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.