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Saturday, October 03, 2015

Whose Religion?

Ever hear this one? "You want religion to make the rules? Whose religion? Yours?" Or something like it? It comes up when you take a biblical stance on an issue -- say marriage as the union of a man and a woman -- and claim that it ought not be something else. Why? "Because God says so." Now, that's certainly a good enough reason for you, but it is equally certain that it is not a good enough reason for the unbeliever, the skeptic, or the "progressive". So, to shut you down, they ask if you're really sure you want religion to make the rules. Because, you see, the question then becomes "Whose religion?" If you open the door to religion making the rules, are you willing to have, say, sharia law? That's one religion making rules. So, sure, no, that's not what you want ... and you carefully and safely back down.

I'm recommending that you don't back down so quickly. Rather, consider the question. The implication is, "Let's not allow religion to make the rules." Okay, fine. Let's go with that. So what should? Clearly not consensus. The first state to redefine marriage was Massachusetts in 2003. By 2008 two states (Massachusetts and Connecticut) had redefined marriage and 5 had no rulings one way or the other. The rest had passed constitutional amendments defining marriage as the union of a man and a woman or passed statutory laws as such. Prior to the courts legislating marriage out of existence in favor of something else, all but 13 states had rules, primarily voted in by the people, that retained marriage as the union of a man and a woman. From 2013-2015 the courts threw out those laws. So, no, it isn't consensus.

What, then? By what value system ought we create our laws? You should note that when you are challenged to answer whether your religion ought to be the basis, there is an implied anti-response behind it. "Clearly," they are saying, "we should not use your religious values," and we get that, but what we miss is the rest of the implication: "We should use mine." Now, of course, most often these people are not religious (even those who claim to be) but it's still "my value system" they want to impose in distinction to yours. Clearly it's not "everyone's value system" which would be contradictory confusion and anarchy, and we've already determined it's not consensus. So it's implicitly "my values" and specifically "not yours".

Here's the thing. "Religion" is typically limited to "belief in the supernatural", but the dictionary also includes "a specific set of beliefs and practices generally agreed upon by a number of persons". In this case "humanism" and "secularism" and "materialism" would all fall under the heading of "religion". Indeed, many who adhere to those particular "isms" do so religiously. Some seem more devoted to their "non-religions" than many who claim to be religious. So, I'm going to have to ask that question back to them.
"You want religion to make the rules? Whose religion? Yours?"

"Well, actually, why not? Don't you want to use your religion to make the rules?"
And, frankly. I'd much rather have a religion instituted and documented by God with values instituted and documented by God to serve as the basis for laws in this (or any) country than the completely arbitrary, unsubstantiated, baseless values of the alternative of non-religious systems. Those are somehow better? I don't think so.

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