Inklings of Truth


Blasphemy or Bluster?

By Audrey Stallsmith

Back around the time of the Paris attacks, the pope reminded the world that insulting a person’s religion is much like insulting his mother.  We all know that cowboys in old westerns were likely to punch out anybody who questioned the virtue of their sweethearts or sisters as well as their mothers.

Those men apparently thought it necessary to defend their women’s honor and the women probably appreciated their caring enough to do that.  However, the virtue of those females didn’t depend on those defending it.  That virtue either was real or it wasn’t.

In the same way, a god either is real or not.  A genuinely omnipotent being obviously doesn’t require us to defend His good name.  He will appreciate it, because it proves that we love Him, but He doesn’t need it.  As atheist Richard Dawkins says, “Either blasphemy is a victimless crime or its victim is powerful enough to take care of himself without any help from you.”  I happen to believe the latter! 

So does that mean all of us who try to write apologetics--defenses of God--are just wasting our time?  No, I think we need to do it because we need to talk about what we love.  And our words, combined with the influence of the Holy Spirit, may help change lives.  If the Spirit isn’t in it, though, we are just wasting our time.

What I’m trying to say is that people who feel it necessary to defend their deity with violence must have doubts about his ability to defend himself.  Their implied disbelief in their god’s power is more of a blasphemy than the ones spewed by atheists.

Speaking of which, we might want to ask ourselves why atheists feel compelled to spew.  Our former pastor’s mother used to tell about an incident that happened when she lived in a mining camp.  The local unbeliever, talking with her husband at the kitchen table, pounded on that table and said, “If there is a God, let every bone in my body be broken.”  The next day that atheist suffered an accident in the mine, in which a large number of his bones were broken.

Since he survived, I doubt all of them were, but I imagine he got the message.  Or not—as some people can be peculiarly dense.  God doesn’t always respond that emphatically, but perhaps He knew that was what it would take with this particular man.

People who are that vehement against God must harbor resentment against Him rather than actually doubting His existence.  After all, I don’t believe in Santa Claus, but I feel no urge to rail against him. 

As G. K. Chesterton points out in Heretics, “Blasphemy depends upon belief and is fading with it. If any one doubts this, let him sit down seriously and try to think blasphemous thoughts about Thor. I think his family will find him at the end of the day in a state of some exhaustion.”  In his introduction to the Intimate Journals of a blasphemer named Baudelaire, T. S. Eliot agrees that “genuine blasphemy, genuine in spirit and not purely verbal, is the product of partial belief, and is as impossible to the complete atheist as to the perfect Christian.”

As the Psalms make clear, God doesn't feel threatened by such defiance.  “God in heaven merely laughs!  He is amused by all their puny plans.” (Psalms 2: 4 TLB)  If we Christians truly believe in God's power, we won't feel theatened by other people's blasphemies either. 

Some of those cowboys so eager to fight for their womenfolk probably were more concerned about the implied stain on their family name than about those particular women.  And, when anyone reacts violently to what they perceive as blasphemy today, I have to suspect that what they are defending is not their god’s honor but their own.