Religion as Cover for Bigotry

There is plenty of talk going around about “religious freedom” which is somewhat ironic in one of the most religiously free countries in the world.  Believers in the country can already believe whatever they want and worship as they will in their tax free churches.  The new horizon in “religious freedom” is now believers want to act however they want and even more, get you to toe the line to their religious beliefs.  The biggest problem with this can even be seen in the phrase that is being used to champion this new kind of “freedom” the “sincerely held belief.”

“Sincerely held belief” is as vaporous as religion itself, in that it can be pretty much whatever you want it to be.  At its worst it can be and has been a cover for bigotry pure and simple.

The latest example comes from Oklahoma.  A “religious freedom” bill has been introduced by state senator James Silk.  Why?  “The L.G.B.T. movement is the main thing, the primary thing that’s going to be challenging religious liberties and the freedom to live out religious convictions,” Silk said.  So, gay people are blocking the doorways of churches?   Attacking people who are wearing crosses?  No, of course not.

No, they are simply asking for the same civil rights others enjoy, the legal protections for partnerships that marriage provides.  Silk’s bill provides a way for opponents of gay marriage to refuse to provide services, such as photography and catering to gay weddings under the guise of “religious freedom.”  And this is where the wicket gets sticky, on many levels.

So, they may say they want to not provide services because they are “Christian.”  But not all Christian churches oppose gay marriage.  If the churches can’t agree with what’s right and what’s wrong, what constitutes a “religious” belief.  Anything any preacher says?  Anything someone thinks some holy book says?  Anything god whispers in someone’s ear, even though no one else heard it?

For example, these people who don’t want to make cakes for gay weddings have almost certainly made cakes for second weddings.  According to Jesus, that would be adultery and according to the old testament punishable by death.  So their “religion” excludes homosexuality, but not adultery?  How about mixed religion marriages?  Also prohibited by the bible.  Bet they have done cakes for them as well.

And the county clerks who “sincerely” don’t want to issue marriage licenses for gay marriages have almost certainly already issued marriage licenses for people who have given false witness, made graven images, molested children, raped their fiance, sold drugs, killed people, eaten shrimp and a host of other things that most religions look down upon.  But now marriage is sacred?

How can we possibly tell when the belief is “religious” and when it is just bigotry?  Keep in mind that similar to gay marriage, the Supreme Court ruled that laws against interracial marriage were unconstitutional in 1967.   Many people (perhaps some of the same people?) argued in favor of laws against interracial marriage on religious grounds.   The Supremes got it right that time and they should use similar reasoning this time as well.

That is because there is a real question as to where “religious” beliefs leave off and simple prejudice kicks in.  People can say they belief anything for any reason.  So, how do we determine what a “sincerely held religious belief” is anyway?  All four of those words are extraordinarily debatable.

I have written before about the problem of “sincerely held,” before.  People can say they believe anything.  So, for each person who wants to claim this, are the courts going to spend hundreds of hours generating data to examine how “sincerely held” their beliefs are.  Will they have to delineate their philosophy, back up their beliefs with passages from books and such?  Will we have to look through their actions and see if they match up with the beliefs?  Cross examine their spouse and pastor to see if they express doubt?  Psychological tests to see if they are easily subject to suggestibility?

And then we would have to move on to the “religious” part.  At what level does it become a “religious” belief?  Does it have to be a proclamation of a whole church, like the Vatican for Catholics?  Does it count if you pastor says it, even if it is in contradiction to the larger church?  If it is based on the believers own reading of the bible or other “holy book?”  Which books are deemed to be holy, anyway?  If the person just believes that god told them so?

Let’s imagine that a Catholic county clerk wanted to opt out of issuing marriage licenses to gay couples because the church says this is wrong.  Does she get to do this if she is also using birth control?  Is it really a religious belief if you side with the church sometimes and sometimes not?  If  you are going to pick and choose, could it not be argued that then your beliefs are “personal” beliefs, not religious?

In the Hobby Lobby case, the owners didn’t want their money going to support what they considered immorality.  Which I will, in principle, grant them.  But I felt the Supremes really screwed this one up by not actually investigating what those beliefs were and whether they were “religious” or not.  The Hobby Lobby people didn’t want to provide birth control because they “believe” birth control actually causes “abortions.”  Well, science says most forms of contraception don’t work as abortifacients, so why is their belief “religious.”  Does it say in the bible somewhere that the pill causes abortions?

