All of us are so immersed in religious nonsense that even skeptics like me take these religious rules at face value and do not probe them enough to show how unsustainable they are in modern society. These rules were invented by people living in much more primitive times and they simply cannot be sustained today. A little thought will soon uncover ways to expose how ridiculous they are.
Even though I consciously know that many of the rules that religions have are silly and have no rational basis and are perpetuated purely because some ignorant people back in the dark ages, likely the most intolerant of their times and pursuing an agenda, happened to write them down in some manuscript that became part of a book that some other people later on decided was holy and the word of their god, it is the power of the religious culture that we live in that we do not realize exactly how extremely irrational and even unworkable they are. Those flaws become exposed only when one starts asking more penetrating questions.
For example, take the issue of the offense that some Muslim speakers have to speaking before audiences that have mixed gender seating that has become an issue in British universities. Of course, a request for seating separated by gender is absurd and should have been rejected out of hand.
But the group of university vice-chancellors that make up the body known as UUK have ruled that if an invited ‘ultra-orthodox’ speaker has ‘genuinely held’ religious beliefs that prevent him from speaking in front of audiences in which the genders are mixed, then his wishes must be accommodated as long as the method of separation does not disadvantage one gender. So an auditorium in which the separation line runs from front to back is fine but one that runs side-to-side is not allowed.
I kind of assumed that the gender-separation rule must have some kind of basis for the religious believer to be so concerned about enforcing it that they fear annoying their god over it. But even allowing for a religious lens to be applied, it makes no sense as soon as one starts looking more closely at it.
For example, what exactly is the problem with the act of sitting together? If the hall is packed and some have to stand, must the standing area also be segregated? I have been at meetings where, because of the crowd, some people sat in the aisles. Since this is now supposedly gender-neutral territory separating the two groups, who gets to sit there?
Also, how far before and after the program must the separation take effect? Must men and women enter by separate doors and walk along separate hallways and aisles to get to their separate seats? Must they arrive and leave in separate vehicles and sit separately in public transport?
Why can genders mix on the sidewalks and shops and workplaces and movie theaters and waiting rooms but it is only in the room where the religious speaker is holding forth that this becomes a big taboo? Is god only present at such occasions and does she/he/it only care about public talks?
Or is it the case that the speaker is not concerned about the spiritual purity of the audience members but about his own soul and that it is he who is in danger of eternal damnation if he speaks to mixed groups. But does that mean that his soul is safe as long as he does not see the audience? If so, then why can’t he talk with his back to the audience or from behind a screen or from another room or even off-site, given that modern technology allows for such things?
Or is it the case that even if he is not physically present in the room, the mere awareness that his words are being heard by mixed seated groups puts his soul in danger? In that case, does he forbid any recordings of his words since that enables him be heard by mixed groups without his physical presence?
Inquiring minds want to know.
And of course, the binary thinking of religious people now faces the conundrum of how to treat transgender people. Do they accept that the gender of a person can change or do they think it is fixed at birth? In which section should they sit?
It seems to me that people who think these accommodations are wrong have a way of exposing how silly they are without even causing a ruckus. What they should do is to encourage as many transvestite people as possible to attend, and encourage others who are not transvestites to join them in a fun evening of obvious cross-dressing so that the event organizers have the problem of deciding in which section they should be seated since in many cases they might not know who is a cross-dresser and who is not. It would be awkward to ask people what their ‘real’ gender is and even if they were given an answer or simply guessed, that would not solve their dilemma. If they are placed according to gender, then the speaker will see an audience that looks like it is mixed gender seating. If they are seated according to dress, then the audience will have mixed gender seating. This is the kind of stunt that Michael Moore is so good at organizing.
These kinds of discriminatory religious rules can survive overt hostility because such a reaction can serve to create a sense of aggrieved persecution, an emotion that religious people love to feel. Their Achilles heel is mockery.