As a corollary to this recent business with Jessica Ahlquist, let’s take a moment to remind ourselves of the exact nature of the direct correlation between religiosity and morality.
Namely, there fucking isn’t one.
It’s certainly not the case that all religious people are immoral, or that there aren’t plenty of people around who believe in God but still do good things for sincere, humanist reasons. But the hatred and pettiness that resulted, when some Christians had a little of their monopolistic privilege taken away, should serve as an important reminder that how often someone goes to church, or who they pray to, provide no substantiation for how decently they behave to other people.
So an idea recently proposed by three state senators in Indiana, to have schools require the recitation of the Lord’s Prayer every day, is both illegal and ridiculous.
If “establishing character and becoming a good citizen” are things you want young people to achieve in schools, then give them things that’ll actually help them do that. The most that unthinkingly reciting a few rote lines of Christian dogma will do is make them more likely to turn into devout Christians, and we’ve already clearly seen how that’s no grounds at all for expecting someone to be a “good” anything.
And it only takes a fairly simple rhetorical question to reveal that, when these people talk about the moral value of “prayer”, they’re really talking about their own Christian brand of faith. What if the “spiritual development” in question wasn’t deliberately geared toward Christianity?
What are the odds a bill would be proposed in which a Muslim prayer was read out in all schools at the beginning of each day, without screams of outrage that the socialist Kenyan president was brainwashing terrorism down our children’s throats?
In the case of the banner at Cranston High, it was suggested that the school simply remove the specifically religious language, but leave the rest of it in place. They refused. So do they actually care about the values the writing described, such as compassion and generosity, or do those things no longer matter when they can’t use it to push Christianity?
None of this is about the free expression of Christian faith being suppressed. It’s about Christians being part of such an established faith that it’s come to be considered the default mode, and it’s not even recognised as a privilege any more. This is why Americans are basically split on whether God helps Tim Tebow score touchdowns (way to prioritise, Big Man), but their sympathies would probably be directly inverted if “Tebowing” had instead involved pulling out a prayer rug and facing Mecca.
Incidentally, the latest story from Jessica’s ongoing saga is that multiple florists refused to deliver her flowers.
But remember: God is love.