Evangelicals

I showed my older son the video, Gospel of Intolerance, by Roger Ross Williams. You can find it on this NY Times link. You can also find the video in this article. It might be a good piece to share with your children.

American Evangelicals have turned their fight against “sexual immorality” to countries such as Uganda, which are more malleable to influences tied to donations. Sexual immorality is defined as anyone who is gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender. Currently, those behaviors are against the law in Uganda, and there is a bill on the table again to make repeat offenders suffer harsh punishments, even death.

My son watched this video (he’s become a little cynical at this point). He shook his head and said, “Why do people care so much about other’s choices?”

I thought this video was a great jumping off point to discuss religion, politics and what it means to give. Here are some questions to get a dialogue going with children. Feel free to add more:

Evangelicals have invested a lot of money in building churches in Uganda. Why do you think they do this?
How are the “laws” of a church made? How are the laws in our government made?
What does it mean to be immoral and who defines this?
What does it mean to donate? If you tie a request or a condition to a donation, is that selfless or altruistic (a trait churches value)?
Why do you think some churches and their congregations care about the homosexuality issue?
If a person is gay or lesbian, how does his or her sexual preference affect society?
What would happen if homosexuality were made illegal in America? Do you think people would change their behaviors? What costs or benefits would be associated with changing the laws?

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78 responses to “Evangelicals

  1. Any system of law prohibiting behaviors that will most assuredly be committed by its constituency discredits itself. Prohibiting any sexual behavior discredits that system of law – religious, political, civil, or otherwise – because that prohibition is simply a tool to control the constituency through their sexual organs.

    Faith remains the abdication of logic.

  2. Wow! I’m still digesting. I was aware of the powerful influence the religious folks have in Africa but had no idea that they are funding such a sick and twisted plan to back a law providing the death penalty for a fellow human because of their sexual status. If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again….in Africa. Thanks for sharing. I have shared on my FB wall.

  3. A few comments….

    Regarding “How are the “laws” of a church made? From my time studying this throughout the course of many debates with a dear friend, churches form both doctrines and laws. (This is from a Catholic perspective as that was the dogma my friend adhered to) Doctrines are beliefs and laws are the process of professing, teaching and living in accordance with those beliefs. They are two fundamentally and philosophically different things. This can really apply to our view of laws and government also. Specifically, look at the methods in which we help the poor. The discussion is much more nuanced than this but for brevity, both side think helping the poor is good (doctrine). But each side promotes different way of approaching that (laws). DO you see what I am getting at?

    Before you ask the question of what it mean to be immoral and who defines it you must first resolve the question of objectivity or subjectivity when it comes to truth regarding morals. Is there a true answer to whether or not it is right to kill in a specific circumstance, granted different circumstances may warrant different conclusions, but the question is for each specific case is there on right or wrong answer?

    Regarding the donation question, You should probe with them different types of request or conditions. Some conditions may be warranted. EG I donate to a homeless shelter and I want my donation to go toward the heating bill or toward some work program they sponsor. etc… Vice I will donate my money if you foster my moral belief. These are two different natures of the same question.

    I’d be more nuanced on the homosexuality topic. I found that the (again my friend pointed this out, so speaking from what I know of a catholic perspective) is that there is a difference in their views from homosexual acts and homosexual inclinations. Specifically it is tied to their concept of sexuality between two people being tied to the procreative aspect. While they do not believe it to be wrong to “be” homosexual, they do believe it to be wrong to engage in homosexual acts.

    Also you might want to balance out your teaching with your kids and point out that there are quite a lot of good things some religious folk and non-religious folk so in the poverty stricken countries. I was down in Central America and most of the people there helping the people with basic life skills were religiously focused. I gained a lot of respect for them while I was there and changed a lot of my cognitive dissonance. As you can probably tell I was a pretty anti-religious individual but I’ve grow to have a respect for some aspects of them.

  4. @Grant, I don’t think Faith is the abdication of logic. I think religion is. Having faith in something is healthy. Believing you are better than someone else because some person told you so, is destructive. Our problem is that we come from a country of people with little faith but TONS of religion.

  5. @hayden… “Believing you are better than someone else because some person told you so, is destructive.” hear hear to that!!!

  6. There are a lot of evangelicals who agree with Islamists (and radical Jews) that there should be no separation between church and state, and want to bring about their own brand of theocracy. It’s important to remember that the reason why atheists, homosexuals or other heretics don’t get burned at the stake currently is because churches have lost the power to do so (after, of course, bleeding whole populations white).

  7. I have to say that I’m really glad I read that CNN piece and found this blog. It’s nice to see some intelligent conversation around this topic.

    I would like to clarify one point, and it may seem small, but as a gay man, I want to make sure people understand that this is not my choice. My sexual orientation is what I was born with, but the way I live my life is my choice…or preference, however you want to frame it. Usually someone of a religious denomination will throw out a ‘lifestyle’ label, but in terms of ‘lifestyle’, I can assure you I am just as boring as the next person in a long term committed relationship. Soon kids will be tossed into the mix, and I’ll be caught in the same lack of sleep / social interaction parent trap.

    Thanks again for starting these discussions, especially the early dialogue with your kids.

    • @Chip. I do understand and have never thought otherwise. I know you face the same relationship issues as I do. Good luck with starting your family. Thanks for sharing. By the way, did you and I go to high school together in NC?

