We’re big believers in blasphemy here at Mind on Fire, where we believe that the blasphemy taboo is mainly a means of control and social censorship. In honor of International Blasphemy Day, I’m resubmitting this post from two years ago:
“All great truths begin as blasphemies” – George Bernard Shaw
Jesus saith unto him, Thou hast said: nevertheless I say unto you, Hereafter shall ye see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven. Then the high priest rent his clothes, saying, He hath spoken blasphemy; what further need have we of witnesses? behold, now ye have heard his blasphemy. What think ye? They answered and said, He is guilty of death.
– Matthew 26:64-66, KJV
2) Joseph Smith was repeatedly accused of blasphemy. The following excerpt is from a sermon on the plurality of gods, certainly a blasphemous teaching to most Christians then and now:
I will preach on the plurality of Gods…I have always declared God to be a distinct personage, Jesus Christ a separate and distinct personage from God the Father, and that the Holy Ghost was a distinct personage and a Spirit: and these three constitute three distinct personages and three Gods…Paul says there are Gods many and Lords many. I want to set it forth in a plain and simple manner; but to us there is but one God that is pertaining to us; and he is in all and through all. But if Joseph Smith says there are Gods many and Lords many, they cry, “Away with him! Crucify him! crucify him!”…Search the scriptures, for they testify of things that these apostates would gravely pronounce blasphemy. Paul, if Joseph Smith is a blasphemer. you are.
3) When Zen Master Unmon was asked by a young monk, “What is the Buddha,” he replied, “A dried shit-stick!” (i.e, something with which to wipe your butt)
I’m an on-again, off-again scholar of Japanese Buddhism, and it is in part this Zen approach to blasphemy that inspired my blasphemy post earlier this week. Here is some commentary on the above quote by a student of Zen Buddhism:
In Zen, blasphemy and irreverence is actually hard wired into the scriptural canon. For Zennists the real blasphemy is holding fast to our own ideas of the absolute.
Buddhism is the oldest of the world religions and Zen has learnt to employ blasphemy in a radical and creative way.
Ummon’s statement has no complex symbolic meaning and is intended mainly to shock.
In medieval China a stick was used as we now use toilet roll and Ummon was telling his questioner in the plainest possible terms that he could wipe his ass with Buddha, or at least his ideas of Buddha.
Subverting the sacred is a standard tactic in the Zen teacher’s armory. It is used to shock the pious into re-examining their fundamental assumptions so as not to commit the real sacrilege of defending their own opinions as absolute truth.
This all highlights another problem with the blasphemy taboo–it’s all highly subjective. Blasphemy in one context is a sublime truth in another one.