Monday, 7 September 2015

But it's my religion!

There is a high profile case going on in the US at the moment. If you're involved in online atheism, and you've not heard of it, I'd be very surprised. 

Briefly: It concerns a county clerk in Kentucky named Kim Davis. Despite the Supreme Court ruling, and despite being ordered to do so, Kim has decided that she will not issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples in Rowan County. Her reason? The authority of God. 

Kim believes that her version of the God character is against marriage between people of the same gender, and because of that, she's refusing to participate. 

She's using the 'it's my religion' defence, and it's absurd. 

Idiots are now coming out of the woodwork to support Kim. They are claiming that she's been sent to jail because she's a Christian, because of what she believes in. 


Kim Davis is in jail because she refused to comply with a court order. She is in contempt of court and has been arrested because of it. There is nothing new here. 

In a lower profile case, CNN is reporting that a Muslim woman, who is a flight attendant named Charee Stanley, has filed a discrimination complaint with the equal opportunity commission because she's suspended from duty for refusing to serve alcohol - something banned in the Islamic faith. 

The CNN story says that Charee was working with the airline for a year before converting to Islam. It was some time later that she learnt that consuming and serving alcohol was banned in Islam. Upon learning this, Charee mentioned it to the airline who suggested she ask a colleague to handle the alcohol duties. This arrangement was in place and working fine until a colleague complained to the airline that Charee wasn't performing her duties. The airline suspended Charee. As it should.

I am absolutely against someone getting out of performing the job they are paid to do because of 'religious' reasons. The idea is preposterous. 

Sure, you might come to an arrangement with a colleague to cover the parts of the job you refuse to perform, but why should they? I doubt that Charee was paid less than her colleagues when she wasn't performing the same duties. 

People have to get over this idea that their religion matters.

Yes, their religion matters to them, but when you're asking for special consideration because of your religion, you're expecting your religion to matter to your employer and your customers too. The thing is, no one is obligated to think your religion is as important as you do. 

We have certain rules in our society to protect people from unfair discrimination. You're not allowed to discriminate based on gender, age, sexuality...or religion. I don't know why religion is included. It's a *choice*. Religion is no more valid as a consideration than is my favourite colour or preferred choice of boxers or briefs. Imagine if I worked in a paint shop but refused to sell any paint that wasn't my favourite colour. Why isn't that choice protected by law? Because it's ridiculous, that's why. 

As is refusing to do your job because you choose to be religious. You are employed to do a job. You either do that job, or you resign. It's that simple. Would we allow a waitress to not serve a Rib Eye in a steakhouse because they choose to be a vegan? No. If a person already working as a waiter in a steakhouse became a vegan and no longer wanted to serve steak, we'd expect them to resign, not make it so they don't have to do their job.

The same should go for one's choice of religion. If a person who is already a flight attendant for an airline becomes a Muslim and refuses to serve alcohol, they too should resign.

The thing to keep in mind is we're not talking about things that are reasonable and the result of analysis and critical thinking. These protections are for people believing things that someone made up. We're not talking about a factory worker refusing to work on a sheet metal press until there is safety equipment installed. We're not talking about a postman wanting comfortable shoes to walk in. We're talking about the protection of nonsense, in the case of Charee, and bigotry, in the case of Kim. 

I don't know about you, but I want to live in a world were nonsense and bigotry are derided not protected. 


  1. Another logical and thoughtful piece @MrOzAtheist. Agree with every word.

    While I detest religion, I don't have anything against people practising their faith privately in whatever way makes them happy. However when their beliefs start to affect other people, it's clearly a problem. And when their job has secular duties like issuing marriage licenses, then they are obligated to perform them, just like anyone else. If someone's religion crosses over into an area they find immoral or clashes with their beliefs, then it's simple - quit! Allow someone that doesn't hold those crazy beliefs to perform the job instead. They certainly have no right whatsoever to inflict their delusions on other people in the name of their own crazy faith.

  2. Two thoughts on Kim: First, she refused all marriage licenses--not just for same-sex couples. Secondly, prior to the Supreme Court's decision, there were a number of cases in the U.S. where magistrates stopped issuing marriage licenses, because they were in favor of same-sex marriage, and yet they were treated differently from Kim.

    Question: why, in your opinion, is religion no more valid than your choice of underwear? Could not the same be said for atheism?

    1. The reason justices were treated differently to Kim is that they were fighting for equality and against discrimination. Whereas Kim was fighting for inequality and for discrimination. As a society we want to look up to people who want to make it better, who want it to be a fair and equal place for all. We tend to criticise those who want to discriminate and treat people unfairly. Hence the difference in your example.

