Saturday, August 28, 2010

The Case for Freedom FROM Religion

If anyone has any suggestions for a direction to take this sucker, message or comment. I'm afraid I have too much going on in my head to keep anything organized. It helps if I have specific topics to keep everything from getting too caddywampus.

Suppose we'll start here:
Glenn Beck. Fuck you.

No, but in all seriousness, Glenn Beck stands as an awe-inspiring reminder of the dangers of free speech. He is the voice of the ignorant and small-minded. Granted, he has moments that make me want to shake his hand, and others that make me want to roll his head.

I'm ashamed to say that I abandoned my principles today (as an atheist I'm not supposed to have any anyway) and sat down to watch Glenn Beck. I contributed to his viewership and I am so, so sorry.
Amidst some bunk and planted definitions from his very Aryan audience, the topic of today's episode dealt with why Freedom of Religion doesn't mean Freedom from Religion.

Here's a fun activity: go to this website, hit ctrl + f, and type in the word "religion." 3 matches right? 2 of them are in titles on the page. Now type the word "God." No matches? Interesting. Here is the part of the Constitution that mentions religion, the 1st amendment:

"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble and to petition the government for a redress of grievances"
Right there, that's it. Those 44 words comprise the American obsessions of freedom of religion, speech and the press. What Beck and so many of his followers are calling for is a religious government, a Christian government. Not a theocracy, but a Christian government. The only way I can understand that is that they want to declare Christianity the official religion in the U.S. Never mind the impracticality and total lack of hope for making members of each denomination agree on policy, let's look at the legality and principle.

1. The establishment of a national religion means that only the religious will have a voice. It negates the existence and opinions of the non religious. Keep that in mind when you recall that over 90% of practicing physicians and roughly 70% of psychologists are not affiliated with a particular religion.
2. In a rather redundant statement, the establishment of a "religious government" discounts the opinions, beliefs and thoughts of the people who are not religious. Again, keep the doctors and scientists in mind. You know, the people who brought you little conveniences like modern medicine? What Beck is calling for is tyranny of the majority.

3. Justice is blind. TRUE justice is blind. It does not know race, sexual orientation, national origin, biological sex, gender-identity, etc. It knows ACTIONS and it judges them with complete objectivity. The justice for which Beck and his cronies are calling is fake justice, it is tyranny of the majority. They claim that they are being oppressed by the non-religious minority, but the reality is that the majority opinion is not always right. Large numbers of people are not always a source for good ideas. That last reference had 4 million members at one point. But, seriously. I'm really not struggling for examples.

4. Plain and simple, the establishment of a national religion is a direct violation of the first amendment. To declare Christianity the primary religion of the United States would require the passage of a law, which Congress is to make none of respecting the establishment of religion and the free practice thereof.

Because I'm a bit of a nerd, I was researching Joseph Goebbels earlier today and some interesting parallels struck me. I'm certainly not suggesting that the government has a branch devoted to propaganda (a triumph for the first amendment), but it is ridiculous to say that propaganda does not still exist. To say that any news media is "fair and balanced" is a silly notion. Everyone wants to sell issues of their paper, everyone wants viewers and everyone has sponsors. To varying extents, you have to say what they tell you to say and show what the people want to see. Even if that's not the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, so help you God.

While I think extreme patriotism can be dangerous, I am proud of my heritage as an American and I am limitlessly thankful for the priceless rights outlined for me in my country's constitution. My problem is that people like Glenn Beck threaten those great rights.

I'm certainly no purveyor of apocalyptic, doomsday ideology; on the contrary, I think America's best years could very realistically lie before us. That is why I hesitate to make this comparison, but I think it is vitally important to learn from the mistakes of the past and if we cannot learn from WWII Germany, then history has all been in vain.

Anti-semitism was a growing ideology in Germany, especially during the depression that followed WWI. People typically dismiss anti-semitism as "bigoted" but I believe this does not dismiss it from warranting examination. It is the same breed of sentiment that oppressed blacks in the U.S. for so many years, the same mentality that fuels hate crimes across the globe. It is even akin to the ideology that fuels radical Muslim groups. It is a hatred for a particular group of people for reasons beyond known experience and fact. It is hatred because of difference in race, religion and/or lifestyle. Yes, Western "lifestyle" is fuel for extremist hatred, so don't think I'm just sitting here pushing the so-called "gay agenda." It is time we learned from the hate of our predecessors.

There is also the very prevalent argument that America was founded on "Christian values" and as a "Christian nation." The latter is something I have already addressed, but the former is something I find both ignorant and offensive. My values are no different than the average Christian: charity, hope, compassion. Faith is not one of my values because there are too many ways in which it is dangerous and misplaced. I see it as a form of submission to an unseen, inconsistent force.

To the religious right: we are not attacking you. We are not asking you to practice your faith in secret or to abandon your values. We are asking you to allow us the same courtesies you have. We are asking for equality. For Justice to be blind, she must not be religious.
Stop teaching religion in tax-dollar funded schools. Set us on equal ground. You can still pray there, but don't ask us to. You can still trust in God, but don't ask us to.

Stop telling the LGBT community they can't get married. They are not hurting you or trying to destroy your marriage. All they want is the same legal right you have. Nothing special. The catharsis of coming out is a costly one for so many people. Let them have a little peace and a white pickett fence with the consenting person of their choosing.
If all goes well, my next entry should address the idea of the "persecution complex." We'll see when it happens, school has been absorbing my life.