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Family “Research” Council Gets It Wrong On LGBT Mental Health

Jim Burroway

October 11th, 2010

The Washington Post has been taking a very strong lurch to the far right recently. If you have any doubt about that, then consider this op-ed by Tony Perkins, which is completely indistinguishable from the propaganda regularly promulgated by his Family “Research” Council. In this lovely gem gracing the WaPo’s web site, Perkins blames gay people for the teen suicides that has garnered so much attention recently:

Some homosexuals may recognize intuitively that their same-sex attractions are abnormal–yet they have been told by the homosexual movement, and their allies in the media and the educational establishment, that they are “born gay” and can never change. This–and not society’s disapproval–may create a sense of despair that can lead to suicide.”

Perkins preceded that outrageous statement with this “evidence”:

There is an abundance of evidence that homosexuals experience higher rates of mental health problems in general, including depression. However, there is no empirical evidence to link this with society’s general disapproval of homosexual conduct. In fact, evidence from the Netherlands would seem to suggest the opposite, because even in that most “gay-friendly” country on earth, research has shown homosexuals to have much higher mental health problems. [Hyperlinks in the original]

I guess Perkins doesn’t actually intend for people to click on those hyperlinks. Apparently, he intended them for decoration, the same way FRC people regularly sprinkle their publications with footnotes to make them look more scholarly. But I would invite you to go ahead and click on the first one, which points to a 2002 article from the Monitor On Psychology, the American Psychological Association’s official magazine. Among the studies discussed  in that article was one by Susan Cochran (“Emerging issues in research on lesbians’ and gay men’s mental health: Does sexual orientation really matter?” American Psychologist, 56, no. 11 (Nov 2001): 931-947). Her study did find elevated levels of psychological distress among gay people. However,

For one thing, she says, “these are certainly not levels of morbidity consistent with models that say homosexuality is inherently pathological.” For another, the data simply don’t prove either pro- or anti-gay arguments on the subject, whether it’s that the inherent biology of homosexuality causes mental illness or that social stigma provokes mental illness in LGB people, she says.

Cochran also predicted that her study would, no doubt, be misused by anti-gay people like Perkins “to falsely promulgate the argument that gay people are by nature mentally ill.” She was right.

But while her study couldn’t settle the social stigma question, the very next study mentioned in the article came very close to doing just that. This one by Vickie Mays and Susan Cochran (“Mental health correlates of perceived discrimination among lesbian, gay, and bisexual adults in the United States.” American Journal of Public Health, 91, no 11 (Nov 2001): 1869-1876. Full study available online here.) “explored whether ongoing discrimination fuels anxiety, depression and other stress-related mental health problems among LGB people,” wrote the Monitor. “The authors found strong evidence of a relationship between the two.” The Monitor continues:

GB respondents reported higher rates of perceived discrimination than heterosexuals in every category related to discrimination, the team found.

While the findings do not prove that discrimination causes mental health problems, they take a step toward demonstrating that the social stigma felt by LGB people has important mental health consequences. That again points to the need for tailored mental health treatment, in particular therapy that includes ongoing discussion of how discriminatory experiences may affect stress levels, they note.

So, instead of blaming the problems that gay people have on simply being gay — as Tony Perkins does by pretending that science does the same — actual real live scientists have found very much the opposite, that social stigma provides a very strong explanation for the psychological distress that LGBT people face.

By the way, that same Monitor article went on to describe two other studies that found that lesbians, especially those who are already out, are actually doing quite nicely on the coping front, thank you very much. They also measured higher in self-esteem. Tony Perkins somehow forgot to mention that.

But where there is evidence of social stress, there is evidence of higher levels of psychological distress. And that extends to “the evidence from the Netherlands.” Here, Perkins links to the full text of that study online, but he appears not to have read it. While the study’s authors notes that the Netherlands is generally more tolerant, it doesn’t mean that LGBT people there are free from anti-gay bias and stress. After all, “more tolerant” is not the same as tolerant. And as for the study’s findings, the authors offered this explanation:

The effects of social factors on the mental health status of homosexual men and women have been well documented in studies, which found a relationship between experiences of stigma, prejudice, and discrimination and mental health status. Furthermore, controlling for psychological predictors of present distress seems to eliminate differences in mental health status between heterosexual and homosexual adolescents.

