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Morality without Religion?

I was fortunate enough to be able to participate in a single session of a class held at our congregation (The Free Congregation of Sauk County) where this question was asked by Nick Schweitzer, the class’ facilitator:

18. When someone asks you how an atheist can be moral, what do you think the underlying question is? (E.g., is he/she asking how you can know what morality is if you don’t believe in God’s rules, or how people can be trusted to behave decently if they’re not afraid of damnation, or how people can be motivated to behave decently if they don’t believe in an eternal reward, etc.?)

What is your answer to the question?

Below is my answer as far as I can articulate in a short time (a partial day’s worth of work). It is bit disjointed and not as well research or worded as my other writings, but this is all I could manage for now:

The Real Question

So, they ask you “How can an Atheist be moral?”. What do you think the underlying question is?  Well, the underlying question they are asking from their limited context really is:

“How can a person who does not believe in:

  • the authority of the Christian God as the sole source of good, and ethics, and morality
  • their interpretation of their version of their sacred text
  • heaven and hell (and, by extension, damnation and salvation)

..still  have a moral system, especially when, in their world view, where the source of morality and good emanates from a reward and punishment system that is a visceral part of their world-view and  moral system, and this “atheist” has the temerity to reject it?”

Unfortunately, it is natural for someone with this limited world-view to ask such a question, and it is seriously asked by those of  conservative denominations, for obvious reasons. Hopefully, some will find my thoughts and considerations below interesting or enlightening.

Evaluating Conservative Psychology and Religion

Now, there are a lot of problems with this question especially when a lot of the impetus for the question is founded in the limited conservative religious world view, and there is a lot to consider and the take into account when trying to understand it. Keep in mind, that all of this below is just my opinion, and it is based on only that which I know, which is not everything, unfortunately. =(

Conservative Psychology

First we will want to take a look at the psychology that underlies conservatives that will help us understand the impetus and phrasing of the question from their mindset. For that we will travel to Moral Psychology land as well as visit Negativity Bias and Other Psychological Factor‘s land:

Moral Psychology

To understand where this question comes from and what they are really asking we really need to delve, at least a little bit, into moral psychology, which can be quite enlightening in subjects such as this. Jonathan Haidt, a famous moral psychologist, and those in his field have distilled the basic moral components that we all have as the basis for morality, and this is even shown in other animals to some extent, as the following:

  • Harm/Care
  • Fairness/Reciprocity
  • In group Loyalty (Tribalism)
  • Authority/Respect
  • Purity/Sanctity

Liberals score high on:

  • Harm/Care
  • Fairness and Reciprocity

Conservatives score high on the other three:

  • In group Loyalty (Tribalism)
  • Authority/Respect
  • Purity/Sanctity

Now, this can already show why and how conservatives see things and approach morality differently than liberals, at least according to moral psychology. Essentially, conservatives respond to authority (religion and authority figures), tribalism (groups like themselves), Purity/Sanctity (religion) regardless of how it affects others, whereas liberals respond to fairness and taking care of others regardless of the affect on the established institutions. This alone is pretty telling especially when you compare this to liberal and conservative religious and political rhetoric and ideologies.

If we apply the above moral psychology principles to our “question” it may look like this:

“You are not apart of our group, and you do not respect the authority of our group and its institutions and beliefs, then how can you be a good person, since we obviously are good?”

Negativity Bias and Other Conservative Psychological Factors

A recent study has come out that shows that conservatives have a “negativity bias,” meaning that they are physiologically more attuned to negative (threatening, disgusting) stimuli in their environments, even to the point of seeking it out or “seeing” threats in places and people, especially when differ from themselves.

Other studies suggest that conservatives are characterized by traits such as a need for certainty and an intolerance of ambiguity, of which conservative organizations are more than happy to help with. They provide a clear and clean “this is right and this is wrong, and these are our enemies”.

With this being said, this research sort of shows a conservative person as being prone to seeing threats from that which is different than themselves and their beliefs, and even likes to hear those that espouse that there are threats even if there aren’t any, and is bound to see that which is different as a potential “threat”, especially since they do not believe the same, which in some ways feeds into conservative talk radio, and racism, and other forms of rallying against those who are not like themselves regardless of the consequences to those who are different than them.

Conservative Religion as it Caters to Conservative Psychology

So if we combine the psychological factors discussed above into one thing we get a person who:

  • Prefers their group (tribalism)
  • Respects authority, especially within their group
  • Seeks out and prefers to hear those say what the threats are against them, especially when it includes those who are different than them (not a part of their tribal group)
  • do not like certainty and has an intolerance of ambiguity

Once we have this picture and we add in the influence of, or as a byproduct, resulting in the creation of conservative religion things come into focus very clearly. Conservative religion provides a clear membership identification and is more than happy to tell you who is good and who is bad which caters to adding certainty and removing intolerance to ambiguity, as well as providing authority, a tribal group, and an authority that they can respect. A massive confluence of all of the things that conservative psychology enjoys and thrives under.

