"The trouble with the world is that the stupid are cocksure and the intelligent are full of doubt." -- Bertrand Russell

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Church Apologises For Homophobic Discrimination?

It recently came to my attention via the "Gender Equality" Facebook group that a church put up a billboard in North Carolina condemning the denial of rights and inequality to homosexuals in the "name of God". Here's the billboard:

Hemant Mehta, of "Friendly Atheist" fame, is worried that this might be a meaningless gesture. Does this group still believe homosexuality is a sin? Do they support same-sex marriage?

If the answer to these two questions are "yes" and "no", Hemant says, there is nothing to get excited about here. But I think there's an additional issue worth considering. What follows is an edited version of a message I left on the Gender Equality group's page (posted here).

I don't want an apology from them. They can not apologise for the actions of others; it doesn't work like that. Even if the answers to Hemant's questions are "yes" and "no", respectively, they simply cannot apologise for something that they do not do. I see that their hearts are in approximately the right place, but they're not proceeding as they should be. I want them to fight against homophobic discrimination -- not apologise for it when they don't even do it.

This is especially true if, as we are often encouraged by believers, we should not think of Christianity as monolithic. If Christianity isn't monolithic, then this church cannot stand as a representative for other Christians. If they cannot stand as accountable for the hate perpetuated by others, then they cannot apologise for it either.

But, if they want to take action, there are some others things I'd like to see them doing.

I want them to voice in a public forum that specific other groups of Christians are bad people. I want them to publicly attack other denominations of Christians. To speak out against what is bad. They haven't done that here, nor have they condemned the writer of Leviticus or Paul of Tarsus for his writings in Romans. I want to see Christian commentators on television stating explicitly that particular and specific denominations of Christianity are to blame.

I want them to admit that their holy text is full of immorality; that they are wilfully abandoning religious tradition to give in to liberalised, secular morality in order to say that there's nothing wrong with homosexuality. That, left only to their own religion and without external cultural influences, they would have believed the same sort of deranged stuff as the more conservative groups.

Far too often, when good is done because of religion it's said to be because of religion. And when bad is done, it's said to be in the "name of religion". It has become tremendously politically correct to avoid criticising religions and to attribute everything bad that comes from religion to a distortion of the religious message. This is a harmful and misleading asymmetry. I want an admission that it's not a perversion of religion that causes harm, but specific religious doctrines themselves.

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