Love wins battle, war against dogma continues

Love wins! Marriage equality is now the law of the land, after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that same-sex couples have the same right to marry as everybody else. Perhaps it isn’t surprising that the voice of reason conquered ancient bigotry in the end, but bigotry toward LGBTQ people and opposition to their rights is like a dark, heavy cloud suspended over the horizon — hate espoused by the Christian right. With a major victory still fresh in mind, this article looks to the road ahead and provides criticism of conservative Christianity and the anti-LGBTQ position.

Love wins, hate stays

There are fundamentalist Christians who spew hatred so vile it ought to be considered an ideology of terror. According to the Independent, Arizona pastor Stephen Anderson told conservative Christians in December to turn to Leviticus 20:13, which says that a man who has sex with another man should be put to death. His reasoning is that murdering all gay people is the “cure” for AIDS. Now, I doubt most Christians, even conservatives, wish to murder innocent people for being gay, but this kind of extremism is an extension of the bigoted dogma of mainstream conservatism, which exhales an air of homophobia and other views which form the basis for far-right, Christian extremism. If these attitudes weren’t so prevalent in right-wing circles, this kind of extremism wouldn’t have a foothold in the culture. The kind of attitudes I am referencing are ones like that of Bryan Fischer, who tweeted, "From a moral standpoint, 6/26 is now our 9/11." He is seriously saying that equality for same-sex couples is as bad as or worse than a terror attack which claimed the lives of 2996 innocent people and led to tens of thousands more deaths afterward in Iraq at the hands of the very conservatives who now think same-sex marriage is as bad as 9/11. Other conservatives flat-out refuse to live in a nation so sinful it doesn’t discriminate against gays; I’ve seen quite a few say they want to move to Canada — a nation which has had nationwide marriage equality since 2005, ironically.

Conservative Christians are too easily offended and attempt to make this issue about themselves and their supposed oppression; they frame the issue as if they were the victims. However, same-sex marriage doesn’t affect them. Indeed, no marriage other than their own affects them, but they act as if they are being oppressed when the minorities they hate are given equal rights. Not privilege, mind you — equal rights. Conservatives play their victim card, but "freedom of religion" does not grant the right to violate the freedom of other people; freedom of religion has limitations, such as when it actively discriminates against same-sex couples who just wish to get married like everybody else.

That’s the thing, though. Conservative Christians try to claim marriage as their own — a Christian concept. But it isn’t just theirs, and it isn’t uniquely Christian either. This doesn’t stop them from spewing their ignorant and hypocritical propaganda. One example is Greg Abbott, who tweeted, "Marriage was defined by God. No man can redefine it. We will defend our religious liberties." All I could think was, "Okay, before we fight them gays, can we eat shellfish and complain about our ex-wives and the poor and sick?" This epitomizes hypocrisy; conservative theists are so adamant about staying true to God's bigoted values, but they neglect the Biblical values which would affect them and their lives: eating shellfish, wearing clothes with mixed fabrics, and helping the poor and the sick are three examples. Even in regards to marriage, they are hypocritical: conservative Christians get divorced and sleep around same as everyone else. They were indoctrinated into cherry-picking which values to value and which not to. Picking on minority groups like LGBTQ, whose lifestyle and sexuality are different enough to make them uncomfortable, is a cause which unifies them, gives them purpose, and makes them feel morally superior.

Conservative theists see the issue of marriage equality as if it is about their persecution and oppression. "We will defend our religious liberties," Greg Abbott said, but I’ve seen many others echo this sentiment. I tried promoting a tweet in which I express my happiness about all the love on social media to see how effective advertisement on Twitter is (it's okay); my tweet read, “It's been very nice seeing all the love on social media these last days. Traditional marriage supporters can suck it!” Someone got upset that it was promoted, because "what about Christian rights?" He also called me a bigot for supporting equality, which is not a sentiment to which I was just introduced (see my articles "Equality is bigoted?" and "The homophobic persecution complex"). I do think the tears of conservative Christians, who are upset their God-given right to be assholes is not respected anymore, are delicious, but it is worrisome that there even exists people who believe they have a God-given right to arbitrarily oppress others.

Regardless, it has been very nice seeing all the love on social media these last few days. There has also been plenty of hate, of course, but traditional marriage supporters can, indeed, suck it! When I expressed this sentiment on social media, I got a response from another conservative theist, who has since blocked me, unblocked me, and apologized for "any sort of hatred [he] may have seemed to have had against [me]" — but not his actual hatred toward LGBTQ. This theist is called "Dissent" on Twitter. My conversation with Dissent will form the basis for my rebuttal of many ignorant arguments used by conservative Christians as well as criticism of the Abrahamic religions, with a focus on Christianity. (Links to all tweets in the conversation are included throughout the article.)

Cherry picking and the validity of the Bible

Before we delve into the whole conversation with Dissent, let’s start somewhere in the middle. This is because one of the most important points we could make is that conservative Christians are cherry-picking hypocrites. They are wrong on the substance of their arguments, but they are also wrong on their own terms, because the Bible is a wholly contradictory book and all of them — every single one — cherry-picks the parts that support their version of Christianity. The Bible is fundamentally flawed, and cherry-picking from it doesn’t fix that problem.