  8. Next to Islamist Terrorist, Evangelicals have to be some of the scariest groups of people in the world. It’s amazing how they push their warped views on such vulnerable people in a third world country. This video was disturbing to say the least. “I’m afraid of you and your lifestyle!!!” “So I want to kill and eliminate what I don’t comprehend”. -Says the Evangelicals. This behavior and mindset is no different than that of Hitler’s perception of the Jews.

  9. Coincidentally, I watched the same video last night. It didn’t surprise me in the least that such things are going on, but it saddened me that in the 21st Century, missionaries are still taking advantage of the world’s ignorant populations to spread their beliefs, as though theirs is the only right belief and they are “saving” the locals from their previous “wrong” beliefs.

    I personally think all religion begins with a few opportunistic people seeing a way to wield power and control over the many. Funding local projects, the infusion of funds, etc., is just another way to buy influence and exert power. Without doubt religious people do a great deal of good in impoverished communities, but efforts to establish their religion at the same time makes their altruism highly suspect.

    Your son is wise beyond his years in asking “Why do people care about others’ choices?” I wish more adults would ask themselves the same question.

  10. I usually hear Leviticus come up when those of “faith” speak about hemosexual behavior. Why then do they not spend hundreds of millions of dollars attacking people who do not sacrifice pigeons after child birth or men who share beds with menstruating wives? How many times have you seen a cross tattoo?

  11. Although no longer religious minded, I do believe in the spiritual dynamic to this existence we’re experiencing, one aspect of this dynamic is negative and other positive. It’s my personal belief, this is where we need to begin first. All other questions hinge on realizing there is some power bent on keeping mankind divided. I don’t believe in evolution or the typically offered creation narratives. There are many decent folk attached to religious systems, but most have yet to realize, all religions divide, regardless. The very idea of being aligned with something you’re convinced is true, while others in like manner, with their own beliefs do and feel the same, evidences this.

    • @Anonymous the latter, evolution is “a process of continuous change from a lower, simpler, or worse to a higher, more complex, or better state” (http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/evolution). When you are discussing creation myths – such as creationism, the norse gods, the greek gods, Osiris, Sol Invictus, etc – and comparing that to what you term evolution (that which you “don’t believe”), you are actually talking about the phylogeny (http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/phylogeny) of humans. It is important to be specific at this juncture because evolution, by itself, is an objective reality – no amount of faith can affect evolution. Human phylogeny is still being mapped out and probably won’t be accurately determined in our lifetimes (although, I want to be incorrect about that). One has the existential power to believe or not believe in phylogeny, but in time that belief will mean nothing to phylogeny and it will be mapped out to paint an accurate picture of what actually occurred.

  12. There was a Fresh Air (Terry Gross) interview a year or so a go with an uuthor of a book about The Family, an evangelical group heavily involved in Washington who were and probably involved in Uganda

  13. Your son is asking the right question(s). I raised 2 kids without religion and they are fine, moral people with good sense, compassion, etc. They both often wondered why people (apparently especially Americans) care so darn much what goes on in other peoples’ bedrooms and genitals…

    • @The Rodent Funny way of putting it. Where are you from? I like your name.

      • @dam. Heh heh, thanks… Originated approximately 47° N, 122° W. And I usually don’t discuss religion because people, especially believers in X for all values of X, tend to be so irrational about it. But I wanted to chime in supportively, at least once to say it’s possible to raise good children to adulthood without relying on any religious teaching. Best wishes to you and yours.

  14. I am very pleased to call Decatur, GA home. Besides ethnic diversity, liberalism (sometimes a little too liberal for me, but that’s ok), great schools, music, arts, etc….we have a large GLBT (Gay, lesbian, bi and transgender) population. My neighbors to the left are lesbians and are awesome. The guys across the street have been together for some 30 or more years, with grown kids. They too are great.

    Evangelicals…I won’t even waste my breath. I am aware of the happenings in Uganda and other countries around the world it is sad. Unfortunately, there’s lots more to be done in America…..but wow how far ahead we are in America, than in other places.

    I struggle with how GLBT’s can be treated in religious settings in America. They make commitments, relationships, raise kids, work and everything else. Just like everyone. Many commit a life to religion, which is great (not my personal choice). But, at the end of the day they have to struggle with people challenging them whether two men or two woman can be married.

    Yes, they can marry it’s their choice. Give them insurance too!

    GLBT’s have been around as long as everybody else.

  15. American evangelicals who have helped foment the homophobic culture in Uganda as documented in the film have blood on their hands, no doubt. But I think it would be unfair to generalize and speak about all evangelical Christians. Not all evangelical Christians believe that being homosexual is immoral, and even if they don’t support these agendas.

  16. Love this blog…thank you CNN for allowing it. Knowledge is power!

  17. THANK YOU FOR YOUR POST!! It was very honest and thoughtful!
    When I read in your post“But the trade-off was that I would have to make stuff up.” Try I really don’t know, what do you think? That works for me when I don’t know. In another sentence you say; “If there was a good, all-knowing, all-powerful God, why would he allow murders, child abuse and torture?”
    Great question! That one bothers me too! The only answer that makes sense to me is, why does God have to clean up all our messes? If he did he wouldn’t be teaching us much now would he! Instead he gave us a marvelous thing called Free Agency.
    So with all due respect your logic seems flawed to me at best because you’ve applied your morals to a God that is not answerable to us. The argument centers around the false belief that if evil does exist then God must somehow clean it up or make it go away else he is not God. Should he clean up Free Agency?
    I would postulate this. Let me know if it makes sense to you I’ve been reading and thinking about the issue and I believe there are only three possibilities (really only two) but for the sake of enlightenment here goes:
    IF we say that there is no God Then surely we lie. For in saying thus we are professing that we can see and comprehend every corner of the known and unknown Universe e.g. become all knowing and make such judgment. In doing so; we profess to make ourselves God. Thus we lie and become like Satan.

