I had my niece staying with me for about a week after Christmas. That experience caused me to spend a lot of time thinking about what the world will be like 30 years from now.
At that time, she probably will have children of her own just entering adulthood. If she continues to grow into the caring person that she seems to be becoming, she will be greatly concerned with the future that her child will have. So much so, in fact, that I cannot sensibly hope that she has a good life, without hoping that in 30 years she will be able to hope for a better life for her children.
What type of world will they have?
More importantly, as I think about her future, I wonder what it is that I can do to make that future better. What kind of future can I help to make for her?
Thirty years from now, she will probably discover that a huge portion of her income is going to mitigate against the effects of global warming. The government will be driven to near financial collapse by the costs associated with this problem . . . PLUS the costs of the baby boomers in retirement . . . PLUS the cost of paying the interest of a huge budget deficit. All of those expenses will have to be taken out of her paycheck, while she is struggling to feed and clothe and shelter her family while working to send her eldest children to college.
She will be worried about who might take her children away from her. Will there be some sort of truce between Muslims and the West in 30 years, or will she be worrying about her child being drafted, sent away, and shot – a telegram coming in the mail telling her that the child she had raised died nobly in the service of his country?
Perhaps her child will take his own life. For example, a child (with a child’s developing mind) may pick up on the community stigma against homosexuality, learn to hate himself, and blow his brains out both to eliminate a future which he sees as painful and empty and because he has learned society’s attitude of condemnation towards such people.
Who, out there, is threatening my niece with such misery as she might experience if any of these events come to pass? How can I protect her from the possibility of such a horrendous day?
Of course, I cannot eliminate all risks. However, I can work to protect her from some of them.
For example, the state of Massachusetts approved a Constitutional Amendment for the 2008 ballot that will ban homosexual marriage. (The proposal must pass a second vote next year to appear on the ballot).
It is likely, if Massachusetts supports the ban, that at least one mother’s child will see this as a statement of personal condemnation. That child will internalize the message, and take his own life. If not my niece, then somebody’s niece, will have to deal with the pain of a phone call from some hospital or a visit from some police officer bringing her news more painful than that which any human shall ever be forced to endure.
Wanting to protect my niece, and others like her, from suffering through a day like this, would it not be a good thing to oppose this amendment and allow my grand nephew to realize that he is valued as a person – so long as he is not a threat to others?
And who is doing this harm? Who is killing these children?
I would, in particular, like to see a campaign in opposition to these laws waged in a while new way. Rather than the standard slogans one hears where these issues are discussed, I would rather hear something like this:
This law is just another example of a case where people do harm to their peaceful neighbors in the name of God. These religious fundamentalists may not be using bombs and guns, but the damage that they do is just as destructive. Their victims end up no less dead and maimed by their actions. A law is no less of a weapon of mass destruction than any biological and chemical weapon.
It will catch between 300,000 and 650,000 Massachusetts citizens in its blast area – far more than any suicide bomber in Baghdad. They will suffer the loss of the ability to share a life with the people that they love, to form a team of mutual support for their joint well-being, unless they do so with those they simply do not have such intense affection for. Some will end up dead. Others will be maimed. Still others will simply be made to suffer without suffering any physical injury – all because a group of people got the idea to do harm in the name of God.
This is morals legislation, you tell me? This has just as much to do with morality as the inquisition, crusades, and witch hunts. Those people – the people who committed those moral crimes – turned to scripture to find justification for their actions. No doubt, they thought that the burning to death of their neighbor the heretic, the infidel, or the wisdom was no less justified than the harms that modern fundamentalists inflict on their neighbors.
Homosexuals are a threat to the community? They will destroy the sacred relationship of the conventional marriage? Sure. They are just as much a threat as the witch who was allowing Satan to have influence over mortal lives. The 16th century scientist who argued that the Earth was not the center of the universe, degrading all of humanity by suggesting that the whole universe did not revolve around us was also a threat. No doubt he, too, deserved to be burned at the stake.
No, the homosexual is no more of a threat to society than the witch or the scientist who placed the sun at the center of the solar system. These types of laws are no less unjust.
Oh, I forgot. We are not supposed to criticize other people’s religion. Well, that particular doctrine, 500 years ago, would have meant standing aside while the witches and the scientists were burned, allowing the misery that the Church was more than willing to inflict on its victims. If one thinks that the true hero of the 1500s was one who would have spoken against the church in defense of its victims, then the hero now can do no less than to speak up against the church in defense of its contemporary victims.
This is an example of a new type of campaign – one that paints contemporary religion-based legislation in their proper historic context – as yet another case of the Church doing harm in the name of imposing God’s will on others.
Then my niece, 30 years from now, when she is looking at her son or daughter preparing to leave high school and join the adult community, will at least have the comfort of knowing that their child has been protected from the harm that the Church does in the name of serving God.
There are other threats to be concerned about. There is worry over medical problems (though they will be better advanced by abolishing the Church’s opposition to new medicines – the way it once stood in the way of immunizations and advances in surgery on the grounds that those who practiced these arts were ‘playing God’).
There is the threat of war (though war itself seems to be most commonly motivated these days by individuals who think that it is permissible or even obligatory to deal violently with any who deny the authority of their religious text.
I deny that it makes sense to argue that religion itself, under all circumstances, is an evil. My claim here is to attack specifically those doctrines that case followers to act in ways harmful to others.
Whether the Church is able to withstand such an attack – whether it has any doctrines that are not provable examples of people doing harm to others in the name of God – is not relevant.
Is the specific doctrine being attacked an instance of people bringing harm to peaceful neighbors in the name of God? That is the question under discussion. Let no person distract the issue into irrelevancies.
With the worst of these offences properly described, I think that this will bring something of a brighter future for my niece – and for anybody you know who is of that age (perhaps yourself). And that would make it worthwhile.