Category Archives: Christianity

Conditioned To Believe

I had a conversation with my father-in-law about why I’m not having my daughter baptized when she turns 8. I explained how I didn’t think she’s old enough to make such a major decision and she should wait until she is older and fully understands what she’s doing – which he naturally disagreed with. He felt confident she, like other 8 year olds in the church, understand the choice and what it means…

So I asked him that simple question… If she chose to get baptized into a different religion would he still think she’s old enough to make that choice? And more importantly, would he be supportive and respect her “choice”? — ireallyshouldbeworking (via reddit)

What a powerful question.  LDS Children are encouraged and expected to commit and devote their lives to The Church when they turn eight-years-old.  The “age of accountability.”  The common assertion is that children of this age are old enough to understand right and wrong and to follow The LORD’s commandments.

If your eight-year-old child came to you and wanted to study Islam, or Judaism, or Catholicism, or any other religion unlike your own, would you let them?  If they wanted to join that religion permanently, do you believe they have the maturity to make such a decision?

For me and my child, we do study other religions and cultures and myths.  She knows about Pharoah, and Noah, and Odysseus, and Achilles.  We’ve read about Egyptian and Chinese mythology too.  If she asked to go to a church, I would likely allow it, as long as I went along with her to answer her questions and propose some of my own.

I have to say, however, if she wanted to permanently join any group, especially one that demands lifelong commitment, I would withhold consent until she was much, much older.

At the time of my baptism, I don’t believe I had ever set foot in anything but an LDS Church.  I don’t know if I honestly knew there were other ways of thinking and believing.  I knew that some people didn’t believe the same way I did, but I was never taught what those differences were and why.  How can you reliably dedicate the rest of your life to only one way of believing when you haven’t even considered any others?

Seems like choosing at eight to leave your radio station on just one frequency forever.

“One believes things because one has been conditioned to believe them.” -Aldous Huxley

Arrogant Faith

Growing up, I was taught by my LDS parents and teachers that the LDS faithful would one day be commanded by The Prophet to return and reclaim Independence, Missouri.  I was told that we may even have to walk there as our ancestors had.  That the journey could be just as hard as our forbearers, but that, as The Faithful & Elect, we would be protected and blessed.  I was told that we would listen to our prophets and we would do as we were commanded.

What would you be willing to do if commanded by your religious leaders?  What wouldn’t you be willing to do?  If they speak for and behalf of The Almighty God, who knows all, shouldn’t you be willing to do absolutely anything?

“If God told you to kill your child—would you do it?” — Penn Jillette

I wouldn’t.  Not if He personally came down, 100% proving His existence and power, knocked me out of bed, and told me that, if I didn’t murder my daughter with my bare hands, He would torture me for eternity.

I would hope I could even muster the courage to spit in His almighty, but definitively evil face.

The story of Abraham is truly terrifying.  Believers teach it as a story of faith; that we must trust to God, who knows best.  “But, Heavenly Father saved Isaac.”  No.  Abraham had murder in his heart.  A willingness to cut open his innocent and only son.  Not a desire, but a willingness.  A blind obedience to commit an act of pure evil if only commanded.  God didn’t save Isaac; He merely changed His mind.

Mr. Jillette asks the question above to illustrate, if you would not murder your child at the command of the god you claim has the right and authority to command your actions, you are probably already an atheist.

If a religious leader in whom you trust told you that your God had commanded your family to sell all of your clothing and belongings and live unprotected in the winter mountains? That God had promised to provide for you? Would you do that?  Would you willingly put your family in mortal danger?  Trusting in God to provide?

If the religious leader commanded that you, not even kill, but pointlessly harm your child in some small way?  That God had promised you blessings without number for an earthly demonstration of your faith, would you do it?

If a man you *knew* to be a prophet told you to turn and rant and rail against your child, just because of whom they love?

Would you do it?

Or, instead, would you love your child regardless, and help them to grow up happy and healthy?  Loving those they loved and who made them happy – regardless of what a man who doesn’t know you, and doesn’t know your child, chooses to say from a great and spacious building?

