Blog Archives

Inspiration from an Unexpected Source

Have any of you seen this ad?

This internet movement, of people speaking up and publicly saying “there’s nothing wrong with you or your lifestyle, and things will get better,” is an amazing thing, and it may very well change the life of somebody out there. And who would have thought that it would be sponsored by Google?

It’s virtually an established fact that gay teen suicides decline when there is a supportive community. My honest question is, what does this community look like, and how do we build such a community? The religious will tell us that all of this secular stuff is not enough, that what is really needed is some sort of spiritual awakening and some practicing of tough love.

Sarah McEwan wrote a letter that I think is a good response:

You can argue all you want that the solution is Christian compassion despite a belief that being gay is sinful, but as long as you believe and preach and teach that gay kids are inherently abominable to God, you’re always going to be part of the problem.

And no, the philosophical contortions in which many Christians like to engage, claiming God only hates homosexuality but doesn’t hate homosexual people, does not absolve you of your responsibility. Treating people as though their humanity is somehow separate from their intrinsic characteristics is not merely absurd bullshit; when you seek to wrench apart the components of people’s whole selves and throw away pieces of their identities, it’s just eliminationist rhetoric dressed up in its Sunday best.

I find it also very funny that Christians don’t make a fuss about people working on the Sabbath or eating bacon. But when it comes to things like who you may have sex with and what kind of contraception  you may use (or none at all), the debate is so controversial.

The moral of the story: inspirational freethought messages from Google > anything the Church or the Bible says.


Change the Church, or Leave the Church

David Marr is complaining that the Catholic Church is full of “bigotry, cruelty, and hatred.” Why? Because they won’t let gay people into the church hierarchy. Because they teach homosexuality is a mortal sin.

Well I have news for you: I don’t really care what the Catholic Church says on this, and if they don’t want gay people in their church, that’s fine with me too.

If you happen to be gay, why would you even want to stay in the Catholic Church or in Christianity at all? These are the people who think they know what God thinks and who, for centuries, made your lives much worse than it could be. These are the people who set up straight camps to “cure” you, who insisted AIDS was a gay disease, and who now claim they really really love you and just hate the sin.

We in the secular community, on the other hand, vow to never treat anyone or any person like that. Our morality and ethics come from humanistic values, not from holy books or clerical traditions.

We will always stand by communities that are in need.

We will defend the legitimate rights of others.

Don’t be afraid of us, we are really and truly one of the best allies you’ll ever have.

Christian Admits He Was Wrong

Salon has a piece by Murray Richmond, a minister who spent his career preaching that homosexuality was a sin. Now he has changed his mind.

As a Presbyterian minister, I believed it was a sin. Then I met people who really understood the stakes: Gay men

These experiences shook my worldview. It became clear to me that none of these men had chosen to be gay, just as I had never chosen to be heterosexual. How could I condemn someone for something that was really not their fault?

I don’t know Mr. Richmond, how could you? Because you thought that a book written by human beings in the desert was divinely inspired and therefore had to have contained truth?

People like Mr. Richmond are initially certain about the truth of the Bible, but once they go out into the real world, when they meet people and look at evidence, when they actually test the truth of what they are taught, their own worldviews are suddenly shattered. How do they reconcile this shock without admitting the obvious truth that Christianity is a human invention?

Free from the constraints of a congregation, I could spend more time actually looking at the biblical texts that deal with homosexuality, and I was surprised to find they were not as clear as I had supposed they were. At this point, I have done a 180 on the topic. And I believe it’s a change for the good.

Tada! People start seeing the Bible as a fuzzy, “unclear” thing, something that needs further interpretation (to align itself with 21st century values). But they only do so after they start to suspect that there’s something terribly wrong here.

It’s a very funny thing, isn’t it? The inspirational for full, equal, and respectful treatment of homosexuals comes from human experience and general humanistic values. It certainly does not come from the Bible; Mr. Richmond’s benevolent heart just makes his reading of the “Good Book” oh-so-blurry.

Discovering Who We Are

Is homosexuality a choice? There’s still a massive Christian industry insisting that it is.

That’s why I’m very excited to see the speaker coming to the University of Chicago next week: a journalist by the name of Ted Cox (atheist and straight, fyi) who infiltrated Christian gay-to-straight programs and shared his experiences.

At the core of programs like these is the belief that homosexuality is a sinful choice according to the Bible, that God’s plan for all of us is to be heterosexual, and that homosexuality is caused by factors like a lack of a father figure. The solution, therefore, consists of all kinds of odd activities designed to convert them to heterosexuality. Ted Cox notes that “rather than turning straight, the men and women that I met throughout this project dealt with a cycle of repression, backsliding into sin, then shame, guilt, and repentance.”

This event is hosted by the Secular Student Alliance at the University of Chicago and co-sponsored by Queers & Associates and The Sacred Flame (a religious LGBT group on campus). It will be in Stuart 101 on Friday, March 11.

Facebook Event

Hope you see you there!

Freedom of A Secularist

Today I attended a presentation named “Freedom of a Christian” featuring Marilynne Robinson, a Pulitzer Prize winning author and liberal Christian apologist.

Actually to call her an apologist for her religion is a bit insulting. Yes, she says the same things most liberal apologists repeat over and over again, namely that people have been imperfect and that religion has given people a lot to be hostile about. And of course, it is quite hard to see through her layers and layers of metaphor, especially when we consider that she teaches the Bible as literature at a secular university and has to admit to her students that she “comes from a very certain cultural lens”.

