The Curse of the Crappy Christians

The Curse of the Crappy Christians September 21, 2010

Yesterday reader Mindy left a comment to The Laziest Christian in the World that I thought worth closely examining, because it so perfectly captures so much of what I know repels so many from Christianity. Mindy is easily one of  most consistently thoughtful, patient and articulate commenters on this blog. I’m hopeful she won’t mind having one of her comments be the basis for this little exercise.

Mindy’s comment begins at the next paragraph. My responses to it are in brackets.

I gotta go with tildeb on this one. [Ah, commenty love. What’s not to like about that?]  I appreciate your reminder, John, that “no one Christian is more saved than another”—but that right there gets to the heart of my problem with Christianity. [Oh, no! Trouble ahead!] As long as you “believe,” your afterlife is secure—no matter how many you trounce upon along the way. [Ah. So, this points to a mistake in what I wrote. I should have written that no one Christian can be more saved than another, a subtle but critical distinction. So let me go change that wording right in the original post. BRB. Okay, done. Good eyes, Mindy!]

One can argue, of course, that anyone who is truly saved, who truly believes, would never trounce upon his/her fellow human beings in this life. [One could argue that, but, if one were over twelve while doing so, one would be embarrassing oneself. No one—or at least not I, anyway—would suggest that a person who truly believes in Jesus Christ is by that fact rendered incapable of everyday sinning. “Trouncing” on people–dismissing someone whom you shouldn’t, ignoring the needs of another, putting yourself ahead of others—is just something that people do; it’s an inextricable part of the human experience. Christians aren’t inured from behaving in that negative fashion; no one is. But a Christian who thusly transgresses against another will then to their bones feel the wrongness of what they’ve done, and deeply and sincerely repent of it. They will confess before God the fullness of their transgression; they will seek the redeeming forgiveness of the Lord. They will also do everything they can to make sure the person they’ve hurt understands how sorry they are for what they did. That’s how a Christian is supposed to deal with the inevitable occasions when he or she “trounces” upon another: recognize what they’ve done; take responsibility for it; seek forgiveness for it from God; seek forgiveness from the person they’ve hurt. I don’t see how anyone have too serious a problem with that formula.]

But I’ve known far too many people who hurt others and appear to feel no remorse, offer no apologies, make no amends—yet still profess to believe with absolute certainty that they are in for an eternity of bliss. [First off, the “appear” in “people who … appear to feel no remorse” is a vital qualifier: none of us knows what kinds of regrets others are carrying with them—or how they’re processing or dealing with those regrets. But more to Mindy’s overall point, this statement confuses crappy Christians with Christianity. A person who is either not aware or doesn’t care that they consistently hurt others, and is confident that after they die they’re going to heaven, is broken (and, in my experience, pretty rare). Something is wrong with such a person. But that isn’t proof there’s anything wrong with Christianity. A person who can’t read or write isn’t evidence against the value of reading and writing; it’s only evidence that they’re lacking a particular kind of knowledge. A Christian who isn’t getting it doesn’t mean there’s nothing there to be gotten.]

THIS life is all we have. [Whoa—that is one giant leap.]  Or at least all that we know we have, regardless of our beliefs. [I love the depth and complexity of what’s indicated here by the word “know.” Rich stuff: it points directly to the very history and nature of epistemology. But … yeah, I personally am good with this statement. I love it.]  Even all who believe in the afterlife don’t know the details of what they hope awaits them. Making the most of THIS life is all we can do, and that should include concern and compassion and consideration for all the other human beings we encounter along the way.  That seems to me to be the essence of what Jesus taught. [Two things: Right on, and aha—so you do care what Jesus taught! Mindy’s a closet Christian, Mindy’s a closet Christian! Neener, neener, neener. (And now, as complete proof of my immaturity, I’m totally wondering how you spell “neener.” But the important point here is that Mindy now has to go join a church, and immediately start giving to it ten percent of all her money. Sorry, Mindy. But those are the rules!)]

I just hate seeing those who teach His message living in ridiculously opulent circumstances, and many who profess to believe his message gaining their own opulent circumstances off the backs of others. [But so do I! So does anyone sane!] I don’t envy their wealth [you’re a rare bird!], but it does seem to work at cross-purposes sometimes to what they preach. [I love that qualifier, “sometimes.” It’s so kind!]

I’d rather they be lazy—taking time out to just be, instead of following the “whoever has the most toys at the end of the game is the winner” philosophy, calling it Christianity. [But … who would disagree with that? What moron thinks a fine articulation of the ethos of Christianity is “whoever has the most toys at the end of the game is the winner”?]

So. There’s … well, all that.

In summation: if you’re a non-Christian who has a problem with Christianity because you know so many Christians who do such a lousy job of being Christian, please try to bear in mind that for every one lousy Christian whom you know, there are fifty normal, sane, thoughtful, kind, rational Christians who, along with you, wish the lousy Christians would grow up, and start acting worthy of being called followers of Jesus Christ.

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203 responses to “The Curse of the Crappy Christians”

  1. I've witnessed, first hand, the life of a lonely, crappy, Christian, toy collector. He was at times sad, frustrating, exasperating, distant, detached, and, on very rare occasions, painfully aware of his brokenness. In those rare moments, he reflected the love of Christ. He never defined, epitomized, or even represented Christianity for me but he did show me how much we are in need of grace.

  2. Crappy Christians are those who "segment" their activities for the sake of convenience. They curse the consumption of alcohol or dance activity but vacation in Las Vegas donating their cash to the demon God of greed. They marry "for life" until something/someone better comes along but curse gay marriage. They declare war against anyone who doesn't look and sound like them and can't understand why they aren't welcomed around the world. Segmentation, the curse of the true believer and the crutch of the crappy Christian.

  3. So tildeb, in other words you think the system of religion and the macro "bad" the systems impart are ultimately what needs to be eradicated instead of highlighting the crappy religious people on an individual level?

  4. English: Neener, neener

    German: Niener, niener

    French: Vous êtes si stupide

    Italian: Ho visto quello che hai fatto lì, deficiente

    Japanese: あなたはそう愚かだから私を笑わせる

  5. Well, to be honest DR, I don't think religion needs to be eradicated; I think it needs to be privatized. I think we need to understand that when we use religion to justify our acts in the world, we may be committing great harm even though we think we are following either or both the intent and the letter of our scriptures. To avoid exactly that, we need to act in the world responsibly and that means putting aside our religious beliefs as soon as we enter the public domain and rely entirely on our reasoning based on the temporal reality we and others inhabit. In this world, we must reason our way to supporting individual rights and freedoms (as well as the accompanying responsibilities they entail), human rights, and the dignity of personhood FIRST AND FOREMOST in all our actions. That means that we must stop thinking ourselves justified to putting god first. If we can't do that, then that's the root of the problem of finding and supporting a common morality. And if support the ongoing problem with our beliefs, then our beliefs are an important part of the problem.

  6. A-b, religious belief is used as an intellectual shortcut to pseudo-answers because it replaces intellectual honesty based on best evidence and reasoning with a false certainty of faith. And certainty through faith is a great evil because it unassailable and impermeable to falsification.

    Simply put, religion offers us a story disguised as a truth. No matter what the religion, the belief system is set up to be whole and complete and correct without any means to establish if it is wrong. Just ask yourself: what would it take to prove your religious beliefs false? If you cannot answer that, and I suspect most religious believers have never even considered doing so, then there is no way to honestly know if the story is true. To then imbibe the story as true with certainty is intellectually dishonest.

    Now compare that kind of interpretation religious believers say they have with their religious beliefs with any other field of ideological interpretation. I'll bet you can come up with a lot of examples of what it could take to turn you away from imbibing some other ideology you currently favour with the same kind of certainty you allow for your religious ideology.

    So I'm not singling out christianity as harmful; I'm recognizing that religious belief itself is an untrustworthy ideology because it's method of 'knowing' is flawed from the get-go. That means that action based on religious belief is problematic, whereas John suggests that these problems belong to the individual practitioners and not the religion. I disagree.

  7. If you would stop lumping all religions together and making such broad statements that seem to suggest your assertions are universally applicable, that would be nice.

    If you would read a little about Buddhism, you might feel a little better about religion, too, since it seems to comport more with your worldview. . . . not that you should become a Buddhist, but just to broaden your understanding, which appears to be incomplete with regard to what religions do and don't do, how they inquire, prove/disprove, etc. You might find it interesting, at the very least.

  8. Sorry, B, I didn't include Buddhism (always have trouble spelling that one) because I don't consider it a religion because it worships no god. Sorry if I have offended you with my overbearing tone. It's one my many failings.

    And you are absolutely correct that Buddhism is fascinating – especially with such an emphasis on meditation and self-awareness. Mind you, maintaining some the ideas I think are a bit silly knowing what we do today, but it has a very rich human-centered tradition. It is the Buddhist tradition of meditation as it relates to the spiritual experiences it stimulates that Sam Harris thinks we need to study. I agree with him, although many atheists and agnostics tend to scoff at the word 'spiritual' as if it must pertain to some supernatural belief. That's simply not true. The experiences are real and need to be understood in neurological terms how we can instigate and use them for our benefit.

    So my apologies for not making that clearer earlier, but as you know I do tend to write on and on… and have to remind myself to keep my points to the point. Sorry for my lack of clarity.

  9. Am I allowed to respond to your post with my own comment nested inside?! Your kind words made me blush. Thank you.

    The first comment I'll make is to the idea of giving 10% of my income – since that is currently a negative number, does that mean that if I join a church, they'll give it to ME??!! 'Cause even though I really don't envy opulent wealth, I am all for solvency, so that would be cool.

    I'm just sayin' –

    OK, here's the thing. As I've stated in other comments along the way, I believe that Jesus was a real guy. I've never been convinced of the whole son-of-God thing, but I believe that he was real and he was a teacher, perhaps a prophet, and that his lesson plans were well-conceived and valuable. So don't go neener-neener-ing me, Mr. Shore. 🙂 I also understand the value of community a church can provide, and have even occasionally attended a local Unitarian church. Joining it is still under consideration – don't get pushy.

    Again, though, overall, I lean towards tildeb's take on this – it is the hurting of others in the name of religion that gets to me.

    Unfortunately, in my little lifetime of experience, I've known too many genuine religious hypocrites, seen too many crappy Christians running the Christianity. I've witnessed too many first-hand examples of it. Maybe because I've been involved in adoption and child advocacy for several years – I've seen religion used to justify injustice too many times. I've heard God's name invoked as the "reason why" when it made absolutely no sense whatsoever.

    I felt this exact sentiment in a conversation here recently about gay people, when someone insisted that it is wrong simply because the Bible says it is wrong. This person admits to not knowing any gay people. When I called it out as bigotry, I got told that just because I "don't believe" homosexuality is a choice (something I learned from the many gay people I *do* know, and learned about in college psychology and human sexuality classes), that it's just my opinion and I'm wrong. Because religious teaching says so. And that isn't just Christianity, I realize. But it is not based on the reality of THIS ONE LIFE we have. So an entire segment of the world population is belittled, stigmatized and discriminated against – because of religion.

    Because the Bible says so, or the Koran, or whatever holy book is being quoted, the quoters consider themselves exempt from having to actually think about it or climb out of their comfort zones far enough that they might get to know someone who actually IS affected by the need to legislate via religious doctrine. They can hand their dogmatic position down from on high then, sequestered away in a like-minded Christian community, never have to live with the consequences of their actions. While others, who are just as valued as human beings, just as saved if they are, in fact, believers, are left without the rights that the rest of us take for granted.

    Just as religion was used to justify slavery and segregation, just as it was used to define royalty – too often the religion itself is used, by its crappy-yet-powerful hierarchy, to foment a biased agenda that will have victims – yet that hierarchy may never face them, never see the painful ramifications of their ideology-turned-policy.

    People are hurt by that, every day. When laws are enacted that have no basis in fact or reality, only religion, people get hurt – and those doing the hurting sit back and rest on "the Bible says so" and don't believe they have to consider the human toll of their actions.

    Not you, John Shore, or the many commenters I read on your blog who do seem to be the kind of Christians who live with compassion and empathy and generosity, but the ones who take what was a lovely ethical code to live by and turn it into a podium from which to wield power and earn money.

    I am honored that what I wrote meant enough to you to pick it apart, and while I won't cave to calling myself a Christian, I acknowledge that I remain on a lifelong spiritual journey. And I stand by my words.

    Neener, neener, right backatcha.

  10. Well, although you aren't singling out Christianity, you are deeming it harmful, along with all other religions. (And, by the way, your bald assertion that Buddhism is not a religion is a belief that is probably not shared by most–Buddhist, Christian, atheist, or agnostic. Are you cherry-picking?)

    You haven't answered my question: "What evidence do you have to support your contention that Christianity, as opposed to the basic greed, arrogance, bigotry, self-justification, hypocrisy, lust, etc. of those individuals who act purportedly in the name of God, is to blame?" I can only assume you don't have any. You can point to the harm created by those that abuse the religion or falsely claim the religion justifies their actions, or sweepingly state that nothing that cannot be based on reason is worthy of belief, but you can't point to anything else other than the bald statement.

    "A-b, religious belief is used as an intellectual shortcut to pseudo-answers because it replaces intellectual honesty based on best evidence and reasoning with a false certainty of faith."

    And what is your best evidence and reasoning that all religious belief (except Buddhism, evidently) is false? Absence of scientific evidence is not evidence of absence. Religion necessarily speaks to things that cannot be empirically measured (mostly). Science will likely never be able to prove or disprove the existence of God– the very nature of the inquiry is a supernatural one.

    Many, many people ask themselves the question: "what would it take to prove your religious beliefs false?" I cannot answer for anyone but myself, but the answer is: after I die, I do not experience an after-life of some kind. But then, it wouldn't matter that I've disproved my belief at that point, is it? My purely neurological processes break down and cease, and so ends Argy-bargy for all eternity. Unless there is something more to me than can be measured here. My willingness to take that leap of faith does not abrogate my responsibility to be a reasoning, grounded person. What it does is render my reasoning meaningful.

  11. But, again, all you're saying is that some Christians are assholes. But … so what? Some of every group are assholes. You go to a convention of chemists, fifteen percent of them assholes. You go to Elk's club meeting: fifteen percent of them are assholes. Fifteen percent of the people shopping at WalMart right now? Assholes. It's just that there are so many Christians—and that they're so loud—that fifteen percent of them makes for a lot of Christian assholes out there.

    [To my more sensitive readers: sorry about all the "assholes." If you know a better word for describing what I mean here, lemme know, and I'll switch it in. I tried "cretinous morons," but it was too … weighty.]

    Sure, in the name of Christianity, lots of people do lots of harm. In the name of Republicanism, lots of people do lots of harm. In the name of the Democratic party, lots of people do lots of harm. In the name of medical healing, lots of people do lots of harm. In the name of protecting citizens, lots of police do lots of harm. Countless people, for countless reasons, do countless numbers of harms to innocent people every moment of the day. But blaming that on religion generally, or Christianity particularly, is like blaming the ocean because every year thousands of people drown in it. There's nothing wrong with the ocean. It's just that some people—and I would argue that even most, but let's not go there—are, and always have been, stupid.

    The struggle of the unstupid people in the world is against allowing the stupid people to ruin the goodness for them and everyone else. To that end, I'd urge you to at least consider the viability of determining for yourself what Christianity is, by going to its source–that is, by going directly to God—rather than allowing … cretinous morons, through their actions or otherwise, tell you what it is. You're too smart for that.

  12. No, I like "assholes." It implies a possible awareness of one's own actions–and still not caring of the consequences.

