In the United States of America, we all know there is a conservative fringe element that believeshomosexuals are sinful second-class citizens, that women shouldn’t have bodily rights and thatglobal warming isn’t a real concern. But where from where do those outdated ideas originate and how did they come to pervade American politics?
The Christian Right often touts the moral high ground, but the “morality” on which their lives are based is no longer in line with our modern ethical structure. By clinging tightly to the ideas that served as “righteous” thousands of years ago, under the misguided belief that they are transcendent and divinely inspired, religious fundamentalists fight not for what is right, but for what was once considered right by one small group of people. This model ignores one simple fact: over time, our understanding of what is moral changes, while the words in the Bible, Qur’an, etc. do not to any great degree.
This development, progression and fluidity of cultural ethics and norms is precisely what makes biblical teachings a poor, stagnant moral compass for today’s society. Not only does the Holy Bible condone acts which our modern society would find completely unethical, such as rape, murder andslavery, but it also condemns acts like homosexual orientation and working on Sundays — acts that, today, could be considered normal and completely separate from “morality.”
Whether a politician believes maintenance of the earth is completely unnecessary because Jesus will return soon to save his followers or that God sees homosexuals as an “abomination,” those beliefs inform his or her actions and legislative choices. Since Christianity is the predominant religion in America, “Christian” ideals permeate through our laws resulting in various infringements upon our secular nation’s supposed separation of Church and State. This can come in something as harmless as “IN GOD WE TRUST” being printed on all American legal tender or as harsh asdenying homosexuals civil rights based on that religion’s principles.
By basing their lives — and therefore their policy decisions — on prescriptions from an unchangeable holy text, the Tea Party and other representatives of Christian fundamentalism in American politics have become the primary force for stalling moral progress. They believe we get our morality from religion, but that’s like saying we get our trees from houses: it’s completely backward. Our ancient ancestors incorporated their moral codes into religions to keep order. They didn’t have complex law enforcement systems for establishing rules that everyone would follow, so they sought to give those regulations divine origin. This process worked perfectly well for them, all things considered, but our moral structure evolves over time and is not well-suited for being narrowly and stagnantly defined by a religious text. As we’ve seen so clearly in modern America, it just doesn’t work very well on a long-term timeline.
The historical predecessors of our current Tea Party Christians were those who used the Bible to fight against the abolition of slavery, racial integration and women’s voting rights. Today they continue to use cherry-picked Biblical scripture as the main justification for Creationism and other false sciences being taught in our public schools, as well as the impediment of potentially life-saving stem cell research and equal rights for same-sex couples. As a result of this, in modern America, our values have grown and groups advocating for “religious morality” have become in opposition to twenty-first century morality: such groups include religious extremists, the Ku Klux Klan, Jihadists, Crusader, Nazis and anti-abortion terrorist organizations. If you look at the organizations that have consistently impeded the progress of human rights and science historically and in the present day, you’ll see that they are most often religious in nature.
Unfortunately for me and many non-believers, being an atheist does not exempt me from these damaging effects. And I advocate for secularism to push back against the encroachment of religion into our nation, which is supposed to have a wall of separation of Church and State that would prevent these occurrences and place religion back into its position as a personal endeavor… creating a nation where those who wish to worship are allowed to do so freely of their own accord, and those of us who do not have or want religion in our lives to avoid being governed or limited by it.
The Secular Writings of David G. McAfee
David G. McAfee is a journalist and author of Mom, Dad, I’m an Atheist: The Guide to Coming Out as a Non-believer and Disproving Christianity and other Secular Writings. He is also a frequent contributor to American Atheist Magazine. McAfee attended University of California, Santa Barbara, and graduated with dual-degrees in English and Religious Studies, with an emphasis on Christianity and Mediterranean religions.