“It’s not arrogant to say that you can’t figure out the answers to the universe with your internal faith. It’s not arrogant to know that there’s no omniscient, omnipotent prime mover in the universe who loves you personally. It’s not sad to feel that life and the love of your real friends and family is more than enough to make life worth living. Isn’t it much sadder to feel that there is a more important love required than the love of the people who have chosen to spend their limited time with you?”– Penn Jillette

One Half of Wisdom

“What do you believe, and why?”

. . . is the unofficial motto and often the first question asked of theistic callers to The Atheist Experience.  It is the question that drives most religious debates and discussions.

While listening to Tanner Gillibrand on MormonTransitions this past week, I stumbled upon his response to a family member who asked the question of Tanner when he announced his resignation from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (…).  Tanner’s response, in which he details his desperate efforts to keep his faith, is beautiful, heart-breaking, and brilliant.

This was the hardest time of my life. I used to drive out to the fields in Rexburg and pray out loud for hours, begging God for some light, but it never came. Jesus said, “What man is there among you who, when his son asks for a loaf, will give him a stone?” I begged for a loaf and received nothing. I would have taken a stone over the silence.

[…]

I thought I loved God my whole life. But as I studied the scriptures I realized I could not love such a God. Rather than a God that was found through love, I saw a God that was found through loyalty tests…

Tanner’s family member was brave to ask the question, and Tanner was brave to lay open his story.  Reading his letter, however, I realized that I had never been asked that question by my family or by those friends who had raised me to be a good, believing member of The LDS Church.  None of them  asked me to write on this blog.  None of them likely read it.

When I lost my faith, I was taken to a therapist.  I told the therapist I didn’t believe The Church anymore.  The therapist told my parents.  My parents were disappointed, and hurt, but I never remember them asking me why I stopped believing.

After I stopped attending services, my father once asked me if I was going on an LDS Mission.  Somewhat befuddled by the idea of giving two years of my life to a religion in which I no longer believed, I answered with a quick, “No.”  He asked why not, and I replied impatiently, “Because I don’t believe it anymore.”  He never asked a follow up question.  Was it because of my teenage attitude or his lack of curiosity?  I’ll never know.

Later I ran into a member of the local bishopric and a good friend of my father’s.  He asked why I stopped coming to church.  I replied that I didn’t believe it anymore, and that I had some problems with some doctrines and beliefs.  Before I could go on, he stopped me and told me that he knew people who had left The Church, and knew their problems with The Church, but it didn’t matter.  “It’s just true, and I think you know that.”

Instantly dismissive of my thoughts, opinions, and beliefs.  How intellectually lazy and willfully ignorant.  Though it is highly doubtful, this man may have been able to address some of my concerns, but, for him, it seemed better to dwell in ignorance.

After my child was born, our families passively danced around the issue of religion until I felt it necessary to confront my mother about my lack of beliefs.  Though she acknowledged the atheist position, of which she was already aware, she asked no other questions of me.  Even when I resigned my membership in The LDS Church, and sent a direct e-mail making my actions known, not a single member of my family, including my innumerable extended family members, asked any variation of, “What do you believe, and why?”

Why are we so afraid to discuss this topic?  I am guilty as well.  I often want to ask my siblings, father-in-law, brother-in-law, what they believe and why they believe, but I I avoid it – afraid of offending them, as I have been offended.  Why is this one topic so volatile?  So alarming? Though I study and obsess over these subjects, I never really ask those true believers who are all around me.  Are we all really that thin-skinned, or do we just assume that everyone else is so easily distressed?

It is likely part of why I continue to write here; so that I can openly express to strangers what I’d really like to express to those I love.  In which case, thank you for reading.

“A prudent question is one-half of wisdom.” – Francis Bacon

Happiness, Truth, Beauty, and Wisdom

“Take the risk of thinking for yourself, much more happiness, truth, beauty, and wisdom will come to you that way.” – Christopher Hitchens

What is better about being an atheist rather than a theist?  Than a Christian?  Than a Mormon?

