Posts Tagged ‘Gay Rights’

It’s hard to believe, but there are a few good things coming out of the Coronavirus, economic, and systemic racism crises. The personal and societal tragedies far outweigh these bright spots, but they’re worth mentioning nonetheless. It’s always good to remind oneself that things aren’t quite as bad as they seem.

Here are some of the silver linings. Let’s take the darkest, foulest of “silver linings” — a “silver lining” akin to that you’d get by dropping a scratched-up, stamped-metal spoon into a septic tank, hauling it out two years later, holding it up to the sun, and regarding its glowing, rusty edge alight with filigreed fecal matter: that glowing, tangerine-colored fecal matter being Donald Trump. Here are the relatively good things about him:

  • Donald Trump is a moron, too stupid to understand his own best interests. Yes, Trump’s incompetence, his complete failure to lead during a deadly pandemic, has already cost well over 100,000 lives, and will likely lead to at least twice that. But when he came into office, Trump had a chance to completely destroy what passes for American democracy — that chance supplied by both the outright racist, authoritarian Republican Party and the screw-the-poor, authoritarian, corporate-servant Democrats, such as the Clintons, Obama, Holder, Biden, Schumer, and Pelosi, who all pursued Republican economic and social policies that resulted in an ever-expanding wealth gap, grossly inadequate and unequal healthcare and education, mass incarceration, and the police as uniformed, above-the-law terrorists.

If the Republicans had placed in power a capable fascist, who handled the Coronavirus pandemic competently, it’d likely be game over: he’d be immensely popular — and he’d have ushered in outright totalitarianism, which Trump obviously yearns for. But that didn’t happen. Instead, the Republicans installed Donald Trump, an outright idiot, too stupid to understand even the most basic of his own best interests. (We’re talking about a man so stupid he managed to bankrupt several casinos — otherwise known as licenses to print money — who began receiving a $200,000-a-year allowance at age three, who received over $400 million from his dad, and who was so incompetent he’d be much better off today if he’d just put his money into an index fund.) Trump’s self-sabotaging stupidity has given us vitally necessary breathing room.

  • Trump is a bullying sadist who brags about sexually assaulting women and his anti-LGBT Bigotry. Trump’s boasting about his sexual assaults, with over 20 credible accusers, including three who’ve accused him of rape; his utterly creepy comments about how “hot” his daughter is and how he’d like to date her; his condescending and dismissive attitude toward women; and his assaults on women’s reproductive rights have left him massively unpopular with women, and hence headed for defeat. (I’m a guy, and reading about Trump’s assaults on women leaves me wanting to take a shower; I’m sure the reaction is even more visceral for most women.)

Trump has also been pandering to his theo-fascist evangelical base by attacking gay human rights. This is already backfiring, furthering isolating the Republicans from the American mainstream.

  • Trump is an outright racist. Race-baiting has always been Trump’s stock in trade. Starting with the Obama birth certificate bullshit, and followed up by separating families seeking asylum (literally tearing babies out of their mothers’ arms), locking immigrant kids up in cages, and attempting to deport kids who were brought here without documentation and have spent their entire lives here, Trump has made it very plain that one of the most important Republican playing cards, perhaps the most important, is outright racism. Since the supposedly decent Republicans have seen fit to in no wise oppose Trump’s vicious actions, they’ve made it plain that racism is the Republican calling card — as it’s been since passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act and the consequent Republican Southern Strategy, replete with race baiting and voter suppression. Now, that Republican racism is out in the open (no more need for dog whistles), the Republicans have to own it, and they’re on a demographic suicide course. Trump has accelerated this day of reckoning.
  • Trump defeated Hillary Clinton. For this, we should thank Trump. Clinton was the ultimate, entitled, neo-liberal Washington insider. During the 2016 primary campaign, she rained down fire on Bernie Sanders’ mild, common-sense reforms within capitalism (reforms which he inexplicably labeled a “revolution” — bad branding if there ever was bad branding). Clinton was the ultimate status quo candidate. Had she won, the underlying, festering problems — a grossly unequal distribution of wealth and income, an ever-expanding surveillance state, grossly inadequate healthcare, stagnating wages, staggering student debt, an accelerating climate-change crisis — would have gone unaddressed (especially wealth and income distribution), or barely addressed, the Republicans could have run against her without having any real solutions to anything (as has become obvious), they could well have kept control of both the Senate and the House, and in 2020 they could have run an intelligent fascist who could have completely destroyed our sad farce of a democracy en route to an environmental apocalypse. Clinton, her husband, Biden, Obama, et al., paved the way for a Republican fascist. Thank god the Republicans chose one who’s uniquely loathsome and utterly incompetent.

Trump, with his bargain-basement Mussolini act, has alerted a great many people to the looming threat of fascism, and has provoked a huge progressive backlash. Where it will lead, no one knows, but the backlash against Trump, racism, economic disparity, and Trump’s callous, deliberately cruel policies provides at least some hope. One of those hopes is that the Republican Party will become a rump party influential in only the most religiously, socially, and culturally vicious and benighted parts of the country.

There’s one more related, relatively bright spot:

  • Joe Biden is an unprincipled opportunist who’s been in thrall to corporate interests his entire career. He’s made a career of catering to corporate interests (e.g., the bankruptcy bill that made it almost impossible to discharge student debt), advocating mass incarceration (his 1994 crime bill), and supporting Obama’s persecution of patriotic whistle blowers such as Ed Snowden. The good news here is that Biden is an unprincipled opportunist — but a smart one, at least smarter than Trump. He knows which way the wind is blowing, and he’ll probably bend accordingly. He might try to institute at least a few of the desperately needed reforms because he’ll think it’s to his political advantage to do so. I certainly hope so.

We’ll shortly deal with the silver linings of the Coronavirus pandemic and the economic collapse. (And, yes, there are some silver linings there, too.)



cover of Culture Wars by Marie Castle

(excerpted from Culture Wars: The Threat to Your Family and Your Freedom, by Marie Alena Castle)

“If writing the demands of the Book of Leviticus into the Constitution
is not a state-church separation issue, then I don’t know what is.”

—Randall Tigue, constitutional law attorney

Granting civil rights to lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people (LGBT) has long horrified authoritarian religions. For centuries, armed with a Bible that calls homosexuality an “abomination,” they have established laws that marginalized and persecuted sexual minorities, and criminalized their sexual behavior. Since the 1970s in the United States, a gay rights rebellion against these laws has achieved repeal of most of them in the face of opposition that included violence and murder. In 2003, the U.S. Supreme Court finally declared unconstitutional one of the last major types of discriminatory law, the criminalization of homosexual sex (sodomy) in its Lawrence v. Texas ruling.1 The decision reversed the Bowers v. Hardwick lower court ruling that upheld Georgia’s statute prohibiting oral and anal sex by either homosexuals or heterosexuals. The statute had used a “community consensus” on morality to deny a right to privacy. Lawrence rejected the idea that majority perceptions can justify the denial of rights for a minority.

In Lawrence, Justice Anthony Kennedy, supporting reversal, noted that centuries of majority hatred of homosexuality based on religious views had been the driving force behind discrimination against homosexuals. Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, also supporting reversal and noting the element of hatred said, “We have consistently held, however, that some objectives, such as a bare desire to harm a politically unpopular group, are not legitimate state interests. When a law prohibits such a desire to harm a politically unpopular group, we have applied a more searching form of rational basis review to strike down such laws under the equal protection clause.”

