Atheists Want Religious Freedom, Too!

There are a number of bills in various states of enactment across the country with the claimed purpose of advancing religious freedom. One of the latest is a Mississippi law that allows anyone to deny services to members of the LGBT community, including some government services. As I write this, the controversial law has yet to be signed by the Mississippi governor. And just this week, the Austin American Statesman reports that Texas also may be entering the fray with a bill of its own.

It must be said that these laws are nothing more than government permission to discriminate. But it’s more than that. Believers want to have the freedom to discriminate without any consequences. They don’t even want the taint of the word “discrimination,” so the legislators enacting these laws will swear that they’re not discriminatory, though they seem to single out gays and lesbians based on “lifestyle” or some religious right code word. Supporters of these bills want to go to their churches as part of their communities and hold their heads up high and be seen as the upright and moral people that they mistakenly believe they are. They want the joy of watching the auto-da-fé of those they hate without being seen in public getting off to it.

One hypothetical way these people could claim their religious freedom would be to post signs on their businesses openly stating the religious restrictions adhered to by the business. (Do businesses have religious beliefs?) Such a sign might say, “No wedding cakes for gays”, “No car washes for Catholics,” “No interracial couples served,” or even “Jews not allowed.” While this would be an efficient way for the market to honor these random religious “freedoms,” it has the obvious negative side effect of the business owners having their wacky and malicious beliefs being subject to public opinion. What if the entire community figured out that Fred’s Bakery, say, is a bastion of hatred and they took their business elsewhere? No, no, no. That won’t do. Supporters of these laws don’t want any responsibility for those religious beliefs. They want their “freedoms” without those pesky consequences. That’s the nature of these laws; rights without responsibility.

But why gays in particular? The simple answer is that the modern business model of Christianity is to sell hatred of gays. As US laws are changed to treat gays and lesbians as normal citizens, their business model (and power) is increasingly under threat. Hatred of people who have done you no harm is bigotry, pure and simple. These laws carve out a niche for the bigotry peddlers.

Sure. There are some verses in the Bible that call homosexual behavior and effeminacy abominations. But the same Bible calls lying an abomination and shrimp and crabs seem to also be abominations. While these quaint and silly laws appear in the Pentateuch, Jews aren’t banging down the door of government so that they can have the “religious freedom” to persecute gays and lesbians—or seafood restaurants. According to the good book, the punishment for finding two men together in bed is to kill them both. But Christians don’t seem to want that. Too messy. They just want government permission to discriminate—as if they know instinctively that the US government is far more powerful than their god. If they really believed their god was more powerful and they wanted to obey the god’s laws, they would just do so, consequences be damned.

Isn’t it ironic that these religious freedom laws never seem to mention any concrete religious tenet? I think there are three reasons for this.

  • First, I think that most Christians don’t know that their holy book is loaded with atrocities and highly embarrassing stories that would not be taken seriously outside the walls of a church. Take, for example the silly golden hemorrhoid story or the immoral Abraham and Isaac story.
  • Next, by staying away from concrete Biblical tenets, they avoid being put in the position of arguing for one right while NOT arguing for one of those embarrassing rights just a few pages away, like killing witches, holding slaves, or women and children being property. By keeping the argument abstract, they can pick and choose.
  • Finally, as SCOTUS indicated in the Hobby Lobby decision, the government can’t take a stance what is a valid religious belief. Apparently, even a falsehood like Plan-B being an abortifacient is a perfectly valid religious belief from the government’s perspective. So anything goes, whether it’s justified by some actual religion or not. So yes, I suppose people can have deeply held religious beliefs about trans-gender bathroom use or that blacks are inferior people.

If there’s a shining light here, its that these laws are written in such a way they also apply to non-Christians. Even atheists have religious beliefs. We believe (based on fact) that religions are malicious frauds. I see no reason why we shouldn’t take advantage of these ill-conceived laws and turn the tables on them. Ditto for RFRA and its state versions.


  1. Craig Bean says

    “Hatred of people who have done you no harm is bigotry, pure and simple. ” That statement really caught me. It really distills it all down. I’ve always wondered, other than some religious reason, why anyone cared whether gays got married, or anyone else for that matter. As long as they’re all consenting adults, I don’t care how many of which kinds want to get married to who. None of it has any affect on my 30 year hetro marriage, nor any other marriage for that matter.
    Kind of a personal liberty thing for me, just let people do what they want, until they become dangerous to others.
    Because religion has been given a pass on too much already, they are pushing for more exceptions, just because they can. You can’t blame them for trying to grab more power, but they’ve got to be stopped, or we’re all in deep doodoo!

