Condemnation Of Religious Bigotry Is Not Condemnation of Religion

A reader replied to the post Why A Heterosexual, Married, North Carolinian Father Of Three Cares About LGBT Equality with a comment that has been echoed by many:
Overall, an excellent argument, somewhat marred by the author's sneer at religion, as though all religious people are against same sex marriage (and ignorant, to boot). As a UU minister who has officiated at many same-gender weddings, certainly I support the right-to-marry movement (on civic and religious grounds). But if the author wants to understand mean-spiritedness toward issues based simply on one's personal limited grasp of or appreciation for the issue, he should re-read his remarks related to religion, which I find offensive. Like him, I despair when religion or "bibleism" is used to stand in the way of what I consider to be a civil right, but individuals' religious perspective and identity can easily be as varied and as complex as their sexual orientation and gender identity. I have no problem with the author's embrace of Humanism (which is also variously understood by its proponents), but his Humanism neither entitles nor qualifies him to define and dismiss all religion. That he has done so makes him guilty of the same kind of arrogance and injustice he decries in homophobes.

There have been many comments that deserve to be addressed, but I wanted to clarify my comments on religion, since comments keep coming in, and since I feel it is an important component to the ongoing dialogue about LGBT equality.

My response to the commenter:
I'm uncertain why you find my comments so mean-spirited, arrogant, or injust. My comments in that paragraph state that, as someone who does not subscribe to religion, it is a violation of my rights to impose on me (and others who do not subscribe to religion -- or who do not participate in religious bigotry) legislation that is based on religious ideology -- particularly such ideology that does has no secular use.

In no way am I sneering at those who are religious. If you read my other posts, it will become clear to you that, although I have no stomach for religious bigotry or the encroachment of religion on policy, I believe that there are many religious people who are compassionate, progressive, and who do much good in the areas of social justice and equality.

Whether or not you want to admit it, religious bigotry is most often the root of anti-LGBT sentiment. And as my comments state, religion has no place in legislation. If you find it insulting that I refer to such religious ideas as supernatural, or superstition, then I can't help you there. Religion *is* supernaturalism, and it *does* involve superstition.

If you took offense to my "nonsense" comment, you may want to re-read the sentence. I did not state that *religion* belongs on that heap of nonsense. I stated that *religious arguments against same-sex marriage* belong on that heap of nonsense.

There is a difference.

I can't stress enough how important the faith community is to this issue. I believe it to be of utmost importance that churches, religious organizations, and religious leaders speak up about LGBT equality and the May 8 anti-LGBT Amendment vote. I have all the time in the world for Christian bloggers John Shore and Mark Sandlin, both of which are among the most important voices in this dialogue about religious bigotry.

Even the seasoned equality activists fighting the NC amendment are very insistent that this is not about religion. It's about religious bigotry, which many religious people abhor.

I am careful not to condemn religion. But I have no problem whatsoever condemning religious bigotry.


  1. You say you are careful not to condemn religion but then you say this:

    "I'm not asking you to discard your religion. Just keep it to yourself, your family, and your congregation. We'll all be happier if you do."

    Sounds a lot like: "I'm not against being gay. Just keep it to yourself, in your own bedroom and with your gay friends. And don't ask for special privileges, either."

    You did poke fun at the Bible a few times to carry through your point about society changing. Bronze Age mentality? Not if you believe the Word of God was NOT created by men and is timeless. The UU minister had it right: "his Humanism neither entitles nor qualifies him to define and dismiss all religion." You can't have it both ways where we leave your Atheism alone but you get to poke fun at the silly believers.

    I agree that religion (and religious bigotry) have no place in legislature EXCEPT where the law protects ALL of our rights to practice religion without fear of persecution. ANY persecution.

    I'm a pro gay rights, pro choice, liberal Christian. You say you have been careful. I detected some sneer in there, too, and in some of your other posts. So please be a little *more* careful.

  2. Did I state anywhere that I do not support your right to practice your religion? The statement, 'Just keep it to yourself, your family and your congregation,' was not intended to be an inclusive list of the only places where you are entitled to practice your religion. That intent was to illustrate that religious dogma, while protected, has its place, and its audience, but as a citizen with rights, I have the right to not be beholden to your religion.

    Re: Bronze age mentality -- There are countless beliefs from the Bronze age that we discarded long ago. The Bronze Age mentality as it relates to women is abhorrent. The medical knowledge of biblical times is primitive and barbaric. Scientific knowledge of the time does not compare to what we know today. This is my point. We have no problem letting go of so much of the bible -- it's barbarism, its misogyny, its misunderstandings about the nature of life and of the cosmos.

    I don't believe for a minute that the Bible was not written by men with limited knowledge (perhaps not for the time, but compared to modern knowledge). So we will have to disagree there.

    You may want to read the first post published on this blog -- hopefully it will help you understand where I stand. It relates to these very accusations of condescension.


    One thing I have learned since I began blogging is that I will never please everyone. I started writing with the understanding that some of my posts would ruffle feathers.

    I have found that it is very difficult to discuss non-belief without offending believers. I do not think that believers are silly. However, I do find certain beliefs to be silly. Everyone does. I am sure you find certain beliefs silly, whether the narratives associated with Scientology and Mormonism, Norse Mythology, or the Heaven's Gate cult.

    Not following a belief, or finding certain beliefs to be far-fetched, is not the same thing as condemning them.

  3. "I'm not asking you to discard your religion. Just keep it to yourself, your family, and your congregation. We'll all be happier if you do."

    That is hardly a condemnation of religion. And it is nothing at all like saying,

    "I'm not against being gay. Just keep it to yourself, in your own bedroom and with your gay friends. And don't ask for special privileges, either."

    Religion enjoys special privileges: Freedom from taxation for one, a notion which I and many other secular people have a very big problem with. Homosexuals are not asking for special privileges. Just the same rights that are given to everyone else.

  4. @Oliver Wyman - I think it certainly is a back-handed and cowardly condemnation to tell someone to keep to themselves something that is part of them, the same way some are asking the LGBT community to hide who they truly are! I was using the term "special privileges" to imitate the language of those people who think that is what the LGBT community is asking for. I do not personally believe that and I'm sorry if that was not clear.

    Part of the belief system of many Christians is to evangelize so telling us "keep it to yourself" - is EXACTLY like asking 2 men to stop kissing in public or forcing a transgender person to use the "wrong" restroom. You are essentially saying "I say I don't mind but I really do mind so stop doing it because it makes me uncomfortable". It's the same mentality.

    Right now, the right to freely practice religion exists and it protects my rights to stand on a street corner and shout Biblical phrases. Unfortunately, RIGHT NOW, the law does not protect the LGBT community and their civil rights. We must work towards making that happen. Alienating Christians by mocking them and painting them all with the same brush does not further that cause.

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