Given that there’s a serious, government proposal to criminalise speech which is “likely to stir up” religious hatred – defined as “hatred against a group of persons defined by reference to religious belief or lack of religious belief” – it is about time that we started collecting a list of sacred books which contain passages which meet that test.
I’m asking readers of this blog to help me to compile that list, either in the comments section of this post or by emailing contributions to me.
What I’m looking for is any religious text which meets the following tests:
1. It form a part of the established canon of a particular religion, or a significant sect within a religion. Therefore, I will accept the commentaries of Maimonides, or the writings of Luther. However, I am not interested in what an Imam in Harlow said during a sermon two years ago.
2. The passage in question must either vilify or encourage its audience to take action against members of another specific or generic group. Relatively anodine statements that members of a particular religion are better than members of other religions traditions do not qualify. However, criticism expressed in intemperate language, and insults directed towards heretics, unbelievers and members of specific existing religions do meet the test of “likelihood to stir up religious hatred” and will be included.
3. I would like to include, wherever possible, the explanations given by mainstream religious authorities for the text in question. It is important to know whether religious commentary over the centuries has “explained away” or otherwise played down the significance of the passage in question, or whether clerics have taken it as a text of central importance. Where religious tradition is divided, I would like to reflect that fact.
To kick off, my contribution is a passage from the Zoroastrian text, the Shkand Gumanig Vizar
Muslims get off relatively lightly. The only statement even vaguely likely to incite hatred is a preface to the summary of islamic thought which is characterised as “the inconsistency of their twaddle”. In fairness, its hard to see it as incitement.
Judaism does less well. The Torah is described as “full of delusion … a story out of all its stupidity”. The explanation of the fall of Adam is characterised as “in every way, a senseless, ignorant, and foolish statement”.
Worst of all, the writer stops short in his analysis at Genesis. Why?
“On this subject, on account of tediousness, thus much is considered complete.”
Christianity is characterised as “a feeble story” full of “inconsistency, unbounded statements, and incoherent disputations”
The Shkand goes on to say, of the Virgin Mary’s claim to have been impregnated by an angel:
“where is the evidence that the woman spoke truthfully? … Now you should also observe that the origin of their religion has all come forth from this testimony of a woman, which was given by her about her own condition.”
He’s also quite rude about the Manicheans, as is to be expected.
Now, you might think that this is just robust, knockabout debate with members of other faiths, couched in somewhat intemperate language. However, do not forget that the Zoroastrian High Priest Karter actively persecuted Christians, Jews and Manicheans. Theory flowed into practice.
Any more examples from other faiths?