Robert Green Ingersoll (American Statesman and Orator, noted for his broad range of culture and his defense of atheism. 1833-1899)
Ireland has adopted an anachronistic blasphemy law, as part of the revision of the Defamation Act. From 1 January 2010, the new Irish blasphemy law becomes operational and the Irish Atheists have started a campaign to have it repealed.
Blasphemy is now a crime punishable by a €25,000 fine.
The new law defines blasphemy as publishing or uttering matter that is grossly abusive or insulting in relation to matters held sacred by any religion, thereby intentionally causing outrage among a substantial number of adherents of that religion, with some defences permitted.
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.
Everyone has a right to be treated justly, and a responsibility to treat other people justly. Blasphemy laws are unjust: they silence people in order to protect ideas. In a civilised society, people have a right to to express and to hear ideas about religion even if other people find those ideas to be outrageous.
And one of the most crucial points is this: Because atheism is not a religion, the Irish blasphemy law does not protect atheists from abusive and insulting statements about their fundamental beliefs. While atheists are not seeking such protection they do want to point out that it is discriminatory that this law does not hold all citizens equal.
I hope the Irish blasphemy law will be repealed as soon as possible for a rational, ethical, secular Ireland.
So before I set foot in lovely Ireland again, I must repeat the words by Matthias, son of Deuteronomy of Gath:
"Look, I had a lovely supper, and all I said to my wife was that piece of halibut was good enough for Jehovah.”
More information on the Irish blasphemy law and why it should be repealed:
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