Fundamentalists on the march

It’s always heartening to see a group of religious warriors – walking testaments to their God’s message of love, peace and tolerance, remember – up in arms lest a law be passed that would forbid them from discriminating against anyone whose lifestyle might ‘offend’ their ‘beliefs’. They feel that a new law designed to forbid businesses from discriminating against homosexuals forces them to compromise their deeply held religious convictions. Well, if your deeply held religious convictions are little more than a excuse for deep seated bigotry then good. Bollocks to your convictions, quite frankly. In reality, the people demonstrating outside Parliament were fighting for the right to uphold prejudices held together by the flimsy notion that their beliefs stipulate that they are entitled – nay, required – to do so. Bummery = badness. Because it says so in the Bible. Oh, the Bible. The fucking Bible.

{Sigh}. Do we really have to go through this conversation again? Do we? Really? Yes, I suppose we do.

‘Back The Bible’ said one of the placards held up at the march. “I’m concerned that the Biblical laws should be upheld,” said Ralph Brockman, a Baptist from London. “Christians… cannot and must not be forced to actively condone and promote sexual practices which the Bible teaches are wrong,” said Thomas Cordrey of the Lawyer’s Christian Fellowship. You’re not being asked to, Tom. The purpose of the law is to ensure equality for everyone, in much the same way that it is rightly illegal to put up a sign saying ‘No Blacks’ in a restaurant window. The law is upholding the right of everyone to be treated in the same way, regardless of their sexuality which, for the record, is none of your concern, whatever the Bible might tell you.

This idea of strict adherence to the teachings of the Bible is an interesting proposition though, considering the mass of contradictions, anachronisms and downright gibberish contained therein. The long-departed Realist covered some of this ground many moons ago with this piece about the deranged ramblings to be found in Leviticus and some of the surreal commandments it contains. I was reminded recently of this classic viral email that did the rounds several years ago, wherein an anonymous correspondent wrote an open letter to ‘Doctor’ Laura Schlessinger, a conservative talk radio host in the USA, famous for dispensing ‘no nonsense’ advice to her callers. An outspoken critic of all of society’s ills such as sex outside of marriage, contraception and (gasp) homosexuality, she has been known to invoke the Old Testament as a common sense guide for living.

I reproduce here the letter in its entirety. It’s very funny. Even if you’ve seen it before, it is well worth reading again and could just as pertinently be posed to those marching religious fundamentalists who would have us live our lives according to the values of the stone age.

Dear Dr. Laura,

Thank you for doing so much to educate people regarding God’s Law. I have learned a great deal from your show, and I try to share that knowledge with as many people as I can. When someone tries to defend the homosexual lifestyle, for example, I simply remind him that Leviticus 18:22 clearly states it to be an abomination. End of debate.

I do need some advice from you, however, regarding some of the specific laws and how to best follow them.

 

a) When I burn a bull on the altar as a sacrifice, I know it creates a pleasing odor for the Lord (Lev 1:9). The problem is my neighbors. They claim the odor is not pleasing to them. Should I smite them?

 

b) I would like to sell my daughter into slavery, as sanctioned in Exodus 21:7. In this day and age, what do you think would be a fair price for her?

 

c) I know that I am allowed no contact with a woman while she is in her period of menstrual uncleanliness (Lev 15:19-24). The problem is, how do I tell? I have tried asking, but most women take offense.

 

d) Lev. 25:44 states that I may indeed possess slaves, both male and female, provided they are purchased from neighboring nations. A friend of mine claims that this applies to Mexicans, but not Canadians. Can you clarify? Why can’t I own Canadians?

 

e) I have a neighbor who insists on working on the Sabbath. Exodus 35:2 clearly states he should be put to death. Am I morally obligated to kill him myself?

 

f) A friend of mine feels that even though eating shellfish is an Abomination (Lev 11:10), it is a lesser abomination than homosexuality. I don’t agree. Can you settle this?