And if they don’t want their money going to support immorality, why do they hire people who live together without the “benefit” of marriage?    Once again, this is adultery according to the bible, a capital offense, just like killing.  So their money is going to support “immorality.”  Why tolerate one and not the other?  Surely they hire remarried people as well.  Why do they get to claim one part of the bible as their “religious” belief, but ignore other parts.  Shouldn’t they have to spend weeks and weeks on the witness stand defending why their beliefs are “religious” and not “ideological?’

Or just plain old bigotry?

As soon as we allow people to do things because of what is unseen between their ears, attributed to an invisible sky god, their “sincerely held religious beliefs,” we end up where we were 60 years ago.  Some people can’t rent an apartment, stay in a hotel, eat at a restaurant and maybe even shop in a grocery store because some yayhoos think god doesn’t like those people.

So, people like Silk seem to think that LGBT people offend his faith and therefore he should not have to deal with them.  People knocking on my door trying to convert me are violating my religious beliefs (and the bible) so they should not be able to do that.  Soon we have a country where everyone lives in their own religious enclaves.  Hello holy wars?  This is not religious freedom, this is simply intolerance.

People commit all kind of “sins” and practices that some religious folks don’t like.  About one third of heterosexuals admit to practicing anal sex in their relationships.  But, I am pretty sure they can get any kind of cake they want at their parties.  If you are “straight” nobody asks you what you do in your bedroom before they take your order.  LGBT people are just asking for the same thing.  Do we really want a country where you have to pass some kind of made up religious test to rent an apartment, get a prescription filled or buy a cake?

That is where these so called “religious freedom” laws are sending us.

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8 thoughts on “Religion as Cover for Bigotry

  1. Agellius says:

    You write, “The new horizon in “religious freedom” is now believers want to act however they want and even more, get you to toe the line to their religious beliefs.”

    Gay marriage is sweeping the country and you know it. Christians are the ones being forced to toe lines while gay marriage advocates are overwhelmingly getting their way.

    You write, “So, gay people are blocking the doorways of churches? Attacking people who are wearing crosses? No, of course not.”

    Not blocking doorways, more like barging through them.

    You write, “For example, these people who don’t want to make cakes for gay weddings have almost certainly made cakes for second weddings. According to Jesus, that would be adultery and according to the old testament punishable by death. So their “religion” excludes homosexuality, but not adultery? ”

    Here, I agree with you. Protestant churches have abandoned the true Christian teachings on marriage, and this has undermined their arguments against gay marriage. However, since Protestants believe divorce is allowed, they do not consider remarried couples to be committing adultery. Now a serious, devout Catholic who owns a bakery might very well refuse to bake a cake for a couple, one or both of whom is divorced, since Catholic teaching still does consider remarriage to be adultery. However, that kind of a Catholic likely would not be in the business in the first place, since restricting his business to first marriages between virgins, in our society, would drive him to bankruptcy.

    You write, “And the county clerks who “sincerely” don’t want to issue marriage licenses for gay marriages have almost certainly already issued marriage licenses for people who have given false witness, made graven images, molested children, raped their fiance, sold drugs, killed people, eaten shrimp and a host of other things that most religions look down upon. But now marriage is sacred?”

    If someone were applying for a license to give false witness, make graven images, molest children, etc., then I assume they would object to that as well.

    You write, “At what level does it become a “religious” belief? Does it have to be a proclamation of a whole church, like the Vatican for Catholics? Does it count if you pastor says it, even if it is in contradiction to the larger church? If it is based on the believers own reading of the bible or other “holy book?” Which books are deemed to be holy, anyway? If the person just believes that god told them so?”

    You can’t make laws based on borderline cases. Shall we repeal laws against murder since it’s sometimes difficult to tell whether someone killed on purpose or not? Of course the courts will have to decide the borderline cases. That’s their job: To apply the principles enunciated in the laws to specific people and circumstances.

    You write, “Let’s imagine that a Catholic county clerk wanted to opt out of issuing marriage licenses to gay couples because the church says this is wrong. Does she get to do this if she is also using birth control?”

    Again the clerk in this example is not issuing a license to use birth control, therefore whether the couple use birth control doesn’t concern the performance of her job.

