Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Religious Organizations

Atrios says this: "I don't actually have a problem with money going to church-linked organizations as long as they aren't exempt from oversight or anti-discrimination laws and don't proselytize."

I don't think any public money should go to religious organizations. They already get an exemption from (some?) taxes.

If someone wants to believe in a higher power as a hobby, fine. If they benefit from some of the beliefs or claimed "knowledge" of a religion, fine as well. But religions discourage people from believing in things like science and the moral worth of their neighbors, despite the nicer versions of religions that are out there. We don't need to be funding ideological missions that actually run against the grain of (what should be) our public policy.

We should just feed the poor in another way. They should be helped through government assist / training programs and private funding of religion. Religion shouldn't receive any megaphone from the state, nor should it have any kind of foothold or voice in state functions.

Why can't poor people be given public works jobs that require little or no training (things like cleaning up the streets of trash, erasing the more tasteless pieces of graffiti, and doing the most menial and simple tasks in state-highway construction projects)? People who can't work because of something like mental illness can be given appropriate and meaningful assistance instead-- like new state homes for the mentally ill that are staffed by, say, college students (encouraging work + consumer spending further by creating more new jobs) and that do not degrade them, dissimilar to the old state-run mental institutions that were staffed by screwed-up people and people from bad neighborhoods.

Why should public money be spent to fund groups that create conservative voters and encourage conservative propaganda?

Religions make men more disrespectful of women (and I don't just mean that women should be able to get abortions). Even if liberals were to give up abortion as a concession to the conservatives, having decided that unwanted pregnancies and physical dangers to the mother of pregnancy are no longer what they once were, lots of males from certain religions think it’s their right to push women around and to give them orders. I think human civilizations need leadership and deference (hierarchies) at this point in some form like we have them already, but in this day and age, there are much better bases for leadership and deference than male or female physiology (and everything that goes with them). The idea that men should always control women is a destructive impulse that runs counter to a lot of institutions in our society and would take away a lot of prosperity that has probably been achieved because of increased equality for women. Some conservative religious types would probably say that I have it backwards, and that they respect women more because they oppose things like pornography more than we liberals do, but I'd have to say that they can't read our minds- that is, they don't really know how much looking at pornography has or doesn't have to do with disrespecting or objectifying women in general for every man who looks at it- and that, while some of those criticisms of things like pornography and legalization of prostitution seem to at least have some merit, secularists can adopt those criticisms too. But still, conservative religion's misogyny won't be enough to justify its more pernicious parts that are left-over in the balance (that is to say, even if all liberals and all religious people agreed on something like a ban of pornography, religions would still be misogynistic enough in other beliefs-- beliefs that we liberals don't agree with-- for us to be able to see that giving aid to the religions' promoting their points of view on those issues isn't worth it).

In fact, I think conservative religious people, rather than being so concerned with the wlefare of women, more tend to use their criticisms about pornography as an excuse to bash liberals and/or people who don't believe in religion, when they should actually know better (i.e., it should be plain to them that everyone who isn't in favor of banning pornography doesn't look down on women). So it's not only a flawed argument, it's a specious and dishonest one.

Religions do promote a lot of social training / social functions that I think almost all of us can agree with, like some degree of sexual morality and public-spiritedness or love for our fellow humans. But those kinds of values can be taught (and in a less arbitrary, 4,000-year-old-book-related way) by secular persons and programs. And perhaps people would even become better, more engaged parents (and more moral in general) if they realized they had to think about and focus on teaching their kids the right things to do and the right way to think, and that they can't just drop the kid off at Sunday school or Temple and hope that everything will turn out ok with how the kid sees right and wrong.

All of this is more reason to limit state spending on religion as a general public policy.