Blasphemy
Overview
Blasphemy is irreverence towards religious or holy persons or things. Some countries have laws to punish blasphemy, while others have laws to give recourse to those who are offended by blasphemy. Those laws may discourage blasphemy as a matter of blasphemous libel
Blasphemous libel
Blasphemous libel was originally an offence under the common law of England. It is an offence under the common law of Northern Ireland. It is a statutory offence in Canada and New Zealand...

, vilification of religion, religious insult, or hate speech
Hate speech
Hate speech is, outside the law, any communication that disparages a person or a group on the basis of some characteristic such as race, color, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, nationality, religion, or other characteristic....

.
The word "blasphemy" came via Middle English
Middle English
Middle English is the stage in the history of the English language during the High and Late Middle Ages, or roughly during the four centuries between the late 11th and the late 15th century....

 blasfemen and Old French
Old French
Old French was the Romance dialect continuum spoken in territories that span roughly the northern half of modern France and parts of modern Belgium and Switzerland from the 9th century to the 14th century...

 blasfemer and Late Latin
Late Latin
Late Latin is the scholarly name for the written Latin of Late Antiquity. The English dictionary definition of Late Latin dates this period from the 3rd to the 6th centuries AD extending in Spain to the 7th. This somewhat ambiguously defined period fits between Classical Latin and Medieval Latin...

 blasphemare from Greek
Greek language
Greek is an independent branch of the Indo-European family of languages. Native to the southern Balkans, it has the longest documented history of any Indo-European language, spanning 34 centuries of written records. Its writing system has been the Greek alphabet for the majority of its history;...

 βλασφημέω, from βλάπτω = "I injure" and φήμη = "reputation".
Encyclopedia
Blasphemy is irreverence towards religious or holy persons or things. Some countries have laws to punish blasphemy, while others have laws to give recourse to those who are offended by blasphemy. Those laws may discourage blasphemy as a matter of blasphemous libel
Blasphemous libel
Blasphemous libel was originally an offence under the common law of England. It is an offence under the common law of Northern Ireland. It is a statutory offence in Canada and New Zealand...

, vilification of religion, religious insult, or hate speech
Hate speech
Hate speech is, outside the law, any communication that disparages a person or a group on the basis of some characteristic such as race, color, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, nationality, religion, or other characteristic....

.

Etymology

The word "blasphemy" came via Middle English
Middle English
Middle English is the stage in the history of the English language during the High and Late Middle Ages, or roughly during the four centuries between the late 11th and the late 15th century....

 blasfemen and Old French
Old French
Old French was the Romance dialect continuum spoken in territories that span roughly the northern half of modern France and parts of modern Belgium and Switzerland from the 9th century to the 14th century...

 blasfemer and Late Latin
Late Latin
Late Latin is the scholarly name for the written Latin of Late Antiquity. The English dictionary definition of Late Latin dates this period from the 3rd to the 6th centuries AD extending in Spain to the 7th. This somewhat ambiguously defined period fits between Classical Latin and Medieval Latin...

 blasphemare from Greek
Greek language
Greek is an independent branch of the Indo-European family of languages. Native to the southern Balkans, it has the longest documented history of any Indo-European language, spanning 34 centuries of written records. Its writing system has been the Greek alphabet for the majority of its history;...

 βλασφημέω, from βλάπτω = "I injure" and φήμη = "reputation". From blasphemare also came Old French blasmer, from which English "blame
Blame
Blame is the act of censuring, holding responsible, making negative statements about an individual or group that their action or actions are socially or morally irresponsible, the opposite of praise. When someone is morally responsible for doing something wrong their action is blameworthy...

" came. Blasphemy: 'from Gk. blasphemia "a speaking ill, impious speech, slander," from blasphemein "to speak evil of."' "In the sense of speaking evil of God this word is found in Ps. 74:18; Isa. 52:5; Rom. 2:24; Rev. 13:1, 6; 16:9, 11, 21. It denotes also any kind of calumny, or evil-speaking, or abuse (1 Kings 21:10; Acts 13:45; 18:6, etc.)."

Blasphemy laws

In some countries with a state religion
State religion
A state religion is a religious body or creed officially endorsed by the state...

 blasphemy is outlawed under the criminal code. It has been claimed that such laws can be used to victimize non-members of, and dissident members of, the state religion.

Christianity

Christian theology
Christian theology
- Divisions of Christian theology :There are many methods of categorizing different approaches to Christian theology. For a historical analysis, see the main article on the History of Christian theology.- Sub-disciplines :...

 condemns blasphemy. It is spoken of in Mark
Gospel of Mark
The Gospel According to Mark , commonly shortened to the Gospel of Mark or simply Mark, is the second book of the New Testament. This canonical account of the life of Jesus of Nazareth is one of the three synoptic gospels. It was thought to be an epitome, which accounts for its place as the second...

