(Part 1 is here.)
[CONTENT NOTE: While this post contains no graphic descriptions or images of violence, it does contain discussion of: child sexual assault, abuse and death; suicide; hostility to consent, bodily autonomy and agency; homophobia; sex- and gender-based discrimination.]
Just a reminder: in the intro to Part 1, I noted that while Dr. Coyne communicates some very useful and interesting things in this lecture (and elsewhere) that readers may find worthwhile, he is exasperatingly prone to poo flinging, and I fully respect the decision of anyone who decides to pay him no attention whatsoever on this basis alone. As I said, FWIW I do not allow Coyne’s poo flinging in the remaining portions of the transcript to go unrebutted.
When we left off things were going so well! Coyne had just announced he was at the end of his presentation, in which he had made a compelling case for universal healthcare and economic equality as the means to eradicate religion (whereas I view these things as ends in themselves, with the diminishment of religion—and likely conservatism as well—as additional benefits that would support a virtuous cycle). But then, right after the last section I transcribed, at 1:09:50 he goes on to say this:
Oh, I want to say one more thing and then give you a nice quote here. WE WON. Okay, religion is on the back foot, creationism is no longer an acceptable thing to believe in American public schools, religions cannot impose their will, at least in Western societies, and so it’s just a matter of waiting. It’s not going to happen in our lifetime, but our grandchildren are going to see a far more secular world, and that means a world in which evolution is appreciated far more than it is now.
What kind of bubble do you have to live in to seriously claim that “religions cannot impose their will” in Western societies—namely, the US? I’ll tell you what kind of bubble: an economically secure, able, white, male privilege bubble so opaque you can barely make out the dim likeness of Jerry Coyne inside of it.
Let us count the ways, shall we?
- Religious exemptions for withholding medical treatment from children. These nifty get-out-of-jail-free cards run the gamut from your basic thwarting Child Protective Services from investigating to felony neglect and endangerment, all the way up to negligent homicide, manslaughter and capital murder.
- Religious education. It starts in infancy. Unlike their secular counterparts, religious day cares in many parts of the country operate with little to no regulation, and with predictably tragic results (TW: child abuse, neglect and death). The religious day care exemption trend is increasing, particularly in swaths of the country where churches preach the gospel against government interference. In Alabama and Indiana, for instance, nearly half of all day care centers have a religious exemption. (Strangely, they’re not adverse to government funding, to the tune of hundreds of millions in taxpayer subsidies. This must be some of that “sophisticated theology” I’ve heard about, but am obviously too unsophisticated to understand.) In grades K-12, religious schools are exempt from all sorts of regulations from the mundane to the wildly outrageous. And don’t get me started on religious homeschooling—a trend that is also increasing, even it’s no longer acceptable to teach creationism in public schools. As a bonus, corporal punishment at home or in schools—including public schools, where black children with disabilities are disproportionately affected—is justified almost exclusively by religion, despite the fact that the jury’s in on the harms it causes.
- Short statutes of limitations for child rape, courtesy of the Catholic Church. The church lobbies state governments to keep these statutes unconscionably short in order to protect church predators and those who systematically enable and cover up sexual abuse, thereby protecting its massive financial empire. Meanwhile victims, many of whom suffer for an entire lifetime from the trauma or opt instead for an early exit (TW: suicide), will see no justice in criminal courts. If that is not a religion imposing its will, then nothing is.
But enough about raping, beating, neglecting and killing children with impunity because of religion. Not that Jerry Coyne has noticed, but religions also routinely impose their will on women.
- Catholic hospitals refusing treatment. Life threatening ectopic pregnancies are left to fester until women get close to dying. Women who are miscarrying have to risk infection, excessive bleeding and death, rather than receive an emergency abortion. (One doctor said “We often tell patients that we can’t do anything in the hospital but watch you get infected.”) All forms of birth control including tubal ligations are banned, even in cases where a pregnancy would prove fatal; rape victims are denied emergency contraception. Infertility treatments are banned. Patients’ living will requests to be taken off of life support are ignored. Oh, and here’s a real doozy: “many states allow religious hospitals to discriminate against gays and lesbians, both as employees and as patients.” And it’s only getting worse, affecting more and more people:
Between 2001 and 2011, the number of American hospitals affiliated with the Catholic Church grew 16 percent, even as the number of public hospitals and secular nonprofit hospitals dropped 31 percent and 12 percent, respectively, according to an upcoming report by the American Civil Liberties Union and MergerWatch, a nonprofit that tracks religious health care mergers… Ten of the 25 largest nonprofit hospital systems in the country are Catholic, and Catholic hospitals care for 1 in 6 American patients. In at least eight states, 30 percent or more of patient admissions are at Catholic facilities.
[See also: Ireland.]
- Pharmacy conscience laws. Sanctimonious panty sniffers can refuse to fill prescriptions they don’t personally approve of. Guess who is affected, almost exclusively? Women.