Another benefit of conservative religion is that they will have no one to hold them accountable for their interpretation of their sacred texts and their resultant actions when they can say that their interpretation of their religious scripture says they are correct. When they all get together and say ‘yes’ we believe this (even though they may be wrong), their divine entity will not come down and  slap them silly for being stoopid in the head. They get the benefit of defining their version of their religion and their version of their divine entity that caters to their psychological needs and no one can say, in any certainty, that they are right or wrong, even thought they are obviously from a moral and ethical standpoint. It becomes an battle of “our interpretation” vs “your interpretation” which would never sway a conservative since they have a strong respect for their tribal authority (their own) no matter what the consequence to others is. They feel a they have the righteous belief and will not brook any question of the truth of their interpretation or actions since it will bring about dissonance and ambiguity, and jeopardize their belief in their authority figure.

A part of the conservative religious world view is inherently laden with fear, temptation, damnation and sin, original sin, and demons all of which cater to their negativity bias, and, of course, which can also have adverse psychological affects on those who partake of this way of thinking for a long period of time resulting in a life filled with fear, anxiety, and feelings of less-worth. The resultant negative and fearful view towards the world, humanity, and, unfortunately, themselves too inherent in the conservative religious world view is a natural part of their view when around all corners is temptation and demons, fear and anxiety are a natural thing to have.  Now, the convenient part of this is that they invest their trust in the authority of ‘their church’ which propagates these negative emotions and beliefs and it, therefore, becomes a self-fulfilling prophesy. When the church says people are bad and inherently sinful and then they seek the church for guidance due to their bias towards their own tribal authority, and their negativity bias which results their own self-inflicted refuction in self-worth, then all good becomes because of their tribe membership and all bad comes from outside of the tribe, since that is what is bad because it is different. To believe otherwise is to invite dissonance and ambiguity which is not allowed in their minds, or by their authoritarian structures. Conservative psychology, by extension, has a self-vested interest in maintaining tribal exceptionalism and the convenience of inerrant scriptural interpretation of their sacred text, since it all feeds into creating certainty (even thought it may not be correct) which provides the benefit of removing ambiguity and promoting their belief in their tribe and its authority, without which will come uncertainty and dissonance.

Revisiting the “Real Question”

From above we said the following:

“How can a person who does not believe in:

  •  the authority of the Christian God as the sole source of good, and ethics, and morality
  • their interpretation of their version of their sacred text
  • heaven and hell (and, by extension, damnation and salvation)

..still  have a moral system, especially when, in their world view, where the source of morality and good emanates from a reward and punishment system that is a visceral part of their world-view and  moral system, and this “atheist” has the temerity to reject it?”

… and that a summary of conservative psychology is:

  • Prefers their group (tribalism)
  • Respects authority, especially within their group
  • Seeks out and prefers to hear those say what the threats are against them, especially when it includes those who are different than them (not a part of their tribal group)
  • do not like certainty and an intolerance of ambiguity

Let us apply the conservative psychological factors to the question so we can understand where they are coming from. This questions calls into question the non-believer’s nontribal membership, caters to their negativity bias and their bias towards authority. Their authority structure has already branded this person as bad and therefore uncertainty has been removed as well, and therefore the unbeliever is bad, so this question really is formed and is reinforced by their psychological world view as described above.

The Liberal Answer

In some ways I have covered a lot of my answer in my previous blog posts from a few years ago, but I will reform my ideas briefly here within context of this question. Of course, most of what I have to say will not convince a conservative since it does not key on their conservative psychological factors and keys on factors outside of their world view, a lot of which challenges their belief structures which is much of why they deny science since it is a considerable threat to what their authoritarian structure teaches, and also imposes external authority structures which invites dissonance and ambiguity, which they do not like.

Limiting one’s perception of the world and decision making to that which their religious tribe says is OK results in a severely limited world view, especially if they are willing to eschew other other authority structures which conflict with their primary and self-assured source of eternal authority. This view lacks an open and informed context of the world (eschewing science, history, empathy and sympathy), especially when their religious world view is limited to a 2000 year old text (at least as far as the New testament is concerned, if we are being generous, or over 5000 years old text if we take into account the Old Testament) that was founded in a culture, history, and context of which we do not share, especially when homosapien is at least 100,000 thousand years old, therefore the most powerful religious denomination in the west has only been around for 5% of human history. An incredible amount has changed in our society due to science and social sciences in the last 100 years, let alone the last 1000 years, and unfortunately conservative religion does not move at the speed of social or scientific progress. The thought of a changing conservative religion is abhorrent to conservatives for many reasons as you could see from up above, although they eventually do change when they are not able to fight against it anymore, or to do so would threaten their existence. This lack of change is due to a threat to the perceived stable and eternal authorith of their belifs which they do not like so they fight it tooth and nail to maintain their beliefs and authority regardless of who is hurt in the process. Sure there is wisdom to be had in their sacred texts, but it must be measured with contemporary social and scientific advances and not be anchored in an ancient world that no longer exists, especially when the beliefs result in harms to other people, the environement, or other creatures.