 3:29, where blaspheming the Holy Spirit
Holy Spirit
Holy Spirit is a term introduced in English translations of the Hebrew Bible, but understood differently in the main Abrahamic religions.While the general concept of a "Spirit" that permeates the cosmos has been used in various religions Holy Spirit is a term introduced in English translations of...

 is spoken of as unforgivable—the eternal sin
Eternal sin
Eternal sins or unforgivable sins or unpardonable sins, are a concept in Christian theology of sins which cannot or will not be forgiven, whereby salvation becomes impossible...

. However, there is dispute over what form this blasphemy may take and whether it qualifies as blasphemy in the conventional sense.

Blasphemy has been condemned as a serious, or even the most serious, sin by the major creeds and Church theologians.
  • Thomas Aquinas
    Thomas Aquinas
    Thomas Aquinas, O.P. , also Thomas of Aquin or Aquino, was an Italian Dominican priest of the Catholic Church, and an immensely influential philosopher and theologian in the tradition of scholasticism, known as Doctor Angelicus, Doctor Communis, or Doctor Universalis...

     says that “it is clear that blasphemy, which is a sin committed directly against God, is more grave than murder, which is a sin against one's neighbor. … it is called the most grievous sin, for as much as it makes every sin more grievous.”
  • The Book of Concord
    Book of Concord
    The Book of Concord or Concordia is the historic doctrinal standard of the Lutheran Church, consisting of ten credal documents recognized as authoritative in Lutheranism since the 16th century...

     calls blasphemy “the greatest sin that can be outwardly committed”.
  • The Baptist Confession of Faith says: “Therefore, to swear vainly or rashly by the glorious and awesome name of God…is sinful, and to be regarded with disgust and detestation. …For by rash, false, and vain oaths, the Lord is provoked and because of them this land mourns.”
  • The Heidelberg Catechism
    Heidelberg Catechism
    The Heidelberg Catechism is a Protestant confessional document taking the form of a series of questions and answers, for use in teaching Reformed Christian doctrine...

    answers question 100 about blasphemy by stating that “no sin is greater or provokes God's wrath more than the blaspheming of His Name”.
  • The Westminster Larger Catechism
    Westminster Confession of Faith
    The Westminster Confession of Faith is a Reformed confession of faith, in the Calvinist theological tradition. Although drawn up by the 1646 Westminster Assembly, largely of the Church of England, it became and remains the 'subordinate standard' of doctrine in the Church of Scotland, and has been...

    explains that “The sins forbidden in the third commandment are, the abuse of it in an ignorant, vain, irreverent, profane...mentioning...by blasphemy...to profane jests, ...vain janglings, ...to charms or sinful lusts and practices.”
  • Calvin found it intolerable “when a person is accused of blasphemy, to lay the blame on the ebullition of passion, as if God were to endure the penalty whenever we are provoked.”

Catholic prayers and reparations for blasphemy

In the Catholic Church, there are specific prayers and devotions as Acts of Reparation
Acts of reparation
In the Roman Catholic tradition, an Act of Reparation is a prayer or devotion with the intent to repair the "sins of others", e.g. for the repair of the sin of blasphemy, the sufferings of Jesus Christ or as Acts of Reparation to the Virgin Mary...

 for blasphemy. For instance, The Golden Arrow Holy Face Devotion (Prayer)
The Golden Arrow Holy Face Devotion (Prayer)
The Golden Arrow Holy Face Devotion is a prayer in the Roman Catholic Church which is believed to have been dictated by Jesus to Sr. Marie of St Peter and of the Holy Family, a Carmelite nun of Tours, in 1843. It is an Act of Praise and Reparation for Blasphemy...

 first introduced by Sister Marie of St Peter
Marie of St Peter
Sister Marie of St Peter was a Carmelite nun who lived in Tours, France. She is best known for starting the devotion to the Holy Face of Jesus which is now one of the approved Catholic devotions and for the Golden Arrow Prayer....

 in 1844 is recited "in a spirit of reparation for blasphemy". This devotion (started by Sister Marie and then promoted by the Venerable Leo Dupont
Leo Dupont
Venerable Leo Dupont , also known as "The Holy Man of Tours," or the "Apostle of the Holy Face", was a religious figure in the Roman Catholic faith who helped spread various Catholic devotions such as the devotion to the Holy Face of Jesus and nightly Eucharistic Adoration...

) was approved by Pope Leo XIII in 1885. The Raccolta
Raccolta
The Raccolta is a book, published from 1807 to 1950, that listed Roman Catholic prayers and other acts of piety, such as novenas, for which specific indulgences were granted by Popes...

