Love wins! Marriage equality is now the law of the land, in America, finally. It was not very surprising that the voice of reason did, indeed, conquer ancient bigotry, in the end, but the road has been long. Even amidst all the bliss, however, there is the looming realization that there is still a long way to go. With a major victory still fresh in mind, this article looks to the road ahead. There is still a lot of opposition to same-sex marriage, and even LGBT in and of itself, so the fight is far from over. This hate, in the west, is coming mostly from the ultra-religious Christian right. Thus, this article will provide criticism of Christianity, conservatism, and the anti-LGBT stance.
First of all, while it may only be a minority, there are fundamentalist Christians who spew propaganda and an agenda that may be considered an ideology of terror. Arizona pastor Stephen Anderson has told conservative Christians to "Turn to Leviticus 20:13" because there is a cure for AIDS, which is to execute all "faggots." I do not think many Christians, even conservative ones, wish to murder innocent people for being gay, but this kind of extremism is an extension of the bigoted dogma of mainstream conservatism, what may be considered "moderate" conservatism, which still exhales an air of homophobia.
Second, conservative Christians are overly sensitive and try to make this issue about themselves and their supposed oppression. One extreme example is that Bryan Fischer tweeted, "From a moral standpoint, 6/26 is now our 9/11." He is seriously saying that equality is as bad as a terrorist attack that clamed three thousand lives and led to thousands upon thousands of more deaths afterward, many 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 does not discriminate against gays, so they now claim they want to move to Canada—a nation which has had marriage equality for a while now.
Same-sex marriage does not affect these conservatives, and 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, but 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, which is when it actively discriminates, for example against same-sex couples who just wish to get married.
Most conservative Christians who oppose same-sex marriage, and LGBT in and of itself, spew the same ignorant and hypocritical propaganda. An 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, and yet they neglect many of them.
It seems that the values conservative theists neglect are the ones that would affect them: eating shellfish is something they might like, and it could be a pain in the butt not to wear any clothes with mixed fabrics. Even in regards to marriage, there is hypocrisy: conservative Christians get divorced, sleep around, do not force rape victims to marry their rapist, and whatever else may affect them. However, conservative theists choose to, or were indoctrinated into, picking on a minority group like LGBT, whose rights—or lack thereof—will not affect themselves. Thereby, they have a cause that unifies them, gives them purpose, and makes them feel morally superior.
As I stated, 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, for example. I tried promoting a tweet in which I express my happiness about all the love on social media (the tweet I mention below, which is also embedded to the left, and is the starting point for the majority of this article) to see how effective advertisement on Twitter is (it's okay); 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 some people believe they have a God-given right to oppress.
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 suck it! I expressed this sentiment on social media, including Twitter, and got a response from a 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 LGBT, which I will write about here). 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.)
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, but also many straight people. Also, these theists seem to forget about lesbians (or bisexual women in same-sex relationships) who cannot practice sodomy (unless they use a strap-on) and is even the group with the least risk of contracting AIDS, which is supposedly God's punishment for LGBT, according to some conservative theists, who do not understand that straights can be infected with HIV, as well. Marriage equality is not even about sex; it is only about equality.
After I tweeted that I have enjoyed the love on social media these last days and that traditional marriage supporters can suck it, 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." I retorted that same-sex marriage has been around for a while now, in many nations, and lo and behold, no destruction yet. Indeed, these conservative Christians fear the destruction of something which does not really seem to exist, as if morality can unravel and lead to the end of the world; the only destruction I know is caused by sin is the mythological destruction God causes when he is mad. God prophesizes there will be destruction, and he fulfills it. 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?
Dissent had the answer, sort of: He said that because I am stubborn in my morality (as opposed to him, apparently), I would never understand his feeble appeal to tradition and God; he continued that "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." As an atheist, I can apparently "never have the moral basis of others" and my calling anyone a bigot makes me a hypocrite. I'm not sure why that makes me a hypocrite, but whatever.
I thought I was absent of morality, a common myth among ignorant, indoctrinated, conservative Christians. It is, of course not true. It is also not a valid argument that I cannot "have the moral basis of others," as if belief in God makes his morality superior and above any criticism. In essence, the conservative Christian worldview is dehumanizing and bigoted, in many ways. He believes that because he has a different "moral basis" he should get to discriminate, even though he is also allowed to criticize other moral bases, it seems.