Singular Mythological or Religious Authority or Something Else?

Let us take a look at the fact that there are over 5000 religions that humanity has utilized over the its short lifespan, and most have many things in common – their laws and ideals at their base teach us good from bad, which is a powerful underpinning found in every religion and society through the history of humanity’s short existence . This alone is a powerful concept which points to something even larger going on that is not limited to one any one religion. A keen example of this is the Golden Rule. The following of the existence of the Golden Rule in many religions is overkill, but it will really help to strongly reinforce this idea that no one religion has corners the market of moral truths:

Bahá’í Faith:

  • “Ascribe not to any soul that which thou wouldst not have ascribed to thee, and say not that which thou doest not.” “Blessed is he who preferreth his brother before himself.” Baha’u'llah
  • “And if thine eyes be turned towards justice, choose thou for thy neighbour that which thou choosest for thyself.” Epistle to the Son of the Wolf. 1


  • “This is the sum of Dharma [duty]: Do naught unto others which would cause you pain if done to you”. Mahabharata, 5:1517 ”


  • “…a state that is not pleasing or delightful to me, how could I inflict that upon another?” Samyutta NIkaya v. 353
  • “Hurt not others in ways that you yourself would find hurtful.” Udana-Varga 5:18


  • “Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets.” Matthew 7:12, King James Version.
  • “And as ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise.” Luke 6:31, King James Version.
  • “…and don’t do what you hate…”, Gospel of Thomas 6. The Gospel of Thomas is one of about 40 gospels that circulated among the early Christian movement, but which never made it into the Christian Scriptures (New Testament).


  • “Do not do to others what you do not want them to do to you” Analects 15:23
  • “Tse-kung asked, ‘Is there one word that can serve as a principle of conduct for life?’ Confucius replied, ‘It is the word ‘shu’ — reciprocity. Do not impose on others what you yourself do not desire.’” Doctrine of the Mean 13.3
  • “Try your best to treat others as you would wish to be treated yourself, and you will find that this is the shortest way to benevolence.” Mencius VII.A.4

Ancient Egyptian:

  • “Do for one who may do for you, that you may cause him thus to do.” The Tale of the Eloquent Peasant, 109 – 110 Translated by R.B. Parkinson. The original dates to circa 1800 BCE and may be the earliest version of the Epic of Reciprocity ever written. 2


  • This is the sum of duty: do not do to others what would cause pain if done to you. Mahabharata 5:1517


  • “None of you [truly] believes until he wishes for his brother what he wishes for himself.” Number 13 of Imam “Al-Nawawi’s Forty Hadiths.” 3


  • “Therefore, neither does he [a sage] cause violence to others nor does he make others do so.” Acarangasutra 5.101-2.
  • “In happiness and suffering, in joy and grief, we should regard all creatures as we regard our own self.” Lord Mahavira, 24th Tirthankara
  • “A man should wander about treating all creatures as he himself would be treated. “Sutrakritanga 1.11.33


  • “…thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.”, Leviticus 19:18
  • “What is hateful to you, do not to your fellow man. This is the law: all the rest is commentary.” Talmud, Shabbat 31a.
  • “And what you hate, do not do to any one.” Tobit 4:15 4


  • ““Regard your neighbor’s gain as your gain, and your neighbor’s loss as your own loss.” Tai Shang Kan Yin P’ien
  • “To those who are good to me, I am good; to those who are not good to me, I am also good. Thus all get to be good.”


  • “That nature alone is good which refrains from doing to another        whatsoever is not good for itself.” Dadisten-I-dinik, 94,5
  • “Whatever is disagreeable to yourself do not do unto others.” Shayast-na-Shayast 13:29 5

Perhaps you may might state “Well, God has existed before all time and that is where humans get good and evil and motality, so what you are saying is not true. How ’bout them apples, Mr Smartypants? “.

Well, that could easily be claimed by every single religion ever created, therefore such answers are NOT valid. This becomes especially poignant since almost all religions have a creation mythology, and Christianity is no different. You will also find that the mythological stories in the Christian narrative have parallels in the other religions that have come before it and from which its stories draw. The Christian narrative is merely the byproduct of the religions that have come before it as pulled together by the cultural, religious, and political needs and context of the people who created it, as all religion that have ever existed have. Christianity is, in no way, more special than any other religion that has ever existed. It is merely just one of the many religious views that humanity will have throughout its existence, hopefully long existence, assuming our planet does not destroy us first for our hubris.  =)

