As Robert Ingersoll once pointed out, “blasphemy” is a concept invented by priests to preserve ideas that can’t stand scrutiny on their own. To blaspheme, to tread upon the sacrosanct, is part of the regular maintenance plan of a free society, just like a stretch for a body or an oil change for a car. Without occasional acts of blasphemy through speech or writing or art, the boundaries of human possibility become ever more shrunken and rigid. When human beings blaspheme, they remind one another that yes, a larger world is possible.
The Center for Inquiry has declared September 30 of each year to be International Blasphemy Rights Day. Blasphemy Rights Day is set aside for people who want to act collectively to push back against the forces of restriction in expression. With a reminder that sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me, this is a day for a variety of symbolic, non-violent holy cow tipping exercises. When one person blasphemes it becomes easier for a second to follow suit.
It’s not like you have to participate in Blasphemy Rights Day, you know. Nobody’s going to demand boycotts of Target for not featuring Blasphemy Rights merchandise prominently enough in its Sunday circulars. Jump in if you’d like, stay quiet if you’d rather, or stand on a corner with a megaphone decrying the sin around you. Say what you please. That’s what blaspheming is all about.