  1. Blaming yourself.
    • When you make a mistake, it’s your fault.  It isn’t Satan.  It isn’t God.  It’s your fault.  You can choose to learn from it, or you can ignore it, but it’s your fault and it’s your choice.  When you have trouble understanding something, it isn’t because “God works in mysterious ways”, or because you didn’t ask with enough faith.  you just need to study more, or ask better questions.  If you’re selfish and hurt a loved one, you weren’t “tempted by The Adversary”.  It’s your fault.  It’s your choice.  You’re not being punished.   You’re not being admonished.  It’s just you vs. The Universe.
  2. Praising yourself.
    • You earned the job.  You earned the paycheck.  You earned the bonus.  You caught the ball.  You hit the homerun.  Your anti-bodies beat pneumonia, or the flu, or the cold.  Your body healed the broken leg, and the sprained knee, or even beat back cancer.  You weren’t “blessed.”  You weren’t rewarded by God.  You did it.  Biology did it.  Your genes did it, and that feels pretty damned good.
  3. Blaming Nature.
    • Earthquakes are tectonic plates.  Volcanoes the same.  Hurricanes are warm air and a spinning planet.  Disease is biological and chemical reactions.  Parasites are an unfortunate side effect of evolution.  You don’t have to wonder why evil and suffering exists.  You don’t have to wonder if you’ve angered some omnipotent being.  You don’t have to wait for help and relief from above that isn’t coming.  Make your own miracles.
  4. Helping.
    • Really helping.  No “thoughts and prayers”, but actually donating time, money, and effort to help those in need.  Thoughts and prayers don’t work, and if they did, we wouldn’t need ambulances, first responders, or doctors.
  5. Sundays.
    • …or whatever Sabbath day was previously set aside for praising and worshiping.  Having two weekend days, pretty nice.  Wonderful, in fact.  An extra day for shopping.  And extra day for taking your kid to the aquarium, or the zoo, or the museum, or a hike, or a bike ride, or just to sit around and watch Ghostbusters for the 10th time this month.  An extra day to teach her how to make muffins, cookies, or soup.  An extra day to sit outside and enjoy the sun with a cool beverage, or an extra day to sit inside and enjoy the warmth with a warm beverage.
  6. Thinking.
    • Nothing is off limits.  You can imagine that there are ten gods, or none.  You can debate endlessly with William Lane Craig, or Rabbi Schmuley, or Frank Turek, or Christopher Hitchens, or Bertrand Russell in your mind.  You can contemplate the repercussions of any position without fear of going over some imaginary line.  “Was Jesus real, or wasn’t he?”  “Is there evidence for The Exodus?”  “Is there enough evidence to justify that position?” “What if there is a god?”  No stone left unturned for fear of the truth that may be waiting underneath.
  7. Reading.
    • Much the same as #4.  Nothing is off limits.  You can read history that destroys your heroes – secular and religious.  You can read history that builds up the ‘villains.’
  8. Money.
    • There’s no registration fees or membership dues to be an atheist.  As opposed to religions who say, “But God loves you. He loves you, and He needs money! He always needs money! He’s all-powerful, all-perfect, all-knowing, and all-wise, somehow just can’t handle money! Religion takes in billions of dollars, they pay no taxes, and they always need a little more.” (George Carlin)
  9. Guilt Free Sex.
    • Notice I didn’t say, “consequence free”.  Of course there are still consequences for your actions, but you need not feel guilty for responding to natural, healthy sexual instincts.  Masturbation is perfectly healthy and natural.  Safe, consensual sex is perfectly healthy and natural.  There is no need for young people to be shamed and guilted about natural drives.  They are better served with education about healthy and safe  sexual behaviors instead of needless shame.
  10. Freedom.
    • In short, freedom.  Freedom from supernatural thought, theistic thought, and religious thought.  Freedom to think for yourself.  Freedom to reason for yourself.  Freedom to be yourself.  Freedom to blame yourself.  Freedom to praise yourself.  Freedom to spend your money as *you* see fit.  Freedom to love, physically, mentally, emotionally, or all of the above.  Freedom to live without wasteful wishes for something more and better and to love all that this life is and has to offer.

