Tag Archives: Christianity

Wouldn’t it be nice if…

the ACL, now that Jim Wallace decided that tweeting bigotry was a great idea, vanished up it’s own arse, especially as the outrage on twitter and elsewhere has demonstrated that they do not have the wide support of Australia (Christian or otherwise) that they claim they do.

For those that missed it, Wallace tweeted (on ANZAC day no less) that:

Just hope that as we remember servicemen and women today we remember the Australia they fought for – wasn’t gay marriage and Islamic!

He later retracted his statement saying:

OK you are right my apologies this was the wrong context to raise these issues. ANZACs mean too much to me to demean this day, not intended

Note the lack of apologies to the LBGTIQ and Muslim communities… no instead we get a, “Oops, I shouldn’t have said this today of all days, I’ll come out and say this again at some other time and not feel even remotely guilty for erasing LGBTIQ service men and woman, and Muslim service men and women… oh and I’m totes justified in hating all of them because the bible says so.”

Continue reading Wouldn’t it be nice if…

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The Catholic Mass

Now I’m a long, long, long time ex-Catholic (ok, probably not that long, but long enough), I don’t hold a torch for Catholicism (you might have noticed with my posts about the place focusing on The Pope), but I still have family involved in the Church, and spent some very happy times there (going LALALALA about certain aspects).  I enjoyed the Mass as it was, the rituals were comforting and familiar, and I liked the ideals (that I understood) of Vatican 2 – the inclusiveness of the actual Church goers (you know, the people that fund the Church for the most part) in the rituals. (An aside, I learnt more about the whys and wherefores of Vatican 2 from Brides of Christ than I ever did during 12 years of Catholic education)

Anyway… I read with some dismay the changes to the Catholic Mass that are the beginning of an attempt to roll-back the progressiveness of Vatican 2 (how this works with the infallibility of Popes I have no idea).  The Age had a useful explanatory article (warning picture of Pope Benedict – I mean Emperor Palpatine) detailing some of the changes to the Mass wordings.  I don’t know about other people, but I struggle to remember changes to texts when they’re suddenly changed, particularly if I’m not happy about the changes.

So, the Catholic Church has decided that rolling-back Vatican 2 is a good idea because… well politics and power and removing power from the individual churches and concentrating it higher up.  It’s always annoyed me that such a large institution, one that claims it serves the faithful, is such an undemocratic organisation.  Surely those that fund it and use it, should have a say in how the organisation runs.  It’s not like democracy is a new thing, but I suppose that dictatorships are even older.

“You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. 14 Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. 15 I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you.” (John 13:13-15)

So off you go Mr Pope, and Mr Cardinal, and Mr Bishop, and Mr Priest.  Go and wash the feet of your faithful, the feet of those who provide the church with money to fuction and provide charity to others.  Go and ask what they want, and stop imposing things from on-high as if you are the only men in the world who have a direct line to God (if ou exists).

British commentator William Oddie trumpeted in the conservative Catholic Herald last month that the liturgy battle is over but for a bit of mopping up, and ”the good guys won”.

”The new translation is wholly successful, and if we had been using it from day one, thousands of people repelled by the banality of the translation now being superseded would still be regular worshippers rather than lapsed Catholics. I really believe it’s as important as that.”

But it takes a particularly fervent advocate to suggest, as William Oddie does, that a liturgy-led revival will reverse declining church attendance.

Bob Dixon, head of the Australian church’s Pastoral Research Office, regards the idea as ”absolute fantasy. When we asked people why they stopped going to church, almost nobody said it was because the church has lost its sense of reverence by using modern English. They said they stopped because they can’t find relevance, they can’t see a connection between the church’s agenda and their own agenda, they disagree with certain church teachings.”

DIXON has two concerns. Nearly a third of Australian church-goers come from non-English-speaking backgrounds , so will a more elevated, less idiomatic liturgy create language hurdles for them? Second, will some of those disenchanted with the church over sexual abuse by clergy say, ”you have this crisis and you are just fiddling with the language”, and leave?

Seriously, people don’t leave a Church or a faith because they think that the language used in the liturgy is “banal”.  I’m with Dixon who suggests that perhaps there are far more important reasons than boring language behind people leaving Catholicism.  Perhaps the priests, the bishops, the cardinals and the pope need to sit down and listen to people who have left or who are going to leave – and decide what is really in the Church’s best interests versus the power-hungry grabbing that is going on now – just saying.


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A quick response to a bad article

Doctor John Dickson wrote today for The Drum, an article titled “Time for some nuance between the gay and the god-fearing“, which is an attempt to justify continued Christian Homophobia with the old, “hate the sin but love the sinner” approach (the comment section of the article – with the exception of a couple of bigots is really good).