At one point in our conversation, Dissent said that same-sex marriage is "only a ploy to get governmental benefits, and deny Christianity.” This is deeply conspiratorial and offensive, because he is assuming that it is a plot to get “benefits.” Never mind that straight couples already have these benefits, which would mean that his line of reasoning is an argument in favor of same-sex marriage, because everyone having the same benefits would be equal; it is, indeed, sad that he thinks marriage equality is about anything other than equal rights. Never mind that there is nothing wrong or immoral about denying Christianity; in fact, the majority of the world denies Christianity, if we put together the people of all other faiths or no faith at all. Never mind that he is framing the issue as if Christianity is the victim, all because conservative Christians aren’t allowed to discriminate against same-sex couples as they used to. Never mind that churches, including extremely predatory ones, get government benefits in the form of tax breaks. The main point I want to make right now is that Dissent is being a cherry-picking hypocrite, because his version of Christianity is not the only one; there’s a large number of denominations which differ from one another, and there are countless Christians who don’t see a problem with LGBTQ or same-sex marriage.

In fact, there are same-sex couples who are religious. One might say they cherry-pick the Bible as much as conservatives, but at least they have chosen the parts which aren’t terrible. Dissent even said that they are “choosing to deny certain parts of the Bible and take the parts they want to accept.” But that is exactly what conservative Christians like himself do — cherry-picking to justify hating that which they hate. No Christian alive follows, or even wants to follow, every commandment or rule which may be found in the Bible, because most of the rules are either impractical and arbitrary or immoral and arbitrary. All theists are cherry-pickers, who dogmatically follow the passages of the Bible they have been taught to accept or those which fit into their ideology. Religion is a strong influence in people's lives, but it is not the only one, which leads to change in the religion, denial of certain aspects of it, or rationalizations of those parts.

The Bible is, indeed, not a strong source for arguments. This is partly because it is biased toward itself and verifies itself with circular logic: "The Bible is true because it says it is true and that must be true since it is true." The biggest problem, however, is that the Bible was written, transcribed, translated, and changed by ancient people; it is certainly no perfect word of God. The Bible was put together by people who chose what to include and what to exclude; not all versions of the Bible are the same or even include the same books, because the composition of the Bible was chosen to fit into the narrative those people wanted the Bible to tell. "But it is clearly the most accurate. A dozen writers all writing about the identical principles of marriage [...]," Dissent thought of the Bible. I am not really sure how it is "clearly the most accurate." That seems to imply that he is comparing it to something, but I don’t know what. The Bible was written and edited by likeminded people telling likeminded lies, and the books were edited and selected throughout history by groups of likeminded people to create various versions of a collection of books telling one unified lie — God exists. They didn’t even do this very well, since the Bible contradicts itself several times. And despite being treated as first-person accounts, the books of the Bible were written quite a while after the events they supposedly depict. The Bible is one hundred percent the product of ancient people with political agendas, less refined views, and less knowledge than humanity has today; it is not reliable and holds no greater truth, except whatever people like Dissent extrapolate to fit their own narrative. The Bible may have a historical, hysterical, and cultural value, but that is where its value ends; the few good lessons found between its covers have long ago been taught and were derivative in the first place.

The supposedly objective values of the Bible seem to change a lot throughout history. Dissent derided progressive Christians who cherry-pick the Bible, but when confronted with a list of sins in the Bible which wouldn’t be considered sins today, he replied that most of the sins are "meant for ancient Israel," not a modern Christian. Naturally, I had some questions: If God is omniscient and his moral law is objective, why would some sins only apply to a certain society at a certain time? Apparently, those sins were meant for ancient Israel because it was "before the coming of the Holy Spirit." Basically, Jesus came along and saved us from the sins he accused us of committing and enacted a new law. But if things which were objectively immoral yesterday can suddenly be moral today, to me that sounds like cherry-picking no matter what pseudo-philosophical nonsense you vomit out to defend your crumbling worldview. It seems conservative Christians like Dissent are bending over backward to try to justify their hate. The reason is simple: there is no logical or rational way to argue that LGBTQ or equality are immoral, but conservative Christians don’t like equality for same-sex couples and are grasping at straws, praying that their opponents make concessions on the framework of the discussion — concessions such as recognizing God or the Bible as an authority when, really, they are not, especially not when hypocritically cherry-picked with flimsy rationalizations.

Obscure destruction

Dissent's profile picture on Twitter, a badge of homophobic ignorance.

First, let me comment on his profile picture, which you can see to the right. Many conservative theists who oppose homosexuality have conflated the act of sodomy with a sexual orientation. However, sodomy is a sexual act any two people with one penis and one anus can commit, and there is nothing inherently immoral about it. Not only gays, or even all gays, enjoy sodomy — many straight people do, too. Also, these theists seem to forget about lesbians (or bisexual women in same-sex relationships) who can’t practice sodomy (unless they use a strap-on) and is the group with the least risk of contracting AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases, which is supposedly God's punishment for being gay, according to some conservative theists, who do not understand that straight people can be infected with HIV, as well. Marriage equality is not about sex; it is about equality.

Dissent's first tweet to me was this: "You are the epitome of destruction to this society. Morally absent individuals like you have nothing worthwhile to live for." What’s interesting is how he and others frame their narrative: they claim morality as their own and twist it in such a way as to say that things which are harmless, such as whom gay people love, is immoral; then they point to some obscure destruction. But same-sex marriage has been around for a while now, in many nations, and lo and behold, there’s been no destruction yet. Indeed, conservative Christians fear the destruction of something which doesn’t really exist, as if morality can unravel and lead to the end of the world. If for just a moment we accept the Christian faith as true, the only destruction I can see is that which is caused by God when he is mad: God prophesizes there will be destruction and fulfills it; he created the concept of sin and hell as punishment for arbitrary rules and enforce them. This doesn’t make Christians “morals” just or God wise — just tyrannical. Fortunately, God doesn’t exist. Dissent said he "wasn't talking about destruction to a political structure" but rather "destruction to a social society." But where is this social destruction? What is being destroyed? By whom, for whom, and how is anything destroyed by equal rights? If anything, it is conservative Christians who destroy the lives of same-sex couples and LGBTQ people. It is definitely not the other way around, because someone else being allowed to marry their partner who happens to be of the same sex has no effect on you or anyone else. Gay people being allowed the same rights and freedom doesn’t force anything onto straight people; all it does is give equal rights to LGBTQ people.