Straight and Delightsome

In the last week there have been 2 significant changes to the LDS “Handbook 1” (which goes to the stake and bishop leadership levels), both relating to homosexuals. Changes listed here.

The first is that homosexuals that are in a same-sex marriage are now considered apostates by the church.

For those that don’t know, in particular, that means that they have actively and willfully turned their back on God.  One does not become an apostate by simply not going to church.

This is viewed as one of the worst things that a person can do in the LDS church.  Even murderers, child molesters, and rapists are not considered apostates.

As though that weren’t heinous enough, the second change takes that level of mistreatment of humanity to a new level.

Children of same-sex couples now cannot be baptized and become members of the church, until such time as they are 18 years old, and disavow their parents’ marriage. Let me repeat that… DISAVOW their parents’ marriage.

This originally was thought to be disavowing their parents, but it is mentioned specifically disavowing same-sex marriage or cohabitation.  One church leader made this clarification, as though it was better than disavowing one’s parents.  “Hey moms… I love you, but you’re apostates and I can’t support your relationship together.”  This is more of the “love the sinner, hate the sin” filth that we’ve seen before.

The idea that one can love the sinner, yet hate the sin, especially in this case, is preposterous on its face.  It provides a false sense of not being hurtful to others for what you believe.

It has also been “clarified” by LDS church leadership that it is to protect the children of persons who are in same-sex relationships.  That the child would become confused because of a difference of church and family teachings.

In the LDS church, most are baptized at the age of 8, and upon confirmation, it is thought that you then are directed by the “Holy Ghost” to know the difference between right and wrong.  It is thought that after baptism, you need repent if you do ‘wrong’ because you have the Holy Ghost and faculties to KNOW those differences.  The question this brings up, in the case that a same-sex couple give a child permission to become baptized at the age of 8, would the Holy Ghost not be able to provide those answers?  Is the Holy Ghost that impotent?

As has been blatantly apparent, I’m not a fan of organized religion, but this takes it to a new level. I now consider the LDS church to be hate group.

I’ll expand, in case you think I’m being unfair.

Children of other types of individuals can be baptized (with parental permission) at the age of 8, including, but not limited to, children of murderers, rapists, child molesters, terrorists, and drug dealers. Yet, children of persons that are in a same-sex relationship apparently are special, and not in a good way.

As a friend posited to me shortly after this information was available, it seems that now that the control the LDS church tried to exert previously on same-sex marriage has been lost nationwide, and it’s turning on its own membership.

This does not punish same-sex couples. It punishes children. A child that is actively going to church will now be ridiculed by his or her peers because they are not getting baptized.  Being a Utahn, I was ridiculed at 8 because I wasn’t getting baptized, and I wasn’t LDS.

These rules cannot come from anywhere but hate for homosexuality and an inability to affect public change. Hence, hate group.

I’m sure we’ll see plenty of apologists attempt to provide reasons for why this is a necessity, and is part of a loving God, but it’ll take a lot of convincing for me to see why this is anything but human hatred coming from a place of power.

Father of the Eon

“To be the father of growing daughters is to understand something of what Yeats evokes with his imperishable phrase ‘terrible beauty.’ Nothing can make one so happily exhilarated or so frightened: it’s a solid lesson in the limitations of self to realize that your heart is running around inside someone else’s body. It also makes me quite astonishingly calm at the thought of death: I know whom I would die to protect and I also understand that nobody but a lugubrious serf can possibly wish for a father who never goes away.”  — Christopher Hitchens

Religious people, especially Mormons, often talk about how God as if he is like our father. Our “spiritual” father.  He loves each and every one of us. He cares for us, watches our progress, and is either proud or disappointed in us and our choices. That does sound fatherly, doesn’t it?

