"We're not discriminating against anyone, that's just our belief and anyone has the right to believe in anything."
-- Crystal O'Connor, owner of Memories Pizza in Walkerton, Indiana, on why her establishment refuses to cater to same-sex couples
Thanks to Indiana's new Religious Freedom Restoration Act, Crystal O'Connor's "belief" that gay people are sinful and should be shunned in the name of Jesus is now state-sanctioned. Contrary to the impressive rhetorical gymnastics she's undertaking here, she and her business actually are, in fact, discriminating against the LGBT community. That's what refusing to serve a group you disapprove of is -- discrimination.
But O'Connor's comment deserves to be dissected further because it really does represent an almost perfect illustration of everything that's wrong with the idea that religious belief in and of itself is benign. We hear that a lot from the faithful: that there's nothing wrong with believing something without a shred of physical evidence to back it up because, well, beliefs aren't harmful, only actions. Theoretically this is true; in practice, it's absolute horseshit. That's because belief informs and creates action. Your entire life is nothing but a series of actions based on your beliefs. You leave that house in the morning because you're relatively certain the air isn't composed of 80% cyanide gas. You're with your spouse because you believe he or she isn't secretly a serial killer. You drop your kid off at school in the morning because you believe he or she will be safe there. If you didn't believe any of these things, imagine how different your life would be. You wouldn't go outside; you wouldn't be married to that person; you wouldn't get your kid anywhere near that school.
Beliefs aren't ineffectual things. This is why it's a real problem when people believe ideas that aren't based in reality. I've said this before but it bears repeating here: The reason why people like myself are staunchly against not simply those who pervert faith but the concept of faith itself comes down to the fact that if something can't be subjected to the parameters that govern every other thing on the planet, every other discussion and debate, every part of our accepted reality, then that notion can be almost entirely dismissed as potentially fraudulent. The truth -- supported by empirical evidence -- is the yardstick by which we measure reality. If you don't have an at least functionally common yardstick as a society, everything descends into chaos. Anyone can make up any story he or she wants and call it the truth. And that's basically what faith-based religion is.
Crystal O'Connor believes the creator of the universe has something against gay people. Because of this, she believes it's perfectly acceptable to discriminate against them. What's more, she thinks that she has a right to that belief because people have a right to any belief. But it never stops at just a belief, which is why belief in utter nonsense is something that shouldn't be dismissed so easily.
A belief in nonsense is dangerous. Indiana's Religious Freedom Restoration Act proves it.
Also, what self-respecting gay person would order pizza for a wedding anyway?