The Art of Blasphemy: Free Inquiry on Creative Expressions of Religious Doubt and Ridicule

Sensibilities will be offended, the divine will be ridiculed, and the sacred will be profaned, as Free Inquiry magazine shines a spotlight on the art of blasphemy — creative expressions of religious doubt, alienation, and even outright mockery. And violating what is perhaps the most sensitive and dangerous of religious taboos, emblazoned on the cover of this issue is one artist’s startling and satirical take on the likeness of the Prophet Muhammad.

The Prophet makes several other appearances within these pages, notably in the best-known of the controversial “Danish cartoons” of Muhammad that sparked violent protest throughout the Muslim world. In 2006, Free Inquiry was banned from North American bookstore chains when it was the first western publication to print four of the controversial images. “Blasphemy, they say, is a victimless crime,” writes editor Tom Flynn. “Yet blasphemers themselves too often become its victims. Blasphemy will retain a home—and a defender—in Free Inquiry.”

Two celebrated artists, painter and curator Bruce Adams and performance artist Pat Oleszko, contribute fascinating reflections on their work as blasphemous artists. Adams refers to himself as a “Jeffrey Dahmer of blasphemy” for his serial offenses against religious sensibilities, telling how his journey away from faith inspired his art, and weighing in on other creators’ blasphemous works, such Piss Christ, a piece that sent the religious right into fits of outrage.

Sara Ali, an ex-Muslim journalist, explores the blurry space between the right to blaspheme and the wisdom of doing so. “Blasphemers should ask themselves if their content is likely only to incite hate and intolerance,” she writes. “If so, is creative expression an adequate justification?”

In an original work of blasphemy, award-winning author John Roberts contributes a short story about five friends from different faiths, and one bartender who uses their meal orders to confound — and perhaps enlighten — them all.

Also in this issue: Part 2 of Free Inquiry’s “symposium in print” exploring the role of naturalism in secular humanist philosophy, featuring contributions from Stephen Law, Susan Haack, Robert Frodeman and Adam Briggle, James A. Haught, Joe Nickell, and John W. Loftus.

Look for the October/November 2017 issue of Free Inquiry – featuring the shining place, if not quite the face, of the Prophet – on shelves now, or subscribe in print or on the web at secularhumanism.org/fi.

# # #

Free Inquiry is a bimonthly magazine, published by the Center for Inquiry in association with the Council for Secular Humanism, featuring thoughtful and provocative commentary from such leading political and social commentators as Ophelia Benson, Greta Christina, Faisal Saeed Al Mutar, and Russell Blackford. Launched in 1980, Free Inquiry has a paid circulation of approximately 34,000 worldwide.

The Center for Inquiry (CFI) is a nonprofit educational, advocacy, and research organization headquartered in Amherst, New York, with executive offices in Washington, D.C. It is also home to the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason & Science, the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry, and the Council for Secular Humanism. The Center for Inquiry strives to foster a secular society based on reason, science, freedom of inquiry, and humanist values. Visit CFI on the web at www.centerforinquiry.net.