My objection to Blasphemy Day is that it can be rather sophomoric; particularly the holding of a contest to see who come up with the most pithy forms of blasphemy. I have consistently said that if we are to be taken seriously, we need to provide the best scholarly and scientific examination of claims. I have also forthrightly defended “the right to blaspheme;” but there are different ways of doing this, and I submit that poking fun at ones opponents is counterproductive. I do not think that “in your face” atheism will get us very far. I have defended the right of the Danish newspaper to publish cartoons critical of Muslim suicide bombers, and I am not unilaterally opposed to the use of cartoons, particularly where there is a political or social point that needs to be made. But this is different from purposely seeking to blaspheme to gain public notoriety.
This is similar to what I said before. You want to respect people even if you don’t respect their beliefs. And to that end, I do believe there are ways of blaspheming that are counterproductive. It’s not a censorship issue — you can say whatever you’d like — but I do believe there are some thoughts that backfire when uttered.
I don’t agree with everything Kurtz says, though. Once again — and on purpose this time — he brings up the “atheist fundamentalists”:
In my view, the main failure of “atheist fundamentalists” — and they do exist — is that they often are so eager to criticize theistic religions that they ignore the need to develop a genuine moral compass and the principles of personal morality.
There are indeed two different visions of the Center for Inquiry: The first insists that there ain’t no God. And that people who believe in him are foolish. The second agrees that there is insufficient evidence for God, but that humans have the opportunity to realize the fullness of life for themselves and society. The second vision is affirmative and constructive in scope, and has proven enormously successful thus far. It would be a tragedy of monumental proportions to abandon it now.
But why is it one or the other?
You can criticize religious beliefs while still affirming your own personal morality. Just because some people get off on cutting religious people down to size doesn’t mean everyone criticizes them maliciously.
And many of us — myself included — do buy into Kurtz’s second vision, while at the same time, thinking there is foolishness in religious thought.
I’m pretty sure the current administration of the Center For Inquiry feels the same way. Yes, they tried to drum up some publicity with a not-so-friendly idea (I’m thinking of the Blasphemy Contest, not Blasphemy Day itself), but they’re usually doing very positive things in defense of critical thinking and scientific inquiry. Kurtz knows that, he helped pioneer it. To attack his own organization for a misstep or two seems counterproductive.