Comments: opposition to discrimination?

Good for you, Brits! Now if we could only send these people into another dimension, so as not to pollute another country with their hate.

Posted by Joe Rawls at Sunday, 22 February 2009 at 2:25am GMT

As a Yank who has seen Phred Phelp's Phundamentalist Phamily in action, I extend a hand across the Pond, and say "Thank you, Ekklesia!"
It's easy to condemn Fred Phelps and his family. It makes the Falwells, the Southern Baptists, and their counterparts in the Anglican movement (paging ++Akinola, paging ++Akinola) feel smug and superior. "Oh, we're not like them!" they can say in Christian sanctimony.
I have to hand it to Phelps: He doesn't hide behind platitudes, he doesn't hide behind the Godawful "Love the sinner, hate the sin" smugness. He puts it right out there for all to see. The others would rather gloss their own hates and fears with honeyed words and nuanced actions.
For those Brits who can't connect the dots between Phelps' homophobia and picketing the funerals of dead soldiers, it's this: Because the US government does not track down and execute gay people, because most Americans tolerate to some degree or even accept gay people, the US has gone to the Devil, literally, and the deaths of soldiers in Iraq is a sign of God's judgment against the vile and immoral US.
Phelps has been picketing funerals for 20 years. He started out picketing funerals of people with AIDS or gay or lesbian people in Kansas. Kansas authorities tried restraining him, but no one else really took much notice. He gained notoriety by picketing Matthew Shepard’s funeral. Then, after the US invaded Iraq, he started picketing soldier’s funerals, and he really attracted opposition. It is one thing to picket the funeral of gay people, that’s free speech, and besides we don’t care do we? But picketing soldier’s funerals? Why, who does he think he is, that’s too much free speech!
Again, thank you Ekklesia for preaching a true Christian message.

Posted by peterpi at Sunday, 22 February 2009 at 4:15am GMT

It is difficult to validate the exclusion of those who stir up hatred toward foreigners and Moslems while the Daily Mail and others make such a good fist of it every twenty-four hours.

Likewise I find the Evangelical Alliance's response to the Phelps story about as credible as I would a Daily Mail editorial charging the Guardian with xenophobia. Even those still within the EA argue that few churches can presently safely accommodate “celibate gays” - yet alone give the rest of us a loving welcome.

Recently this practice of saying something is so, no matter how untrue, is becoming characteristic of “orthodox” Christianity, perhaps others more observant will say it has ever been so. What disturbs me is to see Rowan Williams and others of his calibre being sucked into this web of deceit.

I see Williams now as the leader of the sondercommando willing to do the evil deeds that come with the job on the ambiguous promise of survival and some form of unity.


Posted by Martin Reynolds at Sunday, 22 February 2009 at 10:25am GMT

Very interesting editorial in the Churchman ( Church Society's theological journal) by Gerald Bray he states that, Rowan Williams holding the line against homosexuality, although he believes otherwise is as unconvincing as a Pope saying he agrees with contraception, but must hold the line!

As for Westboro Baptist Church...its almost a stereotype of hatred...yet some of their views (or views verging on their own) can be seen on Stand Firm and Virtue online web sites...

Posted by Robert Ian Williams at Sunday, 22 February 2009 at 11:04am GMT

Exactly, Robert: the difference between the Phelps cult and the so-called "orthodox Anglicans" and "conservative evangelicals" is simply one of tact.

Posted by JPM at Sunday, 22 February 2009 at 5:24pm GMT

JPM,

Don't agree. Previous head of Evangelical Alliance, Joel Edwards, not exactly a pinko liberal, said a while back: 'Christians have to stop shouting about homosexuality'. I think he registered (a) that it was bad publicity; (b) that - even within that world-view - it showed a lamentable disproportion. Many Evangelicals (so-called) don't care about this issue (i.e. they actually think there's nothing wrong with homosexual behaviour); many are in some sort of process of learning. They should be encouraged - not sneered at - least of all by Robert, who is -currently, but impermanently - in a far worse church than the C of E ('far worse', in this, as in ALL other respects).

Posted by john at Sunday, 22 February 2009 at 7:02pm GMT

Well, I actually don't think the difference is tact... But that some groups don't want to be associated with the Phelpses.

Why this is so, is not immediately evident from outside. As you said, there is precious little difference from what is seen on sites not to be named.

What makes groups, that don't want to be seen as over the top, distance themselves? What is it they percieve???

Posted by Göran Koch-Swahne at Sunday, 22 February 2009 at 8:46pm GMT

"A recent news item concerned the UK government’s banning members of the so-called Westboro Baptist Church from entering the country. Less widely reported was the joint statement issued by six Christian organisations"

One wonders: Where were the mainline Churches in all of this? Did they not consider it worthwhile speaking out on this issue? Or were they sanguine about it?

Posted by Father Ron Smith at Sunday, 22 February 2009 at 10:34pm GMT

I should very much like to picket Fred Phelps' funeral. Tomorrow.

The sign would say "God even loves Fred Phelps, but she's upset at his misrepresentations of her feelings toward gays." :-)

Posted by Nom de Plume at Monday, 23 February 2009 at 2:19am GMT

I disagree John..the Catholic Church is unequiviocal but always compassionate and merciful. If you were resident in the Diocese of Sydney, under that expression of Anglicanism would you feel the same?

Posted by Robert Ian Williams at Monday, 23 February 2009 at 6:52am GMT

One wonders: Where were the mainline Churches in all of this? Did they not consider it worthwhile speaking out on this issue? Or were they sanguine about it?

... or they didn't want to give this any more publicity than it had already received.

(I say this more in hope than in expectation).

Kennedy

Posted by Kennedy Fraser at Monday, 23 February 2009 at 9:29am GMT

The whole situation reminds me of home-spun racist trashing Hitler...

Posted by Göran Koch-Swahne at Monday, 23 February 2009 at 9:29am GMT

"I actually don't think the difference is tact... But that some groups don't want to be associated with the Phelpses."

Goran,
I think the only reason they don't want to be associated with the Phelpses is that the Phelpses lack tact. I honestly believe that, left to their own devices, many of the anti-gay crowd would behave in much the same fashion. One of the leaders of the anti-gay movement in Anglicanism wants to jail us, after all. Not only that, they lie about us, promote hate based propaganda as though it were science, and do their utmost to paint us and those who support us as the supreme enemy of Western society and the Gospel. Sorry, but their behaviour, even with the constraints they have consented to operate under, is a bit too Phelps-like. They simply cannot see how they can preach their message of gay celebacy without resorting to very similar tactics.

"The Catholic Church is unequiviocal but always compassionate and merciful."

RIW,
Pull the other one! For more than a decade, the Roman Catholic Church in Newfoundland has been fighting a court battle to avoid paying compensation to victims of the Church's clergy and religious. Court proceeding on behalf of these people, some of whom have committed suicide, have recently been dropped, so it would appear the Church has won. So much for compassion and mercy!

Posted by Ford Elms at Monday, 23 February 2009 at 2:38pm GMT

Pleeeeze, Robert Ian Williams! The Diocese of Sydney is “Anglican” in name only; it’s really Calvinist.

Posted by Kurt at Monday, 23 February 2009 at 2:42pm GMT

Luke 18:11 comes to mind.

Posted by Ford Elms at Monday, 23 February 2009 at 2:49pm GMT

I believe Fred's "thoughts' may still be found at the church website, godhatesfags.com

For relief, visit godhatesshrimp.com

I think those addresses are about right.

The dangerous thing about Fred, and the late Falwell, and the increasingly ignored and wacko Robertson, is that very few nice middle class Christians would act or speak like they do, and thus they might complacently assume that they are 'fairminded' and 'moderate.' It's a little like saying, "I would never lynch a Black person, so I'm not racist."

Posted by Cynthia Gilliatt at Monday, 23 February 2009 at 4:56pm GMT

Many years ago, when the Episcopal Church Triennial Convention was in Indianapolis, a friend of mine attended and was involved with Integrity. He was lamenting the lone presence of Phred Phelps and his merry little claque of haters, when another in our conversation remarked that Phred had actually done much good in the Episcopal Church in galvanizing sympathy for LGBT issues with his stark message of hatred and bigotry. So I would tend to agree, peterpi.