Chris Crain, after his assault in Amsterdam.

Chris Crain, after his assault in Amsterdam.

In fact, anti-gay violence has actually been on the rise in the Netherlands. It’s gotten so bad that a recent rally to protest the rise in anti-gay violence was marred by attacks and threats to LGBT people who were leaving the protest. In 2005, Chris Crain, former editor of the Washington Blade, was gay-bashed in Amsterdam by two persons who called him and his partner “fucking fags.” An observer in the U.K. wrote, “Reports across all media have pointed out that the events of April 30th (the date of Crain’s attack) weren’t a one-off, and that a growing number of lesbians and gay men don’t feel as safe on the streets as they once did.”

This is the nirvana in which, according to Perkins, there is no prejudice or discrimination against gay people.

Perkins’ claim that gay people are their own worst enemy is wholly unsubstantiated and completely without merit. But that is pretty much to be expected from the Family “Research” Council. What’s not expected is for the Washington Post to serve as this propagandist’s mouthpiece without any move by the fact checkers. I assume they still exist there; I could be mistaken.

Comments

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justsearching
October 12th, 2010 | LINK

Youths are told that “They are ‘born gay’ and can never change. This–and not society’s disapproval–may create a sense of despair that can lead to suicide.

He argues that people would want to kill themselves because they had a trait they perceived to be immutable trait even if absolutely no one disproved of that trait. What’s next Tony? People killing themselves because they despair of being right-handed?

MJC
October 12th, 2010 | LINK

Perkins, I think, can count on his followers not to read past any headlines or sound bites—it’s a tried-and-true right wing trick. Sadly, beautiful explications of the facts such as we have here don’t make it past an emotional barrier that makes things ‘feel’ right to many people when pure prejudice is gussied up as ‘science,’ which is, of course, Perkins’ shtick. I personally find constant smugness insufferable. If he does this with knowledge, it is as cynical as one can get. If not, then his lack of depth and hatred are here for all to see. I think Jeff Sharlet has identified him as being associated with “The Family” or “Fellowship” who have helped endanger lives in Uganda.

But it is sad for the WP. They should know better.

Hunter
October 12th, 2010 | LINK

Thanks for this post — I would have missed this mess otherwise.

I’ve left a comment at WaPo and linked to your post.

Good work, as usual.

Amicus
October 12th, 2010 | LINK

“…excessive use of alcohol, drugs, reckless driving, or heterosexual activity outside of marriage.” -T Perkins
====
No evidence that homosexuality is like an addiction. None.

No evidence that homosexuality is artificial, external, like a drug. None.

No evidence that homosexuality is like reckless driving. None. (There is some evidence that fundamentalist christianism is like driving with your hands off the wheel, however…)

No evidence that Christ’s teachings about adultery put it in the same category of moral reasoning as homosexuality.

No evidence that you can attempt to pray away the gay with any amount of success and plenty of evidence that saying such is GRAVELY IRRESPONSIBLE AND HARMFUL to children who are forced into therapies. Prop8 trial has ample expert evidence and astounding testimony of the same.

Therefore, the attempt to say “we love you, but ‘no'”, is rejected by anyone with a sound mind and body.

Amicus
October 12th, 2010 | LINK

ref: Prop 8, Day 7, the intrepid Ryan Kendall (!)

http://www.equalrightsfoundation.org/legal-filings/hearing-transcripts/perry-trial-day-7-transcript/

Amicus
October 12th, 2010 | LINK

…and in case anyone doesn’t have time to read the transcript, I’ll excerpt, with illustration about how Tony Perkins is tearing apart families, not saving them:

A. I — I went in, and I spoke with the case worker. And I told her what had been going on in my family, what had been going on with reversal therapy. And I told her that if I went back to that house, I was going to end up killing myself.

And so they started a dependency and neglect proceeding to revoke my parents’ custody.

Q. So did you stop living with your parents and stop going to therapy?
A. That’s correct.

Q. And did things get better?
A. I was a 16-year-old kid who had just lost everything he ever knew. I didn’t really know what to do. I was very lost. And so the next few years I wandered in and out of jobs. I wandered in and out of attempts at school.

