A Non-Religious Theocracy

In the sixth season of Star Trek: The Next Generation, there is a two-part episode called “Chain of Command” where Captain Picard, the starship captain of the USS Enterprise, is captured by the Cardassians, a hostile alien race on the verge of war with the Federation. Seeking military intelligence, the Cardassians interrogate Captain Picard, torturing him in an attempt to break him. One of the tactics the interrogator uses against Picard is to shine four bright lights into his face and ask how many lights he sees. When Picard answers that he sees four lights, the interrogator tortures him, insisting there are five lights despite there only being four. The goal is to coerce Picard to accept whatever the interrogator claims reality to be, even when it directly contradicts what Picard himself knows to be true. This torture technique continues through various scenes until the final confrontation between Picard and his interrogator, where the interrogator has lied and claimed that the Enterprise has been destroyed, that Picard has been reported dead, and that he now faces a lifetime of torture unless he cooperates. Once again the four lights are shined in Picard’s face and once again he is asked how many lights he sees. There is a dramatic pause here where the audience is left to wonder if Picard will cling to reality or if he will bend to the tyranny of the interrogator; but before Picard can answer, he is rescued, and as he leaves the interrogator, he defiantly declares for the last time: “THERE ARE FOUR LIGHTS!”

A non-religious theocracy

So let’s talk now about reality and about standing up for reality. This is the third in a trio of essays on gender identity. It started with “If Gender Identity Isn’t a Religious Belief, Then It’s Really, Really Stupid”, it continued with “Real-Gender vs Woke-Gender”, and it concludes with this essay.

The underlying theme of this set of essays has been a comparison between faith-based beliefs and proof-based beliefs. Gender identity, as I have demonstrated, is a faith-based belief and should be treated as one; and faith-based beliefs that contradict provable reality (like gender identity does) should never be accepted by a secular society; otherwise, your secular society is nothing more than a non-religious theocracy.

Gender identity is logically incoherent. Simply put, there is no there there. People believe in gender identity because they have been told to believe in it. When they are no longer told to believe in it, they will stop believing in it. I expect that day will come, hopefully soon, but in the meantime, while gender identity enjoys its irrational day in the sun, it serves as a perfect illustration of a truth about humanity: Everyone has a religion. Or to put it a different way: Everyone believes in some faith-based beliefs.

And gender identity serves as the perfect example of that truth. We have a proof-based concept of gender, biological sex, which has been used for thousands of years, yet someone just decided to throw that away in favor of a faith-based concept of gender, gender identity, and people just believed it. No proof. No rational reason to believe it. They just believed. And what is so obnoxious is that many of these gender-identity believers are the exact same people who constantly demean organized religion and faith in general. Do you remember the first decade of the 2000s when President Bush was in office? Do you remember how often liberals would call religious conservatives the “American Taliban”? How many of those exact same people now call someone a “transphobe” for believing that gender should be decided objectively by proof instead of by faith in gender identity? Who is the “American Taliban” now?

It is a common tactic of the political left to warn of a looming theocracy that will descend on America if the wrong politician is elected or the wrong law is passed, but really what would be the difference at this point? Gender identity, a faith-based belief that contradicts provable reality, is being imposed on our society. Sure, it’s a faith-based belief that doesn’t stem from an organized religion, but so what? Is that supposed to make me feel better? Whether I am forced to believe that a biological man is a woman, or whether I am forced to believe that the earth was created in seven 24-hour days, either way I am being forced to believe something that contradicts provable reality, either way I’m staring at four lights and being told I have to believe there are five.

And that’s grossly wrong. Freedom of religion, freedom of belief, is a core human right. This is something so core to humanity that revolutions can be fought over it. Everyone has the right to believe what they choose to believe, but no one has the right to force others to believe something that contradicts provable reality. Proof must be the foundation of the secular sphere. It must be the common language, the common framework that allows freedom of belief for everyone to exist.