 Catholic prayer book includes a number of such prayers. The Five First Saturdays devotions are done with the intention in the heart of making reparation to the Blessed Mother for blasphemies against her, her name and her holy initiatives.

The Holy See
Holy See
The Holy See is the episcopal jurisdiction of the Catholic Church in Rome, in which its Bishop is commonly known as the Pope. It is the preeminent episcopal see of the Catholic Church, forming the central government of the Church. As such, diplomatically, and in other spheres the Holy See acts and...

 has specific "Pontifical organizations" for the purpose of the reparation of blasphemy through Acts of Reparation to Jesus Christ
Acts of Reparation to Jesus Christ
Roman Catholic tradition includes specific prayers and devotions as Acts of Reparation for insults and blasphemies against Jesus Christ and the Holy Name of Jesus. These include the sufferings during the Passion of Jesus...

, e.g. the Pontifical Congregation of the Benedictine Sisters of the Reparation of the Holy Face.

Death sentence

In Britain's last blasphemy execution, 20-year-old Thomas Aikenhead
Thomas Aikenhead
Thomas Aikenhead was a Scottish student from Edinburgh, who was prosecuted and executed at the age of 20 on a charge of blasphemy. He was the last person in Britain to be executed for blasphemy.-Indictment:...

 was executed for the crime in 1697. He was prosecuted for denying the veracity of the Old Testament and the legitimacy of Christ's miracles. In recent years, George Rosie wrote in the newspaper The Scotsman
The Scotsman
The Scotsman is a British newspaper, published in Edinburgh.As of August 2011 it had an audited circulation of 38,423, down from about 100,000 in the 1980s....

that "The killing of Thomas Aikenhead, like the hounding of Salman Rushdie for the same 'offence,' was a disgrace…a prime example of a God-fixated state killing a man in an attempt to stop the spread of an idea."

Islam

The Quran and the hadith
Hadith
The term Hadīth is used to denote a saying or an act or tacit approval or criticism ascribed either validly or invalidly to the Islamic prophet Muhammad....

 do not mention blasphemy. According to Pakistan
Pakistan
Pakistan , officially the Islamic Republic of Pakistan is a sovereign state in South Asia. It has a coastline along the Arabian Sea and the Gulf of Oman in the south and is bordered by Afghanistan and Iran in the west, India in the east and China in the far northeast. In the north, Tajikistan...

i religious scholar, Javed Ahmed Ghamidi
Javed Ahmed Ghamidi
Javed Ahmad Ghamidi is a well-known Pakistani Muslim theologian, Quran scholar and exegete, and educationist. A former member of the Jamaat-e-Islami, who extended the work of his tutor, Amin Ahsan Islahi. Ghamidi is the founder of Al-Mawrid Institute of Islamic Sciences and its sister...

, nothing in Islam supports blasphemy law
Blasphemy law
Blasphemy law is law relating to blasphemy, or irreverence toward supposed holy personages, religious artifacts, customs, and beliefs.In some countries, blasphemy is not a crime. In the United States of America, for example, a prosecution for blasphemy would violate the Constitution according to...

. Rather, Muslim jurists
Ulama
-In Islam:* Ulema, also transliterated "ulama", a community of legal scholars of Islam and its laws . See:**Nahdlatul Ulama **Darul-uloom Nadwatul Ulama **Jamiatul Ulama Transvaal**Jamiat ul-Ulama -Other:...

 made the offense part of Sharia
Sharia
Sharia law, is the moral code and religious law of Islam. Sharia is derived from two primary sources of Islamic law: the precepts set forth in the Quran, and the example set by the Islamic prophet Muhammad in the Sunnah. Fiqh jurisprudence interprets and extends the application of sharia to...

; the penalties for blasphemy can include fines, imprisonment, flogging, amputation, hanging, or beheading. Muslim clerics may call for the punishment of an alleged blasphemer by issuing a fatwa
Fatwa
A fatwā in the Islamic faith is a juristic ruling concerning Islamic law issued by an Islamic scholar. In Sunni Islam any fatwā is non-binding, whereas in Shia Islam it could be considered by an individual as binding, depending on his or her relation to the scholar. The person who issues a fatwā...

.

Judaism

In the third book of the Torah
Torah
Torah- A scroll containing the first five books of the BibleThe Torah , is name given by Jews to the first five books of the bible—Genesis , Exodus , Leviticus , Numbers and Deuteronomy Torah- A scroll containing the first five books of the BibleThe Torah , is name given by Jews to the first five...

, states that he that blasphemes the name of the "shall surely be put to death". See also List of capital crimes in the Torah.
The Seven laws of Noah, which Judaism sees as applicable to all people, prohibit blasphemy.

