Bishop of Church of England Doesn’t “Share Same Faith” As Those Who Accept Homosexuality

Bishop Michael Nazir-Ali apparently equates reconsideration of moral prejudices being “rolled over by culture and trends.”

He said the church welcomed gay people, “but we want them to repent and be changed.”

He was quoted as saying that people who depart from traditional Biblical teaching “don’t share the same faith.”

“We want to hold on to the traditional teaching of the church,” he told the newspaper. “We don’t want to be rolled over by culture and trends in the church.”

That’s that crucial “moral guidance” we get from religion which characteristically cannot recognize the difference between a “cultural trend” and an urgent moral debate about allowing people to meet their fundamental pair-bond relationship needs in a way consistent with their natural love-inclinations and to be accepted as full and equal citizens.

This is the arrogance of religious fundamentalism—there is not even the ability to countenance that for some besides themselves, there could even be  rigorously argued and passionately felt moral reasons for disagreeing with them—reasons that deserve respectful and thoughtful acknowledgment and engagement.  No, there’s just the supposed opinion of God literalistically given thousands of years ago to ancient people who believed in the death penalty for every infraction of morality and blood-propitiation to the divine for their sins.  And everything else is not even an ethical argument to be countenanced but something to dismiss as a godless fashion.

Because at the end of the day, gays’ abilities to live in harmony with their drives and be respected as equals is not something “morality” is interested in but something to be “repented of.”

May this rank, mindless traditionalism which cites millenia old prejudices as authorities rather than engages in substantive and humane moral reflection or debate sink the larger enterprise of dogmatic, ossified, irrationalism that is religion itself.  Because, make no mistake, the authoritarian and traditionalistic prejudice against gays is only a synecdoche reflecting the overall authoritarian and traditionalistic prejudice that is religious thinking’s distinguishing characteristic separating it from all other forms of thought.

For those who want to consider the possibilities for Christian religious traditions to be part of a constructive ethical discussion about how to incorporate into their religion a 21st Century recognition of the equality, dignity, and naturalness of homosexuality and a healthy ethics of homosexual identity and love, one can do little better than spending some time with this spectacular speech by Gene Robinson.  It is long but rich with insight. This guy should have had the honor of giving the invocation at the inauguration (if there must be an invocation at all, that is.)

Please see follow ups to this post:

A Follow Up Post On Gays and Christianity

Gays and Christianity 3: If God Exists and Is Good, He Cannot Oppose Gay Love
Your Thoughts?

About Daniel Fincke

Dr. Daniel Fincke  has his PhD in philosophy from Fordham University and spent 11 years teaching in college classrooms. He wrote his dissertation on Ethics and the philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche. On Camels With Hammers, the careful philosophy blog he writes for a popular audience, Dan argues for atheism and develops a humanistic ethical theory he calls “Empowerment Ethics”. Dan also teaches affordable, non-matriculated, video-conferencing philosophy classes on ethics, Nietzsche, historical philosophy, and philosophy for atheists that anyone around the world can sign up for. (You can learn more about Dan’s online classes here.) Dan is an APPA  (American Philosophical Practitioners Association) certified philosophical counselor who offers philosophical advice services to help people work through the philosophical aspects of their practical problems or to work out their views on philosophical issues. (You can read examples of Dan’s advice here.) Through his blogging, his online teaching, and his philosophical advice services each, Dan specializes in helping people who have recently left a religious tradition work out their constructive answers to questions of ethics, metaphysics, the meaning of life, etc. as part of their process of radical worldview change.

  • CogitoErgoCogitoSum

    Why is this so offensive to the homosexual community? If you want to be a part of the religion then you have to accept its doctrines. Or else youre simply not a part of the religion. Even the Devil believes in God, right? I dont get what the homosexual communities issue is. If you aim to change the religion then you’d might as well abandon it or create your own occult practice, because that is just as good as changing the one that is there. Im sorry that you feel unaccepted. But it is what it is. Accept the religion for what it is or dont accept it at all… why the religious intolerance? Is that not hypocritical of you? What are you accomplishing by mutilating a religion and its beliefs just so that you can be accepted into it? Would that help to validate you? Would it help you to feel better and sleep better at night? You might be able to force societies and laws to change, but you cannot force a religion. A religion is by definition spiritual, transcendental. God has spoken, right? The law-setter. No amount of petitioning will change Gods mind. If you dont accept that then you dont believe in the faith. What more is there for you to do?

  • Dan Fincke

    Thanks for your reply, Cogito.

    There are several issues.

    1. For one thing to treat someone’s views on homosexuality as the arbiter of whether or not you “share the same faith” as this bishop does is a real stretch. I studied church history, there’s nothing in the Apostle’s Creed or the Council of Nicea about homosexuality. It’s not exactly a historical test of Christian orthodoxy. That opposition to gays is rapidly becoming the litmus test of Christianity says more about contemporary biblical literalism and fundamentalism than the history of the Christian churches.

    2. If you take the time to watch the video of Gene Robinson to which I linked or read this Newsweek article http://www.newsweek.com/id/172653 you will see that interpreting what “God says about homosexuality in the Bible” is a lot harder than fundamentalists simplistically post.

