Tuesday, May 19, 2009

What choice do we have?!?!?!

In the recent weeks, in the discourse about my faith, someone referred to the "choices" I've made about religion. I was thinking about that word and how its used incorrectly in a few hot button issues. Are the things we believe or don't believe the result of us choosing to believe or not believe them? And if so, is that really believing? Where religion is concerned it opens up a lot of other issues about motives and why you're choosing to believe in the first place.

While you can certainly choose to shelter yourself from ideas you know will contradict what you believe, I don't believe you can choose your beliefs, really. There have definitely been times when I was confronted by a truth that clearly contradicted my belief and at the end of the day the only reaction really available to me was, "Well, shit, the damage is done." In my experience, for the most part, things either make sense to you or they don't. Simple.

You also hear the word "choice" thrown around when you're talking about homosexuality with people who don't know any homosexuals. While no one is sure (yet) whether gay people are born that way or if sexuality is shaped by experiences, or more probably a combination of the two, one thing we are sure about is that no homosexual will ever tell you, "I weighed my options and I opted for homosexuality." Its really quite absurd and ignorant to think anyone chooses their sexuality.

I think in the case of homosexuality people like to believe its a choice because it makes the gays responsible for what's "wrong with them," and therefore, easier to hate or at least be weirded out by. By the way, we're not the only animals that do it. Apparently, there's at least two penguins who are going straight to hell.

Anyway, if you believe that it is possible to choose what to believe then that choice is certainly necessary in the task of believing impossible things. I'm sure that believing in gravity is no chore for anyone, whereas, believing that a man fit at least two of every kind of animal on a boat or that a baby was born speaking requires some hefty faith. I guess faith is the right word for things we choose to believe. So why do we bother? I think "faith" is a word that gives a lot of intelligent people an excuse not to think about things that they can't explain. Why can't we just be OK with not knowing for sure?

Personally, I think the bulk of it stems from the whole "fear of death"/"what if we're wrong" thing. What if I'm wrong and Christianity is completely right? I guess that's as valid a question as any. I guess the answer to that is that I'll go to hell. Shit. Of course, that question begot other questions. What if Christians are wrong about Hinduism, or Buddhism, or Judaism, or Deism, or Islam, or Zeus, or Scientology? Better choose wisely.

Does anyone remember Columbine? One of the things I remember the most in the aftermath of the tragedy is the "She said 'yes'," shirts. If you're unfamiliar, a story surfaced about a girl who was confronted by the killers and asked if she believed in god. We'd all like to assume that if she'd said "no" then she would've lived, but she was brave and courageously said "yes." Who knows, maybe they would've shot her anyway. They clearly weren't the most stable of kids in the first place. I was in high school at the time and more Christian than I have ever been. I remember thinking, if someone put a gun in my face would I say "yes?" I felt secretly ashamed of myself because the honest answer was a definitive "NO." It made me think, do I really believe this or do I just want to, and is there a difference? If Christianity was right and I got to heaven would Yeshua be more likely to say "Hey there, friend! Great job with the faith!" or would my reception go more like, "Sorry man, sticking feathers up your ass doesn't make you a chicken. You pretended to believe and I knew the difference."

I maintain that nothing is my fault (with the exception of a lot of things).


  1. AAAaahhhh well here we have it... the same issue that i have wrestled for weeks... Homosexuality...it's place in the church and the rights they have and or deserve...

    this is a tough one for me because being a hair stylist i know and love (or in some cases am insanely annoyed with) many gay people...

    i know a few who go to gay friendly churches / temples... a few who have children from failed marriages to women... and many many more...

    here is my recent trouble (and i am posting this here for anybody else to explain this)

    does the new testament talk of homosexuality?
    i have been unable to find anything... not to say it isnt there, but i can not locate it...

    from what i can find a majority of the christian disdain for gay relationships stems from saddom and gammorah...

    this is old testament law... these same laws forbid us from eating shrimp, and having women speak in church (or being seen in public while on her period)...

    so are we as christian's bound to the same rules??

    does Christ's deeds for our salvation negate these rules???? all of them?????