  2. CompulsoryAccount7746, Sky Captain says

    @Pierce R. Butler #1:
    Concrete Biblical tenants would be quiet neighbors.
    And more durable than one made from dust, or a salt pillar.

  3. Chikoppi says

    Thumbs up on this post! Requiring a sign to be prominently posted to justify religious-based discrimination would likely stop most of this pandering legislation in its tracks.

    “Even atheists have religious beliefs.”

    I get the verbal turnabout you are trying to enact here, but this sort of wordplay will be eagerly misappropriated by those looking for an opportunity to construct a straw man of the atheist position. There is a substantive difference between “having beliefs about religious claims” and “having religious beliefs.” You know how pedantic these conversations can be. 🙂

  4. sonofrojblake says

    the modern business model of Christianity is to sell hatred of gays

    Maybe in the US. Almost certainly in most of the areas where Christianity isn’t withering (e.g. Africa). But from a UK perspective, “hatred of gays” isn’t something most Christians, or even their leaders, are pushing. I’m guessing that this is in large part because here, the church has lost the power it once had to define the conversation on this and other subjects. It was for very good reason that when asked about Tony Blair’s religious beliefs, his press secretary responded that “we don’t do God”. The church is already well on the way out here, and despite being by definition delusional, their dim apprehension of reality is sufficient to make them realise that if they actually practiced what their book preached, they’d be ostracised even more than they already are. It’s been a while since any credible public figure has had the brass neck to be an “out” anti-gay – the last really prominent one I can think of off the top of my head being former Greater Manchester police Chief Constable James Anderton, who was ridiculed even in the 1980s for being “God’s copper” after his condemnation of AIDS victims as “swirling around in a human cesspool of their own making”. Can’t imagine anyone saying anything like that nowadays lasting the week before they were shuffled off amid much craven grovelling apologising.

  5. L.Long says

    In a religion whose basic tenet is pure self-hate and self-loathing, it is no wonder that they project this onto ‘the others’! And any of the lying hypocrites that say …but it is the law of gawd that we must obey! …..DON’T DO THAT! If they did they would all be jailed for crimes against humanity!!!

  6. Argus Von Blargus says

    On behalf of the rational community of North Carolina let me just say…sorry. Google LGBT restrooms to find out what I mean…

  7. xxxxxx says

    This whole idea of “its okay to discriminate as long as its in the name of religious freedom” bullshit has to end. We foolishly codified this notion into the 1964 Civil Rights Act Title VII exceptions list, which largely exempted religious institutions from the Act, and since then its been one headache after another. The SCOTUS even redressed the Title VII religious exception in 1976, after religious institutions shamefully abused their “religious freedoms” to continue racial discrimination in enrollment at religiously funded private secular schools. In lower courts, there have been a zillion cases over the past fifty years in which “religious freedoms” — which was always intended to be a shield to protect religious traditions — are being, instead, perversely used as a weapon to attack and punish other groups of people. This proposed law in Mississippi (and Arizona, and Ohio, and Indiana, and…) is simply the latest incarnation of this perversity of legal lenience granted the religious.

    I ask, how many times do you let your kid wreck the family car before you permanently revoke their driving privileges? Its time to remove religious exceptions altogether from the law, and to stop pandering to religious thugs by giving them legal “exceptions” and “protections” in laws meant to preserve their traditions, when all they ever seem to do is turn around and use these “protections” as weapons to harm other groups of people in our society.

  8. says

    So many people call themselves Christians yet they lack a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. The reality is Constantine created Christianity aka Catholicism to control the people and hold his throne. Catholicism was a mix of paganism and the Bible to pull Born Again Believers into paganism and Baal worship. The reality of Biblical Salvation is anyone who believes on what Jesus Christ did on the cross is a saved saint. He/She is born again and has eternal salvation. There are no good works required to be saved and that certainly includes repentance. Repentance does not even mean turning from sin, as so many religious heretics try and push. 99% of the churches in America preach a false gospel and have perverted it to the point of no return. The problem is, the people themselves are not reading the Bible because they are too busy worshiping at the throne of statism, atheism or some other ridiculous cult like the tele vision set.

  9. Monocle Smile says

    Do you have anything approaching a point? Or maybe something to back up your bald assertions?

  10. Wizard Suth says

    @NVNC: Please look up the “No True Scotsman” fallacy. “Heretic” is a relative term.

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