Religion creates Blasphemy, not Atheism

June 15, 2010

We live in a world in which blasphemy happens. What makes this situation possible? There was no blasphemy 20,000 years ago, as far as we can tell. There may be no blasphemy a thousand years from now.

How does blasphemy happen?

A world where people disagreed over answers to big questions -- questions about our past origins, our highest duties now, and our future destinies -- need not contain any blasphemy.  In a world where everyone had worldviews but no one worried if theirs was a minority view, then that world would have no blasphemy. A world where people could question, investigate, test, and re-evaluate each other's worldviews, openly and freely, has no blasphemy.

How does the blasphemy begin? How could it arise among people?

When someone feels so absolutely confident and prideful about his or her conviction in a worldview, then blasphemy can start. When this person does not want to hear or think about a rival worldview, then blasphemy can start. When this person wants to control whether other people can express a rival worldview, then blasphemy can start. And when this person also decides that others must not disagree with his or her own worldview, then blasphemy is full grown. 

What sort of worldviews are intrinsically capable of inspiring and growing blasphemy? Religions are precisely those sorts of worldviews which tend to be hostile towards open questioning and re-evaluation by outsiders. Monotheistic religions are an especially fertile kind of worldview for growing blasphemy. Here is a simple recipe for blasphemy:

Easy no-bake recipe for blasphemy

a substantial number of believers in monotheistic Religion A

a substantial number of believers in monotheistic Religion B

one egg of proclaiming one’s belief on God

Carefully separate the egg of proclaiming one’s belief in God, discarding the white shapeless matter of "all people really worship the same god". Then take any random believer in religion A who likes the yolk of faith and blend well with the believers of religion B. Stand back while the spontaneous heat of insulted people rises and hardens into outrage. To double the recipe, simply mix the same blend of a believer in religion B with those of A.

Why this recipe is so easy: The statement "My God exists" is heard as "Your God doesn’t exist" by believers of a rival monotheistic religion.

There are other recipes for blasphemy that only require one intolerant religion or ideological worldview. Science is not one of them. Scientific naturalism gets accused of committing blasphemy when it contradicts one religion or another, but of course a scientific worldview by itself cannot commit any blasphemy -- it is the very paradigm of openly free inquiry and re-evaluation. Nor could scientific naturalism commit blasphemy simply by disagreeing with other worldviews. Blasphemy depends on the personal reception of disagreement. Only intolerant worldviews create blasphemy. Atheists are blasphemers only because there already are intolerant people. (And atheists get labeled as intolerant only because they refuse to silence themselves.) 

Neither science nor atheism invented blasphemy— intolerant religion invented blasphemy, it uses blasphemy, and it continues to perpetuate blasphemy to this day. The whole matter has gotten entangled with a victim psychology. Frankly, atheists need to just stop talking about blasphemy entirely, as if atheists really need to waste everyone's time by debating whether to create more or less blasphemy. Atheists should openly advocate for their positive worldviews, whatever those may be, and do it in a fearless way. Put more time into justifying and explaining what worldview is best. And quit faulting atheists. Atheists are NOT the people creating blasphemy at all. The biggest blasphemers are religious people. It's their fault. Let them worry about it.

How long must we wait for a world without blasphemy?