How Evangelical Christians’ Stance Against Homosexuality Has Hurt Their Own Cause

One of the complaints Christians (especially younger ones) often have with atheists is that we tend to lump them all together. It may be easy to separate evangelicals from more liberal Christians… but we don’t make much of an effort to separate “old guard” evangelicals from the ones who have a different take on many of the big social issues of the day.

Tom Krattenmaker has written about this “new breed” of Christians in a book called The Evangelicals You Don’t Know: Introducing the Next Generation of Christians (Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2013). It’s a fascinating look at how a new generation of evangelicals is pushing back against tradition and working to modernize the faith. (Full disclosure: I provided a blurb for the back of the book.)

Krattenmaker is also the author of Onward Christian Athletes: Turning Ballparks into Pulpits and Players into Preachers about the intersection of religion and sports.

In the passage below, he talks about how “old guard” evangelical Christians have hurt their own cause by pushing so hard against gay rights:

In an interview for Marcia Pally’s 2011 book The New Evangelicals, renegade evangelical pastor Greg Boyd described the thought process in these trenchant terms: “[We] may be divorced and remarried several times. We may be as greedy and unconcerned about the poor and as gluttonous as others in our culture; we may be as prone to gossip and slander and as blindly prejudiced as others…. But at least we’re not gay.”

Recent political history is replete with the tactics spawned by this model and mind-set: anti-gay marriage measures at the state and federal level, fights against special legal protection for gay people subject to bullying or discrimination, fights against requirements that agencies treat gay couples equally as candidates to be adoptive parents, rhetoric that portrays gay people as deviant and their allies as morally suspect, anti-God, and anti-American.

To attribute evangelical opposition to homosexuality as only or principal­ly a political calculation is neither accurate nor fair. Yet there can be no denying its effectiveness in politics. As a differentiating factor and troops­ rallying motivator, the emphasis on homosexuality — its elevation as an issue of make-or-break importance and an evil of nearly unmatched proportions­ certainly helped achieve ballot-box victories in contests ranging from school boards and city councils to the U.S. Senate and White House. Its political utility helps explain why a matter that receives nowhere near top billing in the Bible came to play such a featured role in the rhetoric and on the priority lists of Christian Right organizations. Of course, if gay America had not started asserting itself, and if much of straight society had not responded by welcoming gay people into mainstream life, none of this would have hap­pened. Christian Right strategists and organizers would not have had this particular form of social change to exploit as a wedge issue. One could ask who thrust this issue upon whom. But this was the opportunity that presented itself to politics-minded evangelicals. And seize it they did.

The strategy worked.

Until it didn’t.

By the beginning of the second decade of the new century, it has become
increasingly obvious that anti-gay tactics and rhetoric are as likely to cause PR headaches and reputation stains as they are to yield positive results. The weakness of some of the positions taken by leading Christian conservatives is being recognized, revealed, and, increasingly, called out. On the matter of laws protecting sexual minorities from bullying and discrimination, for in­stance, Time magazine’s Amy Sullivan correctly criticizes diehards for act­ing as though measures of this sort are trampling Christians’ religious free­dom. “Social conservatives believe that efforts to protect gays from assault, discrimination, or bullying impinge on their religious freedom to express and act on their belief that homosexuality is an abomination,” writes Sullivan, a self-identified Baptist. “That’s stating it harshly, but it is the underlying belief…. Freedom of religious expression doesn’t give someone the right to kick the crap out of a gay kid or to verbally torment her. It doesn’t give someone the right to fire a gay employee instead of dealing with the potential discomfort of working with him.”

From my viewpoint, a no-going-back turning point showed itself around the time that President Barack Obama signed into law a bill requiring the military to scrap its infamous Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy for gays and lesbians. Now, one of the most respected institutions in American life, not to mention one of the most rugged and rigorous, was accepting out-of-the­ closet sexual minorities.

In the same general time frame, the Southern Poverty Law Center — a civil rights organization dedicated to advocating for threatened minorities and exposing hate groups — issued a report listing anti-gay groups whose tactics and rhetoric it deemed especially repugnant. These organizations, “most of them religiously motivated,” SPLC said in its news release, “have continued to pump out demonizing propaganda aimed at homosexuals and other sexual minorities. These groups’ influence reaches far beyond what their size would suggest, because the ‘facts’ they disseminate about homo­sexuality are often amplified by certain politicians, other groups, and even news organizations.” Appearing on the list were the names of several well­-known groups whose leaders are frequently seen in the media. Among them, the Family Research Council, the American Family Association, and the Traditional Values Coalition. To these organizations the SPLC was now applying a label traditionally reserved for the likes of white supremacists, anti-Semitic extremists, and backwoods militias. These gay-bashing Chris­tian Right organizations were, the SPLC said, “hate groups.”

(In announcing its list, SPLC singled out for positive notice one especial­ly large and influential conservative Christian organization that was once known for strong anti-gay rhetoric and teachings — Focus on the Family; SPLC credited Focus for moderating its tone and, as that would suggest, made it clear it was not classifying Focus as a hate group.)

Around the same time that the military was ordered to accept openly gay
and lesbian soldiers and the SPLC issued its new hate-group list, a group called Exodus International announced a surprising decision, as if to verify that, yes indeed, a new day had arrived. Exodus had been playing a lead role in organizing an annual “Day of Truth” at American high schools, a counter­ protest to the “Day of Silence” campaign aimed at supporting sexual-minor­ity students and sounding the alarm about the bullying those young people often face. Henceforth, Exodus announced, it would play no part in the day of so-called truth, and it cited a more profound biblical truth in explaining why.

“All the recent attention to bullying helped us realize that we need to equip kids to live out biblical tolerance and grace,” Exodus President Alan Chambers explained, “while treating their neighbors as they’d like to be treated, whether we agree with them or not.”

