Thursday, November 26, 2009

The Manhattan Declaration Part IV: Government Obligations Respecting Religious Beliefs

Religious liberty means that the government has an absolute obligation to ban the raising of pigs and the selling of pork, demand the wearing of hats, the practice of giving patients blood transfusions, and working on the Sabbath. Failure to do so is not only a violation of the religious liberties of those who hold that these prohibitions come from God, it abuses the rights of parents to teach their children that these practices are immoral.

There are certain arguments that virtually scream I'M A BIGOT because no fair and just mind could ever embrace such an absurdity. A couple of them appear in a recently released document called the Manhattan Declaration in the section that discusses marriage.

These are arguments that are so absurd that no fair and just person could embrace them. These are not the types of arguments where a good person could ponder and say, "Ah, yes, I see your point." There is no point to see. Something other than reason has to be seducing the agent into thinking that these claims are justified, and that "something" is a deep-seated bigotry that craves anything that will give his bigotry an illusion of legitimacy.

The Declaration contains the following quote:

Marriage is an objective reality - a convenantal union of husband and wife - that it is the duty of the law to recognize and support for the sake of justice and the common good. If it fails to do so, genuine social harms follow. First, the religious liberty of those for whom this is a matter of conscience is jeopardized. Second, the rights of parents are abused as family life and sex education programs in schools are used to teach children that an enlighten understanding recognizes as "marriages" sexual partnerships that many parents believe are intrinsically non-marital and immoral

(See: Manhattan Declaration: A Call to Christian Conscience.")

If this argument made any sense at all, it would be an argument for the government stepping up and prohibiting by law anything and everything that any religion.

Blood transfusions should be banned.


Because failure to do so violates the religious liberty of those for whom this is a matter of conscience.

Furthermore, the rights of parents are abused as programs in schools teach children that an enlightened understanding of medicine recognizes blood transfusions as legitimate medical practices that many parents believe are immoral.

The eating of pork must be banned of the same reason. It is a violation of the religious liberty of the Muslim to allow the selling of pork. Furthermore, if it is not prohibited, then the rights of Muslim parents to teach their children is compromised by a state that, in refusing to ban the practice, sends those children the message that the eating of pork is legitimate.

The proper principle to apply in each of these cases is that different religions are free to accept whatever prohibitions their religion tells them to adopt, but they are not permitted to force those prohibitions on others. A religion can tell its followers not to accept blood transfusions, but it cannot justify prohibiting blood transfusions across the whole society. It can tell its followers not to eat pork, but it cannot ban the buying and selling of pork. It can tell its followers not to marry others of the same gender, but it cannot prohibit people generally from marrying somebody of the same gender.

A fair and just person - a moral person - would have begun this assessment with a presumption of liberty. He would start by saying, "I will not interfere with the liberty of others unless I am forced to the conclusion that it is necessary to do so."

On hearing an argument that says that liberty must be restricted, his first instinct would be to look for the flaw in that argument - to assume that the restriction of liberty is a mistake.

It is only when he is forced to the conclusion that a violation of liberty is necessary that he will reluctantly yield to that conclusion.

If, instead, a person too eagerly accepts an flawed argument for violating the liberty of others, we have reason to suspect that in place of a love of liberty, he has a desire to do harm to the interests of others. The more absurd the argument that the agent embraces, the more likely it is that the agent is acting on a hatred and prejudice that is so deep that he craves anything that would give the harms he seeks to inflict on others the illusion of legitimacy. No leap of logic is too great, no claim too absurd to be believed, as long as it gets the agent to the conclusion that he may inflict the harms on the interests of others that he so deeply craves to inflict.

The absurdity above is an excellent example of this.

A fair and just mind would look on how we handle these issues and come to the conclusion that religious liberty means that the followers of a particular religion are free to adopt any restrictions on their own behavior that they think comes from God, but may not force those restrictions on others. The Muslim may refuse to eat pork but must not prohibit others from eating pork. The Christian Scientist may refuse blood transfusions but may not ban others from accepting blood transfusions. The Seventh Day Adventist may refuse to work on Saturday but may not prohibit others from working on Saturday. The Catholic and Evangelical Christian may refuse to marry somebody from the same gender but they may not prohibit others from marrying somebody of the same gender.

This is the lesson that a fair and just person - the moral person - would draw from these conclusions.

The hate-filled bigoted person, on the other hand, would draw a different set of conclusions.

I have been writing this series under the overall theme that morality does not come from God. Morality comes from man, and those men create God in their own image. A kind and compassionate man will create a kind and compassionate God and will see himself as being commanded by God to act in a kind and compassionate manner towards others.

A hateful and bigoted man, on the other hand, invents a hateful and bigoted god. He then declares that the hateful and bigoted acts that he craves are the commandments of this God that he has created.

The more absurd the argument that an individual tries to grasp onto to give his harmful behavior apparent legitimacy, the deeper we have reason to believe his bigotry goes. Because nobody actually likes to admit that they're a bigot. They like to think of themselves as good people who have good reasons for what they do. They grasp on to absurdities such as this in order to say - as much to themselves as to others, "I am not a bigot." Yet, they are like the man with clenched fists shouting at the top of his lungs, "I am not angry!"

We can know you by your actions, and these actions scream, "I AM A BIGOT!"

Gods are created by man in his own image. Bigoted men create bigoted gods so that they can claim divine guidance in doing that which is based, not on divine guidance, but human bigotry.

The people who think that the argument found in the Manhattan Declaration actually makes sense are hateful and bigoted men. The God they have created that tells them to act in this way is a hateful and bigoted God, created in their own image. That God is imaginary.

However, the people harmed by these individuals who have invented such a God and use this invention to demand an unobstructed right to inflict the harms their God commands are real.


Terrible Terry said...

I completely agree that the government should not block the exercise of any religion's beliefs and practices, but at the same time, should block any effort to impose that religion's beliefs and practices on anyone. That makes clear and obvious sense.

The first rub comes when a religion argues that their beliefs are not religious but ethical and moral, so imposing ethical and moral standards isn't proscribed. (Abortion = murder, with murder being universally abhored)

The second rub comes when a religion argues that when the law permits or even fosters society acting in a way that's not in accord with that religion's beliefs, it's tantamount to an attack on that religion, which is proscribed. (Mohammad cartoons)

I don't think either of those "rubs" changes things, but they make it harder to come up with simple blanket reasons to reject them.

Eneasz said...

Terry -

I think the first case is covered by ethics and morality in general, and religion can simply be thrown out of the picture. One can evaluate the religious person's claim that something is immoral independent of any religious claims. One need not even know what the religion of the accuser is.

The second case is, I believe, simply false. I believe that's what the original post was addressing. Anyone who claims that a law permitting (or even encouraging) society to donate blood and accept blood transfusions is an attack on religion (and is therefore proscribed) can simply go f**k themselves. They can try to make the claim that it's morally wrong OUTSIDE of religion (bringing themselves back to the first rub), but their personal religion is of no relevance to fact-based policy.