      Religion is no more valid, because it's an opinion, just like my choice of underwear or favourite colour is. If my opinion on what underwear to choose doesn't warrant impacting your life in some way, why does your opinion about god have a say in what anyone else does? The thing with atheism is that it's a single position on a single subject and isn't involved in influencing someone's opinion on things such as marriage equality. If someone is in favour of marriage equality it's because of humanist values and a sense of fairness, and lack of bigotry and not being in favour of discrimination. These types of values are demonstrably beneficial to society. The premise behind religion (that a god exists) cannot be validated, therefore an objection based on religious doctrine alone, is invalid.

    2. The rule of law does not allow cherry-picking of which laws will be enforced and which ones will not. If you were sincere in you pursuit of equality under the law, you must admit that Kim was treated differently than other magistrates who likewise refused to issue licenses. And again, she refused all licenses.

      Your answer reveals that, in your opinion, the only laws worth obeying are those laws which adhere to your worldview. That's hardly fair and just--unless you believe that your worldview is the only worldview that deserves merit in the public square.

      Further, atheism is hardly without influence in the modern world. It pervades the academic world in western society, to the extent that most adults leave our academic institutions with an atheistic/humanistic worldview, whether they realize it or not. This in turn leads to one's support of so-called "marriage equality." So atheism is very much at the fore of influencing people's opinion on marriage and a whole host of ethical issues.

      If you determine religion to be invalid on the basis that the existence of God is non-verifiable, then should we not also do the same for atheism? I mean, isn't the non-existence of God also unverifiable? Or what about humanism? The underlying premise to humanism is evolution, which is very much unverifiable by the laws of science.

    3. All atheism means is a lack of belief in God/gods.

      I don't see a problem with humanism, and we could do with a lot more of it. It's not an exclusively atheist attitude, and not one held by all atheists.

      Without the Enlightenment, Christians would still be burning each other at the stake - the influence of humanism of Christianity has been exclusively positive.

      Evolution is not the "underlying premise of humanism." Being a humanist doesn't mean you accept the Theory of Evolution. There are humanists who do not.

      I actually agree with you on one thing - the law should be the same for all. Those who were refusing to issue marriage licences because same-sex couples couldn't marry were just as legally wrong as Davis. Morally, they were, imo, in a much better place, as MrOzAtheist points out.

    4. No only did I admit that Kim was treated differently, I explain *why* she was treated differently. I made no comment on what laws were worth adhering to and what laws weren't, just explained the circumstances. Your query was about Kim being treated differently to the justices and I explained why that happened. My world view was not stated, nor is it relevant.

      I'm not declaring which world views are welcome in the public square and which aren't but if you campaign for equality and against discrimination, decent society will applaud you (generally, of course. There are always exceptions as well as extreme scenarios). If you campaign for inequality and for discrimination then a decent society will not support you. This has nothing to do with my world view. This is simply what happens.

      No, atheism is the result of how people think, not the cause of it. If considered (and not the default) atheism is the result of critical thinking, and scepticism. These values are not only applied to 'why there is something rather than nothing' but also such things are social values and personal views. So a critical thinking, sceptical person may tend towards humanism because the outcomes are demonstrably beneficial and can be argued for rationally and with reason. So it's the case that humanism might also be the result of the through process that leads to atheism. But it's certainly not the case that atheism leads to humanism.

      Atheism is not the position that gods and goddesses do not exist. Atheism is the position that the claims that gods and/or goddesses do exist have not met their burden of proof. Do you believe a god exists? Yes = Theist. Anything else = atheist. It covers, but is not necessarily 'I believe no gods exist'. But the point is moot, because atheism doesn't inform such things as one's stance on marriage equality.

      I don't agree with your relationship between humanism and evolution, but your statement is wrong. Evolution is very much verifiable. It has been observed in real time and there are mountains of evidence that supports evolution on a grand scale. I suggest The Greatest Show on Earth - Richard Dawkins, and Why Evolution is True - Jerry Coyne as good starting points. For more detailed information, search PubMed where there are over 400,000 scientific articles citing evolution. Or Google scholar which has over 4 million scholarly articles returned on the 'evolution' search. (that's a lot of reading to do!)


    5. When you state that religion has no more value than the choice of your underwear, you are in fact making a claim about which worldviews are welcome in the public square. At least be honest about the claims you are making.

      Atheism is the result of critical thinking, yes. So is religion. But both worldviews influence how others believe. You can't deny that atheism is not the cause of how people think. I've just demonstrated to you how it is so.

