Thu Dec 08 16:20:12 SAST 2016

Uganda anti-gay law one of religion's wormy fruit

Bruce Gorton | 2014-02-24 13:51:50.0
Gay rights flag. File photo.
Image by: MARKO DJURICA / REUTERS

Today Uganda’s anti-gay law was signed into law, a victory for that country’s ‘Christian values.’

Uganda’s anti-gay movement views it as being worse that adult men may, in the privacy of their homes, engage in consensual sex than the fact that girl children get raped.

That was not hyperbole.

This is one of the reasons why I view religious or cultural values in an extremely dim light, and why I don’t believe government should ever be involved in their promotion.

Last week I was reading a Nigerian article about a trial over homosexuality. The cartoon attached to that article was straight-up Nazi German demonisation; seriously looking like the cartoonist traced an anti-Semitic cartoon and replaced the word ‘Juden’ with ‘Homosexuality’.

In the comments someone complained that the paper wasn’t showing the faces of the people on trial, protecting them.

And this is one of the reasons I am a New Atheist.

Wikipedia defines New Atheism as follows: "New Atheism is a social and political movement in favour of atheism and secularism promoted by a collection of modern atheist writers who have advocated the view that "religion should not simply be tolerated but should be countered, criticised, and exposed by rational argument wherever its influence arises."

Which is to say I figure New Atheist can be broadly defined as being an atheist who publicly argues against religion, who shows no particular deference to belief and doesn’t think of faith as being a virtue.

When I look at the way religion influences the world I do not see positive outcomes. Sure there are some charities that are driven by religion, and a lot of religious leaders including heroes like Archbishop Desmond Tutu stand up to the bigots, but which variant of religion is passing legislation in Uganda?

I could talk about the good I see from religious groups but what I see most is this sort of moral monstrosity.

I once read in the Bible that "by their fruits you shall know them".

Well an awful lot of the religious fruits that have landed in Africa appear to be bitter and infested with worms.

We see groups like Boko Haram murdering people in order to spread illiteracy; we see the risk of genocide rising against Muslims, against Christians, against whoever happens to belong to the wrong ideological tribe at that moment.

And the second we look outside of Africa, we see examples of the worst of human nature being carried out in the name of defending religion.

Whether it is Hindus in India banning books for the sake of their religious feelings, or it is Arizona allowing businesses to refuse to serve gay people on the basis of their ‘sincerely held religious beliefs’ there is something basically rotten in the whole enterprise.

There are some who argue that New Atheism implies a belief that religion is the source of all evil, as if that somehow is a defence of religion.

A side of me has to constantly resist sarcastically saying that religion is therefore it is all hunky dory, roses and chocolate. 

It is childish to think evil even has a single root, like it is some sort of weird giant weed never really multiplying, only getting bigger and bigger.

No, the position taken in New Atheism is that religion is fundamentally a human product.

Humans have always had flaws, and they go right into our social systems. Those flaws include the wish to bully social inferiors, which more often than not means creating them.

We see this in the secular world all the time – whether it be in politics, TV or any other field of human endeavour. We even see it on playgrounds.

The difference with religion is those flaws are granted divine authority, and are thus that much harder to iron out.

That divine mandate, that sense that if it isn’t forbidden to question certain ideas it damn well should be, that maintains that element of human nature.

Religion doesn’t have to fit some childish concept of a root of all evil in order to be bad – it just has to maintain harm.

And that is precisely what we see in Uganda, Nigeria, India or anywhere, really.

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