    IF we say that we do not know if there is a God then we are at the beginning of understanding and discovery for God does not have to answer to our simple logic and self deception. But instead waits for us to discover Him. Through our own agency on a personal level that speaks to His majesty and Kingship.

    IF we say that there is a God then we do well for by every means available to me and to be considered from the intricacies of quaternary code we laughingly refer to as DNA we have been coded by the hand of Him who made all things. Or by the balance of the Big Bang, which would collapse with one too many atoms and never expand with one too few the Masters’ design, is shown.
    What a child understands the wisest of the wise can’t seem to comprehend. Look into your childs eyes and tell me don’t you see more than just a bunch of synaptic events? This book made sense to me because it has such a wide spectrum of experiences its named“Life Everlasting.” I believe there is a God. But if i also belive that he gave us free agency (and I do belive that free agency is God’s gift to us) Then I belive its wrong to force my way of life on anyone else. Best of luck to you in your Journey we call life. If you will forgive me “God Bless”

  18. Joseph Daniel Murrey

    I love this passage, though we deserve to die because of our sin, “for the wages of sin is death,” we get eternal life in Christ Jesus. Sooo awesome!!! I wiish you guys would not look all the negatives of faith and see the whole purpose is “fullness of joy” and “peace forevermore.”

    “And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. Though they know God’s righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.
    (Romans 1:28-32 ESV).

    BUT!!! “..the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord!”

  19. For the sake of argument, if a deity gave me a “debased mind,” I’m fairly certain I would be unhappy with that gift. Thus, if that same deity offered another gift of “eternal life,” I would probably reject that gift, as well. That seems like a fairly unstable deity to me, thus I would likely “not see fit to acknowledge” that deity as having any authority. A tad circular, but then I usually see things from an odd angle.

  20. @The Rodent – stealing this, brother! “I usually don’t discuss religion because people, especially believers in X for all values of X, tend to be so irrational about it.”

  21. I use to try and force my Ideas, religion and imagination on other people. One day I realized how totally selfish I had become. I was afraid of not being excepted by my peers, so I tried to change them, so they would accept me. Once I accepted me I was no longer afraid of being alone.

  22. He did not give you a debased mind, a debased mind comes from an unwillingness to “acknowledge God.” He gave us revelation of His character and we chose to mock Him and scorn Him. He is not a controlling God, but a God of long-suffering and love. What he did give us is His own Son, hence my faith and the faith of millions before me, with me, and after me!!!

  23. @Mr. Murrey, I am an apostate. The journey to that began with me (a proud christian at the time) attempting to prove the bible to be the in fallible word of god. I apostated when I discovered a few things:
    1) There is no one right way to live.
    2) Humanity does not require salvation, because sin is a tool contrived by humans to control other humans.
    3) The foundation of the religion I adhered to was based on numerous versions of sun deities that it decided to ignore once their utility ceased.
    4) All sun-deity religions have their roots in the formation of totalitarian agriculture.
    5) The fact that the immortal version of Jesus, the version christians observe today, was picked over a purely mortal version by an emperor of a dying empire making a desperate power play so that he could win a war his daddy lost (Constantine).
    I could go on. I’ve written what amounts to a couple of dissertations on this subject (my wife wants me to turn these into books). My point is that this is not fertile ground for the seed you seek to plant and nurture. The paths you are trying to take us down are old and traveled by me. I know where they lead. I am not a mark in this play anymore.

    • @Grant A Cole…I think your wife is right. You should listen to her.

      As to #5, from what I’ve read, the time was ripe for a mortal, in-the-flesh, singular, relateable God that could help the common man. When I was in college, I remember there was a “courtyard preacher.” Well, actualy he was a little nuts, and he often claimed to be the son of god. He used to chastize the girls for the length of our shorts. I used to wonder if, in another time or place, he could have been Jesus. Yes, to 1 and 2 and 3 and 4….hence, Easter is the first Sunday after the first full moon after the vernal equinox…Perfect time for planting. But you already knew that.

  24. @Grant A Cole, Please listen to the wife! Genius.

    Ms. Mitchell THANK YOU FOR HAVING THIS BLOG! THANK YOU FOR WRITING THAT ESSAY! THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU!

  25. Generalization warning!!
    I honestly do believe that the evangelists are the epitome of evil in every meaning of the word. Arrogant, hypocritical and deceitful is what their normality seems to be.

    Missionaries may do good deeds while also prozelyting but it is worth remembering an old adage about a tribal leader who told that before the missionaries they were happy and after in anguish. It is also worth pondering whether Christopher Hitchens was right when he claimed that Mother Teresa was not the friend of the poor but of poverty. If the reasons for poverty had been removed, the base for her work had eroded.

    I have a very bleak picture of the pious – nothing good that has happened would have been left undone without religious faith.

