Skeptophilia (skep-to-fil-i-a) (n.) - the love of logical thought, skepticism, and thinking critically. Being an exploration of the applications of skeptical thinking to the world at large, with periodic excursions into linguistics, music, politics, cryptozoology, and why people keep seeing the face of Jesus on grilled cheese sandwiches.

Monday, September 12, 2016

Thou shalt not watch training videos

In the ongoing effort by a particular cadre of ├╝ber-Christians to emphasize one or two tenets of their faith and pretty much ignore the rest of it, we have the case of a worker for the Social Security Administration who has said he would rather be fired than watch a seventeen-minute video on respecting diversity (particularly with respect to LGBT individuals) in the workplace.

David Hall, of Tolono, Illinois, has worked for the SSA for fourteen years.  This year, supervisors have required all employees to watch a training video on LGBT inclusion as part of a drive to decrease workplace harassment and increase tolerance and respect.  Hall, however, has refused, and claims he's being discriminated against because he's a Christian.  "I think this is an issue they are prepared to go to the mat with," Hall said, "but I’m not going to give up my faith or compromise my beliefs just to go along and get along.  I don’t believe God wants me to do that."

A few things about this particular case stand out.  First, Hall is claiming discrimination, even though the SSA is requiring everyone to watch the video.  If Hall, as a devout Christian, had been singled out to watch the video, he might have a case to claim he was being targeted.  In this case, however, it's hard to see how he's being discriminated against, given that the definition of discrimination is "the unjust or prejudicial treatment of different categories of people or things, especially on the grounds of race, age, or sex."

[image courtesy of the Wikimedia Commons]

A more important point arises when you consider why the video is being mandated.  Remember that the video is not saying (1) being gay is moral; (2) Christian ethical codes are wrong; or (3) you should all run out and have gay sex right now.  What it's saying is that we should treat people with kindness, tolerance, and respect whether or not we are like them or agree with them.  Sorta like what you read in the following quotes:
Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. -- Ephesians 4:32 
If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen.  And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother. -- 1 John 4:20-21 
For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses. -- Matthew 6:14-15 
But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil.  Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful. -- Luke 6:35-36
And, most strikingly:
Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.  We ask you, brothers, to respect those who labor among you and are over you in the Lord and admonish you, and to esteem them very highly in love because of their work. -- 1 Thessalonians 5:11-13
Oh, and the whole "judge not, lest ye be judged" thing.  That, too.

In fact, have you noticed that the bible has a lot more passages about being kind to others than it does about condemning homosexuals?  Funny thing, that.

Because that's the most annoying part of this whole emphasis on LGBT individuals being sinners; it requires you to pretend that a substantial fraction of the bible doesn't exist.  Besides the fact that there is a great deal more emphasis  in the bible on treating people compassionately than there is on the sinfulness of homosexuality, there are a whole slew of other things besides being gay that are considered sins (in fact, some are worse than sins, they're "abominations") and that Christians today pretty much ignore.  Eating shellfish, working (even collecting firewood) on the Sabbath, wearing clothing made of two different kinds of thread sewn together, men trimming their beards, having tattoos, and women speaking in church are a few that come to mind without even trying hard.  Oh, and the fact that no one born of a "forbidden marriage" -- and their descendants, to the tenth generation -- is to be allowed in church (Deuteronomy 23:2).

And then there's "biblical marriage."  Such as the provision requiring young women who were raped to marry their rapist (Deuteronomy 22:28-29), a verse that allows men who conquer other nations to keep any virgins as concubines (Numbers 31:17-18), a rule that when a man dies, his wife must marry his brother (Genesis 38:8-10), prohibitions against marrying outside of your tribe (Deuteronomy 7:3) , and so many instances of deity-blessed polygamy that I won't even try to name them.

So don't even start with any bullshit about the biblical definition of marriage being "one man and one woman."

The bottom line is that here we have this guy who has been given divine revelation that he's not supposed to watch a diversity in the workplace video because to do so would make him naughty in god's sight, while he apparently doesn't give a damn about most of the things in the bible that god supposedly does prohibit.  It's more and more looking like he's using the bible as justification for a lawsuit and his own bigoted inclinations rather than because there's been any real infringement on his right to practice his religion.

The most frustrating thing for me about all of this is that this is the same subset of Christians who accuse us atheists of having wishy-washy morality.  Just yesterday, I saw a comment on Facebook (apropos of the ongoing foolishness about having "In God We Trust" on police vehicles) that said, "Don't give in!  Atheists only whine about their rights being trampled because they don't have the moral backbone to know what is right."  Myself, I'm much more comfortable with someone whose moral code comes from careful consideration than one whose sense of right and wrong was determined by cherry-picking verses they like from their favorite religious text -- and ignoring the rest of it into non-existence.

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