 

g) Lev 21:20 states that I may not approach the altar of God if I have a defect in my sight. I have to admit that I wear reading glasses. Does my vision have to be 20/20, or is there some wiggle room here?

 

h) Most of my male friends get their hair trimmed, including the hair around their temples, even though this is expressly forbidden by Lev 19:27. How should they die?

 

i) I know from Lev 11:6-8 that touching the skin of a dead pig makes me unclean, but may I still play football if I wear gloves?

 

j) My uncle has a farm. He violates Lev 19:19 by planting two different crops in the same field, as does his wife by wearing garments made of two different kinds of thread (cotton/polyester blend). He also tends to curse and blaspheme a lot. Is it really necessary that we go to all the trouble of getting the whole town together to stone them? (Lev 24:10-16) Couldn’t we just burn them to death at a private family affair like we do with people who sleep with their in-laws? (Lev. 20:14)

 

I know you have studied these things extensively, so I am confident you can help.

 

Thank you again for reminding us that God’s word is eternal and unchanging.

 

Your devoted disciple and adoring fan.

 

Genius. Right, I’m off to continue reading Richard Dawkins’ brilliant treatise on atheism The God Delusion. It should be made compulsory reading in every school in the land.

 

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Centrist. Atlanticist. Dry liberal. Anti-totalitarian. Post-ideological pragmatist. Child of The Enlightenment. Toucan.

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14 comments on “Fundamentalists on the march
  1. Anonymous says:

    I wonder what any gay priests think about these protests ? (Nothing wrong with a bit of bummery within the church is there ? Do these believers beleive it could not happen among their own ?)

  2. ph says:

    Do you believe that the Labour party should be prosecuted if it refuses to let out its premises (such as Labour clubs) to gatherings of the BNP. Or maybe we should prosecute members of the Vegan society if it refuses to employ people who rear Veal Calves as a hobby. This law is not to deal with all prejudice, its just to deal with prejudices that Liberals feel are wrong, whilst letting Liberals promote prejudices they feel are OK. Yet another daft law from an interfering, nannying yet incompenent government. Just do not get me started on the upping of the school leaving age …..

  3. Citizen Sane says:

    Anyonymous (or, I suspect, DC):
    Buggered if I know.

    PH – Aha! I’d have bet my house that you’d have something to say on this one!

    Membership of an organisation such as the BNP is an individual, political decision. The Labour Party refusing to let property to the BNP would be a private commercial decision, like a landlord refusing a drunk entry to his pub. A landlord refusing entry to a gay couple however, and purely on that basis, is nothing more than naked bigotry. Why should the law uphold such rights? I take the stance that we should be intolerant about intolerance. To even things up, I also believe that it would be wrong for a Gay Community Group to bar someone for being a Christian.

    Clearly there are circumstances where any organisation has the right to object or veto membership, or for a club or restaurant or hotel to refuse admission. But on reasonable grounds, certainly not on the basis of gender, sexuality, colour, race, ethnicity or, yes, religion.

  4. Citizen Sane says:

    Oh, nearly forgot.

    PH – What do you think about upping the school leaving age?

  5. ph says:

    “…on reasonable grounds”, isn’t that the problem. What you deem as reasonable others do not… and as there is no God there is no supreme arbiter, so yours and the government’s opinions have no more correctness than the next person.
    I do have some sympathy for the chap in the scottish highlands who has a B&B, essentially inviting people into the heart of his home. Being a Christian, (I imagine of the particularly sctrict Wee Free variety)he does not wish there to be sodomy under his roof. I remember going to such a place with my girl friend, and we had to have separate rooms. My view was that this is their house I will put up with it. I did not go crying to the governemnt to get the law changed. We don’t always get what we want, and that is good.

