Chinese Government Wants to ‘Liberate’ People from Superstition… Should We Be Worried?

1999 Chinese propaganda poster that reads “Firmly support the decision of the Central Committee to deal with the illegal organization of ‘Falun Gong.’” Via Wikipedia.

Reuters has a fascinating article about the efforts of Wang Zuoan, head of the State Administration of Religious Affairs, to weed out superstition in order to achieve and maintain state stability.

Says Wang:

For a ruling party which follows Marxism, we need to help people establish a correct world view and to scientifically deal with birth, ageing, sickness and death, as well as fortune and misfortune, via popularizing scientific knowledge.

This kind of language makes people nervous. While we nonbelievers feel fairly confident that our own worldview is “correct,” we do not see it as the role of the government to bring anyone to our way of thinking. However, those of us who are not strict libertarians might see a role for government in, as Wang says, popularizing scientific knowledge. Certainly, that’s what Neil deGrasse Tyson has been on about, so eloquently, for some time.

China has a history of taking a horrifically hard line on religion (and on any form of dissent, really), replacing religion with devotion to the state (again, something wholly antithetical to the freethought movement). But Wang does not sound like someone who wants to round up folks from their secret underground houses of worship and sending them off to prison camps.

Religion has been around for a very long time, and if we rush to try to push for results and want to immediately ‘liberate’ people from the influence of religion, then it will have the opposite effect and push people in the opposite direction.

His soft language may be more of a reflection of his role in outreach to religious citizens, and it smacks of strategy rather than fellow-feeling. There’s no mistaking the government’s antipathy toward any competing ideologies, even if it’s phrased more nicely. And I’d be wary of the Chinese government wanting to “liberate” me from anything.

But still, here we have a representative of the Chinese government talking about, essentially, skepticism of pseudoscientific claims and religion. I asked Barry Karr, chief of the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry (and one of my triumvirate of bosses at CFI), what he thought of what Wang was saying. He told me:

Back in 2000 we sponsored a World Skeptics Conference in Australia. As part of the program we had invited a delegation of skeptics from China with whom we had been in contact for a number of years. In a move surprising to us, during the conference the delegation read a statement condemning [Chinese spiritual movement] Falun Gong and supporting the government crackdown on them. This promoted CSI (then CSICOP) Chairman Paul Kurtz to issue a statement to the effect that CSICOP is interested in the scientific evaluation of Qigong [a supernaturalistic "life energy" discipline]. We deplore, however, any effort to defend political repression, and we wished to disassociate ourselves from the statements of the Chinese delegation.

We feel the same way today.

In other words, not impressed.

About Paul Fidalgo

Paul is communications director for the Center for Inquiry, as well as an actor and musician. His personal blog is Near-Earth Object, and he tweets as @paulfidalgo. He is the author of a short (and cheap!) Kindle book on the atheist political movement, Under the Stained Glass Ceiling: Atheists' Precarious Place in Modern American Politics.

  • liu

    We should be absolutely and wholeheartedly be opposed to this sort of thing, as it inevitably leads to the government trying to forcibly stamp out modes of thought, no matter how soft the language it’s couched in is. Any sort of government intervention to the way people think is completely antithetical to the free-thought movement, and should be abhorred, no matter what the context.

    • The Captain

      Well leaving your slippery slope argument aside, you say “Any sort of government intervention to the way people think is completely antithetical to the free-thought movement” define “intervention”? Is a government ad campaign “intervention”?

      How about government mandated warning labels? That seems like it’s “intervention” doesn’t it? Are you saying there should be no government law on warning labels on toys, cigarettes, drugs? How about government mandated ingredient list on food items? I mean if everyone thinks there is no horse meat in their hamburger is it really “antithetical to the free-thought movement” to tell them that yes, yes there is?

      • SeekerLancer

        As much as I hate to invoke it, the slippery slope here is worth being concerned about, if only because China’s human rights record is less than stellar.

        If it’s delivered as advertised though, and I sincerely hope it is, I agree with you and don’t see a problem with it.

      • Blacksheep

        Are you honestly comparing warning labels to concentration camps and human oppression? Funny, actually.

