Category Archives: Human Rights

Poisoned Pueblo

“No!  Help!  Help me!” I cried out, loudly, to all the people in the McDonald’s.

“Shut the hell up!” Tiana started dragging me toward the doors.

“Help!” I screamed, looking around at all the moms and their kids bustling to the play area and bending over their Happy Meals. “Help me!  Don’t let her take me!  Please!”

No one even looked at me.

 

The above is a passage from Saving Alex a memoir from Alex Cooper, which I am currently reading.  The biography describes Ms. Cooper’s 2010 ordeal with Southern Utah “conversion therapy” after she came out to her parents as gay.

My favorite novel of all time is It by Stephen King.  That story features the town of Derry, built around, haunted, and possessed by an ancient soul-devouring monster.  When I read the passage above, I thought of this passage from It, in which one of the characters is running from the monster who has possessed her father:

If he caught her he would choke her, or beat her, or kick her. And when it was over, someone would come and collect him and he would sit in a cell the way Eddie Cochran’s stepfather was sitting in a cell, dazed and uncomprehending.
She ran toward downtown, passing more and more people as she went. They stared – first at her, then at her pursuing father – and they looked surprised, some of them even amazed. But what was on their faces went no further. They looked and then they went on toward wherever they had been going.

I believe that few individuals are true monsters.  They are rarely as racist as David Duke, or as bigoted as Gayle Ruzicka, or as misogynistic as Donald Drumpf.  I think our society, however,  exposed to the constant diseased energy of these individually demons can amplify that hate, ignorance, and bigotry; can cause good people to do bad things, or, sometimes worse, nothing at all.

We’ve all heard of mob mentality; when a group of people start acting viciously, and that emotion permeates the mob, and keeps building, and building, and building on itself until it reaches a frenzy level?  It seems as if this soft racism, this soft bigotry, this soft acceptance of misinformation and willful ignorance is somehow more insidious and more pervasive, infecting even the most good hearted of people with the willingness to condemn, judge, and cast aside people they don’t even know, for the most inexcusable of reasons.  It quietly encourages the populace to vote for politicians who promise to hurt the minorities among us – even should they not tacitly agree.  To support or simply ignore the passing laws that only serve to further wound the vulnerable.  To become defacto lesser demons of the true monsters.

I can only hope that, like the Stephen King novel, empathy, love, and unconditional friendship can defeat the monstrous.

Sinews of The Soul

This is my much-less polite and anger filled resignation letter, as opposed to the message I sent to my immediate family.  This was originally posted at The Friendly Atheist.

—-

Dear LDS Church,

It is amazing how much The Church has changed since my early Mormon upbringing. So many of the messages and teachings have changed and evolved over time. For example, when attending church:

Yes. This last revelation was the straw that finally prompted this long overdue letter.

Although I have found other policies of The LDS Church hurtful, ignorant, and bigoted, this last policy change seems so malicious. So full of hatred. And I won’t be a member of a hate group, even in name only.

I received many odd and certainly unique lessons on sexual morality, and was frequently told in oblique ways that homosexuality was a sin, I was never taught that this kind of sexual immorality would damn the salvation of my children.

The LDS Church claims to be a loving, knowledgeable, and charitable representative of a just and loving god, but their actions speak louder than their empty words.

Potential converts to The LDS Church are asked to commit to baptism in the first discussion, then rapidly pushed through a shallow and superficial version of The Church’s doctrine and history in a mad dash to get them under the water and on the membership roles.

Eight-year-old children are encouraged, expected, and demanded to make lifetime commitments they cannot possibly understand, to a church which continues to hide, obscure, and deny it’s history and doctrines.  Heavenly Fathers wants everyone, and quickly, before they start looking too deeply into the closet.

Except in this one special case; a child raised by same-sex parents.

Even if that child is raised in this fraud of a church by those loving, caring parents. Even if that child believes with all his/her tiny, pure heart that there is a Heavenly Father, and that Jesus knows and loves each of his beloved and innocent children. Even if all that child wants for their eighth birthday is to be washed clean of their supposed “sins.”

The LDS Church will tell them, “No. You are lesser in the eyes of Jesus and Heavenly Father.”

“Though you have done nothing wrong, your parents are the worst kind of sinners.  Jesus does not want you as a member of His church, nor will He take you until you are old enough to curse the names of those who loved and raised you, and shake the dust off your feet at their doorstep.”

As of the writing of this letter, I am an atheist and an ex-Mormon.  Should a Mormon member take my young child to be blessed into your twisted organization, however, my child would be accepted and blessed without pause or question because I am married to a member of the opposite sex.

This hate-filled policy is designed only to cause injury to an already injured population; the same-sex attracted people who The Church considers to be the loved children of Heavenly Father, who are doing their best to make it through this life whilst still maintaining some measure of belief in the deceitful message of eternity and love that you spout between vicious jabs at these wounded souls. It cannot and does not serve any other purpose.