    Jesus said he came to uphold the law... So does me speaking in church make me as ungodly as a homosexual??? my heart tells me no....

  2. This is a very complex and broad topic. There are several places that homosexuality is listed in a large list of things that displease God. Romans 1, 1 Corinthians 6, and 1 Timothy 1 (a little) all deal with the subject, but it is in list format. Most scholars believe that is is not discussed greatly in the NT and only listed due to the "common knowledge" that these practices were not pleasing to God.

    There's actually a lot of things listed in those passages that have to make you think. I don't believe that God sees any one sin greater than the other, so the homosexual sin is just as big as telling a lie.

    Paul is difficult to follow since he feels he needs to explain everything in detailed, 3-yard-long, run-on sentence form.

    I'm sure this will get criticism, but I believe very much that the Bible teaches that God's view on homosexuality is clear.

    I do regret that the church has made them feel so unwelcome in her halls. We all have things in our lives that God would rather we didn't. Honestly, there's probably nothing we can do about it. That's Jesus' part.

  3. Great post. I'm wondering, though, if anybody will be able to engage in discourse without referring to Bible passages. While I absolutely respect others' perspectives, as an atheist, defending something with a book that - to me - is just a book still leaves us at square one.

  4. Your blog is better than all other blogs. Of this I am sure. :)

  5. Hey Jennifer,
    That is the problem I run into the most with these kind of discussions. It is really frustrating because it makes it so hard to find a jumping off point between the believer and the unbeliever, when the one refuses to leave the holy texts out of the discussion. It brings up the whole "the bible is evidence of its own truth" argument, which is maddening. I always ask people what they would think about god if they'd never heard of a bible and how would they go about learning more about him/her/it/them?

  6. Millions managed to learn about God before and while the Bible was being written.

    The problem is the jumping off point. It begins with a worldview. That's what makes these discussions difficult. Everything I know and believe is based on my experience and belief in God. An atheist, the contrary.

    You really can't argue against homosexuality from any point of view except a moral standard, it being in nature a moral issue. If someone didn't believe it were wrong, why would we care? We're just animals living on the earth doing whatever we want when we strip away though, morality, and a general knowledge of right and wrong.

    I just refuse to believe that I am an animal and have no say in the decisions I make or the life I lead. I'm not saying that homosexuals are animals by any means. God loves them just as much as He does me. What I am saying is that when we reduce ourselves to basic instinct and desire with no regard for the standard of right and wrong, we are saying that animals we are.

  7. But we are animals though, albeit, highly evolved ones. I don't understand what you mean about it being a moral issue in nature. Please clarify.
    All animals, even wild ones, live by laws which we could consider to be a sense of morality, (I would recommend Ishmael by Daniel Quinn to anyone who wanted to look more into that) its only in humans that the concept of sin is present. Homosexuality is present in the animal kingdom, especially in social animal groups where overpopulation is a problem, which I find interesting.
    Like Jessica said, the Old Testament Hebrews wrote a lot of laws that the church flat out ignores because of their ridiculousness. A lot of those laws display a culture somewhat unhealthily obsessed with sex and totally derivative of it's macho male chauvinist leaders. I don't think its hard to imagine why they made it a sin. I will say that its a lot easier to call something an abomination than explain why it is one. But hey, that's me, I could be wrong.

  8. I fail to see how homosexuality is a morality issue. I also don't know of anyone who "chose" to be straight, based on morality, other than homosexuals who were in denial or in strife due to intolerant christians.

    I really like your blog, Taylor. If you want to know a secret, the whole time I've been reading your wife, which is a looong time, or at least as long as she has been with you, I've always thought "damned shame about Taylor being a christian." ;) Sorry if that offends anyone.

  9. "Everything I know and believe is based on my experience and belief in God. An atheist, the contrary."

    If I am reading this correctly, I respectfully disagree. I grew up Christian, and as a teenager, made the decision to be baptized. I would say everything that I know and believe as an atheist is based on my experience - especially my experience as a devout Christian.