Participants instead of principles

All this time, secularism has been focused on the wrong opponent. All this time, it has thought the threat came from organized religion when the actual threat is different. Imagine you live in the early 20th century and you believe strongly in evolution. You have studied the science, you have examined the proof, and you believe evolution is the best explanation for that proof. And yet as you try to base secular society on that proof, as you try to have it taught in public schools for example, you continue to be blocked by belief in creationism. That belief comes from organized religion, so you aim your arguments against religion and eventually you win, and evolution becomes the preferred belief about human origins within the secular sphere. Satisfied, you fall asleep for a hundred years confident that when you awake, everything will be as it should be. But when you wake up a century later you are shocked to find that belief in evolution as the origin of the human species has been replaced by the belief that humanity was spawned in the vomit of a galactic space platypus. Your immediate thought is that some strange new religion has taken hold, but you’re shocked to learn that, no, people don’t believe in a galactic space platypus because of religion, they believe in it because they have been told to believe in it, and they just do. You demand proof for this absurd belief, and you are called a bigot. You continue to argue that proof-based belief in evolution should be given precedence over faith-based belief in a galactic space platypus, and you are deplatformed, canceled, and blocked from even making the argument.

The problem is that you misjudged the situation. You saw the conflict, and you saw the participants in the conflict, and you thought it was the participants that mattered—but you were wrong. It’s not the participants in the conflict that really matter, it’s the principles each of those participants stand for. This is key because participants can change over time. Perhaps in the past they stood for a particular principle, but over years and decades they can change, morphing into something unrecognizable from where they started. Consider what has happened to the ACLU and the SPLC.

And that is what has happened in this example as well. You assumed that as long as you favored the non-religious over the religious, then proof would always triumph over faith. What you didn’t consider is that a non-religious person is capable of believing a faith-based belief, and a religious person is capable of believing a proof-based belief. It’s not the participants you should have been focusing on, it’s the principles. And the principle that failed in this hypothetical scenario is the preference for proof over faith within a secular society. And it is that same principle that is being abandoned as more and more supposed secularists champion gender identity. Gender identity is not based on proof; it is based on faith. According to gender identity, how can you know someone’s gender? Can you know it based on their chromosomes? No. Can you know it based on their anatomy? No. Can you know it based on anything objective, anything measurable at all? No. According to gender identity, you can know someone’s gender only by asking them. They tell you what their gender is, and you are simply expected to have faith in their words. It is completely faith-based, and this faith-based belief of gender is being preferred within our society to the proof-based belief that gender should be determined by biological sex. Faith is winning over proof, and it is the non-religious that are leading the charge.

The true danger to secular society

Tell me, who is more dangerous to secular society, a man such as myself who chooses to believe in an organized religion, a man who chooses to believe in faith-based beliefs that contradict provable reality, yet a man who understands that such beliefs cannot be forced on others, and a man who understands that within the secular sphere, proof must be given precedence over faith. Who is more dangerous? That man, or a man who on the one hand shouts “Trust the Science!” and constantly belittles others for believing in a “magic sky fairy”, yet on the other hand completely throws out all demand for objectivity or proof when it comes to gender? “Trust the Science” indeed! Either proof matters or it doesn’t. Not belonging to an organized religion doesn’t give you license to throw provable reality out the window. It’s not the participants that matter, it’s not the organization or movement or ideology you belong to, it’s the principles; and secularism cannot exist without a preference for proof over faith. Without that bedrock principle, secularism is indistinguishable from religion, and all those who supposedly fight against a looming theocracy are actually fighting to impose a non-religious theocracy instead.

Let’s return to the original story about Captain Picard and the interrogator who claimed there were five lights instead of four. Whether the interrogator said, “There are five lights because God says so,” or he said, “There are five lights because I say so,” is there really any difference? Either way he is claiming that reality itself should be dictated by his words rather than by what Picard can perceive it to be. Either way he is demanding that Picard believe him based on faith rather than proof. Either way he is a tyrant, someone who must be opposed in order for freedom to exist. Reality is reality. You can believe what you wish about it, I can believe what I wish about it, but when our beliefs contradict what the proof currently shows to be true, then we have no right to force our beliefs onto others. And that describes gender identity 100%. It is faith-based. It contradicts the available proof. It absolutely should not be used to determine gender by a secular society, not when a perfectly objective proof-based concept of gender is readily available and has served us well for all of human history.

And so, I have a final message for all those wannabe tyrants who on the one hand claim to trust science and yet on the other hand call me a bigot or a transphobe because I respect proof when it comes to gender:


Related essays:
If Gender Identity Isn't a Religious Belief, Then It's Really, Really Stupid
Real-Gender vs Woke-Gender

topic: gender identity

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