I was incredibly suicidal and depressed. I hated my entire life. At one point, I turned to drugs as an escape from reality and because I was, you know, trying to kill myself.

So, no, things did not get better.

Theo
October 12th, 2010 | LINK

We have 5 suicides, 4 of which occurred in the context of continuous bullying which was known to cause the victims distress. So what does this loving Christian do? The one who swears that he loves us so much, that he only hates our sin?

Well, you just make stuff up. The actual suicides are politically inconvenient, so why not contrive some hypothetical suicides stemming from the “despair” of being gay, that better fit your ideological view? That’s what any loving person would do in the wake of the death of 5 kids. Sick.

Amicus
October 12th, 2010 | LINK

Theo, indeed, if there were not an “accepted” Christian lore and obscurantism-masquerading-as-truth-telling backing this kind of rationalization, one might suggest that a mental health problem was on display in TP’s comments…

Phoenix Woman
October 12th, 2010 | LINK

Perkins’ piece in the WaPo is very similar to an unsigned editorial from the October 5th issue of Rutgers’ student newspaper, The Daily Targum: http://seminal.firedoglake.com/diary/76209

Don’t be surprised if this pops up in other college student papers. The right wing has been spending decades trying to take them over.

Patrick
October 12th, 2010 | LINK

“I suspect that few, if any, such bullies are people who regularly attend church, and I would not be surprised if most of the “bullies” did not have the positive benefit of both an active mom and dad in their lives.”

Surely this can be followed up on. Do we know anything about the bullies involved in recent cases (not just the September ones but ones that go further back in time – including some of the famous murders of lgbt youth)? Didn’t the one who videoed Tyler Clementi come from a “nice, normal family” with a mother and father?

Jim & Timothy, you guys have lots of info at your disposal – would this be readily available, at least in the situations where we know who the bullies/murderers were?

Richard Rush
October 12th, 2010 | LINK

Amicus wrote,

Theo, indeed, if there were not an “accepted” Christian lore and obscurantism-masquerading-as-truth-telling backing this kind of rationalization, one might suggest that a mental health problem was on display in TP’s comment.

My personal theory:

When an isolated individual has ongoing conversations with an invented imaginary being, he/she is considered mentally ill. When a smallish group of people converse with a common imaginary being, it is considered a cult. When that smallish group becomes large enough, it is considered a religion.

It seems that one of the requirements for the designation of a particular mental illness is that the number of people so designated must be a minority. The majority will never allow itself to be designated as mentally ill.

Patrick
October 12th, 2010 | LINK

In a way, Tony Perkins has “closed the circle” on the bullying/suicide issue.

On September 30, Focus on the Family reacted to the bullying/suicides with two articles.

In the first article, “The Truth about GLSEN’s School Climate Report”, they argued that there really was no disproportionate lgbt-specific bullying problem and that this was just an attempt to get the “gay agenda” into schools:

“To summarize, it is unfortunate that the GLSEN National School Climate Survey fails to provide a more objective and accurate statistical representation of student bullying problems nationwide. However, it can be read as a reliable road map of homosexual advocacy groups’ political plans for the nation’s public schools.”

http://www.citizenlink.com/2010/09/the-truth-about-glsens-school-climate-report/

In the second article, “Understanding Male Homosexuality – God’s Power to Change Lives”, they bring out the same old tired line about how people really don’t have to be gay. In other words, these poor gays wouldn’t be bullied (not that they are being bullied, of course) if they would simply stop being gay.

http://www.citizenlink.com/2010/09/understanding-male-homosexuality-gods-power-to-change-lives-part-1/

So, from these two articles we see there really isn’t a serious bullying/suicide issue and the solution to being bullied is to stop being gay.

And now we have Tony Perkins placing the suicide blame on gays who say you can’t change. Is being told they can’t change that leads to despondency and ultimately suicide. If only these youths knew they could change, then they wouldn’t have to kill themselves.