        • The Captain

          Hold on let me go back and check….. no, the liu never said anything about “concentration camps” or “human oppression”. You know, the comment I was replying too. So I couldn’t have been ” comparing warning labels to concentration camps and human oppression” since those where not mentioned in luis post originally.

          Hold on, perhaps I’m mistaken, let me read liu’s comment yet again…. Damn, I still see no mention of “concentration camps” or “human oppression” anywhere. Perhaps you must be mistaking the conversation we where having, with something in the article. I’ll just go check that too…. Well shucks, I still can’t find “concentration camps” or “human oppression” anywhere their either. Sure there is concern about China’s past, but no where do I see any talk of “concentration camps” being used in this campaign.

          Perhaps you are having a different conversation in your head than me and lui was having here?

        • RobMcCune

          Fairly sure The Captain was being a bit of pedant, liu did make broad based categorical statements.

      • liu

        See my reply to wmdkitty; it addresses the points you make.

      • TiltedHorizon

        With all due respect Captain, this may be a case where the comment was intended to be broad within the narrow context of the this article. We are discussing China after all, not exactly know for human rights advocacy.

    • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com/ wmdkitty

      Some modes of thought are inherently dangerous because PEOPLE FUCKING DIE. Homeopathy, Christian “Science”, faith “healing”, anti-vax, “exorcisms”, reparative (“de-gaying”) “therapy”, rebirthing “therapy”, breatharianism… do I need to go on?

      • Blacksheep

        Better they should die from homeopathy than a torture camp! We’re talking about China here…

      • Valancy Jane

        I don’t care what someone believes in the privacy of his or her own mind and home, as long as those beliefs only impact that person and nobody else. The problem does come in when religion so detestably often insists on impacting others.

        • pragma

          No person is an island, and as religion is flat out harmful in more ways than we can currently imagine, I don’t see how it’s okay as long as people do it within their homes / communities etc. It’s impossible to practice religion without it affecting anybody else – at least as far as I know it has never been done.

          • Renshia

            ” as religion is flat out harmful in more ways than we can currently imagine”

            No truer statement has ever been written on this site.

          • Valancy Jane

            I didn’t leave the thought-crime mentality of Christianity just to buy into the thought-crime mentality of your skepticism. Sorry. If someone else’s religion doesn’t infringe on you in any way, or interfere with your rights, I don’t see why you should care about it any more than you would care about anything else they do in private that you might not approve of or like.

            Your assumptions are that people cannot practice religion in private without impinging on others and that religion is always, totally, completely, horribly harmful to society. I suggest you re-examine those assumptions. I know too many people who are contradictions to what you’re claiming (and try to be one of those people myself) to think that these are correct.

      • Blacksheep

        In fact – look at any study / chart / paper on the world history of human rights abuse / citizens killed, and China has no peer. It’s estimated that between 50 and 80 million people died as a direct result of the chinese governments’ actions. (not a war – we’re talking their own people). As late as 2012, China was voted one of the top four most repressive societies on earth.

        • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com/ wmdkitty

          Actually, you’ll find that Christian theocracies are far, far worse, and the death toll exceeds that of the Chinese.

          • Rwlawoffice

            Cite for this statement ?

          • Blacksheep

            Please cite – that’s utter nonsense. even the crusades have a miniscule death toll when compared to – actually when compared to almost any genocide.

            • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com/ wmdkitty

              Read a fucking history book, you two. I don’t need a cite for historical FACT.

      • RobMcCune

        For some context, China has imprisoned environmental activists for the crime of showing independent initiative to tackle problems in their community. While I’m all for China building science museums and teaching critical thinking in science class right before discouraging it in party loyalty class, there are real human rights concerns when the government takes interest in promoting something in society.

      • liu

        People have a right to practice whatever fucked up religion they follow, as long as they don’t break any laws or infringe upon the rights of others. I view it as the governments job to inform its citizens about the dangers of things, such as smoking, and to promote science, but not to try and “liberate” people from their viewpoints.

        There’s a difference between intervention and informing the populace. Again, I see no problem in the government telling people the dangers of smoking, or promoting science education. But I do not think that the role of government is to decide what viewpoints are valid and which are invalid, and to set about correcting those individuals who have invalid viewpoints.