  13. The knife doesn't come with instructions on how to use it to reduce people's human rights or how it should used this way by a female and that way by a male, this way by a believer and that way against a non-believer.

    My point about religious belief is that it transfers responsibility and allows false certainty to be considered a virtue.

  14. "…that means putting aside our religious beliefs as soon as we enter the public domain…" Beliefs, whether they are religious in nature or otherwise, are not so easily put aside.

    I would go so far as to argue that one is what one believes, so to set aside one's beliefs is to set aside oneself–and that's just not going to happen.

  15. "…religious belief is used as an intellectual shortcut to pseudo-answers because it replaces intellectual honesty based on best evidence and reasoning with a false certainty of faith."

    This is what you believe. It may or may not be true.

  16. So we shouldn't use any "religion to justify our acts in the world?" Or are there parts of religion that could justify good acts in the world?

  17. Christianity versus greed, etc, is a false dichotomy, A-b. I have explained why religious belief itself and not just the greedy et al believer is problematic.

    As for evidence, go through your scripture and find references to ideology that causes inequities and inequalities and a loss of respect for people's civil rights and freedoms, human rights, and basic dignity. They are plentiful and they are all the evidence you need to show that the religious belief itself is problematic when conflict arises between these references and real people in real situations.

    For real world evidence, where do you want to start A-b? It's just about everywhere you look, from historical conflicts to internecine wars, from political struggles to education policies, it's everywhere. Religious belief, unlike most other ideologies, feels entitled to have a say in every aspect of life… from moral claims to constraining science, from reproduction to end of life. One would have to be obtuse not to realize just how much religious belief powers ongoing human rights abuses, misogynistic practices, terrorism, and so on. As I wrote, the list is very long. And all of this comes directly from various interpretations of various scriptures. We would still be mired in it, I suspect, if it weren't for the power of secular enlightenment values we have inherited entrenched in our political systems that have enabled our fore-bearers to pry the fingers of various religious organizations from the reins of political and legal power.

    So stop pretending that religious belief is innocuous. Stop pretending that theology is not used to cause suffering. It is. And successfully so. The only point here is to realize that the theology itself is a problem when it offers scriptural support for the kinds of actions that causes suffering and not simply (and very conveniently) the shortcomings of its adherents.

    As for your 'answer', you realize it isn't, right? It's an avoidance of an answer.

  18. Religion cannot not justify any acts, good or bad. Why would it be able to? It is just an idea, like political parties or musical preferences. Ideas do not automatically stand on their own in any case but must be justified themselves.

  19. So your reasoned approach is to oversimplify and argue generally from more discreet examples? Interesting. I have some religious belief but I find myself far more logical in this discussion.

    1. Christianity vs. greed is not a false dichotomy. My argument is that the misuse of a belief or philosophy is what is evil, not necessarily the argument itself.

    2. So, taking specific, admittedly troubling passages from ONE religious text, and then expansively proclaiming all RELIGION to be false? Wow.

    2. I'm very aware of history and the countless examples of people using religious belief to justify actions that no religion concerned with truth, beauty, life, and love called for. I'm not pretending religious belief is innocuous, just like I wouldn't argue that scientific belief is innonucous. In fact, you keep avoiding the logical fallacy I have pointed out. Arguing individual examples of wrongdoing (while ignoring the good that has been done in the name of the same religion) as indictment of the religion, not the fallable humans who misuse it or misinterpret it.

    Your sweeping and conclusionary statements are, at best, illogical, and at worst, intellectually dishonest, if not outright insulting of our intelligence and our reasoned judgment. Seriously, you'd get dissected in Philosophy 101.

    I happen to share your belief that englightened reason is all too often missing in religious discourse. Which is why I'm having a hard time understanding where you get your conclusions.

    Logically, of course.

  20. Nicely done. It is a common thing that we do, lumping a group into a singular category, whether or not all in that group actually fit into that category.

    We humans LOVE labeling things, especially people. Super especially, if they are different then us. People's fondness for labeling others occurs on a nearly addictive level, and too often the one with the label maker with all those pretty stickers, doesn't bother wondering if the label being printed is the right one, its just close enough because there is a connection, tenuous or not.

    Therefore we get ridiculous labels placing people into categories like:

    All Republicans are knuckle dragging morons who only care for the rich.

    All Democrats are incompetent idiots who want to send us all to the poor house.

    All rich people only care for wealth, and don't give a flip for the poor.

    All poor people want to be rich, and are too damned lazy to get a job

    All people of a different culture (pick your flavor here) want to take over our country, rob us of our jobs and force their religion on us.

    All Gays are hot for you. (yeah I know its a stretch, but some people are so afraid of gays are personal threats to their me, they aren't)

    All Christians are proselytize, narrow minded televangelists who wouldn't know a real scientific concept if you force fed it to them.

    ….yeah I know extreme examples,but are they?

  21. Well, John, you’ve obliquely pointed out exactly that which many atheists and agnostics hold to be self-evident:

    A person who is either not aware or doesn’t care that they consistently hurt others, and is confident that after they die they’re going to heaven, is broken (and, in my experience, pretty rare). Something is wrong with such a person. But that isn’t proof there’s anything wrong with Christianity.

    Except for the error contained within the parenthesis and the assumption of truth in the self-evident concluding sentence, that is.

    You see, hurting others is what so many religious people do all the while thinking themselves honouring their god and doing good. And the list is very, very long.

    For example, believing that one’s morality is somehow enhanced by religious belief – and then acting on that belief – is ALWAYS harmful to the dignity of others in two important ways: in that it renders the morality being expressed to belong to god when it very much belongs to the acting person, and allows the morality to be immune to legitimate and reasonable criticism.

    After all, it isn’t the person who is responsible for believing homosexuality to be morally wrong… it’s god, you see. So the same-sex spouse cannot gain hospital visitation rights to the dying partner.

    It isn’t the person who is responsible for condoning the continued suffering and degradation and personal loss of dignity of those who do not wish to prolong their lives… it’s god you see. So we end up with elderly married people suffering from end stage terminal diseases botching suicide attempts rather than accepting medical care at different facilities where they have the imposed right to die alone.

    It isn’t the person who is responsible for elevating a zygote above the health and welfare of an otherwise healthy woman in medical need of an abortion… it’s god, you see. It’s only reasonable to sentence a woman and her medical helpers who undertake an abortion to long jail terms for murder.

    The human toll in suffering due to those people acting on their religious beliefs is not curtailed by excusing religious belief to be fundamentally good in and of itself but expressed badly by some adherent, some crappy christians or jews or hindus or muslims. When entire populations of large swaths of the globe are subject to laws derived from their local belief in god, we find tremendous inequalities and lack of respect for human dignity in the name of honouring god. So the self-evident nature of your parenthesis and concluding sentence is very, very much in doubt.

  22. “A person who is either not aware or doesn’t care that they consistently hurt others, and is confident that after they die they’re going to heaven, is broken (and, in my experience, pretty rare).”

    Unfortunately, in my experience, this is pretty common.

    But this brokenness is still remedied by God’s mercy. You make a good point, John when you say it’s hard to gauge others’ remorse. I think Ric’s example is stunning in the fact it’s the man’s brokenness that reflects the love of Christ.

    In my experience, God loves broken people

    and loves them most productively when they’re aware of their own brokenness. Sometimes that’s something we get to see. Most of the time, it’s a rare kind of humility.

    But just because Christians also struggle with being humble- in correct relationship with God, themselves, others, the world– doesn’t mean they’re crappy.

    Of course, maybe I’m just saying this because I’m one of the broken ones and I struggle, am shamed by, pretend it doesn’t exist, resist, hate, and defend my own pride. I suppose it makes it better I know I suck? Maybe.

    Still, I’m pretty sure people don’t see or know this about me up front– or maybe it’s obvious… I don’t know.

  23. You are using the word 'believe' two ways here: you are using it in the sense that this is what I think is true. I think this because I have good reasons to think so. You may have better reasons to think differently. And that's fair. Better reasons should win out over inferior ones. The probability of what's true can be established.

    But I do not 'believe' this in the same way one 'believes' Jesus rose from the dead. That is a leap of faith independent of reasons and far from good reasons. There is no probability of establishing this to be true: it is either accepted as true not by evidence and reasons but by faith alone. That's not the same meaning of 'believe' you are referring to.

  24. Thinking ourselves justified in putting God first?? It's not about justification. We put God first because we should…because if we do that, He will guide us through life. Putting God first will only make you a better person, and by better, I mean more Christ-like.

  25. Similary to what DR said, Tildeb, what evidence do you have to support your contention that Christianity, as opposed to the basic greed, arrogance, bigotry, self-justification, hypocrisy, lust, etc. of those individuals who act purportedly in the name of God, is to blame? People have used their interpretations of religion, communism, fascism, or other ideologies to justify what they wanted to do anyway. Humans don’t need Christianity to commit evil. They would have done so on their own. They might use religion or a claimed divine mandate to either convince others to support them, or dissuade others from opposing them, but how is that different throughout history of countless examples of using an ideology to do what they want to do anyway? They simply have corrupted the message and meaning of a religion to justify that behavior. It doesn’t indict the religion itself, does it? It doesn’t logically follow that because someone who claims divine mandate who simply corrupts the underlying ideal means that the underlying ideal is corrupt as well.

  26. Well, A-b, ask yourself why the catholic church, for example, is against condoms and what the official policy is on the sexual relations between a husband who is HIV positive and wife who is not. Go ahead. Research it. Unless those in rc authority are all assholes.

    Ask yourself why Prop 8 passed. On what evidenced based merits was the majority using? Go ahead. Research it. Unless the majority who voted were all assholes.

    Ask yourself why Iran makes such a big deal out of the Palestinian issue but avoids entirely the genocide in the Sudan. Go ahead. Research it. Unless the entire Iranian government, and the previous one, and the previous one, are all assholes.

    Ask yourself why abortion services are not funded by UN under the women and children health initiative? Go ahead. Research it. Unless all the voting members of the UN are all assholes.

    Ask yourself why a third of all British born affluent and well-educated young people raised in a secular western democracy think killing in defense of their religious beliefs is justifiable. Go ahead. Research it. Unless they are all assholes.

    These are but a fraction – a tiny fraction – of a common theme. And it is considering that theme I will reiterate from John that he attributes solely to assholes. I disagree. I think the theme is that the religious belief itself is problematic in that it adds a level of justification to these violations of human rights and personal dignity. In other words, religious belief enables people to be assholes, for lack of a better description. But I don't think people know they are being assholes; I think people believe themselves to be devout and pious. And that's the problem.

    I haven't even mentioned the insidious nature of a theme of religious belief that inculcates children into believing that they are shameful, sinful, broken, and evil creatures in need of salvation, that flames and torment await those who do not embrace their parent's religious beliefs. This lasting and highly damaging flawed self acceptance causes suffering… especially in long term depression. We actually have to overcome our innate sense of perfection applied to our babies with this gross theology and we do so… often willingly because we believe. And we know what happens if we don't believe…! Think about that. Maybe it offers us a clue as to what theme is responsible for aiding and abetting so many of us to become such well-intentioned and loving assholes.

  27. I realize you are talking about me when you refer to the homosexuality debate we had earlier. I'm just wondering if you are using that as an example of Christianity hurting people, or if you are saying I'm a "crappy Christian"? I try not to hurt anybody's feelings with what I believe. I have said time and time again that the way people treat homosexuals is horrible and totally wrong. If you were using it as an example of a "crappy Christian", then I'm sure you accomplished what you wanted, because *that* was hurtful. Just looking for a clarification.

  28. I also hope that you are not referring to me personally in calling people by that name. I believe the Bible, that does not make me contemptible (which by the way, is a word that you could substitute).

  29. See? A beautiful circular argument impervious to any contrary reasons or criticism. This is true because it's true. And the fact that you're good with this reasoning means something more than someone else merely dismissing you as an asshole. This means you believe the 'should' justifies the 'put'. But what justifies the 'should'? Scripture does, and not some innate sense of asshole-ishness that bubbles forth with this order of what comes first.

  30. It was directed at you. Thank-you for clarifying. Since I was mentioned in Mindy's comment I just wanted to check that you weren't also referring to me. What about jerk? A much simpler word, that still gets the point across, without using a word that is offensive to some.

  31. "Jerk" isn't tough enough; it's too soft. And if you know my stuff at all, you know that I can no sooner avoid being "offensive to some" than I can fly. If you're not being offensive to someone, its a safe bet you're not saying anything real at all. Especially here in Christian Land. I lose fans real fast, every time I put up a post. And gain a few. It works out.

  32. There's frankly, nothing I disagree with here. I was telling a group of friends through dinner that the best example of true religion and fellowship is an AA meeting. One attends, everyone knows why the other is there. They appeal to their Higher Power to help them escape their addition as well as one another. They confess their "sin". They ask for support. And when they leave, they are intentional about making amends.

    I'm pretty sure that the transformed life that is freed from addiction just quietly making amends and radiating the peace of a transformed life is exactly what Jesus was thinking about. And being compelled to live sacrificially because the state of the interior was enough.

    It's religion meeting citizenship – what that really, really looks like – and how we unconsciously impose the boundaries of our own lives and morals and forcibly infuse them into the public sector, that's the problem. I'm not convinced at all that religion and citizenship can play a very positive role with one another, but when there is some kind of theocratic "Gays can't be married because God says it's wrong" law, we've got some huge, huge problems. And the reality is that we are there, and it needs to be addressed.

  33. I think the challenge tildeb is that you're referencing what you believe to be true about *people* and what they believe, which is all based on our experiences with people. What we read of them, what we experience when we talk with them, etc. It can get a little frustrating when you offer the "probability" of what others believe like you did above when in fact, many of us have such vastly different experiences with the majority of religious people we know that the probability is reversed.

  34. Funny. I've been around Christians (and other believers) my whole life and can count on my hand the asshole Christians I've known. And out of the top 10 people who influenced me the most, probably half of them were Christians. The other half were Jews, Atheists and Agnostics. Not one of them ever shoved their beliefs down my throat. In fact, most of them were pretty balanced about their personal philosophies and were excepting that they could be incorrect about their faith, their world views and beliefs. That's why I liked them so much.

  35. I'd be curious, though I'm not making any assumptions, as to your gender, sexuality, and economic status. (I lied. I'll go ahead and assume you're male, since you're using the name "Don". But I'm not making assumptions beyond that.)

    Being in the majority/not in a group that Christianity has historically marginalized can really help shield you from the assholes.

  36. But Sylvie, I'm not labeling ALL Christians as anything. And, John, I'm not just saying that *some* Christians are asshats, either. I'm saying that too many of the asshat Christians USE the guise of religion to impose their agendas on others, without ever having to understand the consequences.

    I don't think too many will argue that a rather large percentage of jackasses – whether they be religious jackasses, political jackasses, jackasses in sport, entertainment, medicine, law, education or technology or plumbing – tend to have the very loudest voices and tend to believe, even facing evidence to the contrary, that their opinions matter the most. They also have a passion for power, and, again, will USE whatever they have at their disposal to achieve power.

    And when jackasses USE religion in their quest for power, they toss out their religious beliefs as A VERY GOOD REASON for some policy – simultaneously dismissing all opposing arguments, no matter how valid and rational and REAL they might be. They have the luxury of not thinking about it, just saying, "Sorry, the Bible says homosexuality is bad, so we must legislate against it," – and real people, good people, are victimized in the process.

