Should we accommodate religious intolerance?
Some years ago I owned a business, and as is normal, it was open to the public. A man enters and moves from one section of the business to another and then comes out to complain that a black man was in the other section. He literally demanded to know why I was “letting people like that” come into the business. The black man had done nothing wrong, he had a skin color this bigot found offensive.
It took me a few seconds to figure out what was actually happening. I think it took a bit longer than normal simply because I couldn’t fathom someone actually complaining that I allowed black people to enter my business. I just assumed it had to be something else and not something so blatantly ugly and hateful. But, it was ugly and hateful; it wasn’t something else. When that dawned on me, I, in no uncertain terms, told the bigot that my business was open to everyone and if he didn’t like it he was invited him to leave and he would not be missed.
Now, what if the man told me he held sincere religious beliefs about the inferiority of black people and that they pose a threat to his world-view because God damns them? Does god-talk mean we have to cut people slack?
Racism in the West often had a religious foundation to it. Having escaped fundamentalist Christianity I can assure you that I heard Baptist preachers claiming that the Biblical “curse of Ham” damned the black race to an inferior position for eternity. This wasn’t all that long ago either. Mormons were rather racist and claimed it was all about theology as well. Of course, after the civil rights movement the Mormon “prophet” faked a revelation from God that said black men were now allowed to join the Mormon priesthood—which is open to all other men, but not women, no matter their race.
Recently some Orthodox rabbis in Israel were making a stink about the military because at various events female soldiers were allowed to sing. Apparently, and I admit I did not know this, it is Orthodox religious law that men may not listen to a woman sing in person. Apparently God made exceptions for CDs, radios, DVDs and the like—which is rather progressive of him. The rabbis want male soldiers exempted from events where women might sing.
Admittedly I’ve heard some female singers that were rather offensive, but it just never dawned on me that some god-monger might invent a deity that finds all female singers a problem. But this controversy is going on now in Israel.
Closer to home we have a woman who is a rather fanatical Catholic and a prolific breeder as well, having seven children—not allowing birth control will do that. In the mode of the insane Jennifer Roback Morse, this woman, Stacy Trasancos, is deeply offended that gay people exist and that she sometimes has to look at them.
Stacy says seeing gay people means they “are imposing immorality on me” and that now she has a “hard time even leaving my home anymore to do something as simple as visit the park. And this is freedom?” Stacy is deathly afraid she will see gay people. This Massachusetts baby-maker is very upset that she went to a public pool and “there were homosexual couples with children” present. Apparently that may cause her kids to ask questions, “I’m not ready to answer.” As for the pool, “The truth is, now I don’t really want to go back.”
Later she saw a gay couple with kids at the park and now laments “I find myself unable to even leave the house anymore without worrying about what in tarnation we are going to encounter. …I can’t even to normal places without having to sit silently and tolerate immorality.” By the way, she then also laments the presence of immigrants as well, but bigotry is rarely limited to just one group.BTW: she really doesn't know if the people are gay or not and I imagine that she imagines gay people far more often than is the case. The women in the park rubbed each others back and that clued told her they were lesbians. Of course, I see straight women do that with other straight women. Perhaps the two women were sisters? But when you imagine gays to be monsters you see monsters everywhere.
Having to see gay people is to Stacy being forced to “tolerate immorality.” Okay, let’s run with that. Am I being forced to tolerate irrationality every time I see some Jesus-addict pray in a restaurant? Does the church I drive by force me to tolerate irrationality? I think these religious people are irrational and often, particularly in this case, rather creepy and pathetic. To obsess that one may see a gay couple in public, and to hide in one’s home to avoid this, is actually rather sad. It is her right to be fearful and terrified, but given her tendency to produce litters of children she should be aware that with each additional child the chances that one of them would be gay grows. With seven kids there is already a decent chance one of them is an embryonic homosexual and then she won’t even be safe in her own home either.
We are told we should “tolerate” such things. More importantly we are supposed to give way to these prejudices precisely because they are religious. For instance, we are supposed to accommodate religious beliefs in employment. So, if someone won't work on one particular day, because they imagine a deity told them to chant and lament the state of the world on that day, employers are supposed to alter work schedules to fit that belief.
We have an entire political campaign run by the dowdy, porcine Maggie Gallagher that argues that American marriage law should be founded entirely on the imagined god that lives in Gallagher’s head.
Constantly the rest of the country is being told they must accommodate the religious fantasies of the god-snorters. Yet, we also must not question these beliefs. We are told that sincere religious beliefs are immune from criticism and questioning. But what is a religious belief?
At the basis it is a belief that someone holds and which he or she claim is religious. That is all. We can’t say it is based on God’s revelation to them since they all differ about what their God wants and we have zero evidence a god revealed anything to them. All we have are their claims. The mere fact that someone calls a belief religious is supposedly enough to make it immune from scrutiny. Now, if someone says that they believe in evolution, because of various facts, that is science. If they say they believe in creation because God said to, that is not science; that is religion.
Religion is claimed knowledge about reality based on imaginary sources, not rooted in reality, and supposedly exempt from rational inquiry or criticism.
And, the Republicans want us to base the law of the nation on such notions. Most Republicans would laugh at the idea that female singers are offensive. But many of them would applaud this paranoid baby-machine in Massachusetts. To them the belief that female singers are offensive is just plain silly, but the belief that seeing gay people in public is offensive makes perfect sense. Why? Because they don’t believe the nonsense of Jewish orthodoxy, but they do believe the nonsense in Christian orthodoxy, that’s why.
The bigoted theology that says the black race is cursed by God to be servants to the white race doesn’t establish American legal policy. Nor should it. So, why do we allow any theology to determine the law? We don’t just need separation of church and state, we need separation of theology and state. Just because your god is a teetotaler is no reason to impose prohibition on others. And, just because you imagine God wanted marriage to between one man and one woman (if you are Maggie Gallagher) or one man and many women (if you are Joseph Smith), doesn't mean the law should deny marriage contracts to gay couples.
Now, I have to applaud fearful Stacy in one sense. If she doesn’t like seeing gay people then she shouldn’t go in public. And yes, Stacy, that is freedom. The equal freedom of all people to use the public parks is part of freedom. Just because Klanners don’t like seeing blacks doesn’t mean we are infringing on their liberty by not hiding blacks away. And, just because you hate gay people so much that even seeing one causes emotional pain, does not justify anti-gay policies, though it may justify therapy. I’m just hinting, for what it’s worth. A little less time on your knees and a little more time on the couch might do you a world of good and, it might make you a better mother—just in case one of your own turns out gay.