Showing posts with label religious right. Show all posts
Showing posts with label religious right. Show all posts

Saturday, April 04, 2015

The forgotten factor in the "Religious Freedom" debate

The last few weeks have been filled with debates, from town halls to mainstream media, from congregations to social networks, over the merits and intentions of Indiana's "Religious Freedom Restoration Act".

What doesn't seem to be getting mentioned much if at all is one the foundational beliefs those who sponsor and back measures like this hold and believe deeply.

Many religious people, not just Christians, believe that homosexuality is a choice. They believe people make a conscious decision to be gay. Further, they don't accept that there's anything organic about being transgendered. They think that a transgendered person is simply someone displeased with their biologically assigned gender and who wants to think of themselves, and wants everyone else to think of them, as a member of the opposite gender.

The religious ignore any scientific evidence that supports a biological and genetic basis for people who are gay or transgendered. They believe that these are "lifestyle choices", that one day in 1986 little Timmy decided he'd rather have sex with Billy than Marcia, or that he'd rather be Theresa than Timmy. Yet when questioned directly about this belief, I have yet to encounter someone who can tell me exactly when it was they made the choice to be heterosexual. While they often say that gays must have suffered some trauma of a sexual nature in their youth that made them choose to become gay, they dismiss the testimony of those who have been gay since they were first sexually aware who had wonderful childhoods. Of course, there is trauma often suffered when attempting to come out to homophobic family members and friends. That's a whole other issue, a very real and painful one.

These religious people do not see this debate as one over equal, civil rights. I'm sure the majority of them see our treatment of Blacks as an issue that needs to be addressed, a situation that needs correction. They know that no one chooses their ethnic background, but they fervently believe that one does choose their sexual orientation. They cannot separate orientation from behavior. In fact, they see the entire LGBT community as a group who has chosen to behave in ways unacceptable to the majority of "decent" (i.e. religious) Americans. They reject the notion of orientation. Because of their failure to appreciate the difference between behavior and orientation, they cannot equate discrimination toward Blacks or women with discrimination toward LGBT people. 

Thus, this debate over "religious freedom" is less a civil rights matter and more another aspect of the religious right's ignorance of science, their preference for the Bible over biology. As long as they refuse to respect medical science and instead defer to their religiously inspired bigotry, they cannot "in good faith" support the fair and equal treatment of gays and the transgendered. 

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Is theism on the rise in America?

Today over on Ayloo, a new social site that encourages conversations centered on specific topics raised by its members, I was asked if I thought theism was on the rise in America, on the decline or unchanged from years past. Here's the reply I posted there.

I perceive theism as being on the rise here in the U.S., but not a compassionate theism or even a primarily religious theism. By that I mean that the theism that I see becoming more popular these days is more political than spiritual. Theists are embracing conservative political values and infusing them with their theological beliefs, creating a conservative movement that unashamedly defers to the Bible as the basis for deciding national and foreign policy. It's ironic that George Bush was lambasted for saying that part of the reason he went to war in the Middle East was because he thought god told him to and now we have candidates openly calling for prayer to end the drought in Texas and the teaching of creationism in schools as an "alternative" to evolution, and the press and public seem unconcerned.

It's been said for years that an atheist would have no chance to be elected to the presidency, or any public office for that matter, but now we have evangelical Christians running for office that don't accept or endorse the notion first put forth by Thomas Jefferson that there ought to be a wall of separation between religion and the government. I'm amazed that Perry, Bachmann and their fellow conservative Christians have convinced their followers that the economy and crime will both be straightened out if only America becomes a more Christian nation in light of the fact that America has always been a primarily Christian nation. Considering their percentage of the population it's reasonable to conclude that the economy was wrecked by people who call themselves Christians and most crime is committed by people who would describe themselves as Christians. Bars and sex shops would have gone bankrupt long ago if their only patrons were non-believers. The state that consumes the largest amount of Internet porn is Utah, home to some of the most conservative Christians there are, many of whom must have had to dip into their porn allowance to send money to their church in opposition of California's Proposition 8. It appears this massive hypocrisy not only doesn't bother American Christians but is completely ignored by them. Despite all evidence to the contrary they think that if only they can get a conservative Christian candidate elected president the nation will somehow be blessed by god and everything will get better.

The theism I see on the rise is a form of fundamental Biblicalism combined with a devotion to profit and a deference to the wealthy. This is understandable in the case of politicians, they follow the money. But it would be hard to explain in the case of the average citizen. I think this is why religious belief is being emphasized so much. Religious citizens naturally follow strong religious leaders. It's a part of their training. Perry and Bachmann, even Palin, are attempting to portray themselves as religious leaders as much as political leaders.

The primarily religious theism that is increasing is in reaction to the perception that civilization is going to hell at an increasing rate and that end-time predictions are coming true. People unfamiliar with history can easily be fooled into thinking that times like these have never occurred before. Plato credited Socrates with complaining "The children now love luxury; they have bad manners, contempt for authority; they show disrespect for elders and love chatter in place of exercise. Children are now tyrants, not the servants of their households. They no longer rise when elders enter the room. They contradict their parents, chatter before company, gobble up dainties at the table, cross their legs, and tyrannize their teachers." Nothing we see today is new or unique to our age. But once again, as they have many times before, Christians have decided that these must be the end times and many quasi-religious people, worried that they may be among the "left behind", are becoming more committed to the claim that they are religious. Not that they are attending church any more often or have increased their caring for the poor among us. They are less interested in following the dictates of Jesus than they are interested in avoiding hell. It's a convenient Christianity, and in my opinion a useless one. Another minor factor in the increase of theism is as a reaction to the perceived increase in the number of Muslims in the U.S. The "Us or Them" mentality of the Middle East has waded ashore here.