Danish prosecutors have decided to charge a man with blasphemy. His crime? Burning the Koran. In a video that was posted on Facebook over a year ago, the man in question (whose name will only be officially released after he is charged, per Danish law) is seen lighting a Koran on fire and allowing it to burn beyond recognition.
Denmark is the same country in which religious tensions erupted after a print newspaper chose to publish several cartoons depicting the Muslim prophet Muhammad. Those tensions resulted in riots not just in Denmark but across the Middle East. Whether or not those events influenced the decision to pursue this case cannot be known. Regardless, the decision to level such a charge in light of the how secular Denmark has much to tell us just how confused and duplicitous today’s secular world really is.
I often find it fascinating that those calling for tolerance fail to see how intolerant they are. The secular world defies rational reasoning in their lack of logic in confronting issues. In other words, the constant stances are often wrought with conflicting views that simply cannot coexist, and few fail to recognize this. Those conflicting views are displayed in this story coming out of Denmark and we see at least two major conflicts taking place here.
Freedom of Religion Exists, But It Must Be Enslaved by Secular Ideology
The first issue at hand is the constant portrayal that freedom of religion exists, yet it fails to acknowledge that religion must exist with a very narrow-minded definition. That is to say, if religion is going to exist, it must conform to secular ideology.
In this particular case it should be disturbing to us to see the secular world intervening here. Why? Simply put because they are charging the guy with blasphemy which implies that this is a religious crime. They aren’t charging him with endangerment of people (for publicly starting a fire) or violation of some speech act, they are charging him with blasphemy. Why would any of us think that a secular world could have any understanding of religious concepts, including blasphemy? Without being renewed in mind (Romans 12:1-2), conformed to the image of Christ (Romans 8:28-30), and having an understanding enlightened by God (1 Corinthians 1) the secular world is ill-equipped to rightly protect and portray anything of God. I would even broaden this to say that a secular court and system could not rightly oversee any system of religion (whether true or false) without having studied or being involved in it.
While the man who initiated the prosecution for blasphemy claims to be religious (although I am not sure what religion he follows) there is no guarantee that he has a full/right understanding of the situation or the religious concept of blasphemy. Furthermore there is no guarantee that those who move the case forward or judge it would have a right understanding. In fact, the New York Times article ends with a quote from a Mr. Mouritsen, a political scientist, who says, “ . . the very idea that religion is taken seriously is the antithesis of being a good citizen.” That is to say that one can freely practice a religion, but it should not have any influence on that person’s role as a person in society. While this is one man, as a political scientist the claim is that he would have an understanding of the secular view and therefore could speak on behalf of the people. Regardless of that fact though, consider how often that concept is thrown out there.
In my hometown of Yakima, WA I was listening to a morning radio talk show with my wife when one of the hosts (who claims Christianity) stated that it was ok to have religious views but they should be kept private and at home (I’m sorry I don’t have a citation for this discussion that took place in 2014). So while we speak of a story out of Denmark, we find its representation elsewhere around the globe.
This is a prevailing notion within our society. Religion is OK, and government may even try to help protect it, but don’t let it invade into anything else. So which is it? Does religious freedom exist as a worthy goal to be defended or is it supposed to be practiced only in isolation, enslaved by cultural influences.
Are All Religions Protected Under Religious Freedom or Some?
The law being utilized in this Danish case has been in existence since 1866, however it has been little utilized; most recently in 1971, when an acquittal was the result. The last actual conviction came in 1946. Certainly more cases of blasphemy have taken place since then, considering that humans are tainted by sin. So we can expect that the decision to utilize the law is arbitrary.
In fact, the same news article reports that a man in 1997 burns a copy of the Bible on television. However, this man was not charged. What’s the difference between the two cases? Simply the religions that are on display. Once again we see a duplicitous attitude on display based upon the religion that one engages in.
Certainly it is worth noting that the previous two instances in 1971 and 1946 were charges of blasphemy against Christianity. However, those instances are far removed from the culture of today, where as the incident in 1997 is only 20 years ago. In those differences of time, we see two different worlds on display. One in the mid 1900’s that still considered the seriousness of Christianity and one in the late 1900’s that disregarded any Christian claims.
Now we look forward to the difference between 1997 and now and again see two different worlds. We see one in which Christianity is now totally disregarded, but Islam is more tolerated and thus more defended. If you are a Christian you can expect that your religious freedom will not be defended (which is OK because the government can’t defend any religion anyway and Christ is more than capable). However, we can expect that the religions of Islam or homosexuality will be defended with vigor. Once again, we have conflicting views here in which religious freedom is proclaimed, but apparently it depends upon the religion.
What we learn from the governmental oversight in Denmark is that religion can be governed by a secular government, at least according to secular reasoning. However, it is up to them to define those areas they deem noteworthy and defending them according to those definitions. As Christians, this is concerning. Not only does it supplant the authority of God but the only result of government intervention into religious workings is conformity to a secular world.
To read the New York Times article referenced in the discussion of these points, click here.
Photo “Copenhagen Denmark” coutesy of user minnimouseaunt and Flickr.