        It’s possible that I’m misinterpreting Zuoan’s statements, and that he is merely advocating for the promotion of science in China. However, his language makes me highly suspicious, as he speaks of the government correcting those with the improper world-views. That is something I am strongly against, no matter who is being “liberated.”

        • The Captain

          But there is a point where the “informing the populace” means that by definition it will be deciding that a certain viewpoint is invalid. I’m thinking of efforts to eradicate certain water born diseases in Africa for instance where people believe their local water hole is “sacred” and that the souls of their ancestors live in it and protect them. So drinking unfiltered water is an act of “faith”. When the government comes in and (rightfully) tells them that no, parasites are in the water and making them sick, the need to filter it, that is the government telling them that their viewpoint is invalid. And rightly so.

          “But I do not think that the role of government is to decide what viewpoints are valid and which are invalid, and to set about correcting those individuals who have invalid viewpoints.” But that is the basis of what making a law is. Hell the very freedoms a government can grant is bases on this principle. The fact we have freedom of speech as the first amendment means the government enforces the “viewpoint” that censorship is a necessity is “invalid”.

          • liu

            Good points; I would argue that the African government in that context is doing just what the American government does here with tobacco, and informing its citizens about the dangers of something specific. From what information you’ve given me, it doesn’t sound like they’re trying to wipe out African religion, just warning people of the danger. And governments make murder ilegal, because it’s infringes upon other people’s rights.

            What worries me is not so much the government deciding that certain viewpoints are invalid, but rather when the government takes it upon itself to promote its viewpoint among its citizenry, not just curbing specific behaviors. My initial comment was a little rash, but I do think that in this specific case we shouldn’t trust China to limit themselves to simply promoting science, instead of persecuting belivers.

    • Thegoodman

      “government trying to forcibly stamp out modes of thought”..only superstitious ones.

      Its not antithetical to the free-thought movement for a government to say that superstition is wrong. Saying this will “inevitably leads to the government trying to forcibly stamp out modes of thought” is not a good argument.

  • ortcutt

    Why is this a bad thing, exactly? I only wish that our own government did more of this. There is no requirement that governments be strictly neutral on matters of fact. We don’t expect any government to be neutral regarding whether the world is round or flat, and it is no violation of anyone’s right for them to adopt policies that increase that likelihood that people will believe things that are actually true.

    • Rev. Achron Timeless

      If it could be constrained to the way it was described, merely doing their best to wean people off superstition because reality was better for them… then no, nothing wrong with it.

      Now, given China’s history on how they go about such things, there’s everything wrong with it.

    • Sven2547

      As worded, it seems non-objectionable. The issue is that China has a long history of using euphemistic language to describe acts of oppression.

      • Blacksheep

        Exactly.

        • Robster

          But nothing can beat the christian faiths in the use of euphemistic language, eg. calling their dead magic jew “good news”, when it;s really a nonsense and at best a perverse punishment.

          • Blacksheep

            His death was not the good news, as you know.

            • Mario Strada

              Actually, for some it was. Why kill him otherwise?

    • Blacksheep

      Clearly you know nothing of China’s various “crackdowns” on religion – which have included loss of livelihood, imprisonment, torture, and death. Otherwise you wouldn’t say “why is this a bad thing, exactly?”

      It’s a very bad thing when a government forces it’s population to submit to it’s will based on fear.

      • ortcutt

        China is an undemocratic and repressive state. I just fail to see what is worrying about this in particular.

        • Thegoodman

          Are your comments based on fact? I keep hearing this but I don’t know much about it, nor have I seen much evidence to support it. I see a flourishing culture and is growing its economic, military, and industrial power to challenge the US soon enough on all 3 fronts.

          I am not saying you are wrong, I just imagine the state you describe being more like North Korea than China, starving, not flourishing.

          • ortcutt

            I think you’re confusing economic growth with democracy and civil liberties. They aren’t the same thing.

      • AxeGrrl

        Nailed it, Blacksheep.

      • C Peterson

        China appears to be operating under a highly successful governmental system, which is serving it well and is largely popular with its population. Although its not the system I’d choose to live under, I’m a bit hard pressed to find something objectively wrong with it. It is well within the capabilities of the Chinese people to adopt a different system; that doesn’t appear to be something with much support.