But despite the Lawrence ruling, discrimination persists. Gays and lesbians can be fired because of their sexual orientation in 29 states, and it’s worse for transgender people, who can be fired in 35 states because of their sexual orientation. As a result, LGBT people often hide who they are for fear of losing their families, friends, or jobs. In many school districts, LGBT students are bullied and harassed with impunity.

One of the worst forms of abuse is the bullying of gay teens in high school, driving all too many of them to suicide. Here’s an example of the religious right’s barbaric manner of dealing with this form of persecution: In 2011 the Republican-controlled Michigan senate passed “Matt’s Safe School Law.” It was an anti-bullying law, but it exempted religion-motivated bullying from prosecution. Ironically, the bill as originally proposed was a response to the 2002 suicide of a gay teen who had been bullied by his classmates for being gay. Although the intent of the bill was to penalize such behavior, the Republicans modified it to exempt religion-based bullying. The Republican-passed version of the law “allows harassment by teachers and students as long as they can claim their actions are rooted in a ‘sincerely held religious belief or moral conviction.’ Those who truly believe homosexuality is wrong, for example, are free to torment classmates consequence-free.”2

Strong opposition from Democrats caused the bill’s sponsor, Republican senator Rick Jones, to reconsider it. He allowed that it “’may not be perfect,’ but believed it to be ‘a step in the right direction.’” In 2012 in Minnesota, the same barbarism was exhibited when an anti-bullying school policy was deemed by religious right opponents as “unfair to students with conservative values.”3

In many states, opponents of homosexuality are attempting to deny lesbian and gay couples the right to adopt children or become foster parents.4 In Minnesota, a gay couple with children is treated differently under the law with regard to obligations, rights, taxes, benefits, etc., from an identically situated straight couple with children. The state actually has 515 statutes that discriminate against committed domestic partners, including same-sex couples.5

Same-Sex Marriage and the Culture War

There is no rational basis for religion-based hostility toward homosexuality. Of course, the religion-based views of one Christian religion are not the same as those of another, though all are based on the Bible. Liberal religions tend to take a humane approach, choosing the Bible’s “love” verses, while the conservative religions seem to prefer the equally mandatory “kill” verses. Some have tried the middle road of loving the sinner while hating the sin by being socially tolerant. Others have gone further, deciding that God loves everyone, and have ordained gay clergy and married same-sex couples.

Now, with laws against sodomy declared unconstitutional, same-sex marriage has moved to the political front lines in the culture war. So far, only six states and the District of Columbia have legalized same-sex marriage: Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Vermont, and DC. Most other states have banned it by law or constitutional amendment, and there are ongoing efforts to ban it in the remaining states. This issue is not likely to go away any time soon.

In 2000, California, voters passed Proposition 22, which banned same-sex marriage. Prop 22 ultimately went to the state Supreme Court, which, in 2008, ruled that same-sex marriages were constitutional based on: 1) the state constitution’s equal protection clause; 2) marriage being a civil right; and 3) the state having no compelling interest in prohibiting same-sex marriages. As a result, about 18,000 same-sex couples got married. This set off a campaign to prohibit same-sex marriage by constitutional amendment, so Proposition 8 went on the ballot and was passed. This was challenged in turn and this time the state Supreme Court ruled that Proposition 8 was constitutional because: 1) being a constitutional amendment, its provisions automatically became constitutional; 2) equal protection didn’t apply because only the word “marriage” was relevant and domestic partnerships were not affected; and 3) not being retroactive, existing same-sex marriages were not affected.6

The State of California, despite having its officials named as defendants, had refused to defend the constitutionality of Proposition 8 and left the defense to the religious zealots who had started the petition drive. This placed the religious motive for the enactment front and center, and supporters of same-sex marriage then filed a separate lawsuit on federal constitutional grounds rather than state constitutional grounds. Their case went before federal district court Judge Vaughn Walker who ruled in 2010 that Proposition 8 was unconstitutional, with the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals affirming the decision in 2012. Judge Walker’s reasons for his ruling (as well as those of the Ninth Circuit Court) demolished all the supposedly “secular” arguments against same sex marriage, finding “no rational basis” to oppose it.7 Walker noted how weak the arguments were for opposing same-sex marriage. He cited all of them and concluded:

The court provided proponents with an opportunity to identify a harm they would face “if an injunction against Proposition 8 is issued.” Proponents replied that they have an interest in defending Proposition 8 but failed to articulate even one specific harm they may suffer as a consequence of the injunction. . . . Proponents had a full opportunity to provide evidence in support of their position and nevertheless failed to present even one credible witness on the government interest in Proposition 8.8

With these controversial state and federal rulings in place, the only place left to go is the United States Supreme Court. What is important here is that, if the Supreme Court rules against Proposition 8, the effect could be to legalize same-sex marriage nationwide. Meanwhile, the Court is expected to rule in 2013 whether the existing federal law—the Defense of Marriage Act—defining marriage as between one man and one woman is constitutional. Whether it recognizes marriage as a civil function with a secular rationale or a theology-based function whose religious traditions should govern society remains to be seen. The current makeup of the Court does not inspire confidence in a secular-based ruling. However, one thing working for advocates of same-sex marriage is that the opponents have found it impossible to come up with arguments that make sense that don’t include “Because God says so.” The Supreme Court might not be willing to so blatantly repudiate the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause. One can only hope.


Sexuality and “Natural Law”

Arguments for denying sexual minorities the same rights the heterosexual majority takes for granted are based on Bible-based religious doctrine, along with a religious interpretation of “natural law” (whatever that might be). Fundamentalists, Catholics and Mormons take it as a given that this “law” has produced males and females for reproductive purposes. Therefore, all sexual activity must be limited to male-female copulation and anything else is unnatural. The Protestant fundamentalists, Mormons, and the U.S. Catholic bishops have mounted a ferocious campaign to outlaw same-sex marriage based on this religious view of natural law. Here is the rationale, from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ 2009 Pastoral Letter:

Marriage is a unique union, a relationship different from all others. It is the permanent bond between one man and one woman whose two-in-one-flesh communion of persons is an indispensable good at the heart of every family and every society. Same-sex unions are incapable of realizing this specific communion of persons. Therefore, attempting to redefine marriage to include such relationships empties the term of its meaning, for it excludes the essential complementarity between man and woman, treating sexual differences as if it were irrelevant to what marriage is.

Male-female complementarity is intrinsic to marriage. It is naturally ordered toward authentic union and the generation of new life. Children are meant to be the gift of the permanent and exclusive union of a husband and wife. A child is meant to have a mother and a father. The true nature of marriage, lived in openness to life, is a witness to the precious gift of the child and to the unique roles of a mother and father. Same-sex unions are incapable of such a witness. Consequently, making them equivalent to marriage disregards the very nature of marriage.

Jesus teaches that marriage is between a man and a woman. “Have you not read that from the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female’ . . . For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh” (Mt 19:4-6).

