The biblically-inspired Spanish Inquisition ought to have convinced the world that justifying one’s actions through religious channels is unsound. Since the horrors of the Inquisition failed, perhaps the political and philosophical thought of the Enlightenment and post-Enlightenment ought to have convinced the world that justifying one’s actions through religious channels is unsound. Since political and philosophical thought has failed, perhaps the presence of religious theocracies in the Arab world that breed terrorists ought to have shown the world that justifying one’s actions through religious channels is unsound.
Perhaps the next round of political and philosophical thought will convince the world that justifying one’s actions through religious channels is unsound. Pardon me for not holding my breath.
If there’s one salient lesson to be learned from human history – from Greek child sacrifice to Hindu widow burning to Islamic veils – it is this: Whatever good has come from actions motivated by religion pales in comparison to the egregious offenses afflicted upon humanity by religion. The bad outweighs the good – by an incredibly large margin.
One can argue about the boldness of that statement, but take the following example: The American Life League has recently decided that The Washington Times caters to “a group of liberal anti-Catholic bigots,” according to ALL’s illustriously uninformed president, Judie Brown. The hilarity of this statement, as anyone who has read The Washington Times knows, is that the newspaper is anything but liberal.
So the question is this: What has Brown’s chastity belt in a tangle?
ALL funded a libelous advertisement in the Times (which can be viewed at http://www.all.org/news/cffcad.pdf) which attacked Frances Kissling of Catholics For a Free Choice. CFFC has committed the cardinal sin of (brace yourself) suggesting that there ought to be condoms in Africa. Condoms and Catholicism don’t mix very well, since the “go forth and procreate” tenet conflicts pretty soundly with the “safe sex can stop the spread of AIDS” tenet. Essentially, CFFC is suggesting that Catholic beliefs are in conflict with African realities – and therefore, ought to be scrapped. My religion shouldn’t make you die.
The “sins” of CFFC don’t stop there. They support abortion (on non-religious grounds), they support stem-cell research (on non-religious grounds) – they essentially wave the banner of Catholics who realize that religious dogma and political primacy are like beer before liquor: A really bad idea.
ALL’s response has been to martyr itself on every possible level. Political martyrdom is nothing new; Cornel West martyred himself to the white upper class when Harvard President Lawrence Summers had the audacity to suggest that he live up to academic standards, former President Bill Clinton martyred himself to the “vast right-wing conspiracy” when his blowjobs became a political issue and Mumia Abu Jamal martyred (and continues to martyr) himself to racism when he killed a police officer.
But political martyrdom is particularly funny when a conservative majority (religious white people) martyr themselves to “liberal bias” – especially when the liberal bias comes in the form of The Washington Times. The Washington Times!
I ought not even write this column because of the ridiculousness of these claims. The Washington Times is roughly as “liberally biased” as Dick “the heart attack” Cheney. So why does Judie Brown get so worked up about the elimination of an uncreative advertisement that calls Frances Kissling “Con-Dumber.” (Get it? Condom … Con-dumber … it’s funny!)
The problem is that the abortion debate (and the larger reproductive freedoms debate) is being railroaded by religious dogma. Here’s the facts: You can be opposed to abortion on secular grounds and (here’s the kicker) you can make a better point if you do so. I, a non-Christian, don’t particularly care if Jesus thinks abortion is wrong. I, an American, do care if abortion violates Constitutional precepts of human rights. Do you see where I’m going with this?
Being religious is a personal thing; if you want to guide your life by the words of a carpenter’s son turned prophet or a camel herder turned warrior, that’s fine. But at least understand one thing: Just as my religion means shit to you, your religion means shit to me. So let’s not try to guide our mutual society by religious precepts that don’t mean anything to everyone.
I’m not being anti-religious per se. I understand the role of religion in giving people a philosophical grounding for their lives. Religious (and atheistic) beliefs might not stand up to every line of logical attack, but they are nonetheless important in giving people a philosophical basis for their lives.
The key is individualism. If God tells you that sex before marriage is a sin, don’t have sex before marriage. If God tells you not to have an abortion, don’t have an abortion. If God tells you to shave your head and tattoo “The Ozzman Cometh” on your scalp, shave your head and tattoo “The Ozzman Cometh” on your scalp.
But if you want to convince me, along with the rest of the world, that what your God tells you to do is right, you’ll have to convince me, along with the rest of the world, using secular means.
Because your God means shit to me, and my God means shit to you.
Manish Raiji can be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.