Why Blaspheme?

September 30 is Blasphemy Day. This has a lot of people upset, including Bill Dembski, and I’m sure we can count on BillDo to splutter something incoherent about it when he hears about it.

Which raises the question, why blaspheme?

For one thing, it’s fun, even if it’s not very noble: it’s pushing people’s buttons for the sake of watching them react.

Of course, it’s religious people’s own damn fault for being so easily manipulated. In Elbow Room: the Varieties of Free Will Worth Wanting, Daniel Dennett asks what free will is, and why we would want to have it in the first place. Part of the answer is that we don’t like being coerced or manipulated. When we talk about pushing someone’s buttons, we mean that that person can be manipulated into reacting a certain way to a given impulse, as reliably as pressing the on/off switch on a machine. We have power over that person. But we don’t like others having power over us, so we generally strive not to have buttons that can be pushed.

Albert Mohler writes:

How should Christians respond?

First, take no offense. Refuse to play into the game plan of those sponsoring International Blasphemy Day.

which is good advice.

However, there’s a better reason to blaspheme:

Because we can.

Blasphemy day is a celebration of freedom. In far too many places and times, it has been — and in many places, still is (I’m looking at you Ireland!) — illegal to express certain thoughts. If freedom of speech is a good thing because it gives us the right to criticize the rulers of the country we live in, how much better the freedom to criticize or even deny the guy who supposedly runs the universe we live in?

If you think about it, the very notion of blasphemy is bizarre: if the existence of a god were really as obviously true as many people believe, why would they take offense at someone who denies it? If I said “there’s no such place as Indonesia”, people might look at me funny, they might want to call for the nice men in white coats, but they wouldn’t be offended. Why would “there are no gods” be any different?

But the third reason for blaspheming is perhaps the best: because it helped me out of religion.

At some point when I was a kid, I noticed that you can say “God damn it!” or “Jesus fucking Christ!” without being zotted by lightning, and wondered why that was. I don’t remember what conclusion I came to at the time, but it was obvious that God wasn’t an omnipresent Stasi policeman, ready to punish any transgression as soon as it was committed. Perhaps I decided that God trusted his created creatures to figure out for ourselves what we should and shoudn’t do, and didn’t need to enforce his rules with a heavy hand. In any case, it meant that I could think about God without worrying that my thoughts would get me punished. And the rest is history.

The more people blaspheme, the more they demonstrate that it’s safe to think. And the more people think, the more superstitious dogmas they’ll discard, leaving only those ideas that can stand on their own merits.

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2 Responses to Why Blaspheme?

  1. JohnF says:

    Sept 30th is my birthday. I hope I get a whole goddamn pile of presents, but Christ! it makes me feel old.

    Like

  2. arensb says:

    Well, then happy upcoming birthday, JohnF, and may the FSM touch you with his noodly appendage.

    Like

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