Good Reason

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Category: teh gay (page 1 of 4)

For all my Mormon Facebook friends

This hasn’t happened yet, but I’m so confident it will that I’m writing about it in the past tense. You too can have the spirit of prophecy — no Holy Ghost required!

Well, it’s been quite a week for Mormon-watchers! Ever since the church’s shockingly cruel policy for LGBT families was leaked from the not-for-regular-members handbook, there’s been talk. And you and I — former mission companions, fellow ward members — we’ve been mixing it up and arguing about it on Facebook.

Now I’ve been pretty harsh about this policy because I think it’s going to hurt people. “But, Daniel!” you’ve said. “Who’s it going to hurt? Those gay people aren’t going to want to be in the church anyway, so their kids aren’t missing out on anything. And you’re just a big old apostate anyway, so what do you care if kids — or anyone — don’t get baptised?”

Well, I do like it when people don’t join the church, that’s true. But you may be surprised to find that more people have become caught up in this thing than you might think. Some gay parents, formerly part of a mixed-orientation marriage, are happy for their kids to be in the church — maybe to keep the peace, maybe in the mistaken belief that religion teaches good wholesome values — and they’re now surprised to find that their kids aren’t welcome (unless they denounce their parents), and will be relegated to second-class status over this. Sorry — third-class. Women have second-class status. Hard to keep up.

Now I have a confession. I don’t actually think the Q15 actually intended this. There’s a saying known as Hanlon’s Razor: Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity. Well, I think the Brethren — fine legal minds notwithstanding — simply intended to retrofit the polygamy policy to another group that they wanted to take a hard line with. They didn’t mean for it to become well-known or publicised, and were surprised when it all blew up on them. (There’s one bit of anecdotal hearsay that bears this out.) Then they were in a bit of a corner, wondering what to do. They rolled out one of their elders (who has a gay brother) to make a video statement, but that didn’t help.

Now here’s the most shocking and disappointing thing about all of this. In the week since the story broke, during our discussions on social media, you never doubted anything after maybe the first few hours. You never showed (to me at least) any sentiment like, “Gee, that’s a bit harsh.” Nothing like that. You wanted to believe that your leaders were inspired, and so when an explanation was handed to you, you clung to it. And so your defence of your leaders was full-throated and vociferous.

And the defence you offered was: It’s not a cruel policy! It’s a kind policy. The church has decided not to cause tensions between gay parents and straight kids. (Besides the eventual denunciation, that is.) By not letting kids get baptised, the church is really preventing setting families against each other. It was a silly rationale — the church doesn’t have a problem creating tension in part-member families, in which kids can get baptised. And we debated that.

But, again, your belief that your leaders couldn’t be wrong — when they clearly were — was shocking. It told me that you had outsourced your conscience. Is there anything they could do that you wouldn’t sign off on? Probably not. And that tells me that your moral compass is broken, in a way that wouldn’t be so without the church.

So now, on a drowsy news Friday, President Newsroom has released a statement walking back some of the policy, and relaxing the ban. They had to do it. There really wasn’t a choice, if they wanted to control the damage.

But in so doing, they’ve sold you out. There you were, defending them and their “kind policy”. Now that even they’ve had to admit that the policy wasn’t so kind, they’ve sort of pulled out the rug from under you, haven’t they? You were defending something that even they couldn’t defend. Not to mention what this says about their supposed revelatory capacity; they really didn’t see this coming! So much for ‘discernment’.

Most of all, I wonder how you feel now. I wonder if this will trigger any reflection, or if you’ll just go back to obedience and moral slumber. I hope not. I hope you’ll think about this for a good long while.

Response to a Facebook friend, re: exclusion of LDS kids in gay families

Here’s an old mission companion, on a thread about this:

Mormon Church to exclude children of same-sex couples from getting blessed and baptized until they are 18

Children living in a same-sex household may not be blessed as babies or baptized until they are 18, the Mormon Church declared in a new policy. Once they reach 18, children may disavow the practice of same-sex cohabitation or marriage and stop living within the household and request to join the church.

The policy changes, which also state that those in a same-sex marriage are to be considered apostates, set off confusion and turmoil among many Mormons after the policy was leaked online. The changes in the handbook for local church leaders for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints were confirmed Thursday by church spokesman Eric Hawkins.

My former companion says:

>I received a witness of he Church as a young 19 year old as I pounded the streets of Perth with many of you.

Thank goodness when we knocked on doors, we didn’t have to say, “Hi! We’re missionaries from the Church of… er… your parents aren’t gay, are they? Good, we’ll continue.”

