Monday, October 19, 2009

Maine's Proposition 1: Faithfully Doing Harm

"In God's name I do harm, and you had better love me for it!"

We live in an absurd culture in which people use faith to 'justify' doing great harm to others who then insist that others have a duty to treat their 'faith' with respect.

Imagine somebody coming after you with a machete, a gun, a bomb, or a ballot initiative, intent on doing you harm (or perpetuating a harm that has been going on for quite some time). Normally, it is within our moral rights to condemn such a person unless they can provide good reason for what they do.

However, in this case, those who inflict these harms do not claim to have good reason for what they do. They claim that their actions are motivated by faith – by an unfounded and unsubstantiated belief that they serve a higher purpose by inflicting these harms.

Furthermore, they get indignant at anybody who does not treat their articles of faith with respect. Disrespect, in this case, includes any action the victim might take to defend himself from the machete, gun, bomb, or ballot initiative.

If a person's faith is peaceful – if it does not motivate the agent to do harm, then the person who holds those beliefs can sensibly say to others, "Don't you have anything better to do than to criticize my harmless beliefs?"

The instant that faith becomes a foundation for inflicting harm on others, at that instant others not only have a right – they have a duty – to criticize and condemn those articles of faith for the sake of people being harmed 'in the name of God'.

Maine’s Proposition 1, to revoke the legal right of homosexuals to marry in that state, is motivated substantially by people who belong to faith communities that put a great deal of value in behavior harmful to others.

Imagine a trial in which you are the defendant. You have been charged with murder. The prosecuting attorney calls a witness to the stand to testify against you. While you sit there, the witness says that she has no doubt that you are guilty and that you must be punished.

When the prosecutor asks the witness what reason she has to believe you are guilty, she says that she knows it to be true as a matter of faith. The evidence she has is that she has searched her heart and came up with the utter conviction that you are guilty.

You might that that this is the end of it. That witness' testimony will be dismissed and the prosecutor told to find an actual witness with real evidence. In fact, your attorney stands and protests that these types of reasons are inadmissible because anybody can claim faith in a belief and there is no way to prove or disprove a 'feeling of conviction' that is not grounded on evidence.

Then, you sit there while your defense attorney is admonished, and told that any further remarks along those lines will result in him being cited for contempt. "It is absolutely forbidden for anybody in this court to object to a statement of faith. Statements of faith are sacred and if the witness has faith that the accused is guilty, then we have a duty to respect her faith and to act accordingly."

The judge pounds his gavel and says, "This case is dismissed. In light of the witness' faith in the guilt of the accused we will convene tomorrow morning at 9:00 am for sentencing."

That’s it.

Nobody has a right to question the witnesses' faith– even if her faith is the unfounded conviction that harm may be done to you (in the name of God).

Actually, the opposite is true. The evidence that is morally permissible when debating a statute or ballot initiative is the same type of evidence that should be permissible in a court of law.

The faith of those who do harm in the name of God is not on that list.

Those who do not . . . those who are the instruments of faith-based harm to others, should stand ready to not only have their faith questioned and condemned but to be condemned themselves for depending on statements of faith to give the illusion of legitimacy to doing harm to others.

Doesn't the world suffer from enough faith-based harm to others without adding yet another example of it in the state of Maine?

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