Published by the Freedom From Religion Foundation, Inc. FFRF.org

Honorable mention — Meghan Fuller: Bibliolatry? Not for me

Vol. 35 No. 9 November 2018
Meghan Fuller                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         

By Meghan Fuller

The much more pleasing definition of “bibliolatry” is an “excessive love of books,” and any avid reader would claim there is nothing wrong with the occasional shunning of friends and family while staying up until 2 a.m. to finish a good book. But the second dictionary definition, “an excessive adherence to the literal interpretation of the bible,” creates a significantly larger problem than sleep deprivation or antisocial behavior.

When a society chooses to follow the bible as a ground for political policy, and ignores the calls to help their fellow men and women, it can create a litany of problems while simultaneously solving very few.

Many who are opposed to bibliolatry love to point out the obvious hypocrisy in people who claim the bible’s disdain for homosexual marriage while simultaneously eating shellfish, growing beards, having tattoos and extramarital affairs, all of which are condemned in the book’s teachings. While those points are often fun to make and can give an enjoyable sense of superiority, the actual problems with bibliolatry go much deeper and are often subtler.

Take the recent ruling of Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission. The Supreme Court ruled in June 2018 that a bakery in Colorado was justified in refusing to bake a gay couple a wedding cake because it violated “deeply held religious beliefs.” This and the Hobby Lobby case from 2014, which allowed craft store chain Hobby Lobby to refuse to provide birth control to employees because of “deeply held” beliefs, are examples of lawmakers using the bible’s teachings to slowly make it legal to discriminate against people who don’t fit someone’s interpretation of a “good Christian.”

Individually these two cases are easy to brush off for those who aren’t paying attention; after all, there are hundreds of other bakeries in Colorado that will bake wedding cakes for anybody, and you don’t have to work at Hobby Lobby if you need birth control under your insurance plan. But those people are missing the point.

Like the popular cautionary tale of the frog in slowly boiling water, steps toward a domineering religious society are done incrementally, rather than in a large and instant change. Inch by inch these infractions on our democracy creep into law. Yesterday it was birth control, today it’s cake, but what happens tomorrow when a Muslim child is forced to recite a Christian prayer in school? The phrase “under God” has been on our money and in our schools’ morning pledge for decades now, so who’s to say it’s not already happening?

The separation of church and state has been ingrained within our First Amendment rights since the founding of America, and this slow blurring of the lines by our current political body is both deeply troubling and dangerous. Supporters of the bible’s teachings remind us that the book encourages us to feed the hungry, tend the sick and love thy neighbor, and I would agree that these are good guidelines to live by. But these teachings are capable of being honored by anybody with an internal moral compass, regardless of their religious beliefs. Our current lawmakers who call themselves “good Christians” certainly do not adhere to them when they make these court rulings.

If we could encourage our friends and neighbors to help others for sake of altruism, instead of a theoretical promise of some vague paradise after we die, there would be more good being done in the world today and different people in office.

Meghan, 26, from Austin, Texas, attends Purdue University Global where she is working toward a master’s of science degree in higher education leadership. She graduated from Penn State University with a bachelor’s degree in special education. She hopes to become the dean of students for a large college, where she can continue her mission of helping others.