“It is not for us to say that their religious beliefs are mistaken or insubstantial.” –Justice Alito
A primer to controversy in America: No matter how blindingly wrong you are, no matter how unfounded, no matter how regressive, self-serving, or quaintly idiotic your beliefs are, we must respect them. We must all nod our heads and go, “Well, if that’s what you believe, then that’s fine.” Anything else is intolerant, hateful, or, in the case of the Church, sacrilegious.
You never see secular opinions protected in this way. In forums where religion is not invoked, your statement will be challenged, criticized, and questioned. As it should be. If a corporation (which is now a person; didn’t you get the memo?) were to pronounce that they didn’t want to provide contraceptives to women because they just felt really strongly about it, no one would give them the time of day. People would ask for their reasoning. They would be asked why they think that this is immoral, and why they feel they deserve special exemption from the law because they feel like it? But if your reasoning is “Invisible dude says so”?
The law practically bows to you.
A liberal sentiment I have heard multiple time goes like this: “I have no problem with religion, so long as it’s not shoved down my throat. People can believe whatever they want, as long as it make them happy.” (Occasionally followed by, “Well, you might not be too hung up about vanishing forever when you die, but other people are need the support.” Oh, please. We’re all adults here. It’s time to grow up and smell the metallic scent of the void.)
This is fine. I superficially agree. If religion had literally no bearing on anything in the realm of the secular, I would, for the most part, throw my hands up and tell them to carry on. I would still loudly shout that it’s factually incorrect, but, okay. If you are a compassionate human being, and at least pay lip service to science, philosophy, and ethics, all right. You absolutely have the right to believe what you want, and though I might argue with you (if you want to have that discussion, of course), no one is advocating bringing out the pitchforks under any circumstances.
However, the fact of the matter is, religion doesn’t work like that. Religion is not solely comprised of thoughtful deists, or pagans who like the comfort of rituals. There are fundamentalists and creationists and jihadists, and well-meaning moderates who defend the peddling of scientific inaccuracies in school, or who embrace regressive notions of sexuality, or who just look the other way when these things happen.
Religion has serious and secular impacts on the world, and even in its most toothless forms, it hurts public discourse, legislation (see above), and, as a superset, human rights. You only need to look at the privilege religion gets in discussions of it to see why. A patently wrong idea with a mountain of evidence against it is somehow able to be used as a trump card. “I don’t have a reason, I don’t want to pay for this, I don’t want people to have human rights,” all turn into “It’s part of my religion. You have to respect my beliefs.” Instead of thoughtfully examining the arguments, the chips go straight to the godly.
I am sick of this. Your beliefs do not have to be respected. Your beliefs are ideas, like any secular idea about anything, and they should be afforded no special privileges because they are shiny, happy, or obnoxiously amorphous. While I will respect you as a person, and I will defend your right to practice your religion so long as it does not infringe on the rights and happiness of others, I do not respect your beliefs. Like saying that contraceptives cause abortions and the Tooth Fairy is real, you are wrong, and I should not need to shy away from saying as such.
Maybe then, we will actually be able to talk.