I have moved discussion of the Pledge Project to my other blog, Atheist Ethicist Journal. That blog continues to track cases where the Pledge is used as a gate to keep atheists (or any who do not say the Pledge for any reason) out of public office and other moral offense. Atheist Ethicist Journal will continue to cover things that you can do to promote the moral case against 'under God' and 'In God We Trust'.
However, Sporkyy at Unscrewing the Inscrutable posted an endorsement of the E Pluribus Unim petition . The posting, 'Under God'/'In God We Trust' petition also contains a poster that demonstrates one of the moral problems with "In God We Trust" as the national motto. I would not mind seeing the poster in a few civic buildings and schoolhouse walls myself.
On to business as usual:
Since the California Supreme Court declared it to be unconstitutional to prohibit marriage among people of the same sex, I have noticed an important problem in the way people have talked about this issue.
The word 'morality' has been used almost exclusively by those who are opposed to the decision. They are writing that the Supreme Court decision is a defeat for morality, In some cases, they have argued that the Court is threatening to eliminate all moral constraints. If all things are now permissible, then murder, rape, and theft also become permissible.
Let's put the facts on the table. The California Supreme Court decision is a victory for morality because it protects the interests of innocent people from those who would harm those interests without justification. The Supreme Court's decision that permits homosexual marriage was no more of a defeat for morality than the 1st Amendment rights to freedom of the press and freedom of religion. These freedoms, too, were once branded as enemies of morality since people who were allowed to practice a different faith and not instructed in the One True Religion were at risk of adopting immoral practices.
This does not say that the Court's decision was an accurate interpretation of the law. There are unjust and immoral laws – such as laws that allow a person to marry somebody of a different gender while prohibiting marriage to somebody of the same gender. The Fugitive Slave Law in the 1850s, Jim Crow law, segregation, the Japanese Internment, and the like represent other immoral laws. There are a slew of questions to be asked whenever any court is asked to enforce injustice and immorality.
Yet, none of that is relevant to the point of this essay – that a society that permits homosexual marriage is more moral than a society that does not.\
It is a mistake not to put it in these terms, and to allow those who like morality to religion or to scripture to make their assertions unchallenged. In this sense, silence implies consent. In this case, refusing to challenge claims that link morality to scripture means that most people only hear that they are linked. If that is all they hear, then that is what they will believe, which will perpetuate the myth, much to our disadvantage.
As a matter of fact, the 'morality' that we find in scripture is a morality that was invented by man, and then assigned to God. It is a theory that is filled with error – just as ancient theories of astronomy, physics, and economics were filled with error. This is not to say that everything found in scripture is mistaken. Ancient peoples were able to get some of the more obvious moral facts right, just as they were able to get some of the more obvious scientific facts right. But this does not change the fact that there are whole areas filled with error.
Then, these man-made moral errors get assigned to God, creating a situation where injustices get carried far into the future – thousands of years into the future – where injustices thought moral by primitive man are still being inflicted on innocent people today.
One of those ancient moral superstitions – the moral equivalent of the scientific superstition that the Earth is the center of the universe – is the claim that there is something morally objectionable with homosexual relationships. This is an ancient prejudice – like the permissibility of enslaving those who are from another country – invented by man and assigned to God.
Those who are familiar with this story know that there is a measure on the California ballot that will amend the Constitution to bar homosexual marriage. In that fight, I once again see that those who support the amendment are allowed to have a near monopoly on the use of the term 'morality'. In that fight, I once again see a people willing to give consent (through their silence) to the idea that whatever violates scripture is immoral, and whatever is immoral should not be permitted.
I would like to start to read those who are opposed to this Amendment that the Amendment itself is a threat to morality. It is a threat to the moral principle that the state should protect the interests of its peaceful citizens, and that one of the key moral principles that hold any moral society together is equal respect for those who do no harm.
I would like to hear the fact that reported that those who wish to prohibit homosexual marriage and who defend it through scripture are no different in principle than those who wrote into the U.S. Constitution that black slavery was permissible and defended it with references to scripture.
I would like to hear some people use this opportunity to point out that while some things found in scripture correspond to morality, that others do not, and that we can create a more moral society by ignoring certain biblical prescriptions (as with slavery) than we can by obeying them.