    3. If all that sophisticated historical contextualization sounds too much like rationalization to you and you want to read the Bible in a straight up literalistic way, then you really should take to heart ALL of what the Bible LITERALLY says about what our sexual mores should be. For that, I encourage you to take a look at this biblically literal video. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OFkeKKszXTw

    4. The point I made in my post was that even if the Bishop were correct biblically or ethically, his flippant dismissal of a serious moral disagreement on the other side shows what contempt he has for everyone who does not share his arbitrary faith or his contestable reading of his religious texts.

    As a secularist myself I find the religious arrogance that thinks the only serious ethical thinking happens when one rejects reason and makes authoritarian claims on behalf of God insulting.

    5. Religion or no, it is harmful to well past the point of unethical to demand an entire segment of the population to either be celibate or to try to change their natural pair-bond orientation in order to gain the social, economic, political, religious, and other institutional forms of respect for them and their relationships that everyone else enjoys.

    If there is such a God who created people this way in order to force them into a choice between (1) being in a loveless miserable marriage, or (2) being ostracized, or (3) being left to die alone and celibate, then he’s pretty simply a sick bastard not worthy of worship.

    But it’s a much more likely moral inference (for those of us who actually reason about morality instead of take it on the authoritarian word of others who claim to speak for God) that anyone claiming such a ludicrously unfair arrangement is God’s will is expressing their own homophobia rather than the will of a God.

    6. A religion does not need to be interpreted in terms of divine command theory the way you do. There are some who rationalistically assume that an immoral God would not be God, that what is just is not just simply because a powerful being declares it so. You call that “spiritual” and “transcendental” but all such an arrangement would be is a tyranny of might makes right which makes a mockery of reason and morality.

    Faced with the choice to believe in a tyrant God who creates a morality at odds with our actual natures (where in the case of the gays, this means their sexual love-orientation) and a God who affirms the virtues of love wherever they are found (be they in gays or straights, in romantic love or in other kinds), those who believe that God by definition must be good opt find the latter a more rational inference.

    While I don’t think we can or should talk at all as though we know any god to exist or be probably and I think all talk about the “spiritual” which goes beyond our reason is comprised of empty words—nonetheless the view that an ideally good being cannot be a mere tyrant but must conform to our best reasoned ethical judgments is at least more coherent a concept than the God which you are speculating exists.

  • Dan Fincke

    Oh yes, there’s nothing “hypocritical” about my “religious intolerance.” I expect my ideas to be assessed by commonly accessible standards of reason—appeals to logic, experience, a priori intuitions, defensible moral categories, etc. I judge religious opinions no differently. They get no special respect for being “religious,” I criticize them as harshly and under the same rubrics with which I assess any other claims to abstract knowledge or moral wisdom.

    There is no special unfairness involved and no special tolerance involved. If a religious group wants to attempt to ostracize, belittle, and demonize a vulnerable segment of society, I have every moral right to criticize that group and root for its loss of power, that the sway of its pernicious ideas and harmful practices will be diminished.

    Nothing unfair about that, I’m happy to subject all harmful organizations and belief systems to that same standard be they religious or secular institutions.

  • Dan Fincke

    Alright, one more point: homosexuals are religious believers too. As gay Catholic Andrew Sullivan has passionately argued, it’s his church too. To assume the church belongs to the homophobes and those cruelly indifferent to the plight of gays is only to beg the question in their favor. That it rightfully belongs to them is not at all clear just because they currently have strangleholds on most of the reins of power.

  • http://sendaianonymous.wordpress.com sendaianonymous

    @ Cogito ergo sum:
    As soon as you wrote your comment, you should have puffed away into nonexistence, because there wasn’t much thinking you did there.

    Sweetheart, as long as believe that the words of a bishop should have precendence over the words of Bible you do indeed have a chance of making a case contra gays. However, this would be bit disingenious, don’t you agree? Why should be a bishop able to change Biblical doctrine, and not the gays? And no, your own blind prejudice does not in fact consitute a valid reason.

    If you believe that Bible should always have precedence, maybe you should educate yourself before making any more asinine arguments as to what the Bible says about the gays? You can start here:
    http://http://freethoughtblogs.com/camelswithhammers/2011/02/17/apostasy-as-a-religious-act-or-when-a-camel-picks-up-a-hammer/2009/08/30/leviticus-biblical-literalism-and-why-its-all-drivel-propagated-by-delusional-bigots-who-need-something-anything-to-validate-their-beliefs/

    You might also try this book, it’s very helpful:
    Nissinen, Martti, Homoeroticism in the Biblical World. Please note that the author is a heterosexual Christian.

    And don’t even get me started on the “religious intolerance”. WAH WAH THOSE EVIL GAY BIGOTS WHY WON’T THEY SHUT UP WHEN ALL I WANT TO DO IS TREAT THEM LIKE SECOND MAYBE THIRD CLASS CITIZENS WAH WAH. Ahahahahhahaha, POOR OPPRESSED THING! I feel so sorry for you (not).

    Also, this:

    If you aim to change the religion then you’d might as well abandon it or create your own occult practice, because that is just as good as changing the one that is there.

    Ahahahaha, you didn’t just say that. On the other hand, brilliant, you just did! Thank you for the laugh before breakfast <3<3<3.
    Dude, listen up: you know who wanted to change their religion? Jesus did. Luther did. Calvin did. Do you seriously want to propose that all their versions of Christianity are OCCULT?

    (I sort of maybe agree a bit, hah)

    Awesome, really. Can I have some more? I'll be online in four hours again, after my second coffee. Thanks in advance!

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