    I am absolutely aware of the fact that the jackasses are the minority – but they use their religion from their bully pulpits against the majority in a variety of ways – publicly vilifying those who don't deserve it, and teaching the next generation to discriminate in the name of God. That is what upsets me.

    God and I chat about this regularly, actually. And it is God, or my perception of God, who has led me to my own beliefs. Who has made it clear to my heart that organized religion has turned into something quite removed from what was intended.

    Because if the real struggle is the unstupid people keeping the stupid people from ruining it all, us unstupid folk need to work a lot harder, get more involved and speak up much louder than we have been. Why aren't more *real* Christians doing what you do? Speaking out, making it very clear that the wingnuts don't speak for the rest?

    Good Christian people live their lives well, doing all that you describe – making amends when they trounce, etc. I believe that. I believe that is how we are all commissioned to live – working hard, making the most of the gifts we are given in this life, being generous and compassionate and empathetic, creating and embracing all the love and laughter we can – and teaching our children to know themselves well and live the same way. I don't believe it matters where our inspiration originates – a holy book, a higher power or the connectedness we feel to this beautiful, flawed human race – we should all live to make it better for those who come after.

    But we SHOULD struggle against the stupid – and we should speak up loud and clear. You do it here, John, and you do it well. I hope your Christian voice will ultimately be one of those to which we ALL start listening.

  37. that is quite sad that you are having a hard time finding a church or group that will accept you the way that you are, but even sadder it is fairly common. It's changing, albeit slowly and even more so here in my grits and ham biscuit part of the world. Hopefully that will be a problem of our history soon, not our present. Of course it doesn't help with some of the negative and false information that seems to run rampant in some circles that perpetuate false rhetoric. Because of that, I have learned to live by the motto, "just because someone says it, doesn't make it true."

    You are right, crappy Christian is more common then we'd like to admit. I witnessed others behaving so, and I have on occasion acted like one. I really hate it when I act like that, so try not to as much as possible.

  38. Basically, I'm for the maximum amount of personal and economic freedom possible.

    That statement includes: Everyone (including politicians and policemen) should be held accountable and responsible for their actions. No crime can be committed without a victim. Self reliance and property rights are big as well. Government involvement should remain outside people's personal lives. The government should stick to the constitution and its power should be severely limited like it was meant to be. Private industry is obviously better than government in any area.

    It is fairly simple and it fits my principles.

    (I am not inviting a political debate on this thread, just answering a question.)

  39. I don't need to research it, but thanks. I understand what you mean–and it gets to my point earlier, and of course John's entire post–that people will twist religion to their own ends, or they don't even understand their religion well enough to be entrusted in "using" it, etc.

    I don't think we're getting anywhere with this discussion, unfortunately.

    You believe that, ab initio, all religion is based on a false premise, and therefore is the source of all the evil that flows from it.

    I've tried to point out the logical fallacy in your argument by pointing out that you are arguing selective aspects of the (mis)application of religion and sidestepping the good aspects and proper application of its benefits. I think it does a disservice to many of your points which are well taken. You would do better, I believe, by pointing out that religion can lead to the evil you describe. But by throwing the baby out with the bathwater, you're undercutting the valid points you could make.

    Religious belief may enable some to be assholes. But atheism, agnosticism, or almost any other -ism is just as capable of it. Assholism is a human propensity. All the -isms do is dress it up a bit. There's still an asshole underneath.

    We're not going to agree. And that's alright.

  40. Thanks! I made the point, because it's true, but I'm actually quite happy with the groups I have found. It takes some work, but once you do, it's generally worth it. Plus, I have a spectacularly amazing home church that I go back to on many a weekend.

    I believe that the moral arc of the universe bends toward justice, I believe that the tide of Christianity is changing toward justice, and I believe that one day demonizing gay people won't be accepted in American society. But I also believe it's a long way off and slow in coming. (Example: today's Senate vote to kill the repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell.)

  41. define "good"

    define "goodness"

    And where does that definition come from, the god of human Reason?

    Why is the objective common morality? And how on earth is that possible even in your corner of the universe? Not even all atheists and agnostics reason the same.

    It's a truly diverse world.

    I think your contention is, perhaps, reserved WHEN people who think other than you think actually have the power to make the decisions. In that, I totally feel your pain. I hate it when my idea gets voted down.

    The reality is that we live in a "democracy" influenced by every realm of human existence and that includes religion.

  42. We live in a Constitutional Democracy, meaning that Congress can't establish a religion or show preference to one religion over another or show preference to religion over no religion. Democracy doesn't mean that the religious majority can enforce their beliefs on the rest of us. (Or, it shouldn't mean that, under the Constitution.)

  43. @Kara:

    You think there are less assholes in different demographics? I think they're everywhere, all the time. But I don't hand around them long enough for them to tell me their religious orientation, that is, with the exception of this forum.

  44. No, no, no. I'm not saying there are less assholes based on gender, sexuality, etc. I'm saying that many Christians are assholes to gay people more than straight people, women more than men, etc. Therefore, if you are a straight man, it seems logical to me that Christian assholes would seem to be rarer to you. That's all.

  45. Tildeb,

    Have been only glancing at remarks and staying at a distance so as not to be more then a spectator, but this thought came to mind and may or may not have relevance to your supposition.

    Have you ever been to a twelve step program – like AA or Narcotics Anonymous? I went to open meetings, where anyone is allowed to attend, to learn about how people cope with their demons (long story.) Anyway, I went regularly to a group with whom I had the very least in common with and who would make me feel at my greatest depth of discomfort. I decided I needed to test my acceptance of others. There were maybe one or two professionals, but the others were blue color, homeless, ex-conficts, prostitutes, and of every color of the rainbow, aged 16 to 80.

    Inherent in the program is a belief / faith in a power "greater than ourselves." Individuals had to assign faith to something that would represent the "God of their understanding." Some believed in God, some in Jesus, other religious deities, a pot-bellied pig, their dead relative the dynamics of the group, etc.

    Every personal saga, every feeling of despair – all of their inward pain and struggles – I identified completely. COMPLETELY. The group adopted me and because I was addicted to caffeine, they allowed me to speak freely. I had to come clean and reveal that my initial feelings about the members of the group were such that if I had seen them on the street, I'd have pitied them, but the blessing for me was in learning that I am them. For whatever twist of fate, I simply did not get hooked on crack or meth or any drug.

    We all had a commonality that brought us close. That group knows more about me than my own family! And each person had a "faith" to which their soberness depended. They could no more check in their religion than a homosexual can separate his or her sexuality.

    The point is, I guess, that a room full of vastly different people, in age, sex, ethnicity, addiction, faith came toghether consistently and were able to completely respect each other. It was an amazing, beautiful experience I will never, ever forget. They taught me more about what I believe is God's love than I can describe. There was a healing presence, by many names.

    Do you view such people as weak, or as having an unfounded fatih? Don't we all have things with which serve to give us an identity whether it be faith, motherhood, fatherhood, CEO, Christian, heterosexual, addict, intellectual, atheists homosexual. And, whatever it is with which we most strongly identify – isn't that akin to a "religion"? For what is religion but a system of beliefs? As such, how can one check in their "religion" at the door?

    I've been told more than once that I don't lack logical capacity, but sometimes I'm an idealist.

    What do you think about all this? Does it make any sense? It may not be "logical" as in Dr. Spock logic, but it is reasoning based on what I perceive to be realities.

    I love your knowledge and critical thinking and don't believe I've engaged in much critical thought hear, but…what is your take? Sorry, dude…I guess this is a selfish request, as your insight does help me.

  46. You assert that this is true: "The probability of what’s true can be established."

    If it is so, how have you established the probability of its truth?

  47. I think it's interesting no one on this sight thinks they're the asshole.

    "We're all the good guys here!"

    Just a little community meta-cognition.

    I'm an asshole sometimes. Even my best efforts to do the process DR describes in AA (which I agree is a great model of individual spiritual responsibility) are not enough to please God. I'm not that naive or self-deceived. I'm not beating my breast in melodrama here either. I just ain't good. Christ IS my only hope of grace and mercy. For that, I live eternally grateful. But I don't always live well.

    And that's the reality.

    I think I'm "raging against the dying of the light" but I'm not good.

  48. And this is why you rock, John. Because you are a voice of reason. This is why a friend of mine who knows very well I am not a Christian shared your blog with me in the first place, because she knew how much a group of us would appreciate reading the thoughts of a Christian who lives in the present, who is a self-proclaimed Jesus freak AND reasons and thinks and can see the bigger picture that I am convinced too often gets lost in the minutae of scripture verses. And has a wicked sense of humor with which he drives his points home.

    You're right – you just have to keep saying it. Keep sharing it. And all of us who value what you say, hopefully are sharing it. I hope it grows, that more people hear you and share your message and the ripple affect takes hold. You are a delight, even when you're telling me I'm wrong.

    Every time Mel said that her feelings were hurt because I used the word "bigotry" in our conversation, my initial reaction was to apologize and do whatever I could to repair her hurt feelings, because I get a knot in my belly to think I hurt someone with my words. But then I remember that very comment you made above – if I'm not offending someone, I'm not affecting change. And this is an issue about which I feel very passionately, and I will call it out every time I see it. I have to. I am driven, at this point in my life, to do so. By God? I think so, yes.

    Here's the thing. I went to a concert a few years back in one of those non-denominational mega-churches in a small Midwestern city. The concert was wonderful. As my friend and I wandered around the church beforehand, we were astounded. It was a virtual campus, complete with a workout gym, a coffeehouse, cafe and a bookstore. A place for all the Christians to gather and socialize – and it seemed to us, to avoid crossing paths with the heathens of the world. What good does that do, really? When a group insulates itself from the outside world to a great degree, venturing out on mission trips en masse, they lose touch with the rest of the world. Of course those young people wouldn't likely meet anyone who is openly gay – so they have no idea who they are, what their lives are like, or how their church's teachings affect these people they don't even know. I get that they would not, personally, be openly rude or critical or at all unkind to a gay person. But by subscribing to the unfounded but religious belief that the core of a gay person's being is sinful, they are part of the perpetuation of the discrimination.

    Politicians talk of "the gay agenda" as if it is some nefarious plot to take over the world and steal children to eat for dinner – when the gay agenda is simply the determined hope to be able to live like the rest of the us. They want no more than anyone else has, but because of religion, they can't have it.

  49. I don't want to get into it on this post because it would be very, very off topic. But I would like to discuss abortion on this blog. It is a topic that I am very passionate about, and I would like to see it discussed. John, could you do a blog entry about it please?

  50. My understanding it that when we're saying "asshole," we're using it as shorthand for a specific type of crappy Christian described in the post, not just anyone who does something wrong as a Christian. I definitely do stuff wrong. I get angry and say things I shouldn't, or phrase things in unkind ways.

    But you're right, I don't think I'm an asshole in the way we're using the term in this discussion. Almost none of the people I've ever seen comment here regularly would fit that definition, so it's also possibly self-selection. It's a specific thing being referred to, though; we're not just being self-aggrandizing.

  51. So, you don't apologize because you think that hurting somebody's feelings is a positive thing? I don't think that's what John was trying to say. Also, you didn't answer my previous question, so I guess I'll take that as a yes…that you WERE referring to me as a "crappy Christian"?? I suppose you think that means you were being helpful then?

  52. Oh, God. If we do abortion right after premarital sex and homosexuality, I think the blog's going to explode.

  53. Kara, I really hope you don't think I'm one of those jerks. It makes me feel sick to think that I might have hurt your feelings in what I have said. If I ever have, I am truly, truly sorry.

  54. haha, you might be right. But I think it's good to have deep conversations like that. It challenges you to think….think about what you really believe and why. I mostly only comment on posts like those because they are the most beneficial…the other ones are just random stories that don't affect anybody else. And that wasn't supposed to sound like an attack on your blogs John, I just mean that it's the controversial ones that make me look into my faith, and force me to look at my heart, and the way I am.

  55. No, for serious. You have never, ever hurt my feelings. There's this concept in gay Christianity called "bulletproof faith". There is nothing anyone on this blog could say about homosexuality that would hurt my feelings; I've heard it all before and worse.

    I like you. I'm glad you're here. I disagree with you vehemently, and I do think that some of your beliefs are the same beliefs used to justify terrible things. But it's certainly not personal for me.

    When I talk about seeing Christian assholes, I'm referring almost exclusively about people I've known in real life. People I had relationships with who deeply wounded me. My youth pastor told me I was going to hell unless I became straight. My relatives think that gay people are evil predators. That's what I mean. Someone I talk with online saying they have a conservative interpretation of certain texts isn't even close to anything that would hurt my feelings.

  56. female, heterosexual, middle-class professional, two gay siblings and I'm with Kara on this one.

    Not because I've spent all my time with the assholes, just witnessed, (in ELCA Lutheran, Evangelical, Presbyterian, and Pentecostal churches) a whole lot of asshole behavior.

    Last week I was relieved in a women's Bible study group when twelve other women had only encouraging things to say to a woman struggling with the decision to move in with her new boyfriend. She's 48. I was relieved people responded in love…..

    My experience has been different than yours Don. But, thank God I've also had powerfully intimate encounters with God in each of those places– or my faith might be fully sunk….

    I pray you get what you need Kara- I mean I'll seriously pray that…. 🙂

  57. Beth – I absolutely thought – hey, this could be about me…I can totally act like an asshole. Totally and completely. I hesitate to even say that someone IS an asshole, because we are all more more than one label. For me, the test of Christianity is to go beyond the label and consider it a trait. Some people may just seem to have more of a certain trait than others. Loving those who grate on our nerves and drive us bat shit crazy, those whom we think bastardize Christianity…well, if we can't love them, we are no better than what we perceive them to be. Hate is easy. Love is hard. My two cents.

  58. @Kara – and of course, everything I've said means far more coming from you, someone who lives every day with exactly what I am trying to fight against. Your honesty and openness and willingness to be true to yourself are more Christian than any of those who would exclude you. Hang in there, and just know that you are not at all alone.

  59. I'm with Kara on this – I am referring to a specific demo-type. Because I can most definitely act like an ass, try as I might not to. Just ask my teenager.

  60. Heee hee. I know it's not self-aggrandizing. I'm just pointing out no one, save a mention from Sylvia, actually admits they've been this specific kind of crappy Christian.

    I didn't have a late conversion experience; I didn't have any notion of the whole oppression/bigotry dynamic until mid to late in my twenties.

    I just find it interesting no one says they ever ARE the kind of crappy Christian John describes. But I think more of us have been than are saying so.

    Ironically, admitting it sure as heck doesn't put me in any sort of humble position since claiming that (humility) completely nullifies it.

  61. Okay, well I'm glad that you don't think I'm a huge jerk. I agree that some of my beliefs are the same beliefs that people use to justify horrible things. There's disagreeing with something, and then there's disagreeing with it and condemning everybody who does it. I believe what I believe, but I don't use my belief to justify bad behavior. If I do something wrong, it's wrong regardless of what I believe, and I should try to undo what I did. I can't believe that your youth pastor told you that you would go to Hell if you didn't become straight! See, that's when I get angry because that is not the loving attitude that Christ would have had. I'm sorry that you had to go through that. I'm sorry that people treat you like crap. I'm glad that you don't let it get to you…since you don't, I actually have a question for you. It seems like you're the type of person that can have a conversation about something personal, without letting it get personal in the sense that your feelings would get hurt. So, I'm wondering if you would talk to me about homosexuality? If you wouldn't get offended by me challenging things you say, and bringing up points that I believe in, I really think that a conversation with somebody who's actually gay could be very beneficial. If you think that you would get offended, or think that I'm being a "bigot" as I've been called many times with regards to this topic, then I won't talk about it with you. But if you think you could, I'd really like to talk about it with you. Same with if I was doing something that you disagreed with, I would think you would like to ask me about it.

