And the beat goes on….
(VANCOUVER ISLAND) Just a few years ago Sam Harris, Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, Penn Jillette, and other lesser known devout atheists (myself included) were merrily publishing scientific, philosophical, political, and sociological writings on the subject of our belief systems, or lack thereof, and gamely challenging the religious right on all those fronts. It seemed as though the religious were soon going to be required to keep their magisterium from overlapping onto fields of inquiry or politics or legality that are, frankly, not within their purview. All indications were that the secular was becoming well and truly separated from the spiritual and a kind of sanity was – at last – taking hold.
It seems we relaxed too soon. After that brief hiccup, the god botherers came roaring back, literally with a vengeance. And now the more radical (the real nutjobs) are showing their true colours in increasingly ludicrous ways. Clearly the most violent and currently threatening of the religious fanatics are the radicalised Muslim contingent as represented by ISIS and its zealots. However, all of the above mentioned Western writers never had any serious influence on those terrorists; the terrorists and potential terrorists who embrace a twisted and radical Islam don’t discriminate in their world view between Richard Dawkins and Pat
Robertson…both are infidels and that’s that.
No, the conflict of words and ideas which I am addressing today is the one between the Western secular viewpoint and that of the radical Christian right. The battle that is being fought on that front, particularly in the US, is between those who believe in a firm separation of church and state and those who hold that religion, at least their version of Christianity, must be imposed on what they claim is a Christian nation.
The ploy that the Christian right seems to have settled on is to assume the role of victim and to demand protection from those who would persecute them. They use anti-discrimination legislation and inclination to turn facts on their head and to justify their own particular brand of persecution and discrimination. In their reversal of the meaning of words they seem to have closely studied George Orwell.
Examples of this abound. Now that same-sex marriage has been supported by the Supreme Court and declared the law in many states, Christians are claiming that they are being discriminated against. While rational people shake their heads in confusion, the fanatics explain: apparently if gays or lesbians marry, this somehow diminishes the value of their own marriages, and that is persecution. An example of how they react in good Christian fashion would be the county clerks who refuse to issue a marriage certificate to a gay couple in a state where gay marriage is specifically permitted. You see, those clerks have a strong religious aversion to doing that part of their job, so if they refuse to do it and are sanctioned, that would be religious persecution. Seriously.
Another mini-trend that keeps popping up is that of Christian florists and bakers refusing to serve gay couples who ask for their services at their weddings. The refusal is done out of religious conviction, you see, so it’s not discriminatory. In fact, it would be discriminatory, they claim, to force them to obey the anti-discrimination laws that make their discrimination against gays illegal. If you can follow that, congratulations.
But the one bit of idiocy that is now actually causing everyone the most bother is the issue of which bathroom a transgender person is to be permitted to use. Believe it or not this has already moved from an individual retailer’s policy, to the municipal council, to the state legislature, and right up to the federal department of justice. That’s how important it is for some Christians to be permitted to discriminate.
The State of North Carolina has passed a law overriding anti-discrimination municipal laws. According to North Carolina’s Republican legislature and Republican governor, Pat McCrory, the state has the right and the jurisdiction to defy federal human and civil rights laws by passing legislation that requires everyone to use the washroom that corresponds to the sex that appears on their birth certificate. Moreover, it also denies any city in the state the right to pass anti-discrimination legislation. That would be discriminatory, apparently. At this writing, the federal government is telling North Carolina to get back on the reservation and North Carolina’s governor has promised to defy the feds.
Meanwhile, Target, the retailer that some claim started the whole melee by its progressive bathroom policy (use whichever loo corresponds to your sexual identity) is harassed daily by religious fanatics who come into the stores and harangue customers with fire and brimstone and threats of hellfire and damnation if they don’t get onboard with their loony demand that they retain their god-given right to discriminate.
This pissing contest has never been sublime but it sure has descended to the ridiculous. The religion that claims to be one of love and peace is often violently pursuing an agenda of bigotry, intolerance and persecution, all the while claiming that they are the injured party. The very groups that include the constitution in their daily prayers seem determined to cherry-pick the bits they like, reinterpret other bits, and when they don’t get their way, reject the bits they don’t like. Just like they do with the bible. They love the 2nd Amendment, but they either hate or utterly reinterpret the 1st. Imagine how desperately confused they must be about what’s actually written in their bible.
The bible, despite its thumpers’ claims is utterly useless as a source of moral or ethical guidance. It is a collection of folk tales written originally for the edification of nomadic Middle Eastern Early Bronze Age goatherders; its relevance is non-existent. The stories are wildly self-contradictory, not just between the Old Testament and the New, within each book. Nevertheless, this Rorschach test of one’s predispositions is what is claimed to be the life guide for the nutjobs, and worst of all, they intend for it to be yours and mine as well. They will not rest until they put a Ted Cruz type in the White House.
It is time for the rational among us to take to the ramparts and make a noise when this lunacy is being thrust into the secular sphere. This is not a minor issue, it’s very real and very dangerous; just look at some of the nasty absurdity that has been unleashed in the name of religion.
 From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Non-overlapping magisteria (NOMA) is the view advocated by Stephen Jay Gould that science and religion each represent different areas of inquiry, fact vs. values, so there is a difference between the “nets”  over which they have “a legitimate magisterium, or domain of teaching authority,” and the two domains do not overlap…