Obama No DOMA!

While this news isn’t new (a couple of days old by now), I am so heartened by President Obama’s stand on the Defense of Marriage Act. In a statement, Attorney General Eric Holder “has concluded that the administration cannot defend the federal law that defines marriage as only between a man and a woman.” But besides my happiness at the decision, I think I am even more impressed with the reasoning behind it. Obama noted that the congressional debate during passage of DOMA “contains numerous expressions reflecting moral disapproval of gays and lesbians and their intimate and family relationships – precisely the kind of stereotype-based thinking and animus the (Constitution’s) Equal Protection Clause is designed to guard against.” I am so in to that reasoning, I think I’ll post it again:

[Congressional debate during passage of DOMA] contains numerous expressions reflecting moral disapproval of gays and lesbians and their intimate and family relationships – precisely the kind of stereotype-based thinking and animus the (Constitution’s) Equal Protection Clause is designed to guard against.

While this decision will of course raise the ire once again against Obama, to me this represents the beauty of our system of government. We cannot base a system of laws strictly on moral grounds. While it’s an important place to consider, we cannot place the religious/moral values of the many on a level that infringes the rights of a minority. Before you take me to task on that statement, that is not a blanket statement for every situation. When it comes to marriage between consenting adults then it absolutely rings true.

We make a big issue out of the “sanctity of marriage,” and “traditional family values.” The problem is that the people who spout these phrases either don’t consider the consequences to other people, or don’t care. Consider the rights you have as a married couple…spousal rights, property rights, hospital rights, end of life decisions, beneficiary rights, etc…These are established in law. And the fact is, when we deny marriage to other consenting adults, we deny them these protections as well.

If there were actual reasoning behind this country’s refusal to recognize gay marriage, I’d be open to listening. The problem is that the only reasoning anyone ever talks about is moral…which let’s face it, is code for religious beliefs.

So yes, I am very proud of our President for making a tough stand, and even more so for having reasoning behind it.

 

Note: Quotes retrieved from article Obama: DOMA Unconstitutional, DOJ Should Stop Defending in Court

 

 

 

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Guilt

The second installment of my series on “Why I Won’t Raise my Children in Religion” has to do with the issue of guilt.  Richard Dawkins, in his book The God Delusion, quotes the American comedienne CathyLadman as stating “All religions are the same: religion is basically guilt, with different holidays.”  While she may have been exaggerating the point, I find truth there as well.

When I consider the Christian creation story, what stands out to me is the immediate entrance of guilt onto the scene.  This perfect, omniscient, omnipresent God creates the world and all that’s in it in six days…and it was good.  This God creates the perfect world and the perfect human (except God did mess up since it was an afterthought that he realized that it wasn’t good for Adam to be alone).  Regardless, everything is going swimmingly until Adam and Eve (perhaps Eve was most at fault) were deceived into eating of the tree of knowledge.  Even if you hold this story as true, you must realize that Adam and Eve couldn’t have been created perfect as they had an obvious curiosity that needed to be fulfilled.  Something was missing, they wanted to be like God.  They were not living according to their nature which is to pursue knowledge.  A favorite defense of this is that they were created perfect, but God also gave them “free will.”  Free will is a much offered explanation of Adam and Eve, and our situation since the fall.  I find this an argument that makes God out to be even more deplorable than usual because, according to the Christian:

  1. God gave mankind free will so as not to have “robots” worshiping him;
  2. Mankind chose to use that free will to reason and gain knowledge, in essence to not behave like robots;
  3. God punishes mankind for using the one thing he gave us that truly separates us from the other animals.

Religion has through the ages guilted mankind into a faithful servitude.  It provides a constant denigration of mankind and who we are as fools who will never do right or know right without god.  I am tired of being told that I am not worthy of what god has done for me, when in fact, I have only lived according to the nature that he supposedly gave me.  I am tired of religion preaching to us how base and vile we are without the holy spirit.