. . . Today, advocacy for the legal recognition of various same-sex relationships is often equated with non-discrimination, fairness, equality, and civil rights. However, it is not unjust to oppose legal recognition of same-sex unions, because marriage and same-sex unions are essentially different realities. “The denial of the social and legal status of marriage to forms of cohabitation that are not and cannot be marital is not opposed to justice; on the contrary, justice requires it” [quoting from the Catholic Church’s 2003 Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith publication No. 8, “Considerations Regarding Proposals to Give Legal Recognition to Unions Between Homosexual Persons”]. To promote and protect marriage as the union of one man and one woman is itself a matter of justice. In fact, it would be a grave injustice if the state ignored the unique and proper place of husbands and wives, the place of mothers and fathers, and especially the rights of children, who deserve from society clear guidance as they grow to sexual maturity. Indeed, without this protection the state would, in effect, intentionally deprive children of the right to a mother and father.
. . . [T]he Church teaches that homosexual acts “are contrary to the natural law. They close the sexual act to the gift of life. They do not proceed from a genuine affective and sexual complementarity. Under no circumstances can they be approved” [quoting from the Catechism of the Catholic Church, No. 2357].

. . . The legal recognition of same-sex unions poses a multifaceted threat to the very fabric of society, striking at the source from which society and culture come and which they are meant to serve. Such recognition affects all people, married and non-married, not only at the fundamental levels of the good of the spouses, the good of children, the intrinsic dignity of every human person, and the common good, but also at the levels of education, cultural imagination and influence, and religious freedom.9

This pastoral letter makes many alarmist claims, but provides not one example from real life of the destruction same-sex marriage supposedly wreaks. Not even a hypothetical example. So now that we have read these dire predictions that the workings of natural law, religious freedom, and civilization as we know it would be destroyed in some mysterious way by same-sex marriage, let’s visit reality, an area with which the bishops seem quite unfamiliar.


The Varieties of Sexual Orientation

The case for equal rights (including same-sex marriage) for sexual minorities stands on much firmer ground than Bible verses and papal pronouncements. The basic problem with the religion-based arguments is misunderstanding of what is meant by “natural law.” A toxic stream of wrongheaded ideas has spewed forth from that misunderstanding, causing needless suffering, hateful acts, and punitive laws. Natural law is not something handed down by a creator god, as religious opponents of same-sex marriage assume. There is no “lawgiver” involved. Natural law, in the only real sense of the term, is simply a description of how nature works, as best we can understand it from observation, experimentation, and testing. And what does all this observation, experimentation, and testing tell us? Nothing at all that is even close to the religious assumptions. It tells us that homosexuality is just one of the more harmless ways nature works. It is not contrary to natural law, but part of it. Religion has no relevance here.

Further deepening the religious confusion is an assumption that the way nature works reflects a purpose. Therefore, since heterosexual sex sometimes produces offspring, that is nature’s purpose. This idea prevails because a great many people are scientifically illiterate, thanks to fundamentalists’ attacks on science in the schools, and the consequent dumbing down of the science curriculum. Fundamentalists attack evolution, denying its massive factual support, and try to replace it with “intelligent design,” which is simply relabeled creationism, and is in no way a scientific theory. (It’s unfalsifiable; it makes no testable predictions.)

Nature is nothing if not prolific and varied. Changes wrought by evolution have produced an assortment of sexual and gender variations and orientations. In humans (and maybe other species), both sexes have observable physical characteristics of the other sex, although usually only the parts for one sex are developed. But physical manifestations of sex are not the only options nature has produced. Often enough, there are psychological variations too, and they direct one’s sexual behavior. The body may be configured for one sex while the brain is configured for the other. The result is that some people are transgender, meaning they don’t conform to the expected behavior patterns of their sex. Transgenders can be any orientation because gender identity and sexual orientation are not the same. Some are simply crossdressers. Some are transsexual, meaning their brain configuration tells them they are one sex, even though their bodies are of the opposite sex. Some transsexuals have sexual reassignment surgery because of this.

And then there are those with Klinefelter’s Syndrome. It is said to affect about one in 1,000 boys. These boys have three sex chromosomes (XXY). Since girls are XX and boys are XY, someone who is XXY is physically a male but infertile, while genetically being both male and female. Such boys can and do have girlfriends, but can be psychologically drawn to female behaviors. They are in reality two sexes in one. If such boys want to marry, which sex should they be able to partner with?

Some states try to deny the right to change one’s sexual configuration to conform to one’s core identity on the grounds that one has to keep the genitalia one is born with. (Why? Who knows?) But what if a baby is born with male and female genitalia, and both are about equally developed? It happens. Doctors used to ask the parents which gender they preferred and would then remove the unwanted parts. However, as these babies grew, sometimes the selected sex did not match an obvious psychological orientation toward the other sex. So now they wait a few years until the child’s gender-expressive behavior tells them which parts to remove.

Here’s a true sex-mixup story I know about first-hand. (I’ve changed only the names.) It should give the Vatican fits trying to work it into their mystical views of sexuality, sexual orientation, anatomical complementarity and who gets to marry whom: When Glen and George met, both were males presenting themselves as women. Psychologically they were essentially females trapped in male bodies. They wanted to get married, but same-sex marriages were not allowed, so George had sex reassignment surgery and became legally Georgia. Glen and Georgia were then able to get married, since they now had the Vatican-approved opposite-sex anatomical complementarity. Then Glen had surgery and became legally Glenda. The result is that Glenda and Georgia are now a legally married female couple that started out as a male couple (although presenting as females), then became a male-female couple before finally becoming the female couple they always wanted to be, thanks to surgery that put their physical and psychological makeup in sync. All is well.

As for what the law says about having sex reassignment surgery to bypass prohibitions against same-sex marriage, it probably depends on the state. For Glen/Glenda and George/Georgia, who live in Minnesota, there is no problem. In 2012, in a case challenging the right of a transgendered female to coverage on her husband’s employer-paid health care plan, a federal district court judge ruled that coverage could not be denied. He noted that the law prohibiting same-sex marriage did not apply and the sex change was irrelevant because “Minnesota law recognizes a married person’s sex when the marriage takes place.”10

Such simple, logical reasoning is not likely to come any time soon from the Vatican’s theologians. Their attempts to figure out what nature’s God is up to when it plays mix-and-match with gender identity, and medical science can end the confusion with a little genital reconfiguration, should be interesting to watch. No doubt the Vatican will deal with this entirely mystical non-problem in whatever way causes the most misery for people whose bodies and brains don’t match up sexually.

It wouldn’t be theology as we’ve always known it to decide there is no harm in letting one’s core psychological orientation prevail as long as no harm is done. It could, in fact, even be theologically demanded. After all, if there is a soul, where would it be located? In the brain! You can amputate or transplant or redesign or artificially replace almost any other part of the body, but you cannot do that with the brain. If it goes, you go. And if there is a soul in there, it goes too. Therefore, if the brain knows its body is really the opposite sex or if it feels sexually oriented to the same sex, then that’s the way it is and the only thing to do is adjust the body (and society’s expectations) to match. Sex reassignment surgery? Fine! Same-sex marriage? Why not? Some churches may raise doctrinal objections and insist that what appears between the legs at birth is ultimately defining and must stay that way. But it’s not the business of government to enforce those doctrines.


