Pick Wayne's Brain

September 13, 2014

This Week in Conservative Christian Crazy Talk

In a recent blog post filled with straw men and false equivalencies, Francis Cardinal George (not his name at birth) made the common Conservative Christian mistake of equating laws that require to you to let people who don’t practice your faith to do things of which your faith disapproves with you not being allowed to freely practice your religion. The two have nothing to do with each other. After starting out with a story that seemed to treat religious belief as historical fact, George went on to claim that the government had tried to take on the role of religion.

There was always a quasi-religious element in the public creed of the country. It lived off the myth of human progress, which had little place for dependence on divine providence. It tended to exploit the religiosity of the ordinary people by using religious language to co-opt them into the purposes of the ruling class. Forms of anti-Catholicism were part of its social DNA. It had encouraged its citizens to think of themselves as the creators of world history and the managers of nature, so that no source of truth outside of themselves needed to be consulted to check their collective purposes and desires. But it had never explicitly taken upon itself the mantle of a religion and officially told its citizens what they must personally think or what “values” they must personalize in order to deserve to be part of the country. Until recent years.

Actually that’s not correct. The laws we pass are supposed to reflect the mores of our Society. (Note, I did say “supposed to.” Clearly we never agreed to let corporations who make billions of dollars in profits pay no federal taxes to the government who made their success possible.) When a government passes laws that say things like “You can’t kill anyone except in self-defense,” or “You can’t take things that don’t belong to you,” we are saying what values you should have. And that’s the way it’s always been. Just because a law is passed that permits people to do things your religion wouldn’t permit you to do does not mean we are making your religion illegal. Nor does it mean we are forcing you to do anything other than live and let live. I often hear religious conservatives complain when the government decides you have permission to do something, that the government is requiring you to do that something. And that’s completely and totally wrong. And it shows in their misguided belief that because the government is letting you worship whichever god you choose to worship, that you must choose a god to worship. They seem to forget that ti also means we are free to NOT worship any god, if we so choose. This is because they have the erroneous belief that in order to have a moral center, you must have a belief in God. Nothing could be further from the truth. I am an atheist, but that doesn’t mean I lack a moral code by which to live. My personal motto (and i didn’t invent it) is to treat other people the way I would want them to treat me. (Sound familiar?) I don’t need some trumped up fear of hell fire and damnation to know that this is the right thing to do.

But George’s real problem seems to be about sex, and why should that surprise anyone? After all, a man who took a vow of celibacy for his own personal religious reasons (one of which includes belonging to an organization with a history of covering up sexual child abuse by a small percentage of its members) is the perfect person to be standing in judgment of the sex lives of others.

In recent years, society has brought social and legislative approval to all types of sexual relationships that used to be considered “sinful.” Since the biblical vision of what it means to be human tells us that not every friendship or love can be expressed in sexual relations, the church’s teaching on these issues is now evidence of intolerance for what the civil law upholds and even imposes. What was once a request to live and let live has now become a demand for approval. The “ruling class,” those who shape public opinion in politics, in education, in communications, in entertainment, is using the civil law to impose its own form of morality on everyone. We are told that, even in marriage itself, there is no difference between men and women, although nature and our very bodies clearly evidence that men and women are not interchangeable at will in forming a family. Nevertheless, those who do not conform to the official religion, we are warned, place their citizenship in danger.

I call straw man! It is not true that legislative approval has been brought “to all types of sexual relationships.” Only one, and that’s same-sex marriage. Just because ignorant buffoons have equated homosexuality with bestiality and pedophilia does not mean he has a valid point. Those people have no idea what they’re talking about, and their viewpoints should not be treated as perfectly valid. Of course they have the right to hold those views, and the rest of us have the right to hold people with those views in contempt. And, FTR, we tried the “live and let live” approach to the rights of the LGBT community and it didn’t work out so great for them. It was mainly in the “let live” part where Society failed, and as a result we decided to tell people what values to personalize, in this case, the value being to “Love one another.” Being gay is not a choice, so it’s not true that gay people are willfully being immoral by being gay. The whole “Hate the sin, love the sinner” attitude doesn’t work if you believe gay people are just doing it on purpose because they lack morals and, therefore, shouldn’t have the same rights as everyone else. Because you’re still hating the sinner.

He goes on to lament that when a recent SCOTUS ruling went “against the State religion” (again, a false premise, which makes the rest of his argument meaningless), it brought on a crisis of belief for many Catholics, apparently because the Huffington Post raised “concerns about the compatibility between being a Catholic and being a good citizen.” (I tried to find the specific article that said this, but he only gave a date and not a title.) Actually I can answer that one. In the United States of America, an officially secular nation, your responsibility is to be a good citizen before being a good Catholic. If you want to live some place where being a good Catholic is your first duty, then move to The Vatican. I hear they’re big on Catholicism there. But the First Amendment not only allows you the freedom to practice the religion of your choice, it also disallows the government from interfering with that right so long as your religious exercise does not interfere with the religious freedom of others. That’s the part Conservative Christians don’t seem to get, especially the ones who call for our laws being based on the Bible. You see, there are many, many different versions of the Bible, and they are not all translated the same way. Nor are they interpreted the same way. So my first question to anyone who thinks our laws should be based on “the Bible,” is “Which Bible?” The second question would be, “Why that one and no other?” And, of course, my third and fourth questions would be, “Why would a secular nation want to do something that? How is that any different than deciding to base our laws on the Q’uran?”

