Mike the Mad Biologist

While this letter I found at AmericaBlog.com deals with religiously-motivated intolerance towards gays and lesbians, I think it’s going to be germane (at least tangentially so) to the current stem cell discussion over at What’s New in Life Science:

We as a group have become tolerant of intolerance.

Whenever anyone justifies their bigotry with what I call DHRB (deeply held religious beliefs) we roll over as if that were the end of the discussion.

We have confused respecting a persons right to hold whatever religious beliefs they chose with respecting those beliefs. The truth is there are plenty of DHRB that are simply not worthy of our respect. Can we start with the ones that have no respect for us? Can you imagine an African American respecting someone’s DHRB that the Bible justifies slavery? The right to believe it, yes. The belief itself? No way.

We are terrified to call a bigot a bigot if the bigotry is a result of DHRB. We are horrified that we might be accused of attacking someone’s religion. As if attacking bigotry hiding behind the skirts of religion and attacking religion were the same thing. The church homophobes have it easy on this one. They say the most vile, cruel, untruthful things about us, usually to raise funds, and then use their tax exempt dollars to promote anti-gay legislation. If we dare to defend ourselves we are accused of assaulting their faith. They even use the word “bashing”. What an insult. Try telling Trev Brody or any of the thousands of other gays who have seen the wrong end of a baseball bat, that someone taking issue with your religious views is equivalent to their experience.

Why are we not talking about this? Is there no one who has the guts to stand up to these bigots? Is no one willing to say forcefully that homophobic DHRB have no place or value in a civilized 21st century?

….We have got to start talking about religion. All of it. The good guys–and there are many–and the bad guys. It must be a compassionate discussion but we must not in our compassion shy away from the truth. Yes, it is a dynamite issue. Yes, people will take offense. Yes, the opponents are formidable.

To put this another way, once you argue that you get to tell someone else what to do based on your private beliefs–religious or not–that’s when you need to shut your trap. They’re your private beliefs, and they should not be imposed through government fiat.

Personally, I’ve stayed away from this debate because, as a member of a religious minority, I’m always nervous with public venom launched at religious minorities. But when your religious beliefs are being used as a shield to defend bad public policy, then all bets should be off. If you want religion to remain sacrosanct, then don’t sully it with politics.

Comments

  1. #1 Reginald Selkirk
    November 30, 2008

    Can you imagine an African American respecting someone’s DHRB that the Bible justifies slavery?

    Yes, I can imagine this. (Although this specific example is an African-Briton, not an African American.)

  2. #2 Pierce R. Butler
    November 30, 2008

    Ah, if only homophobia & stem-cell research were the limits of religiously-motivated intolerance – which it now seems the United Nations wants us all to tolerate

  3. #3 JThompson
    November 30, 2008

    Yeah, but if we take away their ability to publicly spew hate and call it godly, what reason do we leave them to be religious?
    At least that’s the way it kinda seems sometimes.
    A lot of religions (I’m looking at you, Southern Baptists. And probably a lot more. SBs are what I mostly have to deal with.) seem to exist solely to dehumanize or demonize people to make themselves feel better.

  4. #4 Edward
    December 1, 2008

    I am a religious person. I believe that following God’s will is the right thing to do. BUT, the crux of the matter is in how one discerns God’s will. Humans are all too subject to making mistakes on this matter. One must look at each subject deeply and from many angles to reduce the chances of mistakes. As a result, I long ago came to the conclusion that if someone can only give “Because it is God’s will” as the reason for their actions and beliefs, they probably have not thought about the subject deeply and are most likely mistaken. As a religious person, I am annoyed when people use religion to justify their petty prejudices and whip them up to hysterical levels. I am all too happy to see hate groups that try to use religion as a shield challenged on their beliefs. I believe in freedom of speech (and freedom of thought), but that means we all have a duty to call out hate for what it is, not that we should turn a blind eye to intolerance.