Does Christianity Need to Change Its Sexual Ethics?

Churches that thrived a century ago were those that offered something more than the echo of the times.

Whenever people today say that Christianity needs to update and adapt its moral standards for the 21st century, I hear echoes from 100 years ago. Back then, the calls for change had less to do with morality and more to do with miracles. But the motivation was similar, and the results are instructive.

What rocked the early 20th century was the call of many church leaders to adapt the Christian faith to the scientific age of discovery. One could not expect thinking men and women to accept at face value all the miracles in the Bible, the thinking went. The biblical testimony of the miraculous was embarrassing to an educated mindset.

In order to rescue Christianity from superstitious irrelevance, many church leaders sought to distinguish the kernel of Christianity (the fatherhood of God and the brotherhood of man) from the shell of Christianity (miracle stories that came from another cultural vantage point). One could still maintain the moral center of Christianity while disregarding the events that required suspension of disbelief.

As this adaptation spread, belief in the bodily resurrection of Jesus was reinterpreted and given a solely spiritual meaning (he is alive in the hearts of good people). Miracle stories such as Jesus’ feeding the 5,000 were given a moral twist (the true miracle is that suddenly everyone shared). The Virgin Birth was rejected altogether.

Many Christians are calling for us to rethink the “embarrassing” parts of Christianity — specifically, our distinctive sexual ethic.

Meanwhile, churches outside the West were appalled to hear “Christians” reject the clear testimony of Scripture and what the church had always believed. In North America, the rise of the evangelical movement was due, in part, to a desire to reclaim the center of Christianity and refuse to allow contemporary sensibilities to alter the faith “once for all delivered to the saints.”

Presbyterian minister and theologian J. Gresham Machen made the case that this refashioning of Christianity was no longer Christianity at all, but a substitute religion with a Christian veneer.

Over time, the effort to save the kernel of Christianity and leave aside its shell had the opposite effect. The distinctiveness of Christian teaching disappeared, and the shell of church rituals was all that remained. This is why, even today in some denominations, bishops and pastors and parishioners openly reject the core tenets of the faith but continue to attend worship and go through certain rites. The denominations that followed this course have since entered a sharp and steady decline.

One hundred years later, the church is once again being rocked. This time, many Christians are calling for us to rethink the “embarrassing” parts of Christianity — specifically, our distinctive sexual ethic. After all, many of the moral guidelines we read in the New Testament were written from another cultural vantage point and are no longer authoritative or relevant today. If Christianity is to survive and thrive in the next century, many of our ancient prohibitions (sex outside of marriage, homosexual practice, the significance of gender, etc.) must be set aside.

Outside the West, this enthusiasm for rejecting Christian moral precepts that have been accepted by all Christians, everywhere, for 2,000 years is mind-boggling.

Churches that accept society’s dogma on marriage and sexuality may think of themselves as “affirming,” but the global church sees them as “apostate.” Meanwhile, it is the height of imperialistic narrowness for a rapidly shrinking subset of white churches in the West to lecture the rest of the world — including those places where Christianity is exploding in growth or where Christians are being martyred — on why they are wrong and how everyone else in Christian history has misread Scripture regarding the meaning of marriage.

It’s commonplace to assume that contemporary society’s redefinition of marriage, gender, and the purpose for sexuality will eventually persuade the church to follow along.

Nestled within our own times, it is easy to think the trajectory of history will lead to an inevitable change within the global Christian church. But history’s lesson is the opposite. A century ago, the modernists believed that the triumph of naturalism would lead to the total transformation of Christianity.

It must have seemed thrilling for these leaders to think they were at the vanguard of reformation, that they were the pivot point of Christianity’s inevitable future. But such was not the case. Traditional stalwarts like Machen and G.K. Chesterton (who were criticized as hopelessly “backward” back then) still have books in print. The names of most of their once-fashionable opponents are largely unrecognizable.