  6. ph says:

    “Hey Tony just leave those kids alone”
    Upping the school leaving age … this government has finally become completely pointless. It seems to be controlled by a clique of liberal numpties, who are out to punish the working classes (I suppose they are still smarting fom the fact that when our current champagane liberals were champagane socialists the working classes did not rise up and place the socialists on the throne of power).
    Anyway it would make much more sense to lower the leaving age by 2 years. What is the point of forcing someone who wants to fit tyres at Quick Fit to stay on until they are 18. What do they hope to achieve, apart from creating more nonsense courses for resentful, dispirited and disruptive pupils who just do not care….. and why should they
    Education is greatly over-rated.

  7. Citizen Sane says:

    What you deem as reasonable others do not… and as there is no God there is no supreme arbiter, so yours and the government’s opinions have no more correctness than the next person.

    Well, yes, but we don’t tolerate this kind of relativism across the board do we? Would you be happy if the Scottish B&B owner had a sign in his front porch saying ‘No Jews’ or ‘Blacks Not Allowed’? Why should his homophobia be tolerated? As for his ‘moral’ objection, I really don’t care. Unless someone can put together a convincing case as to why they feel they are entitled to hold a ‘moral position’ on what other people do with their genitals, why should we preserve their prejudice? The basis of their ‘morality’ on this subject only goes back to the Bible anyway. And as we’ve already discussed, the Bible contains myriad silly rules on all kinds of things that nobody cares about anymore. Why should we care that someone upholds the Biblical view of homosexuality, yet they do not adhere to all the stuff about eating shellfish, burning livestock and stoning people that work on the Sabbath? Either it’s all infallible or it isn’t. And if people are picking and choosing the bits according to what they do or do not want to ‘believe’, then that’s the sort of flaky relativism we can do without. In the meantime, the rest of the civilised world will just have to work around them, because if people want to invoke an ancient text dealing with the supernatural as a basis for law then they are not worth listening to.

  8. ph says:

    I agree the scottish B&B owner should not allowed to stick up a notice that says No Jews, Blacks or Gays. But I would say that he has a right to say what people do with their genitals on his property. If he wants no sodomy – fine, if he wants no heterosexual sex – fine, its his house and business. Personally I like people to have views that liberals would like to criminalise……look at the BNP ballerina.
    As for moral relativism, people tend to think what is generally accepted by society at the moment is morally OK. I am sure if you had asked a German in 1942 what was morally OK, you would get a very different answer to if you asked a German now. So I would say that yes we certainly do support moral relativism across the board, or especially across time. What was OK yesterday is not OK today, what is not OK today was OK yesterday. Religious people do at least have some sort of ‘hook’ on which to hang a moral framework, even though this framework is also challenged by the ebb and flow of societies changing moral outlook

  9. Devil's Advocate says:

    I must say, the original post sounds more intolerant of Christians than the views of those protesting against this law themselves.

    “The purpose of the law is to ensure equality for everyone, in much the same way that it is rightly illegal to put up a sign saying ‘No Blacks’ in a restaurant window.” No it’s not. Those in the Church are not protesting against someone using their premises who might be of homosexual orientation per se – they are protesting against the fact that they could theoretically be forced to hire out their village hill for the “Derek Jarman appreciation society” to hold a disco, sponsored by KY Jelly, for example.

    There *is* a difference between orientation and practice, and while you (and I) think the idea that someone is anything other than born gay, is ridiculous, it it should be someone’s perfect right not to allow someone to use their property for homsexual practice. Most Christians would never condemn someone for being gay, but for carrying out gay “acts”. Stupid I agree, but if they wish to do this, it is absolutely no-one else’s business. This law is forcing the accepted concensus on those who don’t agree with it. Barring someone for wanting to have a dirty weekend with their gay lover is not the same as being black, and it’s offensive to compare the two.

    Finally, it is always *so* easy to find some mad, southern bible-basher who subverts mainstream Christian thinking. The Archbishop of Canterbury would no more be in tune with her thinking than we would be. There is a difference between the old Testement and the new testement, hence the different titles! The person in between the two being the central figure of Christianity.

    All in all, this view seems to be the atheist equivalent of Laura Schlessinger’s.