    I also fail to see how homosexuality is a morality issue unless you are, in this case, a Christian. Square one, again. ;)

  10. Animals don't know anything about morality, only instinct. Any jr. high science book will tell you that. What I'm saying is that if we are simply animals, then we should say screw morality and let's just act on instinct, in which the foundation is simply desire. However, we are not animals in the fact that we deal with morality, whether we believe in God or not. There is something inside of us that tells us that certain things are right and wrong. Like when the poor are neglected and marginalized or when people are ignored simply because of race, belief, or social status. I don't believe that animals have this. I don't know many non-domesticated animals that would stop before they bite me and wonder if it's right or wrong to do so if they felt like I would be a tasty meal and they were hungry enough.

    Being baptized doesn't make you believe in Jesus, it just means that you got wet while misunderstanding what you were doing. I don't believe that God will hide from anyone who seeks him with everything they've got. Of course, I realize I don't know you and that anomalies exist for whatever reason.

    Jennifer, that's exactly what I am trying (however unclearly) to say. Homosexuality is not a moral issue unless you are a Christian or even Muslim, Jewish, or some other religion that teaches that this lifestyle is considered sinful in the eyes of God. That's why we never get past square one. We argue from different worldviews. That's why I say that my ideas on this issue are based on my experience: Grew up in church, believe in Christ as Savior, believe that the Bible teaches that Homosexuality is a sin and therefore something that offends God. So I am always going to argue from a moral standpoint simply because it's the only reason we care about this.

    I would love to explain why I think that homosexuality is an "abomination" to you from a non-Biblical point of view. However, without a moral objection, it's just personal opinion or preference.

    It has been made abundantly clear that I am possibly the only voice of opposition that reads this blog. For 30 years, I have dealt with the same questions you have and searched for answers and yet have come to a different conclusions. I do not believe myself to be better than anyone. I feel like Paul when he said "of sinners, I am the worst." Please understand that although I don't know some of you, I love you. That's the way Jesus wants it because He loves you too. Agree or disagree.

    Sorry for the long post. It's not the place for a dissertation I guess.

  11. i understand why christians want to convert others, as they claim a prize at the end....

    but why do unbelievers seek to convert if all that waits for any of us is a dirt nap.

    I guess one could argue that religion has caused more war than any other subject.

    I just know that If i didn't believe in god i wouldn't waist my time on the subject matter. Way to many issues of Spider-Man to read, dvds to watch, and konami games i have yet to conquer.

    but this obviously gets a rise out of many people, and that I can understand. P.T. Barnum used to plow with an elephant, not because it was good for the work of plowing but because it had people talking about P.T. Barnum. I in no way think Taylor is that vain, but if your going to start a blog this is good fodder to bring people in.

  12. I'm just so glad you're in the game, Seth. Its been really shocking to me to see a lot of people that I know disagree with me bow out under the banner of "I'm not smart enough for that discussion." Which makes me think, "Oh yeah? You're not smart enough to have a discussion about YOUR religion, that you seem to think is the most important thing in the world, and yet you're somehow unqualified to talk about it in detail?? Shouldn't that be a problem?!?!"

    These are difficult issues, to be sure, and there's probably no "real" point in debating them here but hey, what else have any of us got to do, really?

    As far as unbelievers wanting to de-convert people, its generally understood in the non religious community that the world would be a much better place to live without any religion. Not just because of war even though that is a big one (if anyone has seen the South Park with Richard Dawkins where Cartman travels to the future to get the Nintendo Wii, I think they did an amazing job showing that even without religion humans will always find an excuse to fight wars). PZ Myers had a really good blog yesterday about some of the other heartbreaking dangers of religion.

    I just want to thank everyone for coming here and giving a shit about what I think, and most importantly for being respectful of everyone else's opinions. I just started this blog because I have nothing but time on my hands at work and its fun and intellectually stimulating. Religion just happened to be what I'm thinking about a lot when I started it. But again thanks everyone for getting involved, it makes the world go round.

  13. It is very much a problem to find that many of "the faithful" aren't that faithful. I've always been frustrated that no one of the faith seems to be getting into the public arena and taking on the issues and accusations being fired at us.

