Conservative Honesty out of the Same-Sex Marriage Ruling

Yesterday, the Supreme Court ruled that same-sex marriages are now legal in all states and all states have to recognize same-sex marriages from other states. The ruling is especially relevant to me, living in Texas but married to my partner of almost 16 years in another state. It’s a great day for civil rights in the United States, but that’s not my reason for this post. I’ve noticed that the ruling has had a positive effect on the religious right: suddenly, they’re a lot more honest about their true motives than they have been. Let me explain.

Christian conservatives have their panties in a bunch over the ruling. Like many arguments you hear from those quarters, there’s a lot of spin and obfuscation. Some are claiming that a majority voting on the rights of a minority is a foundational part of our government. As Ben Franklin said, “Democracy is two wolves and a lamb voting on what to have for lunch. Liberty is a well-armed lamb contesting the vote.” Other conservatives claim that states’ rights are paramount and same-sex marriage should be an issue left to the states. Ironically, the case was ruled on the 14th Amendment, which became part of our Constitution precisely because the states were abusing the rights of their people. Maybe they would prefer to have the Confederate flag above the U.S. flag on their government buildings.

In a refreshing bit of honesty, conservative Texas politicians are finally admitting that same-sex marriage has been about religion all along. Texas Governor Greg Abbott said, “Despite the Supreme Court’s rulings, Texans’ fundamental right to religious liberty remains protected. No Texan is required by the Supreme Court’s decision to act contrary to his or her religious beliefs regarding marriage.” Nothing scandalous there. That’s what the advocates of same-sex marriage had been saying all along. Texans are still able to go to churches that condemn gays and fomenting hate. No church has to marry a same-sex couple. They can still thump their Bibles about gays, ignoring what the Bible says about witches, Jews, abortion (i.e. nothing), Amelekites, eating shellfish, figs, talking donkeys, Lot making babies with his married daughters, golden hemorrhoids, or anything that doesn’t make them money. We all know it’s not about Biblical integrity. It’s about spinning and interpretation to advance your agenda. Yes, Gov. Abbott, all that hasn’t changed.

What has changed is Christians can no longer point at gays and say they’re less in the eyes of the law and therefore Christians are somehow better. Legally, Christian marriages are exactly the same as same-sex marriages, even if same-sex marriages aren’t primarily about manufacturing the next generation of tithing believers. Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, who has never made a major decision without getting a green light from God, stated, “It has been said that those who oppose gay marriage are on the wrong side of history. I would rather be on the wrong side of history than on the wrong side of my faith and my beliefs. I believe I am not alone in my view in this country.” I’m sure Dan would have been among those religiously opposed to interracial marriage, too, back in 1967, when Loving vs. Virginia was handed down. Where are those people now? They’ve either died, became less bigoted, or are now ostracized as the lunatic fringe. This too, will be the fate of Dan Patrick’s kind and I think this is the real reason the conservative Christians are quaking in fear of gay rights. The smell of obsolescence is in the air.

Gov. Abbott, Texas State Attorney General Ken Paxton, Dan Patrick, and many other state legislators have expressed grave concern over the religious freedoms of Christian clerks in county marriage offices. The rights of such clerks (to put their private religious beliefs above their jobs) shall not be infringed. It is their God-given right to shove their nasty religion down the throats of anyone within their power. I have yet to hear a single conservative religious freedom “advocate” express the smallest bit of concern for the religious freedom of those minority religions who have never had an issue with same-sex marriage or those, like me, who think Christianity is steaming pile of horse manure. I never hear these folks support my analogous right discriminate against Christians because of my deeply-held beliefs (not that I’d want to). All of these people, elected to represent all Texans (or Americans), clearly have a conflict of interest and are thus unfit for public office.

So there you have it. The issue with same-sex marriage was, is, and always will be about the religious privilege of Christians. It’s nice that they are finally being more honest about it.

“A Better Life” the Movie – Austin Premier in June

Author and Film-maker Chris Johnson will be in Austin for a showing of his film version of his book “A Better Life: An Exploration of Joy & Meaning in a World Without God”. The event is free for ACA members, but there will be a $5 charge for nonmembers of ACA. It will be held June 28, 2015, from 1-3 PM, at the Trinity United Methodist Church (4001 Speedway, Austin). If you’d like to join the Facebook event page and receive updates, please feel free.

Chris’ journey began with a book. He reached out to us at The Atheist Experience while he was working on his project, and we have followed his progress ever since, with many of us supporting his efforts with participation and resources, because it’s a cause many of us felt comfortable getting behind.

As part of the effort to produce the book, Chris also videotaped the atheists who agreed to interviews. After the book’s publication, he began work on processing and editing the video footage to produce a companion film version. During the 2014 ACA Annual Bat Cruise, Chris came to Austin to be a joint “pre-cruise” speaker along with Richard Carrier. Chris presented a short trailer for the upcoming film and talked about the inspiration behind his project—to dispel the negative misconception of atheists as people without joy and meaning.

That same weekend, you may recall seeing Chris and Richard both on The Atheist Experience talking about their respective projects.

Since then we’ve been expectantly following the progress of the movie at this blog. And if you have as well, then you are aware it opened with a world premier to a sold out crowd in London earlier this year. He’s been showing it all around the globe, and we are extremely excited to have him coming back to Austin to showcase the culmination of all his hard work.

Hope you can make it!

