There oughtta be a law against legislated morality

Posted on February 13, 2012


“Putting the 10 Commandments in school isn’t going to stop children from misbehaving anymore than placing Gideon Bibles in hotel rooms is going to stop people from committing adultery.” — Richard Dawkins, Author and noted Atheist

Dawkins’ quote — like the bulk of his writing — is true, because as much as we would like to, we can’t legislate morality. I’m disgusted at how self-righteously indignant Christians become when our country does something sinful or abandons it’s “Christian roots” (and how frequently so).

I’d like to point out to the bible-thumpers that all but two of the Founding Fathers were DEISTS. They were *NOT* Christians. And their vision of the United States of America was anything *BUT* a Christian-driven society.

The government of the United States is not in any sense founded upon the Christian religion.” – John Adams, Article 11 of the Treaty of Tripoli – 1793.

But proof that the Founding Fathers were not only not Christian, but found the entire proposal of god-in-government to be incongruous to the nation’s success doesn’t help today’s faux-Christians drive their despicably un-godlike agenda. It’s much easier to emphatically (and repeatedly) tell a room full of dullards that “the Founding Fathers were Christians” … much in the same way you tell the same dullards that man rode around on the backs of saddled dinosaurs when the Earth was created 6,000 years ago. But what more can you expect from a group of “patriots” whose entire anthropological knowledge base is drawn from “The Flintstones”?

Of course, you can’t legislate morality. You can’t create laws that will determine what a person will choose to do. Laws can only be created that enact CONSEQUENCE for having made that, and we hope that the threat of consequence will influence that choice.  If laws legislated morality, then the moment a law was passed, the act which that law prohibits would never happen again.

Murder’s been illegal for hundreds of years. Yet we have how many murders on any given day around the world …?  We have one-way signs on hundreds of thousands of American streets. But people can — and do — still drive on them in the wrong, illegal direction.  The *CAN* still do the illegal/immoral thing. But there are CONSEQUENCES for doing so.

People tend to cite the Civil Rights Act of 1964 as one of the shining examples of legislated morality.  But what does the Civil Rights Act actually do?  It assigns PENALTIES for not following a proscribed behavior.  The Civil Rights Act doesn’t in any way prevent someone from WANTING to violate the Civil Rights Act and it – in and of itself – does not prevent itself from being violated. It is the CONSEQUENCE of that violation which serves as a deterrent, if and when it does.  The Civil Rights Act has been law in America for 48 years. But we still have racism in America, don’t we?  We still have discrimination in America, don’t we?  It’s just that since inception in 1964, there is a proscribed set of penalties imposed for when someone commits an act of racism or discrimination.

The IMMORALITY of racism and discrimination is still alive and well. It’s even still thriving in some parts of the country, including Capitol Hill in Washington.

But not every immoral act – evil or otherwise – can, or should, be legislated by a government. Gay marriage does not pose the threat of physical harm, or even death, that rampant racism posed before the Civil Rights Act of 1964.  The only physical threat to gays seeking marriage today comes from the radical right-wing faux-christians who abhor it. Many “Christians” in America today are willing to hurt or even kill someone to enforce their own moral agenda. “Be Christ-like … or I’ll kill you.”  Don’t laugh. I’ve literally heard those words spoken, and not in jest, on fundie-Xtian “conservative” talk radio fans.

I remember an editorial I wrote in the Army in which I proved, through Army regulations and established Catholic doctrine that it was literally impossible to be both a perfect soldier and a perfect Catholic. I didn’t say that either was right or wrong. I merely pointed out the contradictions that each organization’s edicts had with the other.  That editorial resulted in literal bags of letters to the editor, many in praise. But one, from a self-described “God-loving Christian” Army Reserve Major in South Carolina, informed me that if he (the major) ever ran into me on the street, he’d kill me.  Sic semper hypocratis.

This week, we’ve seen numerous Catholic organizations and talking-heads literally seething at Barack Obama’s proposition to ensure that all employers – regardless of religious affiliation, or lack thereof – must include contraceptive options as part of their health insurance programs. They’re screaming, “Don’t wage war on our religious freedom!”  They’re screaming, “How *dare* you try to dictate behavior to us!?!”

Doesn’t it strike you as odd that these very same zealots are screaming  for their “right” to prevent same-sex marriage, for their “right” to prevent people from using contraceptives, and their “right” to prevent women from having abortions.

For a group that is so (pardon the pun) hell-bent on not having their behavior dictated to them, they sure are comfortable with dictating the behavior of others.

Several years ago, a prominent Christian ministry was outraged that Senator Elliot Spitzer chose to not participate in a National Day of Prayer. They encouraged people to actually call his office and complain. But, Elliot Spitzer isn’t a Christian. So why would he care about praying, or want to participate in an activity that encourages — some would say “force” — others to pray? Why would a Christian ministry be upset and surprised that a non-Christian would act like a non-Christian? because Christians — as they’ll gladly tell you, over and over and over and over — are always “right.” Their behavior is the only “good” behavior. And if you ain’t with ’em, yer agin’ ’em.  And that’s just not acceptable … to those who claim to “act as Jesus would act.”

Or how about the “Happy Holidays” debate? I agree that the political correctness in our country is way out of control, but if a non-Christian doesn’t want to say “Merry Christmas” (the epitome of Christian phrases) … WHO CARES?  It’s every bit someone’s right to NOT say “Merry Christmas” as it is someone else’s right so say it.

But that equal opportunity kind of mumbo jumbo doesn’t meet church recruitment quotas. It doesn’t feed the hive mind.  It doesn’t pass the “god” test. Surely, anyone who doesn’t believe in the exact incarnation of a deity as YOU perceive it, must be wrong.  And wrongness must be punished. Isn’t that right, all you Spanish Inquisition aficionados?

Being electrocuted is what leads people to not use a hair dryer in the shower.  The little red, black and white tag on the power cord telling you not to use the device in the shower is just there to prevent the hair dryer manufacturer from getting sued when someone is stupid enough to use a hair dryer in the shower.  That little tag is required by law. So did the law stop the electrocution?  I don’t think so, Tim.

Birth control … gay marriage … abortion … these are nothing more than emotionally charged hot buttons that are used to keep people who can’t be bothered to think from recognizing that our esteemed elected leaders aren’t doing a god-damned thing about the real problems affecting the vast majority of Americans. 74 percent of Americans favor Congress doing “X.” But Congress does “Y” because a micro-fraction of that percentage want it that way.  And we, in our grand sheeptitude, just keep letting them do it with no fear of consequence.

Consequence is what drives action, as well as inaction. But knowledge that there *IS* no consequence also leads to action … and it’s almost always illegal, immoral or just plain wrong.  Everybody knows that Wall Street executives knew they were raking the country over the coals and making billions in bonuses for doing it, and not one of them is in jail, or even being tried.  Why?  Because what they did wasn’t illegal by our current laws. But it was immoral as Hell.  So where was the legislated morality among all those Lehman Brothers and Bear-Stearns and Goldman-Sachs executives?

Consequence is what drives action. Morality cannot be legislated. Immorality, in and of itself, has no earthly consequence. Only an immoral act that is also illegal has consequence in our government’s system.

And when it comes to people insisting that religion and government and forced morality should (or must) be one and the same … well, there ought to be a law against it.