9.23.2011

Christians And Gay Teen Suicides

Another great video from Christian writer John Shore, this time addressing the role religious bigotry plays in the suicides of gay teens.

Last Sunday, Buffalo, NY teen Jamey Rodemeyer, who had recorded an It Gets Better video, took his life after being bullied incessantly for over a year.



And below, Jamey's It Gets Better video:









9.22.2011

Ask A Humanist: Reflections On Leaving Faith In The Bible Belt

"Humanism is a progressive philosophy of life that, without theism and other supernatural beliefs, affirms our ability and responsibility to lead ethical lives of personal fulfillment that aspire to the greater good of humanity." - American Humanist Association


Since March of 2011, I have been writing and posting periodic missives about my long, slow departure from religion. I believe I left it long ago, but it wasn't until the last several years that I became comfortable with speaking openly about this aspect of my life.

Partly, this series has been a way to address many of the questions I've been asked by people here in the Bible Belt, where so many people assume everyone else belongs to a church congregation.

I also wrote many of these posts because, although there is no shortage of books about non-belief, there are not many which address the real-life impacts that leaving religion can have -- on our families, our neighbors, our children, and our emotions.

This page collects parts 1-7 of an ongoing, meandering stream of undefined scope, and will be updated as new posts are written.




Vol. 1: What Happened To Make You Angry At God?
As someone who is not religious, I often struggle with how to describe my lack of religion. I have returned to The Bible Belt after being away for a decade, and it is not uncommon to be asked, "Where do you go to church?" In this region, stating "We don't attend church" is often interpreted as "We haven't been invited to church yet," and more inquiries about your brand of faith are likely to ensue. I'm not keen on labels, especially to describe my lack of participation in something ("non-stamp collector" comes to mind). But people like to put a label on things (and people). For lack of a better term, and because the shoe seems to fit, I will often refer to myself as a Secular Humanist. Continue Reading...




Vol. 2: Aren't You Denying Your Children the Opportunity to be Religious?
Many people who were brought up in a major denomination are no longer affiliated with that denomination. Secularity is growing in all regions of the country. These people are otherwise normal people, and like religious folks, they are creating families. When their children reach the age where they start to be introduced to religious ideas, parents have to make some choices, and that presents some challenges and is a source of anxiety to many. Continue Reading...






Vol. 3: What About Death?
Human beings are both blessed and cursed in that we evolved the cruel awareness of our own mortality. We are cursed in that this awareness, combined with our fierce instinct of self-preservation, is the source of a great deal of fear and anxiety. Yet we are blessed in that we can truly understand the great fortune we have been afforded by our very existence. This awareness also allows us to truly understand the value of each day we are alive. Continue reading...






Vol. 4: Isn't Humanism a Faith?
If one follows a particular code, and aligns oneself with a philosophy that has a Web presence, a Wikipedia entry, and a presence in the public sphere, then isn't that just like any other faith or religion? That's a perfectly fair question. Continue reading...





Vol. 5: Why Do You Care What People Believe?
They used to say, "Never talk about politics or religion," but for some reason, those are the two things that fascinate me most. Religion and politics are hopelessly intertwined in America, and each informs so much of American culture, that it's difficult to get too far in a conversation before we're off and running down a path that might have been avoided in more refined times. There are times, if I voice frustration with a particular religious belief, when someone will ask, "Why do you care what people believe?" or any number of variations: "What happened to live and let live?" or "Can't you just be happy that people find comfort in their beliefs?" Continue reading...




Vol. 6: Isn't It Sad To Live Without Faith?
Many find it inconceivable that someone could find happiness without God and everything that accompanies belief in God: the promise of eternal life, the assurance that events in our lives are occurring in accordance with God's plan, and the feeling that an all-knowing, loving entity is looking over us and protecting us. Certainly, they think, without these assurances, life would be joyless, meaningless, and cold. Much of these insinuations are due to misunderstandings about the nature of non-belief. Continue reading...




Vol. 7: Isn't It Hypocritical For A Non-Believer To Celebrate Christmas?
As a non-believer, I've heard many a wisecrack from my Christian friends as the holidays approach. They're all in good fun. There are good ones about decorating the 'Darwin tree,' singing science carols, or toys being delivered by Sagan Claus. While these are just friendly jabs between friends, they say a lot about society's attitudes on religious rituals, customs, and appropriation. Continue reading...





Obama, Perry, And The Death Penalty

In the 2012 presidential election, we will likely be choosing between a man who remained silent while we executed a man who may have been innocent, and a man who actively derailed the investigation into the innocence of another man who was later executed.

Isn't it time to abolish the death penalty?





9.21.2011

Boys Beware: One Never Knows When The Homosexual Is About

The below clip is from a 1961 short film called Boys Beware. The film was produced by Sid Davis, with the cooperation of the Inglewood, California Police Department and the Inglewood Unified School District.

