10.21.2011

20 Christian Academics Speaking About God

Via Open Cutlture:
This summer, Jonathan Pararajasingham created 50 Renowned Academics Speaking About God and then Another 50 Renowned Academics Speaking About God. If you’re counting, that makes 100. Right alongside these twin videos came 20 Christian Academics Speaking About God, a montage featuring some respected figures (save Dinesh D’Souza) trying to square religious beliefs with their scientific work.



Featured, in order of appearance:

1. Professor George Coyne, Astronomer, Vatican Observatory
2. Robin Collins, Professor of Philosophy
3. Dr Benjamin Carson, Paediatric Neurosurgeon
4. John Lennox, Oxford Professor of Mathematics
5. Francis Collins, National Human Genome Research Institute Director
6. John Polkinghorne, Cambridge Professor of Mathematical Physics
7. JP Moreland, Professor of Philosophy, Biola University
8. William Dembski, Research Professor of Philosophy
9. Dr Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury
10. Dinesh D’Souza, Hoover Research Fellow, Stanford
11. Dr Ravi Zacharias, Renowned Christian Apologist
12. Brian Leftow, Oxford Professor of the Philosophy of the Christian Religion
13. Dr William Lane Craig, Renowned Apologist and Philosopher
14. Nicholas Saunders, Science and Religion Scholar, Cambridge
15. NT Wright, Leading New Testament Scholar
16. Alvin Plantinga, Notre Dame Professor of Philosophy
17. Alistair McGrath, Oxford Professor of Historical Theology
18. Freeman Dyson, Physicist, Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton
19. RJ Berry, Professor of Genetics, UCL
20. Denys Turner, Yale Professor of Historical Theology



God: 'It Getteth Better'

As you may have heard, God will be releasing his first tome in 1,400 years on November 1, with help from David Javerbaum, the 11-time Emmy Award-winning former head writer and executive producer of The Daily Show and the coauthor of America: The Book and Earth: The Book.

As a teaser for The Last Testament: A Memoir, God has released his "It Getteth Better" video.





Pray The Gay Away With High School Pastor Bobby Blakey

Andy Towle, at Towleroad, nailed it:
These two kids should be dating. Instead they're in a horrifying 'pray away the gay' video.
The video below, from White Throne Films, features Bobby Blakey, "a High School Pastor with a passion to help young people follow Christ with a love for God and his word," and two teens who, through the loving grace of God and the guidance of pastor Bobby Blakey, have turned away from their sinful homosexual pasts.

Bobby is on a mission to take on the "one issue that defines this generation: homosexuality."

Bobby states (over a horror-movie score):
"If you don't accept homosexuality, you're not in with what's happening today....In high school classrooms homosexuality is being aggressively promoted. Fringe groups of Christianity are making us look bad by just bashing these people, going after them in a way that is not with gentleness and respect...Why can't we love the homosexual, and tell them the truth about their sin?"

Let's hope Bobby got the memo last week from John Smid, former Executive Director of Love in Action, one of the largest and oldest ex-gay ministries in existence (founded in 1973), who acknowledged his own homosexuality and confirmed that sexual orientation cannot be changed.

More at Towleroad.








Pastor Mark Driscoll: Masturbation Is A Form Of Homosexuality

Mark Driscoll believes that masturbation is a form of homosexuality.

For those unfamiliar with Driscoll, he is not some fringe Fred Phelps-style of lunatic. Preaching Magazine named him one of the “25 Most Influential Pastors of the Past 25 Years.” He's 'hip' and 'youthful' and 'innovative.'

Driscoll is the founding pastor of Seattle-based Mars Hill Church, which was recently rated as the eighth most influential church in the United States, with approximately 7,500 attending services each week, and approximately 100,000 podcast downloads of each service.

What exactly did Driscoll say about masturbation? In his booklet Porn-Again Christian: A Frank Discussion on Pornography & Masturbation for God's Men, Driscoll writes:
Masturbation can be a form of homosexuality because it is a sexual act that does not involve a woman. If a man were to masturbate while engaged in other forms of sexual intimacy with his wife then he would not be doing so in a homosexual way. However, any man who does so without his wife in the room is bordering on homosexuality activity, particularly if he's watching himself in a mirror and being turned on by his own male body.
The booklet contains many other gems, such as:
Masturbation can establish a pattern of laziness. If a single man wants to have an orgasm, he needs to first become a man and undergo the hard work of courting and marrying a woman. If a married man wants to have an orgasm, he needs to first undergo the hard work of loving, leading, and romancing his wife. But, lazy men are prone to rub one out in the shower each morning rather than undergo the labors usually associated with responsible masculine married life.
Enjoy.




10.20.2011

Is Religion Complicit In The Suicides of Gay Teens?