RIW: Despite it not getting an "Oscar" I would encourage you to go and watch "Doubt", when an out-of-control nun overflows with compassion and mercy.

Posted by choirboyfromhell at Monday, 23 February 2009 at 5:06pm GMT

Here is a voice of compassion:

http://www.truefreedomtrust.co.uk/

I notice that even sensitive Evangelicals who wish to minister to people with 'gay issues' have to act with great tact, keeping their forthcoming conference venue under wraps. I hope it does not mean they get a hard time for their trouble.

Posted by Rev L Roberts at Monday, 23 February 2009 at 6:43pm GMT

"examining the way prejudice against gay people has distorted biblical understanding" {*}

This is *key*: THANK YOU, Accepting Evangelicals et al.

{*} As opposed to the canard that it's the other way 'round.

Posted by JCF at Monday, 23 February 2009 at 7:20pm GMT

Ford Elms, Luke 18:11 is spot on!
Fred Phelps takes all the heat while the other hard-line Evangelical or Calvinist Anglican groups quietly go about preaching a very similar message, but more diplomatically put. Fred Phelps is a marvelous diversion for them.

Posted by peterpi at Monday, 23 February 2009 at 7:50pm GMT

Kurt: RIW's party line is that Sydney Anglicans are simply being faithful to "Reformation principles" and Anglo-Catholics are just deluding ourselves.

Posted by Geoff McLarney at Monday, 23 February 2009 at 9:20pm GMT

Hey! Many conservative Christians know and love gay people; quite a few are gay!

The question is not whether God loves everyone - of course God does - the question if whether same-sex sex is one of the (many) forms of sexual relationship that are against God's intentions and, therefore, to be abstained from by faithful Christians.

It worries me that so many liberals, even the Ekklesia "Think Tank", seem to be unable to understand the difference between loving someone and approving of their behaviour... Does that mean Ekklesia think you are free to hate people whose behaviour you disapprove of (eg mine?)... or is the truth that it should really be called the Ekklesia "Pressure Group"?

Posted by davidwh at Monday, 23 February 2009 at 10:59pm GMT

For those who watched the Oscars, the Westboro Baptists were the protesters Sean Penn talked about in his acceptance speech.

Posted by Pat O'Neill at Monday, 23 February 2009 at 11:21pm GMT

Ford, I think most of us on this site know about Rome's duplicity on this and other important issues touching the treatment of Gays and Women. What perhaps is more important at this point in time is that of the mainline Churches' need to encourage both clergy and laity into dialogue with each other, on a cross-denominational basis, on the meaning of Scripture for today. This could well alter the Churches' treatment of a category of the truly disadvantaged of society: the LBGT community and Women who seek to share fully in the ordained ministry of the Church. Only then can the Church show a credible unity of purpose on such issues to the world at large.

Without ongoing education in these important areas: of the primacy of Gospel imperatives over redundant exegetical method, and the exposure of out-dated cultural pre-supposition, the Church will be locked into a fundamentalism of the dark ages of the pre-enlightenment - becoming no longer relevant and out of kilter with the modern world. We need to remember that Jesus' unique form of religious enlightenment met with fierce opposition from the established order. The renewal he bought necessitated a new theology. His 'New Commandment' outlook was never more urgently needed than in the Church of today.

Posted by Father Ron Smith at Monday, 23 February 2009 at 11:47pm GMT

I am an Anglican living in Sydney. I also was employed for 25 years in Catholic Diocesan schools.
As a gay man I found acceptance amongst the laity and religious within the schools but the hierarchy was quite opposed. Cardinal Pell can give ++Jensen a run for his money in opposing homosexuality.
However I am able to attend an Anglican parish in Sydney which openly welcomes homosexuals including +Gene Robinson (although they could not ask him to preach or officiate in any way). Jensenism is often criticised from the pulpit (aklthough not too openly by the Rector). Recent activities at a Catholic gay welcoming church in Brisbane where the priest has been sacked shows me the difference between Anglicanism and Roman Catholicism

Posted by Brian Ralph at Tuesday, 24 February 2009 at 7:56am GMT

"The question is not whether God loves everyone - of course God does - the question if whether same-sex sex is one of the (many) forms of sexual relationship that are against God's intentions and, therefore, to be abstained from by faithful Christians." - Davidwh (on Monday) -

Davidwh. You have certainly isolated your problem with your question: "Whether same-sex sex is one of the (many) forms of sexual relationship that are against God's intentions and, therefore, to be abstained from by faithful Christians?"

I would ask you, in turn, whether it might be possible that same-sex sex is natural for certain people, for whom any other kind of sexual relationship might not be 'natural'?

Could homosexuality and other sexual orientations possibly be God-given - as opposed to such diverse people being guilty of acting in a way contrary to their LGB or T 'nature'?

Do you think it at all possible that Paul's talk of 'perverse' sexual behaviour might mean something entirely different for a 'naturally' homosexual person? For an intrinsically 'gay' person, for instance, it might be 'perverse' to engage in hetero-sexual activity - simply to fulfil the expectations of so-called 'civilised society'.

I would suggest to you that an up-to-date hermeneutic process in assessing the validity of certain biblical passages that seem, on the surface, to condemn homosexual activity; might lead you to a better understanding of what LGBT persons have to live with - in terms of their natural, God-given sexual attraction.

Sexual licentiousness means the same for hetero - as for homo-sexual persons. It is as difficult for a gay person to commit to a faithful monogamous realationship as it is for a heterosexual - perhaps even more so because of misdirected social approbrium, mainly stemming from the Church.

Posted by Father Ron Smith at Tuesday, 24 February 2009 at 10:07am GMT

I love Fred Phelps!

He's the best friend the movement for LGBT emancipation ever had. He makes the closet brothers/sisters mad enough to come out. He forces their hetero friends to stand up for them. He makes other heteros take a good hard look at themselves and their own feelings. And he embarrasses the hell out of the segregationist reaction and makes them all look like hypocrites or cowards.

Years ago I sent Phelps a letter thanking him for all he's done on behalf of the LGBT movement and to keep up the good work.

He didn't answer.

Posted by counterlight at Tuesday, 24 February 2009 at 1:06pm GMT

As David Wh implies there are 4 possibilities:

(1) Love someone and approve of one given aspect of their behaviour;
(2) Love someone and disapprove of one given aspect of their behaviour;
(3) Hate someone and approve of one given aspect of their behaviour;
(4) Hate someone and disapprove of one given aspect of their behaviour.

While it may be granted that 1 and 4 are liable to be slightly more common than 2 or 3 (so far as I can see, this entirely depends on which particular aspect of behaviour is highlighted), the liberals here are taking the surely untenable view that 2 is an impossible situation in all circumstances. This is academic suicide. In fact, the world is so vast that there will be plenty of instances of 1, and of 2, and of 3, and of 4.

Posted by Christopher Shell at Tuesday, 24 February 2009 at 1:09pm GMT

"Many conservative Christians know and love gay people; quite a few are gay!"

I would dispute the second statement, but maybe you are right. As to the first statement, many might KNOW gay people, but love them? Can you show me one loving act towards gay people carried out, officially, by GAFCON in the past 5 years? Just one. Individual members? There may be a few, but the official voice of GAFCON, and therefor of conservative Anglicans, is one of unbridled hatred and revulsion, and reveals pretty clearly that the leadership doesn't consider us fully human. If the rank and file didn't agree with this nonsense, they'd speak out against it. Instead, my experience is that they defend it. I've never encountered anything else, except the occasional gloss over "Oh, they shouldn't say things like that" which is soon revealed to be so much window dressing in subsequent statements made by that same person. The Right has a huge credibility gap. It might not apply to certain individuals, but as a group they claim to be Christian, but their behaviour towards gay people is anything but.