    • Valancy Jane

      We’re just worried about how China’s government has traditionally handled such matters, that’s all. They’re not exactly a bastion of individual rights, dignity, and liberty. Even when they’re doing something that ostensibly benefits everybody, like the one child policy, they did it in an especially barbaric, brutal, and insensitive way. It’s great that they’re saying “look, we need to be moving forward here,” but I don’t think any government has the right to tell people flat-out what they should or should not believe. I’d be against this idea no matter what government said it.

  • Sean Lissemore

    It depends how it is done. Tibetan monks lorded over a brutal feudal theocracy, and these monks beat and tortured their serfs at times if they disobeyed them. But China’s heavy handy tactics in ridding Tibet of this feudal theocracy was just as bad.

    If China can spread scientific literacy in a peaceful way that would be a lot better obviously.

    • Sean Lissemore

      Why the down vote?

      • Sean Lissemore

        I kind of saw that down vote coming…

      • Anonymous Atheist

        Probably someone who wasn’t aware of those problems with the Tibetan theocracy and is ‘shooting the messenger’.

        • Sean Lissemore

          Ah yes Buddhism is one of the favored religions on this blog. It is hard sometimes to remember which religions are the evil ones (i.e. Islam) and which ones are the good ones (i.e. Buddhism).

          • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com/ wmdkitty

            You are so wrong that “wrong” can’t even begin to describe it.

            • RobMcCune

              The term you’re looking for is “not even wrong.”

              • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com/ wmdkitty

                Thanks. This Lissemore fellow clearly just doesn’t know what he’s talking about. At all.

                • RobMcCune

                  While I agree with this guy a lot, he does have some kind of grudge against this blog that makes him incredibly annoying.

                • Sean Lissemore

                  I’m an Anti-”New Atheist” Atheist, and Mehta seems to love ingratiating himself with some of the more unseemly characters of this movement (e.g. Ali and Harris). Hope that clears it up for you.

  • http://twitter.com/AtlantaHumanist New Atheism

    Many governments have horrible histories when it comes to legislating morality, but assuming that you know what will happen in China now is a bad argument. Wang’s comments seem reasonable and I’ll continue to believe him innocent until proven otherwise. Promoting a secular government always gets my vote.

    • Blacksheep

      Betting on China to respect human rights is a very bad bet. Better to NOT trust them and save lives and human dignity. 50,000,000 times bitten, twice shy!

      • Thegoodman

        How is being a charlatan or practicing false medicine a right?

      • baal

        Blacksheep, your comments on China are on the whole pretty decent and rational (I’m not agreeing fully with them but find them regular and normal). I’d like you to apply the same skills and thought patterns to considering the role of christianity esp. as it supports the right wing authoritarians in the US. I’m not asking for this right now but over time as you continue to comment. Thank you

    • Thegoodman

      Great comment. This is what I was trying to convey, but did not do so as well.

  • http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Invisible_Pink_Unicorn Anna

    Given China’s track record, there’s ample reason to be concerned. I really don’t think it should be the place of the government to encourage or discourage superstition, even in a friendly, pluralistic democracy. I wouldn’t want an atheist government in the United States. For me, the ideal would be a secular one that refrains from praising or promoting religion.

    • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com/ wmdkitty

      Discouraging superstition is a GOOD thing, regardless of the motives. After all, it’s superstition that’s behind a lot of the nasty “traditional medicine”, and said “medicine” demonstrably harms not only the people (due to toxicity or just plain ineffectiveness), but the environment and the wildlife, as plants and body parts are “harvested” for use. Shark fin soup, anyone…

      • http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Invisible_Pink_Unicorn Anna

        I think there are certainly exceptions to the rule: beliefs that threaten endangered species, public health and safety, etc.

    • ortcutt

      The US Federal government (and every other government I’ve ever heard of) does public awareness campaigns based on the best medical science available. That is meant to discourage medical superstitions. Do you think that isn’t the place of government?

      • http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Invisible_Pink_Unicorn Anna

        I suppose if it’s a matter of public health. I was originally thinking that “superstition” would encompass belief in all supernatural things. Some of those beliefs might be fairly benign, but others (like the idea that raping a virgin can cure AIDS) would obviously need to be addressed by the government.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1078695333 David Kopp

    I’m hoping it’s mostly from the viewpoint of “We don’t want people eating more shark fins and tiger parts hoping their magic will make them better”, because Asia in general and China in particular are some of the largest markets for poached, endangered animal parts.