Contemporary minds are fixed to think of only two possible camps on the gay issue. Either you are pro-homosexual and therefore open-minded, kind and respectful, or else you are a mean-spirited, homophobic bigot. You are either for me or against me. No space is given to a third group, much larger than the current discourse allows, made up of people who sincerely want an end to discrimination and who show nothing but care and respect toward gay friends but whose deeply held convictions prevent them from endorsing same-sex practice.

Perhaps in the tradition of ‘an eye for an eye’ the church deserves some purgatorial derision. No one could deny that professed Christians have used very condescending and spiteful language toward gay people (and, shamefully, sometimes even resorted to violence). But tit-for-tat won’t help us in the long run. The biblical perspective on sex – that all sexual intimacy outside heterosexual monogamy is contrary to the Creator’s good intentions – is not going anywhere; and nor are our gay neighbours. This realization alone demands that we work out together how to have a respectful, nuanced public conversation.

In particular, we have to ask whether holding a moral view is in itself hateful. Obviously, strong moral codes, whether religious or secular, can promote hateful speech and behaviour, but are the codes inherently hateful? Specifically, I want to ask David Marr: Do you not believe it is possible to profoundly disagree with someone’s lifestyle and sincerely care for them all the same? I am not offering a defence of Christian teaching on homosexuality (which may, of course, be wrong); I am simply affirming that believers ought to be able to hold their view thoughtfully and respectfully without being considered ‘bigots’ and ‘homophobes’.

But there is a third way, based on a different logic. We ought to be able to love even those with whom we profoundly disagree. It must be possible for Christians to question the moral status of sexual intimacy outside heterosexual monogamy while demonstrating respect and care for neighbours who are neither heterosexual nor monogamous. True open-mindedness is not merely accepting as true and valid someone else’s viewpoint; it is the more difficult and noble commitment to honouring people whose viewpoints you reject.

I dispute that the “third group” as mentioned by Dr Dickson is “much larger” as he suggests.  I also dispute that the “hate the sin but love the sinner” is anything other than homophobic bigotry.  If you show “care and respect” towards your LBTIQG family and friends, but not unconditional love, then you’re not following the commandments of Jesus, that man you claim to be a follower of.

As I have loved you, so you must love one another. John 13:34 (NIV)

If you want to have a “respectful, nuanced and public conversation” with the LBGTIQ community, then there are some things you need to do first.  I’d first suggest a public apology, much like the ones the 100 Revs who march in Mardi Gras have given time and time again to the GLBTIQ community.  I’d also suggest you LISTEN to the grievances the GLBTIQ community has with Christianity and actively ensure that the BLQTIG community feels heard.  Then, before any public conversation takes place, you should go away to a quiet place and learn about Jewish and Christian theology (no, I don’t know what your doctorate is in, and nor do I care), and how that has changed as needs arose over the centuries – things like the outlawing of slavery, increase of status (to human no less) of non-white people, the equality of women, the lack of death penalty for disobeying parents, the creation of rape as a crime against the rapist (and not the victim), tattoos becoming socially acceptable, blaming Jews for the death of Jesus, the abolition of limbo, etc.

If Christianity can change all these things, that are in the bible, then it can change its views on BTQGLI too.  Christianity is well known for picking and choosing which bits of the New and Old Testaments remain valid (women are allowed to speak in places of worship now – something that Paul suggested was a really bad idea), so why not shed the homophobia and accept that difference makes the world a far more interesting place to be in, and that what two (or more) people do in their bedroom is actually NONE OF YOUR FUCKING BUSINESS.

Is holding a moral view hateful?  That depends on the moral view.  If that moral view suggests that a group should be marginalised, stigmatised, and treated negatively for an attribute they possess, then yes, that moral view is hateful.  And what you are suggesting Dr Dickson is the continuation (with sanction) of a hateful moral view because you find the LBGTIQ community threatening to your world view.

Calling being gay, lesbian, bisexual, trans, or queer (not so much intersex in this statement) a “lifestyle” is INCREDIBLY INSULTING.  A “lifestyle” is something you choose.  You choose to eat X food, you choose to undertake Y activities, these are “lifestyle” choices.  Being BGLTIQ are not “lifestyle” choices they are innate qualities.  To reduce them to a choice is to deny lived experience of these people and science (something which some Christians are quite happy to deny anyway).

Let me state again if it isn’t already abundantly clear – to consider that someone who is GLBQIT is sinful in anyway is bigoted and homophobic.  To judge someone else goes against what is taught by Jesus, the man you claim to follow:

1 “Do not judge, or you too will be judged. 2 For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.