  62. "Loving those who grate on our nerves and drive us bat shit crazy, those whom we think bastardize Christianity…well, if we can’t love them, we are no better than what we perceive them to be. Hate is easy. Love is hard."

    Yay! This is what I'm getting at too Susan.

    And Mindy– that's just rife with teens so that's no proof! Anyway, of course we are all assholes sometimes.

    I am three years out of toxic church. And thankfully this has been a time of healing for me and for my family. (There's no way I'd blame this particular denomination since this is the system and leadership of this particular church.)

    Part of my healing is in admitting I was part of that system. Even though I've ALWAYS been a rational thinker, a lover of reason (it's what I teach for heaven's sake) Not only was I part of the system there, employed by the ministry, I was part of the system IN my heart.

    It has taught me a lot…. primary right now: LOVE, big G little od, LOVE.

  63. Okay, thanks! Like I said, I'd really appreciate it. I agree this is really off-topic, and I think it's really cool that you just gave me your e-mail address like that…but I don't really want to do this over e-mail. Sorry, but even though you are open with your e-mail, I just don't want mine to be available to anybody I don't personally know. Maybe John can actually do a blog about homosexuality. We keep bringing it up on other posts and getting off topic with it anyways…??

  64. Fair enough. (Although, and I'm absolutely not saying you have to do this, just noting it, it is really easy to create a webmail account in a couple minutes. The email address I gave isn't one I ever give in real life. I keep them separate.)

    John's definitely blogged about homosexuality a lot before. We could take it to one of those old, posts, I guess. I'm going to go post a generic comment on "Christians, when it comes to homosexuality, man up," and you can follow me over there or not, at your call.

  65. Yes. Thank you, Susan, for linking to my abortion piece. It's not … exactly what Mel might want, but, as you say, it might serve as a starting point.

  66. hence the quotation marks

    and to clarify, I'm NOT saying legislation should favor a religious majority…. or a moral one….. or even a Rational one

    my point is the ideal tildeb wants is simply not possible.

    But I am with Mindy in that we need to rage against the stupid.

    And part of doing that is knowing one's audience, appealing to the tenants of already-held beliefs and in order to do so, we need to UNDERSTAND WHAT those beliefs clearly are and find a way that is truly persuasive–not merely intellectual masturbation (to convince others WE ARE RIGHT.) Our goal, it seems, might be better if it weren't so self-centered.

    both sides.


    guilty here on this beautiful blog.

  67. @ Beth,

    It is…not easy. When I get frustrated about what I perceive to be an injustice to the cause of Christ, or outright hypocrisy, it is so easy for my passion to cross the slippery slope into ego and self-righteousness.,

    I sense that I'm being taught more than a lesson on humility. It's almost a realization that at our core, we all have more in common than we like to believe or explore.

  68. Got it and I hope no one starts one. I ask because you have a lot of passion about what the system needs to look like as a result of what you value which is freedom (among other things). Libertarianism embodies what that is. If one were to suggest your point of view on freedom were simply ideas, it seems like they would be ideas that hold a lot more to you than just interesting things to ponder which is what most ideas begin and end with.

    Religion is more than an idea to people who are religious, it forms the actual ideas that represent what they put their literal weight down upon. The ideas that flow from religious experience embody what one values above all things, it's the fuel to the value engine. So like any framework of idea, it actually can validate good or bad when someone has given it the last word to do so.

  69. DR –

    How in the world did I NOT see this comment? And how unfortunately coincidental that my post, which I intended to post lower, is located right under yours, which is of course far more eloquent and logical. UGH! 😉

  70. Not here – but anywhere else – I would debate the "private industry is obviously better than government in any area" until the proverbial cows arrive at their proverbial home. Having spent time in countries in which regulation is non-existent, I've seen first-hand what private industry will happily do to make a buck, at the expense of both the environment and its human capital. Sometimes, sure, privatization is the answer. Sometimes gov. is the answer. Usually, a balance of the two serves the most interests the best. We need to re-find that balance.

    Shutting political mouth now . . .

  71. Why not suppose that she's referring to us all, as we all can be at times? The perfect Christian is but Christ Himself. I'll be the first to admit that I've often been unskillful. (For example, I approached you initially as one with a more developed—that is to say, more firmly entrenched—view of the world than I now presume.)

    Perhaps you don't consider how some of the things you said initially might have hurt a lot of people's feelings whom you yourself didn't apologized to.

    I don't think Mindy should apologize. To be quite honest what she said was revealing of truth, and sometimes the truth hurts—and sometimes there are variously compassionate and cruel ways to express it—but for the truth itself, I don't believe we should apologize; that would serve only to undermine Truth, which is to undermine God.

    We think it a positive thing that Martin Luther had the nerve to speak truth to the Church, though some of what he had to say was bound to offend, and the offense was grave enough to result in big time condemnation. And look at the perfect Christian, Christ: He had some quite harsh things to say for those who expounded of the Scriptures not in accordance with the Spirit of God, but relying too heavily on their various traditions in understanding it and their own assumptions about the circumstances in which to apply it; towards the agents of oppression against those who do truly love the Lord—the God who is Love Himself—He could become downright mad (I'm thinking of money changers in the temple).

    As for whether she was helpful, at least she tried. She tried to make a point; that's all God could ask of us—we cannot know if in a given case it will succeed at all or not, or perhaps it succeeded in being helpful to others than whom she ever thought it might.

  72. Mel, I don't apologize for saying that your misguided belief that homosexuality is "sinful" is actually bigotry hiding behind Bible verses. I wish your feelings weren't hurt, but my hope is that instead of letting yourself feel hurt, you might eventually reexamine your belief on this matter – that when a rather large number of posters here, including one who is living exactly what I am talking about reflect what I am saying, you might eventually hear the message. If you choose not to, that is your decision and thus your problem, not mine. My intent is not to hurt feelings but to educate. No one likes to be told that they are wrong, let alone that something they believe and preach is hurting others. But truth is truth, and I can't apologize for speaking it.

    That being said, I do not believe you are a "crappy Christian." I didn't respond only because I thought you said you were asking the question of John, not me. I believe you are a naive Christian, but one who is searching and reaching out in this place filled with ideas that challenge your own. That's a good thing, if you are coming here to learn as well as share.

  73. *Skims, skims*

    Um… all I have to add are these words:

    "Don't worry about it. EVERYONE'S a jerk. You, me…that jerk over there…" _ Bender, Futurama.

  74. Mel: Just above you wrote, “I also hope that you are not referring to me personally in calling people by that name. I believe the Bible, that does not make me contemptible (which by the way, is a word that you could substitute).” I don’t know if this is directed at me, but just in case:

    1. In my use of the word “asshole,” I wasn’t even almost a little vaguely off in a corner of my mind thinking about you. At all. Not. No. None.

    2. I actually consider “contemptible” a much harsher word than “asshole”— and so, for me, for this piece, it wouldn’t work as a substitute. But thanks for suggesting it!

  75. 15% of everyone may be assholes, John (although I think the percentage is higher), but chemists and Elk Lodgers aren’t actively trying to belittle and destroy others who aren’t in their group. “How dare these marine biologists try to build a whale sanctuary so close to Ground Zero!” “Daniel Cho kicked out of Air Force for being a Toastmaster.” (Of course, as all Elks know from the way they interpret the Elk handbook, being a Toastmaster is a choice.)

    The thing is, religion (and certainly not just Christianity) allows a lot of people to justify their asshole behavior. (Come to think of it, that probably extends to political parties too.) And unfortunately, the media loves to shine a spotlight on the assholes, because the public will pay money to watch it.

    Dan Savage (the sex columnist–and the person who probably is most responsible for getting Rick Santorum out of the Senate) hates Christians because (he says) all he ever hears and sees and reads are the asinine comments from asshole Christians who are trying to take his son away from him and his partner. (Plus, he’s hot for John.) He challenges the positive Christians out there to make more noise; to show him that the assholes are only 15% of Christians, and not the 100% that the media is showing that it is.

  76. OK, I get your point. It seems you agree with John on most of his points, post, and beliefs. We are responsible for our actions. We need to live life, love one another, and stop trying to tell others how to do the same. Live by example. If they don’t get it, let it go. I live, love, and care. I pray for them. I don’t tell them how to live their life. I don’t criticize their choices. I can only pray that what I do makes a difference compared to the judgment they get from traditional Christians. I’ll let someone else “judge” I

  77. Well, for the last five years I’ve made bringing what I think of a sane Christianity to the marketplace of ideas. It’s virtually not possible for me personally to make more of the “noise” Mr. Savage has in mind. I publish much of what I write on CROSSWALK, for You Know Who’s sake: and Crosswalk is owned by Salem Communication, which is practically ground zero for much of the anti-gay initiatives across the country. That’s the audience I talk to—and they’re open to a good deal of what I say. This stuff isn’t black and white. You just have to keep working at it.

  78. Hmm. Perhaps I’m just a pessimist, John, but I feel like we’re in the minority. I think the non-asshole Christians are the exception, not the rule. Not every group has the same percentage of assholes, and modern Christianity, with its apparent guarantee of absolute certainty and moral superiority tends to either attract or create a lot of assholes.

    I’m not saying that Jesus has anything to do with that. I think Jesus would hate it. But, for example, it has been so difficult for me to find a Christian Student group on my campus that will let me be an equal member even though I’m openly gay. There are lots of Christian groups, just not a lot that will let me in. Finding a church here has been the same way.

    Even as a Christian myself, I don’t really buy the frequent claims that only the extreme fringe of Christians are “like that”. Maybe I’m personally biases because I’ve been deeply hurt by other Christians many, many different times.

    So, I agree with your basic point, that Christians who intentionally or unremorsefully hurt others are crappy Christians. But I also think they’re the majority of Christians.

  79. I actually agree with tildeb. Christianity in our American culture has been the last to get on board with major civil rights legislation, from Brown vs. the Board of Education to Blacks and Whites hanging out in Church together, to women having the right to a no-fault divorce and now, to those who are gay having legal rights within marriage. These are all issues that have to do with justice and while there were many isolated Christians in there leading the charge, it took MLK having the right political structure behind him to get what he got done, done. And some of his biggest enemies were Christians.

    I don’t have to agree with the inevitable conclusions that tildeb, William or other Atheists are going to lay out there. But there is merit and historical accuracy to what they offer – they aren’t the enemies of Christ of Christians as they offer it, nor do I believe they are trying to destroy our right to experience the salvation of Christ. They just simply want us to get the F*** off their lawn and stop believing that all Christians are doing great, all the systems built by Christians are just fantastic and if anyone says anything about it to the contrary, they are assholes and terrible people. . And I agree with them.

  80. Oh I totally understand that you weren't doing a blanket labeling thing Mindy. I was just pointing out that it is common for people to do so. I think we all do it to a point as a way of figuring out who's who out there. But it is when we fail to recognize that labeling is not an exact description of individuals, or a clear picture of everyone we have placed in a certain group.

    I also agree that we should struggle against the stupid and the crappy that is out there in Christendom. The question is how, without becoming stupid and crappy ourselves.

  81. Beth, I was referring to the assumption that morality comes from god. I think morality comes from our biology and is a common basis. And I think we really can (and in fact do) agree on fundamental principles that allow for great differences in expression without having any need for some supernatural element to justify and often warp it. In this sense, I think we need to recognize that religious belief itself and not just its adherents shorts out this process of understanding and respecting our common morality. We need look no further than those who believe morality comes from god to recognize the point.

  82. If only this personalized and privatized belief in a benevolent higher power were an accurate description of religion, DR, think of the psychological benefits that could be accrued! I think belief in this sense is the internalized creation of a personal myth that is highly meaningful and useful. It doesn't matter if the myth is 'true' or 'not true' or anyone's business, quite frankly. It provides a real and ongoing support and I have no criticism such a belief, nor think any less of those who find so much benefit from its liberal use in private matters. (There is much addiction in my family. My godfather, for example, received his 60 year chit (!!)and was a brilliant example of how living by the principles of AA can turn your life into a long and happy one.) If this were religion, I would not be arguing as I do, and I think it would play a very beneficial role in responsible citizenship.

  83. I understand your reference. My point is your objective is futile as is your method of argument (although some of your intellectual masturbation is stimulating to observe)

    DR already said this well:

    "Religion is more than an idea to people who are religious, it forms the actual ideas that represent what they put their literal weight down upon. The ideas that flow from religious experience embody what one values above all things, it’s the fuel to the value engine. So like any framework of idea, it actually can validate good or bad when someone has given it the last word to do so."

    And what you are saying (correct me if I'm wrong- I amlost didn't write that since I know you will) is that, yes, that's the problem.

    Listen, I'll be the first to agree that some Christian people (I don't claim to be able to comment on other religions, since Christianity makes up the weightiest and most intimate religious exposure in my life) turn their brains off. Some Christian denominations encourage this more than others.

    For years, I've been challenging Christian people, and atheist and agnostics (in high school and college educational settings to turn it back on, or learn to use it) so I am 100% with you on that.

    Along with this, my encouragement is also to those hard-line Reason-worshipping types to consider an approach to people who are not like-minded, or who have huge differences or whose faith experience informs (seemingly illogically) their every breath.

    The vehement stance that religion is the problem, while an interesting (proof here) topic for debate, is, in itself, polarizing.

    I rejoice with you in the joys of reason and human intellect. I think it was Mindy who pointed out here one of your logical fallacies. You have people here willing to join your game on your terms. But you might get further– overall– in your argument if you endeavored to understand people.

    I know, I know. Probably also futile communication…

  84. And therein, Sylvie, lies the challenge! How to do it – with enough force and impact to take the wind out the stupids' sails and not wind up on the same boat ourselves . . . Hmmmm. Still working on that one – – – –

    And I wish more people would understand, as you do, that the concept of labeling and sorting, which is stereotyping, of course, IS something we all do. It is one of the primary ways we humans make sense of our world, by seeking patterns. Anyone who says they don't is lying, plain and simple.

    It is what we DO with that information that makes the difference. I'll use myself as an example. I live in a very diverse urban area. When I walk my dog with my daughters, and see a group of African American teen males walking toward us, dressed in sagging pants, etc. my senses are heightened. The truth is that in my area, the largest percentage of those arrested for violent crime fit that profile. Here on the sidewalk, in broad daylight, with my little pug and my girls in tow, I have choices to make. I can assume that this particular group is, in fact, part of that percentage, and respond with fear by giving them a wide berth – crossing to the other side, averting my eyes, quickening my step, grabbing for my youngest's hand, tensing up in every way. They will surely feel this from me, both my girls and those young men, as I carefully avoid eye contact. They will know I am afraid, and I will reinforce for them the stereotype of a middle-aged white woman living in fear of black people.

    Or, I can respond as a fellow human being. I can make eye contact, smile, say "Hey, how's it goin'?" I can notice their reaction to the dog and respond accordingly – "Don't worry, she's a sweetie," or "I know, I know, she's funny-looking…" with a chuckle. We can pass them within arm's length, and let them know that I honor both of our places in the neighborhood. And reinforce their stereotype of the dorky white woman with weird taste in pets. 🙂

    It may not seem like a big deal. It may even seem prudent to cross to the other side of the street; I could even do so under the guise of "our dog is a bit skittish." But they would know better. A lifetime of being treated with suspicion will leave a person with fairly keen sense of it.

