Fucking Religious Liberty, How Does it Work?

Let me start by saying that I can never properly express my joy and appreciation to the Insane Clown Posse for the ability to parody their “fucking magnets” line at every turn. It’s so succinct, even more so than Bill O’Reilly’s “tide goes in, tide goes out” routine, and makes the exact same point with exactly the same amount of intention: some people don’t know or don’t want to know how things work because they prefer their made up answers.

Which brings us to religious liberty, what it means, and why we really need to get our definitions straight. To be honest, I’d rather be writing about the return of the horrid Kill the Gays bill in Uganda and this laughable farce of a press release regarding it, especially considering the foreign aid that Uganda is going to give up to pass this thing is necessary to support the corruption sector of their economy.

With a key that large, no wonder they need $44,000. The car must be HUGE!

Instead, I will explore what religious liberty is & is not and, broader, what liberty is & is not.

We’ve heard a lot lately about the “war on religion,” a “secular vision for America,” and similar meaningless phrases. Newt Gingrich is particularly fond of linking secularists to Muslims (because both are, you know, super scary). Mitt Romney thinks that the government forcing religiously-affiliated institutions to cover contraception like everybody else is a violation of conscience. Rick Santorum, who’s religious views are so intertwined with his political ones that he thinks he can rule the country by God’s law and not be “pastor in chief,” agrees.

But those are just the GOP candidates (minus Ron Paul who thinks that state governments can do pretty much anything they want). Let’s instead look at other people. The Liar Tony Perkins recently threw a hissy fit about the Air Force Academy not promoting a sectarian charity. Archbishop Timmy “Apple Cheeks” Dolan has a little bit to say about everything, and it all proves how put upon his international, ludicrously wealthy tax free organization with billions of members is. Muslim students at the UK’s London School of Economics claimed religious discrimination because an atheist group posted a cartoon on their Facebook that portrays an imagine of the prophet Mohammed. Kind of. Sort of. In a way.

The question becomes, what is the common thread with all of theses? I’ll give you a minute to think of it.

If you said, “they all require other people to adhere to the religious doctrines of the speakers,” you’re correct. You get a prize!

It’s this jpg!

“Repsect” and “tolerance” are becoming code words from people like those mentioned above for the demand that others follow the dictates of their faith. It’s a problematic bug (feature?) that a lot of them have. Their faith demands that all people follow it, claims that it is the one true way and all others are false, and puts it upon its followers to wrangle everybody together under this set of beliefs. So, the easiest way for Apple Cheeks or the Liar Tony Perkins is to make it happen by default. If everybody is forced, legally, to act like a Catholic or an Evangelical, even if they don’t actually believe, then that’s good enough for God, right?

I somehow doubt it.

The pernicious way in which this is approached, however, is the real problem. I know that Rick Santorum wants everybody to believe what he believes. The voices in his head have made it very clear that that is the only way to tempt Jesus back to Earth. However, he likes to pretend that there’s some sort of reason that doesn’t stem from his holy book that would make people think that having a father in prison is better than having two gay fathers. It’s not so much that he denies that he thinks God wants things to be this way, but rather that he manufactures other reasons for those of us who think his mythology doesn’t count as an authority.

Listen, we as human beings are going to disagree on things. Disagreement, however, is not intolerance. We’re not saying that your opinions are invalid, we’re saying that they’re wrong, and there is a gigantic difference between those. For example, saying that homosexuals shouldn’t be allowed to marry is saying that their relationship is invalid, that it doesn’t count, since marriage is ultimately a validation of love, especially when done with no facts to support the assertion. Yes, people claim it’s also wrong, but the only evidence presented is provably false or from scripture, and I can point to thousands of works that make the opposite point.

Saying that somebody is a bigot for opposing equality is not intolerance because it doesn’t say that their opinion doesn’t count. Quite the opposite, it says that their opinion is so valid that it defines an essential part of their character. Their words matter, they exist, and they have meaning. The same can’t be said for their opinion of LGBT rights which don’t matter, don’t exist, and don’t have meaning.

This is where religious liberty comes back into the picture. This is an individual liberty, one that affords the exerciser the ability to believe and worship in whatever way they see fit. Liberty in general is an individual exercise, one which permits people to act in a fashion that suits them. This is the opposite of the “religious intolerance” crowd who see liberty as the ability for a group to exercise their preference on others. If it were the government telling them how they had to personally act, they would scream bloody murder, and in fact are screaming bloody murder pretending that’s what’s happening. But the fights being fought aren’t over the actions of the complainers, but rather over the actions of outside third parties that aren’t legally required to act in the fashion those complainers would have them act.

