Blasphemy

Blasphemy

Verbal Offense Against the Sacred, From Moses to Salman Rushdie

Book - 1993
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Baker & Taylor
A legal historian reviews the history of blasphemy, from Moses to Rushdie, showing what forms of speech societies have found intolerable, tracing the changing meanings of blasphemy, and discussing the costs and benefits of free speech.

Blackwell North Amer
What society considers blasphemy - a verbal assault against the sacred - is a litmus test of the standards it believes to be necessary to preserve unity, order, and morality. Society has always condemned as blasphemy what it regards as an abuse of liberty.
Looking across the centuries - from Moses to Salman Rushdie - at writings and speech that societies have and have not tolerated, Leonard Levy demonstrates that throughout history, prosecutions for blasphemy have been tinged with political considerations. Socrates, Aristotle, Jesus, Michael Servetus, Giordano Bruno, George Fox, William Penn, Thomas Paine, Edward Moxon, Roberto Rossellini, Martin Scorsese, and the 1976 editor of the British journal Gay News are among those whose "blasphemies" Levy examines in their historical contexts.
Professor Levy traces the varied meanings of the offense in Western law - from the ancient Hebrew crime of cursing God by name to the modern crime of ridiculing God or professing atheistical principles that insult the religious feelings of Christians. He explores the blurring of meaning that occurred as at various times blasphemy became nearly indistinguishable from heresy, idolatry, sacrilege, nonconformity, sedition, treason, profanity, obscenity, and breach of peace. He shows, too, how frequently and ferociously Christians have persecuted each other for blasphemy, with Catholics pursuing and killing one another over differences of interpretation, then Protestants - all of whom once seemed blasphemous to Catholics - turning on each other, and the more established denominations punishing Unitarians, Baptists, Quakers, and Presbyterians.
We see how in the United States, where blasphemy was initially denounced in sermons and statutes, prosecutions became less frequent and more isolated as people grew increasingly indifferent to aberrant beliefs and First Amendment freedoms were expanded by the courts. Although prosecutions ceased entirely in 1971 in America and in 1979 in England, Levy argues that the threat of prosecution is not dead. The laws still exist, and the U.S. Supreme Court has never found a blasphemy law to be unconstitutional.
Levy also makes it clear that while past sanctions against blasphemy have inhibited all manner of cultural, political, scientific, and literary expression, we also pay a price for the current extraordinary expansion in the scope of permissible speech. We have become, he says, not only a free society but a "numb" society. We are beyond outrage.

Baker
& Taylor

A legal historian reviews the history of blasphemy, showing what forms of speech societies have found intolerable, tracing the changing meanings of blasphemy, and discussing the costs and benefits of free speech

Publisher: New York : Knopf, 1993
Edition: 1st ed
ISBN: 9780679402367
0679402365
Characteristics: xi, 688 p. ; 25 cm

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bookdan2017
Oct 10, 2017

Fascinating. A sharply written look at what is-and isn't-considered blasphemy.

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