THE ROMANTIC PORTRAIT of the blasphemer that I have just painted does not apply to us, not least owing to the success of blasphemy in the West, where it was also called Enlightenment. Diderot needed courage; Monty Python did not. We are beyond shock. The giving and taking of offense is the very structure of our political system, even if we abuse Madison’s privilege. Censors and inquisitors have been replaced by watchdog groups, whose day job is umbrage. We live on the other side of the revolution in decency known as secularization, though religions still thrive in our midst; and the panic of some of those faiths, their ludicrous anxiety about freedom of religion in America, is a measure of their awareness that the spiritual environment has forever changed. I can offer them only the thin consolation that the new order has also robbed blasphemy of its exhilaration. It is not a danger; it is another opinion.

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