Evolutionary and Moral Pscychology as Human’s Source For Morality

Naturally evolutionary psychology and moral psychology tends to show us that morality is an integral part of who we are as humans, independent of any particular religion, since we evolved as social creatures as an evolutionary survival adaptation. Those who work together tend to survive longer, but not only that, those who treat others well, tend to survive longer since it breeds greater tribal loyalty, cooperation, and cohesion. Morality is not a thing powered by the gods, it is powered by our evolutionary instincts for survival, without which humans would never have survived long enough to have a need to create its mulitifarious religions, especially in its contemporary forms . I have written that the fundamental essence of all religions is humanism draped in cultural, social, political, and theological trappings of their time. It is a means of passing on moral and human values in a form that is more acceptable to their specific historical and cultural audience. I also venture to say that religions will only survive in the far future if they embrace a humanism as its core, especially as humanity becomes more and more advanced and liberal by extension. Erasmus of Rotterdam was a Catholic priest from the 1500′s who saw a great need within the church and promoted Christian Humanism, and is the contemporary father of this movement.

I may even venture to say that it is easier for liberals to live moral lives without religion since the things that trigger them as identified by moral psychology:

  • Harm/Care
  • Fairness and Reciprocity

… inherently bring about higher chances of devloping a morally good person or society, whereas it may be more difficult for conservatives to do so since they have a strong negativity bias, dislike for ambiguity, and repond to authoritarian structures regardless of how it affects others.

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My Related Personal Blog Posts

Chose to Bless the World” by Rebecca Parker of Starr King UU Seminary

This is a wonderful poem that I heard read at our congregation at the Free Congregation of Sauk County, and it touched me enough to post it. It is written by Rebecca Parker, a Methodist/Unitarian Universalist minister, who attended famous UU seminary the Starr King Seminary.

Choose to Bless the World by Rebecca Parker

Your gifts—whatever you discover them to be—

can be used to bless or curse the world

The mind’s power,
The strength of the hands,
The reaches of the heart,
The gift of speaking, listening, imagining, seeing, waiting

Any of these can serve to feed the hungry,
Bind up wounds,
Welcome the stranger,
Praise what is sacred,
Do the work of justice
Or offer love.

Any of these can draw down the prison door,
Hoard bread,
Abandon the poor,

Obscure what is holy,
Comply with injustice
Or withhold love.

You must answer this question:
What will you do with your gifts?

Choose to bless the world.

The choice to bless the world is more than an act of will,
A moving forward into the world
With the Intention to do good.
It is an act of recognition, a confession of surprise, a grateful acknowledgment
That in the midst of a broken world
Unspeakable beauty, grace and mystery abide.

There is an embrace of kindness that encompasses all life, even yours.

And while there is injustice, anesthetization, or evil
There moves
A holy disturbance,
A benevolent rage,
A revolutionary love,
Protesting, urging, insisting
That which is sacred will not be defiled.

Those who bless the world live their life as a gesture of thanks
For this beauty
And this rage.

The choice to bless the world can take you into solitude
To search for the sources of power and grace;
Native wisdom, healing, and liberation.

More, the choice will draw you into community,
The endeavor shared,
The heritage passed on,
The companionship of struggle,
The importance of keeping faith,
The life of ritual and praise,
The comfort of human friendship,
The company of earth
The chorus of life welcoming you.

None of us alone can save the world.

Together—that is another possibility waiting.

Rebecca Parker

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The Apology: The Church could start by asking for forgiveness.

The following article titled 'The Apology' is pulled directly from Dr. Stewart Edser's Website 'Being Gay, Being Christian'. I felt compelled to reproduce his wonderful article for posterity, if, for some reason, his should go off-line. Please do not read it here. Click on over to his site Being Gay, Being Christian

The Apology

Here is the apology that the Christian Church needs to offer the gay people of the world. It doesn't seem to be forthcoming at the moment from the Church, so I have penned one myself on the Church's behalf to give it an idea of how this might go. To give credit, there are some in the Church who do feel this way, but still not enough. So share it with your Christian friends. Share it with your pastor, your priest, share it with your bishop. The church needs to change its view of gay people and its treatment of gay people. We too are part of God's incredible human family.

The Church could start by asking for forgiveness. It could start with an apology.

To Gay People the World Over

We the Christian Church, while professing that our reason for existence is to spread the knowledge of God in the manner of Jesus of Nazareth and to show God's love and compassion for all humanity by our lives, with Jesus as our exemplar, most especially to the down-trodden, the weary, the sick, the old, the widow, the orphan, the prisoner, the weak, the oppressed, the poor and the marginalised, acknowledge that we have fallen so far short in our attitudes toward and our treatment of one marginalised group – gay people – that our actions can only be described as sin. And sin of the gravest kind. We have called that which God has created good, evil. We have contaminated the worth of your lives with toxic shame and presented you to the world as reprehensible and filthy, as the epitome of moral repugnance.

We know that one of the earliest words in the Scriptures for sin was an archery term, the Greek word hamartia (ἁμαρτία) describing an arrow 'missing its mark.' As the Church of Jesus Christ, we freely acknowledge that we have completely missed the mark regarding gay people from the very beginning and that two thousand years of history has not seen us grow any more enlightened. To this very day, we continue to judge you, deny you, reject you, pillory you, vilify you, denigrate you, condemn you, besmirch you, denounce you and exclude you and we do this for one reason and one reason only – your sexual orientation.

