A recent story detailed an interaction between a customer and a Walgreens pharmacist where, due to the pharmacist’s deeply held personal beliefs, the customer was denied a prescription for a birth control drug and made to go to a different pharmacy to have it filled. It’s important to note that Walgreens did not refuse to fill the prescription at all; their policy simply accommodates individual pharmacists who refuse to do their job and “allow” customers to fill their prescriptions at another Walgreens location where, presumably, a different pharmacist would be willing to fill it. Another note: this isn’t just a Walgreens thing; their policy reflects laws established at the state level allowing businesses to exercise discretion for conscientious objectors based on the employees’ moral or religious beliefs. In order to confirm the veracity of the story, I wrote an e-mail to Walgreens’ customer relations department and got the following response:
To fairly resolve these situations, and where allowed by state law, we believe it’s reasonable to respect the individual pharmacist’s beliefs by not requiring them to fill a prescription they object to on moral or religious grounds. We also believe it’s reasonable to meet our obligation to the patient by having another pharmacist at the store fill the prescription. If another pharmacist is not on duty, we will arrange to have the prescription filled at a nearby pharmacy before the patient leaves the store.
This is problematic for a number of reasons and I’d like to detail them here.
If I could summarize this post in one sentence it would be this:
Your personal beliefs are not what’s good for the country.
Let me clarify. A belief system is personal, subjective, and evolving. The things you believe aren’t necessarily the things your neighbor believes. Often, the things you believe aren’t the same as the person sitting next to you in your church, mosque, temple, or support group. You may feel strongly about a topic or issue but it would be incredibly arrogant for you to assume that everyone else does – or should. When you hold a personal belief it’s virtuous for you to live your life according to that belief but it’s evil for you to try to force others to do the same, regardless of your intentions.
a feeling of being sure that someone or something exists or that something is true
a feeling that something is good, right, or valuable
a feeling of trust in the worth or ability of someone
Notice the word “feeling” used in all of these definitions? Feelings are personal and cannot be objectively shared across an entire population. Your feelings are fine when they stay inside of your personal bubble but you should not attempt to extend that bubble to other people – especially when they don’t want to be inside your bubble, no matter how safe and warm you think it is.
Your beliefs are formed by your personal experiences in life (or opinions you’ve adopted from other people with or without justification), which shape your feelings about the things you encounter. It’s easy to see that other people have lived different lives with different backgrounds, different family dynamics, and different experiences than you. Knowing that, why is it so hard to see that your beliefs don’t apply to them? It doesn’t matter that you feel your beliefs are correct and it doesn’t matter whether you think your beliefs make sense. There will always be someone out there who disagrees because they’ve formed their own (often incompatible) beliefs on their own life experiences and most likely feel that theirs are correct and make sense.
The things you believe now aren’t the same as the things you believed when you were five years old or 15 years old because you’ve matured and learned more about how the world works since then. 15 years from now it’s entirely possible that your belief system will have changed – sometimes in drastic ways.
Your vote doesn’t just affect you. Think about that when you think about voting. If your primary concern is which candidate shares more of your personal beliefs than the other, you’re using the wrong criteria for your decision. You should be worried about which of the candidate’s beliefs are going to make it into his or her policy and how that policy will affect the citizens (not just the religious ones) of this country and people around the world.
In my news feed on Facebook I will be served a daily dose of Christian affirmations from friends. In this series of posts, which I call “Facebook Affirmations™,” I will post and discuss some of these gems. Here’s the affirmation for today:
Believers have long argued for the existence of beings in the “spiritual realm” which affect the physical universe but cannot be physically detected (except in very certain circumstances and with very few exceptions). This is convenient, of course, because the believer is free to posit whatever entity he or she wishes without having the arduous task of defending that assertion with actual evidence. What does “spiritual” mean though? The dictionary defines it as follows:
1. of, pertaining to, or consisting of spirit; incorporeal.
2. of or pertaining to the spirit or soul, as distinguished from the physical nature.
That doesn’t really tell me much. If we’re talking about incorporeal things apart from the physical nature, how is this any different from being imaginary or fictional? Why do we make such a concessionary definition for a word like “spiritual” when the end result is really the same?
