Jehovah, Jehovah…

Flicking idly through the virtual pages of my favourite news website yesterday, my attention was caught by one particular headline. It seems that a group of people face prosecution over their production of a play which implies that Jesus (insert the initial ‘H’ here if you so desire) Christ and his disciples were in fact gay. A prosecution under blasphemy laws is apparently being considered.

I have a couple of initial reactions;

First: The idea itself; I wonder what on earth is the motivation behind a play with this kind of story? It seems to me like a rather lazy way to write a story  – one could, after all, simply pluck any figure or group from history and make the same implication, basing a story around the shift of perspective. It seems like a one-joke (and a not particularly funny one at that) project to me, much the same as a grown man wearing a dress, wig and make up is a ‘joke’ that is both very old, has been kicked around for centuries, and as such is intrinsically not funny. In other words, I understand that it takes all kinds of humour to keep society satisfied, but isn’t this really just the rehashing of an old schoolyard joke with old (new) names? I guess what we find funny is a question of taste. So be it. While I question the story itself, I actually admire the accused for having the courage to go up against church and state.

Second: I find it hard to accept that there still exists in a supposedly modern and ‘enlightened’ democracy, a law of blasphemy. While I don’t agree with promoting free speech to the point of allowing threatening, abusive or insulting behaviour (which seems to be the case in the USA), I am aghast that in a European democracy, someone could be prosecuted for being allegedly disrespectful of someone’s god. Taking Christianity as an example, since there exist so many – indeed perhaps countless – interpretations of the stories and teachings within the bible, which Christian could legitimately put themselves on a pedestal high enough to pass judgment? In other words, who has the final say? And if it’s wrong to disrespect the Christian god, is it OK to disrespect different beliefs? Former enactments within the UK, for example, would suggest, perhaps unsurprisingly,  that it was.

Making law is such a difficult thing to do properly, delving into protecting and/or legislating against behaviour around religious beliefs is, to say the least, a minefield. One person’s blasphemy is, after all, another person’s bit of fun (Monty Python’s ‘The Life of Brian’ anyone?). Flipping the coin, however, reveals that there exists a double standard here; an attack on non-belief is not (to the best of my knowledge), and has never been specifically legislated against in criminal law – in fact I would suggest that such attacks would fall under the strange protection that the law seems to afford to religious bigotry..

Here’s a hypothetical question: if, in the country concerned (and it’s Greece by the way) I went on TV or held a public meeting  to say that there is of course no god, and that surely the idea of an invisible  man living in the sky with all the dead people he approves of seems clearly delusional,  would I be under threat of prosecution for blasphemy? I would assume that, since questioning and/or denying the very existence of God could be seen as an attack (perhaps the most serious kind) upon God, there might be room somewhere in the system for me to be hauled before a court. Perhaps, perhaps not – certainly a lot of people would be very, very upset.  I’m pretty sure, however,  that  if a priest or bishop or pope tells me – or indeed everyone – that anyone who doesn’t believe what he or she (priests, etc.) believes is bound to spend eternity in suffering , such a statement is protected as a legitimate religious belief. I’m sure of this because that sort of protection of religious ‘positions’ happens every day, all over the world, with the overt support of the state.

Statements based in religious belief around the world are usually protected – although often just as long as it’s the majority view – and is by no means limited to Christianity. The elephant-in-the-room question, therefore, is this: WHY? Why are religious leaders and protagonists allowed to hide behind some kind of (ironically, invisible) shield which allows them to say pretty much whatever they want, whether it is blatant lies, offensive, hate-inspiring or fear-mongering? How is it that, in contrast, non believers can without any recourse, be castigated and extolled to convert in order to save themselves, or that a lack of belief is the wrong way to live? In many western countries it is fair to say that the laws of the land were laid down upon a religious template. But that was, in most cases,  followed by an evolution of law which took place over many hundreds of years. Why does established religion apparently still deserve a special place in law (for example, in the USA, where churches are tax exempt)?

Where, within a modern system of justice, does a blasphemy law belong? My contention is that such laws are mediaeval and have no place in a modern society.

We’re stuck with it for now, of course, mainly because the believers have history (i.e. the formation of countries and their legal systems) on their side. Tackling religion and all the (historically evidenced) harmful consequences of rival beliefs is doubtless a much hotter political issue for anyone to want to address.

As long as people want to believe in the afterlife to stave off fears of death and anoint their lives with some kind of mystical or spiritual purpose, I suppose the status quo will remain.

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6 Comments on “Jehovah, Jehovah…”


  1. All very well argued. But then, being an unbeliever, I’m already converted. As it were.

    But when did you become so intellectual, rational, clever even? You really are a LATE developer. Me? I’ve been regressing since I left school. Pretty soon now, I’m gonna be as dumb as everyone else…

  2. elsimmo Says:

    Don’t believe you.


  3. It’s true! I’m struggling to finish the Times supersize crossword on Saturday without having to use Google at least once.


  4. Nah, don’t do cryptic much. It’s the general knowledge one they have. That’s kind of an outdated term now isn’t it? “General knowledge”: you get the impression that today’s generation don’t know that much about that much.

    Oh, we’re getting old…

    • elsimmo Says:

      Hey slow down there Tiger! I’ll have you know that ‘General Studies’ was my strongest subject at school…or was it rugby?…
      I must agree with you on the generational point – I know it sounds curmudgeonly but our kids can tell you whatever has ‘gone viral’ lately, but cannot seem to get their heads around using the internet as an informational resource. For example, I bet any one of them could instantly tell me who holds the record for smashing plates over their head, or what was the most icky thing ever to be pulled out of a human’s orifice, but ask them to research anything remotely useful and they’d bounce off the walls saying “How do I do that?”…this generation seems to need everything handed to them on a plate (already seasoned and with a huge dollop of ketchup). I was explaining a few months back about how I used to have to go to the local library to research stuff. They were confused on many levels. Humbug. Bah.


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