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Ireland Criminalizes Blasphemy 1376

An anonymous reader writes "Another European country clamps down on free speech. From the article: 'It does seem bizarre that, in 2009, a modern European nation would seek to shield religious belief from criticism — yet that is what is happening in Ireland right now. In repealing the 1961 Defamation Act, the Irish government sought to expunge the worst excesses of Ireland's draconian laws restricting free speech, but in the process it has ended up making offending religious belief a criminal offence. Aside from a 25,000 fine (reduced from the 100,000 originally sought by the government), the new Defamation Act gives the authorities the power to stage raids on publishers: the courts may now issue a warrant authorising the police to enter, using "reasonable force," premises where they have grounds for believing there are copies of "blasphemous statements."'"


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Ireland Criminalizes Blasphemy

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  • by Hatta ( 162192 ) * on Monday July 20, 2009 @12:34PM (#28757529) Journal

    What happens if I have a religious belief that censorship offends god? Can I get those advocating censorship tried under this law?

  • by boaworm ( 180781 ) <boaworm@gmail.com> on Monday July 20, 2009 @12:43PM (#28757685) Homepage Journal

    If they would also make Jedi an official religion like in Australia (IIRC), so next time people have a Star Trek convention they could go there, start a flamebait topic between Star Wars-fans and Trekkies, and start collecting cash. On the other hand... Trekkies rarely have tons of cash.

    1: Pass a law preventing making fun of religion
    2: Start a new, silly religion (like I believe in an all-powerful, all-knowing being who needs your MONEY!)
    3: Profit!

    We don't even need the "???" :-)

  • by kk49 ( 829669 ) on Monday July 20, 2009 @12:46PM (#28757729)

    My domains are Blasphemous in English and the French Government seems refuse to recognise English and France is pretty ant-religious zealotry to boot.

  • by gandhi_2 ( 1108023 ) on Monday July 20, 2009 @12:53PM (#28757877) Homepage
    ...for Sharia?
  • by TheSpoom ( 715771 ) * <slashdot@@@uberm00...net> on Monday July 20, 2009 @01:00PM (#28757991) Homepage Journal
    FYI, in one of the best displays of irony in recent memory, Comedy Central actually censored the image of Muhammad during that South Park episode. I shit you not.
  • Re:Obligatory (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Brian Gordon ( 987471 ) on Monday July 20, 2009 @01:13PM (#28758191)
    His fan club is just a bunch of deterministic automatons whose brains and environment are simply ticking through the laws of physics. How can you hate them?

    God's supposedly the one who can make a difference, and doesn't.
  • by Budenny ( 888916 ) on Monday July 20, 2009 @01:16PM (#28758259)

    The really deep problem they have is with those sections of the Bible and the Koran which do not simply denigrate, but actively promote violence against, non believers. What are they to do with them?

    Blasphemy laws can only work if the protection of the law is confined to one religion, or if there are no religions that condemn other ones. Alas, there are very few indeed of the latter.

  • I don't think it's necessarily wrong to have the law - and I don't see how anyone else can say "this law is wrong!" without some basis for what is right or wrong.

    Bullshit. Some things are just fucking wrong as they are inherent violations of human rights. Joe Atheist's right to talk smack about my (Christian) God is far more important than my right not to be offended by it.

    I hate this moral relativism crap, and I'm kind of surprised that any self-described conservative would go along with it. Female mutilation in Sharia turf isn't OK just because "their culture allows it". Screw Godwin: the Holocaust wasn't OK just because "their culture allowed it". Well, religious censorship isn't OK just because "their culture allows it".

    I was also a conservative Christian until I decided that having the power to prevent activity I disliked would suck if the tide ever turned against my beliefs. I'm now a libertarian Christian because I want the right to act, worship, and speak as I want even if it means that people I disagree with get to do the same. This is the case here. It's not that I'm keen on blasphemy, but if I want the right to say "Allah is a dork", then I have to let others say the same about Jehovah.

  • by CastrTroy ( 595695 ) on Monday July 20, 2009 @01:21PM (#28758361) Homepage
    I think agnosticism is the only real answer. Pretending that you have any proof one way or the other, or that you truly believe one side or the other, is just ignoring the other side. There's a whole bunch of science that points to the conclusion that everything happens because of science. But there is also no direct proof that there is no god. There is only proof that god didn't do X. Whereas X is create the universe in 7 days, or flood the earth to get rid of the bad humans. There is no scientific proof that there is no god. Perhaps our current scientific methods are just unable to perceive god, just as they at one time were unable to to detect particles smaller than atoms. If you watch Religulous, you should walk out with a message, not that people who believe in god are crazy, but that people who think they know the answer one way or the other are just kidding themselves.
  • by Belisarivs ( 526071 ) on Monday July 20, 2009 @01:22PM (#28758379)

    Well, Christopher Hitchens (whom, while I disagree with him, do admire) is a polemicist and makes a living at stirring things up. But you're being intellectually dishonest when you reduce those who disagree with him on religion as being little more than thugs. For every Richard Dawkins you cite, I can come up with a theologian like William Lane Craig or C.S. Lewis. Should I judge atheism by the rantings of my college's atheists when they said the Christians killed Galileo (they didn't) and that the Church thought the world was flat (they didn't)? Or should I accept that there are loudmouthed idiots in the world?

