Theophanes is a New-England-based blogger, traveler, writer, photographer, sculptor, and lover of cats.
Blasphemy to me is one of the most amusing words in the English language. Technically it means to curse, disrespect, or antagonize whatever is sacred. Though the word itself is not prejudiced and can describe anyone's opinion, of any creed, the word is almost exclusively used by Christians. This is why it's amusing to me because throughout history Christians have used the word to defame each other.
When Jesus came along he was born into a Jewish family. Therefore he was technically Jewish. Now one of the most severe blasphemies is to, "assume to oneself the rights or qualities of God." Jesus definitely did this, claiming to be the son of God and requiring his followers to worship him. The vast majority of Jewish people at the time would have seen this as terribly blasphemous, not believing he was their devoutly born savior. The early Christians didn't care about this, they were rebels! So what the rest of the planet thought they were nuts...
From here St Peter decided to start the Catholic Church. Now Christianity was already starting to break up, pretty much just days after their savior had died... for the second time. Gnosticism was the 'cool' form of Christianity that most practiced. it preached that the whole world was equally sacred, that no temple was more sacred, so you could worship anywhere. They also had some fascinating and radical ideas about God, his superiors (because he had some then) and a slew of other things that Christians nowadays would be terribly confused by. Now Saint Peter was not daft by any means, he wanted a religion he could control where he would be like the second Jesus, in a way. He pointed at the Gnostics and gave the battle cry, "Blasphemers!" He said they worshipped unauthorized texts (a collection of apocryphal tales) and deciphered just about everything wrong. He taunted their ceremonies and told all his followers that they were to attend a church, with only male priests (Gnostics were surprisingly forward-thinking and had an even number of woman practitioners as men) and they were to follow whatever he said. Eventually the Catholics succeeded in squashing the Gnostic version of Christianity out of existence in the fourth century.
Unity was not to last. In the 1500's Martin Luther came along and didn't like what he saw going on in the Catholic Church. In his opinion the Catholic Church was filled with meaningless rituals, corrupt officials, and wrong translations of the Bible. He insisted that only the Bible could dictate the word of God and the papacy was a perversion of this principle. So he translated the bible into every day speech (so that commoners could understand it without having to have a priest translate it) and started the Protestant Reformation. This is when the Protestants and Catholics stared at each other dogmatically, pointing and yelling to each other, "Blasphemer!"
Now, the Christian religion has fractured into too many branches to count. Each one felt they needed to get something different out of the religion and most considered all other denominations to be translating their Bible and beliefs wrongly, therefore every Christian on the planet is a blasphemer to someone else. This could be seen when looking at a partial Christian family tree as seen here:
Other Christians aside, some people have purposely tried to be a blasphemer. These are generally a cantankerous bunch of heathens. However there have also been satirists, cult leaders, and defectors from the church. Below are some of my favorites...
Anton Szandor LeVey was the founder of The Church of Satan and the author of the Satanic Bible which was published in 1969. Satanism is a funny thing, in order for someone to believe in it they must first have a knowledge of the "good" (i.e. how the Bible is supposed to be translated with reverence to God and repugnance to the devil) and purposely choose the opposite to believe in. Personally I think Anton LeVey may have been the world's greatest unknown satirists. His cult has spread and people genuinely believe in his message but a little cynical voice in my head says he was not a prophet but rather a satirical showman, decorating the alter of his church with nude women just to get a rise out of the local Christian community (which he always managed to do by doing increasingly blasphemous things - eventually leading ceremonies dressed as the devil himself.) To me this is horrifically funny, to most Christians this is appalling.
Charles Darwin is probably the only other individual I've heard called a blasphemer more often then satanic cult leaders. Not many people know that he was married to a religious and devout woman who he loved dearly. It was because of this that he sat on his theory of evolution for nearly thirty years before publishing it. He was a blasphemer for stating that life was not created in six days by God but instead evolved from other animals. At the time paleontology was just coming into acceptance and many churches still preferred to believe in monsters (like dragons) rather then admit that their God would ever let anything go extinct. Today it doesn't matter if you see him as hero or heathen; he still went directly against the Bible and genesis in sharing with the world his Theory of Evolution.