Viewer Asks for Your Help with Some Questions

Hi All:

We have an e-mail from a viewer who has a LOT of questions. I began to answer it, and got about halfway down before I thought “this is taking A LOT of time.” I asked him if he was OK with me sharing his questions at the blog for reader/viewer response, and he was. So, please feel free to offer your responses. I am sending him this blog article link so he can read your feedback and clarify any questions you may have if he wants to join in. Thank you all for helping this viewer! [Read more…]

The Duggar family, and the problem with “forgiveness” as a core value

Recently the web has been buzzing with the news that the reality TV show “19 kids and counting” was canceled following a revelation that Josh Duggar was accused of molesting five underage girls. If you’re not familiar with the show, it is about a family who are members of the “Quiverfull” cult. Vyckie Garrison, who recently won the American Atheist award as atheist of the year, is a former member of this group, so your best bet for brushing up on their practices is to read her 2006 piece that was just republished in Raw Story.


While I’m at it: Why yes, I WILL shamelessly brag about hanging out with the atheist of the year in Memphis!


In a nutshell, Quiverfull members don’t believe in birth control. They say that God will decide when you’ve had enough children. Wouldn’t you know it, it turns out that God’s schedule seems to be that women who are fertile and sexually active, and don’t use birth control, have a kid roughly every 18 months on average until menopause sets in. In other news, the Faithful have noticed that if you jump off a cliff, the Lord decides that 9.8 meters per second squared is the ideal rate of acceleration for you. If for some reason you stop accelerating and get injured as a result, you must not have prayed hard enough.

Anyway. Since this unfortunate incident occurred, lots of Duggar allies have rushed to remind people of what an important virtue it is for Christians to forgive and forget. For instance, Josh’s father in law Michael Seewald wrote:

The Seewald family stands with the Duggar family in solidarity. We stand with the unnamed victims of these incidents. Our thoughts and prayers are for you. I want to say to Josh, hang in there, the shame you feel is legitimate, yet Jesus took your shame as he was punished in your place.

Carrie Hurd, a pastor’s wife, scolded Vyckie Garrison on Facebook, saying:

When I was a kid, it was often called “playing doctor”, there were just as many girls initiating this kind of behavior as boys. Most of those never went on to perp horrible things. The Duggers, who I have never watched — am not a fan, did it properly and the 14 year old boy should probably be left alone to live a good life, just like girls who do the same thing. You troll the news for any little Christian misbehavior. Get a life! Go to Iraq and fight ISIS if you are seriously worried about women being treated well by men and society.

In summary, it seems like some people are paying mild lip service to the victims of the abuse, but mostly they are rushing to protect Josh Duggar from the bullies who are daring to publicly criticize him about it.

It’s kind of understandable because “forgiveness” is often portrayed as the central virtue of Christianity. How many times have you heard that “Christians aren’t perfect, just forgiven”? It’s kind of the whole point of Ray Comfort’s entire “Are you a good person?” schtick. No you are not a good person, says the evangelist, and you deserve to go to hell. But don’t worry, just say some words about accepting Christ into your heart, and the problem is solved. You don’t even have to do anything. Jesus died on the cross, you are loved unconditionally, the end.

Maybe this is just me, but I’ve always found this attitude to be kind of unsavory. Generally, secular systems of ethics hold that an action is wrong based on how much it harms somebody else. Morality is all about the impact that sentient beings have on each other with their actions. If you kill somebody, the consequence is that somebody who was alive is now dead. That person can’t experience life anymore, and it also makes people who cared about them sad. If you steal something, you are harming the former owner of the property. And if you molest young girls, the young girls are the injured party. Here’s a point which I think is pretty important: Only the victims of the crime really have the ability to decide whether you should be forgiven or not.

Proxy forgiveness really makes no sense to me. If someone steals your stuff, and someone else offers themselves up to receive punishment, justice is not served; it’s subverted. The thief may feel better about being let off the hook, but you are not helped in any way by this other person getting punished. In fact, the thief may actually wind up feeling safe to commit the same crime again, because the message he’s received is that he will just get forgiven again, and his punishment meted out on somebody else.

And sure, Christian morality is all based around the notion of where your eternal soul will wind up, and your earthly life is considered to be just a transient phase that you need to push through and pass the test, so worldly suffering allegedly doesn’t matter. But when Christians ask that well known question, “If there’s no God, why would you be good?” the intent is definitely to scare you about the earthly consequences. Can we punish a Hitler? Can we keep out kids safe from predators? These arguments have no teeth if bad actors like Josh Duggar can count on being readily forgiven and welcomed back into the fold by representatives of the faith, just for being part of the tribe.

When Christians speak of “sin,” they are of course talking about an offense against God; although the nature of the offense tends to be nothing more than “Because He said so.” Atheists, not believing in God, generally recognize that a crime has to have a victim, and the suffering of the victim tends to get completely swept under the rug in the zealousness to protect the guilty from consequences.

Open thread on episode #917

Russell and I are fending off the theist hordes with our mighty brains today on the show. But we will also be dissecting this condescending article on Salon, in which an “I’m an atheist but…” dude (apart from perpetuating the annoying meme that Dawkins, Hitchens and Maher are the global ambassadors of New Atheism, dictating a party line to us all) whinges that we lack proper appreciation of religion’s warm fuzzies. And of course, callers. Below is where you write your thinky bits.

Discussed on show: The Hotline Project.

(Yes, I know I can prattle on. Bad habit.)