Blasphemy For Beginners.

When scanning the news on most days, one comes across an article about someone in a Muslim country charged by authorities with blasphemy.

Blashphemy is defined as “irreverence toward religious or holy persons or things.”  If you think the Christian faith is about “love and forgiveness,”  forgetaboutit.  There is no forgiveness if you are an unbeliever and commit blasphemy.

Thomas Acquinas said, “It is clear that blasphemy, which is a sin committed directly against God, is more grave than murder, which is a sin against one’s neighbor.”

Acquinas must have taken his conclusions from various passages in the Bible that affirm, and reaffirm, the view of the Bible’s authors about blasphemy.  That is, Jesus might forgive you, but God and the “Holy Spirit” will not.

While it is legal to commit blasphemy in the Western World, it is not without its consequences.  It would be impossible, for example, for a candidate for public office in the U. S.  to do it and be elected.

Blasphemy is the ultimate “political correctness.” The coded message  in the Bible’s passages against blasphemy is, control the people.

Blasphemy is not a crime in this country.  Christians often ridicule countries with Muslim governments where it is a crime.  But, so far as I know, there is nothing indigenous to the Christian faith that precludes making it a crime.  I think there are branches of the Christian faith who would make it a crime if they could.

Fortunately, political conditions have not been right for that to happen, so far.

Avatar of Jon Lindgren

About Jon Lindgren

I am a former President of the Red River Freethinkers in Fargo, ND, a retired NDSU economics professor and was Mayor of Fargo for 16 years. There is more about me at Wikipedia.com.
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38 Responses to Blasphemy For Beginners.

  1. Stan says:

    Wow, I thought for a second there you were going to be brave and talk about the Muslims executing people in the public square for blasphemy or the fetwas against the Danish artists who had the audacity to make cartoons of Mohammed and are under sentence of death. Instead it is just a rant against Christians who may or may not want to charge someone with blasphemy and I am pretty sure are not going to stone someone for the sin.

    I don’t think blasphemy is high on the list for most Christians as far as accusing others of sin. I let God sort that out while trying to keep my own language under control. That includes crudity. That is just being polite, not politically correct.

  2. Candyman says:

    It would be nice if you would “cannonize” your peices and parts of the Christian faith so we kno what you are trying to say regarding the context of how you are using Chirstian terms; ie ” That is, Jesus might forgive you, but God and the “Holy Spirit” will not.”

    What exactly are you trying to say?

    This is the tie that Christian denominations together:
    Jesus is God the Son; there is God the Father; there is God the Holy Spirit. These three agree in one, yet are each seperate in the Godhead…

    • entech says:

      Does this mean that Christadelphians are not real Christians, that only people that believe exactly as you are valid and no one else?
      Unitarians don’t think much of your Trinity either.

  3. entech says:

    Stan, Agreed Muslims are particularly bad when it comes to punishing perceived blasphemy, the Islamic nations keep trying to push things through the U.N. making it an obligation that all countries make it a crime. I often say that as God tried to rid the world of unbelievers and sinners by drowning, and failed. The Islamic ideal of ridding the world of unbelievers and sinners is in itself blasphemy, who are they that they think they can succeed when God failed. I am not sure but I believe there are some Christian groups that believe they have a similar mission.

    If you note that Islam is about 500 years younger that Christianity as an established religion, and that it has had a golden age and is now more than a little dark: then also note that Christianity left a lot to be desired 500 years ago.

    More recently there have been some pretty awful things, I will stick to protestant Britain – Catholics deserve a rest sometimes.

    1977 Denis Lemon editor of a Gay Newspaper. Fined 500 pounds and 9 months suspended sentence on a private prosecution.

    Last person to be imprisoned for blasphemy. John Gott in 1921. Crime – publishing satirical pamphlets.

    And the most egregious of all, a religious murder:
    Thomas Aikenhead (baptised March 28, 1676-January 8, 1697), a young Edinburgh medical student who allegedly railed against the Holy Trinity, was judicially hanged for his offence on January 8, 1697. His execution, which raised considerable concern, was the last execution for blasphemy in Britain.
    I say murder because at that time the death sentence was not the punishment until a third guilty verdict was made.
    The punishment for a first offense was “sack cloth and ashes”, however, the Church of Scotland pressed vigorously for hanging ,”to set an example” . I would contend that the clergy that sat around the gallows praying for his immortal soul were more guilty of blasphemy than their victim.