Maybe I shouldn’t ask Tony Perkins, of the “Family That Looks Like Mine” Research Council, that question. “Islam is such a danger, Perkins explained, that Muslim-Americans should not have the same religious freedoms as other citizens.” The article from Right Wing Watch continues:

Perkins, who was responding to a caller who worried that mosques in her hometown are harboring terrorist sleeper cells, said the vast majority of Muslims who aren’t committing acts of violence are all phony Muslims who “don’t really believe the Quran or practice it as its written.”

He warned that Islam isn’t necessarily protected under the Constitution because it “tears at the fabric of our society” and undermines “ordered liberty,” adding that Islam is “not just a religion, it’s an economic system, it’s a judicial system and it’s a military system.”

“Those things will tear and destroy the fabric of a democracy,” he said. “So we have to be very clear about our laws and restrain those things that will harm the whole. We are a nation that was founded on Judeo-Christian principles, that’s the foundation of our nation, not Islam, but the Judeo-Christian God.”

Where to begin pointing out the flaws in that statement? This may come as a surprise to the conservative ones, but many Christians everywhere don’t practice Christianity as it is written. I suspect that many adherents to many religions, particularly the ones involving deities who never seem to catch you in the act when you’re doing things of which they disapprove, don’t practice their religions “as written.” And why should they? Most of them were written a long, long time ago, when we didn’t have modern things like indoor plumbing or means of communicating with people around the world virtually instantly. They were written at a time when the vast majority of people only knew the immediate world around them, and never traveled to see how other people live. They were written at a time when most people were illiterate, and relied on the clergy to tell them what the holy books said they should do. We know more, communicate better, and are better educated, as a whole, than we were when the holy books were written (by men.) Why are we still trying to do things the way we did them then? Despite all the evidence that what was once thought to be of supernatural origins were actually quite easily explainable in non-supernatural terms, without anything ever once going in the other direction, why do people still persist in believing all the stories they’ve been told about how a god created the universe and everything in it just for us?

As for Islam being not just a religion, but an economic, judicial and military system, so what? (The Bible addresses all those topics, too.) It doesn’t matter because the First Amendment gives us the freedom to practice whichever religion we want, not whatever economic system, judicial system, or military system we want. Laws can still be passed that govern all aspects of the economy, the judicial system, and the military forces. Sharia Law is never going to take over in the United States any more than the laws of the Bible (mostly Old Testament stuff) will take over. And the day either of them do is the day, by definition, this country stops being the United States of America.

Lastly, there seems to be some chicken-and-egg confusion over the nature of our nation’s founding. The USA under our constitutional form of government was founded as, and this is totally indisputable, a secular nation, in contrast to just about every other country on the planet that all had at least one official religion. It’s not that our founding principles were Judeo-Christian, it’s that Judeo-Christian principles happen to match those on which our nation was founded. Nothing in the Constitution, nor in the Amendments that followed, requires any citizen to participate in any religious exercise, which is completely contrary to Judeo-Christian principles which demand you pray to, or show respect to, your god every day. Perkins could not have been more wrong.

But maybe Perkins shouldn’t ask Michele Bachmann about Islam either. Bachmann would rather take the word of a lunatic murderer than listen to someone who knows more about the subject than she (or anyone who voted for her) will ever know. Just because the members of Islamic State claim they are doing what they’re doing in the name of Islam is no reason to believe a word they say. Were Michael Griffin, Paul Hill, John Salvi, Eric Rudolph, James Kopp or Scott Roeder acting in the name of Christianity when they murdered doctors and their workers over the issue of abortion? I think most Christians would disown what those people did, just as the vast majority of Muslims reject what Islamic State is doing in the name of their religion. And President Obama never claimed to be the “theologian-in-chief,” especially as he is a constitutional law professor and he knows such a title would violate the constitution. I honestly don’t think Bachmann knows that.

The vast majority of Muslims in the world are not only peaceful people, they’re your friends and neighbors. They are no more violent or a threat to your community than you are. And the odds are that you both worship the same god but by different names. Should they be afraid of you? I know I am. The unabashed ignorance and hatred of the Conservative Christians frightens me, because it simply isn’t grounded in reality and they are so passionate about how they think the rest of us should live. They aren’t directly killing non-followers of their religion, but they are indirectly killing them by getting women’s health clinics, many run by Planned Parenthood, closed down because they wish to provide constitutionally-protected abortion and contraceptive services. Such clinics do more than abortion. Most of their work involves gynecological exams and cancer screenings. And in many rural areas, these are the only clinics many women can afford to go to. Just because an expensive hospital or private practice is nearby doesn’t mean they are “available” to you. If you’re poor, you can’t afford to go to any place but a free clinic, or a Planned Parenthood clinic. If they’re all closed down because of right wing lies and misinformation, those women have lost their health care services.

That’s the simple reality, and it’s one of many reasons why we need to stop thinking of health care as a for-profit industry. But conservatives, who are selfish people by nature, refuse to understand how anyone would want to do something if there was no chance of making a lot of money doing it. They lack empathy and could never do something for the sake of altruism. It’s just not who they are. Why they continue to think of themselves as followers of the teachings of Jesus is beyond me. I don’t remember hearing about Jesus being such a selfish dick.

1 Comment »

  1. Reblogged this on APS Newswire.

    Comment by Dorothy Durio Collins — September 13, 2014 @ 8:24 PM

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