What the hell do you say to these people?

Last night I watched an equally heartbreaking and appalling documentary from Vanguard about the infamous Ugandan anti-gay legislation. I'd heard about it before, and I knew that it called for harsh penalties – up to and including execution – for anyone caught as a homosexual, and that it was the center of a great deal of international attention on account of its egregious violation of human rights. What I didn't know was the story behind the legislation – the influence of Christianity in the country, and the influence of Western evangelicals.

Western Christians, including many evangelicals such as Rick Warren who have publicly denounced the legislation, would like to argue that these aren't representative of most Christians, or perhaps that they are not "true" Christians. The country is roughly 90% Christian, and the overwhelming majority support the radical anti-gay legislation. This is not a small problem. And while it certainly is not representative of most Christians – most of whom are tempered by secular modernism even when they are openly opposed to gay rights – this is a fine example of why religion is a bad thing: because without an objective methodology by which to discern truth from falsehood, religion can be molded to fit whatever biases we want. Once it's conformed to those biases, we assert them with absolute authority. As the anti-gay pastor in the documentary says, your problem is not with me; it is with God.

Doesn't that really strike at the heart of why religion is so ridiculous? We have all these people claiming to be privy to knowledge from a divine authority, often in conflict with one another and all too often preaching messages of hatred and violence. People who believe their world view is rooted in infallible truth are not amenable to debate, discussion or reason. We can only hope that there is a more sane majority to silence them.

Moderate believers give these dangerous people a pass by condemning their actions while condoning their method of inquiry. It's as if to say, "It's fine to believe things without evidence, or make claims of divine authority, as long as you don't preach the wrong message." Well, it's not fine to believe things without evidence, and it's precisely our celebration of "faith" as a virtue that allows these kinds of dangerous ideologies to thrive.

Comments

  1. The only way to combat such nonsense is to continually remind them of the many statements made by the conservative religious establishment throughout history that have eventually later been rejected.

    Look at the history of the SBC, or the writings of Thornton Stringfellow (http://docsouth.unc.edu/church/string/menu.html).

    Perhaps if they can at least realize that their traditions have been quite fallible, they might consider whether this falls into the same camp.

    Keep up the writing!
    - James

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