Atheist Ireland republishes 25 blasphemous quotes in solidarity with Stephen Fry

Atheist Ireland welcomes the Irish police investigation into Stephen Fry for blasphemy. It highlights a law that is silly, silencing, and dangerous.

On 1 January 2010, the day the new Irish blasphemy law became operational, Atheist Ireland published a list of 25 blasphemous quotes in order to challenge the law. Today, in solidarity with Stephen Fry, we are republishing those 25 blasphemous quotes, and adding in the quotation that has caused the Irish police to investigate Stephen Fry.

If we are prosecuted, we will challenge the constitutionality of the blasphemy law. If we are not prosecuted, it will again highlight the absurdity of this law, which should be repealed immediately. We again call on the Irish Government to honour its commitment to hold a referendum to remove the ban on blasphemy from our Constitution.

Here are the 25 blasphemous quotes that we first published on 1 January 2010, along with the quotation that has caused the Irish police to investigate Stephen Fry.

1. Jesus Christ, when asked if he was the son of God, in Matthew 26:64: “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.” According to the Christian Bible, the Jewish chief priests and elders and council deemed this statement by Jesus to be blasphemous, and they sentenced Jesus to death for saying it.

2. Jesus Christ, talking to Jews about their God, in John 8:44: “Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him.” This is one of several chapters in the Christian Bible that can give a scriptural foundation to Christian anti-Semitism. The first part of John 8, the story of “whoever is without sin cast the first stone”, was not in the original version, but was added centuries later. The original John 8 is a debate between Jesus and some Jews. In brief, Jesus calls the Jews who disbelieve him sons of the Devil, the Jews try to stone him, and Jesus runs away and hides.

3. Muhammad, quoted in Hadith of Bukhari, Vol 1 Book 8 Hadith 427: “May Allah curse the Jews and Christians for they built the places of worship at the graves of their prophets.” This quote is attributed to Muhammad on his death-bed as a warning to Muslims not to copy this practice of the Jews and Christians. It is one of several passages in the Koran and in Hadith that can give a scriptural foundation to Islamic anti-Semitism, including the assertion in Sura 5:60 that Allah cursed Jews and turned some of them into apes and swine.

4. Mark Twain, describing the Christian Bible in Letters from the Earth, 1909: “Also it has another name – The Word of God. For the Christian thinks every word of it was dictated by God. It is full of interest. It has noble poetry in it; and some clever fables; and some blood-drenched history; and some good morals; and a wealth of obscenity; and upwards of a thousand lies… But you notice that when the Lord God of Heaven and Earth, adored Father of Man, goes to war, there is no limit. He is totally without mercy — he, who is called the Fountain of Mercy. He slays, slays, slays! All the men, all the beasts, all the boys, all the babies; also all the women and all the girls, except those that have not been deflowered. He makes no distinction between innocent and guilty… What the insane Father required was blood and misery; he was indifferent as to who furnished it.” Twain’s book was published posthumously in 1939. His daughter, Clara Clemens, at first objected to it being published, but later changed her mind in 1960 when she believed that public opinion had grown more tolerant of the expression of such ideas. That was half a century before Fianna Fail and the Green Party imposed a new blasphemy law on the people of Ireland.

5. Tom Lehrer, The Vatican Rag, 1963: “Get in line in that processional, step into that small confessional. There, the guy who’s got religion’ll tell you if your sin’s original. If it is, try playing it safer, drink the wine and chew the wafer. Two, four, six, eight, time to transubstantiate!”

6. Randy Newman, God’s Song, 1972: “And the Lord said: I burn down your cities – how blind you must be. I take from you your children, and you say how blessed are we. You all must be crazy to put your faith in me. That’s why I love mankind.”

7. James Kirkup, The Love That Dares to Speak its Name, 1976: “While they prepared the tomb I kept guard over him. His mother and the Magdalen had gone to fetch clean linen to shroud his nakedness. I was alone with him… I laid my lips around the tip of that great cock, the instrument of our salvation, our eternal joy. The shaft, still throbbed, anointed with death’s final ejaculation.” This extract is from a poem that led to the last successful blasphemy prosecution in Britain, when Denis Lemon was given a suspended prison sentence after he published it in the now-defunct magazine Gay News. In 2002, a public reading of the poem, on the steps of St. Martin-in-the-Fields church in Trafalgar Square, failed to lead to any prosecution. In 2008, the British Parliament abolished the common law offences of blasphemy and blasphemous libel.