  • Michael Caton

    Great post. The archenemy of reason (and general human happiness) is
    arguments from authority that seek political power, whether or not those
    arguments appeal to the supernatural. The important thing is to
    distinguish between encouraging critical thinking, which includes
    science (good) and suppressing dissent (bad). In the U.S., we get
    annoyed by the prevalence of theistic silliness but in a democracy, it’s
    the job of individual citizens engaging in public discourse to change
    each others’ minds, not the legal apparatus of a government to force
    them out of it. What China really wants to do with this announcement is
    get international approval for oppressing Tibetan Buddhism and Falun
    Gong. China’s record is not positive in this regard so announcements
    like this from a government that has a history of ruling by arguments
    from authority (supernatural or otherwise) should make us very nervous.

  • Renshia

    Wait a sec… Chinese people are crazy superstitious. Almost all of them. Crazy like not able to wear a shirt because the eyes in the picture of the wolf scared her to much. And it is very predominant all through their society. I think anything that would try to reign in the superstition can only be good. If not, it may just be some stupid superstitious belief that triggers that first missile.

    I don’t care how paranoid you all are, some intervention in this area can only be good.
    I kinda think it’s time to give up, the big brother paranoia, don;t ya think.

    • AxeGrrl

      I kinda think it’s time to give up, the big brother paranoia, don;t ya think.

      When the country in question is China? Uhm, no.

    • http://twitter.com/AtlantaHumanist New Atheism

      You are correct about the superstitions in Asia. Having been there numerous times and having close friends, I can tell you that they have what I call unique views. Most people only know what they read in the newspapers or online about China. The reality is that the Chinese government does not have as big a part in their lives as the US government has in ours.

  • Rwlawoffice

    It is interesting that they same people who are trying to force the change if people’s thoughts on homosexuality and homosexual marriage through government force are worried about the Chinese government doing this same thing with religion. Even more interesting when some of these same folks here have called for government action to reign in religion in this country. Examples, agreeing with a florist being sued for her thoughts on same sex marriage, agreeing with calling a religious organization who decries same sex marriage as a hate group, calling for the removal of tax exempt status those churches who preach against same sex marriage. All of which have been agreed to or discussed here as good ideas.

    • CultOfReason

      So, in other words, your Christian privilege and the right to discriminate over others trumps all else, and those of us who speak out against it are hypocritical?

      Being allowed to believe in silly things such as a magic man in the sky is what the folks on this forum are defending, assuming it hurts no one. Negatively acting on said belief by discriminating against others is what folks on this forum speak out against. I see no hypocrisy with that.

      • rwlawoffice

        Religious liberties are not Christian privileges, they are constitutionally protected rights. Your rights to demand services from a Christian ends when it violates those rights. What is hypocritical through this post is that there are those that support the use of government force to change the thoughts of Christians and force them to conform. Yet when China dos it there is a concern. Frankly I see only a difference in degrees and means between submission through fines and lawsuits and through jail. The end result is that the government is using its force to change someone’s thoughts and to force them to conform to what the government thinks is appropriate. When it comes to same sex marriage folks here are all for that. I could say the same for birth control and how the government forces this on those that are religiously opposed to providing that.

        • CultOfReason

          Your argument falls apart when it becomes clear that what you refer to as “religious liberty” is nothing more than window dressing on discrimination.

          I’m curious what your thoughts are on the Civil Rights laws we now have in this Country. Where do you draw the line between religious liberties and discrimination? If my religion forbids me from serving blacks, should that be constitutionally protected? What if my religion forbids women from working, Can I discriminate against women and be constitutionally protected?

          We’re already seeing a shift in thinking among the more progressive churches that are now more accepting of LGBT relationships (among other things). It’s just a matter of time before the rest of you dinosaurs see the light, or become extinct.

          • rwlawoffice

            There is always a balancing act between protecting religious liberties and government interests that impose upon them. It is up to the state to not infringe upon those rights unless it it can show its state interest outweighs the infringement.

            It is always the case of those that support same sex marriage to fall back on the racial civil rights or gender rights as a comparison. It is a false comparison. One is behavior and the other is race or gender.