I’m wondering how missionaries today will keep from inadvertently teaching someone who isn’t eligible.

>I believe in God and I believe the LDS church is his church. If this is what God has decided then it’s not for me to argue.

I would say that this cruel and unfair policy is convincing evidence that either

  • LDS leaders are operating from a source other than a just and fair god — be it their own prejudices, or their own principles, or
  • the god that Mormons worship has an inordinate concern with the sexual behaviour of humans, but is unconcerned with justice. And, in my view, is not worth worshipping.

Or perhaps both.

>Maybe I’m too simple in my views but what I fought for as a 19 year old when I laboured with you all then has not changed now.

Our views should change as we get older. As Paul said, “When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child. But when I became a man, I put away childish things.” I think homophobia is a childish thing, and worse, it harms people. In my life, I’ve made gay, lesbian, bi, and trans friends, and some co-workers. I’ve learned that there was a commonality to our life experiences, and that any prejudice I might have felt toward them was my own problem. And I’ve sorted it out. I’ve learned that every member of a society has the right to equal treatment.

Sadly, the LDS Church hasn’t learned this — speaking of the church collectively and not individually, of course. It has formed harmful and cruel policies, and now it has doubled down on them. Well, as an exMo, it would be easy to say, “What do I care — I’m no longer in the church.” But the climate of homophobia fostered by the LDS Church is having a harmful effect on LGBT people, especially the ones in the church. It is setting children against parents — a potential convert will have to leave the supportive environment offered by gay parents, turn their backs on them and denounce their relationships. Wow. That’s cold.

Kids (even straight kids) in blended families won’t be able to participate in the church they’ve grown up in, because one set of parents is in a gay relationship. Suddenly ineligible. And this is contrary to AoF2; the kids will be responsible for the actions of their parents.

Does all of this seem right to you?

Fortunately, most people in “the world” are starting to operate from a position of kindness. They are showing more compassion and love than the LDS leadership is currently capable of.

You may be too far into the LDS community to see how regular people regard this. When I tell my neverMo friends about this, or who they see it in the news — yes, it is hitting the news — they’re horrified. And it confirms to them that the church is a homophobic organisation. It is — as we call other groups when they exist to promote bigotry — a hate group.

The leadership will eventually change on this issue, just like they did with race and the priesthood. They’ll walk it back with an anonymous essay on the website, if we still have websites then. Until then, they (and you) are on the wrong side of history. They’ve chosen exclusion and bigotry.

What will you choose? Understanding and compassion? Or obedience?

Response to “Quit Acting Like Christ Was Accepting of Everyone and Everything”

A Latter-day Saint on my Facebook feed has posted a link to Greg Trimble’s blog post: “Quit Acting Like Christ Was Accepting of Everyone and Everything“.

It’s partly a response to the Kelly/Dehlin excommunications, but also a call-to-arms for conservative Mormons to hold fast to their intolerance and authoritarianism. It says, in part:

I don’t care whether you’re Mormon, Catholic, Protestant, or any other type of Christian…one thing is for certain. The Gospel of Jesus Christ is not a ‘buffet’ that you can compile your perfect plate from. There is no salvation in building your own religion or customizing Christ to suit your needs and wants. The popular trend is to determine how you’d like to live your life and then to conform Christ to that lifestyle. It is done by appealing to Christ’s infinite love and mercy. But you can’t just go around rehearsing that “God is Love” (1 John 4:8) and then be done with it. John 3:16 is awesome…but it’s just one verse! God wouldn’t have given you all of those other verses if he didn’t want you to read them and apply them.

In my response, I decided to ignore the fact that conservative Mormons are cherry-picking just like the liberal ones are, and to focus instead on the inflexible ‘iron rod’ mentality that I see in this piece.

Here’s my Facebook response, written to a wall full of Mormons:

I’d like to respectfully share my thoughts, even though I’m coming from the perspective of an ex-Mormon atheist.

In a way, I completely agree with the sentiments expressed in this article. So many times, I’ve seen liberal religious people saying, “Jesus would have loved everybody! Jesus was all about the lerrrve.” And my response has been, “While it’s admirable that you’re trying to emulate those good qualities, ‘love everybody’ is by no means the sum totality of Jesus’ message.”

Jesus was a 1st-century rabbi who knew the law of Moses, which required (for instance) gay people to be killed. While he was somewhat revolutionary in his willingness to teach women, there’s no indication that he would have been aligned in any significant way with 21st century political liberals.

