Religiosity Still ≠ Mental Illness

Sometimes it’s easier to talk than to write, so I did some talking in a video.Picture 20

People within the atheist movement have a nasty tendency to refer to the behavior of the religious as “crazy” and “delusional.” Unfortunately, some people with respectable platforms willingly and knowingly propagate this type of misinformation and vehemently refuse to use more correct (NOT ableist) terminology. My first video on this subject was not exceedingly well-articulated, so I decided to tackle the issue again.

And I also decided to go ahead and transcribe it for you, in case I’m unclear or if you just don’t like watching videos for some reason!

Me: Hello, Internet people!

I decided to finally make a video following up the one where I was talking about religious fundamentalism and mental illness, and why they’re not the same thing and why you shouldn’t treat them as the same thing.

I want to start this off with a PSA: If you don’t have a mental illness and if you aren’t a professional within the field of psychology or some very closely related field, you should not be making statements about whether or not something is crazy or whether something is delusional or whether somebody is afflicted by a mental illness. Because there’s no way for you to know that and you’re not a professional and you should not be making judgment statements based on things that you’re clearly not very well informed about.

So, in my last video, I was really talking about choice–that’s the kind of big difference, for me, between being a religious person and being a person with a mental illness–is that you choose to engage in religious activities and not in having a mental illness. I do agree somewhat with some of the comments on that: that that’s a little bit of an oversimplification of the issue.

There are parts of the world where you don’t really have a choice about whether or not you adhere to a religion because you can be put to death or put in jail for having those beliefs [or not], but in the United States pretty much the biggest ramification is: social outcast. You can lose members of your family, which is a big enough ramification for some people and a big enough consequence that they don’t do it–they don’t defect from their religion at all, they don’t name it when they have doubts. That’s a legitimate concern and it’s unfortunate, but doesn’t really take away from the fact that the internet now exists and you can have access to information aside from what you were taught.

It’s also been pointed out to me that if you’re indoctrinated as a child, you have significantly less opportunity to branch out and change the way that you think because of the fact that your psychology is so malleable when you’re a child. You can be changed enough that you’re not capable of making a choice to get away from your religion later on in life.

Some people also pointed out that being exposed to this as a child can cause you to develop mental illness (I think somebody said). Which I would grant to an extent, because like I said, when you’re a child you’re very malleable and if you’re being engaged in any kind of brainwashy-cultish sort of stuff (some religion, Christianity, sort of borders on that), it can cause you to develop a higher propensity for getting a mental illness later on in your life or having those kind of symptoms.

But that’s true of other things when you’re a child as well. If you’re abused in a secular sense, if you’re a victim of physical abuse when you’re a child, that can also increase your chances for developing depression and those kind of symptoms when you’re older. But by itself that’s not the case.. (Well you know whatever. I don’t know what I’m saying. I’ve tried to do this like 6 or 7, 8, 9 times and it keeps fucking up, so i’m just kind of saying stuff….)

Anyway! The mental illness rate among religious people is actually a little bit lower than it is among the general populace. So, those two things aren’t mutually inclusive by any means. Religious people are not mentally ill and mentally ill people aren’t religious, necessarily. Probably the reason that the rate is a little bit lower among religious populations is that there’s that community sort of benefit; that psychological benefit to having people in a like-minded group around you to provide support and to bolster your beliefs and help you when you’re starving and things like that. So, for those reasons (probably) the rate of mental illness is actually a little bit lower among Christians in the United States than it is among the general populace in the United States. So that’s something to chew on if you have a tendency to call religious people delusional.

Having a wrong idea is not delusional. and I wanted to go ahead and read from the DSM on this because the dictionary definition of “delusional” is probably a little bit more broad and can encompass some religious beliefs, but I want to just go ahead and read this bit:

[Paraphrasing]: ‘Delusions are fixed beliefs that are not amenable to change in light of conflicting evidence. They’re deemed bizarre if they’re clearly implausible and not understandable to same-culture peers and do not derive from ordinary life experiences. The distinction between a delusion and a strongly held idea is sometimes difficult to make and depends, in part, on the degree of conviction with which the belief is held despite clear or reasonable contradictory evidence regarding its veracity.’

So the reason that believing in god–especially in the United States–is not considered “delusional” is that it’s really common and it’s a very easily acceptable belief. You’re actually considered crazy if you DON’T believe in god in the United States. I’ve been called crazy for not believing in god. So, it’s more socially acceptable here and because of that fact, it can’t qualify as delusional because there are too many factors reinforcing your participation in that particular belief for it to be an outlier, such as delusions are kind of required to be.

An interesting example of this that I found in October is: a man in India sacrificed his 8-month-old child to a goddess for some reason or another, and a lot of people in the United States were calling that “crazy” and “delusional” behavior. If it’s considered socially normal (not “normal”–I’m not saying that people in India think that killing infants is normal, please don’t say that I’m saying that) but if it’s more culturally accepted by your religion, especially, that you can sacrifice an 8-month-old child and get any kind of positive benefit from it; if that’s a culturally accepted idea then it can’t qualify as delusional. Because the idea in India of what’s right and what’s wrong is different than the idea in america of what’s right and what’s wrong. And they would say I’m crazy for wearing pants, for example. (I am wearing pants.)

