I am disturbed by the fact that Ireland began the new year with a new law making blasphemy illegal.
First of all, what is blasphemy?
blasphemy: 1. profane or mocking speech, writing, or action concerning God, or anything sacred. 2. Contempt for God
Webster's New World Dictionary, College Edition 1960
Blasphemy: 1. SWEAR IMPIOUSLY to swear in a way that insults religion. 2. SOMETHING SHOWING DISRESPECT FOR RELIGION something done or said that shows disrespect for God and religion.
Encarta World English Dictionary 1999
Going by Webster's first definition above or Encarta's second, there is little doubt in my mind that much of the content on this site is blasphemy. Of course it has to be. The site promotes agnosticism, and that inevitably involves demonstrating that religious claims are without foundation.
Of course, some of the articles are more disrespectful of religious beliefs than others. For example there is last week's Ask the Patriarch 210: Could it have been Adam and (St)Eve?, or going back to 2003, Meditation 92 - Gratuitously Obnoxious Deacronymizations of god. Extremely blasphemous, but fun.
Even if I dropped the mockery it would not eliminate blasphemy. Many serious statements on the site are blasphemy - our articles of faith for example - each of the three is blasphemous.
If blasphemy becomes a crime, then I cannot talk or write of my agnosticism without becoming a criminal.
Laws against free speech - which is what laws against blasphemy are - make it a crime to promote disbelief.
Laws against blasphemy also make it illegal to publish scientific findings which contradict religions claims. The whole body of science disproves (and thereby disrespects) the ridiculous claims of all religions which insist on a literal interpretation of their creation myth.
Now the Irish law is not simply against blasphemy - the blasphemy has to intentionally cause outrage among a substantial number of adherents of a religion. Perhaps I should change the caution to visitors found on the table of contents which now says "we invite you to enter the site and get totally offended." But, on the other hand, it is unlikely that a substantial (whatever that means) number of visitors from any particular religion are going to visit and get offended. So I'm safe...
Unless someone tells them to come and get offended. And if you think of all the cases of mass outrage over a supposed insult to one religion or another that have occurred in recent years, it is not the insult that has directly caused the outrage. It is rabble-rousing religious leaders raising their holy book in hand and demanding that their followers get outraged.
The mass outrage is never caused by the blasphemer. It is caused by religious leaders advertising the blasphemy, publicizing it far beyond the intended audience.
If the followers of any religion or religious idea cannot stand up to being told that their beliefs are wrong, and if they cannot simply respond using free speech to explain why the criticism is unfounded - then the foundation of those beliefs are so weak that it does not deserve legal protection. And if the religion or religious idea can be defended against blasphemy using free speech, then it does not need legal protection.
Laws against blasphemy are unnecessary and are an infringement on free speech, free thought, and the free exchange of ideas.
And to summarize, I'll just repeat the final quotation from the Atheist Ireland article:
... Micheal Martin, Irish Minister for Foreign Affairs, opposing attempts by Islamic States to make defamation of religion a crime at UN level, 2009: “We believe that the concept of defamation of religion is not consistent with the promotion and protection of human rights. It can be used to justify arbitrary limitations on, or the denial of, freedom of expression. Indeed, Ireland considers that freedom of expression is a key and inherent element in the manifestation of freedom of thought and conscience and as such is complementary to freedom of religion or belief.”