I’ve been browsing through “God is Not Great” from Christopher Hitchens over the weekend (first 3 chapters down). The book’s title includes the phrase: How religion poisons everything. I do not yet ascribe to that idea entirely. I think religion is a little more complex than Hitchens has made it seem in the early part of this text. It’s also important to distinguish that ‘religion’ is not necessary the same as spirituality, faith, or belief.
Anyway, the general idea has been on my mind lately. I’ve long loathed the intersection of organized religion and policy-making- that loathing has only intensified as of late. And the more I dwell on the public policy destruction often wroght by ill-conceived pressure from organized religion, the more I can sympathize with Hitchens determination that religion poisons everything.
First, from discussion with some Springfield pals, but for two last minute phone calls from orthodox Jewish rabbis to a north-side Illinois Senator, we would already have civil unions for gay couples in Illinois. The rabbis’ reasoning didn’t rest on any actual public policy concerns. They didn’t cite any studies, projections, or examples of the downsides of the policy. Nope. They just said that God was opposed to homosexuality. Game-over. End of conversation.
Second, this weekend I had a pair of discussions with two family members who had sent along a request to “support the Mormon church from the hate attack launched by the gays.” When I engaged them on the merits of their position, we had a civil discussion that ended the same in both cases. The first concluded with “I have Gods word, and I know what He says is right and wrong, and If it means losing our tax exempt status, to continue our beliefs in Him and what He has taught us then SO BE IT.” The second ended with a long copy and paste quoting the book of Genesis. Game-over. End of conversation.
I do not doubt the sincerity of the rabbis or of my family members. In the case of my family members, they are decent, honest, compassionate folks who I love.
But when religious dogma devolves a conversation on public policy into a dead-end, we have a problem. It has no business in policy-making. In that way, it is a poison.