Saturday, 25 May 2013

Bigotry Masquerading as Religion

I never cease to be amazed at some of the views people feel free to express on the Have Your Say section of the BBC website.

Yesterday one of the items available for a rant was the story that the Boy Scouts of America have decided to admit gay boys into the movement. Typical comments from the bigot (mainly religious, it has to be said) tendency were as follows:

"Political correctness triumphs over the most elementary common sense. Congratulations. We have achieved a state of complete idiocy."

Common sense, really? So is not discriminating against black people Political Correctness gone mad too?

"The fact is that homosexuality is a sin under many if not all faiths,supporters are asking persons of faith to abandon the teachings of their religion in favour of what? The views of a minority group? the real question should not be 'how can we make people accept homosexuality as normal' but 'why should millions of people abandon their faith to suit me'."

Because your "faith" is an abomination and an affront to society if it encourages discrimination on the basis of colour, gender, sexuality - in fact anything over which the individual has no control!

"Why don't they just have their own clubs, associations etc."

I suppose this person thinks black people should have their own clubs or sit at the back of the bus?

"How sad to promote homosexual views in a boys camp. It cant be right."

Promote? Homosexuality is a sexuality, not a proselytizing religion. 

Bigotry masquerading as, or hiding behind religion is the worst form of bigotry (and not a nice form of religion either). The bible prohibits many activities, and yet condones a number which today are forbidden by law and the fact we live in an enlightened society. Religious people seem to focus on only those prohibitions which reinforce their personal prejudices, conveniently ignoring those in which they indulge themselves. Try reading the bible to see which ones I mean, specifically those where the sanction is stoning to death. 

Discrimination on the basis of something over which one has no control whatsoever - like ethnicity, colour, disability, gender, economic status, etc., is to be abhorred in the 21st century; however, one's "faith" (or philosophy) is something over which one does have control (else why would there be converts or apostates?), thus discrimination on the basis of irrationally (albeit deeply) held views should be allowed, and indeed encouraged in the spirit of the Enlightenment and the advancement of ethics. Bigotry, no matter its origin, should have no hiding place. Dressing it up as religion is doing religion itself a disservice.

Is being an atheist itself tantamount to being a bigot? I suppose it is, according to some definitions; however, when a view is held rationally and after many years of careful enquiry, I find it hard to call it bigotry. It's like calling an evolutionist a bigot with respect to creationism; the evolutionist at least has factual evidence on his side.

Faith, as defined by religion, is nothing more than opinion based on the prejudices and beliefs of ancient, pre-scientific societies. The mere fact of the myriad religions and sects makes a mockery of their claims to "ultimate truth". They can't all be right - they can, however, all be wrong.

"Judge not, that ye be not judged," is a quote many Christians should consider. I dare to judge (in this specific case), because I can argue my case rationally and am willing to be judged. When your argument depends on a book, many thousands of years old, with unattributed multiple authorship, containing stories where the laws of physics are severely compromised (without the aid of a Large Hadron Collider), is shot through with contradictions and inconsistencies and purports to be the word of a mythical creator with the aid nothing more evidential than circular logic (it is the word of God because it says it is), then you're treading on ground that's about as solid as water (if you'll forgive the analogy) and your cause is intellectually bankrupt.

I have no desire to ban religion, just for it to have a long look at itself, drag itself into the 21st century and drop the more barbaric and morally repugnant aspects. If it can't do that, it should just shut up and keep its views within the confines of its temples.

James Henry Breasted (1865-1935) American archaeologist, Orientalist, and historian
"It is important to bear in mind the now commonly accepted fact that in its primitive stages, religion had nothing to do with morals as understood by us today."


  1. Hi Chairman,

    Neither the time nor the space to adequately respond to you here, but I'll give you some short notes.

    Firstly, the response to the inconsistent madness of religious bigots cannot be consistent bigotry by the non-religious. As you hint at here, Christians are failing at their religion when they persecute homosexuality, and this argument is worth pursuing - but this needs to be separated from the ideological canonification of homosexuality as a category, and particularly as a claimed *biological* category. Can you not sense the disturbing edges of an argument which has premises that would equally support "testing for gays"?

    Think of the problem this way: Do you want your arguments to have influence or do you want to be right? You have to choose between the two! It is precisely because both sides of this culture war care *way* more about being right than having influence that we have got into such a terrible mess in the first place.

    As long as you try to make gay politics a question of choice-versus-not-choice you are mauling the life experiences of gay people, gender politics, religion and the sciences. You are unknowingly predicating your ontology and forcing it onto others - you are unwittingly making the same kind of category mistakes as your opponents. There is a horrific confusion here that you are sharing with millions of others, and there is no way through on this path. We need to find another way.

    I don't want to single you out here, as you are only one of an endless supply of people on the liberal side of this equation - but the gap between you and your "enemies" is so much thinner than perhaps any of you realise...

    Finally, should the Boy Scouts admit gay members (while continuing, I would add, to discriminate against gay Scout Leaders)? Perhaps a better question is: should the cultural war between conservative religious groups and liberal identity politics happen within the Boy Scouts as an institution? It certainly isn't going to resolve the problem to politicize it even further.

    Well, make of these thoughts what you will.


    1. Chris - I agree entirely that the problem is insoluble; both sides are convinced they have right on their side. Religious people claim scriptural authority (but conveniently ignore many bits of the same scriptures), whereas I have contemporary morals on mine.

      I do have the added advantage of time, as the old ways will pass, as they did for slavery, votes for women, etc. It's just a matter of time.

      I may seem an old liberal at heart, but I'm pretty conservative (with a small c) on many other issues.

      My problem, as you have pointed out previously, is that we liberals and the conservatives cannot stand in each others' boots. I simply cannot argue for scripture as an arbiter, and they can accept nothing less than scripture.