Except, is it fatherly that He never tells us what He wants? Rather, God told people He knew before we were born to write down what He wants in a language we don’t speak?

Is it fatherly that He doesn’t give us those writings? Rather, we, His children, are supposed to stumble upon those writings, or be told about those writings, and buy those writings, and somehow know that they came from Him?

Is it fatherly that Our Father punishes or rewards us, in this life or the next, on whether we found those writings, then somehow knew that they were His inspired transcriptions, and were somehow able to live up to His demanding expectations?

Is it fatherly of God to utterly ignore us when we ask hard complicated questions?  Is it fatherly to answer, “It’s complicated and mysterious” rather than “Jerry lied on his resume. That’s wrong, so to teach him a lesson I gave him cancer” or “Elaine got HIV by accident. She’s largely a good person.”

Was it fatherly of Our Father to violently drown thousands/millions of our brothers and sisters, even the children and infants and pregnant women, because He was mad with most of the adults?

Is it fatherly to allow thousands of our brothers and sisters die horrifically in a natural catastrophe like an Earthquake when God has the power to prevent it?  Or miraculously save them?  Or even create a planet without tectonic plates in the first place?

If that is what it means to be fatherly, then I am a more terrible father than I first imagined.

Because, when my daughter asks me a question, I answer it as best I can, even if it’s over her head. I don’t ignore her entirely, say nothing, and let a friend who believes he knows what I want her to know tell her that the answer is a book written cryptically in Klingon.

When I want her to clean up her toys, I instruct her, “Clean up your toys, please.” I don’t write my instructions on a Post-It and hide it amongst a pile of other possibly related, but mostly unrelated and historically insignificant Post-Its and expect her to find it, and, if she doesn’t, severely punish her in an obscure way at some point far in the future.

I would never move her into a poorly constructed house prone to causing death and dismemberment and, when the inevitable accident occurred, write on a Post-It, “It’s just a test of your character. I think you’ll do fine with one arm. You can thank me and love me, but blame me or question my motives for this latest hardship and I’ll punish you more.”

God doesn’t act fatherly. He acts exactly as if He didn’t exist.

Intrinsically Impossible Power

In my quest for understanding and empathy, I frequently find myself having imaginary debates with imaginary religious people. Regardless of the subject of the debate, a question I repeatedly ask is, “Why do the religious believe that God is so impotent and powerless?”

That may seem an odd question, assuming that most religious people consider God to be the omnipotent creator of all things – and often the cause of massive, inexplicable miracles. To me however, from the outside perspective, it seems that most religious people have no faith whatsoever in God’s power.

For example, the Christian citizens upset about same-sex marriage. They insist that such a thing would anger and upset God. Yet, same-sex marriage is now common place. God, though ostensibly angered by this, did nothing and has done nothing. Why not? At the very least, He only had to convince only one more Supreme Court justice. Being all powerful, God could have forcibly changed the judge’s mind, or, respecting free-will, could have inspired the anti-marriage lawyers to say just the right thing to change that judge’s mind, or, more theatrically, He could have appeared in the clouds over The Supreme Court saying, “I am Yahweh of The Bible. Hear my words! Read Deuteronomy again! Did I stutter? No legalized marital buggery!”

But He didn’t. If He does exist, and if He does hate same-sex relations, He stood idly by and let a few believers wave signs and holler what they believe to be His wishes.

There are more personal examples; my daughter and I. My wife and I have chosen to raise her in a secular home. As one of God’s beloved children, this must be very troubling to Him. Why would He allow me to teach her about The Big Bang and Evolution? Why wouldn’t He lead me to a convincing apologetic book? Or inspire me to think of something that would lead me back to whatever the right path is? If not for my sake, then for my daughter’s? Instead, He, apparently, leads me to things like http://www.fairmormon.org or http://www.discovery.org/ – ludicrous, flimsy, implausible and dubious explanations of life’s more difficult questions.

