John Waters is/is not a professional contrarian who does/does not believe that blasphemy should/should not be removed from the Irish constitution:
Here is John arguing/not arguing the point back in 2009:
The right to give expression to the religious concept of reality itself depends on the right to freedom of expression. If we move to censor criticism or the satirising of religion, we move also to what will no doubt be deemed a trade-off: the complete removal of signs of religiosity from public view.
If the proposed legislation were to become law, it would become more difficult to argue with, for example, attempts to remove the Angelus from national radio and television, because the continuation of this tradition might then quite reasonably be deemed an unjust provocation to those whose dissent would no longer be a matter of freedom of choice, but a potential crime subject to draconian penalties.
Indeed, John. I couldn’t have put it better myself.
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(By the way, for those of you outside Ireland, this is what we refer to as ‘The Angelus’:
This televisual masterpiece is broadcast EVERY SINGLE DAY in Ireland, at six o’clock in the evening. It bumps back the broadcast schedule by one minute so that our main evening news broadcast show is called ‘The Six-One News’. Irish people think this is PERFECTLY NORMAL.)
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The Irish constitution’s blasphemy clause was written in the days when lawmakers presumed there would only ever be one religion in Ireland. Let’s just say that assumption has proven somewhat anachronistic.
So there’s a problem. In a multi-faith society, the required legal test cannot ever be reasonably passed: any view contrary to any religion could be described as blasphemous to many (if not all) the others.
For example, when John Waters declares his belief in the Christian god, he is inadvertently blaspheming against all the other gods that people might choose to worship.
When he says his Hail Marys, he is blaspheming against Protestantism. And so on.
In essence, under this system, the most devout people are the biggest blasphemers.
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If all that was required to justify a criminal prosecution was that someone find John Waters offensive, then I think society could survive. True, it’s not a very high bar, but on the other hand, we could all agree not to press charges.
The problem is that under the Irish constitution, even perfectly nice people (non-homophobes, for example) become guilty of blaspheming whenever they say their prayers, because devout non-coreligionists could find such prayerful utterances offensive to them.
And let’s not forget that in this system atheists find themselves on the wrong side of everyone. Declaring, or even making passing reference to, the non-existence of deities is liable to offend a whole pile of people (a problem exacerbated by the FACT that deities do not exist).
When you make offence-taking the threshold, we are all in trouble. We cannot possibly control who gets offended, nor can the authorities plausibly measure the quantum of offence we cause.
John Waters 2009 is right when he argues the following:
The idea that a form of expression can be prohibited because some people find it offensive is a recipe for the elimination of every contentious idea from the public square.
Therefore, I disagree with John Waters 2018 when he launches this campaign:
Believe in Respect said yesterday that the reference to blasphemy in the constitution protected against “grossly abusive, inflammatory or insulting language in relation to sacred matters and deeply held religious positions” and that its purpose was to “prevent the undermining of public order and morality”. The group said that anti-blasphemy laws protected free speech and the standard of debate in Ireland.
To play it safe, I should probably just declare that I am offended by everything John Waters has said since, oh I don’t know, let’s say 2010. (I would make a list, but I don’t think the internet is actually big enough for such a blog post.)
But despite that, I don’t want him arrested. John Waters can be offensive if he wants to. Which, of course, he does. That is, after all, the point of John Waters.
Take a look at @RepealBlasphemy for updates on what John Waters’ latest position on blasphemy might be. Or not be.
And vote ‘Yes’ on 26 October.
But definitely ‘Yes’.
Brian Hughes is an academic psychologist and university professor in Galway, Ireland, specialising in stress, health, and the application of psychology to social issues. He writes widely on the psychology of empiricism and of empirically disputable claims, especially as they pertain to science, health, medicine, and politics.