The following, I freely admit, is a rant; but I believe it to be a necessary one. There is something that must be said, and I am tired of waiting for someone else to say it.
On Saturday, November 8, 2014, I had a moment of morbid realization when I came across a headline that read “Being Gay In Iran Can Mean Death – Or Getting A Forced Sex Change.” The best way I can describe my reaction to this is that moment when you realize that there is no limit to the ways in which some members of our species will hurt each other. It seems that there are no lines that cannot be crossed. The increasing amount of good being manifested in our society is uplifting, but the dark side of humanity still has too much control over the actions of deranged psychotics willing to kill over religious attitudes toward difference.
For every horrifying idea, there are a few disturbed people willing to carry it out; and when such ideas become state policy, we have new blood on our hands. The fact that Iran is one of 10 countries in which homosexuality is punishable by death, is a testament to the human potential to fail. I am going to go ahead here and assert that Iran is one of the most backward nations on Earth. Along with countries like Saudi Arabia, Iran is a prime example of what happens when you run a government in accordance with religious principles. The archaic ideas and human rights abuses found in the books of the three primary monotheistic religions should never be used to inform policy, law, legislation, or ANY matter regarding the running of a state (It is said that many Western laws and statutes were based on Biblical morality, but this is not true. Every example of our “Biblically inspired moral code” is based on a value that predates Biblical times).
To be clear, I refuse to identify this as a Muslim problem. This is a religion problem. It is the great failure of humanity, when faith in religious doctrine trumps reality; and it applies to every religion in which doctrine leads people to mistreat others. The fact that most of us miss, is that these things always have religious foundations. In North America and the U.K, discrimination and hate is rooted in Christianity. In the Middle East, it’s Islam. In Russia, much of the hatred toward LGBTQ people is informed by the Orthodox Church. In Africa, it’s the colonial brand of hate-filled doctrine introduced by the parasitic missionaries of the past. In every country where minority people are routinely mistreated to the point of fearing for their lives, religious belief can be found at the very foundations of the social structure. In countries that experience very low levels of hate-inspired action, we see higher levels of secularism. The correlation here points to the root cause. Religion informs culture, and in those precious few cultures where religion has not gained dominance, we see much more acceptance, equality, and overall social health. I point this out for two reasons. (1) It’s relevant. (2) I often encounter “you make a lot of good points, but what’s your solution?” Well, I believe the answer to that lies in what we deem worthy of respect.
As long as we have countries where minority people are treated as inhuman, threatened, and demeaned in horrifying ways, we must continue to try to understand where the underlying ideas are coming from. Change cannot happen unless we understand what it is we have to change. I believe that an important part of this fight involves taking the perceived right to respect away from religious ideas. Ideas must be judged by their merits, not by the tradition behind them. If an idea is causing harm, it is deserving only of contempt until it either changes or ceases to be. The notion that religious belief is inherently deserving of respect has forced silence from people who may have otherwise cried out, if only it were acceptable to do so. There are some religious ideals that are deserving, but they are deserving because their merit is relevant and beneficial, NOT because they are a sincerely held religious belief. I don’t particularly care where an idea comes from – if it is hurting minority people, I will speak out against it, and if it is accepting and inclusive, I will support it. We do need to understand where an idea comes from to know how to fight it, but we only need to know the effects of it to pass judgment (and we have every right to that judgment. As a matter of fact, we have a moral obligation to it).
Now, I realize that a person with deep faith could be pretty angry with me at this point, if indeed you are in disagreement and have read this far, but it was really time for someone to say this. Religion is trashed all the time, but not generally by people who know what they are talking about. I have spoken out against ignorance in non-belief before, about the dishonesty of reading only what fellow non-believers say, and then taking their arguments as your own; without actually learning about what it is they argue against. Simply put, if you read only Richard Dawkins, you will wind up with the opinions of Richard Dawkins … but you will not be any closer to understanding religion, faith, or religious people. The difference here is that I know exactly what I’m saying, why I’m saying it, what my saying it means, and what objections may come my way. I have no problem criticizing religion because I study it. I know its power. I have lived it, and every day I struggle with the baggage associated with leaving it. Most importantly, I see it hurt more and more people every single day.
When I see a headline talking about capital punishment and forced sex changes as legal sentences for homosexuality, I get angry. This time, as you can see, I’m angry almost beyond my ability to remain tactful. To be honest, I’m tired of the continuing position of privilege held by religious ideas. I can no longer even accept the argument “not every Christian/Muslim/Jewish person is like that,” because the radicals can find just as much justification for violence as the moderates find for peace … in the exact same book. Enough already. I beg of you … if you subscribe to an ancient text … please understand that your belief does not give you the right to lash out at what you do not understand. I realize that coming out of the dark ages is a frightening prospect (and I realize that saying that is probably offensive), but please do us all a favour and join us as we march toward equality. If you decide to stand on the sidelines frowning and holding your “Adam and Eve” placards, know that you are displaying a complete lack of moral behaviour. Subscribing to ignorance is not righteous. It is dishonest and shameful.