We do humbly and abjectly apologise for our actions. We acknowledge our mistreatment of you. We ask for your forgiveness even though we know we do not deserve it.

We own this great transgression of Jesus' first and only commandment of love. We have been anything but loving. We have been the antithesis of loving. We have been an organ of hate.

For these sins we are truly sorry.

We have clung to out-dated interpretations of Biblical passages. We have refused to openly explore modern scholarship that brings to light so much about the Bible, Jesus and his teachings that we never knew before. We have been openly belligerent towards you and have acted in pride as we shot you down in flames and pronounced judgment over your lives as an abomination. We have behaved towards you in dialogue from a place of hubris where we haughtily saw ourselves as the saved and you as sinners. We have ignored your feelings as if they did not matter; that only our precious pronouncements mattered.

For these sins we are truly sorry.

We have told the world that your life is not natural, that you are set against nature and in so doing, you are set against God. We have told the world that you are sick and disordered and sinful, that you are deviant and that your love is not real but is only lust. And we have told the world that lust is evil. We have told the world that your whole lives are 'inclined to moral evil,' a statement so grandiose in its language and so all-encompassing in its reach that you gay people are left reeling because such language is usually reserved for despots and tyrants, the cruellest of the cruel.

For these sins we are truly sorry.

We have pitted parents against their gay children. We have caused untold damage in families. We have stopped you from ministering in our churches. We have sacked and dismissed you from legitimate posts because of your sexual orientation. We have impeded your promotion and even put up barriers for your housing. We have refused the communion service to you. We have forbidden you to remain in our fellowships because of your lives. We have persisted in calling your life a ‘lifestyle’ and your orientation a ‘preference,’ knowing full well that those words are not only illegitimate but are also heavily loaded emotionally and politically.

For these sins we are truly sorry.

We have ignored the wisdom of science. We have refused to acknowledge that you are born gay. We stubbornly declare to the world that your 'sexual preference is a choice,' despite knowing the fact that science has been able to show definitively that there is a substantial genetic component determining all human sexuality. But we haven’t cared about that. That does not fit our ancient world or mediaeval worldview, so we just ignore the research and dismiss it out of hand, acting as though it does not exist. And we continue to trot out our worn-out arguments and pronouncements with divine certitude while we argue with one another as to which of us has faith the most right. And while we're busy arguing among ourselves, we trample you underfoot with carefree abandon as we pour out rejection and judgmentalism from our bile-filled mouths.

For these sins we are truly sorry.

We set up our own idols. Men usually. We follow their every pronouncement and treat them as celebrities. Hatemongers who are either ignorant, prejudiced or have some personal axe to grind about sexuality. But also the Church. We construct its systems as though they are set up by God and use the weapon of bureaucracy against you. The Bible. Some of us worship the book instead of seeing it as a pointer to the One.

Idolatry. Ecclesiolatry. Bibliolatry. We listen to homophobes and misanthropists and share their words while we worship a book instead of the God that it speaks of. And we hide behind church governance instead of relating to you as fellow human beings. And from our book and from our churches and from our God, we exclude you. We other you like we have othered no other group in history. We have resolutely painted the picture as us and them. We have done this for centuries. We are the us. And you are the them.

For these sins we are truly sorry.

We have even told you that you had to change, even though we know in our heart of hearts that there is no change. We have set up ministries to lie to you to tell you that your lives are worthless as they are. You must change, that you are not good enough as you are. You must turn yourselves into heterosexual people. Against all evidence, we have told you that you can do this by the power of God and with our support. We did not tell you that should you succumb to our ministrations you would forever be in limbo, a no-man's land where you will never be straight and you cannot call yourselves gay. And even if you do marry an opposite sex partner and even have children, we will still never quite accept you. We do never quite go the full distance to full acceptance. We have ignored the signs from around the world after some of you have committed suicide because you couldn't cope with what we did to you in these ministries. However despite the deaths, we have continued on, referring young vulnerable gay people, mostly brought up in the church and in Christian families, to these ministries at a time when they are emotionally defenceless and the power differential between them and us is gargantuan. We have harmed you. We have killed you. We are responsible.

For these sins we are truly sorry.

In our realisation of the grotesque distortion of the Christian Gospel that we have offered the world, a distortion that the world rightly rejects, we abjectly apologise to you. We have debased the Good News and driven people away from God and from life in the Spirit. We have put before the world a false dichotomy between the sacred and the profane and we have put sex and desire in the profane. It is no wonder we have rejected you for you have had to go on a spiritual and emotional journey to be able to accept yourselves at the sexual level. We are frightened of this. We are frightened of sex, of desire. We always have been. We fear you and your comfort with sexuality. We have placed celibacy as the zenith of human conditions and even mandated some of our clergy to live this way against all inclination for the rest of their lives. And we tell young gay people that they too must be celibate and deny an integral part of their identity for the rest of their lives too.