"so many liberals...seem to be unable to understand the difference between loving someone and approving of their behaviour"

I can see how you would say that, but from my vantage point, it seems conservatives don't understand the difference between disapproving of someone's behaviour and mistreating them. I mean, if they did, why would they so vehemently defend lying, slanders, threats, and insult as "evangelism"? I have frequently said that conservatives need not resort to these tactics to spread their message that God is calling gay people to celebacy. Yet NEVER has a conservative on this site agreed. Never. You really have to ask why this is. A hint might be that you on another thread accused the Left of "heresy and unrighteousness", and odd statement coming from someone who defends the manifest unrighteousness I cited above. Unless, as I suggested in that other thread, you don't consider such things unrighteous. This is the second time of asking.

Posted by Ford Elms at Tuesday, 24 February 2009 at 2:26pm GMT

I'm so consumed by hatred of sin that I spend every day discriminating against liars, cheats, cowards, adulterers, thieves, investment bankers, people who double park, Jonathan Ross and grumpy people. Members of my congregation regularly go out on a Sunday afternoon to beat these people up and spray rude messages onto their garden fences.

Not agreeing with someone's views or behaviour is not a phobia. Name calling doesn't help, and shows an irritating inability to actually listen to what people are saying.

We're all sinners, even those people closest to us, and that doesn't stop us loving them. Thinking something is a sin is no bar to a loving relationship with the person who commits it. If that weren't so, none of us would speak to each other ever again.

Posted by David Keen at Tuesday, 24 February 2009 at 2:34pm GMT

“Kurt: RIW's party line is that Sydney Anglicans are simply being faithful to ‘Reformation principles’ and Anglo-Catholics are just deluding ourselves.”Geoff McLarney

Yes, well Geoff, I think that RIW still can’t get over the fact that America’s first Episcopal bishop, Samuel Seabury, was wearing a mitre (and probably a chausuble) in 1785, long before the Catholic Revival in England.

Posted by Kurt at Tuesday, 24 February 2009 at 2:41pm GMT

Bishop Seabury was an interesting case....he attempted to get the Danish Church to consecrate him..and they don't believe in the Apostolic succession!

Posted by Robert Ian Williams at Tuesday, 24 February 2009 at 5:15pm GMT

Christopher:

The problem is that the "one aspect of their behavior" you disapprove of is one that, in a heterosexual, you would never disapprove of--that they wish to have a physical relationship with the person they love...and, further, that they wish to have that physical relationship acknowledged and blessed by the church.

You choose to deny the science that compellingly tells us that homosexuality is more (much more) than a choice of behaviors...that it is an integral part of the person, possibly from birth, but certainly from the very formative years. When confronted by that, you have--in the past--made comparisons to pedophiles, who may also be acting upon psychological affects from their formative years. The difference, of course, is that the homosexual in a monogamous, consenting relationship with another adult harms no one...and therefore, the comparison is odious.

Posted by Pat O'Neill at Tuesday, 24 February 2009 at 5:35pm GMT

“Bishop Seabury was an interesting case....he attempted to get the Danish Church to consecrate him..and they don't believe in the Apostolic succession!”--Robert Ian Williams

It’s true that Bishop Seabury was in correspondence with the Danes, but I don’t think it ever reached the stage of his requesting consecration by them. Bishop White, the Low Church Latitudinarian of Pennsylvania, on the other hand, floated a plan for an episcopal church without bishops--temporarily, at least!--which was equally rejected. In the end, in 1784, the American Church received the gift of the Historic Apostolic Succession (as well as the name of our Church, and its more High Church liturgy) from our good friends the Scots.

Posted by Kurt at Tuesday, 24 February 2009 at 7:42pm GMT

David Keen: but it is very common for gay people brought up in churches to have experienced horrific amounts of hatred and hate-language thrown in our direction: more commonly than not, that is, in fact, the message gay people have been receiving from churches. You need to take our word for it, which first involves listening to us, which in turn necessitates not locking us outside the gates of the Lambeth Conference, for example.

Posted by Fr Mark at Tuesday, 24 February 2009 at 9:14pm GMT

"Thinking something is a sin is no bar to a loving relationship with the person who commits it."

Possibly.

What I indisputably know to be true, is that an intimately "loving relationship with the person who" has similar sex chromosomes and genitalia as I have, is not barred by the fact that someone (misreads the Bible to) believe I am sinning thereby!

Posted by JCF at Wednesday, 25 February 2009 at 1:23am GMT

Hi Pat-

Points where what you say is not accurate:
(1) The vast majority of possible heterosexual sexual relationships are disapproved of by (not only specifically me, but) Christianity and the other large and longstanding world cultures in general. In fact there is only one possible type that they do approve of, whether or not mutual love is involved.

(2) You deny the science that tells us that identical twins are not even remotely as prone to share homosexuality as they would be if your theory were correct.

(3) You don't mention that environmental factors may be both positive and negative. For example, many show the first symptoms of homosexuality in adolescence: precisely the time when a fair proportion of new behavioural departures (among adolescents in the sorts of societies where homosexuality flourishes) are harmful addictions.

(4) In speaking of formative years (of course, 'formative years' is not a tightly defined phrase) you don't raise the point that experiences may be formative but not necessarily good. Some are formative and positive; some are formative and negative.

(2)

Posted by Christopher Shell at Wednesday, 25 February 2009 at 1:31pm GMT

Christopher,
"the liberals here are taking the surely untenable view that 2 is an impossible situation in all circumstances."

In addition to what Pat O'Neil said, Christopher, there is another problem. The anti-gay crowd claim to be acting according to #2, when it is patently obvious they actually follow #4. What is worse, they refuse to acknowledge this, and actually scream and holler "discrimination" every time someone points out how obvious this is. Well, I'm a Newfoundlander, born in the last half of the 20th century. I've spent my entire life refusing to say that lies are truth. I have no intention of starting now. Conservatives, at least those most outspoken on the gay issue, do NOT "love the sinner". It is patently obvious. I have spent the past God knows how long trying to point this out. Those conservatives most guilty of this are also most adamant in their refusal to even consider the matter. I ask what I have always asked, if you conservatives love us so much, why do you lie about us, revile us, seek to imprison us, try to justify hatred against us, and all the other manifestly hate filled and underhanded things you do in order to portray us as sick, likely pedophiles, and so abnormal as to die 30 years before our time? If you love me so much, Christopher, why do you continually say these things? Why do you defend pseudoscientific propaganda in order to support this? Why do you, and other conservatives, hint, not always very subtly, that there is some sort of liberal conspiracy on the part of the American Psychiatric Association, and various other researchers in Psychology, to coerce society into accepting something that is actually sick, perverse, and dangerous? Why are conservatives so angry at those who seek to find some compassion for us in the Gospel that they declare them apostate, faithless, seekers after the world's approval, and worthy of the kinds of condemnations hurled at them daily? The behaviours express hatred and revulsion, not love, and none of them are necessary to preach the message that God disapproves of gay relationships and is calling us to celebacy. So there must be another reason why you behave this way towards gay people and our supporters. You don't want to acknowledge how this behaviour reveals the true beliefs of conservatives like yourself? So be it. That just makes it easier to read your beads. But don't try to make me say that you love me as a child of God. It is obvious from everything I have mentioned, and more, that you do not. For one thing, it's pretty clear you see me as one of those twisting what you see as the "truth" about homosexuality, ignoring what you understand to be the "science" that "proves" your point in order to force society to accept the "abberation" that is me. I'd still like to argue face to face with you over a pint some day.

Posted by Ford Elms at Wednesday, 25 February 2009 at 2:04pm GMT

"identical twins are not even remotely as prone to share homosexuality as they would be if your theory were correct."

This is blatantly untrue. Twin studies show a greater liklihood of homosexuality in twins, even those separated at birth. That it is not absolute is merely evidence that it is a complex issue.

"many show the first symptoms of homosexuality in adolescence"

Again, this is blatantly untrue. The idea that what I am has "symptoms" like some disease, not only reveals some of your inner biases, it is also highly offensive.

Exactly how does making these statements reveal any love for me?