Sexuality: Nature’s Shotgun Approach to Species Survival

There is nothing wrong with this sexual mixing and matching other than the prejudicial treatment of LGBT people. It’s just what nature does. Nature has no purpose, only consequences, some of which we perceive as good, some bad, depending on their effects on us. Sexuality, driven by evolutionary processes, is not rigidly heterosexual, as can be observed throughout the animal kingdom. Every form of sexual attraction is out there. It may even be that pedophilia is a natural variation. However, that involves a coercive power relationship that harms children, so, natural or not, our laws prohibit it, just as rape—apparently another natural inclination—is prohibited. We simply have to resist and reject some behaviors to which nature mindlessly inclines us. Homosexuality is not one of them, since it does no harm. Sexually transmitted diseases don’t count. They occur because human contact transmits disease. We pass on diseases by breathing in another’s vicinity, by shaking hands, by a mother kissing her baby. Sexual contact is just another means of transmission.

Because heterosexuality produces offspring, heterosexual orientation predominates in the gene pool. Although the sex drive for homosexual couples does not produce offspring, there is still the emotional bonding that often accompanies sexual relationships—a good thing by itself in terms of social stability and harmony. As consequences go for humans, this has probably worked well if we can assume that prehistoric homosexual childless individuals were free to help raise the children of heterosexuals. Children need watchful care at all times, so the extra help surely aided our species’ survival. Until humans figured out where babies came from, sex was naturally directed by sexual orientation solely because it was enjoyable. Why would it not be? Once paternity was understood, the picture changed drastically.

Although the history of marriage shows many forms and rationales (including same-sex marriage), an overriding reason for its institutionalization was male interest in controlling women to ensure a prolific, no-guesswork paternity and, therefore, inheritance, economic aggrandizement, and ruling authority. Women became men’s property, as noted in the Ten Commandments, and enforced, until recently, by all religions, and even today by some religions. Women were treated legally as men’s property in the United States until around the time of the Civil War. Being in love didn’t become acceptable as a sole reason for marriage until some decades later. As recently as the 1970s, divorces were difficult to get unless one could prove adultery. Being abused didn’t count. I remember well the cottage industry that developed around staging fake adulterous encounters so a divorce could be granted. Those staged encounters didn’t fool anyone, but the letter of the law was upheld, so no questions were asked.

The Bible says Solomon (the wisest of all kings, according to 1 Kings 10:23) had 700 wives and 300 concubines (meaning sex slaves). Where was the one-man, one-woman tradition then? With such exploitation of women now illegal, marriage essentially legalizes a sexuality-based bond without regard for procreation. Reproductive interests have never been the sole justification for marriage in any case. Deliberately childless marriages take place for any number of reasons—financial concerns, physical problems, a need for companionship, even immigration status or the need for health insurance.

Some religions are convinced that same-sex marriage would destroy the institution of marriage. It’s hard to see how. The interests of religion and government are different (or should be where state and church are separate), so religions can set their own rules about whom they will marry. Religion is primarily concerned with rituals and such things as sexual behavior, religious affiliation, and procreation and indoctrination of children. Government is concerned with issues beyond procreation, such as mutual financial and personal responsibilities, inheritance laws, medical care, visitation rights, child custody (not limited to heterosexuals), and so on. Given this, it is socially advantageous to provide the legal benefits of marriage for loving, committed couples, whether gay or straight. Government has no compelling interest in being selective about the sexual orientations of those it marries for socially valid reasons. Those orientations are natural, and if one kind tends to produce children and the other doesn’t, so what?\


Anatomical Complementarity

Religious arguments against same-sex marriage tend to center on anatomy. Their position, put badly, is that since male and female genitalia fit together, and fitting them together often results in offspring, that must be its sole purpose. And because there are offspring, there must necessarily be marriage. Because there is marriage, government has the duty to oversee and protect that arrangement, limiting it to one man and one woman. (Lots of non sequiturs here.) Here’s what Archbishop John C. Nienstedt, of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis wrote in a letter to the editor. He claimed he was just defending reality, not his religious position. The Catholic Church, he said, “does not seek to impose its own beliefs on others . . . . The reality we are defending predates any religion or government. It finds its logic in the complementarity of the human anatomy, as well as the male/female psyche and in the propagation of the human species.” 11

What he meant by the male/female psyche in this context is anyone’s guess. If it’s the emotional aspect of sexuality, that psyche seems to be operating rather nicely for same-sex couples as well. As for anatomical complementarity, people of all sexual orientations have found that there is more than one route to complementarity. If nature was purposeful and wanted sex to be limited to one form of male-female complementarity, all these other options wouldn’t be available—some of them useful in preventing unwanted propagation. One is tempted to think that maybe nature actually is purposeful and finds it useful in natural-selection terms to provide a variety of sexual work-arounds to enable us humans to control this whole sexual orientation/anatomical/psyche/propagation business to our advantage.

And speaking of sexual purposes, I don’t recall ever reading any Vatican pronouncement about the clitoris. Unlike the penis, which has three distinct and useful purposes, the clitoris has only one—pleasure. It has no complementarity function. Yet there it is, conforming fully to natural law, doing nothing but providing the one thing that has historically made the Vatican nervous—sex-related pleasure. No wonder the Vatican is silent on this. Perhaps the Catholic bishops should study a good sex manual and a few books on sexual evolution before they expound on a topic about which they are so obviously dumb as a rock.

On the fundamentalist side, the Rev. Elden Nelson, a Lutheran minister from Plymouth, Minnesota, in reference to a proposed amendment to the Minnesota state constitution that defines marriage as between one man and one woman, says:

There is nothing discriminatory about the Minnesota Marriage Amendment, nor is it a political matter. Neither is it intended as an offense against any individual or group. Rather, it is a moral and ethical matter that finds its basis and answer in the infallible, inerrant and inspired word of God.12

How that squares with the First Amendment’s “Congress shall make no law concerning an establishment of religion” clause he does not say. Those propagating these views always assume that the only relevant part of the First Amendment’s religion clause is “Congress shall make no law . . . prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” That invariably is interpreted by fundamentalists, Mormons, and the Catholic Church as allowing religions to do whatever they wish, with the support of government, however much that destroys the religious freedom of others.


What It’s Like to Be in Marriage Limbo

One view of the same-sex marriage controversy is that the matter could be settled by simply designating marriage as between one man and one woman and creating domestic partnerships that are essentially contractual arrangements for same-sex couples. However, there is no way domestic partnerships can be legally equitable without them being a carbon copy of the marriage laws, so why call them something different? What’s in a name? Nothing, unless the names confer different rights and responsibilities. Domestic partnerships do that. They confer lesser assurances of equity than marriage, in which everything is automatic, no contracts needed.
Project 515 in Minnesota has compiled a list of the 515 Minnesota laws that work to the disadvantage of same-sex couples in domestic partnerships in ways marriage never does. (If it is this bad in a state as historically liberal as Minnesota, it can’t be much better anywhere else.) Below are Project 515 accounts of some of the harmful fallout from this inequity. The stories are true, as are the names except where otherwise noted.13

Trying to Teach Life’s Lessons to Our Children. (Names have been changed.) When Lisa, Susan and their 6-year-old daughter Paige moved to a new city, they chose to bank with Susan’s employee credit union. Wanting to teach their daughter good savings habits, they took Paige with them to open their new accounts and chose to establish one for Paige.

Lisa and Susan completed the required banking forms and were then informed that they could not open a joint account because they were not married. In addition, they could not open an account for Paige, they were told, because Lisa, not Susan, was Paige’s legal parent. This credit union carried the employer’s name, logo and colors in their signage and advertising. The employer had a strong nondiscrimination policy, and about 20% of its employees were not heterosexual. Yet, when Lisa and Susan protested, they were informed that the banking policies were set by the credit union board of directors, not the employer.