The cultural context is actually a pretty big factor in determining what qualifies as crazy behavior, so it’s not even strictly definitional from one place to another.

The biggest thing though–the biggest reason that you shouldn’t call religious people “delusional,” aside from the fact that you’re probably wrong: is that you’re throwing all of us under the bus; all of us who actually live with mental illness. (I have depression and anxiety to a lesser extent.) I’m not in the same category as a religious fundamentalist–or, I’m not in the same category as a person who chooses to have their child circumcised because of their religious beliefs. And it’s really not fair in any way, shape, or form to put normal (“Normal”) people with mental illness in the same category as people who make a decision to participate in a religious ritual, whether or not they were raised in it or whether they chose it as an adult–if they were “born again.”

It’s really just ableist and you’re probably not a professional, and you probably can’t speak to the issue if you’re making those kind of conflations. It’s a false equivalence: they’re not the same thing. Stop calling them the same thing if you’re not somebody who actually knows what they’re talking about. That’s pretty much all I had to add on the subject and I’ll see you guys later!

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Sorry that I kind of jump around while I’m talking. I have ADD and haven’t been taking the meds this week because it makes it practically impossible for me to eat a reasonable amount of food throughout the day. x.x Makes it difficult to complete a train of thought in a way that makes sense. Happy to clarify in the comments if you have questions!

There Is Also a Secular Argument For Infanticide

1522095_10152076191576077_222205893_n (1)American Atheists president David Silverman recently attended this year’s Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) with the intention of reaching out to non-religious conservatives. CPAC, if you aren’t familiar with it, has featured such illustrious moments as:

All of that, by the way, happened within the past week alone. So, how did Silverman go about sharing the word of atheism at this most respectable of political conferences? Roy Edroso of Raw Story reports on his strategy:

“I came with the message that Christianity and conservatism are not inextricably linked,” he told me, “and that social conservatives are holding down the real conservatives — social conservatism isn’t real conservatism, it’s actually big government, it’s theocracy. I’m talking about gay rights, right to die, abortion rights –”

A simple enough idea: conservatives can continue to uphold (some of) their political values without any need for religious faith. Silverman, understandably, didn’t seem very interested in legitimizing homophobia or the deprivation of terminal patients’ medical autonomy. Anyway, where was he going with that last part?

Hold on, I said, I think the Right to Life guys who have a booth here, and have had every year since CPAC started, would disagree that they’re not real conservatives.

“I will admit there is a secular argument against abortion,” said Silverman. “You can’t deny that it’s there, and it’s maybe not as clean cut as school prayer, right to die, and gay marriage.”

Oh. Okay.

Taken literally, the statement that secular arguments against abortion do exist isn’t a very controversial one. Yes, there are anti-abortion arguments that do not rely on supernatural or theological claims. These arguments can instead rely on concepts like “rights”, “human life”, “personhood”, and so on, without introducing any explicitly religious elements.

Of course, the mere existence of such arguments says nothing about their soundness. Silverman himself stated that he was simply recognizing these arguments even as he disagrees with them:

and please understand this is not support. I’m vehemently pro choice. Just acknowledging they exist. They do.

But whether such arguments exist, and whether they have any merit, is beside the point. What really stands out as notable here is Silverman’s more open-minded approach to this particular issue, even as he dismisses other issues outright.

Silverman is not interested in reaching out to conservative CPAC attendees who oppose marriage equality, oppose end-of-life decisionmaking, or support prayer in schools. However, when it comes to conservatives who oppose the right to abortion, he takes a rather more tolerant stance. While he sees homophobic conservatives as having no place in organized atheism, he’s more willing to recruit anti-abortion conservatives to the secularist cause.

Whether he would actually agree with this or not, that’s how his special exception for abortion opposition comes across. To him, homophobes don’t have a place in our movement – but abortion opponents do?

Is this necessarily a demographic worth reaching out to? JT Eberhard argues:

We must be willing to work with people with whom we disagree on some subjects. …So if you acknowledge that someone need not be right on all subjects for them to be right on the one you’re working on together, this can’t be a reason for you to be upset with Dave Silverman.

But this does nothing to explain why abortion rights should be a subject on which disagreement is acceptable, while LGBT rights, for example, should not. Drawing a line at that particular point seems arbitrary. JT continues:

I don’t think it’s fair to expect someone to avoid telling the truth (that a secular argument exists for being anti-choice, lousy though it is) in order to not give a hat tip to the people Silverman has said multiple times he opposes on that subject. That seems a bit like getting exacerbated at scientists whenever they acknowledge the existence of complexity in the universe because they’ve given a “tip of the hat” to creationists. … If you acknowledge as atheists we shouldn’t shy away from stating facts even though we know there are people out there who will twist them toward an inaccurate or unethical position, then you can’t really be upset with Dave Silverman.