The United Nations

In the early 21st century, blasphemy became an issue for the United Nations. The General Assembly
United Nations General Assembly
For two articles dealing with membership in the General Assembly, see:* General Assembly members* General Assembly observersThe United Nations General Assembly is one of the five principal organs of the United Nations and the only one in which all member nations have equal representation...

 passed several resolutions which called upon the world to take action against the "defamation of religions."

Colloquial usage

Blasphemy has been used to mean "irreverence" in a non-religious context. Sir Francis Bacon uses "blasphemy" in this way in Advancement of Learning, where he speaks of "blasphemy against teaching".

"Blasphemy" may be used as a substitute for "profanity" or "cursing" as it is used in this sentence: "With much hammering and blasphemy, the locomotive's replacement spring was finally fitted."

In contemporary language, the notion of blasphemy is often used hyperbolically
Hyperbole
Hyperbole is the use of exaggeration as a rhetorical device or figure of speech. It may be used to evoke strong feelings or to create a strong impression, but is not meant to be taken literally....

. This usage has garnered some interest among linguists recently, and the word 'blasphemy' is a common case used for illustrative purposes.

See also

  • Apostasy
    Apostasy
    Apostasy , 'a defection or revolt', from ἀπό, apo, 'away, apart', στάσις, stasis, 'stand, 'standing') is the formal disaffiliation from or abandonment or renunciation of a religion by a person. One who commits apostasy is known as an apostate. These terms have a pejorative implication in everyday...

  • Eternal sin
    Eternal sin
    Eternal sins or unforgivable sins or unpardonable sins, are a concept in Christian theology of sins which cannot or will not be forgiven, whereby salvation becomes impossible...

  • Freedom of speech versus blasphemy
    Freedom of speech versus blasphemy
    Tension often exists between political freedom, particularly freedom of speech, and certain examples of art, literature, speech or other acts considered by some to be sacrilegious or blasphemous...

  • Heresy
    Heresy
    Heresy is a controversial or novel change to a system of beliefs, especially a religion, that conflicts with established dogma. It is distinct from apostasy, which is the formal denunciation of one's religion, principles or cause, and blasphemy, which is irreverence toward religion...

  • Impiety
    Impiety
    Impiety is classically a lack of proper concern for the obligations owed to public religious observation or cult. Impiety was a main Pagan objection to Christianity, for unlike other initiates into mystery religions, early Christians refused to cast a pinch of incense before the images of the gods,...

  • Minced oath
    Minced oath
    A minced oath is an expression based on a profanity or a taboo term that has been altered to reduce the objectionable characteristics.Many languages have such expressions...

  • Profanity
    Profanity
    Profanity is a show of disrespect, or a desecration or debasement of someone or something. Profanity can take the form of words, expressions, gestures, or other social behaviors that are socially constructed or interpreted as insulting, rude, vulgar, obscene, desecrating, or other forms.The...

  • Gerard Reve
    Gerard Reve
    Gerard Kornelis van het Reve was a Dutch writer. He adopted a shortened version of his name, Gerard Reve in 1973, and that is how he is known today. Together with Willem Frederik Hermans and Harry Mulisch, he is considered one of the "Great Three" of Dutch post-war literature...

  • Sacrilege
    Sacrilege
    Sacrilege is the violation or injurious treatment of a sacred object. In a less proper sense, any transgression against the virtue of religion would be a sacrilege. It can come in the form of irreverence to sacred persons, places, and things...

  • Verbal offence
    Verbal offence
    Verbal offence is a crime that exists in many countries that impose limitations on freedom of speech. It refers to dissent and/or blasphemy...

  • Victimless crime
  • Blasphemy Day
    Blasphemy Day
    Blasphemy Day International is a holiday in which individuals and groups are encouraged to openly express their criticism of, or even disdain for, religion. It was founded in 2009 by the Center for Inquiry. A student contacted the Center for Inquiry in Amherst, New York to present the idea, which...

     is a holiday in which individuals and groups are encouraged to openly express their criticism of, or even disdain for, religion.

Further reading

  • Maledicta
    Maledicta
    Maledicta, The International Journal of Verbal Aggression, is an academic journal dedicated to the study of offensive and negatively-valued words and expressions. Its main areas of interest are the origin, etymology, meaning, use, and influence of vulgar, obscene, aggressive, abusive, and...

    : The International Journal of Verbal Aggression
    (ISSN US 0363-3659)
  • Levy, L. Blasphemy. Chapel Hill, 1993.
  • Comprehensive academic study comparing global legal approaches to blasphemy in light of the Jyllands-Posten controversy
  • Dartevelle, P., S Borg, Denis, Ph., Robyn, J. (eds.). Blasphèmes et libertés. Paris: CERF, 1993
  • Plate, S. Brent Blasphemy: Art that Offends (London: Black Dog Publishing, 2006) [ISBN 1904772536]

External links

The source of this article is wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.  The text of this article is licensed under the GFDL.
 
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