8. Matthias, son of Deuteronomy of Gath, in Monty Python’s Life of Brian, 1979: “Look, I had a lovely supper, and all I said to my wife was that piece of halibut was good enough for Jehovah.”

9. Rev Ian Paisley MEP to the Pope in the European Parliament, 1988: “I denounce you as the Antichrist.” Paisley’s website describes the Antichrist as being “a liar, the true son of the father of lies, the original liar from the beginning… he will imitate Christ, a diabolical imitation, Satan transformed into an angel of light, which will deceive the world.”

10. Conor Cruise O’Brien, 1989: “In the last century the Arab thinker Jamal al-Afghani wrote: ‘Every Muslim is sick and his only remedy is in the Koran.’ Unfortunately the sickness gets worse the more the remedy is taken.”

11. Frank Zappa, 1989: “If you want to get together in any exclusive situation and have people love you, fine – but to hang all this desperate sociology on the idea of The Cloud-Guy who has The Big Book, who knows if you’ve been bad or good – and cares about any of it – to hang it all on that, folks, is the chimpanzee part of the brain working.”

12. Salman Rushdie, 1990: “The idea of the sacred is quite simply one of the most conservative notions in any culture, because it seeks to turn other ideas – uncertainty, progress, change – into crimes.” In 1989, Ayatollah Khomeini of Iran issued a fatwa ordering Muslims to kill Rushdie because of blasphemous passages in Rushdie’s novel The Satanic Verses.

13. Bjork, 1995: “I do not believe in religion, but if I had to choose one it would be Buddhism. It seems more livable, closer to men… I’ve been reading about reincarnation, and the Buddhists say we come back as animals and they refer to them as lesser beings. Well, animals aren’t lesser beings, they’re just like us. So I say fuck the Buddhists.”

14. Amanda Donohoe on her role in the Ken Russell movie Lair of the White Worm, 1995: “Spitting on Christ was a great deal of fun. I can’t embrace a male god who has persecuted female sexuality throughout the ages, and that persecution still goes on today all over the world.”

15. George Carlin, 1999: “Religion easily has the greatest bullshit story ever told. Think about it. Religion has actually convinced people that there’s an invisible man living in the sky who watches everything you do, every minute of every day. And the invisible man has a special list of ten things he does not want you to do. And if you do any of these ten things, he has a special place, full of fire and smoke and burning and torture and anguish, where he will send you to live and suffer and burn and choke and scream and cry forever and ever ’til the end of time! But He loves you. He loves you, and He needs money! He always needs money! He’s all-powerful, all-perfect, all-knowing, and all-wise, somehow just can’t handle money! Religion takes in billions of dollars, they pay no taxes, and they always need a little more. Now, talk about a good bullshit story. Holy Shit!”

16. Paul Woodfull as Ding Dong Denny O’Reilly, The Ballad of Jaysus Christ, 2000: “He said me ma’s a virgin and sure no one disagreed, Cause they knew a lad who walks on water’s handy with his feet… Jaysus oh Jaysus, as cool as bleedin’ ice, With all the scrubbers in Israel he could not be enticed, Jaysus oh Jaysus, it’s funny you never rode, Cause it’s you I do be shoutin’ for each time I shoot me load.”

17. Jesus Christ, in Jerry Springer The Opera, 2003: “Actually, I’m a bit gay.” In 2005, the Christian Institute tried to bring a prosecution against the BBC for screening Jerry Springer the Opera, but the UK courts refused to issue a summons.

18. Tim Minchin, Ten-foot Cock and a Few Hundred Virgins, 2005: “So you’re gonna live in paradise, With a ten-foot cock and a few hundred virgins, So you’re gonna sacrifice your life, For a shot at the greener grass, And when the Lord comes down with his shiny rod of judgment, He’s gonna kick my heathen ass.”

19. Richard Dawkins in The God Delusion, 2006: “The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction: jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully.” In 2007 Turkish publisher Erol Karaaslan was charged with the crime of insulting believers for publishing a Turkish translation of The God Delusion. He was acquitted in 2008, but another charge was brought in 2009. Karaaslan told the court that “it is a right to criticise religions and beliefs as part of the freedom of thought and expression.”