Narrator: "What Jimmy didn't know was that Ralph was sick -- a sickness that was not visible like smallpox, but no less dangerous and contagious--a sickness of the mind. You see, Ralph was a homosexual: a person who demands an intimate relationship with members of their own sex."

The more things change, the more they stay the same.






9.20.2011

The Dangers Of Celebrating Halloween

Now that the stores have begun selling Halloween costumes and candy corn, I am reminded of an amazing post from a few years ago in Charisma Magazine.

The publication describes itself as "the flagship magazine of Charisma Media." For over 30 years, Charisma has been "a trusted source of news, teaching and inspiration to help spread the gospel of Jesus Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit."

This piece is a doozy. If you want something to get your family in the Halloween spirit, gather your kids around the fire on a dark, October night, and read to them from the words of Kimberly Daniels.

You really need to read the whole piece, but I'll get right to the juicy bits for you:
Anti-Halloween Chick Tract
The word "holiday" means "holy day." But there is nothing holy about Halloween. The root word of Halloween is "hallow," which means "holy, consecrated and set apart for service." If this holiday is hallowed, whose service is it set apart for? The answer to that question is very easy—Lucifer's!

Lucifer is a part of the demonic godhead. Remember, everything God has, the devil has a counterfeit. Halloween is a counterfeit holy day that is dedicated to celebrating the demonic trinity of : the Luciferian Spirit (the false father); the Antichrist Spirit (the false holy spirit); and the Spirit of Belial (the false son).

The key word in discussing Halloween is "dedicated." It is dedicated to darkness and is an accursed season. During Halloween, time-released curses are always loosed. A time-released curse is a period that has been set aside to release demonic activity and to ensnare souls in great measure.

If you haven't got chills yet, hang on:
During this period demons are assigned against those who participate in the rituals and festivities. These demons are automatically drawn to the fetishes that open doors for them to come into the lives of human beings. For example, most of the candy sold during this season has been dedicated and prayed over by witches.
Most of the candy is prayed over by witches!!  Each October, I am drawn to candy corn as if it were crack cocaine, and now I know why.

It is unclear which candy corporations do not employ witches in their factories, but Ms. Daniels seems to know her stuff, so just know that you're playing with your soul if you partake at all.

Daniels continues her blood-curdling tale:
I do not buy candy during the Halloween season. Curses are sent through the tricks and treats of the innocent whether they get it by going door to door or by purchasing it from the local grocery store. The demons cannot tell the difference.
She then walks us through her 'Halloween has roots in paganism' routine, which makes me wonder if she celebrates Christmas.

If you had any doubts as to whether Ms. Daniels has a mental disorder, you need only read the passage:
Halloween is much more than a holiday filled with fun and tricks or treats. It is a time for the gathering of evil that masquerades behind the fictitious characters of Dracula, werewolves, mummies and witches on brooms. The truth is that these demons that have been presented as scary cartoons actually exist. I have prayed for witches who are addicted to drinking blood and howling at the moon.

The danger of Halloween is not in the scary things we see but in the secret, wicked, cruel activities that go on behind the scenes. These activities include:

  • Sex with demons
  • Orgies between animals and humans
  • Animal and human sacrifices
  • Sacrificing babies to shed innocent blood
  • Rape and molestation of adults, children and babies
  • Revel nights
  • Conjuring of demons and casting of spells
  • Release of "time-released" curses against the innocent and the ignorant.
There is no doubt in my heart that God is not calling us to replace fall festivals and Halloween activities; rather, He wants us to utterly destroy the deeds of this season. If you or your family members have opened the door to any curses that are released during the demonic fall festivals, renounce them and repent. I already have. Then declare with me: "As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord!"
Now, while Daniels' piece is pretty funny to anyone with critical thinking skills, it's important to note that this is a piece of writing that appeared in a publication that has been "a trusted source of news, teaching and inspiration" for over 30 years. It's a reminder that Ms. Daniels' supernatural views on a harmless childhood tradition, although extreme, are not as rare as you might imagine.

It's a reminder that there are religious loons out there peddling the craziest nonsense imaginable, and that there are other religious loons who believe that this particular nonsense is worth broadcasting to their entire readership. And, like a nasty fall virus, some poor soul at the receiving end, with questionable critical thinking skills, is infected with nonsense.

After all, why would their source of "trusted news, teaching, and inspiration" print it if it weren't true?







I Love The Internet

Someone created this from some of the text in last week's LGBT equality post and put it on their Tumblr site, and it has since been making the rounds.

So great.




9.19.2011

Self Evident Truths: Faces of the LGBT Community

A reader brought The Self Evident Project to my attention. It's pretty amazing, and exactly the kind of thing that people need to see here in North Carolina (or anywhere, for that matter).
It is no news that the United States discriminates against the LGBTQ community, from marriage equality, to workplace discrimination, and beyond.

