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Answering a Call From God: Christians, Atheists and Gays

August 07, 2009 By: jaysays Category: Commentary, Featured, Thought of the Gay

silenceI sat down the other day and penned “Murder of Gay Youths in Tel Aviv: I’m the One to Blame.” Although many have misconstrued the message to be an apology for “blaming religion” for anti-gay attitudes, it was really a call for us each to take personal responsibility in obtaining social and civil equality.  We need to answer the call from “God” to ensure social and legal equality for all people.

While writing the post, I remembered, if only briefly, the slogan, “Silence = Death.” For those too young to remember, the slogan was about the HIV/AIDS epidemic sweeping the nation and our government remaining silent on the issue as people died.  The slogan was later popularized by the group, ACT UP!  At that time in our history, HIV/AIDS was considered a gay disease, having originally been named, GRID (Gay Related Immune Deficiency).  While it didn’t take long for society at large to be infected by a virus straights thought they couldn’t “catch,” the damage was already done.  HIV/AIDS was now an epidemic because no one was listening to the cries for help from gay community, no one cared about dead and dying queers.

I sat thinking about that and how the slogan remains applicable today, both in relation to HIV/AIDS and in the murdering of LGBT people in violent actions such as what took place in Tel Aviv. If we remain silent, we die.  We just have to speak up.

This thought train took me somewhere else, to our religious opponents that claim morality is on their side.  They believe they are answering a call from God with their bigotry and intolerance, but I offend by calling them bigots.  They would have you believe that such a term does not apply to them because they condemn the action of being gay, not the person who is gay.  The religious folks have made these sorts of claims in the past – that some group is beneath them, worthless, soulless, sinners and should be ruled by this “Christian God.”

It was then that I had a realization.  Although I’m an atheist and a gay man, I am also answering a call from God because I am responding to their alleged call from God.  There is a certain level of humor in that for me.  It’s very difficult to respond to claims that some deity I don’t believe in dislikes me without just saying, “I don’t believe in the tooth fairy and I don’t believe in God.”  After all, there is no requirement in this country that I believe in the same things that others believe.

But that doesn’t work in talking to our greatest U.S. adversaries, the Christian Reich. They can’t fathom the concept that people believe differently than they do, they can’t handle the fact that the “truth” they are speaking is actually only belief.  I don’t believe that gay is a sin.  In fact, I don’t believe in sin at all.  I believe in right and wrong.  It is wrong to hurt people.  It is wrong to try to rule their lives based on your beliefs.  It is wrong to steal my rights, just as wrong as it is for me to steal yours.  Unlike our Christian opponents, I don’t need a belief in God to do the right thing.  It’s not fear of an eternity in hell that keeps me from murdering people, it’s humanity, compassion, honor, dignity and even morality that stays my hand.

A great thing has swept the nation – perhaps we have Proposition 8 to thank for it – but LGBT people are starting to come together as a true community of people. We must not back down now.  They are wrong and they will not win.  Change is happening, but change needs your help.  Whether your straight or not so straight, you must speak up or we will continue to have our rights denied.  You must find courage in yourself and give courage to others.  We can do this.

Imagine if you will a world where Rosa Parks said, “Yes ma’am, you can have my seat on the bus.”  Or a world where Eleanor Roosevelt advised, “Why do I need to vote, my husband thinks the same as I do.”

We have to break free of the fear that the intolerant have bestowed upon us and just say no. No, I won’t hide any longer. No, I won’t be oppressed any longer. No, I won’t allow you to hurt me anymore.

My dream – that future generations will live free of the fear associated with being LGBT and I’ll continue fighting to realize that dream.  Now, I ask that you dare to dream too.  Release your fear and speak out against bigotry and hate.  Call your local churches, your politicians, your anti-gay aunt and tell them, “We’re here, we’re queer, and we aren’t going to hide in the shadows anymore.”

