Of all the silly laws – and there are plenty, such as one in Massachusetts which says that a mourner at a wake may eat no more than three sandwiches – it’s pretty hard to beat blasphemy, which makes it a crime to insult or show contempt or lack of reverence for a religious deity or irreverence toward religious or holy persons or things.
Essentially, you can’t say anything bad about someone who doesn’t really exist because it offends the sensibilities of people who believe he does. Or is it she? Because a lot of women like the title Goddess.
Greece overlooked Monty Python’s The Life of Brian, but you won’t be seeing any Atheists running for Prime Minister because the country brooks no disrespect toward God or religion – as long as it’s the Greek Orthodox Church – although it’s pretty hard to blaspheme any institution that tolerates pederasts and tries to avoid paying taxes.
Since God preaches forgiveness you’d think he wouldn’t mind being called a couple of names now and then. But the Greeks are having none of it, and blasphemy in Greece extends to his workers too, such as Elder Geron Paisios, a long-dead ascetic monk and widely-popular religious figure in Greece, where people have trouble driving when they pass a church because they’re trying to cross themselves three times rapidly with their hands off the steering wheel.
An unnamed 27-year-old Greek found that out pretty fast when police, who couldn’t find the cowards ganging up on immigrants with a GPS and a few clues, arrested him in a tiny village far from Athens after the computer crime squad that should be scouring financial records of tax cheats identified him as the miscreant who mocked Paisios by using the name “Gerontas Pastitsios,” referring to a popular Greek pasta dish. All he really has to do is ask if his accusers are Christian and then say, “Well, forgive me,” and we’ll see if they are.
The real crime about pastitsio is that at many tourist trap tavernas it’s so bad, and overpriced, and you’re tempted to scream, “Jesus Christ! Who the hell made this?” when it’s delivered to your table. But be cautioned not to as it could land you in the hoosegow where a fat man who asks you to bend over will make you find religion pretty fast, or take the Lord’s name in vain and extend your sentence. If we’re going to link religion with food, why not try to lure tourists to Mt. Athos with a “Mad Monks of Moussaka!” tour?
Don’t ask me because it seems like blasphemy if someone is screaming, “Yes! Yes! Oh God Yes!” during intimate moments the Church believes should be saved for marriage, and I can’t tell a monk from a San Diego Padre. The Greek police are spending their time trying to catch blasphemers now because Greeks believe if you don’t stop this anti-God stuff in its tracks the next thing you know people will refuse to pay their taxes, or go to church and cough when there’s too much incense. That’s an insult that should be punishable by kneeling before a priest and begging forgiveness, although you’re taking your chances on that.
Greek law proscribes punishment for imprisonment up to two years for “one who publicly and maliciously and by any means blasphemes God,” but no one apparently bothered to ask Him, especially the provision that includes a penalty of not more than 3,000 euros, a currency they didn’t have back in Jesus’ day in Jerusalem. At least Jesus didn’t have a wife to put up with now that the Vatican said it has de-bunked as a fake an ancient papyrus claiming he was married. Good thing or otherwise he’d have to get used to hearing “Jesus Christ!” all day when he did something wrong, rather unlikely since Jesus Christ was a Superstar.
HELLO, MY NAME IS JOHNNY CASH
Police said that they made the arrest of The Great Blasphemer after “thousands” of complaints from various parts of the world reached the electronic crimes squad, although it happened right after the neo-Nazi nuts of the Golden Dawn party, who like beating immigrants (apparently that’s not a crime in the Bible they read) complained. It’s a wonder they discovered it as they usually spend their time on the computer trying to erase videos of the Holocaust to prove it never happened. Sooner or later God is gonna cut them down anyway, hopefully when they’re praying to Hitler.
This is insanity perpetuated by people who believe there is a man (why not a woman?) living in the clouds (where’d he go on all those sunny days in Greece) and needing a shave, although those gorgeous raiments leave you asking: “Who is God’s tailor?” If you’re going to arrest people for blaspheming in Greece, you can start in the Parliament where they take his name in vain every other sentence.
