Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Dude, Where's My Religious Rights?

I am a man of faith. I am a Luciferian Satanist. In extremely simplified terms, that means I believe that Satan (whom we call Lucifer) exists and is best described as a noble rebel against an unjust and tyrannical God. That's extremely simplistic as I don't wish to bore you by explaining the theology but those are my beliefs. It's an unorthodox faith, certainly, but faith all the same. A friend once described it as similar to the internal struggle at Disney. Roy Disney (playing Lucifer here), while remaining loyal to the ideals and dream of Disney, became dissatisfied with the direction Michael Eisner (God) was taking the company and attempted to organise a revolt of stockholders (the rest of us). It's a good analogy and, for the most part, it works. Lord Lucifer is not some medieval loanshark stalking New England offering to exchange souls for material wealth. He (and the masculine is used purely for convienience) is former upper-management attempting to organise resistence to the regime of the existing CEO. Yes, He is also a general but this war will not be fought on the plains of Israel but in the hearts and minds of all of us.

I explain this not because I'm trying to convert you (actively seeking to convert others is not allowed) but so that you have some idea of where I'm coming from and don't fall prey to the common misconceptions of my faith. The right like to talk a great deal about their religious freedoms, usually when they're not under threat. The argument is near-constantly made that the legality of same-sex marriage in some states or abortion is an attack on their religious liberties. Naturally, that's not only wrong but ridiculously wrong. The simple existence of something you disapprove of doesn't threaten your rights but, to take their argument at face value, what about my religious rights?

See, your Constitution (and Article 9 of the ECHR which the UK is a signatory to) makes no distinction between religions. It says that your faith (or lack thereof, and the ECHR makes that part explicit) is on exactly the same level as my own. Your religious rights do not trump mine, regardless of our respective numbers. The documents do not say "all religions except Satanism". If you believe your religious freedoms must be legally respected, you have to respect mine as well and the disproportionate numbers of Christianity make precisely no difference. The ECHR also explicitly guarantees the right to freedom from religion and to freedom to change one's religion. Those rights are implicit in the First Amendment to the Constitution but they are not codified (that is, made explicit by being written down).. So, we're on equal grounds, right?

In which case, why should your religious rights trump mine with regard to same-sex marriage. My faith says that, in the wild dance of creation, some will love the opposite sex and some will love the same sex and it's all good. Love, real love, is a merging of souls and the love shared between two men or two women is exactly the same in quality as the love shared between a husband and wife so why should we take issue with two people's love because the bodies their souls currently reside in share the same configuration of genitals? My faith says that love should be preserved wherever possible. I hold a minister's license and I will happily marry any two people who want to be married (due to the UK laws, it won't carry any legal weight until registered though). Since the only arguement against same-sex marriage is religious (and it is, the other arguments can be disposed of in a matter of seconds), why should your religious objections to same-sex marriage trump my own religious beliefs which says that same-sex marriage is just as laudable as hetero marriage? Do you only respect that faith which agrees with you? Well, probably you do because if you're arguing against same-sex marriage, you're probably a militant fundie and the hallmark of militant fundies (of any stripe, both theist and atheist) is the utter belief in their own rightness.

In fact, that's true generally. In the US (and almost uniquely in the US), the populace impose their own religious test on public officials. With a very few exceptions, non-Christians cannot get elected. In coded language, the argument is often made that you can't trust them because they're not Christian. Can you imagine if there was ever any kind of similar whisper campaign against a Christian candidate? Can you imagine if there was robocalls saying "Senator Bachman worships a sadistic sky-god who sacrificed himself to himself to appease himself"? Bill O'Lielly wouldn't shut up about it for a year. See, we believe that God really does disapprove of same-sex marriage. We believe that God does that because God is a sadistic bastard who doesn't want people to be happy but I'm curious why you guys think that a benevolent God doesn't want gay people to be happy. Does your God create people with the express purpose of being abused? I think so but you guys tend to disagree.

I don't live in the USA but if I did, chances are my religious beliefs would be abused all the time. I believe it is a moral wrong to allow people to be denied healthcare but your country (or at least, the right-wing who run the country) seem to think it would be a sin to provide healthcare. I believe it is a moral wrong to deny gay people the chance to be happily married and a significant portion of your nation wants to enshrine that moral wrong in law. Would my religious rights be infringed by a law which I consider to enshrine a sin? If not, then your religious rights are also not being infringed by recognising same-sex marriage. If so, then our faiths are considered to be legally equal so why are my religious rights being trumped by yours?

Faith can be a great thing for some people. Some of us find peace, purpose or wisdom in a faith. Others find them in a philosophy or in the works of great minds and that's all good (my faith is the right one for me, whether it is right for you is a decision you have to make on your own). Some find the inspiration in their faith to do great things, such as the Rev Martin Luther King or Dr Barnado. But when religion becomes not a matter of faith and introspection but a matter of dogma, when it becomes a case not of faith in the deity or the teachings but in the institution and rules, it becomes a tool for evil. When the institution of a faith views itself as a tool for shaping law, then that institution will act to preserve the world as it wishes the world to be. Faith is about the search for the self, it isn't (or shouldn't be) an excuse for forcing others to live your way.

I've read the Bible, many times. Jesus had some admirable things to say and his teachings stand by themselves. Assuming we take the Bible as an accurate record (I don't but many do), Jesus spoke at great length and with eloquence about the plight of the poor, about social justice, about equality and tolerance and the need for good people to aid others. Granted, it's been a while but I don't remember anywhere where he says "QUEERS NOT INCLUDED".

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