Serious question: Why isn't religious hypocrisy used more often against the opponents to same sex marriage?

For the last couple months, I've been writing the occasional post - titled #Biblebuffet - indicating the hypocrisy of people who oppose same sex marriage for religious reasons.

If you use The Bible to oppose same sex marriage, don't forget to execute adulterers, people who work on Sundays, and any woman engaging in premarital sex. All of these edicts are stated in The Bible just as explicitly as opposition to same sex marriage, and oftentimes within the same book of the Bible.

I was going to write another post today, but instead, I just have a question:

Why is this argument not made more often?

When someone like Ted Cruz argues against same sex marriage on religious grounds, why don't his opponents ask him why he isn't also stoning those who work on Sunday?

Or at least attempting to reinstate the Blue laws, making it illegal to conduct business on Sunday?

This seems like a perfectly logical argument to make, but I never hear it. And as someone who has read The Bible from cover to cover three times, I assure you that I could continue to write #Biblebuffet posts for years without running out of bizarre edicts and inexplicable prohibitions contained within the text.

Why not highlight the hypocrisy of bigots who hide their bigotry behind a religious text filled with equally clear prohibitions that no sane person would ever follow?

Seriously, what am I missing?

I'm also stunned that no one brings up Jesus when it comes to same sex marriage, because a complete reading of the first four books of the New Testament - the section on Jesus's life on Earth - makes sit abundantly clear that he never treat homosexual men or women with the same hatred and prejudice as people like Ted Cruz do today.

The man who opposed so many things in the Old Testament by advising his followers to turn the other cheek and "love thy neighbor as yourself" (also stating that there is no commandment greater than this) would never support these bigots and their crusade against same sex marriage.

No one ever talks about this. They allow religious zealots to treat The Bible like a breakfast buffet, picking and choosing convenient sections while ignoring others in order to support their own bigotry without ever challenging this hypocrisy. 

I want to know why. Seriously. What am I missing?

My Jewish daughter understands Easter - and religion - perfectly.

Easter morning. My Jewish children scamper around the house, searching for Easter eggs.

Clara, my seven year-old says:

"I think Easter is about thinking sweet thoughts. Soft things. That's why we get candy. To make us think of sweet things."

Clara has also told me that she plans to marry someone who isn't Jewish so she can "celebrate lots of holidays and learn about lots of different stuff and know lots of different people."

If only everyone thought a little bit more like Clara.

A little less tribal. Actually, a lot less tribal.  
A little more openminded.
A little more willing to embrace difference.

I think she might have this religion thing figured out perfectly.

A simple geographic reminder to those overly insistent, overly-aggressive people of faith

When someone becomes overly insistent and overly aggressive about the truth behind their deeply held religious beliefs, I like to remind them that their deeply held religious beliefs are almost certainly predicated upon geography.

For the vast majority of people, religious belief simply correlates to where they spent most of their childhood. It is not a found or discovered belief but an inherited one. In the United States, for example, 56% of people affiliated with organized religion were born into that religion, and another 20% have merely changed church affiliation within the Christian or Jewish faith.

As a result, more than three-quarters of Americans espouse a religious belief because they were born in the United States to parents who had the same belief. 

But let's be honest: 

If these same people were born in Saudi Arabia, they would almost certainly be Islamic.

If they were born in Tibet, they would almost certainly be Buddhist. 

If they were born in India, they would likely be Hindu.

Considering that 23% of Americans are nonbelievers, this means that less than 3% of Americans are currently affiliated with a religious belief that they did not inherit upon birth and is not based upon their childhood mailing address. 

So relax, you overly aggressive religious interlopers. 

I'm not saying that your geographically inherited religious belief is any less important, meaningful, valid, or spiritually satisfying as a belief (or absence of belief) that is realized only after careful study and introspection.

I'm only saying that this is true if you are attempting to impose your geographically-based beliefs upon others through some political, legal, or economic means.

