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Blasphemy is insulting, contemptuous, or irreverent speech or behavior toward a god or something considered sacred.

Finding examples is quite easy because most religious people are easily offended when one of their sacred cows is gored. On the other hand, what some find blasphemous, others find inoffensive.

Christians became quite upset when Andres Serrano displayed a crucifix in a jar of urine. Chris Ofili offended many people with his "Holy Virgin Mary," a painting utilizing elephant dung and other offensive items.

Irate Muslims around the world rioted and went berserk over some cartoons published in a Dutch newspaper that depicted Muhammad.


















In July 2009, eight Christians were burned alive in Pakistan over blasphemy allegations.*

Some Christians found an art work depicting the Virgin Mary wearing a niqab offensive, while some Muslims found it appropriate.*

Religious institutions and theocratic states are not the only ones that have blasphemy laws. Ireland's President Mary McAleese recently signed a blasphemy bill into law. The blasphemy provisions of the Defamation Bill make it an offense to cause outrage among a substantial number of the adherents of a religion by intentionally publishing material that grossly abuses or insults matters held sacred by their religion.* The blasphemous Muhammad cartoons would seem to be illegal in Ireland under this law.

England and Wales abolished blasphemy laws in 2008, but countries like Pakistan and Afghanistan consider any derogatory remarks about the Qur’an or Muhammad deserving of severe punishment, including death.

In the United States, blasphemy laws were allowed until a 1952 Supreme Court decision (Joseph Burstyn, Inc. v. Wilson).

Some parts of Australia ban blasphemy, but there hasn't been a prosecution there for the offense since 1919.*

"Canada lists blasphemous libel as a crime under the Criminal Code, which carries a penalty of up to two years in jail. But the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms guarantees free speech rights that supersede the blasphemy law."*

September 30 has been declared International Blasphemy Day as part of "a movement to dismantle the wall which exists between religion and criticism." The day was chosen because it was on this day in 2005 that the Danish cartoons which depict Muhammad's face were published.

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.*









See also Free Speech, Absolutely by R. T. Carroll

further reading

Wikipedia provides blasphemy law information on thirty-one countries.

Campaign for Free Expression

International Blasphemy Day: from Danish cartoons to Jerry Springer - The Opera

Blasphemous songs

Cartoons Spark Burning of Embassies

Death Sentence for Afghan Student (sentence reduced to 20 years, see next link)

Afghan Court Backs Prison Term for Blasphemy

INDONESIA - Riots Erupt in Indonesia over Christian Teacher's Alleged Blasphemy


The Seven Countries Where You Can Be Put To Death for Being an Atheist "A new report from the International Humanist and Ethical Union names the seven countries in which atheists can be executed for their beliefs: Afghanistan, Iran, Maldives, Mauritania, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and Sudan."

Egypt: ‘Outrageous’ guilty verdict in blasphemy case an assault on free expression "Alber Saber Ayad was arrested at his home in Cairo on 13 September 2012, after angry groups of men surrounded his house and called for his death, accusing him of heresy and atheism and of promoting Innocence of Muslims – a short film regarded by many to be offensive." He has been sentenced to three years in prison after being found guilty of “defamation of religion.”

Indian skeptic charged with "blasphemy" for revealing secret behind "miracle" of weeping cross Sanal Edamaruku, an Indian skeptic, went to Mumbai and revealed that a "miraculous" weeping cross was really just a bit of statuary located near a leaky drain whose liquid reached it by way of capillary action. The local Catholic Church demanded that he retract his statements, and when he refused, they had him arrested for blasphemy.

CFI, IHEU Collaborate to Oppose Blasphemy Laws at UN After a procedural technicality prevented the IHEU from delivering its statement before the Human Rights Council, CFI agreed to deliver a joint statement on behalf of both CFI and the IHEU condemning blasphemy laws and violence in the name of religion.

Last updated 27-Oct-2015


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