The other night I watched the movie Religulous for the first time.  There was an interview with a U.S. Congressman who couldn’t say whether or not humanity would know right from wrong without God.  This was a U.S. Congressman!  The idea that we get our notion of right and wrong from a god that created us six-thousand years ago is insulting.  Religion specializes in the art of debasing humanity, and as a population here in the United States, we seem to embrace it.

So, I refuse to raise my children under an umbrella of guilt.  I will not tell my son or yet-to-be-born daughter that they are unworthy of anything.  They need to know that they have the potential for doing nearly anything they want in life, and I will encourage them to pursue that to the highest and most ethical degree they can.  I choose to raise my children to the best of my ability with an appreciation for the uniqueness and diversity of humanity, to question authority (even mine as painful as that can be), and to think for themselves; that when they are pursuing their utmost, they have an abundant capacity for empathy and compassion.  I think this is the greatest gift I could ever give my children, the confidence to be, love, and appreciate themselves.

Self-Interest

The first in a series of “Why I won’t raise my children in religion” is based on the subject of self-interest.  I ask that you stick with me here as the will take some explanation.

I have a personal philosophy that every significant action we as humans take is based out of self-interest.  When I say self-interest, I don’t mean it negatively.  In fact, it is self-interest that drives us to act humanely.  When driving down the road, I know that it is in my self-interest to obey the law in order to stay alive.  Likewise, it is also in my interest to make sure that I am not the cause of injury to another so as not to violate my values.  Our very foundation of laws and ethics are centered around each of us living as well and as long as possible.  I don’t believe that we obey authority strictly because we don’t want to suffer the consequences of not obeying, but that the reasonable person will obey because he or she knows subconsciously that the laws are there to preserve.  This is why civilization works.

The first issue I have with religion of any stripe is that it is perhaps the only activity in which we:

  1. Invent a figurehead (God) who is infinite, perfect, and conveniently inexplicable;
  2. Worship this figurehead for *his* infiniteness, perfection, and inexplicability;
  3. Decide to love this God and commit ourselves to a lifetime of devotion; all so we can
  4. ATTAIN SOME SORT OF PARADISE AFTER OUR DEATH.

My question is this, if there were no salvation, would all Christians love Jesus and devote their lives to him?  I think not. (Think Pascal’s Wager)  Religion is a way to try to pursue our own self-interest and gain a sense of belonging all while espousing the altruistic nature of it.  We can feel good about ourselves because we are part of a group that is devoted to “something greater than ourselves.”  In short, we love God because of what we can get out of it.

The problem is that this is not a true love relationship. It is far too one-sided to be any true relationship.  Trying to love an invisible, infinite, defineless being is pretty difficult.  Religion loses the relationship focus and becomes susceptible to political and ideological competition.  It also becomes less about the virtue of the core beliefs and more about knowing that my worldview is superior to yours because of all the other people that agree with me.  Indeed, religion and faith are tools to classify and divide, not to pursue the altruistic values in which they are shrouded.

Recognizing the inherent self-interest with which we all live our daily lives, we can see and appreciate the unique qualities and independent nature of every person.  We are all different; we look at the world from different perspectives.    We can think for ourselves, come to our own conclusions, and with the exception of our selfish behavior, be ethical in our dealings with other because we inherently see how that behavior benefits us in the long run.

The problem with this worldview is that we are also selfish. There are plenty of examples of how we act in selfish ways every day as opposed to acting in our self-interest.  I view selfishness as the “I want what I want” complex.  Damn the consequences.  Selfishness is different than self-interest.  Self-interest is acting in a way that agrees with our values and the values of society in order to be a productive and respected person in the long-run.  Selfishness is the short term interest that tends to go against our values and the values of society, and consequently, somebody loses.

When it comes to parenting my children, I think the trick is helping them to live according to self-interest, not selfishness.  If my son acts in self-interest, he will be ethical, helpful, loving, and good because he will inherently understand that living according to these values will be good for him in the long run.  However, he does not need the Church to set the rules for him and tell him how to act so he can earn his great reward after he’s dead.  No, living in the present, enjoying life now, and getting the daily reward of feeling good about himself for living according to his values is so much more pleasurable.