- Taxpayer funded Crisis Pregnancy Centers (CPCs). While budgets for reproductive healthcare are slashed mercilessly, governments (state and federal) lavishly fund fake clinics to deliberately deceive, defraud and coerce women into continuing unwanted pregnancies for Jeezus. Nationwide, CPCs outnumber abortion clinics roughly five to one; in some places (like Texas) it’s eight to one.
- Increased abortion restrictions. Don’t kid yourself: Forced Birthers are mainly religiously motivated; non-religious Forced Birthers (like these assholes) are in the minority. TRAP laws, biased counseling requirements and mandatory delays, forced ultrasounds and other legislative initiatives increase costs, reduce access and shutter clinics. Women, especially poor women of color, are already paying dearly.
- Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc. It was less than two years ago that the US Supreme Court decreed that not only are corporations people, they can be religious people, who are entitled to impose their factually wrong, retrograde, explicitly Christian views about birth control on their female employees—and only their female employees. Because RELIGIOUS FREEDOM™.
Of course Jerry Coyne is not a kid dying needlessly from a treatable illness, denied a decent education, routinely assaulted for existing while black and disabled, nor in all likelihood was he ever raped as a child by a priest. He will never find himself in a hospital waiting around for treatment until he’s been declared close enough to dying to deserve medical intervention, or outright denied any treatment at all because he looks like a lesbian. I highly doubt he’ll ever have to jump through extra hoops to avoid reproducing, just because his employers happen to be Christian assholes. He’ll never have to drive around to different pharmacies hoping to find someone to fill his prescription, let alone travel for hours multiple times (or to another country altogether) to access a time-sensitive medical procedure. Needless to say, he will never need to resort to performing medical and surgical procedures on himself, and his doctors will never be required by the state to lie to him, subject him unnecessary medical “tests”, or put him in time out like a child for a day (or three) before allowing him to access the medical care he is seeking. And his tax dollars aren’t being used to coerce, defraud and force him into giving birth against his wishes.
Religions impose their will all the fucking time—just not on Jerry Coyne.
- $83.5 billion in annual taxpayer subsidies to religion. That’s a very conservative estimate, by the way; for example, that number does not include local tax exemptions for income, sales or property. In New York City alone, local income tax ranges from 2.907% to 3.876%, purchases above $110 are subject to a 4.5% local sales tax, and more than 9,500 churches, synagogues and mosques evade at least $626.9 million a year in property tax (that is a 2011 estimate—as real estate values have soared, so has that number). A lowball number for religious real estate holdings nationwide is $600 billion, and that figure doesn’t include properties that are not specifically houses of worship. Some religious organizations own what can only be described as massive real estate empires—off of the tax rolls.
- White House Office of Faith-Based Initiatives, created under Bush/Cheney—and expanded under Obama. The (alleged) purpose of giving churches billions in federal funding is to provide social services to the poor in their communities. The problems with this setup are legion and by all means Google them if you want, but here are three just off the top of my head. First, billions of our tax dollars are funding religious operations that restrict hiring to those of their particular faith—atheists and other believers need not apply. This is job discrimination on the taxpayer dime, plain and simple, and it is 100% legal. Second, unlike other nonprofits, religious charities are not required to disclose most of their financial information to the government, even though they may be the recipients of hundreds of millions in taxpayer money. Third and most damning (<—hahaha) is that charities, faith-based or otherwise, are less efficient, less effective and less capable of addressing poverty than government programs conservatives so despise.
This is hardly a complete list of religions imposing their will on US citizens; for example, I suspect a strong case can almost certainly be made that the recent spate of bathroom bills allegedly intended to protect cis people against the (nonexistent) dangers of peeing in proximity to trans people have their roots in conservative Christianity, as do “gay and trans panic” defenses to murder.
So I am not exactly holding my breath for the grand opening of the White House Office of Reality-Based Initiatives under the next president, no matter who it is. Because contra Coyne, religions imposing their wills in myriad ways on at least half of the US citizenry doesn’t appear to be going anywhere anytime soon—if anything, quite the opposite.
FUCK YOU, JERRY COYNE.
I’m presently deciding whether or not to do a Part 3. I transcribed for our infotainment another section from the Q&A, where Coyne says some more really cool stuff…and then goes into full mansplain-to-the-feminists mode and pulls a Dear Muslima. It’s darkly comic, if you enjoy mocking and snorting derisively at that sort of thing (I know I sure do!), and frankly this shit’s so easy to debunk. And it ought to be debunked and/or mocked every time it rears its irrational little head. (I am envisioning Whack-a-Mole, but with squirrels. Or possibly, douchebro atheists.) Unfortunately, it does not appear that anyone else is stepping up to do it with this lecture. Thus are the heavy burdens of Your Humble Correspondent™.