Shuck and Jive

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Prop 8 and Superstition

The California Supreme Court has upheld Proposition 8. The 18,000 couples will stay married. From the SF Chronicle:
Prop. 8, which declared that only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California, passed with a 52 percent majority after an intense and expensive campaign. Sponsors, mainly affiliated with Christian conservative groups, raised nearly $40 million for the measure and opponents more than $45 million - combined, a record for a ballot measure on a social issue anywhere in the nation.
One can safely say that if it weren't for the Christians, there would be marriage equality in California. Christianity as it presently and persistently manifests itself is anti-equality. Christianity bases its system of ethics on superstition (ie. the Bible as the work of a divine supernatural being). Christianity is a superstitious cult.

If there is going to be any forward movement for humanity, we will need to relieve ourselves of our superstitious past. This will include the evolution of Christianity into something that is reasonable and decent. The key will be discarding the authority of any supposed "special revelation."

The Bible is a book. It is like all books, creeds, liturgies, songs, and rituals, created by human beings. Most of the Bible isn't even that good. Until we can admit that reasonable piece of common sense, we will continue to make life more miserable for our fellow creatures and for Earth itself.

I am not giving Islam or any of the other institutionalized forms of superstition a pass. Islam is more superstitious than Christianity simply because it has not developed higher criticism to the extent that Christianity has.

Oppression based on bigotry masked and endorsed by superstition will get worse before it gets better. The way out of this is for progressive Christians (and Muslims) is to reform our institutions and rid them of superstition. If we do not, we give space and permission for those who wish to harm others (ie. anti-gay zealots) under the cover of superstitious dogmas regarding our sacred texts and creeds.

Part of the problem is that moderates and progressives allow the conservatives to set the terms. For instance, the phrase, "high view of scripture" means what exactly? Well it means that it has supernatural authority and origin. Not only is that preposterous for any one who happens to live in the 21st century, it is also harmful. A supernatural authority by definition is beyond criticism. Where does that lead us for those who use that authority as justification for denying basic civil rights to other human beings?

What is amusingly pitiful is to see moderates and conservatives in a pissing contest over who has the higher view of scripture as if that were an ethical value! You think it is an improvement to think that The Three Blind Mice was channeled by Divine Mother Goose?

Christian conservatives will only be able to maintain oppressive power when moderates and progressives continue to play into their hands. The basic dogmas and superstitions of Christianity need to be challenged and progressives need to assert boldly that superstition is not an ethical value.


  1. I love it when you rant. Saves me the trouble!

  2. Why should I give up my beliefs just because some of them happen to be the same or similar to those of some on the far right?

    The fact that those people inappropriately attempt to use those same beliefs for their own anti-Christian evil/cynical purposes doesn't mean that the beliefs themselves are wrong.

    Giving up their belief in a supernatural God wasn't a prerequisite racial/ethnic minorities in the 60's to fight and ultimately secure their civil rights. I'm not sure why it should be now, either.

    Backward? Superstitious? I might be both of those things, but neither of those conditions is necessary nor sufficient for being a right wing bigot. Nor are those without such superstitions immune from anti-gay hate.

    We do let them set the terms of the debate too often, though. I'll definitely agree with that.

  3. Hey, I quoted you again in my own blog. Can't help it, you're too juicy. Thanks, I love it!

  4. Snad--always try to be of service! : )

    Alan--this is one of the places where you and I see things from a different angle. Point well taken about the civil rights' struggles.

    Obie--thanks for the shout! Too juicy for my own good probably. : )

  5. Just one more reason why young people are leaving Christianity. But I think the real correlation is education. The less of it a person has, the more likely they were/are to vote against gay marriage.

    Education in California has been a problem for a while, and it is getting worse. The Presbyterian Church got out of the education business some time ago, I am guessing when the conservatives saw what it did to their belief system. They always resort to holding back their giving when they don't like the way things are going...

  6. Jodie

    When I moved to CA in 1970 I was shocked at the faults of the CA education system (I was in high school at the time). NJ had higher standards. And things have gone down hill since. Prop 13, you know. Maybe the claim that CA once had high educational standards is a myth!

    As to Presbyterians and education, if you mean higher education PCUSA colleges for the most part moved away from the denomination seeking students but still wanted money from the denomination. Whether some PCUSA colleges will again become Christian institutions of higher learning is open to a great deal of doubt.


    I think you are throwing the baby out with the bath water. It is fully possible to interpret the Bible in such a way as to suggest the Bible says nothing about current homosexual behavior and particularly nothing about homosexual orientation (it doesn't, in my opinion).

    Please remember that the terror in the French Revolution was based in reason. Or at least the leaders of the terror claimed to base their decision on reason. Life ain't simple.

    Oh, and just because I disagree with you doesn't make me far right, far left or far anything. Well maybe far out, man, but that doesn't have anything to do with agreeing or disagreeing. If anything I prefer to be near you rather than far from you.


    Sounds like we belong in the same denomination!

  7. But Bob,

    Isn't your opposition to gay marriage and your view that gays shouldn't be ministers based on the Bible?

  8. John

    I said it was fully possible. I didn't say the interpretation was correct. I respect those who disagree with me. Otherwise I wouldn't bother having the conversation.

  9. Dr Bob,

    I was a missionary kid when the PCUSA stopped supporting the institutions the PCUSA had founded.

