Caution: Angry late-night rant ahead. You have been warned.
The thing I hate most about religion today is that it teaches people to view the world through an incredibly twisted lens. It teaches its adherents that it’s
okay admirable to reject other people’s views and hold one’s own up as inherently superior.* “You are a member of the elite—God’s chosen people. You alone have the true moral code of the universe, and everything you do to uphold this code is service to God.” To someone holding such an idea, empathy is not just unnecessary, it’s an act of defiance against one’s religion.
Take the recent Chick-fil-A debacle as an example. In the event that you haven’t heard of this, Chick-fil-A is a fast food restaurant owned by asshat Christians who oppose equal rights for homosexuals. (God sez gays are teh abominnayshinz, so tey is bad, kthxbai.) They’ve contributed to anti-gay causes for years, so it perplexes me that it’s taken this long for public outcry to happen, but there’s been a wave of anti Chick-fil-A sentiment over this recently. As a result, corporate sponsors (the muppets) have removed their support for this “biblical values” company, and many individuals have announced that they will be boycotting it. Not content to let supporters of equality express their outrage unanswered, religious apologists have responded by saying, essentially, “Chick-fil-A should be allowed to express their values, just like everyone else,” calling for a “National Eat at Chick-fil-A Day.”
* * *
No one is disputing the right of the assholes who own the corporation to hate on gays. They’re fully entitled to do so, but doing so does not make them good people, in spite of their absurd cries to the contrary. It is not so innocent as “sticking up for their rights.” Their beliefs are discriminatory, and as such, are loathsome. The fact that this bigotry stems from their religion does not excuse their bigotry. Religious beliefs are not special. They are not above reproach. No belief is. I don’t care what you believe or why you believe it, no belief is off limits—anything can be challenged, and if it does not have good reasons behind it, it deserves to be confronted. Historically, the KKK based their racist invective on the Bible. If Chic-fil-A’s discrimination is okay because it is justified by a centuries old poorly edited codec of Jewish myths, then so too must the KKK’s be. The two are completely equivalent.
Exercising your right to be an asshole does not mean that everyone else must simply accept your position without comment. Having equal freedom of speech does not mean that the rest of humanity is somehow required to tolerate your intolerance. Yes, you may freely voice as much of your abomination rhetoric as you please, but everyone else’s freedom of speech means that you have zero justification to object to any criticism of your position that results. Sometimes, that criticism comes in the form of a refusal to financially support your preferred causes—deal with it. Should a Jew be required to eat pork chops if you declare August 1st “Eat Pork Chops for Freedom Day?” Of course not. You’re welcome to make such a declaration, and followers of Judaism are equally welcome to call you an addle-brained nincompoop for it (or, at the very least, a culturally insensitive prick).
I find it incomprehensibly vacuous to suggest that having freedom somehow means you’re allowed to voice your opinion without having it opposed. This seems to be the position that closed-minded Christians take in the vapid defense of their positions. “I believe X because God says X, so you’re not allowed to argue.” Well, no. That’s simply not how that works. “God says X” is insufficient to establish anything other than “person A believes an entity called God said X.” It most certainly is not sufficient to exempt you from criticism. Indeed, given that religious beliefs rely on faith (which means belief without evidence), such a claim does nothing but invite more criticism, for not only do you hold an imbecilic belief, you do so for no good reason at all!
No matter what religious beliefs you hold, the vast majority of humans do not share them with you. This means, at the very least, that an argument along the lines of “well, my god said it, so it must be right” holds absolutely no value in a rational conversation. (Such a statement is inherently irrational, after all.) I suspect that a healthy application of the “outside observer” test of religion would be a good thing for every believer to adopt, if only as an exercise in thinking about someone else’s perspective. Either way, however, people need to realize that their own presuppositions are not ubiquitous, and the “average Joe” has no reason to prefer your beliefs over his own. This notion of self-importance is the twisted lens consequence that I so hate about the modern religious viewpoint.
You’re not special, and neither are your beliefs. (Nor I or mine.) If you object to the idea of having your position challenged, then keep it to yourself. In grown-up land, adults who disagree aren’t obligated to remain silent, and when you open your mouth, you invite response. If you disagree with something I’ve said, say so, and we can talk about it. (Indeed, I invite criticism because it is the only reliable way we can grow intellectually!) If you’re not even willing to speak up when you disagree, your opinion is completely worthless.
* It's possible for one person's views to be superior to another's, of course, but nothing about this is inherent. Such superiority is only determined through rational evaluation, and it's not even permanent. Like all things, relative worth is contextually contingent.