I want to say I’m sorry

I was thinking today about my journey from conservative fundie Christian to where I am now.

As I’ve talked about before, I grew up Seventh Day Adventist, which is a very conservative sect of Protestant Christianity.  The joke is that SDAs are about 20 years behind Baptists.  SDAs are hardcore young earth creationists, anti-LGBT, and tend to isolate themselves from the world.  They have their own schools (Kindergarten through college) where parents are strongly encouraged to send their kids.  When I was growing up, almost all SDA churches were strongly against any kind of rock music, there were no drums in church, and usually no guitars either… just piano and organ for hymns.  Makeup and jewelry were “self adornment” and looked down on, or just plain not allowed in most schools.  There was no dancing, no bowling, and no movie theaters.  Once a year our school would have a field trip to the local skate rink, and they had to unplug all the arcade games, and play “more appropriate music”.

I’ve heard a lot of this has changed now.  Not the young earth creationism… oh no, no, no.  The church leadership has come out strongly on that recently stating that the literal six day creation week is fundamental to Seventh Day Adventism and there is absolutely no room for compromise.  But the more socially backwards traditions like jewelry, makeup, and drums in church are, the harder they are to maintain among younger generations.

My point in explaining this is to explain where I’ve come from.  I grew up in that and I believed it.  I later left SDAism behind after I realized I just didn’t think the distinguishing parts were that important, so I just became sort of general Christian, but still very conservative.  It just doesn’t make sense to me to take the Bible seriously and not be conservative, or at least lean that way.

But I digress.  When I was a conservative fundie Christian, I was on the wrong side of many issues, and the one that sticks out most in my mind right now is LGBT rights and equality.  I thought being gay was a sin.  I bought into all the anti-gay rhetoric.  I voted for California’s Proposition 8 which defined marriage as between one man and one woman.

I wasn’t outspoken or an activist, and I never “gay bashed” or anything.  I never directly harmed any LGBT people, but I was on the wrong side of history.  I supported and/or was part of organizations that did harm LGBT people.

So I want to say to my LGBT brothers and sisters, and all my now fellow advocates, that I’m sorry.  I’m sorry for contributing to oppression and discrimination.  I’m sorry for all you have had to endure because of people like who I used to be.

I’m happy to say that I’m firmly on the right side of history now.  I’m 100%, categorically, unreservedly, proudly an LGBT advocate and activist.


“Justice” Antonin Scalia is Loony Tunes

Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock, you’re probably aware that the US Supreme Court issued its ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges, a landmark case that just brought marriage equality to the entire United States.  Of course, not everyone is thrilled about that.  Conservative Christians are predictably freaking out, and “Justice” Antonin Scalia is among them.

Scalia is completely unhinged.  All you really need to know is that he thinks it’s a-okay to execute innocent people.  He also thinks the Earth is 6,000 years old.  Moving on though.

Scalia’s latest hissy fit dissent in today’s decision demonstrates yet again how wildly out of touch he really is.

“The substance of today’s decree is not of immense personal importance to me,” he offers. “It is of overwhelming importance, however, who it is that rules me. Today’s decree says that my Ruler, and the Ruler of 320 million Americans coast-to-coast, is a majority of the nine lawyers on the Supreme Court.”

Well congrats, but guess what?  It is of “immense personal importance” to LGBT people, who are directly affected by the ruling.  Their rights are at stake.  It would be nice if all the justices cared about that.

But far more troubling is Scalia’s talk about “who it is that rules me”.  Um… as a Supreme Court judge, isn’t the Constitution supposed to “rule”?  Hint: the answer is yes.  But Scalia just brushes that aside, and brazenly declares that he doesn’t use the Constitution as the basis for his decisions.

He goes on to freak out about the Supreme Court doing exactly what the Supreme Court is supposed to do: rule on the Constitutionality of cases brought before it.  I don’t quite understand why conservatives so often lose it when courts do exactly what they’re supposed to do.

Another quote from Justice Loony Toons:

“The opinion is couched in a style that is as pretentious as its content is egotistic,” he writes. “If, even as the price to be paid for a fifth vote, I ever joined an opinion for the Court that began: ‘The Constitution promises liberty to all within its reach, a liberty that includes certain specific rights that allow persons, within a lawful realm, to define and express their identity,’ I would hide my head in a bag.

