Have you noticed a change in the arguments used by Christians when they want to impose their views on others? Three generations ago the arguments were very clear, and explicitly religious. They went like this:
- You must not drink alcohol because it is a sin and will lead you to hell.
- You must not gamble because it is a blasphemy against God and he will damn you for all eternity.
- You must not fornicate because the Bible tells us that fornication is a serious crime against God.
- You must not masturbate because it will cause all sorts of illness that reflect the mortal sin in your soul.
- You must not allow abortions because they are prohibited in the Bible, and have been forbidden by the Church since biblical times.
- If you allow equality for women you will flout the Bible and Saint Paul, flying in the face of God, and doing Satan's work. The women will suffer from the vapours, hysteria, epilepsy and other serious medical consequences.
- We must execute homosexuals because God considers homosexuality an “abomination”
- We cannot allow suicide, euthanasia or heart transplants, because that would be “playing God” – usurping the divine monopoly and upsetting God’s plans for bodily resurrection on the Day of Judgement.
Since the Second World War Christian arguments have changed remarkably, at least among the mainstream Churches. Now only fringe groups hold to the traditional line, citing the nastier parts of the Old Testament and threatening Satan's hell-fire to anyone who ignores them. Mainstream Churches have found new ways to try to impose their ideas on others.
The first one is the "slippery slope" argument. Drinking alcohol is not so bad itself, but if you drink you might well become dependent on drink and then become an alcoholic and ruin your life. You should not gamble for the same reason. It will lead you into a life of misery and destroy your family. If you tolerate same sex marriage then soon people will be demanding the right to marry animals (I’m not making this up - this is a real argument). If you permit euthanasia even in the strictest conditions it will be the thin end of the wedge. In no time rapacious individuals will be encouraging their elderly relative to do away with themselves. Churches like this mode argument for perhaps three reasons. First it can be applied to almost anything they dislike. Second, it does not need any supporting evidence. Third it allows the Churches to portray themselves as loving and caring, with other people’s interests at heart.
The next mode of argument is a development of an old argument that they once used for masturbation and women's rights – imaginary medical consequences. If you use contraception you will spread various diseases (the opposite of the truth). If you have an abortion, you stand a high risk of dying or at the very least becoming infertile (untrue). If you use fetal stem cells, you might catch AIDS (untrue). A generation ago medical arguments were used liberally by Christians opposed to organ transplants, but those arguments have diminished now to almost nothing.
The interesting thing about both of these modes of argument is that there is no religious element to them at all. As the Churches know, religious arguments are toxic. They convince no one, and offend many. In most western countries we have not heard the mainstream Churches articulate a religious argument to justify their desire to prohibit people doing things for several years now. Religious groups peddling religious nonsense have been superseded by "faith groups" peddling irrational nonsense.
I suppose it’s a victory of sorts.
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