To set a good example for Paige, Lisa met with the manager and voiced her concerns about the policies and the lack of alignment with the employer. She expressed her disappointment and humiliation when the credit union rejected them and their daughter as clients. After they left, Paige became very angry and frustrated, holding on to her piggy bank and refusing to give anyone her money.

“Would this also be the policy if an employee who was a grandparent, aunt or uncle wanted to open an account for a child?” Lisa wondered. “If an employee wanted to open a joint account with a brother or sister, would they be refused?”

Sometimes Planning and Legal Work Aren’t Enough. Tim Reardon is a prudent man. When he and his partner Eric decided to have a child through a surrogate, they made certain all the legal documents were in order. They already had a partnership agreement, executed before their commitment ceremony in 2001. They had drafted powers of attorney, health care directives, and every document they could within the restrictions of the law to be certain their relationship to one another and their future children was clear and protected.

Yet when Tess was born in 2003, Tim and Eric waited for a year to get a judge’s order for a birth certificate because the state insisted on DNA testing for proof of paternity. The cost, both monetary and emotional, was enormous. Adding to the emotional burden was a serious health challenge. Three months after Tess’s birth, Eric was diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor. The family life Tim and Eric had dreamed of was thrown into chaos. Tim and Eric returned to their attorney to be certain their paperwork was in order. It had become imperative that Tim was clearly named the person to “call the shots” upon Eric’s death.

Four years later, when Eric was to go from the hospital to a hospice residence, a social worker conducted a financial eligibility screening to determine if Eric was eligible for funds to offset the cost of the hospice residence not covered by either insurance or Medicare. The hospital business office wanted to include Tim’s earnings in the calculation of “household income.” “They wanted to recognize our relationship when it was financially in their best interest,” Tim said. Tim refused. When Eric died a short time later, Tim was informed that the medical examiner would not recognize Tim’s relationship to Eric.

To make matters worse, the cremation society did not consider Tim next of kin, with the right to make decisions about Eric’s remains, even though Tim showed administrators a power of attorney document, a health care directive, and Eric’s will, all clearly naming Tim as the decision maker. Only with the consent of Eric’s mother and father was Tim ultimately allowed to sign the cremation society’s paperwork.

“I felt so violated and angry that at this most vulnerable moment of life, they would not acknowledge our relationship,” Tim said. “All our planning didn’t mean anything to these people. Eric’s wishes didn’t mean anything. This never would have happened to a legal spouse. All it takes is one challenge from a person with an issue or different belief system, and the cost to us in money, time and emotions is enormous—because we have no recourse in the legal system. Any legally married spouse is automatically recognized as next of kin and is granted that right by law with no papers, no lawyers, and no need to prove their relationship at life’s most vulnerable moments—the law protects them from such insult.”

Fighting to Keep One’s Home. (Names have been changed.) Jane’s partner Carol was diagnosed with a terminal illness late in 2004. By the time the disease had progressed to the point that Carol required full time care, she had already spent most of her assets on medical bills. Carol applied for and was placed on medical assistance, which provided her with around-the-clock care in the final months of her life.

Following Carol’s death, the state placed a lien on her home—the home she had shared with Susan for more than 15 years. By law, the state had the legal power to enforce the lien and recover the money it spent for Carol’s medical expenses. Jane was faced with the prospect of selling her home to pay off the state.

However, had Jane and Carol been married, Minnesota law would have protected the home. Current law provides that the state cannot enforce a medical assistance lien on the home of the person who received aid if the person’s spouse still lives in the house. In these cases, the state must wait until after the spouse has died before it can recoup money from the home’s equity.
No Secular Justification

Laws that support unverifiable religious views of sex and marriage have no place in a secular society. They should be nullified as unconstitutional, and some have been, but progress is slow. It does seem, however, that laws discriminating against sexual minorities are on the way out, due to the tenacious political organizing of LGBT people and their supporters. Public opinion is increasingly on their side. Same-sex marriage may be the last battle in the sexual-orientation phase of the culture war. Arguments raised by the Catholic Church and religious right arguing for defining marriage as only between one man and one woman are weak to the point of being ludicrous. None of them make any secular sense. All are based on religious dogma tied to an intractable ignorance of human sexuality. If the religious right zealots had any understanding of how evolution works, they would know that human sexuality as it actually exists (with LGBT people) is a prime example of “natural law”—a natural outcome of the evolutionary process.

To sum up, here is a list of 11 religious arguments against same-sex marriage, in no particular order of validity (since they have none) followed by the view from the real-world:

1. Marriage has always been about procreation so we are not mistreating homosexuals by not allowing same-sex marriage. Our ancestors were wrong about many things, such as slavery and subjugation of women (which marriage facilitated, of course). We abandoned their ideas because they led to mistreatment of subjugated men and women for no worthwhile purpose. We are now abandoning the mistreatment of homosexuals for the same reason.

2. Our sexual organs exist for procreation by a male and a female. Any other use is unnatural. Our sexual organs (the external ones we control) perform several functions, only one of which is procreation. The penis has three functions: urination, pleasure, and procreation. The clitoris has only one function: pleasure (interestingly, the only function common to both sexes). Homosexuality squares with all of these functions, including procreation, which can be, but not necessarily, achieved indirectly through sperm donation.

3. If the human sex drive is not controlled by marriage, limited to male-female couples for procreation, it will be misused in destructive, immoral ways. The human sex drive, being stronger than needed for procreation (thus suggesting its primary purpose for humans is pleasure), can indeed be misused. It is more extravagantly misused by heterosexuals, especially in sexual exploitation of women, but can be misused by homosexuals as well. Controlling one’s sex drive is a common issue for everyone, regardless of orientation.

4. Homosexuality, if it becomes acceptable, will harm society by leading to its degradation. Homosexuality has existed in all societies at all times, sometimes accepted, sometimes not. What society has it ever harmed? None. It has never been prevalent because it involves only a small percentage of the population. It can’t be caught and can’t be taught because it’s a natural orientation, just like heterosexuality.

5. If same-sex marriage becomes legal, what’s to stop polygamous and polyamorous people—even dog lovers and who knows who else—from demanding marriage rights? Probably nothing, but neither now nor throughout history has there been any sign of a widespread interest in such relationships. Same-sex couples feel the same pull of love as opposite sex couples. They value the same personal and emotional commitment that marriage can provide heterosexual couples. There is no sign of any such commitment operating among the other groups (with the exception of a relatively few polyamorous people), and certainly no interest in organizing a political movement around it.

6. Homosexuality, even if appearing to be harmless, exacts a spiritual cost that can lead to perdition. We should not be enabling that fate. Some religious people may believe homosexuality leads to “perdition” (whatever that is), but that is no basis for discriminatory laws against homosexuals. All such laws are a destructive, unconstitutional establishment of religion with no secular justification whatsoever. The Book of Leviticus may have a place in some churches, but there it should stay. It does not belong in our laws.

7. Same-sex marriage will destroy the institution of marriage. Religious people often make this argument, but have yet to provide a single concrete example of such destruction. They always fall back on abstractions. Divorce destroys heterosexual marriages all the time, but we allow it because, for one thing, it’s none of the government’s business, and for another, forcing incompatible couples to stay together only brings pain and misery from which no good ever comes. Does the availability of divorce encourage the dissolution of marriages? Perhaps, but this has nothing to do with same-sex marriages. Perhaps the feared destruction is that of religion’s control over marriage as a sacred institution ordained by God to license a couple to have sex so they can increase and multiply. If so, so be it.