3 “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? 4 How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? 5 You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye. (Matthew 7:1-5)

So stop it.  Stop right now and never ever let me catch you doing it again.  I agree that you can love someone you disagree with, even when you disagree with them strongly.  I disagree with my parents about various things, but still love them, I disagree with friends, partners and others and can still love them.  Disagreeing is completely different to TELLING SOMEONE THAT THEY ARE WRONG.  Let me put that another way:


It is not possible for Christians to be involved in anyone’s sexual practices – that is rude, invasive, immoral and seriously how could you write that sentence and let it be published?

The final statement I copied and pasted into this post is so full of problems that I’m going to unpack it separately.  On the surface it sounds reasonable, but when you begin to think about it, it’s all really wrong.

True open-mindedness is not merely accepting as true and valid someone else’s viewpoint; it is the more difficult and noble commitment to honouring people whose viewpoints you reject.

First Dr Dickson attempts to define “open-mindedness” as “accepting as true and valid someone else’s viewpoint” (which is all good – but something he’s not subscribing to), but then also as “honouring people whose viewpoints you reject”.  He also claims that this is a more difficult and noble commitment… something which I completely reject.  It’s impossible and potentially dangerous.  I reject the views of racist/homophobic/transphobic/biphobic/sexist/etc bigots and there is NO WAY that I am going to honour them for their views, in fact I’m going to condemn them for their views, for those views are harmful to people.

A true Christian, a Christian that follows the teaching of Jesus would love unconditionally, not judge others for any perceived or imagined transgressions, turn the other cheek if someone insults them, and lives in accordance with the commandments stated by Jesus.  I can’t imagine that Jesus would, if he came back today, condemn any LGBQIT person – afterall, if you believe that we are all god’s creatures, then why would god create gay people except for them to be loved, to love, and seek happiness and fulfillment on earth?

And let’s consider another thing, as a Christian Dr Dickson, and everyone who is Christian and agrees with him, are an incredibly privileged group whining about how a less privileged group is pointing out that the privileged group has treated them badly.  He deeply wants to hold onto the power imbalance that currently exists and is attempting to use his religious privilege to do so.  “But my faith told me so” is not a defence.  It’s time to let go and move with the times.

As I read today on Fat Heffalump:

Equality is extremely threatening to people who have always benefited from the lack thereof.

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I’d like to be quite clear straight up, I loath Danny Nalliah and especially loath his god (and by that I mean his interpretation of god).  This is a man who claimed that Victoria decriminalising abortion resulted in the Black Saturday bushfires in 2009 that killed 173 people and wounded 414, because he had a dream about fire and brimstone.

Now he’s come out saying that the floods in Queensland, specifically Brisbane, are the result of our former Prime Minister (now Foreign Minister), Kevin Rudd, being mean to Israel (don’t read the comments on that piece unless you’re prepared for a dose of scary).  Apparently asking Israel to to join the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and open all its nuclear facilities to UN inspectors is mean, and Australia/Queensland/Rudd needed smiting as a result.

I can’t (and even when I was Catholic struggled really hard with this) worship or believe in a god that would happily kill (or make miserable) hundreds or thousands of people because of something that someone else did (or even that they did).  I don’t even get how that makes sense.  I never liked the whole fire and brimstone methods used by some ministers and hate the rhetoric of fear (which is something that Nalliah uses all the time).

That Fleming Gent posted a comment on Nalliah’s press release/blog post/thing and unsurprisingly that comment was not published, because it disagreed with the message that Nalliah was pushing.  PZ Myers also had some good commentary on Nalliah:

Kevin Rudd has been insufficiently zealous in his support for Israel, and Rudd is originally from Queensland, so God is making it rain great buckets in Queensland to send him a message.

It’s a rather opaque message, O Lord, and it seems to be causing far more suffering to other people, rather than Rudd. Wouldn’t it have been far more effective and efficient if, say, the Lord God Almighty made the plumbing in Rudd’s upstairs bathroom overflow? I should think it far more persuasive that something mysterious and ominous was going on if every time Rudd flushed, he ended up with a gusher of feces and urine on his shoes. Taking aim at the whole of Queensland is just a bit sloppy.

I also don’t understand, if god is loving, forgiving and understanding, why ordinary, regular sinners are being punished for their representative’s alleged sins (I refer to Queensland (and bits of NSW and Victoria) for Rudd and Victoria for the decriminalisation of abortion).  That doesn’t make any sense to me, and I’d hope it doesn’t make much sense to those Christians who actually critically think about things.