I guess I have to assume that, since God has a plan and hasn’t punished me with boils, or whale consumption, or temporary blindness, or a sodium-chloride spouse, my apostasy and blasphemy is all part of that Divine Plan. As is me writing this, you reading it, you considering it, and, possibly, you refuting it in a way that will finally convince me that He’s certainly there and that science and evidence and rational critical thinking are all pointless in the face of pure faith.

As George Carlin so brilliantly put it (cleaned up to avoid over offending):

I’ve often thought people treat God rather rudely, don’t you? Asking trillions and trillions of prayers every day. Asking and pleading and begging for favors. “Do this”, “gimme that”, “I need a new car”, “I want a better job.”

And I say, fine. Pray for anything you want. Pray for anything, but what about The Divine Plan? Remember that? The Divine Plan? Long time ago, God made a Divine Plan. Gave it a lot of thought. Decided it was a good plan. Put it into practice. And for billions and billions of years, The Divine Plan has been doing just fine. Now, you come along, and pray for something. Well suppose the thing you want isn’t in God’s Divine Plan? What do you want Him to do? Change His plan? Just for you? Doesn’t it seem a little arrogant? It’s a Divine Plan. What’s the use of being God if every run-down shmuck with a two-dollar prayerbook can come along and mess up Your Plan?

And here’s something else, another problem you might have: Suppose your prayers aren’t answered. What do you say? “Well, it’s God’s will.” “Thy Will Be Done.” Fine, but if it’s God’s will, and He’s going to do what He wants to anyway, why bother praying in the first place? Seems like a big waste of time to me! Couldn’t you just skip the praying part and go right to His Will? It’s all very confusing.

The Eternal Fire

premarital-sex-300x229

I was raised contrary to many children raised within religion in that my parents would discuss sex openly.  We would discuss how good sex felt, in fact, a comparison that stands out from the discussion was to a much better feeling of releasing a sneeze.

We would talk about contraception.  We would talk about vaginas and penises.  We would talk about physical attraction, including no preconceived notion that we would be attracted to the opposite sex.

They weren’t gross or damaging to us.  They wouldn’t discuss their particular sex life, and perform acts in front of us, other than kissing, which let’s face it folks, isn’t a vulgar sex act.

Because of this normalization of sex in my thoughts, I also don’t get grossed out at the thought of parents having sex.

We were also taught that masturbation was great.  It was necessary.  It provided a healthy ‘out’ for our urges.

Along with all of that, we were also taught that the best prevention of disease or pregnancy was abstinence.  Now, this is important though… it was simply taught as the best not the only.

All that said, I did not wait until I was married.  My first intercourse experience was at 17 years of age.  Sure enough, it felt really good.  I guess you could say it was a hell of a thing.

So, to the meat and potatoes of this post, sorry for the long intro…

Even as Sodom and Gomorrha, and the cities about them in like manner, giving themselves over to fornication, and going after strange flesh, are set forth for an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire. – Jude 1:7

If you desire to wait for marriage before having intercourse, that’s fine.  When you decide to judge others for premarital sex, that’s when it’s an issue.

Let me ask all the married religious people a question.  Was it really worth the wait?  Or perhaps it was painful, uncomfortable, and messy (as first time sex is for many)?

Let me ask the religious people that have been married more than once another question.  Was sex with the second partner worse?  Better?  Same?  Honestly, I would likely guess it was better, but I’m sure that’s up for debate and not the point of this dissertation.  I’d bet that just because you’d had sex before, it wasn’t worse.

My point is that the sex drive is necessary for the survival of a species and, with small percentage of exception (asexuals), we all experience it.  It’s really interesting that it sets in at its most powerful level during puberty.  A time when most of the religious would push the hardest to prevent an individual from having sex.  Don’t take my point as I support underage sex, I really don’t.  I have 2 children, both below the age of consent, and in the full throws of puberty, and we teach similarly to my parents.  Abstinence is best, but condoms and other protections if the urge is too great.