8. Marriage is rooted in religious beliefs and cannot be cut off from that. No one is cutting marriage off from religious beliefs. Religions are free to set their own rules for marriage and to marry or refuse to marry whomever they will. But there is religious marriage and secular marriage, and they have different standards. Religions marry people for their own religious reasons, and governments marry people for their own secular reasons. Generally, the only marriages the state does not allow are those that are coercive or harmful. So, for example, an age of consent is required, and inbreeding by close relatives is not allowed (though if pregnancy is impossible in some cases, why not?).

9. Children need a mother and a father. Yes, but people who did not produce them in the traditional biological way can and do raise happy children. They may have adopted them, used a surrogate mother to bring them to birth, or conceived them by artificial insemination. The only thing that matters is that children grow up in a caring environment with one or more people who love them and help them become productive, responsible adults. Same-sex orientation has never been a hindrance to good parenting, just as heterosexual orientation has never been a guarantee of it.

10. If homosexual relations are natural, what is wrong with adultery, pedophilia, and bestiality if they are also natural behaviors? Yes, those behaviors are probably natural for those who engage in them, but we need to prohibit only those that are harmful. Adults can deal with the harmful effects of adultery on their own. Pedophiles, however, will have to find a way to control that tendency or we will continue to lock them up to ensure the safety of children. As for bestiality, we’d have to check with the beast in question as to any harm done. To most of us, bestiality is just disgusting (or possibly hilarious), but again (as with pedophilia) one runs into the problem of consent—both practices are by their nature nonconsensual. As for homosexuality, there is nothing harmful about it when it’s between consenting adults.

11. If same-sex marriage is approved, there will be harmful civil consequences for those whose religious beliefs cannot allow them to accept it. Yes, there will be consequences—just as there were consequences when civil rights laws were passed. No doubt there were town clerks who lost their jobs when they refused to marry mixed-race couples. No doubt religious adoption services found they could no longer discriminate against mixed-race couples. No doubt there were parents distressed when their children were exposed to public school classes about racial equality and justice. All because traditional views about race had been overturned by law. But that is the price some people have to pay when they can no longer inflict their irrational beliefs on others. Just as society has survived and improved in the absence of punitive racist laws, so will it survive in the absence of punitive marriage laws.


1. Lawrence v. Texas, 123 S. Ct. 2472; 156 L. Ed. 2d 508; 2003 U.S. LEXIS 5013, (2003).
2. Laura Hibbard in The Huffington Post,
3. Maria Elena Baca, “Q&A: Parent group raises school issues,” Minneapolis Star Tribune, Jan. 15, 2012
4. Human Rights Campaign mailing, Feb. 2012. See
5. “Unequal Under the Law: 515 Ways Minnesota Laws Discriminate Against Couples and Families,” published by Project 515, October 2007. See
6. See for a lengthy account of the Proposition 8 controversy.
7. Dahlia Lithwick, “A Brilliant Ruling.” See
8. Perry v Schwartzenegger, No. C 09-2292 VRW, United States District Court, N.D. California, Northern Division. Aug. 12, 2010.
9. “Marriage: Love and Life in the Divine Plan,” A Pastoral Letter of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, Chapter 2, Same-Sex Unions, issued by USCCB, Nov. 17, 2009. To order a copy of this statement, please visit and click on “New Titles.”
10. Dan Browning, “Health plan can’t deny wife coverage due to sex change,” Minneapolis Star Tribune, April 5, 2012.
11. The Rev. John C. Nienstedt, “Gay Marriage: Church defends reality for the common good,” Minneapolis Star Tribune opinion page, Oct. 8, 2011.
12. The Rev. Elden Nelson, letter to the editor, Minneapolis Star Tribune opinion page, Feb. 21, 2012.
13. “Unequal Under the Law,” op cit.


cover of Culture Wars by Marie Castle


by Marie Alena Castle, author of Culture Wars: The Threat to Your Family and Your Freedom

(This is a lightly edited, slightly shorter version of the cover article of the May/June 2014 The Moral Atheist,  the magazine of Atheists for Human Rights.)





Defensible Interests

. . . [T]o fulfill our deepest interests in this life, both personally and collectively, we must first admit that some interests are more defensible than others. Indeed, some interests are so compelling that they need no defense at all. . . . For nearly a century the moral relativism of science has given faith-based religion—that great engine of ignorance and bigotry—a nearly uncontested claim to being the only universal framework for moral wisdom.

— Sam Harris, The Moral Landscape: How Science Can Determine Human Values. pp. 190-191.


Not So Defensible Interests

“There are secular reasons to oppose abortion.”

— David Silverman, President of American Atheists, communication with the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), seeking common ground.


It’s Not As Bad As It Looks

We are calling attention to a problem the atheist movement has inexplicably ignored, perhaps because we are so inundated with it we don’t see it. That is the problem of the essential immorality of religion. Instead of pointing to and challenging it, we tend to accept the myth of religion as a morality -based institution and even try to emulate it. They do food shelves? We do food shelves. They do blood donations? We do blood donations. They do clothing drives? We do clothing drives.

Nothing wrong with this. It’s all good civic virtue stuff any decent society does if it doesn’t want to fall apart into chaos. But it doesn’t deal with the basic problem—all the ways religion harms society. How do we counter this? With billboards that say some of us are happy to be atheists or that religion is based on myths or that we can be good without God—implying there is a goodness about religious belief, and we atheists can also have that goodness?

No. There is no goodness about religious belief, but when do we bring that to the public’s attention? Not often, if ever.

The Road to Secular Hell

The road to secular hell is indeed paved with good intentions, however poorly thought out. American Atheists went to the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in March (keynote speaker Sarah Palin) to let the generally atheistic “libertarian” fiscal restraint contingent of the far right know they were welcome in the atheist community. Libertarians want government out of a good part of our lives, including the personal part, so why would Silverman offer up women’s personal autonomy as a bargaining chip in seeking common ground?

It doesn’t take much experience with the atheist movement to know the answer. There is a strong view running through it—as with all of society—that women in their reproductive function are something of a public utility to be regulated. The idea of a woman having autonomy over her own bodily reproductive processes seems unthinkable and contrary to what nature intended, however mindlessly. The adverse effects on a woman of a disastrous pregnancy are pretty much viewed as irrelevant. She is there to have children, regardless of the cost to her.

And atheist organizations wonder why there are relatively few women in atheist organizations. Why align with any group that thinks your childbearing function makes you public property? There are only two atheist organization I know of that, as a founding principle, refuse to demean women this way: One is our own Atheists For Human Rights and the other is the Humanist Association of Canada, founded by the late Dr. Henry Morgentaler as a result of his experiences providing abortions to women, because he saw how necessary that was to their wellbeing. He was a morally active, human-centered physician, ultimately willing to pay the price of imprisonment to save the victims of religious tyranny . . . victims Silverman seems willing to throw under the bus to attract a few more members to his organization.