As I wrote in a USA Today column reflecting on this trifecta of sign-of­-the-times developments, one could clearly sense that American culture had reached a point on gay rights similar to that moment in a football game, or an election, or a relationship, when you know it’s over even though it’s not officially over — and that this newly arrived moment was posing a decision point, a day of reckoning, for the socially conservative Christian groups that led the resistance to gay rights. Would they continue fighting to the last ditch, continue shouting the anti-gay rhetoric that was ringing false and mean to more and more Americans? Or would they ease back gracefully, change their tone and tactics, and turn their attention elsewhere?

For those choosing to fight on, the extent and nature of the cost is increas­ingly clear. Consider the predicament of the late Charles Colson.

Colson might not have had many liberal fans and supporters, but this Christian conservative’s work in prison ministry, and his efforts to make America a more decent and moral place, was certainly good-hearted in intent and, quite often, in effect. Yet some of his actions and rhetoric on the matter of gay rights made Colson appear just the opposite to those not on his side. Colson, for instance, described the push for same-sex marriage as “the great­est threat to religious freedom in America” — an assertion that demonizes gay people and their allies and sounds like hyperbolic nonsense to many outside the conservative Christian camp. To those not buying it, the claim seems to suggest that denying rights to gay people is somehow central to the form of religion everyone knows Colson is most concerned about: Christian­ity. To be fair, it’s true that in a series of worst-case scenarios — if, for example, conservative churches were forced to perform same-sex weddings or hire gay pastors, or if they faced government reprisals for anti-homosexu­ality preaching — we would have before us a gross violation of their First Amendment religious freedom rights. And, yes, one could speculate that gay marriage would constitute one major step down that worrisome road. But the simple fact is, few, if any, prominent gay rights advocates are pushing to abrogate congregations’ rights to hire the preachers they want to hire, believe what they want to believe, and preach what they want to preach about homo­sexuality. For a Christian leader to claim that his side’s religious freedom is threatened if two women get a marriage license at a government office is not a winning argument in today’s America, and it has the effect of discrediting both the maker of the claim and the religion that is invariably invoked in the process. Religious freedom does not mean you will get your way in every public policy debate.

As Colson learned, maintaining this message and stance brings a different
set of consequences in the new environment than it once did. Around the same time that the dramas around Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell and the SPLC hate groups list were playing out, Colson was helping lead a campaign called the Manhattan Declaration, which was mounting a vigorous defense of conserva­tive values, including the principle that marriage should be reserved for heterosexual couples. When the campaign corralled the new technology of the day and launched an iPhone app bearing the words of their manifesto, it wasn’t long before Apple started receiving complaints. Such “hate” and “homophobia,” protesters insisted, should not be tolerated. Apple pulled the app from the virtual shelves.

Numerous other examples attest to the price conservative Christians pay when they stand hard against gays and lesbians and refuse to accept the larger society’s changing mores and growing embrace of gay people: a Chris­tian university student booted from a school counseling program for refusing, on religious grounds, to affirm homosexuality while serving gay clients; Catholic Charities affiliates in Illinois losing state funding for refusing to abide by new rules requiring their consideration of same-sex couples as foster and adoptive parents; evangelical student groups losing their university recognition and funding for refusing to accept sexual-minority members. Different details, the same general story: if it’s gays you refuse, it’s status and acceptance you lose.

Say what you will about the fairness of these dynamics — does opposing
same-sex marriage, for instance, automatically constitute “hate”? — brouhahas like the one around the Manhattan Declaration iPhone app well illustrate the price that gay rights fighters increasingly pay as they strive to withhold rights from a certain group of Americans based on their identity. And even if they claim to harbor no enmity against homosexual people themselves — only their sin — they stand on shaky ground there, too. As more and more Americans are asking, how can you claim to respect and love people in gay relationships and then tell them with a straight face that they are not worthy, for instance, of a marriage license? “It’s impossible to tell people we love them,” says evangelical professor, author, and activist Tony Campolo, “if we deny them the basic rights we enjoy.”

As I wrote in the aforementioned USA Today column, conservative
Christian leaders are going to have to be very careful about their rhetoric and tactics going forward — careful not to continue giving the impression that being Christian is in large measure about opposing gay rights, and careful not to let the public expression of their faith become primarily associated with something that looks, sounds, and feels like hate to growing segments of the population. Fighting to the end might sound gallant, but it’s not a road to glory so much as a ticket to infamy — an infamy akin to that borne by the likes of Bull Connor, George Wallace, and other villains of civil rights histo­ry. This is not a well-chosen hill for Christians to die on.

Place yourself twenty, maybe thirty, years into the future, and imagine how students and readers of not-so-distant history might regard the antihomosexual claims made by Christian Right standard bearers like Tony Per­kins and Bryan Fischer.

Perkins, head of the Family Research Council, continues to indict the advance of gay rights as a major threat to heterosexual marriage and families, and as a threat to Christians’ religious liberties. At the time of this writing, deal-sealing statistical evidence or concrete facts have yet to materialize to substantiate the scare claims about the “homosexual agenda,” as it’s fre­quently called. Certainly the institution of the American family has been buffeted by the high winds of rapid social change. But social scientists gener­ally indict divorce, out-of-wedlock births, and the phenomenon of single parenthood (especially the economic disadvantages often attached to that situation) as the most direct threats to the institution of the American family and children’s healthy development. No matter. The FRC continues spewing its alarmist claims, warning its followers and donors that the gay rights movement is hell-bent on abolishing age-of-consent laws and promoting ped­ophilia; that gay and lesbian soldiers are more prone to sexually assaulting fellow service members; and that anti-bullying programs in schools are thinly veiled attempts to indoctrinate impressionable schoolchildren — that gays and lesbians, in sum, are out to destroy the family and the American way of life as we know them.

