Editor’s Note: We don’t know if Uma Thurman actually doesn’t subscribe to religion, but according to this article, she appears to question certain claims made by religion. In terms of millions not believing in God, in the recent book Secular Surge: A New Fault Line in American Politics, the authors find that one in four Americans are secularists and that religiously unaffiliated and secular Americans are growing in both parties, especially among the young. The book’s authors are David E. Campbell, Professor of American Democracy at the University of Notre Dame; Geoffrey C. Layman, chair of the University of Notre Dame’s Department of Political Science; and John C. Green, Professor of Political Science at the University of Akron.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Torah Bontrager or The Amish Heritage Foundation (AHF). AHF is a 501(c)(3) secular nonprofit/NGO and supports the First Amendment’s establishment clause requiring separation of church and state.
Author Bio: FIVEBORO FREETHINKER is a born and raised New Yorker. She was brought up in both Catholicism and Judaism by two semi-practicing parents and endured religious training that never stuck. She is a lifelong atheist and actively engaged in fighting the religious right in America through legislation and law enforcement.
THE PROBLEM WITH FAITH – Part 2
Part 2 of 3 – Click here for Part 1
What Is the Scientific Method and Why Is It Necessary?
The scientific method is the result of a great leap forward in the reasoning skills of humans. Since the 17th century when it was codified, the scientific method has characterized the natural sciences. It consists of systemic observation, measurement, and experiment, and the formulation, testing, and modification of hypotheses.
This means that someone can come up with a guess, such as “The sun sinks into the ocean at night,” and can then perform experiments to see if that’s true. If those experiments don’t lead to their conclusion, i.e., they can’t find any proof that the sun actually sinks under water, then their hypothesis is incorrect and must be modified or discarded.
Another easy example to examine, this time using the scientific method, is the water cycle. It’s well known that the presence or absence of heat has an effect on water. The presence of heat will turn water into vapor, and its absence will cause the vapor to condense and liquefy and then eventually freeze. These experiments are easily performed by anyone and the validity of the hypothesis “heat affects the state of water” can be confirmed. It can be observed by watching any kind of rainstorm, which is how humans discovered it in the first place. Liquid rain falls from clouds that are condensed forms of the water that was evaporated from the earth’s surface by the heat of the sun.
This is 2nd-grade science, and it’s easily demonstrable even by children. It shows that . . .
. . . the scientific method is effective at providing confirmation of the truth of a claim. There’s no need for opinion, like there is in faith, because we can demonstrate the truth of our claim. We don’t need to be of the opinion that the heat of the sun is what’s evaporating the water, we can show it. It’s not an opinion that clouds are condensed water. It’s an opinion that that process is directed by a god, any god, since there’s nothing to indicate that this is the case.
In short, where there’s faith, there’s no knowledge––because there’s no necessity of knowledge. And where there’s knowledge, there’s no faith––because there’s no necessity of faith. It’s a simple tautology that’s easily demonstrable.
The Effect of Faith
All of this to say that the effect of using opinion in place of fact is undoubtedly and can only be detrimental. We need only observe, a key part of the scientific method, by which we determine the truth of any claim, the conditions of religious, not even necessarily theocratic, societies, to see the harmful effects of imposing religious opinion on humanity. Particularly egregious examples include female modesty laws, conversion therapy, and purity culture.
Before we explore the effects of faith on marginalized groups, let us briefly discuss what each of them is meant to achieve. Female modesty laws are meant to control the autonomy of women in order to produce more believers of the religion demanding the modesty. Female modesty laws come in many forms, but the most visible is the regulation of clothing, i.e., demanding women cover parts of their bodies so as to avoid “tempting” men around them who may be potential rapists. This is a spectacularly disastrous form of control as it never demands that the rapist, who’s the one in the wrong, control himself; instead, it blames the girl who supposedly broke the rule that left her deserving of the assault. We know, and can demonstrate, that female modesty in fact increases the rate of sexual assault against women and girls, and such statistics are available here.
Here’s an example from the Orthodox (ultra-Orthodox, Modern Orthodox, and Orthodox) Jewish community: girls after the age of 12, which is generally menarche for most of them, may no longer sing in front of any man who’s not related to them, and only in front of women should she desire to sing. Now, as we know and can demonstrate, familial relation is absolutely no deterrent to rape, and a girl singing doesn’t absolve a man of the guilt of not being able to control his impulses.
However, should a girl be such a Jezebel as to raise her voice in song in front of males to whom she’s not related and as a consequence she’s raped, she’s then blamed for being such a whore as to tempt him in the first place.