Timidity as a Moral Blindfold

Then there’s’ Sally Chizek’s experience in San Antonio, Texas. She’s a long time member of the Freethought Association of Central Texas (FACT). Here’s what she says:

For the past 15 years, I have gone to City Hall to protest the National Day of Prayer held on the City Hall steps. When I learned that the protest was not to be advertised as a FACT event I asked why. I was informed that FACT does not prescreen the signs and if the protest goes badly and the FACT sign is there it will likely cause irreparable damage to our reputation and our relationship with the city. While it has never been problematic before, all it takes are a few new folks with aggressive/insulting messages that then speak for all. The FACT officers were not willing to take this on on behalf of the members at large.

That was two members at large. One had not heard any discussion of official FACT sponsorship and thought individuals can do what they wish but not speak for others. The other didn’t want FACT involved because ‘some people are looking for an excuse to shut us down . . . . This ain’t the hill we want to die on.’

Only one man noted our web site—in About Us—concerning our objectives: ‘Challenge the encroachment of religion into . . . local government and eliminate all discrimination and limitations placed on our civil liberties. . . . Does the National Day of Prayer appear as a violation of separation of church and state? It’s fine you do not agree and you decided to click ‘not attending.’

“The event was advertised by FACT, but they wanted everyone to know it was not a FACT event. Why not? It was dealing with church and state. The Christians use the front steps and lawn so citizens who have business to conduct have to use the back door.

So Sally held her own protest and lined up people to attend. She made extra signs in case someone showed up without one. The signs supported state-church separation but did not mention FACT. “But what concerns me,” Sally said, “was how gutless the board members appeared to be. I am 86 years old and could be knocked down with a feather, but I’ll take my chances. Otherwise no one will protest and the NDOPers will think they have all the rights and just get bigger.”

Tim Gorski, founder of the North Texas Church of Freethought, agreed with Sally. “FACT was founded by the late Catherine Fahringer [a well known, outspoken and feisty activist], he said, “which makes it sad that it is not getting out in front of a protest against NDOP when there are people who want to participate. They won’t be able to prescreen the signs? Are they afraid someone’s sign will say, ‘Godless Bitches’? Oh, that’s already on FACT’s website. . . . Some people may show up with obscene signs? Just say, ‘They’re not with us.’ Besides, NDOP is itself an obscenity.”

The Moral High Road Not Taken

“NDOP is itself an obscenity.” Yes, that’s the point. The moral point that’s been there all the time and we’ve ignored it. There is an inherent organizational timidity at work that fears to take religion on where it is most vulnerable and it leaves activists like Sally Chizek to do what they can on their own. Atheist organizations should challenge the obscenities of religion. Challenge their claim to the moral high ground. They don’t own it; they are squatters. Atheists are distrusted and demeaned precisely because there is a prejudice that, without religion, a person is unlikely to be reliably moral and therefore not to be trusted.

But what is morality? Most of our social problems are caused by religious beliefs that are an obscenity. They seek to deny women’s rights, gay rights, the right to make our own end-of-life decisions, the right of medical researchers to do what is necessary to find cures for diseases.

The list of religion-caused social problems goes on, and atheist organizations dismiss them with lip service at best, saying they “are not atheist issues.” All of these repressive religious obscenities are based on batshit crazy religious beliefs, including the most bizarre of them all—that a fertilized egg the size of the period at the end of this sentence is a full human being with more human rights than a disastrously pregnant disposable woman has. This is insanity in its purest form, yet we are supposed to respect it because it is a “deeply held religious belief.”

Decent people don’t need religion to be decent. Most of us behave decently because we are programmed by evolution to want to get along safely and peacefully with others. It’s a matter of survival. Religions are established almost always by those with no interest in religion—faithless people using the faith and belief of others to steal from them, and to control them for their own self-aggrandizing purposes.

Will Atheists Ever Learn How to Fight?

Why do atheists think state-church separation involves mainly ritual things such as government-sponsored prayer, religious monuments on public property, religious graffiti on our money, and teaching creation myths as science? Yes, those are all significant matters, but they do not affect the sacred “morality” aura that surrounds religion. Why not show where respect for batshit crazy religious beliefs leads?

Prayer: I saw a report of religionists setting up a “Prayer Station” in a courthouse somewhere. Sure, that’s a state-church violation, but it doesn’t get to the point, which is that prayers are useless incantations that are (or should be) as embarrassing in public as picking one’s nose.

In such a case, of course go file a First Amendment lawsuit, but also set up a complementary prayer station with placards quoting Bible verses such as “Whatever you ask in my name it shall be granted unto you.”

Turn it into a theatrical event. Invite the press, and then publicly gather and solemnly pray to Jesus to turn, say, a pear in your hand into a carrot. Onlookers will laugh and possibly think about the value of that religious Prayer Station.

Same with legislative prayers. Set up tables that track the ineffectiveness of those prayers as legislation is run through the meat grinder sausage-making process. Onlookers will laugh and possibly think about the foolishness of legislative prayers. And don’t forget to note the biblical prohibition against praying in public.

Ten Commandments: American Atheists won the right to put up an atheist monument next to the Ten Commandments on government property. Fine! But the religionists have thousands of places where they can afford to do that. We can’t. Why not, instead, show public outrage (as we should regardless) at every government display of such an unAmerican barbaric set of “commandments”? Challenge the denial of religious freedom, the lack of commandments against slavery and torture, the commandment (not to mention the entire Old Testament) that treats women as property, etc., and demand that such an obscene monument be removed. Don’t simply demand “equal time”–point out how obscene the Ten Commandments are.

Abortion: Stop this timid “well, I support Roe v. Wade” stuff and hand wringing about it being a “gray area” or somehow open for discussion. It is totally a medical matter between a woman and her doctor. All restrictions, beyond regulations that affect all medical procedures, are a state-church violation.

If not, let’s hear David Silverman explain what his “secular reasons” for opposing the right to abortion are, and why they are not patriarchal and misogynistic. Take an unequivocal stand for women’s rights that show atheists are with them. Do the same for gay rights: Both women and gay people might see atheists in a better light, as a moral voice opposed to their oppression by the religious right.

Stem Cell Research: Our lives and our health should not be held hostage to embryo “personhood” insanity. It’s insane! Say so. Very plainly
End-of-Life Decisions: We should not have to suffer needlessly simply because of others’ crazy religious beliefs. Say so. Loudly.

Bible Reading: So just why do atheists want to stop this? Everyone should read the Bible. Just make it mandatory that students read the whole thing with both religious and atheist instructors explaining it. All Bibles given out in school should include a copy of Awkward Moments Children’s Bible. Great illustrations. Takes the Bible seriously and quotes it exactly. Not what the religionists want, of course, but it’s their Bible and they’re stuck with it.

Some commentators are starting to get the message. Greta Christina is talking about engaging non-religious young people in areas in which their interests lie. By and large they are not interested in school prayer and nitpicky things like that. Young people are leaving religion because religion is messing with their lives by restricting birth control and abortion and abusing kids. Americans United for Separation of Church & State has started opposing religious assaults because of their basis in law with no secular justification. One commentator is starting to note that religion is founded by hucksters. At AFHR, we’ve been saying this all along. Maybe someone out there is finally listening.