The face of the Mississippi-based AFA — Bryan Fischer, director of issues analysis — takes the hyperbole and the baseless demonizing to even lower lows. As the Southern Poverty Law Center reported, Fischer has enlightened us with nuggets like “[h]omosexuality gave us Adolf Hitler, and homosexu­als in the military gave us the Brown Shirts, the Nazi war machine, and six million dead Jews” and “homosexuals, as a group, are the single greatest perpetrators of hate crimes on the planet, outside the Muslim religion.”

It’s impossible to square such demonizing nonsense with the truth-telling required of Christians by their Ten Commandments, or with the love and compassion teachings of their savior. As one new-evangelical pastor observes, the incendiary rhetoric around abortion and gay rights has become “a big bass drum that is beaten so loudly nobody can hear the sweet strain of the gospel.” No wonder younger evangelicals attest to cringing when the time comes to reveal to fellow students at their universities, or coworkers at their new jobs, that they’re Christians.

Of course, ruffling some people’s feathers merits little concern if you’re convinced you’re representing the capital-T Truth, as conservative Christian organizations are quick to assert. The problem is that such a stance is increas­ingly difficult to maintain as society begins taking a more complex look at what the Bible says and doesn’t say about sex, and as growing ranks of unchurched Americans ask why it even matters what the Bible says on this (or any other) social issue.

(This material is protected by copyright. All rights reserved. Please contact the publisher for permission to copy, distribute or reprint.)

Incidentally, Krattenmaker adapted a piece from the book for the Huffington Post and wrote about his visit to the “new” Focus on the Family.

In all the talk about the “New Atheists” over the past several years, we’ve constantly pointed out that there’s really nothing “new” about it — it’s the same beliefs, just a little more popular and mainstream. The New Evangelicals, though, hold views that are strikingly different from their predecessors. The question is whether their beliefs will become the predominant way of thinking within the church. If not, the church’s popularity will no doubt continue to decline over the next decade.

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.

  • Matt Potter

    It’s interesting to see how many variations exist in Christianity while using the same text. While it’s nice to see some Christians coming to the side of equality and non-discrimination it seems to be in spite of what’s contained in the bible. My issue comes from people still adhering to a text that is demonstrably false in so many areas. The problem will always be the text itself and I can’t understand how anyone would worship a god that is such a weak writer and communicator.

  • Kevin

    Should be titled “The Evangelicals Who Don’t Know.”

  • IrishWhiskey

    The primary focus of this passage isn’t that Christians have lost their way in thinking one form of horrendous morality from the Old Testament should apply when we’re learned to judge as evil so many others, but rather than since it’s stopped being politically useful Evangelicals should change messaging. I’m not hostile to the change, but it doesn’t strike me as a moral revelation any more than Karl Rove realizing he needs Latino voters so maybe they should stop using immigrants as a punching bag.

    “Christian leaders are going to have to be very careful about their rhetoric and tactics going forward… careful not to let the public expression of their faith become primarily associated with something that looks, sounds, and feels like hate to growing segments of the population.”

    Here’s a thought: How about being careful not to practice hate, rather than just being concerned with public perception?

    And by practice hate I don’t mean opposing the basic rights of others to work, love and live, but still patting yourself on the back as a good person since you only hate the ‘sin’. I mean being concerned with the impact of your actions on others, before being concerned with how to absolve yourself of responsibility by falling back on the authority of the church, or by claiming that as long as you love while you wound, there’s no reason to feel bad about it.

  • ortcutt

    But if they stop gay-shaming gay people, how are they going to keep slut-shaming their daughters?

  • Anna

    Krattenmaker, who is not an evangelical and describes himself as a secular progressive, says he is keenly interested in evangelicals who “defy the stereotype.” He is convinced that people such as Kevin Palau, Gabe Lyons, Jonathan Merritt, and even Focus on the Family’s new leader, Jim Daly, are moving away from confrontation on such issues as abortion and gay rights.

    This is interesting, but moving away from confrontation doesn’t necessarily mean support. Choosing to focus energy on things like poverty is all well and good, but it doesn’t change their stance on those other issues. And while many younger evangelicals seem be coming around on gay rights, abortion still appears to be a hill they have chosen to die on. It seems especially odd given that no other religious group (aside from the Catholic hierarchy) has the same obsession with abortion. Are there younger evangelicals who are outspoken in support of birth control, abortion, and reproductive rights?

    He also suggests evangelicals may be distancing themselves from their unblinking support of capitalism and the Republican Party. And they are also doing good works, whether fighting sex-trafficking or adopting orphans. Krattenmaker calls this “goodwill-mongering” evangelism and salutes these efforts. He convincingly argues that liberals, and especially atheists, should drop their reflexive antipathy toward evangelicals and begin to engage them. The two camps may not agree, but the nation may be better served by a more understanding and respectful posture.

    Eh, I’d be impressed if they actually changed their positions on some of the truly reprehensible things they believe, such as eternal torture for non-Christians. Much of what evangelicals espouse simply does not warrant “understanding and respectful posture.” And while I think there are certainly areas of common ground (like sex-trafficking), evangelicals’ focus on evangelism is particularly problematic in a diverse, pluralistic society. It leads to scenarios where evangelicals feel the need to inject their religion into every environment and ends in suspicion among people who do not trust evangelicals to behave appropriately in situations that require a neutral, secular stance, such as the public schools.

    Adopting children from other countries in order to convert them to Christianity is also not a good thing, as Kathryn Joyce’s The Child Catchers recently explored. It’s just another expression of cultural and religious imperalism. Evangelicals spend a lot of time, money, and energy trying to wipe out every other belief system besides their own, especially in the developing world. This is especially problematic because their missionaries target vulnerable, disadvantaged, and uneducated populations that have no way of determining if what they are being told is true. I would be more impressed if evangelical organizations went into those countries to help people without trying to make them give up their religions.

