Religious Beer Goggles and Why I am the First Eagle of The Apocalypse

The Hook: Only through the beer goggles of religion can one claim everyone deserves to die for all and any (perceived) moral infractions and not see the view as repugnant.

My attitude towards religion has several times swung from extreme to extreme as drastically as possible for anyone maintaining atheism throughout. My position most aligned with Dawkins and Harris from about 2008-2012, then for a variety of reasons my view started to soften. In 2013, I saw Dawkins and Krause give a talk at UNLV. They were so hateful, condescending, and mean-spirited (as did appear most of the audience) toward the religious I had to leave part-way, feeling sick to my stomach that I’d aligned myself with such a deplorable group of people. I swore I’d never associate myself again with those people (or views).

Anyhow, since then I’ve been what some call a friendly atheist. I think, all things considered, religion is a good thing for those that choose to have it in their lives. Nevertheless, it’s not for me.

Well, the Orlando shooting has got me reconsidering again. I’m not going full Dawkins or anything. I’m still in the friendly atheist camp but there are certain aspects where I think I have reason to be critical.

I have the outline of a critique of liberal tolerance for Islamic homophobia in my unfinished drafts but today I’m going to do what every Christian loves. I, a liberal, am going to persecute them for their views. If I’m lucky, I’ll see parts of my post in God’s Not Dead III. (In fact, what I’m going to argue can be generalized in any religion that way, in the interest of fairness, everyone gets to claim liberal persecution).

Specifically, I’m going to address an article that on exegetical grounds defends Christianity against the charge that it is homophobic and recommends death to gays.

Before getting to the main article let me just say one thing about (mainstream) liberal critiques of homophobia in Christianity and Islam. The Right is right. Mainstream liberals are all-too-happy to point the finger at parts/branches of Christianity that are, by any reasonable definition, homophobic yet turn a blind eye to the often more blatant homophobia and anti-gay hatred in Islam.

The Right is right to point out the inconsistency. A Christian baker doesn’t sell a cake to a gay couple and twitter and Facebook explode. Gay people are stoned to death, shot, or thrown off buildings as a matter of practice in Muslim countries and nary a peep from liberal social media. The Koran’s condemnation of gay sex is at least on par with that of the Torah (That’s Old Skool Testament for you gentiles).

You might think (lamely) “Hey maaaaaaaaan, what’s right for them is right for them and what’s right for us is what’s right for us” at which point I will recommend you be stoned to death. Besides, it’s not just Islam “over there” that is predominantly homophobic, it’s Islam anywhere. It’s part of the religion (proscribed in both the Koran and the Hadeeth).

That said, Muslims aren’t the most intolerant religious group (in the US) and of course attitudes vary across individuals and sects. However, for a Muslim (Christian or Jew) to reject the idea that homosexual acts are morally wrong they must also admit that there is a factual error in their holy text. They have to believe that their (divinely inspired?) text contains a false statement. Not many are willing to make this move. That’s why we see olympic level mental gymnastics from liberal theists.

Anyhow, this post isn’t about Islam. Besides, the honor of “Most Intolerant of Homosexuality” goes to White Evangelicals, Baptists in particular.  Shout out to the Jews and Buddhists who are by a landslide the most tolerant. Here’s a break down of intolerance and religious affiliation.

For an overview of attitudes toward homosexuality around the world.

The Article
After the Orlando shootings, Georgia Congressman Rick Allen read some Biblical verses. The verses have been interpreted by many as suggesting homosexuality ought to be condemned by death. Molly Hemingway tries to argue that this isn’t the correct interpretation and Jennifer Shutt, who wrote the original piece for roll call, doesn’t know her biblical exegesis from a hole in the wall. I say “tries” because the position she ends up in is so laughingly preposterous it can only be taken seriously when read through the beer goggles of religion.

Ok, let’s the look at the infamous Romans 1:27 and 1:28-32. (or as Trump would say ‘1 Romans’):

And likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another; men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompense of their error which was meet,”

And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient; Being filled with all unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity; whisperers, Backbiters, haters of God, despiteful, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, Without understanding, covenant breakers, without natural affection, implacable, unmerciful: Who knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them.

Shutt’s interpretation of the passage is merely that the verses “discuss what types of penalties the Bible says should be applied to those who are not heterosexual.” 