  26. @saab93f
    I felt the same way until I found out that the atheist businessman Robert Wilson, gave $22.5 million (£13.5 million) to Catholic education in New York, arguing that, “without the Roman Catholic Church, there would be no western civilization.” This surprised me to I started to look into it and found, that the Catholic Church, albeit made up of flawed humans like every other group in society, was not really the evil that modern culture promotes it to be….

    1. Franciscan Roger Bacon – Wrote Opus Maius creating the science of optics, leading to the invention of eye glasses shortly after publishing.

    2. Catholic Astronomers developed the Gregorian Calendar we use to this day.

    3. Fr. Angelo Secchi is one of the founders of astro physics.

    4. Fr. Georges Lemaitre, the author of the Big Bang Theory which even Lawrence Kraus doesn’t deny.

    5. Marco Polo – Famous Explorer – Catholic

    6. Prince Henry the Navigator – Famous Explorer – Catholic

    7. Bartolomeu Dias – Famous Explorer – Catholic

    8. Christopher Columbus – Famous Explorer – Catholic

    9. Ferdinand Magellan – Famous Explorer – Catholic

    10. Diogo Ribeiro’s Padron Real designed the worlds first modern scientific map demonstrating the earth was round (oh wait that’s the right the 19th century claim that Christians thought the earth was flat was bunk)

    11. Fr. Nicolas Steno – founder of stratigraphy (geologic rock strata)

    12. Jen Baptiste Lamark – developed the theory of evolution in 1829 (Dawin broadened it in 1859 30 years later)

    13. I’ll lump all the philosophers into one -
    St Augustine (d 430)
    St Thomas Aquinas (d 1274)
    St Anselm (d 1109)
    Blessed Duns Scotus (d 1308)
    Suárez (d 1617)
    Blaise Pascal (d 1662)
    St Edith Stein (d 1942)
    Elizabeth Anscombe (d 2001)
    Alasdair MacIntyre
    All Catholics who have defended the irreducibility of the human person to matter, the principle that created beings can be genuine causes of their own actions, free will, the role of the virtues in happiness, objective good and evil, natural law and the principle of non-contradiction. These principles have had an incalculable influence on intellectual life and culture.

    14. Catholics founded the only institutions of higher learning in the following cities -
    Bologna (1088)
    Paris (c 1150)
    Oxford (1167)
    Salerno (1173)
    Vicenza (1204)
    Cambridge (1209)
    Salamanca (1218-1219)
    Padua (1222)
    Naples (1224)
    Vercelli (1228)
    By the middle of the 15th century the Catholic Church founded over 50 universities in Europe.

    15. Catholic Valentin Haüy (d 1822), brother of the Abbé Haüy (the priest who invented crystallography), founded the first school for the blind. The most famous student of this school, Louis Braille (d 1852), developed the worldwide system of writing for the blind that today bears his name.

    16. Catholics founded the first known grammer schools in the sixth century.

    17. Contrary to fictional authors like Dan Brown some of the greatest artists in history were Catholic, specifically,
    - Giotto (d 1337) initiated a realism which helped to inspire three-dimensional art and drama;
    Brunelleschi (d 1446) invented of one-point linear perspective
    Blessed Fra Angelico (d 1455)
    Leonardo da Vinci (d 1519)
    Raphael (d 1520)
    Caravaggio (d 1610, pictured)
    Michelangelo (d 1564)
    Bernini (d 1680).

    18. The Latin alphabet was spread by Catholic Missionaries and is a heck of alot easier than the Cyrillic or logographic alphabets.

    19. Out of Catholic institutions came staff notation (i.e. those funny little symbols musicians use in reading music)

    20. polyphony also came out of Catholic’s using Gregorian chant.

    21. Lets not forget opera which also came from Catholic liturgical music.

    22. Catholic patronage and liturgical forms shaped many works by Monteverdi (d 1643), Vivaldi (d 1741), Mozart (d 1791, pictured) and Beethoven (d 1827)

    23.Contrary to popular prejudice, extraordinary and influential women have been one of the hallmarks of Catholic civilization. Let’s name a few:
    St Hilda (d 680 after whom St Hilda’s College, Oxford, is named)
    Blessed Hildegard von Bingen (d 1179), abbess and polymath.
    Empress Matilda (d 1167)
    Eleanor of Aquitaine (d 1204)
    The first Queen of England, Mary Tudor (d 1558).

    24. Catholic civilization also produced many of the first women scientists and professors:
    - Trotula of Salerno in the 11th century,
    - Dorotea Bucca (d 1436), who held a chair in medicine at the University of Bologna,
    - Elena Lucrezia Piscopia (d 1684), the first woman to receive a Doctor of Philosophy degree (1678)
    - Maria Agnesi (d 1799), the first woman to become professor of mathematics, who was appointed by Pope Benedict XIV as early as 1750.

    Doesn’t seem the epitome of evil to me, does it to you?

    • @Joe K. Where did you find that list of Catholic accomplishments? I cannot confirm that Robert Wilson quote. (Blogs don’t count.) I read that he said private schools rely on private donations and that Catholic schools do a great job educating, which I agree.

      No doubt the Catholic Church and Catholics have done good. However, how many of those were Catholic by default. The church was the law, and if you dissented in any way, you could be imprisoned. And the Catholic Church was the wealthiest business in the land. So I’m not sure about that list…

  27. @Joe: Which of those you listed were evengelists (in a sense that it is understood now)?
    In the Middle-Age it was either a Catholic or dead – dead don´t do science much so…

    I am altogether unsure why you replied like that at all.