And then, Nalliah and his “church” took credit for the Brisbane flood not peaking as high as it did, because they prayed for Queensland, filling the gap between Rudd’s actions and god’s wrath… or something.  Seriously, they gathered on the steps of the Victorian Parliament (because they’d get publicity there) and prayed loudly and publicly (you know, something Jesus recommended against):

“And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. Matthew 6:5 (NIV)

Prayers such as Nalliah’s are great thing, it’s not like you can test them scientifically, and discover whether or not the prayers had any effect (they didn’t), and when things turn out well you can say that your prayers had the right effect, and if things turn out badly, you can say it was clearly god’s will, and that you tried.  It’s a win-win situation and really does nothing for anyone.  It’s not like someone, who claims that god speaks to them, would ever admit that their prayers were not heard.

I honestly would like Nalliah and his Ministry to stop receiving publicity, to go away and be on the fringe where they belong.  I’d love Nalliah to stop being so afraid and infecting others with his fear.  I’d love him to recant his hateful and prideful ways and to be humble and listen to the stories of those he currently considers sinful and learn that there is more than black and white in the world.  I’d love him to actually love, unconditionally as Christians are called to love, and to stop judging as he should really know better.

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Credibility? He no longer has some

I’m not claiming that the Catholic Pope actually ever had any credibility with me, but I know he does with some Catholics (still), and I wonder how they can let his latest two foot in mouth statements through without suggesting that he be sacked.  It would be nice if the Catholic Church was a democratic institution wouldn’t it… let me enjoy that vision for a moment…. mmmm… ok, sadly back to reality.

Ok, first stupid statement was published before Christmas, and I know I’m late to the blogging party with this one, but I thought I’d blog on it anyway, as well as link to already fantastic commentary on his ludicrous claims.  This claim being that “paedophilia wasn’t considered an “absolute evil” as recently as the 1970s.”  All I can think, when I read something like that is, “WTF?  Have you no idea about the world you move in?”

Dispatches from the Culture Wars has an excellent deconstruction of the claims made by the Pope, as does Pharyngula here and here.

Continue reading Credibility? He no longer has some

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A little bit of respect please

A dear friend, who is a devout Baptist, sent my husband and I a Christmas card this year.  He’s recently found out that we’re now atheists, both queer and probably that we’re also polyamorous.  This was probably a bit of a shock to his system, but I thought that the inclusions of the following in his Christmas card was not necessary:

He hasn’t forgotten you and neither have we


“If there is no God we must conclude that we live in a randomly generated mechanical universe in which moral judgements are merely a matter of preference and a moral objection to the holocaust has the same weight and validity as a dislike for lemon cheesecake”

The last quote is unattributed, so I don’t know if it was something that he wrote, or something that he quoted and failed to attribute.  I’ve done a quick google search and am unable to find the source of the quote, so if you do know, tell me and I’ll attribute the quote accordingly.

And then today my husband’s guest post received a comment from David which is kinda summed up (in essence at least) in the quote provided by my dear friend.  I want to point out to Christians, and believers in any other faith traditions, that this kinda behaviour is really rude.

Continue reading A little bit of respect please

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Guest post: The genesis of my atheism

Hello everyone, my name is James. My wife Rebecca has kindly allowed me to write a guest post on her blog, discussing the end of my Catholic faith and the birth of my atheism. My usual writing topic is video games (here and here) so when I wrote a long email about atheism and Rebecca suggested I put it online, I did not have an appropriate channel through which to share it. This is why she gave me permission to put it on this blog as her first ever guest post. Thanks Rebecca!

– = –

As I showered this morning, I was thinking about the genesis of my atheism.

The process of losing my faith completely was a long, gradual one. At 21 I was a devout Catholic – anti-abortion, homophobic, and everything else that goes along with it. A couple of years ago, around the age of 34, I was surprised by my sudden realisation that a mostly unnoticed process of transition was complete and I was indeed an atheist.

I don’t remember the specific circumstances, but I will filling in some kind of survey or a form (the last census, perhaps?) and I was asked for my religion. Without even thinking about it, I ticked the box marked “atheist”. I then stared at the choice I had made, a little stunned. “I’m an atheist now!” I thought, shocked by the undeniable truth of it. “When did that happen?”

In my reminiscences this morning, I realised that there had been a little termite in the timber of my religious faith for almost two decades, nibbling away invisibly, until one day I found that the once solid structure had been replaced with a hollow shell. That termite was a single powerful idea that I never put into words until this morning.