At any rate, Dissent's primary argument, like most conservative arguments (whatever the issue), was mostly about tradition, and also God's word and holiness, as if any of those mean anything or are valid arguments in any way. All three are basically like saying, "Here's what I believe is true and it is true because it says so." Like, "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." Why is it important that marriage is between a man and a woman? Because God said so? Well, that would make God a bigot, nothing else.
Mating, parenthood, and marriage
Let's start by discussing some arguments that are basically appeals to nature, or conservative nature. 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 argument, at least, but the argument he used now was not much better than his appeal to tradition and "holiness", which I will write more about below. 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 our happiness is not tied to the concept of parenthood.
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 does not need marriage and marriage does not need parenthood. 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 because homosexuality has a zero percent chance of conceiving children, it is a "backwards step for our species." Parenthood does not require parents and children to be genetically related, though. Adoption is a viable option for parenthood. Neither love nor marriage requires children, anyway. One should not assume, but it does feel like these conservative Christians do not really care about our biological purpose and only try to use what they believe is a rational argument, rather than just a faith-based one.
After a brief break from the argument, Dissent wondered if the idea of marriage would even exist without Christianity. He told me to think about why the idea came about. Even though many conservative Christians believe their faith holds a monopoly on the concept of marriage, it does not; it does not even matter from where the idea of marriage came, since concepts and ideas evolve, even religions. Furthermore, the concept of marriage is more or less based on 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? It does not, because not all animals are social; not all animals have complex nervous systems; not all animals are the same. Mating, in and of itself, is meant for reproduction, but humans do not mate only for the sake of creating offspring and our lives are not based only on reproducing, anyway. Dissent tried to argue that based on my "evolutionary" background (his quotations), our lives are based on reproduction, and nothing else. However, the method with which I or my species came to be does not define me or anyone else; evolution does not define me or anyone else. Accepting that evolution is true does not really change much; human nature remains the same.
"Being social isn't an excuse for distorting the holy principle of marriage," Dissent replied. First of all, he misunderstood my arguing that marriage is based on our being social animals; long before marriage was ever a thing, human beings formed social groups and mated, which led to the very idea of marriage. Second of all, 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. What once was must not always be, and it would be rather terrible if the world worked like that. Just because something once was does not mean it was good or right.
Dissent said same-sex marriage is "only a ploy to get governmental benefits" and "deny Christianity," as if LGBT people do not love one another, as if it is Christianity that is the victim (despite it being a worldview, which means it cannot be a victim), as if Christians are the victims (despite their privilege and how they persecute and oppress), and as if there are no same-sex couples that are religious. Equality is not a conspiracy for LGBT people to be privileged; it is only about equal rights. He wrote that married couples get tax breaks, and wondered why else legal marriage would matter (I would assume he was wondering why it matters specifically to same-sex couples, as if the reason is different than why it matters to "traditional" couples). It is sad that he thinks marriage equality is about anything other than equal rights, as if it were, indeed, a conspiracy. It is also worth noting that hypocrisy at its finest is found in religion, which does benefit from tax breaks.
He argued that I "prioritize [my] own emotions over EVERYTHING," and even "over the sake of the next generation," as if the next generation is in danger and as if same-sex marriages will make it so different-sex couples stop having children. I do want children, even now that same-sex marriages are allowed, and I assume many straight people are still willing to conceive. It is not like humanity is anywhere near dying off; we just keep swelling in numbers.
Dissent complained about all of this change, despite five-thousand-year-old precedents. Like most arguments conservative Christians use, this was an appeal to tradition (I am tiring of the phrase). Change is not inherently bad, after all; without change, humanity would not be where it is today, and we will continue to improve for all eternity or until we destroy ourselves because of change-fearing dogma. Even religions have changed and continue to change, both in their own right and to conform to other cultural standards, regarding both morality and knowledge.
Dissent said liberals are wrong to refuse to accept history and erratically push for immediate change, and that it is childish. What is childish, however, is to accept any given worldview based on history, the fact that it has existed in the past. It is also childish to claim anyone is pushing for immediate change; equality has been a long time coming, which has taken and will take a long time, because of conservatives who fear change. Sexism, racism, and all kinds of bigotry will stay alive because of indoctrination, dogma, and the fear of change.
Apparently, equality is "an inappropriate word for this juncture," according to Dissent. "Legalizing a moral wrong will never be a step in the right direction." Same-sex marriage and LGBT are not really a "moral wrong", though. The moral wrong is theists' and their God's discrimination of LGBT. Equality is a human right which supersedes any cultural or religious values, even according to the United Nations: homophobic beliefs do not justify the bigotry toward homosexuals; the homophobia just makes those beliefs homophobic. A claim is not automatically true because it says it is, but it must rather be based on rational arguments, facts, and logic; homosexuality being immoral is not based on rational arguments, fact, or logic.
Dissent told me if my idea of marriage has "evolved" (his quotations) so much, it cannot be considered marriage. The funny thing is that his idea of marriage has also changed; it is not the same as marriage was in Christianity's past. 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 conservatives, and makes them think any change will lead to another more extreme change. Their unfounded fear aside, the irony of this video is that Christianity was, in the past, supportive of polygamy, where men could have many wives or concubines. Even the most conservative Christian I have seen has not 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), women being sold into sexual slavery, etcetera. It is hypocritical to argue with an appeal to tradition (illogical in its own right) without following it to the very origin of tradition.
Dissent thought the properties of Biblical marriage I brought up were "minor factors" and that the "sole meaning" was the union of a man and a woman; he continued that the things I listed are a "result of wickedness" and not his idea of marriage, which means he seems to have his own idea, not the Biblical God's idea, after all. If one cannot accept all that is in the Bible, as it is, then why should one accept any of it? Why not stick to all that is in the Bible, if one cherry-picks one thing? Why is only the man-and-woman thing so important, and not the other parts of Biblical marriage?
He 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.
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. Also, like I told Dissent: God does not exist, but even if a god did exist, they would not have the moral authority to discriminate against people.
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 their very nature. Holiness is a force for conservatism, the adherence to traditional values; it is not something that actually exists as a property of values, places, people, and things.
However, even religious values have changed and do change, albeit slowly, much slower than other cultural values. The irony is that conservative theists who blather on about "tradition this" and "tradition that" do not actually seem to know or care that they would be considered progressives by ancient standards. Dissent wrote that "Christianity has held onto the same basic concept of right and wrong for millenniums" and that it is ignorant to "deny" two-thousand-year-old history. (Changing is not the same as denying history, though; saying the Holocaust never happened is to deny history.) It is not true that Christianity has not changed, which he even acknowledged indirectly many times, when we discussed why certain sins no longer matter while others do (read onward). His argument was also another appeal to tradition, which seems to be the only thing on which conservative theists base their lives; just because something used to be one way, it does not have to continue being that way, especially not when the old way is discriminatory. Furthermore, I know theists define God as inherently good, whatever he does, so that if he commits genocide, it is a good genocide, but this is actually not logical; a god's position on anything does not validate that position, regardless of said god's existence or inexistence.
Even though Dissent acknowledged that religions have changed and seemed to agree with this change (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 that 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, 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.
Dissent wrote that he never discriminated, and that "striking homosexuality as wrong cannot possibly be on the same level as separating [himself] from a particular other." According to him, saying his bigotry toward homosexuality is, indeed, bigotry means saying rape is wrong is discriminatory toward rapists. This is, of course, a false equivalency; rapists hurt whomever they rape, whereas adults who consent do not harm each other.
When I told him that there are same-sex couples that are religious (as mentioned earlier in this article), he said that religious same-sex couples are "choosing to deny certain parts of the Bible and take the parts they want to accept." This seems rather familiar. No Christian alive follows every commandment of the Bible, or even wants to. All theists are cherry-pickers, who dogmatically follow the values they have been taught to accept or that fit into their overall worldview; religion may be 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, or rationalizations of those parts. When Disco Nouvo claimed Dissent was picking cherries from "a book of myths," Dissent replied it saddens him that Disco Nouvo would "allow the Devil to convince [him] of such lies." Personally, it saddens me that people who may otherwise be intelligent are indoctrinated into believing the lies taught through religion.
The Bible is 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." However, as I told Dissent, the biggest problem, at least with a literal interpretation, is that the Bible was written, transcribed, translated, and changed by people; it is no perfect word of God. The Bible Christians know today was literally put together by people who chose which books to include in it; not all versions of the Bible are the same or even include the same books, as the books were 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, and that, despite the Bible being one hundred percent a product of people with political agendas, less refined views than a modern person, and less knowledge than humanity has today, it is somehow reliable and holds a greater truth. 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, anyway.
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. That is not good or trustworthy. Especially not when the people who edited the Bible were not bright enough to understand that the books they included in it, while telling the "same" story, very often contradict each other, not to mention they were written quite a while after the events they supposedly depict.
