Laws against blasphemy make the least sense of all laws. If god is all powerful why would he possibly need anyone on earth to protect his name from insult? After all, she gets all of eternity to punish the blasphemer. And in the face of eternity the entire life of a heathen — or whatever the right term is — is only a blip.
Well, of course, most states that have laws against blasphemy, such as Iran, also have laws against insulting the Supreme Leader. There is a Canadian sitting in an Iranian prison right now on some such trumped up pretext. So this might be a real clue.
Laws against blasphemy are not to protect god — despite all the mealy mouthed arguments to the contrary —they are to protect the secular power of those who wield it in god’s name.
Power is a drug. Once people have it they want more of it and they will construct every possible argument to justify why they should have it, why they should keep it. Whether power comes from some spiritual realm or from filthy lucre the results are the same. Powerful people will always try to subvert society, the law and the state to serve their own purposes.
That’s a pretty simple thing to see — nothing profound here folks, move right along — but the ubiquitous nature of power addiction does present real problems for people who sincerely want to have a re-ordered less hierarchical world. Who not only view such a world as a just moral goal but as a practical useful thing for society. Not only does power corrupt the individual (including the reformer) it corrupts social life itself.
Poor people are not as intelligent or as productive as people who are less poor. Lots of evidence shows that children who are born poor have less of a chance to succeed than those born to well-off families. We used to think that it had to do with socioeconomic status alone — better opportunities and so on — but now we know that being poor creates a biological impediment. Staying poor only makes it worse.
As someone who is not poor and who even as a child always had the essentials if not the luxuries of life, I care very much about eliminating poverty and any form of social inequality.
I care not only because of my strong belief in social justice but because I know that raising up the large number of people who are impoverished or discriminated against or made powerless by domestic, community or society wide power differentials will lead to a wealthier and healthier society. Which is good for everyone.
So my rejection of things like blasphemy laws (you thought I forgot) comes from the same place. They don’t come from the fact I’m an atheist and just think they are meaningless (they mean a lot to those who act on them) but because — just as hunger and powerlessness impoverish the physical lives of people, blasphemy laws or other social structures that enrich a few ‘special’ people impoverish their souls.
And that’s ten minutes.