Saturday, August 11, 2012

Religion vs. Morality

In my Beliefs of a Nonbeliever post, I listed my core beliefs as a humanist, making the case that it’s entirely possible to be good without a god. I also made the point that religion has a habit of getting in the way of morality. Being religious doesn’t necessarily prevent someone from being good, of course...but being fundamentally religious does.

To clarify, I’m not claiming that all atheists are more moral than all theists--that would be a silly oversimplification as neither group is morally homogeneous. It would be equally silly to say that all theists are more moral than all atheists, and if you know me you know that I would never, ever say anything silly. I’m simply making the point that religion has a bad habit of getting in the way of treating people well. Throughout history there are countless examples of people killing in the name of religion, and that still goes on today in many parts of the world. Obviously, people kill for plenty of non-religious reasons, too, but the fact remains that religious intolerance is a driving factor of much of the violence that still exists today. On a less lethal level, there are the notable issues of the treatment of women in Islam and the treatment of homosexuals by all major religions.

The fact that homosexuality still has so many entrenched opponents in America today is...peculiar, to say the least. We’ve progressed far enough to at least claim to treat women and minorities equally, even if we’re still working on getting over our biases and stereotypes about them. Yet gay people are still looked upon with unabashed scorn, usually in the name of religion. Why--because the Bible says that homosexuality is a sin? The Bible also says that eating bacon is a sin. I know that I use the bacon example a lot, but can you blame me? Much like Mr. Pibb + Red Vines, bacon is crazy delicious, and it always seems like a perfect example of why the Bible can’t be taken seriously today since its consumption is so widespread. On the whole, Christianity has outgrown a ton of nonsense from the Bible, so why hang on to hating homosexuality?

I have a hard time seeing what the problem is. I’m not gay myself (rest easy, past and future girlfriends), but I can’t come up with any good reason to discriminate against people who are. I’m also not into Justin Bieber’s music, cucumbers, or the movie Little Women, but that doesn’t give me any reason to mistreat people who enjoy those things. My mom and my sister love the shit out of Little Women, but I love them anyway. Of course, my mom would never admit to “loving the shit” out of anything (including her children), but the point still stands that she enjoys that movie very much, and her preference does not affect my feelings towards her. Why? Because it doesn’t affect me and it never has. Whenever she put Little Women on, I would simply go play NBA Jam on my Super Nintendo Entertainment System or find something else that was a dramatically better use of my time.

Homosexuality is really no different. No one is forcing me to be gay. In fact, the sexual preferences of others has absolutely no effect on me. One of my college friends posted a link on Facebook a while ago to John Piper’s take on the whole “marriage equality” thing. For those who are unfamiliar, Piper is a popular Christian author who lives in Minnesota, one of the states that will have an amendment proposed in this year’s election to restrict the definition of marriage to “a union of one man and one woman.” His main point is that God created marriage, not humans, so God alone gets to decide what counts as “marriage.” Oy. This seems to be the same argument being made by Mike Huckabee and Dan Cathy (the CEO of Chick-Fil-A).

There are many reasons why this argument is preposterously illogical, so let’s start at the top:we aren’t currently adhering to the Bible’s rules for marriage. Deuteronomy 22:21 states that if a woman marries a man, and she turns out not to be a virgin, the men of that town can stone her to death. 22:22 states that adulterers should be killed. 22:29 states that if a man rapes an unmarried woman, he must then marry her (the victim apparently doesn’t have a say in the matter). 25:5 states that if a married man dies before he has a son, his widow must have a kid with his brother. Jacob and David both had multiple wives, and Solomon had 700. Seven-hundred wives. Seven-zero-zero! If the Bible is supposed to be our guide to marriage, there should be a hell of a lot more stoning and polygamy...but for some reason the gentlemen (and I use that term loosely) mentioned above aren’t making a fuss about the fact that we aren’t stoning fornicators.

I’ve already used the bacon example in this post (which still applies), so I’ll move on to some other points. Beyond all the absurd, random rules that God laid out in the Bible that are no longer observed by most people (see my post on the Bible for a list of ridiculous shit that can be used any time someone uses the phrase “the Bible says...” as if it’s a legitimate argument), there are some rather significant practices from biblical times that are regarded with abhorrence today. For example: slavery. Slavery was accepted as a natural state of affairs in the Bible, in both the Old and New Testaments. As it turns out, Americans (and most of the rest of the world, for that matter) have decided that slavery is bad, so now it’s illegal. Unless you think dressing up as a Conehead covered in Wite-Out is a good time, chances are you disapprove of slavery.

Was slavery abolished because God said it was bad? Most certainly not! We made it illegal because society recognized that slavery is an unjustifiably inhumane practice. We eventually even got around to deciding that black people shouldn’t be treated like shit just because they’re black--something about all men being created equal or some crazy ideal like that. Also, in what can only be described as a terribly misguided attempt at progressive thinking, we now allow women to do things like vote, hold real jobs, and drive on the same roads as men. In retrospect, this was clearly a gross error in judgment...but at least we can rationalize it by pretending that men and women are equal.

Kidding, ladies. Just kidding. Feminists are just so adorable when they get worked up that sometimes I can’t help myself. If anyone reading this feels the urge to punch me in the shoulder the next time you see me, I won’t get mad. I probably deserve it.

ANYWAY, the point here is that our advancements in civil rights and the treatment of people who are not white males have come independently of religion. If we were still living according to the Bible, we would still have slaves (“Slaves, obey your earthly masters with deep respect and fear. Serve them sincerely as you would serve Christ.” Ephesians 6:5) and subjugate women (“And man was not made for woman’s benefit, but woman was made for man.” 1 Corinthians 11:9). So why do people still use the Bible as an excuse to justify their homophobia?

There’s another problem with saying that we should be using the Bible to legally define marriage--a little thing in the First Amendment known as the Establishment Clause: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion.” In effect, this means that allowing the Christian God to legally define marriage would be unconstitutional, and marriage is most certainly a legal matter. This is not a theocracy. Not only are our laws not based on Christianity--it would be unconstitutional to make a law based solely on Christianity.

Lest I give you the impression that I think all Christians are blindly bigoted and incapable of seeing reason, here’s a link to another article that another friend of mine posted on Facebook that I legitimately enjoyed. It’s a well written look at the gay marriage issue from a moderate Christian perspective. The bad news is that lots of Christians don’t agree with this and use the Bible as an excuse to be bigots. The good news is that lots of Christians do agree with this standpoint and use the Bible to make a case for loving everyone. Luckily, I think the majority of my Christian friends fall into the latter category. So I’m not saying that all Christians are bigoted jerks. However, it’s fair to say that Christianity allows some people to be bigoted jerks.

Without a few verses in the Bible condemning homosexuality, those who are anti-gay would have no more justification for being homophobic than racist people have for being racist. It is no longer socially acceptable to be racist. The only--ONLY--reason that Mike Huckabee and his army of homophobes are not completely denounced by the general public is religion. Yes, there are plenty of Christians who are openly supportive of the LGBT community, but those same people would be supportive even if they weren’t Christians. However, the widespread support for Chick-Fil-A has proven that one of the side effects of religion is justification for outright bigotry. Normally it’s completely unacceptable to be a bigot, but if God hates fags (and bags) then it must be OK.

As was noted by Andy in the comments of my last post, “everyone who is good is good without god.” We don’t need a 2,000 year-old book that advocates stoning to tell us how to be good, so let’s stop using that 2,000 year-old book as an excuse to act like an asshole.

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