In addition to this, the supposedly objective values seem to change a lot, throughout history. In response to Dissent's saying same-sex couples that are religious "deny certain parts of the Bible and take the parts they want to accept," an atheist called Tay tweeted a picture with a list of sins which would not be considered (as) bad today, even by theists; she asked, "just out of curiosity," which ones Dissent has NOT committed. Dissent replied that most of the sins are "meant for ancient Israel," not a modern follower of Christ. He also said everyone sins, but "the advocation of sin is wicked," and "especially if it is being advocated by a national government."
Perhaps not surprisingly, I had some questions. Why did certain sins apply only to ancient Israel? How does Dissent know which sins were meant for ancient Israel and which ones are still important? Why some sins, and not others? Why not LGBT? Why is that still considered sinful? If God is omniscient and knows everything that will ever happen, he will also know what will work and what his final opinion on issues will be, and yet he changes his mind and methods to deliver his word.
At any rate, apparently, those sins were meant for ancient Israel because it was "before the coming of the Holy Spirit." I asked Dissent to clarify exactly how something that was once "objectively immoral" suddenly is not "objectively immoral" anymore, although to that tweet I did not get a reply. He did tell me more about why God's law changed, though: Romans described a new law was made in Jesus Christ, he explained, and then told me to "knowledge [myself] before [I] accuse." I already knew that God changed his method, even though an all-knowing and almighty deity should have known what would work and done that right away.
However, his snide remark missed the mark; after all, the question was why some sins stopped being sins when others did not. I told him that he barely answered my question, and repeated it: Why did certain sins just stop being "immoral"? He stated, once more, that some sins in the Old Testament are not meant for modern Christians, and that it is "not the sin" he is fighting, but "the deliberate advocation of such sin." I will get back to "the advocation of sin" soon. First I must wonder this: Why were the sins that are no longer sins ever considered sins? Are sins not immoral in some way? If so, since sins can change, it would mean God's morality is not "objective" and God is also not omniscient, as he would know that he would change his mind about, say, mixed fabrics.
Dissent's answer proved he could not really wrap his mind around the questions I had. He said the sins that are no longer sins were sins at the time because "it was before Christ came and died to pay for our sins." He continued that the ancient Israelites "had to make sacrifices to go to heaven." Then he tweeted that they had to make these sacrifices or "it was considered sin," because "it was not what God had wanted them to do." This does not really clear up anything. First of all, it is quite disgusting that God would need people to sacrifice living creatures only for the purpose of being forgiven by God, as if one needs God's forgiveness for some reason; it seems God would just be able to forgive, like people do, and it also seems like one would only need to ask forgiveness of someone involved in an incident in which one hurt them. And no, God is not hurt by "sin" any more than one of us is hurt by actions that do not affect us. Second, it still does not explain why some sins were dropped; only a historical perspective can explain it, not a theological one.
I asked again: Why did some sins stop being immoral, and why not homosexuality? He finally provided an answer that actually fit the question: "Because homosexuality is a sin mentioned in the New Testament," after Jesus Christ arrived to employ God's ridiculous plan to forgive humans for crimes he accused them of by having animals sacrificed regularly or having himself sacrificed to himself once. But nowhere is it explicitly stated which rules are specifically kept and which are specifically abolished, and we still have the problem that the Bible was written and edited by people, which means that it is no reliable source of God's word. If we say Dissent is right, though, that God through Jesus is anti-gay, it would essentially mean that the conservative theist's dogma tells them whatever God says also goes, even if it is unjust.
I told him that Jesus is not a get-out-of-jail-free card, and asked again why some sins just magically stopped being bad. He agreed that Jesus is not a free ticket to sin, according to his beliefs, which is why he will not "advocate sin," and said that he already explained the mystery of the lost sins. He only explained why animal sacrifices are no longer "necessary", though. When I asked him about mixed fabrics and shellfish, which hurt no person, he sort of dodged the question by referring to God as the arbiter of right and wrong (I will get back to this). I also mentioned that LGBT hurts no one, is in no way immoral, and is also not a choice; he did not bring up the issue of homosexuality being a choice, but I have seen many who have, so I just wanted to mention it briefly in this article.
At any rate, back to "the advocation of sin." Dissent may think "the advocation of sin" is wicked. However, as I told him, the advocacy of love is not wicked. He retorted that "homosexuality is not true 'love'," that it is a "worldly view of what you think love is." I asked him how the love between two people of the same gender is not love. Of course, as an atheist, I cannot understand from a godly point of view, according to him. I am fortunate that he explained it, though: "Love that is tied to sexual impurity cannot truly be love." I do not think he knows what love is, as he seems to think it is something other than an emotional connection.
