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Saturday, January 25, 2014

Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Gay Rights Movement

by @ 1:52 pm. Filed under Joe's Rants, Nonviolence

Martin-Luther-King-Jr-9365086-2-402Recently, Matt Barber wrote a piece for World Net Daily about what he believes Martin Luther King, Jr.’s position would be on gay rights. While it is impossible to really know where King would have really stood, everyone wants to make these assumptions because it simply helps their cause.  Of course, Matt lines King’s beliefs with his own based on things King said about gays back in 1958.  The trouble with this logic is that if we really want to make a prediction about where King would have stood on Gay rights in 2014, his 1958 words won’t tell us nearly as much as the Six Principles and Six Steps of Nonviolence already tell us.

King lived his life based on the principles of nonviolence.  He took those from both his Christian beliefs which basically mandate nonviolence in both thought and action for Christians, and from a well studied and meditated review of philosophy, theology, and personal experience.  His Pilgrimage to Nonviolence was an amazing testament to that study.  His message and his work evolved beyond just civil rights for blacks in his later years and moved to a campaign against poverty and his opposition to the war in Vietnam.   It is my belief based on my study not just on King, but on those principles he based his life on that he would have evolved to see rights for gays and lesbians not just as a civil rights issue but a human rights issue.

For starters, I believe King would have followed the steps of Nonviolence.  He would have started by gathering the most current information on all sides.  That is the first step he put out there on Nonviolence.   He would have wanted all the info on the science and current theological arguments both for and against rights for gays and lesbians.  I think even King, who was well documented for being a scholar, would have been overwhelmed by the sheer amounts of information some of which is accurate some not so much.

Next, I would imagine King would have gone to Step 2 in his Steps of Nonviolence.  He would have educated everyone involved with what he had gathered and learned.  In almost mediator fashion, King would have laid out all arguments on both sides and tried to make some sense of them.  He would have consulted and met with all those involved on all sides of the issues.

For these reasons, I believe King would have come to the same conclusions both socially and theologically that gays rights are more than just civil rights, they human rights.

We also have the evidence of his words in the Pilgrimage to Nonviolence.  King clearly showed his own evolution of thought on liberalism, socialism, communism, and social evils.  It shows a man who searched for the truth, the answers.  I am completely positive that King would have continued the search for truth.  He would have thought homosexuality as evil in 1958.  He would have also evolved his thinking by 2014.

I also believe King would have been extremely opposed to the language and violence of words used to discuss the issues.  Words like homofascism, heterofascism, GayKK, and even the word bigot would have brought about strong objection from King as they are personally attacks on people and not actions.  King’s principles would not have approved of calling anti-gay folks like Peter LaBarbera names like “porno peter” which I also personally find unhelpful.

King’s principles were to build the Beloved Community and in that, he hoped we would all find ways to live with our differences.  It is for those convictions, I think he would have supported and affirmed gay couples, same-sex marriages, and human rights for gays and lesbians.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Choose Nonviolence, Choose Peace!

by @ 12:43 pm. Filed under Joe's Rants

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Can you be a Christian Atheist?

by @ 12:08 pm. Filed under Atheism, Joe's Rants

I keep hearing this term tossed around by Christians referring to other Christians as not “True Christians.” I have been pondering exactly what does it mean to be a true Christian or even a Christian at all.  I also suppose we could be talking about Islam and Hinduism as well.  What constitutes one being “X” religion.

On one hand, you would assume that each person calling themselves a Christian, Muslim, or whatever they are would mean they are a believer.  The question becomes a believer in what?  The message,  the person, the deity?  One might also assume that calling someone a Christian means they are a follower of Christ.  The next question would be a follower of the message, the book, or the deity?  Simply put, does one have to believe in the divinity of a god to be considered a Christian, a Muslim, or a Hindu? If you believe in the message of Christ, does that make you a Christian?

Beyond all that, what are they so called “true” Christians and what does that make all the other people who call themselves Christians?  What is the criteria for being a “true” Christian?  Who decides the true Christians from the other ones?

