Religious insults: A simple solution

There oughta be a law!

“Islamic governments such as those of Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, which punish blasphemy against Islam ferociously, are keen for a ban on insulting religion to be written into international law,” reports The Economist in its June 4 issue.

Hold the wisecracks! This is a serious religious ritual! (Photo via Creative Commons/Wikimedia.)

It’s a nifty idea, to be sure. But who would actually draft such legislation? Where is the modern-day Thomas Jefferson capable of justifying such a ban in the court of world opinion?

Once again, Broad Street Review rushes in where others fear to tread. Let me take a whack at it:

Whereas religion has brought hope and comfort to billions of otherwise miserable people for thousands of years; and

Whereas hope and comfort are the only things that get most people through their woeful days; and

Whereas religion has enriched the world by inspiring or commissioning countless works of beautiful music, painting, and sculpture; and

Whereas the world’s most popular religions are based on supernatural fairy tales that can’t withstand rational scrutiny; and

Whereas religious movements that are not based on fairy tales — like, say, Unitarianism, Ethical Culture, or secular humanism — have attracted barely enough followers to fill the basement meeting room of the Rittenhouse Square branch of the Philadelphia Free Library; and

Whereas most people would rather cling to their religious myths than confront their earthly wretchedness constructively; and

Whereas the most popular religions involve ludicrous rituals and funny costumes that any sane person can’t resist poking fun at; and

Whereas people get violently angry when their cherished religious myths are ridiculed; and

Whereas violence can lead to warfare, which causes untold tragic consequences for everybody except novelists and filmmakers; and

Whereas millions of people have been killed in wars fought to decide whether God is one person or three; or whether Muhammad’s rightful successor was his father-in-law or his son-in-law; and

Whereas today's dominant religions, having improved upon their predecessors, couldn't conceivably be improved upon in the future; and

Whereas nothing’s going to change anyway; and

Whereas the function of government is to keep the lid on the status quo; and

Whereas the status quo isn’t really so bad, all things considered; and

Whereas the most effective solution to any problem is to pass a law; and

Whereas it’s easy to pass laws ordering people to shut up; and

Whereas religion is so easy to define; and

Whereas fear is an effective deterrent to harmful behavior;

Now, therefore, be it resolved that, effective January 1, 2017, insulting religion is hereby forbidden. Anyone who insults, criticizes, or ridicules religion, or even so much as giggles, winks, nudges, or rolls his or her eyes when religious leaders perform funny dances, consume strange foods, or dunk each other in holy water will be burned at the stake; or, if stakes are in short supply, pushed off the top of a tall building; or, in communities where the tallest building is a suburban ranch home, sentenced to three months of community service and/or to pay a fine not to exceed $75; or whatever deterrent seems more effective, just as long as we do something. And for the support of this legislation, we the assembled nations of the world mutually pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes and our sacred honor, not to mention the brains that we’ve already checked at the door.   

Our readers respond

Peter Burwasser

of Philadelphia, PA on July 05, 2016

Dan, this is excellent. I would refer you to the very good work of the biologist Frans de Waal, who calls himself an "apathest" (i.e., he is apathetic about the whole discussion of God). He basically subscribes to the concept that the supernatural world is ultimately unprovable and man-made and, therefore, intellectually uninteresting.

Kile Smith

of Fox Chase/ Philadelphia, PA on July 07, 2016

Dan, this is the funniest send-up of senior editors I have ever read! Well done.

Steve Bremner

of Roxborough/ Philadelphia, PA on July 11, 2016

Is it not paradoxical that there should be a call for a universal ban on "insulting religion" when a primary function of many religions is to insult all the others? The fundamentalist assertion that all embracing any system of belief other than one's own must lead to eternal torment steamier than a Philly summer is, to say the least, a tad ecumenically challenged, yes?

True religious unity seems to occur only when there's a perceived need to form a lions' den to decry some Daniel Rottendogma who dares to insult religion, especially via a sense of humor. Diverse believers circle their arks, as it were, with incredulous cries of, "But everyone believes in one God!" Then some little guy at the back says he once met an atheist who actually doesn't eat babies, and the faithful make "Ooh, who'da thunk it?" noises.

What we need is not a ban on ridiculing Church, but a ban on not ridiculing State. It may already be too late. America may be about to bear the consequences of generations of solemn elder-to-young assertions that "Anyone can be president."

Author's Response

You make an astute point. By claiming to have incorporated the best of Christianity and Judaism, Islam in effect insults both of its predecessors. By claiming that Jesus is the Messiah predicted in Hebrew scripture, Christianity in effect insults Judaism. Judaism, with its insistence that God is a single entity, insults all the polytheistic religions that preceded it. And religions like Ethical Culture, by denying a supernatural God altogether, insult all religions that worship a supernatural God. You might argue that every new religious belief, almost by its nature, insults its predecessors.

Thom Nickels

of Philadelphia, Pe on July 15, 2016

How did this prose-poem get Wendy's 'okay'?

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