The real purpose of Stuart's activities was to get even. - Schrödinger's Cat
In case you hadn't heard, over the weekend the Episcopal Church ordained their second openly gay bishop. This time a lesbian reverend canon from the Diocese of Los Angles. As you can imagine this has created quite a stir in the church and will likely cause a major schism much like the issue of slavery did in the 1850s. That's not really what I wanted to talk about right now though. Interdoctrinal issues has never been my thing especially since I'm never even stepped foot in an Episcopalian church.
I find the Episcopalians' acceptance of homosexuals to be very progressive and open-minded and should be commended even if we do disagree on many many other points. It does bring up the question of how the world would be different if all other denominations were as friendly to gay people. I thought it such an interesting topic that I posed the question to the one online forum where I thought I would get the best possible answer: Yahoo Answers.
Yes, I know what you are going to say. Yahoo Answers is one of the dumbest places on the internet. It has successfully proven wrong the hypothesis of the Wisdom of Crowds over and over again and is more known for people asking "how is babby formed" and needing to "do way instain mother". It's not exactly the highest form of conversation over there. Half of the people are trolls and the other half you wish were trolls. But still, I have an obsession with the Religion and Spirituality section. In practice, it is just a bunch of people yelling at each other over their beliefs. The fast paced style appeals to me though which is why I'm a level 6 with over 14,000 points. (Yes, I really do need a life).
So, in order to see what the general feeling was about this topic I asked the simple question:
Would there be less atheists if Christianity was more accepting of homosexuals?(I like to keep my question on YA as simple and straightforward as possible. Adding details is usually worthless and, I'll be honest, you get funnier answers from the idiots that are not smart enough to understand the question.)
It must have touched a nerve because I was able to get more than 30 answers on an otherwise slow Sunday afternoon. Many of them fell into the following categories: God doesn't change (LOL!) so we should keep on hating the gays, most people are atheists for other reasons than how Christians treat gays or WHARRGARBL. (That last one is typical of any question asked on YA).
The one who earned my Best Answer was Kevin B. since he was the only one who seemed to understand what I was getting at:
There may be more Christians, but I doubt it would convert many atheists. A Church not acceptiong (sic) homosexuals leads you to leave that Church, not change your belief in God.
If every single church in the world suddenly decided that they were going to cut the crap, stop calling homosexuality an abomination and finally give all homosexuals equal rights I don't expect any atheists to automagically convert back to Christianity. It just doesn't work that way.
However, it is more interesting to wonder how many people would have never left Christianity in the first place. For many people the treatment of gay people was the last straw (or one of the many straws) that finally broke the camels back. There are large numbers of people who were Christian and either gay or were close friends of a gay person who was made to feel an outcast for not thinking that love was a sin. There are similar controversies like that that have driven people out of their churches. For me it was creationism. For others it is the overwhelming politicization over the last several decades. For still others it is the oppression of woman that has been preached from the very beginning of Christianity. For some it was just a personal slight by another church member that drove them over the top.
But if you notice in each one of those issues it wasn't theology or reason that made them abandon their faith. Many current atheists who were raised Christian made an emotional decision to stop believing in God and then rationalized their way backwards. (It doesn't help that Christianity is unable to answer many basic questions.) Most people need that catalyst to break the spell religion has put them under.
Because, let's face it, humans suck at making rational choices. We often pick our religious and political beliefs in a reactive rather than proactive way. We believe one thing over another because FUCK THOSE OTHER GUYS! I'll cop to it. A long time ago I was added to the daily e-mail list of OneNewNow, the propaganda arm of the American Family Association. Very right wing and very very religious. I automatically assume that any story being reported by them is wrong and has at least one lie by omission. Why do I do that? Because FUCK THOSE GUYS. Granted, this method has actually worked 90% of the time but that doesn't mean it is right for me to be so biased.
So, what does this mean for us? First off, it means that we probably shouldn't try to rationalize people out of being religious. As the old saying goes, "You can’t reason someone out of a position they didn’t reason themselves into." I know that it's considered dirty and underhanded to use appeals to emotion in a debate but 1) they started it and 2) it actually works. Secondly, we should be more introspective and check our emotions at the door. Being your own Devil's Advocate is a very handy mindfuck. Don't be afraid to question your beliefs at all times. Don't let anger and spite cloud your judgment.
(One last thing: Yes, I realize that most of this post doesn't address people who weren't raised as religious and weren't exposed to faith at an impressionable age. And yes, there are people that are smart enough to rationalize their way out of religion. You are probably one of them. Also, you smell nice. Is that a new cologne?)