Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Evolving on Homosexuality

I spent most of my childhood in the '60s. The only thing I knew about being gay was that it meant you were happy. I didn't know much about homosexuality, either, except that I kept hearing a rumor that an older kid we all knew was "queer." And that meant he liked boys. And to me that really was queer.

By the time the '70s rolled around I was in college. I still didn't pay much attention to homosexual talk, but I knew gay people were now considered "normal" according to the overwhelming opinion of the psychological community. But it was a different kind of normal in my opinion. I didn't know any gays personally, at least none who were out. But I didn't openly make fun of them nor shun them as my friends and I had done when I was younger. But I was not in favor of them behaving gay in public. To me it just didn't seem natural.

I knew about the anti-gay movement led by singer and orange juice spokeswoman Anita Bryant. But she objected on biblical grounds. That was not my objection. I wasn't overly concerned with what the bible had to say about modern culture. No, I just thought it was abnormal and kind of creepy.

And that was where my opinion stood for a couple more decades at least. Even when my younger brother came out and told me he was gay I asked him if he had tried to find help. He said he had talked to both a therapist and his pastor and both told him it was normal and just to go with it. Although I accepted him as he was I told him I did not care to hear his stories about love interests.

By then I had a couple of teenagers. Both of them were liberal. My daughter and I had several conversations about gay rights and gay marriage. I kept telling her that I accepted gays but that I didn't understand it biologically. I remember reading a book called "The Human Zoo" by Desmond Morris where he likened aberrant human behavior such as homosexuality to the fact that humans had become captives of their own environment, much like zoo animals. Zoo animals had been observed engaging in homosexual activity, so he drew a parallel.

One day my daughter asked me a series of questions that I had no good answers for. She asked me how other people's homosexuality, gay rights, and even gay marriage would bring harm to me or to society. All I could come up with was that it would break tradition. And that's when it hit me. So what? If it's a bad tradition then maybe it's worth breaking.

So over a period of 40 years or so my attitude toward gays has evolved from mockery and shunning to acceptance at a distance, to active promotion of gay rights and gay marriage. If a church or denomination doesn't accept gay marriage, they are not forced to participate in any gay wedding ceremonies. But to actively oppose it makes no sense to me anymore. Don't get me wrong; I still think two men having sex is creepy. But that's just my own hangup. I try not to let my personal revulsion inform my desire to do what's right by society.

Sunday, June 09, 2013

Proof that God is a Universalist

As anyone who has read my posts on this blog already knows I do not believe that a god exists, and certainly not the god described by most Christians or Muslims. I cannot prove that a god does not exist, but given what I know about the natural world, logic, and reason, I seriously doubt there is a place for a god in this universe. However, as an open-minded person, I must admit to a possibility that some kind of god exists.

Given that possibility, let's define what is meant by god. Most religious people believe that their god is omniscient, omnipotent, and omnibenevolent. That is, their god knows everything, can do anything, and is perfectly good, fair, and just. God also is the entity that created everything we know about in the universe. But let's get real. Even the most conservative Christian would admit that there are certain logical impossibilities that remain impossible even for a god: God cannot create a stone that is too heavy for even God to move, for example. So let's define omnipotence as the ability to do anything that is logically consistent and move on.

Given these definitions I have concluded that if a god exists, and that's a big IF, then God must be a universalist: Everybody gets into heaven. Here's why:

God is omnibenevolent, so he is infinitely good, fair, and just. It would be unjust to condemn a person to the death penalty for jay-walking, even more so to condemn him to death by torture. It would be far more unjust to condemn a person to everlasting torture in hell simply for not having enough evidence to cause his belief in a god. So God has to do something about that. God is also omniscient, so he knows everything, including the past, present, and future events. He knew me before I was born. He knew when he created the universe that he was going to create me. If he did not know this, then he is not omniscient, by definition.

God also knows in advance when I'm going to die and how I'm going to die. More importantly for this discussion, God knows what the state of my mind will be the moment I pass away. He knows if I'm still going to be an atheist or if I have had a change in heart. Assuming that I still will be an unbeliever, he also knows that I will be going to hell, according to the Christian interpretation of the bible.

Now, given that God knows when he created me that I am going to be an atheist and, as such, will be going to hell, and given that God is omnibenevolent and is loathe to allow for me to go to hell (preferring instead that I go to heaven with him), and that he is omnipotent (having the unlimited ability to change my mind for me), then allowing me to die as an unbeliever is incongruous with God's personal characteristics as ascribed to him by the Christian faith. In other words, the Christian god would not create a person that he knows in advance would be doomed to eternal torment in hell. Doing so would make him the opposite of omnibenevolent.

