Thursday, 8 January 2015

In the name of God

Freedom of speech may seem more precarious, fragile and precious today than it was yesterday in the light of the terrible murders committed in France. This is not to say that we should not be aware of and respect the beliefs of others, yet the right to criticise and challenge and express dissent without fear is a touchstone of a free society. Satire, in my view, also operates within a particular and understood context that should give it a greater freedom to "offend." I was thinking about free speech today and recalling that Jesus was never afraid to speak his mind and that he too was executed for blasphemy. I was also thinking about what we mean by blasphemy, and thought of how Jesus said that whatever we do to the least of our fellow human beings, we do to him. I also thought of taking the name of God in vain, and that there is no more terrible way to misrepresent God than to carry out atrocity against human beings made in his image while claiming that we do that in his name. This, rather than expressing an individual opinion, is surely the true blasphemy?
Je suis Charlie?

Then the high priest tore his clothes and said, "He has spoken blasphemy! Why do we need any more witnesses? Look, now you have heard the blasphemy.


  1. A lot of people take the name of Jesus in vain and sometimes use it as a swear word. I always challenge these people. The fact that the murderers shouted 'Allah' while carrying out their murderous rampage has given opponents of Islam a way of unifying the terrorist acts with the religion. But we don't equate Christianity with someone who uses the name of the Lord in vain. However, both acts do blaspheme God.

    1. I have to say that in my workplace some colleagues do use God, Jesus etc as swear words. I always feel that their intention is not to offend me- and so I am not offended- also I am not sure they are intending to "blaspheme" as they don't have a belief and so the concept doesn't really apply. I suppose it could "upset" me that the name of Jesus means nothing to them. That fact does give me food for thought but it doesn't make me feel outraged or angry more a bit sad.
      For myself, I would always be careful to be respectful of another person's faith as far as possible, but I don't think that having a faith gives someone immunity from being criticised when that faith is extreme. The issue about depicting the Muhammad is a difficult one as this is such a strong offence for many muslims- although I read an interesting article about Islamic depictions of the prophet throughout history.
      My main point however is that the worst way in which we can defile or honour God is through the acts that we carry out in his name. To take the concept of God, who is goodness and holiness and to distort that to fit our own hatred and atrocity seems to me the worst blasphemy.

  2. I always say that the only difference btw a Christian yelling "Oh Christ!" and an ordinary swearer is that we think Someone is listening and can hope for Him to help :-)