    Europe has been moving towards a concept of religious tolerance that puts it at odds with the concept of free speech. This is evident in the reaction towards the Danish cartoons and British clamping down of criticism of Islam in recent years. To me, it doesn't seem inherently Christian, nor "religionist" in nature, but rather pan-European trend, that is a trend of the cosmopolitan bureaucracies that make up the EU.

    I am a little bit sad that the common reaction on Slashdot has been to try and be as offensive to Christians as possible. For those that RTFA:

    "In fact, the new law is a very modern phenomenon. Rather than harking back to the days of God-fearing, or at least priest-fearing, Ireland, the blasphemy law has more in common with contemporary politically correct measures of social control."

    So not exactly imposing papal doctrine on the masses. Going after Christians is petty and vindictive, especially when they have as much to lose with this law as anyone.

  • by Hawthorne01 ( 575586 ) on Monday July 20, 2009 @01:30PM (#28758517)

    Well, I am a "Bible-thumping idiot". And this sort of thing scares me to no end. My family background is Scots-Irish, so that means we got kicked out of two perfectly good countries (including, ironically, Ireland) because our particular brand of "Bible-thumping" wasn't compatible with what others believed in. I don't want transubstantiation or premillennialism inscribed into the Constitution, I just want a country with laws that treats my beliefs with respect and dignity and not have to worry about people who label would me as a "Bible-Thumping idiot" attempting to take that right away from me.

  • by gnick ( 1211984 ) on Monday July 20, 2009 @01:32PM (#28758557) Homepage

    Agnosticism can mean either "I don't know whether there's a god or not" or "I believe it's unknowable whether there's a god or not".

    I guess you're right, but not knowing whether or not there's a god doesn't necessarily make you agnostic. Nobody knows whether there is a god. Or many. Personally, I'm an atheist and am perfectly willing to admit that I don't know whether or not there's a god. I believe that there are no gods because I see no evidence of them and I see no useful reason to assume that there are any. It does no benefit to me, others, or my understanding of the universe to believe that they're there, so I assume that they're not. I don't understand some people's reasoning for doing otherwise, but am willing to accept that they do without judging or assuming that I'm somehow mentally superior because I reached a different conclusion.

    That got longer than I'd intended, I'm just saying - Not knowing whether or not there are gods lurking about doesn't necessarily imply that you have to declare yourself "agnostic".

  • Zeal (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Kenshin ( 43036 ) <kenshinNO@SPAMlunarworks.ca> on Monday July 20, 2009 @01:43PM (#28758731) Homepage

    Nobody knows whether there is a god ... I believe that there are no gods.

    Zealots, of any sort, can't tell the difference between "knowing" and "believing". That's what you have to take into consideration.

    As for myself, I'm an agnostic. I believe there's no way we can actually say whether there is or is not a god, but I feel there is none. People say that stance lacks conviction, but I feel I'm being more realistic on the matter.

  • by sponglish ( 759074 ) on Monday July 20, 2009 @01:45PM (#28758757) Homepage

    Before Newton, if you wondered why the planets didn't crash into the sun, you have to say "I don't know." After Newton, you'd say "gravity." That period of time between question and answer is not a free-zone for introducing supernatural beings simply because we haven't figured out all the answers yet. In a million years, assuming science has failed to find the answers to the ultimate questions (Where did we come from? Why are we here? Where are we going?) it may be time to think seriously about a Creator as the last option, but let's give it some time first.

  • ladies and gentlemen (Score:5, Interesting)

    by nimbius ( 983462 ) on Monday July 20, 2009 @01:45PM (#28758765) Homepage
    as you depart the plane here at Dublin international, remember to please set your watches back 6 centuries.
  • by Darkness404 ( 1287218 ) on Monday July 20, 2009 @01:47PM (#28758817)

    Do you mean to say you think it would be right for a bunch of cool kids to harass and belittle certain students on a daily basis and be protected under free speech? Would it be alright for them to make up suggestions of a defamatory nature about said student under your kind of free speech?