  28. @saab93f…I replied that way because you said evangelists. All religious folk feel they are called to evangelize, thereby lumping them all together. If you meant Evangelical’s (which I now gather you may have meant based on your response) that’s a different thing of which I have no knowledge or friends I can find info from, so my post was probably off topic.

    As to why I replied that way… we all owe it to ourselves to make reasoned and rational decisions based on objectively true facts, for the longest time I had a very very (borderline derogatory) negative view of religious folk. But I have found over time (and a lot of discussions with a friend) that much of what I thought was based on theory, creative historical interpretation, conjecture and emotional negativity, vice objective evidence. It wasn’t until someone pointed out fact vice fiction that I realized there was so much more to the picture then met the eye.

    Bottom line as to why? The quest for reasoned conclusions based on objectively truthful information.

  29. @Joe: I see, a typo or a miswriting on my part :) Thanks for a dignified reply.

    You are right, there are a lot of very smart people who are also religious. OTOH I would claim that there are no such evengeliCALS. They may have book wisdom but intelligent nor honest they are not IMHO.

  30. Sexual immorality from a Biblical stand point is more than just what you listed. It would also include pre-marital sex, adultery and more.

    I also would be interested in your answers to the questions you list.

  31. I bet that if you showed that video to most evangelicals, that they would tell you that funding anything that hurts other people is wrong and would not want it funded and would also argue that their money never goes to people doing that. Most of them would also be right. On the other hand, most people want to foster other people having the same beliefs they do, whatever those beliefs. Clearly you believe in fostering your beliefs. This is why you blog and posted on CNN.

    As for why we should even care about this stuff, it is because you are telling us that something is fine when we don’t believe it is. I firmly believe that sexual promiscuity is bad for society in all forms, be it homosexual or heterosexual. I believe that we should do things to discourage it. I don’t believe that we should go overboard and execute people who participate in it, or even necessarily make it illegal. After all, we have not made cigarettes illegal and they are clearly bad for people.

    On the other hand, the point of government supporting marriage is that there is a state interest in making sure that children are raised well and in the best environment possible. Given how we heterosexuals have screwed that up, I believe the right answer at this point is not to allow more people to marry, but to just get the state out of supporting marriage entirely. If you got rid off all state recognition of marriage, there would be no debate. After all, marriage itself is a religious institution.

    • @Kidnike I don’t think I’m “fostering my beliefs.” I’m not trying to get you to adopt my belief system. I could care less. Actually what I AM asking is that believers of all faiths (and don’t try to tell me atheists/agnostics are believers because they believe in nothing) be respected. I’m asking that you let us all believe what we want, love who we want, think what we want. I don’t try to convert you. I could care less if you love a man or a woman or both. I’m asking that you mind your own business (not just you specifically) and live your own life and let others live theirs…Many people don’t want government in their lives’ they don’t want gov’t regulations, but they are so. freaking. hypocritical. They want to legislate morality; they want to get into people’s homes and bedrooms. Geez. Why do you care so much if your neighbor is gay and what are you afraid of?

      Getting marriage out of the government would be a good idea but there would be a lot of kinks to hammer out.

  32. I agree that you have the right to believe what you want as long as it is not harming others. Obviously, if you believe murder is OK, there are limits, but I don’t believe in legislating morality except when it affects others. Hence what I said was that I believe we should discourage behaviors that we think are bad for society, but not make them illegal. I am not in favor of making cigarettes illegal, even though I think they are bad for you. I do believe in regulating where you can smoke as that affects me and my health.

    On the other hand, you do need to understand where the religious are coming from. If you believed that someone was about to get hurt by a falling tree, wouldn’t you warn them about it? Many religious people believe that you will be hurt by not believing in God, and therefore they believe they should try to convince you that they are right to “save” you. This is not a flaw, but a good neighbor. Now, I agree that when they get into “legislating morality” then they are wrong.

    On the other hand, when people are changing the laws, they need to understand the ramifications. Changes to gay marriage laws is one in particular. For example, in Washington state, gay marriage was just made legal. I will be honest, I don’t care about whether homosexuals can marry. However, because of the change to the law, I can now be forced to participate in a behavior I consider immoral. For example, if I am a wedding photographer, I can now be forced to photograph a gay wedding even if I consider this immoral behavior. This is the only aspect of this that I have a problem with. I don’t want to photograph behavior I believe is wrong, whether it be a drunken party, people making fun of homosexuals or a gay wedding. I will NOT discriminate against anyone at work based on their orientation of any kind. I will only discriminate against behaviors that hurt the business and are business related.

    This is why I would just like to get government out of marriage. I understand it is difficult, but I believe it is the only way to solve some of our current problems.

    • @kidnike
      > I can now be forced to photograph a gay wedding

      Good news! Last I heard, Washington isn’t a slave state. :-) You can just decline the business if you don’t want it.

    • @kidnike I agree with your first paragraph about behaviors that harm others.