  10. ph says:

    Yes there does seem to be an increase in intolerance amongst atheists. It is just another form of fundamentalism. Pesonally I think that some folk are born with a fundamentalist streak (also called “always being right”). I think that today’s fundamentalist atheists are yesterday’s Marxists.

    D.A. It is interesting that you say “while you (and I) think the idea that someone is anything other than born gay”.
    I know that if you had said such a thing at the university that I attended in the mid 80’s you would have been in serious trouble. The union policy was that we are all gay and those who thought they were not were just too repressed. Anyone who thought differently was a homophobic, racist, Nazi, Tory. Clearly the Student’s Union was run by lefties, whose leader is now one of Blair’s most sycophantic minor ministers.

  11. Devil's Advocate says:

    The “Fundamentalist Atheists”… has a certain ring – and disturbing familiarity – to it. Let’s not forget that the world’s worst dictators have been Atheists…

  12. Citizen Sane says:

    I love the smell of debate in the evenings… A few points that I must highlight here.

    I must say, the original post sounds more intolerant of Christians than the views of those protesting against this law themselves.
    Firstly, I am very aware that the people who were protesting this law represent a very small minority and their attitudes are not indicative of Christians generally in this country. Nor did I even say they were all Christians in the first place – indeed there was representation from the old-school bigoted wing of all three major monotheistic religions. So I’m not specifically targeting Christians at all. Around this time last year I wrote quite a bit about the Muslim extremists who were out protesting the Danish cartoons. They, too, represented a small minority of people of Islamic faith, but I didn’t notice such a clamour to defend them against “atheist fundamentalism”. The fact is, I have as much sympathy for the ‘save us from sodomy’ brigade out last week as I did for the Muslims demanding their faith be protected from parody. None whatsoever.

    They are protesting against the fact that they could theoretically be forced to hire out their village hall for the “Derek Jarman appreciation society” to hold a disco, sponsored by KY Jelly, for example.
    That made me chuckle, but let’s face it – that’s an example that pushes the boundaries of probability ooh, just a tad. Nor will there be ‘Fisting: An Introduction’ classes held at your local Sunday School anytime soon.

    There *is* a difference between orientation and practice, and while you (and I) think the idea that someone is anything other than born gay, is ridiculous, it should be someone’s perfect right not to allow someone to use their property for homosexual practice.
    But why is refusing someone admission to a hotel, or a doctor’s surgery, or a school because of their sexuality any different to refusing because someone is black, or French, or Muslim, or has Down’s Syndrome? Still waiting for a satisfactory answer on that one. Yes, people should be allowed to hold any opinion (no matter how ridiculous or bigoted) they like, but it should not be reinforced by legal statute when they use those opinions as a discriminatory tool, and certainly not because their religious ‘beliefs’ somehow validate them. Mercy Killings are justifiable on this basis according to some, too.

    Finally, it is always *so* easy to find some mad, southern bible-basher who subverts mainstream Christian thinking.
    I guess so. I only mentioned Laura Schlessinger at all as background to the letter I reproduced (she was the original recipient). I’m not holding her up as an example and shouting “Look! This is what religious people are like!”. That would be ridiculous.

    Fundamentalist atheist?
    Mmmm. Not sure that stands up as a concept. Is it possible to ‘fundamentally’ uphold a position that is entirely predicated on the notion of not believing in something?

    Ah, you can’t beat a good debate. Quite a rarity round here these days.

  13. Devil's Advocate says:

    “But why is refusing someone admission to a hotel, or a doctor’s surgery, or a school because of their sexuality any different to refusing because someone is black, or French, or Muslim, or has Down’s Syndrome?”

    You couldn’t bar someone from a hotel for being homosexual per se. I would still differentiate between orientation and physical sexual expression – that is the difference they give. I don’t really like defending these people, but I feel I must for the sake of a free society…

    “Is it possible to ‘fundamentally’ uphold a position that is entirely predicated on the notion of not believing in something?”

    Communist Russia?

  14. Anonymous says:

    Very interesting blog. Makes me think.

    SEO Elite

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