    So maybe I did my tiny part in lessening tension, which most definitely continues to exist. And even if I didn't, even if the boys didn't notice at all – I modeled, for my daughters, how to be in the present, in the community, and treat everyone who lives in it with us with respect.

  85. First, congratulations to your grandfather. That's a huge deal. I have addicts in my family and the upside of addiction is the recovery process can create strong, lovely people.

    This comment represents – at least to me – why a lot of atheists and christians want the same things. I wish I could make every Christian read this comment. The *system* of religion has historically been sexist, oppressive and evil. There is absolutely no getting around that and it either hides bad people, it creates bad people or causes really nice people who want the above private experience to remain silent. Which makes them bad.

    There are going to be a million exceptions to this, a million nuances and they all get to be true. But this *is* true, history proves it. It's just too bad Christians don't say it first so you don't have to.

  86. Well put, Beth. I agree completely.

    Although your first paragraph conjured a disturbing image…. 😀

  87. @ Mel:

    "It seems like you’re the type of person that can have a conversation about something personal, without letting it get personal."

    Mel, being gay is about who we love, who we long for, who we want to share our lives with. While I am not gay, it is deeply personal. Imagine someone asking you "Hey do you mind if we talk about your first love and the first time you made out with him without getting personal? So you won't get offended when I challenge you taking your shirt off before you were in a serious relationship and that God condemns that?"

    This is personal. Christians can't boil down anything to do with someone's life to just "ideas we debate" without things getting personal very quickly. Be very careful in these conversations, you'll be disrespectful without meaning to be (I learned that from a lot of experience, consider me your cautionary tale).

  88. @Matthew and @Mindy

    What have I said that hurt somebody's feelings? Matthew said that I have hurt a lot of people's feelings, and didn't apologize, and Mindy said that what I believe is hurting others. Seriously, do you have an example of when I hurt somebody's feelings? I know I have said things on here that may have hurt somebody's feelings, but it was mostly because of me wording something wrong. Once I realized that what I said was hurtful, I apologized and re-worded. So, more specifically, can you find an example of when I hurt somebody's feelings, and *didn't* apologize for it?


    Yes, it is undermining God to apologize for calling somebody a name. *sarcasm*


    Yes, I agree that sometimes when our feelings get hurt, it is simply a result of hearing the truth. When people call me out on things that I have done wrong, sure my feelings are hurt, but it's productive because I know not to do it again. I'm not saying I'm perfect. I make mistakes. You can prove a point without hurting somebody's feelings. You can prove a point without calling people names. The moment you do, the other person simply doesn't care what you think anymore because you have proven yourself to be immature and thoughtless. In other words, if you want to get a point across, do so kindly so that the other person will actually *listen* to you, and *care* what you have to say.

  89. For what it's worth, I've never felt insulted by anything you've written, and there are things we disagree on.

  90. Thank you for you kindness of thought about me and your faith that I can continue to grow, Beth. It warms my heart. As for your critique of my methods, you are not alone if that's any consolation.

    That religion is problematic is hardly vehement. I think I have offered ample evidence that religion itself is so. John's point was that the 'bad' stuff only comes from assholes and not religion itself. I continue to disagree I don't see anything in your response that supports John's point while refuting mine. The fact of the matter is that various scriptures really do offer a lot of theological support for asshole-ishness.

    My failure to understand people aside, I still fail to understand why you think that your assertions about me worshiping at the alters of science and reason and so forth add anything to my point about religion being problematic.

  91. I have given it "in-depth thought". I wouldn't have such a strong opinion on it if I hadn't. I didn't say that it doesn't matter what I believe as long as I'm nice to people. I'm saying that what I believe isn't a bad thing. So yes, some people believe the same thing I do, but then take it steps further, and use it to justify awful things. However, what I believe, in itself is not bad. It is not discriminatory, it is not bigotry. And you can't use Kara as an example of someone who's feelings I've hurt. She specifically said that nothing I have said here hurt her feelings at all. So, again, I ask you who's feelings I have hurt with what I believe?

  92. @Kara and @Beth:

    I see where you guys are coming from and understand. Part of my perspective has come from dropping out of the Church and looking for spirituality and God elsewhere. And, perhaps, that really supports your point, not mine.

    But the best people – the people about whom I tear-up because they were so wonderful and have been such huge influences in my life – were involved in the church or in the faith and philosophy business in some way. Maybe my view is a little rosier than it should be because of that. I remember them, not the insignificant jerks

    Life's too short to suffer assholes for long.

  93. @DR

    First of all, you took my quote out of context. I didn't say talk about something personal without letting it get personal. I said talk about something personal without letting it get person, *in the sense that you're feelings get hurt*. That last part is important. I realize that it's personal, and that's why I addressed it as such. However, we can talk about it without feelings getting hurt, and I think we are proving that. That being said, thanks for "warning" me. I'm aware that what I say can unintentionally hurt somebody's feelings. I am being very careful with the way I word things, and I hope that the conversation that Kara and I are having will remain informative, and friendly.

  94. I mentioned the feeling of quenching the soul because I have found a very common description by addicts of trying to fill some hole in the soul by pouring and inhaling and injecting and eating whatever they can into it. Again, addicts will know exactly what I mean. The feeling of having such a hole is true, I argue, so it's unimportant if the soul is actual or if any hole in it can be determined (as far as the absence of anything can be determined, that is). Conversely, when we do find ways of being totally present that satisfy this feeling, we are truly alive. (Anyone else seen combat? You, too, will know exactly what I mean. You are THERE, totally present and accounted for.)

    But we don't need to attribute this feeling to some supernatural source and support a conflicting theology in our attempts to justify the feeling. I think the world would be a much better place if we concentrated more on what it takes to peacefully get there from the inside, so to speak, than from trying to convince others it exists somewhere on the outside… accessible through accepting some problematic and dogmatic religious belief set. And for those who have enjoyed achieving meditative bliss, you also will know what I mean. We can achieve satisfying this feeling of completeness and wholeness of mind and body and being fully present regularly in this life in many, many ways without thinking it will be ours sometime only in the next.

  95. Mel: You're not being intellectually honest. If you agree with other Nazis that Nazism is the right way, then you're a Nazi. If you agree with racists that black people are stupider than whites, then you are a racist. You didn't have to physically kill Jews to be a Nazi; you don't have to burn crosses to be a racist. If in your heart you support a philosophy that in its practical application must hurt classes of other people, then in every last way you do belong to a group that does damage to people who never did you any harm at all. The old lady who hands out muffins to the passing Nazi soldiers is just as guilty for what those Nazis do as they are. You can't keep your cake, and eat it too. If you think unrepentant gays are going to hell, be clear about that. Boldly proclaim that you condemn them; say you think they deserve their horrible eternal fate. Demureness and innocence have no place in this conversation.

  96. Not trying to be a smart-ass, tildeb, but when you suggest that morality comes from a common basis of biology, I have to completely agree.

    You're probably gonna hate my reasoning, though. Romans 2:14-15 says, "For when Gentiles who do not have the Law do instinctively the things of the Law, these, not having the Law, are a law to themselves, in that they show the work of the Law written in their hearts, their conscience bearing witness, and their thoughts alternately accusing or else defending them." If the word "instinctively" is interpreted as being naturally aware, or having an unalterable organic aspect operating below the conscious level, I'd have to conclude that a common code of right and wrong resides biologically within everyone. Regardless of where that moral encoding originates is up to the individual to hash out. You have your theory, I'm sure. Of course I believe God made man in God's image. Hence, we have been divinely encoded. But that's just my take.

  97. Tim, I think we're actually pretty close to each other except for some terminology: the 'law' you attribute to a 'creator' looks identical in practice to the moral expressions of our common biology that has evolved! Mind you, I don't pretend that evolution comes with agency and so I don't attribute anything more to it. But I've noticed that a fair number of people try to define what that law is and then try to use it as a standard. And it is here where so much (in my mind) unnecessary conflict arises.

  98. You may well have a legitimate point that what you believe is not bad in itself, Mel, but that it isn’t discriminatory runs contrary to what it means to discriminate.

    Discrimination, basically, is making a distinction; referring to persons, it typically means distinction in some factor of some dimension of their human worth, based on some generic trait (read "label").

    Moral character is indeed one of the dimensions of value in the human person; one's morality is one of the ways in which we evaluate his or her esteem. Sin is a moral failing, a flaw in this dimension of personality; so if one's sexuality is seen to be sinful, that implies a discrimination of negative consequence for one's human dignity.

    However, discrimination is not always bad, just as feeling hurt is not always bad: There are reasons for discernment and for pain, that we might learn and in the end prevail. There is indeed a time and place for judgment, which you surely do in declaring what is sinful as Mindy does in declaring what is bigoted and as I do in just about my every thought.

    It is not so much what we believe that can hurt people as how it is expressed—as John just pointed out (in more eloquent wording), it’s about how a belief would be intrinsically manifested in the world (though I think he practically concedes to Tildeb’s points against Christianity in the way that he looks at it: I find that advocating the Bible as a source of truth in light with the clear tendency it has to promote the conclusion that homosexuality is detestable is too close to giving muffins to hungry conscript boys). As I believe Tildeb rightly points out, advancing a certain belief does promote any negative tendencies there are for its expression, no matter how you yourself express it (though I disagree with him about the applicability of this to belief systems which may, but not necessarily must, include the belief in question—my response, which I think more practical in this case, is simply to advocate for the eradication of said belief within such systems).

    Yet that's not to say that hurt feelings are always uncalled for. As I said previously, if what you claimed happened to be true, then it wouldn’t matter even if you ticked off the pope (as Luther did) or painted Pharisees with the broad brush of hypocrisy, suggesting they'd burn in Hell (as Jesus did). It’s just, you’d better make sure your beliefs have a solid basis in Wisdom first.

  99. It's actually 'god'father. My parents thought so highly of him that they asked him to be one for me. (Or perhaps they had already given up on me!) No doubt how I turned out was a great disappointment to him and the efficacy of his religious instruction but perhaps it was either accept that failure or a return to the bottle. I think he made the right choice.

    I also wanted to comment that I DO think most people want the same things: the disagreement is almost always how to get from here to there. And it starts, I think, by grounding ourselves in lasting principles that are fair to all: I tend to favour human rights, constitutional freedoms and equal political rights, and respect for the dignity of personhood. I think none of these can be improved by religious beliefs extended into the public domain that are contrary to their intent, but these same principles can be – and unfortunately are on a daily basis – harmed and undermined by well-intentioned religious beliefs.

  100. The Not a True Scotsman fallacy is heavily used by religious apologists:

    Nothing is wrong with religion… except that bit exercised over there… and that's not a good reflection of MY religious beliefs so it doesn't count. Nor does that one, or that one, or that one, or that one…. and so on. Using this reasoning, MY religion remains impervious to legitimate criticism about all these OTHER expressions of religion.


    And that's MY point here.

  101. Fair enough…but then, where does reason come from? We recognize it…how? Yes, no doubt, our busy little brain cells conjure up the electrochemical activity to give it life, but…ultimately, where could it come from?

    I read a quote the other day from a New York rabbi, I believe (and I'm paraphrasing): science explains the universe…religion interprets it.

  102. You know, the idea of crappy Christians behaving badly has been the focus of much of my thoughts lately. I seem to be surrounded by hateful, angry people who claim their anger is the justified response to the sins of the world (ie: homosexuality, illegal aliens, being Democrat, being liberal, etc.) So, I think to myself, I don’t want to belong to this club. These people are mean and hateful and go against everything I was ever taught about being Christian. These folks make life impossible by almost screaming their belief that “Thou shalt not do ANYTHING EVER.” And to compound this growing sense of unease, I visited the church of one of my naysaying, nagging neighbors because it was noted that I did not go to church as often as I should, and I especially did not go to the “right” church. My heart was torn in two when I listened to the sermon. It was how the golden rule really didn’t mean love ALL your neighbors. AHHHH, Run AWAY!

    I think I went through the grieving process because at first I was in denial, then I was depressed, and then I was angry. Then I realized I already belong to this club and there is nothing I can do about it because way back when I went through the transformation that some call being born again, I took into my heart the words of Jesus and the grace of God. I may not agree with what some of my fellow Christians do or say but that does not change my personal walk with God.

    We do not know what each individual’s personal relationship with God is. A person may truly believe that being so anti-everything is truly what God wants. Some may listen to leaders who, for whatever reason, tell them this is how it ought to be. I will give you the example of my husband, whom I love dearly. He’s has never, once, read the Bible for himself, so all he has to go on is what his church leaders and parents have told him. He, with all his heart wants to be a good person and a good son. Since his parents are the neighboring naysayers and his church is the one that preaches that not all neighbors are worthy of love, it stands to reason that to him, being a good Christian means believing that he should be angry and hateful towards those who are different than he is. The love that Jesus taught is downright SCARY to him. What I have learned is, when I try to live what I believe, my doubting and fearful husband is open to new and wonderful ideas.

  103. @Mel:

    "I said talk about something personal without letting it get person, *in the sense that you’re feelings get hurt*. "

    Mel, I'm hard-pressed to come up with a scenario where talking about the people in my life that I love and want to commit to personally and have sex with isn't going to involve my feelings. Seriously. That doesn't even make sense to me, but clearly the last word is up to Kara who gave it a shot.

  104. A-b, my answer is that reason comes from the brain. In part, it is what the brain does. It is not specific just to our species.

    How do we know this? Not by faith but by very specific study by lesions. Impair very specific parts of the brain, impair very specific cognitive function. It's causal.

    Now look at the notion that reason comes from somewhere else. How do we know this? …?

    As for religion 'interpreting' the universe, I know it sounds nice and reasonable but is it? Consider the following: why are these religious interpretations the right ones, while interpretations held by people of other faiths are… not so right? In other words, religion is not merely one set of ideas but rather one kind of epistemology that leads to a host of equally unverifiable assertions and assumptions. If we care about what is true when it comes to an assertion like 'reason comes from god' (and I know you didn't write that), then how can we know whether or not this claim is true? If you plan on using reason based anything more than assertion and assumption, then you must use exactly the same epistemology used to 'interpret' the universe as you do to 'explain' the universe. And in this matter religion is no more able to 'interpret' the universe than can science.

  105. "This stuff isn’t black and white. You just have to keep working at it."

    Yes indeed! Thanks for fighting the good fight.

  106. Thanks to all of you who have answered here, as I was offline for awhile.

    I never said that you hurt anyone's feelings, Mel. I said that your beliefs hurt people. And now several others have joined me in explaining how. It doesn't matter if you are "nice" to them. You participate in discrimination by holding the beliefs you hold and acting accordingly. If you believe it, you must live it – which means you would vote down their rights, yes? If you're going to own it, own it all the way – or let it go.

    Here's a critical point that I want to make to you, Mel.

    My daughter and I had a conversation along these lines as she was trying to understand it all. I think an awfully lot of people who subscribe to the "the-Bible-says-it's-bad-so-it-is" view of homosexuality don't really get what it is all about. They assume – as I did, long ago when I knew little about it – that it is, essentially, people (just like "us" us heteros) who engage in sexual activity with members of the same sex. Because . . . they are promiscuous, mentally ill . . . . whatever state you might want to blame the sin upon. They also believe that gay people are more likely to be sexual predators – like the infamous Catholic priests, etc. Which has nothing to do with orientation and everything to do with other problems, but that's another discussion. Predators exist in all segments of the population.

    And because those who disapprove are heterosexual (well, some of them are, anyway), there is a certain "ick" factor to the idea of gettin' busy with someone to whom you are not, by virtue of who you are, attracted. Some women are intrigued by the idea of being with another woman but would never act on it and are more comfortable with men, and some women are completely repulsed by the thought of being with another woman. That is the normal range of heterosexual feelings.