Evolution Accourding to Dogbert
John Scopes is another one of those forgotten figures in history. He was a high school teacher in Tennessee who in 1925 was actually arrested and tried for teaching evolution to his students. He was a blasphemer on two grounds. First he taught evolution instead of creation theory, second he defied Biblical law by breaking "the law of the land" as there was a law in the books at the time that said no one was to teach children in schools anything but creation theory.
He's kind of a sad figure because I don't really think he knew what he was doing. He seemed honestly humiliated by the whole ordeal and although I don't doubt he probably did believe in evolution he certainly didn't set out to be a crusader for the cause.
John Scopes lost the trial was fired from his job and had to pay $100 fine, however the trial had caused so much controversy that the law that he broke ultimately was taken off the books a year later.
Th Scopes "Monkey" Trial
HL Mencken without a doubt was one of history's surliest characters. He was a prolific journalist and writer and averaged writing 2,000 words a day for 40 years. this is a feat that could impress any writer. He's probably my favorite blasphemer because his quotes were often what got him into trouble. he was a staunch atheist and thrived on antagonizing the religions of the day. Today he is defamed as being a misogynist and bigot but I'm not entirely sure those terms can apply to someone who appears to hate everyone equally... I think it'd be better to view him more as the precursor to today's "shock jocks," he was definitely known for trying to offend and shock people.
Here are some great blasphemous Mencken quotes.
"Puritanism. The haunting fear that someone, somewhere, may be happy."
"A Sunday school is a prison in which children do penance for the evil conscience of their parents."
"Archbishop - A Christian ecclesiastic of a rank superior to that attained by Christ"
"Faith may be defined briefly as an illogical belief in the occurrence of the improbable."
"For centuries, theologians have been explaining the unknowable in terms of the-not-worth-knowing."
"Giving every man a vote has no more made men wise and free than Christianity has made them good."
"If a politician found he had cannibals among his constituents, he would promise them missionaries for dinner."
"It is impossible to imagine the universe run by a wise, just and omnipotent God, but it is quite easy to imagine it run by a board of gods"
"It is now quite lawful for a Catholic woman to avoid pregnancy by a resort to mathematics, though she is still forbidden to resort to physics or chemistry. "
"Morality is the theory that every human act must be either right or wrong, and that 99 % of them are wrong."
"The chief contribution of Protestantism to human thought is its massive proof that God is a bore."
"The most costly of all follies is to believe passionately in the palpably not true. It is the chief occupation of mankind."
"The theory seems to be that as long as a man is a failure he is one of God's children, but that as soon as he succeeds he is taken over by the Devil."
"A church is a place in which gentlemen who have never been to heaven brag about it to persons who will never get there."
Unknown Auther of "Pope Joan"
No one knows who first penned the story of Pope Joan, the first (and only) female pope, but it is generally believed to be one of the greatest and most blasphemous pieces of medieval satire ever written.. The story goes something like this: There once was a woman named Joan who somehow earned the papacy. However her dreams of staying pope were shattered when she got pregnant. This story gets worse because it's said she managed to hide the pregnancy until the papal procession where she found herself giving birth in the streets, much to everyone's chagrin. If this wasn't bad enough t goes on to say that in order to prevent this from ever happening against he Catholic Church built a pope chair, a chair with a hole in the bottom, where before being chosen for pope an individual would have to sit and allow someone to check and make sure this wasn't a woman. The term for passing this test came in the cry of, "The pope is a man!" or "The pope has balls!" in Latin of course.
Epicurus would most certainy be seen by Christians as a blasphemer. One only need note his mos famous riddle:
Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able?
Then he is not omnipotent.
Is he able, but not willing?
Then he is malevolent.
Is he both able and willing?
Then whence cometh evil?
Is he neither able nor willing?
Then why call him God?
There are many other blasphemers throughout history, including a slew of devious popes profiled here: Popes Gone Wild: What The Catholic Church Would Rather You Forget
I'm sure there are many fantastic personalities I've regrettably forgotten or skipped over so if you have any other favorite blasphemers let me know and I'll consider adding their blurb!
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Robin Goodfellow from United States on February 20, 2018:
I enjoyed reading this article.
Amy on February 04, 2010:
WHAT ABOUT ALASTAIRE CROWLEY?
stars439 from Louisiana, The Magnolia and Pelican State. on September 30, 2009: