Christian Polling Group Finds Atheists Divorce Less Than Christians

July 4, 2013


by David Badash, The New Civil Rights Movement, 7/2/13 (Excerpt)

An Evangelical Christian pollster finds that atheists commit less crimes, divorce less, and are better educated than their fellow Christians. “It is obvious that you do not have to believe in a higher power in order to live a moral and successful life. Quite the opposite,” the Knoxville News‘ Al Westerfield writes of the study, adding that “the groups with the highest crime rate, the poorest marriages and the lowest education continually strive to force their beliefs on the nonreligious. And the politicians pander to them. Why else would they pass laws to put religion in the schools and on courthouse facades? And then they wonder why the godless could possibly be upset.”

Continue reading this article.

Just Because He Breathes: Learning to Truly Love Our Gay Son

July 1, 2013


by Linda Robertson

From Huffpost Gay Voices, 7/1/13

Now, when I think back on the fear that governed all my reactions during those first six years after Ryan told us he was gay, I cringe as I realize how foolish I was. I was afraid of all the wrong things. And I grieve, not only for my oldest son, whom I will miss every day for the rest of my life, but for the mistakes I made. I grieve for what could have been, had we been walking by faith instead of by fear. Now, whenever Rob and I join our gay friends for an evening, I think about how much I would love to be visiting with Ryan and his partner over dinner. But instead, we visit Ryan’s gravestone.

Continue reading this story.

Christians vs. Gays: The Damage Done

June 30, 2013


Excerpt from “Christians v. Gays: The Damage Done,” by David Gushee. Published in Religion Dispatches, 6/26/13.

Many [conservative Christian activists] are already arguing about the great damage that will be done to marriage with today’s decisions [U.S. Supreme Court rulings of 6/26/13 on DOMA and California’s Proposition 8]. I would suggest that a more important damage to Christian witness in American culture has already been done, not by the Supreme Court but by the Christian activists; and not just today but for a generation or more. And that damage will intensify in proportion to the Christian outcry in days to come.

What has that damage been?

  • Christians (understood to mean here heterosexual activist traditionalists) have become identified with actively pursuing the denial of rights and benefits to others that they themselves enjoy. In other words, the “Gospel” has been identified with the cause of self-benefiting social discrimination against a minority group, a losing hand if ever there was one.
  • Christians, claiming to follow Jesus, have become identified as the chief enemies of gay and lesbian human beings (some of whom are also Christians), and of the moral and legal rights of lesbians and gays, whereas Jesus’ enemies tended to be people who performed exactly this kind of marginalization on the despised ones of their era.

Continue reading this article.

Andrew Sullivan, Anderson Cooper, and Evan Wolfson discuss DOMA defeat

June 30, 2013

I Believe

June 27, 2013
Michael Knaapen and his husband John Becker react outside the US Supreme Court in Washington DC on June 26, 2013. By Mladen Antonov/AFP/Getty.

Michael Knaapen and his husband John Becker react outside the US Supreme Court in Washington DC on June 26, 2013. By Mladen Antonov/AFP/Getty.

by Andrew Sullivan, The Daily Dish, 6/26/13

Some final thoughts after so many years of so many thoughts. Marriage is not a political act; it’s a human one. It is based on love, before it is rooted in law. Same-sex marriages have always existed because the human heart has always existed in complicated, beautiful and strange ways. But to have them recognized by the wider community, protected from vengeful relatives, preserved in times of illness and death, and elevated as a responsible, adult and equal contribution to our common good is a huge moment in human consciousness. It has happened elsewhere. But here in America, the debate was the most profound, lengthy and impassioned. This country’s democratic institutions made this a tough road but thereby also gave us the chance and time to persuade the country, which we did. I understand and respect those who in good conscience fought this tooth and nail. I am saddened by how many failed to see past elaborate, ancient codes of conduct toward the ultimate good of equal human dignity. I am reminded of the courage of a man like Evan Wolfson who had the vision and determination to change the world.