A recent post about the suicide of Jamie Hubley, a 17-year-old gay Ottawa teen, sparked a debate about the role of religion in anti-LGBT bullying.
Asher Brown, Tyler Clementi, Seth Walsh

I noted in the post that Jamie's funeral would be held at a Catholic church, and stated that "Jamie's family and friends will pay tribute to Jamie's life in an church institution which undoubtedly contributed to his death."

I realize that those were strong words, yet I stand by that statement.

LGBT Teens, Bullying, and Suicide

Here are some startling statistics on LGBT bullying:
Statistics suggest that youth hear anti-gay remarks approximately 25 times in an average school day, or more specifically, once every 14 minutes. 
The Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network’s (GLSEN) school climate survey found that approximately 61% of LGBTQ youth reported feeling unsafe in their school environments and 44% reported being physically harassed due to their perceived sexual orientation. This unsafe sense is not just a feeling, because 1 in 6 LGBTQ youth will be physically assaulted so badly that medical attention is needed. 
Recent research on the relationship between anti-gay bullying and suicide indicate that LGBTQ youth are at a higher risk for physical and emotional abuse at school and are at a higher risk for suicide. 
The 2006 Massachusetts Youth Risk Behavior Survey of over 3,500 participants indicates that LGBTQ students were more than twice as likely than their non-LGBTQ peers to attempt suicide.

One recent study suggests that anti-gay discrimination increased symptoms of depression among LGBT high school students overall and increased risk of self-harm and suicidal ideation among LGBT male high school students in particular. Another study of 7,376 middle school students found that LGBQ youth reported higher levels of bullying, anti-gay victimization, depression, and suicidality when compared to heterosexual youth.
 
(Anti-Gay Bullying and Suicide: Implications and Resources for Counselors, Penn State University College of Education)

I'm sure we can all agree. Anti-LGBT attitudes and bullying can be devastating, especially to teens, and often leads to isolation, physical and mental abuse, depression, and suicide.


Where Do Anti-LGBT Attitudes and Bullying Come From?

Many believe that bullying is simply part of growing up. Michele Bachmann has stated, "It’s part of growing up, it’s part of maturing…I hardly think that bullying is a real issue in schools."

While it is true that bullying has occurred for as long as humans have been social beings, and that much of bullying is not directed at LGBT teens, the bullying that LGBT teens experience is something different altogether. While no bullying should be acceptable, the bullying of LGBT teens should be of great concern, due to the nature of the bullying and its devastating effects on our children.

The religious component of bullying is especially damaging. When we say that bullying is simply a normal part of growing up, we fail to remember that Leviticus 20:13 does not state, "If a man plays the piano instead of football, he has done what is detestable. He must be put to death; His blood will be on their own heads."

We forget that 1 Corinthians 6:9-11 does not say, "Or do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor skinny kids who play chess, nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God."

The religious condemnation which informs the bullying of LGBT teens does more than hurt feelings, or cause a bruise. It is a visceral attack on the core of a child's being. It condemns. It eviscerates self worth and advocates a sentence of eternal damnation.

Via 'Faith in America':
Religion-based bigotry is the foundation of anti-gay attitudes in our society and in the minds of a majority of Americans, particularly persons of faith. Religion-based bigotry is not synonymous with bigotry. It is a uniquely vile form of bigotry as the prejudice, hostility and discrimination behind the words are given a moral stamp of approval.

Via Soulforce:
We recognize that oppression is most often rooted in religious belief and ideologies of power in which women, people of color and non-gender conforming (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex and queer) people are subjugated and subjected to the violence of exclusion. You will find us most often in dialogue with religious leaders, denominations and institutions who discriminate in polity, policy or practice. We are committed to decriminalization of sexual minorities by all church and state sanctioned organizations worldwide.

While some might claim that the above organizations are biased, or working to advance the gay agenda, there is no shortage of respected Christian writers who also acknowledge that religion is complicit in LGBT teen suicides.

Christian author and blogger John Shore writes,
We very often find conservative Christians defending themselves against the accusation that the theology in which they believe–and specifically their belief that homosexuality is a sin against God—ultimately contributes to that which informs, motivates, and encourages the bullying of gay teens.

Elsewhere he writes:
If you’re a Christian who believes that being gay is a morally reprehensible offense against God, then you share a mindset, worldview, and moral structure with the kids who hounded Jamey Rodemeyer, literally, to death. It is your ethos, your convictions, and your theology that informed, supported, and encouraged their cruelty.

Presbyterian minister and blogger, Mark Sandlin writes writes:
Oh sure...we [Christians] have “softened” our approach, saying things like “hate the sin, love the sinner,” but we fail to recognize that what we are calling a “sin” and the person we are calling a “sinner” are one and the same. A person whose sexual orientation is homosexual, or bi-sexual, or queer can no more separate themselves from their sexuality than a heterosexual person can. It's like saying “hate the toppings, love the pizza.” It's just not the pizza without the toppings. We just aren't loving the person if we don't love the whole person.

