Blasphemy Laws: A History

October 09, 2012

From the Huffington Post:

Voltaire, were he brought back to life today, would probably feel that the Enlightenment had failed at least in part, as he certainly envisioned a future in which religious fanaticism would be crushed by the progress of reason-- and would no longer be causing bloodshed, as it did in Libya last week. He would surely be shocked to find that religion, like blasphemy, never goes away, that religion (which he called "superstition") was as potent and pervasive as ever. His Philosophical Dictionary observed that "what has been blasphemy in one country has often been piety in another," and he pointed out that the first Christians were accused of blasphemy by their pagan contemporaries, but then returned the accusation as soon as Christianity was powerful enough to permit it. Certainly he would be skeptical about the efficacy of blasphemy laws today, and certainly he would recognize very clearly the way that charges of blasphemy are all too often unscrupulously manipulated to encourage and justify violence that has other political ends.

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