Watchdog Blog

Carolyn Lewis: God and Proposition 8

Posted at 1:29 pm, November 24th, 2008
Carolyn Lewis Mug

Several years ago a caller to my talk-radio program insisted that, when it came to abortion, God told her what was right and the rest of the country should obey His dictates. I replied that whenever anybody claimed to know exactly what God has in mind, I was inclined to count the silver.

Since the area served by the radio station – and in which I still live – happens to be especially churchy, I realized I was doomed to be fired, and so I was. You could say anything you wanted on talk radio, no matter how odious, but not that.

There’s a disabling tendency in this country to tiptoe around certain religious beliefs and thus grant them more power than they reasonably warrant. Case in point: California’s vote on Proposition 8, heavily backed by religious believers, denying to gay couples the right to marry. The churches that oppose that right point to a single line in their ancient holy books and then argue that what is written there is beyond challenge. If God says this is it, this is so, who among believers or anybody dares to doubt?

As a non-believer myself (a proud one), I have no objection to anybody else choosing to follow a particular faith. But when there is an attempt to impose its beliefs on the liberties of others, I draw the line.

What bothers me most is the hypocrisy lurking behind those beliefs. The central tenet of almost all religions is that we should love our neighbors as ourselves. But too often it is followed by a big fat IF. I am to love my neighbor only IF she looks like me, believes like me, and follows my God’s instructions. Sweet reason and compassion are deserted in favor of harsh dogma.

I’d like to see more reporters and editors bring these cruel, divisive beliefs out of the closet to be discussed openly and honestly. In a free secular society such as ours, that kind of dialogue is necessary, even if it makes religious followers uncomfortable. It is a useful, healthy thing to do, to prompt people to consider the often inhumane consequences of what they choose to believe.

In my view, the time is long past for walking gingerly around matters that so powerfully invade public policies and the laws of the land.

6 Responses to “God and Proposition 8”

  1. Annie says:

    My experiences is quite similar to your own, and my perceptions about the cruelty and viciousness of those who supposedly ascribe to the golden rule goes much farther – to acted upon threats of death and organized domestic terrorism.

    Coincidentally, the Massachusetts Humanities organization hosted an intriguing series of panels titled, One Nation Under God? Religion in American Public Life, and the assumptions were as notable as were the discussions.

    The assumptions included the notion of an American religion, a single American culture, a single Black church, and an American christian nation.

    What was not addressed was the underlying issues surrounding civil discourse morphing from the terminology of classic virtues to fundamentalist authoritarian evangelical christian dogma.

  2. RAY says:

    I was very moved by your comments and I am a beliver. You’ve really captured the essence of what those who claim to be Christian is all about. I am a active member of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and agree with you…the ‘IF’ is what gets in the way. ‘IF’ never got into Christ’s way. Peace be with you! Thanks.

  3. Deb says:

    Keeping traditional marriage between one man and one woman is certainaly not cruel and divisive.

    I want to keep the traditions. I’m not going to wish anyone Happy Holidays, instead, I’m going to wish you all a Merry Christmas.

  4. Larry says:

    Loving your neighbor as yourself does not mean accepting all forms of behavior. The question is whether God has an expectation for behavior that we should hold as the standard without regard to whether we reasonably expect to meet that standard.

    For instance, honor your mother and father is a commandment. That is generally speaking a good idea. However, most adults at one time or another did not honor their mother or father, some with good reason. That does not mean that we abandon the principle that the command to honor your mother and father. The standard is that parents treat their children well, sometimes tough love, and that children honor their parents. That a person did not honor or does not honor either his/her mother or father does not justify not loving that person as myself.

    The same is true of marriage. The standard is for one man and one woman to marry. People of the book (Jews and Christians) believe that to be the standard. Clearly David and Solomon did not live up to that standard. That does not detract from their standing with God as a man after God’s own heart or one worthy of building the temple. It does serve to reinforce the notion that God will and does forgive. Therefore, society can have a standard (opposite sex monogamy) and encourage that standard by law without ostracizing those that do not live up to that standard (serial polygamists, polyandry of all sorts, and same sex unions).

    The pretense that a person of faith cannot love someone that does not live up to God’s standard (i.e. everyone) or “look” like that person of faith is the kind of lack of tolerance for other ideas that those opposed to “traditional” marriage seem to espouse. Someone can support “traditional” marriage and still love the “different” neighbors around them. Having transgressed the line of God’s standard and found acceptance by believers, I speak from personal knowledge.

  5. Praedor Atrebates says:

    I would like to ask Deb above if I am allowed, in her view, to remain married to my wife? We are both atheists. We were married by a JUDGE in a SECULAR ceremony. We are not having children. Ever.

    Apparently, since my marriage is “godless” it must be illegitimate. Since my marriage is not spewing children from my wife’s vagina, it is illegitimate.

    There ONE basic fact about marriage in this country: there is the civil government, legal recognition of a marriage whether it was produced in a religious ceremony (regardless of religion) and there is the equal recognition of a marriage produced in an entirely civil/secular ceremony.

    The religious aspect is totally irrelevant and has nothing to do with the legitimacy of the marriage. That is purely and entirely a PERSONAL matter. A religious marriage is no more, or less, legitimate or real than a non-religious marriage. Thus, there is no basis to deny consenting, free adults their right to form a purely civil construct: a marriage.

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