But this happened the right way – from the ground up, with argument, with lawsuits, with cultural change, with individual courage. I remember being told in the very early 1990s that America was far too bigoted a place to allow marriage equality – just as I was told in 2007 that America was far too bigoted a place to elect a black president. I believed neither proposition, perhaps because I love this country so much I knew it would eventually get there. I trusted the system. And it worked. From 1989 (when I wrote the first case for this on the cover of a national magazine) to today is less than a quarter century. Amazing, when you think of how long it took for humanity to even think about this deep wound in the human psyche.

So to those who are often tempted to write off America’s ability to perfect its union still further, to lead the world in the clarity of its moral and political discourse, and to resist the pull of fundamentalism when it conflicts with human dignity, let me just say: I believe.

Because I have seen.


Sam Harris: Islam and the Misuses of Ecstasy

June 12, 2013
Hajj pilgrims in Mecca

Hajj pilgrims in Mecca

“Islam marries religious ecstasy and sectarian hatred in a way that other religions do not,” writes Sam Harris.

Read his essay here.

Valerie Tarico on Mother Teresa’s Fetishization of Suffering / Dean Hansen Responds

May 1, 2013

Easter "Celebration" in the Philippines

by Valerie Tarico

Passive acceptance or even glorification of suffering can be adaptive when people have no choice. As the much loved Serenity Prayer says, “Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change.” This attitude of embracing the inevitable is built into not only Christianity but also other religions, especially Buddhism. But passive acceptance ofavoidable suffering is another thing altogether, which is why the prayer continues, “. . . the courage to change the things I can; and the wisdom to know the difference.”

By even her own words, Mother Teresa’s view of suffering made no distinction between avoidable and unavoidable suffering, and instead cultivated passive acceptance of both. As she put it, “There is something beautiful in seeing the poor accept their lot, to suffer it like Christ’s Passion. The world gains much from their suffering.”

Read the entire article here.

Dean Hansen responds: 

Suffering is inevitable. But its inevitability does not convince me of its religious virtue, any more than a house fire convinces me we need more arsonists. But it does point to the Church’s blatant opportunism in regards to a handy convenient use policy.

People “lick” their wounds because wounds hurt, and because pain can be as intolerable as the bad metaphors that are often asked to carry the weight of human experience. There are more healing properties in a gob of spit than in a bucket of religious platitudes. The most agonizing injuries we endure are often unresponsive to the well-meaning cures and metaphysical vagaries inflicted on us by those who haven’t endured them themselves but who are sure, nonetheless, that they have the solution for our dilemma. If God wants scars, he must want wounds. If he wants wounds, he must enjoy inflicting injury. If the injuries don’t heal properly, it’s because people are more than casually reticent about the efficacy of appealing to the same source for a cure that either bestowed or was indifferent to the injury. What I will do with the wounds in my life is ask why a God who claims to love us unconditionally needs to test our capacity for suffering as an adjunct for bestowing an unearned grace that ostensibly accepts us as we are, wounds and all.

The Church constantly intones that, “Pope Benedict XVI, John Paul II, Mother Teresa, St. Francis, John of the Cross, Theresa of Lisieux, Teresa of Avila, and many others are models of Christianity.”  And rather ghastly models at that, judging by the state of the church and the sclerotic heritage it has left in its wake. Compare Christ’s words, “Come to me, all you who are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” Mother Teresa spent her entire life living in the slums of Calcutta, working 18-20 hours a day for 70+ years in filthy surroundings in the hope of being an acceptable vessel for Christ’s “love,” and felt abandoned, forsaken, and bereft of faith in the end. Theresa of Lisieux was a neurotic personality who suffered from scrupulosity, a psychological disorder characterized by pathological guilt about moral or religious issues. Scrupulosity is personally distressing, objectively dysfunctional, and often accompanied by significant impairment in social functioning. It is typically conceptualized as a moral or religious form of obsessive-compulsive disorder.  She scourged herself and fasted repeatedly as a result.

