I’m just going to pass along two stories today. Partly, this is because I’ve just been too busy to keep updated this week, but I do think it’s important for us to remember that there are two discussions going on in the freethinking community. It’s fine for me to argue with Alison about the causes of hatred and oppression committed by religious people. It’s a worthy topic. Beyond that, though, there is the reality that regardless of the actual cause, there is still a real and dangerous threat being posed by the religious right in America, and all freethinkers should be concerned by some of the actions being taken in America right now.
We’ve heard this story before, but this time it’s not a Catholic, and it’s teenage girls instead of boys. A trusted church leader was using his position to have sex with underage girls, and recruit them into a “secret order” that was supposed to help “save mankind.”
This story bothers me on two counts. The first is that this man is not a teacher. He is not certified to teach by the state, but because he is at a private religious institution, he is able to circumvent the rules. This is a legislative issue, and it should be addressed. I have no problem with the existence of religious schools, but if a school — any school — is selling themselves as offering a genuine education, then their teachers should be required to play by the same rules as anyone else. Education is too important to just let this kind of nonsense slip through the cracks under the guise of religious freedom. Religious freedom is one thing. Education is another.
Secondly, this story bothers me on a critical thinking level. The article mentions that the abuser read Bible verses to the girls to convince them that joining his “secret society” (having sex with him) was not only ok, but a good thing that would be part of God’s will. I’m not going to claim that this guy would definitely not have been able to convince them to have sex with him otherwise, but it’s hard to imagine the religious indoctrination playing no part at all. They have been taught a system of authority their whole life . The Bible is the authority, and God’s word is law, regardless of what the evidence says. When someone uses the Bible, which is entirely left up to interpretation, as an authority, it’s easy to understand why it could help with the manipulation necessary for this crime to occur.
This is yet another example of how the thought process associated with faith based reasoning is inherently flawed and dangerous. Would these girls have been abused without Biblical indoctrination? I don’t know. But I do know that without faith based reasoning, these girls would have had one less mechanism for the abuser to exploit.
The Family Research Council is (predictably) outraged by Obama’s attempt to extend HHS (Health and Human Services) resources to gay and lesbian seniors, who have unique needs (largely because they can’t get married). The real punch in the nuts is when the FRC has this to say:
Of course, the real tragedy here–apart from the unnecessary spending–is that, given the risks of homosexual conduct, these people are less likely to live long enough to become senior citizens!
Right. Because AIDS is a scourge sent from God to punish these people for their sexual preference.
This is just hate. It’s bigotry and hate, and it’s intolerable in legislation. I don’t know if the program being presented is a good one or not, but this isn’t about supporting or opposing legislation based on its merit. It’s about continuing to discriminate against gays because they’re gay.
Think about it.
What does it matter if there are not as many aging gays and lesbians, and what does it matter if more gays and lesbians die of AIDS than heterosexuals? If there is a need among a group of Americans, then the need should be addressed.
Again, I can’t say for certain that there would not be this much opposition to helping gays without religious indoctrination, but it’s hard for me to imagine that it wouldn’t be lessened. As evidence for this supposition, I offer myself. When I was a Christian, I was anti-gay. Why was I anti-gay? Because I was taught to be so. I never thought about it. Never considered it. Every church I had been to as a child taught that homosexuality was an abomination, and it goes without saying that you shouldn’t do anything to encourage abomination.
Today, I’m an outspoken advocate for gay rights. I changed my tune after I left religion and noticed that not only was there no empirical reason to discriminate, but there was actually a whole biology library full of evidence that homosexuality is a normal part of nature.
Oh, there were people who tried to cure me of my bigotry when I was a Christian. They told me that all the biological evidence was against me. Do you know what I told them? You can guess easily enough:
I told them the evidence was wrong.
Of course the evidence was wrong. It was wrong because the Bible was right, and that’s the way it was. So… yeah. I’m not bigoted towards gays now, and I was while I was religious. My justification for bigotry was the teaching I received based on the Bible. When I dropped that worldview, it soon became obvious to me that I don’t bear any innate hatred or bigotry towards gays. In fact, I rather like the company of a number of gay people, and take great joy in hearing of their romantic successes.
Religious training made me a bigot. Leaving religion returned me to a state of non-bigotry. I don’t know how else to say it.
In any case, whether you believe religion causes bigotry or not, this kind of opposition to legislation must be shouted down. It’s wrong, regardless of the cause.