Posted by Ford Elms at Wednesday, 25 February 2009 at 3:42pm GMT

"many show the first symptoms of homosexuality in adolescence"

Yes, Christopher, this is HIGHLY OFFENSIVE!

Posted by Kurt at Wednesday, 25 February 2009 at 4:20pm GMT

Ford, the fundamentalists need someone to revile, since reviling is what they do most and best, and we are a very safe target.

If, say, they were to campaign against adultery, they would offend a large part of their base, even their own leadership, like a certain "orthodox" bishop who dumped his wife in order to take up with his secretary yet is still much loved and admired by the Stand Firm crowd.

And if they were to speak out against greed and violence that would risk alienating the right wingers among them, like the Bush Administration apparatchiks in the Virginia suburbs who have played such a prominent role in all this drama.

So it's best for them to take their firm stand against a "sin" that doesn't apply to many of their people. Much more prudent, don't you think?

Posted by JPM at Wednesday, 25 February 2009 at 4:59pm GMT

Christopher

At what age to people show the "first symptoms" of heterosexuality?
And do we therefore conclude that they are not born with it but have acquired later?

Posted by Erika Baker at Wednesday, 25 February 2009 at 5:10pm GMT

Christopher:

Are you right-handed or left-handed, or are you ambidexterous?

When did you decide?

Handedness is innate, not chosen, but nobody has yet discovered "a" handedness gene.

When you force a lefthanded person to use the right hand for everything that is single-handed, you do not produce a righthanded person. You produce a frustrated lefthanded person, who uses the right hand awkwardly.

Posted by Cynthia Gilliatt at Wednesday, 25 February 2009 at 5:33pm GMT

"Ford, the fundamentalists need someone to revile, since reviling is what they do most and best, and we are a very safe target."

Believe me, I know! It's really quite interesting. To them, God is angry. They state unabashedly that humans are criminals and under God's judgement, and that we have to get "right with God". So they do not question the idea that one becomes a Christian out of fear. I honestly believe they don't know of a reason to be a Christian other than fear of punishment. To them then, the only way to preach the Gospel is to instill fear into people. This is such an absolute thing that they cannot perceive that in our current culture, this will have exactly the opposite effect. They can't even afford to admit that this is what is driving people from Christianity in droves, despite the fact that it is precisely what is ridiculed in the media at every opportunity. They won't even accept that this concept of God is a rather new idea, and not at all what the Gospel is about. They can't even see anything wrong with threatening and condemning people, though those things are explicitly condemned in Scripture. Some conservatives have even defended these very behaviours. If you tell them not to be rude and insulting to people, not to go threatening people, they accuse you of viuolating their religious rights!

What's most confusing is that they all identify as "Evangelical" though there are many out there who do NOT think this way about God, yet still identify as Evangelical, even use the same language and mental constructs. I find it very confusing, but maybe that's how it's supposed to be. If you can't tell the good guys from the bad guys, youi either treat them all as bad or all as good. I think God wants us to do the latter, but that's a huge challenge.

Posted by Ford Elms at Wednesday, 25 February 2009 at 6:39pm GMT

Hi Christopher-

Were you born with symptoms of judgmentalism or did you detect this in your adolescence? Have you grown out of your adolescence yet?

Have a sparkling Ash Wednesday! Don't forget to get your face painted this eve!

Posted by choirboyfromhell at Wednesday, 25 February 2009 at 7:19pm GMT

Christopher:

:(1) The vast majority of possible heterosexual sexual relationships are disapproved of by (not only specifically me, but) Christianity and the other large and longstanding world cultures in general. In fact there is only one possible type that they do approve of, whether or not mutual love is involved."

Which relationships would those be? Polygamy? Fully accepted by most non-Judeo-Christian religions and, indeed, by Biblical era Judaism. Or are you speaking of what is euphemistically called "positions" in sex? Are you saying only the "missionary" position is accepted in most world cultures? It is to laugh.

"(2) You deny the science that tells us that identical twins are not even remotely as prone to share homosexuality as they would be if your theory were correct."

No, I don't deny science...that's your department. But there's a lot more to the formation of a human being than genetics. And even identical twins raised in the same family environment don't have identical experiences.

"(3) You don't mention that environmental factors may be both positive and negative. For example, many show the first symptoms of homosexuality in adolescence: precisely the time when a fair proportion of new behavioural departures (among adolescents in the sorts of societies where homosexuality flourishes) are harmful addictions."

Of course, environmental factors can be both positive and negative. OTOH, we don't condemn lifelong tobacco addicts to hell.

"(4) In speaking of formative years (of course, 'formative years' is not a tightly defined phrase) you don't raise the point that experiences may be formative but not necessarily good. Some are formative and positive; some are formative and negative."

"Formative years" is deliberately loosely defined because the science indicates that some parts of a human are formed early and some later. And, again, of course some experiences are positive and some negative. We just disagree on which are which.

Posted by Pat O'Neill at Wednesday, 25 February 2009 at 8:55pm GMT

Christopher's #2 at 13:09 on 2/24 is identical to "love the sinner, hate the sin", which has got to be, hands down, one of the most sanctimonious statements ever uttered. "Oh, look at me, Lord, look how noble I am. I love this man even though he's vile and repulsive." It's a smug attitude par excellance. Fred Phelps is at least honest enough to go straight to Christopher's #4 of that same post.
The second half of Christopher's #1 post on 2/25 is highly debatable. Not all major religions insist that the "missionary position" deployed solely for making babies is the only acceptable sexual practice between two loving (or married) straights.

Posted by peterpi at Wednesday, 25 February 2009 at 9:06pm GMT

I think sometimes that we all focus too much on the sexual activity involved in close human relationships - granted that they are basic to most such, whether hetero- or homo-sexual.

Not enough, to my mind, is said about the clear closeness and validity of such relationships - apart from their sexual content (although i do believe that the erotic can even be part of some relationships of any kind). What I'm really thinking of here is the pure and unadulterated love of people of the same gender whom we happen to admire - for their gentleness, humour, loving-kindness, and many other characteristics we find admirable and worthy of loving. A clear biblical example of such a relationship was that of David and Jonathan, whose love was "surpassing that of (men for) women".

You only have to note the behaviour of a sports team which, when someone scores a goal or a home-run, certainly exhibits signs of bonhomie and physical exuberance which seem to have an overt sexual element. All of this, I believe is part of the homo-erotic nature of our common humanity - obviously more evident in some than in others, but surprisingly expressed by *macho* sportsmen - more frequently than by those who have a need to mask their true sexual orientation.

What I am trying to say is that our sexuality is so intrinsic to our human nature, that most same-gender relationships have elements of the erotic in the make-up of the qualities that draw us together as human beings. In all sexual activity, though, we are naturally drawn towards those with whom we have the greatest affinity - whether that be on a hetero- or homosexual basis. Hitherto, the social taboos have been connected with the necessity to propagate the species - in today's world, perhaps not quite so pressing a need.

Posted by Father Ron Smith at Wednesday, 25 February 2009 at 10:10pm GMT

Hi Peterpi-
Loving sinner and hating sin is the way we continually regard the main people who figure in our lives, namely our children, ourselves and so on. This love-sinner-hate-sin position, far from being a lying facade for something more sinister (and any such allegation of lying would, logically, need to be made from a position of greater knowledge than that possessed by the original speaker - and is, consequently, in your case, illogical) it's a pretty omnipresent everyday reality! To go further and deny it is even a *possible* position to exist (among all the multifarious billions now inhabiting planet earth and all their multifarious thoughts and deeds) is to pile Pelion on Ossa.
To a Christian with an orthodox Christian worldview, the word 'sinners' does not connote precisely the same as the phrase 'human beings' but it does denote precisely the same group of people. Each of us is a sinner, just in different ways.

Peterpi and Pat-
I never mentioned the missionary position! I was speaking about marriage!

Hi Cynthia-
The debate is about whether homosexuality is comparable to left-handedness or not. To participate in that debate is to cite evidence pointing this way or that. To say that the debate does not need to take place at all, but we can bypass it and go straight to someone's preferred conclusion - that is a position that reminds me of that taken by fundamentalists. No citing of evidence, no debate, just pre-packaged conclusions.

