The Curious Persistence of Blasphemy
35 Pages Posted: 17 Nov 2010 Last revised: 21 Mar 2012
Date Written: November 17, 2010
Despite expectations to the contrary, blasphemy laws and their modern-day counterparts persist in a surprising number of jurisdictions around the globe. This article discusses four examples: the "defamation of religion" movement at the United Nations, the surprising resurrection of blasphemy law in Ireland, the Australian trend toward enacting "religious vilification" laws, and the problem of formal illegality and private violence for blasphemous speech in Pakistan. Next, blasphemy is considered from three conceptual angles: the religious, the legal, and the secular/cultural. Last, the curious persistence of blasphemy is examined through an inquiry into why people blaspheme to begin with, and what harms (real or perceived) are caused by blasphemy. The conclusion here is that as long as societies hold something sacred - religiously or culturally - blasphemy will remain an operative concept and legal or social pressure to suppress blasphemous statements will continue to persist.
Keywords: blasphemy, blasphemous libel, religious vilification, defamation of religion
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