There you have it: 1) there’s no bullying problem targeting gays, 2) gays don’t have to be gay, and therefore they don’t have to be bullied if they don’t want to (it’s the victim’s fault, after all), and 3) the suicides are the result of the gay agenda by “falsely” telling people they have no choice but to be gay. And so who are the real victims here? Why, Tony Perkins, the FRC and Focus on the Family – they’re the ones valiantly fighting the gay agenda and coming up with constructive solutions for how the youth won’t be bullied (just stop being gay!) or commit suicide (believe you can change!).

Priya Lynn
October 12th, 2010 | LINK

One of the holes in Perkin’s “logic” is that many straight kids are bullied for being gay so even if kids were able to and did stop being gay it wouldn’t stop the anti-gay bullying and subsequent suicides.

AJD
October 12th, 2010 | LINK

Even worse than the fact that the Post chose to publish this crap in the first place was that they published it on National Coming Out Day. I’m glad I don’t subscribe.

The comments on the article were uniformly negative, and I sent a letter to the editor.

Timothy Kincaid
October 12th, 2010 | LINK

Richard,

ahem… the mature response to Tony Perkins accusing gay folk of being mentally ill actually may not be to return the favor my insisting that all people of faith are mentally ill.

Greg
October 12th, 2010 | LINK

I’m starting to think that every time Perkins opens his yap, I’m going to send a postcard with his lies and “Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor.”

David
October 12th, 2010 | LINK

“actually may not be to return the favor my insisting that all people of faith are mentally ill.”

Agreed. The answer to bigotry is not to become a bigot in return.

There is something interesting to all of this though – bigotry has many characteristics of mental illness, regardless of who is the target of the bigotry.

For example, Perkins abuse of data, and anti-gay arguments in general, represent a complete break with reality. Bigots fabricate a false reality about their target, and cling to despite any and all evidence to the contrary. Essentially, the data element of their prejudice is delusional.

Many display diagnostic criteria associated with socioopathy/moral depravity:

superficial charm, grandiose sense of self, lack of remorse or shame, shallow emotions, lack of empathy, impulsive nature, pathological lying, manipulative, entrepreneurial versatility, and so on.

The idea that a group of people it intrinsically inferior to one’s self indicates extraordinary and unhealthy degree of pride. Narcissism at the very least, is a strong component of prejudice.

I personally believe that at some point in our lifetime, mental health professionals are going to recognize and diagnose prejudice as a mental illness.

David
October 12th, 2010 | LINK

Richard

When you argue that my experience of the Divine is “imaginary”, you are asserting that your lack of experience of something is more valid than my experiences.

That is at least Narcissism.

The fact that you have not experienced the Divine does not mean that no one else has.

Homophobes assert that because they do not experience sexual attraction to people of their own gender, no one really does, and therefore GLBTQ people are just making excuses for behavioral choices.

Your post employed the same processes to dehumanize people of faith that homophobes use to dehumanize GLBTQ people.

Amicus
October 12th, 2010 | LINK

Pyra – thanks, good catch!

Richard,

2-cents:

My comments focused on a single rationalization, a technical term, used to ease the clash between TP’s unexamined faith and the observable reality of gays, gay couples, and perhaps even gay sex.

People read a book of fiction, filled with imaginary characters, but it’s not mental illness.

People read the bible, and it is not a work of fiction, per se; but take it to be an inspirational set of words, imbued with special meaning.

Someone who doesn’t read the bible can, of course, make up their own set of inspirations.

What’s to make one set of inspirations better or worse or more effective than the other?

Ben in Atlanta
October 12th, 2010 | LINK

We just had our pride weekend in Atlanta. I marched in the parade with our LGBTQ&Q group from work. While we were waiting for our turn in the queue I was heartened by the number of affirming churches that were marching with us as well as the size of the PFLAG group. Scroll through the list and see the number of FBO’s that aren’t ashamed to be queer or are inclusive of same. To me that is Namaste.

http://atlantapride.org/parade-participants

Theo
October 12th, 2010 | LINK

Just wanted to note, since I didn’t see it mentioned elsewhere,that this vile piece comes just about a year after the WaPo published a risible puff piece about NOM’s Brian Brown. That piece managed to avoid discussing any of the many extreme statements that have escaped his mouth, focusing instead on how friendly he is and how nice his wife is.

