An Address on Blasphemy Day, Sunday, September 30, 2012

This address was written for a demonstation in Boston in support of free speech on September 30, 2012, Blashphemy Day. This year's Blasphemy Day is particularly important given the violence in the Middle East sparked by an obscure, anti-Muslim YouTube video. 

We meet today to affirm and celebrate the freedom to criticize and disagree with religious doctrines and religious philosophies.  I celebrate all of us who are blasphemers, heretics, and in apostasy.

Freedom of personal religious beliefs cannot be secure unless there is also separation of church and state, separation of elected government from unelected claimants to  god's personal email address.

We have seen what blasphemy laws have done to us.  Women called witches in Salem were killed because of finger-pointing --- witches were said to be not only blasphemous, but satanic--whatever that means.  Mary Dyer, a Quaker woman, was publically hanged to death right over here on Boston Common on June 1, 1660.  In fact, Quakers recognize three English members of the Society of Friends, Marmaduke Stephenson, William Robinson and Mary Dyer, and to the Friend William Leddra of Barbados, who were condemned to death and executed by public hanging for their religious beliefs under the legislature of the Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1659, 1660 and 1661. Several other Friends lay under sentence of death at Boston in the same period, but had their punishments commuted to that of being whipped out of the colony from town to town.

When I see what some bishops and preachers have done, I confess that I have some sympathies for Satan.  Now I am not in favor of evil, but I do sympathize with sinning.

And for blasphemy, I want you to know that Santa--y'know, Santa Clause--well, Santa is just a rearrangement of the letters in Satan!  Christians have been fooled too long.

Heresy and apostasy are religious concepts and have no place in civil government.   We always must ask, "Is this the business of government?"

Where would we be as secularists, Humanists, freethinkers, non-believers, atheists if blasphemy and heresy laws were enforced?  How can we allow the power of civil government to be used by religious authorities, full of their own self-importance, to criminalize beliefs?  Who is to define blasphemy or heresy?  Should this power be given to unelected religion-dependent 'authorities' with a self-protecting agenda? 

Democracy requires that religious doctrines be separated from good social policies.  

We must be free to reject all notions of invisible angels and demons, invisible spirits and gods, invisible cherubims, seraphims, and Beelzebubs.  [I know that the -im suffix is a plural in Hebrew; I added the -s deliberately.

And notions about "natural law", which is a purely religious invention with no basis in science. 

Throughout history, churches have tried to capture the power of civil government to foster their own agendas, and feather their own nests.  But no church or religious group should have power over secular government.

Separation of government from religious doctrines is the central unifying principle for all non-believers.  I applaud Humanists, Atheists, Secularists, and Liberal Religious people for holding to strict separation of church and state.  

The core concept of "secular" means governmental neutrality without favoritism toward believers.   Freedom from religious intrusions is essential to a vital democracy and for all secularists.

Blasphemy, heresy, apostasy are purely religious doctrines with no place in a free society.

So, I say unto you, Go thou and blaspheme and sin.  Sinning is good for the soul.  Blaspheming and heresy are good for the mind.


About Ellery

Ellery's picture
Ellery Schempp, a member of the Concord Area Humanists steering committee, protested bible reading and devotional prayers at his high school school, a protest that turned into the landmark Abington v. Schempp decision in 1963 by the U.S. Supreme Court. He is a retired scientist who often speaks about his involvement in the Schempp case, and the importance of keeping religion out of government.


Thanks for this. It's a coincidence that just this morning I was thinking about writing a blog about idolatry and blasphemy. I was thinking how that blasphemy is impossible outside the realm of idolatry - making something that is man-made into something holy and to be worshiped. The Bible, Koran, and Old Testament, to me, are objects of idolatry and thus sometimes the charge of blasphemy is leveled against these man-made objects.

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