Wednesday, December 2, 2009

The Declaration of Bigotry

The seemingly new Manhattan Declaration would be outrageous if it were not so unsurprising. It is basically an attempt to ratify bigotry and to consolidate the Conservative Christian political base. There are three primary tenets to the manifesto, helpfully laid out on the front page:
1) The sanctity of human life.
2) The dignity of marriage as the conjugal union of husband and wife.
3) The rights of conscience and religious liberty.

The sanctity of human life is a concept which I reject completely out of hand. Humans are important to me, to be sure, but we are not the apex of nature nor are we the culmination of millions of years of evolution. We are simply a stepping stone, a branch on the tree of life. Evolution has not labored to produce us, nor has it decided to stop here. I anthropomorphize evolution and nature simply for the sake of convenience. The idea that human life is more important or more valuable than other kinds of life is something that I see as a big problem. I imagine that much of this mindset is built into our genetic programming. Our genes seek to perpetuate themselves as carefully and completely as possible. Just as a wolf does not particularly care about the welfare of rabbits, so humans do not care about the welfare of rabbits, cows, chickens, turkeys, pigs or fish. It just isn't in our nature. But from our evolved sense of consciousness and awareness we can see that we are not more special than other animals.

Now, this first point is really intended not to address animal rights, but to provide a moral padlock against abortion. This is a thorny issue, and in my mind it comes down to a scientific determination of when the fetus is capable of feeling pain. Not to get too deep into a discussion of the abortion issue here (I'm not afraid of it and have plenty of opinions that I'll be happy to discuss at a later date) but I see two extremes: one is a live, birthed infant, breathing air and using instinct to stay alive. The other is two (presumably fertile) people about to have sex. Obviously killing a healthy infant is wrong and deciding not to attempt to fertilize an egg is fine. Someplace in between is the murky moral swamp of abortion, and I don't believe that there is an easy answer. Regardless of the outcome, the sanctity of human life should have nothing to do with it. I contend that it is less moral to force pigs to live unnatural and painful lives for the simple sake of a Bacon Double Cheeseburger than to kill an 8-month-old human fetus, even if it experiences a moment or two of pain. I want to be clear that this is merely my opinion - I don't know how much (if any) suffering a fetus goes through during an abortion procedure, although I am aware that science does exist on the development of the nervous systems of both pigs and humans. To me it would be a simple scale of avoidable suffering. And I also point out that I would view both as immoral if they cause unnecessary suffering. This is another issue I don't want to delve too deeply into today because it causes me to go far off track. For now I will simply summarize my opposition to point number one by saying that there is nothing in nature that would grant human life any special place in the universe.

The dignity of marriage is another term that I reject completely, and also I think it is grossly out of place on this list. Not that this list needs my approval, but including marriage completely invalidates this manifesto. It is such a petty thing to include alongside such other vital discussions. I dismiss this item as nothing more than a cheap power grab and will discuss it no further here.

The final item is fairly confusing as written in the summary, but further reading of the entire document (it opens as a pdf document) seems to state that because of religious liberty, Christians have a right to legislate their religious dogma into public policy. Which is pretty much the opposite of religious liberty. The drafters of this manifesto seem to be unaware that the religious liberty they enjoy is extended to everyone who lives in America. Not all of us find same-sex marriage to be the abomination that some Christians do and not all of us find the abortion debate to be quite as easily dismissed as they do. And certainly some of us think that if the Christians don't like abortion or gay marriage then they shouldn't have to participate in such activities. But it is not an infringement of their rights to allow other citizens to follow the dictates of their own conscience.

Apparently there are plenty of liberal Christians who oppose (and maybe just ignore) this ridiculous Manhattan Declaration. Good for them! As of press time, well over 230,000 people had signed it. I'm sure that Fred Phelps and the entire congregation of the WBC have already given their endorsement.


Annie said...

You are the first person I have encountered who agrees with me on both counts. Sanctity of life should mean the sanctity of ALL LIFE. Animals have concious thoughts and emotions. I don't know if fetuses do or not, but I guess the mental image of a fetus suffering bothers most more then the image of a pig or a cow suffering.
Wow, I just rehashed your articulate and well worded blog post into that sad little paragraph.

nathaniel wallace said...

I have been heavily influenced by Peter Singer's writings. If you haven't read him, I highly recommend it.

miriamt said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
miriamt said...

The tenant in this manifesto that is most disturbing to me is the third, which you so well debunked, because the other two are built on the foundation of this one.

Regardless of the particular rule they would be discussing, this assumption; that one group of people can dictate the beliefs of all the rest us; not only is disturbing but, it flies in the face of everything their leader taught. And it puts them, the Manhattan (or all) Rightwing Christians, in the same camp with Bin Laden and any other religious terrorist.

As I read the words written that Jesus was supposed to have said, I am convinced that, were he to be here today, would have, at the very least, been voted out by the Right-wing Christians….