    It depends. On school grounds the school can effectively set its own rules regarding that because they are in the school. Very similar to how if I show up to Taco Bell and keep complaining that I can't get a Big Mac and their tacos are made with ground up worms, they could tell me to leave.

    If it was outside of school, there are plenty of ways to "block" people online and off. If they keep calling, you could file for harassment because your phone is being blocked whenever they call and thats not a free speech issue, its the fact that you are (or at least should) be able to use your phone how you want to.

    So if you think it's the kid's responsibility to not protect himself from psychological harm by physical force... then, pray tell, how is the kid supposed to protect himself against these odds? Answer me that and I'll concede the point.

    Again, most of these things take place at schools, and schools can basically regulate how they wish to conduct business inside school property.

  • by Sklivvz ( 167003 ) * <marco@cecconi.gmail@com> on Monday July 20, 2009 @01:52PM (#28758919) Homepage Journal

    An atheist does not believe that god exists true
    An atheist believes that god does not exist false

    Thinking that a totally unsubstantiated claim is totally unbelievable does not require any faith. In fact, even religious people disbelieve all other religions. An atheist disbelieves all religions. It's not equivalent in any way to the religious position, and thinking otherwise is simply denoting naivete.

    Atheists do not believe. Stop saying otherwise, please!!!

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 20, 2009 @02:11PM (#28759243)

    You people are taking this way out of proportion.

    The only reason this stupid law was introduced was because it is stated in the constitution that blasphemy is illegal but it has never been enforced. So instead of running an expensive referendum to change the constitution the minister had to update the law in order not to belittle the constitution. The new law is deliberately ambiguous so that it will be impossible to charge anybody with 'blasphemy'.


  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 20, 2009 @02:16PM (#28759351)

    t's one of those old laws that's been in the books for years, but never removed. Someone could still be arrested and charged with blasphemy in Massachusetts (although that would probably cause a shitstorm of controversy these days), but the last time that happened was in 1838 [wikipedia.org].

    One might note that in 1838, the 14th amendment hadn't been passed yet and states were generally able to ignore rights guaranteed to citizens by the US constitution - those rights were held to only matter for the federal government, with state governments only being bound by the state constitutions instead.

    In the past 140 years, however, this law has been unconstitutional and therefore invalid, and I suppose that's one reason why noone's been convicted of blasphemy even in Massachusetts anymore.

  • by fluppy ( 1336299 ) on Monday July 20, 2009 @03:02PM (#28760099)

    This puts the Atheist in the same boat as the theist: with a belief that lacks any evidence.

    a- = without
    theism = belief in a deity
    atheism = without belief in a deity

    Agnosticism and atheism aren't mutually exclusive. You can be an agnostic atheist (i.e. you don't believe in any god and you claim there is no way to know this for fact) or you can be a gnostic atheist (i.e. you don't believe any god and you claim to know this as fact). Most atheists are agnostic atheists.

  • by lgw ( 121541 ) on Monday July 20, 2009 @03:16PM (#28760317) Journal

    "Weak agnosticism" is the uncertainty whether a god exists,
    "Strong agnosticism" is the believe that the existance of a god is unprovable either way.
    "Weak atheism" is the belief that a particular god (whose identity is generally clear from context) does not exist.
    "Strong atheism" is the belief that no god exists, period.

    Strong agnosticism is a logically defensible position: there may exist a god who created a universe with thr property that it is impossible to prove (or disprove) that god's existance. This claim can only be disproven by establishing the existance of a different sort of god. Very few people hold this belief.

    Strong vs weak atheism often devolves into an argument about whether beings of power that our ancesters would describe as divine are "really gods". Weak atheism is a statistically defensible position: put 100 men in a room, each with mutually incompatible descriptions of God. Point to one and say "he's wrong". Your odds are pretty good.

  • http://blasphemy.ie/ (Score:4, Interesting)

    by 4D6963 ( 933028 ) on Monday July 20, 2009 @03:28PM (#28760457)


    Just thought I'd share.

  • by Man On Pink Corner ( 1089867 ) on Monday July 20, 2009 @03:59PM (#28760905)

    1. Agnostics don't feel they're avoiding a position. Their position is clear: conclusions cannot be drawn in the absence of evidence.

    You're right, but you're not taking your own statement far enough. Conclusions cannot be drawn in the absence of evidence, and evidence cannot be found for something that has no definition. The only thing about "God(s)" that people can agree on is that the word, when written in English, has three letters, four if plural. If we can't define something by consensus, then we can reach no conclusions regarding its existence.

    (Inevitably, the reply to this is, "But my idea of God is the omnipresent Creator of all space and time. I don't believe in any of that Jesus stuff." To which my response is, "Then we're clearly not talking about the same thing. Most peoples' God seems to be a lot more specific in His likes and dislikes than yours, and that's a problem for the rest of us.")