    Blasphemy laws were finally abolished in 2008.

    America is a civilised country and an attempted charge of blasphemy would not succeed because of the First Amendment.

    Ireland passed laws making blasphemy punishable by a fine of 25,000 Euros.

    Norway has laws against blasphemy but they are not used.

    In Islamic countries the extreme punishments, including the death penalty, are usually used against the ‘opposition’ that is, in Sunni states – against Shia, and vice versa. And against all non Muslims and especially Christians. Extreme prejudice is not limited to Islam though, before independence there cases of Puritans hanging Quakers in the American colonies.

    We can but hope than commonsense and tolerance by all people will eventually prevail.

    • Avatar of Jon Lindgren Jon Lindgren says:

      entech 12:40 Thanks for the history lessen on blasphemy. It was news to me the laws have remained on the book in Europe until so recently.

      While writing that blog, I got to wondering if all the dictators in my lifetime who imprisoned their citizens that spoke against them. Did those dictators get the idea from reading about blasphemy in the Chrisitan Bible?

    • Wanna B Sure says:

      The hazards of the abuse of ” blasphemy” or the laws against blasphemy were/are made possible with “state church” structures, such as were dominent in Europe generally, and with theocratic governments in the middle ages in Europe, and in Islamic States to the current date. Only with the seperation of church and state is it prevented.

      • Stan says:

        That is why Norway is a latecomer to getting rid of the laws. The Church there is a government run entity.

        • Wanna B Sure says:

          Yes, and much to the detriment of the community of faith. (“Let the state do it”). Only the non-state involved churches are active and growing. The state churches are empty.

    • Stan says:

      One death in 1697. A lot of political/religious fighting in Ireland which I hope to God was not sanctioned by the churches. Some times I think the Irish just want to die in a blaze of glory. Otherwise some very old laws and some that are not being enforced. Does anyone really think there are more then a few hundred in all of the US which will give you trouble for using the Lords name in vain?

      • Wanna B Sure says:

        That would actually be profanity, not blasphemy, if my understanding is correct.

      • entech says:

        1679 was the last not the only. Given the circumstances I would expect to see more than few hundred in many countries, problem each would bring a friend who would bring two friends etc.

    • Bob says:

      I think North Dakota has some hundred year old laws agaisnt blasphemy no one knows about or uses. Every state in the U.S. is different.

  4. entech says:

    The United States is very lucky, defend the First Amendment at all costs.

  5. Bob says:

    Uff da fee da, fan da fey, oh namen!!!!!!!!!!!!! Norwegian blasphemy.
    (For all you faithheads, my face is turning green, my head is swiveling completely around 360 on my neck stock, and I’m levitating while vomiting green gunk all over the place. Jesus Christ I’m…I’m possessed!!!!)

  6. Bob says:

    I’m not wearing any clothes. He, he.

  7. Del says:

    I really found your article interesting. I just want to clarify a few things. First, it is too bad that our country has lost respect for one another, as it seems too many people are using God’s name in vain. Fortunately, for them they live in a country of free speech. Unfortunately, they will answer to God. Christians are not religious zealots, who rule in the name of God, so long as it is to their advantage. Christians respect and support the laws of the land. The other issue is that I must admit I was wrong about what I thought the Free Thinkers stood for. I now realize you are just like other Christians who have a great deal of knowledge about religion, but fail to practice it. God is about love and forgiveness even for non-believers. He would like nothing better than forgive each and everyone of us. It is we who choose not to ask for forgiveness.

    • Avatar of Jon Lindgren Jon Lindgren says:

      Del 2:59 Welcome and thank you for taking time to comment.

      “God is about love and forgiveness even for nonbelievers.” From the scripture I read on the topic of blasphemy, I recall specifically that God did not forgive unbelievers for blasphemy. Maybe it means something different than what it says, I’m certainly not an authority.