People have a right to their beliefs, but they don’t have a right to force them on anyone else. Let’s make a deal though without proselytizing: Don’t tell me there’s a god and I won’t tell you there isn’t one, and we can talk about life, baseball, and women, in that order as it’s best never to give advice about love, religion or politics anyway, unless you’re forced to by an unintelligible proposition.
The arrest subjected Greece to even more international ridicule and is beyond parody, but you probably won’t be seeing any traveling road show versions of Pussy Riot in any Greek Cathedrals, or any graffiti that God is Dead. The Humanist Union of Greece, which promotes a secular view, has launched a petition trying to get the accused released but that’s going nowhere because when it comes to anything religious the Greek Orthodox Church usually rules, although it took a licking after condemning Nikos Kazantzakis’ great novel (made into a movie the church didn’t like either) The Last Temptation of Christ.
Kazantzakis had an answer: “You gave me a curse, Holy fathers, I give you a blessing: may your conscience be as clear as mine and may you be as moral and religious as I,” before the Church, in its infinite compassion, anathematized him in 1955. That led him to respond: Στο δικαστήριό σου ασκώ έφεση, ω Kύριε, “I lodge my appeal at your tribunal, Lord,” although we’re still waiting for a ruling from Him, and it’s been 57 years.
In December, 2003, Greece prosecuted Austrian writer Gerhard Haderer and his Greek publisher for his illustrated, humorous book entitled The Life of Jesus, showing God’s son as a hippie, and judging by the popular depictions what else could he have been with hair like that? Fortunately, the courts, who don’t have to answer to God but only politicians, reversed a guilty finding so he wouldn’t have to lodge an appeal at the Lord’s Tribunal and wait 57 years.
There was no word on what the Church felt about this blasphemy arrest but it has a history of going after those who are irreverent, and Greek authorities follow the lead. In June this year, three actors in Athens were arrested for appearing in Terrence McNally’s play Corpus Christi, which depicts Christ and his disciples as homosexuals living in Texas, which is ridiculous because they would have preferred San Francisco or Brooklyn.
Predictably, and undoubtedly without seeing it, the Church condemned the play as “blasphemous, slandering the God-man face of Jesus Christ” and demanded that, “The screenwriters of the play must show the necessary respect to our people’s historic tradition and the teaching of our Church.” You can almost hear God yelling, “Hello sweetheart, get me re-write.”
GOD IS A POTTER, HE WORKS IN MUD
There’s a pretty basic rule, but it’s of decency, and not religion, that you shouldn’t spill ashes in someone else’s parlor and that also dictates that you behave properly in someone else’s territory and abide by their customs and not ridicule them unless you don’t mind provoking a punch in the nose in retaliation.
But that doesn’t extend to hunting down people for parodies and religion is not above it in the right forum, although you’re still free to tell religious jokes at parties. One of my favorites goes like this: In ancient Nazareth a crowd is about to stone to death a woman quaking in fear on the ground when suddenly, Jesus appears and tells them: “Let he among you who is without sin cast the first stone.” One by one, the stones fall out of the people’s hands and the crowd starts to disperse.
Suddenly, a stone comes hurtling through the air and hits the woman on the head, killing her. The crowd gasps. Jesus, looking a little annoyed, parts the crowd and sees the perpetrator, who is smiling in defiance. It’s a woman. He walks over to her, puts his left hand on her shoulder, wipes his face in frustration with his right, looks at her and says, “Mom, if I told you once …..”
The late, great American comic George Carlin pretty much put this stuff to bed in a brilliant piece on “There Is No God,” when he correctly noted that, “Religion has actually convinced people that there’s an invisible man living in the sky who watches everything you do, every minute of every day. And the invisible man has a special list of ten things he does not want you to do. And if you do any of these ten things, he has a special place, full of fire and smoke and burning and torture and anguish, where he will send you to live and suffer and burn and choke and scream and cry forever and ever ’til the end of time!” And as only Carlin could, added: “But he loves you. And he needs money.” But I don’t think 3,000 euros will satisfy him.
But let us let Father Paisios have the last word on this since he’s been the one blasphemed. “As a person becomes more spiritual, so much fewer rights does he has in this life. It is obligatory to be patient, to accept injustice, to accept evil words from others,” he said. As long as it’s not Pastitsio.