Bigots Deserve a Settlement? What Am I Missing Here?

Okay, here we go again. I just read a rather strange piece in The New York Times by Ross Douthat wondering just how much of their bigotry Christians are going to have to relinquish for gay people to have equal rights. He seems to take Massachusetts and Illinois to task for refusing to allow adoption agencies to discriminate against gay people and is upset that Jan Brewer saw fit to veto Arizona's egregious pro-bigotry bill. Beyond that, he seems to think the bill should have gone through because it's still legal to discriminate against gays in Arizona. Not exactly his words, but then people like Mr. Douthat generally try to cloak what they really mean in words they hope will be more acceptable to a wider audience. (And, by the way, just how do you pronounce that name? "Doubt hat?" "Doubt that?" I think I'm going with the latter, since I tend to doubt practically everything he has to say. There have been a couple of exceptions, but for now, I'm going with "doubt that." But I digress.)

Back to the business at hand.

At the end of his strange piece, Mr. Douthat said "We are not really having an argument about same-sex marriage anymore, and on the evidence of Arizona, we're not having a negotiation. Instead, all that's left is the timing of the final victory -- and for the defeated to find out what settlement the victors will impose."

What am I missing here? Somehow, it had never occurred to me that there should be any negotiation when it comes to bigotry, let alone any kind of "settlement." Sorry, Ross, but it doesn't work that way.

If you can get married, we can all get married, and we don't have to tolerate the rest of your bigotry as a payoff for something you seem to think is a privilege. Marriage is not a privilege; it's a right!

Further, if somebody doesn't want to photograph my wedding, then I certainly don't want to force that person to take pictures; somehow I don't think they'd come out very well. But I don't really think the photographer needs a law to protect him. That's so 1970s -- I remember the big "No Fagots (sic) Allowed" sign in Barney's Beanery, back when we were just starting to rejuvenate West Hollywood. The implication, of course, was that good old Irwin Held could spot one of us at the counter and would kick us out. Naturally, back then we couldn't make him take the sign down, but we could -- and did -- avoid the place like plague. If he didn't want our money, fine with us. But we realized that maybe there was a way to make him get rid of the sign and, in 1987, West Hollywood passed an anti-discrimination law and the lovely Mr. Held finally took the sign down rather than pay $500 a day in fines. Apparently bigotry wasn't worth $500 a day to him. But again, I digress.

Mr. Douthat seems to think that because a lot of bigotry is based in deeply held "faith," somehow the rest of us should cut bigots some slack and protect their right to be bigots. As mentioned above, in this particular case, he's all for the Arizona law that would allow businesses to refuse service to gay people on freedom of religion grounds. Methinks Mr. Douthat has a misunderstanding of what "freedom of religion" means, so I will try to refresh his memory:

It means you are free to believe whatever you want to believe. It doesn't mean you get to make other people's lives miserable just because you've decided some mythical being you happen to believe in wants it that way. (I personally believe in fairies, but luckily fairies don't want you to be miserable; fairies just want you to be kinder, gentler, and, hopefully a whole lot smarter.)

For a long time, it was not considered good form to trumpet religious beliefs in the public square; I remember when people with "Repent! Judgment Day Is At Hand!" signs were considered slightly loopy, if not downright crazy. Now they have newspaper columns, and TV and radio shows, and millions of people seem to be paying attention to them.

And what is it they want us to pay attention to and accept as Absolute Truth? Well, it's really pretty amazing: it's a bunch of ancient and utterly unverifiable myths that may have once served to avoid a few cases of food poisoning, explain what seemed to be the inexplicable, and keep a certain amount of order in society, but which should have been relegated long ago to the museums in which they belong, given that they are nothing more than relics from a distant, and far more ignorant, past.

But, no! Instead we have a louder and louder chorus of idiots (fortunately still a minority, but a seemingly growing minority) who actually claim to believe that a young Jewish zealot walked on water, raised people from the dead, and somehow managed to be the son of an imaginary non-corporeal being. Of course, that Jewish zealot undoubtedly believed that some mythical fellow named Abraham spent a lot of time chatting with a burning bush a few thousand years earlier, and another mythic man named Moses managed to get the Red Sea to part for him back around 1313 BCE, then made a trip up a mountain to bring back a bunch of stones with a lot of rules written on them, the first four of which only involve demands for respect from the non-corporeal being who loaded him up with the stones in the first place.

Naturally, I wouldn't dream of mentioning any of the nonsense Mohammed dumped on the world, since the Fundamentalist Islamic skin seems even thinner these days than that of the Christians and Jews of the same "God hates everyone but me" ilk.

Don't get me wrong -- I'm not saying all people of faith have used their religious beliefs as a shield for their bigotry. Indeed, by far the majority of the faithful have long since found interpretations of their myths that all but eliminate bigotry from their faith.

Yet still all the rest of us -- the people who understand that the only difference between religion and superstition is the complexity and institutionalization of religion's intrinsic nonsense -- are supposed to give this minority of dunces all the respect they think they deserve. Hence, Mr. Douthat's idea that he and his superstitious friends must be allowed to enforce at least some kind of bigotry in exchange for them allowing gay people to have the same rights as everyone else.

Got it yet, Mr. Douthat? Probably not. But why would you? After all, you still haven't figured out that the world's Great Religions are really nothing more than Great Superstitions. Certainly anyone is welcome to believe what they want, but all of us should have the decency to admit that there's at least a tiny chance that what we have "faith" in ain't necessarily so. Even my own atheism has a tiny chance of being wrong. (I'm not sure I really believe that, but at least I'm willing to toss you a crumb. Take it as your "settlement.")

All any of us have ever wanted is simply for people like you to leave us alone. Believe whatever superstition you want; interpret your strange old tales any way you want, but don't even think about trying to impose your superstitious nonsense on the rest of us.

And don't think we won't keep trying to eradicate the rest of your bigotry, either.

Apparently, once again, I didn't miss a thing, and I shall now wait patiently for the noisy minority of village idiots to come after me with their pitchforks.