In a post at Religion Dispatches last month, Austin Dacey argues vehemently that religious satire is nothing new. Before the 2007 Danish cartoons depicting Mohammad stirred global controversy, another controversial image rocked European debate, one showing, crudely, the birth of the Pope—and that was back in the 16th century. Who commissioned the work? None other than Martin Luther:
The debate over cartoon depictions of the Prophet Muhammad is often framed as a clash between free speech and religious attitudes. But it is just as much a clash between conflicting religious attitudes, and the freedom at stake is not only freedom of expression but freedom of religion. For while Luther was surely engaging in offensive speech, he was also exercising a right of freedom of conscience, which included the right to dissent from Catholic orthodoxy. Debased though Luther’s rhetoric may have been, there was no way to be a reformer without offending the hegemon. It’s a story as old as religion.
For Dacey, the public mocking of one’s faith is a form of baptism through fire into the church of American civil religion. But does, or should, religious freedom really protect the right to impugn another’s faith?
Read more here.