Saint Francis of Assisi engaged in severe self-inflicted penances which included vigils, fasts, frequent self-flagellations and the use of a hair shirt to increase his discomfort with the loathsome flesh.  Thomas More, Catherine of Siena, and Ignatius of Loyola all engaged in similar acts of sadomasochism  for the favor of their lord’s “easy” yoke.  St. Teresa of Avila undertook severe mortification once it was suggested by friends that her supernatural ecstasies were of diabolical origin. (Certainly her cures were.) The seers of Fatima wore tight cords around their waists and abstained from drinking water on hot days. The Virgin Mary reportedly told them that God was pleased with their sacrifices and bodily penances. John Paul II, who himself was known to practice flagellation and other penitential practices like sleeping on a floor and fasting before important events, wrote an entire Apostolic Letter on the topic of suffering, specifically the salvific meaning of suffering: Salvifici Doloris. It is considered a major contribution to the theology of pain and suffering!  And finally we have Vitamin B16—Joe “the Rat” Ratzinger who proclaims that, “pain, the very product of evil and sin, is used by God to negate evil and sin. By freely suffering the pains that went with his passion and death on the cross, Jesus fully reveals his love.”

Yep.  That sounds like love with a generous dose of abundant living all right. Freedom is slavery.  Ignorance is Strength. War is Peace. Suffering is Joy.

“For my yoke is easy and my burden is light,” says Jesus. A reading of that passage should have forever dispelled the idea that you can earn your way to heaven through oppressive work and endless self sacrifice. But apparently, by the lights of the church triumphant, heaven is within reach only when you’re willing to strive against insurmountable odds until you drop dead from psychic and physical trauma and exhaustion. Saint Pio of Pietrelcina, a “saint” who received the stigmata, wrote in one of his letters:

Let us now consider what we must do to ensure that the Holy Spirit may dwell in our souls. It can all be summed up in mortification of the flesh with its vices and concupiscences, and in guarding against a selfish spirit. … The mortification must be constant and steady, not intermittent, and it must last for one’s whole life. Moreover, the perfect Christian must not be satisfied with a kind of mortification which merely appears to be severe. He must make sure that it hurts. 

So much for the imitation of Christ and the Good News of the Gospel!

The catechism  of the Catholic Church states: “The way of perfection passes by way of the Cross. There is no holiness without renunciation and spiritual battle. Spiritual progress entails the ascesis and mortification that gradually lead to living in the peace and joy of the Beatitudes.”

Pope Paul VI also stated:

The necessity of mortification of the flesh stands clearly revealed if we consider the fragility of our nature, in which, since Adam’s sin, flesh and spirit have contrasting desires. This exercise of bodily mortification—far removed from any form of stoicism— does not imply a condemnation of the flesh which the Son of God deigned to assume. On the contrary, mortification aims at the ‘liberation’ of man.

This is the Christianity that Paul condemned, and which Jesus excoriated:

When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your sinful nature, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, having canceled the written code, with its regulations, that was against us and that stood opposed to us; he took it away, nailing it to the cross. And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.

Since you died with Christ to the basic principles of this world, why, as though you still belonged to it, do you submit to its rules: “Do not handle! Do not taste! Do not touch!”?  These are all destined to perish with use, because they are based on human commands and teachings. Such regulations indeed have an appearance of wisdom, with their self-imposed worship, their false humility and their harsh treatment of the body, but they lack any value in restraining sensual indulgence.”  – Colossians 2:13-23

Is this ghoulish litany of sainthood supposed to impress outsiders with Catholicism’s rejection of the world and its elevated spiritual consciousness? Such a consciousness is based on nothing more than a perverse pathology of self-loathing. Origen had himself castrated in a sad and savage attempt to “purify” himself.  It didn’t work.  Augustine believed the source of evil was his genitals “Ecce unde” and ended up ditching his common law wife and her son Adeodatus to get the sexual monkey off his back. Then he spent the rest of his life in guilt and regret for abandoning her. Obviously, that too, did not work. Today if you self-mutilate to the point of causing yourself grievous bodily harm, you’re put under observation for 48 hours and pumped full of meds. That generally does work, making the rubber room unnecessary. At least you don’t have to chew your way through leather straps to greet the morning.