Hi Ford-
I think the way I used 'liberal' and the way you used 'the anti-gay crowd' are equally poor generalisations. How can one believe that the one who generalises has made sufficient effort to understand people's stated/evidenced positions in all their individuality?

Hi Erika
I do not know of any society till recently which even believed that there was a phenomenon (deserving of a word to denote it)called 'heterosexuality'. This is precisely the problem: that our language, by creating a brace of words that look equivalent (homosexual, heterosexual) has prejudged the issue of whether or not these are two phenomena on a level with one another. The one has biological affirmation in that none of us would be here without it; this is but one reason why the 2 are not equivalent.

Posted by Christopher Shell at Friday, 27 February 2009 at 12:35pm GMT

"No citing of evidence, no debate, just pre-packaged conclusions."

There is in fact a lot of research into handedness and its causes. I'll see if I can get some citations from a university faculty friend who has done academic research in this area. She has told me that research into handedness shows that there is likely a genetic factor, likely a factor having to do with hormones encountered in utero and also a componant linking handedness with some other conditions. That is, people with certain congenital conditions tend to be statistically more likely to be lefthanded than people without that condition.

The bottom line is that handedness is not a matter of concious choice. Someone [rather rudely, I might add] once asked me when I had decided to be a lesbian. I asked him when he had decided to be straight.

Posted by Cynthia Gilliatt at Friday, 27 February 2009 at 1:06pm GMT

"To go further and deny it is even a *possible* position to exist (among all the multifarious billions now inhabiting planet earth and all their multifarious thoughts and deeds) is to pile Pelion on Ossa."

I, for one, do not deny that it is possible to "love the sinner, hate the sin". I just claim that I have never seen any evidence in those who so pompously and frequently make that claim, that they actually DO love the sinner. That includes you, Christopher.


"To say that the debate does not need to take place at all"

But it is conservatives who say this. "Gay people are sinful" that's it. End of story. In fact, any attempt to enter into debate with such people leads to paranoid hints at some sort of conspiracy by the evil liberals and their social science cronies are trying to hoodwink society into accepting as good and normal something that is dangerous. You have taken part in this Christopher. It is you who refuse to engage the science, preferring to deny it while making claims based on nothing more than propaganda, and continually promoting obviously biased and defective "studies" as though they were reliable in order to support your contentions.

"the anti-gay crowd"

If people unite in common purpose to oppose the inculsion of, and in many cases the human rights of, gay people; if these people manifestly lie about gay people, revile them, at times manipulate their brokenness and confusion, caused by the very oppression these people preach as Godliness; if they deny the obvious violence we live with, even turn a blind eye to the murder of us, excuse those who seek to jail us and consider them and their actions Godly, what else is one to call them? Christian?

"I do not know of any society till recently which even believed that there was a phenomenon (deserving of a word to denote it)called 'heterosexuality'."

In which case, you need to read some basic anthropology. There is a long tradition of berdaches and "two spirited people" in North American cultures, as but one example. And what about Japan? What about ancient Greece, especially Sparta? Seriously, Christopher, you really need to learn more before you make these obviously incorrect pronouncements. It makes you look ill informed.

Posted by Ford Elms at Friday, 27 February 2009 at 1:50pm GMT

Christopher

"I do not know of any society till recently which even believed that there was a phenomenon (deserving of a word to denote it)called 'heterosexuality'."

Quite! Thank you for finally getting the point!

The fact that people suddenly identify strongly as heterosexual or homosexual, and that this is not about "straight men trying out same sex", as previous societies assumed, is exactly what we're all trying to tell you.

If our understanding of something changes, then our way of dealing with it has to change too.
It is precisely because of that that your old stereotypes and theologies no longer work.

I take your argument about 2 different biological phenomena. But I don't see why "different" has to mean that one is inferior, to the point that is has to be deemed sinful. It's just different.

Unless, of course, you are equally strongly opposed to any heterosexual marriages that cannot produce children, and where the absolute and irrevocable sterility of at least one of the partners is known prior to the wedding.

Posted by Erika Baker at Friday, 27 February 2009 at 2:03pm GMT

Cynthia

And I still get people, usually men!, come up to me and ask me what it would take to "make me go straight" again!

Posted by Erika Baker at Friday, 27 February 2009 at 2:04pm GMT

"Someone [rather rudely, I might add] once asked me when I had decided to be a lesbian. I asked him when he had decided to be straight."

I remember being sick a few days in Grade 5. When I went back, one of my friends told me I had missed something really big. It seems the teacher had lined them all up and told them it was Decision Day. They had to choose. If they wanted to be normal and have a relatively safe life and the chance at earning society's respect, they could choose to be straight, in which case they should go to the right side of the room. If, however, they wanted to run the risk of losing their families, of losing any jobs they might eventually have, if they wanted to always live under the risk of violence, if they wanted to risk being killed by someone who would not only never be punished for it, but would be considered justified, if they wanted even God to hate them, then they could choose to be gay and go to the left side of the room. I was outraged! How could my classmates have been offered this choice but not me? I complained to the teacher, but no-one knew what to do, since they had never ever known of a child missing Decision Day and not getting a choice in their sexuality. I was the only one, ever. Everybody else got to choose to be a sick pervert or not, except me. I guess I just came by it naturally:-)

Posted by Ford Elms at Friday, 27 February 2009 at 2:22pm GMT

"The debate is about whether homosexuality is comparable to left-handedness or not."

"There is in fact a lot of research into handedness and its causes."


I can remember when left-handed children were forced to practice writing with their right hand. I was in the first grade (1964), and watched 2 left-handed children agonize over practicing their letters with their right hand with Miss Welch standing watch over them to make sure they didn't switch hands.

Of course, that was in Texas over 40 years ago. Somehow, no one minded left-handed baseball pitchers, but left-handed writing was just not allowed.

Perhaps what left-handedness and same-sexual orientation have in common is that they are conditions that are socially stigmatized, and that people are always asking what "causes" those conditions. No one ever asks what "causes" right handedness or heterosexuality.

Posted by counterlight at Friday, 27 February 2009 at 2:56pm GMT

"I can remember when left-handed children were forced to practice writing with their right hand. I was in the first grade (1964), and watched 2 left-handed children agonize over practicing their letters with their right hand with Miss Welch standing watch over them to make sure they didn't switch hands"

I can remember the teacher calling the left hand the "devil's hand" and am sure that I've forgot more nonsense from that same era than I care to ever remember.

Christopher, wake up, you're using "cherry-picked" facts to slander people you don't even know, and have no idea of their background. It's common knowledge in the western world that being right handed/left handed/ambidextrous is something we don't choose, period.

The first step to recovery is admitting you have a problem to begin with.

Posted by choirboyfromhell at Friday, 27 February 2009 at 4:48pm GMT

"... the word 'sinners' does not connote precisely the same as the phrase 'human beings' but it does denote precisely the same group of people. Each of us is a sinner, just in different ways..."

Only you, Christopher, don't deny their Civil Rights to a l l, only to some...

You are dishonest and full of Propaganda.

Posted by Göran Koch-Swahne at Friday, 27 February 2009 at 6:25pm GMT

Hi Cynthia-
Yes, we are not talking about whether there is evidence for handedness or not: there is plenty. We are, rather, talking about whether the genetics/environment debate re homosexuality can be foreclosed before it has even begun.


Hi Choirboy-
Exactly, we don't choose our handedness. And that is the point: this debate is about whether homosexuality is a similar sort of phenomenon to left-handedness or a different sort of phenomenon. One factor: handedness manifests much earlier, and therefore has less time to be affected by environment/society.

Hi Ford-
We agree on identical twins: the instance of shared homosexuality is claerly more than it would be by mere chance and clearly less than it would be if the theories I am addressing were true. On the other hand, pretty much everything one cares to name will see identical twins (who are after all genetically the same) scoring more similarly to one another than would two people taken at random. That factor also needs to be fed in.

