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April 28th, 2008

Moral Judgements Are Easy When God Is Always On Your Side

On Box Turtle Bulletin I had a very brief argument with someone named David who could not believe that a fundamentalist crackpot once told me on Usenet that the Golden Rule gave him the right to harass gay people.  David assured me that he had argued with them over on BeliefNet over the course of many years and never once encountered such an argument and asked me to provide him with an example.  Which I did after a very quick scan of my Usenet archives.

The fundamentalist’s argument went something like this: "If I was engaging in self destructive behavior I would want someone to rescue me from it, even if I fought it at the time because I would thank them later."  David assured me that such a stupid argument was "easily refuted".  And yes, it is.  But if fundamentalists were willing to listen to reason and logic we wouldn’t still be arguing over evolution in this country, let alone the human status of gay people.  That David could find it "easy" to refute a fundamentalist about anything made me wonder how often David every really argued with any.

I was thinking about that reading This Story over at the New York Times about an atheist soldier who is currently suing the department of defense over violations of his religious freedom by officers and other soldiers.  This follows years of horror stories of military personnel being subjected to forced proselytizing by evangelicals in the ranks.  Not all of the victims, as the Times story notes, are atheists.  In fact most of them are other Christians who were deemed to be not Christian enough for their tormentors…

In an e-mail statement, Bill Carr, the Defense Department’s deputy under secretary for military personnel policy, said he “saw near universal compliance with the department’s policy.”

But Mikey Weinstein, a retired Air Force judge advocate general and founder of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, said the official statistics masked the great number of those who do not report violations for fear of retribution. Since the Air Force Academy scandal began in 2004, Mr. Weinstein said, he has been contacted by more than 5,500 service members and, occasionally, military families about incidents of religious discrimination. He said 96 percent of the complainants were Christians, and the majority of those were Protestants.

Emphasis mine.  When faith has degenerated into certainty you have lost all your brakes.  You have become God’s own right hand and gods don’t feel shame.  Or to put it another way…

After his run-in with Major Welborn, Specialist Hall did not file a complaint with the Army’s Equal Opportunity Office because, he said, he was mistrustful of his superior officers. Instead, he told leaders of the Military Association of Atheists and Freethinkers, who put him in touch with Mr. Weinstein. In November 2007, Specialist Hall was sent home early from Iraq after being repeatedly threatened by other soldiers. “I caution you that although your ‘legal’ issues are yours and yours alone, I have heard many people disagree with you, and this may be a cause for some of the perceived threats,” wrote Sgt. Maj. Kevin Nolan in Specialist Hall’s counseling for his departure.

Though with a different unit now at Fort Riley, Specialist Hall said the backlash had continued. He has a no-contact order with a sergeant who, without provocation, threatened to “bust him in the mouth.” Another sergeant allegedly told Specialist Hall that as an atheist, he was not entitled to religious freedom because he had no religion.

Emphasis mine.  This is the mindset by which the Golden Rule becomes a license to do whatever you damn well please to your neighbor.  This is the mindset by which putting a knife into the hopes and dreams of gay people becomes a form of love.  There is no reasoning with this.  It’s not that God is on their side, it’s that God is the face in the mirror.  Good is whatever you decide it is.  Evil is other people.

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