I used to think it was awful that life was so unfair. Then I thought, 'wouldn't it be much worse if life *were* fair, and all the terrible things that happen to us come because we actually deserve them?' So now I take great comfort in the general hostility and unfairness of the universe. – M. Cole
Hello folks, sorry I’ve been quiet for a while. But it’s for the best reasons: I have a new job! In 8 days I shall be back in my alter ego as administrative assistant for a non-profit. My sojourn in retail has been interesting and occasionally fun, but I am so happy to be out of it.
Not much on the atheist front at the moment, except for news from the FFRF (original story in Slate) that the folks in Greece NY who were part of the Supreme Court decision about public meeting prayers are intentional liars when they falsely claimed that anyone would be allowed to give an invocation. It shows that the SCOTUS conservative judges were wrong when they claimed that these prayers were “only” ceremonial, since now we have only theists being able to give such invocations.
Nope, now only people from “assemblies with an established presence in the town of Greece that regularly meet for the primary purpose of sharing a religious perspective” can give these invocations (and it does a lovely job of showing that my commenter self-proclaimed Bishop Robin was utterly wrong with his claims that no one is being forced to participate in religion at public meetings). No surprise there at all and we can see again that religion doesn’t make anyone a decent person but it sure does seem to guarantee that their supposed moral god-given laws will be broken when convenient. Thanks, you, certain theists in Greece, NY for showing again that there is no reason to trust people just because they claim to be religious and therefore supposedly moral.
And yes, their actions are quite stupid when one thinks that they could have simply said people from Greece, NY could be the only ones to give invocations, no matter what the type. Then, their lie of “With this policy in place, we can return to the business of the town.” Wouldn’t be a baseless excuse, and they wouldn’t be in contempt of the court. Of course, it would also mean that they wouldn’t be ignoring their bible again and again (Prov 6, 12, 19, 24; Exodus 20; Matthew 15; Leviticus 19; Romans 13; 1 Peter 2; etc).
I haven’t been able to find much about what happens if someone ignores the SCOTUS and what happens now that they’ve reneged on what they promised. Seems like this could be a basis for yet one more SCOTUS court case, and this one could be quite fun to watch. Let’s see how many theists want to put their religions to the vote: are they “real” religions or not? Are Jews better than Christians? Are Muslims better than Sikhs? Are Catholics better than Presbyterians? Again, I am quite happy to offer to do the altar test with anyone who insists that their god is real. Or perhaps another test, where a god will allow you to walk out of a burning furnace (some of my ancestors were named after one of the fellows in the story). Plenty of ways to determine what, if any, gods are real.
Again, we have wannabee theocrats making decisions based on their religion that affects many people in this country. The usual suspects on the US Supreme Court have decided that some people’s religion trumps other people’s religion (or lack thereof) in the US. They have also decided that corporations can have religion.
The case was if companies, Hobby Lobby is the cited one, can deny any medical procedure it wants, in this case birth control, to its employees because of religious beliefs. The decision now declares that the assenting justices are “only* supporting the RFRA, and it’s okay for some people can force their religions on others when it comes to birth control on people who work for them for fair compensation. This makes one set of religious beliefs more important than others. It also declares that a corporation can have religion beliefs, which can be pretty amusing to contemplate. This is q quote from Hobby Lobby’s website “We believe that it is by God’s grace and provision that Hobby Lobby has endured.” How great this god is for allowing a craft store to flourish and not getting around to, oh I don’t know, help people who need safety and food around the world.
Now, how can one determine if a corporation has beliefs and, perhaps more importantly, that it is following these beliefs as defined by some officially recognized religion? If we have a Christian corporation, is it going to heaven? Is it “saved”? Evidently the lawyers and owners of Hobby Lobby think so. Does it have to follow the commandments listed by its god? It certainly seems like they should considering this quoe from their website: “Honoring the Lord in all we do by operating the company in a manner consistent with biblical principles.”
Does Hobby Lobby advocate murdering everyone working on a Sunday? We do know that they aren’t open on Sundays but I’m sure that they rely on suppliers who have distribution centers that are open on Sundays, factories open on Sundays (oh say in Asia where most of their stock comes from, like Gildan tshirts ), container ships and their crews who bring these supplies to our shores, truckers who must work on Sundays to get their product on the shelves and I’m sure they will complain if those supplies aren’t on time where they want them. Golly, do they pick and choose just like human believers do?
And that second commandment, no graven images. Seems like HL stocks at least one image that breaks this gem and damns them to hell. “You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below.” (the commandment goes onto add that you shouldn’t worship this image either, two distinct commands.) Of course if we keep going, we can see that Hobby Lobby the corporation has to approve of slavery since that is part of their god’s commandments too. The bible also has that any believer should accept whatever its government says as law, without question since its god put those people in power. Putting up a defense against the gov’t is saying that their god is wrong for allowing Obamacare to be enacted into law. It did, didn’t it since this god controls everything in the world? Oh but not all Christians believe in this. Hmmm.
So, is Hobby Lobby the corporation really Christian? Many Christians would claim otherwise, even if the family who created Hobby Lobby claimed to have created the company with religious concepts in mind. The court now has put its toe in the water of deciding who has the “right” beliefs.
Ah, hypocrisy, isn’t great? It against shows that religion is nothing more than the claims that some imaginary powerful being agrees with human. It’ll be great to watch any company that tries to invoke this decision will be shown to be just as hypocritical and dishonest as any individual believer.
