A recent article touched on the topic of criminalising blasphemy. Whilst thinking of the silliness of this notion, and how this could actually work in practice, I stumbled across this very interesting question: How do you actually prove that you are religious, or not? Let me take you through my though process in arriving at this question:
For now, let’s picture a world where blasphemy is criminalised and there are strict laws and processes governing such. Within this world, imagine this scenario:
One lazy afternoon I am walking down the street and bump my foot into a lamp post, “mein got!!”, I shout in agony. My bad luck continues as right behind me an off duty priest overhears the whole affair and swiftly makes a citizen’s arrest. At the police station I am charged with first degree blasphemy and told that it is an offence carrying a penalty of at least R20,000. Just before I inadvertently shout out “holy mother of god!!!” I come to my senses and realise that it is only me, the priest and the officer in the room. None of us knows each other from anywhere other than today’s incident. As the officer proceeds to write up the charge and take the statement from the priest, I innocently enquire how he can charge me with blasphemy when in fact I am one of god’s closest followers and biggest devotees. So much so that I have this personal arrangement with god that whenever I am in pain, I just shout out his name and he instantly relieves me of such. And that’s exactly what I did in this instance, pointing to my “painless” toe whilst secretly balancing on my other foot to relieve the constant pounding and swelling in my injured toe.
The officer, highly confused by now, looks at the priest. The man has a point; we cannot fine an innocent man, especially not a man with an intimate relationship with god, never. The priest sees where this is going and is becoming highly pissed off. “This is not a man of god, he is a godless liar trying to wiggle his way out of this situation, can you not see that officer!!?”. By now the officer is desperate, confronted by two contradicting views, both claiming to be backed by god. But he has a plan, as a proven man of god; certainly the priest will be able to sniff out whether this other man is indeed a liar and a betrayer of god. “Okay, I will give you ten minutes to question this guy and prove that he is indeed lying, I will then decide whether we press charges or not, okay?” All in agreement.
Priest: “Which church do you attend, son?”
Me: “None, I was told that you don’t have to attend church to be a follower of god, I pray at home and walk in the fields on Sundays, sir”
Priest: “What do you believe in my son?”
Me: “Um, in god sir, that he created everything in 6 days, and after we die we go to heaven, to him, sir”
Priest: “But how do you know this is true?”
Me: “The Bible says so sir, and sometimes god whispers to me, other than that I can’t tell. Do you perhaps know of anything additional that could help to prove that? It would be really helpful in convincing that devilish little nephew of mine who just doesn’t want to believe the Bible and claims that god has never whispered to him. Do you know of anything?”
Priest: “Shut up, I’m the one asking the questions, not you!”, “now, how often do you pray?”
Me: “ All the time sir, I am actually praying in between questions so that god would open up and soften your heart to see me for the truly good man that I am, praise god”
Priest: “You are a lying skunk, I bet your life is in ruins, you must be the unhappiest man in the world, lying and living without god, you should feel ashamed, god will punish you!”
Me: “There was a time when that was true, but then I gave my heart to god, and now life has meaning again sir. I am so proud to be back with god again. Look at how happy I am!” I then proceed putting up my biggest smile ever.
By now the priest is furious.
Me: “Sorry to be rude sir, but I really do not have all day, so can I make a suggestion. As a man of god, you definitely have a much closer relationship with him, and he’ll probably rather listen to you than to me. So why don’t you let god decide and ask him for a sign, anything that all three of us can see. If anything happens, let’s say in the next 5 minutes, we will know that I am indeed guilty and I will happily pay the fine. Okay?”
The priest explodes and walks out the door, slamming it behind him! The officer stares at me “you can go sir, sorry for any inconvenience”.