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Friday, November 21, 2008


I've often heard people ask whether being gay is a choice. See e.g., Bill Richardson's response to Melissa Ethrige's question. (Warning, it makes one cringe worse than any episode of the Office but here is the link.) I think it is a weird way to put things. For example, did I choose to like big band music more than classical music? Did I choose to like chocolate? If choose means to consciously, willingly pick between alternatives, then the answer is no.

The other alternative presented is "being born that way." But, the opposite of a characteristic with which you were born, is not a characteristic you choose. It is a characteristic affected by your environment. Nature versus nurture. I am sure that is what the serious thinkers are looking into when doing research or writing white papers. But I think rephrasing the question "is it a choice" would allow for a more honest every day discussion.

Religion or Faith

Faith and religion are very related. But for the organized theology, the tradition and practices, the reverred texts, I would almost certainly not have the beliefs that make up my faith today. As I put it once before, "One can find truth without adherence to a religion. Particularly in matters such as learning kindness and empathy, as well as behavioral derivatives. However, I believe achieving a greater understanding of our world alone, without reference to great leaders in this area would be as difficult as deriving Newton's laws of motion without Newton."Statement of Faith

Similarly, without faith, without the love and hope and passion that adherents bring to a religion, religion becomes an empty set of rules and rituals. It becomes the thing you study in a comparative religions class.

It has been my experience that people are usually pretty willing to throw religion under the bus if it allows them to feel okay about faith. I know some people who describe themselves as spiritual but not religious.

Here's my question: Are Religulous and Sam Harris and others questioning the value of religion or faith?

(*BTW, I've changed my own mind three times while typing this post, so I it is a serious question for me.)

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Next Meta Question

If we want to consider whether religion is good or evil, if it should be encouraged or opposed, how important is it to examine the effect religion has had to date?

Obviously past performance is not necessarily predictive of future behavior. But, it is strong evidence, no? Perhaps we could stop short of abolishing organized religion by studying it impact on history to determine where it has gone wrong.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Outrage & Justice

A friend who is Mormon was expressing concern about the lack of voices decrying the vandalism and intimindation being directed against the LDS church in response to California's rejection of Prop. 8. I was pleased to find a condemnation (which may be late in coming, I don't know) in the first article I found on the topic.
While claiming it was incorrect to assume the suspicious powder came from gay protesters, the Utah Pride Center, an advocacy group of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community, decride all vandalism aimed at the LDS Church in a written statement released Friday. "The Utah Pride Center is deeply troubled by the recent vandalism of LDS churches and the suspicious mailing to the LDS Temple," the statement read. "These actions are deplorable and make our entire community fear for our safety." . . . Equality Utah, [a] political advocacy group working for the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people has released a statement urging civil and peaceful expressionas and conduct. "There is no room for violence, vandalism or indimidation--Equality Utah objects to these acts," the organization's statement said.
Full story. If you follow the link you will get the details on the attacks the Mormon Church has had to endure.

This Slate article is in line with what my Mormon friends report about the Church's policy, which is more accepting that many fundamentalist churches. They condemn homosexual acts, but do not see homosexuality as a choice and would accept someone who was openly gay but chose celebacy as a response to his or her feelings.

Now, I would find it unimaginably horrible if someone said it was fine that I was attracted to women but a sin if I acted on it. I think the LDS community is wrong and it causes serious harm to its members who are gay. My point is only that the church's position is less hateful than many churches, and it is unfortunate that it is bearing so much of the outrage over the injustice that is Prop 8, Prop 102, etc. [UPDATE: I think the "only" is misplaced. The lack of hatefulness is a significant difference.]

Oh yeah, and just for kicks here's something that purports to be historic. Link.