The fact that something is part of oneself and one could not envisage 'snapping out of it' says nothing about whether that thing is beneficial (or even necessarily biologically natural) or not. The same, as we'd all agree, would apply to any addiction one cares to name. Every habit is difficult to break.

Posted by Christopher Shell at Friday, 27 February 2009 at 6:27pm GMT

Prove to me that the physical process of developing a dominant trait in motor coordination is any different than the development dominant trait in sexual orientation, Chris. No propaganda, just the facts, with source quotations out of real journals and not storybooks.

You speak of being "biologically natural", what is it about a naturally occurring derivation that you do not understand? I think you still believe that sexuality is a choice; and until you get beyond that fallacy, we'll continue to not take you seriously on this website.

Posted by choirboyfromhell at Friday, 27 February 2009 at 7:11pm GMT

It´s true. I love many Heterosexual people. They´ve always been great friends, family member (interesting, both of my parents were active Heterosexuals) and school/work pals. It may be true that Fred Phelps may think many of them unworthy of entrance to heaven based on one sin or another, who knows what he thinks about each and every soul? It´s also true that Fred Phelps (and accomplices) thinks he knows what´s what and what isn´t what in ¨Godly¨ and ¨Saintly¨ department of eternal delights...BUT, it´s also true that he, PHELPS, nor them darn durn accomplices from deep down in Dixieland, are in charge of anything other than instigating loud and noisy protests delivered by a few giddy/hatefilled bigots sputtering filth and running wild...HOWEVER, when it comes to really bad taste/form and over-all premeditated viciousness at Church, it´s +Orombi and +Akinola who take the cake as they actively PERSECUTE LGBT Christians and others at all levels of Churchlife...sure, +Venables and few others smooze and attempt to tag-along for the FREE ride.

Posted by Leonardo Ricardo at Friday, 27 February 2009 at 7:51pm GMT

Christopher:

"I never mentioned the missionary position! I was speaking about marriage!"

So--you would condemn homosexuals for having sex outside marriage, while telling them marriage is unavailable to them. In legal circles, this is called "entrapment".

"The same, as we'd all agree, would apply to any addiction one cares to name. Every habit is difficult to break."

And there you go again, comparing homosexuality to an addiction, something that can be "broken"...despite the many gay people here (let alone in the world at large) telling you it doesn't work that way.

Posted by Pat O'Neill at Friday, 27 February 2009 at 8:44pm GMT

Tell me - anyone on this thread: Can you believe that God even loves a bigot?

Posted by Father Ron Smith at Friday, 27 February 2009 at 11:58pm GMT

God loves all of us, Ron; he just doesn't approve of a lot of us.

Posted by Pat O'Neill at Saturday, 28 February 2009 at 11:33am GMT

Hi Goran-
As you're aware, rights do not exist - in the natural world. They are a social construct and none the worse for that. But this means they vary from culture to culture, and it's clear that one cannot in any way demonstrate that anything is or is not an absolute right. Particularly not in the cases where cultures disagree.

Hi Choirboy-
I already showed this by logic alone. Handedness will appear at age 2 at the latest - whenever a child tries to hold a pen. 'Sexual orientation' will appear later. Not only is it clear to both of us which of the two is therefore more susceptible to environmental influence, but also it is necessary to engage with identical twins findings etc..
You are not in every respect part of a 'we', but are also an individual. Each reader of this website must speak for themslves, and for you to try and speak for them would be to deny them their individuality and/or make them in your own image. That many who visit this self-styled 'liberal anglican' site will prefer to 'side with' you is self-fulfilling since birds of a feather flock together. But real debate is very different from taking sides, since genuinely honest people find that they will agree about some matters and disagree about others - and to varying degrees. Most of all they will be issue-focussed not ad hominem.
-Most things are a choice in that we can choose either to do them or not to do them. There are books called 'love is a choice', 'happiness is a choice' - & in each case this is *partly* true. Breathing does not fall in this category 'choice', whereas sex does. But sex, being a strong impulse, is a less clear-cut case than choosing rice crispies over cornflakes. If I have a strong impulse that says nothing at all about the morality of that impulse. We all know that there are some strong impulses that should and can be acted upon, and equally those that should not be. You're not seriously suggesting that all strong impulses are in the first category?

Hi Pat-
I am even more wicked than you say: I am even 'entrapping' minors in the same way. In fact, I am entrapping minors but *not* adults, all of whom are perfectly free to marry. (Not that it is me doing the 'entrapping', but rather the consensus of stable durable cultures.)

Of course it will be difficult to 'drop' homosexual practice in the present climate. (1) Habits are difficult to break at the best of times; (2) sexual habits will be among the most powerful impulses; (3) if society is saying do it, that is absolutely bound to make it more difficult than it would be otherwise; (4) the surrounding relativism and the idea that people do not have to provide justification for their so-called views (read: wishes) also provides a congenial environment for those wishing to continue.

Posted by Christopher Shell at Saturday, 28 February 2009 at 12:21pm GMT

Christopher:

"...rights do not exist - in the natural world. They are a social construct and none the worse for that."

I'm a Yank, and for me, that means I "hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal and that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights...."

"Handedness will appear at age 2 at the latest - whenever a child tries to hold a pen. 'Sexual orientation' will appear later. Not only is it clear to both of us which of the two is therefore more susceptible to environmental influence, but also it is necessary to engage with identical twins findings etc....."

The time when something physically manifests itself is not a clear indication of whether or not it is genetically inherent. My elder son was all but bald from birth until he was two. Now, at 23, he has a full head of dark, thick curly hair. Yet, any scientist will tell you that the color and texture of your hair are genetically determined.

"In fact, I am entrapping minors but *not* adults, all of whom are perfectly free to marry...."

Perfectly free to marry anyone so long as they are of the opposite sex...even if your sexual and romantic attachment is to one of the same sex. IOW, you are perfectly free to commit the sin of blasphemy, vowing an oath before God that you know you cannot fulfill.


Posted by Pat O'Neill at Saturday, 28 February 2009 at 5:51pm GMT

This may be somewhat tangental to the comments made by several recent posters. I just want to say thanks Pat, Ron and Christopher. You got me thinking.

On important personal matters such as what for me is the wonderful possibility of being able to marry another man, I give more weight to the counsel of those who have established over time that they like me and are probably more prone to consider my best interests, than those I barely know, whether this is rational or not.

When someone says I love you but I disapprove of your actions or your proposed actions, I think to myself, 'You may say you love me, but do I have that gut feeling that you like me and do I know that you have stuck with me even in difficult situations?' If the answer is 'yes', I am far more likely to be influenced by your commnent than if the answer is 'no'. Strange to say that as I grow older I become less and less concerned whether I am approved of, especially by those who in some distant kind of way presume to speak to me with authority. (and I am aware that Pat and Ron and Christopher do not so presume)

Posted by Ian at Saturday, 28 February 2009 at 7:18pm GMT

Christopher

"Of course it will be difficult to 'drop' homosexual practice in the present climate. (1) Habits are difficult to break at the best of times; (2) sexual habits will be among the most powerful impulses; (3) if society is saying do it, that is absolutely bound to make it more difficult than it would be otherwise; (4) the surrounding relativism and the idea that people do not have to provide justification for their so-called views (read: wishes) also provides a congenial environment for those wishing to continue."

You know, I feel so sorry for you.
We keep talking about love and all you hear is sex.
You are so sadly limited in your understanding of humanity, it's painful to read your contributions here.

Maybe once you understand what this conversation is truly about, we might be getting somewhere.

Posted by Erika Baker at Saturday, 28 February 2009 at 8:05pm GMT

"Breathing does not fall in this category 'choice', whereas sex does" Whoa.....there you go again (to quote Ronald Reagan) Sex, do you mean the act of engaging in it, or the orientation thereof?

I most certainly am suggesting that all impulses are innate; it's what we do with them that makes the difference.

Bad habits are hard to break. That means realizing that there are plenty of people out there (both gay and straight) that are having happy, safe and monogamous sex (without making babies in this overly crowded world [a REAL SIN])that you have the bad habit of calling sinful. Physician heal thyself. Admitting you have a problem is the first step to recovery.

