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Atheists fight for ‘right’ to blaspheme religion
Alfredo Garcia, Religion News Service
August 17, 2010
2 MIN READ TIME

Atheists fight for ‘right’ to blaspheme religion

Atheists fight for ‘right’ to blaspheme religion
Alfredo Garcia, Religion News Service
August 17, 2010

The Amherst, N.Y.-based

Center for Inquiry (CFI) has changed the name of its International Blasphemy

Day to International Blasphemy Rights Day in a bid to show that organizers are

not interested in “mocking religion” for its own sake.

CFI representatives

said the name change better describes the purpose of the event amidst criticism

received after last year’s inaugural events.

“There was a lot of

controversy last year that we were doing what we were doing simply in the

interest of mocking religion,” said CFI Spokesman Nathan Bupp. “That, indeed,

is not the case.”

CFI bills itself as “an

institution devoted to promoting science, reason, freedom of inquiry, and

humanist values.”

International Blasphemy Rights Day is part of a larger, national campaign by CFI for freedom of

expression.

The name change is

meant to “emphasize the important connection that we think there is between

blasphemy and the right to free speech,” said Ronald Lindsay, president and CEO

of CFI.

Lindsay said some

critics “interpreted blasphemy in its crudest form” but “blasphemy is a wider

concept than that.”

Although many people

scoffed at last year’s campaign, he said, the center believes religion is not,

and should not be, immune from criticism.

“Religious beliefs

should be on the same level of political beliefs,” Lindsay said.

This year’s events are

scheduled for Sept. 30, the fifth anniversary of the publication of 12 cartoons

of Islam’s Prophet Muhammad in a Danish newspaper. It will also come about

three weeks after a church in Gainesville, Fla., is scheduled to hosts its

inaugural “Burn a Quran

Day.”

Although Lindsay said

he would “defend the right of individuals to engage in an event like that,” he

personally thinks it is “an inappropriate event.”

“We would certainly not

condone the burning of the Quran. In fact, we believe it should be studied

critically.”

Lindsay emphasized that

CFI’s goal is to criticize the belief, not the believer. “Blasphemy is often,

unfortunately, associated with crude criticism of believers. But our focus is

on looking at the beliefs,” he said.