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blasphemy

blasphemy, in religion, words or actions that display irreverence toward or contempt for God or that which is held sacred. Blasphemy is regarded as an offense against the community to varying degrees, depending on the extent of the identification of a religion with the society at large or the government. Sedition, an attack on the sovereign, is thus analogous; both it and blasphemy can be seen as subversive of order and authority. Heresy, on the other hand, is a matter of competing claims for doctrinal correctness; the dominant (orthodox) faction, however, often defines the heretic as blasphemous.

Blasphemy has been a crime in many religions and cultures, wherever there is something sacred to protect. Socrates was prosecuted for blasphemy, and Mosaic law prescribed death for cursing the name of God. Jesus was tried for blasphemy, while Christians regarded the action of the Jews in trying him as itself blasphemous.

Secular modern states often retain blasphemy laws, but they are infrequently enforced. In the United States, state blasphemy laws remain on the books, but the Supreme Court's expansive interpretation of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution makes it likely that any blasphemy prosecution would now be regarded as an impermissible establishment of religion. In countries governed under Islamic law, the concept of blasphemy is broad, embracing many kinds of disrespect or denial of religion; the condemnation (1988) of the author Salman Rushdie by Iranian clerics is a recent example of theocratic action.

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blasphemy

blasphemy is open to wide definition, but within the Christian tradition is normally defined as a profane utterance or an impious speech against God or established religion. Blasphemy occasionally troubled the medieval church, but became more common after the Reformation, when a plurality of views coexisted with increased official concern over religious orthodoxy. Perhaps the most celebrated victim of the blasphemy laws was James Nayler, who in 1656 parodied Christ's entry into Jerusalem by riding a donkey into Bristol. He was whipped in both London and Bristol, stood on the pillory, bored through the tongue, branded on the forehead, and kept in Bridewell at Parliament's pleasure. As late as 1832 a bookseller named Eaton was imprisoned and pilloried for attacking the Bible. The 19th cent., however, saw a modification of the law on blasphemy. The key case was Ramsay v. Foote (1883), which established that it was not blasphemous to attack the fundamentals of religion if ‘the decencies of controversy’ were observed. This remains the legal position.

J. A. Sharpe

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Blasphemy

BLASPHEMY

The malicious or wanton reproach of God, either written or oral. Inenglish law, the offense of speaking disparaging words about God, Jesus Christ, the Bible, or the Book of Common Prayer with the intent to undermine religious beliefs and promotecontemptand hatred for the church as well as general immorality. In U.S. law, any maliciously intended written or oral accusation made against God or religion with the purpose of dishonoring the divine majesty and alienating mankind from the love and reverence of God.

Blasphemy is a common-law offense and also an offense by statute in certain jurisdictions. It must be uttered in the presence of another person or persons or published in order to be an offense. Mere use of profanity is not considered blasphemy.

Blasphemy statutes are rarely, if ever, enforced today.

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Blasphemy

Blasphemy (Gk., ‘speaking evil’). Impious or profane talk, especially against God; and in many W. legal systems, the offence of reviling God or Jesus Christ or an established church. The appearance of Salman Rushdie's The Satanic Verses, raised the issue whether blasphemy should be extended to become a more general offence (in the UK), or whether it is an offence in the domain of inciting unrest.

In Judaism, ‘blasphemy’ is speaking scornfully of God (Heb., gidduf, ḥeruf) and is described euphemistically as birkat ha-Shem (‘blessing the Name’, i.e. God). According to Leviticus 24. 10–23, the penalty for cursing God is death.

The nearest equivalent in Islam is sabb, offering an insult to God.

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blasphemy

blasphemy Speech or action manifesting contempt for God or religion. Severe penalties were prescribed for it in the Old Testament and also by medieval canon law. Jesus Christ was crucified for blasphemy against Judaism. The statutes of many secular countries still include laws against blasphemy. Britain, for example, retains its law, originally designed to ensure social conformity to Anglicanism.

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blaspheme

blas·pheme / blasˈfēm; ˈblasˌfēm/ • v. [intr.] speak irreverently about God or sacred things: allegations that he had blasphemed against Islam. DERIVATIVES: blas·phem·er / blasˈfēmər; ˈblasfəmər/ n.

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blasphemy

blas·phe·my / ˈblasfəmē/ • n. (pl. -mies) the act or offense of speaking sacrilegiously about God or sacred things; profane talk: he was detained on charges of blasphemy| screaming incomprehensible blasphemies.

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blaspheme

blaspheme XIV. — OF. blasfemer (F.-ph-) — ecclL. blasphēmāre revile, blaspheme — Gr. blasphēmeîn, f. blásphēmos evil-speaking (*pha- speak; phēmi I say). Cf. BLAME.
So blasphemous XV. blasphemy XIII (see -Y3).

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blasphemy

blasphemy the action or offence of speaking sacrilegiously about God or sacred things; profane talk. Recorded from Middle English, the word comes via Old French and ecclesiastical Latin from Greek blasphēmia ‘slander, blasphemy’.

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blaspheme

blasphemeabeam, agleam, beam, blaspheme, bream, cream, deem, deme, downstream, dream, esteem, extreme, gleam, hakim, kilim, meme, midstream, Nîmes, ream, régime, scheme, scream, seam, seem, steam, stream, supreme, team, teem, theme, upstream •cross-beam • hornbeam • moonbeam •sunbeam • academe • morpheme •phoneme • jet stream • airstream •daydream • mainstream • Brylcreem •millstream • slipstream •bloodstream • monotreme •buttercream • raceme • septime •centime

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blasphemy

blasphemyfumy, gloomy, plumy, rheumy, roomie, roomy, spumy •excuse-me • mushroomy • perfumy •Brummie, chummy, crumby, crummy, dummy, gummy, lumme, mummy, plummy, rummy, scrummy, scummy, slummy, tummy, yummy •academy • sodomy • blasphemy •infamy •bigamy, polygamy, trigamy •endogamy, exogamy, heterogamy, homogamy, misogamy, monogamy •hypergamy • alchemy • Ptolemy •anomie • antinomy •agronomy, astronomy, autonomy, bonhomie, Deuteronomy, economy, gastronomy, heteronomy, metonymy, physiognomy, taxonomy •thingummy • Laramie • sesame •blossomy •anatomy, atomy •hysterectomy, mastectomy, tonsillectomy, vasectomy •epitome •dichotomy, lobotomy, tracheotomy, trichotomy •colostomy • bosomy •squirmy, thermae, wormy •taxidermy

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