Here’s Hemingway’s “scathing” reply:

If you’re going to do the exegesis, Right Reverend Shutt, I might recommend knowing that we don’t call verses “lines.” [Buuuuuuuurn!] Also, maybe notice that the listing of sins indicts literally every single human on the planet. So if you’re thinking that Christianity calls for the execution of gays, you have to think, on the basis of the same passage, it calls for the execution of everyone. And if you’re thinking that, and you know anything at all about Christianity, maybe ponder whether everything you’ve written is embarrassingly wrong.

Instead, Shutt specifically said, falsely, that this passage “discusses what types of penalties the Bible says should be applied to those who are not heterosexual.” Wrong. Wrong. And wrong, wrong, wrong. It doesn’t discuss types of penalties. It doesn’t say penalties should be applied at all. And the passage applies to everyone.

There’s no mention of whether Shutt’s cited translation is the one Allen used, but the “worthy of death” phrase (in my Bible, it’s “deserve to die”) is simply a restating of a basic teaching of Christianity. Let’s hop on over to Romans 6:23. (But read the whole chapter because it’s amazing.) 

“For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

This is the good news of Christianity! We’re all sinners who deserve death, but in Christ Jesus, we receive forgiveness and eternal life.

Ok, let’s go through this without our beer googles on. In the first paragraph, Hemmingway offers a powerful defense against the charge that the Bible teaches us to condemn homosexuals to death, Hemingway cheerily points out that

Premise 1: The listing of every sin “indicts literally every single human on the planet.” 
Conclusion: Therefore, it’s not just “the gays” whose execution Christianity calls for, “it calls for the execution of everyone[!]”.

Now, or course, the conclusion can’t be right. It’d be hard to defend the view that Christianity calls for the death of everyone. Whew!

Next, however, we’re confronted with the following “lines” from the Good Book.

[…] Who knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death [. . .].

or, as Hemingway points out, depending on your translation “worthy of death” could be “deserve to die”.  And just in case you were unclear, deserving to die is good news(!)

“This is the good news of Christianity! We’re all sinners who deserve death, but in Christ Jesus, we receive forgiveness and eternal life.

So, let me get this straight. (At least) all the sins listed in the above “lines” make one deserve to die? Since we’ve removed our beer goggles, we should ask whether this is what we could expect from a reasonable ethical or legal theory.

Typically, in most human ethical and legal systems, when it comes to selecting punishments or moral blameworthiness we exercise the notion of proportionality.  A just punishment (or appraisal or blameworthiness) is one that is proportional to the severity of your crime. The view advanced here suggests that “being full of envy” or, heaven forbid “debate” are as equally worthy of deserving death as is someone who commits murder.

Judge: We’ve now entered the sentencing phase. We find Bob guilty of debate. For your crime you deserve to die. 

Imagine if our own justice system operated this way. God as judge is like a messed up Oprah: “You deserve to die! And you deserve to die! And you deserve to die! You all deserve to die!”

Such a view can only be taken seriously through the beer goggles of religion.

Now, to be fair, we needn’t interpret this passage as God saying he will actually kill you for debating or disobeying your parents only that it makes you worthy of death.

Let’s accept this beer goggle view of moral desert and see what else follows. Lately Christian apologists have been making an argument similar to Hemingway’s.  Christians aren’t especially against gays. “We don’t rank sins” goes the clever refrain. “See! we don’t hate gays, we treat all sin equally”.

I think that’s wonderful. So, on this view, they must also agree that if I own a bakery and a debater or disobedient child orders a cake, I can refuse service on those grounds. All sins are equal right? So, if it’s OK for me to refuse service because of one type of sin, surely I must be able to refuse service for any other sin the offends my “deeply and sincerely” held belief.

Sometimes this comes across as genuine (albeit misguided) but usually it’s a rhetorical ploy. Usually it just comes off like what this recent Pastor posted on the sign outside his church:

Homosexuals got shot down in Florida. It looks like God’s wrath is about to start pouring down on the gays.

When asked for comment he used something like the above strategy. “We’re not trying to kill them. I’ve had a lot of signs up here that homosexuals need to be saved but they didn’t say anything about that one, the only thing I said here in this one is that God’s wrath going to start being poured down on the gays.”

