National Blasphemy Day, 14th May 2009
For my first blog since December this is probably a more apt topic than you might at first think. Since the end of January I've been teaching the sociology of religion to students in a further education college in Kent. As a consequence, my normal, whatever-gets-you-through-the-night, easygoing, lackadaisical atheism has been transformed into a get-out-of-my-fucking-way-Dawkins-you-wimp-and-you-can-shut-your-hole-too-Nietzsche frothing at the mouth, church-burning, synagogue-razing, mosque-cremating mania. I am become a man who spends his evenings striding around the garden shaking a fist heavenwards and invoking the wrath of an entity which patently can't exist in any sensible class of universe. My therapist tells me that this is a normal reaction in any adult forced to spend too much time in the company of snotty 17 year olds.
Anyway, I digress. How I found myself in this situation is a long story and too far off-topic to share with you now, so I shall move straight to the reason for me being here now.
Today is National Blasphemy Day, an hopefully recurring feast, instituted by the Crown Prince of Curmudgeons, the Duke of Dyspepsia, the Baron of Bile himself, the one and only Bock the Robber to mark the passing of yet another mad piece of legislation due to be enacted in the sinking fiscal ship that is the Republic of Ireland.
For anyone who hadn't noticed, it seems that the old Bunrack-Knee-Herring contains an anomalous legislative black hole somewhere in the region of Article 40.6.1 which creates the offence of blasphemy even though we don't have any law against it on the statute books. This problem has been kicking around ever since Dev let Archbishop McQuaid vet the first draft of the constitution back in the day.
Presumably, the fact that for most of the history of the state anyone even contemplating the act of blasphemy would have been read out in mass and handed a one-way ticket to Holyhead meant that we didn't need to have a specific blasphemy law. In theocratic auld Ireland it all took care of itself in the kangaroo court of episcopal opinion.
Up until now the only folk to lose sleep over this lacuna have been constitutional lawyers of the train-spotting variety and the folk who wish we still lived in a land where publicly denouncing a paedophile priest would be a stoning offence at the very least. And, it seems, the current Justice Minister Dermot Aherne (no relation to the thieving twat from deh Nort'side, he says).
Rather than follow the eminently sensible recommendation of the Oireachtas Committee on the Constitution that we amend the Constitution to remove all references to blasphemy and redraft it to bring it into line of article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights, Dermot has decided to go against the tide of secularisation and legislate for a bit o' dat old time religion, yessuh.
Under the proposed legislation, were I still resident on Erin's green isle, the picture at the head of this blog alone would be enough to get me fined up to €100,000 and possibly banged up for good spell to boot if I couldn't stump up the necessary spondulicks. All that is required for a case to be brought is for some member of a religion to be offended. There would appear to be no defense of fair comment nor would the artistic, social, or aesthetic merits of a scantily clad Raquel Welch be taken into account in mitigation.
I can only surmise that our Dermot believes that the apocalypse is just around the corner and he's currying favour with as many deities as he can before the final trumpet is blown. I suppose for an Irish politician these days getting one's reward in heaven is preferable to getting it in a series of stuffed brown envelopes, what with the recession an' all.
Anyway, enjoy the day that's in it and remember, if you've been offended by anything in this post then my job is done.
The Raquel Welch image was taken by Terry O'Neill and I nicked it from the always interesting http://amanoutoftime.livejournal.com/tag/photos