In essence, that idea is this: God is omnipotent, omniscient, omni-everything-else, and he exists outside our human perception of time. All times are now to God, and all places are in his presence. This means that when he was a spirit floating over the water before the world began (if you subscribe to biblical literalism) he was aware of everything that was to come.

God made humanity and the world and everything in it, already knowing that Adam and Eve would sin, the human race would fall into damnation, that he would have to sacrifice his own son (technically himself!) to save humanity from a punishment of his own devising, and that this salvation would be scattershot at best, saving only a fraction of the people of the world.

God made humanity and the world and everything in it already knowing that the future would hold the Crusades, the Holocaust, the Killing Fields, the Black Death, two World Wars, the Jonestown massacre, and countless everyday atrocities and horrors.

God made humanity and the world and everything in it already knowing that human beings would suffer a multitude of cancers, blindness, brain tumours, strokes, heart attacks, and birth defects ranging from crippling to fatal.

God made humanity and the world and everything in it already knowing that human beings would persecute each other based on features outside their control, that in fact God himself had built into them – the colour of their skin, the place where they were born, the religion of their parents, the sex or gender of their bodies, the sexual orientation built into their brains, and any of the other multitudes of ways in which we make our sisters and brothers into “the other”.

This supposedly supreme being, with the power to make every whim become truth and the ability to foresee every consequence of every action before he has even begun to perform it, could literally have made any world at all. Physics, chemistry, biology, and even logic and causality are subject to the will of the Judeo-Christian God, and any world we can imagine would be within his ability to create.

Yet this is the world he made, with its wars and diseases and injustices without end.

Frankly, any God that believes that this world is the best of all possible worlds is must incompetent, evil, or (and this seems to be the most likely option) simply non-existent.

Without even realising I had been debating silently with myself, I had reached the conclusion that the cruelty of the world we live in is a reflection of its chaotic, unguided development, and the occasional horrific behaviour of my own species is psychological residue of its evolution in a brutal, uncompromising, and competitive environment.

I quote Marcus Cole from the great SF show Babylon 5:

“I used to think that it was awful that life was so unfair. Then I thought, wouldn’t it be much worse if life were fair, and all the terrible things that happen to us come because we actually deserve them? So, now I take great comfort in the general hostility and unfairness of the universe.”

How terrible a place would the world be if all of this horror was planned? If some invisible deity were wilfully causing murder and death and famine and drought because it aided in the completion of some opaque plan that would only reach fruition in some unhinted future?

No, like Marcus I find randomness far more plausible and comforting that a murderous and vengeful man in the sky who blames me for the very faults he built into me, like Geppetto casting Pinnochio into a bonfire as punishment for his own flawed workmanship.

The wonderful folk musician Penelope Swales said well in her song Monkey Comfort:

Can you see, my friends, why I don’t find my insignificance frightening? Oh, no! I find it comforting. It steadies me. /
When I’m hounded by fear, grief or loss, frightened by my death or yours it grants me some serenity. /
Coz I’m knowing that I will die and take my place in eternity. Ah, just one more monkey that lived on a rock where 10 trillion monkeys lived. /
No more important, nor less essential, than any other snake, bear, insect, or monosteria /
And when I go, it’ll be a compliment to me if some other monkeys grieve.

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Losing faith

1 Corinthians 13:11

When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me.

Once upon a time I was a relatively devout Catholic, it wasn’t even that long ago that I stopped being a Catholic and lost my faith completely.  It wasn’t a lightning bolt moment, waking up in the night and thinking, “OMG, I’m an atheist”, it was a gradual thing that happened quietly and peacefully in my head (thankfully I didn’t stress about it one way or the other overly).

The reason that this post has suddenly become relevant is that I’m reading “Eternal Life: A New Vision: Beyond Religion, Beyond Theism, Beyond Heaven and Hell” by John Shelby Spong (a retired Episcopalian (Anglican) Bishop from the USA).  It is an interesting book, the first half makes perfect sense to me as Spong deconstructs religion and declares that god is dead.  The next section was far harder to comprehend where he attempted to argue that god is within each of us and that by knowing ourselves we know god, and that all the mystics are pretty much right.  Then he talks about the Jesus story through this lens and how this has affected his personal journey.

I have a few problems with the book which are fairly easy to summarise.

Self consciousness

Spong, in his recounting of evolution and why religions were formed, uses self consciousness as the basis for what separates humans from animals.  The fact that humans are aware of death and plan for the future, makes us different from animals he argues, and the corresponding fear of the unknown and death began the rise of religion in early human history as a form of security.