Your religious belief may be true to you, but just remember why you probably think it's true and let the rest of us believe what we want, absent of any judgment or persecution.  

Why I am a reluctant atheist

I describe myself as a reluctant atheist.

Essentially, this means that I do not believe in God, but I wish I did. I have tried to believe. At this point in my life, I simply lack the faith required to believe. Despite reading the Bible cover to cover three times in my life, I have been unable to find truth in those words.

Truthfully, the more I read, the less I believe.

Adding the word “reluctant” to my atheist label has had an interesting effect on others in terms of their reactions to my position on religion.

For people of faith, the word “reluctant” seems to have added a level of approachability and acceptance that did not exist before. While many people of faith have a difficult time understanding the non-believer and are often offended by the criticism of their religion, they seem to have an acceptance of the idea of a crisis of faith, and they often assume that this is what I am experiencing.

Even when I take a hard-lined stance against a practice or policy of their religious institution, the addition of the word “reluctant” has seemed to temper their anger and outrage.

This has been good.

I tend to believe that my position on God is not a crisis of faith and more rationale and cemented than some of these people of faith seem to believe, but perhaps I am wrong and someday faith will come to me.

Either way, we seem to be able to engage in discourse more easily now.

For some atheists, the addition of the word “reluctant” has been greeted with skepticism and disappointment. They believe that I do a disservice to nonbelievers when I fail to take a strong position on my atheist views.

I try to explain to these people that my position on atheism is actually quite strong. While I wish that I believed in a higher power and an afterlife, I am convinced that neither exists.

“Then why try to believe in something that you know doesn’t exist?” they ask. “Why wish for the impossible? And for someone who has read the Bible carefully, why would you wish for the God described in the Bible?”

They have a point. The Biblical God, particularly in the Old Testament, is not a friendly guy. 

There are tough questions. I often find myself feeling like the little boy who has just discovered that Santa Claus isn’t real but still desperately wants him to be real. It’s a difficult position to explain or defend.

But I think I’ve found my answer. I’ve found my answer in Antoinette Tuff, the Georgian woman who saved the lives of untold numbers of students and teachers with her quick thinking and steel nerves. Listening to her describe the role that her faith in God played during her encounter with the gunman and the humility that her faith has given her in the wake of all the attention she has received was inspiring.

As I listened to her speak, I found myself jealous of her faith, wishing that I could believe with the absolute certainty that she possesses.

There is nothing wrong with wanting something as powerful as faith, even when you are convinced that it is predicated on something that does not exist.

“Dinosaurs lived with people” violates the basic human right of not being stupid.

This is an actual science test given to fourth graders in South Carolina. I consider it a human rights violation. science quiz

Every nine-year-old child has the right to not be stupid. I believe that the  teachers administering this test are violating this basic human right.

The fact that children are being taught like this is a national tragedy, and I believe it goes a long way in explaining why one in five Americans are now non-believers.

You simply cannot hang your religion’s principles on faulty and ludicrous science and expect rationale people to continue believing. You may indoctrinate the lowest common denominator, but the thoughtful, intelligent and (worst of all) curious people will see something like this and run away as quickly as possible.

I abandoned the Catholic Church at the age of seven. Credit my Catholic mother.

Paul Elie, a senior fellow in the Berkley Center for Religion, Peace and World Affairs at Georgetown, suggests in the New York Times this week that Catholics (of which he is one) give up their faith as a form of protest against the recent practices of their church.

Resignation: that’s what American Catholics are feeling about our faith. We are resigned to the fact that so much in the Roman Catholic Church is broken and won’t be fixed anytime soon.

So if the pope can resign, we can, too. We should give up Catholicism en masse, if only for a time.