Religious liberty does not obligate the state or other people to believe and worship in the same way as you. Using the above example again, it is a violation of religious liberty to force an Evangelical minister to marry a same sex couple. It is not a violation of the religious liberty of that Evangelical minister to allow an Episcopalian minister to marry that couple.

Neither breaking the leg nor picking the pocket of any Christian anywhere.

The state is under no obligation to protect your sensibilities. It is a violation of religious liberty to force the Catholic Church to use their own money to adopt to same-sex couples. It is not a violation of religious liberty to refuse to pay them to discriminate against LGBT couples. And I’m tired of people who get this wrong (BTW: as of this writing, I’m top of the comments on that last link based on likes. Keep me there, my minions!)

What the behavior of those crying “religious intolerance” the loudest clearly demonstrates is that they have no faith. Archbishop (soon to be Cardinal) Dolan doesn’t have enough faith in his God to believe that God can prevent women from taking contraception given the option (he’s right, BTW), so the celibate, virgin man will instead cry like a celibate, virgin baby about how very unfair this is that he might have to give women the option to express their own religious liberty, including their right to reject his authority over them. Jesus apparently doesn’t have the power to keep people going to church (and it offers so many good reasons, let me tell you) if they don’t pick up the habit early, so Newt Gingrich is going to make sure kids get as much exposure as possible, before those anti-religious pagans can affect their opinions.

These people have “faith” in the same way that I’m “straight.” Sure, I’m attracted to women, but I fail to possess the crucial component of being “only or primarily” attracted to women. This is sort of the same way these people of “faith” are perfectly fine in the comfortable trappings of religion, but fail to have any real belief in the power of their divinity. It’s a sham and a farce and entirely unsurprising as they seem dedicated to making everybody else observe the window dressing of their religion and could care less if the home is equally empty inside.

So, when it comes to religious liberty, your freedom exists for your ability to act in the manner that you feel is correct and not to impose that on others. That means that your religious liberty allows you to decide not to marry a same sex partner, not the ability to refuse to do your job in issuing legal licenses. Your religious liberty allows you to decide not to use contraception, it does not allow you to accept public money while refusing to let others use it. Your religious liberty allows you to not portray Mohammed, it does not prevent others from doing so.

Click for larger version

The Liar Tony Perkins has claimed that the Obama administration has  “created an atmosphere that is hostile toward Christianity.” Quite frankly, if we’re talking about his idea of Christianity, I hope so. It’s a Christianity that demands obedience. It’s a Christianity that excludes people. It’s a Christianity designed for one purpose and one purpose alone: to give power to Tony Perkins.

Timothy Dolan’s Catholicism is designed to give power to Catholic bishops. Romney, Gingrich, and Santorum are all using their faith in order to leverage power for themselves. And if not allowing them to run rough shod over the rights of people who won’t live by their standards creates a hostile environment for that, I say bring it on and throw their outdated, stupid, and hateful ideas into the dustbin of history to make room for better ones.

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All the Answers?

On my last post, it was requested that since I just wrote about government’s influence on religion, that I flip it and discuss religion’s influence in government. The thing is, a lot of people talk about this, so I’ve had to think about how to make it interesting. Especially since regular readers already can figure out how absolutely opposed I am to the idea of religion influencing government, but the question then becomes why? Not the obvious reasons, things like basing an system that actually affects real people on stories sets up a system that doesn’t necessarily reflect reality. Not because religions are complex ideas with thousands of possibile interpretations, many of which involve remarkably inhuman behavior.

No, the biggest and most important reason to keep religion as far away from government as possible is that they think they have answers. Moreover, all the answers.

What do I mean by that?

When the Gartrell and Bos study came out in the journal Pediatrics showing that children in lesbian households did as well in most areas and had better self-esteem than children raised by heterosexuals, the religious right freaked out. Peter Sprigg from what I can only consider the ironically named Family Research Council wrote, “The truth is that most research on ‘homosexual parents’ thus far has been marred by serious methodological problems.” The study he cites from Lerner and Negai supports this by advocating for unnecessarily rigorous scientific standards, ones they themselves continually fail to show.

American Family Association’s Chief Delusional Asshole Bryan Fischer went as far as to say,”This Pediatrics piece is clearly designed to promote homosexual adoption.” You see, the science doesn’t support his pre-conceived notion, therefore it’s part of a spooky agenda to get more kids out of the adoption system and into families that he doesn’t approve of.

