Home » Blasphemy: Verbal Offense Against the Sacred, from Moses to Salman Rushdie by Leonard W. Levy
Blasphemy: Verbal Offense Against the Sacred, from Moses to Salman Rushdie Leonard W. Levy

Blasphemy: Verbal Offense Against the Sacred, from Moses to Salman Rushdie

Leonard W. Levy

Published
ISBN : 9780807845158
Paperback
700 pages
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 About the Book 

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 ofMoreWhat 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 initiallydenounced 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,