It’s commonplace to assume that contemporary society’s redefinition of marriage, gender, and the purpose for sexuality will eventually persuade the church to follow along. But if we were to jump forward into the 22nd century, I wonder what we would see.

Most likely, we would see a world in which the explosive growth of Christians in South America, China and Africa has dwarfed the churches of North America and Europe. And the lesson we learn from a century ago will probably still be true: The churches that thrived were those that offered their world something more than the echo of the times.

Image courtesy of Shutterstock.

  • Taylor D Barrett

    Amen

  • Melody

    Thanks for the encouragement today!

  • Philmonomer

    One primary difference between comparing the “enlightened” view on Miracles 100 years ago to the “enlightened” view on human sexuality now is that there is (I’d argue) a moral component to human sexuality that does not exist when talking about Miracles.

    That is, human sexuality (gender, same sex relations, etc.) affects real people, with real results on their lives. Miracles, on the other hand, is merely a theological point of argument.

    Given that, I don’t think the comparison is apt, because I think (really, hope) that real effects on real lives have an importance in a way that miracles do not. Thus, I see “traditional moral Christian sexual principles” to be more aptly compared to “traditional stands on how God wants the races separate,” rather than “traditional understanding that miracles really did/do happen.”

    And, we all know how “traditional stands on how God wants the races separate” ended.

    • charles

      Your argument fails because there is no Biblical warrant for “traditional stands on how God wants the races separate.” On the other hand, the Bible is crystal clear on how human sexuality is to be conducted.

      • Philmonomer

        Things that are “crystal clear” in the Bible seem to change over time. At one time, in the American South, it was crystal clear that the Bible did not want the races to mix.

        I suspect the “crystal clarity” of the Bible on human sexuality will change, too.

      • Philmonomer

        Things that are “crystal clear” in the Bible seem to change over time. At one time, in the American South, it was crystal clear that the Bible did not want the races to mix.

        I suspect the “crystal clarity” of the Bible on human sexuality will change, too.

        • Daniel Fiester

          Where in Scripture is it “crystal clear” that the races shouldn’t mix? Where is the biblical warrant for racism?

          • Philmonomer

            The President of the United States (Truman) thought all you had to do was “read your Bible” to know that God was against interracial marriage. He thought it was plenty clear.

            At any rate, my point isn’t whether the Bible itself is or isn’t “crystal clear.” The point is that people think it is.

            (I’d link to stuff here, but the Powers That Be don’t seem to like links.)

          • Daniel Fiester

            In other words, there is no biblical warrant suggesting the races shouldn’t mix. It’s actually pretty clear. However, “to the unclear, all things are unclear.”

            The meaning of Scripture does not rest in the reader’s comprehension of it. The meaning rests in the author’s intention.

          • Philmonomer

            In other words, there is no biblical warrant suggesting the races shouldn’t mix. It’s actually pretty clear. However, “to the unclear, all things are unclear.”

            Well, you are welcome to argue with the hundreds (thousands, surely) of Southern Baptist ministers who thought the Bible was “pretty clear” that the races shouldn’t mix.

            Again, though, you seem to miss my point. It isn’t about whether the Bible “really is” clear on this subject. It is about people’s perceptions that it really is clear. It seems undeniable that people have perceived it to be.

            Finally: You think they were wrong. Fine. They thought you were wrong. IMHO, :) —some day someone is probably going to think you were wrong.

            The meaning of Scripture does not rest in the reader’s comprehension of it. The meaning rests in the author’s intention.

            Again, God didn’t want the races to mix. For a contemporary version of this see the Faith And Heritage website, article titled “On Interracial Marriage: The Moral Status of Miscegenation” from May 5, 2011.

          • Daniel Fiester

            And still you can’t point to a single text for evidence.

          • Philmonomer

            Lots of pastors have pointed to lots of texts for evidence. All you are going to do is argue they were wrong. So what? It doesn’t change my point.

          • WhiskeyBucks

            The problem is, your point isn’t an argument, it’s a rote, un-examined dismissal from the vantage point of historical-cultural chauvinism. The only thing worse than a genetic fallacy is an unearned genetic fallacy.

          • T.A.L.L

            You can not frame what is or is not orthodox historic Christian teaching based solely upon western history and the Americanized understanding and idea of race and slavery. Those MAYBE hundreds of pastor who spoke for the separation of races were speaking outside of what had be the normal teaching of the church catholic.

          • Daniel Fiester

            You don’t want the Bible to be clear about sexual ethics, because you don’t like the Bible’s sexual ethic. Wouldn’t it be more honest just to say, “I disagree with Scripture”?

          • Philmonomer

            Do you think Mathew Vine is being dishonest? I don’t.

          • Daniel Fiester

            The exegete is not a ventriloquist. The Bible is not our puppet. Responsible interpretation seeks to understand the author’s original intent. It’s dishonest to twist someone’s words so that they agree with you. If the Bible’s wrong about sexuality, it’s wrong. But the Bible is not unclear.

          • T.A.L.L

            I think it can be demonstrated without question that Matthew Vine’s interpretation and views fall outside the of the historical teaching of the church catholic. I think its pretty arrogant for someone to essentially declare that in 2,000 years and countless genius level theologians and genius level anti-church thinkers got it all wrong.

          • Joe Pelletier

            Vines is completely dishonest with his handling of scripture. And his response to scripture is completely based in emotion rather than truth.

          • Haze

            Truman may have thought what he did, but could he demonstrate it?

            The Faith and Heritage article involves a rather elaborate process of argumentation and still can’t come to a firmer conclusion of what the Bible says that than interracial marriage should be treated with caution. Which is not in the same league as the argument against homosexual activity on the grounds that this is clearly listed as sinful. (This argument isn’t unassailable, of course – we could be mistranslating the words in question – but it’s a great deal stronger.)

          • WhiskeyBucks

            To quote from Faith and Heritage as some kind of argument towards the interpretive challenges of the Bible thoughout history is like me positing Foucault’s fantasies of suicide orgies as a critique of the LGBT community’s moral scruples.

        • charles

          The sins of the American South have nothing to do with faithfulness to Biblical witness and everything to do with cultural capitulation, a theme that is all too common today.

          • Philmonomer

            “Cultural capitulation” very much oversimplifies the matter, IMHO.

        • T.A.L.L

          Actually no Bible teaching has “changed over time.” There have been times when error of one type or another has forced the church catholic to affirm certain teachings, but nothing has changed. The issue of race and slavery in the west is unique to itself and represents a very brief time in comparison to the rest of history. Before the rise of the west the church was pretty consistent with the teaching of the equality of man and the place of indentured servitude. A great scholarly book on the issue is “Slave of Christ by Murray J. Harris.”

          • Philmonomer

            There isn’t any way to respond to this (or prove it wrong).

            You are simply saying that 1) No Bible teaching has changed. 2) To the extent anyone thought it changed, they were wrong. (and by extension: 3) I know what the right teachings are (for example, slavery is wrong)).

            That is, literally, irrefutable–and strikes me as unconnected to reality.

          • T.A.L.L

            There are ways to prove it wrong. There are thousand upon thousands of church writings starting in the mid-100s all the way to today. I am suggesting to you that for the most part the understanding of these idea (race and slavery) have fell consistently with a certain framework and although you can find moments where some have suggested alternative teachings and even gained popularity, the church catholic has always “snapped back” to the same teachings.

          • Philmonomer

            Ok. Show me how the “church catholic” has consistently had the same teaching that it is wrong to enslave non-christians (say, non-christians defeated in a war).

          • T.A.L.L

            “It is universally believed that the rise of Christianity and Christian teachings in the 1st and 2nd century was part of what sounded the death-knell of slavery.” Murray J. Harris

            “Is slavery condemned from a Christian viewpoint? If you are talking about the absolute possession of a person or the inhuman treatment of another person then the answer has been clearly yes.” Murray J. Harris

          • Philmonomer

            Good grief. You win.