Before answering my questions about what destruction meant, Dissent had some personal attacks for me. He said that because I am stubborn in my morality (as opposed to him), I would never understand his feeble appeal to tradition and God (paraphrased, of course). At least he changed his mind into thinking I’m just stubborn rather than “morally absent.” He continued that, as an atheist, I can "never have the moral basis of others" and my calling anyone a bigot makes me a hypocrite. I'm not sure how that makes me a hypocrite — probably because he has convinced himself that someone else’s personal life should be his business, and if it isn’t, he is being persecuted somehow. Christians often resort to saying atheists have no morals because they don’t have God, but morality is not a metaphysical code by which to live and has nothing to do with religion or any god; morality is the product of human consciousness and reasoning. The framework of morality by which Dissent and other conservative Christians live is rigid, dogmatic, and deeply flawed, which is why they have no moral objection to persecuting people based on innate and harmless characteristics but do object to equal rights for the people they oppress. It isn’t a valid point to say that I cannot "have the moral basis of others," as if belief in God makes his morality superior and above any criticism — as if clear-cut bigotry which has tangible and negative effect for innocent people is okay if you can justify it with philosophical or religious nonsense. And that’s not to mention that his argument of having someone else’s “moral basis” can be turned right back on him. It’s just a vapid argument which doesn’t actually mean anything. The conservative Christian worldview is dehumanizing and bigoted, but people like Dissent believe that they should get to discriminate because they have a different "moral basis.”

He did have the answer as to what is being destroyed by same-sex marriage… sort of: “This society will lose hold of the holiness that surrounds matrimony and the significance of it being between a man and a woman. Something by the preference of God himself." This line of argumentation is little more than an appeal to authority, tradition, and the Christian version of both — holiness. None of them actually mean anything. All three are basically like saying, “It’s true because it’s true,” “it’s true because it’s always been this way,” or “it’s true because I want it to be.” Neither argument holds up, because nothing is true just because you want it to be and nothing is true just because you are uncomfortable with change. In the case of conservative Christians like Dissent, what they are saying can be roughly translated as this: "My faith says same-sex marriage is wrong and my faith is true because it says it is true so therefore it is true that same-sex marriage is wrong." If it is important that marriage is between a man and a woman because God says so, it only makes God a bigot — nothing else. When I pressed him on why it is important for marriage to be a man and a woman, he replied that it is to “produce offspring and advance the species. Isn’t that evolution logic speaking?” I’m guessing he thought that was a gotcha question, where I would have to either denounce evolution or concede his points on marriage equality. But it isn’t, because evolution is just a means of describing how species evolve; it says nothing about how we should live or structure our societies. In fact, humans are complex social animals whose happiness isn’t necessarily tied to the concept of parenthood. When I told him as much, he thought that I "prioritize [my] own emotions over EVERYTHING. Over the sake of the next generation," as if some people not having children either because they choose to or because they are gay endangers the next generation. Same-sex marriage hasn’t changed my mind about wanting children, and it hasn’t changed anyone else’s mind either. I honestly don’t know Dissent sincerely thinks in this conspiratorial and deluded way, or if he is just grasping for straws. Either way, this brings us to the next topic of discussion.

Mating, parenthood, and marriage

Let's discuss some arguments that are basically appeals to nature — well, conservative nature, which differs from reality in some fundamental ways. Dissent used the argument that a man and woman are needed because marriage means nothing without children. I will give him credit for diversifying his line of argumentation, but the argument he used now was not much better than his appeal to tradition or God. He implied that a man and woman are needed to "advance the species" and that it is "evolution logic". However, humans are complex social animals and neither our happiness nor our worth is tied to the concept of parenthood. There is no such thing as an objective purpose, because there is no logical reason there would be. I believe we all create our own purpose; we choose for ourselves what is important in life. One might say the biological reason animals have genitals is to reproduce, which I suppose is what conservatives are appealing to when they argue this way, despite not believing in evolution. But this has nothing to do with any moral good or a higher calling to which everyone must answer, because there is no such thing. Conservative Christians entire argument rests on three assumptions: 1) God exists; 2) God shares their opinions; 3) God’s word, despite merely being his opinion, is an objective truth. I reject all of these premises, because there is no objective, logical, or empirical basis for any of them.

To be more direct, is marriage defined by parenthood? Are marriages of men and women who cannot, or will not, procreate not real? Parenthood and marriage do not define each other; parenthood doesn’t need marriage and marriage doesn’t need parenthood. But Dissent claimed that "marriage is defined by creating children." Naturally, I wondered if the marriages of men and women who cannot procreate are invalid, since marriage is, apparently, defined by parenthood. Dissent then had to say — whether he believes it or not — that "marriages that refuse to procreate are wrong in the same way. But most of the time that’s not by choice. Homosexuality offers zero chance at the creation of a child, a backwards step for our species." There’s plenty to unpack here. First, I reject the premise that marriage is defined by creating children; there is nothing that says that, except conservative Christians’ personal opinions. Neither love nor marriage requires children; whether or not to have children is a personal choice which has nothing to do with deciding to marry another person. Second, same-sex couples and gay people won’t have biological children whether they are allowed the same rights or not — because they are gay so that’s certainly no argument against giving them equal rights; nothing changes by giving them the right to marry because they were never going to have biological children. Third, parenthood doesn’t require parents and children to be genetically related; adoption is a viable option for parenthood. Fourth, straight married couples still have the right to procreate even now that same-sex couples have the right to marry. Fifth, the notion that it is a “backwards step for our species” that a small percentage of the population are allowed to marry even though they won’t have biological children is, quite frankly, dumb for three reasons: 1) they were never going to have children anyway; 2) their being given equal rights does not take away the right of straight couples to procreate; 3) there are literally billions of us, so procreation is obviously not a problem. Dissent had to concede that his line of reasoning meant straight couples that “refuse to procreate are wrong in the same way,” as I’m sure any conservative Christian would have to say if they were pressed. However, neither Dissent nor any others seem to genuinely care about denouncing the marriages of childless couples as much as they care to denounce those of same-sex couples; I feel pretty comfortable assuming this is because Christians don’t really care about our “biological purpose” and only try to argue like this because they believe it is a rational argument like one a science-minded atheist would use, rather than just a faith-based one.

