Wednesday, April 1, 2009

There is No Place for the Supernatural in the Public Square

News item: (AFP, 3/5/09) An Iranian woman living in Spain who was disfigured and blinded by a man in Iran said Thursday she welcomed a Tehran court ruling that awards her eye-for-eye justice against her assailant...

"My intention is to ask for the application of the law not just for revenge but also so that no other woman will have to go through this. It is to set an example," the 30-year-old added.

In November an Iranian court ruled that the man -- identified only as Majid -- who admitted blinding Bahrami in 2004 by throwing acid in her face because she rejected his marriage request should also be blinded with acid based on the Islamic law system of "eye-for-an-eye" retribution.
Iran's Supreme Court confirmed the sentence at the beginning of February.

Bahrami, who moved to Barcelona after the attack to get medical treatment, said the court had originally ruled that she was entitled to have the man blinded in only one eye in Iran because "each man is worth two women".

"But I explained to the judge that with one eye one can still live," she told top-selling newspaper El Pais in another interview.

The court then ruled that the man would be blinded in both eyes if in exchange Bahrami agreed to give up the 20,000 euros (25,000 dollars) which she was set to receive from her assailant's family.

"He will be anesthetized and will not suffer pain. His face will not be disfigured because only a few drops (of acid) will be needed, he will not have the internal injuries which I had," she told ABC when asked if she felt she was less cruel than her aggressor…

She says she survives on a rent subsidy of 400 euros per month which she receives from the (secular) Spanish government and charity from friends. (End story.)

Some may suggest that incessant religion-bashing serves only to alienate religious moderates from the advancement of secularism and humanism. It would be suggested by those critics that, for example, the above monstrosity is not “typical” of religion or Islam or anything in particular. I maintain that such criticisms directed at the exposing of the excesses of religious belief are simply wrong; not enough persons are exposed to where irrational beliefs can lead, even if all such beliefs do not lead to disaster.

It is Iran’s Supreme Court’s claim that "each man is worth two women". It is the moral right (and duty) of anyone to denounce this ruling and beyond the utter misogyny of it, this ruling serves to show how laws and rulings based on supernaturally supported beliefs bring nothing to the table in the real world.

Is this a radical and exceptional ruling by an irrelevant body of fanatics? Although it is a ruling by a body of fanatics, a ruling by the worlds most populous Shiite nation’s actual Supreme Court is hardly irrelevant; and if this Court’s decision is exceptional, exactly where do we turn to understand what the orthodox ruling should have been?

Addressing religious moderates, is the religious attitude of the Iranian Supreme Court confined only to “radicalized” societies?

Please take note of the following; From Pew Research: “For example, six-in-ten white evangelical Protestants say that the Bible should be the guiding principle in making laws when it conflicts with the will of the people, a view rejected by an equally large majority of Americans, including most Catholics and white mainline Protestants.”

The last time I checked, evangelical Protestants had their run of the White House for the last 8 years and had a Vice-presidential candidate, Sarah Palin, on the last national ticket of the Republican Party. An early favorite for the 2012 nomination is Rev. Mike Huckabee!

The ruling by Iran’s Supreme Court can be contested on grounds that it is un-Islamic; but if one is honest, one would have to admit that most conservative and literal Islamic fundamentalists would agree with the proposition that "each man is worth two women" and that a more “moderate” view has less claim to orthodoxy.

One can make the claim that “their religion” or “their God” would never endorse such a ruling but if one is honest, one would have to admit that many average Americans would agree “the Bible should be the guiding principle in making laws when it conflicts with the will of the people…”, a principle that entirely supports the ruling of the Iranian Supreme Court.

As a study in logic and law, is the passing of Proposition 8 in California destroying the right of gay couples to marry that much different that the Iranian Supreme Court’s ruling? Just substitute the concept that “homosexuality is immoral because it offends God” for "each man is worth two women" and the shared concept that “the Bible (or Koran) should be the guiding principle in making laws when it conflicts with the will of the people…” and let the results speak for themselves.

Religious moderates of all kinds must face up to the impossibility of governing fairly and reasonably if supernaturally supported beliefs guide law. There is no way to categorize a belief as “moderate” as opposed to a “radical” – certainly the fact that a belief is widely held is not assurance of its “moderation”!

From Iran to the US, the common thread is impossible to deny; human well being simply is not the goal of faith-held beliefs; faith-held beliefs have no goal – they are arbitrary and capricious. They can claim anything from “homosexuality is immoral because it offends God” to "each man is worth two women" to “all non-believers are damned and deserving of it.” What is sure to follow from these propositions is human misery.

There is no place for the supernatural in the public square.
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