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DAVID ROSMAN: Celebrate blasphemy, for it has the power to initiate change

Wednesday, September 21, 2011 | 3:57 p.m. CDT; updated 10:12 a.m. CDT, Thursday, September 29, 2011

COLUMBIA — What are you doing to celebrate on Sept. 30?

I know you must be asking yourself: "Is there a holiday that the world of retail has missed?

"Is there a religious or nationally recognized holiday I don’t know about?"

Yes, there is a holiday on Sept. 30, and it is international in scope. It has been written about in USA Today, the Religious News and CNN. (For those of you online, no fair peeking before the "tell.")

The holiday even has its own Facebook page

It’s Blasphemy Day, celebrating dissent and the language of the opposition.

Blasphemy Day International quotes "The Great Agnostic,"Robert Ingersoll (1833-1899): "This crime called blasphemy was invented by priests for the purpose of defending doctrines not able to take care of themselves."

If that is too heady for you, blasphemy is dissenting from or questioning a religious doctrine or belief or insulting one’s God or gods.

I don't limit my definition of blasphemy to religion, however. I include criticism of government and political movements, which includes the Tea Party, neo-Nazis, skinheads, the Westboro Baptist Church, Greenpeace, the president and others one may find repugnant.  

John Adams' Alien and Sedition Acts, protecting the president from criticism, are an example of governmental blasphemy laws. However, language we may find despicable is not always blasphemous. Watch the Center for Inquiry’s Campaign for Free Expression website, where language in its videos is offensive but doesn't necessarily reach blasphemy.

Why Sept. 30? It was on that day in 2005 when Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten ran a series of 12 political cartoons showing the prophet Muhammad that were considered blasphemous by Muslims. The cartoons were republished elsewhere, leading to protests worldwide.

The Islamic calls of blasphemy about the cartoons opened the current debate about criticism of religion, though the history of the criminalization of dissent dates back to the beginning of religion and government. “Believe the way I believe, and I will let you live.”

The proximity to our own Constitution Day —  Sept. 17 if you missed it — is happenstance. Blasphemy Day celebrates dissent against religious and governmental ideals, propaganda, doctrine and myths through the centuries.

Without dissent, Martin Luther would never have posted the 95 Theses that helped create hundreds of Christian sects on the planet. Without dissent, the United States would still be under the thumb of England.

Our founders honored dissent by drafting the First Amendment, providing for our freedoms of dissent and the right to argue and debate, whether about politics or religion or anything else.

There are limitations, but lack of education, information and not wanting to see evidence by the opposition are not among them.

However, in my mind, if you are going to dissent, you must also have a real and workable solution. This is as true for those complaining about Columbia bus fares and schedules as it is for those who do not want a halfway house in their backyard.

There are three tests solutions must pass: the Fly-On-The-Wall Test, the Dead Man Test and the Canary Test.

When a solution is offered, could a fly on the wall see an action taking place?

Is a dead man capable of achieving the solution?

As you dig deeper into the solution, would a canary die from the fumes of errors?

If the solution fails any one of these, it is not viable and needs to be revised, replaced or rejected.

It is a shame that most dissenters do not take the lesson of Martin Luther and create comprehensive, workable plans that will change the world.

For example, most calls to limit taxes have no solutions. "No more taxes" fails the dead man test. Paying no taxes is something a dead man can do.

The alternative "fair tax" has killed many a canary.

To the religious and the atheist, the patriot and the anarchist, and all who fall between: Come honor blasphemy on Wednesday evening, Sept. 28, at Boone Tavern.

For without blasphemy, we could not raise our concerns, question authority or reconsider our own beliefs.

David Rosman is an award-winning editor, writer, professional speaker and college instructor in communications, ethics, business and politics. You can read more of Rosman’s commentaries at InkandVoice.com and New York Journal of Books.com.


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Comments

Jim Jones September 22, 2011 | 5:39 p.m.

Now you have gone and done it David! There are going to be Blasphemy Day greeting cards at Target and the Hallmark stores before sundown.

But wait, we need a Blasphemy Symbol! How about a tea cup that is empty except for what looks like tea leaves but is actually shredded dollar bills?

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