“Every time we choose safety, we reinforce fear.” — Cheri Huber

Christians Support Atheists for Jesus? A WTF Moment.

May 01, 2009 By: jaysays Category: Commentary, Featured, Religion

Atheists for JesusI recently stumbled across this article, F-Words: The future of atheism is religion, which quotes another blog at BoingBoing on “Big Tent Atheism”.

I think closeted atheists who participate in other religious activities are the future of atheism. They know that prayer feels good without a needing brain scientist to tell them, and they know you don’t need God to want to feed the hungry, heal the sick, and provide homes for the orphaned. What if they simply stopped reciting the words that they didn’t agree with during religious services, without calling attention to it? In many places I don’t think they would be kicked out or turned upon and beaten just for that.

As a gay man and an atheist I find the above very disturbing.  Although I’m well aware that my “religion,” unlike my sexual orientation, is a belief with no foundation in fact (something a significant portion of Christians could use a dose of), I still feel as though pretending to pray would be as vile as pretending to be heterosexual and it would likely invoke the same nausea.

There is a certain level of hypocrisy that I refuse to breach.  Sitting quietly by while others pray is one thing, but I draw the line at reciting the rosary with anyone – leaving out words or not.

There is also something I know that apparently the author of the above was unaware – prayer doesn’t feel good to me, it’s actually sometimes uncomfortable and almost always leads to comments about how I did not pray.  Prayer for me is less fulfilling than standing in front of the mirror talking to myself.  If prayer were fulfilling, perhaps I would not be an atheist.

There have been many occasions where those around me have joined hands to pray, say the rosary or offer a blessing over their meal – I do live in Texas after all.  Each time I’m in that situation, I make it a point not to lower my head, not to appear to be muttering words to nothing and to remain very quiet and very still.  While I respect their religious choice, I will not “pretend” to be of the same persuasions and beliefs anymore than I would expect them to pretend to be homosexual if they were not.

Perhaps I feel so strongly about this because I spent so many years pretending to be a heterosexual and even more years pretending to be “christian,” or perhaps I’m upset at the inference that atheist organizations wish to have “big tent” meetings and join together in some sort of celebration of … of what?  Does this author expect that atheists will form a new church, “The Church of Atheists for Jesus?”

Believing in the existence of an all powerful deity is exhausting – particularly when their are thousands of organizations claiming their way is the right way, each purportedly acting on behalf of “god.”

Yet the religious opinion seems to have been and will always be, “At least pretend to conform to the way we believe so we don’t have to hate you.”  Oh hypocrisy… didn’t Christ have something to say about that?

Bill Maher: Your Silly Gods Cost Us Too Much

February 24, 2009 By: jaysays Category: Commentary, Religion

Not so very long ago, I wrote a blog post where I discussed the history of Christian violence.  Shortly after, I discussed the use of the Bible to justify discrimination against African Americans, women and homosexuals.  Those two post obviously represent my feelings toward the church and its power.  I find it frightening, but not in that “We’ll put the fear of God in you” sort of way; in the “boy you sure got a pretty mouth” sort of way.

As an atheist, it is surprising to me that the first thought that came to my mind after hearing Bill Maher say, “Someday we all do have to confront the notion that our silly gods cost us too much” was: Bill Maher better be glad he’s wearing a rubber suit ‘cuz God going to strike him down with lightening.

It then occurred to me that I may subconsciously be a believer in “God.”  All day today I debated the ramifications of what it will mean now that I realize I do believe in God.  Now, instead of sleeping in on Sunday until 9 a.m. (10 if I’m lucky), I will have to rise early, dress like I’m going to the office, have a nice breakfast so my stomach doesn’t interrupt the guy at the altar, drive 50-ish miles to the nearest city (I’m certainly not ready to go to church in the country) and listen while I’m told what my belief in God will require.

That’s where the fantasy of my thoughts end.  I realized at that very moment that the reason I do not believe in God (now or even when listening to Bill Maher) is because people expect you to do certain things in order to believe in God.  You can’t declare, “I believe in God” and just have people believe you, you must prove you believe in God.

