Hell hath no fury like an infuriated activist – “The Long View”

0
392
Pat Grime copy.jpg

Students of society will be familiar with statutes outlawing dissent.  In the past and in the present, rulers have decreed it criminal to foment opposition to their rule.  The reason?  The weakness and insecurity of those in power. 

After all, if you’re confident in your position as potentate, you wouldn’t care if some rabble-rousers in the marketplace said you were a lousy leader.  No, as the self-assured and powerful kingpin of your country or tribe, you'd be unfazed by the grumblings of malcontents.

Students of society will be familiar with statutes outlawing dissent.  In the past and in the present, rulers have decreed it criminal to foment opposition to their rule.  The reason?  The weakness and insecurity of those in power. 

After all, if you’re confident in your position as potentate, you wouldn’t care if some rabble-rousers in the marketplace said you were a lousy leader.  No, as the self-assured and powerful kingpin of your country or tribe, you'd be unfazed by the grumblings of malcontents.

In some parts of today's world, the right to speak freely does not exist, and saying the wrong thing can jeopardize your livelihood if not your life. Some countries’ ruling parties align themselves with powerful business interests, quashing popular protests about the rights to a clean environment, social justice, or economic opportunity.  Other nations impose harsh rules to keep the populace subservient; imagine where a frank pronouncement of state tyranny would land you in places like China or North Korea.

Laws protecting religious deities used to be common.  Blasphemy, it was said, was a crime against the god or goddess who had destined our existence (as well as the primacy of those who had ordained those laws). Thus, dissing Zeus (or whichever immortal held local sway) publicly could easily lead you in hot water at best, or maybe even boiling oil.

Back in 1697, the Act against Atheism and Blasphemy declared that in Massachusetts Bay Colony, anyone willing to “…blaspheme the holy Name of God…his Creation or Government of the World… shall be punished by imprisonment…by sitting in pillory; by whipping; boaring thorow the tongue, with a red-hot iron; or by sitting upon the gallows with a rope about their neck; at the discretion of the court…” 

Needless to say, said Colony was a tough town in which to complain about one's lot in life.

Even today, you'll hear about religious proclamations issued against someone who had supposedly insulted someone else's divinity or religion.  A narrow interpretation of his writing forced author Salman Rushdie to hide for years. 

Now comes word that conservative political and religious activist Emmanuel Tristan has called for a reinstatement of blasphemy laws so that commentator and comedian Bill Maher can be punished for slandering the Almighty.  Maher characterized the Old Testament God as a mass murderer.  I suppose one could call that an example of blasphemy or, at least, taking God's name in vain. 

But I have to wonder where Mr. Tristan was all those years when Fred Phelps’ Westboro Baptist Church was slandering Christianity with their very unchristian demonstrations.  Or when Jerry “Not Turning the Other Cheek” Falwell suggested the U.S. should blow all terrorists away “in the name of the Lord."  Or when sundry politicians claim heavenly blessing on their narrow views and divine disdain for all in opposition. 

Does Tristan mean to say an omnipotent creator can be insulted? An infinite being cannot be offended by anything finite creatures do.  Rather, the perception of blasphemy reflects only the insecurities of those perceiving it. 

Maher and other provocateurs might be getting someone’s goat, but it certainly isn’t God’s. 

Pat Grimes, a former South Bay resident, writes from Ypsilanti, Mich. He can be reached at pgwriter@inbox.com.

Hell hath no fury like an infuriated activist – “The Long View”