For these sins we are truly sorry.

We are mortally and grievously at fault here. Like the old Latin words we say contritely, 'mea cupla, mea cupla, mea maxima culpa – through my fault, through my fault, through my most grievous fault.' We are stripped and laid bare and our transgressions are unveiled for all to see.

Our sins have been grievous and manifold. We have not acted like Jesus at all. We have not shown love or compassion. We have been quick to occupy the divine judgment seat and speak with hubris as if the plank in our own eye were not big enough already.

In apologising and asking for the forgiveness we do not deserve after perpetrating so much hurt and so much harm, we seek to redress our sinful actions. We need to make recompense. We need to change.

We will be the followers of Jesus we were always meant to be. We will have love and charity as our foremost test of everything we do and everything we say. We will seek out and ask for your views and value your opinions. We will include you in our liturgies and as part of our clergy. We will happily employ you. We will desist from calling you unclean, disordered and evil. We will abandon such language forever. We will stop using the Bible as a weapon against you and start reading the scriptures in the light of modern scholarship. We will be big enough and strong enough in our faith in God to say where we think the peoples of the ancient Biblical world got it wrong, such as with slavery, women, the death penalty, and gay people, among other issues. We will have a strong and robust faith that is partnered with reason so that our God and our faith are not mocked and laughed to scorn by an educated, literate, post-enlightenment humanity. We will speak out for equality for all human beings and denounce homophobia specifically. We will be strong advocates for gay people so that you feel welcome, valued and loved as part of the family of God.

We will do our best to make up for the centuries of trauma. We do not know how long it will take for you to trust us and to forgive us. But we openly and honestly offer you our sorrow, our contrition, our apology for our actions past and present.

For these and all our sins against you we are truly sorry.

Pax et Amor – Stuart

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    The Gay Debate: The Bible and Homosexuality [video]

    Matthew Vines speaks on the theological debate regarding the Bible and the role of gay Christians in the church. Delivered at College Hill United Methodist Church in Wichita, Kansas on March 8, 2012.

    Rachel Maddow Interviewing David Bahati, the Sponsor of the “Killl the Gays” Bill in Uganda

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    Interview with David Bahati – Part 1

    Interview with David Bahati – Part 2

    Interview with David Bahati – Part 3

    Prop 8 Appeal to be Televised

    If you have not followed California’s Prop 8 trial please take the moment to watch the district court appeal which should give you an ideal and a great summary as to what this is all about and both sides’ views. One of the places it is available is via C-SPAN and it all starts at noon (CST). There is also a live BLogging of the district court appeal available at Prop 8 Trial Tracker in case you cannot watch the video at work… like me.

    Please watch/read it. This really matters.

    The “It Gets Better” Project – a Message to LGBT Children

    Here is the “It Gets Better Project” and other associated It Gets Better videos on You Tube to which Obama, Jewel, Chris Colfer from the Glee cast, Prince Poppycock from America’s Got Talent, Zachary Quinto from Heroes and the New Star Trek movie, and many, many more participate to show their support for gay children who are suffering and may potentially commit suicide due to ignorance,  intolerance, and bullying.

    Also, Cindy McCain and some Hollywood friends create An Anti-Bullying Message From the NOH8 Campaign.

    Our children need to know that they are loved and that bullies are not the norm, or even right for that fact. The rest of the world, especially once you get out of high school, is not necessarily filled with ignorant assholes. Shocking and hard to believe, I know, but there you go. Please watch these and spread the word, for this is a really important topic.

    The Fundamental Essence of Religion is Humanism

    In a previous post about Biblical/Theological Humanism that I had written a while back  titled “Theological Humanism? A solution to the divide?” I mention that religions need to start approaching their theology from a more humanistic perspective otherwise they will, at some point, find themselves irrelevant and ignored, but my primary focus was the fundamentalist and orthodox ideologies and their methodologies and rhetoric. These religions find their dogma more important than the people and that was really my primary focus for that post.  Now, having recently read the following two books, which were awesome by the way,  :

    I find my approach towards Theological Humanism solidified, but changing in a very fundamental way to which not everyone will like, and some may label it as heresy.  For that I apologize, but for me this makes a lot of sense. After reading these two books  I was  inspired to write my Personal Creed v1.0 which helps to codify my current beliefs and will also help you to see where I am going with this. In there my first 3 points are as follows:

    1. I hold that the world’s religions have organically developed and evolved based on the political values and socio-cultural conditions of their times. Religion is a method of perpetuating cultural history, mythology, and morality as has been determined by their relative and distinct histories.
    2. I hold that there are many parallels between the world’s religions’ morality that when distilled down to its essence they reflect humanism at its core. Religion and Humanism is about humans and the relations between us as individuals, and humanity as a collective and interdependent society.
    3. I hold that the potential wisdom from the world’s religions can inspire us in our ethical and spiritual life, and provide an impetus for the free and responsible search for truth and meaning. I also hold and accept that each individual’s journey towards spiritual growth is personal and unique, and worthy of respect, inquiry; as well as being a potential place where I may learn and grow in my own journey.

    In essence I am saying that the fundamental essence of all religions is humanism which just happens to be steeped in the culture, mythology, politics, and history in which it was formed; in other words at its very essence  all religions teachings and their morality is truly Humanism with a cultural, mythological, political and ideological skewing and dressing them.

    With this knowledge choosing the religion that is appropriate for you becomes which flavor of mythology, ideology, and culture do you like your humanism. The ideological, cultural, and mythological choice you make will become defining of how much of what I shall call truth will be taught. The more orthodox or fundamentalist the religion the less truth you will get, since they care more about slavish adherence to their dogma than they do how what they say and do affects humans.

    Now some religions really find themselves skewed far from this precept and they emphasize their mythology and dogmas more than they do the moral and humanistic values and this is why the orthodox and fundamentalist religions are harmful. They have forgotten what religion is really all about….. you and me – humans and our relations with one another. Jesus, Muhammad, Buddha, and all other prophets’ teachings at their very essences were about us, humans, and our interdependent relations, although some may approach it from an theistic point of view. Religions need to return to the humanistic essence of their theology.

    My stance changed from ‘orthodox and fundamentalist religions need to change their approach to their theology’ to ‘they need to return to the humanistic roots of their theology’. A subtle but very important difference. Just an idea for you to ponder. =)

    Personal Creed – v1.0

    I know not everyone will agree with my beliefs or find this suitable for them, but I have been, as of the last 4+ or so years, engaged in a lot of reading and reflection on religion and science and so on to try and figure out where I stand. The following is  a work in progress and is the current culmination a personal creed for me:

    1. I hold that the world’s religions have organically developed and evolved based on the political values and socio-cultural conditions of their times. Religion is a method of perpetuating cultural history, mythology, and morality as has been determined by their relative and distinct histories.
    2. I hold that there are many parallels between the world’s religions’ morality that when distilled down to its essence they reflect humanism at its core. Religion and Humanism is about humans and the relations between us as individuals, and humanity as a collective and interdependent society.
    3. I hold that the potential wisdom from the world’s religions can inspire us in our ethical and spiritual life, and provide an impetus for the free and responsible search for truth and meaning. I also hold and accept that each individual’s journey towards spiritual growth is personal and unique, and worthy of respect, inquiry; as well as being a potential place where I may learn and grow in my own journey.
    4. I hold that I should neither accept nor reject ideas proposed as truth without recourse to knowledge, reason, ethics, and justice. I shall build my opinions and knowledge of the world on the basis of facts, scientific inquiry, and logical principles, independent of the intellectually limiting effects of authority, conventional wisdom, popular culture, sectarianism, tradition, urban legends, and all other dogmatic principles.
    5. I hold the interdependent web of humanity of which we are ALL a part of imbues all humans with inherent worth and are all deserving of life, dignity, right of conscious, justice, equality, compassion, and a pursuit of happiness. This interdependence of humanity with itself necessitates a noble goal of the world community to work towards peace, unity, liberty, equality and justice for all.
    6. I hold that the interdependent web of ALL existence implores finding a balance and innate understanding for the nature’s laws and how we impact it is vitally important so we can maintain an ecological balance and preservation to prevent damage and promote flourishing plants and animals on earth and where ever we migrate to as a species.
    7. Universal Declaration of Human Rights

    Informed Resources

    There are many books and articles that have really affected and informed my beliefs. Some are as follows and this is not at all an inclusive list:

    Books from Amazon

    Other Important Sources

    Review “Sex at Dawn: The Prehistoric Origins of Modern Sexuality” – A+++

    I recently finished the book Sex at Dawn: The Prehistoric Origins of Modern Sexuality. It is an excellent and life altering book. It really ties together a lot of what I have read about evolutionary psychology and evolutionary biology. If you have not read this book, or even if you have never read an evolutionary psychology book at all, read it. It may change the way that you see the world, and I mean that in a good way. It covers topics such as monogamy, swinging, infidelity, and polyamory in it.  It truly covers the wide spectrum of human sexuality. Wow is all I can say.

    If you do not know what polyamory is I have written a primer on polyamory for those who are curious.

    9th Circuit STAYS Judge Walker’s Ruling Pending an Expedited Appeal

    California’s Appellate Court granted a stay on Judge Vaughn’s ruling pending appeal. This was, in my opinion, to be expected since this is such a high profile case and precedent setting case,  so nothing drastic there. However, there is some good news as far as this process is concerned as is covered here BREAKING: 9th Circuit STAYS Judge Walker’s ruling; Appeal scheduled December 6 on Prop 8 Trial Tracker:

    • the appellate court is expediting the the appeal of the ruling of the unconstitutionality of Prop 8 and set the date for the week of 6 December, which is awesome. The sooner the, hopefully, better.
    • they are also specifically asking the Prop8′ers: In addition to any issues appellants wish to raise on appeal, appellants are directed to include in their opening brief a discussion of why this appeal should not be dismissed for lack of Article III standing. which is huge. Judge Vaughn said that they do not have standing for a stay or appeal, if I remember correctly, and the appellate court obviously pretty much agrees with them, but are giving them a chance to sound at least a little rational and try to retain some self respect.