That may all be true, but there are animals which are aware of death and who can plan for the future, two key parts of what Spong says separates humans and animals.  Elephants are very aware of the death of members of their herd, and mourn when one dies, knowing at the same time that they must keep moving to get to food or water to continue the survival of the herd.  Dogs, apes and some monkeys are also aware of death, though less good at the planning for the future bit.  Dolphins and whales would appear to be conscious of death and plan for the future also.


I know that Spong is an Episcopalian Bishop and has grown up in the Christian traditions, however I felt that in his writing, although he acknowledged other religions, returned to Christianity as the one true religion.  He hasn’t stated it directly, but clearly to be involved in a religion means that the other religions are wrong or incorrect in some fashion (wrong god/s, wrong worshipping practice/s, wrong dietary requirement/s, wrong clothing, etc).  Little was done to address any other religion’s views on life after death, to look at mysticism in other religions, to even compare the fact that the Jesus story appears in many other religions, and that there appears to be little historical proof to support Jesus’s existence. Ultimately this reinforces the privileged position that Christianity holds in Western nations.  His use of “religion” to generally also only describe Christianity also doesn’t help.

Belief and non-belief

The biggest issue I have with the book is that Spong states that the death of old-school religion (that currently practised by most Christians around the world), is just the stepping stone through to enlightenment and self-knowledge.  It did feel, while reading this part of the book, that those of us who state that there is no god, are lesser beings, as Spong states that those who have moved into new belief are effectively superior (though he probably means superior to traditional Christians).  In my opinion, stating that god is dead should be the end, and enlightenment is where you step free from the need to have any religion.

Currently I haven’t finished his book, so I’m not 100% sure what the end result is going to be in regards to what he believes that faith is going to be like.  The first third to half the book is an excellent argument as to why people should not believe in any god/s.  It details a lot of issues and questions I thought my way through when I started losing my faith, such as:

  • Why would a loving, all seeing, all present deity allow suffering and pain in the world (particularly in big environmental disasters)?
  • Why must we cajole and praise a deity in order to have our prayers answered? (Much like whining children getting what they want)
  • Why are there poor and homeless people, and why aren’t their prayers being answered?
  • Why must people who do not believe, but who live a good life, go to hell?
  • Why are the traditions/rules of this religious institution telling me that X is good and Y is bad, when both X and Y are neutral?
  • What do you mean women are lesser creatures?
  • If there are so many different religions, how can I know which one/s are actually correct?
  • If there was a god, surely there would only be one religion.

The standard responses to suffering, pain and misfortune in the world by religious leaders: they deserved it; it is god’s will; karma; etc, are all non-answers really.  No one deserves to have themselves or their family killed in a monsoon/earthquake/bombing/train crash/bushfire/flood, and any god who willed that such a thing should happen, is not a god that I could possibly respect or worship.

One last note.  Whenever I write about religion, it will typically be about Christianity because that is the religion I grew up in.  I will not spend time critiquing other religions because I know little about them.

ADDENDUM:  I realised over lunch that I haven’t said all I want to say on this topic, and that there are some very good excerpts from Spong’s book which might also help me get to the other bit of the point I was attempting to make.    Basically, there will be another post on this topic when I have time.  The worst bit about writing when busy, is that I tend to forget the points I had neatly ordered in my head.

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The Australian Christian Lobby is lonely

Clearly the Australian Christian Lobby (ACL) has not been feeling the love recently, so they decided to come out punching today and publicly declared (covered in The Age at least) that they were against Labour’s plans to fund a “gay rights advisory body”.  Before I delve too deep into the ACL, I want to cover a little bit about who they are and what they want to achieve.  From their website (link not provided deliberately):

The vision of the ACL is to see Christian principles and ethics accepted and influencing the way we are governed, do business and relate to each other as a community.

There is no sense in this vision of our wishing to see Australia a theocracy, but merely wanting to reestablish the rightful influence of those who believe in our Christian heritage.

Wow, I could spend this entire post and the remainder of time before I go to bed for my well deserved night’s sleep deconstructing that “About” page, but I’ll save that for another time (note to self – make sure you do that eventually).

So, the ACL… focused on Christian principles, not surprising, but want them to influence government, business and interpersonal relationships, not as a theocracy… no, no, no… but to “reestablish the rightful influence of those who believe in our Christian heritage” (emphasis mine).  Doesn’t that sound scary.  Those who do not believe in the Christian heritage of Australia (and I think the Aboriginal nations might have something to say about that), should not have influence, so no influence (or less) for Muslims, Buddhists, Atheists, Hindus, the Christians that aren’t affiliated with the ACL, etc.

Anway… back to the article at hand now that I’ve provided a quick background on the ACL, though as things are relevant, I’ll probably dive in and out of their website to find useful factoids.