Another thing: Let’s assume for the sake of argument that TP’s claims about homosexuality and mental illness are true. For the sake of argument, accept that gay people have a greater incidence of mental/emotional disorders and that these disorders are are “associated with” homosexuality and are not caused by external stressors.

Assuming that we have no ulterior moral or political agenda and are concerned only with the health of gay people, why would the proper response be to advise gay people (including the majority of gay people who are not depressed, alcoholic or suicidal) to attempt to alter their sexual orientation?

The so-called ex-gay movement has made it very clear that any such effort is difficult and painful and involves a fundamental change in the person’s view of himself and his relationship to both genders. “Success” (assuming that there really is success) almost always requires a religious conversion.

And in spite of all that, a large portion will not be able to change, as Exodus and NARTH have admitted. I believe NARTH has acknowledged that 1/3 change, 1/3 don’t change, and 1/3 are able to control their gayness better, but are not heterosexual at the conclusion of treatment.

Why would this be the proper way to deal with an increased incidence of depression and suicidal thoughts? It is rather like saying that b/c Los Angeles is at greater risk of an earthquake, the proper response is to move the entire city – buildings, infrastructure and people – not to a safe place, but only to one with a lesser degree of risk. Of course, in this analogy, the sane response would be to spend extra time and money to ensure that buildings in LA were up to code and to develop a good disaster response plan.

In the context of elevated health risks for gays, wouldn’t the rational first response be to provide greater access to mental health resources and to make mental health practitioners aware of the issue? Many of the health issues he mentions are really associated with promiscuity and AIDS. (And if he limited his critique to that, he might have a strong case.) Wouldn’t the proper first response be to promote monogamy and to discourage promiscuity among gays? That would mean marriage or civil union. Uh-oh.

Although they are constantly bellowing about the supposed health consequences related to “homosexuality, I cannot recall any time in the last 40 years when any religious right organization sought to fund health services for gay people, nor can I recall any time when the religious right used their lobbying power, or put forth a ballot initiative to provide greater health care for gays.

homer
October 12th, 2010 | LINK

Theo, I imagine they would just say that you can “Pray the Gay Away.” Why waste money on mental health professionals, when you can spend thousands of dollars at an Exodus conference and walk away proclaiming that you were now straight (as a friend of a friend recently did).

Amicus
October 12th, 2010 | LINK

Theo, note also that, if you dial back the clock, it wasn’t so long ago that “alcoholism” was a moral weakness, pure and simple. Same thing, people didn’t love god enough.

Now, see, TP is careful to say, “excessive alcohol”, even though the Bible hasn’t changed. What has changed, dramatically, is our understanding of the risk factors for alcohol abuse.

And, if you read the Southern Baptist paper/resolution on alcohol, … well, you find out all kinds of things about how “alcohol” wasn’t the same back then as it is now. LOL. I guess gay couples were?

…which is perhaps a ray of hope, that, someday, the scales will fall from the eyes of all these guys, with respect o gays.

EZam
October 12th, 2010 | LINK

If prayer and faith truly worked to turn gays straight, then it would also work for the blind and people in wheelchairs.

Why are there still ramps in front of buildings and Braille signs then?

max
October 12th, 2010 | LINK

>Perkins’ claim that gay people are their own worst enemy is wholly unsubstantiated and completely without merit.

You could snip everything between the apostrophe and the and inclusive and come even closer to the mark:

Perkins is completely without merit.

Edwin
October 12th, 2010 | LINK

Perkins and all of his cronies need to learn to tell the truth about things they read. Quit trying to change the articals to suit their lying ways.
If gays can change then hetrosexuals ought to be able to change their orentination also. They always use the theory that we chose to be gay . But when you throw the same theory at them they say they were born that way. So the same goes for us whether they like it or not.
Perkins should be hooked up to a lie dector when he is repeating his lies.

Matthew
October 12th, 2010 | LINK

They also say that homosexuals are much more likely to commit suicide. Ultra-conservative groups like them are to blame partially becuase they influence anti-gay bullying.

Aeval
October 12th, 2010 | LINK

“But when you throw the same theory at them they say they were born that way.”

Shouldn’t it be, “..they were created that way.”?

I didn’t choose to be gay, but I choosed not to repress my sexuality.