      As for your second paragraph, this line here: “Many religious people believe that you will be hurt by not believing in God, and therefore they believe they should try to convince you that they are right to “save” you.” OK I’m going to just be straight and tell you from everything I’ve experienced in this world, those religious folk out to “convince” us that they are right are doing so because they think that is what God wants them to do. And what do they get in return? God smiles, opens his arms and grants them a life of eternity. Give me a break. Really? If you think people give a shit about helping others, I’ll give you a dissertation on all the mean, neglectful and down-right rude things many people do. But take those same folks and put a Bible in their hand, and you have a different animal. You can’t turn on kindness when you are doing God’s work. Those of us who don’t believe are asking for respect. Please don’t preach to us or try to convert us.

      The reason why you have a problem with photographing a gay couple is because YOU are judgmental. Refer back to your paragraph #1: Who are gay people harming?

  33. @dam LOL something is really wonky here. I just clicked on the link I posted and went right to the article then I clicked on our link and it said HTP ERROR 404. I even connected your link (it didn’t cut and paste right) Not sure why you can’t see it. If you google “By Patrick Cole – May 23, 2007 19:56 EDT” it should show up as the first and second link in Google. Thats the author and date of the article. It could be because I’m in the UK and you’re in the States. Not sure, I’d be happy to email you a .pdf of the article.

    • @Joe K…Ahh, yes, now I see it. Thanks for sending…Yeah, I’d have to agree. In its early history, the Catholic church was the law. It did so much for society in terms of education and the arts and helping the poor–and the cultural impact was huge. The church was much different then; now it’s not as useful and not even necessary. It’s more a place of comfort, community and hope now…

  34. These are great talking points!! My boyfriend and I have had a lot of conversations about dealing with religion when our son wonders why we don’t go to church, or why we don’t talk about religion as a ‘way of life’. He’s two now, but I am pocketing some of these questions to keep in mind when he brings the subject up in the future. Thanks!

  35. @kidnike
    > I can now be forced to photograph a gay wedding

    You are not FORCED to do anything. You don’t want to discriminate and I applaud you for that, but that is YOUR choice. Basically, you don’t want to discriminate, but you want the government to discriminate. Essentially, you want the government to do your dirty work for you.

    In modern day US, marriage is not a religious institution. It is regulated by the goverment given that you have to get a license affects many other things (paying taxes, estates, visiting people in the hospital). As dam said, there would be a lot of kinks to iron out to get the government out of marriage. Basically, since same sex marriage is illegal in most states, they are being unfairly treated. For example, there was a couple in the US that was together for decades. They even got married in Canada. However, since the US doesn’t recognize same sex marriage, when one of them died, the other had to pay estate taxes becuase she wasn’t considered the spouse of the woman who died. Normally, spouses do not pay estate taxes. It is a violation of their rights. Same sex marriage doese not hurt anyone. Why do you believe it is bad for society?

    • @dallasgrl All great points….I especially like and think this is accurate: ” Essentially, you want the government to do your dirty work for you.”

  36. @everyone….I know we as agnostics and atheists, understand what I am about to say. I will first echo….don’t take the photography job. It’s your choice. Don’t talk to your gay neighbor. It’s your choice. Stop watching Anderson Cooper, he came out of the closet. It’s your choice. Did you know that a GLBT (gay, lesbian, bi, transgender) can side step your morality issue by not getting married in a church. You don’t have to get married in a church. And, then again, why are so many churches allowing these marriages (outside of legislation)? Because these churches don’t have a moral problem engaging two people into harmonious matrimony.

    There are many churches, people and businesses that display these high regards for morals, but do not really engage in true moral ethics. Take the Catholic Church and pedophiles. Hey, we can’t marry Bill and Jack. It’s not morally right. But, hey Brother John seems a little too nice with those children. That’s okay, we know it’s not morally right, but we’ll sweep that one behind the curtains for now.

  37. Excellent discussion points. I really admire how you approach this stuff.

  38. If I turn down the job, I can be sued for discriminating based on sexual orientation. Yes, I am being judgmental, just as I am about alcohol or cocaine. And yet, if I discriminate in this case, I can be successfully sued in court. That is what I have a problem with and where you are now interfering with my rights.

    As far as people and how they act, I will NOT say that most people are really doing good things, I am just explaining the logic behind it. I personally believe that most people are not living up to their own moral standards, and if the God they believe in exists, they are probably all in a lot of trouble.

    As for being treated unfairly, so are lots of other people. Why are we spending all of our time on this one topic instead of fixing some of our more important issues.

    Why are you discriminating against single people? I think everyone should pay estate taxes whether it is a child, spouse or otherwise. I think most of the other benefits that married couples get should also go away. We heterosexuals have screwed up marriage so badly I just think government should stop supporting it completely.

    As for me, I will talk with anyone, anytime, politely, if they are willing to discuss stuff. I will invite you to talk about my religion if you want, and tell you why I think it is important if you want. I will also warn you about a tree that is about to fall on you, or a car that is about to hit you, but I won’t throw you in jail if you refuse to move. That is your choice. I will be friends with people who do things that I think are wrong, whether that be sex outside of marriage, drinking, smoking, whatever. I will not hang out with smokers smoking in my presence anymore for health reasons.

    • @Kidnike. Just one comment about this:

      Yes, I am being judgmental, just as I am about alcohol or cocaine.

      Alcohol and cocaine are your choice. If you are referring to people who abuse it and then get on the roads, that’s a different story. You cannot compare either of those instances (your use of it or someone else’s) to equal rights for the homosexual community.

