I know why you bother, I just don’t see why the rest of us must live under religious laws
A nice little case study in intellectual dishonesty in an article on The Punch this week, “Why God botherers bother“:
You hear many complaints nowadays about pesky, outspoken Christians. Across the West, a fashionable attitude has emerged: Beyond the doing of charitable works, and perhaps the soothing of the bereaved at funerals, “religion” should be an entirely private affair.
The so-called New Atheists are vocal advocates of this position. One of them, Michel Onfray, has admitted that his atheism “leaps to life when private belief becomes a public matter”. Onfray hates it “when in the name of a personal mental pathology we organise the world for others”.
Indeed, many people even of faith object to people particularly of other faiths demanding that their religious beliefs be enshrined in the law that governs all of us.
Does Roy Williams have an argument as to why they should?
He does have a complaint that “New Atheists” dare to criticise Christian belief:
The talented journalist-author Peter FitzSimons is fond of ridiculing sportsmen, like golfer Aaron Baddeley, who publicly give thanks to God. FitzSimons rarely misses a chance to snipe at all “delusional” believers, and, in a recent spray in the Sydney Morning Herald, asserted ludicrously that belief in God “is entirely inimical to educational principles”.
We must silence these blasphemers!
And Roy does has a defence of evangelism (although with no consideration of just what limits should apply in a civil society):
Even today, in affluent and secular Australia, there are many Christians who evangelise in exemplary fashion. These are people who, without monetary reward or popular fanfare, do vital work: feeding and clothing the poor, visiting prisoners, teaching Sunday school, and so on. Some go the extra mile. Recently I met a young Adelaide man who had returned from missionary work in, of all places, Mongolia.
To return, then, to my original question. Why do Christians evangelise? The answer: because they need to and want to. It’s a manifestation of their faith.
Moreover, when Christians evangelise well – graciously yet animatedly, in speech “seasoned with salt” (Colossians 4:6) – remarkable results can be achieved. There are now around 100 million Christians in China, up from barely one-tenth that number a generation ago.
But nothing on the subject of religion in law – in the words of the person at the opening of his post, “when in the name of a personal mental pathology we organise the world for others”.
See what he’s done there? He’s addressed the objection to the religious views of one person being imposed on another through the law into a defence of people simply advocating for their beliefs and trying to win converts.
The diabolical “atheists” he quoted in the first paragraph were addressing the former. His response tries to pretend we’re debating the latter.
To illustrate the point, here’s my perspective, not unlike the person in the beginning of Roy’s piece – one Roy has pretended means something else entirely.
Roy, I don’t care what someone believes as long as they don’t IMPOSE it on someone else. You can try to argue your case with me up to the level where you’re invading my privacy or harassing me – in a way that would be against the law no matter what you’re saying: no special exemptions because you’re convinced by the fire of religious fervour that you have THE ANSWER and you’re going to SAVE MY IMMORTAL SOUL – as you always have been able to. Evangelism is fine, up to the point where you infringe my own freedoms.
The point at which I object is when you try to have your religious beliefs enshrined into law. When you successfully use the numbers of people who declare that they share your religion to lobby cowardly politicians to make the law discriminate against other people on the grounds of their gender or sexuality. (Although the fault here isn’t with you advocating your belief – it’s with a two-party system that gives people little choice in voting against those politicians.) That’s going too far – imagine how keen you’d be if it happened to be a slightly different sect getting ITS arbitrary religious beliefs passed into law.
I also have an issue when you use your authority over your own kids to indoctrinate them into your religion, even at school, denying them the information necessary to make their own choice about what to believe. But again, that’s because you’re not exercising your own religious freedom there – you’re imposing your religion on another person.
You’re not a persecuted group, as Roy imagines, being silenced from telling people about your “good news”. You are in fact a privileged group, whose organisations get massive tax benefits and whose self-appointed leaders get their way in public legislation to the cost of the rest of us. That’s what we’re fighting. Not your freedom of speech or freedom of religion.
Roy Williams’ piece at The Punch makes it seem like he does not understand what non-religious critics of the system are saying at all. But I find it difficult to believe he could really be so unaware.
Which makes his effort to encourage that unawareness in fellow believers all the worse.