Friday, March 27, 2015

Don't Hide Behind Your Religion to Justify Your Bigotry

Yesterday Governor Mike Pence of Indiana signed into law a religious objections bill which would allow people to deny services to others based on their religious objections to a potential customer's sexuality. For example, if you own a cake shop and a gay couple would like to order a cake for their wedding, you as an employee or owner of said shop have the right to deny your service to said gay couple if you can demonstrate a sincere belief that doing so would violate the basic tenants of your religion.

According to the Pew Research Center the following religious sects and or organizations sanction same sex marriage:

  • Presbyterian Church (USA)
  • Conservative Jewish Movement
  • Reform Jewish Movement
  • Society of Friends (Quaker)
  • Unitarian Universalist Association of Churches
  • United Church of Christ
  • Evangelical Lutheran Church*
*The Evangelical Lutheran Church allows each congregation minister to decide whether or not to marry same sex couples (ie; it allows it's ministers to be bigots).

The reason why I present this list is to show that there are a variety of religions, many of which are Christian, that do not believe that gay marriage violates their religious tenants. Herein lies the problem. If a person discriminates against a gay couple because of their religious belief it is very easy to show that not all Christians (or Jews, or Muslims) believe that serving a gay couple imposes any sort of burden on their religious belief. There is a real dissonance here. How could it be that some Christians believe that their religious beliefs are being violated when serving a gay couple, while others believe the exact opposite? Don't they all read the same Bible? Don't they all believe that Jesus Christ is their Lord and Savior? If so, how can they have such disparate beliefs? The answer is simple: our morals are not informed by the religious texts we read, they are confirmed by those texts. The Bible is an ancient text complied over the course of many generations, by many different peoples and groups. It has been edited and translated countless time over the past 20 or so centuries. As a result it contradicts itself repeatedly on questions of morality. As we have all seen over and over, one can find passages in the Bible to justify almost any belief that a person might hold.

With all of this in mind I firmly believe that those that view gay marriage as a sin (or any other non-heterosexual act or feeling) have not used the Bible to find their moral grounding. Their morality exists independent of the Bible. Those that oppose gay marriage on religious grounds are being completely dishonest. They oppose gay marriage not because they are religious, but because they are bigots.

Perhaps the most galling thing about this bill is that it places religious belief in s special place above all other forms of belief. Imagine that if instead of religious freedom that they were trying to protect ideological freedom (which they actually are). Let's say that I subscribe to a certain form of communism that calls for me to exclude gay people from my social circle. Furthermore I found passages from Marx and Engels that confirm the fact that no true socialist would ever associate with gay people. Therefore I use these passages to justify the fact that I will not allow gay customers into my communist book shop. I would not be protected by Indiana's new law because my sincere belief is justified by a political ideology, not by a religious ideology. I would rightly be called a bigot by the public at large, and I would be called out for hiding behind ideology to justify my bigotry. People would also point out that those passages I used came from a very different, less enlightened, less tolerant time and that such ideas have no place in modern society. Most likely someone would bring charges against me for violating state and federal civil rights legislation, and I would face swift justice. Nobody would be expected to respect my beliefs, despite the fact that they are deeply held and that I feel they violate the fundamental tenants of communism.

So, why is it that a moral system predicated on religious belief is elevated above all other moral systems? Those using religion to justify their bigotry should face the same harsh critique and social sanctions that any other form of bigotry would receive.

In conclusion please remember that you are not being oppressed when your right to oppress others is limited. What's really happening when we don't allow you to discriminated based on religious beliefs is that we are protecting the freedom of those you do not agree with, not oppressing yours. So from now on please stop using your religion to justify your belief that gay marriage is a sin. Stand up and proudly proclaim yourself to be the hateful, myopic, homophobic bigot that you are. If you need to shield yourself from criticism with a cross, then you are a coward who knows that there is something deeply wrong with your disgusting belief.

1 comment:

  1. Beautifully-written. I completely agree. It's ridiculous and disgusting that so many bigots hide behind their religion in order to oppress others.