After a brief break from the argument, Dissent asked me if “the idea of marriage” would even exist without Christianity. Conservative Christians believe their faith holds a monopoly on the concept of marriage — and morality. But it doesn’t. It wouldn’t matter if “the idea of marriage” came from Christianity, which I don’t believe it does, because concepts and ideas evolve and change, even religions. Furthermore, the concept of marriage obviously grew from the fact that humans, as a species, have long-term relationships; we are social animals with a complex nervous system. Dissent asked me if I meant that "all other 'matings' in the animal kingdom are only for the sake of being 'together'." In other words, because I said that marriage is based on our being social beings, does that mean all animals mate for social reasons? Of course it doesn’t, and I never said that. Not all animals are social; not all animals have complex nervous systems; not all animals are the same. Mating, in and of itself, is designed for reproduction, but humans don’t mate only for the sake of creating offspring and our lives are not wholly defined by reproduction. Dissent tried to argue that based on my "evolutionary" background (his quotations), our lives are based on reproduction, nothing else. However, the natural method by which I or my species came to be doesn’t define me or anyone else; evolution doesn’t define me as a person or anyone else. Accepting that evolution is true doesn’t really change much; human nature, how we function as people, and how our societies are structured remain the same. We decide for ourselves what our purpose is and what is important to us. "Being social isn't an excuse for distorting the holy principle of marriage," Dissent replied. But if marriage is a natural extension of our being social animals who make lifelong connections, nothing has been distorted. Long before marriage was ever a thing, human beings formed social groups and mated, which led to the very idea of marriage. And when the basis of "the holy principle of marriage" is discriminatory and archaic, anything is an excuse for distorting this "holy principle."

Appeal to tradition

Dissent continued that "marriage in its creation was an eternal union between a man and a woman," which is an appeal to tradition that doesn’t mean anything. What once was must not always be, and it would be rather terrible if the world worked like that. Something being traditional doesn’t mean anything, one way or another — good or bad, right or wrong. In this case, the tradition of treating same-sex couples as second class citizens because of a harmless, innate characteristic is obviously bad and wrong.

Dissent complained about all of the change, which disregards five-thousand-year-old precedents. This is an appeal to tradition with no substance; it’s empty rhetoric. Nothing is inherently good just because it has been around for thousands of years. I would, in fact, argue that five-thousand-year-old values are outdated by about five thousand years. Change is not inherently bad; without change, humanity wouldn’t be where it is today, and we will continue to change or destroy ourselves with change-fearing dogma. Even religions, conservative as they are, have changed and continue to change, in their own right and to conform to cultural standards and attitudes, regarding morality and knowledge. Even so, Dissent thought liberals (note: I’m a leftist, not a liberal) are wrong and childish by “refusing to accept history” and “erratically push for immediate change.” What is childish, however, is to accept any given worldview based on history, the fact that it has existed in the past; appeals to tradition are one of the laziest logical fallacies, I know. I would also argue that he is refusing to accept history if he thinks this change is “immediate,” as if same-sex couples just now wanted equal rights and haven’t fought for it for a long time. Equality for any oppressed groups, whether it’s women, people of color, or LGBTQ people, has never been immediate; it has always been a struggle because of conservatives who fear change, such as Dissent. Misogyny, racism, xenophobia, homophobia, and all kinds of bigotry will stay alive because of indoctrination, dogma, and the fear of change. This is why changes which should be immediate take so long and why we’re still fighting for them; after all, if a change is good, pushing for it immediately wouldn’t make it bad. Equality is definitely always a good change.

However, equality is "an inappropriate word for this juncture," according to Dissent. "Legalizing a moral wrong will never be a step in the right direction." Conservative Christians always frame social issues of which they are on the wrong side of history as a vaguely defined “moral wrong.” This is because they have nothing of actual substance on which to base their arguments, because their whole ideology is vapid. The only reason they can’t see just how vapid their arguments actually are is because they were raised in a conservative Christian bubble where this was the common thought process and this is what was taught. They were taught that God’s word is law, that the pre-selected Biblical passages are the truth, and that what God and the Bible stand for is the moral right — the fundamental Christian dogma. But I don’t concede that same-sex marriage or LGBTQ is a moral wrong; it’s nothing more than his opinion, which is based on nothing of real value — no logic and no empirical evidence. He was basically trying to say that his bigotry should be justified by his bigoted beliefs, but that’s not how it works; bigoted beliefs don’t justify bigotry — it just makes them bigoted. Equality is a human right which supersedes any cultural or religious values, even according to the United Nations.