I suspect the “softening” of the language we use has everything to do with making us feel better and very little with making LGBTQ folk feel better, because it certainly doesn't make them feel any better. As a matter of fact, the love/hate (emphasis on hate) relationship that the Church continues to push on this group of people only serves to push them into closets and into even darker places, which sometimes leads to suicide. The Church and its approach to this issue are at fault for most of the hurt, anguish, self-doubt, abuse and death associated with being LGBTQ. Not very loving. Not very grace filled. But it certainly leaves us in need of forgiveness.

A Call To Action

Religion is responsible for so much good in the world. Religious organizations help feed the poor, build homes for the homeless, provide aid to the sick, and raise money for many wonderful causes. It is also important to note that many religious folks reject religion-based bigotry, and fight for LGBT rights every day. Many churches openly welcome members of the LGBT community, and many are directly involved in organizing campaigns against anti-LGBT attitudes and legislation.

However, far too many sweep religion-based anti-LGBT ideology under the rug. We often fail to speak up and denounce religious leaders or organizations which use the pulpit to debase the LGBT community. We avoid confronting the fact that we bury our gay teens in the cemeteries of churches which perpetuate the attitudes that lead to the deaths of more teens.

The least we can do for the teenagers who have taken their lives, and for those who might be on a similar path, is to rethink our association with institutions whose ideologies are at odds with our own. We need to speak up and demand that these religious organizations and leaders re-evaluate their attitudes on homosexuality.

We need to evolve to the point that we do not take scripture literally. I would like to see us reach a point when we, as human beings with evolved minds and the capacity for empathy, reject the dogma that we see as harmful and archaic. We have done this with so much of scripture, yet we hang on to the Bible's archaic and obsolete take on the nature of sexual orientation and gender.

We are capable of rejecting the Bible's treatment of women (e.g. 1 Corinthians 14:34-35, 1 Timothy 2:11-15), or advice on disciplining children (e.g. Proverbs 22:15, Deuteronomy 21:18-21). We have let go of the Bible's examples of keeping slaves, polygamy, or the killing of others with different religions. Yet, so many seem incapable of doing the same with regard to homosexuality, an orientation determined by a combination of genetic, hormonal, environmental, and biological factors, and which is not a choice. Why would we choose to condemn, discredit, and belittle these folks based on cherry-picked instructions from the Bible, while dismissing other scripture which makes no sense to us in modern society?


Morality Evolved, And Continues To Evolve

The precursors of human morality can be traced to the behaviors of many other social animals. Our morality predates scripture. It predates the concept of God.  As evolved human beings with the capacity for determining what is morally right and wrong, we owe it to ourselves, and to humanity, to allow ourselves to point out flawed morality when we find it, regardless of its source.

We are fully capable of determining what does and doesn't cause suffering in others. Morality is one of our most basic instincts. We shouldn't be afraid to use it. We must question religious dogma which asks us to go contribute to the suffering of other human beings. Most humans reject stoning, slavery, and human sacrifice -- all smiled upon by God somewhere in the Bible. We have moved beyond such barbarism, because our morality has evolved since biblical times.

Human beings and human morality continue to evolve. Why postpone our progress?

Why on earth would we resist a path that guarantees less suffering and more happiness for our fellow humans?





10.19.2011

The Good News | 10.19.11

We spend so much time bummed out by the ugliness that goes on in the world, it's important to take time to appreciate the good news...

NJ Governor Chris Christie publicly denounced the anti-gay statements made by teacher Vicki Knox (Joe My God)

HRC has launched a national version of their popular NY campaign 'Americans For Marriage Equality.' The first video features Newark Maryor and superhero Cory Booker. (HRC)

Former 'Ex-Gay' activist John Smid tells Chris Matthews he's gay and gays cannot turn straight. (Towleroad)

Botswana's former president calls for decriminalization of homosexuality. (Towleroad)

After 24 years of research, the anti-malaria vaccine known as RTS,S (aka Mosquirix) is in the final stage of clinical trial and could potentially be the world's first effective anti-malaria vaccine, saving millions of lives. (Treehugger)

A Gallup poll released yesterday is the first to find plurality support for marijuana legalization, a huge step in eliminating the wastes of time, money and resources spent enforcing the criminalization of a plant found in nature. (NYT)

Several prominent Coloradan political leaders are appearing in a video message telling gay and lesbian teens that "it gets better." (KWGN)

Shaquille O'Neal appears in a new anti-LGBT bullying video by the American Federation of Teachers and GLAAD (Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation) as part of National Bullying Prevention Awareness Month. (Bleacher Report)

Hundreds of LGBT voters join conservative party to help state senator Mark Grisanti (R-Buffalo) (WGRZ)

The Rev. Boon Lin Ngeo, a Malaysian Protestant pastor whose message of tolerance for homosexuals has drawn fire in his country, urges change in Malaysia. (NYT)



10.18.2011

Richard Dawkins: Who Was The First Human?