    In the scheme of things this is pretty huge. The appeal process could end up being pretty short (comparatively speaking) since they do not have standing for appeal, so this may most likely get dismissed with prejudice, which would prevent a Supreme Court Appeal. This will be a massively huge win and precedent for gay rights all throughout the US if this does happen, since there will be a court ruling stating that banning gay marriage is unconstitutional and they have no standing.

    If  the Supreme Court does not dismiss out of hand due to lack of standing, which would rock, then the appellate court’s decision will be appealed to the Supreme Court.

    Cross your fingers everyone. History and justice is happening. =)

    Excerpt from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s letter from Birmingham Jail that is quite pertinent to todays gay-rights movement

    In light of the ignorance spewed here by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s  niece, Alveda King, below, I feel compelled to publish the following excerpt while Dr. King rolls in is own grave in embarrassment and furious anger.

    Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s letter from Birmingham Jail (more info at Wikipedia) that is quite pertinent to todays gay-rights movement:

    We know through painful experience that freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed. Frankly, I have yet to engage in a direct action campaign that was “well timed” in the view of those who have not suffered unduly from the disease of segregation. For years now I have heard the word “Wait!” It rings in the ear of every Negro with piercing familiarity. This “Wait” has almost always meant “Never.” We must come to see, with one of our distinguished jurists, that “justice too long delayed is justice denied.”

    We have waited for more than 340 years for our constitutional and God given rights. The nations of Asia and Africa are moving with jetlike speed toward gaining political independence, but we still creep at horse and buggy pace toward gaining a cup of coffee at a lunch counter. Perhaps it is easy for those who have never felt the stinging darts of segregation to say, “Wait.” But when you have seen vicious mobs lynch your mothers and fathers at will and drown your sisters and brothers at whim; when you have seen hate filled policemen curse, kick and even kill your black brothers and sisters; when you see the vast majority of your twenty million Negro brothers smothering in an airtight cage of poverty in the midst of an affluent society; when you suddenly find your tongue twisted and your speech stammering as you seek to explain to your six year old daughter why she can’t go to the public amusement park that has just been advertised on television, and see tears welling up in her eyes when she is told that Funtown is closed to colored children, and see ominous clouds of inferiority beginning to form in her little mental sky, and see her beginning to distort her personality by developing an unconscious bitterness toward white people; when you have to concoct an answer for a five year old son who is asking: “Daddy, why do white people treat colored people so mean?”; when you take a cross county drive and find it necessary to sleep night after night in the uncomfortable corners of your automobile because no motel will accept you; when you are humiliated day in and day out by nagging signs reading “white” and “colored”; when your first name becomes “nigger,” your middle name becomes “boy” (however old you are) and your last name becomes “John,” and your wife and mother are never given the respected title “Mrs.”; when you are harried by day and haunted by night by the fact that you are a Negro, living constantly at tiptoe stance, never quite knowing what to expect next, and are plagued with inner fears and outer resentments; when you are forever fighting a degenerating sense of “nobodiness”–then you will understand why we find it difficult to wait. There comes a time when the cup of endurance runs over, and men are no longer willing to be plunged into the abyss of despair. I hope, sirs, you can understand our legitimate and unavoidable impatience. You express a great deal of anxiety over our willingness to break laws. This is certainly a legitimate concern. Since we so diligently urge people to obey the Supreme Court’s decision of 1954 outlawing segregation in the public schools, at first glance it may seem rather paradoxical for us consciously to break laws. One may well ask: “How can you advocate breaking some laws and obeying others?” The answer lies in the fact that there are two types of laws: just and unjust. I would be the first to advocate obeying just laws. One has not only a legal but a moral responsibility to obey just laws. Conversely, one has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws. I would agree with St. Augustine that “an unjust law is no law at all.”

    California’s Proposition 8 Ruled Unconstitutional by Judge Walker

    Holy thank God! =)

    As I fully expected, and if you followed the transcripts you will know what I mean, California’s proposition 8 was ruled unconstitutional via Prop 8 Trial Tracker (full decision)! Judge Vaugh Walker dropped the big metal hammer of constitutional justice upon this sordid issue. Happy Days!

    Now the long process of appeals begins for the Prop8′ers.

    “Why I finally joined a church” – a Salon article

    Here is an interesting article titled “Why I finally joined a church” on Salon about why a family finally joined a church after not having gone for so many years, and why they chose a Unitarian Universalist church.