    And it's no different than how a lesbian feels about being with a man. Her feelings would range from not interested to flat-out revulsion. All the things that girls experience growing up – first crushes, the spark of first feelings, falling in love, getting your heart broken by rejection – those happen with other girls, other young women. It's not simply about sex. It's about the entire range of attraction. My daughter's buddy who is gay has never been with another boy, even to kiss. But he knows without question, at 15, that he is gay. He just IS.

    And he just left a Catholic all-boys high school because he didn't fit in; they made sure he did not feel welcome. He wasn't man enough for those boys. Fortunately, he's found a place to fit in – and his mom told me yesterday that she is simply over the moon with happiness for her son, that he's found a place where he can be himself. She accepts him for exactly who he is, and loves that he's found a school community that will do the same. He's no sinner. He's a great kid. But should he have spend the rest of his life without a partner, without a hand to hold or a shoulder to cry on, simply because his partner wouldn't fit some religious definition of who a partner should be?

    According to your beliefs, yes, he should.

  107. You're right, part of the issue is very much epistemological. I think you'll find that you and I actually agree on quite a bit. ALL I'm trying to point out is that reason alone still cannot explain: Why?

    I'm just that annoying 3-6 year old, who keeps asking "why" when you tell them something. Ultimately, there is an ultimate.

    I can't argue that if we use reason we must carve away anything that smacks of (or is) superstition. Why is that the only criterion for ascertaining reality?

    For me, I'm willing to make that leap of faith, and I find that such faith is often eminently reasonable. But as pointed out above, you are making straw man arguments. Religion is not exclusively a superstitious set of beliefs and homicidal practices. It has given us (again, eminently reasonably so) bedrock principles to live our lives on (not all the principles, but the core beliefs certainly so). The existential crisis is solved; the why is at least partly answered.

    At that line where reason and empiricism ends, and the supernatural (if it exists) begins, a different world opens up. Reason can inform us, but it cannot reveal to us what (might) lie beyond.

    I love being able to wield my own reasoning abilities in understanding much around me and in me. But…my heart yearns for more.

    It's interesting that you spoke so warmly about your godfather's experience in AA and by extension your own reaction to it. Everything you've said is what someone who finds comfort and meaning in a religion is capable of and does feel. Certainly by some definitions AA is a religion, albeit a pared-down one compared to other disciplines.

    Your heart has betrayed you, my friend. 😉

  108. Karen, you go, girl! Be the rock of sanity. Your husband is lucky to have you, and deserves credit himself for being open to new anything after a lifetime of that!

  109. Change happens slowly and sometimes not at all. For a lot of people, religion is a comfort zone, so they dare not question it–any aspect of it–for fear that the whole thing will fall apart in their hands. So yes, people will use their religion to justify their bad behavior rather than questioning whether their religion truly demands that bad behavior–and if it does, whether that might be evidence that their religion is wrong (on that point, if not on others.)

    "But, for example, it has been so difficult for me to find a Christian Student group on my campus that will let me be an equal member even though I’m openly gay. There are lots of Christian groups, just not a lot that will let me in. Finding a church here has been the same way."

    I wish I could say that I'm surprised by this, but I'm not. Unfortunately, there is still a lot of prejudice against gay people in the church–prejudice that people justify through various bible verses. It relates back to what I said in the first paragraph of this comment. I don't know what part of the country you live in, but I do know that there are organizations within the church that are seeking to change the anti-gay character of Christianity. Depending on where you are, you may choose to be the one to start such an organization at your school (which is quite a demand, I know) or you may be able to find an organization that is already active near to where you are located. The one with which I am most familiar is the Reconciling Ministries Network ( because I am a United Methodist, but there are others through the Episcopalian Church and other Christian Denominations which I can't name off the bat, but I know they exist. Anyway, there is a fight going on within the church at large to change the anti-gay prejudice, even if the movement is still small.

    I'm particularly fond of the resource "Claiming the Promise: An Ecumenical Welcoming Bible Study on Homosexuality" edited by Mary Jo Osterman, because it directly challenges some of the "clobber verses" that Christians use to justify anti-gay prejudice. You may have already read this or something similar.

    Anyway, I understand your feeling that there are a greater than average number of assholes in the Christian church–or maybe just not enough people challenging the assholes. I'm not sure which.

  110. It really wasn't until the 1960s that the antisemitism aspect of rc christianity was addressed. I used the quote in regards to indoctrinating defenseless children and calling non-religious schools the gates of hell and calling such non religious institutions corrupt in contrast to this notion of supporting what's true.

    Or, then again, maybe he was just a really crappy christian.

  111. @John

    First of all, do NOT compare me to Nazis…ever. It is not even close to the same thing. Also, the reason that I have not been clear in saying that I think all homosexuals are going to Hell, is because I NEVER said that. At all. I don't think that all homosexuals are going to Hell. And to be perfectly honest, I don't know who's going to Hell, and I never claimed to. Only God knows people's hearts. He's the judge, not me.

    @Matthew Tweedell

    "advancing a certain belief does promote any negative tendencies there are for its expression, no matter how you yourself express it."—Not true. I disagree with homosexuality, but I do NOT promote the way that some people treat homosexuals. You CAN disagree with something without automatically saying that everybody else who is on the same page as you can do no wrong.


    Pretty much everybody keeps saying that I hurt people's feelings by what I believe. And yet, none of you can provide an *actual* example. As far as I'm concerned, the only person who's feelings I might have hurt is Kara. And not only did I already apologize for possibly hurting her feelings, but she said that I *didn't*. So, don't speak for her and say that I *must* have hurt her feelings because she is gay.

  112. "As for your assertion that my heart betrays me, I urge you to read it again. I’m not denying that powerful and important benefits can be accrued from holding a private religious belief in the form of myth; I’m advocating that the myth not be extended into the world as if it must necessarily be real because it will cause problems."

    Can't be real….Uh-huh. Let's go with that. 😀

  113. Yes John, I have read that blog. I disagree with you. Posting a link to it every time I talk about this, isn't going to change that. Maybe try and come up with something else to say? Just a thought.

  114. @Tildeb

    When have I EVER called it that? Well? I've said here over half a dozen times, even specifically to you more than once, exactly what atheism is. But now I'll tell you exactly what YOU are, as that claim alone proves well enough: a man incapable of well reasoned thought.

    No, really, it is you who commit the "No true Scotsman" fallacy! You truly are one with silly understanding. You make the claim that religious beliefs are inherently problematic. Others claim exception to the rule. But rather than dispute the counterexample or reject your initial claim, you further qualify its subject, saying, in effect, that those cases don't count and, in essence, that the true nature of a religion is such as to satisfy your assertion.

  115. Yes, Diana! That's what I hope to see – the challenging of the asses!! 🙂

    I read the comment from Karen in which she talks about going to church and hearing the pastor saying that no, we really aren't supposed to love ALL our neighbors . . . and I wonder how many people sitting in the sanctuary in rapt attention listening to the leader of their flock invoke less-than-Christian behavior in the name of Christ wondered, like Karen, what the H. he was talking about?

    And why is he allowed to do that? Did anyone question him afterward? Did anyone write to him and eloquently explain, as John does here and so many of the Christians here do, how that mentality is wrong-headed and damaging to our culture as well as their religion?

    Did members of the congregation discuss it later and agree that a group of them should talk to him, that they don't feel comfortable hearing hatespeak on Sunday morning? That they don't want their children to hear hatespeak from the pastor they are expected to respect?

    Did anyone stand up and say that if this sort of thing continues, I will leave this church and find another? And if they did, would anyone care?

    These are obviously rhetorical, but I wonder. Or did everyone there nod quietly in unison and file his words away as justification for voting against gay marriage rights or protesting the rights of a Muslim congregation to build a new house of worship – – or whatever the hate-de-jour was that week?

  116. I'm saying that I'm against gay marriages, but I am also against homosexuals being treated the way they so often are. Mindy's example of a boy not fitting in and having to transfer schools because he's gay…wrong. People yelling at homosexuals, telling them that they are going to Hell, the example Kara gave of her youth pastor saying the same thing…wrong. Calling people awful names like "dyke" or "queer"…wrong. I'm saying that you shouldn't treat homosexuals like crap. You shouldn't treat them like they are worse than you. I don't have to pick a lane, I already have. I'm not trying to stay on both sides of the argument. I believe homosexuality is wrong. But I don't believe that justifies the way that some people treat homosexuals.

  117. @John – yes, you did.

    Mel, you are either not reading this clearly, or you are choosing a good pout over reading comprehension.

    No one said that you HURT ANYONE'S FEELINGS. No one said that!!!! Every one of us who has tried to explain this to you has stated that : by perpetuating a doctrine that states homosexuality is sinful, you are passively participating in the blatant discrimination they suffer – and the discrimination is what's hurtful. You participated in it by saying, in a public forum, that homosexuality is sinful.

    You passed along a damaging, hurtful message. Maybe Kara's feelings aren't hurt because Kara has grown a thick skin after years of dealing with that kind of treatment – but she'd damn well have every right to be hurt.

    Geez, Mel, I'm hurt on her behalf! And on behalf of my daughter's friend, and my own friends who can't marry in my state, even though they've been together for half a lifetime and are raising amazing kids. I'm hurt that you and those who believe like you have the power to vote away the rights they should absolutely have. I'm hurt that basic human rights have been politicized via religion – which happens because of congregations of people who believe as you do, convince each other they are right and pass discriminatory laws because of it.

    But because you'd never say a mean thing to a gay person, you think you're off the hook.

    Everything John said to you was spot-on, and if it made you uncomfortable or angry to have your situation compared to supporters of Nazism or racism, perhaps that discomfort will ultimately help you understand the reality before you.

  118. Susan, have you ever heard of Dr Jill Bolte Taylor? She’s a neuroanatomist who had a stroke and wrote about it in My Stroke of Insight. I mention it because it brilliantly brings into focus how our brains perceive based on how we have trained it to function. When a brain bleed stopped certain parts of her brain from functioning, she began to experience her self and surroundings quite a bit differently yet very much like what we would call a religious conversion experience – a transformative and transcendental way to perceive the world in which we are an integral part.

    I’m going to write the rest of my point as if you knew very little about brain anatomy and function in case other people read this who do not. If it is familiar, I apologize. Bear with me.

    I’m not suggesting that religious belief based on a transformative and transcendental experience is caused by brain damage (!) but by altered brain function and that this is not in and of itself a bad thing at all. fMRIs of meditating Buddhist monks also show the same evidence of altered brain function – a reduced blood flow to certain parts of the brain. Specific magnetic interference directed to parts also reproduces the religious transcendental experience.

    To complicate matters more, our brains come in two significant parts. As strange as this may sound, most of us consciously ‘live’ in only one part and are unaware of how much competition and co-operation is going on in our heads between all these various parts. There is an excellent biological reason, for example, why we talk to ourselves and ask ourselves questions, why we hear a small voice (sometimes a large voice) and feel like we are occasionally not alone in our heads. Different parts of our brain have differing voices, differing preferences, differing interests. Another way to think of our brains is not as a cohesive whole or even a sum of its constituent parts… but as a flock made up of other flocks.

    I know. Pretty weird, I’ll grant you. But you’ve made it this far so you may as well continue reading.

    Having watched a flock of birds, we see discrete edges to it while it ebbs and flows and swoops and changes direction. We call it a singular noun because it behaves as a singular thing. Yet we are well aware it is made up of a large number of individual birds, each with its own preferences for behaviour. Yet flock they do, and one can be forgiven believing that a single mind must be a work.

    Our biology is like this, too. Our bodies are a flock of cells – trillions, in fact – divided into smaller specific flocks for specific functions. So, too, are our brains. But unlike, let’s say, specialized heart cells that either function or do not, our brains can grow itself and pare itself down. How cool is that? This what learning and sleeping are all about. But what is important to my point here is to realize that unresolved conflict between flocks can result in some form of chaos in function. This is really important to understand when we feel conflicted: there should be an affect on function, and unresolved ongoing conflict should reveal itself to us by impaired function.

    So how do we cope with conflict, meaning competing interests in our brains?

    In some cases, we intentionally impair this process of feeling unresolved conflict. We self-medicate with that which helps to numb our ability to feel conflict or stimulate us to feel euphoria more powerful than the the feelings of unresolved conflict. This is the world of addiction. If you’ve been there, I’m not telling you anything you don’t already know… in your bones.

    If we are going to remove a specific addiction, then we need to find either a substitute addiction less noxious to our health and/or address and find resolution to the original conflict. Without going into a great deal of detail, AA tends to do this fairly successfully: we find a group of chain-smoking, coffee-swilling, gum-gnawing fidgety people from all walks of life getting together and <accepting each other as equals, as united in sharing a common problem, giving each other permission to be acceptable with such a problem as long as the honest intention is to get better, and provide a personal contact who has ‘been there, done that, but still struggling’ as well as a group forum to give audience to the various personal conflicts and their roots. Giving over control is a key aspect to opening ourselves up to change, allowing the various flocks that had for so long been suppressed and ignored, to grant these competing interests a say. That we personify the agency to which we are giving over control (to ‘whatever’) is not the point; that we are willing to do so is key. And you’ve seen this in these meetings.

    I think we make a mistake to believe that whatever we have personified in our brains is real and external. That’s why I mentioned to DR in the previous comment this notion about creating and empowering a personalized myth. That it is a myth does not reduce or eliminate its effectiveness; it is the story (and we are very much narrative stories in actuality) that enables us to address our conflicts and find the means to find balance for ourselves, to live in our skins and be okay with that. When we trust ourselves enough to listen to and accept what we feel – and what we feel is always true – to pay close attention to internal conflicts when they are small and manageable and address these feelings as important, then we can find balance. We can learn to appropriately express our feelings and satisfy all the flocks that are busy doing what they do in our brains and celebrate the complete yet complicated people we truly are.

    Perhaps a couple of rather simple examples will suffice to express what I mean: to learn a martial art and be successful requires great discipline of body and mind. And the most difficult lesson to learn is to trust the body to do what it has been trained to do and to get the mind out of its way. This is the harmony of mind and body in action and it produces a feeling of spirit.

    To learn music and be successful at performing it requires great discipline of mind and body. And the most difficult lesson to learn is to trust the body to do what it has been trained to do and allow one’s self to infuse the music with appropriate personal feeling. This is the harmony of mind and body in action, and it produces a feeling of spirit.

    In both cases, what is called spirit is the greater sum produced by harmony than just the compilation of its constituent parts. It is the feeling of balance and being fully present – omni-aware, so to speak – by being both a participant as well as being an active observer. These actions in this state of mind is often described as the quenching of a thirsting soul. It is a feeling that reflects the whole brain being engaged and working together in harmony. No drug can compete and no god needs to be invited.

  119. @Mindy

    You say that discrimination hurts. You say that I am part of the discrimination. Therefore you DID say that I hurt people. You say that Kara has the right to be hurt. All I'm saying is that as far as I'm aware, I haven't said anything hurtful. So, *that's* why she isn't hurt. I never said I was "off the hook" because I wouldn't say something mean to a homosexual. I didn't realize that there was a hook to be let off of.

    You say that the discomfort of John's post would help me understand the reality before me? Seriously, if you think that what I say is in any way, even *comparable* to being a Nazi, then you clearly have no idea what the Nazis did. By saying that, you are disrespecting every Jew, every person that was in a concentration camp. Equating what they went through to my disagreeing with homosexuality is really, really sad.