Now consider free will and heaven. The argument that is used to mitigate God's problem with evil (why an all-loving god would allow for evil and suffering in the world when he has the power to stop it) is free will. God gave us free will and chooses not to tamper with it. That's fine except for the concept developed earlier: God may have given us free will to choose our own path but since he already knows in advance what we will choose he could have chosen not to create us in the first place. Some inconsistencies also arise with the concept of heaven. Heaven is supposed to be a place of eternal peace, happiness, and harmony. But doesn't that also mean that we will have no free will in heaven? If we have free will in heaven then somebody will screw it up just like they did on Earth when Eve ate the apple. It's inevitable. So if heaven exists, God will have to control our will in some way.

So, back to the moment of death for an atheist: Since God, being omnibenevolent and omniscient, would not create a person knowing full well that he is going to be doomed to eternal hell fire, then God must choose (or has already chosen) to change his mind about believing in God in the moment right before he dies. Thus, he is instantly a believer and accepts Jesus Christ as Savior in his last breath. And that doesn't present a problem for God's granting him free will because he had free will all his life, right up to the moment he died. He is not going to have free will in heaven anyway so what's one more second to matter?

Thus, to save God's credibility as an omniscient, omnipotent, and omnibenevolent being who has granted us all free will on Earth, God must by necessity be a universalist, meaning that if any one religion has gotten it right, it must be the Unitarian Universalist Church. I do not belong to that church, but if I were a believer, that would be the one I would attend I think.

Even so, and even using this impeccable logic, it turns out this means that God has painted himself into a corner. If he is, indeed, omnipotent but in order to uphold his omnibenevolence he is forced to cause our belief the moment we die, then he is not really omnipotent after all. Such a quandary. Maybe this is the unmovable stone that God has to move.

Thursday, June 06, 2013

The News Keeps Proving the Stupidity of Conservatives

I like Facebook because that's one way I keep up with what's going on in the world. But almost every time I browse through the news items I get depressed, or pissed off. And this morning was no different.

In the span of about an hour here are some of the stories that caught my attention:

The Southern Baptist churches across the country are kicking out the Boy Scouts because their national organization decided it would no longer discriminate against gay scouts. This is freakishly and blatantly bigoted. And I assume the move is approved of by the vast majority of the church's membership, which is even more depressing. These boys have done nothing wrong whatsoever but now they are made to feel like vile, subhuman creatures because their organization now tolerates homosexuals.

I read about how General Mills had to disallow commenting non its YouTube commercial that features an interracial family, including a biracial little girl, because there were too many assholes commenting with racial slurs or otherwise disapproving of the ad because it featured a mixed-race family. And this is the 21st century?

I read about a political candidate running for Lt. Governor in Virginia who believes that evolution cannot be true because God gave the gift of speech to humans only, which is why other animals cannot speak. He insinuated that if we evolved from apes that chimps should be able to speak. I also read that the governor of Louisiana believes that creationism should be taught in science classes as an alternative to evolution. These are the people who make policy in this country and they can't even get simple science right. It's science that has been accepted and used by scientists for well over 100 years. It's science that is non-controversial within the ranks of scientists worldwide. But because some ancient book written by superstitious goat herders says that God created everything in six days, well then science must have gotten it wrong. It is so depressing that so many citizens and leaders of this country still believe that bullshit. Get over it folks; there is no such thing as the Christian god or any other god who meddles in personal lives. And if there is a god of some kind out there, quit thinking you know what he wants you to do or how he wants you to behave. Grow up and join the 21st century and stop being so goddamn stupid!

I saw a meme picturing a U.S. flag with the words "Like if you agree that we are one nation under God." Well, whose god are we talking about here? There are Muslims, Jews, Christians, Hindus, and Native Americans living here as citizens and they all have different gods. There are agnostics and atheists living here and they have no god at all. So why are we supposed to be one nation under God? Every religion believes that their god is the one true god, or that their gods are the real ones. We are a religiously diverse country founded on religious freedom. We are not a Christian nation any more than we are a Hindu nation, so take your Christian-centric meme and shove it.

I read where a committee of all men in Congress voted to recommend a law that would prevent any woman from having an abortion beyond 20 weeks of pregnancy, even if at 21 weeks the woman discovers that her fetus is inviable or will be born severely deformed. She would still be forced, under penalty of law, to carry it full term. There were no women on the panel made up mostly of Republicans. The Democrats on the committee voted against it.

According to a Rasmussen poll, Congress has an approval rating of only six percent. Those six percent who believe Congress is doing a good job must have been on crack. Nobody in their right minds would believe that Congress is doing anywhere near a good job. Mostly they are doing nothing at all. The House of Representatives has punted to the Senate to initiate any policy legislation. All they've been doing is trying to eliminate Obamacare for the 38th time. In the Senate, Republicans seem to want to make one important policy change on immigration, but they can't even seem to get that passed. And even if they did, any bill would be DOA in the House. The one and only goal of the Republicans in both chambers during Obama's first term was to make sure he was a one-term president. Having failed in that effort, they just seem to be spending his second term whining and denying the president from any success at all, including approving any of his nominations. It's politics at its worst. No wonder even the rank-and-file Republicans in this country believe their party has gone off the deep end.

No wonder I get depressed and angry when I read Facebook.