“Inoculation” can be an effective propaganda technique because a group inoculates itself from criticism if it successfully accuses opponents of doing exactly what it is doing. It’s become one of today’s standard attacks against a competing ideology.
For example, when apologists for the top 1 percent accuse their critics of waging class warfare — making people envious of rich and successful people — they neutralize attempts of those who accuse the top 1 percent of waging class warfare by getting legislators to pass laws that favor them at the expense of middle and low-income citizens.
The same thing is happening in the current “religious freedom” protests of fundamentalists who want our country to accede to the dictates of their religious leaders, even when they defy common sense and the discoveries of science. When the framers of our Constitution included separation of church and state, they recognized that religious leaders sometimes try to force their values on a secular society, even when the society doesn’t agree with them.
Separation of church and state, however, doesn’t mean that religious leaders cannot try to affect secular policy. Indeed, they have the right, and even the obligation, to try to get a secular society to establish standards that a civilized society needs. However, they don’t have the right to force nonbelievers to behave in ways that have been shown to be unjust or unwise.
For example, parents recently sued the San Diego county school system for conducting yoga classes, claiming that such classes were part of non-Christian religions and violated their own children’s religious beliefs. Fortunately, a California appeals court concluded that there was no evidence the yoga classes had “religious, mystical or spiritual trappings.” Result: religious fanatics were unable to keep students from participating in a beneficial activity. As those who have had secular yoga classes can attest, it is a great way to improve relaxation, physical flexibility and strength.
Some now claim that forcing a business to not discriminate against others may violate religious standards, and, thus, is an attack on their freedom of religion. What they are really saying is that if, say, a motel operator disapproves of LGBT behaviors, he can punish a couple by not renting them a room, even if they’re seeking shelter in a storm.
A law that says he can’t discriminate against those he disapproves of is not an attack on his freedom to adhere to his religion by being a heterosexual male married to his first wife. He can still go to church on Sunday and denounce those who behave in ways he defines sinful.
He also can try to convince others that if they value an afterlife, they should change their behaviors.
The reason secular based moral standards are superior to religious based standards is that when secularists legislate new standards, they consider religious values as well as scientific breakthroughs and the actual experiences of society. If a religious leader says “Thou shalt not steal,” the secularist will consider it, and if it makes sense, establish laws and punishments about stealing.
On the other hand, when religious fundamentalists argue for legal standards, they insist on adherence to their interpretations of revealed truth, even if it defies scientific breakthroughs or the lessons learned from actual experience. Despite modern scientific discoveries about the varied development of sexual orientation from conception to maturity, fundamentalists still insist that religion gives them the right to render God’s punishment on sexual behaviors they consider sinful.
Given the wide variety of Christian leaders’ interpretations of God’s will, even those who feel the U.S. is a Christian nation should realize that laws should be based on science and a society’s actual experiences, not the demands of a specific religious movement.
Chuck Kelly lives in Burnsville and is author of The Destructive Achiever; power and ethics in the American corporation, and Farewell Fantasyland; time for political and economic reality. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org