Translation: I’m not going to actively kill them or promote that (see how full of love I am?) I’m just going to imply that they deserve to die. See! There’s no hate for ‘the gays’ in my religion… If you find this repugnant yet find Hemingway’s interpretation of scripture appealing, I’d like to know the difference between what the Pastor is saying and what scripture prescribes. 

Why I am the First Eagle of the Apocalypse
I am the First Eagle of the Apocalypse because I can see that “religious” “freedom” laws are incompatible with Christian apologetics towards gays.

Premise 1: Either sins are all equal or they are not.
Premise 2: If all sins are equal then (a) either people can refuse to serve anyone for trivial reasons or (b) we get rid of this religious “freedom” exemption.
Premise 3: If all sins are not equal (in a religions theology) and homosexuality is a grievous sin then the person making this claim cannot dodge the charge that their religion institutionalizes anti-gay practices, attitudes, and beliefs.
Conclusion: I am the First Eagle of the Apocalypse.

10 thoughts on “Religious Beer Goggles and Why I am the First Eagle of The Apocalypse

  1. I have no desire to defend those named in the article, since I don't share their attitudes towards gays and lesbians. That said, I thought I might help explain the concept in Christianity under which everyone \”deserves death\” for any sin, since you bring it up in this post.The concept of \”sin\” or \”hamartia\” in Christianity is neither a legal nor an ethical concept, although perhaps it is closer to an ethical one than a legal one. The principle of proportionality is a decent bit of legal theory, but whether something is a \”sin\” or not is not a good guide to whether or how it should be punished in the legal system. Envy is a sin, not a crime. While many things which are morally wrong are also sins, and vice-versa, ethics pertains primarily to the natural, social world (the ways in which we praise, blame, or otherwise evaluate other persons) whereas sin involves the supernatural (relationships with God or with other souls). I can't imagine there is anything unethical about eating communion wafers dipped in goat's blood as a midnight snack, for instance, but it is pretty clearly a sin; according to St. Augustine, the ethically right thing to do is to lie to the Nazi soldier demanding to know if there are Jews in one's basement (pardon the anachronism, he presents a parallel case that I don't recall), but then immediately repent and seek pardon for the sin of lying. If one doesn't believe in the supernatural (wearing those 'religious beer goggles') then it makes sense to turn to intuitions from law or ethics when dealing with concepts like \”sin\” or \”deserving\”, but this is not the context. Paul is pretty clearly not calling for the Roman government to kill everyone, for instance, so he is not making a legal claim. And he is most certainly not calling for people to go about engaging in blaming, shaming, or shunning sinners as though they were worthy of death (as the folks with signs like to do) — since judging others in this way guarantees that one will be judged by the same standards — so he is not really talking about ethics. So his words will only make sense if one has in mind the supernatural.If someone believes in God, then they believe that God is the source of all life. \”Life\” here too is a spiritual and not a biological concept; Christians believe Adam and Eve \”died\” spiritually but not biologically. One receives one's life from God in order to give that life away to God and others, in imitation of God's own self-giving nature. A \”sin\” is an action by means of which one supernaturally turns their back on God, through selfishness, seeking to find the source of life within themselves instead of outside themselves in God, or seeking to protect their own lives instead of giving their lives to others. Selfishness is of course pervasive — nearly every action one takes is selfish to some degree. It is surely not unethical to be selfish sometimes, but it is sinful.Since selfishness involves using one's spiritual life for a purpose other than that for which it was given, the giver of that life is entitled to take it away. If I lend something to someone for a purpose, and they don't use it for that purpose, then they deserve to lose the thing I lent them. Thus every sin deserves death from God — that is, every sin is such that God is entitled to take back one's life. It is a mercy that God continues to give life in spite of the abuse of it.Again, I don't suspect the last two paragraphs will make much sense at all in the absence of a belief in God, spiritual life, souls, sins, etc. But at least I think you can understand that Christians are not talking about ethics or politics when they talk about all sins deserving death, and that the folks who think Christians are discussing ethics (the sign holders) or politics (the reconstructionists in the religious right) are not representative of the views of the views of everyone else.


