Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

To what extent can the religious demand that non-believers obey the religion

with 3 comments

This is a genuinely tricky issue because each religion has dictates that are indeed accepted by those who are not adherents of the religion. For example, almost all religions prohibit murder, and nonbelievers generally also reject murder, so there is considerable overlap among the various religions and also the nonreligious for this particular dictate. The same goes for theft and adultery.

But when the religious belief requires, say, eating only a vegetarian diet, do members of the religion have a right to demand that nonmembers discontinue the eating of meat? Or would Jews and Muslims be right in forbidding Christians to eat pork?

I think most would say no. And yet the Catholic church will do anything in its power to prevent non-Catholics from using birth control, up to and including letting HIV continue to spread and kill people (as in the case of Africa, where the Catholic church has fought to prevent the use of condoms). And those whose religious beliefs require them to not use abortion seem determined to force even those who do not share that belief to obey it, despite the legality of abortion in this country—a country in which many believe an abortion is a matter of individual choice.

In the case at hand a number of people are determined, based on their own religious beliefs, to prevent company insurance plans from providing perfectly legal contraception services to those who do not share the religious beliefs. Their beliefs (in their view) are that it is not enough simply for themselves to adhere to their religious dictates, others must obey as well.

The only saving grace is that these same people observe the principle of reciprocity and they themselves adhere to rules imposed by other religions—for example, the people demanding that others not use contraceptives or abortion are willing to eschew meat (and particularly pork), pray 5 times daily in the direction of Mecca, and so on. Since they demand that their religious beliefs be imposed on others, they themselves are willing to accept the imposition of beliefs from religions that they do not hold. Oh, wait…

Written by LeisureGuy

27 January 2013 at 9:03 am

3 Responses

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  1. In Victoria, Australia, they permit abortion up to the birth of the child. Thirty minutes before the baby is born abortion is legal. Immediately after the birth to kill the child is murder. Why? Perhaps Catholics are opposed to abortion because it is murder, or at least in the spirit of murder, something you say everyone recognises as wrong.

    Karl Pepping

    28 January 2013 at 3:20 am

  2. It’s a moot point frankly, because it has nothing to do with reason, and everything to do with the religious clarity of vision whereby “the truth is self-evident” and requires no further discussion. It’s motivated reasoning at its apex. And at the same time, it’s also about power and the ability to control others in order to feel “in control”. Scripturally religious people have a high degree of discomfort with ambiguity and will do anything to mitigate it.


    28 January 2013 at 7:21 am

  3. @Karl: If you accept that, in general, all people are opposed to murder, then clearly abortion is not murder since a large proportion of people are not opposed to it. That is, abortion fails in one particular characteristic of murder: that people in general are opposed to it. Catholics do indeed view abortion as murder—that is their religious belief. Where they go wrong is in their strenuous efforts to compel others to act in accordance with Catholic beliefs. They also believe, as part of their religion, that birth control is not allowed and that divorce is not allowed, and when they have been in control, they have compelled everyone, Catholic or not, to obey these rules. But they do not themselves obey the dictates of other religions, so there’s clearly a lack of equity at work.

    I am not saying that Catholics should or should not get abortions: they can obey the dictates of their religion or not. I am saying that they should stop trying to force other people to act in conformity to Catholic religious dictates (and definitions). No one is trying to force abortions on people; but some are trying to force others not to have abortions. It should be an individual choice, not a law for everyone. (Would you also have birth control and divorce made illegal?)


    28 January 2013 at 9:14 am

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