Have you blasphemed today?

In 2009, the Center for Inquiry decided to mark September 30th as International Blasphemy Rights Day. This day was chosen because it was the day in 2005 when the satirical cartoons about prophet Mohammed appeared in a Dutch Danish newspaper setting off a firestorm of protests among Muslims.

In the US, we can blaspheme just for the fun of it but in some countries, especially Islamic ones, merely criticizing religion, let along making fun of it or blaspheming can have deadly consequences.

But there are many countries that you may be surprised to find that there are some form of blasphemy laws on the books including Austria, Denmark, Finland, Greece, Italy, Liechtenstein, Iceland, San Marino, Spain and the UK. Six US states Massachusetts, Michigan, South Carolina, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, and Wyoming) also have some form of these laws. (See this Wikipedia article for links.) It is possible that some these are old laws that are not enforced but have not been repealed either.

But Ireland was one of those countries that actually introduced a new blasphemy law as recently as 2009.

The blasphemy law was introduced in July 2009 by the then Fianna Fáil-led government. Breach of the law is punishable with a fine of up to €25,000.

The law defines blasphemy as “publishing or uttering matter that is grossly abusive or insulting in relation to matters sacred by any religion, thereby intentionally causing outrage among a substantial number of adherents of that religion, with some defences permitted”.

The former justice minister Dermot Ahern has defended the law, claiming it is necessary because the 1936 Irish constitution extends the protection of belief only to Christians.

But the government is about to announce a referendum to abolish it to be held some time next year.

The right to blaspheme is part of the right to free speech and should be defended. Unfortunately, some countries still want to carve out an exemption from free speech rights for blasphemy so that they can condemn, prosecute, convict, and even execute people just for offending religious sensibilities.


  1. Rob Grigjanis says

    In memory of Thomas Aikenhead, who

    repeatedly maintained, in conversation, that theology was a rhapsody of ill-invented nonsense, patched up partly of the moral doctrines of philosophers, and partly of poetical fictions and extravagant chimeras

    Executed at the age of 20, in 1697.

  2. says

    (I did these for Blasphemy Day a couple of years ago so I guess I’m plagiarizing myself)

    “Jesus” as portrayed in the gospels never existed. There may have been an original apocalyptic preacher (or several) named “Jesus” but the legends and misquotes and other rubbish that’s been added in to christianity have made a historical Jesus as relevant as a historical “Robin of Loxley” would be to Robin Hood legends.
    Paul probably had temporal lobe epilepsy or a stroke, then made up a bunch of stuff about someone he had never met.
    The Catholic church is more interested in perpetuating its own wealth and power than in human wellbeing.
    Joseph Smith was a con artist. Same goes for L. Ron Hubbard, Rael, and most other founders of religions.
    There is nothing wrong with blood transfusions. Eating meat is just fine. So is contraception.
    The caste system of Hinduism is one of the most cruel and inhumane systems I’ve ever heard of. Haile Selassie was not a divine being. Sun Myung Moon wasn’t either.
    Prayer does nothing.
    Quartz crystals are just pretty rocks, and don’t have any healing energies.
    Satan is imaginary. So is Thor. Moses, too, most likely.
    Faith isn’t a virtue. Neither is tithing. The bible isn’t anything special.
    Dry sandy Parmesan cheese in a can is acceptable for human consumption (forgive me Your Noodliness, but I can’t leave any religion out!).
    o<-< This is Muhammad taking a nap.
    Twilight fans are people too.

    Did I miss offending anybody?

  3. sc_770d159609e0f8deaa72849e3731a29d says

    This day was chosen because it was the day in 2005 when the satirical cartoons about prophet Mohammed appeared in a Dutch newspaper setting off a firestorm of protests among Muslims.

    A Danish newspaper, actually.
    There was a further complication in that one of the mad mullahs inciting riots decided that the original cartoons weren’t actually blasphemous enough for their purposes and invented his own even more blasphemous versions to raise the level of the hatred.

  4. moarscienceplz says

    Actually, he was accused of desecration, not blasphemy. Desecration involves performing an act on a sacred object or place, while blasphemy is merely saying disrespectful things about a religion. If that kid had just said that the Jesus statue looks like it is offering a blowjob, I don’t think they could have charged him under that statute. It’s still wrong that they charged him at all, of course.

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