    You write, “The Hobby Lobby people didn’t want to provide birth control because they “believe” birth control actually causes “abortions.” Well, science says most forms of contraception don’t work as abortifacients, so why is their belief “religious.” Does it say in the bible somewhere that the pill causes abortions?”

    The Hobby Lobby decision had nothing to do with “most forms of birth control”. It addressed four specific kinds of birth control (out of 20 covered methods) which prevent pregnancy by preventing implantation of the fertilized egg. See http://time.com/2800011/whats-hobby-lobbys-problem-with-iuds/ citing http://ec.princeton.edu/questions/ec-review.pdf What the Bible says is that it’s wrong to take an innocent human life, and most Christians believe that a fertilized egg is a human life.

    You write, “And if they don’t want their money going to support immorality, why do they hire people who live together without the “benefit” of marriage? Once again, this is adultery according to the bible, a capital offense, just like killing. So their money is going to support “immorality.” Why tolerate one and not the other? ”

    Hobby Lobby was not arguing that they should not have to *employ* people who use abortifacient birth control. They were arguing that they should not have to *pay* for their employees to do so. By the same token, I’m sure that they would object to being forced to pay to move someone’s belongings into someone else’s house for the purpose of immoral cohabitation.

    You write, “This is not religious freedom, this is simply intolerance.”

    I agree that it’s intolerance. It’s the refusal to allow people to live in the way that they choose to live. The difference is that your side would *force* people to do things which they believe to be wrong; whereas my side only wants to *allow* people to *decline* to do things which they believe to be wrong.

    You write, “People commit all kind of “sins” and practices that some religious folks don’t like. About one third of heterosexuals admit to practicing anal sex in their relationships. But, I am pretty sure they can get any kind of cake they want at their parties. If you are “straight” nobody asks you what you do in your bedroom before they take your order. LGBT people are just asking for the same thing. Do we really want a country where you have to pass some kind of made up religious test to rent an apartment, get a prescription filled or buy a cake?”

    What you argue is tantamount to a church group approaching a business run by a gay couple, and placing an order for 5,000 leaflets condemning gay marriage. Should such a business have the right to refuse to print the leaflets? Or should the government force them to do so on the grounds that a refusal would amount to religious discrimination? What this is about is which group happens to be the “in” group at the moment. Right now it’s homosexuals, who are perceived as unjustly hated and discriminated against. But what if the protected victim group, at some point in the future, were evangelical Christians, or devout Muslims? Are you sure you would still favor laws allowing this kind of government compulsion?

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    • As usual you have raised a number of issues, and I may not answer all of them.

      I disagree with you that the issue of same sex marriage is “forcing Christians” to toe the line. Churches remain free to marry whoever they want and recognize whatever marriages they want inside their churches. And they are certainly free to express their opinion about what laws we should have. But ultimately, in a secular society, we have to agree to disagree. You raise a perfect example in your comment. Churches disagree on what the disposition of divorced people should be. Should we follow the Catholic way or Protestant way? Why should Protestants be forced to follow the Catholic teaching if Catholics happen to be in the majority at the moment? Should a Catholic clerk in a courthouse be able to refuse to issue marriage licenses to Protestants (or anyone else) who wishes to remarry? If someone has a religious objection to remarriage after divorce, the solution is for them not to remarry. Why should YOUR religious beliefs keep ME from doing something that doesn’t really affect you? In that case YOU are impinging on MY freedom of conscience.

      Anticipating your objection, of course I don’t mean that people can just do anything. I don’t get to kill you because my religion says you are an infidel. But there are lots of things that are dictated by religion that really have no real bearing on secular society. For example, if you want to keep the Sabbath by not working or shopping, that is fine. But why should I keep my store closed? My store being open does not interfere with your keeping the Sabbath.

      I see same sex marriage exactly the same way. Who sleeps with who and how they split up their property in the house next door makes no difference to me, as long as the children are cared for (which same sex marriage laws wouldn’t change) and as long as those property rights don’t leave people too vulnerable (which again, same sex marriage laws wouldn’t change.) If two guys who have lived together for 25 years want to get “married” how does this affect MY religious beliefs? Someone I know is on her fourth marriage, which must offend someone’s religious beliefs, but as long as she marries a guy, she can keep on divorcing and remarrying. Should some county clerk somewhere be able to refuse to give her a license for her next marriage? After all, Jesus actually preached against remarriage after divorce, while he never preached against homosexuality.