    Religion probably is the reason for most of the wars that we have seen. Well, I should say it is A reason. Many have been based on political or financial gain as well, especially the two we have currently been in. People hold their beliefs so dear that they are willing to die for them. However, without religion, you're right, there probably would still be war. We are generally destructive in nature as a whole with the capacity for good (and as I believe, we only have the capacity for good because of God's love for us).

    I would recommend "The Reason for God" by Timothy Keller for anyone who wants to see a Christian perspective on many of these things that we've been talking about. Such a good read.

    Isn't "de-convert" kind of an oxymoron? ;)

    I'm going to go read Spiderman....

  14. I'm fond of what I've read here. Not surprising that the person whose lyrics I've loved so much has equally amazing thoughts in prose.

    This issue is tough to discuss because it does deal with issues of "morality" which is often a code word for "I don't want to change my mind, you can't make me" - what I mean by this is that when it comes to "morality" people believe that they are right even if they know that they're wrong- even if they know that they are hurting people. It's like they think "morality" gives them a get-out-of-being-a-jerk-free card. Like you wrote about Joshua, I think people use religion far too often to let themselves behave in ways that are ironically contradictory to the ten commandments, or to Jesus' plea to love thy neighbor.

    These commandments are NOT conditional. There's no "unless they're sinners" or "unless they don't believe in me" subscript. For this reason, I (raised catholic but no longer attending) can't say that God would have any problem with gays, or gay marriage, or gay friendliness. If Jesus wants us to love each other, He wants us to love each other. All of us. If He had meant "Only the ones who behave themselves" then He would have said "Love thy well-behaved neighbors."

  15. "Being baptized doesn't make you believe in Jesus, it just means that you got wet while misunderstanding what you were doing."

    Just wanted to clarify that when I pointed out I was baptized, I was trying to illustrate that I was at an age where I was conscious of the decision - not that being baptized made me believe in Jesus. That belief preceded the baptism.

    In any case, Seth, I'd also like to commend you for staying level-headed and participating in the discussion, even if we are going in circles ;)

  16. As an atheist, my motivations for wanting to "convert" the believers are totally benign. Whereas I feel like the religious convert people because they don't feel secure without everyone else around them believing the same thing. From my perspective, confining yourself to the intellectual limits of religion is wasting the incredible potential you have as a human with a curious mind. Science is amazing, we are learning all the time about the universe and yet people actually choose to put on the blinders and say they've already got it figured out because they read a book written by some really uneducated (and really miserable-sounding, frankly) first century people. It's a waste.

    While I've heard religious people say that my life as an atheist is miserable and pointless, I've got to argue the contrary. Who appreciates life more than someone who knows this is all they've got? It seems to me like a whole lot of people are wasting their short time on earth thinking about some fantasy land beyond the grave, all the while spreading hate, making wars, and generally making things difficult for the rest of us in the meantime.

  17. The "religious" as you call us convert because we believe mankind to be on a crash course with eternal punishment and we actually do love you who do not believe enough to go to great lengths to try and convince you of said course. I don't want you to go there. If I didn't try to convert people, then that would be true hatred.

  18. i thought you were reading spider-man?

    i think were all better off judged on our individual merits, and not to be lumped into the whole whether that be christian or atheist. I've known my fair share of assholes on either side of those fences.

    I see no need to list the reason I understand where anyone is coming from. My education, upbringing, and social situations have shaped who I am but do not define my being. As an individual I don't need the group speaking for myself, as I'm sure many in the group would shy from most things i say.

    More than anything Taylor, you are my friend and as you are taking a different path than before, its nice to see where your coming from in your logic. More than anything I love that your using science and south park as jumping off points. And this is as good a place as any to discuss these things, though i enjoy the lighter fare as watching the rock and hard place meet gets tiring.

  19. Really, it looks the same from both sides, to me. The believers convert to save souls while the non believers convert to save lives (and I don't just mean from death). Both are a labor of love, and I believe that both sides are chock full of good, moral people. I've said before that most of my favorite people are church going Christians so I never want to seem like I don't like and respect you because I think you're beliefs are invalid.
    Although, I'm technically more of a Deist (not that it makes much difference), I'm inclined to agree with a lot of what Teresa said, especially "Who appreciates life more than someone who knows this is all they've got?"
    This is all we're promised and it is troubling to see how religion has a huge amount of people more focused on an afterlife than they are on making this life better.