I confess that I have an ulterior motive in pointing this out to people: I secretly like it when religious conservatives (like the author) give voice to sentiments like these, because I know that this is the one thing that is driving people away from conservative religions like the LDS Church. The more hardened and stuck Latter-day Saints are in these attitudes, the fewer people will be attracted to the LDS Church and to Christianity, and as an atheist, I think this is a good thing. My biggest nightmare is that the Church will liberalise, because then it will become more appealing to people and actually become stronger. There is a lot that is (or could be) good about the church, but currently a small constellation of political issues and actions are making it less-than-appealing to potential converts, and churches who take this course are not surviving. This may not be a concern if you think that the church is true, inspired, and can’t fail. From my outside perspective, I think members should be very alarmed.

I will say one thing about the liberal religionists: Yes, they are cherry-picking the good bits, and ignoring what’s in the scriptures. But they are generally nicer and better people for it; less authoritarian, less likely to have oppressive attitudes toward women, less likely to reject their gay kids. I agree that a strict reading of scripture lends itself to the kind of conclusions that this author is arriving at. But I’d say, so much the worse for the strict reading. I don’t think it leads to a good place.

I welcome your thoughts on this.

For religions like the LDS Church that fight social justice and inclusion in a world where doing so is less and less acceptable, there’s only one way for the numbers to go. It will shrink and harden into a rump. Yes, it’s sad that good people are getting harmed by the dogma of this church. But if it refuses to change, then I’m happy to watch it drive itself into the ground, and drive away its younger and more tolerant membership.

Archbishop Tutu had better find a new religion.

Gee — Archbishop Desmond Tutu has risen a couple of points in my estimation. He’s come out as a supporter of equality for gay people, saying he wouldn’t worship a homophobic god.

“I would refuse to go to a homophobic heaven. No, I would say sorry, I mean I would much rather go to the other place,” the retired archbishop said.

“I would not worship a God who is homophobic and that is how deeply I feel about this,” he said, condemning the use of religious justification for anti-gay prejudice.

Now for the bad news. What Tutu doesn’t seem to realise is that, according to the Bible, the god he worships is in fact terribly and deeply homophobic, in both the Old Testament and the New.

The Skeptics’ Annotated Bible has a longer version.

You know what happens when I mention this to Christians? I tell them about the Old Testament, and they say, “That’s just the Old Testament.” Then I tell them about the New Testament, and they say, “That’s just Paul.” Motherfucker, it’s all just Paul. There’s not a lot they can’t accommodate if they want to — and I’m glad they want to! I’m glad Christians are ignoring the bullshit in their Bible — but when you’ve thrown Jehovah and Paul under the bus, what’s left?

So I’m glad Tutu feels strongly about this, and he’s in a position to do some good on this issue. But his stand is at variance with the Bible, no matter how he tries to spin it.

Many modern Christians are trying to give God a makeover. They point out that Jesus never said anything about homosexuality. But this is misguided. Jesus would have been a 1st century rabbi. There’s no indication that he would have disagreed with the Torah, which (again) demands death for gay people.

Bottom line: If you’re Christian, you worship a homophobic god. By all means, be equality-minded. That’s just being a normal, good person. But if you try to claim a religious justification for your stand, you’re stretching it farther than the Bible will allow.

Here’s an idea for my equality-minded Christian friends: Since you’re getting your view from your own morality, and not the Bible, why not just skip the middleman in all other areas? Toss the Bible, and rely on your own good human morality, just like you do on loads of other issues.

Okay, for some people even having a gay son doesn’t work.

Well, I was pretty critical of Ohio senator Rob Portman, who changed his mind about gay marriage when it affected him personally. But it should be noted that some people aren’t even able to get that far. Meet Rep. Matt Salmon (R-Arizona).

SALMON: I don’t support the gay marriage… My son is by far one of the most important people in my life. I love him more than I can say… I’m just not there, as far as believing in my heart that we should change 2,000 years of social policy in favor of a redefinition of the family. I’m not there.

Salmon the Elder is a nice piece of work:

Salmon’s son, Matt, talked to the Phoenix New Times back in 2010 about his sexuality and explained that his father is not nearly as loving or respectful as he may claim. Matt’s been with his boyfriend Kent Flake for over 10 years, but his family doesn’t allow Flake to be around, and Matt’s siblings defriended him on Facebook for promoting gay rights. He endured years of ex-gay therapy, but has since left the Mormon Church.