  39. @dam *sigh*. Eek! The conversation of course degenerated, exactly as predicted by my theoretical model. I’ll continue to view your RSS feed, but unsubbing from the comments here… I’m sure you have better things to do, like raise your kids and live a life… Toodles. You know where to find me. ;-)

  40. @Kidnike

    >Why are you discriminating against single people? I think everyone should pay estate taxes whether it is a child, spouse or otherwise.

    I am not discriminating against single people. The government does not make spouses pay estate taxes because it is not viewed as an “estate” that is going to the spouse; it is viewed as a joint property that belongs to the surviving spouse. Theoretically, the estate was accumulated throughout the couple’s lives, why should the surviving spouse pay taxes? If a couple decides not to get married, that is their choice. The couple to which I am referring was together for 40 years. They wanted to get married in the eyes of the US government, but they weren’t “allowed” to. They weren’t given the choice. The woman in question paid hundreds of thousands of dollars in estate taxes for an estate that she helped accumulate. However, since they weren’t married in the eyes of the government, she was viewed as receiving an estate. She ended up suing and won her case, but she shouldn’t have had to go through all of that to not have to pay an estate tax that a heterosexual couple wouldn’t have had to pay. These are the reasons they are fighting for equal protection under the law.

    As far as you being forced to photograph the wedding, would you feel forced against your will to photograph a wedding that served alcohol? If so, I guess alcohol should be outlawed as well. There are a lot of things that people do that you may not “agree” with, but this shouldn’t mean that it should be outlawed unless it is hurting someone else. This is the exact problem that a lot of people have with the Christian right. They are trying to force their beliefs on an entire nation. A nation is not comprised of all Christians. A nation that was founded under religious freedom.

  41. Joseph Daniel Murrey

    @Grant A Cole. It would have been good for yout have “pressed on” in your faith. Interesting stuff about sun gods, but it is false, skeptics have been making that arguement for centuries while trying to dissuade people of faith and turn people from God. You are correct, sin was created, but it was created as a result man’s rebellion from our righteous God.

    “For the foolishness of God is wiser than man’s wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than man’s strength.” 1 Corinthians 1:25

  42. @dallasgrl, I have actually never stated that they should not be able to marry. I actually don’t care. Although it is against my beliefs, you are right, it is a personal choice. All I am against is being able to be successfully sued if I don’t participate. And realistically in Washington state, that is really the only thing that allowing gays to marry gave them the right to do. They already had all other rights.

    And right now, I cannot be forced to photograph a wedding with alcohol. Those who drink ar not a protected class. Because sexual orientation is a protected class, and they can marry, I can be sued for refusing to participate in a gay wedding. But I could refuse to participate in a wedding because someone has blue eyes, and I could not be sued. Blue eyed people are not a protected class.

    All I want is to not be required to participate and condone behavior that I find immoral. That can easily be done without outlawing gay marriage. In my state, I did not vote against the right for gay couples to have the right to have all the rights when that was an initiative. The only thing I voted against was the gay marriage initiative, because the only exception made for participating in the marriage was for clergy, not for others who opposed the practice for religious reasons.

    There were even those who pushed for the law saying that this was not about their rights, but that it was about forcing the rest of us to accept them. I don’t care about accepting them. I have had several friends over the years that were gay and I accepted them. I just find some of their behavior immoral. I also have friends that drink, and they know that I think that is immoral too, but it does not affect our friendship.

  43. @kidnike… I am very much in agreement with what you have posted. Interestingly, no matter how many times you try to clarify your answers others here don’t seem to get what you are saying. It is amazing to me how unbelievers can be some of the most closed minded people you will ever come in contact with.

    • @Really We have a grasp of what Kidnike is saying. You can tell by the exchange of dialogue. Look at all the comments. Don’t just cherry pick because you have an ax to grind. Perhaps you have made assumptions because that’s how you feel in your own personal life: misunderstood.

      I wouldn’t call you names and say you are “close minded.” You don’t even know any of us to make that judgment….What do your words say about you, though?

      • @dam…I didn’t call a name, I was describing a behavior – closed minded. I read all the comments and responded based on what I read. Although I appreciate your attempt at assessing my feelings, your conclusion is incorrect. I don’t have an ax to grind and I don’t feel misunderstood. My opinion comes from my personal experiences just as I’m sure yours do. I am speaking about the majority of people though. As always, there are exceptions and you may be one of them. But I would doubt it based on the premise for your blog and your responses to thoughts or opinions different from yours.

        • @Really. Perhaps you think so many people you’ve never spoken with are close-minded is because you want them to think and believe as you do.

          • @dam.. I’m really just talking about those I have spoken with or read their words. My opinion isn’t based on whether or not people believe as I do. I’m just talking about their willingness to consider a different view. I personally have found that atheists, agnostics etc. have an extremely negative view of believers and lump them all together, which is amazing to me considering there are millions and millions and have been billions of believers. Atheists have heard it all, seen it all, and there is nothing new to even consider. And once again I’m talking about my personal interactions.

            • @Really? I hear you. I really do. Look. You’re the majority as a christian in this country. And I don’t know which nonbelievers you are talking about, but my nonbeliever AND believer (not just Christian!) friends and acquaintances are all good, kind people. So, it’s your stereotyping that makes me cringe.

              Yes, you still think you have new info, a new argument? I don’t know anyone who has that, believer or nonbeliever. There have always been followers and dissenters.

