Heart and Brain Bleed

April 7, 2012

While most people of good faith would probably agree that a healthy society would not sanction bullies, societies are not entirely composed of people of good faith. This has been an historically persistent problem in societies. For some, the definition of “bullying” depends upon who’s being bullied.

When nations bully they invade other nations and abuse the people of the nations they overrun. Such bullying may consist of artillery attacks and bombings (of course), beatings, rape, imprisonment, torture (crucifixions in the old days) and summary executions. But this is considered ok because, for bullies, their reasons and aggressions are justifiable.

Religions bully with similar rationales. Religions issue fatwas, organize crusades and inquisitions, shave the beards of offenders, burn books, or simply oppose anti-bullying laws with a straight face. The moral and ethical gymnastics required to make such behavior acceptable are enough to cause not only a heart but a brain to bleed.

Not only the severely conservative (as Mitt Romney likes to say), but also the severely religious, are opposing anti-bullying laws in the many of the United State of America on the basis of religious belief. In 2011, for instance, the state of Michigan passed a bill with a provision that allows bullying based on “a sincerely held religious belief or moral conviction.”

Did you get that?  In Michigan anyone with a “sincerely held religious belief” that the Madonna in the landscaped grotto on your front lawn was a threat to the well-being of the world could kidnap and tie you to a remote fence-post, beat you until they were satisfied you understood that God is good, leave you for a passing Samaritan to rescue and then plead religious sanctuary in defense.

The irony of the Michigan law is as profound as an irony can be. Here we have a law that cancels itself out! It’s a bit of pretense only lawmakers without a shred of integrity could concoct. Here we have a law ostensibly written and named after a young gay person that exempts perpetrators for abusing gay persons if they offer a religious excuse!

“The law, Matt’s Safe School Law, named in memory of Matt Epling, who committed suicide in the wake of relentless anti-gay bullying, offers a loophole to those who want to bully gay students or anyone else they don’t like. All they need to do, according to the newly passed legislation, is claim that their bullying was based on ‘a sincerely held religious belief or moral conviction.’ ”

Religions may get a pass on irrationality within a religious family, home or church, but when that unreason overflows into the community at large we’re getting into chaos territory. I have a sincerely held (virtually religious) belief that many of the religious are ruining the United States and the world but I don’t think it gives me the right to punch out someone who throws a bible verse my way or who exhibits their religiosity in any other non-violent manner. I am (luckily) constrained by reason and morality which many of the severely religious are not.

And so it goes (as Kurt Vonnegut sadly intoned), we slide further down the rat-hole of intolerance praising god.


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