There’s a fascinating article over in The Telegraph about a trans man who gave birth to a son. It’s a nice story, apart from a couple bizarrely bigoted statements from “medical ethics experts.” But what they say is hardly the worst of it.
Lately I’ve been catching up on Godless Bitches, a fantastic podcast put out by a few members of the Atheist Community of Austin (of The Atheist Experience and The Non-Prophets fame). The show focuses on feminist issues from an atheist perspective. And in listening to it, I’ve realized some uncomfortable facts about myself.
Over at Hemant Mehta’s blog Friendly Atheist, an interesting little storm has begun brewing. Back in August, the McElroy Road Church of Christ in Mansfield, Ohio put up a billboard with a surprisingly atheistic message:
Not shown: overwhelming sense of irony
Early last month, PZ Myers over at Pharyngula posted a link to a survey by a radical anti-gay group (maybe it’s just a single person? I can’t tell) asking silly questions about whether the government should force companies to hire gay people, and things like that. To fill out the survey, you had to enter an e-mail address, so I put in one of my throwaway ones in the hope that I’d get some entertainment out of the things they send to their mailing list.
Romans 8:31-33 says:
What shall we then say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us?
He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?
Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God’s elect? It is God that justifieth.
I’ve often thought of these verses whenever I hear about the latest hypocrisy and theocratic nonsense to emerge from the fundamentalist Christian set. To believers and to atheists, they have two very different meanings. For most of the believers I know, it’s a source of comfort. It means that no matter what the world throws at them, God will be on their side, offering defense and protection. It’s reassurance that God is obviously willing to do anything to help them out, since he’s willing to sacrifice his son (himself) for our sake.
As an atheist, I read it differently. It’s essentially saying that anything a believer does is justified and above repute; that since God is the one who justifies actions, non-believers have no right to question anything a believer does. I’m pretty sure that some believers see it this way, too – specifically, the kind of hardcore fundamentalists who are just slightly closer to the sane end of the spectrum than Fred Phelps.
It’s always interesting to me when I run into a situation that I have to reconsider for the first time since becoming an atheist.
A mother in King, North Carolina recently wrote a letter to the editor in the Winston-Salem Journal:
On the second day of school, a representative from the Boy Scouts of America came to my son’s school to recruit new members. My son came home so excited, and cried when I had to tell him no. I feel he is too young to understand BSA’s homophobic and discriminatory policies, so I told him we already had too much on our plate. The BSA is prejudicial (it doesn’t accept atheists or agnostics) and homophobic (no gays allowed). My son will never be a Boy Scout and I wish that I had been notified that valuable learning time was going to be spent promoting a homophobic hate group.
Recently President Obama made a 15-minute speech to children about working hard and staying in school. I got a verbal message from the teacher, a note and two calls letting me know about the speech.
Is the president’s message that scary? Why does a positive message from the president require so much parental warning, while a discriminatory organization gets free rein to recruit during the school day with zero parental notification?
From now on, I expect notifications of future speakers at my son’s school and the topic of discussion. I expect a verbal message from his teacher, a letter from the principal and two auto calls. I would also like the opportunity to send in a signed note to excuse him from said speaker.
The BSA, in case you didn’t know, has official anti-LGBT and anti-nontheist policies, which have led to Eagle scouts being stripped of their awards and scout leaders being removed from their positions.
I’m an Eagle scout. I received my award from a scout troop where religion and sexuality were never discussed. Maybe there was an undercurrent of religion in some of the things we said (like the Scout Oath, which mentions doing duty to god and my country), but apart from the routine recitations it was never really raised as an issue. (Come to think of it, that’s kind of surprising, considering that I grew up in a pretty conservative area of Michigan…)
But I know that troops do exist where just believing in the wrong god (e.g. being a Hindu) is enough to keep you out. And I’ve seen dozens of cases of scouts and scoutmasters having their awards and positions stripped away after publicly coming out of the closet.
So it’s clearly not enough for me to apply my own personal experiences to this issue. If I say that it’s okay to allow some scout troops into schools since not every scout troop discriminates on the basis of sexuality or religion, it would be equivalent to saying that since not all Christians are like Fred Phelps we should allow the more accepting groups to recruit in schools.
I can see the mother coming at this question with two different approaches:
- She doesn’t want her kids to be potentially indoctrinated into anti-LGBT, anti-nontheist beliefs.
- She doesn’t want to support an organization that discriminates the way the BSA does.
From the first viewpoint, it would seem a bit hasty to prejudge the practices of a local troop based on the policies of the national troop. The second viewpoint recognizes that things like membership dues and subscriptions to the Boy’s Life magazine would be giving financial backing to a group with an official policy of hate, and I absolutely agree that such discriminatory groups shouldn’t be given the platform of the classroom to seek new sources of income and new members.
Now I’m torn between turning in my Eagle badge to officially renounce the BSA and keeping it to pad my résumé…
Hemant Mehta, one of the most tolerant, genial, and patient atheists I’ve ever seen, is currently under attack from a thinly-veiled far-right Christian hate group calling itself the Illinois Family Institute, which has a history of saying some pretty nutty stuff. And I’m not just calling them a hate group, either; for a while, the Southern Poverty Law Center had them listed as one, specifically for their strident anti-gay stance, comments, and leadership. Continue reading