              And, once again, my personal experience tells me that not everyone holds your views. Thank your proverbial god.

  44. @kignike & really? I’ve now read about lawsuits that are happening in states where gay marriage has been granted. My closed mindedness, I suppose, jumped in to play, because I wouldn’t turn away any of my business ventures to muslims, blacks, gays, christians….I’m open for business. I don’t have to worry about any lawsuits because I’m not prejudice. I feel your issue, because it should be your choice to turn away business. You shouldn’t have to worry about being sued. That sucks!

    At the end of the day, it’s your prejudice that puts you in this bind. Our country has been fighting for equality since it’s inception.

  45. @dam.. I agree there are plenty of non-believers that are good. I’m not sure how you got from my comments that I thought they weren’t. I think you can be good and unwilling to consider other people’s views at the same time. Like I said, that’s been my experience in dealing with atheists/agnostics etc. I also wonder if this is just the age we live in now. Polarized uncompromising views on everything from global warming to politics.

    • @Really? I see that- I think you’re right that our nation has become very polarized. Wonder why…

      • @dam… “If I speak with human eloquence and angelic ecstasy but don’t love, I’m nothing but the creaking of a rusty gate. If I speak God’s Word with power, revealing all his mysteries and making everything plain as day, and if I have faith that says to a mountain, “Jump,” and it jumps, but I don’t love, I’m nothing. If I give everything I own to the poor and even go to the stake to be burned as a martyr, but I don’t love, I’ve gotten nowhere. So, no matter what I say, what I believe, and what I do, I’m bankrupt without love.” This is what I believe and this what I strive for every day. It is from the bible and is the teachings of Jesus. Maybe if there was a little more of this in the world, well it would be heaven on earth.

        • @Really? Well, I’ll tell you. I may disagree with others, but I really, really like people. And I believe, with all its flaws, this earth is heaven.

  46. Hi @Dam,

    I’m a “trans”woman and as a consequence I am lesbian. I’m happily married to my Texan born wife and we plan on getting kids in the near future. Fortunately my foresight was good and the children will be our biological children. We live in Europe, a choice we made after thoroughly investigating our options. A few of the reasons we chose Europe were obvious, we’re both lesbian, atheist and we wanted to get hitched. Though some states have become more liberal, but nowhere we would be received as we are in my home country.
    I’ve seen the Ugandan laws progressing more and more in the “wrong” direction. Being part of more than one “sexually immoral” category I follow their developments with pain in my heart. It affects innocent people and even those that are innocent of said sexually immorality…
    The blessing of their parlementarian speaker Rebecca Kadaga (http://www.pinknews.co.uk/2012/12/14/pope-gives-blessing-to-ugandas-anti-gay-parliamentary-speaker-rebecca-kadaga/) just shows where some religions put their hearts (I’m talking religion, not those professing it). Where I live this has lead to a lot of people giving up their Catholic membership, as the intolerance of the pope conflicts with their own convictions.

    It does therefore not surprise me that other religious groups sponsor the Ugandan lawmakers.
    Morals are different everywhere, but what they clarify is “how to be good” and “what is bad behaviour”. I’m just left wondering, I’m just being me, and I love my wife, just like others love their wives. How is my behaviour bad? Who do I hurt with love that I need to be punished for it.

    If you tie a request or a condition to a donation, it is merely payment for services rendered. It’s simple as that.

    “Why do you think some churches and their congregations care about the homosexuality issue?”
    This is actually a reasonably new development. And the new development I speak of is the apparent high intolerance of same sex attraction. In the early christian church there was a rite called Adelphopoiesis which bound two people of the same sex together. Homosexuality was never as negatively regarded as in recent times. I’m not sure how to place this, xenophobic comes to mind though.

    Your second to last question is most likely the question that needs to be asked “If a person is gay or lesbian, how does his or her sexual preference affect society?”
    It will affect society as much as my preference for wine over beer. I do NOT endanger, change, violate or hurt anyone with the love for my wife.
    And if you feel hurt by it, please let me know, I like to be enlightened…

    “What would happen if homosexuality were made illegal in America?”
    Chaos would ensue…
    People would be unhappy, but that is put the least. In Uganda two men were arrested and convicted for being gay because of the choice of beverage when they were in a bar. This is probable in a country where something as concealable as sexual preference is made illegal. It’s like in wartimes, where one can warn the authorities that the neighbour you dislike is working with the enemy….

    • Hi Julya. Thanks so much for sharing your story and for the interesting information. I wish America were more like Europe. It seems like we are headed in that direction in terms of our attitudes, but who knows how long it will take for us to be a more tolerant nation as a whole. (I’ll say that you certainly have a lot of support from many people in the US, including me.) I am shocked that the Catholic church, of all churches, would bless their anti-gay parlementarian. How hypocritical. Not only that, but the Catholic church has always taught the Golden Rule of do unto others..

      I do remember in a class I took that we read a book called Gay New York. Are you familiar with it? It is a really interesting and well researched book that tells how gays were accepted (and not in the closet) prior to the 1960s. I wonder if the change in our societal views came from Barry Goldwater and his conservative manifesto.

  47. Evangelicals will never stop pushing their religion on others because their popularity is the only thing that validates their existence. Fundamentalist religions have a hidden agenda for a Theocracy, it makes sense to start with still developing nations that need humanitarian assistance which they are less likely to turn away.

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