Dan Savage on being intolerant to Christians.

I stumbled across this Savage Love column via the fine folks over at The Moderate Voice and I have to say that it’s exactly what I wish I had thought to say to the various folks who show up here and tell me how intolerant of Christians I am:

And finally, to Rob in Albany who felt my aside was proof of my intolerance and hypocrisy: Joking about Christianity isn’t evidence that I’m intolerant—hell, I’m perfectly willing to tolerate Christians. I have never, for instance, attempted to prevent Christians from marrying each other, or tried to stop them from adopting children, or worked to make it illegal for them to hold certain jobs. I don’t threaten to boycott companies that market their products to Christians, and I don’t organize letter-writing campaigns to complain about Christian characters on television.

It would indeed be hypocritical for me to complain about fundamentalist Christians who’ve done all of the above to gay people if I turned around and did the same thing to Christians—but, again, I’ve done no such thing. Intolerant? Hell, I’m a model of tolerance! Oh sure, I joked about the Virgin Birth because I think it’s silly and sexphobic. And I’m free to say as much, however unpleasant it is for some Christians to hear. Fundamentalist Christians, for their part, are free to think homosexuality is sinful and unnatural, and they’re free to say so, however unpleasant it is for me to hear. But fundamentalists aren’t willing to just speak their piece, Rob. Nope, they seek to persecute people for being gay, and that’s where their low opinion of homosexuality—which, again, they have an absolute right to hold—transubstantiates into intolerance.


26 thoughts on “Dan Savage on being intolerant to Christians.

  1. I may end up borrowing his words at some point – I’m taking a course on marriage in society this semester and there’s a lot of Christians (the cross is a dead giveaway) in attendance who were shaking their heads whenever “gay” or “lesbian” was uttered on the first day.

    I have a new respect for Savage, so thanks for passing this along.

  2. Right on, the fundies are more dangerous to democracy than the taliban could ever hope to be.

  3. I’m a pretty avid reader of “Savage Love,” and Dan has written some very insightful political columns before. This one is no exception, and my respect for him grows and grows. I could not have put it better myself. Fundametalist Christians in America are not the ones being persecuted; they are the ones doing the persecuting, and it’s high time everyone realizes it.

  4. DOF, you missed the point. The liklihood of the Taliban taking over is amlmost nil, however that of the fundies is almost upon us!!! wink

  5. The Taliban are just an extreme example of Islamic fundamentalism. Christian fundamentalism contains ideologies (such as Dominionism) that, were they to be fulfilled, would look markedly similar to the Taliban model of government (though they may not be quite as repressive toward women, and they would obviously be more “Western” in practice than the Taliban was).

    Luckily, we have yet to see fundamentalists completely take over our society (though there’s no doubt that they would like to do so and that they would, given the chance); the people in Afghanistan, Iran, and elsewhere were not so lucky.

    If Ricky’s point was that Christian fundies exert undue influence on our government and, in that sense, pose a more serious threat to our society than Islamic fundies (who, aside from a few of them threatening terrorist acts, exert virtually no real influence on our society and government), then I would say his point is accurate. If that was not his point, then I will not try to guess it as I am not a mind-reader.

    On the other hand, the very threat of terrorism can wield such authority that, in the eyes of many people, Islamic fundamentalism would be more of a threat (or at least a more terrifying prospect) than Christian fundamentalism, which, aside from several extreme cases where doctors’ clinics or gay bars have been bombed, is largely carried out in lawful (or semi-lawful) terms.

    Basically, I believe that fundie Christians pose a more real threat to our freedom, but that fundie Muslims would resort to more destructive means of carrying out their threat to our freedom, as they’ve demonstrated in the past.

    **To get back on topic, I’ll just reiterate my view that Dan Savage is boss. cheese

  6. There’s a similar discussion over at Pharyngula, about a British television program in which Richard Dawkins, aka Darwin’s Rottweiler, takes on the Big Three in One- Christianity, Judaism, and Islam.  I haven’t seen it myself, but Dawkins does not suffer fools gladly, and it’s supposed to be entertaining.  Of course, lots of Christians are up in arms about it, but as Savage points out, there’s a difference between calling names and calling the shots.

  7. For anyone who’s interested, the audio of the abovementioned program with Dawkins is available here, about 8.5 mb: The Root of Evil.
    I’ve listened to about half of it.  Dawkins is blunt- it’s good to hear believers confronted with forthright atheism- too forthright for Ted Haggard, who chases Dawkins off the premises.

  8. zilch I downloaded the Divx rip of TRoE off a torrent site last night. Took about 2 hours. Watched it last night and I have to say it was pretty good. What was it Haggart said in his advice to Dawkins about talking to believers? “Just don’t be condescending?” That’s rich. Whatanass. I don’t know if I’ve ever seen a more condescending man in my life. He absolutely freaked out when Dawkins told him that he didn’t understand biology (which he clearly does not) … Then he shouts at Dawkins: “He called my children animals!” as he boots him off the property. He actually rolls up in a pickup truck and shouts him off the lot. (You can take the boy out of the country, but you can’t take the country out of the boy, I guess.) Dawkin’s off-premises reply was great (I’m paraphrasing): “His children are animals.” Nice to see an athiest get the last word for once. (Although I guess it happens around here a lot.)