Yet, in the middle of all this trite regurgitation of stock apologia comes a very profound thesis that is worth examining. Her project, it seems to me, is quite the opposite of what I see from the growing secular movement, for while we are generally concerned with bringing down idols that humans have erected, Robinson, on the other hand, wants to resurrect figures of the historical past, and defend and rebuild their reputations.

At stake is John Calvin and his influence on early New England (Puritan) culture, for which she argues that modernity has closed the door on this period and buried it under a cartoonish version of Puritanism that involves witch-burning and theocratic shackles. Robinson argues that it is exactly because of the law of Moses (who is apparently also misunderstood) that New Englanders were able to enact humane laws, or at least more humane than the fashionable ones in Europe.

These humane laws include the restriction that you could not hit anyone physically more than 40 times (which is humane when compared to many crueler standards in England). More importantly, she argues, Mosaic law very severely curtailed the number of crimes punishable by death, for which there were hundreds in Europe. Of course, she had to admit that this was not perfect, that things like blasphemy were still punishable by death.

I have absolutely no response to the argument that New England might have been a bastion of tolerance compared to its European counterparts, especially since I have very limited expertise in this area of history and since I’m quite positive that her knowledge about this greatly exceeds mine. What I will not accept, however, is the implication here that the roots of tolerance actually came from a divine source, directly inspired by the word of God.

What Robinson wants us to believe, in other words, is that a perfect supernatural being spoke directly to Moses, who in turn codified holy law into the Bible that included the death penalty for people who thought and spoke differently. Why Christian Europe even became theocratic is not at all mentioned, but apparently it might have all happened so that some settlers on the other end of the globe could erect a more ideal version of Christian society and implement a reinterpreted Mosaic law. And that’s supposed to be a great leap of human progress.

I didn’t have to hear her continuing talking about how there probably were witches burned in the South (making Salem “not-so-bad” after all) to realize that she doesn’t notice the collapsing logic of her own argument. The problem I have with ideas of progress like this is that seemingly progressive religious ideas are doomed to fail. Muslims will readily point to quotes in the Koran where women have some rights, but taken a whole, the supposed final revelation from the prophet Muhammed draws out a clear spectrum for the rights of women. , No matter how we try to interpret away passages we don’t like, nowhere in this spectrum lies the possibility of a full and equal role for women in society and in the family.

Nowhere in Biblical law, in Biblical inspiration, in Christian versions of freedom and tolerance will we see a full acceptance of things like nonbelief and homosexuality, for it is difficult enough for Christians to even catch up with the normal, secular sphere in the embrace of ideas like evolutionary change.

But I did enjoy the presentation, mostly because it wasn’t all nebulous liberal-Christian mush and offered a clear thesis that I could write about.

The inspiration of the day comes from an article by Paula Kirby from The Washington Post.

And yet we are invited to credit religion as the source of true freedom? It is a laughable claim, a disgraceful claim, a claim that makes a mockery of language as well as of truth and of human dignity. As such it is on a par with other religious claims, such as those that define perfect forgiveness as something dependent on the barbaric sacrifice-by-crucifixion of an innocent man, perfect justice as consisting in the innocent being tortured to death so the guilty can be let off scot-free, and perfect love as something that would damn us to hell for all eternity if we refuse to accept such grotesque monstrosities as evidence of a perfect and loving god.

True freedom requires us to liberate ourselves from the tyranny of religion as well as from the tyranny of brutal earthly regimes. True freedom involves the freedom to think, to explore, to grow; the freedom to pursue knowledge and learning, wherever they lead; the freedom to be different, not to conform; freedom from bigotry; freedom from ignorance; freedom to love and to express that love as we choose; freedom to be ourselves, to accept ourselves, warts and all, and to accept others on the same terms; freedom to choose our own meaning and purpose in life, and to make our own decisions on the basis of those free choices; freedom to make mistakes; freedom to change our mind; freedom from fear, especially from phoney fears invented by those whose only aim is to control us in word, thought and deed.

That, my friends, is the freedom of a secularist.

Respecting the Constitution

The Repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell and its Potential Impact on Religious Liberty

One issue that hasn’t been adequately addressed in the media is how the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell will impact the religious liberty of military chaplains (as well as soldiers) who believe that homosexuality is sinful.

Apart from pointing out the incessant whining that is characteristic of people who are convinced that the presence of people who disagree with their religious certainty somehow affects their religious liberty, I must point out another important point that this person most likely never considered.

There shouldn’t be chaplains in the military in the first place.

We should not be using taxpayer dollars to hire people to advocate positions of faith. The act of hiring chaplains fails every legal principle out there, and it has absolutely no secular purpose. It violates the Establishment Clause of the Constitution of the United States, and I very much look forward to a day when this hiring policy is challenged.

James Madison, nicknamed “the father of the Constitution”, not only co-authored the First Amendment, but wrote the following:

The law appointing Chaplains establishes a religious worship for the national representatives, to be performed by Ministers of religion, elected by a majority of them; and these are to be paid out of the national taxes. Does not this involve the principle of a national establishment, applicable to a provision for a religious worship for the Constituent as well as of the representative Body, approved by the majority, and conducted by Ministers of religion paid by the entire nation.

If religious people want us to honor their religious liberty, I say fine. I don’t care what faith-based morality you want to promote, as long as it is only advocated at home, church, or other privately-owned outlets. But when tax dollars go into your cause, that violates my liberties and the rights of thousands of nonreligious service members.