Atheists Campaign for Right to Blaspheme Religion


(RNS) The Amherst, N.Y.-based Center for Inquiry (CFI) has changed the name of its International Blasphemy Day to International Blasphemy Rights Day in a bid t show that organizers are not interested in “mocking religion” for its own sake.

CFI representatives said the name change better describes the purpose of the event amidst criticism received after last year’s inaugural events.

“There was a lot of controversy last year that we were doing what we were doing simply in the interest of mocking religion,” said CFI Spokesman Nathan Bupp. “That, indeed, is not the case.”

CFI bills itself as “an institution devoted to promoting science, reason, freedom of inquiry, and humanist values.” International Blasphemy Rights Dayis part of a larger, national campaign by CFI for freedom of expression.

The name change is meant to “emphasize the important connection that we think there is between blasphemy and the right to free speech,” said Ronald Lindsay, president and CEO of CFI.

Lindsay said some critics “interpreted blasphemy in its crudest form” but “blasphemy is a wider concept than that.”

Although many people scoffed at last year’s campaign, he said, the center believes religion is not, and should not be, immune from criticism.

“Religious beliefs should be on the same level of political beliefs,” Lindsay said.

This year’s events are scheduled for Sept. 30, the fifth anniversary of the publication of 12 cartoons of Islam’s Prophet Muhammad in a Danish newspaper. It will also come about three weeks after a church in Gainesville, Fla., is scheduled to hosts its inaugural “Burn a Quran Day.”

Although Lindsay said he would “defend the right of individuals to engage in an event like that,” he personally thinks it is “an inappropriate event.”

“We would certainly not condone the burning of the Quran. In fact, we believe it should be studied critically.”

Lindsay emphasized that CFI’s goal is to criticize the belief, not the believer. “Blasphemy is often, unfortunately, associated with crude criticism of believers. But our focus is on looking at the beliefs,” he said.

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Tags: Alfredo Garcia, Atheists, Blasphemy, Rights, RNS