Religious offense

Action which offends religious sensibilities and arouses serious negative emotions

Religious offense is any action which offends religious sensibilities and arouses serious negative emotions in people with strong belief.


Different religions are sensitive to different things in different measure, particularly such topics as sexuality, infancy, society, and warfare. Religious offense can be caused deliberately or by religious intolerance, especially between specific religious beliefs regarding "sacred truth". However every religion is essentially a set of beliefs conveyed from generation to generation which are, by religious definition, held to be immutable truths by that religion's believers or followers. Anything that tends to weaken or break that chain of authoritative continuity is likely to be offensive and in some jurisdictions severely punishable.

The secular belief that freedom of speech and the absence of censorship should allow religious practices or beliefs to be criticized is also a cause of conflict. The use or misuse of religious paraphernalia, particularly scripture may also cause offense.


Traditionally there are three uniquely religious offenses (acts which cause religious offense):[citation needed]

Any challenge to divine authority may be homologous to treason and attract similar serious punishment, typically the death penalty.[1][2][3]

More recently

There is a fine line between secular ideas of fair comment and religious offence caused by questioning the veracity of divine revelation.

LittleBigPlanet, a game which included two short scriptural phrases, was considered offensive by Muslims.[4]

More recently the term is used in modern laws which aim to promote religious tolerance by forbidding hate crime such as the British Racial and Religious Hatred Act 2006.


Blasphemy laws were once almost universal, and are still common in states with strong religious traditions, but such restrictions have been extinguished in most secular jurisdictions that incorporate the principles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). Article 18 of the UDHR allows: "the right to "freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance"; and Article 19 allows: "the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers". With these two articles, Article 18 of the UDHR allows people to hold and express religious ideas and other beliefs or a lack of religious belief that may be offensive to others or to the majority of citizens and Article 19 explicitly mandates freedom of speech which permits citizens to criticize leaders in a way that some religious people may find seriously offensive.

Some extreme religious leaders in such secular societies campaign for the offence of blasphemy to be reinstated to enforce respect for their various religious beliefs above any scientific or moral challenge.[5]

See also


  1. ^ Owens, Erik. Religion and the Death Penalty: A Call for Reckoning. ISBN 978-0802821720.
  2. ^ Hameed, Salman (11 November 2012). "Blasphemy laws are darkening Pakistan's skies".
  3. ^ Dr. Khaled Abou El Fadl. "THE DEATH PENALTY, MERCY AND ISLAM: A CALL FOR RETROSPECTION". Scholar of the House. Retrieved 12 November 2012.
  4. ^ "Sony Playstation game Little Big Planet delayed after anti-Muslim claims". Telegraph newspaper UK. 20 October 2008. Retrieved 18 December 2012.
  5. ^ "Islamic states to reopen quest for global blasphemy law". Chicago Tribune. 19 September 2012. Retrieved 14 December 2012.