          • Sam

            LOL!!!!!

        • nwcolorist

          I think you’re conflating Biblical doctrine with human traditions that have arisen, such as racism. The Bible does not promote or condone racism. It only acknowledges it presence.

        • Joe Pelletier

          How someone abuses scripture does not indicate fault with scripture, but fault with the reader. The word of God does not change.

          God has spoken unchanging truth on what the proper form of sexual intimacy is: a covenant bond in marriage between one man and one woman.

          God has also spoken unchanging truth on forbidding sexual immorality: homosexuality, incest, bestiality, etc.

    • WhiskeyBucks

      I’d be very curious to see a real historical analysis of how members of the church in America came to adopt a racist stance. Was it that the Church declared it so, and then the culture and government followed, or was it a cultural and political shift based on economic opportunism that made some leaders of the church follow suit? I’m not asking in a provocative way, I think I know the answer, but I’m open to a real argument one way or the other.

      The problem with this kind of argument, this disparaging of the thinkers of the past, is it cuts every-which way. There were plenty of secular thinkers who rejected God altogether, and “scientifically demonstrated” why one race was inferior to another. Eugenics was a “scientific” pursuit. But to say any of this to undercut any given scientific theory today is defeatist. The theory stands or falls not because someone else was wrong, but because of its own merits or lack thereof. We have to keep trying, and if we’re going to be cynical about the thinkers of the past, we have to be cynical about ourselves. Conversely, if we’re going to have patience with ourselves as people just “trying to figure things out” we have to have patience with the past. At any point in time, our biases, social pressures, and anxieties might be pushing us to agree or disagree with one thing or the other, and it’s dangerous to just assume that as children of the Enlightenment, we’re all just objective, rational thinkers by virtue of birthright. Modernity was a good idea, but it overestimated it’s abilities to overcome subjectivity. Postmodernism was a good idea, but it underestimates the reach of its suspicions.

      I do think it’s odd to put belief in miracles in some other category of moral reasoning, since the entire moral authority of the Church is based on a cosmology, eschatology and semiotic language established by and through “miracles.” I don’t think you can separate them that easily. Or really, at all.

    • T.A.L.L

      I would object to the idea that the denial or acceptance of miracles did not have a real life affect. The denial of inerrancy or infallibility didn’t have an impact on what was preached on Sunday Morning? It didn’t have an impact on the belief that God has revealed Himself? It hasn’t affected belief of the Bible’s “usability” for matters of everyday life? The reality is the undercutting of Scripture by the denial of miracles has deeply and profoundly impacted daily life for MANY people. I would also encourage you to take up a bit of historical reading that can challenge your view of the church and race. What happened in America in the 18th, 19th and early 20th century is a blip of error in what has been a pretty clear historical teaching in the church and was the result of the embrace of the science of the times and the very same “miracles” issue.

  • Joe Pelletier

    We are to be transformed by the unchanging truth of God from His unchanging, inerrant, infallible all sufficient word of the Bible, not by fickle society that pursues the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the pride of life.

    God does not change, nor do His eternal truths.

    We, as Christians, are to transform the culture, not the culture transform us.

  • Aaron Rational

    So you’re essentially taking pride in being a backwards, exclusionary, bible literalist who take ancient scripture (that advocates for slavery and animal sacrifices among other barbaric activities) and continue to apply it today?

    You’re probably correct that many cultures that are still steeped in superstition, suffering, lack good medical care and education–will be surprised at what a society does that is educated and applies science and reason instead of prejudice and faith.

    A rigid, barbaric society will certainly find concepts of equal rights and fair treatment under the law (even for those you disagree with) to be strange and even disgusting.

    That you’d align yourself pridefully with such nonsense says much more about you than it does about those who have been born into struggling, oppressive cultures with a lack of access to education.