The bible as a book of guidance on how to live your life has some great messages.  It also has some messages I believe to be harmful and hurtful to us as a human race. I think the god of the bible is petty and vengeful. You’d think that such a powerful being would have mastered anger, vengeance, and other petty human traits.   I still think like many books, there are some great lessons about who we are and who we could be as people.  I believe the same is true of most religious texts.  Lots of amazing lessons to help us be better at being human, being compassionate, being good to each other. Each has some amazing version of the “golden rule” about how to be.   If I follow those messages, do I get to call myself a Christian, a Muslim, a Hindu?  And who gets to decide if I am a “true” Christian, Muslim, or Hindu?

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Responding to Matt Barber’s WND Article

by @ 2:16 pm. Filed under Atheism, Joe's Rants, Nonviolence, Nonviolent Communication

Last night, religious pundit, Matt Barber published a piece for the e-commentary site, World News Daily. The site is more of a opinion site than a news site. I wouldn’t have even paid this article a second glance except Matt tweeted 31 tweets in a row linking to the article, which actually made me laugh out loud.  I wonder if Matt was afraid we’d mis it if he didn’t post it repeatedly.  Oddly, his tactic worked because I actually read his article.

Matt’s article was in opposition to atheists, nonbelievers, and Planned Parenthood.  He wrote the article in response to a previous article by a woman named, Valerie Tarico, where she writes her opinions about the signs she sees leading her to believe that “fundamentalism is going down”.  Matt’s article makes some interesting claims that have nudged at my intellectual neurons just enough to make me feel like writing, something I haven’t been up on doing for the last several years.

First, before I jump to thoughts on the article, I want to put out there that one of the reasons I stopped writing about gay rights, religion, and nonviolence was the challenges that come from living compassionately and nonviolently while still respectfully being able to challenge ideas.  I sometimes find this blog itself has been a journey of that.  If you go back to my original posts from 2006 and compare them to the stuff I wrote in the past few years, the is a huge differences to be seen in my response to things I believe are harmful and things and people with which I disagree.  It has been part of my reason for not writing, I need to keep growing in my own understanding of nonviolence, respect, and compassion first.  Now, onto Matt’s article.

I think what has struck me most about this article is the strong tone of black and white thinking that seems to permeate our current culture.  We have been living in this “all this-all that” mindset for just far longer than I like.  I amazed how many people ask if I am for or against guns or even gun control as if those are simple yes or no answers.  The same is true of socialism, communism, marxism, abortion, god, nationalism.  You are either for these things or against them rather than a spectrum of ideas.  We Americans seem to feel more at ease if we take complex and colorful concepts and simplify them into black and white issues.  My experience of the world is that life just isn’t that simple and neither are these issues.

Matt’s article is heavy in the language of sides.  You are either a north American progressive or a god fearing conservative.  You are on god’s side or satan’s side.  You are either for god or against god and by that, he is only referring to his god and none others.  Again, I don’t think the world is this simplistic.

Matt writes:

For those of us so very blessed to have raised our personal white flag in mankind’s inherently fruitless struggle against the Creator, there can be no joy in watching God-deniers continue to labor under the grandest of all deceptions. Regardless of how nasty they may be as individuals, there can be only sadness, genuine pity and prayer.

First off, I want to say I totally get what Matt is saying. I can empathize with this pain because I share the exact same sentiments just from the other view.  It is painful for me to watch religious folks to labor under what I would call the greatest of deceptions.  Over the years, I have found no joy or pleasure in watching people engage in things in which I don’t believe. This includes god, psuedo-science, homeopathic medicines, chiropractors, and acupuncture.  Where Matt and I differ is that I am working in my life to find compassion for those who believe different stuff than me.  I really want to have empathy and understanding as opposed to pity.

I also am not really sure what a “god-denier” actually is.  How do you deny what you do not believe exists.  I personally don’t believe in a god.  There is no more denial in that than there is the fact I also don’t believe in ghosts?  Does that make me a ghost-denier? I don’t believe in homeopathic medicine.  Does that make me a homeopathic medicine denier? Makes me wonder why Matt would make such a choice for a label?  Does he not really understand how belief works?  Does he simply think everyone who doesn’t believe really does believe and they are faking it with denial?  Not sure I could make any logical sense of that and then again, is there any logical sense to be made of it?

