Religious Regulation—We need MORE!


The rise of supply side economic theories applied to everything from soap to religion fetishized religious “freedom” as a way to improve consumer choice of their favored religious products, thereby leading to flush markets full of happy consumers and hard-working firms. If we can’t have freedom, then religion won’t work properly and people won’t be satisfied. The problem is that religious consumers are not at all free to choose what they’d desire. Their desires are warped through the force of religious indoctrination beginning in childhood and continuing through the lifecourse. And, the stuff they feed their children is very often some pretty vile stuff born in the depths of savage bronze age monolatries.

We need to redefine what is meant by “religious freedom” in order to begin to confront the problem of the production of bad religion. This is kind of like preventing monopolists from selling bad products that kill people, or porn producers from making actors bareback it. There is a lot of bad religion, and the state has an interest in its regulation. Most importantly, the state has an interest in making sure that children have some degree of religious freedom–that they can choose what faith, if any, they want. Now, of course, we can’t practically round all of them up and put them in reeducation camps, but we can make sure that children are taught about civil society in a civil fashion, and not that everyone who isn’t one of you is deserving of eternal torture.

First, we need complete regulation of education and extension to childcare beginning at birth. We can make it optional to send your kid to daycare when they are very young, but by age 4 all kids should be required to attend secular public schools. All K-12 religious educational institutions should be eliminated and homeschooling should be made illegal.  If you want to teach your kids about your gods, do it at church or on your own time. Religious education is inherently divisive and it has a strong tendency to harbor extremism across all religious traditions.  Second, all persons who claim as an occupation to be a minister or religious leader must hold a minimum of a bachelor’s degree from an accredited institution and must be certified by an organized and registered religious denomination (everyone’s car has to be registered and insured, but religious hucksters can do anything they want?). Religious salepeople should also be subject to background checks and felons (terrorists and child molesters) should be denied a license to sell religion. No more goofball jackleg ministers in storefronts. You wanna buy religion? You have to go to a legitimate religion dealer, just like you have to go to the official weed dispenser or liquor retailer. Third, a salary cap on all directors of non-profit organizations (not just religion peddlers). and laws preventing the conversion or use of religious resources for private wealth and gain. Fourth, we need to vigorously oppose efforts to  silence people who criticize religion and challenge religious beliefs and authority, and demand that religious devotees follow the law. Keep your idiotic strongly held beliefs to yourself.

100 lashes if you haven’t laughed yourself to death yet.

Of course, none of this will happen. We’re allowing millions of children to have no education and then act as if it’s just as good as going to school. We’re privileging religious schools with tax breaks, free access to the children, and now direct subsidies in many places. Gee, you’d think the Christianists would worry about the Islamist school getting some of those vouchers, but in the UK it’s been more like a logrolling exercise with Christians, Jews, and Muslims working together to steal money from the state. Nothing critical of religion (at least not Christianity or Judaism) is taught in any of our supposedly secular schools, and religious activists are often quite successful in removing scientific and cultural content for all students. Religious salesmen continue to make huge profits, and the tax system favoring religion gives them myriad ways to become wealthy and powerful in a completely unregulated and undertaxed religion industry. And, of course, now religious nutjobs are free to flout any law they disagree with based on their sincerely held beliefs. Next up, they’ll say that public criticism denies Christians religious freedom. Making fun of people’s gods is disrespectful, and that crushes their freedom to demand moral superiority. Next, I guess they’ll start shooting people who offend their gods.

10 Responses to “Religious Regulation—We need MORE!”

  1. etseq97 Says:

    When I read your first paragraph, it reminded me of some of the bizarre theoretical contortions of the “law and economics” cultists that I encountered in law school. Posner, in an earlier incarnation back in the 80s when he was a law professor was converted to the cult of Becker and attempted to shoehorn almost every legal issue into a neoclassical economic welfare calculus. This was promoted as a completely “objective” “value free” enterprise, as if neoclassical theory had no implicit normative/moral biases. Economic imperialism indeed…It is interesting that as a federal judge, Posner has over time abandoned most of the economic theoretical baggage and become more of a pragmatic utilitarian. His recent opinion in the gay marriage case was a veritable homage to Brandeis, with multiple citations to the sociological, psychological, biological and historical evidence, often quoting directly from amicus briefs filed by the ASA, APA, etc. This is in stark contrast to his analysis of the same issue in his 1992 book Sex and Reason, where he applied a rigid neoclassical welfare economics calculation ala Becker and thus rejected same sex marriage as an “inefficient” judicial distribution of rights. How times change…

  2. sherkat Says:

    Yeah, Posner is getting soft in his old age….usually they just get worse. I always liked to goad my supply side ideologue buddies with the specter of a vibrant Islam. Well, let’s say 20% of the market wants strict literalist Sharia, with no interest, beheadings, cutting off hands, stoning adulterers, and shit like that. So, do you think a free market for religion is good then? In fact “free” markets for religion enable pre-organized religious groups to force everyone else into either piety or obedience. Regulation protects citizens from predatory religious salespeople and toxic religious products.

  3. schmielt Says:

    How would a person/organization who wished to “sell” religion go about proving they are worthy to be licensed? What would the requirements be for a “legitimate religion dealer”?

