5th place — Jarred McCleese: God: America’s favorite author

FFRF awarded Jarred $600.

Editor’s note: The deadline to enter this contest was Aug. 1, prior to the confirmation vote of Brett Kavanaugh.

By

Jarred McCleese

President Trump has nominated his second Supreme Court pick for consideration, which has many Americans worried about the future of secularism in the United States. The possibility of overturning past decisions on abortion and gay rights is a real threat, a threat which ultimately stems from American bibliolatry.

“There are people on the right that want to impose Christian Sharia law in this country,” said comedian and radio host Dean Obeidallah during a discussion on Trump’s nominee Brett Kavanaugh. “They want to turn the bible into the law of the land.”

Obeidallah’s words were apparently so provocative that they caused conservative radio host Steve Deace to walk off mid-exchange. Yet Obeidallah said what should already be obvious to anyone paying attention to the modern political climate. There are indeed many people who would have Americans follow biblical law, effectively establishing a Christian theocracy in the place of our secular government. They use the bible as an excuse to treat women as inferior to men, to discriminate against LGBT persons, and to hold back societal progress with anti-scientific propaganda.

The most egregious threat posed by unquestionable devotion to the bible has been its role in the mistreatment of minority groups. The LGBT community has been especially vilified by Christians who allow ancient texts written and compiled thousands of years ago to dictate how they treat people today.

In the aftermath of the 2015 Supreme Court decision to strike down gay marriage bans nationwide, in what should have been a joyful occasion, my Kentucky county made news headlines everywhere because our clerk decided to deny gay couples their hard-fought right to finally marry their partners. Kim Davis cited her bible-based beliefs as her rationale that marriage may only be between a man and a woman, and ultimately threatened the gay couples with judgment from God. After many lawsuits, the couples eventually received their licenses, but not before being shamed by their own community, which seems poised to re-elect Kim Davis this November.

It is clear that the bible enjoys a privileged status in America over other “sacred” scriptures. One example of this privilege comes from my home state of Kentucky, where Gov. Matt Bevin has signed a “bible literacy bill” into law. Similar bills concerning the Quran or the Vedas have yet to be drafted. While it may be important to study the bible from a literary standpoint, it should be just as important to study and compare literature from a wide selection of faiths and cultures. There is nothing particularly special about biblical mythology, which has itself been formed in part from myths of other more ancient cultures. Why, then, should the bible get its own class if not to set it apart from other religious texts as exceptional?

It is not enough for the bible to have its own class in the public school system. Many Christian parents pull their children out of the system completely and place them in bible-based private schools to avoid exposing them to evolution and other unbiblical scientific facts.

Unfortunately, I experienced this scenario first-hand and did not come to accept the overwhelming body of evidence supporting evolution until adulthood. It saddens me to know that today, millions of students attending faith schools across the nation are being cheated out of a real science education because the science does not comport with a literal interpretation of the bible.

The bible is a collection of 66 books (73 for Catholics), and not all them are threatening to social and cultural growth. Indeed, with over 31,000 verses, it would be improbable not to find something of merit in the collection. But those merits can be found elsewhere without the baggage of the horrific stories of sanctioned genocide and hundreds of outdated commandments that cannot apply to a free and secular society. One can certainly live a good and moral life without believing that the bible is a divine book dictated by God. That belief continues to do lasting and unnecessary harm to millions of Americans. We owe it to the progress of our species to cast off ancient myths which have divided us for millennia and focus instead on improving our human condition through science and reason.

Jarred, 26, from Wallingford, Ky., attends the University of Kentucky, where he plans to get a degree in modern and classical languages, literatures and cultures. He noted that “coming out as an atheist was more difficult than coming out as gay.” He plans to study in Japan next year.