I enjoy blasphemy. If you think that I say unduly nasty things about God, religiosity, and holiness on this blog, you should hear how I insult divinity inside my head.
Like a few days ago, when I watched the local news and saw a story about several high schoolers with bone cancer, one of whom only had a short while to live.
They were chosen to be prom king and queen of their school by classmates who had a lot more compassion than any fucking asshole god who might exist who allows so much pain and suffering even though the son of a bitch supposedly is all omnipotent, omnibenevolent, and other "omni" crap.
This sort of blasphemy feels deliciously fine to me. So I was happy to see political scientist Andrew March support my attitude, by and large, in his "What's Wrong With Blasphemy?" piece in the New York Times.
First, March lays out some assumptions:
Most secular philosophical approaches to the morality of speech about the sacred are going to begin with three starting-points:
— Human beings have very strong interests in being free to express themselves.
— The “sacred” is an object of human construction and thus the fact that something is called “sacred” is insufficient itself to explain why all humans ought to respect it.
— Respect is owed to persons but not everything they value or venerate, even if other persons themselves do not uphold such a difference between their selves and their attachments.
Hard to disagree with this. March then discusses six arguments against blasphemy which he doesn't find fully persuasive.
1. Blasphemy transgresses a boundary and violates the sacred. Not if someone else doesn't accept the sacredness of a boundary.
2. We should respect whatever people regard as “sacred” or treat as religious. Not if they expand "sacred" excessively, or expect other people to give up important free speech rights.
3. People are deeply hurt and injured by violations of the sacred or objects of love. True, this isn't desirable. But people get hurt in all kinds of ways by their attachments.
4. Blasphemy is dangerous. Something to consider, for sure, especially if you're blaspheming Islam and armed Muslim fundamentalists are around. But if your intentions are good, fear isn't always a good reason to shut yourself up.
5. Blasphemy is hate speech. But you can hate what someone believes without hating them.
6. Blasphemy disrupts social harmony. March seems to feel this is the best argument against blasphemy, particularly when it is directed at someone you care about. Relationships matter. We need to consider how what we say will affect our relation to someone else.
Read the whole essay.
March does a good job of trying to locate the balance point between engaging in unfettered blasphemous free speech and maintaining social harmony in a world where people have diverse strongly held religious beliefs.