Now, while these people and those like them hold incredible sway over politics and political figures, they are not technically politicians, which is why I saved the pièce de résistance for last. Our old friend Rick Santorum, who chooses to ignore studies that don’t support what he’s already decided and said earlier this month about why a father in prison is better than a same-sex couple, “You may rationalise that that isn’t true, but in your own life and in your own heart, you know it’s true.”

And there is the problem. This attitude of “science be damned, I feel.” Religion and faith by definition are feelings. They are things that cannot be empirically tested, they have to be accepted based on gut reactions. And what needs to be accepted?

That this is the Word of God. The premise for the vast majority of religions that they are somehow correct. That some being or beings take an active interest in them, either positive or negative, and suspend the laws of reality in their favor so long as they do these very specific things to satisfy the vast egos of these alleged supreme beings. Now, you have more individuals accepting that there are many ways to worship this or these god or gods, but doctrinally, odds are in favor that if you adhere to a specific religious creed, it claims to be the only way to appease their particular all-loving tyrant with self-esteem issues. I totally make exception for the few that are not that way, but when you look at the God of Abraham and the vast majority of interpretations of it, you’re talking about something that claims to love us while delighting in causing endless pain and suffering to anybody who doesn’t show appropriate deference. Yes, even in the New Testament.

So, you end up with a group of fanatics who are absolutely sure they’re right. Not just right, but right for no good reason. Right because they read it in a confusing book, or at least the parts they actually did read said this stuff. No basis in reality, actively willing to deny reality, in fact. And because they’re fanatics, they’re more likely to be active, so politicians cater to their demands and we end up with a political landscape littered with science-denial, homophobia, and social injustice. It’s why even though fundamentalists are a reasonably small part of the population and most Americans support gay marriage, for example, the GOP candidates are scrambling to out-anti-gay one another.

That is the crux, really. People who are sure that they are right will do everything they can to bring the world into alignment with their vision rather than altering their vision to fit the reality of the world. When you honestly believe you have a book with all of the answers, you search for ways to make it fit with rapidly changing circumstances rather than approaching those circumstances with a fresh perspective. It’s more important to preserve the idea that God is infallible and gave us a perfect and easy to understand instruction book than to make policy that addresses what is actually happening.

Rick Santorum won’t be president. Assuming reasonable people go out to the polls, none of the GOP field will be. But if he or any of the other ones who will say anything to appeal to god botherers all over the country were president, I cannot help but believe that their faith will trump the law or a sober, rational assessment of the situations they are likely to face. I really think Santorum believes wholeheartedly that for Jesus to return, Israel needs to be whole, and if that means going to war with Iran, so be it. It’s the best explanation for his confusing Israeli policies that keep stressing that all of Israel is one country under one people, as if wishing will make it true. Similarly, pronouncements by staffers like “gays make Jesus puke” should tip people off that this campaign is not working with the same facts as the rest of us.

I don’t doubt that Newt Gingrinch, Definer of Civilization, Hero of Marriage, is sure that same-sex unions are somehow pagan. That he thinks his anti-rhino rhetoric somehow proves God. That he’s sure that secularists are assaulting the ability of religious people to believe things.

Romney…well, he fervently believes whatever he thinks will get him elected, which again points to appeasing extremists, at least in the primary.

At this point I should address moderates as I normally do. I’m not worried about moderates. It doesn’t matter to me that Mary Margaret Haugen believes in “traditional marriage” or has religious convictions because when it comes to governing, she’s willing to put those aside to recognize the reality of same-sex unions. Jon Huntsman’s Mormon faith doesn’t bother me because he realizes that science is more true than his preferred origin story.

But as we saw with Huntsman and as we’re seeing after the pronouncement of Archbishop J. Peter Sartain in Washington that Catholic priests must inveigh against same-sex marriage, those people have much less of a chance to get any traction because the ones most motivated to vote are the ones who believe that God wants this, not the moderates who don’t think that God is taking a side.

Religion has had a huge cultural impact on America and the world. Lots of things have, though, and we’ve left a lot of them behind because they’re backward and unjust. If people want to believe, nothing should stop them, at least not legally. But when you try to apply those beliefs to the running of government, you’re trying to apply inviolable concepts to changeable situations, and ultimately that leads to a situation in which you have to either admit that something within your faith is wrong, or the world is wrong. And it’s a lot easier to let others be wrong than admit that you might be.