Dissent told me if my “idea of marriage has ‘evolved’ so much, then it cannot be considered marriage.” But his idea of marriage has also likely changed from what it used to be in Christianity's past: divorce was not allowed, polygamy between a man and several women was allowed, and rape victims were forced to marry their rapist. He’s not alone in being a massive hypocrite in this regard. Pat Robertson says in this video that same-sex marriage will lead to polygamy and bestiality. First, he displays the standard phobia of change which plagues the conservative mindset, that which makes them think change is evil and that change begets worse and worse change. In other words, instead of thinking of homosexuality as equal to heterosexuality, they see homosexuality as a moral wrong which will lead to even more extreme moral wrongs, such as bestiality. This is deeply offensive and irrational to the core. Homosexuality and heterosexuality are the same with but one difference, after all: whom we love (or to whom we want to make love). Their unfounded fear aside, the irony of this video is that Christianity’s definition of marriage, indeed, has changed. But even the most conservative Christians I have seen haven’t advocated for true Biblical marriage: rape victims being forced to marry their rapists, polygamy being allowed, divorce not being allowed (at least remarrying is not allowed), and women being sold into sexual slavery. An appeal to tradition is wrong because it offers no substance, but it is also hypocritical because the traditions they appeal to in the present replaced other traditions in the past.

Dissent was not impressed. He thought women being sold and rape victims being forced to marry their rapists were “minor factors.” He said that he was talking about the “sole meaning” of marriage and that the other things were a “result of wickedness, not my idea of marriage.” But this means he is directly contradicting that which he is using to justify his whole line of argumentation — God and the Bible. He indirectly admitted that he does something as intellectually dishonest as cherry-picking to support his view. When I pressed him on this, he didn’t answer. If you ask me, the logical conclusion of disregarding some things in the Bible is to disregard everything. Funny how conservative Christians never see it that way.

Next, Dissent prophesized that "the next generation will lose a dangerous amount of connection to basic morals. Matrimony will cease to exist as the holy union that it is." However, nothing is holy. "Holiness" is a human concept, invented to glorify that which should not be glorified. Saying something is holy is not a valid argument for anything other than the fact that humans enjoy giving more meaning to life than there actually exists. "Holy" is meaningless. It is merely an appeal to tradition as well as an appeal to God. I was asked who I am to say a "direct affiliation with God" cannot be holy. I suppose I am just a rational human being who understands that importance is not an inherent quality that defies all logic; what is considered "holy" is arbitrary, like what is written in an ancient book.

Religions have these strongly defined words which are supposed to hold a high level of power over discourse; holy is one such word which is hard to argue against if one concedes the point that holiness exists, because doing so would lend legitimacy to the conservative line of argumentation when it actually has none on its own merit. Holiness is an arbitrary and dangerous concept invented by humans — or even God if it does turn out he exists — to keep people from questioning. "Holy" lets conservative theists hold on to archaic values; it is an important part of religion and it is what makes the Abrahamic religions conservative in nature. Holiness is a force for conservatism, the adherence to traditional values; it is not something that actually exists as a trait of values, places, people, or things. Never let conservative Christians control the terms of discourse; never concede that there is such a thing as holiness, because it is the only thing holding their worldview together.

Despite holiness, even religious values have changed and do change, albeit very slowly. The irony is that conservative theists who blather on about "tradition this" and "tradition that" don’t actually seem to know or care that many of them would be considered progressives by ancient standards. Dissent wrote that Christianity has had “the same basic concept of right and wrong for millenniums” and that it’s ignorant to deny two-thousand-year-old history. This is kind of funny, because Christian values aren’t even consistent at any specific point in time: most Christians would probably be horrified by genocide, but if it’s God doing the genocide, such as during the flood, suddenly it is good simply because God is, in their dogmatic minds, inherently good no matter what he does. Just like holiness, I reject the notion that a god’s opinion is anything more than just an opinion. More to the point, changing isn’t the same as denying history; saying the Holocaust never happened is to deny history. Providing persecuted people with equal rights is not to deny history, but to correct historical wrongs. If anything, it is ignorant to hold on to two-thousand-year-old values.

If Dissent did have a valid point (he doesn’t), he, too, would be denying history, because it is not true that Christianity hasn’t changed. He even acknowledged this indirectly many times, while we discussed why certain sins no longer matter but others do. Even though he acknowledged that religions have changed and probably agrees with many of these changes without realizing it (shellfish and mixed fabrics), his thoughts on how religions have changed was this: "They have been changed by the fools who seek to stray from the Lord and pursue their own ideals. It's considered foolishness." This is the kind of dogmatic mindset which makes religion dangerous: it teaches that the ideals and traditions defined by the religion are perfect and were given by God, who cannot be questioned. However, progress is achieved through independent thought. It’s something which should be valued, especially by an infinitely wise and good god, who should be able to recognize when the values they gave humans are imperfect and bigoted. But God doesn’t exist, and conservative Christians are cherry-pickers.

Sexual impurity

Dissent didn’t think he ever discriminated against anyone: “[N]ever did I ever discriminate. Striking homosexuality as wrong cannot possibly be on the same level as separating myself from a particular other. In your logic, isn’t saying that rape is wrong discriminating against rapists?” To be honest, I am not sure what he meant by ”separating [himself] from a particular other.” What I do know is that “striking homosexuality as wrong” and comparing it to rape is a disgusting thing to do. He’s saying that if it is wrong to say being gay is wrong, it’s also wrong to say raping is wrong. Because logic, right? No. It’s a false equivalency, because rapists obviously harm other people, whereas adults of the same sex who consent don’t harm each other or anyone else. You can’t compare love and sex to rape and say they are moral equivalents, because they just are not; one is consenting adults, the other is forcefully harming another person. It’s just a ridiculous point to make — and a disgusting one.

