I Do Not Think It Memes…

I once called memes the bumper stickers of the internet, but sometimes they end up trying to be informational graphics that actually try to make a case for the meme creator’s viewpoint. Unfortunately, such argumentative memes rarely demonstrate better reasoning than their bumper sticker counterparts. Here is one such meme I encountered the other day (apologies for my comments in red!):

idiotic meme

There are a few important problems with this picture. The first is the fact that it is treating the rules laid out in the various religions as if they are membership requirements for belonging to the group. However, each of the Abrahamic religions claims they are revealed by God, meaning that, if true, the ethical norms of these religions aren’t membership requirements but rather constitute divine commandments. That means the biggest question one must ask is not, “Do I belong to this religion?” but, “Is this religion true?”

If that question is answered affirmatively, then the second question arises: “Am I subject to these commands?” For example, even if Judaism is true, the Mosaic Law doesn’t apply to anyone who isn’t Jewish. It was never intended to. On the other hand, Christians believe that the ethical norms of scripture apply to all people, whether they are Christian or not. (I think that Muslims believe that all people should be subject to the ethical standards of the Qur’an, but I don’t know for sure.)

Consequently, if Christianity is true then the ethical standards of Christianity apply to everyone. This doesn’t mean it’s reasonable to anticipate that everyone will follow Christian morality, but it does mean that it is still morally binding; God can judge those who don’t follow it.

The second problem is that the picture implies that the only possible reason for opposing abortion or same-sex marriage is a religious belief, which is patently false. Opposition to abortion comes from every quarter – including people of other religions and secular people, and the argument against elective abortion is simple and non-religious in nature:

Major Premise: Intentionally killing an innocent human being is morally wrong.

Minor Premise: Abortion intentionally kills an innocent human being.

Conclusion: Abortion is morally wrong.

Do you see a Biblical passage or a religious belief in there? Neither do I. Of course, the Bible doesn’t prohibit abortion “no matter the reason” (technically, the word never occurs in the Bible), and almost all pro-life advocates will make an exception for the life of the mother, even though abortion is almost never “medically necessary.” There are also morally cogent but non-religious arguments for why rape should not be an exception for abortion.

Similarly, people from many different backgrounds (including a few gays, for a variety of reasons) oppose same-sex marriage, and the case against same-sex marriage can be made (and has been made in academic journals) from a completely secular public policy standpoint. The difficulty is, most people on both sides of the debate fail to distinguish between the *morality* of homosexuality and the *wisdom* of same-sex marriage as public policy. Using scripture to show that homosexual behavior is immoral is different than using secular reasoning in a public policy argument against same-sex marriage.

The third and final problem is that we are left wondering why the secular person’s morality should be preferable to the religious person’s morality. There is a classic double standard applied, whereby the skeptic or secular person wishes everyone to accept his or her non-religious morality, while he or she is completely unwilling to accept the religious morality of the believer. “Freedom to choose” and “Love is for everyone” do not constitute moral principles that a Christian (or religious believer of any sort) must necessarily recognize or espouse, and yet these are the “moral principles” to which non-believers will often appeal. What foundation has the secular person for his or her morality, and why is it supposedly acceptable to force secular morality on religious people, but not vice versa?

I’m sure there are other things that could be said about this meme, but I hope that seeing some of the problems with it will encourage you to critically evaluate the ideas that memes spread – especially when they involve Christianity!

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