      Finally--evolution is not verifiable. There may be evidence for evolution, but it is unverifiable. Science has not witnessed one species evolve into another, either in the laboratory or from the fossil record. Nor has science been able to reproduce the conditions under which non-living matter became life.

    6. Heather--I admit that much blood has been spilled in the name of religion. But I trust you are willing to admit the same about atheism.

    7. No. You miss the point. I'm saying that if someone says 'my belief in god needs to be taken into consideration' I've got equal right to say 'my choice of underwear needs to be taken into consideration'. The 'I believe in god' opinion can be stated in the public square all you want. My point is that no one should be obligated to take it seriously. I have no obligation to take seriously that which you imagine to be true.

      No, religion is NOT the result of critical thinking. The overwhelmingly vast majority of theists are indoctrinated as infants and many are subsequently discouraged from questioning it. All of the Abrahamics (which covers the overwhelming majority of theists) threaten eternal punishment for disbelief and build a culture of fear around what they think is true. This is NOT a process of critical thinking. This is indoctrination and brainwashing. Yes, I'm aware that there are some adults who come to theism later in life, but they are by far the minority and having spoken to literally hundreds of theists I'm very confident in saying that critical thinking has played little or no part in the theism decision. I've heard many, many reason for theism from the pseudo-intellectualism of William Lane Craig to the preposterously basic 'look around you' and not once have I heard anything not fallacious. Maybe somewhere there's a theist with a non-fallacious reason for belief but if there is, they've not crossed my path.

      I'm not sure what you think evolution is, but it is very much verifiable. Evolution is the change in the inherited characteristics of biological populations over successive generations. Verifiable, and observable. We have seen this happen in our lifetimes.

      Non-living matter becoming life has nothing to do with the theory of evolution. It's a different area of science called abiogenesis and I think life from non-life being replicated is a lot closer than you may realise.

      Lastly, in regard to your response to Heather - atheism is not the cause of bloodshed. Atheism is not communism. Atheism is not totalitarian dictatorships. Correlation does not equal causation. The problem with evil dictators is their lack of humanism, not their atheism. None of them cited atheism as the reason for what they did. The problem was usually that what they set up was too close to religion. Only they had themselves at the top.

    8. Sorry Mr Walter but no, I'm not willing to admit "much blood" has been spilled in the name of atheism. There are, of course, atheists who are bad people. There are people like Stalin and Mao (no, not Hitler) who spilled a lot of blood who were atheists. However, they were not spilling blood in the NAME of atheism.

      In Stalin's case, for example, he was enforcing Communism, not atheism. To do that he was replacing religion with communism. He made himself into a quasi-religious figure. Millions of Russians were terrified when he died even though they hated him and hated his regime, because they had been brainwashed into relying on him for everything.

      The Catholic Church, for example, has spilled "much blood" in the name of God and religion. The Crusades, the Conquistadors and the Inquisition are the best known examples.

      I know your evolution comment was in reply to MrOzAtheist, but to say that "Science has not witnessed one species evolve into another ..." shows a misunderstanding of the theory of evolution.

      The process of the initial change from non-life to life is not part of Evolutionary Theory. Science has not worked that out yet. There are hypotheses, but none are proven yet and so we do not have a theory for it.

      Science does not have the arrogance to say it knows something it doesn't, and if a theory or hypothesis is proven wrong, it is discarded. Imo, religion cannot say the same.

    9. You both are completely inconsistent in your worldview. And completely arrogant and grossly misunderstanding of the worldview of others. You have no desire to seriously debate or engage, you speak in circles, semantics, and label your opponents. Is this the better world atheism creates?

      One last item. Evolution has not been observed ever, certainly not in our lifetime. It requires millions of years for a species to evolve into another. Whatever else you believe has been observed in our lifetime (adaptation, perhaps?) is not verifiable proof of macro evolution.

      I will leave at this point. You are not interested in actually debating and learning about the worldview of others. You're entrenched in your own ideology.

    10. I do not think I have labelled you, and I'm sorry of my criticism of some of your opinions are coming across as criticism of you personally. That is certainly not my intention. I am interested in debate.

      However, you are incorrect in your view of evolution. Macro-evolution and micro-evolution are term invented by creationists when they realized that evolution by natural selection does indeed occur. It has been proven in viewed in the lab and in the real world. They labelled the changes they viewed "micro-evolution" and continued to deny what they called "macro-evolution. In my opinion, this is because they are wedded to their worldview and are unable to change their minds even in the face of overwhelming evidence.