How does one prove they believe in God?  Let’s see:

  • Go to church.
  • Say, “Bless you,” way too often.
  • Tell other people they must believe in God too.
  • Donate money to organizations that make people cry, but not tears of joy.
  • Pray over my meals.
  • Tell other people they must pray with me or their eternal soul will suffer unthinkable ill.
  • Give 10% of my assets to the church.
  • Pray the church will raise enough money from the very person that is giving the church the money.
  • Get married to some-one of the opposite sex whether or not we love each other.
  • Have children.
  • Teach my children to believe in the same God I believe in.
  • Never have an independent thought without thinking its a sin.

So, if you ever wonder what makes a person who was once a believer stop believing, the answer is simple, I can only believe what it is I believe, whether it be in tooth fairies or money trees, gods or a God, it is what I believe.  Perhaps ironically, I “believe” that is exactly the same reason people do believe in God.

Therefore, I disagree with what Bill Maher did, but not what Bill Maher said.  I agree that “gods,” by away of religion, have cost us greatly.  I disagree with him using the term “silly.”  It was disrespectful to a people.  As someone in a group that is often disrespected (homosexuals), I can truly empathize with the way it feels to be disrespected.  The way those that are believers in God felt as those words fell from his mouth is exactly the same feeling I feel every time I hear you condemn me.

Having Laid My Eternal Soul to Rest

February 10, 2009 By: jaysays Category: Commentary, Religion

As many of my readers know, I am an atheist.  This does not mean I lack faith, morality or inspiration; it merely means I find such outside of “God” or “Jesus” or “Allah.”  I find my faith, morality and inspiration from other people and from within myself.  Lately, however, I’ve come to some moments of questioning.  This is not to say I am questioning whether or not I believe in God; that is something that I feel is unquestionable.  I do not.  I’ve recently allowed myself to open discussions with people of the Christian faith and in so doing have realized something that may be a source of religious unkindness toward me; I have closed my heart and mind from religion.

Yesterday, my partner of 11 years, Christopher, was having a conversation with a friend.  The friend offered Christopher some coupons she had for Chick-Fil-A.  Christopher advised her that he is no longer eating at that establishment because of their contributions to organizations which continue to support violation of equal civil rights for homosexuals.  A person nearby, purporting to be a Christian, approached the conversation and emphatically stated that mariage was between a man and a woman, the Bible says so.  As you can imagine, Christopher was angry and frustrated that this person, who was in no way part of the conversation, felt obliged to approach him.  He relayed his story to me and I began pondering the question I pose here:

What is it about my eternal soul that makes Christians feel they have the right to deny me my mortal joy?

This is particularly relevant in my case because, as an atheist, I laid the idea of my eternal soul to rest years ago.  I don’t believe I have an eternal soul and therefore don’t feel it needs to be saved. Although Christian Fundamentalists may feel they are doing the right thing in attempting to save me, I feel they are degrading my personal beliefs, choices and sense of self.  Am I a danger to their eternity?

As I thought about what happened to Christopher, I became more and more angry; then it hit me.  I’m angry and passionate about my own belief in civil equality and I expect them to listen to me, but I refuse to listen to them; am I thus a hypocrite?

I’ve always considered myself to be a free-thinker, open minded and very kind and loving.  These are the qualities I thought best defined me.  But I realized I had closed my mind to religion and dismissed it entirely, not just to those within religion that have caused our people [LGBT people] to suffer so greatly.  In fact, I had become so entangled in my own disdain for religion, that a simple “God Bless You” after a sneeze would result in me rolling my eyes.  So, today I emailed a Baptist Pastor, who has extended an offer to me to join him for lunch after his church service, to advise him that I accept his offer.  I’m looking forward to the opportunity to better my understanding of his faith and, with any luck, open a door in my heart to religious people that has been closed for many years.