Religionists are forever whining about how atheists want to take away their religion. (I give you the reverend Ewing Marietta and the idiots that make up the Thou Shalt Not Move bunch as a perfect example.) That assertion is patently false and could not be farther from the truth. Even among the most militant anti-theists, like me, that is simply not true.
Frankly, I don’t care what nonsense some idiot wants to believe, nor does any other atheist that I know. And if they want to get together in their exclusionary groups and worship their sadistic sky-fairy, I don’t really care. It is no skin off of my nose – as long as they are not hurting anyone or being an obstacle to the overall society. But as it is constituted today, the arrogant believers are absolutely certain that they have the “god-given” right to shove their delusional nonsense down everybody else’s collective throat. And this is not just the more rabid types like Marietta and Robertson and Graham – so-called moderates are just as guilty, although in a more subtle way.
But the problem is that in their arrogant zeal, the religious insist that their religion be given the position of being unassailable, the unquestioned moral authority, that their dictates and dogma be accepted as absolute truth by everyone. And that is just unacceptable to any rational person. When they insist on denying women control over their reproductivity, or denying LGBT people equal rights, or, as in the nineteenth century, promoting slavery, they have no claim whatsoever to any kind of moral authority, even though they insist otherwise.
Take, for instance, this past Friday’s Post-Gazette Town Hall Meeting on Religion in the Public Square. (You can read Sam Stone’s excellent post on this topic elsewhere in this blog.) The panel was stacked with pro-religion panelists, most of whom held forth that non-believers are a detriment to society – they are immoral and don’t care about society or their fellow humans. And they were not above rewriting history by claiming that the abolitionist movement was started and led by religious clergy. While it is true that the movement didn’t really pick up steam and become successful until a fair number of the liberal clergy from the Northeastern U.S. joined up, the movement was initially started by non-religious freethinkers of the day. (There were very very few atheists in that day – most of the non-religious thought of themselves as freethinkers.) But the majority of clergy were preaching that slavery of African’s was biblically sanctioned and perfectly acceptable.
Now let’s consider their moral authority claim in the matter of women’s reproductive freedom. David Zubik (Pittsburgh’s Catholic bishop) is constantly railing against contraception and abortion, and how terrible those things are. But let’s consider where that comes from historically. You can trace the roots of the prohibition against reproductive freedom back to two separate things. The first is the biblical admonition to “be fruitful and multiply”. At the time that the old testament was written, it was essential to the survival of any society, or even the species as a whole, to have a very high birth rate. Between an infant mortality rate around 50% and the need for as many hands as possible to contribute to the production of food, it was an absolute necessity to procreate as prolifically as possible. That is no longer the case today. Infant mortality is barely a fraction of what it was and our society is capable of producing far more food that it needs. (That is not to say that we don’t squander our food production capability causing much hunger in the world.)
The second prong of the war on reproductive freedoms is the Calvinist notion that pleasure is bad – that it is our lot to suffer while we are on this world and that pleasure is not to be sought. Of course, not everybody believes in the hereafter – especially those who are grounded in the real world and insist on evidence to support their world view. Extending this to the demand to be exempted from providing contraceptive coverage for employees of non-church institutions amounts to forcing their religious dogma on people whose only crime is wanting to work for a living and provide for themselves and their families. And that is flat out immoral bullshit. Of course, when you worship a sadistic monster and hold such a creature out to be the paragon of perfection, I can understand why cruelty is considered to be just and honorable. (Anyone who thinks that the Abrahamic deity is not a sadistic monster obviously hasn’t read the bible. Either that or they have a severe case of cognitive dissonance.)
And speaking of reproductive freedom – we can see a variant of this issue in the Middle East and other muslim countries to various degrees. Studies show that when women are empowered with control over their reproduction, the society in which they live becomes more prosperous. So maybe the Islamic culture’s subjugation of women and the resultant denial of reproductive freedom is part of the cause of the serious poverty in much of the Arab world.
But I have gotten sort of off topic. My point is this. We are all obligated to respect each other’s right to believe what we wish. But we are not obligated to respect the belief itself unless it has some valid evidence and/or rational logic behind it. Beliefs with no credible support do not deserve the same respect as those that have verifiable, repeatable evidence to support them. So as I said at the outset, regardless of what kind of hokey nonsense someone wants to believe, that is their right and I don’t really care. But if they insist on bringing it into the public square, they damn well better have some credible evidence and rational logic to support it. Because it affects me and everybody else who isn’t deluded enough to believe their fairytales.