20. Pope Benedict XVI quoting a 14th century Byzantine emperor, 2006: “Show me just what Muhammad brought that was new and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached.” This statement has already led to both outrage and condemnation of the outrage. The Organisation of the Islamic Conference, the world’s largest Muslim body, said it was a “character assassination of the prophet Muhammad”. The Malaysian Prime Minister said that “the Pope must not take lightly the spread of outrage that has been created.” Pakistan’s foreign Ministry spokesperson said that “anyone who describes Islam as a religion as intolerant encourages violence”. The European Commission said that “reactions which are disproportionate and which are tantamount to rejecting freedom of speech are unacceptable.”

21. Christopher Hitchens in God is not Great, 2007: “There is some question as to whether Islam is a separate religion at all… Islam when examined is not much more than a rather obvious and ill-arranged set of plagiarisms, helping itself from earlier books and traditions as occasion appeared to require… It makes immense claims for itself, invokes prostrate submission or ‘surrender’ as a maxim to its adherents, and demands deference and respect from nonbelievers into the bargain. There is nothing—absolutely nothing—in its teachings that can even begin to justify such arrogance and presumption.”

22. Ian O’Doherty, 2009: “(If defamation of religion was illegal) it would be a crime for me to say that the notion of transubstantiation is so ridiculous that even a small child should be able to see the insanity and utter physical impossibility of a piece of bread and some wine somehow taking on corporeal form. It would be a crime for me to say that Islam is a backward desert superstition that has no place in modern, enlightened Europe and it would be a crime to point out that Jewish settlers in Israel who believe they have a God given right to take the land are, frankly, mad. All the above assertions will, no doubt, offend someone or other.”

23. Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor, 2009: “Whether a person is atheist or any other, there is in fact in my view something not totally human if they leave out the transcendent… we call it God… I think that if you leave that out you are not fully human.” Because atheism is not a religion, the Irish blasphemy law does not protect atheists from abusive and insulting statements about their fundamental beliefs. While atheists are not seeking such protection, we include the statement here to point out that it is discriminatory that this law does not hold all citizens equal.

24. Dermot Ahern, Irish Minister for Justice, introducing his blasphemy law at an Oireachtas Justice Committee meeting, 2009, and referring to comments made about him personally: “They are blasphemous.” Deputy Pat Rabbitte replied: “Given the Minister’s self-image, it could very well be that we are blaspheming,” and Minister Ahern replied: “Deputy Rabbitte says that I am close to the baby Jesus, I am so pure.” So here we have an Irish Justice Minister joking about himself being blasphemed, at a parliamentary Justice Committee discussing his own blasphemy law, that could make his own jokes illegal.

25. As a bonus, Micheal Martin, Irish Minister for Foreign Affairs, opposing attempts by Islamic States to make defamation of religion a crime at UN level, 2009: “We believe that the concept of defamation of religion is not consistent with the promotion and protection of human rights. It can be used to justify arbitrary limitations on, or the denial of, freedom of expression. Indeed, Ireland considers that freedom of expression is a key and inherent element in the manifestation of freedom of thought and conscience and as such is complementary to freedom of religion or belief.” Just months after Minister Martin made this comment, his colleague Dermot Ahern introduced Ireland’s new blasphemy law.

26. Finally, here is the quote that has caused the Irish police to investigate Stephen Fry for blasphemy. Asked by Gay Byrne on RTE what he would say if he was confronted by God, Fry replied: “How dare you create a world in which there is such misery that is not our fault. It’s not right. It’s utterly, utterly evil. Why should I respect a capricious, mean-minded, stupid God who creates a world which is so full of injustice and pain?” Questioned on how he would react if he was locked outside the pearly gates, he responded: “I would say, ‘Bone cancer in children? What’s that about?’ Because the God who created this universe, if it was created by God, is quite clearly a maniac, utter maniac. Totally selfish. We have to spend our life on our knees thanking him? What kind of God would do that?”

Atheist Ireland

10 Comments

  1. Avatar
    Brendan Perry May 06, 2017

    Why has it taken the unidentified member of the public this long before “doing their civic duty”? They have had the freedom to speak up for two years and have not been forced to remain silent.

    Reply
    • Avatar
      Lynn May 08, 2017

      As I understood the article, the “concerned citizen” reported the so-called crime shortly after the program aired:

      “The individual claiming responsibility for reporting Fry’s comments told the Independent that they traveled to the Ennis Garda station to file the report shortly after the interview aired. They’ve repeatedly followed up with police ever since.”