The decision is limited to a not publicly traded company, e.g. “closely held” e.g. family owned like the Westboro Baptist Church, eh? (which should be fun if the family doesn’t agree amongst itself). It also says that the government can still step in and say that anything else that these corporations wants to do regarding their religions, e.g. you can’t claim that taxes are against your religion or that public health issues are against your religion, can’t be done. Essentially, this law only applies to certain kinds of contraception, and women can still get birth control thanks to Obamacare. I’m sure that theists will whine about this, because it says that they can’t force their other nonsense on people. Of course, other corporations will try to push other ideas in front of the court.
In my opinion, the worst problem with the SCOTUS saying that its only supporting the RFRA, is that it directly says that some people’s religion trumps others. The RFRA says “ (a) IN GENERAL. — Government shall not substantially burden a person’s exercise of religion even if the burden results from a rule of general applicability, except as provided in subsection (b). (b) EXCEPTION. — Government may burden a person’s exercise of religion only if it demonstrates that application of the burden to the person — (1) furthers a compelling governmental interest; and (2) is the least restrictive means of furthering that compelling governmental interest. (c) JUDICIAL RELIEF. — A person whose religious exercise has been substantially burdened in violation of this section may assert that violation as a claim or defense in a judicial proceeding and obtain appropriate relief against a government. Standing to assert a claim or defense under this section shall be governed by the general rules of standing under article III of the Constitution.”
So whose religion gets primacy? If I believe that my god supports birth control, then why does another person get to say my religion is wrong and theirs is what is to be followed? If I believe that my religion supports multiple partner marriages, how can my boss, or the government, say that my religion is wrong and only certain ones is right? Can I say that my religion says that people of a different ancestry are demonic and I don’t have to hire them? Can the government, or anyone else say that my religion is wrong if it doesn’t bother government at all?
There is another possible twist to this. Seems like the conservative justices on the SCOTUS, by citing the RFRA, have now reinforced the idea that they can’t forbid much of anything as long as religion believe is invoked. So, now we come to the problem, who has the “real” religions, and who has the most “sincere” claim a la Linus in the pumpkin patch? Are theists willing to have each of their sects and religions judged as “real” by others? Shucks, Scalia, Roberts, Kennedy, Alito, Thomas, all Catholics and on the SCOTUS are sure that any other Christian sect are false at worst and badly misguided at best. You want them to decide that your big ol’ mega church isn’t a true religion? You want the Jewish justices to decide that Christianity isn’t a real religion since there’s no reason to believe that Jesus Christ was the “messiah”? I’m guessing that my theist readers would be horrified if religions were judged on whose qualify, but now that’s what we can have so we can know for sure that the RFRA is being applied correctly. How can we know if someone has a “real” religion, and hasn’t just made one up to get its nonsense accepted as legal?
Now, what I would like to see is that since the SCOTUS says that they can step in to protect people from other stupid religious claims, i.e. refusing blood transfusions, no vaccines, no medical care, this would mean that parents who kill their children, or attempt to kill them, because of their religious beliefs would be punished to the fullest extent of the law. This decision does give support to the idea that religion isn’t quite the legal cover that many wannabe theocrats would wish it is. I’m guessing that there’s not a chance of this, because, as much as the conservative justices want to claim that they can refuse some religious claims, they won’t go that far to save lives, no matter how much they claim to be “pro-life”.
Again, hypocrisy always rules religion.
Postscript: Found this whilst looking at commandments “26 And do not go up to my altar on steps, or your private parts may be exposed.” – Exodus 20. So this god can’t tell its believers about underwear? The Israelites have nothing like underwear? God is offended by seeing body parts it supposedly created? Or is there some magic that suddenly exposes your penis if you use steps near an altar?
Postscript 2 – Congratulations to the usual teabaggers. You were so afraid of Obama introducing Sharia law. And now, we have your fellow conservatives enabling it! Yep, you now have precedent to allow anyone to claim the right to do anything, as long as they sincerely believe it.
I thought I’d also add to the commentary about the recent US Supreme Court decision about allowing prayer at town meetings. The excuse that the conservative judges used to allow this nonsense is no more than “we’ve always done it so that makes it always okay”. If each state wants to have its own rules that ignore the Establishment Clause:
“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.”
Which means that
those who argued that slavery was okay since it’s always been around
that child labor was okay since its always been around
that women being considered property or second class citizens was okay since it’s always been around
were right per Scalia, Kennedy, Roberts, Thomas and Alito and everyone else who supports this decision.
Gee, they should be so “proud”. As has been noted, these justices only consider the speech they agree with to be worthy of “free speech.”. The rest of us? We’re less than American citizens if we dare to insist on our rights.
Religion depends on arrogance, coercion and fear: arrogance that one religion is the only right one; coercion in the idea that only one religion produces “good” people and fear that one will be excluded if one doesn’t follow the group. That is exactly what these government sanctioned prayers do.
Addendum: If one reads the opinion by Justice Kennedy, http://www.supremecourt.gov/opinions/13pdf/12-696_4f57.pdf one can see that Kennedy does a good job of showing that prayer is essentially worthless, by claiming it is only for “ceremony” aka tradition. Unfortunately, for Justice Kennedy, the very nature of religion is to be intolerant and to claim that one group of people has the “truth” and all others will die or be damned to eternal torture for not having such “truth”. No one is claiming that prayer should be forbidden. If people need to pray to feel better about themselves, let them do so, but they do not have the right to do so in public and expect “respect” from others. I would ask that any theists who read this blog post and feel the need to respond to consider how they would act if a religion that they did not agree with were to give required prayers at the beginning of each meeting they went to . Should they be required to be “respectful” or should religion simply be left out of a venue where even the conservatives justices claim it is just a formality based on tradition and not belief? Or are they willing to admit that they do want to force others to obey their religion and that they do want a theocracy?