  2. In shorter terms: You're sort of right. The view is repugnant if and only if you misunderstand the view as saying something it isn't saying (the ethical or political claim); but it probably isn't possible to understand what the view is saying without the beer goggles on. (Of course, we don't think of them as beer googles, we think of them as prescriptive corrective lenses. But you have plenty of good reasons to think that we're delusional and have been drinking a bit much).


  3. Thank you for clarifying the position. St. Augustine's explanation helps me understand the distinction between sin and ethics (and is a nice piece of theology to know). What I'm still unclear about is this section: And he is most certainly not calling for people to go about engaging in blaming, shaming, or shunning sinners as though they were worthy of death (as the folks with signs like to do) — since judging others in this way guarantees that one will be judged by the same standards — so he is not really talking about ethics. Why is the risk of being judged by the same standards reason not to judge? If we're somewhat self-reflective and think impartiality has something to do with standards (be they ethical, legal, or 'supernatural') why shouldn't/can't we judge? Why does it matter what the domain is so long as we know what the standard is? This sounds like a bad tu quoque. If I know what the standards are and also assent to them, shouldn't I want to be judged by those standards and shouldn't I be able to apply those standards? I'm probably misunderstanding something. \”One receives one's life from God in order to give that life away to God and others, in imitation of God's own self-giving nature. \” I love this idea. I'd go door to door converting people if I thought religion could get people to actually live up to it! (Maybe that's too high a bar to expect).\”If I lend something to someone for a purpose, and they don't use it for that purpose, then they deserve to lose the thing I lent them. Thus every sin deserves death from God — that is, every sin is such that God is entitled to take back one's life.\” I think this is where our intuitions part ways and perhaps this is where I have the most difficulty accepting religious frameworks. It seems that, surely, there are degrees of failing. Suppose someone lends me their lawnmower (souls and lawnmowers being perfectly analogous!). In one case I bring it back nice and clean but 1 minute late. In another case I bring it back 1 year late, rusted and broken. Surely, there must be a difference in degree of condemnation between the two cases. Condemnation or blame or whatever concept you're using seems to admit of degrees. To say the 'soul' who has but a few minutes of selfishness despite a lifetime of selflessness is just as worthy of death as is the unrepentant mass murder, to my mind, requires beer goggles. It defies all notions of reasonableness. Anyhow, maybe my high tolerance for 'spirits' prevents me from seeing how it could be reasonable. 🙂


  4. Wow, I stumbled upon your blog checking out informal fallacies and I instantly started \”following\” you on blogger… Then I find this gem of an article! I can't wait to read it more and develop my own response, hoping to give my logical debate \”muscles\” (as underdeveloped as they may be) exercise. I hope we get to have some friendly exchanges as I expect. Just reading a little from your \”critical-thinking-evaluating-logical\” posts, I know I'm going to enjoy reading and responding to you. I guess I may be jumping the gun, but after reading a few lines of your posts, I feel like you are very well spoken and worthy of utmost respect, which I hope to extend in our exchanges, if we get the chance! Thanks for posting!


  5. Hey, Ami!Hahah. I keep commenting on Your Posts, but, nothing is published. I officially don't know how to do this. But, just letting you know that I did comment on two of Your Posts. Just. It didn't work. Hopefully, you received them, well, privately, I guess. Heheh.Hoping both Otis & You are well.Always,Cathbodua59 (Anthony & Arlene)


  6. Hey, Ami!Just read the last line of Your Post. Hahah. I love that, that you are The First Eagle of The Apocalypse. Heheh. Anyway. The Biblical Text of Homosexuals is History. The Old Testament is to be looked back as History Text, and not so much of what The World is like, Today. Today, we can only hope that we are living The New Testament, in which is Jesus saying, \”Love One Another as I Have Loved You.\”What I understand, and learned form The Death and Resurrection of Jesus, is that, 'What Was', is done with, and we should move into, 'What Is'. His Death should have been able to put closure on issues that have no part of what The World should be like. But, I guess it has not. We are still so focused on issues that, 'Was', when we should be moving into, 'What Is'.I'm not preaching nor do I hope to, but, being Catholic Christian, from what I have learned and understood is that The New Testament is to teach us to love one another, to understand one another, to care for one another, to help one another, and to be there for one another. It does touch up on Traditional Text, in which is truth, that Life should have those things as a way of living. The Old Testament is just for looking back, and learning from what was. It is not what it should be. To remind us of the mistakes, we, Humans have made.It is far-fetched to think we can live in a World with all the love and forgiveness that we want and need, but, for me, being Catholic Christian, it makes sense. The World does need more Unity. It needs more Love. I'm a Dreamer. Sorry about that.Also, not one Person will ever truly grasp what The Bible means. Not even The Most Scholarly Person, out there; not even The Most Pristine Pastor or Priest. The Bible is so super complex. It is not be read as a Book. When you read The Bible, make sure to pray for Wisdom and Knowledge. I do believe it is Holy Scripture. Yes. You can kick me now.I don't understand any of what is going on in The World, except what I can understand, is that The World is a scary place now. We have to stand strong together, during The Darkness that seems to be scattering People in Life. We need Unity, we need Strength, we need Love, we need Forgiveness.I hope that did not come off as preaching; I just wanted to say.Hoping both Otis & You are doing well. We miss and love you!Always,Cathbodua59 (Anthony & Arlene) 🙂