Sadly, the ACL is an incredibly vocal lobby group with very little transparency.  There is no clear record available (that I could find with a quick search) as to who funds them, how many members they have, which Christian Churches they work with/through.  Their board is a massive sausage fest, but that’s hardly surprising given it’s a Conservative Christian business.  They do come out and state that they are a “political lobby representing individual Christians and is neither denominationally nor politically aligned”, which means that they act on stuff that they are specifically interested in, versus what the Bible recommends, or what Churches want, or potentially even what their probably rather small (“Consistently maintained a growth rate of 50% annually in membership over its first three years as a national organisation” – much easier with smaller numbers) membership desires.  Though as I believe that only Conservative Christians would join this group (an en-masse sign up of everyone else would be funny), they probably are interested in what the ACL pushes.

But again, back to the article:

THE Labor Party’s plan to fund a gay rights advisory body is a disgraceful act and shows that the government is pandering to a small minority, says the Australian Christian Lobby.

Because listening to minority groups and ensuring their full participation in society is such a bad thing (and yes, we suck at racial minority groups, listening to them and helping them fully participate in society for the most part).  I do love how ACL completely ignores societal support for increased rights for the LBGTIQ members of society and family support that many TIQLBG have, who would also want the rights of their family members recognised.

”Most people treat abortion as a done deal [but] for us and for many Christians it is still a very topical issue and where candidates sit on that is very important,” Mr Ward said. [ACL chief executive]

Citation needed Mr Ward.  How many Christians is this an issue for?  Why is it an issue?  Which Churches?  Are the views of your Board (5 white men) actually relevant here?  What about for people who aren’t Christian?  Why does your belief system get to walk all over theirs? (That last statement is going to be a recurring theme here).

He said it was a ”disgraceful act of undemocratic process” by Labor to fund a government advisory committee that would advise cabinet on issues affecting the gay community.

”What Labor has done has identified a small minority, a very vocal minority with one issue, their issue: gay rights, and they have said ‘we will cater to your needs’,” he said.

Yes, because 10% of the population is a “small minority”, much like the ACL which would appear to be even a smaller minority, and the ACL is also “a very vocal minority”.  I’m beginning to see parallels.  So, Mr Ward and the ACL, are you going to stop now and go away like you’d like the BLGTIQ community to?

And stop with conflating all the issues that the QITLBG community has into a broad, brush stroke, pithy phrase.  Because the GLBITQ community has many issues that we’d like addressed and yes, they do relate back to human rights, that is true, that doesn’t make them any less valid than anyone else’s rights though.  I’m actually rather pleased that the Labour Party has committed to having a BLGTIQ advisory body.  It means that the issues that my fellow queer and trans* have may actually be addressed, such as bullying and suicide of queer and trans* teens, appropriate medical access for trans*, recognition of relationships, no discrimination on the basis of gender identity or presentation, hate crime legislation strengthened, and gender mutilation of intersex babies ceasing.  See, these issues are pity and can easily be summed into two words that are meaningless on their own.

”If they have got money to throw around, why don’t they throw it at child protection? Why aren’t they setting up a group too that will defend freedom for religion?”

Because Mr Ward, child protection and freedom of religion are already legislated.  Most of the rights I’ve listed above, and other issues faced by the LBIQTG community are not.  See, that really is very simple.  And since when did YOUR religion need protecting.  Christianity is privileged and has far more status in society than any other religion.

Mr Ward said more than 100,000 people used the Australian Christian Lobby’s site during the 2010 federal election.

And this is the most telling about the small size of the ACL, despite their very loud (and annoying) voice.  There are approximately 13.6 million voters in Australia (in 2007).  Of those 13.6 million voters, at the Federal Election in August ONLY somewhat more than 100,000 people visited ACL’s website.  That’s 0.735% of voters.  That’s sweet-fuck-all.  That last admission by Mr Ward really does show how irrelevant he and his lobby group are.  Though why they continue to get airtime and be seen as a source for “balance” is beyond me.

Now, back to the point of forcing me and anyone else who isn’t the same type of Christian or even Christian to live under your rules.  From ACL’s website:

Do you know?

That 12.7 million, or 64% of Australians declared themselves as Christians in the 2006 ABS Census.
That over 2 million Australians attend a place of worship every Sunday.