He goes on to explain his rationale:

For the Catholic Church, it has been “all bad news, all the time” since Benedict took office in 2005: a papal insult to Muslims; a papal embrace of a Holocaust denier; molesting by priests and cover-ups by their superiors. When the Scottish cardinal Keith O’Brien resigned on Monday amid reports of “inappropriate” conduct toward priests in the 1980s, the routine was wearingly familiar. It’s enough to make any Catholic yearn to leave the whole mess for someone else to clean up.

In response to these crimes, scandals and missteps, Elie goes on to list a variety of churches that he will be attending in the near future, none  of which are Catholic.  

As much as you can be born into a religion (a phrase which really means that your parents chose to indoctrinate you into their belief system regardless of what might be in your heart), I was born into Catholicism. While my mother wasn’t an overly observant Catholic, the church services that we occasionally attended were Catholic and the church that we identified as our own was the same. I never liked going to church, but it never occurred to me at the time that there might be another, more appropriate religion for me.

That’s how indoctrination works.

Our secret sauce is right. Everyone else’s secret sauce is wrong. Don’t even bother tasting it.  

Then my mother sent me to my first CCD class when I was about seven years-old. It was a two-hour affair conducted in the middle school adjacent to our church.

When I returned home from CCD two hours later, I told my mother that I was not going back. Also, I was no longer a Catholic.

My objections to Catholicism centered on my resistance to hierarchy and authority. Even at the tender age of seven, I was a difficult person who did not like being told what to do. While I was able to stomach the tenets of Catholicism for an occasional Sunday service, CCD made it clear to me that the church was a top-down, authoritative institution where the  questioning of religious doctrine and practice was not permitted.

I also couldn’t stand the thought of more school on Thursday afternoons.

To my mother’s credit, she allowed me to abandon Catholicism with the agreement that I would choose a new church. “You don’t have to be Catholic,” she said. “But you have to be something.”

Over the course of the next few weeks, my mother brought me to a variety of churches, and I ultimately settled on a Protestant Congregationalist Church in town. It was a simple, white church on a hill that served Wonder Bread and grape juice for communion and allowed children to ring the bell signaling that church was about to begin. Best of all, in the middle of Sunday service, the minister would call the children down to the front of the church and sit on the dusty floor with us, telling us a story while ignoring the adults.


That sealed the deal for me.

I have openly questioned many of the decisions that my parents made throughout my childhood, but this was one of the best decisions my mother ever made. Remarkably selfless, too. How many parents do you know who would be willing to release their children from their own belief system in favor of one that better accommodates their own personal style or beliefs?

I don’t know if I know any.  

When it comes to religion, parents tend to exceptionally selfish and illogical, thinking of religion as a winter coat. 

“Put it on. It’s cold outside. You need it.”

But religion is not something that can be put upon your child without a blend of indoctrination, deception and coercion. Expecting your child to willingly accept your belief system is ridiculous.

My mother knew this. She honored me as an individual. She respected by personal belief system.

Admittedly, religion didn’t stick with me, but I suspect that it wasn’t going to stick regardless of what my mother did. 

My mother probably knew this, too.

I am a reluctant atheist today. I would desperately like to believe in the existence of God (though not the cruel, inhumane God from the Old Testament) and an afterlife , but I simply haven’t found myself able to do so. 

I suspect that I’m a little too logical, a little too oppositional and too much of a nonconformist to accept the dogma of any organized religion, regardless of what I may want to believe. 

But I cherish those days spent in that Congregational church in Blackstone, Massachusetts. I didn’t come away with a belief in God or church doctrine, but I read the Bible from cover to cover at least twice while sitting in those wooden pews (probably the source of my disbelief), and think the church taught me a great deal about right and wrong. I suspect that I probably learned quite a bit about teaching and storytelling from a minister who knew how to entertain and educate a handful of kids ages 5-15 every week without exception.  

That was real miracle.

The recent decision by The Boy Scouts of America has left this Boy Scout rudderless

I’m a man in conflict.

You may have heard the news:

The Boy Scouts of America on Tuesday announced that it will uphold its existing ban that excludes gays, something the group said was "absolutely the best policy" for the group.