At one point, Dissent expressed the destructive, Christian mentality of self-deprecation that everyone, including himself, is a sinner. He did this in order to defuse the argument against him that he has certainly done things which in one part of the Bible or another is called a sin, and that he cherry-picks what to hate from the Bible. Then he turned it around and said that “the advocation of sin is wicked," and "especially if it is being advocated by a national government." In response to my saying that the advocacy of love is not wicked, he retorted that homosexuality isn’t true love, but a "worldly view of what you think love is." He further explained that "love that is tied to sexual impurity cannot truly be love." Obviously, someone this full of hate hasn’t got a clue what love is. He seems to think it is some kind of metaphysical force defined by his bigoted god, but love is simply an emotional connection to another person. It doesn’t require anything superstitious; in fact, it is far better explained by science as chemicals and behavior than any metaphysical word salad someone like Dissent could put together.

Sex is a biological function, so there’s no such thing as “sexual impurity.” Indeed, like the concept of holiness, purity is but an arbitrary concept invented by humans to make it appear as if one thing is inherently good and “pure” while another is inherently bad and “impure.” It is just a rhetorical device that doesn’t actually mean anything. Think about it. Why is it pure for a man and woman to play with each other’s genitals, but impure for two men or two women to do the same? What it comes down to is that people like Dissent think same-sex relations are disgusting. That’s it. Conservative Christians’ religion informs their disgust of LGBTQ. The start with the conclusion that homosexuality is bad, and then they work backward from there to justify it.

As a concept, purity is designed as a conservative force to dehumanize people over arbitrary differences and maintain a social hierarchy and status quo. Virginity is “pure” and pre-marital sex is “impure,” not because of any valid reason, but simply because of regressive disgust over arbitrary things that don’t really matter in the end. The Mormon Church did, at one point, argue that black individuals were cursed with black skin because they were unfavorable to the lord, because they were sinners; this is another arbitrary classification based on harmless differences, which is very similar to, if not the same as, the concepts of "purity" and "holiness." But I reject the premise of such things: there is no such thing as purity or holiness. All that matters is whether we make the world a better place or a worse place, and unlike holiness and purity, this can actually be measured. It may not always be black and white, but in a very simplistic sense, if I harm someone else, I’ve made the world a worse place, but if I help someone else, I’ve made it better. But purity and holiness don’t function this way; instead, they take wholly arbitrary things like consensual sex and say they are bad because it isn’t pure or holy. It’s nonsense. Never concede the point that there is such a thing as holiness or purity.

So as not to seem like such an obvious bigot, Dissent said there are plenty of things other than homosexuality that are impure, and they all involve "sexual acts that are apart from what God had intended for us." This is a transparent appeal to authority and what it always comes back to, because conservative Christians and homophobes have no valid arguments. If it is consensual, no sexual act is "impure" or in any way immoral; bodily autonomy supersedes God's ego, after all. Dissent stopped me dead in my tracks right there — or so he thought — by asking a shocking question! He asked if a father having sex with his daughter isn’t immoral. I have a very simple and truthful opinion about this, one that I think shocked him, because he didn't continue that thread: there is nothing inherently immoral about incest, but it is a bad idea genetically and it is seldom consensual. And if it isn’t consensual, it is rape. (Note also that children are not capable of consenting.)

The supremacy of God

All the threads of discussion with Dissent moved toward the core of the issue: the supremacy of God. Dissent's argument, when broken down, simply became "God is the lord" or "God knows better." He also spewed the common Christian talking point that we “cannot understand our omniscient Creator," because God works in mysterious ways, right? This is basically like he is saying that he has no argument or that he knows his argument is full of holes, but the Christian dogma he was raised with is that it doesn’t have to be explained if it is “GAWD!” It is also a deeply misanthropic point of view which belittles human beings and treats us like children — and I am saying that as a misanthrope myself. As Dissent said, we can only understand what “[God] has laid out for us to live by.” Translated, this means that I should have to accept his point of view because I am too dumb to understand. Conservative Christians are convinced they are right, not because they have any logical arguments or empirical facts, but because they have been programmed with the destructive dogma that they have God on their side; they don’t have to prove any of it, because God agrees with their ideology and he is omniscient; they don’t have to know anything, because their god knows everything.

An omniscient god isn’t logical, though; it is mutually exclusive with the concept of free will. The omniscient God and his master plan mean that everything must be predetermined, which means that same-sex marriage in the U.S. was predetermined. If God is omniscient and omnipotent and has a master plan, everything that happens — including same-sex marriage — is according to this plan. Thus, God endorses gay people! Dissent regurgitated what one would expect: God is all-knowing but gave us free will so we could choose to follow him or not. First, this is not logically consistent: either God is all-knowing and has a master plan OR there is free will, but both cannot be true. Second, one cannot choose to believe in something; it is a subconscious reflex based on the information we receive. I cannot choose to believe in God in the same sense that I cannot choose to believe two plus two is five. Third, if the choice is between following God and being tortured for all eternity, how is that a real choice? It sounds like totalitarianism, because God only seems to care about obedience, not morality. If someone threatens to murder you unless you give him your wallet, it is not your choice to give it up; you are being coerced. The same logic applies here. God, if he exists as the Bible describes him, is a vicious autocrat — and that makes God immoral.

