Medium: Public Art
Artist: Thomas Aikenhead (1676 or 1678 - 1697)
Confronting Bodies: The General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, and the Scottish Parliament
Dates of Action: 1696-1697
Location: Edinburgh, Scotland
Description of Artwork: Aikenhead was a student at Edinburgh University who freely criticized the church and the Bible. In one of his known documents he described his "insatiable inclination to truth." He called theology "a rapsidie of faigned and ill-invented nonsense." He also referred to hell as a place he wished he could visit on a cold day.
The Incident: During the 15th through the 17th centuries the Scottish church and law considered blasphemy as severe a crime as treason. His classmates at the University informed on him and he was brought to trial. Aikenhead's indictment says that he denied the doctrine of the Trinity, referred to Jesus as a magician, and "that the Holy Scriptures were stuffed with such madness, nonsense, and contradictions, that he admired the stupidity of the world in being so long deluded by them."
Results of Incident: Aikenhead was hung in January 1697, after apparently recanting, with a bible in his hand; he was either 18 or 20 years old.
Source: Censorship, A World Encyclopedia, ed. D. Jones; Wikipedia and other internet sources.