I suppose I didn’t have to mention that Salmon is a Mormon. There’s something about enrobing yourself in layers of pious priesthood sanctimony that makes everything you do all right, no matter how repellent. Any absolutist ideology can turn you into a hateful dickbag, but religion is especially good at subverting a normal person’s better tendencies. What a shame, for both father and son.

Which is why that quote from David O. McKay is so very wrong:

“The purpose of the church is to make bad men good and good men better.”

In fact, religion makes normal people worse if they really believe it, while good people can still be decent if they don’t take it too seriously.

You can quote me on that.

We hope to advance our bigotry in the spirit of tolerance and mutual understanding.

Slightly shorter Michael Otterson:

Ohai. I’m representing the Mormon Church. The prophet couldn’t be here for reasons of plausible deniability.

I’d just like to say that no one should be mean to gay people. Boy, do we know what that’s like! People were mean to us once, and it sucked! Amirite, gay people? or should I say fellow victims?

Anyway. No one should be having sex unless they’re married, which clearly precludes gays, for as long as we can help it. But Jesus loves gay people, and wants them to be celibate all their lives. This is hard, but we’re here to help, with endless church meetings about the joy of sexual repression.

Obviously, some will disagree with us, but they’re probably just misrepresenting our position.

Some of us don’t need a gay son to change our minds.

Ohio senator Rob Portman has become the latest Republican to reverse his opposition to gay marriage.

Why the switch? Like other Republicans, one of his kids is gay.

“It allowed me to think of this from a new perspective, and that’s of a dad who loves his son a lot and wants him to have the same opportunities that his brother and sister would have – to have a relationship like Jane and I have had for over 26 years,” Portman told reporters during that interview.

Before I get started, let me just say that this is a powerful argument for coming out. Closet cases, take note.

Senator Portman: I’d like to say good for you for not turning your back on your son. Many parents of gay children do, and it puts them at higher risk of suicide. It’s always challenging to change deeply held views, and you did it. Well done.

But — you didn’t change your mind until this issue affected you personally. It’s like that king in the story of St. George. When the commoners’ kids get sacrificed to the dragon every day, it’s unavoidable. But when it’s the princess’s turn, then — holy crap! — it’s time to do something! I don’t find the king to be a terribly commendable character. Maybe if his reasons for doing the right thing were a little less egocentric.

Do you think that next time you have a moral decision — health care, euthanasia, climate change — you can remember this, and maybe just imagine what you would do if you or someone you love were affected, instead of needing to have it play out?

I suspect that if you did this, you might not be a Republican for very long. But give it a try, okay?

UPDATE Jon Chait:

Portman ought to be able to recognize that, even if he changed his mind on gay marriage owing to personal experience, the logic stands irrespective of it: Support for gay marriage would be right even if he didn’t have a gay son. There’s little sign that any such reasoning has crossed his mind.

Matthew Yglesias:

It’s a great strength of the movement for gay political equality that lots of important and influential people happen to have gay children. That obviously does change people’s thinking. And good for them.

But if Portman can turn around on one issue once he realizes how it touches his family personally, shouldn’t he take some time to think about how he might feel about other issues that don’t happen to touch him personally? Obviously the answers to complicated public policy questions don’t just directly fall out of the emotion of compassion. But what Portman is telling us here is that on this one issue, his previous position was driven by a lack of compassion and empathy. Once he looked at the issue through his son’s eyes, he realized he was wrong. Shouldn’t that lead to some broader soul-searching? Is it just a coincidence that his son is gay, and also gay rights is the one issue on which a lack of empathy was leading him astray? That, it seems to me, would be a pretty remarkable coincidence. The great challenge for a senator isn’t to go to Washington and represent the problems of his own family. It’s to try to obtain the intellectual and moral perspective necessary to represent the problems of the people who don’t have direct access to the corridors of power.

UPDATE AGAIN Steve Benen

To be sure, I’m genuinely glad Portman has done the right thing, and can only hope it encourages other Republicans to do the same. What I find discouraging, though, is that the Republican senator was content to support discriminatory policies until they affected someone he personally cares about.

What about everyone else’s sons and daughters? Why must empathy among conservatives be tied so directly to their own personal interactions?

LDS Church is offended by your taking offense at their offensiveness.

The LDS Church has filed a brief with the US Supreme Court, claiming that their involvement with Prop 8 wasn’t motivated by hatred.

“On the contrary, our members supported Proposition 8 based on sincere beliefs in the value of traditional marriage for children, families, society, and our republican form of government.