This manipulative “guilt by association” is revolting behavior from anyone, let alone an organization which spends so much time talking out the side of its mouth about the importance and necessity of love, acceptance, and eternal families.

I have not claimed membership in this deception for years, but have never felt it useful or necessary to make it official. I do now. I cannot and will not allow you to continue to count me amongst your hateful, heinous, hurtful, and peculiar number any longer.

I hereby resign my membership in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.

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.

Silent Subjugation

I’m a fat, white, American, male.

I’m white…which, thank God for that shit, boy. That is a huge leg up. Are you kidding me? Oh, God, I love being white. I really do. Seriously, if you’re not white, you’re missing out. Because this shit is thoroughly good. Let me be clear, by the way. I’m not saying that white people are better. I’m saying that being white is clearly better.” … “Now, if you’re white and you don’t admit that it’s great, you’re an asshole. – Louis C.K.

Louis C.K. is right. I wish he isn’t. Skin color is for another day though. For this I’m going to give my own quote and say “I’m male…which, thank God for that shit, boy.”  If I didn’t admit that being male was great, I’d be an asshole.

If we just simply look at gender (just male and female, not variations or identity), being born male is a ‘huge leg up.’

I’m not saying this because I believe there is really any reason for this to be the case, I’m saying this because of society’s and, arguably more-so, religion’s treatment of women.

Let the woman learn in silence with all subjection. But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence. – 1 Timothy 2:11-12

In fact, I suggest reading all of 1 Corinthians 11, it’s horrible. Stuff about women being created for man, women being “of the man”, etc.

For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands. – Ephesians 5:23-24

Talk about a power trip.

Behold, here is my daughter a maiden, and his concubine; them I will bring out now, and humble ye them, and do with them what seemeth good unto you: but unto this man do not so vile a thing. – Judges 19:24

How the Bible is any basis for morality is beyond me.   As the late Christopher Hitchens said, “religion poisons everything.”

These (and the many other) teachings don’t lead to morality, they lead to Donald Trump saying of Megyn Kelly “You could see there was blood coming out of her eyes, blood coming out of her wherever.”

They lead to college males saying “No Means Yes, Yes Means Anal!” and “My name is Jack, I’m a necrophiliac, I fuck dead women and fill them with my semen.”

If you don’t find those absolutely reprehensible, YOU are part of the problem. And, if you’ve ever said those, or similar phrases, with anything other than revulsion, then I suggest you get help. Maybe we should have women walking around with strap-ons saying “No Means Yes, Yes Means Pegging!” It’s only fair.

If you’re posting things on the Internet suggesting horrible things happen to women for some reason or another… you’re a terrible human being. You should know better, and I bet you do. Your anonymity gives you cover to be a male asshole. You know why you feel powerful?  You’re male.  You have no concept. You don’t have to suffer assholes like yourselves. You have no understanding of the fear that women feel because of male assholes.

They lead to attorney Keith Sullivan saying “Look, many women have what’s known as ‘regret sex,’” as a dismissal of rape.  He’s part of the problem. If you are of a same mind, you’re part of the problem. “Due to varying definitions of a “False Accusation”, the true percentage of false accusations remains unknown, but is assumed to be a very small minority of reports of sexual assault”  If you believe false accusation is a platform, you’re part of the problem.

They lead to Anna Duggar blaming herself for Josh’s cheating.  Want to know Josh’s mother’s top marriage tip for Anna? Saying yes whenever Josh wants sex. If you also think this is a good marriage tip, you’re part of the problem.

They lead to assholes putting women’s home addresses on the internet to cause fear and silence.  If you don’t think this is wrong, or worse, you think this is funny or justified, you’re part of the problem.

They lead to women atheists being told they deserve to be raped.  If you’ve ever thought that rape was justified, you’re part of the problem.

What a price for not having a Y chromosome.

So, I’m a fat, white, American, male. I don’t get my morals from religion. I don’t think my wife should put out anytime I want sex. I don’t say horrible things to women, online or offline.  I don’t wish rape on women.  I don’t post home addresses to shut up people that I disagree with.

If you’re part of the problem, perhaps its time to re-evaluate yourself. Follow the words of Wil Wheaton, “Don’t be a dick.” Male, or otherwise.

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.

We Have Found A Witch

“We did do the nose.  And the hat.  But she’s a witch !”
— Monty Python and The Holy Grail

Apparently, some LDS Bishops are on a witch hunt.  According to the latest Mormon Stories podcast, after not attending church for more than four years, Taylor Knuth-Bishop has been called before an LDS disciplinary council to face possible [likely] excommunication.  Taylor and his husband, Sean, were among those happy couples married, on-stage, by Queen Latifa at the Grammy Awards in 2014.

Taylor lives in New York, but recently moved back to Utah for the summer in order to help plan his sister’s wedding.  One night, while preparing dinner, the Bishop of the LDS ward he attended as a teenager called and asked to speak with him.  Taylor was informed that they intended to hold a disciplinary council based on his “choice” to marry Sean and the “lifestyle you have chosen.”

excommunicationIf God really wants to remove from Church membership, those of us who no longer believe and who live “lifestyles” that irritate The Almighty, He’d best get crackin’; there are millions of us.