    • T.A.L.L

      So you are essentially taking your stand based on 100 year old arguments that have been shown time and time again to be false.
      1. Pre-Christian Europe was far more illiterate, barbaric, and irrational. The majority of modern/middle-age science was developed on Christian theology, providing the basis for things like calculus.(A belief in a all knowing Creator provides the basis for expecting and finding order, unlike the belief that your god lives in a tree and does so because he had an affair with the love interest of the sea god.)
      2. Per discussion below, your argument that the Bible and/or the church catholic ever ADVOCATED for slavery as framed within the experience of Western history is false.
      3. Your argument is based on a progressive understand of history, that man is evolving socially. Except ideas like the basis of real love being found in personal discovery, the fluidity of gender, and division of the masses into defined categories are themselves very old.
      4. Your judgment of the author reeks of the same pride and elitism of which you accuse him.

      I am not trying to be a jerk but I would encourage you to take the time to consider if the arguments you are regurgitating are accurate.

      • Aaron Rational

        “A belief in a all knowing Creator provides the basis for expecting and finding order”
        If we observe that there is order, it is because there is order–not because we expect to find it. A belief in an all-knowing creator is not necessary at all to observe the world around me and discover its qualities.

        “that the Bible and/or the church catholic ever ADVOCATED for slavery as framed within the experience of Western history is false.” This reeks of apologetics. Are you parsing words and playing semantics here or not? Please clarify…

        “Your argument is based on a progressive understand of history, that man is evolving socially” Yes, I do believe that in general, we are evolving to become more rational, more concerned with human rights and that we are using our reason and empathy to make better-informed decisions about how to live in a complex and ever-changing world.

        Perhaps you honestly believe we were better off in the biblical times, when you had no access to modern healthcare, when women were considered chattel, and homosexuals could be stoned or condemned to death.

        I, however, do believe that we’ve evolved to be more understanding and compassionate overall, and I’m willing to debate that point with you because I don’t think you’ve got a leg to stand on there.

        “Your judgment of the author reeks of the same pride and elitism of which you accuse him.” Yes, it’s not fun to feel judged for your beliefs, is it? I’m merely confronting him–and you–with the same condescension and judgments you feel worthy of dishing out to others who disagree with your primitive and immoral views.

        • T.A.L.L

          I believe you have misunderstood the point of the first argument. Today nobody doubts the existence of order, but that has not always been the case, especially when it came to Pre-Christian Europe. The introduction of Christianity brought about a resulting change of view when it came to the physical sciences, so your claim that Christianity is anti-rational and full of superstition is nothing more then a regurgitated argument that finds its basis mostly in what is called the modernist movement, which happened about a 100 years ago that took advantage of the low amount of information to which John Q Public had access, but today has been mostly been abandoned because it has been shown to not have basis in reality.

          • Aaron Rational

            It seems to me that you’re trying to imbue Christianity with qualities it simply doesn’t have. Christianity is not a rational, science-based or empirical philosophy or religion.

            You have a set of holy books with ancient, primitive stories that try to explain the world in the way that made sense to people in that time and place.

            It is far from an advanced cosmology. In fact, the bible (both old and NT) make absurd claims of miracles and other occurrences that defy rationality and logic.

            Noah’s arc, the resurrection, healing lepers, people living to absurdly old ages, etc. None of these things are rational or sound, and to paint it otherwise really is trying to twist things to fit your own conception.

            Clearly, you’re aware and uncomfortable with the mythology, so you’re defending it by making it out to be something it’s not.

          • T.A.L.L

            Lets just take one point you make and draw it out. You dismiss out of hand anything that you or those you trust can not and have not experienced. Now, very few experts on ancient manuscripts, both Christian and non-Christian voice any doubts as to whether or not Jesus of Nazareth existed. By all manner of scholarly standard, He is by all means a historical person. In addition to that every year earlier and earlier manuscripts of the New Testament are found. What once claimed, that the New Testament accounts of Jesus were written a hundred or more years after He lived, has been completely debunked. Now, that leaves a choice, either these accounts were purposely written false accounts, or the men who wrote the accounts believed what they wrote. Should you choose to say they were purposely written false accounts, you now have to explain how then the Christian church grow in the very place it is said these things happened in within the lifetime of many witnesses. Why would so many people take up a belief system that claimed to be based on historical happenings (ie the resurrection) when they would know such claims were false?

