One of the podcasts I listen to regularly is The Scathing Atheist, and it lives up to its name. One of the regular bits on the show is called the diatribe, where they just cut loose and fulminate for a few minutes on some subject that has sparked their rage, and while I don’t always agree with it, I do have to respect a righteous rant. Last week, they focused their fire on Ray Moore, and the topic of the diatribe was how Christianity has become, or perhaps always has been, a religion of hate. It has become a reliable motivator of evangelical Christians lately — they will throw away all their principles, cast off even the illusion of morality, and vote for whatever racist, sexist pig screams the loudest and angriest about Muslims or the gays or the liberals or the transgenders or the Chinese or whatever other has caught their eye this week. It has become an ideology that serves only tribalism, without regard for any positive belief.
I agree with that diatribe. Religion is not a benefit to mankind in any way, and we’d be better off without it — or more fundamentally, we’d be better off without this tribal thinking that divides humanity into Us and Them. But I also think the show didn’t bring up two other important points (which is OK, if they threw in everything the podcast would be longer than my gym time).
One is that religion is often a master of Orwellian subterfuge. You can point out how often religious thinkers are endorsing hate, but the true believer will simply look a millimeter deep at the holy texts and tell you that they are all about love. I’ve seen no clearer example of this than a recent declaration by the United States Council of Catholic Bishops. It’s all about love and understanding and forgiveness, don’t you know.
At the outset they make their position crystal clear.
As leaders of various communities of faith throughout the United States, many of us came together in the past to affirm our commitment to marriage as the union of one man and one woman and as the foundation of society. We reiterate that natural marriage continues to be invaluable to American society.
We come together to join our voices on a more fundamental precept of our shared existence, namely, that human beings are male or female and that the socio-cultural reality of gender cannot be separated from one’s sex as male or female.
We acknowledge and affirm that all human beings are created by God and thereby have an inherent dignity. We also believe that God created each person male or female; therefore, sexual difference is not an accident or a flaw—it is a gift from God that helps draw us closer to each other and to God. What God has created is good. “God created mankind in his image; in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them” (Gen 1:27).
No gay marriage — it’s unnatural. There are only two genders, male and female, and you will accommodate yourself to the one God gave you. That, bluntly, is what this document is about: a gang of old celibates are here to inform you of the truth about sex and gender and identity, and in the name of love will tell you who you get to love.
But they’re going to surround their authoritarian perspective with a good amount of fluffy padding. The only difference between Westboro Baptist and the Catholic Church is the amount of pretense they package around their hate.
A person’s discomfort with his or her sex, or the desire to be identified as the other sex, is a complicated reality that needs to be addressed with sensitivity and truth. Each person deserves to be heard and treated with respect; it is our responsibility to respond to their concerns with compassion, mercy and honesty. As religious leaders, we express our commitment to urge the members of our communities to also respond to those wrestling with this challenge with patience and love.
Sensitivity and truth, patience and love…we know members of our communities are struggling with the complexities of identity and desire, and we’re going to listen attentively to you before we crush your concerns with brutal simplifications. And then we’re going to go all
But the children! on you. You transgender men and women are hurting the children and destroying our society, but we love you anyway, if you’ll conform.
Children especially are harmed when they are told that they can “change” their sex or, further, given hormones that will affect their development and possibly render them infertile as adults. Parents deserve better guidance on these important decisions, and we urge our medical institutions to honor the basic medical principle of “first, do no harm.” Gender ideology harms individuals and societies by sowing confusion and self-doubt. The state itself has a compelling interest, therefore, in maintaining policies that uphold the scientific fact of human biology and supporting the social institutions and norms that surround it.
Religious leaders who claim their adherence to the
scientific fact of human biology while dispensing fact-free ideological recommendations to medical institutions are disingenuous hypocrites. Fuck off, you frauds.
The movement today to enforce the false idea—that a man can be or become a woman or vice versa—is deeply troubling. It compels people to either go against reason—that is, to agree with something that is not true—or face ridicule, marginalization, and other forms of retaliation.
Read that paragraph again. Who is facing
ridicule, marginalization, and other forms of retaliation? It’s not the frequently bullied transgender boys and girls, or the young people who are asexual or bisexual or androgynous or queer. These old assholes fear that acceptance of people’s identities will lead to them being ridiculed for trying to enforce a false binary. They are the victims, in their heads. How troubling!
We desire the health and happiness of all men, women, and children. Therefore, we call for policies that uphold the truth of a person’s sexual identity as male or female, and the privacy and safety of all. We hope for renewed appreciation of the beauty of sexual difference in our culture and for authentic support of those who experience conflict with their God-given sexual identity.
They desire health and happiness for all who accept the narrow dictates of the Church, who ignore the sexual identity expressed in their minds, and adopt one of two (and only two!) gender roles, the traditional masculine and feminine. And the genitals you were born with had better well align with those roles!
This is all counterfactual assertion and raw denial, with the intent of condemning and ostracizing the people who refuse to conform to their rules. It is a call to the tribal majority to reject the outsiders, the weirdos, those strange Others who do not accept their arbitrary rules, or their supernatural justification for them. But notice how they mask it all with the language of kindness and love. I’m sure the Inquisition also thought the thumbscrews were a loving way to bring heretics to the grace of God.
Hey, there’s a second point I wanted to make, but it’s one I’ve made before, and maybe I’ll let it rest with just a brief mention. If we’re going to rail against the hateful tribalism of religion, we should do likewise with atheism. There’s a significant component of the atheist movement that has sent it sliding off the rails: those atheists who equate reason and rationalism with hating Muslims, all Muslims, or with contempt for feminism. This represents a cheap appeal for popularity that is as vile as Catholic bishops spitting on gay marriage, and on transgender men and women — it’s an attempt to fuel the movement with hate. It might just work, as far as growth goes. But it also produces a framework for thinking that I don’t want to be a part of.
Can atheism, at least, be an idea that is willing to accept people for who they are, rather than trying to wedge them into ill-fitting pigeonholes?