We don’t hate them! We’re just trying to protect ourselves from them!

And then they whip out a little bit of “shame on you for demeaning our bigoted beliefs”.

Only a demeaning view of religion and religious believers could dismiss our advocacy of Proposition 8 as ignorance, prejudice, or animus.”

I’d say that only a demeaning view of gay people could view their marriages and relationships as antithetical to children, families, society, and government.

People operating under a sense of religious privilege, lifted up by the unquestionable righteousness of their cause, have literally no idea how offensive their actions are. They also have no clue about how ridiculous their umbrage looks to normal people.

Wedding

I am pleased to announce that Miss Perfect and I are married!

The wedding was on a lovely Saturday afternoon, just a couple of weekends ago. The bride was radiant in her dress, the groom dashingly handsome in tails. After photographs and dinner, we danced all night. It was a beautiful day with family and friends.

I used to have a hypothesis about weddings, and it was that they’re intended as a stress test for the relationship. If your relationship could survive the planning, the organisation, and the negotiation of a thousand details, then you passed the qualifying round. But this wedding wasn’t like that at all, mostly because Miss Perfect did such a great job of organising things, and we fully agreed with each other on colours, typefaces, flowers, cakes, and music. We worked together to make invitations and menus. There were only a couple of times throughout the process when we asked each other: Why are we doing this again?

Why were we getting married? Secular atheists don’t need marriage. We’d been living together, sleeping together, building our home together for the last five years. We were already both committed to each other for the rest of our lives. We won’t change, we told each other. We won’t start acting ‘married’ — wait, is that a bad thing?

Okay, so if nothing is going to change, then why go through an elaborate wedding and become married people?

And the answer was simple: It was a chance to throw a really great party. No, really; great clothes, a choir, music, pomp. Especially the pomp. What a great opportunity to gather a whole bunch of people together (even family and friends from America) and have a whole day to celebrate love and relationships.

But the thing about that — after the wedding, for a couple of days, we were on a huge high from the outpouring of love from everyone and from each other. It was like being on a serotonin water-slide, riding on waves of affirmation from everyone.

We noticed another thing after the wedding. We felt like more of a couple. Of course, we walked around the house saying, “Hello Mr” and “Hello Mrs”, enjoying that unfamiliar strangeness. But we also felt more solid somehow. More established and grown-up. Our relationship was official. Society approved. Which is silly, but that’s how it feels. It feels like being real.

Marriage equality has been on my mind. Washington’s gay-marriage initiative passed last month (and I was pleased to have voted for it). However, in Australia, it’s still not legal. The marriage celebrant even had to include this little gem in her bit:

Marriage, according to law in Australia, is the union of a man and a woman to the exclusion of all others, voluntarily entered into for life …

which discriminates against not only my gay friends, but also my polyamorous friends. Seriously — isn’t that the kind of thing adults can decide for themselves? We have a long way to go, it seems.

So amid the wedding buzz and all the friends and the food and the love, and above all, my beautiful bride and I entering into a new stage of our relationship with a shiny new official status, I thought: Screw anyone who would try and prevent someone – anyone, I don’t care who – from having this, from feeling this way. It’s too wonderful to stop. Seriously — find me someone who thinks this. I’ll slap them upside the head and ask what’s wrong with them. Consenting adults in a loving relationship shouldn’t be allowed to have this amazing experience? Just because you don’t like their kind of relationship? Get out of town. This attitude isn’t just bigoted; it seems to originate from a kind of viciousness that’s worse than mere bigotry.

There are many arguments for marriage equality. Some involve hospital visits and wills, and some involve basic fairness. I’d like to add one to the list. Having a wedding is wonderful. So is the way you feel about your partner and your relationship afterward. That should be for everyone.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – –
Our wedding booklet contained this snippet:

Marriage is a vital social institution. The exclusive commitment of two individuals to each other nurtures love and mutual support. Civil marriage is at once a deeply personal commitment to another human being and a highly public celebration of the ideals of mutuality, companionship, intimacy, fidelity, and family. Because it fulfills yearnings for security, safe haven, and connection that express our common humanity, civil marriage is an esteemed institution and the decision whether and whom to marry is among life’s momentous acts of self-definition.

It is undoubtedly for these concrete reasons, as well as for its intimately personal significance, that civil marriage has long been termed a ‘civil right.’ Without the right to choose to marry, one is excluded from the full range of human experience.

Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court, 2003

A+

Regular readers will notice a lull in the frequency of posting here on Good Reason. Part of that is that I got a new job that’s keeping me busy, but then I have been busy before. And lately I’ve felt like I’m running out of things to say. But it’s not really that.

Something’s been paining me about Movement Atheism. Elevatorgate was an uncomfortable wake-up call, but I managed to hit snooze. The recent TAM difficulty renewed my discomfort. In both cases, a female atheist blogger expressed perfectly reasonable discomfort with unwanted sexual attention, and was met with rape threats (from the most unhinged) or self-serving counter-arguments (from a lot of atheist guys). The casual and not-so-casual sexism of atheist guys really bugged me. Weren’t we progressive thinkers? Why was this going so wrong? And then Thunderf00t’s actions on Freethought Blogs gave me a rising sense that something bad was happening to my movement. This made it easy not to blog. I was busy, after all. I had other things to do. And it hurt to watch, so I turned away. In the words of Leonard Cohen, I ached in the places where I used to play.

So I was encouraged by this blog post by Jen McCreight.

I don’t want good causes like secularism and skepticism to die because they’re infested with people who see issues of equality as mission drift. I want Deep Rifts. I want to be able to truthfully say that I feel safe in this movement. I want the misogynists, racists, homophobes, transphobes, and downright trolls out of the movement for the same reason I wouldn’t invite them over for dinner or to play Mario Kart: because they’re not good people. We throw up billboards claiming we’re Good Without God, but how are we proving that as a movement? Litter clean-ups and blood drives can only say so much when you’re simultaneously threatening your fellow activists with rape and death.

It’s time for a new wave of atheism, just like there were different waves of feminism. I’d argue that it’s already happened before. The “first wave” of atheism were the traditional philosophers, freethinkers, and academics. Then came the second wave of “New Atheists” like Dawkins and Hitchens, whose trademark was their unabashed public criticism of religion. Now it’s time for a third wave – a wave that isn’t just a bunch of “middle-class, white, cisgender, heterosexual, able-bodied men” patting themselves on the back for debunking homeopathy for the 983258th time or thinking up yet another great zinger to use against Young Earth Creationists. It’s time for a wave that cares about how religion affects everyone and that applies skepticism to everything, including social issues like sexism, racism, politics, poverty, and crime. We can criticize religion and irrational thinking just as unabashedly and just as publicly, but we need to stop exempting ourselves from that criticism.

Ah, the Second Wave. Remember that? Coming out as an New Atheist, and not afraid to say it. Heady days. And remember how we used to feel like we were on solid ground when we said that ‘atheism is nothing more than a lack of belief in gods’? Except when you looked around at other atheists, that wasn’t really true. We really did have other things in common besides just our lack of belief. We were attracted to a constellation of issues, including skepticism, secularism, science, political progressivism, and (pretty uniformly) equality for LGBT people.

I see this third wave — or as a commenter on Jen’s thread dubbed it, A+ — as a simple way of acknowledging that atheism can incorporate positive values, including social justice and gender equality. It can go beyond what I call ‘mere atheism’ and reflect the values that atheism draws us toward, but does not necessarily encompass.

An example of how this works: How do we get from atheism to respect for LGBT people? Many times I’ve seen atheists complain about LGBT posts on Reddit: “How did this get here? What does this have to do with atheism?” Well, not much to do with ‘mere atheism’, but a lot to do with actual atheism. It may be partly “the enemy of my enemy” thinking; religions have had gay people oppressed and killed, we don’t accept the right of religions to do this; ergo, we oppose it. And just as Richard Dawkins’ use of the ‘coming out’ metaphor has been apt in the case of atheists, we feel like our lack of societal acceptance and even ostracism from our families helps us make common cause with LGBT people, who endure much of the same.

So how do we get from atheism to acceptance of women as equals, deserving of respect? I see a clear line from skepticism to feminism. To be a skeptic is to constantly remind yourself that you may be wrong, that you need to keep revising your accepted beliefs, and there’s always more that you could be a little more skeptical about. Well, I’ve realised that I can do better at challenging my attitudes about sexism. Oh, but I don’t consider myself a sexist person, right? Maybe sexists never do. And if I’m truly not a sexist — if I’ve incorporated that value so thoroughly into my thoughts and actions — then why not say so?

So I’m saying so. I’m stepping beyond ‘mere atheism’ and reaching out for that third wave: A+. In some ways, it’s quite natural to do so, and in other ways, I can tell I’m going to have to do a lot of listening, thinking, and updating. But as a skeptical atheist, I can do that.

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