Whatever your opinion of Richard Dawkins, it's difficult to deny that he has a gift for explaining extremely complex and unimaginable scientific processes in such a way that a child could understand. Some of his thought experiments, such as his wonderful 'hairpin turn' thought experiment in 'The Greatest Show on Earth', are compelling for their ability to provoke an 'aha!' moment in young children, and adults who may not have had the good fortune to be taught evolution, or to be taught it well, in school.

In the below video, from his appearance at The New Yorker Festival, Dawkins walks us through one of the thought experiments in his book for all ages, 'The Magic of Reality.' Through such experiments, children can begin to grasp the immensity of time required for evolutionary change as well as the fact that no particular living thing is ever the first of its kind.



Herman Cain Sings 'Imagine (There's No Pizza)'

All he is saying is give pizza a chance.

Ladies and gentlemen, this is very likely your next GOP presidential candidate:






10.17.2011

Bullied Teen Jamie Hubley's Catholic Funeral

Jamie Hubley
Another bullied gay teenager took his own life this weekend.

Fifteen-year-old Jamie Hubley of Ottawa, Canada, documented the final month of his life on his Tumblr page, voicing in painful detail his struggle with depression and heartbreaking need for acceptance as an openly gay teenager.
“I wish I could be happy, I try, I try, I try ... I just want to feel special to someone,” he wrote.

The Ottawa Citizen reports:
Suicide is the second-leading cause of death for Canadians between the ages of 10 and 24 and disproportionately affects gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender youth.

“From the outside, he looked like the happiest kid. He was always smiling and giving everybody hugs in the halls,” said Steph Wheeler, a close friend who had known Jamie since the pair were in figure skating together as children a decade ago.

But Wheeler, 16, knew the sensitive Grade 10 student was struggling with being out in high school and often felt the sting of verbal bullying.

A gifted actor and singer — he loved Lady Gaga, Adele and Katy Perry, and posted numerous videos of himself singing on his personal YouTube channel — Jamie wrote a month ago that he was looking forward to taking dance lessons this winter.

“Something to look forward to,” he wrote.

But he also wrote of his sadness and despair, about being called a “fag.”

In a post three weeks ago, he said he was depressed, that medications he was taking weren’t working, and that being gay in high school was so hard — a thousand times harder in real life than on the popular television show, Glee, which he loved.

“I hate being the only open gay guy in my school ... It f---ing sucks, I really want to end it,” he wrote.

On Friday, Jamie made his final blog post, which included the following words:

Well, Im tired of life really. Its so hard, Im sorry, I cant take it anymore.

Being sad is sad : /. I’v been like this for way to long. I cant stand school, I cant stand earth, I cant stand society, I cant stand the scars on my arms, I cant fucking stand any fucking thing.

I dont want my parents to think this is their fault either… I love my mom and dad : ) Its just too hard. I dont want to wait 3 more years, this hurts too much. How do you even know It will get better? Its not.

I hit rock fucking bottom, fell through a crack, now im stuck.

Remember me as a Unicorn :3 x) MAybe in my next life Il be a flying squirreel :D
I'Il fly away.

I couldn't help but notice in the Ottawa Citizen article that Jamie's funeral will be held at Holy Redeemer Roman Catholic Church.

From the Catechism of the Catholic Church (emphasis mine):
Holy Redeemer Roman Catholic Church
[Homosexuality's] psychological genesis remains largely unexplained. Basing itself on Sacred Scripture, which presents homosexual acts as acts of grave depravity, tradition has always declared that "homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered." They 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.

Homosexual persons are called to chastity. By the virtues of self-mastery that teach them inner freedom, at times by the support of disinterested friendship, by prayer and sacramental grace, they can and should gradually and resolutely approach Christian perfection.

I have no direct knowledge of this particular church's approach to the topic of homosexuality, nor do I have direct knowledge of Jamie's religious views, his parents' religious views, or the family's involvement with this particular church.

Regardless, Jamie's family and friends will pay tribute to Jamie's life in an church institution which undoubtedly contributed to his death.

Religious institutions, as well as the harmful words of religious leaders (or lack of supporting words) are complicit in anti-LGBT bullying.

One can hope that on Thursday, those officiating the funeral of Jamie Hubley at Holy Redeemer Roman Catholic Church, will use this opportunity to re-think their organization's attitudes on homosexuality. We will only see progress when we break from archaic and harmful ideologies of the past. Hopefully, the spearkers and congregants at Holy Redeemer Roman Catholic Church will not turn a blind eye to the dogma with which they are associated.

"Love the sinner, hate the sin," is no less harmful than outright hatred when one's sexuality is part of who they are.