J.S. Mill on Blasphemy

Below is a brief passage from an essay written by J.S. Mill against application of Blasphemy law in England. The essay is occasioned by the prosecution of Richard Carlile and was published in 1883. Notice the rhetoric of Mill’s argument against the prosecution of Blasphemous in England. Defending Christianity against blasphemous prosecutions, he does not lose the ‘religious grounds’ to the advocates of prosecutions. The question being raised is this: Are these prosecutions good for the well-being of the community, for the prosperity of the country, and for the health of the religion which has served the country in many ways.

Yet if such prosecutions be necessary for the well-being of the community; if the prosperity of Englad requires that some martyrs should be made by the religion for which so many have been made in former times; then, by all means, let them continue and be multiplied, and let Christianity, which benefits the country in so many other ways, also benefit by the sacrifice of its own character for mercy, toleration, and consistency. It is, however, well worth considering whether we be reduced to this dilemma.

This text made me think of a condition that Ayesha Jalal points out:

The tragedy of the new breed of Muslim secular modernists in India quite as much as in Pakistan is their lack of facility in Islamic learning. Better trained in Marxist and Weberian paradigms than in the Quran, their pens are not necessarily more powerful than the sword.[1]

Is the dilemma here worth pondering?

[1] Jalal, A. (2001). Self and Sovereignty. New York: Routledge. P.574


About Irfan

I am an independent researcher and blogger interested in everything under the sun, but more so in the philosophy and history of education and education reform generally, and specifically in the so-called post colonial contexts


  1. Future of Blasphemy | Just questions! - 11/09/2012

    […] of a religious discourse, it will be heard differently. Won’t it? Recall the argument of J.S. Mill against blasphemy that I alluded to in a previous post, which was posited more as a defence of Christian values. Mill’s critique was a rhetorical […]

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