Here is another truth that we, as atheists, need not shy away from stating: there is a secular argument for the elective infanticide of healthy newborn humans. It is not even a very complicated argument, and it is one that is perhaps especially well-suited to atheistic naturalism, scientific empiricism, and the rejection of mainstream Christianity.

Suppose that we abandon the idea that the human species occupies a uniquely privileged or “sacred” place among all organisms. Our ethical considerations in how we treat human life – from blastocyst to infant to elder – should not lean on an assumption that humans are special simply for the mere fact that they are humans. Ethical questions should take into account actual substance rather than just a name: the features that actually constitute an individual human. These features can include the extent to which they can experience pain and pleasure, their level of awareness of the world around them, their ability to possess distinct desires and goals, and their level of awareness of themselves as a sentient being.

When we recognize that questions of ethical treatment should consider such features, two conclusions emerge: First, humans are not the only organisms that merit our ethical concern – various animals are also capable of suffering pain, having desires, and possessing different degrees of awareness and self-awareness. And second, not all humans are identical by these metrics; depending on their degree of development, some may be more or less aware, more or less capable of experiencing pain, and so on.

Therefore, instead of a model wherein all humans occupy a special ethical category meriting unique concern, we can conceive of a spectrum of ethical concern along which all organisms fall – humans and other animals alike. One potentially uncomfortable fact is that some animals may be more well-developed than some humans in their capacity for self-awareness, desires, and so on. As Kate Wong notes in Scientific American:

Human babies enter the world utterly dependent on caregivers to tend to their every need. Although newborns of other primate species rely on caregivers, too, human infants are especially helpless because their brains are comparatively underdeveloped. Indeed, by one estimation a human fetus would have to undergo a gestation period of 18 to 21 months instead of the usual nine to be born at a neurological and cognitive development stage comparable to that of a chimpanzee newborn.

Similarly, MRI scans of dogs suggest that they are capable of experiencing emotions on a level similar to human children:

Do these findings prove that dogs love us? Not quite. But many of the same things that activate the human caudate, which are associated with positive emotions, also activate the dog caudate. Neuroscientists call this a functional homology, and it may be an indication of canine emotions.

The ability to experience positive emotions, like love and attachment, would mean that dogs have a level of sentience comparable to that of a human child.

Dogs may also possess mental capabilities on par with those of 2-year-old humans:

According to several behavioral measures, Coren says dogs’ mental abilities are close to a human child age 2 to 2.5 years. … As for language, the average dog can learn 165 words, including signals, and the “super dogs” (those in the top 20 percent of dog intelligence) can learn 250 words, Coren says. “The upper limit of dogs’ ability to learn language is partly based on a study of a border collie named Rico who showed knowledge of 200 spoken words and demonstrated ‘fast-track learning,’ which scientists believed to be found only in humans and language learning apes,” Coren said. … Dogs can also count up to four or five, said Coren. And they have a basic understanding of arithmetic and will notice errors in simple computations, such as 1+1=1 or 1+1=3. …

Through observation, Coren said, dogs can learn the location of valued items (treats), better routes in the environment (the fastest way to a favorite chair), how to operate mechanisms (such as latches and simple machines) and the meaning of words and symbolic concepts (sometimes by simply listening to people speak and watching their actions). … During play, dogs are capable of deliberately trying to deceive other dogs and people in order to get rewards, said Coren.

So: Humans are not the only organisms capable of emotion or developing accurate mental models of the world, and we’re certainly not the only organisms capable of experiencing pain or a desire to continue to live. Indeed, some animals possess these capabilities to a greater degree than newborn humans.

And yet, despite their possession of these capabilities, there exists a widespread disinterest in recognizing a “right to life” of animals. Instead, people commonly consider it acceptable to kill animals if we simply decide it is necessary. Cows “exhibit behavioral expressions of excitement when they solve a problem”, but all that’s needed to justify killing a cow is our mere preference that it should become several delicious steaks rather than continue existing as a feeling, thinking organism. Dogs exhibit intelligence and emotions similar to toddlers, but people leave healthy dogs to be euthanized at shelters every day.

In a society that accepts such treatment of animals as a norm – and accepts even the most trivial of human desires as a justification for such treatment – it should be similarly acceptable for the custodians of any newborn human to have that infant killed, for no reason other than their simple desire that this baby no longer be alive. Newborns have lesser abilities of thinking, modeling, perceiving, feeling and wanting than animals, and probably an equal capacity to experience pain. Yet the presence of even greater capacities in many of these areas has largely failed to convince us to recognize a “right to life” of animals. So why should the life of a human embryo, fetus, or infant be seen as always worth preserving and protecting?

