafer is the "body of Jesus" or "just a cracker?" For my Quote of the Day, I'll go with the words of P. Z. Myers--who knows a thing or two about blasphemy--from his piece "The Great Desecration:"

Nothing must be held sacred. Question everything. God is not great, Jesus is not your lord, you are not disciples of any charismatic prophet. You are all human beings who must make your way through your life by thinking and learning, and you have the job of advancing humanity's knowledge by winnowing out the errors of past generations and finding deeper understanding of reality. You will not find wisdom in rituals and sacraments and dogma, which build only self-satisfied ignorance, but you can find truth by looking at your world with fresh eyes and a questioning mind.


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This page contains a single entry by cognitivedissident published on September 30, 2009 11:17 AM.

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