JT Eberhard’s contributor, Christina, wrote today of an article regarding atheist billboards in Colorado and the reaction of a “research fellow” from Focus on the Family named Glenn Stanton. He calls the billboards “bad manners” because they mock the beliefs of no less than 70% of Americans. The billboards read as follows:
God is an imaginary friend; Choose reality, it will be better for all of us.
s a Christian I believed that my prayers were not only heard by god but that my prayers were important enough to initiate action. As with any Christian, my basis for believing this was not grounded in reality but in scripture:
John 14:12,13 Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son.
Clearly, the quotes attributed to Jesus define prayer as a sort of tangible, telepathic request which (in Jesus’ name) will be heard and granted if the person praying has even the slightest bit of real faith. Jesus describes the amount of faith necessary in Matthew 17:20 as a mustard seed (long considered the smallest seed). That’s not a whole lot of faith, by anyone’s standards. However, if this amount of faith is attainable why aren’t more prayers answers and more miracles performed/observed? The answers to these questions don’t come easy (to a rational mind) but I’ll detail the Christian thought process — or, at least, the thought process as I understood it while I was a Christian — and give my best answer.
ne thing religious people cannot stress enough is that they’re all about family. Their organizations even have names like Focus on the Family and the American Family Association (branded a hate group out of MS). For the most part I find this to be true so long as everyone’s keeping the faith and maintaining the status quo. I can say from my upbringing (aside from corporal punishment and having no say in church attendance) that our Christian family was very tight-knit and we spent a lot of quality time together. It wasn’t perfect, but it was far better than a lot of other families I’ve seen. Now, to clarify, some of these not-so-happy families I’ve seen are religious as well so it’s not as though they have a corner on the market. I’m just speaking to the Christian view that family is important.
As I said, religious families are close-knit and happy so long as everyone’s keeping the faith. They don’t say, “The family that prays together stays together” for no reason. It’s literally true. I found this out myself when I started to upset the status quo of my family and I was made to feel like an outcast. My family’s treatment of me was mild compared to what some people endure at the hands of their religious parents, grandparents, and siblings.
hen I was a Christian it seemed like everything I saw pointed to the truth of god’s existence. I had the Bible, my parents’ word, my Sunday School teachers and preachers, any number of books and pamphlets, and nature itself bolstering my faith. I felt like I had good reason to believe what I did and I didn’t even have to look for evidence: everything was evidence!
That is, until I actually started examining my beliefs and my reasons for holding them. What I found was not that the evidence for god was strong, but that I was willing to accept pretty much anything as evidence so long as it adhered to my preconceptions. Those things that didn’t conform to my beliefs were simply ignored without any thought at all.
Every single year, without fail, controversy will brew and boil over regarding the Christian-hijacked Winter Solstice celebration known as Christmas. You might ask what kind of petty, childish, arrogant group of non-believers would subject our good, kind, religious society to such ridiculous outbursts of intolerance and hatred. Maybe you wouldn’t. Regardless, it may or may not surprise you to know that it’s the religious people themselves who continue to stir this pot and we irreligious people can either react or let them fight it out among themselves. I choose to react, but only in a limited capacity. I’ll comment on the religious mindset and attempt to dispel any myths being spread about how I feel toward Christmas.
This year, Ben Stein has written an essay detailing the problem with not saying, “Merry Christmas.” You might think that not saying something is harmless. I know I do. However, Mr. Stein makes it perfectly clear that not greeting people with a, “Merry Christmas” is directly tied to the downfall of society and the destruction of this country. Let’s begin.
I’ve been in a number of debates in person and online where emotions flared and the conversation eventually boiled down to a variant of the following:
Why can’t you just respect a person’s beliefs?
Here’s the problem with that: not all beliefs are created equal and not all are worthy of respect. The person saying the above is usually emotionally invested in the beliefs I’ve questioned and is usually unable to present any rational reason for a person holding those beliefs in the first place. What they’re really saying is, “Since I can’t defend my untenable beliefs I really wish you would leave them alone so I don’t feel like I have to!”