Exactly which part is unreasonable? Let’s see:

The Constitution promises liberty to all within its reach

That’s exactly what the Constitution is for.

a liberty that includes certain specific rights that allow persons

Um, yeah, specific rights of human beings are outlined in the Constitution.

within a lawful realm

Again, that’s exactly what the Constitution does. It defines legal rights. What’s so outrageous here?

to define and express their identity

What more fundamental right could there be than to simply be who you are?

I see absolutely nothing pretentious or egotistic.  It was simply a statement of what the Constitution does.  But Scalia has shown he doesn’t care about the Constitution when it’s inconvenient for him.  He shows again and again that he really doesn’t get it (or doesn’t care) at a fundamental level.

The downfall of Josh Duggar

It’s hit the news recently that Josh Duggar allegedly committed sexual assault against five minors around 2005. It appears that at least some of the victims were his sisters and one was a babysitter. As one would expect, the story has been splashed all over social media. Josh is part of the Duggar clan featured on ’19 Kids and Counting’ and is now a former executive director at the Family Research Counsel.

Almost worse than Josh’s offenses, dad, Jim Bob Duggar knew what was going on and did almost nothing. He told church elders, who also did nothing for three months at which time they finally contacted the police. What did Jim Bob do then? Well naturally he tried to stop the police from interviewing Josh. These delays almost certainly allowed more victims to be assaulted.

Many non-Christians are gloating over the downfall of Josh, given the holier-than-thou attitudes constantly on display from the Duggars. I don’t think we should be gloating or celebrating over this. There is clearly some serious dysfunction going on, and it involves sexual assault against minors. That said, I do think the reaction that some people have had is understandable. I think it’s certainly okay to point out the mega-huge hypocrisy going on here.

The Family Research Council is classified as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center. The FRC has said plenty of incredibly hateful and mean-spirited things about LGBT people. Josh has now quit the FRC, and essentially admitted to the allegations.

Many on the religious right think LGBT people are dangerous predators. In August of 2014, Michelle Duggar, with the backing of the FRC, was behind a robocall spreading fear mongering over an anti-discrimination bill in Fayetteville Arkansas. Part of the robocall:

“The Fayetteville City Council is voting on an ordinance this Tuesday night that would allow men – yes, I said men – to use women’s and girls’ restrooms, locker rooms, showers, sleeping areas and other areas that are designated for females only. I don’t believe the citizens of Fayetteville would want males with past child predator convictions that claim they are female to have a legal right to enter private areas that are reserved for women and girls.”

This is an extreme distortion meant to spread fear over something that just plain isn’t going to happen. The Duggars are virulently anti-LGBT and have made no secret of it. They’ve made no secret that they think LGBT people are dangerous predators who are after your kids.

This is not supported by evidence. We do however seem to keep hearing plenty of disturbing reports of sexual abuse in churches though. This isn’t surprising given the extremely unhealthy and unrealistic attitudes many Christians have towards sex and sex education, leaving kids misinformed or just plain uninformed. It’s no surprise that kids won’t know how to act properly when they aren’t taught how to act properly. So where are the real predators?

While some may be gloating, many LGBT people and advocates are just angry. We’ve watched people like the Duggars degrade LGBT people for years, and now this comes to light. Yet again it turns out the dangerous predator is one of their own, and it took over a year for it to even be reported to the authorities. This sort of thing happens time and time again, not with LGBT people, but with Christians, and often those who are most vocal about how evil LGBT people are.

“Erotic Liberty vs Religious Liberty”

“Erotic liberty vs religious liberty” is the new buzzphrase for bigots who want to attack LGBT people and deny equal rights to others, all based on religious beliefs.

The implication of “erotic liberty” is that those damn dirty gay people just want to get off at the expense of the “religious liberty” of devout Christians trying to stand up for Jesus. Christians who, bafflingly, seem intent on fighting tooth and nail to deny equal rights to a group of people over something that doesn’t even effect them. That’s called bigotry.

It’s hard to conceive of a more ignorant and bigoted phrase. It should hardly need to be said, but the fight for LGBT equality is not about eroticism. It’s about marriage. It’s about equal rights and equal treatment and protections under the law. It’s about all kinds of things, but eroticism isn’t really one of them. That’s what opponents of equal rights don’t understand. That’s what they refuse to understand.

But if they insist on the term “erotic liberty”, then the fact is that LGBT people want the same “erotic liberty” as everyone else. That’s where this new buzzphrase really fails. It doesn’t even say anything new. It’s still Christians trying to deny LGBT people the same rights that everyone else has. So we’re back to square one, and that square is equality. If they want to deny equal rights to a group of people, that’s still called bigotry.