            A proper example to use would be Kosher butchers. Should they be forced to provide non Kosher food just because some of its customers want it? Their religion forbids them to sell non kosher food but should the government be allowed to force them to?

            • http://twitter.com/enuma enuma

              Legalizing same sex marriage is not the same thing as forcing churches to perform marriage ceremonies that violate their beliefs.

              My parents’ church has successfully refused to perform marriage ceremonies both for divorcees and for couples in which one person is Protestant and refuses to convert to Catholicism. They’ve had no legal trouble for this, despite the fact that divorce, remarriage after divorce, and interfaith marriage are all perfectly legal.

            • CultOfReason

              With legal marriage comes certain rights and privileges not available to others. When a subset of the population is afforded those rights while another is prevented from it (due to the nature of their sexuality which they were born into, not chosen), then you are talking about discrimination, and that IS a state interest.

            • CultOfReason

              A proper example to use would be Kosher butchers. Should they be forced to provide non Kosher food just because some of its customers want it? Their religion forbids them to sell non kosher food but should the government be allowed to force them to?

              Bad analogy. The butcher is not withholding his services to anyone based on who they are. Now, if he refused to sell his products to gay people, then we can compare him to how the florist behaved.

              • rwlawoffice

                And either is the florist. She is refusing to be involved in a same sex ceremony. She served these same clients many times before.

              • CultOfReason

                You can continue to rationalize all you want but at the end of the day it’s still discrimination.

            • Mario Strada

              “It is always the case of those that support same sex marriage to fall back on the racial civil rights or gender rights as a comparison. It is a false comparison. ”

              No it’s not. Sexual orientation is no more a choice than it is to be born Chinese. Religion, on the other hand, is a choice.

              • rwlawoffice

                Marriage is a choice. Marriage is behavior. Deciding to get married to the same sex is a choice and is behavior. Thus comparing same sex marriage to the civil rights movement is a false comparison.

                • CultOfReason

                  Okay how about interracial marriage. Is it okay to discriminate against that?

                • Rwlawoffice

                  Discriminate in what way?

                • CultOfReason

                  Okay how about interracial marriage. Is it okay to discriminate against that?

                  Discriminate in what way?

                  By withholding products or services.

                  Marriage is a choice. Marriage is behavior. Deciding to get married to the same sex is a choice and is behavior. Thus comparing same sex marriage to the civil rights movement is a false comparison.

                  Sitting down at a diner and wanting to be served just like the white folks is a choice, a behavior.

                  Wanting to drink out of the same water fountain as the white folks is a choice, a behavior.

                  Wanting to sit at the front of the bus is a choice – a behavior.

                  Being a black man and wanting to marry a white person is a choice, a behavior.

                  Thus, comparing same sex marriage to the civil rights movement is a TRUE comparison.

                  Are you advocating that people who are against any of the above under the guise of “religious freedom” should have the right to withhold products or services to the parties involved?

        • http://twitter.com/enuma enuma

          I fully support the right of churches to refuse to perform same sex marriage ceremonies, as I support their right to preach that such marriages are invalid in God’s eyes.

          What I don’t support is churches violating the political lobbying restrictions placed on 501(c)3 tax exempt organizations, a distinction I noticed you failed to make when you claimed we wanted to revoke tax exemptions merely for anti-gay preaching.

          • rwlawoffice

            When does preaching about Romans 1 or Leviticus cross the line into political speech and when is it preaching against the immorality of homosexual behavior as taught in the Bible? That is the problem.

            Again i state that religion is beyond the walls of the church. saying that only churches are protected is a limitation of the free exercise of religion that in my opinion would be unconstitutional.

            • http://twitter.com/enuma enuma

              And here I thought you were a lawyer. The restrictions only apply to political lobbying by tax exempt churches. Preaching about sin ! = political lobbying.

              Unless you’re preaching that Romans 1 says God wants you to vote for a specific political candidate*, or unless you use a “substantial portion” of tax exempted funds–as determined by expenditure test developed in 1976–to lobby for specific legislation (IRS doc eotopicp97) it’s not a problem. The law is pretty established. Preaching religious beliefs that intersect with political topics is just fine. Telling your membership which candidate to vote for* or spending 16%+ of your church’s revenue (Haswell Ct. Cl. 1974) to support specific pieces of legislation is not.