  • Art_Vandelay

    Right. I mean you shouldn’t even have to get through Genesis before realizing this is an unreliable source for interpreting the real world, yet here we are. Christianity has truly become the most watered-down concept in the world. There are as many forms of it as there are Christians and due to it’s contradictory nature, there isn’t one Christian capable of strictly adhering to it…yet here we are. If we need a book to explain that some Christians aren’t bigots, isn’t that a bigger indictment of Christianity than anything?

  • Alex Symczak

    Ugh… More “modernizing” of Christianity. When will Christians learn their holy book is worthless as anything other than a interesting historical document? Christian bible “interpretation” is a continuous process of taking whatever conclusions secular society reaches and retroactively shoving it into their bible. Why go through all the trouble of the second part?

  • Feminerd

    Oh, they’ll find a way. They’ll always find a way …

    Also, the two really aren’t connected. The anti-gay stuff is about how gay sex is icky, but the anti-woman stuff is about controlling women. There’s a whole huge structure built up about women’s bodies, women’s brains, and women’s desires/guilt/shame that is only tangentially related to the gay stuff, if at all.

  • chicago dyke

    i wouldn’t say “completely unconnected.” a big reason why gay male sex is “icky” is because some gay men “act as the woman.” which is shameful, to some christian men.

  • ortcutt

    They are more linked than you imagine. Conservative Christians feel threatened by any family model other than the alpha male and the dutifully serving wife and children. Happy, thriving gay and lesbian people show that other life and family models work fine. Also, if they have been wrong about the immorality of gay and lesbian sex, then what else have they been wrong about?

  • ortcutt

    It also doesn’t explain what they find objectionable about lesbians either. (Taste in porn indicates that many men don’t find anything “icky” in sex between women.) Conservative Christians oppose lesbians because they have a different life and family model, one that doesn’t involve the alpha male husband and the dutifully serving wife and children. Conservative anti-feminism is tightly bound up with conservative homophobia.

  • Anna

    And they’re all bound up in the idea that the only way for sexual desire to be moral is for it to occur within heterosexual marriage. This is connected to their slut-shaming of women because they believe women “tempt” men to have and indulge sexual fantasies. And of course any type of sexual gratification outside of marriage is wrong, so if a man becomes aroused and masturbates thinking of a woman who is not his wife (or worse, has sex with a woman), that’s considered a “sin.”

    The evangelical stance on sexuality is poisonous, almost (but not quite) as bad as the Catholic church. It’s their belief that sexual fulfillment outside of marriage is “sinful” which inspires their anti-gay activities as well as their slut-shaming. The Catholic church goes further and does not even allow sexual activity between husband and wife if it does not end in the husband ejaculating inside his wife’s vagina. And of course they are never allowed to use contraception.

  • Free

    My concern is a civilized, intelligent society that we would actually be irresponsible enough to equate disagreement with hate. Quite concerning regardless of what you believe. Surely, if this were an issue in science, the chasm between the word definitions could not be further apart when stating evidence or and argument. The trend in this type of “bash” language cuts both ways and if accepted in cultural terms be used as such.

  • Anna

    When “disagreement” leads Christians to use the government to try to take away or deny other people’s civil rights, then they’ve crossed the line from disagreement into something much more sinister.

    I disagree with evangelical and fundamentalist Christianity. I don’t like what such Christians believe or what they do. However, I would not attempt to interfere with their private lives. It would be hateful of me to use the power of the government to stop them from getting married, adopting children, opening churches, etc.

  • Free

    The challenge is that there are religious christians and true believers. Religious Christians prefer their faith. True Christians live under conviction. You are right that they are all lumped together. A true Christian will love someone but not agree with their choices. A religious Christian will promote self-righteousness and potentially hate. However, a true Christian can not accept and tolerate everything because he does live under conviction. Conviction is what moves the world. He does not seek to change with the times or fear people or institutions because he fears his God before all. A religious person will appear like a chameleon and when the fire is placed to the stake he shrinks back. A true Christian will attend his homosexual sons wedding if led, because he loves his son but will not support his lifestyle. To a true Christian homosexuality is no different than any other “sin” or departure from God’s love. He recognizes that he is the chief of “sinners” and can not judge his son. He sees his own short comings and ensnarements but will not justify them to no one. He stands alone before his judge, God. He will not cast the stone but seek to love and understand. But, he does live with boundaries and conviction and will not agree with his or any other persons sin. Homosexuality is sin because God has a better plan. It is the effectual reality of sin in the race of man. So is lying, stealing, murder, the list goes on. We are a “sinful” race. Look at the prisons, look honestly at yourself. Just because I feel compelled to steal all the time does not make it beneficial or right. Should we say, I was born with this proclivity to steal and want my rights to steal protected? It’s who I am for crying out loud! Well, I am a sinner. That’s who I am. You name it, I’ve done it or thought it but it does not make it beneficial or right. I will not justify my actions either. How do you reform a “sinner”, an alcoholic, a child molester, a greedy person? Are they not all born that way? Should not they have the rights to protect their preferences as long as they can keep it to themselves or at least consentual. Since there are no absolutes and truth is relevant and people should be able to do and be who they are, let’s just stop being hypocritical and let people do as they please.

  • jj__sdg

    When you state there isn’t a single Christian capable of adhering to the Bible (by which you presumably mean the biblical laws, including some parts which specifically apply to ancient Israel, not Christians), this is stated IN the Bible (most of the book of Romans is about this, for example the beginning of chapter 7). For sure that part of your post is one which most Evangelicals would agree with. As to God being a weak writer and communicator, in terms of the Bible’s influence on modern English language, only Shakespeare gets a similar credit. Incorrect perhaps, but weak…?

  • Richard Wade

    Very well said.

  • Matt Potter

    By weak I mean to say that the bible is ambiguous and self contradictory on many fronts. When I think of ‘strong’ writers I find they are able to make there point very concisely and often times very simply. In regards to the bible being a influence on modern English language, it probably helped that religious freedom didn’t exist the way we see it today and even today many parts of the U.S. still don’t take kindly to anything contrary to the good book.