    It was always the goal of the institutions to educate everyone, not just Presbyterians or Christians. As it was the goal of our hospitals to treat all the sick, not just the Presbyterians or Christians. We were serving humanity and fulfilling the Abraham call to be a blessing to all humanity. In the name of Jesus Christ.

    I have never really understood what changed our minds. Somehow these values stopped being our values. But the calling remains, as does the need.

  10. "Alan--this is one of the places where you and I see things from a different angle."

    John, sounds like we belong in the same denomination. :)

  11. For what it's worth, an interfaith service in opposition to Prop 8 was held yesterday at Grace Cathedral in San Francisco.

  12. Bob,

    Just to clarify over what it is that we disagree. I don't necessarily disagree with you over the interpretation of a particular part or parts of the Bible. I may but that is beside the point. I disagree with you over the alleged "authority of the Bible."

    I am disinclined to give the Bible (or its interpreters) supernatural status. The only reason this collection of books has any authority is because human beings have used various methods of power to give it authority.

    What I find is that most folks who grant to the Bible supernatural authority find that it is convenient. I don't need a reason for requiring women to cover their heads in worship. I can just say the Bible (God's Word) says to do so. Then I just need to convince people that those who disagree are denying the authority of the Bible. No one wants to be accused of that, of course. After all we have placed it on the shrine of Holy Writ, supernatural revelation, you name it.

    I for one (and frankly it is not just me) am saying the jig is up. This whole supernatural authority of the Bible business is meaningless. Thanks to science, higher criticism, and basic common sense, the Holy Divine Book from Above is now another book on my shelf.

    Everything from the Divine Right of Kings, to the burning of witches, to the casting of the sinners to Hell, to the postulations of a big hairy male deity, have all vanished in a puff of reason.

    Human beings make the decisions, including decisions about how to invent a god. We always have.

    To use the reliable Wizard of Oz metaphor, we have seen the man behind the curtain, the author of the great and terrible Holy Bible, and he is a they (a bunch of guys from the eastern coast of the Mediterranean Sea who happened to breath Earth's air a couple of millennia ago).

    Now the church may very well flex its atrophying muscles with heretics like me. "Good Lord, how can he say that about the Bible!"

    The church may even succeed with me. But the appeal to supernatural revelation to solve our problems is a thing of the past. It is metaphor (probably for conscience) at most.

    Those who use the Bible to debase the character of or to deny equality for sexual minorities are already being seen as people who are, well, a little crazy.

    Why? Because they have no other reason except to quote from what they believe is supernatural book.

    Bottom line: If one's argument isn't good enough on its own, then no amount of supernatural special pleading will help it.

  13. John: You mean like this? :)

  14. Alan,

    She is a scary, crazy one. Yeah, like that.

  15. John

    Very interesting. I find the Bible to be very inconvenient. I constantly struggle to live the way the Bible says God wants me to. Like getting angry at my neighbor, particularly that, um, person on the road in front of me. Or lusting over cute neighbors. Or buying new stuff I don't need like mp3 players and computers that have wireless internet access and, um . . . well, let's admit I REALLY struggle with that one.

    And then there is giving away all I have to the poor . . .

    See what I mean?

    I don't find the Bible convenient at all. I find it a real challenge.

    Of course it depends on what passages you read and whether you are willing to apply them to yourself.

  16. Yes, Bob, all of that is called conscience. No supernatural revelation is required.

  17. John, I found this post via Obie @ Spirit of a Liberal. I have found very few in the church willing to go as far as you do here. Thank you! Now I know I am not alone.

    I have recently been ranting about my denomination's (ELCA) latest feeble attempt to combat biblical illiteracy. My basic message: the problem isn't with the people, it's with the book. One example post is here:

    Thanks for your writing. I'll definitely be following along.

  18. Holy crumb, another one headed for the flames of perdition. Thanks for joining me, Doug!

  19. John

    Conscience is a touchy thing. Should I kill my daughter because she went out of the house without a male relative, (not mentioned in the Koran, by the way. Not a supernatural revelation at all. It's a cultural thing). Or my next car, assuming I have a next car. Should it be a Honda Insight or a Porsche? On a more personal note: I just drove back to my hotel from Pittsburgh Seminary and wouldn't have made it without my GPS. Should I have bought it when there are people in Pittsburgh and Philly who have no food and no homes?

    I suspect that the difference between me and you is that you are more optimistic about human ability to improve than I am. I don't think we can do it by ourselves, at least not without revelation from God and a good dose of the Holy Spirit. Of course I may be wrong. I often am.

    Love ya


  20. On another note entirely I discovered tonight that I am a doctoral CANDIDATE! Does that mean if I die before graduation ends tomorrow night I will spend eternity as a doctoral candidate? Or would I be granted my degree posthumously?

    Another question I have. Since I'm getting a DMin, will they perform a exorcism after I get my degree? ;)

  21. Bob,

    The questions you ask prove my point. The Bible won't give you any of those answers. We have to think these things out for ourselves. When we focus on the Bible as the source of revelation we miss all the possible sources that actually may help us answer those questions.

    I am not saying the Bible is bad. It is what it is. It is just not all there is.

    By the way, I love you too you old lug. Dr. Lug, I should say! Congratulations!

    I don't know where you will find the answer to that last question!