    Why do people fall into lockstep with this shit? Personally, I think it has more to do with wanting to belong to something than anything else … even if it is a fabricated christofascist community like Haggart’s. You probably never saw it if you just listened to the show but they had all these crowd shots at Haggart’s church-plex … grown men creaming themselves over Haggart like he was Paul McCartney or something. Bitches.

  9. Yeah, I’d be great with it, cause it sounds like a cool place for believers to be… but I’ve decided in recent years it’s not a healthy mode of thinking. If you relegate it to the point where it doesn’t interfere with your interactions with others, though, then there’s no point in having it at all. For some people, God exists for God’s sake alone (what would there be without him?). I think that’s sad.

  10. There’s a link on Pharyngula to a torrent for Part II (at Mininova) of Dawkin’s “The Root of All Evil” in which Dawkins makes the case for faith being a virus. I just downloaded it (and continue to seed)…don’t think Dawkins would mind…

    Anyway, for those without the resources to download the thing (which I recommened that you do)…I present some select quotes from Part II, typed by mine own hands:

    On some believers’ claims that the Old Testament contains all that anyone needs to know about morality:

    The God of the Old Testament has got to be the most unpleasant character in all fiction. Jealous, and proud of it. Petty. Vindictive. Unjust. Unforgiving. Racist. An ethnic cleanser urging his people on to acts of genocide.

    If God doesn’t set a moral example, who does? Abraham, the founding father of all three great monotheistic religions? The man who would willingly make a burnt offering of his son Isaac. Maybe not. How about Moses, he of the tablets which said ‘Thou shalt not kill,’ while the same man, it says in the Book of Numbers, was incensed by the Israelites merciful restraint towards the conquered Medeanite people. He gave orders to kill all male prisoners and older women. “Let all the women children that have not known a man by lying with him keep alive for yourselves.” How is this story of Moses morally distinguishable from Hitler’s rape of Poland?

    On the New Testament:

    The New Testament of Jesus, they claim, undoes the damage and makes it all right. Yes, there is no doubt that from a moral point of view, Jesus is a huge improvement because Jesus – or whoever wrote his lines – was not content to derive his ethics from the scriptures with which he had been brought up. But then, it all goes wrong.

    The heart of New Testament theology – invented after Jesus’ death – is St. Paul’s nasty sadomasochistic doctrine of atonement for original sin. The idea is that God had himself incarnated as a man – Jesus – in order that he should be hideously tortured and executed to redeem all our sins.

    Not just the original sin of Adam and Eve. Future sins as well, whether we decide to commit them or not.

    If God wanted to forgive our sins, why not just forgive them? Who is God trying to impress? Presumably himself, since he is judge and jury as well as execution victim.

    To cap it all, according to scientific views of pre-history, Adam, the supposed perpetrator of original sin, never existed in the first place. An awkward fact, which undermines the premise of Paul’s whole tortuously nasty theory.

    Oh, but of course the story of Adam and Eve was only ever symbolic wasn’t it?

    Symbolic? So Jesus had himself tortured and executed for a symbolic sin, by a non-existent individual. Nobody not brought up in the faith could reach any verdict other than ‘barking mad’.

    On religious moderates who focus on the “feel good” message of the bible:

    It seems to me an odd propositiom that we should adhere to some parts of the bible story but not to others. After all, when it comes to important moral questions, by what standards do we cherry-pick the bible? Why bother with the bible at all if we have the ability to pick and choose from it what is right and what is wrong for today’s society?

    On an evolved human proto-morality which is much older than any religion: 

    Perhaps it is our genetic inheritance that explains why those of us with no allegiance to a holy book or a Pope or an Ayatolla still manage to ground ourselves in a moral consensus which is surprisingly widely agreed. As social animals, we’ve worked out that we wouldn’t want to live in a society where it was acceptable to rape, murder or steal. We have a moral conscience and a mutual empathy and it it is constantly evolving. Religious or not, we have changed in unison and continue to change in our attitude to what is right and what is wrong.

  11. All of the above are quotes form Dawkins. Thought I would add one more quote from author Ian McEwan, who was interviewed in the documentary:

    My starting point would be – the brain is responsible for consciouness. And we could be reasonably sure that when that brain ceases to be – when it falls apart, decomposes – that will be the end of us. From that, quite a lot of things follow, especially morally.

    We are the very priviledged owners of a brief spark of consciousness. And we therefore have to take responsibility for it. We cannot rely – as Christians or Muslims do – on a world elsewhere, a paradise to which one can work towards and maybe make sacrifices – and crucially, make sacrifices of other people. We have a marvelous gift and you see it develop in children. This ability to become aware that other people have minds just like your own and feelings that are just as important as your own. And this gift of empathy seems to me to be the building block of our moral system.