  120. I base it on the fact that it is a sin. Everybody is born in sin, which means that we have a sinful nature. BUT every time we sin, it is a choice. God wouldn't judge somebody for something that wasn't a choice. If it wasn't a choice, then that means He put it there. He didn't put it there which is shown when God says that homosexuality is wrong, and therefore a sin. Lying is a sin, and when we do it, we are choosing to do so. God judges us for that choice. The same way He would judge for the choice people make to be homosexual.

  121. Mel, I honestly don’t know how else to explain it. I wrote this earlier:

    “…. by subscribing to the unfounded but religious belief that the core of a gay person’s being is sinful, they [you, in this case] are part of the perpetuation of the discrimination. ”

    I hope you are learning from Kara. She is one of the most eloquent writers on the subject I’ve ever read, truly. You willingly participate and perpetuate in a religious belief that she is, by the very nature of WHO she is, “less moral” (her words) than a person with the exact same beliefs, values, behaviors and knowledge who happens to be straight.

    I realize that this is a belief you’ve held for a long time, probably without giving it a lot of in depth thought. Now you are giving it thought, you are discussing it, listening and, hopefully, hearing what others with more knowledge of the subject have to say. I give you a lot of credit for that – many people wouldn’t still be paying attention.

    And I don’t believe that pointing out that particular belief as bigotry is name-calling, altho’ I realize you think it is. What else should I call it? Bigotry, I understands, connotates malicious intent, and you don’t feel as if you are being malicious, yes?

    Your thought seems to be that it shouldn’t matter what you believe as long as you are nice to people. I respectfully, but strongly, disagree. Being nice to people is all well and good, but it is merely superficial if your beliefs keep you anchored to a religious community that perpetuates a discriminatory myth.

  122. You don't think voting to deny them of basic human rights is being mean? That is worse than calling them a name or yelling at them or even than punching them in the face. You are a bigot and you are in denial about it. Just face up to it.

  123. Mel, if you read John's comment as comparing you to a Nazi, you need to read it again. He said the people who cared for the Nazi soldiers shared responsibility in the deaths of the Jews. He did not say that Mel is acting like a Nazi, nor did I.

    He said that if you support the churches that profess the messages on which discrimination is based, you share the blame for the discrimination. Period.

    You will deny that, of course. You will insist that I don't know what I'm talking about, that John is wrong, that tildeb, DR, Matthew, Susan, Kara and everyone else here who has patiently tried to help you understand that in this particular instance, your sin list is incorrect – well, we're all just misguided. Never mind that most of those people are Christians.

    You just KNOW. So the rest of us are wrong. I'll be shutting up now, as there really is nothing more to say to someone whose mind is closed up that tight.

  124. But before you go, Mindy–which, I think, will shut this whole dialogue down–I wanted to share this, from the wonderful writer Michael Rowe, who left it in a comment thread over on my Facebook profile page:

    Christians lose the right to say they "love" gays but "feel the need to follow God" the minute they denounce not only church marriages, but also non-religious civil marriages. My partner and I had our silver wedding anniversary this year. We were married at the Metropolitan Community Church before gay marriage was legal in Canada, and in the United Church once it was legal. In both cases, God was present, and both were solemn and dignified. Also, I've only been married to the same man, so if you really want to support "traditional Biblical marriage," then start campaigning against divorce, something that evangelical Christians have down to an art, much like teenage pregnancy.

    If you people seriously wish to deny and denigrate gay people, then be honest about it. Don't pretend you "love" them, and aren't "heartless" but are "just following God" when you enshrine the second-class status of their marriages and families for your own vanity and selfishness's sake.

  125. Mel, having read through your comments on this thread, the question of whether or not you're an asshole isn't even a question. You are one. And, as Mr. Ely says, you are a bigot and you are in denial about it. Just face up to it.

  126. John, I'm not going anywhere – except that I'm done responding to Mel. I've said all I can say, then said it again, then said it backward and sideways. I've hit the brick wall with my skull, and I'm sure at this point I'm boring everyone else silly. I do love Michael's comment – congrats to you, Michael, if you are reading this, on your anniversary!

  127. DR, they are all just ideas. My political views, your religion, all of it. They do not take on more significance just because some hold it higher in their own lives.

    Ideas are always open to criticism and they should be attacked constantly and defended by those so inclined. That is how outdated or useless ideas either evolve or die. No idea ever deserves automatic respect.

    My principles are practicle in nature. If there ever comes a time where they are causing me constant moral dilemmas (as some people’s religion seems to), then it will probably be time to rethink my approach. Over complicating every issue just because is not my style.

  128. Mindy, your comment is operating under false assumptions. Libertarianism does not mean that there should be no regulations at all, just that they serve a specific purpose and are reasonable. The idea is that safety does not come before freedom. It is a common misconception so I will cut you a little slack there.

  129. If I do not do it, if I do not support it, I am not playing a part in it. I don't care what you say…it's not as though I'm making the anti-gay signs, and just not doing the picketing. I'm sure there are plenty of things you disagree with, but at the same time don't condone the behavior of others who happen to agree with you.

    The comment that Michael left is judgmental. I do disagree with divorce, and sex before marriage (which sometimes obviously leads to teenage pregnancy). I am not trying to only take *part* of the Bible as truth. I believe the whole thing. Saying that Christians have divorce and teenage pregnancy down to an art is just ridiculous. Everybody makes mistakes, Christians are not immune to them. But guess what? It's not JUST Christians that get divorces, or become pregnant when they are teenagers, so to say that we have it any more "down to an art" than anybody else is just silly.

    Mindy, you say you are done responding to me. I'm pretty sure that I've stated again and again that we aren't going anywhere with this conversation. You keep talking about it, so I keep responding. But we both know that it's not going to go anywhere, so I agree that we should just agree to disagree, and drop it. Consider it done.

  130. I'd rather be called a queer every day of my life and be able to marry someone I love than have everyone play nice but make it clear that I'm a second class citizen.

  131. Wow, thanks for the beneficial comment. You must think you're really cool for having an input way after the conversation has been taken as far as it's going to go.

  132. But Kara, that's my point. I'm saying that people *shouldn't* treat homosexuals like they are somehow less important, or worse than themselves.

  133. @DR

    You're damn right. It's very personal to me, and not a single day of my life goes by where being gay doesn't affect me deeply, in a variety of ways.

    But I am willing to talk about Greek without it being personal. I can talk about theology. Maybe this is arrogance, but I'm certain enough that most anti-gay theology stems from a place of ignorance that it doesn't really hurt that much anymore.

    Sometimes it's not from ignorance, it's from bigotry and hate. But I don't get that feeling from Mel. I just think she's only ever seen one side fully explained. Gay people certainly aren't obligated to explain anything to straight people, but if I have the time and the emotional strength, I'm willing to try.

    I guess to me there's a difference between something being personal, which this definitely is, and something being a topic over which I'll get my feelings hurt. I just don't care about internet strangers' opinions on my personal life enough for that. In an odd way, it's the extremely personal nature of it that enables me to discuss it.

  134. Some arc-words in a fiction novel I’ve written go: “Every hero is somebody else’s villain.”

    (No one wants to publish me so far, so if you want to read the thing, you’ll have to ask me for a link to the rough-draft version I have up at an art site, or you have to get to know me and get me to trust you enough to email you a more polished version). Meh.

    I’ve used “Every hero is somebody else’s villain” line at Huffington Post, I think – just because my username over there is “AdorableHero,” complete with a videogame character avatar, because I am a turbo-nerd. But I think I don’t want to comment on that site anymore.

    No matter who you are or how good you try to be, to someone – you’ve been a jerk, or are a jerk. That’s just the way of it. If you can make amends, good, if you can’t, be on your way, and if people hate you for doing what you know in your heart is the *right* thing – that’s their problem.

  135. Public service announcement:

    Important distinction time.

    Having hurt feelings isn't the same as being hurt, and not having hurt feelings isn't the same as not being hurt.

    Mel has said nothing that has hurt my feelings. Mostly because once you get called a queer to your face, someone stating a theological opinion online just doesn't pack that much punch.

    But I never said that the belief that homosexuality is a sin didn't hurt me. It hurts me every damn day of my life. Lying, hiding, hurting. This is life for me in the Bible Belt. People believing what Mel believes does have a very profound, negative effect on my life.

    So please don't anyone assume that because I honestly stated that my feelings haven't been hurt at any point during this conversation that I don't care what people believe about this, or that it doesn't matter in my life. It sure as hell does.

    There's a difference between me saying my feelings aren't hurt and me saying that certain beliefs aren't hurtful. I said the former, but I never said the latter, and will not.

  136. I'm going to try and explain this the best way that I possibly can. I'm pretty sure that by now everybody knows that I disagree with homosexuality. I think it is a sin. Therefore, if I have the chance to vote against making it so easy, I will. But, it's not to say that I think of the *person* as any less. It means that what they do, I believe to be wrong, so I don't want it to be a part of this world. Similarly, if I had the chance to make abortion illegal again, I would. I wish that God's law was man's law. I wish that every sin was somehow breaking the "law'. So, the closer that man's law can get to God's law, the better. If I can play a part in that, I will.

  137. Kara, you are an amazing young woman. I am in awe of your patience and your strength and your willingness to fight the good fight.

    Your comment about gay people not being obligated to explain anything to straight people – but you are willing here because you have the time and the fortitude – struck home with me. While it's not the same, I've had that exact conversation many times with fellow adoptive parents and adult adoptees. Because my kids are obviously adopted, as in, they are of a different race than me, perfect strangers have felt perfectly comfortable asking very personal questions, even in front of the girls. It happened a lot more when they were little, but a few times I was really astounded at the fact that people felt so comfortable commenting on my personal life, expecting me to give them information that was none of their business. Most of the time, I knew people meant well and were without the right vocabulary to ask to the questions.

    Most of the time, I tried to be kind, to educate, and to model for my daughters that (a) being adopted is not some secret to keep, it is simply a part of who they are, and (b) it is also OK NOT to talk about it if you don't want to. Some days, I just didn't want to talk about it. When the woman in the check-out line at Target looked at me two-year-old and told me she was adorable and followed that with, "Can I asked how much she cost?" I quelled the desire to smack her. I told her that the cost of adoption services vary, smiled and turned away to talk to my toddler. SHE didn't cost anything, you dork!! The legal and social services, international travel, etc. – those things cost money – but not the kid!

    Sorry – got off track. My point is that even for people who are advocates for a particular group, it can get really tiring to always feel on display, always feel like you are obligated to satisfy the curiosity or bear the insensitivity of the general public. For me, it was the momma-bear of wanting to protect my kids from the Stupid.

    For you, Kara, it must be so much more than anything I've faced. I hope you continue to find groups and places who embrace you for the eloquent, intelligent, compassionate person you obviously are.

  138. Is this the same Luther who wrote:

    “Though our children live in the midst of a Christian world, they faint and perish in misery because they lack the Gospel in which we should be training and exercising them all the time. I advise no one to place his child where the Scriptures do not reign paramount. Schools will become wide-open gates of hell if they do not diligently engrave the Holy Scriptures on young hearts. Every institution where men are not increasingly occupied with the word of God must become corrupt.”

    – Martin Luther in Appeal to the Ruling Classes; 1520.

    Don’t know if I’m all gung ho as holding him up as a candle of what’s true, although I get your point about being concerned about what’s true.

  139. I posted a really long, angry response to this, but have deleted most of it. I'm going to post this, then go to bed, because I have class in the morning, and I don't have time for this.

    You can't "disagree with homosexuality". There's no box out there labeled "homosexuality" for you to direct your negative opinion toward. Just gay people. Real ones, living real lives in which they're oppressed by the same views you hold.

    There is no universe in which marriage equality would make it "so easy" to be gay.

    Conservative Christians don't get to set the rules for everyone else, when we don't believe what you believe.

    That's about it.

  140. Your comments on this post lately, and your comments on the other one seem like they are coming from two different people. I keep going back and forth. You informing me, and giving me information. Being kind, and patient enough to explain something to somebody who hasn't heard this side. And then I come back to this blog, and you seem angry at me, I just don't get it.

  141. MY, you wrote you atheists cry, “Not a true Scotsman,” in regards to your own personal beliefs all the time

    And those beliefs are?

    It is from this sentence that I deduced your meaning of atheists maintaining a different kind of belief similar to religious belief. And that is hogwash.

    Furthermore, you write You make the claim that religious beliefs are inherently problematic. Others claim exception to the rule. The exceptions offered are not in detail but merely a genralization like the one Mel is flogging to death: she's not a bigot although she support bigotry because she dares to believe what the scripture tells her about homosexuality is true. Her claim that her religion does not endorse bigotry is plainly false.

    I am not dismissing cases at all if they pertain to the subject of John's post: that the problem lies with the assholes and not with the religion. Because I disagree with that, I have offered what I think is lots of examples where scripture upon which religions have been built upholds or enables or justifies exactly the asshole-ishness John is talking about. Religion itself IS problematic because the scriptures are the source of the asshole-ishness and not merely an some kind of poor interpretation. Again, homosexuality is a good example. I don;'t understand why you think religions built on such scripture are no problem at all in just such an issue.

  142. First of all, calling something a fallacy doesn’t make it so.

    Second, the degree to which so many dismiss problems caused by religious beliefs as not being caused by *their* beliefs, is the degree to which no one’s religious beliefs are those that are causing the problems alleged.

    So perhaps you are the one mistaken about the what a true Scotsman is. Of course you are because it’s the only way to prop up your straw-man fallacies.

    Lastly, you atheists cry, “Not a true Scotsman,” in regards to your own personal beliefs all the time (at least in the sense that you speak of it here, though it’s not, strictly speaking, what it refers to).

  143. Ah, it's too late here to write well. That previous comment was for Matthew T, and the various mistakes a telltale sign that I need to go get some rest.

  144. I'm not angry at you. I'm human. I'll admit, your last comment ticked me off a bit, mostly because I'm so freaking sick of being denied equal rights by the majority in the name of protecting me from myself.

    Yesterday the Senate voted to keep Don't Ask, Don't Tell. This means that my career plans are shot, because I'm gay.

    I can't adopt here. I can't marry here. I can't do anything, Mel.

    I'm human. I get short-tempered sometime. It's like… It's like I have this big open wound on this one spot, right? And it's developed over years of being told I'm not good enough to serve, adopt, marry, be a Christian, whatever, because I'm gay.

    So then you brush up against this big open wound.

    It's not that what you did or said is so hurtful, in and of itself. It's the context. It's the past hurt and the current hurt and all of that. It's not about you, it's about the system.

    But just like there's no "homosexuality" box for someone to disagree with, there's no "system" box for me to get mad at, just other people. Even sometimes people I like.

    I was un-Christlike, and I'm sorry for that.

  145. @Mel:

    Mel, you didn’t ask me but you’ve entered into a place where people are going to tell you upfront that the Bible you believe in actually *hurts* them. It hurts more than just their feelings, it hurts their life. How Christians reference the Bible and use it to vote a particular way hurts people who aren’t Christians but are actually American citizens. That’s very personal for them – for example you might believe that being gay is wrong and want to challenge a gay person on that, but you should know that someone like you who voted against their ability to get married (if you did) actually takes some rights away – some universal legal rights away that spouses only get- from them that are really important. For example, your vote probably prevents them from being in a hospital when their partner is dying and needs them to make a decision to make regarding their health, that’s just one thing that you – if you voted against gay marriage out of your religious beliefs – did. You took that away from them. So this just isn’t about you, and it isn’t about God and being offended when people don’t let you speak freely or challenge you. It’s actually the reverse, to expect *anyone* who is gay to be open to you “challenging” them requires a lot of hubris on your part. I don’t mean to be unkind but this is the place where sometimes, being gentle doesn’t work because we need something more direct to jar us a bit.

