Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Spiritual Hypochondria

I don't want to shock you, but fundamentalists are getting increasingly upset about laws that require pharmacists to fill "immoral" prescriptions.

"Every other day, I hear from pharmacists who are being threatened or told they have to sign something that says they are willing to go along with government mandates," said Francis J. Manion of the American Center for Law & Justice, which is fighting an Illinois regulation implemented last year requiring pharmacies to fill all prescriptions, which led to a number of pharmacists being fired. "The right to not be required to do something that violates your core beliefs is fundamental in our society."
Perhaps so, but in this case, the time to exercise that right is when you're filling out job applications. Apart from being vicious, vain, and misogynistic, these acts of "conscience" set an absurd precedent (e.g., vegans could refuse to dispense a drug that uses animal products, or was tested on animals; and Muslim workers could refuse to sell pork rinds). The bottom line is that store owners have a right to decide what legal products they will and won't sell, and employees must decide for themselves whether to abide humbly by those decisions or look for another job.

In an earlier post, I compared these pharmacists to the doctors who once refused to treat victims of venereal diseases, and I took a stab at dissecting the psychology behind both attitudes:
It seems to me that the "religion" of these elaborately squeamish doctors and pharmacists - and their pathetic legislative enablers - amounts to little more than narcissism. These people have a morbid compulsion to trumpet their own spiritual rectitude, and to be recognized for their exquisite moral sensibilities. If that recognition comes in the form of public outrage, so much the better, because theirs is a dead faith that mistakes its merest act of petty intolerance for the imitation of Christ. What American fundamentalism lacks in living, active morality, it makes up for with gratuitous acts of ugly, pietistic snobbery that are calculated to disgust and alienate people of good will. The same transgressive thrill that the secular Right gets from arguing in favor of scientific racism, the Religious Right gets from insisting on the right of "ethical" doctors to cast stones instead of healing wounds. It's soulless, dead-hearted busywork for the terminally childish and vain.
Eighteen states are currently considering laws that would shield these self-obsessed spiritual hypochondriacs from the logical and appropriate consequences of their actions.
"These [proposed laws] represent a major expansion of this notion of right of refusal," said Elizabeth Nash of the Guttmacher Institute, a nonprofit organization that studies reproductive health issues and is tracking the legislation. "You're seeing it broadening to many types of workers -- even into the world of social workers -- and for any service for which you have a moral or religious belief."
Here, I suspect, Robert M. Jeffers might quote Derrida's remark that "Religion is responsibility, or it is nothing at all." This, obviously, means responsibility to others; as Judith Butler puts it in her discussion of Levinas:
Whatever the Other has done, the Other still makes an ethical demand upon me, has a "face" to which I am obligated to respond - which means that I am, as it were, precluded from revenge by virtue of a relation I never chose.
This is precisely what fundamentalists can't accept (which I suspect is why they're focused so obsessively on the potential life of the blastocyst; it says nothing more than what fundie ventriloquists want to hear). They cling to the self-satisfying myths of personal immortality and personal righteousness the way secular vanity clings to the self-satisfying myths of possessions and money. The Other isn't the person to whom one is obligated to respond, and for whose sake sacrifices must be made (these poseurs coddle themselves so devoutly that they can't even sacrifice a job they're too squeamish to do). Instead, the Other is the person who threatens a hoarded, jealously guarded spiritual treasure with theft or defilement.

They're so afraid of Hell - which is to say, of their own cowardice and corruption - that they'll sacrifice anything and anyone to save themselves. Which is why they're George W. Bush's chosen people, rather than God's.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

great post. especially the part about exercising their freedoms when filling out job applications. it's always a "free market" for everyone else, i guess.