Over at Friendly Atheist, Hemant is discussing a post by Dave Muscato of American Atheists, who argues that it’s not possible to be a Christian and support LGBT rights at the same time. Dave starts out by saying something that I sort of agree with. He says this:
Despite their claims, many Christians don’t get their moral compass from the Bible. If they did, they would be fine with slavery, they would not get divorced, they would not wear gold wedding rings, and they would not have sex before they were married—something virtually 100 percent of Christians do….
In reality, we all get our ideas about what’s right and wrong from society, the study of ethics, and the changing cultures in which we live.
Now, I take my line of thought to a different place than Dave does. Dave proceeds to argue that because almost no Christians take these passages literally, they must be “hypocrites.” I, on the other hand, wonder who it was who said Christians needed to take all parts of the bible literally in the first place.
It’s true, as Dave said, that almost nobody takes all parts of the bible literally. But to argue that all Christians should take the bible literally (or else be bad Christians) is to completely ignore the wide variety of Christian thought and practice. Most Christians believe you don’t need to take the bible literally at all, and that there can be many interpretations to what a specific passage means, and that different parts of the bible have different purposes and are targeted at different groups of people, and that you can still be a good Christian even if you don’t stone your neighbor for wearing mixed fabrics.
Dave, in his piece, takes a very simplistic view of what it means to be a Christian, and he probably isolated quite a few of them with his comments.
Here’s the part where he spells his thesis out explicitly:
People who claim to be Bible-believing Christians and also claim to support marriage equality are hypocrites. Fortunately, the realization of this—and the inability to reconcile their belief that marriage equality is moral with what Christianity teaches about the morality of gay relationships—has led many to abandon Christianity. I hope it leads more to do the same.
Is it possible to be a Christian and support the right for gay Christians to engage in sexual relations if they so desire?
Not if a person identifies as a Bible-believing Christian.
Speaking as an atheist, as a queer person, and as someone who knows quite a few Christians, I feel like Dave hasn’t really spent much time with progressive Christians at all. I know a lot of progressive Christians who have done much for LGBT rights, and to say that they’re either not real allies or not real Christians completely erases the experience of the many people who’ve dedicated their lives to fighting for LGBT equality.
What Dave’s done here is to take a stereotype of Christians (specifically, that they always need to follow the bible literally) that very few Christians actually fit, and apply it to all Christians indiscriminately. He’s ignoring what those Christians actually believe about God and the bible and instead deciding what they should believe based on what’s the most convenient for his narrative. It’s disingenuous and unfair.
And, as Richard Wade points out in the comments to Hemant’s piece, Dave would almost certainly object if it was a Christian making similar generalizations about atheists (emphasis his):
There’s nothing as annoying to me as a Christian who tells me what an atheist thinks, feels and does, and what an atheist must think, feel, and do in order to truly be an atheist. All that crap is based on their opinion of what atheism is, and what an atheist is. It’s usually built around simplistic ideas, false stereotypes, assumptions, and cookie cutter or broad brush thinking. It’s definitely not based on respectfully getting to know one atheist at a time, and asking them about what they think, feel, and do. The answers are going to differ from atheist to atheist. People are complicated.
I don’t care about whatever arguments are offered to support the original post’s presumptuous proclamation. It’s the very act of doing it that I find objectionable in the extreme. It’s the very same kind of annoying making of assumptions, and using cookie cutter, broad brush thinking. It’s definitely not based on respectfully getting to know one Christian at a time, and asking them about what they think, feel, and do. The answers are going to differ from Christian to Christian. People are complicated.
Please stop doing this. I see no positive purpose for it.
I echo Richard’s sentiments here. By engaging in these kinds of generalizations (and there are plenty more examples of this in that comments section) we’re not doing anyone any favors. The only thing this rhetoric accomplishes is to drive people away from atheism, and away from supporting LGBT rights. This sort of arguing is harmful, and it needs to stop. As Richard says, there’s no positive purpose for it, and it has no place in either the atheist movement, or the LGBT movement.