Last week, The Investigative Fund and the website called “The Nation” released a draft of Donald Trump’s executive order entitled “Establishing a Government-Wide Initiative to Respect Religious Freedom.” According to the site, the executive order covers:
“any organization, including closely held for-profit corporations,” and protects “religious freedom” in every walk of life: “when providing social services, education, or healthcare; earning a living, seeking a job, or employing others; receiving government grants or contracts; or otherwise participating in the marketplace, the public square, or interfacing with Federal, State or local governments.”
This executive order would essentially legalize discrimination of people based on sexual orientation, abortion, transgender identity, and for some weird reason, people who have premarital sex. Businesses could refuse service to someone simply due to “moral objections” to being homosexual/bisexual, or for being transgender (just like Jesus would have). I’m not sure how these businesses would know which women had abortions or who among us engage in premarital sex, though. I have to imagine there’d be something like this involved:
Laws like this – allegedly defending “religious freedom” – are anything but intended to protect freedoms of anyone. We can look at history and past behaviors as evidence of this.
I’ve had the great fortune of living in Indiana my entire life (groan), meaning I had the privilege of knowing Mike Pence well before he became vice president. Among other awful things he did to our state (including blatantly disregarding the will of his constituents), in 2015 Pence signed the Religious Freedom Restoration Act into law in Indiana, which permitted businesses to refuse service to anyone because of their gender identity, sexual orientation, and probably also because they talked on the phone while in a bathroom stall (Which is weird. What happens in the privacy of your own home is one thing, but pooping in public is already awkward enough without you talking to your BFF while doing it. Just be like a normal person and text message them while you’re pooping, please).
The act was subsequently “fixed” fairly quickly, but prior to that sparked a fantastic grassroots movement to normalize equality, but apparently we live in a time in history where we have to normalize people having equal rights.
The First Amendment of the Constitution of the United States already protects expression and practice of religion within the US (emphasis mine):
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
We already have a document that guarantees your freedom to practice your religion, so why do we need another law that goes further?
Some Christians suffer from persecution complex, where they fabricate victimhood for themselves and pretend that they are being attacked. To see this in action, you can go to nearly any meme or article I post on the aSE page on Facebook.
Part of the reason is many Christians have internalized their beliefs and made it part of their self-identity. They’re unable to differentiate between criticism of an idea and criticism of them as a person. I’m not denying that there are some atheist activists who target and mock Christians, but by and large they are not the norm, are being dicks, and need to stop doing that. It’s not constructive, it’s not helpful, and it only serves to shut down potential dialogue.
Instead, we need to remember that ideologies are not people. No ideology is above criticism, no ideology has rights, and no ideology inherently deserves respect. The majority of Christians, Muslims, and atheists are generally good people whom we have no problems with. It’s Christianity and Islam that are the problems.
When Christians claim they’re being persecuted, what they’re really saying is that they lack rational recourse to refute criticism being made. A belief that is not founded in rationality or reason is not going to have a rational or reasonable explanation. They want you to shut up, stop asking questions, and respect a belief system that is demonstrably and wholly undeserving of respect in the first place.
So when thinking about the intent of laws “protecting religious freedom,” it’s clear that religious freedom is not and has not been under attack. Muslims are free to pray five times a day while facing Mecca. Orthodox Jewish women are free to send their dirty panties to a special Rabbi so he can examine their vaginal discharge (a real thing that happens). Christians are free to pretend that they reincarnate the son of God just to ritualistically cannibalize him and drink his blood (because that’s not weird at all).
What the evangelical religious right is doing is instilling their “Christian” values on non-Christians. They are the ones who are literally trying to force their belief system on others, *not* atheists. Trump’s administration is trying to blur the wall separating church and state and turn the US into a theocracy. The US is not, and never has been a “Christian nation,” and trying to make it so is going to backfire when more moderate Christians see how tyrannical this thought process is (or maybe when they realize that Trump and Pence are only really supporting the desires of evangelical Christians).
No relevant or prominent atheist that I know of has ever advocated for religion to be outlawed or disbanded. Atheists activists are not forcing people to change their lives or belief system. If you are against abortions, then don’t get an abortion. If you’re against same-sex marriage, then don’t marry someone of the same sex. If you’re against premarital sex, then don’t fuck before you’re married. A group of people enjoying the same rights and privileges as you does not diminish your own ability to enjoy them as well. If it does, then you need to seriously re-evaluate your priorities (and probably find a hobby).
I fully support the right to practice religion. We can’t restrict free speech, and we can’t restrict the freedom of religion (the Romans tried to do that about 2000 years ago and look how well that went).
However, your right to enjoy freedom of religion ends when you begin infringing upon the rights of others.