The phrase appears to have originated with Albert Mohler, who is no stranger to saying ridiculous things. I’ve been told Mohler is one of the “brightest mind[s] in evangelical Christianity”, and that “leading secularists would have to recognize Dr. Mohler has one of the brightest minds in our country”. Oh boy, I don’t think so. From everything I have read from him in regards to LGBT people, contraception, atheists, and even yoga (among plenty of other issues) that he thinks are a problem for Christians, his arguments are painfully bad. I’m no expert. I don’t have a doctorate in anything. I’m a very amateur philosopher, and I found it comically simple to pick his arguments apart on just about any issue.

People like Mohler want to force LGBT people back into the closet. They want to turn back the clock to when LGBT people were treated like freaks and weirdos and second-class citizens. They want LGBT people to think of themselves as broken and sinful. Nevermind the depression. Nevermind the suicide. Nevermind the bullying when people think LGBT people are sick. Nevermind the cognitive dissonance of LGBT people trying to reconcile their natural orientation with what they’re told they should be. They don’t care about any of that. I know Christians don’t like this label, but too bad. Yet again, that’s called bigotry.

The upside to all of this is that the tide is against those who would use such rhetoric to push their bigoted views. Love is winning over hate. More and more people are coming to realize that everyone deserves equal rights. Marriage equality is advancing state by state. It’s not fast enough, but it’s happening.

But the really good news is that, despite all their stamping of their feet and hysterical shrieks of persecution, we don’t have to care what religious people think of all this. The separation of church and state, clearly defined in the US Constitution, says that we don’t make laws based on any religion. Unfortunately not everyone gets this, but that’s too bad for them. As with other civil rights movements, we shall overcome.

Does religion poison everything?

On a recent episode of The Thinking Atheist, the topic was “Does Religion Poison Everything?“, based on the subtitle of the late great Christopher Hitchens book, God Is Not Great.  I sent the following, more or less, as my reply.  Sadly Seth didn’t choose my reply to read on the air, but I’m sure he gets hundreds if not more, and probably many other like mine.

I agree that religion does indeed poison everything. Religion does do some good, like charity and giving people a social group and other things, but every good that religion does could be accomplished without the encumberance of the dogma and superstition. The end goal is ALWAYS “winning souls for jay-sus-ah”, or whatever magic sky daddy the particular religion thinks they have.

Religion is responsible for most hatred and war and suffering in the world. It has been used to justify some of the worst atrocities in history, from the crusades and inquisition, to slavery, to modern treatment of LGBTQ people. It is divisive and stands in the way of empathy and understanding of our fellow human beings.

Religion has almost always been on the wrong side of history with regards to not just social issues, but science as well. How many great scientific minds have been burned at the stake? Happily, in most places in the world that doesn’t happen anymore, but we still have to argue endlessly about scientific facts like evolution, and the arguments are coming from people who can’t even be bothered to understand what they’re arguing against. To be fair, in this country at least, most of them don’t understand their own holy book either, so expecting them to understand science might be a bit much.

But many would say that the so-called “moderate” or “liberal” denominations are better. They certainly do less damage but they don’t get a pass. First, extremists wouldn’t exist, or would have a much harder time, were it not for the moderates. The moderates essentially give “comfort and aid” to the extremists.

And there are more basic problems. Religions teach a false worldview unsupported by evidence. The mind that can accept fairy tale nonsense with bad or no evidence is not a properly functioning mind.

Almost all religions, and certainly the three Abrahamic religions, have a system of forgiveness for sins under which people can ultimately not be responsible for their actions. The worst mass murdering tyrant in history can get the ultimate reward if they just say “hey god sorry, my bad”.

But Hitch, as always, sums it up best. Can’t say it much better than this:

“Now, I am absolutely convinced that the main source of hatred in the world is religion and organized religion. Absolutely convinced of that. And I think it should be—religion—treated with ridicule, hatred, and contempt. And I claim that right. So when I say—as the subtitle of my book—that I think religion poisons everything, I’m not just doing what publishers like and coming up with a provocative subtitle. I mean to say it infects us in our most basic integrity. It says we can’t be moral without ‘Big Brother,’ without a totalitarian permission, means we can’t be good to one another without this, we must be afraid, we must also be forced to love someone whom we fear—the essence of sadomasochism, the essence of abjection, the essence of the master-slave relationship and that knows that death is coming and can’t wait to bring it on. I say that is evil, and though I do, some nights, stay home, I enjoy more the nights when I go out and fight against this ultimate wickedness and ultimate stupidity.” -Christopher Hitchens