  • cipher

    “Progressive” evangelicals. Meh. At the end of the day, we’re all still going to hell.

  • Sids

    That last point could be influenced by it being a book that at least in part is well known. I would say thats largely because chunks of it have been shouted at people once a week for as long as they can remember, and because they have been told that the book was their only lifeline to escape hell and get to heaven. None of that has anything to do with how well the book is written.

    If you put the same claims and circumstances around The Cat in The Hat (which by the way, is far better written), you’d find it so well known that it would permeate every facet of our culture too.

  • Anna

    Apparently some of them are getting close to rejecting hell, but it still seems to be a tiny minority.

  • Feminerd

    1) How do you tell the difference between the two types? Everyone claims to be the “good” type, but they surely don’t act it. I love you but I hate your Asianness. I love you but I hate your maleness. I love you but I hate your gayness. Those statements make exactly the same amount of sense: none. Ethnicity, gender identity, and sexual identity are (some of the) important aspects of who we are, and you simply can’t love someone while rejecting a critical component of their very self.

    2) Everyone has rights. That includes gay people. When you act to deny people rights (anti-gay marriage, etc) or treat people as second-class citizens (no adoption, fear of walking together, protests, blaming gays for natural disasters, etc), you’re not “loving the sinner”. You’re just being straight-up hateful.

    3) Oh look, we get a comparison to addicts, child molesters, and ‘greedy people’. All those people hurt other people. Addicts also hurt themselves. Gay people don’t hurt anyone and don’t burden society. They just like, love, and lust over socially unacceptable people. It doesn’t affect you. Get over it.

  • Buy For A Cause


    Thanks for sharing your views. I found the topic very much interesting.

  • Chris Algoo

    Of course, if gay America had not started asserting itself, and if much
    of straight society had not responded by welcoming gay people into
    mainstream life, none of this would have hap­pened. Christian Right
    strategists and organizers would not have had this particular form of
    social change to exploit as a wedge issue. One could ask who thrust this
    issue upon whom.

    Yes, the gays thrust this upon themselves, what with their not wanting to be second-class citizens.

  • r.holmgren

    “[We] may be divorced and remarried several times. We may be as greedy and unconcerned about the poor and as gluttonous as others in our culture; we may be as prone to gossip and slander and as blindly prejudiced as others…. But at least we’re not gay.”

    Is that ever a good description of how many Christians operate!
    Sad, pitiful, tragic.
    What atheists don’t get however is that the fault does not lie with religion in general or Christianity specifically. The fault lies with human nature.
    Religion does not poison everything. Humans poison everything, including religion, AND atheism. Atheists can’t see this of course because to believe that you don’t need God in order to be a good person, you have to believe that you’re a good person.
    Sad, pitiful, tragic.

  • r.holmgren

    Ah but Anna,”use the power of the government to stop them from getting married, adopting children, opening churches, etc.” is EXACTLY what’s happening in countries where Christianity appears to have run its course and the same behaviour on the part of non Christians is coming to an America near you.

    Will you stand against the tide or will you join in? Time will tell.

  • Anna

    What secular democracies prevent Christians from getting married, adopting children or opening churches? And what non-Christians are you accusing of trying to stop Christians from doing those things in America?

  • Anna

    Homosexuality is sin because God has a better plan. It is the effectual reality of sin in the race of man. So is lying, stealing, murder, the list goes on. We are a “sinful” race.

    Look, believe whatever you want, but leave the rest of us alone. If you want to believe you are “sinful” and think you need to feel guilty about being human, you have a right to believe that. Just keep it out of our government.

    You have the right to hold whatever views you want. I would not use the government to either suppress your views or to deny you civil rights, but I will loudly criticize and condemn such views. You display the same hateful bigotry as all other fundamentalists when you compare LGBT people to murderers, thieves, and child molesters. How disgusting and reprehensible, and then you wonder why people think you are a bigot?

    You’re the one using “bash language,” not atheists. You’re the oppressor here. Fundamentalists use their religion to make LGBT people feel bad about themselves. But even that’s not enough for you. You’re not satisfied with calling them “sinners” and making sure they’re stigmatized in your homes and churches. You also want them stigmatized in society at large. And you want the government to help you by denying them civil rights.

  • Anna

    Atheists can’t see this of course because to believe that you don’t need God in order to be a good person, you have to believe that you’re a good person.

    But I am a good person. I refuse to accept the ridiculous assertion that I am inherently evil, “sinful,” bad, or broken in some way. I was never exposed to indoctrination in my formative years that would have made me believe such terrible things about myself.

  • r.holmgren

    “But I am a good person”

    What does that mean? How do you know that you meet a standard of “goodness”? And exactly whose standard is it? Yours, mine, the guy who stole three young women in Ohio 10 years ago. When you say, “I am a good person,” what does that mean?

    The reason that I ask is, I worked as a counsellor for 10 years in two super max penitentiaries, and not once in all that time did I meet a man who thought he was a bad person. And do you know why? Because he could always point to someone who he thought was worse. Is that the standard you use?

  • r.holmgren

    England has already started with denying adoptions. Dawkins et al. are pushing hard that raising children in Christian homes is child abuse. It’s only a matter of time till enough people agree. Are you in favour of putting children into abusive homes?

    Perhaps you are too young and simply have never studied history to know that a huge societal experiment in the 20th century closed thousands of Churches, sent tens of millions of Christian couples to labour camps and killed almost 100 million people because of their beliefs. To think that will never or could never happen again shows profound naivety.

  • Anna

    Not at all. I base it on causing harm. Actions which cause harm to other people are considered immoral according to basic principles of secular (and religious) humanism.

    I know I am a good person because I do not intentionally set out to cause harm to other people. If I find that I have done so, then I apologize and try to make restitution. It’s really quite simple and has absolutely nothing to do with the supernatural.

    I see no reason to accept the baseless assertion that I am inherently “sinful” and that I should constantly wallow in guilt and shame. There’s nothing wrong with being human, and there’s nothing wrong with making mistakes.

  • Anna

    Really, so England denies adoptions to all Christians? Seems quite odd for a country with a state church. What does the Church of England have to say about that?

    As for Dawkins, he has never proposed making it illegal for Christians to raise children. If you claim that he has, please provide some evidence for that assertion.

    Perhaps you are too young and simply have never studied history

    Well, there’s some nice condescension for you. You have no idea how old I am, and I can assure you that I have studied history. Now, please tell me who are these non-Christians that you claim are trying to stop Christians from getting married, adopting, or opening churches in America?

  • r.holmgren

    “so England denies adoptions to all Christians?”

    No, Anna. It’s only begun. Movements like this always start small and gain momentum.
    “You have no idea how old I am, and I can assure you that I have studied history.”

    So what is your reason for not knowing this? It’s a pretty big chunk of history, you know, for someone who’s studied it and all.
    “Now, please tell me who are these non-Christians that you claim are trying to stop Christians from getting married, adopting, or opening churches in America?

    Perhaps it’s because you address so many people who comment on Hemant’s blog, it’s a lot to control, but what I actually said was, “the same behaviour on the part of non Christians is coming to an America near you.” The phrase “Is coming” means, not here yet.
    Since it has taken place and is currently taken place in countries where the atheist governments have the power (no Anna, not yet in the United States) children being taken from Christian parents because they are Christian parents is only of question of when, not if.

    Christopher Hitchens writes, “How can we ever know how many children had their psychological and physical lives irreparably maimed by the compulsory inculcation of faith?” The atheist answer? Inculcate all children
    with atheist beliefs.

    Daniel Dennett, “How much do we regard children as being the property of their parents? Should [Christian parents] be free to impose their beliefs on their children?” Again, the atheist answer is to impose atheist beliefs upon not just their children but upon everyone’s children. This is exactly the tactics used by Stalin et al.

    Christopher Hitchens suggests that atheists become the defenders of the world’s children, “Parents don’t literally own their children. [Christian parents] ought to be held accountable by outsiders [read atheists] for their guardianship, which does imply that outsiders have a right
    to interfere.”

    Psychologist Nicholas Humphrey, “ [Christian] Parents, have no god-given license to enculturate their children in whatever way they choose, to bring them up in an atmosphere of dogma, or to insist they follow the
    straight and narrow paths of their own faith.”

    I’ve personally experienced this developing atheist dogma from an atheist blogger. His stated hope is that our seven adopted children will be taken from us to keep them from being taught about Christianity. His hope of course is that someone else will raise our children and teach them the tenets of his faith.

  • r.holmgren

    “. . . I should constantly wallow in guilt and shame.”

    I agree. That’s why Jesus came, to free us from real guilt and the often accompanying shame. You’re obviously an exception to the fact that no matter what our moral code, or its origin, non of the rest of us live up to it, even if it’s a moral code that we’ve invented. As you state, when you have done harm to someone else, it was just a mistake – never out of anger or selfishness. Sadly I’m not even close to being that good.

    On the other hand, the men I was talking about (those in prison) and basically all the people I’ve worked with as a marriage counsellor agree that doing no harm is the right way to go, unless the situation calls for it. For example, you probably believe that tolerance is a good principle, UNLESS you’re dealing with people who don’t deserve
    “understanding and respect.”

    And lying is wrong unless

    And we should be faithful to our partners unless,

    And we shouldn’t steal unless,

    And we shouldn’t gossip unless,

  • Anna

    Ah, yes, you believe that everyone should wallow in guilt in shame without Jesus. But I don’t wallow in guilt and shame because I know there’s nothing wrong with me. I wasn’t born bad. I’m not a “sinner.”

    Do I make mistakes? Sure, everyone makes mistakes. I’m not perfect, but I am willing to apologize for my mistakes and do my best not to repeat them. That’s what all normal human beings do. That’s why empathy is an important human emotion.

    There’s no need to be wracked by guilt and shame, and there’s certainly no need to involve the supernatural. If you hurt someone, apologize, make restitution, and resolve to do better the next time. This isn’t complicated. You can learn the basics of effective morality in a kindergarten classroom.

    For example, you probably believe that tolerance is a good principle, UNLESS you’re dealing with people who don’t deserve “understanding and respect.”

    Actually, no, I believe everyone deserves to be treated humanely, even hardened criminals. That’s why I don’t support the government torturing or killing people. Tolerance is the bare minimum necessary for living in a diverse, pluralistic society. You can tolerate people and treat them with respect even if you disagree with everything they do and say, and even if they’ve done horrible things.

  • Anna

    Ah, I see. So it’s not actually happening and there are no proposed laws to make it happen, yet you somehow feel it might occur in some hypothetical future atheist dictatorship? Sorry, but I find that absolutely insane.

    No one, not Dawkins, not Hitchens, not Dennett, nor any of the others have ever proposed laws to stop Christians from getting married, adopting children, or opening churches. There is no sign of such laws anywhere in any secular democracy.

    If you feel that parents literally own their children and can do absolutely anything they want to them, then I disagree with you. Children are not property and should not be treated as such. There have a right to be raised free from abuse. The government naturally has an interest in protecting vulnerable citizens from abuse.

  • r.holmgren

    Ah, yes, you believe that everyone should wallow in guilt in shame”

    Well, psychopaths don’t. But there isn’t much that can be done about that.
    “There’s no need to be wracked by guilt and shame”

    There’s a good chance you’ve not lived the kind of life that I’ve lived. Unlike you, I have harmed people, many people and on purpose. I’ve made a long journey from a man seething with anger, dealing with it through violence, to someone who is able to love, and forgive. And it is my belief that this transformation would not have happened without the presence of Jesus in my life.
    “You can learn the basics of effective morality in a kindergarten classroom.”

    Yes where a huge amount of time is spent refining what the parents were doing during the previous five years, i.e. teaching their children to not lie, or steal or hit. All things that come perfectly naturally to every human ever born, without those things being taught to them by anyone.
    “You can tolerate people and treat them with respect even if you disagree with everything they do and say,”

    Well, yes you can, but shall we go back to your comments above where you lay out your plans to do exactly the opposite to those with whom you disagree? Or does it not count when dealing with fundamentalist evangelicals?

  • Anna

    Right, because sociopaths are lacking in normal human empathy. That’s what makes them dangerous. Religion isn’t going to cure a sociopath.

    You can believe whatever you want, but don’t put your emotional baggage on everyone else. Maybe you were a horrible person without Jesus, but there are entire societies full of happy, moral, law-abiding people who have never heard of Jesus and don’t need to believe in the supernatural to stop them from committing crimes or hurting people.

    Yes where a huge amount of time is spent refining what the parents were doing during the previous five years, i.e. teaching their children to not lie, or steal or hit. All things that come perfectly naturally to every human ever born, without those things being taught to them by anyone.

    I never claimed otherwise. All children have to be socialized, but children who are cognitively normal (ie: not sociopathic) have a sense of empathy upon which to build.

    Well, yes you can, but shall we go to some of your comments where you lay out your plans to do exactly the opposite to those with whom you disagree? Or does it not count when dealing with fundamentalist evangelicals?

    Excuse me? I have never advocated not tolerating people or persecuting people for their belief system. I have always defended freedom of speech and have said repeatedly that I tolerate the rights of fundamentalists to live their lives how they choose. I would never attempt to use the government in the way that they attempt to use it against my family. Fundamentalists are free to live their private lives how they want and free to run their churches and private schools and private organizations how they want, and I would make no attempt to use the government to stop them.

    I do not respect their beliefs. I do, however, respect their right to hold their beliefs and to speak them without censorship. I also advocate treating everybody respectfully, regardless of whether I agree with their views. No one deserves to be treated in an abusive manner, not even those who display bigotry. I have never called anyone names. I have never advocated for unequal treatment under the law. I am offended that you would even suggest such a thing.

  • cipher

    Fine, you underwent a personal transformation, with Jesus as its locus. Perhaps you had an encounter with something external to yourself; perhaps you didn’t. The bottom line is that you now feel better about yourself.

    However, Christianity’s insistence is that we deserve to be tortured eternally merely for being the flawed, fallible beings God apparently created us to be. And I’m not at all interested in hearing that he didn’t create us to be that way, but that we chose to be that way because of our sinful nature. It’s semantic bullshit, and I’ve no patience. Christian theology has been shaped by some of the most dysfunctional, profoundly self-hating personalities in all of human history, and I’m tired of Christians projecting this onto the rest of humanity. I’m sorry that you people have such lousy self-esteem. I’m sick and tired of hearing that we’re all going to hell.

  • cipher

    I just looked at your blog post “Atheists – Dull of Mind or Devious?”. Don’t bother responding to my previous comment. I have no interest in talking to you, nor is communication even possible.

    You seem to like beginning sentences with, “What atheists don’t get… “. You’re the one who doesn’t get it. You’re operating at an arrested level of development and there is no way in which this can be explained to you.

  • r.holmgren

    “I would never attempt to use the government in the way that they attempt to use it against my family.”

    We’re on the same side with this, you know. I think discrimination is as wrong as wrong can be. I too believe in separation of Church and State. I too think the Government should stay out of people’s lives and I too think it’s wrong for Christians or any group to be able to use the Government as a hammer to favour one group over another.
    “Religion isn’t going to cure a sociopath”

    Well, I’m walking proof that you’re wrong about that. And I’m far from the only one. Jesus changes lives. Now, “cure” is a rather strong word. I think I’ll always be an asshole, but – well – like the saying goes, “I not who I’m going to be, and I’m not who I should be, but thanks to God alone, I’m not who I used to be.”
    “I am offended that you would even suggest such a thing.”

    Yes, I can see that :-)
    Good luck on your journey.

  • Anna

    Okay, well, if you are truly a fundamentalist who does not believe that your religion should dictate our society’s laws, then I absolutely respect your position on that matter and apologize for making a generalization.

    I had forgotten that fundamentalists used to (prior to the rise of the Religious Right) reject politics as being too worldly. Perhaps some still do. That’s all I ask for, that fundamentalists keep their demand for adherence to their religious rules within their own homes, families, churches, schools, and other private organizations.

    I have grown used to religious people here (Robert, Nordog, SJH, etc.) advocating the exact opposite, and my strong words below were for Free, who compared LGBT people to murderers, thieves, and child molesters. It’s not merely hearing such bigotry that’s upsetting, it’s the attempt to use religion like a hammer to drive that bigotry into our society and its laws.

    On sociopathy, I’m curious. Are you actually a clinically diagnosed sociopath? Do you have no sense of empathy for other people at all? There’s a book I’ve been meaning to read called Confessions of a Sociopath which details the experiences of (mostly) non-criminal sociopaths in society. As far as I know, sociopathy cannot be cured. That is, the person never develops a sense of empathy, but he or she can be dissuaded from engaging in criminal activity by the prospect of punishment.

    I suppose if sociopaths are convinced that the punishment could be supernatural as well as governmental, that might help keep them on the straight and narrow. However, sociopathy affects a tiny percentage of the population. It’s not applicable to humanity as a whole; the vast majority of people have normal brain function and a sense of empathy that can be appealed to.

  • r.holmgren

    “On sociopathy, I’m curious. Are you actually a clinically diagnosed sociopath?”

    Well, I’m a clinical psychologist who has come to know himself rather well. I’m what I would call someone else like me a “High Functioning Psychopath.” Years, of childhood physical and sexual abuse as well as other crap that sometimes comes with life combined to make me one
    of the most shut down people I know. Thankfully most of that is behind me for reasons I’ve already explained.
    “Do you have no sense of empathy for other people at all?

