Today is International Blasphemy Day!

Today is the fourth anniversary of the publication of Muhammad cartoons in Jyllands-Posten that created an international event, and the Center for Inquiry is commemorating the date as International Blasphemy Day as part of its Campaign for Free Expression. I'm happy to support this anti-holy-day.

According to some Christian theology, it's not possible to commit the unforgivable sin of blasphemy against the Holy Spirit as described in Matthew 12:31-32 while living because it's understood as disbelief until the moment of death. I suppose it gives me something to look forward to! (No, not really.) Of course, it's still possible to commit other kinds of garden-variety blasphemy here and now. Though I'm rather less belligerent than some other bloggers, this anti-theistic blog is itself inherently blasphemous, and plenty of my previous comments would offend a great number of believers despite my never having the specific intention to do so. It's just that I've never hesitated to speak my negative opinion of religion here, fearing that it might offend someone. But of course that's not at all difficult with an anonymous publication and a small number of readers!

I'm sure there will be plenty of blasphemous cartoons, songs, poems and videos posted today, but I don't have anything special to contribute. I'm loath to say something with the sole intention of causing offense, so I'll just say something true the general population doesn't hear often enough: If Yahweh, Jesus, or Allah really existed, as portrayed in their respective scriptures, they would be absolutely evil and worthy of every ounce of contempt and derision we could muster toward them.

Today is the day that we remember that blasphemy is victimless, but that government censorship is not. Let's not forget it.



Farthest from Traditional Religion

Yesterday I read an article that suggested that Unitarian Universalism is farther from traditional religion than even atheism despite the use of religious language, symbolism and ritual because UUism isn't focused on whether gods really exist whereas atheism is defined solely by its stance (or lack thereof) toward this question. Of course, many, if not most, UUs have an opinion whether any gods exist, and some may even think the answer important, but UUism as an ideology simply doesn't address the issue. I can appreciate the author's point, but I don't think this difference necessarily makes UUism farther from traditional religion; it may just make it equally far in a different dimension. Atheism retains the definition of “god” — even if only to argue that definition is incoherent — but denies that it corresponds to anything in reality whereas UUism, to the extent that UUs indeed use divine terminology, retains the word “god” but frequently changes its meaning to something other than a supernatural entity such as the universe itself or an abstract concept such as altruism. I argue that Humanism is farther from traditional religion than either atheism or UUism because it doesn't use the word “god” at all, and it also encompasses much more than an view on one particular topic.

But it's not a competition, and we have to remember there's significant overlap between the various groups. Over half of UUs consider themselves at least small-H humanists, a third agnostic, and almost a fifth atheist. (The choices weren't exclusive on the survey in question.) All big-H Humanists are by definition atheists, though I have no idea what percentage of explicit atheists consider themselves Humanists.

I know that some people dislike, or at least claim to dislike, personal labels, but I myself find them useful. (I refer to those other people as anti-labelists!) My blog certainly attests to my tendency to change and think about changing labels relatively often. I find that it helps me think more clearly about myself and my relationship to the world.