  20. But life is never so important as when viewed from your deathbed. I also live as if this is all I've got, just from a different perspective.

  21. I have always been very pro-gay rights because I am complete equal rights and it has always confused me how You can "love thy neighbor as thy self" yet degrade people because of their sexual preference. There is no diffence between that and racism to me. I feel like Jesus would have taken in homosexuals like he did whores & lepers and criminals but strangely, a)they must have been so evil that they were outcast, or b) it was just so morally taboo at the time that it never made it to print. I'm sure that by the time my son is a man this won't even be an issue. Homosexuality is becoming so desensitized to the younger generations that it almost seems to come off as a fad now days. It seems like 20 years from now every high-school student will have their "gay" phase where they tried it out and decided wether it was for them or not.. I hope not, but it definitely seems to be moving that way. Homosexuality is not a choice and it isn't like switching from being a kicker to an emo kid. But you wouldn't know that from watching most tv shows.

  22. I agree that we are moving closer to a society that accepts GLBT culture. I was having a discussion only days ago how the stigma has gone out of most places.

    I think many christians would say that when Jesus took in those whores that he told them to "go and sin no more". Others would say the sin is no worse than lying, cheating, etc.

    Personally I'm not here to condemn anyone. Lord knows I have opened my home to homosexuals with no ill thought about their living situations. I can't imagine what its like for it to be illegal to love someone.

    Homosexuality in film and television has lost its teeth at this point though. Something that used to be taboo as recently as My Own Private Idaho (1991) has hit the mainstream with Milk and Brokeback mountain. Over the years, change has come as gays aren't portrayed as sissy boys, but can be seen as strong charismatic males (see Tom Hanks in Philadelphia).

    My favorite is Wong kar Wais Happy Together. It leaves the characters sexuality somewhat ambiguous, and shows that a persons problems don't come from their sexuality, but their mindset. However, for every piece of genius in this film their as an equally bad amount of sitcom jokes to tear gays back to shreds.

    Every great political movement has started in entertainment, by playwrights, songwriters, etc. Those things bring it to the minds of the mainstream.

    Its to the courts, and the dictionaries to decide at this point the logistics of things like Prop 8. But politics aside its made for some good cinema.

  23. I think if my boyfriend & I ran at each other as fast as we could and collided and became one person, we would be as close to being you as one could get without actually being you.
    I have a similar background as you and am now in a very similar place concerning my religious beliefs – I think I am a 3 on the theist/atheist scale, while occasionally dabbling in a 2. My boyfriend has little to no religious background, and while he is a kind & loving person to all around him – and a liberal humanist – he struggles with understanding at all people who embrace Christian beliefs. I would say this is the only area of our relationship where we truly challenge each other because we have to try so hard to understand where the other is coming from – but it’s worth it so we do and it is has been very rewarding.

    Also, the way you write about your wife (and she about you), I almost feel as though I am seeing a parallel universe wherein my life with my bf is being played out by other people who are only slightly different than us. It is nice to see other people who are so insanely happy & in love w/ each other – it’s easy to start believing you are the only people in the world who not only love deeply, openly & freely w/o fear, but also respect, support, encourage, uplift, etc. one another all the time.

    You are braver than I am – I have not told any of my “church friends” or family about my lack of agreement with the beliefs that we use to wholeheartedly agree on. As far as they know I am simply not going to church because my boyfriend of 3 years doesn’t go to church. I am working on being more honest about it all – it is a slow process for me because I am scared.
    You wrote in another post about what you miss about church/church camp. I toooootally understand where you are coming from – the community, and the emotional bond over thinking/feeling as though you are working toward a higher purpose is hard to match. Personally, I miss the community more than anything.

    I really enjoy your posts (just found your blog today), and I feel like I have been wishing that someone who is in a similar place as I am would write about these things but in a way that I often find difficult to express. I will mos def be coming back. Thanks for sharing!

    One last thing: congratulations on end on becoming parents! Your daughter is beautiful and oh so cute.

  24. Thanks very much. We'll look forward to seeing you around here more often.