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Nov 21 2009

Forced morality

Fundamentalist Christians oftentimes attempt to legislate sexuality — from laws that state marriage is “between one man and one woman”, to laws against women getting abortions even in cases where the mother was raped, or where the baby has no chance of surviving and poses a health risk to the mother. They oftentimes attempt to legislate that their specific religion be established — demanding that they display religious iconography on public or government property without regard for the other religions that are being excluded in the process. They cry and moan that their children are not allowed to pull out their bibles in science class in an attempt to disrupt said class when the teachings run contrary to established religious dogma. They secure laws that allow insurance companies to pay out for their faith-healing nonsense. They get their churches exempt from taxation, then preach politics from the pulpit, sometimes even campaigning on specific issues using church collections.

When secularists (which group includes both god-believers and the godless alike, don’t forget) manage to make some headway in creating laws that establish that certain outgroups, like women, blacks, or homosexuals, are every bit as human and every bit as deserving of the rights afforded to others, for instance where the civil institution of marriage is concerned, the sturm und drang from the fundies nearly drowns out any rational discourse. Extremely well-funded campaigns spring up to insert the newly passed civil equality laws as ballot initiatives, generally worded such that, rather than being presented as a repeal of a civil rights law, the question posed is “do you want to PROTECT MARRIAGE by not letting the filthy gays have them too?” And in the event that these initiatives are recognized for what they are, the fundies have another tactic — complaining that the people on the side of civil liberties are out to “force morality” on them.

Take, for instance, our favorite troll. Over at Relatively Unrelated, the troll bleated thusly:

It is wrong for the godless to force their morality on others. The fact that the godless want to punish people who disagree with them is clearly immoral. This is what scares me about the godless is that it is their way or you get punished.

I’m not sure exactly how the theists are punished for allowing gay marriage. The proposal in question actually specifically says any church that doesn’t want to perform such marriages is allowed to refuse to do so. There isn’t even a carrot for doing so — like funding from the state — that they’re being denied, in this case.

On the other hand, the fundies like our favorite troll would prefer that gays not be afforded the luxuries and institutional rights (and obligations) that come with being married — like, for instance, visitation rights when your partner’s on their deathbead. No, in the theists’ world, this is a punishment to theists — the merest fact that the law might place civil rights for all humans above the right of a homophobe to go on being homophobic, is punishment against the homophobe! As Dan said, won’t someone think of the bigots!?

No, I’d prefer not to think of the bigots. I’d prefer a government that is not allowed to legislate what happens in one’s bedroom, nor with whom. I’d prefer a government that is not allowed to ban medically indicated, life-saving procedures, based on the mistaken notion that life begins at conception. I’d prefer a government that is not allowed to decide what kind of people are allowed to enter into a civil contract with one another. Whether the NUMBER of people entering into this contract matters, is a topic for another conversation, but to say that THIS person can only enter into a contract with THAT person based on some physical characteristic of those two people, is discriminatory and wrong. And I don’t even need a foundational text to tell me so — rather, my own finely-tuned sense of right and wrong (which I have come by through evolutionary means, by the way) tells me so.

In every civil rights movement, the people on the wrong side of the argument (and oftentimes it is the religious!) are never directly affected by the rights being afforded to others. They even often admit as much. How is this fight, the fight for gay people to have the same rights as straight people, any different?

When viewed through the lens of history, with the major example being the religious fighting against the repeal of anti-miscegenation laws, it’s only a matter of time before the religious can no longer force their twisted brand of morality (as derived from their very old books, rather than their innate senses of right and wrong) on the rest of us. For those of you directly affected by this repression of civil liberties, I understand how it can seem like it’s been long enough already. Just, take heart in the fact that the fundamentalists responsible for creating the anti-civil-liberties environment are a very tiny minority even among their own proclaimed religious identification, and that the population of people that vote against civil liberties is rapidly aging and the population that’s replacing them, as they’re much younger, have many, many more electoral cycles that they can influence.

I’ve mentioned before that it’s been scientifically proven that altruism is only natural, as it’s been evolutionarily selected-for. We humans, however, are not mere “meat-puppets”. We have an advantage over other species in that we can directly suppress our urges. Homosexuals that believe God hates what they are, can actively work to suppress their homosexual tendencies; likewise, fundamentalists like our favorite troll have the same aforementioned natural proclivity to want to help everyone that the rest of us do, but their religious texts have twisted how they view right and wrong. They therefore suppress their innate need to treat everyone as equals, and, when viewed through the lens of their religious beliefs, have the need to “help” everyone by making sure that everyone believes the same things they do. Only once they’ve converted someone do they feel as though that person has truly been helped. Only once converted, do they get that “good feeling” that comes from being altruistic.

Where secularists are content with people compartmentalizing their religious beliefs away from governmental interference in peoples’ lives, and making sure everyone has the same legal rights regardless of race, creed, sexuality or faith, the fundies are driven to teach everyone about their faith in schools, display their religious iconography in their government, and take away the rights of those they think are evil and/or influenced by their make-believe evil deities according to what they think their good deities want them to. And that’s pretty well why, in a nutshell, they feel the need to legislate away people’s rights and convert everyone to their religion.

8 comments

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  1. 1
    Julie

    Great blog post!!!

  2. 2
    Tyler DiPietro

    American reactionary movements in general never tire of playing the underdog. No matter how disingenuous this may seem, it’s not impossible for some people to be so bug-shit delusional that they actually think THE MAN is oppressing them by allowing there to be gay weddings.

  3. 3
    Mike Haubrich, FCD

    It doesn’t make any sense, and as I was trying to say in my own post, homosexuality is a form of blasphemy; offensive only to those who want to be offended For their god.