As much as it doesn’t make sense to me that otherwise faithful people like The September Six or Kate Kelly are excommunicated for pointing out inconvenient facts, it makes even less sense to go after people who no longer really have any interest or affiliation with the LDS Church.  In fact, it seems very much like an old fashioned witch hunt – which stokes the fire, anger, hatred, and persecution complex of the still faithful and the expense of those deemed to be disposable.

According to Mormon Stories, at least two other couples have claimed that they now face disciplinary councils for the same reasons.

Taylor declined to attend his trial and, instead, sent this letter.

Educated Empathy

You oughta be shot. Or stabbed. Lose a leg. To be a surgeon, you know? Know what kind of pain you’re dealing with. They make psychiatrists get psychoanalyzed before they can get certified, but they don’t make a surgeon get cut on. That seem right to you?” – Jubal Early, Firefly (2002)

When I was young, I would wonder how other kids in my class, who were not Mormons, could not see that The LDS Church was the living and restored gospel of Jesus Christ. How did I know? How was I so sure? They told me at church. They told me at General Conference. My parents, aunts, uncles, cousins, and grandparents all told me. It said so in The Bible, and The Book of Mormon. Heavenly Father gave us these sacred books to tell us how to behave, what was right, what was wrong, and what was true. How could anyone be so obtuse as to deny that? When I was old enough, I  would even get up and proclaim my perfect knowledge from the pulpit; “I know this church is true.”

Of course, later, I lost that perfect knowledge and faith. As I did, I began to empathize more and more with those who had doubted my previous point of view. They weren’t being obtuse, or hateful and evil. They weren’t just a bunch of “anti-Mormons” leading us from the straight-and-narrow. Either they believed, just as fiercely, in their own chosen faith, or they saw holes, contradictions, and logical fallacies in the claims of my former church. Just as believers had reasons to believe, doubters had reasons to doubt.

The experience of being so fiercely on one side of a debate, then having to admit that one was completely wrong, is a difficult but ultimately healthy one. It bestows a welcome gift of empathy that can be gained by no other means. Whether in religious discussions, moral, ethical, or political debates, there is no greater tool than understanding the position of the opposition, no matter how wrong it may seem to you. I believe the experience of believing gave me a better ability to understand why someone might feel that I am wrong, or even why they might feel threatened by my point of view.

When a business says that they are Christian, and won’t serve LGBT people because it’s immoral – I can empathize with the why, though I believe them to be completely wrong. Could they say the same? When believers get upset that “them damned atheists” are trying to move a Ten Commandments monument out of a courthouse, I empathize with their reaction. I think I understand, as much as anyone can, how they believe the action to be a attack on their faith and traditions, even though I don’t see it the same way.  But, are those believers able to, for a moment, suspend the concrete assurance that they cannot be wrong, for the purpose of trying to understand how in His name someone like me may feel differently?

god ain’t got no checks and balances

Georgia student’s family disowns and assaults him in nightmarish gay ‘intervention’ video

People can make “No True Scotsmen” arguments all they want, but, the fact is that in the world of religion, there are NO checks and balances. One persons interpretation (or that of many people) cannot be validated or dismissed. 

The parents in this 
video quite obviously feel justified by their god in doing what they’re doing, and that’s horrible. I love many people that are religious, but I don’t love religion. You can have spirituality, but the moment you feel justified in treating another living thing as less than, etc., then your religion is horrible. 

Utah has a very high teen suicide rate (5th in the nation according to a ksl article, which I’ll link below), and according to another source I found, up to 1/3 of those are homosexual teens. We cannot treat these people like they are diseased! We cannot tell them it’s ok to be gay, but just don’t have feelings for anyone that your biology tells you to. Even the Mormon church is now admitting that homosexuality isn’t a choice, yet they continue to tell them “It’s ok, as long as you don’t do gay things”

That’s nearly as bad. Imagine that someone told you that the feelings you had for your spouse/girlfriend/boyfriend were bad, or evil. Sure, they acknowledge that you were born that way, but you can’t BE that way.

As an atheist, my morals come from my own place. I know that things are wrong, because I can empathize. I don’t have to have some book (or books) provide my moral compass! I don’t have to have religious leaders telling me what’s right and what’s wrong. I come from a simple place of “Would I like to be treated that way?” If the answer is no, then it’s simple, I don’t treat a person that way.

I look forward to the time that homosexuality is treated the same way as all of the stupid, horrible treatments of people we’ve already decided are wrong. I look forward to the day when those that continue to tell homosexuals that how they live is wrong are relegated to the ‘racists’ and ‘bigots’, like racists are now.

What side of history are you going to be on?

(References: http://www.ksl.com/?sid=24937434 http://mormonstories.org/teen-suicide-in-utah/)