Blasphemy Laws

Brendan Liveris / 30 August 2019


Rationality Rules is a video channel produced by UK-based Stephen Woodford. In this episode, Stephen takes a swipe at countries that purport to be ‘free’ but who still have laws on their books outlawing the ancient crime of blasphemy.

Our new correspondent, Brendan Liveris, reports from his base in Berlin.

In this video, Rationality Rules pulls apart blasphemy law in the context of free speech and what that means for a country’s claim to be free. He singles out Greece, Denmark, Finland and Ireland – if only it was only these! Unfortunately, such laws are like eggs at a Liberal Party press conference, popping up more regularly than one might like, with more than 70 countries globally having some form of them. Here The Economist shows a ranking of countries with blasphemy laws, ranging from Iran at the top of the list to Ireland at the bottom (Ireland at the bottom?!) Australia doesn’t even get a mention, even though NSW, Victoria, South Australia and the Northern Territory still have a common law offence of blasphemy.

Stephen makes five key points that eloquently critique blasphemy laws for what they are – a joke! The kind of bad joke that keeps getting told.

If there is blasphemy law, there is not free speech and, therefore, no free society

Just like freedom of religion, freedom of speech is a cornerstone of a free society. In the US, this is constitutionally recognised in the first amendment. Australia is behind the game in this respect. While freedom of speech is not specifically mentioned in the Australian constitution, freedom of religion did secure a place in our most important national document. To quote Marge Simpson – “Mmmmm”.

Why no free society? Well, free speech allows for the sharing of the kind of beautiful ideas and thoughts that moves a world forward, like yoga, globalisation and (to a lesser extent) Master Chef. It also allows you to tell someone their idea is rubbish, like believing in something wholly unsubstantiated that is completely irrelevant to modern living. We stop this free exchange and we stop progress. Deja vu? #letsnotgobacktothemiddleages

Blasphemy is a victimless crime

It really is unfair to refer to the hipsters and youth of today as ‘snowflakes’, as if winter has just come. The truth is, they have the greatest example in recorded history of blowing offence out of proportion – the various faiths whose tanties about a minor jab leave Gen Y looking more like they have the resilience of the mountain than the snow. Blasphemy law aims to prevent insult or contempt for a fictitious being from an ancient story. That’s like legally protecting Mickey Mouse from hurtful words. Or Oliver Twist. Or Clive Palmer…. no, wait…

Blasphemy laws exist to protect the undeserved privileges of religious groups

Two words: taxes and politics. They pay squat and have more influence than Chris Hemsworth at Comicon. Who wouldn’t make up some rubbish to protect that.

If an all-powerful god exists, he is evil

Whoa, there is no shortage of examples of evil in our world – it barely justifies examples. Epicurus nailed it with his four lines of genius. Current evils line the front page of our newspapers every day. Ebola in the Congo, Nicholas Madura strangling his Venezuelan population, constantly hearing about Brexit. All-powerful means accepting responsibility for the lot. And the Abrahamic God has, according to believers, been bestowed with that power.

Abiding by the ‘expectations’ of an all-powerful god is not morality, it is fear

When you are 10 years old and your mum tells you to clear your room and do your homework, you are not motivated by an internal drive to live neatly and plan for the future. You don’t want to be grounded. Your mum is God in your world. God is Mum to believers. He makes them do stuff they would not otherwise do. To paraphrase Simon Sinek, it’s not what you do, it’s why you do it.

A free world came at a great cost to those who made it happen. Rationality Rules makes the point clear. It is time to go: Blasphemy Laws

All the more reason.