His religion saying homosexuality is "sexual impurity" only makes his faith bigoted, as well; it says nothing about the purity or impurity of anything. And, indeed, like the concept of "holiness", "purity" is also an arbitrary concept invented by humans to make it appear as if one thing is inherently good while another is inherently bad. Virginity is "pure" and homosexuality is "impure", according to certain definitions; however, these are arbitrary definitions which are forces of conservatism that dehumanize people over harmless differences or states of being. 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, if not the same, as the concepts of "purity" and "holiness".
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." What he doesn't realize is that no sexual act is "impure" or in any way immoral if it is consensual. Bodily autonomy supersedes God's ego. Dissent stopped me dead in my tracks, or so he thought, by asking a shocking question! Is a father having sex with his daughter not 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.
The supremacy of God
All our threads 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." I thought it was perfectly logical that anything that is "objectively immoral" (which LGBT is not) will also remain "objectively immoral" forever. Dissent said that neither he nor I can "understand our omniscient Creator," that we can only understand what "he has laid out for us to live by."
An omniscient god is not logical, though, especially not in combination with free will. That is because God supposedly knows all that will ever happen, which means every choice that will ever be made has already been made and thus there cannot be any free will. Dissent regurgitated what one would expect: that God is all-knowing, but gave us free will (despite all logic) so we could choose to follow him or not. What happens to those who "choose" not to follow him, as if belief in the supernatural is a choice? Well, they are tortured for all eternity, for not making the "right" choice. This sounds like totalitarianism, which is immoral; God cares about obedience, not morality.
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 did not 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, so they will not be punished for their alleged crimes; this is what I told Dissent, that 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 I made 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)
(My tweet that God died to "pay" for "sins" he'd otherwise punish me for led to a rather humorous conversation with some other atheists: Reid B boasted about how great Odin was compared to the Christian god. I tweeted that in the war of the deities, God had zero and Odin had one, which meant checkmate for Christians. Reid B corrected me, saying Odin was up by two because he rid the world of the Ice Giants. I asked if God, who is all-powerful, didn't get rid of Satan forever, in hopes this would even the score. Surely, if you can do ANYTHING, you would rid the world of evil, right? This led to Tay saying God may be impotent, after which I suggested that is why God is overcompensating.)
"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. Furthermore, God sort of seems like a totalitarian, genocidal maniac, if he does exist.
"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 not a pleasant being. 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 religions like the Abrahamic ones 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 God or a god. This leads to people accepting arbitrarily defined morals as something that is objective.
I questioned Dissent how he can justify his persecution of innocent people who harm no one based on "God said..." He answered as I thought he would: that he is not persecuting anyone, just refusing to advocate sin. But it is persecution, though, persecution based on ancient, homophobic superstition, and I said so. I got the retort that it is based on "the advisement from our Lord who has been proven real many times in history." Based on how he describes his god, I argued that his god is an evil dictator, who has also never been proven real, ever. He then overestimated the support for his claim by asking me to explain the hundreds of accounts of Christ rising from the dead. However, eye witness testimony is not reliable at all, the few accounts that exist contradict each other (case in point: the Bible), and empirical evidence would help, or it will just be a myth like all other myths.
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 many other theists' problem: they accept that a) God can do whatever he likes and it is moral, as if by magic and despite any logic to the contrary, and b) the Bible is perfect, or at least the parts of the Bible they have been taught to follow are perfect. 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 or even plenty can, as many or even most atheists were once theists, but I cannot shake my doubts.
Earlier, when I asked about mixed fabrics and shellfish, he dodged the question by basically referring to God as the arbiter of right and wrong, the rightful decider of what is objectively good and bad. What he said was 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 (we have already been through the poor logic of omniscience). "Who are you to question what is good and evil if [God] created it?" Dissent asked.
I partly agree with his saying that what is viewed as moral and immoral stems from one's worldview. The ultimate goal is thus to get rid of all dogma, and religion is all about dogma. 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 does not have to worry about it personally. He has been taught that the way he lives his life, affects 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, LGBT, etcetera.
Dissent's worldview does not actually stem from an actual deity, though, but rather ancient superstition which survives because of the indoctrination of children; 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. This does not really matter, though, as he believes he worships an actual deity. What is worth noting is that creation does not grant unlimited authority; it would be immoral to demand unlimited authority over one's creations.
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 does, indeed, give the choice to either worship or be punished for not worshipping: he gives the same kind of choice as any other totalitarian, genocidal maniac.