      I see no societal harm from same sex marriage, so I see it in the same context as removing the Blue Laws for Sunday sales and those allowing divorce and remarriage. Many churches of different religions have no problems with same sex marriage, so why should one type of religious thinking trump all the others in this area? Again, how does my marriage (or lack of same) affect your conscience?

      And I do think it is fair to inquire where “religious” beliefs leave off and ideology (or bigotry) begins. If Jesus preached against divorce, but not homosexuality, I think it is fair to ask why a church would be tolerant of the former, but not the latter. Is it really religious belief or something else? I think everyone has to look into their own conscience for the answer to that. Is Fred Phelps driven by religion or bigotry? Or both?

      It’s the same way with the Hobby Lobby case. In the US, health insurance is part of the compensation package that employers provide for employees. So why should the individual choices of the employees as to what to do with their health insurance be under the control of the employer any more than what they do with their salaries? So, if your employer believes that demons cause mental illness, they should be able to opt out of providing mental health coverage? But once again, was it religion or ideology that lead to the court case? Hobby Lobby buys megatons of cheap crap from China, which certainly funds more abortions than their health plan money would. If they really care about abortion, why do they do business in China at all? Or did their suit have more to do with giving Obama a black eye than any religious belief?

      In terms of people not doing business with people they don’t like, I more agree than disagree with you. If it was just florists and bakers, I would agree with you and said so in my original post. But as soon as we allow someone to not bake a cake because they don’t like who is going to eat it (for “religious” reasons they will always say) what comes next? I would normally say that a slippery slope argument like this is fallacious, but we have seen this in our country before. Allowing private businesses to discriminate ends up with the outgroup not being able to eat at restaurants or stay at hotels and so on. I actually agree that I would not want some prejudiced jerk to be shooting pictures at my wedding. But I see the danger in letting private businesses discriminate as well. I am not 100% sure what the answer is here. And yes, maybe newspapers should be forced to take ads they don’t agree with and printers to print flyers they disagree with, if the greater good of free speech is upheld.

      And finally, I do believe that laws to protect discriminated groups are sometimes necessary. I am in favor of hate crime laws that provide extra penalties for people who destroy churches or attack people because of their religious beliefs. Don’t get me wrong, I think churches have every right to preach against same sex marriage (or divorce or whatever) within their own church. I would be completely opposed to any law that said (for example) that every church and every minister had to perform same sex marriages. And I do think that everyone has a right to speak out on this issue. But ultimately, I see no societal harm that comes from the state recognizing such marriages, and there might even be societal benefits.

      Those that oppose same sex marriage for religious reasons (or divorce, or remarriage or a host of other things) can feel free not be be gay, not to marry someone of the same sex, not get divorced, not to remarry, not to have abortions, not to shop on Sunday (or Saturday or Tuesday), not to smoke or drink or dance or eat bacon and shrimp and so on. But trying to stop ME from doing any of these things because of YOUR religious beliefs is the real attack on MY religious freedom. And I am sorry, but your being offended because I do any of those things (or anything else that is against your religious beliefs) is NOT an attack on your religious freedom.

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  2. Agellius says:

    You write, “I see no societal harm from same sex marriage, so I see it in the same context as removing the Blue Laws for Sunday sales and those allowing divorce and remarriage. Many churches of different religions have no problems with same sex marriage, so why should one type of religious thinking trump all the others in this area? Again, how does my marriage (or lack of same) affect your conscience?”

    This seems to have turned into a debate on the merits of gay marriage, which wasn’t really the point of the post. I will say this: I agree with you that, given how screwed-up marriage has become in the past 50 years or so, mainly due to the advent of birth control and no-fault divorce, introducing gay marriage makes no substantial difference. If we agreed on the premise that marriage is, and should be, nothing more than government sanction of romantic/sexual relationships, which may be ended at will and have nothing to do with procreation, then we would have no quarrel over gay marriage.

    However, that premise is the thing I disagree with. Therefore I don’t oppose gay marriage in a vacuum: I don’t favor heterosexual marriages which may be ended at will and have nothing to do with procreation, while opposing gay marriages which may be ended at will and have nothing to do with procreation. I oppose both. I believe that marriage, once entered into, should not be an at-will proposition, but should only be ended for grave reasons, and should have procreation as its primary purpose.