Scientific findings support the facts underlying this argument for infanticide rights. This argument also has strengths which other common pro-choice arguments lack. For instance, one such argument contends that whatever right to life an unborn fetus may have, it is always outweighed by a person’s right to bodily autonomy – their right not to be compelled to provide sustenance, in the form of their own bodily resources, to another organism.

However, this “competing rights” argument opens the door to debate over just how important these respective rights are, and whether a fetus’s right to life really is small enough to be overridden. It implicitly agrees with abortion opponents in recognizing that a fetus actually does have, to some degree, a right to exist. And it requires proponents of a pro-choice position to maintain that a person’s right to bodily autonomy is, in all circumstances, the more important right in this situation. Abortion opponents, like Kristine Kruszelnicki of Pro-Life Humanists, may in turn contend that the fetus’s rights carry overriding weight.

In contrast, the pro-infanticide argument presented here does not have this vulnerability. It does not recognize an embryo, fetus, or even a newborn human as possessing a “right to life” to any degree whatsoever. And so it is not even necessary to argue that a person has a right to bodily autonomy which overrides a fetus’s supposed rights.

Clearly, there is a secular argument for infanticide. One does not have to support it or agree with it, and one may feel that it is far from decisive or clear-cut, but it does indeed exist. Others might twist this argument to make atheists look bad, but that doesn’t mean we should avoid recognizing this truth.

I’ve met David Silverman before, and he was a really nice guy – I hope we get to meet again. I don’t have any problem with believing that he certainly meant well with his outreach efforts at CPAC, as idiosyncratic as his views on acceptable political differences may be. And a few isolated quotes expressing a nuanced position – albeit a potentially disagreeable one – aren’t necessarily cause to dismiss and ignore a person entirely.

What I would ask is this: What is American Atheists doing to reach out to pro-infanticide atheists and bring them into the cause of organized secularism? Is our conception of the parameters of a “right to life” any less worthy of being courted than that of abortion opponents? If we’re really seeking to expand the tent of atheist activism, why extend it only in their direction, and not ours? I’d contend that if anything, those of us who are pro-infanticide can bring much more of value to the atheist movement than anti-choice conservatives would, such as our evidence-based approach to secular ethics. And if you think it would be distasteful to reach out to us, ask yourself: is it really more distasteful than inviting people who would legally force a person to give birth against their will?

Why I outed “ex-gay” Matt Moore

When I was tipped off that an “ex-gay” writer for the Christian Post may have been using a dating site for gay men, I had two options. I could keep quiet and let others handle this, or I could do something about it. And when I saw that no one else was going to address this, I made the decision to go public about it. I first wrote about the simple facts of the matter: that someone on Grindr was using the name, age, location, and photo of Matt Moore, a self-declared former homosexual. I then contacted Moore himself, who personally confirmed to me that this was his own profile, and I published this admission as well.

Some people have argued that outing Moore was an invasion of his privacy and an unnecessary exposure of his personal life. Others say this is little more than shaming someone who’s obviously struggling with his sexuality and his faith. Some have even claimed that since Moore regards his orientation as an addiction he’s fighting, much like that of an alcoholic or drug user, exposing him publicly is tantamount to criticizing someone for “falling off the wagon”.

I don’t see any of these critiques as legitimate. Matt Moore has already made what would otherwise be his private life into the cornerstone of a very public argument. As recently as last week, Moore was writing about the “real power” of his testimony of “leaving homosexuality”. Moore stated:

…what I believe speaks volumes of the grace of God and the power of the gospel, is that year by year, month by month, week by week, day by day – I continue to fight the fight of faith. I have sought after Jesus and I have turned from sin daily.

This is not merely a personal stance of his. It is a message to a wider audience. In his earlier document, “A Biblical Perspective on Homosexuality”, Moore wrote:

The Spirit of Christ transforms the persons life – day by day, making them more and more into the likeness of their Lord – and ridding them more and more of the corruption that the presence of sin has caused in their hearts.

He’s also targeted children with his call to “conversion”. In a post titled “Dear Gay Kid”, he describes his life as an openly gay man as being full of meaningless and unsafe sex, and devoid of healthy and fulfilling relationships. He claims this “lifestyle” is “driven by sex and indulgence, not by ‘love’”. And he tells queer youth that they need God to “rescue” them from “eternal condemnation”.

So, how has that been working out for him? This is a relevant question. Of course, there are already plenty of other angles from which to attack the Christian “ex-gay” movement. Its metaphysics are just as unproven as those of any other religion, its interpretation of the Bible is just one among very many, and its notion that celibacy is the proper response to homosexuality contradicts both scientific evidence and human decency. These are all completely valid points, and even if Matt Moore did remain entirely abstinent, this would in no way support these ex-gay beliefs. But when he and the Christian Post have turned his personal testimony into a promotion for this movement, it’s equally crucial that we examine just how true that testimony really is.