And, according to biblical law, the punishment for the rapist is a monetary fine of 50 shekels to her father for property damage, since the girl has lost her value, i.e. her virginity and now her father won’t be able to get a bride price for her.
And if you think families don’t still negotiate bride prices for girls even here in the United States, you’re kidding yourself. Oh, and sometimes the rapist has to marry the girl since the rule is apparently you break it you bought it.
What girl wants to be tied forever to a man who violently assaulted her and violated her person? None of them. And yet their physical and mental health is never taken into account in these cases. She’s shamed, dishonored, impure, dirty, and worthless. The fault is hers even when it isn’t. And the secular justice system, which could and does solve problems like this every day, never gets a chance to bring justice to those who are assaulted, boys and girls alike.
Christians are so excessively over-privileged they forget that in actuality Christianity demands sartorial modesty of women as well, but not in the performative “Christian Girl Autumn” Instagram way. Christianity demands as stringently as Judaism and Islam that women dress modestly, cover their heads once they’re married, and preserve the virginity of their daughters exclusively for the use of Christian men. Do they think nuns are making a fashion statement? All women dressed with such veils and wimples for centuries.
By the way, forcing girls––and boys––into “modest clothing” is actually sexualizing children. This is 21st century mainstream and religious approved pedophilia.
Mainstream American capitalist Christianity has been sufficiently secularized into modern society such that adherents are no longer required to follow the strictest rules of the religion they claim to adhere to. The same laws about rape apply in Christianity and Islam as they do in Judaism: it’s a property crime against the father or custodial male relative, not the woman or girl––who’s owned and regarded by the male no differently from other property he happens to own like a car or house. To avoid acknowledging the horrors of actual Christianity, adherents forget or ignore that insular American capitalist Christianity is alive and well. E.g., the Amish religion is capitalist Christian, but women and girls are still forced to cover their heads (most from birth and everyone from a young age); dress like Puritan pilgrims, especially women and girls; threatened with eternal damnation if they have sex before marriage; and prohibited from marrying anyone who’s not practicing Amish).
And we all have seen over the years the demands of Islam on women and how they affect the society of the Middle East as a whole. Sexual assault is overwhelmingly common and a girl who has been raped is often excluded, punished, or even murdered for her shame, since her male relatives have been dishonored by the assault. Never mind that she herself has been hurt, abused, raped, violated, and blamed for something she had no control over; her health and autonomy are only for the use of the men around her. And this applies to all major religions, even those outside the Abrahamic religions. It’s just particularly easy to see in the scripture of the Abrahamics.
Women’s fertility and virginity (their perceived “purity”) are commodities in these societies, and faith is the tool by which girls and women are enslaved to these standards. They could be liberated if they didn’t hold the truth of their religion on faith. Deciding something is true and using it to oppress others without being made to demonstrate the truth of that idea is autocracy, and the liberals and moderates of most religions will attempt to distance themselves from what they call the zealots and fanatics while not realizing they’re responsible for the zealots and fanatics.
The liberals and moderates of every religion are responsible for the extremists because using faith, they validate the belief and sustain the institution that allows the extremists to continue their abuse and tyranny.
And you don’t need to live in a theocracy to encounter purity culture; it’s a particularly vomitous invention of American Christianity, where capitalism has joined in to have them throw parties and performances and spend money on white dresses, venues, ceremonies, and jewelry. Many girls will wear purity rings, or even rings that their fathers already wear that symbolize his ownership of her, which is called “concern for her safety”. It’s really a focus on the virginity and sexuality of girls, most often underage, and it’s pedophilic and unethical. The hypervigilance concerning girls’ and women’s behavior deliberately takes the focus off men and their crimes in order to allow them to continue to rape and abuse and blame women and girls for it. This is especially true in the developing world and of insular religious groups in America.
All of this doesn’t even touch on the abuse of LGBTQIA+ and trans individuals who have almost zero hope of any truly religious society ever accepting them as so few religious institutions are LGBTQIA+ affirming. And while nonbelievers urge religious to be affirming, we’re also painfully aware of the fact that religious commentary on the subject has allowed for the abuse and torture of our fellow humans for the sake of conformity into a system whose central authority can’t be shown to exist.
For the sake of churches and families, we of course acknowledge that there are many people who, while professing to adhere to a religion that’s homophobic, aren’t themselves homophobic.
We appreciate your basic human decency. No special points, though, for treating your fellow human beings like your fellow human beings. That’s the default that’s expected from you and nonbelievers are often disappointed in that arena, so good for you all.
Thanks for not following your entire religion.
End of Part 2
Click here for Part 3.
Featured Image Commentary
The women in photo above are from the modern end of the traditional Amish spectrum. We can tell that by the style of their caps and dresses.
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