I have grown weary of those who say that suffering is somehow redemptive, that it carries with it a positive outcome. I do not deny that this is at times so. Those who suffer can sometimes emerge humbler, wiser, gentler. But there is nothing beneficial that comes from suffering that could have not been achieved far more effectively through a positive means. To the contrary, suffering leaves us broken and cynical, disbelieving and forlorn, miserable and depressed.  — Rabbi Shmuley Boteach

Contrary to what you may have heard, the only sort of character suffering builds is the ability to suffer—a useful ability in a world where suffering is the routine nature of life but not a virtue that makes the world a better place.  — Virginia Postrel



Students at a D.C. Catholic University Seek Ouster of Catholic Chaplain for Anti-Gay Comments

April 25, 2013

Reaction to a story published April 9, 2013 in Bondings 2.0.

by Doughlas Remy

Blake Bergen and Damian Legacy

Blake Bergen and Damian Legacy

(Background: Last month, two gay seniors at George Washington University in Washington D.C., filed a formal complaint with the University’s Office for Diversity and Inclusion against Fr. Greg Shaffer, Chaplain at the Newman Center, which receives funding from the GWU Student Association. The students, Blake Bergen and Damian Legacy, claim that Fr. Shaffer has created an environment hostile to GLBT students seeking pastoral care at the Newman Center.)

Fr. Greg Schaffer

Fr. Greg Schaffer

This is where change will come from. The new generation of young people in Catholic universities have little patience with spiritual bullying of the sort that Fr. Shaffer practices, and I believe they will either win their case against him or both the Newman Center and George Washington University will take a hit. Let’s not forget that students these days generally select the universities they will attend, and so they are a force to be reckoned with. GWU cannot survive without them. The Newman Center there depends on the GWU Student Association for a significant amount of its funding.

And let’s not imagine that it is just a couple of gay activists demanding Fr. Schaffer’s ouster. The two seniors mounting the campaign–Damian Legacy and Blake Bergen–have the support of many straight students on the campus, many of whom have also complained of Fr. Schaffer’s harsh counseling style and his homophobic homilies.

He tells gay students that they should be celibate for the rest of their lives (!) and calls their relationships “unnatural and immoral.” He called Legacy “wicked and faithless” and “intrinsically disordered” for being gay. Legacy reports that he was on an “emotional rollercoaster” for months afterwards, losing sleep and appetite.

Under the law, Fr. Shaffer is free to speak as he likes, even if his counseling is abusive. But if he is upsetting the students who come seeking pastoral care, then he may have to take his abusive speech elsewhere. The younger generation of Catholics are not afraid to challenge him.

Bergen and Legacy filed their complaint in GWU’s Office for Diversity and Inclusion. The University has a zero-tolerance policy toward harassment or bullying of LGBT students. Fr. Shaffer’s conduct appears to be in violation of that policy.

In response to charges that they are “persecuting” Fr. Shaffer, Bergen and Legacy have explained their position:

Let us be clear, we are not attacking the Roman Catholic Church. We are by no means asking the Church to change its views on same-sex marriage, nor are we seeking validation or celebration of our sexuality by the Church, or anyone for that matter.

What we ask is to be treated with dignity and respect at our university. We ask that the Chaplain of the George Washington University Newman Catholic Student Center, a man charged with the pastoral care of students by a non-university entity, treat each of us with equal love and value. We ask that our university provide a safe and welcoming environment for every student.

Can we not agree that our students should be safe in schools and that all bullying should be stopped? Furthermore, as an institution dedicated to acceptance and inclusion should GW not be called to take steps to stop homophobic bullying along with all other forms of bullying? We might not all agree about full celebration and inclusion of LGBT civil rights, but we can all agree that bullying should be considered unacceptable, especially from our spiritual leaders.

We have been criticized for waging an intolerant attack on civil liberties by speaking out against a religious leader for espousing discrimination and anti-LGBT rhetoric. Hate in God’s name is hate, not religion.

4/26/13: Further thoughts:

For some time now, we’ve been seeing the fruits of the diversity programs that began in the K-12 schools 20 years ago, especially in the progressive urban areas of the East and West coasts.  My own son, now 25, is a product of those efforts, and I couldn’t be more pleased. He gets along with everyone and I’ve never heard him bully or disparage anyone.