In 2010 iO Tillett Wright began a project called Self Evident Truths, photographing anyone that felt like they qualified to fall on some part of the LGBTQ spectrum, from bisexual, to transgender.

This project aims to travel across the USA and capture 4,000 faces.
Read more about the project here.


Self Evident Truths from Self Evident Truths on Vimeo.

Rep. Folwell, Why Don't You Ban Divorce If You Want To Protect Marriage?

Via ThinkProgress:
North Carolina House Speaker Pro Tem Dale Folwell (R) was very involved in the effort to advance a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage, arguing that the measure would “protect” marriage in the state. The measure passed through both chambers last week in a matter of 24 hours and will now be on the May ballot.
This morning, Folwell came under fire on the radio show “Charlotte Talks,” as host Mike Collins challenged him on why he supports banning same-sex marriage, but not divorce.
Folwell doesn't have much to say on the subject.






The Little Blog Post That Could: Things Learned, Additional Thoughts

When I started writing this blog, it was simply a place to collect my thoughts on the things which interest me (religion, science, politics, and culture), the way in which these things are entangled, and they way these things affect our daily lives. If people stumbled across these missives and found something interesting, or thought-provoking, then that was gravy.

When I sat down Wednesday night to type up my thoughts on the NC marriage ban amendment, I never would have imagined that (as of 9.18), the number of people who viewed the post would fill the Rose Bowl to capacity. The number of Facebook shares has surpassed 26,000. These numbers continue to grow, and that simultaneously blows my mind and fires me up.

I have learned a lot over the past few days. One thing I've learned is that I have a lot to learn -- about the diverse LGBT community and the variety of issues this community faces on a daily basis, about the intricate (and often sleazy) politics that happen behind closed doors, and about the application of the law in religiously entangled legislation.

I have learned that I need to do more, personally, to help. Until last week, I have been mostly a silent ally. Sure, I have been posting stories and links related to LGBT equality, and I do speak up when I see or hear others being discriminated against, but I have not done much of anything that couldn't be accomplished by sitting behind a computer keyboard. The people who have reached out to me over the past few days have inspired me to do more, and I'm ready to get my hands dirty.

I wish I could reach out and personally thank each and every individual who shared the link, who re-posted, who called, wrote, or messaged me to say 'thanks.' I never intended it to be about me (more than a few have characterized the post as a narcissistic exercise in broadcasting just how 'enlightened' and 'forward-thinking' I am -- anyone who knows me personally knows this is far from accurate.) This was not about me, it isn't now, and it won't be.

I haven't quite known how to react the overwhelming response to the post, other than to turn it into fuel to do more. Behind every note, tweet, share, comment, etc. is a human being, and that is not lost on me.

I wanted to touch briefly upon some additional thoughts, reactions, and arguments that I did not include in the original post. Several items are things that have come to light since then the original post was written. Many are things I have learned from those who have shared information with me, and they deserve attention.

My arguments for LGBT equality should not be remarkable. I am incredibly grateful for all of the people who reached out to express their appreciation for the arguments I made in favor of equality. It was incredibly touching to hear from everyone, and many of the anecdotes were heartbreaking, and incredibly moving. But I couldn't help but feel overwhelmed by the feeling that the arguments I made should not be notable in any way. This should be a no-brainer.

Not enough straight allies are speaking up. There are many, many straight allies, and straight ally organizations that are making a huge difference, and in no way should their tireless work be overlooked. But it became clear to me last week that there are legions of us who are simply not making our voices heard (I was one of those people at one time). If you are straight, and are against discrimination, please help to build the momentum. Be a part of this movement to oppose the amendment on the May 8 ballot. As straight allies we need to speak to our families, our neighbors, our faith leaders, and our congregations. We need to not be afraid or embarrassed to put pro-equality bumper stickers on our cars, or put signs in our yards. We need to not be afraid of asking our ministers, mayors, and various organizations what they think about the ban, and what they are doing to make a difference. If you don't know what you can do, reach out to someone who can provide you with direction.

This doesn't have to be about religion. We need to remind people that, whatever they may believe, this amendment debate is a legal matter -- a matter of rights. This is about honoring the First Amendment of our Constitution, and its Establishment Clause. We should no more base our laws on Judeo-Christian dogma than we should base them on Sharia Law. Any law which is rooted in religion requires those who do not subscribe to that particular religion to submit to someone else's belief system. This is wholly un-American. Unfortunately, this amendment will largely come down to religion. We must speak with churches and religious organizations to help them view this as a human rights issue, and a constitutional issue, and not as a matter for religious organizations to dictate (even though religious groups can be instrumental in changing the tide). See Equality NC's Statement of NC Clergy and Faith Leaders Against the Anti-LGBT Constitutional Amendment.