Belief is an interesting concept Matt seems to only grasp in terms of choice.  Reality is we don’t actually choose what we believe.  We take in the evidence (and I use that term lightly) and come to our own conclusions.  Even if we wanted to believe in something, we cannot make ourselves believe.  I certainly can’t wake up tomorrow and say, “Yup, I am deciding I believe in unicorns” and then actually do it. Doesn’t work out that way.  I could say I believe in god and the fact is, I don’t.  It would be  lie if I said I did. I also know I can’t make myself believe in god anymore than I could make myself believe in ghosts, psychics, or the Loch Ness Monster.

The flip side of this, and a fact that has built much compassion in me for those who do believe, Matt won’t be waking up tomorrow and making a choice not to believe.  He has read and heard the evidence and it has led him to believe there is a god and that it is the god of the Christian bible.  He couldn’t stop believing that by choice anymore than I could start believing it by choice.

I find his comment about nonbelievers being “nasty” as just his anger that people like me don’t see what he sees the way he sees it.  Guess what, Matt?  I don’t see what you see and it doesn’t make me nasty, sad, unhappy, or anything of the sort.  I will say that I miss my belief in god and Jesus.  I was raised a Catholic.  I went to mass most weeks.  I was an alter-boy in 6th and 7th grades.  I also went to Catholic Schools for all of my schooling.  I studied scripture in high school and for a short time in my early teens, I sincerely wanted to join the priesthood.  I had very strong beliefs then that god existed and that he and I were actually talking to each other when I prayed.  Something I did often.

Over time, those beliefs changed and faded.  There was no one reason for this but many.  I do have to admit, the kicker for me was the realization that religion was more geographical then factual.  Most people are the religion they are because they were born into it by location.  If I had been born in the East, I might be a Hindu or a Muslim.  Since I was born in the USA, I happen to be Christian.

I do miss my “beliefs” in god.  I sometimes think it would be lovely to wake up tomorrow and believe there is a god.  On the other hand, I am also happy I that won’t happen.  There was a lot of comfort to be found in it.  There was also a great sense of community going to church each Sunday and being involved with church activities.  That is why, while not a Catholic church, I do still attend a church.  The pastor of the church knows I am an atheist.  She also knows I joined this church because of the social justice work they are doing around hunger, Haiti, and the homeless.  I get a little freaked out by the whole communion thing because I see it differently than I when I was a kid.  It now seems a bit odd that people are eating flesh and blood regardless of whom they think it belongs.  Either way, I still enjoy going, especially for the sermon  which generally meets with my values.

Matt also writes a few paragraphs about there being no freedom unless you are a believer.  Of course, I would ask Matt, what is your definition of freedom?  I don’t think I felt anymore freedom when I was a believer than I feel now except now that I don’t believe, I no longer struggle with odd and outdated rules about morality that makes little sense to me.  In fact, I might say I feel an increased sense of freedom in my life because I am no longer held down by dogma.

Matt writes:

When God-deniers like Ms. Tarico dig in their heels, a pitiable paradox occurs. While they think they’ve achieved intellectual enlightenment and freedom, they have, instead, been played for the fool. They have become slaves to the flesh, and playthings to the enemy.

I have never met anyone who thinks they have more intellectual enlightenment and freedom through the strategy of “god-denial” whatever that means.  I don’t think I ever met anyone who thinks intellectual enlightenment is an achievement that is achievable.  I would go as far as to say, what does that even mean.  Next, I just laughed at the slaves to the flesh comment.  I can assure you Matt think about and writes about sexuality way more than any nonbeliever I know.

Ultimately, I see Matt’s entire article as a way of drumming up fear and hate for people who don’t believe in Matt’s god.  My question would be, what purpose does that serve?  Does Matt think he will insult them into believing?  What is Matt’s end game? To turn other believers against those who don’t believe?  Is it to rally the troops of believer into having some reaction?  What is Matt’s intention behind his article?

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