Posted by choirboyfromhell at Saturday, 28 February 2009 at 10:31pm GMT

Surely sex is psychological..you're not telling me that there is a gene for men who like fish net stockings and high heels!

Posted by Robert Ian Williams at Sunday, 1 March 2009 at 8:56pm GMT

RIW:

No--but if it is a true fetish, then the causes are beyond the control of the fetishist.

Posted by Pat O'Neill at Monday, 2 March 2009 at 12:09am GMT

Choirboy-
In deepest repentance this Lent for having committed two DEEP SINS: (1) having a child, (2) having a second on the way.

Posted by Christopher Shell at Monday, 2 March 2009 at 12:36pm GMT

"Can you believe that God even loves a bigot?"
I not only can, I do with every fibre of my being. If God doesn't love a bigot for the sin of bigotry, what hope do I have?

"it's clear that one cannot in any way demonstrate that anything is or is not an absolute right"

Christopher, I'll remember this. You can now no longer argue that a foetus has any absolute "right" to life!

"the many gay people here (let alone in the world at large) telling you it doesn't work that way."

Oh, but the gays and the liberals and the social scientists are all in cahoots. They want to make the world accept the perversion of homosexuality. So, any gay person who tells you s/he didn't choose to be gay is either lying or mistaken or deluded or sick in some way. Not surprising when you consider that gay people are so disordered that just being gay shortens your life! What's more, since the scientists are also on side, they can't be trusted either. The only honest science in this is that which shows clearly the evils of homosexuality, any evidence to the contrary is unreliable by definition! You see, if they are willing to defy the Great Conspiracy, they must be telling the truth. That willingness also relieves them of any responsibility to practice good science. The reliability of their data is proven, not by adherence to any scientific principle, but by its ability to show how defective gay people are. It is thus not odd that he would refuse to listen to gay people. We don't know what we are, he does, and he has the "science", the real science, now, not that propaganda in the "respected" scientific press, to back his points up. He even has God to back him up! So, it is not his job to listen to us, but to tell us how mistaken we are that we think we are actually good functioning human beings.

Posted by Ford Elms at Monday, 2 March 2009 at 5:36pm GMT

Christopher: Hearty congratulations on your two sins. Was it Luther who said "If you must sin, sin boldly". It would appear, Christopher that is is what you have done.
"Go in Peace, your sins are forgiven!"

Posted by Father Ron Smith at Tuesday, 3 March 2009 at 2:27am GMT

Hi Ford-
As I mentioned, rights do not exist in the same way as this computer exists, but 'they are a social construct and none the worse for that'. Nobody can deny that (1) there is no way to resolve any dispute about what is and is not a right, given that rights do not 'exist' in this sense; (2) of the things that have been proposed as rights, the right to life is in a different category from all the others, since it is the one on which all the others depend.

Posted by Christopher Shell at Tuesday, 3 March 2009 at 1:04pm GMT

And by the way I would also ban the Westboro Baptist Church.

Posted by Christopher Shell at Tuesday, 3 March 2009 at 1:05pm GMT

Christopher:

As I noted--and you apparently ignored--the entire "experiment" of the United States of America is founded on the proposition that rights are not merely "social constructs"...but are inherent and God-given.

Posted by Pat O'Neill at Tuesday, 3 March 2009 at 11:33pm GMT

Hi Pat:

You write 'As I noted - and you apparently ignored'. As you'll see above, in a given 24 hours it sometimes happens that a large number of points are made opposing my position. I *could* meticulously answer each last one - but in these circumstances we'll all surely agree that it is not grounds for offence that a given one, taken at random, is not answered.

Your point cannot be that 'the USA constitution had better be infallible or else', since you would never countenance that position being taken re the Bible without a great deal of discussion, and even after the discussion would still conclude against it. So how would one correctly articulate your point?

My position articulated above regarding the topic of rights is short and crude but even then it is more nuanced than a blanket statement such as what some Americans supposedly (?) regard as self-evident.

Posted by Chirstopher Shell at Wednesday, 4 March 2009 at 12:10pm GMT

"of the things that have been proposed as rights, the right to life is in a different category from all the others, since it is the one on which all the others depend."

Are you sure you're not an Anglican? This is a great fudge. First you say rights are a social construct. Then you say "there is no way to resolve any dispute about what is and is not a right, given that rights do not 'exist' in this sense". Then you say that the right to life is of a different category, thereby preserving your ability to argue against abortion as fundamentally wrong while at the same time denying rights to anyone else you think doesn't deserve them, like gay people. Nicely done!

For what it's worth, I think the right to life is a basic self evident right, but there are others. Again, though, tip of the hat to your fudging skills. If you were an Anglican, you'd make bishop!

"So how would one correctly articulate your point?"

I think the word "experiment" gives it away. I agree with Pat. Perhaps an articulation would be that, having perceived that certain rights are self evident, God given, and inalienable, the Founding Fathers began a massive social project to pursue ways in which a society could successfully honour those rights. It has led to some huge issues, like the fact that the Founding Fathers desire to protect the right of the people to defend themselves against tyranny got turned into the constitutional right of every American to be shot by a handgun, but hey, nobody's perfect.

Posted by Ford Elms at Wednesday, 4 March 2009 at 8:03pm GMT

Thanks, Ford--that's it, exactly. The words I quoted, Christopher, BTW, are from the Declaration of Independence, not the Constitution.

Note that they say "we HOLD these truths to be self-evident...."--a way of saying we believe them to be true. No, we cannot prove them empirically (and Tom Jefferson was enough of a scientist to understand that). But we act on them as if they were true--just as a good Christian is supposed to act on his faith in Christ.

Posted by Pat O'Neill at Thursday, 5 March 2009 at 11:28am GMT

"we HOLD these truths to be self-evident"

As in "I believe in God the Father Almighty....". It is a statement of one's belief, not in the definite existence of God. That's a difference many conservatives seem unable to make.

Posted by Ford Elms at Thursday, 5 March 2009 at 3:12pm GMT

Very dangerous! Simply to say 'we hold' or 'I believe' without any further evidence is a licence to 'believe' what one wants to believe. Which is what the coalition of unintelligent and dishonest people are only too happy to do.

What I said was that rights are a social construct *and none the worse for that*. One cannot prove their existence; their existence is not an objective testable matter; but boy one would think far better of a society which held to them than of one which did not.

It is a philosophical commonplace that one cannot derive an 'ought' from an 'is'.

It is also self-evident that the right to life is the right on which all others depend. It isn't much good having all the other rights if one is not alive to enjoy them. You'll therefore agree that this is self-evident.

As for other rights: there are some which are pretty much agreed on by all; there are others which are disputed and therefore cannot be called 'self-evident'; there are still others which are invoked because they serve the interests of the particular elite or interest-group that invokes them. This 3rd category is the reason that people need to be reminded that rights are imaginary entities.

Posted by Christopher Shell at Friday, 6 March 2009 at 12:48pm GMT

"Which is what the coalition of unintelligent and dishonest people are only too happy to do."

So religious faith is unintelligent and dishonest?

"there are still others which are invoked because they serve the interests of the particular elite or interest-group that invokes them."

I totally agree.

Posted by Ford Elms at Friday, 6 March 2009 at 6:18pm GMT

What you call 'religious faith' (which is a category I do not understand or recognise: why isn't 'worldview' enough?) is certainly dishonest and unintelligent if it is not evidence based. Otherwise, on what basis do people choose one 'religious faith' above another? Personal preference? If so, we are back to me-centredness, and to the valid counter-argument that wanting things to be a certain way will not make them actually be a certain way (wanting it don't make it true).

We all agree that the rhetoric of 'rights' can be manipulated by interest groups and elites. Having agreed about this, we should have some strategy to prevent it. My strategy is: (1) to see which 'rights' are internationally and cross-culturally agreed on, and which are not; (2) to see which proposed rights self-evidently have more pros than cons; (3) to see which 'rights' are agreed on by those who are not members of the said elites and interest groups.