    However I realize that that train left the station long ago. Since civil marriage is already a train wreck, I’m more-or-less indifferent to who does or doesn’t participate in it from here on out.

    You write, “And I do think it is fair to inquire where “religious” beliefs leave off and ideology (or bigotry) begins. If Jesus preached against divorce, but not homosexuality, I think it is fair to ask why a church would be tolerant of the former, but not the latter.”

    You make a good point here. Protestant Christians undermined their arguments against gay marriage when they allowed marriage to be disassociated from procreation by accepting birth control, and made it non-permanent by accepting no-fault divorce. I think they are right to oppose gay marriage, but I think they should have been just as outraged over no-fault divorce and birth control when those things were first proposed for widespread acceptance.

    You write, “It’s the same way with the Hobby Lobby case. In the US, health insurance is part of the compensation package that employers provide for employees. So why should the individual choices of the employees as to what to do with their health insurance be under the control of the employer any more than what they do with their salaries?”

    Here I think you’re not being fair. No one can live and do business in a completely pure world, not even the most liberal of liberals. All of us participate in various kinds of evil in indirect ways, simply by going about our daily lives. This doesn’t make us all hypocrites, because most of the time our participation in evil is not conscious and not under our direct control. The thing about Hobby Lobby is that at one time, they were not required to purchase insurance that covers abortifacients, and at another time they were required to. This change affected them consciously and directly, and they objected to it. I think if you made an effort to be fair, you could see that that’s something any liberal might have done if the shoe were on the other foot. What if, for example, a company run by vegetarians or vegans, were suddenly required by law to serve meat in their company cafeteria; or a company run by anti-gun pacificists were required to allow employees to carry firearms on their premises? Would you then argue that it’s none of the company’s business what food is served since no one has to eat it if they don’t want to? Or that if they don’t like guns, too bad, no one’s forcing anyone to carry one?

    You write, “In terms of people not doing business with people they don’t like, I more agree than disagree with you. If it was just florists and bakers, I would agree with you and said so in my original post. But as soon as we allow someone to not bake a cake because they don’t like who is going to eat it (for “religious” reasons they will always say) what comes next?”

    Well, I’m glad there’s at least some potential for common ground here. We don’t seem to disagree necessarily in principle, but mainly on specifics. But I think you overestimate the danger of people being unable to obtain wedding cakes or hire photographers. How many towns in the U.S. have only one baker or photographer within reasonable driving distance? And in any event, which is more important, the right of individuals to act in accord with their conscience, or the right of individuals to have wedding cakes and photographs? Sometimes we have to give up things we want for the sake of principle, for example we have to put up with KKK rallies for the sake of free speech. Some bigoted businessmen will inconvenience and offend people for illegitimate reasons, but how long will such people stay in business? Businesses thrive by broadening their customer base as much as possible. Those who restrict their customer base through bigotry will suffer.

    You write, “
    Those that oppose same sex marriage for religious reasons (or divorce, or remarriage or a host of other things) can feel free not be be gay, not to marry someone of the same sex, not get divorced, not to remarry, not to have abortions, not to shop on Sunday (or Saturday or Tuesday), not to smoke or drink or dance or eat bacon and shrimp and so on.”

    Yes, but some would have them not be free to not bake cakes and not take photographs, and not buy insurance covering immoral acts. That’s where some Christians feel their rights are being attacked.

    But getting back to the main point of your OP, you make the accusation that people oppose gay marriage and catering to LGBT people out of pure bigotry, and dishonestly claim that it’s due to their religious beliefs. In a way, this is a nice thing to say about Christianity per se, because you are attributing people’s bigoted attitudes to their own personal defects, rather than to the influence of Christianity, as other people would argue. So, you seem to admit that Christianity doesn’t cause or require people to be bigots.