Moore has set out to engage in a discussion about the morality of homosexuality, the desires of God, and the possibility of personal sexual change through faith. He has cited his own experience in support of the notion that devout Christianity can help people diminish and resist their homosexual inclinations. But if he has any interest whatsoever in an open and honest discussion about that, why should he be the only one who’s privy to the fact that this religious program has failed even himself? This fundamentally compromises the value of his testimony as evidence.

Why should the rest of us have to remain unaware of this, while he continues to deceive people about whether religion can change their sexuality? Not only is it hypocritical to present oneself as a model of sexual reformation when one is clearly anything but reformed. Such a substantial omission is just unfair to all the participants in a public debate such as this. He knows something we don’t, and he’s withholding information that impacts the soundness of his argument.

Revealing this vital information is anything but an act of shaming, and this is not some malicious and arbitrary outing of a random person who was simply going about their business. Plenty of people go looking for partners all the time, and this is certainly not deserving of shame. It’s not a problem that a gay man happened to be seeking the company of other gay men. Indeed, I hope he enjoyed himself. But his public complicity in the ex-gay movement is what makes this publicly relevant, and that complicity is what’s truly deserving of shame here.

I also don’t care if Moore regards his own inclinations as an “addiction”. I might consider it unhealthy and maladjusted of him, but that’s his business. However, it’s no longer just his business when he proposes that the rest of us ought to regard ourselves similarly. And we are in no way obligated to humor a twisted belief that treats our own loving relationships as no more than a relapse into an “addiction” that we would have resisted, if only we had been stronger.

This is about more than just Moore. There are people who are going to read his story, and it will lead them to believe that their gay son or daughter could become straight if they were just willing to try hard enough. By keeping up this charade, he continued to promote the idea that prayer was an effective remedy to homosexuality. Now, people can see for themselves just how effective this really is. And the sooner people understand that sexual orientation can’t be forcibly changed by this or any other means, the sooner they’ll stop trying to force such ineffective change on themselves and others.

Ex-gay Matt Moore confirms he was on Grindr

After my last post about a profile on Grindr using ex-gay writer Matt Moore’s photo and personal details, I contacted Moore, who responded as follows:

The grindr profile was really mine. I’ve been on it on and off for the last couple of weeks.

Like I told the guy who sent you the picture, I am wrong in having been on grindr. I haven’t changed my views on homosexuality, the bible, etc.

Creating a grindr profile and talking to guys on it was major disobedience on my part….disobedience to Christ. Disobedience to a loving and gracious God. Thankfully, I believe that He forgives me for this disobedience. I believe the blood of Christ covers this disobedience. And I won’t be on grindr again….ever.

The pastor of my church and the church body I am a part of were informed about me being on grindr (I told them) before all of this came out, publicly.

While I’m glad that Moore chose to own up to this rather than continuing to make excuses as others have done in the same situation, it’s disappointing that he ever put himself in such a deceptive and hypocritical situation in the first place. So-called “ex-gays” publicly promote the notion that LGBT people are sinning against a god who will torture them eternally if they fail to suppress and deny their true nature. But privately, they often seem to have trouble practicing what they preach. They proudly tell queer youth that their lives will be cursed with misery, illness, violence, addiction, a lack of meaningful human connection and an untimely death, unless they follow a faith that demands nothing less than the utter negation of who they are. Then they turn around and happily jump right back into a life that supposedly carries these most terrible consequences. And isn’t it wonderful how easily they can choose to forgive themselves for all this?

It’s faith-based nonsense. It’s reality-denying foolishness. It’s harmful, hateful, ignorant, irresponsible bullshit that puts shame on innocent people. And it’s all for nothing. Don’t fall for “ex-gays” – they don’t even believe what they’re selling.

I’d like to thank my readers who send me tips about these goings-on. You’re the ones who make this all possible.

Someone is using a picture of ex-gay Matt Moore on Grindr (updated)

Matt Moore, a blogger at the Christian Post, has written extensively about his experiences with homosexuality and his ultimate decision to leave that “lifestyle”. In “My Story: Homosexuality, Drunkenness, Grace and Redemption”, Moore states:

God commands me to repent of my sin not because He’s an evil dictator, but because He’s a loving Father who knows that my sin will destroy me in multiple ways. Mentally, emotionally, physically, and ultimately eternally. If you don’t think homosexuality hurts anybody, just check out the statistics. Check out the number of murders among the gay community. Check out the addiction rate among homosexuals. Check out the average lifespan of a male homosexual. Seriously, just google it. You can see for yourself. …

I can, in truth, firmly say that the longer I keep turning away from my homosexual desires, the less in strength they become. My homosexual feelings have definitely diminished since the night God started drawing me to Himself in September of 2010. Are they completely gone? No, they are not. Will they ever be completely gone? I do not know. …

The main thing that I struggle with the most still is pornography, but even that is changing. I don’t get the same satisfaction that I used to from it. My stomach actually turns at the site of homosexual “relations.” But I also know that if I continue to watch it and harden my heart toward the Holy Spirit’s conviction, I will start to see things again through the eyes of my sinful flesh rather than through the eyes of the Spirit.

