With little fanfare, the Irish law prohibiting blasphemy — defined as language or material “grossly abusive or insulting in relation to matters held sacred by any religion, thereby causing outrage among a substantial number of the adherents of that religion” and “intended, by the publication of the matter concerned, to cause such outrage” — went into effect yesterday. Thanks largely to Atheist Ireland, the immediate consequence was a palpable increase in the amount of Irish blasphemy whizzing through the Interwebs
With Dr. Phil Plait giving a sigh of relief and our new President D.J. Grothe stepping up to the plate, we at the JREF enter 2010 with enthusiasm. New plans, some important and welcome changes in the Swift presentation, exciting fund-raising opportunities, and some office reorganization will be initiated, all to the improvement of our efficiency and effectiveness. I, along with Jeff, Rich, Alison, Bart, Brandon, and the indomitable Linda are braced for the year with confidence and evidence-based faith in our members, our friends, our sponsors and our executive board.
Happy New Year’s Eve, all. We hope yours is safe and fun.
The print journalists of the world will certainly enjoy themselves this evening. For them, this is the end of the craziest two weeks of the year, when they’ve got to crank out their publications in exactly half the usual time to allow for late December’s long weekends. They begin around November 30th with the best of intentions, writing immense to-do lists, cutting down on the nightcaps, sleeping and rising early. Then, inevitably, things go wrong. They procrastinate; freelancers fall through; the art director goes on a bender.
Sensing that circumstances are about to wreak havoc with their publication schedules, editors will, at this time, assign some of their editorial bench-warmers fluffy, easy-to-write stories that take approximately 30 minutes to compose, and which have something to do with Xmas, Kawanza, or New Year’s Eve. (Chanukah is excluded, as it comes earlier in the month.) One of the most common space-filler New Year’s Eve stories is something called “Local Psychic Forecasts XXX For 200X.”
Here is an item that ran on Al Jazeera last Saturday:
I wonder if the footage of the “witch” burning — which the reporter claims is “three months” old — is actually from the springtime incident we reported on here. (Note: If you click on that last link, do yourself a favor and don’t watch the video, unless you feel you need an extra jolt to achieve a level of righteous anger commensurate to something as wrong and pitiful as the burning of alleged sorcerers in an era in which one of the mob can record the spectacle in hi-def.)
There are two good things about this story, the first of which is that it actually exists. Although specific figures are unavailable, we may extrapolate from local tallies that the fear of witches has ruined the lives of tens of thousands of Africans in the last two decades, and has likely resulted in thousands of deaths.