Richard Rush
October 13th, 2010 | LINK

Timothy,

Okay, okay, I’ll concede that my “personal theory” was a tad over-the-top and overly simplistic, but I do still feel there is a kernel of truth there. And perhaps the term “delusion” might have been a better choice than “mentally ill.”

I should note that I was NOT “insisting that all people of faith are mentally ill,” although I can see how you could read it that way. I do NOT believe that. I was thinking more of the formative stages of a religion. After a religion becomes entrenched, I think the majority just accept the indoctrination without asking any of the really tough questions, or if they do, they keep quiet about. They go along to get along. The evidence of this is the fact that the overwhelming majority accept the religion of their parents and/or the society into which they are born. However, I do think that those who claim, for example, to be having “a personal relationship with Jesus Christ,” fall into one of two categories: they are either lying, or they are delusional (and perhaps, mentally ill).

———————

David,

If by “experience of the divine” you mean evidence for the existence of God, then that experience is NOT equivalent to the experience of sexuality. Somewhere in the cosmos there is a factual answer to the question of God’s existence. If that answer turns out to be NO, then it won’t matter how many experiences of the divine you have, the factual answer will still be NO, and those experiences would then be properly categorized as delusional. And conversely, if the answer turns out to be YES, then it won’t matter that I have no experiences of the divine, the answer will still be YES. But the experience of sexuality occurs entirely within each individual, and thus there is no independent external question in need of an answer.

——————–

Amicus,

“People read a book of fiction, filled with imaginary characters, but it’s not mental illness.” I hope you didn’t really think I was suggesting that! But if some readers begin to “literally” talk to one or more of those characters, and are receiving replies, then they have serious issues. And certainly people can read the Bible, or any book, and derive some inspiration.

For people such as TP, I think it goes a bit beyond “an “accepted” Christian lore and obscurantism-masquerading-as-truth-telling backing this kind of rationalization.” Their entire belief systems requires rationalization masquerading as reason. They are conditioned into easily believing the preposterous while rejecting theories supported by overwhelming evidence. Truth becomes the result of some magical process. You can just make things up, and if you close your eyes, wish real hard, and wrap some Christian lore around them, they can become true. While it is certainly safe to say there is delusion at work here, I’ll leave it to the professionals to determine if it qualifies as mental illness.

—————–

So anyway, if people such as Tony Perkins were even marginally rational, they might want to think twice about throwing stones at gays on the issue of mental health. You know . . . glass houses and all that.

Priya Lynn
October 13th, 2010 | LINK

David said “When you argue that my experience of the Divine is “imaginary”, you are asserting that your lack of experience of something is more valid than my experiences. The fact that you have not experienced the Divine does not mean that no one else has. Homophobes assert that because they do not experience sexual attraction to people of their own gender, no one really does, and therefore GLBTQ people are just making excuses for behavioral choices. Your post employed the same processes to dehumanize people of faith that homophobes use to dehumanize GLBTQ people.”.

Our lack of experience is more valid than your “experience” because neither you nor anyone on the planet has proof that you’ve “experienced” the supernatural despite centuries of people trying desperately to find such proof. When millenia of searching for the existence of something turn up no evidence for such existence its unreasonable to assume it does exist.

Sexual attraction is different because we do have proof that people are same sex attracted. Recognizing that its impossible for you to have experienced the supernatural doesn’t in anyway suggest you are less than human so no, we are not “dehumanizing” you. You regularly try to pass off this lie that atheists are the same as anti-gay people when in fact we are entirely different – they are trying to deny people equal rights, we are not. In fact you share far more in common with anti-gay religionists than we do – virtually all of your christian religion. By supporting the christian religion in general you provide credibility to the anti-gay parts of the bible the homophobes use to suppress gays. You’re part of the problem.

Timothy Kincaid
October 13th, 2010 | LINK

Richard,

However, I do think that those who claim, for example, to be having “a personal relationship with Jesus Christ,” fall into one of two categories: they are either lying, or they are delusional (and perhaps, mentally ill).

And I do think that you are engaging in bigotry. Arrogant, annoying bigotry, to be exact.

