Which is worse, blasphemy or un-belief? In other words, which of two men will recieve the more severe punishment- he who believes in the wrong God, or he who believes in no God at all? Many religions hold the belief that the man who believes in the wrong God will recieve the greatest punishment, and I was wondering if this held true for Christianity, or if an answer was available at all.
While there is a possible indication that there may be degrees of punishment (Hebrews 10:29-"Of how much sorer punishment, suppose ye, shall he be thought worthy, who hath trodden under foot the Son of God, and hath counted the blood of the covenant, wherewith he was sanctified, an unholy thing, and hath done despite unto the Spirit of grace?"), in general the Bible makes no distinction between bad sins and worse sins. Paul points out in Romans that the Jews, who believed in the One God, were no better or worse than the people of the nations who did not believe. He concludes (Romans 3:23) that "all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God." There is no difference between one who believes in God and yet sins and one who doesn't believe in God.
In the context of Matthew 12:22-37, blasphemy is equated to unbelief. There is blasphemy (evil speech) against other men, and there is blasphemy of the spirit, which denies God. But the strongest language in the prophets, and in the passage from Hebrews quoted above, is against those who believed in God and then chose to believe in other gods. It is equated to adultery.
Essentially those who read the Bible get the understanding that there is punishment for sin, and while there may be fine degrees of punishment none of it is to be desired. I have been reading Dante's Divine Comedy. While I don't agree with his theology I will use some of the punishments he puts in the "levels" of Hell as an example. Which is worse, being submerged in boiling pitch, being put in a hole head downward and having fire on the soles of your feet for eternity, or having fire rain down on you with no shelter available? It seems to me that each punishment would be beyond bearing. So it is that the punishment of the unbeliever and the punishment of the blasphemous may differ in degree, if at all, but not such that one would prefer the one to the other.
There is where Christianity differs from some other religions. If one sins he is guilty. Everyone sins, so everyone is guilty. In Christianity, however, the price for sin has been paid. "But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin." (1 John 1:7) The choice is not whether one punishment is worse than another, but whether we are cleansed of sin or not.