Blasphemy Day International, 2011
September 30 is Blasphemy Day International, commemorating the anniversary of the 2005 publication of the famous Muhammad cartoons by the Jyllands-Posten newspaper in Denmark. Many secular newspapers showed solidarity by re-printing the cartoons, while prominent Christian authorities such as the Pope sided with Islam and condemned them. Several years later a religious fanatic tried to murder Kurt Westergaard, creator of the best-known of the cartoons (shown above).
Blasphemy is first and foremost a freedom-of-expression issue. The very concept of blasphemy as a "sin" or crime expresses the idea that religion should somehow be exempt from the kind of criticism, ridicule, and questioning to which all other important beliefs and institutions are subjected -- that is, that it deserves a kind of "respect" not extended to anything else, and which it itself so pointedly does not extend to the numerous targets of its own bigotry and taboos.
As I have explained earlier, I believe ridicule is the most effective tool we have for dealing with religion, and our opponents seem all too conscious of the fact that their belief systems are, shall we say, rather vulnerable to that tool, so it's hardly surprising that they want to take it away from us.
Blasphemy laws are gone or non-enforced in the West, but they are alive and well in some countries, and even within the West, the "new atheist" campaign of straight talk about religion has been met with howls of outrage, demands for "respect" (see above), and even threats.
In cases of more explicit disdain for religious taboos, the reactions can escalate to full-blown hysteria -- which just shows how vitally important it is to keep speaking out. If ever the bullies succeed in imposing silence via threats, free expression is doomed.
Of course, blasphemy is most effective when it sticks closest to reality.
As before, I'll finish up here with the greatest and most truth-filled Muhammad cartoon ever (warning: slightly gruesome).