In “What Does God Expect From Gay People?”, he writes:

Although I have same sex thoughts on a daily basis, I do not, in any way, feel compelled to ever return to a lifestyle of homosexuality. God has put His Spirit within me and created in me a new heart that views every aspect of life differently because I am finally able to see the world through life-seeking, living eyes of faith rather than the sin-stained, darkened eyes of death that I had always viewed the world through before knowing Christ. …

There are multitudes of people who have “tried out” Christianity for a while, but after a time they turn away from it and resume the gay lifestyle. The secular world uses these cases all the time to point out the supposed inefficacy and ignorance of the Christian faith. But our faith is not inefficient, the real problem is that these once professing Christians never had genuine faith in Jesus Christ; they had faith in a systematic program that they hoped would rid them of homosexual desires. When their desires and temptations did not magically disappear as they assumed would happen, they packed their bags and left the whole idea of Jesus behind.

In August of last year, Moore said:

Yes, their attraction toward the same sex is unnatural and some of them may be extremely promiscuous (as are some heterosexual people) and being indulgent in sexual immorality— but their desire for love and affection is still very real and very much a driving force in their life.

The Lord has used my own thoughts and desires recently to show this to me. There have been instances lately where I have started to feel an emotional pull toward someone of the same sex. Before these recent experiences, I had forgotten that I had ever felt that way before… emotionally drawn toward men (I’m superb at blocking out emotions— so it makes sense to me I would naturally forget certain ones I’ve experienced in the past), but recently, for whatever reasons, I have had an awakening in the cravings of my heart. Not for sex, not for mere physical interaction— but for love and affection.

Recently, one of my readers wrote in to alert me that someone seems to be using a picture of Matt Moore on Grindr, a mobile app primarily used by gay and bi men to find sexual partners. These are their screenshots of the profile using his photo:

Screenshot of Grindr profile using Matt Moore's photo

Screenshot of Grindr profile using Matt Moore's photo

The photo on the Grindr profile is identical to the one used on Matt Moore’s Twitter account, @MattMoore89:

Twitter profile of Matt Moore (MattMoore89)

Not only has the Grindr profile used Moore’s name, but also his age (he was born in 1989) and even the fact that he recently moved to New Orleans. Obviously, someone is trying to make it look like Matt Moore, a noted former homosexual, is now participating in a gay dating network. Whoever is responsible for this should be ashamed of themselves for trying to besmirch the name of a devout, morally upright follower of Christ who has prevailed over his sinful temptations.

Update: Please see my latest post, where Matt Moore confirms this is his Grindr profile.

A podcast of unparalleled awesomeness

This week, The Thinking Atheist hosted a podcast on how religious beliefs and cultures influence sexuality, featuring our own Greta Christina, Jen Peeples of The Atheist Experience, and Dr. Darrel Ray of Recovering From Religion. Oh, and I was there too! It was a lot of fun, and I hope you’ll give it a listen.

At least Westboro is intellectually honest

I have more respect for the Westboro Baptist Church – barely – than I do for disingenuous fools like Mike Huckabee and Bryan Fischer, who beat around the bush when it comes to school shootings because even they realize that the implications of what they’re saying are too repulsive to be stated openly. Consider Mike Huckabee’s simultaneous backtracking and doubling-down on his earlier remarks:

…it’s far more than just taking prayer or Bible reading out of the schools. It’s the fact that people sue a city so we aren’t confronted with a manger scene or a Christmas carol. That lawsuits are filed to remove a cross that’s a memorial to fallen soldiers. Churches and Christian-owned businesses are told to surrender their values under the edict of government orders to provide tax-funded abortion pills. We carefully and intentionally stop saying things are sinful and we call them disorders. Sometimes, we even say they’re normal. And to get to where… we have to abandon bedrock moral truths, then ask, “Well, where was God?” And I respond that, as I see it, we’ve escorted him right out of our culture and we’ve marched him off the public square, and then we express our surprise that a culture without him actually reflects what it’s become.

To Huckabee, it is a “bedrock moral truth” that LGBT people are not even “disordered” but sinful, that businesses providing insurance to their employees ought to be able to pick and choose whether those employees can have their birth control covered, and that the government should provide its official stamp of approval to the Christian religion. And when we no longer regard sexual minorities as abnormal and condemned by God himself, we’ve somehow created an environment conducive to the mass killings of children. In the twisted mind of Mike Huckabee, LGBT rights and women’s rights and the Establishment Clause are part and parcel with school massacres. Either we side with Huckabee’s God, a God that hates gays and contraception and secular government while also supposedly providing some measure of protection from tragedies, or we must accept the inverse: gaining our freedoms at the cost of children’s lives, which Huckabee’s God allows murderers to take freely. Where was God? Oh, he would have helped out somehow, if only we’d kept paying our dues of misogyny and homophobia and theocracy.

