Blasphemy – the joke’s on us
“Are you a Christian?” I was asked by a colleague over lunch in Shanghai last week.
“Eh eh well…”
That’s the million dollar question. For someone raised a Christian, still beleiving in God as a Force of Good and a great listener (at least I hope so), but nowadays having serious doubts about Mary’s virginity, God’s omnipotence and almightiness, and a heaven where you have dinner with angels assuming you’ve been sufficiently good and said your prayers, this is not an easy one to answer.
Neither is the one about Islamic jokes.
There’s now a huge debate regarding what should be named “The right to commit blasphemy”, though no one uses that term.
Christianity has been joked about for ages – Life of Brian, Dave Allen, numerous others have emptied all jokes that could possibly be made about Jesus as a person, angels on clouds, demons with red tails and what not. We have become adjusted to “blasphemic” jokes and statements – and very few care, even though this of course varies between countries. There is a limit to what is allowed, see Piss Christ. We Westerners typically agree censorship by religion is not OK.
Hence, the Right to “Commit Blasphemy” is simple in a sense.
Defamation is a criminal offence only if committed between humans. No God is human. Hence, insulting a God is OK. This means you can say and write anything about any God, and it’s OK according to the law.
One problem is obviously that to a lot of people, their God is in fact in a sense a person that is able to be offended. This God person will judge those that don’t fight to protect his name and reputation, and will reward those that do. Hence, every joke is a call for arms – sometimes literarily.
Another problem is that a lot of racists now have discovered this right to make fun of Islam as a means to bully Arabics and Africans and get away with it.
So should offenses against the Islamic God be allowed?
Yes. The Freedom of Speech is far more precious than the offended feelings of Muslims or others. Undoubtably. And I am completely convinced that whoever God is, she has better things to worry about than to be offended just because someone cracks a joke. Dave Allen once said something like: “I believe God has a sense of humour – otherwise I’m in serious trouble.”
Still, we Westerners should ask ourselves why it is so much fun to hurt the feelings of those that do believe their God cares. Then we should commit one similar act of blasphemy against the Christian God for each against the Islamic God, and ask ourselves: was this really funny, useful, or to the point (whichever the purpose was)? If it was, then so be it.
Imho, that’s the only way the act can be justified. If it is not reversible, it is just bullying.