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.
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.