It doesn’t sound so “rah rah God and country, amen!” when you put it that way, does it? But that’s what Huckabee means. Hate the queers, crush women’s reproductive freedom, disrespect the faith of everyone who’s not a Christian, or God will let your children be gunned down in their schools.

Contrast that with the Westboro Baptist Church, who share this opinion but make no effort to hide it whatsoever. To them, the shooting was a direct act of God to punish an insufficiently homophobic nation, and they’re ready to tell the world. No evasions. No prettying it up. No circuitous, long-winded explanations to try and dance around what they really mean to say. They just say it: God sent the shooter. God hates fags. God will kill your children because you accepted gay people. So deal with it.

They’re all scumbag religious vultures feeding on the still-warm corpses of children. But it’s even more insulting that some of them would try to disguise themselves as anything other than the revolting, merciless opportunists they are.

The company they keep

Guess who the Salvation Army chose to give a speech at their 2012 annual luncheon? Dinesh D’Souza, a homophobic conservative commentator who blames American liberals for causing the 9/11 attacks by angering Islamic terrorists.

For the 2012 annual luncheon Salvation Army leadership tapped renowned New York Times best-selling author and filmmaker (2016: Obama’s America) Dinesh D’Souza as guest speaker. He rewarded the audience of more than 500 with a talk on the influences that Christianity has had on religions and people worldwide. His talk at the Hilton Americas-Houston received a standing ovation.

Chaired by Penny and John Butler, the luncheon, hosted by the Salvation Army Advisory Board, honored Rob Mosbacher. Proceeds from the fundraiser topped $425,000, all for Salvation Army coffers.

In his 2007 book, The Enemy At Home: The Cultural Left and Its Responsibility for 9/11, D’Souza wrote:

I am saying that the cultural left and its allies in Congress, the media, Hollywood, the nonprofit sector and the universities are the primary cause of the volcano of anger toward America that is erupting from the Islamic world. The Muslims who carried out the 9/11 attacks were the product of this visceral rage—some of it based on legitimate concerns, some of it based on wrongful prejudice—but all of it fueled and encouraged by the cultural left. Thus without the cultural left, 9/11 would not have happened.

In his book The Crisis of Islam, Bernard Lewis rehearses what he calls the “standard litany of American offenses recited in the lands of Islam” and ends with this one: “Yet the most powerful accusation of all is the degeneracy and debauchery of the American way of life.” As these observations suggest, what angers religious Muslims is not the American Constitution but the scandalous sexual mores they see on American movies and television. What disgusts them are not free elections but the sights of hundreds of homosexuals kissing each other and taking marriage vows. The person that horrifies them the most is not John Locke but Hillary Clinton. …

Thus we have the first way in which the cultural left is responsible for 9/11. The left has produced a moral shift in American society that has resulted in a deluge of gross depravity and immorality.

The homophobia in D’Souza’s book is not an isolated occurrence:

- As editor of the conservative Dartmouth Review, he outed the officers of Dartmouth’s Gay-Straight Alliance. He then accused the GSA of using the university’s money for “gay parties, gay orgies, or whatever.”

- In 2003, he offered his opinion of gay men and lesbians:

Journalist Andrew Sullivan argues that it is social ostracism that encourages the reckless promiscuity and socially destructive behavior of male homosexuals. If gays are allowed to marry like everyone else, Sullivan is confident that this outrageous element of gay culture would diminish. Sullivan’s argument can be condensed to the slogan, “Marriage civilizes men.” But Sullivan is wrong. Marriage doesn’t civilize men, women do. This point is even evident in the gay community: it helps to explain why lesbians are generally much better than male homosexuals in sustaining long-term relationships.

- And in 2008, he had this to say about same-sex marriage:

Yet if it’s discriminatory to gays to require that marriage be between a man and a woman, why isn’t it discriminatory to Mormons and Muslims to require that it remain between two people? Isn’t incestuous marriage also between “consenting adults” who have a right to equal protection of the laws? And why doesn’t the Fourteenth Amendment protect the fellow who wants to walk down the aisle with his poodle on the grounds that “I love my dog and my dog loves me”?

This is the man the Salvation Army selected to speak at their $425,000+ fundraiser. They saw no problem choosing someone who would blame our own country’s values of equality and civil rights for provoking Islamic extremists into launching the most deadly terrorist attack in our history. They chose someone who considers gay people “socially destructive” and compares our commitments to poodle marriage. He’s their man.

If the Salvation Army wants to counter their public perception as a homophobic organization, this isn’t helping.

Don’t give to the anti-gay Salvation Army

This holiday season, you may see bell-ringers from the Salvation Army soliciting donations outside of storefronts. You should be aware that the Salvation Army is actually a Christian church, and its charitable functions are administered by this church. While there are plenty of religious groups that provide social services to those in need, the Salvation Army’s beliefs and activities are not so innocuous.

