Sometime today, the House of Representatives will vote on an Act exempting anyone with “sincerely held religious beliefs” from the ACA’s mandate to buy health insurance. The measure didn’t go through the usual legislative procedures; it suddenly appeared—like magic!– a product of the increasingly hysterical opposition to healthcare reform.
And of course, it’s framed as “respect for religion.”
Religions began because humans attributed things they couldn’t explain to mysterious gods and their mysterious ways. Did lightning strike the village? Someone angered the deity. Was drought starving the tribe? Sacrifice a virgin. When smallpox vaccinations first became available, clergy warned that God–who sent the disease to those who “deserved” it–would disapprove of the vaccine’s use to evade His purposes.
We may laugh at these examples, but a significant percentage of the American population—never mind “natives” residing elsewhere—still harbor similar beliefs. Pat Robertson has famously attributed hurricanes to toleration of GLBT folks, and James Inhofe (who inexplicably serves on Congressional climate committees) believes climate change is blasphemy–denial of the Truth that God will protect the planet.
A not insignificant number of Americans are Freethinkers—agnostics or atheists–but very few of us are comfortable “coming out” as nontheistic in a society that pays so much homage to even the most farfetched “sincere” religious belief.
American culture privileges protestations of religion in innumerable ways.
Deference to dogma routinely distorts public policy. It explains institutionalized homophobia and sexism, the conflation of “sin” with “crime,” opposition to stem cell research…the list is extensive. Most recently, employers outraged at the prospect of providing basic birth control as part of comprehensive health coverage—even though they need not pay for the coverage and even though those workers have their own, very different religious commitments—have had their arguments received with (unmerited) respect. Because, you know, they’re “religious.”
And now, a bill that says “Hey—if you’re religious (or say you are), the law won’t apply to you.”
Thoughtful religious people understand that genuine faith requires humility.
Faith—religious or otherwise—means belief in something that by its nature cannot be scientifically or logically proven. There’s a reason it is called a “leap of faith.” There’s a reason that generations of religious thinkers have wrestled with the problem of doubt.
There’s also a reason that our legal system separates Church from State. The Constitution protects your right to believe in God, Jesus or the Flying Spaghetti Monster, but it also protects me from the operation of your theocratic impulses.
I don’t think I’m the only person who is very tired of kowtowing to the demands of the Ostentatiously Pious and those who use them for political cover.