"While the BSA does not proactively inquire about the sexual orientation of employees, volunteers, or members, we do not grant membership to individuals who are open or avowed homosexuals or who engage in behavior that would become a distraction to the mission of the BSA."

I was a Boy Scout for more than ten years, and it was by far the most positive and meaningful experience of my entire life. I learned more from Scouting than from any school or college that I ever attended, and summers I spent at Camp Yawgoog were by far the best times of my life.

When I die, I have asked that my ashes be spread on the waters of Yawgoog Pond.

Yet the organization that I love and hope to one day become active in again with my son has upheld its ban on homosexuals, and I am not sure how to reconcile my overwhelming respect with and love for the organization with this stupid, discriminatory, hateful policy.

What’s even more frustrating is that it’s clear that this policy cannot and will not stand forever. The US military has overcome it’s discriminatory practices against homosexuals. States have begun permitting same sex marriage. The laws that discriminate against gays and lesbians are slowly beginning to crumble just as the laws that discriminate against African Americans fell generations ago. It is only a matter of time before we do away with these arcane and mindless policies entirely. Holding onto these policies and beliefs at this point only serves to identify your state or organization as backwards thinking and incapable of accepting the inevitable.

In twenty years, the policy that excludes homosexuals from Scouting will most certainly no longer exist. End the policy now and stand with the righteous or risk the legacy of those Southern states were desegregated through military intervention.

Until the policy is ended, however, what am I to do?

In the past, I have questioned the decision of people who choose to remain affiliated with religions that base their belief on a text filled with racist, sexist, homophobic doctrine. I have criticized religions that elevate books like the Bible as the Word of God while knowing full well that to follow its dictates to the letter would require them to stone many of their friends and relatives to death. I stand in opposition to people who use religious doctrine to justify their racist, sexist and homophobic beliefs while simultaneously ignoring the book’s less convenient dictates.

I have also challenged specific religious institutions who have adopted the same arcane policy that the Boy Scouts have recently upheld. If your church policy is homophobic, I have argued, find another church. Lord knows there are plenty from which to choose.

In response, I have been told that the good that these organizations do far outweighs policies, practices and teaching that even their congregants may openly question.

I have scoffed at this notion.

But now I find myself in the same position as many of these people. While not currently affiliated with the Boy Scouts of America, my fondness for the organization remains. Rarely does a day go by that I do not think about a moment from my time as a Boy Scout and smile. My experience with the Boy Scouts serves as the foundation upon which much of my life has been built. My greatest hope is that my son will someday love the Boy Scouts as much as I did and still do, and that I can participate in Scouting with him in a way my father never did for me.

But when that time comes, what should I do if this discriminatory policy remains in place?

Reconcile my participation in the organization by declaring that the Boy Scouts do far more good than harm?

Vow to promote change from inside the organization?

Argue that even though I do not agree with many of the laws of the United States, I remain a proud citizen of this country and will therefore take the same tact when it comes to Scouting?

None of this sounds right to me. It strikes me as a convenient use of semantics. But rejecting the Boy Scouts outright until this policy is changed is something I cannot see myself doing either. When I was fatherless and rudderless as a boy, Scouting was there for me and made me the man I am today. Ironically, I have little doubt that my stand against this homophobic policy and the internal conflict that it has generated would not exist had I not been taught by the Boy Scouts to respect and honor all people.

Thanks in part to Scouting, I know that a person’s sexual orientation is irrelevant when it comes to judging a person’s character and honor. Yet they have failed to learn this lesson themselves.  

I am a man in conflict. The thing I loved and respected most as a boy has let me down. I am the son of a flawed and failing parent, the product of an organization that has failed to stand behind its tenet to “help other people at all times” and keep oneself “mentally awake and morally straight.”

I love the Boy Scouts with all my heart, but now that heart is broken.