Dissent felt sorry that I was the one with a false belief; he said God put himself in a human body through his son Jesus Christ — who also is himself — and died to pay for our sins. Dissent concluded that he didn’t think such a sacrifice was immoral. There are several problems with this, though: First of all, there is the fact that God had to use such a convoluted plan to forgive us of the sins with which he charges us. Second, there is the issue that it is kind of totalitarian and immoral to make up strict, unjust, and illogical laws and then demand the blind obedience of subjects, lest they be punished for their alleged crimes. God "died" to "pay" for "sins" he himself would otherwise punish me for, unless I blindly devote myself to him. Then there's the third issue, which is that God did not really die at all, now did he? I put it best in this post on Facebook last Easter:

Today, Jesus was allegedly resurrected. For his sacrifice — missing a weekend of killer parties — he became the dictator of humankind. Seems fair enough. What a sacrifice of him to make. Furthermore, Jesus, who is God, died so that we could be forgiven for the sins God said we are guilty of. Wouldn't it be easier to just forgive these supposed sins? Or was it important to make it mandatory to worship Jesus? Perhaps because God is a totalitarian tyrant... or because those who invented him were. (Facebook, April 5, 2015)

"Do you know why you doubt [God's] existence?" Dissent asked, with a smirk, I assume. He continued, "Because he has allowed you to," as if that is a great mercy of God, not controlling our minds. He tweeted that if it were easy, then “Christ died for no purpose,” so you have “to choose to follow or to deny.” That is just the thing: It should be easy for God to forgive us for whatever he is pissed off about; it shouldn't require an intricate plan that involves his becoming his own son so he can be sacrificed to himself. It is also rational to doubt the existence of God, as there is no sufficient support for any theistic claim. And Dissent’s line of argumentation really doesn’t address how God is a genocidal, sadistic, totalitarian maniac, does it? Quite the opposite, in fact.

"I am sorry if you carry that belief to your death," Dissent said. "Because you will go to hell. And I do not want that." Ah, the hubris of theists, who think they are morally superior because they worship a higher power a three-year-old should be able to see is neither nice nor real. Theists know hell is a very bad place, with torture and anguish, and they know that one can either choose to worship God or go to hell, and yet they cannot understand how immoral that is. They can also not see how immoral it is to send someone to hell for not being convinced by a claim that lacks any evidence; it is not a "choice" to believe in God, as they make it seem, after all. Theists worship a god who punishes billions of innocents with eternal torture, and they pretend they have the moral high ground.

The most dangerous thing about the Abrahamic religions is that theists are indoctrinated into believing and accepting that God has the final word and his word is always moral and good. This is a silly belief, as morality is not objectively dependent on any one being's opinion, even if said being happens to be a god. This leads to people accepting arbitrarily defined morals as something that is objective, even when there is no logical basis for it. Without any empirical evidence, Christianity is just a myth like any other myth, no more true than the thousands of gods we now laugh at people ever having believed in. During our conversation, Dissent said he only has the idea of marriage his lord "spells out in his Word." He appealed to a higher power, as if that would validate his bigoted beliefs. Therein lies his and other theists' problem: they accept that whatever God does is always moral, despite any logic to the contrary, and the Bible is perfect — at least the parts they have been taught to follow. The fact that they accept some parts of the Bible as literally true because they have been taught to accept them, while they ignore or reject other parts, begs the question if they can even remotely look at the Bible with any kind of objective and critical judgment. Obviously some can, because most atheists were once theists, but I cannot shake my doubts. It is tough to break through dogma and indoctrination.

At one point, Dissent said that "what you view as good and upright and evil stems from your own worldview." He explained that his worldview stems from his omniscient creator and concluded, "Who are you to question what is good and evil if [God] created it?" I actually agree with the first part. Obviously, the way we see the world affects… well, the way we see the world. But if our morals stem from our worldview, the ultimate goal must be to get rid of all dogma and compose a worldview based on facts, logic, and empathy. Religion doesn’t necessarily offer any of those, certainly not the first two and uncommonly the last. Religion is fundamentally dogmatic. This dogma is what allows Dissent to safely place his morality in the hands of someone else, someone above him (who doesn't exist), so that he doesn’t have to worry about it personally. He has been taught that the way he lives his life, how he treats others, and views the world needs no further justification than God. According to his view of the world, good is good because God defined it as good, not because of intent or consequences or logic, and bad is bad because God defined it as bad, not because of intent or consequences or logic. And, of course, God defined himself as inherently good, which, in the eyes of those who believe in him, excuses his genocide and regressive views regarding slavery, women's rights, LGBTQ, etcetera.

Conservative Christians’ worldview doesn’t stem from an actual deity, obviously, but rather from ancient superstition which survives because of indoctrination. Blind faith can only survive because of the conditioning of children, widespread propaganda, and the cultural integration of whatever religion happens to be dominant wherever one lives. But from Dissent’s point of view, he gets the truth of the world straight from the creator of everything, who has a right to everything simply because he created it. However, creation does not grant unlimited authority; it would be immoral to demand unlimited authority over one's creations, in the same sense that parents don’t own their children, can’t do whatever they want with their children, and have no authority at all over their children when they become adults. The character of God from the Bible is immoral. Dissent asked who I am to accuse "our creator" of being immoral. "That in itself is illogical," he thought. He also reiterated the same tired, old rhetoric devoid of all logic: we are given a choice (slavery or torture). He claimed God has unlimited power, but not unlimited authority, because he gives the choice to either worship or be punished for not worshipping. But this is no more a choice than the so-called choices any genocidal despot offers their subjects. If God defines the rules one must follow so as not to be tortured for all eternity, free will is kind of a moot point and he would, in effect, have unlimited authority if he has the authority to punish those who don’t choose according to his wishes. Unlimited power and being the creator of things does not give the right to have unlimited authority over the creation; it would be vile to suggest it does, as this would be slavery. God doesn’t exist. But if he did, he seems to be a rather regressive, primitive, sadistic, and genocidal megalomaniac. If any other character in any book behaved the same way as God of the Bible, everyone — Christians included — would identify them as evil in a split second. Yet Christians accept that God is inherently good and has the authority to do as he wishes. That’s cognitive dissonance, for you.