    Any claim merits cognitive consideration (also known as thinking about it). Dismissing claims entirely outright because of the claimant specifically or the "arbitrary" appearance of such a claim would violate the fundamental aspects of the scientific method.

    Life's too short to take the idea of leprechauns and unicorns seriously. Treating all claims as equally worthy of consideration is just plain silliness. Only when we exhaust the possibilities of the natural, will there be time to consider the supernatural.

  • Re:Obligatory (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Brian Gordon ( 987471 ) on Monday July 20, 2009 @04:46PM (#28761667)
    Don't be dense. A BASIC program is deterministic, regardless of quantum effects and radioactive decay. No matter how many times you run it you're going to get the same results.

    A brain is deterministic too. Your mind is no more affected by random phenomena than you can feel someone stepping on a twig thirty miles away. It's just not a part of your virtual "mind-system's" experience.

    Sure, maybe at some point a cosmic ray emitted by random effects may flip a bit and you'll get a different result. But that's one interaction in 10^44 planck times per second!
  • Re:Step 2 (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Eil ( 82413 ) on Monday July 20, 2009 @05:27PM (#28762297) Homepage Journal

    So when a religious person and an atheist meet and say something like "I find your views completely ridiculous" at the same time to each other then the religious person can sue the atheist but not vice versa?

    This is not so much in reply to your comment as the comic you linked to...

    As an athiest, I would give anything to have Christians or followers of other religions come up to me and say, "I find your views completely ridiculous and here's why." It would show me that they are at least evaluating their own views (in comparison to mine, granted) instead of just running around spewing out all the half-baked ideas that were preached into them since they were 4 years old. Like so many people I've run into throughout my life.

  • by rumblin'rabbit ( 711865 ) on Monday July 20, 2009 @08:19PM (#28764087) Journal
    You expected my analogy to mean that Ireland was once under Sharia law, perhaps?

    Historically even the democratically elected governments were under the thumb of the Catholic Church. Here's a quote from Wikipedia:

    The Roman Catholic Church had a powerful influence over the Irish state for much of its history. The clergy's influence meant that the Irish state had very conservative social policies, forbidding, for example, divorce, contraception, abortion, pornography as well as encouraging the censoring and banning of many books and films. In addition the Church largely controlled the State's hospitals, schools and remained the largest provider of many other social services.

  • Not what it seems (Score:3, Interesting)

    by psicic ( 171000 ) on Tuesday July 21, 2009 @05:56AM (#28767465) Homepage Journal

    It's hard to believe that such a law would pass, but let me point out that the Act is not exactly what it seems. (Yes, I'm Irish)

    The Law Reform Commission - the people who are charged with updating legislation in Ireland, recommended that a law had to be put in place for blasphemy because it was provided for in the constitution.

    They also said it didn't have to be done any time soon, and that a referendum would remove the requirement. The Irish government is very touchy at the moment about holding any additional referenda (especially in light of an upcoming referendum that affects all 27 EU members), so it decided to pass a law.

    People - from the left, the right and the centre - all let out a collective 'gasp!' of surprise. The man responsible probably thinks he has been clever.

    You see, what has actually transpired is not so much a 'blasphemy law' but a law that is unenforceable. The law, as written, cannot be used in the courts.... and deliberately so.

    It's an Irish solution to an Irish problem: We need a law if the article remains in the constitution. The constitution won't be changed, so the article will remain. However, the crime is outdated and we actually do not want anybody to be charged under this law. Therefore, the only remaining choice is to draft a law that is unworkable.

    Is it's a silly, high-cost manoeuvre? Yes.

    But it's a tried and tested method.

    Why it was rushed through is anyones guess - a mixture of pandering to a far-right that may not currently exist in Ireland (but one suspects is probably going to gain ground in recession times), a particular individual trying to score a quick victory or just an ill thought out move.

    Some of our politicians are quite slow to recognise the obvious and will latch on to an idea.

  • by notrandomly ( 1242142 ) on Tuesday July 21, 2009 @11:01AM (#28770069)

    South park did an episode partially devoted to debunking the effectiveness of the FSM as a counter argument to god:

    How does that debunk the FSM exactly? All I can see is a rambling creationist moron going on about it. But if you actually read the text from the episode it doesn't even get close to debunking the FSM as a counter-argument to religious irrational nonsense. The South Park episode in question and the blog post make no sense. It's basically the Chewbacca Defense, because they can't seem to come up with anything valid.

    And since you blindly linked to that blog without checking the validity of the argument, I am tempted to conclude that you, too, are just another creationist moron.

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