      I took that to mean that the police didn’t really want to pursue the accusation, but were continuously bothered by the claimant until they had to do something to get him off their back!

      Reply
    • Avatar
      Ben Russell May 08, 2017

      Brendan, if I understand your question correctly, you must have missed a critical bit of the story. The unidentified member of the public made the complaint two years ago, shortly after the broadcast, and received a standard ‘we will look into it’ letter from the Gards. What’s happened recently is that, in the absence of any follow up, she/he decided to write to the Garda Commissioner to ask if anything will be done about it.

      Reply
  2. Avatar
    Pete May 10, 2017

    I believe the person who reported Fry’s comments as being unlawful said at the time that they were not personally offended by them.

    Reply
  3. Avatar
    John Douglas May 10, 2017

    You have been So very naughty.
    Stand facing into the corner, until you say you are really, really Sorry.
    And there will be no Jam with your Supper, either.

    Oh, Get Stuffed, God !

    Reply
  4. Avatar
    Jeremy Marchant May 10, 2017

    The question, ‘Do you believe in God’, is a false one because it implies that God exists and one can choose or not to believe in him/it.

    Likewise, in 23 above, when you write, ‘Because atheism is not a religion…’ you are implicitly colluding with the idea that atheists decline to believe in the God that religionists ‘know’ exists.

    I suggest the first question be reworded, ‘Do you hold a belief that a god exists?’, and your phrase could be written ‘Because a belief in a god does not constitute a religion…’

    If I may say so, I think this is an important point because most people, if stopped in the street (And particularly an Irish street, I suspect), when asked ‘What is an atheist?’ would answer ‘Someone who does not believe in God’.

    In short, ‘atheism’ is a difficult word, because it has two meanings in popular speech.

    Reply
  5. Avatar
    Bill Jarvis May 12, 2017

    I’ve never been able to understand why humans of all races and colour throughout the whole history of civilisation have needed a deity.
    It has also always been a fascination to me why civilisations with no contact with each other also believe in dragons and that their graphical representations are so similar.
    Are we ‘hard wired’ to believe this rubbish like a dog is to ‘cock it’s leg?’
    After a long career working in a Catholic school ‘towing the line’ I can finally breath a bit of fresh air and ignore the piety of organised religion for the rest of my life.

    Reply
  6. Avatar
    Antony Stack May 15, 2017

    The specific issues Fry raised were bone marrow cancer and parasites which cause blindness. Both relating to children. How could GOD include these in creation if he is GOOD?
    This is a question which has been around for a long time – see the story of Job in the Bible.
    Fry’s answer is “The moment you banish HIM, life becomes simpler, purer cleaner.”
    That makes no sense to me. Does not-believing cure anything?

    Reply
    • Avatar
      Trevor Ahearn May 16, 2017

      I’ve always found it curious that religion in Ireland is taken as a given; that it exists and is part of your life, and so to ‘not-believe’ is to ‘remove’ religion. It is my observation that religion is introduced, with all its absurdities, and imposed on people during their most formative, sensitive, years to the point that it feels like it has always been there, deep down inside you, and so HAS always been a given.
      To ‘not-believe’ is simply to acknowledge that religion was imposed from outside. An add on, not a given – its someone else’s idea that has no basis in reality (even to have the word ‘believe’ in there is absurd). Once you can accept that, life does become purer simpler cleaner. I whole heartedly agree with that. I’d add that it comes with rewards, living an ethical life without religion means you must understand deeply your own motivations and the consequences of your actions. Priests can’t give you direction from some random deity, nor clean up your mess. In the long term this personal growth makes for much better citizens of the world, who have a strong moral compass. Strong because it is positive, its not borne from fear of judgement day. All the atheists i know are far less likely to be bigoted than every religious person I know. At worst religion free’s you of personal responsibility, at best it enables apathy because it is all the will of God.
      I’m not sure where you’ve introduced the word ‘cure’ from; but if you are suggesting that Fry has insinuated that to ‘not-believe’ can cure cancer and parasites – I don’t think he ever even remotely suggested that. If we accept that children having cancer is the will of God, or children having their eyes eaten from the inside out is what God wants then we are innocent of any wrong doing if we allow apathy to creep in. For society to intentionally allow suffering is immoral. In that context, yes; not-believing can cure things. It takes us away from the shadows on the cave walls and challenges us to face a real world with courage and clarity – and act.

      Reply

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