Who is God to decide what people can or cannot do with their own bodies, if it harms no one? Dissent argued that it — homosexuality — harms themselves, which is "what God is warning us of," and he does not want to advocate self-harm. Being LGBTQ doesn’t actually cause any harm to oneself or anyone else, of course. The only harm seems to be resulting from the bullying enduring by anti-LGBTQ bigots, such as conservative Christians. If we do suspend disbelief for but a moment and imagine that God exists and homosexuality is harmful to oneself, it is neither rational nor moral to punish people who harm themselves with eternal torture. Even if we accept Dissent’s framework, his reasoning makes no sense. Does he honestly believe that "choices" that harm oneself should be addressed with more harm in the form of eternal torture?

The central idea of the Abrahamic religions — that God is the rightful dictator of humanity — is extremely sick, downright evil, and it has been sold as something inherently good through indoctrination and concepts like holiness and purity. Dissent's defense against my saying so was this: "Christianity differs from other Abrahamic religions in that salvation comes through faith rather than works, which is based solely on the free choice. Therefore, your statement is incorrect." This is an odd defense, in my opinion, as it rather reinforces my claim more than anything else; as I said earlier, God cares about obedience, blind faith, and devotion, not morality; it doesn't matter if you are a good person or a bad one, as long as you worship the dictator. Instead of refuting my claim that the central idea of the Abrahamic religions is totalitarianism, not goodness, Dissent reinforced the point I was making, thinking he was doing the opposite. Even if it were about works rather than faith, fundamentalist or conservative denominations of Christianity are regressive and abusive, not to mention that God still holds the ultimate authority over everything. Conservative, theistic Americans love freedom in this world, but would prefer something more akin to North Korea in their afterlife. This glaring contradiction is something to which they seem blind, or perhaps they have simply been indoctrinated in the same manner as I imagine the people of North Korea are brainwashed into accepting their supreme overlord. Even progressive Christians believe their god deserves to be the supreme overlord of humankind.

In the end, Dissent claimed he "did not start believing in God because of doctrine," that he believes in him because of "the personal effect he has had" on Dissent's life, who wants that for others, as well, which includes following everything God says. Except, of course, the things that arbitrarily don’t matter anymore because… reasons. So because he has attributed perfectly rational events in his life to the supernatural, he does not care about the injustice committed in God's name, but rather wishes to enforce it. Simply because he believes God exists and has helped him personally, he has abandoned all independent thought and hollowed out his brain for the doctrine which was not the reason he started believing. Personally, I always doubt the stories about how Christians started believing because of any “personal effect” it has had on them; it’s just something of which they have convinced themselves. Either they don’t give any specific events of divine intervention, or they attribute explicable events to an inexplicable force, perhaps because any chain of events may appear inexplicable in hindsight, even though it can be explained: A leads to B leads to C and D leads to E and F and G and H leads to I and J and K and L and M and N and O and P leads to Q and R and S and T and U and V and W and X and Y leads to Z. Then Z seems implausible because of all that was required for it to occur, so an appeal to a higher power is made; however, something must have happened and in this case it was Z, even though A might as well have led to a completely different alphabet; any chain of events looks amazing in hindsight.

The final point I’ll make here is that not all Christians agree on what God supposedly says and thinks. Dissent missed my point by claiming that his "final authority" is not other Christians or anyone else, but his holy, pure dictator God. My point was that he may be wrong about God's opinion, or he may even be wholly wrong about his faith: forty thousand Christian denominations, many more religions and gods, and even if a metaphysical phenomenon exists, we may not, or probably have not, invented a religion for it yet. What are the odds we guessed right? Not very good. Theists may be sure that what they believe is absolutely correct and everyone else is wrong, but so do theists who believe something different; Christians and Muslims do not believe in the same thing, but both groups are equally sure that their faith is true, as are Hindus or Scientologists or whatever religious group. It seems to me that the safe choice is to just live your life trying to be as good a person as possible; strive to treat all people and peoples equally and with respect, regardless of harmless or arbitrary differences. Should all else fail, ask the Flying Spaghetti Monster for help, because of all the thousands of gods, surely spaghetti is real. Although, I suppose Kim Jong-un has a lot in common with the Christian god, and I’m pretty sure he does empirically exist.

Conclusion

Conservative theists base their arguments mostly on an appeal to tradition as well as an appeal to God, as if any of that justifies their persecution of members of the LGBTQ community. They have been indoctrinated into believing there is only one way to be, which is justified by concepts like holiness and purity. Conservatism is based on humans' fear of change and that which is different, which is why an appeal to tradition is made in the first place. Humans like their world to be stable and constant, and thus any change is initially met with resistance, no matter how good a change.

I know it has been a long article — just about 10,000 words, in fact — but there is much to say about how the most extreme and dogmatic of Christians think. I’m sure many of you have come across several of the talking points and much of the empty rhetoric spewed by Dissent. I know I have, many times. Dissent is obviously a nutjob, but his way of thinking is not as uncommon as one would think, unfortunately. Hopefully, one day it will be all but gone — at least relegated to fringe nutjobs the likes of Dissent.

To bring the conversation back to the initial topic, which was the legalization of same-sex marriage in the United States of America, love and reason defeated hate and dogma this time. Marriage equality is a major victory. Praise... well, not God. Praise all of you, every single person who has faced the dogmatic forces of oppression and just said, "No! We will not have it anymore." I love you. The fight was won, but the war is not yet over! We must be forever vigilant against the nutjobs known as right-wing Christians. Love will win in the end, but we must always be vigilant against the corrupting force of dogmatic religion.

 

Update (July 13, 2015): Here is a follow-up article, titled "Tradition, sides, and dogma" (July 13, 2015). It was written in large part as a rebuttal of a conservative theist's counterargument to this article, but relevant and related issues are brought up, as well. Update (July 14, 2015): Here is a second follow-up article, titled "The epitome of dogma" (July 14, 2015), which is based on another comment by the same conservative theist.