Assia Bibi, a Christian woman living in Pakistan, was sentenced to death in Pakistan for blasphemy for having participated in a protest march.
Even though she was exonerated by the Supreme Court, she must now flee if she wants to avoid being attacked by an angry mob of people who fully intend to murder her. I believe their intent is to hang her.
Did this happen centuries ago? No. This is going on right now and the state of Pakistan will not protect her.
In Saudi Arabia Raif Badawi is in prison for the blasphemy of being an atheist.
In Indonesia, Jakarta’s Governor faces a two-year prison sentence for saying that the Quran does not mandate that voters support any Muslim over any non-Muslim.
In the US the activist Desiree Farooq was tried for “disrupting Congress” and faced a term of up to a year in jail. Her principal crime was that she laughed at something said by a Senator during the confirmation hearing for now former Attorney-General Jeff Sessions. The charges were subsequently dropped by the Department of Justice, which had brought them.
So what exactly is blasphemy? According to Wikipedia, it is: “The act of insulting or showing contempt for or lack of reverence toward a deity or something sacred or inviolable.”
The Bible does not explicitly mention blasphemy.
In fact there is no Hebrew word for it. In Exodus it only says: “You shall not revile God or curse a ruler of your people.” But the Bible does warn against taking the Lord’s name in vain. Moses asks God “what is your name?” and God replies :”I am who I am” (a nice cryptic answer).
The Bible does not say that one who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit is guilty of an unpardonable sin.
Who is this “Holy Spirit” (in Hebrew “Ruah Hakodesh”) It appears to be one manifestation of God in the Holy Trinity. Who invented the Holy Trinity and why is it needed?
Let us just say that people like to group things in threes: The three little pigs, the three Stooges, three blind mice, three men in a tub…..
I suspect that at the root of all these injunctions is the fierce determination of the religious authorities to establish rules that will keep them firmly in control and not let anything undermine their authority. Dissent must be prevented.
Blasphemy came late to Islam and was imported there by the British Empire. In the Islamic religion, blasphemy is an impious utterance against God or the Prophet.
The Quran admonishes against blasphemy but does not specify a worldly punishment for the offense.
Closely related to blasphemy are the concepts of heresy or idolatry which centuries ago were punishable by torture and death.
As the Western world is becoming more secular such ideas are slowly fading. In the United States the First Amendment prevents Government from making laws about religion and speech and gives citizens freedom to exercise and express their religious beliefs.
In places where religion still pervades everyday life the concept of blasphemy is alive and well.