      • Stan says:

        The question then Jon may be, why should he? On the other hand if they are unbelievers why do they care? To unbelievers there is no God so there is no punishment.

        I know I won’t judge you, I may not chose to associate with you but that would be your loss. ;)

        • Avatar of Jon Lindgren Jon Lindgren says:

          Stan 3:58 “On the other hand if they are unbelievers why do they care? To unbelievers there is no God so there is no punishment.”

          That’s a good question. Speaking for my self, there are two reasons to care. One is that if believer are certain they are right, and blasphemy puts people in hell, their inclination is often to “save” unbelievers by using government to force them into being believers–making a state religion and using police powers to enforce it. We see that in this country when laws based on religion are promoted such as those against gay marriage and abortion.

          Then there is my own personal reason. I enjoy visiting with believers like you, and unbelievers, and if I don’t care there is nothing to talk about. :)

      • Del says:

        God won’t forgive any unbelievers. God will forgive those who claim him as Father and seek salvation. Have you ever read the book Glimpses of Heaven by a hospice nurse? Recently, I had a friend who was a non-believer who was in Stage 4 cancer and had a year left. After treatment and another surgery, he is cancer free for now. No one knows if it will come back. I spent a lot of time talking to him about God’s love. There are a lot of these miracles, especially when we ask for forgiveness.

        • Avatar of Jon Lindgren Jon Lindgren says:

          Del 5:18 “God won’t forgive any unbelievers.”

          Thanks. That was my understanding as well.

          On the topic of “miracle” health turnarounds, several athiests have had inexplicable turnarounds as well. I’m happy such things happen in either case once in a while. I also feel badly for the soldiers assisted by my medic friend in Viet Nam. He says he became an atheist after hearing so many dieing soldiers ask him, “Doc, why has Jesus let this happen to me?” His name is Dave Johnson from Forman, ND. He wrote a book about his experiences, “Corpsman Up.”

        • entech says:

          You should be ashamed taking advantage of a sick person to spread the word.
          What about the cures that do not happen, the prayers that are not answered, does God pick and choose, was Calvin right after all?

  8. Bob says:

    You are associating with Jon just by commenting here on his blog.

  9. Wanna B Sure says:

    There are 1. vulgarity–2. obscenity–3. profanity–and 4. blasphemy. To talk about any one of these requires an understanding of the others so that there is no confusion. I see a lot of confusion here. One person’s profanity is another’s vulgarity, and one person’s obscenity is another”s blasphemy. I think most everyone can agree on what vulgarity and obscenity are. What determines if or what the others are depends on a person’s belief system.

    • Avatar of Jon Lindgren Jon Lindgren says:

      Wanna 2:55 Am I correct that God does not forgive unbelievers for blasphemy?

      • Wanna B Sure says:

        Good question:— Answer; Can unbelievers become believers?

        • Avatar of Jon Lindgren Jon Lindgren says:

          Wanna 6:30 “Good question–Answer; Can unbelievers become believers?”

          Very cute. I’ll state your answer for you. No.

          • Wanna B Sure says:

            Not cute at all. Most serious. Your conclusion is your own.

          • Stan says:

            Not only can they become believers but i know a former militant atheist who is now a deacon in the Catholic Church. A personal friend besides just knowing him.

        • Henry says:

          “Answer; Can unbelievers become believers?”

          Yes. Paul.

        • entech says:

          The real question is should unbelievers become believers. Is there anything apart from the words of people like you and words from an old book that could be thought of as a good reason?
          A question I sometimes think about but then old Khayyam comes to the rescue.
          Myself when young did eagerly frequent
          Doctor and Saint, and heard great argument
          About it and about: but evermore
          Came out by the same door where in I went.

          With them the seed of Wisdom did I sow,
          And with mine own hand wrought to make it grow;
          And this was all the Harvest that I reap’d–
          “I came like Water, and like Wind I go.”

          Into this Universe, and Why not knowing
          Nor Whence, like Water willy-nilly flowing;
          And out of it, as Wind along the Waste,
          I know not Whither, willy-nilly blowing.

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