              I also fully support the right of individuals to refuse to perform same sex marriage ceremonies on religious grounds, but since authorization to perform legal marriage ceremonies so usually comes from a church, that’s what I highlighted.

              *The IRS has refused to so much as investigate churches that break this restriction even when provided with video footage of preachers telling their flock how to vote, so you’ve got to be really paranoid to think merely preaching about Romans 1 is going to have any effect on tax status.

              • Rwlawoffice

                I agree with you. Your description of the difference is spot on.

                • http://twitter.com/enuma enuma

                  Good thing I don’t believe in the Apocalypse. If I did, I would surely think this is a sign.

            • CultOfReason

              Hypocrite. Do you wear clothes of mixed fiber?

              • Rwlawoffice

                Silly comment. I am not a Jew and thus do not need to follow all of the rules of law set out by Moses. Read Acts 15

                • CultOfReason

                  Hypocrite. Do you wear clothes of mixed fiber?

                  Silly comment. I am not a Jew and thus do not need to follow all of the rules of law set out by Moses. Read Acts 15

                  Christians like to fall back on Acts 15 as an “opt-out” to justify cherry picking what rules they will follow, and which they will ignore. Funny how you adhere to the laws that allow you to discriminate under the guise of “religious freedom”, but ignore the laws that would be too much of an inconvenience for you. Funny how that works.

    • TiltedHorizon

      False equivalence. You want to make your use of the word ‘force’ equal in context to the human rights violations China is guilty of.

      • rwlawoffice

        Actually I don’t see it that way. If the concern here is using the government to change people’s thoughts in terms of religion through the use of its powers, then the idea that our own government can do it through fines and lawsuits instead of through imprisonment does not change that concern. In fact it is happening in this country and those that post here regularly are not opposed to these actions.

        • TiltedHorizon

          “If the concern here is using the government…”

          The ‘concern’ is the government in question.

          What you describe is the process of socialization, that is, the process by which society is encouraged to follow a desirable, or ‘moral’, outcome which is deemed ‘good’ for said society. Like tax breaks for married couples, home owners, etc, which over time steer a society towards a given state of marriage, home ownership, etc. The false equivalence in your assertion is in equating socialization to the tactics used in China where change is forced by extreme penalty, imprisonment, or bodily harm; don’t you recall Tiananmen Square?

          Based on your argument Apples & Oranges both grow on trees so they must be the same fruit.

          • rwlawoffice

            When the Federal government threatens to sue a private company and fine them out of existence because the govt. demands that they provide birth control which goes against their religion do you call that socialization?

            When a florist is sued and fined for not wanting to use her talents to support same sex marriage which would be in violation of her religious beliefs be socialization?

            I call it the government using its force through the court system to impose its ideas on others in violation of their religious beliefs.

            Don’t misunderstand, I do not think that our government will engage in jailing or bodily harm because we have other rights like due process that would prevent that from occurring, but i do think that the principle is the same.

            • http://twitter.com/enuma enuma

              Businesses in Washington have a right to refuse service, just not based on sex, sexual orientation, religion, or race. If you’re a public accommodation, you have to actually accommodate the public. That’s the deal you make when you open your doors.

              If I were a florist in Washington, the same law would prevent me from refusing to sell flowers to a couple because their Christian ceremony goes against my atheist beliefs. The protection works both ways.

              • rwlawoffice

                That is the problem. Religious beliefs are beyond simply worship service. It is a lifestyle that includes how a person runs their business in conformance with their religious beliefs. When the laws against discrimination are used to mean that a person must do something that violates their religious beliefs, then it is the la which must bend to the constitutional right of religious liberty. That is why there are ministerial exceptions from employment laws. The public accommodation laws, in my opinion are the same thing.

                In your case, if you had religious beliefs that as an atheist you would not sell flowers for a Christian ceremony, i would think that you had that right and would support your right to send them elsewhere.

                • http://twitter.com/enuma enuma

                  If being able to discriminate on religious grounds was important to me, then I’d choose a profession where the possibility of having to serve a client of the “wrong” belief system doesn’t even come up.

