Background Probability

The Agnostic Popular Front has moved to its new home at Skeptic Ink, and will henceforth be known as Background Probability. Despite the relocation and rebranding, we will continue to spew the same low-fidelity high-quality bullshit that you've come to expect.

Monday, November 30, 2009

A brief meditation on human rights

Francis Abbot to Elizabeth Stanton, on women's rights and faith:

In my previous post I wrote about the suppression of political freedoms and all the various forms of free expression represented at the Peace Festival which will inevitably ensue if the organizers of that event get their way and bring about the premature withdrawal of NATO forces. In this post, I'd like to quickly point out that Islamists are not the only ones with a long history of subordinating civil liberty to religious piety.

F.E. Abbot wrote an excellent letter to some years ago, on the subject of the interaction between human rights and religion. Towards the end, he summarizes his thesis thusly, "You may search the Bible from Genesis to Revelations, and not find one clear, strong, bold affirmation of human rights as such." I encourage everyone to read all of Abbot's letter and seriously consider whether he is far off the mark.

I would argue that Abbot is spot-on and moreover that his argument may be readily extended to other groups in other times, such as the LGBT communities even now struggling for recognition and equality all across America. Until they are willing to boldly criticize the numerous and various faiths which have historically justified intolerance, fear, and loathing of them, they cannot hope to be truly free. So long as they are willing to pay even the smallest bit of deference to religious faith as a means to understand morality and establish law, they will inevitably be held captive to the blind bigotry of our ignorant forebears.

Indeed, it seems clear that Abbot's argument may be made even forcefully in our own time and place than as originally written. Women of faith could argue, contra Abbot, that the Christian Bible has a reserved a place for them (however humble) as devout believers and even missionaries, so long as they never went too far and attempted to wield authority over a man. This option is unavailable to the LGBT community without deliberately misconstruing significantly passages (such as Romans 1) or else pretending that those particular bits of holy writ are somehow inapplicable to the modern Christian life. I've always had a soft spot for those who value right morality over intellectual consistency in such cases, but it should be obvious that outright skepticism is the preferable path.

No comments: