Gays Forgiving Christians for Past Treatment?

Pope Francis
Courtesy, http://www.theguardian.com, photograph: Tiziana Fabi/AP

Unprecedented. Whether you are Roman Catholic or Protestant, Christian, Jewish or Muslim, no head of one of the largest churches in the world has spoken out for the LGBTQ community as has Pope Francis. Extraordinary. Because of his compassion to all human beings, no matter what their religious or non-religious leanings, I keep my eye on his proclamations.

Apparently, il Papa holds press conferences on the papal plane. On June 26, 2016, up in the air between Armenia and Rome, Reuters reporter Phillip Pullella (published in an article, entitled Pope says Church should ask forgiveness from gays for past treatment) began chronicling Pope Francis’ lists of those harmed by Christians, including asking, “forgiveness for the way it has treated women, for turning a blind eye to child labor and for ‘blessing so many weapons’ in the past.”

But, for me personally, a huge leap in human rights from the Pope was “that Christians and the Roman Catholic Church should seek forgiveness from gay people for the way they had treated them,” according to Pullella.

What prompted this moment of reflection and act of contrition? Interestingly, it was the remarks of a German Cardinal Reinhard Marx, the Archbishop of Munich and Freising. Last week the Catholic church held a conference at Trinity College, Dublin, Ireland. According to Patsy McGarry, writing for The Irish Times, Cardinal Marx proclaimed, “The history of homosexuals in our societies is very bad because we’ve done a lot to marginalise [them].” He went on to comment, “that until “very recently,” the church and society at large had been “very negative about gay people . . . It was the whole society. It was a scandal and terrible.” McGarry’s article, entitled Church must apologise to gay people, pope’s adviser declares, noted that Cardinal Marx was “addressing a conference organised by Trinity’s Loyola Institute on The Role of Church in a Pluralist Society: Good Riddance or Good Influence?”

Who is Cardinal Marx and how is he authorized to say these things for the gay community? According to Crux: Taking the Catholic Pulse, Vatican correspondent Inés San Martín notes “German Cardinal Reinhard Marx of Munich, a member of the pope’s “C-9” council of cardinal advisors and a major force in his recent Synods of Bishops on the family….”

Photographer Paul Haring caught this grieved expression from the Pope after Cindy Wooden, the Rome Bureau Chief for Catholic New Services asked about the church’s response to the deaths of 49 persons at the gay club Pulse in Orlando. It was Wooden’s question, referencing Cardinal Marx’s remarks, that prompted Pope Francis to request that Christians and the church offer forgiveness for its treatment of the LGBTQ community in the past.

I offer the entire transcript of the Pope’s press conference onboard the chartered papal plane: TRANSCRIPT: WHAT DID POPE FRANCIS SAY ABOUT THE CHURCH AND APOLOGIZING?

I have been unable to find any responses by other Christian groups about the pope’s comments. However, some Catholic groups have sounded out.

Bill Donohue, president of the Catholic League, turned the tables on Pope Francis by remarking to Chris Cuomo on CNN, that “I Want an Apology From Gays!’ Donohue told Cuomo that, “I’ve been assaulted by gays.” Donohue went on to state that he went on to blame a group of people at a protest parade “who watched me be assaulted by lesbians.” Donohue went on to state, “The idea of a blanket apology because you are a member of some demographic group–I mean, I don’t know. What church teaching is it that you have a problem with that maybe the church should apologize for?” The entire Cuomo/Donohue conversation can be found at: ‘I Want an Apology From Gays!’ Catholic League’s Donohue, Cuomo Spar Over Pope’s Comments

On the other hand, Barbie Latza Nadeau of The Daily Beast in her article, Pope Francis Says Church Should Apologize To Gays And Others It Has Hurt And Ask Their Forgiveness reports that New Ways Ministry Francis DeBernardo also agreed with the Pope:

Francis DeBernardo, executive director of New Ways Ministry, which is a 40-year-old Catholic ministry working towards justice and reconciliation for LGBT Catholics, essentially accepted the pope’s apology. “This step by Pope Francis shows that Church leaders can and should admit when they have been wrong, especially when their wrongs cause people tremendous and unnecessary harm. His message signals a major change in attitude for an institution which has a terrible history of ever admitting that it has done something wrong,” De Barnardo said in a statement. “For some LGBT people who have been so wounded and bruised by Catholic leaders’ negative messages, the pope’s statement may seem like too little, too late. While indeed we have waited a long time for an opening like this, I think it is important to rejoice at this step forward. We must work and pray to make sure that the next steps take place much quicker. Among those next steps are more dialogue between Church leaders and LGBT people.”

Marianne Duddy-Burke, the Executive Director of DignityUSA, the organization of LGBTQ Catholics, remarked on the organization’s website, “This could be a very important step in healing the relationship between the Catholic Church and LGBTQ people,” she stated.  “The frank acknowledgment by the Pope that Church teachings and practices have done immense harm to LGBTQ people over the centuries—leading to such evils as violence, oppression, self-hatred, the division of families, youth homelessness, and suicide—is essential.”

Yet Duddy-Burke, along with other liberal Catholic organizations, have spoken out that the pope’s message does not go far enough to healing the riffs against the LGBTQ community. Reporter Jim Yardley writes in his New York Times article, Gay Catholic Groups Want Pope Francis to Do More Than Apologize, Duddy-Burke remarked, “But a statement of remorse is only as good as the change in behavior that follows.”

Another response to the pope’s words also came from co-executive director of Call to Action, Ryan Hoffman, who “praised Francis’ remarks but also called on Catholic officials to ‘reform teachings and practices that refer to gay people as ‘objectively disordered’ and ‘intrinsically evil,’” writes Yardley.

Interestingly to me is that, for some reason, now the leader of one of the oldest Christian sect is speaking against the constant undeclared war on the LGBTQ community which has been part of the Western culture for centuries. Did the bloodbath in Orlando at the gay night club, Pulse, instigating a tipping point? Will members of the LGBTQ community eventually be treated as just members of the community at large?

I do think that when a respected leader of a very large community makes statements against centuries of abhorrent treatment of a certain group of human beings, many people will begin to wake up and reassess their own personal issues against such communities.

What about Bob Donohoe and his statement that gays should apologize to him for assaulting him? I can understand his response if he was indeed physically assaulted. But I could not find anywhere where Donohoe reported this so-called assault. Not a word. Then when the pope asks for the Christian world to completely reassess its attitudes against the LGBTQ community, and Donohoe has a personal melt-down over being “assaulted” by “lesbians.” This sounds to me like a person whose ego got bruised. Sounds pretty narcissistic. Sounds like someone who really values himself over many people he views as not equal to him. Sounds like his comments are from a place of rage and not a place of empathy or love.

Again, I have great respect for a pope who genuinely appears to be reaching out to many people in the margins of society. But as more and more people stop blindly following hard-line religious dogma, often those people decide to become more human and react to marginalized people with more humanity than those in so many religious communities.

Shortly after the assault on the Pulse night club in Orlando, Reuters published an article from its staff, entitled, U.S. religious leaders reexamine words after Orlando gay club massacre. The Reverend Dr. Joel C. Hunter, the senior pastor at the non-denominational Christian church, Northland, made a completely clueless  statement, “I have been searching my heart: is there anything I did that was complicit in that loss?” More realistic, Robert Lynch, the bishop of the Catholic diocese in St. Petersburg, Florida, noted, “Sadly, it is religion, including our own, which targets, mostly verbally, and also often breeds contempt for gays, lesbians and transgender people.”

It seems that Pope Francis is becoming even more and more human even though his dogma justifies persecution of members of the LGBTQ community. Good for him. But I’ve decided no longer follow the dogmas of religious sects. I have decided be human, to live my life under an archetypal Golden Rule. I would continue to hope that more religious persons would stop justifying their hate towards marginalized people–a hatred that was one of the biggest reasons why I have chosen to be an non-believer. I believe only in humanity and equality for all. That is reality. That is love.

GoldenRule-2
Courtesy,  Universality of the Golden Rule Graphic, http://tokresourse.org/tok_classes/areas/golden_graphic/index.htm

 

Atheists Do Not HATE God

godsnotdead
Courtesy, YouTube

I often watch religious-based movies just to see what the arguments are for being religious.

I recently watched–well, mostly watched–the movie, God’s Not Dead. I say that I watched most of the movie because the movie is one of the worse movies with one of the most implausible plots I’ve ever seen. The acting itself was sub-par; I’ve seen much better acting in community theater. I just could not get through the last 10-15 minutes of the movie because it was becoming so incredibly stupid. When I read the conclusion of the movie on Wikipedia, I am glad that I did not waste the last 15 minutes on my life; it was perhaps an evangelical Christian’s dream that the so-called atheist gives his life to Jesus right before he dies, but if the final scenes were as bad as the rest of the movie, I might have lost my popcorn. Rotten Tomatoes gave it 15% and I would say that is generous. Critics almost en masse panned it. Susan Granger of SSG Syndicate wrote, “Immediately, the proselytizing concept loses credibility – because no teacher at a legitimate academic institution would make that demand, augmenting it with the threat of failure in the course.” Granger nailed my criticism. If you want to attempt to change people’s minds, especially when arguing Christianity versus Philosophy or Science, you’d better start with a plausible scenario. God’s Not Dead’s basic premise is so bad that it only confirms why I am an atheist. Variety film critic Scott Foundas sums my sentiments perfectly when he writes, “The Almighty deserves better advocacy than he gets in this typically ham-fisted Christian campus melodrama.”

One of the major problems with this film is that the atheist professor tells the protagonist that he is an atheist because he is mad at God. Don Batten with Creation Ministries International writes an editorial entitled, “Why do atheists hate God?” Batten writes, “Recently, I have had a lot of conversations with atheists. Many express a strong hatred of God. I have been at a loss to explain this. How can you hate someone you don’t believe in? Why the hostility? If God does not exist, shouldn’t atheists just relax and seek a good time before they become plant food?” This is where Christians and so-called atheists get it wrong. If you are angry at God, then you are not an atheist. You are an angry deist. You STILL believe in God. When you don’t believe in God, there is nothing to be angry about. End of story. So if you are angry at God and call yourself an atheist, you are mislabeling yourself. You need to educate yourself and do some deep psycological and spiritual work to figure out the origin and depth of your anger.

Michael Lipka with the Pew Research Center recently published an update to a year-old article called, “10 Facts About Atheists. Lipka notes that, “Although the literal definition of “atheist” is “a person who believes that God does not exist,” according to the Merriam-Webster dictionary8% of those who call themselves atheists also say they believe in God or a universal spirit. Indeed, 2% say they are “absolutely certain” about the existence of God or a universal spirit. Alternatively, there are many people who fit the dictionary definition of “atheist” but do not call themselves atheists. About three times as many Americans say they do not believe in God or a universal spirit (9%) as say they are atheists (3%).” If you are certain of a universal spirit or a God or god of some sort, then you are NOT an atheist.

Religious people are not tolerant of atheists. We can’t put atheists to death in the United States, so religious people must take other routes. Clay Routledge, Ph.D., wrote in Psychology Today, “Five Reasons People Don’t Like Atheists.” Routledge writes, “Atheists represent one of the least trusted and most despised groups in America. This seems odd. Why is it so threatening for someone to opt out of religious belief? People believe and don’t believe in all sorts of things. And yet, atheists seem to really drive people nuts. Polls identify atheists as untrustworthy, unelectable for public office, and unworthy of marrying into one’s family.” So why are religious people so angry about those who do not believe? According to Routledge, “Atheists are sometimes not very nice about their beliefs. This is a tricky one because most atheists just go about their business and are even very supportive of those who believe. In fact, many atheists are afraid to expose themselves as nonbelievers out of fear of prejudice. However, some atheists have taken the strong stance that religion is a social ill and thus use more combative tactics, which can include treating religious individuals like they are unintelligent and mentally weak. This approach obviously upsets religious people and can make them falsely believe that all atheists think this way.” I do understand this. Some outspoken atheists such as Richard Dawkins are militant atheists. But I think that those who are religious must also understand that in the past, atheists have been killed for their non-beliefs. Atheism in America is no longer a death sentence, but in other parts of the world, it is a death sentence. Siobhan Fenton writes in The Independent, an article called, “The 13 countries where being an atheist is punishable by death.” Most of these countries are Islamic and are located in the Middle East. Yet in India, Fenton notes, “at least three atheist bloggers have been hacked to death in Bangladesh, after penning posts advocating that scientific proof should inform public opinion above religious beliefs.” I think the vestiges of past state-sponsored religion, giving a country carte blanche to remove from earth those who do not believe, still resonate with the religious population. It is these vestiges of militant religion that cause the militant atheist backlash against religion. The United States was one of the first countries in the world to end state-sponsored religion, yet, ironically, we are one of the most religious first world nations on earth.

Who are atheists? Lipka and the Pew Research Center note,”Atheists, in general, are more likely to be male and younger than the overall population68% are men, and the median age of atheist adults in the U.S. is 34 (compared with 46 for all U.S. adults). Atheists also are more likely to be white (78% are Caucasian vs. 66% for the general public) and highly educated: About four-in-ten atheists (43%) have a college degree, compared with 27% of the general public.” Although I am not male and in my 30s, I am highly educated with three college degrees, one of which is an engineering degree. My brain does not process religion and dogma. I am MUCH happier not having to deal with the religious dogma that gives so much joy to those who are religious. For me, it is torture.

Religious nones
Courtesy, The Pew Research Center

One thing that I want to make crystal clear is that I do not feel comfortable publicly announcing that I am an atheist. In my blog, I do not identify myself directly. I feel my lack of beliefs would jeopardize my life, just as the LGBTQ community often feels now and how black Americans might have felt living in the Jim Crow South. Anyone living in a minority situation often feels threatened. Michael Lipka sums up my feelings, writing, “In the 2014 Religious Landscape Study, self-identified atheists were asked how often they share their views on God and religion with religious people. Only about one-in-ten atheists (9%) say they do at least weekly, while roughly two-thirds (65%) say they seldom or never discuss their views on religion with religious people. By comparison, 26% of those who have a religious affiliation share their views at least once a week with those who have other beliefs; 43% say they seldom or never do.” In the United States, sharing your religious testimony is like breathing. I have heard these testimonies over and over and over again, ad nauseam.  Routledge sums this up by writing, “… people should recognize that many atheists feel marginalized in American society because most people are believers.  Believers should not feel threatened by atheists. People believe different things and someone not believing in God does not jeopardize your own beliefs.”

I am not spiritually-based; I am evidence-based. We are seeing more evidence about countries that are majority atheist and the evidence is promising for their populations. Routledge reports, “…there is a common belief that rejecting God is the same as rejecting morality. However, countries that have high rates of atheism (Scandinavian nations) tend to have much lower violent crime and teen pregnancy rates than countries high in religiosity such as the United States.  In addition, in the United States, the least religious states have the lowest violent crime rates. Like it or not, there is no compelling evidence that atheists are less moral than believers. Morality can be found with and without religion. In fact, research indicates that atheist parents spend a lot of time teaching their children to be moral, compassionate, and fair.”

Understand, I am not mad at God or Jesus or Muhammad or Thor or Shiva or Satan or any of the saints or any other god. I don’t believe in god. I can’t be mad a something I don’t believe in. Period. Rather, I feel uncomfortable when telling Americans that I am an atheist. Until an atheist is elected to public office and people realize that atheists are not satan, but merely non-believers, I will not openly give my opinion on my beliefs until I feel safe. If you want to believe, knock yourself out. If you want to read my blog, have at it. I am not forcing anyone to read this blog; I write to help me solidify my understanding of life and how I now view life and death. Yes, I think that your beliefs in gods are stupid, but if you’re so threatened by what I think, maybe you need to rethink your own worth and your own beliefs. Just because I may think your beliefs are unintelligent and superstitious, but I will still love you if you are my relative or my friend. I will not try to purge religion from you, although I have had countless Southern Baptist try to convert me from being a Methodist to becoming a Baptist–and those are just different sects of the SAME religion. If you wish to ask me about being an atheist, I will tell you, but I will not start the conversation, nor will I continue the conversation if I feel threatened by you.

Besides, I might decide to move to a Scandinavian country where the population is tolerant. It’s seems to me that most atheists are not the angry ones–it’s the religious community members who are so angry.

Do I Look Like a Baby Killer?

This is an older post, but continues to be more and more relevant. On the surface, Kat Richter is brave, but the bottom line is, she is a woman. And women in our culture are still vilified as second class citizens. When the evangelical Christian coalition that is the Republican Party work to tear down Planned Parenthood–a vital structural support for women, then, to me, these Christians are diminishing 50% of the population. Throw the entire baby out with the bathwater. Love, worship only the virginal mother Mary who gives birth to the demi-god Jesus, but all of the others are whores, while men can put their penises anywhere they please with only resulting high-fives. We women must always deal with the consequences. How dare you call yourself Christian, but degrade the “fairer sex” in your life. We women are also very good at degrading ourselves; we have been socialized to hate our bodies, our minds, but are told to put out for the man as God commands. In Jesus’ name. How dare you. Kat embraced her fears of those who judged her, who claimed to be “Christians,” who make assumptions. Christians protesting at Planned Parenthood butt into women’s lives when it is none of their business. Kat–YOU are courage; you are love; you are responsibility. You are reality in our world. I honor you today as the person who is the compassionate one at Planned Parenthood, not the protesters.

Fieldwork in Stilettos

This morning I went to Planned Parenthood.  I go every three months to pick up my birth control pills and again in August just before my birthday for my annual pelvic exam.

My usual concerns when going to Planned Parenthood are:

A)     Where am I going to park?  Parking in Center City is never easy.

B)      How long is this going to take?  The folks at the Locust Street branch are always friendly and seem pretty efficient but if you don’t have an appointment, you can find yourself sitting in the lobby long enough to watch an entire Tyler Perry film.

I’m never worried about getting stopped by protestors because let’s face it: this is 2013.  This is Philadelphia.  We’re not like that here.

Plus, my visit to Planned Parenthood has nothing to do with abortion, which makes sense because 90% of the services offered by Planned Parenthood have to…

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