    This is an expansion on Dawkin’s point that indoctrinating children with fantastic stories about the afterlife and versions of history which are not true, amounts to child abuse.

    Dawkins goes on to make the case that the only world we can be sure of is the one we live in now…but athiesm is not something to be gloomy about since we don’t have a fantasy afterlife to pursue. Instead, it is a motivation to explore the tremendously interesting world at hand, to learn the facts behind its awe-inspiring diversity and scale – knowing that we are truly fortunate to be able to do so at this exact moment in time.

  12. Born into a Catholic family, I’ve spent over 30 years questioning.  I’ve gone all the way to believing nothing except this one thing I can’t reason away:  where did all this come from?  What started the Big Bang? 
      Something out of nothing is foolishness. Atheism to me is unreasonable.  However, this First Cause I consider far too grandiose to give a pronoun He, so I never speak of it that way; but I think it is intelligently aware and interactive.  In fact we’re all swimming in it, a huge truth that we’re blind to.  I continue to seek, even feeling this.
      Once I acknowledged there was something, and found the audacity to greet whatever that may be, I could feel eyes turned back upon me, and a greeting in return.  Hey, could be hallucinations, but that’s my story and I’m sticking to it. 
      I do not belong to a group who thinks like I do, and rarely am able to talk to any of my friends about it.  I just can’t help believing, that’s all.

  13. But, your type of believing is wonderful! You don’t force it on anyone and it brings you some happiness. Nothing wrong with that. Like others above, when you use your personal belief as a reason to persecute and kill others, that is where we part company. Atheism does not deny the existence of a god, just that you, as an individual, have found insufficient evidence to believe in the existence of a god. Many would describe your experience as a form of Zen. Try reading “The Tao Te Ching,” translated by Stephen Mitchell.

  14. Notes writes:

    Something out of nothing is foolishness.

    You’re making the assumption that that accurately describes the Big Bang. It doesn’t. The theory has never stated that “nothing exploded into something.”

    Physics has shown us that energy can’t be created or destroyed. It can only change forms. It’s always been there. It was all just crammed into one infinitely small spot for awhile. Then it wasn’t.

  15. It was all just crammed into one infinitely small spot for awhile.

    How long was that? Inquiring minds want to know! What’s that about time and relativity?  cool hmm

  16. Good answers! I was thinking of something along the lines of, “. . .as long as it takes.” Another one appeals: “Time is of the essence.” Little double endendre there.  wink

  17. I think the real answer is that time itself doesn’t make much sense “before” the Big Bang. Time is motion, and even assuming that a sort of motion might possibly happen when the entire universe is contracted into a single dimension it would happen in ways that literally can’t be conceived of now because basic particles and constants were different/hadn’t happened yet.

    For that matter, the notion that the Big Bang was the universe going from something very small to very large is a bit off too. Before the Big Bang space wasn’t simply smaller, and it didn’t simply not exist – it existed and it was as large as it ever was, but it was all locked into a single point. You can’t stretch your arms from one side of single point to another as if it were merely small, you’re everywhere and everything that is that point.

  18. The tao that can be told
    is not the eternal Tao.
    The name that can be named
    is not the eternal Name.

    The unnamable is the eternally real.
    Naming is the origin
    of all particular things.

    Tao Te Ching, translated by Stephen Mitchell

    Mister Mook, like Pooh, is a Taoist.  tongue laugh

  19. I’ve studied the Tao excessively, but in this case I was merely going for an accurate description of an event that’s really hard for most people, including myself, to wrap their heads around.

    Time is a function of mass, motion and gravity. Gravity and motion are meaningless in the framework of the universe existing in a single dimension as we expect the Big Bang to have sprang from. There’s simple no room. Mass is meaningless too, because mass sort of depends on relevance to other objects. You can’t have time without frames of reference, the universe moves around you or the slow decay of the particles of your body. Once it breaks up enough, even causality becomes irrelevant. If you can’t determine the order of events thanks to that breakdown?

    Yeah, it becomes something of a philosophical koan: There was something before and something after, one wears a watch and the other doesn’t. What time is it?

    People mistake the singular dimension of the Big Bang by automatically placing it within the context of a third dimension, like the universe was hanging inside of nothingness. That can’t be, that would indicate an outside reference when everything that will ever be was all in one place. If there were that sort of reference it would be monumental, because it would break conservation of energy (assuming it interacted enough to be measurable, and if it wasn’t then we’d never know because it wasn’t.)

  20. What is to be, will be. Even if it never happens!  cheese
    I loves me some mental gymnastics.

  21. Wow, such modesty. I looked at your site. It’s pretty fucking funny. Atheism isn’t a belief no matter how much you claim it is or how much you spam your site on atheist blogs.

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