“Religion is like a Penis:
It’s fine to have one.
It’s fine to be proud of it.
But please don’t whip it out in public and start waving it around.”
This little meme is making the rounds of social media today, attracting nodding heads, chuckles, and shares from the atheist and the anti-theist crowd.
This is all cute and clever, but as is the case with all bumper-sticker posturing, it lacks nuance. Exactly what constitutes “waving my religion about?” Is it wearing religiously-distinctive clothing or accessories? Ordering a Kosher meal on an airplane? Going out to dinner and telling my host that I cannot eat pork or shellfish? Reading a religious text in public? Is it this blog? Or is it even, as one quite educated friend suggested, “imposing” my religious beliefs on my child.
This is an important question, for two reasons. First, I would hate to think that my rather mild religious practices offend my atheist and my anti-theist friends. But if they do, I would very much like to know why.
Second is a matter of principle. I believe that such sentiments, drawn to their logical conclusion, run the risk of infringing upon free speech, and specifically the Free Exercise clause of the First Amendment. Of course, the supporters of the above billboard can always say “oh, well, we never meant that, of course.”
If the composers of this bit of outdoor copy are, on the other hand, suggesting that religion has no place in government, I say a hearty “hear, hear!”
So a little clarification is in order. If you support the sentiment above, explain exactly what about my observance – or the observance of others – offends you. Because while we agree that religion has no place in government or the formulation of policy, it is the law of the land in the United States that government has no place in religion or the practice thereof.