  4. 4
    Jason Thibeault

    Well, it’s only natural for them to be offended on behalf of their god, since their god is non-existent, and therefore so impotent as to be incapable of being offended or of doing anything about the offenses himself. Really, all they’re doing is taking offense on behalf of the bigots that existed around 1675 years ago, who were themselves offended by homosexuality so they made sure the bigoted writings “made the cut” into their Bible.

  5. 5
    Paul S.

    I agree with most of this, but keep in mind that the idea that religion is strictly a matter of private conscience that has no place in government or politics is a pretty recent one, historically. Historically, public morality, private morality, and religion tended to be seen as closely connected and interdependent. “Bug-shit delusional” or not, that has been a powerful idea (or meme, if you prefer) in the history of most civilizations, and I doubt that it will lose all of its power anytime soon.

    Even the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution was probably not originally intended to separate church and state to the degree that people use that term today. It basically said that the Federal government could not “establish” any particular religious group, which meant using tax money to pay the salaries of clergy of a particular denomination or requiring people to follow a particular religion in order to hold public office. It did not prohibit individual states from supporting an established church, and a few continued to do so.

    I am pretty skeptical about the idea that evolution itself leads directly to a sense of ethics or morality, even if a sense of altruism is related to evolution. There are certainly evolutionary reasons to be selfish as well as altruistic, and many ideas about right and wrong vary considerably across cultures, so I suspect that ideas about right and wrong are still determined first of all by culture, of which religion is a part.

  6. 6
    Theo Bromine

    Some years ago, when I was a Christian (albeit very liberal, and a strong secularist), I talked to a fundagelical Christian co-worker who had filed a complaint with Human Resources when our company extended medical and other spousal benefits to cover partners in same-sex couples. I asked him why, and he explained, in all seriousness, that the fact that the same-sex couples’ relationship was treated the same as his “godly Christian marriage” was religious discrimination against him.

  7. 7
    Jason Thibeault

    Paul: Ethics themselves, no. Obviously we have evolved to be especially good at communication, and at social interactions (which probably owes in no small part to that altruism-is-natural sense). This has had some special side-effects for our species. As adaptable as we are individually, it is the sum total of humanity and its exponential yearly improvement via the sciences, which was only achievable through cooperation — the whole “standing on shoulders of giants” thing — that has allowed us to short-circuit the natural selection pressures in so many areas as we have. We’ve almost gotten to the stage where we can self-direct our evolution process, in fact. Not that I’m a techno-rapturist or anything — that’s about as silly as theism.

    At about this stage, it would be nice to step back and set up some objective moralities — religions were useful during the tribal ages, because they provided quick and easy moral frameworks for people to adhere to in absence of education. Now that we’ve GOT education, and we have a pretty damn good handle on how this universe might actually work, we have the breathing room necessary to go ahead and start setting those objective moralities on paper.

    And in a way we already have. While the whole argument about moralities is a negotiation between several elements of society, some of whom “conserve” the old ways which have gotten us as far as we have (and those values that we now recognize as repugnant, like racism, sexism and homophibia), it’s good to realize that some people are entrenched in positions that are detrimental, objectively, to humanity. Positions like theism, or any of the prejudices that come directly from thinking you have an imaginary friend that tells you that you’re better than others (especially those “others” that have different color skin, or like the same gender as themselves, or other such heinous crimes against said imaginary friend in contravention to said imaginary friend’s imaginary rules). These objective morals would be, naturally, what deals the least amount of pain to, and what confers the most egalitarian rights to, all members of humanity. Regardless of race, creed, sexuality, or even belief system.

    The fact that some theists find these objective morals to be anathema to their belief systems will lead to splintering — some theists’ churches will accept these egalitarian demands, some will become fundamentalists and entrench themselves as far into their anti-reality positions as is demanded by the Dunning-Kruger effect Dan J mentions so often.

    Theo: it never fails to amaze me how someone else having civil rights somehow impinges on a theist’s “right to be exceptional” — more rightly identified as, their right to be a bigot.

    Every civil rights movement starts with law being passed down, to force the backwash to accept that it is unacceptable to treat [blacks / women / gays] differently. There is pushback from the conservative types who want to “conserve” their old ways. Sometimes this pushback is significant enough to delay the egalitarian efforts. Oftentimes, the populace “grows out of” their conservative position, and when the older generation with their prejudices against said outgroup no longer hold sway over the politics of the age, then real social change happens.

    It’s all a matter of time. And pressure… don’t forget to keep applying pressure. Change won’t happen if you aren’t trying to make it happen, whether the conditions are ripe for it or not.

    Damn, this was almost long enough for a post of its own. I keep doing that. Perhaps I’ll clean this up and promote to its own post later.

  8. 8
    Dan J

    The troll is gone, banished from the realm. Well, from my realm now, as well as yours. He’ll probably meet the same fate at other places.

    Damn, this was almost long enough for a post of its own. I keep doing that. Perhaps I’ll clean this up and promote to its own post later.

    I hate it when I do that, then make some huge post of its own with outlined comments and notes. It seems like it gets away from me sometimes.

  1. 9
    Why I do what I do, and where I get my moral code « Lousy Canuck

    [...] what you think and do, changed other aspects your behaviour to match. This is fine, for you, but cannot be exported to others. And others might have found moral teachings they found to be good, that you and I would find [...]

  2. 10
    The Pope is NOT a moral authority. « Lousy Canuck

    [...] religious nutbags like to complain about being forced to conform to society’s set of morals, they are always [...]

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