University students now have high, though certainly not unrealistic, expectations about the respect that they are due. It must have been a shock for these two GWU students to be treated in ways that would have been completely unacceptable in their K-12 schools. The Catholic Church is going to lose these young people unless it can change its message, which they rightly perceive as psychologically or spiritually abusive.

It is sad that the secular schools, and not the Church, were the ones to lead on this. What efforts has the Church made to stop bullying and teach respect for diversity in the schools?

Yes, John Jalsevac, you are losing the gay marriage debate. And no, you will not start winning.

April 22, 2013

A response to John Jalsevac’s article in Crisis Magazine, “Why we are losing the gay ‘marriage’ debate (and how we can starting winning).” (4/16/13)

by Doughlas Remy

John Jalsevac

John Jalsevac

John, I believe you’ve presented a false dichotomy between marriage as “outward-looking and objective” on the one hand, and “inward-looking and subjective,” on the other. Why couldn’t a marriage, with or without children, look both outward and inward? Why couldn’t it include both family formation—including child-rearing—and sexual intimacy, companionship, and the self-actualization of the couple? Marriages may last as long as 60 years or more, during which only 20 years or so are dedicated to child-raising.

You describe the marriage vows for your two marriage modes as “permanent” and “temporary,” respectively, but few couples ever expect to break the vows they’ve made to form a life-long commitment. Sometimes marital situations become intolerable, in which case everyone’s interests (including children’s) may be best served by breaking up and getting a fresh start. And I am talking about ordinary people here, not Hollywood celebrities who stay on the covers of People Magazine and the tabloids by practicing serial polygamy.

In several ways, your list of “certain, solid, objective” facts about the foundations of marriage is not so solid.

First, as a gay man about to be married, I can assure you that I feel absolutely no “biological and psychological complementarity” with any woman. Else I would not be marrying a man. “Biology” is not just about organs; it is also about the chemistry of the brain.

Second, the solemn public vow need not be made before God. Instead, many people make that vow before their community. Non-theists do marry, you know, and their marriages are not inherently less stable than those of theists.

Third, civil law (at least in the U.S.) does not require procreation in marriage, so you are speaking to Catholics.

Fourth, the consensus of pediatric professionals is that children raised by same-sex parents fare no worse than children raised by a mother and a father.

One thing you got right is that “healthy, stable families are the necessary foundation of a healthy, stable society.” So why would you not encourage the formation of healthy, stable families by gay men and lesbians? Most people need and want sexual intimacy, companionship, and self-actualization—all within the framework of life-long commitment. Psychologists everywhere agree that these goods are in fact necessary for healthy living. The alternatives are loneliness, social marginalization, low self-esteem, and often promiscuity and other self-destructive behaviors. Is this what you prefer?

In listing the statistics about cohabitation, out-of-wedlock births, single-parent homes, and divorce—all of which are clearly social problems that could be remedied by a greater commitment to the institution of marriage—you neglected to mention the problems faced by gay men and lesbians who are DENIED the right to marry.

How can you disapprove of  both single-parent homes AND same-sex marriage, which would bring help to overburdened single parents?

How can you disapprove of both cohabitation AND same-sex marriage, which would allow gay men and lesbians to commit to each other in ceremonies that have the full recognition of the state?

Maybe your challenge is not so much to “roll back” the sexual revolution as to recognize that new and better syntheses are beginning to occur. The way forward is not the way back.

We (gays) are working to get our act together. What about you? Maybe opposing same-sex marriage is not where you should be directing your efforts. Instead of standing in our way, maybe you should be supporting us.

New Zealand Legalizes Same-Sex Marriage

April 17, 2013

Earlier today, New Zealand became the thirteenth country in the world to legalize same-sex marriage. In this video footage, Prime Minister Maurice Williamson delivers a stirring and drole answer to the bill’s opponents.

Rainbow on day of SSM Legal in NZ

View from PM Williamson’s office after legalization of same-sex marriage in New Zealand