  7. PS. Oh. I should state that I'm not Anti-Gay. I come from a Family Line of LGBTQ Members. I've also watched a Family Member die, 'In The Closet', from Aids. So, I do make a stand for Gay Rights, because no one should have to die alone, and isolated.Having said that, how do I be Catholic Christian, and make a stand for Gay Rights? Because, contradictory to what People think about Religion — God does not hate Gay People. In fact, how much can we accept one another for who we are in the context of Jesus saying, 'Love One Another as I Have Loved You\”?Think about it. With Your Heart. ++


  8. PPS. One last thing. I know Religion gets to My Heart, because I do have Faith, I do Believe, and I do Love God. I find it sad that People have such a misconception of what Religion means, and that God is such The Bad Guy in all of this. I'm not obsessed, but, I'm strong in My Faith. At least, I think I am. I make a stand for what I believe in. God is good. Just take a look around you and see his miracles in all that is surrounding you. The Trees, The Sunrises, The Sunsets, The Ocean and it's music, The Birds and their music, People and how beautiful they truly are, The World and how miraculously it is made, just for us. Sometimes, you have to just see.Anyway. I'm one of those Dreamers that still believe that The World is a good and beautiful place to be. We just have be more disciplined to make changes to make it a better place for everyone.Sin. Such a controversial three lettered word. What can be said about Sin, that has not been said before? Sin is Sin. We all do it, no matter how big or small. We all fall short of grace. But. God forgives each and every one of us, at every turn of The Earth, therefore, we must forgive one another, and most importantly, ourselves for their and our own transgressions.What it comes down to is that if an individual is doing wrong in their life, then, what must that individual do to make it right? Change. Once an individual knows that they have to change, then, change. Sure, discipline is hard to come by, and change is hard. But, it doesn't have to be. It takes work, it takes motivation, but, once you get used to seeing that the positiveness that you give to The World, it makes you want to make more things better.For example. Eating. We are hard on ourselves for eating the wrong foods or making wrong choices in Our Diets. It is a Sin to fall into Gluttony. What can you do to change that? By educating yourself, and changing your choices. We all have The Freedom of Choice. Just we all have to be responsible for the consequences of those choices. Once you change your choices, you might feel some pain for awhile as your body adjusts to the new food choices, but, we were made to withstand that pain. It takes at least about 2 weeks, before we start to see the positiveness of that change. Once, you do, you become motivated to change more. And, that's good. One step at a time to take care of yourself, to help others make changes, and help them with their choices in Life.Sin is everywhere; not just the big things. It's in the way we live our lives, or the things we say and do, or in how our actions affect others. Sin is all equal, in that justification. But, as I said, \”God forgives us for every transgression we make.\” In part, because he now knows that we know what we need to change. Therefore, we must forgive others, in order to help them change their way of living, and their lives.Find discipline for yourself. The rule is, with what I grew up with is: Love God First, then Love Yourself. When you can attain both these glories, then you will be able to love others, deeply and truly. When you can love others, then, change takes place. Hopefully, a Better, United World will be the end result. One step at a time.Sin is sin. But, Sin can also be good, to remind us, that we need to make things better for Everyone and The World. Most importantly, for ourselves. Because, if we can change ourselves, then you can help The World be a better place to live in. Anyway. That's all I need to say. Hope that helps.


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