Please stop. Evangelical atheism is as annoying as evangelical faith of any kind. Believe whatever you like, but please stop trying to convert the rest of us.

Steve T.
October 13th, 2010 | LINK

Perkins also didn’t mention that the Dutch study noted that gay men may be more likely than straight men to acknowledge having had mental health difficulties. This doesn’t surprise me. First, the whole coming out process is a form of improvised self-analysis. We all have to re-write our personal code from line 10. Straight men, less so. Second, gays are less likely to have that tough-it-out, show-no-weakness mindset. We’ve been there, found it self-destructive, and left it behind. So we tend to know our heads better, and to not be afraid of showing what’s in there.

What do you want to bet we’ll ever find out what’s in Perkins’s head?

David
October 13th, 2010 | LINK

Richard

“If by “experience of the divine” you mean evidence for the existence of God, then that experience is NOT equivalent to the experience of sexuality. ”

How do you know? Thank you so much for doing what homophobes do all the time – tell me what my experience is.

My experiences of the existence of God is comparable to the experience of sexuality.

You are asserting that your guess defines my life experiences – which is what homophobes do all the time to GLBTQ people. You are affirming by example that atheism is simply another prejudice.

“Somewhere in the cosmos there is a factual answer to the question of God’s existence.”

Not exactly. Since by definition, God exists beyond as well as within the cosmos, to find quantifiable evidence of God, you would have to be able to observe the cosmos and all that is beyond it, from outside of the cosmos.

However, science will never be able to examine all of the cosmos, if for no other reason than parts of the cosmos are already so far away, light cannot and will not ever reach earth, we can never have data about the entirety of the universe.

“If that answer turns out to be NO, then it won’t matter how many experiences of the divine you have, the factual answer will still be NO, and those experiences would then be properly categorized as delusional.”

No, because your definition of God is erroneous. And the answer you seek is not physically possible within the laws of physics that define the cosmos.

“But the experience of sexuality occurs entirely within each individual, and thus there is no independent external question in need of an answer.”

And yet, heterosexuals can never directly know the experience of homosexuality – the innate attraction to one’s own gender, nor can homosexuals ever directly know the experience of heterosexuality. We must all take each other’s word for what we feel and think.

Priya

“Our lack of experience is more valid than your “experience” because neither you nor anyone on the planet has proof”

No, Priya, you think your lack of experience is more valid because of your pride. You and your peers have no proof that God does not exist, you have no proof that our experiences are invalid, delusional, or false. You have only a guess, and an ugly one at that.

Your premise is about ego, because You do not x, everyone else who does is wrong. Homophobes do the same thing – because they do not experience sexual attraction to their own gender, no one does.

Like homophobes, you simply discount the experiences of people you do not like, not from evidence of experience of your own, but out of prejudice.

“that you’ve “experienced” the supernatural despite centuries of people trying desperately to find such proof.”

And over millenia, people have been experiencing that proof, just not in the form you and your peers desire. But again, your desires do not dictate reality, just as the desires of homophobes do not dictate reality.

Both prejudices, homophobia and atheism, are about pride, and not the healthy self-esteem kind, but the “we are intrinsically superior to you people” kind of pride.

“When millenia of searching for the existence of something turn up no evidence for such existence its unreasonable to assume it does exist.”

You simply dismiss the evidence that has turned up.

“Sexual attraction is different because we do have proof that people are same sex attracted. ”

That proof is the same as the proof for the existence of God: the personal testimony of human beings about what they experience. You simply dismiss that kind of proof when it suits you, and embrace it when it suits you, depending on who is testifying.

“Recognizing that its impossible for you to have experienced the supernatural doesn’t in anyway suggest you are less than human so no, we are not “dehumanizing” you.”

Of course it is, because you are dismissing our testimony about our lives as ‘impossible’, essentially calling us, at the minimum, liar, while your peer calls it delusion.

“You regularly try to pass off this lie that atheists are the same as anti-gay people when in fact we are entirely different”

And you consistently falsely claim my statement is a lie, without providing any evidence to back that up. When I make my case comparing atheism and homophobia, I provide multiple parallels, and even one is enough to disprove your ‘entirely different’. Your posts, Priya, consistently demonstrate how remarkably similar homophobia and atheism are. In this last post, you do the exact same thing that homophobes do about homosexuality: dismiss out of hand, without evidence, the testimony of a particular group of people.