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  3. Agellius says:

    Where I commented on your statement regarding Hobby Lobby, I meant to quote your whole paragraph:

    “It’s the same way with the Hobby Lobby case. In the US, health insurance is part of the compensation package that employers provide for employees. So why should the individual choices of the employees as to what to do with their health insurance be under the control of the employer any more than what they do with their salaries? So, if your employer believes that demons cause mental illness, they should be able to opt out of providing mental health coverage? But once again, was it religion or ideology that lead to the court case? Hobby Lobby buys megatons of cheap crap from China, which certainly funds more abortions than their health plan money would. If they really care about abortion, why do they do business in China at all? Or did their suit have more to do with giving Obama a black eye than any religious belief?”

    Otherwise my response doesn’t really make sense. : )

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  4. Let me deal with your last point first, I did not and do not feel that ALL religious people are bigots or use their religion for such a purpose. My point in writing this was to say that if we are going to give special dispensation and legal protection for “religious” beliefs, I think we have a right to examine those beliefs.

    If an employer offered special time off work for religious observances I think they would have the right to inquire whether or not I went to church that day, or else we get to the ridiculous point of claiming that fishing is a religion. In the same way if a person is all gung ho about the anti-gay teaching of their church, but not so much on the tithing, non-divorce and birth control teachings, perhaps they should examine their conscience to see if their anti-gay feelings are really religious. I don’t want to give special protection to people’s feelings under the cover of religion and then find out religion has nothing to do with it

    Which brings us back to Hobby Lobby. Actually you hit it on the head, you can’t expect to do business in a pluralistic society and be ideologically pure. Some of my tax money goes to support things I disagree with. Churches getting a free ride on taxes means that I indirectly support them and I have no real choice in the matter. I could try not paying part of my property taxes, but I don’t think I will win in court — and I don’t think Hobby Lobby should have either. If the owners of Hobby Lobby want to stay ideologically pure they should run a church rather than a business. Government regulation is part of what you get when you run a business.

    Once again, I agree with you on the photographers and such. Nazis in Skokie is part of the price we pay for living in a free society. I also agree that in the long run the market will probably take care of the problem. But I will also say again, that we also have to protect outgroups from being shut out of vital commercial services.

    Finally, as to your larger point, it will be interesting to see if we find common ground here. You would argue (and did) that liberalizing laws on such things as divorce and birth control have been a detriment, and possibly changed back (I might be putting words in your mouth here, and if you don’t make that argument many conservatives do). But I would say the place to achieve your objectives is not the state capital, but rather the church pulpit.

    Allowing no-fault divorce does nothing if people don’t go out and do it. Alcohol is legal, but I have never been drunk. We’ve tried legal prohibition and it doesn’t really work. We tried to legislate morality through non-discrimination laws, didn’t work that great.

    For example, we could outlaw birth control, but what would really change? Actually, teen pregnancy, births and abortions are at an all time low. That would probably go back up. People are not going to stop having pre-marital and extra-marital sex. The marriage rate is not going to go back up, etc. All you’ll do is create a black market for the pill.

    If you want more people to marry, only have procreative sex and stay married, there is no legislation that can do that. You need to convince the people in church (to begin with) to do that. Surveys show that 80% of Catholic women in this country use birth control. But still many bishops would love to make it illegal. But why should the rest of us have to follow their moral beliefs when they can’t even convince their own flock? Let’s face it, they want to use the hammer of the law when their teachings have failed.

    People can blame “secular society,” but those Catholic women are perfectly free NOT to use birth control. And people are free to stay married as long as they like. Forever, even. And I say, first convince the people in your church to do those things. If you are right, then the people in your church should be fabulously happy. And then other people will want that and the “good news” will spread. St. Francis famously said, “Preach the gospel constantly, use words if necessary.”

    For me, I don’t see the major problems in society as relating to divorce and birth control. I see it as income inequality, lack of economic opportunity and the social polarization of society. And outlawing abortion or birth control or the teaching of evolution is not going to change that.

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  5. Agellius says:

    Again the topic seems to be shifting to more general topics. You say your point was that “if we are going to give special dispensation and legal protection for ‘religious’ beliefs, I think we have a right to examine those beliefs”, whereas your title was “Religion as Cover for Bigotry”. I will try to stick to those topics, with the understanding that my not rebutting the other points you raise, doesn’t imply that I’m conceding those points.

    First, it may be the case that some Christians are more concerned about gay marriage than they are about birth control or divorce — though this argument would only apply to Catholics. Since Protestant Christians don’t oppose birth control and divorce, the charge of hypocrisy in this regard doesn’t hold water. I would suggest, though, that Catholics who strongly oppose gay marriage, tend to be the same ones who oppose divorce and birth control. Catholics who are lax on divorce and birth control, tend also to be lax about gay marriage. Do you disagree?