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by Marie Alena Castle, author of Culture Wars: The Threat to Your Family and Your Freedom

(EDITOR’S NOTE: One of the reasons many people dismiss atheism is that atheist organizations seem to delight in pissing people off. They focus on relative trivialities, symbolic affronts such as nativity scenes in public places, rather than on the very serious religious intrusions — laws restricting  reproductive rights, gay rights, the right to die — that damage the lives of millions of Americans.  In the following post, Marie Castle calls out America’s atheist organizations for their wholesale abdication of responsibility. –CB)

Don’t Drink the Kool-Aid

Here’s something we don’t think about, but should. Gloria Steinem said, “You will know the truth and the truth will make you free, but first it will piss you off.” So here goes:

Why is it that so many religions are founded by people who claim to believe in a god, yet use that religion in greedy self-serving ways? Consider the difference between a cult and a religion:

In a cult, the person at the top knows it’s a scam.
In a religion, that person is dead.

How many religions today were started as a cult by someone who knew it was a scam? Probably most of them. Yes, some religious founders are honestly deluded, think a god is talking to them, and they have been especially selected to carry out some half-baked ideas about a spirit world. There are others who start a religion honestly to promote a worthy way to live — an ethical system such as Buddhism.

We are not talking about those founders, only about deliberate scams, begun by con artists — faithless men and women who used the faith and belief of others to steal from them. And that is wicked. And those wicked con artists are … unbelievers .. atheists! And their followers drank the Kool-Aid and continue to drink it and it never occurs to them that it was and is served up by … atheists.

Not atheists of the kind that form and belong to freethinker organizations dedicated to forcing religions to be benign, only those who have no interest in god beliefs except as the hook for the greatest and most profitable and longest con in history.

Let’s start with Moses. He is probably a fictional character but, if so, his story was created by con artists to achieve the desired results. Get a Bible and read about the Ten Commandments. Moses has led his people to the Promised Land. They are at Mt. Sinai. The mountain is rumbling, fire is coming from the top of the mountain as from a furnace. Moses says the rumbling is the voice of Yahweh, who wants to speak with him. (It’s just a volcano, but people always believe what they want to believe.) Only Moses is allowed to go up and talk with Yahweh. No one else must even come near. “Stay back,” he warns them repeatedly.

So this elderly man trudges up the mountain into the smoke and after a time returns with Ten Commandments carved at Yahweh’s direction on two stone tablets. Then there’s the Golden Calf incident, with Moses smashing the Ten Commandments, so he has to go back up the mountain for another set. They aren’t quite the same, but no matter. What’s important for the con is the instructions that go with them.

There are pages and pages of instructions for setting up luxurious tents for Moses, his brother Aaron and Aaron’s sons — a priestly class to be showered with perks: the finest fabrics, gold and silver vessels, the best the Israelites had to offer in food, drink and amenities. All for the glory of Yahweh, of course, even though enjoyed only by that priestly class. Nothing was too good. It was the Bronze Age equivalent of today’s televangelists with their mansions, swimming pools, and private jets.

The Catholic Church says the Bible story of the woman using precious ointment to wash the feet of Jesus instead of helping the poor was justified for the honor and glory of “god.” Same for why the church constructed such lavish cathedrals. After all, “the poor you will always have with you.” True enough if society’s wealth is squandered on the priestly class (now our biggest recipient of welfare through tax exemptions and perks and government giveaways).

Pope Leo X in the Middle Ages was quoted by his secretary as saying, “We all know how profitable this fable of Jesus Christ has been for our company.” Yes, another “faithless man,” like so many popes at that time, and even now. They know their church history as well as we do. They know there was no pope before the 4th century. They know it’s all a profitable fable. Some no doubt close their minds to that and convince themselves otherwise, but the facts are still there. People believe what they want to believe or have to believe to live with themselves.

How about the Mormons? This is history so close it’s beyond questioning. Joseph Smith was a known con artist with an arrest record. Can anyone read the account of his visit from the angel Moroni and those golden tablets (“evidence” that Moroni took back to heaven and so are not available) and his cobbled up hieroglyphics and Book of Mormon about Jesus visiting America and on and on without laughing? Yet Smith served up that Kool-Aid and his followers drank it and still do, never understanding that their faith comes from a con artist’s imagination — a faithless man using the faith and belief of others to steal from them. With Smith dead, his cult is now the Mormon religion.

How about Mary Baker Eddy? She had a carnival act with a guy named Quimby touting “mesmerism” — a mind-over-matter schtick about using one’s mind to control whatever. When Quimby died, Eddy turned the act into a cult purporting to use one’s mind to heal disease. Since Eddy is dead, her cult is now the religion of Christian Science. And it maims and kills children whose parents drank Eddy’s Kool-Aid and abandoned real medical care for prayer “treatments” that consist of refusing to admit a disease exists even when a child is clearly dying. It’s the ultimate in believing what one wants to believe. And we have legislators so determined to respect those beliefs that they refuse to rescind laws that support them. More Kool-Aid.

So What Should Atheists Do About This?

These and other cults/religions are clearly not founded by honest, well-meaning god believers. It’s time we honest atheists called them out. They are rogue atheists — hucksters playing the long con — with no more of a god belief than we have, but lacking the conscience that would keep them from exploiting believers. It never occurs to religious people that they are being conned by huckster atheists. Why not tell them?

Honest Christian behavior is immoral behavior because it hurts people. (Bible thumpers and “infallible pope” Catholics offer evidence for that.) Honest atheist behavior is moral behavior because it exists to oppose the harm religion causes. (Secular laws and social policies that help people live more productive lives offer evidence for that.) Organized atheism actually has no other valid purpose.

Christians become moral by abandoning traditional beliefs, in effect adopting the religion-free views of honest atheists. Atheists become immoral when they abandon atheism’s inherently moral position in respect to religion by becoming con artists in the name of greed.

We atheists drink our own Kool-Aid by not telling the truth. We need to rein in our outliers and expose their con game. And we need to learn something about public relations from the world’s reigning expert — Pope Francis. That is, you present a helpful, caring, friendly face to the world. In Francis’s case, that hides a con game intended to preserve and enhance doctrinal control over our social laws and public policies. There will be no retraction of the anti-woman, anti-gay, anti-science, anti-death with dignity, etc., restrictions now in place. If anything, it will get worse. But it won’t seem so because Francis will smile and talk of loving the victims and “accompanying them” during the travail his doctrines inflict on them. Kool-Aid.

An Honest Atheist Public Relations Policy

City council prayers are wrong. So are god pledges and mottoes. But no one cares if we lose the lawsuits and may feel irritated if we win. Billboards that say we can be good without god imply the god standard is good when it’s not.

None of this shows we care about people — only that we want “a place at the table” in forming public policy. And we want that place only because there are now more of us. Why does that matter? We should want that place so we can make life better for everyone, not just us. We should show that we stand with the victims of religion-based laws. We should file lawsuits on their behalf. We should be their heroes. Instead we ignore them and say the oppressions inflicted on them “are not atheist issues” when they are exactly that.

Atheists have abdicated their most fundamental responsibility–to stand up for the victims of religion. The Secular Coalition for America recently released a Model Secular Policy Guide for legislative issues. It looks like something put together by a committee. Bland and legalistic, it does nothing to inspire activism. Shouldn’t it point out the massive harm religion-based laws do to individuals and society? No mention of that, only that the intrusions do not pass constitutional muster. That will change if Supreme Court rulings make atrocious laws constitutional, as could happen. It’s been done before. Ther document makes it seem that atheists have no human-centered principles to defend. By not making a forceful and principled stand for the victims of religious tyranny we make no stand at all. We are drinking our own Kool-Aid.

(Re-posted from the  Atheists for Human Rights blog)

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