          • Aaron Rational

            Well, I can give a perfectly reasonable set of answers to your questions.

            Let’s look at Scientology. L Ron Hubbard was alive and interacted with many members of his religion. He maid false claims about his war record and his achievements, and some were aware of this. And yet, people still followed him and his religion.

            To this day, Scientology has many followers and believers who accept these patently absurd teachings.

            So while you see the evidence of belief and testimony as providing some level of proof, I see plenty of ways in which people choose to believe something despite what is reasonable and rational and true.

            Of course, since we have much less factual representation of Jesus’s life than we do of L Ron Hubbard’s life, it becomes much more difficult to just throw out the claims of his adherents.

            But I don’t think that just because people followed or believed in someone or something–therefore it must be true.

          • T.A.L.L

            I would agree that belief does not make it true. The Scientology example actually proves my point. Within 30-60 years of Jesus’ lifetime Christianity has thousands of followers, Scientology is not even close to that benchmark. We are barely to the 30 year mark of L. Ron Hubbard’s death and Scientology has started to become a leaky boat for the very reasons you state. The point remains then, why didn’t the same thing happening with Christianity?

          • Aaron Rational

            But can’t you then make that argument for Islam or Buddhism or Hinduism? If all we need to do is appeal to numbers, then we can begin to justify many things based on how many people are in agreement.

            I feel that Scientology became a leaky boat because it was unlucky enough to have started recently, and have so much documentation about its lies. As well, with the advent of the Internet, information about its abuses traveled quickly.

            Some of that has happened with Christianity. Let’s look at the atrocities within the Catholic priesthood. The abuses of the church towards its most precious and vulnerable population is disgusting, no? Was it not on par and even worse than the abuses of Scientology?

            Without journalism and the ability to spread information rapidly, the church would doubtless have continued its horrific abuses and coverups.

            So yes, I do think that this points to Christianity’s similarly leaking boat…

          • T.A.L.L

            You are moving the goal posts. My point to you is, why didn’t Christianity, if it was founded on false historical claims and information, fall the same way Scientology currently is? You even admit that “Scientology became a leaky boat because it was unlucky enough to have started recently, and have so much documentation about its lies.” Buddhism and Hinduism at their birth spread on the basis of an ideology. Christianity spread not on ideology, but on the basis of something its early followers claimed to have seen. Ideology can spread quickly, eye witness accounts that can be shown to be false do not.

          • Aaron Rational

            You’re stating this does not make it true. I could easily say that Buddhism spread because those in contact with the Buddha saw his enlightenment through his actions and behavior.

            And then word spread, just as it spread with Jesus’s circle.

            Most people who came to believe in Jesus’s teachings did not have contact with him. Only the very first adherents had that privilege. The masses that came after are only going on hearsay and testimony, not firsthand knowledge of the man as a person walking the planet.

            You seem to be trying very hard to separate your beliefs from those of many other religions. You think that Jesus and the resurrection are quantifiably different from every other religion.

            But in my view, even if what you state is true–and I have no reason to believe your interpretations over others–that still isn’t enough to justify the many other articles of faith that you need in order to live by this religious code.

            Eye witnesses can be wrong. People can be mistaken, deluded, they can lie and make up stories.

            Unfortunately, there isn’t enough evidence for me. I wish there was, believe me. it would be nice to have Jesus to turn to and lean on, but I don’t see it. And I won’t believe it based on old eyewitness testimony.

          • T.A.L.L

            And there is the rub. You choose to not believe an eye witness account. I chose to believe it. The division is as simple as that.

