Ever hear of International Blasphemy Day? For many of us, it came and went without as much as a blip on the radar. But for a select few atheists and agnostics, it was yet another day to espouse their hatred for religion and, like loud children hiding behind the jungle gym, insult people of faith from the safety of cyberspace.
On September 30, 2005, Danish cartoons depicting the prophet Muhammad’s face sparked riots and violence among Muslims, who believe any visual depiction of their prophet is a grievous offense.
In response to incidents such as these, the Center for Inquiry, a humanist organization based in Amherst, New York, set about to institute the first International Blasphemy Day on September 30th this year to mock all faiths, not just Islam. “Blasphemy Day is part of The Campaign for Free Expression, a join initiative between the Center for Inquiry and the Council for Secular Humanism to focus attention on one of the most crucial components of freethought: the right of individuals to express their viewpoints, opinions, and beliefs about all subjects—especially religion,” according to the CFI website.1
Common English definitions for “blasphemy” include “impious utterance or action concerning God or sacred things.”2 The noun is translated almost directly from the Greek word blasphemia, which is a compound word of either blax (sluggish or stupid) or blapto (to injure), and pheme (speech).3 The verb form of the word essentially means to speak contemptuously of God or sacred things, and the adjective can translate to the English word “abusive.”
The CFI website defines the noun form of blasphemy as “the act of denying or scoffing at God or God’s alleged attributes.”1 In addition to the “celebration” of a special day devoted to this activity, the organizers had a “Blasphemy Contest” in which participants were invited to submit “a phrase, poem, or statement that would be, or would have been, considered blasphemous....A panel of judges will determine the top five entries (unless God strikes them dead first).”4 Winners received a mug and a T-shirt.
“Our primary purpose is not to offend religious sensibilities; but, of course, since some religions maintain that any criticism of religion is offensive, avoiding all offense would be difficult, if not impossible,” according to the contest rules. Interestingly, CFI founder Paul Kurtz wrote that “sponsoring a contest encouraging new forms of blasphemy, I believe is most unwise. It betrays the civic virtues of democracy. I support the premise that religion should be open to the critical examination of its claims….I do have serious reservations about the forms that these criticisms take.”5
Even though a cartoon about Muhammad was cited as the impetus for Blasphemy Day, atheists and agnostics are taking the opportunity to target Christians specifically, citing priests, altar boys, and Mary in the contest rules.
As for Christians, Blasphemy Day isn’t much different from the kind of ridicule that Christ dealt with in His time. R. Albert Mohler, Jr., president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky, posted a commentary on ChristianPost.com that encouraged Christians to “take no offense. Refuse to play into the game plan of those sponsoring International Blasphemy Day.” He also called for them to “mourn the blasphemy…not because honor is at stake, but because souls are at stake with eternal consequences.” And he reminded Christians to “see this observance for what it really is—an unintended testimony to the existence of God and the foolishness of those who deny Him.”6
Whether or not Blasphemy Day observers acknowledge Him, God is not a God who strikes people down because they deny Him. He doesn’t need to, as rising rates of divorce, broken families, increasing health problems, human trafficking, white collar crime, and many other evils plaguing our society attest to the fact that we’re doing an excellent job of destroying ourselves.
Instead, He’s the God who made it possible for us to return to the unbroken fellowship with Him that Adam and Eve had in the Garden of Eden before sin entered the world. Blasphemy Day barely made a splash in history, but He remains, waiting patiently and graciously for even the worst and most cowardly offenders to give up their illusion of control and accept His priceless gift of freedom through faith in Christ.
- Announcing the CFI Blasphemy Contest. Center for Inquiry. Posted on centerforinquiry.net September 24, 2009, accessed September 30, 2009.
- Definition for “blasphemy.” 2009. Based on the Random House Dictionary. Posted on dictionary.com.
- Vine, W. E., M. F. Unger and W. White, Jr.. 1996. Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 69.
- Rule for Blasphemy Contest. Center for Inquiry. Posted on centerforinquiry.net September 24, 2009, accessed September 30, 2009.
- Kurtz, P. A Dissenting View About Blasphemy Day. Center for Inquiry. Posted on centerforinquiry.net September 29, 2009, accessed September 30, 2009.
- Mohler, Jr., R. A. Why Do the Heathen Rage?—International Blasphemy Day. The Christian Post. Posted on christianpost.com September 27, 2009, accessed September 30, 2009.
* Ms. Dao is Assistant Editor at the Institute for Creation Research.
Article posted on October 5, 2009.