Everyone knows someone influential. Think hard. Surely you know someone who is influential in your community, in your city, in your state, or beyond. Every single person of influence can be instrumental in changing minds. Look at your Twitter followers. Does this list include anyone with tons of followers, or who is a regional or national celebrity? Send them a message. This isn't a time to be shy. Ask them to tweet a link that will inform their followers about the anti-LGBT amendment and urge them to pass the link along to others, to get involved, and to speak up. Have a relative or family friend at a newspaper, magazine, website, radio station, or TV station? Ask them to do a story, or to publish your letter or article. Talk to bands, athletes, artists, business owners. Ask them to organize benefits, to post information on their social media profiles, and to speak out at public events. Ask them to donate, volunteer, or to ask others to do so. These days everyone is so interconnected through social media that we'd be idiots to not use these connections to actually alter the course of history. Remember what social media did in for the Arab Spring?

This amendment is not just about 'marriage.' Even if people believe that this Amendment will not stop same-sex couples from entering into civil unions, it is naive to accept this line of thinking. As Equality NC points out:

The Amendment still has the potential to invalidate domestic violence protections for members of unmarried couples, as an Ohio court did with even narrower language in its state’s marriage amendment.

The Amendment could still interfere with existing child custody and visitation rights that seek to protect the best interests of children.

The revision does not preclude courts from reading that language to invalidate trusts, wills, and end-of-life directives – which are not “private contracts” – in favor of an unmarried partner.
Further, the revision would still invalidate domestic partner benefits now offered by several municipalities.

Voting against the amendment will not legalize marriage. Because of the divisive and emotional nature of the same-sex marriage debate, it's very easy to forget that no matter what the outcome of the May vote, same-sex couples will not be able to marry in North Carolina. We need to remind people about this. It's important in a few ways. First, those who oppose same-sex marriage on religious grounds can still vote against the amendment in good conscience, on the grounds that we should not write the denial of anyone's rights into our state's constitution. Secondly, for those of us who are in favor of equality, this vote is not the end of the fight.

This ban is bad for business. Many readers have stressed the impact that this ban will have on NC's economy. Several out-of-state commenters have stated that if this ban were to pass they would vote with their pocketbooks by not vacationing in our state, a state in which they would apparently be unwelcome. In addition, as Equality NC has stated, the amendment "intrudes on businesses' right to provide competitive benefits to their employees and it signals to major employers that our state is not welcoming of the diverse, creative workforce that is needed to compete in the global economy." To underscore this, just last week, Facebook's co-founder, Chris Hughes spoke up to voice his disapproval of the amendment, stating, in part:
As the co-founder of Facebook, I have some experience with the challenges of attracting the kind of driven, dynamic and diverse employees it takes to build a fledgling start-up into a full- fledged economic success story.

Companies like Facebook, Google and Apple are the future of our global economy. But the proposed anti-gay constitutional amendment signals to these and other major employers, as well as their mobile, educated employees, that North Carolina does not welcome the diverse workforce that any state needs to compete in the international marketplace.

In short, this amendment is bad for business, bad for the perception of my home state on the national stage, and a far cry from job-creating legislation that North Carolina lawmakers should be focused on.

But the negative business impact is far from the only harm of this amendment. Growing up in a conservative atmosphere in Hickory, North Carolina, I felt first-hand the stigma of being different in a Southern state—a feeling that made it clear to me that I was not welcome in North Carolina.

The proposed discriminatory legislation will only perpetuate this stigma for a new generation of creative, talented youth, uninterested in second-class citizenship in a state they call home.

Politics in NC are sleazier than ever. I know that politics and politicians can be incredibly sleazy. That's no real surprise. But I have to admit I was really disappointed to hear some of the tactics used to pass the amendment. Over the past few days I have spoken to a lot of folks about what has transpired over the past week or so. According to a source who was close to many of these discussions, Sen. Richard Stevens (R-Wake), one of the fence-sitting Republicans, had indicated that he was considering voting against the amendment. Allegedly, Stevens was told that if he didn't vote along party lines, he would lose his joint chair position of the Committee on Appropriations, and, in so many words, would not have much of a future in politics. At least ten Republicans allegedly wanted to vote against the amendment, according to the source. I know i am naive, but I still can't quite get over the fact that human beings would sink quite so low to ensure other human beings are denied rights. If this is not enough to make you vote against the amendment, I question whether or not you have a beating heart.

It's very easy to get angry when we hear this stuff. And, honestly, anger can be a great motivator. But I have a hard time letting the anger drown out the messages of solidarity over the past few days, so many from other states and other nations, full of hope and encouragement for the people of North Carolina.

Although it's inspiring to think about all those people filling up the Rose Bowl and rooting for equality, I still realize that this is a relatively small number. There's still a lot of work to be done.