Posted by Christopher Shell at Saturday, 7 March 2009 at 1:00pm GMT

"What you call 'religious faith' (which is a category I do not understand or recognise: why isn't 'worldview' enough?) is certainly dishonest and unintelligent if it is not evidence based."

And yet you adamantly refuse to provide any such evidence. I see what's going on here, Christopher. You need to feel that you are scientific, unbiased, a clear thinking, rational individual. But your espousal of whatever supports your pre-existing biases as "science" shows that, as does your lack of understanding of what a scientific theory is doesn't present you as such to the world. Perhaps you are, but the evidence for it is nearly as slim as the evidence for God. But you don't need it anyway. religion isn't science. But, have it your way. Give me the evidence that shows you are not "dishonest and unintelligent" (your words, I don't think faith is either of these).

"on what basis do people choose one 'religious faith' above another? Personal preference?"

You might say that. I'd prefer to say that it speaks to their soul.

Posted by Ford Elms at Monday, 9 March 2009 at 3:49pm GMT

Hi Ford-
It may speak to their soul; but there is massive evidence that it speaks to their sense of what is normal and right in their own culture. Hence Hindus are found largely in Hindu cultures, Muslims are found largely in Muslim cultures, etc.. That which is cultural, local, national, sociological is not to be sniffed at; on the other hand it is less than cosmic.

I certainly hope that I have no 'pre-existing biases', since if I had I would be disqualified from being called a scholar or 'scientific/rational/logical' thinker. It is often said that everyone has such biases, but (1) some people are far more aware of them than others, and (2) those who are aware of them are able to factor them in, which will then neutralise them.

The evidence for God is surely (in the first instance) the universe. There is no conceivable reason to believe in God if the universe does not seem to presuppose God.

Posted by Christopher Shell at Tuesday, 10 March 2009 at 12:21pm GMT

"The evidence for God is surely (in the first instance) the universe."

But this is faith, not evidence! How can you prove that there is any outside influence whatsoever in the formation of the universe? Anything at all? Any piece of evidence, other than Genesis, that says there is any kind of God that had anything to do with it at all?

"I certainly hope that I have no 'pre-existing biases', since if I had I would be disqualified from being called a scholar or 'scientific/rational/logical' thinker."

I have been trying to point out to you for the past two years how the things you say clearly reveal these pre-existing biases, Christopher. You refuse to see this, arguing that the only thing that matters is the meaning of the words, not the obvious motivation behind them. I have given you ample evidence of how the things you say and arguments you make, as well as of the "evidence" you cite to back up your arguments reveal clearly what your biases are. You could at the very least have taken steps to cover up that evidence, it wouldn't have been difficult. But you didn't, I don't know why, unless it's just that you have me pegged for a "liberal" and therefor someone to be countered at every turn, to whose arguments and ideas you give no credit at all. So be it. But if you honestly think you look like a 'scientific/logical/rational' thinker, well, think again.

Posted by Ford Elms at Tuesday, 10 March 2009 at 3:13pm GMT

Hi Ford-
One of the things you say must clearly be inaccurate, namely your reference to the 'obvious motivation' behind my words, or some of my words. This entails the following claims which are about as unlieklyl as one can get:
(1) That you know me not less well than I know myself, slightly less well, or eqwually well, but better, in fact in this instance considerably better;
(2) This despite the fact that it is a hard thing to get inside the heads of even those we know well;
(3) This despite the fact that we have never met.
-In other words, it will be agreed on all hands that your use of the word 'obvious' is not rigorous and is hasty.

You are confusing evidence with proof. The existence of something rather than nothing - especially a sort of 'something' which cannot be self-generating - requires explanation, and some explanations are more plausible than others. Effects are evidence for a narrowly circumscribed possible range of causes. If this amounted to 100% proof we would not be using the word 'evidence'.
This is not the same as 'faith' in your sense, since that would imply that this is the conclusion I *prefer*. I don't have any favourite or non-favourite conclusions, but if the evidence points a certain way, then if one hypothesis seems clearly more likely than others, that becomes one's 'working hypothesis' or 'belief'.

It is best if we don't summarise long discussions in the manner 'I have been cool, clam and rational with you these past X years, but to no avail': there is something one-sided about such summaries, and they would require a great deal of verification to see if things actually were that one-sided. Best to deal with evidence presented in the comment in question.

Posted by Christopher Shell at Wednesday, 11 March 2009 at 1:06pm GMT

Christopher,
People here know my online persona, and might be surprised to get to know me fully in real life. Same with you. What I know of you is how you have presented yourself here. In that sense, then, we HAVE met. I could not pick you out of a crowd by sight. But if I heard you arguing with someone for five mintues, I'm sure I could recognize you. You could probably do the same with me. That online persona behaves in certain ways, makes certain arguments, etc., that one can in fact know. You begin to know someone when you can begin to predict their behaviour. I can to an extent predict yours, as I'm sure you can mine. I know your online persona better than I know the real persona of some people I talk to every day, and you, likewise, with me.

"especially a sort of 'something' which cannot be self-generating"

Why do you assume the Universe is not self generating ?

"some explanations are more plausible than others"

And what makes a scientific theory plausible is its reproducability and its ability to account for other data. Current cosmological theories are continually being fine tuned to do that, which is how science works. Why do you find the existence of God a more plausible explanation for the existence of the Universe than modern cosmological theory? How is the existence of the Universe evidence of the existence of God?

"Best to deal with evidence presented in the comment in question."

And the evidence presented in your various comments over the past two years is what I base my "knowledge" of you on. As I say, I don't know you specifically, but I know your online persona very well, as you do mine. And our presentation of ourselves says a lot about us.

Posted by Ford Elms at Thursday, 12 March 2009 at 12:51pm GMT

The law of constant composition (based on massive observation) states that matter can be neither created nor destroyed. Something smaller can seem to become something bigger by becoming less dense. But what we would be required to believe is that nothing (repeat: nothing) can become something. And not only something but something impossibly, unfathomably large. Since this creative power does not seem to reside in the universe itself (creation is not observed to occur), and yet it must reside somewhere, given that it has in fact happened, people conclude that it resides in a whole different order of being, ie necessary being.

I am not clear why you are *opposing* the existence of God to 'modern cosmological theory'. The domain of modern cosmological theory is the nature and development of that which already exists. I.e. analysis and description, not ultimate explanation. The fact that something does exist in the first place is a separate, and pretty unfathomable, question.

Posted by Christopher Shell at Friday, 13 March 2009 at 9:13am GMT

Christopher, my belief is that what we can perceive of the Big Bang is Creation. If you will, the Big Bang is the evidence of the finger of God reaching out as He says "Let there be light." But how can you prove that? That's the point. It is not enough to say that, since the universe is so complex, and since matter is not being created (which isn't even Christianity, BTW, since Christians believe that Creation is an ongoing process, we exist because of the continued creative will of God), there has to be a God. Modern cosmology seems a lot like theology at times, without the God, of course. But this clockmaker argument is weak. It is a fallacy that, because something is complex, it must have a creator. There are many, many naturally occurring things that seem too complex to be by chance. You can't just get to the end of your current ability to investigate and then assume that because you don't have the ability to investigate further, the answer to your question must be "God". There was a time when diseases couldn't be investigated very deeply at all, so God was invoked as the cause. We know better now. Is this not the same? The universe is no different. And you are wrong about "nothing being created or destroyed". Conservation of matter does not require that. In fact, particle physicists see matter being created and destroyed all the time. And you DO realize that matter and energy are the same thing, right? The thing is, even at the end, if we ever can attain to all knowledge, we will STILL not be able to give God as an answer. To put it as clearly as I can, science cannot find God. For the believer, all it can do is describe how God acts. Look at it this way. There is evidence that we humans are hardwired to believe in a Divinity. So, some would say that religion is nothing more than a series of electrical process in our brains. I would argue that those electrical processes are the tools God gave us so that we could perceive Him.

Posted by Ford Elms at Tuesday, 17 March 2009 at 6:45pm GMT
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