Atheists in Ireland Protest New Blasphemy Law

A new blasphemy law in Ireland show what it is so important to prevent further deterioration of the wall of separation of church and state in this country. The Guardian reports on actions by atheists to protest these laws:

Secular campaigners in the Irish Republic defied a strict new blasphemy law which came into force today by publishing a series of anti-religious quotations online and promising to fight the legislation in court.

The new law, which was passed in July, means that blasphemy in Ireland is now a crime punishable with a fine of up to €25,000 (£22,000).

It defines blasphemy as “publishing or uttering matter that is grossly abusive or insulting in relation to matters sacred by any religion, thereby intentionally causing outrage among a substantial number of adherents of that religion, with some defences permitted”.

The justice minister, Dermot Ahern, said that the law was necessary because while immigration had brought a growing diversity of religious faiths, the 1936 constitution extended the protection of belief only to Christians.

But Atheist Ireland, a group that claims to represent the rights of atheists, responded to the new law by publishing 25 anti-religious quotations on its website, from figures including Richard Dawkins, Björk, Frank Zappa and the former Observer editor and Irish ex-minister Conor Cruise O’Brien.

Michael Nugent, the group’s chair, said that it would challenge the law through the courts if it were charged with blasphemy.

Nugent said: “This new law is both silly and dangerous. It is silly because medieval religious laws have no place in a modern secular republic, where the criminal law should protect people and not ideas. And it is dangerous because it incentives religious outrage, and because Islamic states led by Pakistan are already using the wording of this Irish law to promote new blasphemy laws at UN level.

I hope that opposition there is not limited to atheists. While in this country we are often faced with attempts by the religious right to use government to impose their religious views on others, there are also many other religious individuals in this country who understand the importance of separation of church and state.

Here are some of the quotations which were posted by Atheist Ireland, demonstrating the type of free expression of ideas which the law attempts to prevent:

Richard Dawkins: “The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction: jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully.”

Björk: “The Buddhists say we come back as animals and they refer to them as lesser beings. Well, animals aren’t lesser beings, they’re just like us. So I say fuck the Buddhists.”

Frank Zappa: “To hang all this desperate sociology on the idea of The Cloud Guy who has The Big Book, who knows if you’ve been bad or good – and cares about any of it – is the chimpanzee part of the brain working.”

Update: 25 Blasphemous Quotations from Atheist Ireland.

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4 Comments

  1. 1
    Sydney Law says:

    » Athiests in Ireland Protest New Blasphemy Law Liberal Values http://bit.ly/7fqAc9

  2. 2
    tom sheepandgoats says:

    Few have been more critical of religious organizations over the years than Jehovah’s Witnesses. Yet they are universally recognized as a nonviolent people. They’re ‘weapons’ are words only.
    Would that all followed that example. Then you could have groups of uncompromising principles existing side by side with like groups espousing different principles. And you wouldn’t need laws such as this one, which carry so much potential for abuse.
    It’s the only practical way in a pluralistic society.

  3. 3
    V Melzer says:

    I have only just learned of the Irish blasphemy law, via an item in The Guardian (UK). I am not Irish but I had assumed that Eire was a modern country and I am shocked that a so-called modern democratic government should be even contemplating making such a law, let alone passing it! Waging war on ideas is the domain of primitive and dangerous groups like the Taliban. I applaud Michael Nugent and his organisation for standing up against such intolerance and stupidity.

  4. 4
    Alain Schiller says:

    People have the right to an opinion, even if it wrong. Liberty of conscience is a  God given right. Nobody has the right to enforce this opinion on others. Stating an opinion is not enforcing it. Other may disagree freely if they wish. When the State sanctions an opinion against another it will de facto violates the right of others. Separation of Church and State is mandated by God himself. Enforcing a blasphemy law is in fact the real blasphemy which should be prohibited by the Law.

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