    The one good argument I’ve heard against banning homeschooling is that there are people who live in poor school districts who want their children to be taught better – having nothing to do with wishing to keep them away from knowledge which might conflict with their religious beliefs. What would you say to them?

  4. sherkat Says:

    We’ll just have to have a department of religious regulation! Existing firms could petition for inclusion, and maybe we could even let the various tribes vote groups off of the island! Minorities could petition for redress, whatever. But these fuckers should not automatically be granted some halo of religious authority, and the state could indeed monitor whether or not a congregation is out of control.

    Fuck the anti-schoolers. A bunch of hippies who are afraid to have their children go to school with black people and other people different from themselves. They are hurting their children. I see this daily. They think they are helping their kids, but they are not. It’s child abuse.

    • etseq97 Says:

      Also, where are all these highly educated stay at home parents who have been trained in basic educational pedagogy so as to provide this mythical superior education for little johnny? And what about peer socialization, which is a critical part of any education? “Home Schooling” is such an Orwellian oxymoron – Frank Lutz couldn’t have done better with his focused grouped agitprop. Government financed public education, like universal healthcare, retirement, disability, etc., aren’t controversial in other western developed countries – talk about american exceptionalism!

      • sherkat Says:

        Yep. if we still had a university system that valued original social scientific research, that would be my next project. What happens to these poor fuckers whose parents deny them an education? But, NSF ain’t gonna fund that, nor is anyone else, and there is no such thing as the liberal equivalent of the Templeton Foundation—or I wouldn’t have just spend $1k out of my own pocket to go the the regional sociology meetings.

  5. schmielt Says:

    Dr. Sherkat, I’m sure you know that I’m not sympathetic to people who don’t want to send their kids to school with black people and I would promptly tell such people to fuck off rather than entertain their racially-motivated “fears.” The person I spoke with is married to a black man and has a bi-racial child, and has shown an above-average level of racial intelligence, for lack of a better term, than most white people I have such conversations with. I don’t think that was her motivation.

    There are legitimate concerns about the actual quality of education in some schools, NOT to do with people’s fears about racial mixing. I’m not saying it trumps the concerns you laid out in your post, and I agree with most of what you said. These are the questions I had, that others will have, too, and I wondered what you suggest in terms of dealing with them. Maybe the answer to those people is that, no matter how much they know or how hard they try, they can’t possibly be qualified to teach their child EVERY subject as well as a teacher would.

    I also agree about the value of socialization – absolutely! That may be more important to a civil society than education, honestly.

    And the point about whether such people are qualified to provide what they consider to be a superior education to their children is well-made, too. I assume that question would be handled by regulation of the material and the teaching, which I know needs to have better oversight, but I don’t think it’s impossible to resolve. Is it an issue of under-regulation of existing homeschooling laws, or do the laws themselves need to be beefed up? I have no idea, but I do know there ARE laws about this very thing, and I know there are places where no effort is made to enforce them, so I’m curious how much of each contributes to the current problem, or if it really is just beyond the scope of the government to be able to ensure parents are providing an equivalent education.

    I respect your opinion on these things, as you know, or I wouldn’t be asking follow-up questions.

  6. sherkat Says:

    Sorry for my flippant reply, but nothing is going to change. Indeed, the Christianist homeschoolers have actually managed to DECREASE the regulation of “homeschooling”. Many states which used to have standards (like occasional required testing to make sure their 3rd graders can read or do basic math) have dropped these standards. Many states have also made it easier to pull kids out of school. The whole ethos of choice in education is a plot to get rid of funding for public schools. Until desegregation, there was no choice. You had to go to school, and truancy officers would check to make sure you did. Yeah, some schools or teachers are maybe a problem (or maybe a kid or parent is just a whiner), but the solution is not pulling them out of school or allowing parents to shop around with vouchers.

  7. schmielt Says:

    Another point in favor of your argument is that it allows potentially powerful advocates for public schooling to just pull out and not have any reason to be invested in the issue politically any more. The most informed, concerned parents are the ones we need fighting FOR public schools, and they’ll have a lot less reason to do that if they can just take their kids out, when others can’t.

    I admit I took your original post to be something in the vein of policy suggestions for improvement. Hence, the follow-up questions. But if you really think there’s no point and “nothing is going to change,” I guess it was just venting? In which case maybe I took you too seriously. I guess your blog is more just therapy?

    The people I was referring to are unaware of the huge influence of Christianist homeschoolers on homeschooling and education. Most people are, in fact. So just telling them homeschooling should be illegal doesn’t work unless they understand why it’s a threat to society. It just sounds extremist. Your brilliant ideas (and I’m NOT being flippant here) for policy improvements need a spokesperson to explain all the factors involved in a level-headed way, because you tend to assume your audience knows everything you do about an issue, and therefore your conclusions are self-evident. Or maybe I am misunderstanding your target audience on this blog. Maybe, aside from me, the only people who read it ARE already uber-informed on such issues.

  8. sherkat Says:

    Thanks. I do think those are rational, reasonable, and executable policy proposals. But they have absolutely no chance of gaining traction here in the US. Unless Christian terrorists start shooting Wall Street executives, nobody gives a rat’s ass. We haven’t even tried to regulate religion, and in fact did the opposite under Clinton and beyond. Ah well….at least the Christianists aren’t coming to shoot me or have me fired, yet.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: