It Makes My Teeth Ache

I’m listening to a speech by Reverend Doctor Jamie Washington at the opening of Harvard’s new Office Of BGLTQ Student Life and he is talking about the necessity of engaging in the discussion of spirituality, religion, and BGLTQ issues. I don’t exactly think he’s wrong. The Humanist Graduate Community at Harvard recently ran a workshop on spirituality and religion for gay youth at LifeWorks, a mentoring program and the LA Gay and Lesbian Center, and it was an extraordinary and valuable experience both for the students and for the (atheist) facilitators.

But it just makes my teeth ache and my brain tingle whenever clergy talk about queer issues and whenever the word “spirituality” comes up in a gay space. This may be a prejudice – I’m investigating my own feelings here – but I think there’s some justification. Surely, if anything is the enemy of gay people in the USA it’s (a certain form of) religion. When I cross the Atlantic to the USA, I lose a fuckton of rights, and the most identifiable reason for that is prejudice based on religious beliefs. And it galls me for inheritors of the Christian tradition, who use the title “Reverend” to give themselves authority, to talk about these issues without offering some form of apology.

And I have just seen too many occasions in which “spirituality” or “faith” are used to normalize queer experience: “He might be gay, but thank God he’s found Jesus”. It’s icky. And I don’t think Rev. Dr. Washington falls into this trap, and I think I may well be being unfair to him. But the teeth ache yet…

About James Croft

James Croft is the Leader in Training at the Ethical Culture Society of St. Louis - one of the largest Humanist congregations in the world. He is a graduate of the Universities of Cambridge and Harvard, and is currently writing his Doctoral dissertation as a student at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. He is an in-demand public speaker, an engaging teacher, and a passionate activist for human rights. James was raised on Shakespeare, Sagan and Star Trek, and is a proud, gay Humanist. His upcoming book "The Godless Congregation", co-authored with New York Times bestselling author Greg Epstein, is being published by Simon & Schuster.

  • myatheistlife

    Well, you’ve named it correctly. They give themselves titles and authority, not we the people. They presume the right to determine morality and goodness. They are wrong. They are immoral. They are thieves.

    No longer doubt your thoughts, Be certain that they are usurping all that is thought good as their mantras rather than simply living up to the value of all that is thought good.

    You can use whatever denomination you like in place of the word ‘they’ and it works. Inclusive is an over-used word, but if you wish to not disenfranchise any group you have to be inclusive. The only way to be all inclusive is to loosen any restrictions on participation. Religions cannot and will not do this. They are by definition disenfranchising groups. It should not just hurt your teeth but those of all people to hear a religious person talking about minorities. Religions create minorities by definition.

    Whether it will happen matters not, the world would be a much better place without religion.

  • Lisa

    You’re certainly right. No clergy or anyone on this earth has the right to make authoritative statements on morality. Only God can do that and He has, in the infallible standard which is contained in the bible.
    Such a lost bunch, the lot of you. You have seared your conscience to the truth. God exists and you just don’t like that He does, so you go out of your way, expend all your energy and waist your precious time in this life by either trying to convince yourselves that homosexuality is moral and normal behavior or convincing others that God does not exist. Since you think that there is nothing after this life, why don’t you enjoy the short lifespan you have and just engage in the business of enjoying each moment instead of knocking yourselves out to proselytize unceasingly to others. You could drop dead tomorrow and will have wasted so much time. What a contradictory way to live!

    • Chris

      Lisa, have you read the Bible? I somehow doubt it if you think you read about a moral god there. Read the story about Jeptha and his promise to sacrifice to YHWH the first thing he saw coming from his house after he was granted victory over the Ammonites. Unfortunately for him when he came home his beloved daughter ran out to meet him. He could not break his promise to God and she had to be killed because God did not agree to dispense him. Judges 11:29-40. There are more horrible things in the Bible – this is only one example, so the God of the Bible is far from moral.