          • Aaron Rational

            You could choose to also believe the testimony of those who felt Buddha was enlightened. Even now, the Dalai Lama is alive and many believe him to be as well. Eyewitness, living proof! Not good enough for you?

        • T.A.L.L

          Apologetics? In case you were unaware that word means to defend. Of course it is apologetics, am I not allowed to defend and explain my belief system, in the same way you are yours? The reality is most westerners are “chronological snobs” who view all of history within the framework of the last 200 years of western society. Concerning slavery I explain just that in a post below.

          • Aaron Rational

            I meant apologetics in the sense that you’re trying to parse words and narrowly define terms because the parts of the bible that discuss slavery are an embarrassment to you.

          • T.A.L.L

            No, in fact I believe that I can comprehensibly prove that as it concern the history of the church catholic and the teachings of the Bible itself, that when it comes to the experience of the 200 years slave trade in western society, slavery is in fact unquestionably condemned. That is because the Western Europe and American slave trade do not represent the normative, historical practice of what most Pre-American historians would label as slavery.

          • Aaron Rational

            I’d love to see your proof, with references to support it. From what I know, there is at best contrary opinions and evidence that there were disparate views and practices within the Christian community.

            Once again, you are seeing what you want to see and not just letting the words in your holy book speak for themselves.

            I certainly don’t deny that there have always been Christians of conscience who tried to live by morals and ethics that came from empathy and reason and virtue. However, it was not from any holy book, since plenty more Christians use that same book to justify their horrid beliefs and actions.

        • T.A.L.L

          I think a brief analysis of historical philosophy and modern philosophy will show that there is no evidence of progress when it comes to ideas, “nothing new under the sun” as the Bible says it. I will also suggest to you that the line of argument you are using is a best dishonest. You can not dismiss the fact that atheism has brought about crimes against humanity (Pol Pot/Cambodia) and that evolutionary based philosophy has brought about crimes against humanity (Eugenics) yet I would not dare to frame your personal view as within those same extremes.

          • Aaron Rational

            Science has made, in fact, enormous progress since biblical times. Surely you have to agree to this. And yes, quantum physics and dark matter and the theory of relativity–even evolution–are new ideas that have no place in the old or new testament.

            Another difference is that I do not make claims that I have an appeal to perfect truth or perfect authority, as those who believe in God often do.

            So your standards MUST be higher than mine. I believe that human beings evolved in a harsh landscape, and that we needed to be warlike and aggressive to survive harsh conditions. Thus, it makes sense that there is war and brutality.

            Religion hasn’t made a dent in it, but I would agree that being non-religious isn’t a guarantee of kindness or passiveness either. You see, I don’t make that claim at all.

            What I would claim, is that believing in God or religion is problematic when it codifies a system of beliefs that are harmful to your fellow human beings. Judging people based on ancient and primitive beliefs, and feeling that God gives you that moral right to do so–is inherently dangerous and wrong.

            We are not likely to eradicate anger, hatred, and violence any time soon. But we surely can’t begin the journey toward a more humane society if we are mired in ancient and rigid dogma.

          • T.A.L.L

            There is no question of advancements in medical science and technology. I don’t argue on those points. I argue that man is sexually immoral. He was 4,000 years before the computer. He is still one with a computer (ie the billion dollar porn industry).

          • Aaron Rational

            I’ve agreed with you that human beings, having evolved in a hostile environment, were and still are warlike and primitive. If left to our own devices, many of us will attack outsiders, compete viciously in sexual conquest, and basically act barbarically.

            God has nothing to do with our ability, in more recent times, to use our intellect and reason (newer portions of our animal brains) to occasionally do better than the past.

        • T.A.L.L

          To use the same tactics that you condemn undercuts any basis to take your arguments seriously, for you prove yourself to be the thing that you say you want to destroy.

          • Aaron Rational

            I don’t use exactly the same tactics, because underpinning my contempt for your ideas–is logic and reason and rationality. I am willing to back up my points with evidence.