” – they are trying to deny people equal rights, we are not.”

Systemic atheism, where it has occured, has certainly resulted in the denial of equal rights. Many atheists on the ‘net articulate their desire to eradicate religious freedom, by force if necessary.

Further, Priya, prejudice is not defined by how fully it is implemented. Many a homophobe has said, I’m not prejudiced, I haven’t killed any gays.

“In fact you share far more in common with anti-gay religionists than we do – virtually all of your christian religion.”

Here we have another example of prejudice at work – personal attack and the condemnation by inclusion in the target group. Your statement that “virtually all” of Christianity is anti-gay is simply a lie, Priya.

“By supporting the christian religion in general you provide credibility to the anti-gay parts of the bible the homophobes use to suppress gays.”

This parallels the way homophobes say that if GLBTQ people do not constantly denounce NAMBLA, or anything and anyone else the homophobes associate with homosexuality, it proves that all homosexuals support NAMBLA, or bare-backing, etc.

The reality, Priya, is that progressive, GLBTQ Christians like myself work harder against anti-gay theology, and homophobia, than you do. We repudiate and refute anti-gay theology, you and your peers assert that anti-gay theology is correct and defines Christianity.

Like so many homophobes have done in the past, you are actually projecting your own behavior on to me and other progressive people of faith.

“You’re part of the problem.”

No, I’ve spent the better part of thirty years working to end prejudice. But fundamentalist atheists on-line continue to assert that anti-gay theology is correct, that it defines Christianity so much that one cannot be a Christian without it.

Time and time again, I have seen some fence-sitting Christian, trying to find some way to reconcile their sense of justice with anti-gay theology, working to rejecting anti-gay theology, only to have some fundamentalist atheist louse it all up by defending anti-gay theology as the only true Christianity.

Priya, atheists opining about spirituality are like celibate priests opining about sex – neither have any direct knowledge about what they are talking about, both issue proclamations about other people’s lives out of their own lack of experience, and both perpetuate their own prejudices to the detriment of others.

Folks complain when homophobes distort other people’s research, but nearly every day, on one GLBTQ blog or another, atheists distort
Christian beliefs and teachings, texts, position papers, published statements, and testimonies. That parallel ought to make you think about what you believe and do and say.

You and Richard Rush are articulating prejudice here, and it largely gets a free pass on the ‘net. That makes it very hard to criticize homophobia here with any integrity.

Timothy Kincaid
October 13th, 2010 | LINK

David,

Your evangelical treatise is no more appropriate than is Richard’s.

Nothing good ever comes of trying to convince a Christian or an Atheist that they are wrong. So let’s not start another long heated debate here.

Please stop. Evangelical Christianity is as annoying as evangelical faith of any kind. Believe whatever you like, but please stop trying to convert the rest of us.

a.mcewen
October 13th, 2010 | LINK

Maybe this is how we get distracted. The point of this excellent piece is that Perkins misled in his column. Why are we going on so many other tangents?

David
October 13th, 2010 | LINK

Timothy

Characterizing my post as “evangelical” is inaccurate. I realize that BTB needs the hits that the anti-religious hate speech generates, but your false characterization of my remarks only serves to excuse the hate speech from Richard and Priya.

How can you criticize the distortions and prejudice that Tony Perkins promotes, and then cultivate the same prejudice from Richard and Priya?

Either all prejudice is wrong, or none of them are. If my last post is inappropriate, then the lead article is as well, and most of the material on BTB. And if only the anti-religious perspective is welcome here, perhaps you should put a statement to that effect in the header of your blog.

I’m sure we could find homophobes who would like for BTB to “please stop”.

Jim Burroway
October 13th, 2010 | LINK

This thread is entirely off topic, and on that point alone is in violation of our Comments policy

Furthermore, this is not an appropriate forum for proselytizing, and by that I believe it appropriate to include attempts to persuade or dissuaded anyone toward or from any set of religious belief or non-belief. Those topics, in addition to being off topic, are simply not germane. Further posts along these lines will be removed.

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