This is what I don't understand about this law to protect religion from those who are horrible to it. If the worshippers are right, those who mock them will pay with an eternity in hell - isn't that punishment enough?

And even if it isn't, will a 200 fine on top make all the difference? Perhaps God is an Ann Widdecombetype, seething that "in these days of do-gooding liberals, those who ridicule me get off with perpetual agony in soulless spiritual misery, which hardly acts as a deterrent at all." If I were God, I'd be quite insulted by this new law. I'd reckon if my followers couldn't stick up for themselves they should find a different hobby. When God felt threatened by sinful men he used wrath, destroying Sodom or, if things were really bad, flooding the entire planet.

The Bible doesn't say: "And God looked down upon man's wickedness, and he saw that they worshipped false gods and took his name in vain. And God said: 'That's really hurtful, actually. You know I'm really sensitive at the moment, I haven't even smit-ed anyone for four and twenty days.' And God did feel in need of a hug and that night did eat much chocolate."

And a law that makes it an offence to "stir up hatred" against a religion will be complicated, because the most hateful people about religions are other religions. Every religion regards the worship of other gods as one of the greatest sins. For example, the Jewish religion celebrates the feast of Purim, which commemorates the charming incident when "the Jews struck down all their enemies with the sword, killing and destroying them, and they did what they pleased... they killed 75,000 of them." So, does celebrating the massacre of 75,000 people with different beliefs count as religious hatred? Or have they decided it's not worth bothering unless it gets to 80,000?

Every major religion has massacred in order to dominate a region, such as in the Crusades or the slaughter at Amritsar. And they all use brutality to impose themselves on their captives, as the Romans did to the Iceni, sparking Boudicca's revolt, or the British Empire did to enforce Christianity on millions of slaves. And to be fair, they have to be this strict. You can hardly have a religion that says: "And God spoke unto his prophets, for he saw they were tempted by other idols. And he said: 'Look, that's fine, I mean, basically we're all the same. Me and Vishnu are so alike we get mistaken for each other half the time'."

So if the law is to be upheld, all religions will become illegal for stirring up hatred against other religions. Take the Jehovah's Witnesses, who reckon there are only 144,000 places in Heaven and they've already nabbed them all. Unless it's like the Make Poverty History gig in Hyde Park, and some of the lucky winners have put their ticket up for sale on e-Bay. In any case, surely it's immoral not to ridicule a religion that refuses to allow anaesthetics or blood transfusions because they interfere with God's will? Perhaps they have a special award every year in which their leader announces: "This year's prize for dying from the most easily preventable disease goes to Mrs Jackson, who managed to pass away from a splinter. And her family can take great comfort from the fact she died in screaming agony. And the word is that God is absolutely delighted."

The irony is that, behind this law to prevent "stirring up hatred" against believers, lies a genuine religious insult. It was devised as a means to win back credibility which the Government had lost among Muslims due to the war in Iraq. So Blair should be made to follow it through. As soon as it becomes law, he should announce that locking up Muslims without trial on the word of George Bush, supporting US behaviour at Guan-tanamo Bay, and helpingto splatter a Muslim country on a premise that turned out to be entirely bogus, all come under the category of "stirring up hatred". So, to set an example, he's going to start off by arresting himself.

Complications like this must have got to him, which is why the law has been amended a number of times, so it now reads: "For the avoidance of doubt, a person is not guilty of offence under this part of being reckless as to whether religious hatred would be stirred up if he is reckless as to whether hatred would be stirred up against a religion, religious belief or religious practice but is not also reckless as to whether hatred would be stirred up against a group of people defined by reference to religious belief or lack of religious belief."

So does that mean you can call Jehovah a cock-sucking whore or not? Surely it's immoral not to ridicule a religion that refuses to allow anaesthetics.




Feb 2006

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