The amendment on defamation of religion, aka blasphemous libel, passed its Seanad vote yesterday along with the rest of the Irish Government’s satirical Defamation Bill. But only on the second attempt after a walk-through vote was called on a Fine Gael amendment, which would have deleted the offence of blasphemy from the Bill, giving government whips time to herd two wandering Senators into line. Atheist Ireland’s Michael Nugent, in the Irish Times, is launching a “campaign to repeal the blasphemy law and to build an ethical and secular Ireland”. We’re looking forward to your blasphemous statement, Michael! [We are?! – Ed] I have beards to sell. Meanwhile, in Limerick, some supernaturalists are apparently worshipping a tree stump.. [*ahem* – Ed] Will Crawley spots the money quote
Fr Paul Finnerty, a spokesman for the diocese of Limerick, says: “The Church’s response to phenomena of this type is one of great scepticism. While we do not wish in any way to detract from devotion to Our Lady, we would also wish to avoid anything which might lead to superstition.”
In debates that crucially affect the wellbeing of the world, ideas and beliefs should be open to tough challenge and hard discussion. Let someone state a view, and let the view be subjected to rigorous scrutiny, no holds barred, and no pleas of offence, hurt feelings, self-proclaimed sensitivities, sacredness or any other excuse allowed to stand in the way. But with a strictly governed exception, namely, an office-holder speaking ex-officio, let no individual be the target of attack, and even then neither abuse nor ad hominem attack.
There is no excuse for ill manners and insults, though of course there is an explanation: usually, the impotence and weakness of the insulter and his or her case. Insult an idea or an institution, by all means, if you have serious grounds to do so; but not individuals: that is the bottom line.