However, if one is given the choice to worship without ever questioning or be punished for not worshipping blindly, there really is no choice. Whoever gives the choice does have unlimited power in practice. Especially if one can decide what is "objectively" moral and immoral, and then punish or reward accordingly and arbitrarily. In addition, belief is not really an active choice one can make, so to punish for disbelief is about as stupid and evil as it gets. 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. And God does, according to the Christian myth, have unlimited authority, as he sends anyone who disagrees with him to hell. As fellow atheist Happy with no God said during the conversation on Twitter, if one needs to threaten to show a position, that position was not valid.
The only reason why I agree with Dissent that it is illogical to accuse "our creator" of being immoral is because "our creator" does not exist. Or evolution could be said to be our creator, though that gives the impression that it is an intelligent force that made an intelligent decision; however, claiming evolution is immoral is, indeed, illogical, as it is an amoral force that just exists, like gravity. Is it immoral for gravity to kill people by having them fall down? No, except it would be if it were intelligent and chose to do it, like God chooses to send people to hell and such. God is, supposedly, an intelligent being who can make decisions; therefore, it is not illogical to claim he is immoral, based on all I have brought up in this article and much, much more. God's opinions on morality seem rather regressive and primitive, so he is not a very good god. One example of his regressive morality is the very topic of this article: his anti-LGBT stance, which has no justification. God is a totalitarian tyrant who punishes those who are incapable of choosing or choose not to be his slaves, and it is not illogical to claim this is immoral.
And yet, theists accept that God is inherently good and has the authority to do as he wishes. In addition to saying cherry picking is illogical, which means all ancient sins should still be sins (if they are objectively immoral), I also said many sins are not in any conceivable way immoral, which includes same-sex relationships and whatever could be conceived as "sexually impure" by the faith fanatics. Dissent thinks that is my opinion (which is correct, of course), but that a sin is a sin because "God advises that it is."
However, who is he, or even God himself, to decide what people can or cannot do with their own bodies, if it harms no one? Dissent argued that it harms themselves, which is "what God is warning us of," and he does not want to advocate self-harm. Being LGBT does no real harm, of course, even though this theist thinks so. Other than what theists believe God will do to them, how does it harm them in any way? And even if it does harm oneself to be gay, how is that anybody else's business, even God's? How is it immoral and worthy of eternal punishment? Do theists honestly believe that "choices" that harm oneself should be addressed with more harm in the form of eternal torture? God's kingdom is a totalitarian police state, in which justice does not exist except in the mind of the brainwashed sheep. Dissent declined to answer; tough questions are best avoided, lest one lose one's faith.
The central idea of the Abrahamic religions, which is basically 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 "holy" and "pure" and more. 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, as it rather reinforces my claim than anything else: as I said earlier, God cares about obedience, not morality; it doesn't matter if you are a good person or not, as long as you worship the dictator; blind faith and devotion are required, as I told Dissent. Instead of refuting my claim that the central idea of the Abrahamic religions is totalitarianism, and not being a good person, 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 versions of faiths like Christianity and Islam are totalitarian and immoral, because their morality is regressive and abusive, not to mention that God or Allah still holds the ultimate authority over everything, like a dictator. 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 theists 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 do not 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.
I would like to know what exactly God has done for him, as it seems theists often attribute explicable events to an inexplicable force, perhaps because any chain of events appears 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; all chains of events look amazing in hindsight, but not in foresight.
Not all Christians agree on what God supposedly says and thinks, and God's being God does not justify God's being a bigot. 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 what he thinks is 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, 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, 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 actually exists. Although, I suppose Kim Jong-un also does empirically exist.
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 LGBT community. They have been indoctrinated into believing there is only one way to be, which is justified by concepts like holiness and purity. In addition to this, conservatism is based on humans' fear of change, 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.
However, let's end this article on a positive note. Another theist on Twitter joined the conversation with Dissent and said he believes in God, but also thinks gay marriage is good, because same-sex relationships hurt no one and one should be with whomever one loves. He continued that gay people are just as good and kind as most "Christians" (his quotations, which could arguably be a no-true-Scotsman fallacy), and that God says to love everyone. Finally, he said that "Christians" (his quotations again) cherry pick the Bible to meet their lifestyles and that every "Christian" (again) is a sinner. I agree that every person who has ever lived is a sinner by some kind of definition; certainly, no one is perfect. Although, I do disagree with the idea that humans are inherently sinful and in need of a savior. Even so and despite my disbelief in God, it was nice to see a message of love in a thread discussing hate.
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, so down with dogma!
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.