      Evolution is evolution. To say that evolution from once species to another has not been observed is, I say again, a misunderstanding of the process. Chapter Two of Richard Dawkins's 'The Magic of Reality' is excellent on the basics of evolution. I recommend the whole book. Jerry Coyne's 'Why Evolution is True' is also excellent, easily readable by non-scientists and scientists alike.

      I am always willing to change my mind if better information is presented. Atheism is not an ideology - as I said above, it is simply a lack of belief in God/gods. If you want to apply an ideology label to me, I'm a secular humanist.

      If there was proof that God existed, I would admit that was the case. However, assuming he's the God of the Bible, I still wouldn't worship him as I consider the God of the Bible to have a character that isn't worthy of worship. If that sees me in hell, so be it. I consider the principles of secular humanism superior to those of any religion I've come across.

    11. It's funny Mr Walter that you say we're not interested in engaging in debate. I gave you two very good books to use as resources for learning about evolution and a link to over 400,000 scientific articles citing evolution and rather than refute a single thing in any of them with actual evidence, you simply state they aren't true. I'd like to see actual research on the subject. I'd like to see a critical analyses of any of the resources I've given you. But rather than providing a comprehensive argument against anything I provided, you simply said 'nuh ah'.

      You say we're inconsistent in our worldview but have not provided an example of it. I am a secular humanist, for equality and fairness, and against discrimination and bigotry. Despite your claims to the contrary, my position through our discussion has remained consistent with these ideals.

      As I said, evolution has definitely been observed and if you'd take the time to read The Greatest Show on Earth, you will read about several of the experiments which have been done.

      As Heather pointed out, micro- and macro-evolution are *not* true biological terms. Young Earth Creationists were adamant that evolution of any kind did not happen. When experiments confirmed that inherited characteristic of biological populations did in fact change over time, YECs had to backtrack their position and subsequently claim that 'mirco-' evolution happens but 'macro-evolution' does not. I have asked many, many young earth creationists a question which none have been able to answer, so I'll put it to you too: If what you call micro-evolution happens, but what you call marco-evolution cannot happen, what is the mechanism that prevents it?

      Keep in mind, too, that evolution does NOT say that one species gives birth to a different species. Every generation is as similar to the previous at you are to your parents. But *over time* the slight changes that occur build up into so much difference that at some point, one generation would no longer be able to breed with an ancestral generation. This is called speciation and is undisputed in the scientific world.

      Finally, to tell Heather and I what we are and aren't interested in is the height of arrogance and extremely rude. We have both given you a lot of our time and effort and to think that has been out of disinterest is absurd. That we haven't agreed with you is not a sign that we're not interested in debate or learning, it's a sign that you haven't presented a case worthy of agreement. To repeat, I presented over 400,000 scientific articles citing evolution. You entire case was 'That didn't happen'. See the difference?

  3. I posted a comment on Facebook about the scene when she was released: I can't wrap my mind around this. The crosses in the crowd, the ridiculous choice of music. This feels like a Kevin Smith movie and yet, it's real. If I was an American on this day, the shame I would feel for the goings on in my country would be deep and life-altering. I'd be looking for refugee status in the Pacific Ocean if I had to. This is absurd, shameful, horrific... SMH.

    1. Indeed. It's like a surreal parallel dimension that doesn't feel real. Bizzarro-world at it's finest. What kind of person celebrates bigotry? A good God-fearing Christian, that's who.

    2. It made me think of the dark ages! Or a Stephen King type horror story where 'the locals' had never progressed beyond mad superstition. It was actually quite scary that so many people could get so fired up because of what the imagine to be true. I guess they don't realise that they're imagining it. Which in and of itself it quite scary too. It really was primitive stuff.

    3. That was pretty much my response. Survivor has apparently come out and said they don't like that their song (Eye of Tiger) was played at the rally, which is good. I love the song, and I didn't like it being associated with this weirdness.

    4. Really? I hadn't heard that did that. That is fantastic news :) I can now play it on Guitar Hero without reservation!

  4. I feel sorry for their poor children -- they are putting them so far behind the curve, it's going to paralyse them and their prospects, and will inevitably make them an economic underclass in a world driven by scientific, technological innovation. They won't have a hope of competing and will end up being the servants of the rest of us ~ fit only to be cleaners, waitresses, bus-drivers and so forth. Nothing wrong with any of that - of course ~ the world needs them too - but what a shame for them that they don't get any other opportunity. The essence of discrimination, and it's coming from their own parents!? Staggering.