So although approximately 64% of of Australians declared themselves as Christians only somewhere over 2 million of them, or 15% of Australian Christians actively participate in their places of worship.  In the 2006 Australian Census, I marked myself down as Catholic, but I do not, and never would have, supported the ACL’s stance on GLBTIQ rights, abortion or euthanasia (well I probably would have when I was younger and not as well educated).  It’s a HUGE reach for the ACL to claim that they represent all Christians, where there are about 10 different grouped denominations who don’t agree on most things.  The ACL doesn’t represent the Catholics or Anglicans who have various Bishop Councils advocating on their behalf.  I have no idea about the Orthodox Churches but I imagine have their own lobby methodologies.  So who, really, does the ACL claim to represent other than conservative Christians?

And given that only 64% of Australia declares themselves Christian and only 15% of those who declare themselves Christian regularly attend Church services, why on earth does the ACL think that it can dictate to me and all the other non-Christians and non-ACL style Christians how we should live?  If they are so threatened by the GLBTIQ community, why don’t they just put their head in the sand and leave the rest of us alone to live our lives to our full potential?  For my sake, the sake of the GLBTIQ community, for the sake of women who should be trusted to make up their own minds about the suitability of an abortion, for the sake of people who want to die with dignity, please STOP giving these people a voice until they are at the very least:

  1. transparent about their membership
  2. transparent about their finances
  3. transparent about their decision making processes

Maybe then, as we’ll all be a bit more educated about their agenda and relevance, they might be allowed a voice, but right now, they’re a harmful distraction to important issues.

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Christianity and women and sex

This is going to be a really short post, but I have to share it after finding this blog post on the internets.  I don’t know who Mark Gungor actually is, apart from someone who claims some authority on Christian marriage and relationships… but after reading the blog post linked to above, I think he needs to start all over again, perhaps with proper education about relationships and statutory laws.

Relevant annoying and icky bits from his blog are below:

I’ll dispel the myth regarding the requirement of a huge emotional connection. Women, more often than men, get hung up on this one and think they have to have all these warm and fuzzy emotions to feel like they can get physical with their husbands. I’m not saying that you always have sex with no emotion or connection–that would not be a healthy relationship. But what I am saying is that sometimes sex can just be sex.

As I said, sometimes sex is just sex; it’s what you do when you are married. Just like cleaning the toilet is what you do to keep your house clean…and I bet you don’t have this great desire or huge emotional connection to scrubbing the porcelain! You do it because it needs to be done and that’s the way it is with married sex… it does need to be done! It’s the glue that God gave us to bond us to one another. The bible is very clear that it is your responsibility as a spouse.

Understand that there is no need for all this desire and emotion nonsense. Don’t feel badly if you aren’t overwhelmed by all the over-the-moon feelings and passion ahead of time. There is nothing wrong with you. If you can enjoy sex once you start and have a good time, that’s all that matters. Just break the mindset that you won’t do it unless you feel like it. Let not your hearts be troubled. Just enjoy the deal without all the fuss and worry over the desire and emotion. It’s actually a trap, that if you aren’t careful, you can get caught in and you, your spouse and your relationship will suffer. (Emphasis in original)

Some of the comments on this thread are horrifying.  One woman says she was sexually abused before her marriage and after marriage her husband was not affectionate and was resentful of the healing she had to do from the assault.  She claims that often sex was unemotional and she relived the sexual abuse, and had she known that she could have just been unfeeling about the whole thing, then it would have been ok.  I really didn’t know what to do when I read this comment apart from bang my head against the desk.

A lone atheist who has found the blog through a friend takes on almost all the Christian commenters and the author herself.  She calls out the rape apology present by clearly arguing that such expectations of “having sex when you don’t want to” apply only to women and actually is rape, which is illegal.  She discusses the difference between subservience and equality, and quotes the bible back at those who quote it to her, in good productive ways.  The comments that she participates in are AWESOME.  I’d suggest reading them just for what she’s written.

But this whole post is a big concern – apart from the fact that a marriage counsellor of some description is telling people to just lie back and think of … well something – because it’s aim is at women.  You would never see a man being told to just have sex with someone, even if they don’t want to, because its far harder to fake an erection.

The Christian commentators and author keep returning to the bible, and to their understanding of how relationships should work based on the bible, which is a bad place to start methinks.  Their thinking is narrow minded and flawed and because Christianity is inherently misogynistic, their attitudes towards women are terrible (and sadly so are the attitudes of some of the female commentators towards themselves), and the idea of equality of women in a relationship isn’t really considered.

Some of the male commentators said they liked to do things for their wives because it made their wives happy, but there was very little discussion about how they have sex with their wives when they don’t want to – because that isn’t going to happen.

There is a lot wrong with Christianity and women in Christianity and I could blog at length about it, but for now, I’m just going to headdesk at this post some more and then go to bed.

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