            Also, I make it clear that I respect your right to believe what you believe (no matter how silly it is) and to practice your beliefs so long as they do not trample on my rights, or the rights of others’ who don’t believe or live as you do.

            But because you and others of your faith do not grant me and other nonbelievers the same privileges you want for yourself, I find that it is helpful to be confrontational on that fact.

            Thus, it does not undermine my position at all. I’m respectfully contemptuous of the views of you and people like you, who buttress bigotry and discriminatory behavior with your holy book, as if that is a proper reason.

            It is not.

          • T.A.L.L

            I’m not sure how you can say “I’m merely confronting him–and you–with the SAME condescension and judgments you feel worthy of dishing out to others who disagree with your primitive and immoral views.” and also say “I don’t use exactly the same tactics, because underpinning my contempt for your ideas–is logic and reason and rationality.”

          • Aaron Rational

            What I’m trying to show you, is how you and others like you appear to people like me.

            In doing so, I am intentionally choosing to display a level of antagonism that might appear superficially disrespectful, but is actually a chosen tactic.

            And the proof of my tactic is that, when you attempt to hold a rational and reasonable discussion with me, I’m only too willing to do so. And to do it with respect.

            Whereas if I simply am determined to engage you and other believers with scorn, I would always keep a scornful and disrespectful tone. I don’t do that, because my tone is carefully calculated based on what I think is appropriate for the conversation.

            If someone engages disrespectfully with me or writes a condescending and hateful screed on their blog, then I choose to engage them with similar tactics–as a method of confrontation.

            I’ve been told that this is something which can, on occasion, shock a believer into looking at their own prejudices and ideas in a new light and with fresh eyes.

            Now, agreed, its’ walking a tightrope and has the possibility of veering off into pure and unadulterated anger and vitriol. I would hope that I can moderate myself in that case.

            And as I’ve stated, unlike many believers in God–I am willing to have a discussion on the issues without any appeal to scorn or condescension. But first I must be convinced that it is a worthwhile effort, of which you at least have convinced me, in your specific case.

          • T.A.L.L

            Maybe face to face your reasoning works, but in a discussion board, I’m sorry but I have to take your words at face value and to engage how you say you are, makes that impossible. You have essentially told me that what you appear to say and how you appear to be saying it are not what you mean to say or how you really mean to say it.

          • Aaron Rational

            Well however you’ve been engaging with me is fine by me. So if that;s how you must approach me, I’m okay with it.

            What I am saying and how I am saying it is simply tactical, as most conversation is. It’s a way of communicating ideas, and part of the way we do that is through appeal to empathy and emotion.

            Oftentimes, in debating with religious folk, we run up against people who are dogmatic and rigid in their conversation. They can also be insulting and rude, without even realizing how rude or cruel their words are (because they think God is on their side).

            By choosing to meet these sorts of behaviors head on, we can occasionally allow the believer to sense what we feel like when the believer approaches us in this way.

            The reason I left my first response to this blog post was just such a case. The post in question was insulting and vile to my way of thinking. But clearly, the writer didn’t think so. By leaving my comment in a similar vein, I hoped to show the proper lack of respect for such commentary.

          • T.A.L.L

            I would suggest that you need to reconsider whether or not such an approach, when it comes to an online discussion board, can attain the results you say you seek.

          • Aaron Rational

            I will reconsider it. Thanks for your measured discussion.

  • Sam

    Matthew 25:40

  • Michael Edwards

    Before you casually call out acceptance of homosexuality as merely an effort to rid our faith of embarrassing items, I challenge you to actually meet and talk to perhaps a dozen of us who actually tried for years to be straight, using “ex-gay” counseling, prayer, fasting, sacraments, binding temptation, etc. I assure you, there are many of us gay believers out there, and our life experiences and true faith put the lie to articles like this which view us as just another excuse to ditch God. Think again.

  • Michael Edwards

    By the way, the rise of violent homophobia is not a welcome side effect of the explosive rise of Christianity in Africa.