Why, if we are created by a deity, would we have such a powerful drive to create new life before we were married?  I know some will say “mysterious ways”, and others will say “we are being tested”.  I just don’t buy those answers.  Perhaps, just perhaps, we evolved to procreate at the most likely to be successful point in our short lives.  It fits.  Evolution has no real care for ’emotional maturity’.

Perhaps it’s time for people to view sex with a healthier attitude.  The bible certainly doesn’t provide a healthy attitude, as seen in the quote above, or the following:

For this ye know, that no whoremonger, nor unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, hath any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God. – Ephesians 5:5

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart. – Matthew 5:27-28

And if a man entice a maid that is not betrothed, and lie with her, he shall surely endow her to be his wife. If her father utterly refuse to give her unto him, he shall pay money according to the dowry of virgins. – Exodus 22:16-17

These seem pretty dire.  No heaven, mental adultery, buying your way out of premarital sex?  This is an unhealthy look at sex.  This creates paranoia.  Teaching these things to children is abuse.

Let’s get past this.  Let’s start a healthy dialog about sex.  Let’s help prevent disease and teen pregnancy.  Hammering your children with abstinence only sexual education has demonstrably the opposite result.

But my God says….

Now that the SCOTUS has decided that marriage, no matter genders involved, is protected nation wide, I’ve been watching the mayhem from those that disagree.

There are many gems, but this one in particular has stood out: Texas clerk won’t issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples

In the name of truth and honesty in disclosure I’ve followed it through, and apparently her office will now issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, but that’s not the point, this discussion is about ‘religious freedom’.

The first amendment states:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

It seems pretty clear from the text that the government can’t establish religion (you know, like “In God we Trust”, er wait….), or prohibit the free exercise of a persons religious beliefs (of course, there are limits, if your religion teaches that say women who are raped should be married to their rapists, the government really doesn’t allow someone to force that).

The issue at hand here is that a governmental employee, while functioning as a representative of the government really can’t establish religious reasons for providing government services.  In the case of Hood County Clerk Katie Lang (referenced in the link above), she isn’t issuing the license, the government is.  She’s simply the individual that handles the paperwork, as it were.

In the Quran it states “Tell thy wives and thy daughters and the women of the believers to draw their cloaks close round them…” This is often used as the basis for Islamic women covering themselves.  What if someone working in the drivers license division stopped giving drivers licenses to women because they weren’t covered from head to toe?  Would that be exercising freedom of religion?

In the bible it states “A widow, or a divorced woman, or profane, or an harlot, these shall he not take: but he shall take a virgin of his own people to wife.”  What if the same clerk that is refusing to give marriage licenses to same-sex couples required that women provide irrefutable proof of virginity before marriage in a mixed gender marriage?  Would that be exercising religious freedom?

Freedom requires that the government, not individuals, protect rights, that way everyone has a greater chance at being treated equally.

If you’re a representative of the government, then you must leave your personal views at the door, and pick them back up on the way out.

Love Whomsoever Thou Wilt

“Love all men, even your enemies; love them, not because they are your brothers, but that they may become your brothers.”
– Augustine of Hippo

The last time I remember experiencing a pure, unbridled joy for my fellow human beings was when Utah’s Amendment 3 was originally overturned in December of 2013. I was not joyful with a sense of victory, or triumph, or schadenfreude, but rather with the pure happiness of watching love celebrated so honestly and openly after being so long denied. I watched the TV news with elation as couple after couple after couple after couple kissed each other as if for the first and only time.

I know a great many who worship the god of The Bible and believe that homosexuality is wrong. I also know a great many who believe that God is the spiritual and physical embodiment of love. If your heart is filled with disgust, disappointment, or even hate with today’s SCOTUS announcement, take a moment to see how much joy, happiness, and love is being celebrated by those for whom the decision most affects.

To this outsider, it seems that God has changed his mind about a great many things since the first authoring of The Old Testament. Maybe this is another and He’s telling us with  bliss, jubilance, and, of course, Love.