    But even if some Christians hypocritically emphasize opposition to gay marriage while neglecting other moral issues, it still doesn’t follow that there is no legitimate argument against gay marriage on the grounds of Christian morality. You can’t make laws on an ad hoc basis, they have to be based on general principles. And generally speaking, gay marriage — unless for some reason the parties have agreed to abstain from sex in their marriages — is opposed to Christian morality. Therefore generally speaking, Christians have legitimate grounds for not wanting to participate in it, regardless of how much emphasis they give to one issue compared with another.

    The same goes for abortion and abortifacient drugs and devices, and in the case of Catholics, birth control.

    (Just as a side issue, it may be the case that some Christians give more public emphasis to gay marriage because they feel there is more of a chance, politically, of defeating it; whereas, since there is scarcely a chance of winning on divorce or birth control, they save their breath.)

    Concerning living a morally pure life in modern society, it doesn’t follow that since we can’t avoid indirect cooperation with evil, therefore we should be indifferent to more direct cooperation with evil. I can’t help it if my tax dollars pay for drones that kill Iraqi kids, but that doesn’t mean I can kill my neighbor’s kids with a clear conscience. My refusal to kill my neighbor’s kids wouldn’t make me a hypocrite, nor would fighting a law that would make me pay to kill my neighbor’s — or my employees’ — kids.

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    • You wrote: “Therefore generally speaking, Christians have legitimate grounds for not wanting to participate in it, regardless of how much emphasis they give to one issue compared with another.” which ironically is my point. If gay marriage is legal, Christians don’t have to participate in it. I said that many times in many ways.

      I will also say that your example of the drone (which I totally agree with) leads you to a different place than I argued. I argued that my “support” of the drone (which I morally oppose) is exactly the same as the “support” the Hobby Lobby folks would be giving to “abortifacients.” by the requirement in the health plans. In a collective society sometimes we end up “supporting” things we disagree with.

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      • Agellius says:

        You write: “Therefore generally speaking, Christians have legitimate grounds for not wanting to participate in it, regardless of how much emphasis they give to one issue compared with another.” which ironically is my point. If gay marriage is legal, Christians don’t have to participate in it. I said that many times in many ways.

        But baking a cake or taking photos is participating in it. That’s the problem. I’m not arguing that businesses should have the right to refuse to serve people on the basis of their private behavior, but only that the business owners should have the right not to participate in that behavior if they find it immoral. Baking a cake for the birthday party of a homosexual is one thing, baking it for his wedding is something else. If you agree, then we have no quarrel on this point.

        ‘I will also say that your example of the drone (which I totally agree with) leads you to a different place than I argued. I argued that my “support” of the drone (which I morally oppose) is exactly the same as the “support” the Hobby Lobby folks would be giving to “abortifacients.” by the requirement in the health plans. In a collective society sometimes we end up “supporting” things we disagree with.’

        I understood that that was your point, and again I say there’s a big difference between supporting something indirectly by paying taxes into a huge pool, in which your money is only a tiny fraction, and over which you have no direct control; and supporting something which is paid for solely with your own money.

        A thought experiment: Suppose the government decided to make each taxpayer pay for a specific box of bullets, and write that taxpayer’s name on each bullet, and the money was to be paid to an ammunition manufacturer rather than to the government. Do you think people might feel more discomfort in that case than they do when their money goes into the government treasury, where it is used to buy all kinds of things besides bullets? And if people objected, could the government defeat that objection by saying, “What’s the problem? We’re not making you pull the trigger yourself, you only have to buy the bullets.”

        Note that Hobby Lobby made the argument that there were less restrictive means of accomplishing the government’s goal of providing free birth control to everyone, and that one of those would be for the government to supply birth control directly. This shows that they were not suing to stop the government from providing abortifacient birth control, but only to avoid having to pay to supply abortifacient birth control to its own employees.

        Note also that the government didn’t object to this argument in principle. By making exceptions for overtly religious organizations such as churches, the government admitted that there is a legitimate conscience argument to be made. The government’s only objection was to allowing private companies to have consciences as well.

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