On Friday a new law went into effect in Ireland making it a crime if anyone “publishes or utters matter that is grossly abusive or insulting in relation to matters held sacred by any religion, thereby causing outrage among a substantial number of the adherents of that religion.” A blasphemy conviction can result in a fine of up to €25,000. Ireland’s atheists aren’t having it.
In a bid to demonstrate that the law is outdated and largely unenforceable, a group named Atheist Ireland published on its Web site on Friday 25 potentially blasphemous quotations from figures such as Jesus Christ, Muhammad, George Carlin, Pope Benedict XVI and Mark Twain, who opined in 1909: “When the Lord God of Heaven and Earth, adored Father of Man, goes to war, there is no limit. . . . He slays, slays, slays!”
“Two days ago, there was no question over whether these quotes were legal. Now there is a question, and that is very bizarre,” Michael Nugent, the group’s chairman, said in an interview Saturday. Blasphemy was already a criminal offense in Ireland under the country’s 1937 constitution. But until now, the language had been too murky to make prosecutions feasible. In 1999, Ireland’s Supreme Court dismissed the last case to test the law because blasphemy was not clearly defined.
A sampling from Atheist Ireland’s 25 Blasphemous Quotations:
– Frank Zappa, 1989: “If you want to get together in any exclusive situation and have people love you, fine – but to hang all this desperate sociology on the idea of The Cloud-Guy who has The Big Book, who knows if you’ve been bad or good – and cares about any of it – to hang it all on that, folks, is the chimpanzee part of the brain working.”
– Bjork, 1995: “I do not believe in religion, but if I had to choose one it would be Buddhism. It seems more livable, closer to men… I’ve been reading about reincarnation, and the Buddhists say we come back as animals and they refer to them as lesser beings. Well, animals aren’t lesser beings, they’re just like us. So I say fuck the Buddhists.”
– George Carlin, 1999: “Religion easily has the greatest bullshit story ever told. Think about it. Religion has actually convinced people that there’s an invisible man living in the sky who watches everything you do, every minute of every day. And the invisible man has a special list of ten things he does not want you to do. And if you do any of these ten things, he has a special place, full of fire and smoke and burning and torture and anguish, where he will send you to live and suffer and burn and choke and scream and cry forever and ever ’til the end of time! But He loves you. He loves you, and He needs money! He always needs money! He’s all-powerful, all-perfect, all-knowing, and all-wise, somehow just can’t handle money! Religion takes in billions of dollars, they pay no taxes, and they always need a little more. Now, talk about a good bullshit story. Holy Shit!”