    Not back in the day I didn’t. Again for reasons already explained, something dramatic has taken hold of my life. I remember the first time I realized that I was experiencing empathy. I had been a follower of Jesus for maybe 15 years – it’s now been 32 years. Anyhow, I remember the jolt from the realization was almost like an electric shock, only pleasant. I of course have been drawn to very rational, reality based therapies for obvious reasons. And this ability to actually FEEL empathy rather than just fake it was an amazing transformation. This from a guy who one day heard from a fellow drug dealer (a couple decades prior), “You don’t give a fuck about anybody, do you?” Sadly he was saying it to me with a tone of
    “That is, the person never develops a sense of empathy,”

    Well, I’ve worked with probably a thousand clinically diagnosed sociopaths and that would be true for virtually every single one. I’m not preaching to or at you. It’s imply a fact that Jesus is in the business of changing lives and
    He’s very good at it. That’s why the apostle Paul in his letter to the Church in Corinth, is able to list off a bunch of things the Bible calls sin, that defined a number of
    people he’d come to know, and then he said, “An that’s how you guys used to be.”

    Sounds like that would be an interesting book. I’m going to see if Amazon has it on Kindle. The thing is, all of these
    personality disorders occur on a continuum. Some people only possess traits while others are full-blown disorders. By the time someone makes it into the system (therapeutic or criminal) it’s probably well beyond just traits or characteristics.

    My change has nothing to do with punishment or threats thereof. I just became aware of a Love that had been pursuing me for a number of years and I realized that I would be a fool to turn away from something that good. That Love turned out to be Jesus who is alive and well. If I hadn’t, no if WE hadn’t turned to Him our marriage wouldn’t have lasted five years. As it turns out we’re together now for forty years and just a couple weeks ago my wife rated it at a 9/10. I’d agree and our seven adopted kids are most grateful for the peace that reigns in our home.

    I’m a retired marriage counsellor who still does pro bono work (between two and five couples a week so a good marriage is kind of important)

    “However, sociopathy affects a tiny percentage of the population.”

    I happen to believe that that’s changing rapidly and dramatically. Like a line from one of the Bourne Supremacy series, I think our world is “In deep shit and we haven’t got the shoes for it.”

  • Anna

    I’m very sorry to hear about your traumatic childhood. No one should have to go through that, and I’m glad that you’re in a good place in your life now. I wonder if maybe it was feeling that you were unconditionally loved by a deity that finally managed to break down your emotional barriers and let you experience the feelings for other people that were blocked by the abuse you suffered in your formative years.

    While of course atheists don’t believe that people interact with anything supernatural, I don’t think anyone would deny that religion has a very powerful emotional impact on sincere believers, and the idea of unconditional love must be (I imagine) incredibly appealing and significant to someone who was denied the love and security that they should have gotten during childhood. If religion affected you in that way, then I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that aspect of it. It’s certainly better than the alternative of living a life with no ability to experience emotional connections.

    Here’s the book I mentioned:

    It’s brand-new, so I haven’t read it yet, but I’ve put it on hold at the library. Looks like it’s available on Kindle, too. I don’t have any background in psychology except for college classes and what I’ve read over the years, so I was intrigued by the summary. I had always connected sociopathy with violent crime, but the author’s focus is on the lives of sociopaths who are law-abiding, which fascinating to me.

  • r.holmgren

    “If religion affected you in that way, then I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that aspect of it. It’s certainly better than the alternative of living a life with no ability to experience emotional connection.”

    I think, no I know that I disagree with you on this. If I wasn’t
    convinced of the reality of Jesus / God the Son, risen from the dead, and His being The Way, the Truth and Life itself, I would be appalled at the very thought of “believing” something just to make me feel better. Where I’m at has nothing to do with religion per se. It has to do with a healed and forgiven relationship with a real person, my Lord and my Saviour.

    The “feeling better alternative” is almost like justifying chemical abuse because being sad and dealing with reality is harder. That’s not what this is. I get where you’re coming from but I’m not in this for the end result or the “feeling”. I’m in it because to deny the reality of Jesus would be as difficult as denying the reality of my wife and kids. I have no doubt, and I’m the most sceptical guy I know.
    “Looks like it’s available on Kindle, too.”

    Ya, I checked it out yesterday. I’m probably not going to buy it for a couple reasons. Number one: 17.00 – It ticks me off that Kindle prices have come up to almost regular book prices. Virtually no expense in publishing yet regular price? Grrrr – ebooks have no business being over 10.00, even if it took you a few years to write the thing. Second, the description of the book was WAY too close to looking at myself in the mirror. Way too creepy The memories of who I was and I suppose will always be to one degree or another is harsh – nope – don’t need to go there. And finally the reviews in combination with the price. I try to only buy books with five stars so . . . I think you should still go ahead. You can hardly lose with a library book.

    Last, sociopaths who aren’t violent is very common. Virtually every head of a company or Country or most people in power positions will be high functioning sociopaths. The book description of “rocketing to the top” fits my profile exactly. I don’t count this as bragging because I didn’t even have to try. It required no
    effort. It’s just the way I was made. Now, to say I reached the top, I’m talking “big fish in small pond” top so . . .

    Anyhow, hope you have a good day. I’m going to move on from this discussion now so, good luck on your journey.

  • Anna

    Oh, I didn’t mean to imply that you weren’t convinced it was real, just that atheists wouldn’t agree about it being real. I actually think that in order for you to get the benefits you described from your religion, you’d have to believe that it was real. If you didn’t believe, then you wouldn’t be getting the psychological effects you described.

    Anyhow, I’ll definitely go ahead and read the book. I can certainly understand why you’d prefer not to, as it does sound rather unsettling, but I’m sure I’ll find it informative. Good luck to you, as well.