In their position statements, the Salvation Army describes marriage as “one man and one woman to the exclusion of all others”. Their statement on homosexuality says:

Scripture opposes homosexual practices by direct comment and also by clearly implied disapproval. The Bible treats such practices as self-evidently abnormal. … Attempts to establish or promote such relationships as viable alternatives to heterosexually-based family life do not conform to God’s will for society.

They go on to declare that sexually active gay people are ineligible for the Salvation Army, and call for “a lifestyle built upon celibacy and self-restraint”.

These aren’t just internal matters of church policy, either. The Salvation Army has involved itself in the political arena as well.

- In 1986, the Salvation Army of New Zealand assisted in a petition drive against a law to repeal the country’s ban on homosexuality.

- In 1998, the Salvation Army withdrew from $3.5 million in contracts with San Francisco because of the city’s requirement for contractors to extend benefits to the same-sex partners of employees. As a result, shelters, food services, and drug rehab programs in the city all suffered cutbacks.

- In 2000, the Salvation Army of Scotland spoke out against the proposed repeal of Section 28, which prohibited any discussion in schools of the “acceptability of homosexuality as a pretended family relationship”.

- In 2001, the Salvation Army extended benefits to the same-sex partners of its employees, only to reverse this policy after outcry from the Christian right.

- Also in 2001, the Washington Post reported that the Salvation Army had been in discussions with the Bush administration, which had committed to issuing a regulation exempting the Salvation Army from any state or local laws that prohibited employment discrimination based on sexuality. The administration refused to issue such a regulation after their dealings were publicly exposed.

- In 2004, the Salvation Army in New York City once again threatened to close all of its services in the city due to a law requiring contractors to provide equal benefits to same-sex partners.

- And in 2012, a media relations director with the Salvation Army of Australia stated on a radio show that it was part of their “belief system” and “Christian doctrine” that gay people should die.

When we give our money to the Salvation Army, we’re helping to support a church that believes gay people are less than equal, that they should be subject to open discrimination, and that their relationships are inferior in the eyes of God. And this church has been working to ensure that their personal religious beliefs are reflected in the law. That’s the ugly truth behind the change we drop in their red kettles.

While the Salvation Army does plenty of good things to help communities in need, so do many other charities – charities which focus on providing these essential services with no religiously-based prejudice against minorities. Organizations like Goodwill, Toys for Tots, the American Red Cross, Habitat for Humanity, and Feeding America can do everything the Salvation Army does. The difference is that they’ll do it without taking a piece of your donations to fund a politically active anti-gay church.

Sure, it might be easy to drop some money in a bucket. But it should be just as easy to do the right thing. We all want to help those in need, and we can do it without compromising our values of fairness and equality. This season, let’s help out those charities that are willing to respect everyone just the same.

The Christian’s Thanksgiving mistake

John MacArthur of the Washington Times has a real stumper for all of us atheists: if there is no God, then why do we feel gratitude?

Ingratitude is dishonorable by anyone’s reckoning, but to be willfully ungrateful toward the Creator is to deny an essential aspect of our own humanity. The shame of such ingratitude is inscribed on the human conscience, and even the most dogmatic atheists are not immune from the knowledge that they ought to give thanks to God. Try as they might to suppress or deny the impulse, “what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them,” according to Romans 1:19.

Indeed. How can we possibly account for the urge to be thankful, without recognizing the crucial role of this specific deity of this specific faith with this specific mythology? Because, of course, the fact that people feel gratitude has everything to do with the story of the Christian God, its creation of the world and its interactions with humans, as relayed by one particular religious text which is completely reliable. People feel stuff, and that means God. How could this ever be explained otherwise?

MacArthur continues:

One atheist has practically made a hobby of writing articles to explain why atheists feel the need to be thankful and to answer the question of whom they might thank. His best answer? He says atheists can be grateful to farmers for the food we eat, to doctors for the health we enjoy, to engineers for the advantages of modern technology, to city workers for keeping our environment clean and orderly — and so on.

Here’s the problem with that: Tipping the waitress or tipping one’s hat to sanitation workers doesn’t even come close to resolving the problem of whom Mr. Dawkins should thank when he looks at the stars, stands at the edge of the Grand Canyon, or studies the world of countless wonders his microscope reveals in a single drop of pond water.

Clearly, whether something is spiritually satisfying is unambiguous evidence of the truth of a particular religious claim. Atheism must be invalid if it can’t explain people’s feelings of awe and undirected thankfulness, because this is obviously a problem of theology and metaphysics – not one of human psychology. I’m surprised MacArthur didn’t get into more of the weak points of atheism, such as its failure to provide emotionally fulfilling answers to human wonder at childbirth, dogs, fire, and magnets. Such feelings must point to a God, because it says so in the Bible. And we know the Bible is true, because there’s obviously a God as indicated by Richard Dawkins’ feelings about canyons and Shaggy 2 Dope’s awe at rainbows.

Check and mate.