Last year, the Center for Inquiry celebrated “International Blasphemy Day” on September 30th. At the time, it was the fourth anniversary of when the Muhammad cartoons were published in a Danish newspaper.
What was supposed to be a day celebrating the right to free speech — including criticism of religion — became a free-for-all for mocking faith. To me, it was counter-productive to the actual goal of getting people to think seriously about the problems with faith.
There was also a big kerfuffle between current and past CFI leadership over the tone of the “holiday” and that became a story in and of itself.
Not this year, though.
In a move I completely support, CFI has renamed the occasion “International Blasphemy Rights Day”:
The name change is meant to “emphasize the important connection that we think there is between blasphemy and the right to free speech,” said Ronald Lindsay, president and CEO of CFI.
Lindsay said some critics “interpreted blasphemy in its crudest form” but “blasphemy is a wider concept than that.”
Although many people scoffed at last year’s campaign, he said, the center believes religion is not, and should not be, immune from criticism.
“Religious beliefs should be on the same level of political beliefs,” Lindsay said.
It’s a smart move on their part.
I would hope people use the occasion to show people the importance of putting religion under the microscope and treating those beliefs like we would most other kinds of beliefs — with close scrutiny and warranted criticism.
I think it’s just a wasted opportunity if you use the day to say something like, “Fuck Jesus and Allah!” You could do it. But what would that accomplish? Like-minded friends might cheer you on, while everyone else just ignores you (at best) or retaliates (at worst). Would you really be getting a message across to the people who need to hear it the most?
The day should be about protecting everyone’s right to blaspheme. In some countries, that’s not allowed. In those places, you can face the death penalty for committing the victimless “crime.” Think about how we can conquer that sort of behavior instead of focusing on how you can piss off a group of religious people.