Is Christianity Blasphemous To Christians?

Atheist Ireland has campaigned consistently against the blasphemy laws in Ireland. This position has been primarily driven by the international responsibilities of our country but we have also highlighted the chilling effect of this legislation in Ireland. A new example of censorship due to blasphemy was experienced this week, when referring to Mary as an “Iron Age carpenter’s wife” was considered too offensive for Irish adults to endure.

Over the last two years, representatives of Atheist Ireland have had more than a dozen guest articles carried in the Northern Standard. This is a weekly newspaper published in Monaghan, with a circulation of more than 15,000. Of course, these articles are regularly edited for length and for clarity, as might be expected. However, it has also been noticed that on occasion even simple statements of Christian doctrine cannot be published, as it may be offensive to Irish Christians if their preferred reverential appellations are not added.

Every week, the Northern Standard carries an article called “Medjugorje Calling”, which reports the otherworldly messages that have been given to supposed visionaries in Bosnia. Readers are invited to visit the shrine and report back on any Marian apparitions that they may witness. However, even the Vatican has become deeply uneasy about these celestial appointments, which have been continuing on a daily basis for more than thirty years now. This has resulted in the letter below coming into the public domain.

Vatican Medjugorje Letter

Vatican Medjugorje Letter

Since news of this Vatican distrust seemed to have escaped the avid Medjugorje-watchers at the Northern Standard, a short piece was offered by Atheist Ireland to inform readers of the official Vatican position. Some copy was provided using exactly the same mechanism as was used for all previous guest articles and the full text of the submission is reproduced below.

Text of Atheist Ireland Submission on Medjugorje

Text of Atheist Ireland Submission on Medjugorje

Unfortunately, the final line of this piece ran foul of the previously mentioned policy, whereby even simple statements of Christian doctrine are censored as being offensive to Irish Christians. The reaction to this guest article from the Northern Standard was to state that an editor would have to “water it down” before it could be brought “to wider attention”. Specifically, the problematic language was that which referred to Mary as an “Iron Age carpenter’s wife”. The Northern Standard thought that “the reference might have been construed as derogatory” and that some of their readers may “equate that with blasphemy”.

It was not possible to discover from the Northern Standard, exactly what anyone who gets married to a carpenter is supposed to be ashamed of. It was however suggested to the Northern Standard that Atheist Ireland did not invent the idea that Mary was married to a carpenter. Rather, this is an objectively factual statement about the Christian narrative as reported by all Christian Churches. As such, it was intimated to the Northern Standard that if they were suggesting that Mary was not a carpenter’s wife, it would in fact be them who would be guilty of blasphemy.

Unfortunately, these arguments fell on deaf ears and not a single word was printed that challenged the claims of the alleged visionaries. The official position of the Vatican on the dubious nature of the Marian apparitions was not reported either. However, the ever-present “Medjugorje Calling” article continues to be published as usual in an entirely uncritical manner. The article on Medjugorje from the 14th January 2016 edition of the Northern Standard is reproduced below. This includes a Marian message to non-believers in particular, who are asked to “offer your pains and sufferings to my Son and to me”.

It is clearly ridiculous to suggest that Irish citizens are incapable of coping with the upset that would be caused if such religious ideas were openly discussed. It is also more essential than ever that these ideas are open to scrutiny, since a Christian ethos is still given special privilege within more that 90% of our State funded schools. Does the State really expect citizens to fully fund an education system that they then hand over to private management based on a Christian ethos … while making it illegal for citizens to discuss that ethos?

Atheist Ireland will continue to campaign on this issue nationally and also internationally as members of the International Coalition Against Blasphemy Laws.

John Hamill


  1. Avatar
    Roman Catholic January 15, 2016

    Those who say carpenter is blasphemy are not even worthy to sit on a chair. Because carpenter made the chair.

  2. Avatar
    El Suscriptor Justiciero January 15, 2016

    It is part of the late iron-age mythology that we call Christianity that the fictional character Mary was the spouse of a carpenter of noble lineage. I wonder what is offensive about being married to an affluent entrepreneur.

  3. Avatar
    John Moriarty January 16, 2016

    Its not in any way to be expected that they would publish snark. Its probably just as well, as it would be viewed by many that the writer was a bigot. Leave that to the Free Presbyterians.

    • Avatar
      John Hamill January 16, 2016

      Hi John,

      I’m not sure which line exactly you read as bigotry but this article does not complain that the submitted text wasn’t published. In fact, it explicitly says that edit of submissions is to be expected. The issues raised by this piece are:

      It it problematic to consider it blasphemous and illegal to refer to Mary as a “carpenter’s wife”.

      The newspaper published accounts from Medjugorje uncritically, without any reference to the many doubts expressed about the “apparitions”, not least those from the Vatican.

      It was perfectly possible for the newspaper to ignore the submitted piece entirely and write their own report on the dubious view of the Vatican. They did not.