On Blasphemy

Nietzsche’s declaration that “God is Dead” is an ambiguous meditation on how modernity may have killed Man’s connection to the sacred and the source of absolute ethical principles. More than a century later it seems that the sacred has returned to unleash vengeance on modernity. Nowhere is this more visible than in the dramatic rise in the use of the quaint term “blasphemy”.

“Blasphemy” was first used as Europe was emerging into the Renaissance. “Pheme” is the Greek word for utterance, while the meaning of “blas” remains uncertain, probably a derivation of “hurt”. It seems fitting to define blasphemy as hurtful speech. But to whom?

The faithful of many religions will insist that blasphemy is the act of insulting God. And here we must again quote Nietzsche, “is not the greatness of the deed too great for us? Must we ourselves not become gods to appear worthy of it?” There is simply no way to reconcile the belief that mere human words can insult God with faith in his power. Leveling accusations of blasphemy remains, paradoxically, the greatest of all blasphemies.

— Maged Atiya



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