            • TiltedHorizon

              My ‘beliefs’, in the context of weighting societal issues, are predicated on actions which infringe on individual freewill. I consider the following:

              1) Whose freewill is being being infringed on.
              2) Can the infringement be quantified.

              Based on these criteria, the “private company” and the employees are being infringed on. However, only the employees would suffer a quantifiable loss. Their ‘freewill’ to use or not use a service is infringed hostage by the “private company”; who loses nothing. The same applies to the Florist. Making floral arrangements which one is paid to do, is only an endorsement of capitalism, it is not an endorsement of an event or occasion. The only people who had a quantifiable loss, whose freewill was most infringed on, are not the business owners.

    • Thegoodman

      I know, the audacity! Its almost like its not even a free country anymore, amirite? Whens the last time a free white man was able to freely beat his wife? I mean, comon! Whats the point in marrying her?

    • baal

      rwlawoffice reminds me of the secularwomen’s website that I negatively commented on in another thread today. Advocacy for your position (RW) takes priority over all other considerations and make you sound like a one note troll. You do not adjust your position based on the endless reasonable comments and feedback you get. You could at least deal with some of the more common counter arguments from time to time and still be an advocate for your particular position.

      The overriding principal we’re pushing for is that when you go about your life, you can do so without public business or government telling you you’re not wanted and that you cannot use public stuff. When I go to buy bananas, I don’t expect the grocer to see if I’m from the right sect or not. Everyone regardless of sect should get to buy bananas. Period. When I go to a courtroom, I want to be tried under the laws that the legislature passed and the precedents of that court. I don’t want a secret law (shria or the 10 commandments take your pick) being used by the court. Is it really so hard for you to understand that if you’re going to have a civil well ordered society that you cannot create and maintain an underclass (those denied floral services for example)?

      • rwlawoffice

        I agree that we want to live in a society that has limited government intrusion. Where we disagree is that I believe that religious liberties are important to protect outside of the church and that certain actions directed at those that oppose the agenda of the government are in violation of those rights. Those who don’t have deeply held religious beliefs may have a hard time seeing how it is important to protect them but I think that it is important not only for that person but for society as a whole.

  • http://www.flickr.com/photos/chidy/ chicago dyke

    i can’t endorse it, but i’m hard pressed to want to tell a government ruling over a billion people what is good policy. and so many of those people live in poverty, ignorance, and superstition. china is making great strides to modernize, and frankly they are kicking US ass in a lot of respects on that front. all i know is that it must be very complicated to create policy for such a nation.

  • Thegoodman

    I don’t know many details about Chinese government doing inhumane things but I have heard stories. I often wonder if these are just exaggerated for US consumption or if they are actually true, I do not know at this time.

    That being said, a government that publicly states that religion is absurd is one I like.It may be a bit misguided, but I certainly appreciated a government that recognizes religion as an enemy of the state, and seeks to abolish it through education.

    Its also apparent that many commentors here like to say ridiculously wide sweeping statements based on no fact like “Chinese people are crazy superstitious. Almost all of them.” Unless you have personally lived in several parts of China in recent years, its very difficult for any of us to know details such as this.

  • Jhudstone

    If they really wanted to repudiate non-scientific views, they could start with repudiating Marxism.

    • http://twitter.com/AtlantaHumanist New Atheism

      So what do you know about Marxism?

      • Jhudstone

        Only what I have read and studied. You?

        • http://twitter.com/AtlantaHumanist New Atheism

          Economics undergrad, international business MBA. Original carl marx manifesto is much different than current communism. 47% of americans would agree with most of the first manifesto.

          • Jhudstone

            What specifically in the manifesto do you think they would agree with?

    • The Captain

      As opposed to capitalism, which relies on so much “you just have to take that point on faith” that it qualifies as a religion?

      • Jhudstone

        The Chinese certainly employ capitalism (they were starving before they did) which seems to indicate it’s practical usefulness; they hold to Marxism as a matter of dogma, by which they can control their populace.

  • Sue Blue

    While I would love to see a sudden, sharp decline in the Chinese superstitions that lead to the killing of endangered species for their “traditional” medicine, I don’t condone a government crackdown on freedom of thought and expression. Better to improve science education at all levels so people become better critical thinkers and less susceptible to superstition.


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