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- If you would like to take up blasphemy as an inexpensive but very rewarding hobby, see our beginner's guide to blasphemy.
Blasphemy is an impious utterance or action concerning God, gods, goddesses, or sacred things. (The very definition of "sacred" implies that jokes against it are entirely off-limits, hence the massive taboo and the special term known as "blasphemy.") Frequently, the definition is extended to include anything which would be regarded as "bad language." Blasphemy is considered by some, namely its practitioners, to be nothing more than a thought-crime committed against a non-existent entity. In places with strong religion -based law however, blasphemy laws can be, and are, used against those who don't even subscribe to the beliefs being blasphemed against.
 Blasphemy in modern law
In the times of the Old Testament, blasphemy was punishable by death, and it used to be a criminal offense in many Western states. Although many of these laws may still exist on the statute books as technicalities, they are not now enforced, or at least not with any real punishment, in most western countries. In the UK the obsolete blasphemy law was repealed in 2008, although another law, the Racial and Religious Hatred Act 2006, has also been invoked to punish blasphemy. This may be attributed to the actions of Stephen Green, who attempted to use the blasphemy laws against Jerry Springer: The Opera, which brought attention to the fact that the UK had such an arcane law still on its books.
However, blasphemy prosecutions do still occur throughout the world:
- The Austrian artist Gerhard Haderer created and published a satirical book about a cannabis-smoking, surfing Jesus. The book was published in Austria. He was subsequently tried in absentia for blasphemy in Greece and received a six month sentence. (The sentence was revoked on appeal.)
- The death penalty for blasphemy still exists in a number of Muslim countries such as Iran , Pakistan and Saudi Arabia. That's if you can even make it to a courtroom; a man in Pakistan was burned to death by a lynch mob for allegedly burning the Quran. In a classic episode of one act of vicious stupidity possibly following another, a girl from the country's Christian minority was similarly threatened by a mob for burning pages of the Koran in order to start a cooking fire; the girl may also suffer from Down syndrome. It turns out, however, that she was framed by a local Imam for the crime; this eventually resulted in the Imam's arrest and the blasphemy charges being dropped.
- Even in the "new" Afghanistan, blasphemy remains a capital offense. In January 2008, Sayed Pervez Kambaksh was sentenced to death for blasphemy after a five minute trial. This followed reports he had downloaded from the internet un-Islamic material on women's rights.
- Indonesia is a little more liberal: you only get a four year jail sentence there.
- In potential EU member Turkey, Islamic creationist Harun Yahya succeed in getting Richard Dawkins' website banned on account of its alleged blasphemous content.
- Ireland, not wanting to be seen as being backward, criminalised blasphemy in 2009.. Reform is expected in late 2013.
- In Russia, three members of the punk band Pussy Riot were arrested and charged with "hooliganism motivated by religious hatred or hostility" when their performance of a profanity-laced anti-Putin song at an anti-government protest outside Christ the Savior Cathedral in Moscow angered both the Russian Orthodox Church and the Putin government. The band was subsequently sentenced to two years in a prison colony for this "crime." Eventually, band member Yekaterina Samutsevich was released on appeal after serving six months; the other two members remain behind bars.
- In Mumbai, India, skeptic Sanal Edamaruku faces blasphemy charges after he debunked a "weeping crucifix" phenomenon at the Church of Our Lady of Velankanni. He is temporarily living in Finland while his lawyers file appeals concerning various aspects of the case.
 See also
- Actions which demand the death penalty in the Old Testament
- Defamation of religion
- Elisabeth Sabaditsch-Wolff
- Jerry Springer the Opera blasphemy suit
- Ten Commandments
- Mary Whitehouse
- ↑ Review of European blasphemy laws
- ↑ UK repeal Blasphemy law
- ↑ Greece sentence artist to six months for blasphemy
- ↑ Iranian Christian pastor released from jail Guardian, Saturday 8 September 2012 10.59 EDT
- ↑ Pakistan death sentence for blasphemy against the prophet
- ↑ Saudi Arabian death sentence for blasphemy
- ↑ http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-18713545#TWEET168770 Pakistan mob burns man to death for 'blasphemy',] BBC News
- ↑ http://www.cnn.com/2012/08/20/world/asia/pakistan-girl-blasphemy/index.html Girl held in Pakistan, accused of burning Quran, cnn.com
- ↑ Imam Arrested for Framing Girl for Blasphemy, Dispatches from the Culture Wars
- ↑ Pakistan Drops Blasphemy Case Against Rimsha, Dispatches from the Culture Wars
- ↑ Afghanistan blasphemy death sentence
- ↑ Indonesia - four years in jail for blasphemy
- ↑ Turkey silences Dawkins
- ↑ Irish Times: Blasphemy law a return to middle ages - Dawkins
- ↑ Constitutional Convention - Calender for 2013, constitution.ie
- ↑ Pussy Riot sentenced to two years in prison colony over anti-Putin protest, The Guardian
- ↑ Pussy Riot member freed after Moscow court appeal, The Guardian online
- ↑ Indian skeptic charged with "blasphemy" for revealing secret behind "miracle" of weeping cross, Boing Boing
- ↑ Sanal Edamaruku: an update, New Humanist Blog