    You have joined a discussion table where people who have been *harmed* by Christians are. And to say “But I’m not one of them, so be nice to me while I continue to reiterate why gay people are bad!” is not going to be received well. I actually think people are being really kind and patient with you – they were with me too. And to increase your awareness that you are in dialogue with some people who have been deeply injured, even experienced emotional abuse at the hands of the church means you realize you are not Mel, someone who wouldn’t do that. You’re a Christian who is worshipping the same God as the people who abused them are. You represent Christians just like I do. Knowing your audience is important in setting expectations and being mindful of what we say and how we say it.

  146. I forgive you. I think that it was just a misunderstanding. I thought you were mad at me specifically for what I said. I think I understand what you're saying…that the way I worded it just brought up pain that might not even have to do with this blog or comments posted on it? I've only actually heard of the whole "don't ask don't tell" thing on this blog. It's just an American thing right? I think that's why.

  147. Hmmm….Karen. You may have happened upon the founding of a Church of Churchlessness.

    This mirrors my experience closely, including my reactions to all that around me.

  148. @Kara,

    …and (forgot your main point – duh), yes, I’m hetero, white and male, which makes me the most boring person in the world, not the most persecuted, unless you count modern day advertising where I’m portrayed and derided as a complete effing idiot.

  149. YOU forgive HER?!?!?!?

    Now that's rich.

    Mel, listen. You've made some comments on here that actually almost frighten me for your lack of education. You said a couple of weeks back that you'd never heard of either Stalin or Hussein (in response to someone bringing them up) – and apparently didn't even bother to Google them before you responded, giving the impression, right or wrong, that you are just fine NOT knowing stuff.

    Kinda scary that you graduated high school without that knowledge. Now you are saying that you don't know what the Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy is? Don't you ever watch or read the news?

    I am not saying this insult you but to give you a heads-up – you have some rather significant knowledge gaps here.

    The fact that Kara just apologized to YOU for almost-but-not-quite losing her temper in your general direction, but you have yet to ask HER forgiveness for your attitude about who she is, absolutely baffles me. I really am truly having a hard time figuring out how you can't see the tragic irony in that.

    Yeah, I know, I was not going to comment to you on this topic any further – but you "forgiving" Kara was more than I could stomach.

  150. MT, I gave several examples how various religions themselves caused harm… unless you consider the theology of the rc church is based only on a few personal interpretations or the majority of voters in favour of rescinding marriage for gays, that a significant minority of muslims are in favour of killing others in defense of their religion, and so on. To claim that the scriptural basis for these religious practices are only interpretations of a few billion people but not reflective of inherent problems in these religions seems rather silly to me. That’s why to claim that fundamental religious beliefs do not reflect some people’s religious beliefs so therefore are not valid criticisms really is the fallacy known as Not a True Scotsman. That, not merely on my say-so alone, determines if the fallacy holds as true. And that’s not a Straw Man argument but a valid and reasonable observation that many public policies and laws are, in fact and practice, justified solely on religious grounds that are both widely supported and yet highly problematic.

    I dare you to find a widely supported notion among atheists that it is not best defined simply as non belief in god. For you to call non belief in god another kind of belief in god is really rather silly.

  151. A-b, my point is that where reason ends is a really good place to insert an honest “I don’t know” or even better “We cannot know” rather than “Therefore god.”

    When we get to the point of “I don’t know” is not a good time to switch epistemology and begin assuming that unknowable assertions are true.

    As for ‘bedrock’ principles derived from religion, I suspect (correct me if I’m wrong) that in fact these principles were acceptable first and then agreed to. I’m pretty sure that morality precedes religious belief.

    As for your assertion that my heart betrays me, I urge you to read it again. I’m not denying that powerful and important benefits can be accrued from holding a private religious belief in the form of myth; I’m advocating that the myth not be extended into the world as if it must necessarily be real because it will cause problems.

  152. @DR

    Kara is well aware of the kind of conversation we will be having. I made it very clear when I asked her if she would talk with me about homosexuality that I disagreed with it. She knows that. She also knows that I am not trying to attack her either…I’m trying to have a conversation with her. She’s a big girl, and she doesn’t need all of you saying whether or not I’m right in asking her to speak with me about it. She decided that we could have a conversation about it. She was more than willing to answer my questions, and it’s none of anybody else’s business.

  153. @Mindy.

    Yes, if given the chance I would vote against allowing homosexual marriages. I think that is pretty obvious since I don’t agree with it. I know I’ve asked you this before, but please don’t try to tell me what I believe. I do not think that people who are homosexuals are such because “they are promiscuous, mentally ill”etc. I think they are homosexual because they chose to be. Just like I believe any sin is the result of a choice. I also don’t believe that they “are more likely to be sexual predators”. I disagree with homosexuality. I know you hate the expression “hate the sin, love the sinner”, but that is how I feel. I know you don’t believe me, and I’m sure you will resort to calling me a bigot again, but that’s how I look at this situation regardless of what you say.

  154. If I do not do it, if I do not support it, I am not playing a part in it. I don’t care what you say…it’s not as though I’m making the anti-gay signs, and just not doing the picketing.>>>

    Wait, you just said you'd vote against gay marriage. Do you understand that is the source of tremendous pain and anguish for gay and lesbian people, particularly christians?

    I don't think you have the capacity to hear what a lot of people are telling you, you are *choosing* to react defensively and make this about what people feel about you and how they are being mean to you. It's a self-absorbed posture to take and it seems to be your primary space – how this makes you all feel instead of considering for a second, that a vote against gay marriage is deeply painful and how people perceive you right now means absolutely nothing. With all due respect dear, no one cares about your feelings when literally millions of peoples' rights are taken from your vote. OK? And you need to know the impact you're having. If you still want to make it? That's fine, but you're not a victim, the consequences of your vote against gay marriage is tremendously significant, it causes anguish and pain to the people who are gay in MY life who I happen to work with and love, and it's your fault as a result of your vote.

    No one in your community is going to tell you that, they are going to tell you that this is all a spiritual attack. That we're being mean to you. But what you are facing now is a consequence of your vote. Of your action. You don't get to ask people to back off of our anger as a result of what you vote in for my neighbors, my friends and my family. You don't.

    You won't listen now. Your cage is getting too rattled and the fear of not being liked is more than likely, screaming in your head right now. But maybe after the dust settles, you will step up to this discussion plate, stop being afraid of whatever it is you are defending and start listening. Or not. But your vote is my mess to clean up and I'm sick of it. It hurts people.. And by way of it? You hurt people. So take some responsibility for it.

  155. You don't get to be both in the real world, Mel (and I"m not talking about a TV show).

    I know you want to, I know you want to vote the way your values are telling you to vote and still love the gays, but by denying their civil rights and the social contractual benefits through marriage? You are hurting them. You don't get the last word on what "hurt" looks like to someone else – they do.

  156. @Mel

    God's law is not *your* law any more than it is man's law. You are but a single human, and even two heads are better than one, but only God knows best.

    You have repeated the same argument countless times, but never addressed the serious flaw in it that we keep pointing out to you: you cannot maintain that a person does wrong without implying that they are in some sense bad, and you cannot claim that you don't think less of a person if you imply that he or she is bad. sin = bad; not less = just as good. There cannot be more bad and not automatically less good in a person (unless they're increase their size through gluttony 😉 jk).


    I just wanted to say that it saddens and troubles me to see the good name of Christ used to deny to you the that honorable career you felt God calling you to, on account of the gender identity of whom you find yourself romantically destined to love.

    I admire the psychological perseverance—the strength of spirit—that so many such as yourself have. And you set a wonderful example actually of what it is to be Christian!!

    (@Mindy: As I recall, it was Lenin, not Stalin (import difference in level of evil, and to our generation another important difference: we’ve known people who lived during Stalin’s day, but Lenin might as well be Ivan the Terrible). I remember this because I was hoping to myself that if Mike had gone with the tired old canards Stalin and Hitler, she just might have heard of them. About DADT and the news: I get the impression Mel might be from Canada(?).)

  157. @ Kara:

    I was un-Christlike, and I’m sorry for that.>>

    Kara, you are remarkable. From where I am sitting, there is absolutely nothing unChristlike about being angry about everything you just articulated you lost. People like Mel actually need to understand just *how* hurt and angry you are – seriously. I used to be Mel a very long time ago, it took someone in my life telling me that I was a Christian prick and he didn't want to be my friend anymore to wake me up to what I was doing. I will never be the same, and I'm so grateful to him.

    People respond to loss. They do. Loss of approval, of validation, of respect. And I respect nothing of Mel's position, I think her vote has hurt this country in terrible ways. I'm saying so and I honestly don't care if it hurts her feelings because in Mel's world, her *feelings* are what's most important. More christians need to get their feelings hurt to realize what we're doing to this country.

  158. So in the end, it's just about your hurt feelings. I'm never surprised – disappointed always in the conservative christians who wander into discussions like these and make it all about how they feel as they themselves, challenge everyone around them in the first place. But I absolutely believe is that conversations will always make their mark with you.

    I suspect that this is all just way, way too terrifying to process. Because it means you might have to admit that you're wrong, which then throws every kind of security you have in the world and your relationships into turmoil. I've been there, you have a lot to lose and it's terrifying. So no, you'll remain focused on how all of this feels because you're not terribly educated and so far, you've not been motivated to learn about the world around you. But this thread could change your life, Mel. It really could. I pray it does.

  159. @Mindy. Wow. Wow. I've got a lot of respect for you. Seriously. Kids. Gotta love 'em. And you gotta keep from strangling or punching people who treat them like crap. So far so good for me. I'll call you from jail if I need to be bailed-out, okay?

    @Kara. Please know that I completely support you and your struggle and I will vote against every asshole politician who wants to continue repression of you and I have every set of fingers crossed that we get out of the dark ages as quickly as possible.

    @Mel. For a very large part of my life I lived with a woman who surrounded herself with dogs ( creatures I for which I have a great affinity and love deeply) and cats (who care little what I think of them and I respect that) and forgave them for every transgression and ignored their many faults. But the humans in her life did not fair so well. We were all subject to her judgment and told how wrong and unworthy we were of her love. After our marriage failed, she went on to adopt a child from Russia who lasted 9 mos in her care – about a third of her typical "rescue dog" adoption time span – and the poor young girl was sent to live elsewhere. She, too, was unworthy of my ex-spouse's love and respect.

    I find it incredibly sad that she was less able to deal with the basic nature of a human being than a dog's. But that's the state of things with people like you, Mel. Your beliefs override your acceptance of a person's – a human being's – basic nature and you assume that God, who created all of us, would want you to do so. Why? I guess this is what people mean when they talk about "Legalistic" Christianity on this site. I've yet to see a real definition, but I suspect that's what it means and that you fall into that category.

    I've started to pray again lately. I've started to speak with God again after a too long hiatus. And God continually tells me that the literal interpretations of God's love and meaning are almost always wrong. That what God desires and has cast us into is a milieu in which we are to love and respect one another and solve our differences NOT through taking but by giving. By giving. Giving. That means giving up on our tired, old preconceptions about right and wrong – the baggage handed down from generation to generation of people who used God to exploit, to deny, to repress and to rationalize crimes against other humans. Oh, and to make themselves feel good.

    And so, Mel, it is your job to give. To provide all human beings with the love and respect they deserve. If God created this universe, then God chose to put homosexuals here along side heterosexuals. That's the deal. God did it. Not as an experiment or example, but as a matter of fact – a fact of life, Mel. To deny them their basic nature is a form of torture and deprivation that is completely contrary to God's creation. Your move, my dear. Are you going to hate and say that you love, or are you really going to love?

  160. For what it’s worth (Mel), I just posted this as a Facebook status: Christians: Saying that you’re against gay marriage but mean gays no harm makes zero sense. Pick a lane.

  161. @Tildeb.

    Anyway, if Luther knew only truth, that would make him God. I never implied he was always right. But would you prefer the Reformation—and subsequent Enlightenment—not take place (or take place at a later date thanks to some other fallible medieval scholar)?

    That said, there are two high schools in my town: one religious and one public. (ok—now that I think about it—there *were* until last year when the private one cut back to only up through 8th grade, as I recall.) One of them has gangs, drug dealing, high drop-out rates, poor standardized test results, and a host of other hellish corruptions, and the other, well, doesn’t. Guess which is which. Just saying.

    Anyhow, I have to ask, by what testable theory do you attribute that quote to Martin Luther personally? I think your claim to be unfalsifiable.

  162. (Oops. Forget that “Anyway” at the beginning. I originally had a different sentence order. That was not in any way meant to appear dismissive of anything.)

  163. @Mel – I am only going to ask you one thing, and I am truly interested in your answer.

    On what do you base this statement:

    I think they are homosexual because they chose to be.

    Because that is the crux of the matter right there. You are absolutely incorrect, you’ve been told by an openly gay person that this is incorrect, you’ve been told by many other people here who know gay people, who’ve studied human sexuality, etc. etc. that it is incorrect, yet you hold tight to this nugget on which your entire premise exists. You’ve been presented with scientific studies that say it is not a choice – the exact genetic difference has yet to be determined, but very few mainstream scientists, psychologists or psychiatrists disagree that homosexuality – for whatever the reason – is an inherent component of a percentage of the human population.

    So I ask again. On what are you basing that statement?

  164. Well, DR, it is pretty monumental. Question whether homosexuality is a sin, which the Bible seems to do (at least Mel relies on it to say so), and a belief in the inerrancy or even infallibility of the Bible is shattered. If so much of a person's faith relies so heavily on that book, it ceases to Christianity in my view, it becomes bibliolatry.

    This is what stands as a stumbling block to many fundamentalist Christians. In my experience, that is too terrifying a thought for them. Therefore, nothing that could challenge that view is valid. Stubborn refusal to see the truth right in front of them is not being "steadfast in your faith." Its obstinacy and ignorance.

    I'm sorry Mel, but I have to join the chorus of those who say that your worldview is too monolithic and downright dangerous. Relying on a long-discredited viewpoint towards sexual orientation because the Bible "tells you so." You don't want to have a "discussion" on this topic. A discussion involves a genuine give and take. You haven't presented anything convincing to support your viewpoint, and you absolutely discount all convincing evidence otherwise.

    If you abandon the literal words of that book you might discover the real faith that I think Christ was trying to tell us about.

  165. @Mel,

    Then give them (and everyone else) the human rights they’re due. That pretty much says “you’re not less important”. In fact it says, “you’re just as important – you’re equal”.

  166. Eh. Saying things out of righteous anger is one thing. I'm pretty sure that wasn't my motivation. I was mega-pissed when I wrote it, and all I wanted was to make sure she damn well knew it. Which isn't productive.

    I certainly don't take back a single position or feeling I expressed, I just regret the phrasing I used, is all. It wasn't what I generally shoot for.

  167. Thanks to everyone who's been so wonderfully supportive of me throughout these comments, especially Mindy and DR. I'm truly floored.

  168. Guys, I'm gonna close the comments on this post. Again, it's been an honor to host this dialogue. So many of you have been awesomely patient, kind, thoughtful, rational, informed, compassionate, and let me say patient again because holy cow I have no idea how you do it.

    Like so many of you here, I hope any of this sinks in with Mel. It's not likely it will in any immediate way, of course. But you guys have done the right thing; you've done virtually everything anyone can, which is try. Thank you for that so very, very much.

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