What Arguments for Inadequate Sex Ed and Banning Condoms Sound Like

It will appear at first that I’m not talking about the topic I identified in the title. Do not be alarmed by this. Read on.

Many argue that cycling on the road is bad.  Although it is an excellent form of physical activity that boosts personal fitness, traveling through the streets on a bicycle puts cyclists at risk of being hit by cars. Riding a bike on the sidewalk is much safer, and is the best way to avoid a fatal accident. The fact that many drivers dislike cyclists should be taken as proof that riding a bike on the road is bad for you, even though it is illegal for a driver to turn and hit a cyclist on purpose. Because of the widespread dislike of cyclists, the conservative political party has proposed several laws prohibiting parents from teaching their children how to ride bicycles.

“Most parents I know don’t want their kids riding bikes,” says an infamous conservative politician. “Not everyone has a sidewalk on their street, so a lot of people end up riding their bikes in the road. Parents can tell their kids to stick to sidewalk cycling, but not every kid lives in a neighborhood with sidewalks. If you teach a kid how to ride a bike when the nearest sidewalk is several minutes away by car, you’re basically enabling them to ride in the road, especially if you hand them a helmet. We need to include anti-cycling classes in our schools so that children are aware of the dangers of cycling in the road, and learn to save cycling for where it belongs:  our sidewalks.”

The politician on the opposing side disagrees. “Riding a bike is not a bad behavior, and regardless of whether or not it is, what we really should be worried about are the fatalities in accidents involving cyclists. Wearing a helmet saves many lives every year. Besides, kids often don’t listen to their parents, and if they really want a bike, there are plenty of ways to get them, whether from friends, or using their own money. If we really want to protect kids, we should teach comprehensive cycling lessons in schools. These lessons should include rules of the road, how to wear a helmet properly, and an explanation of where it is safest to ride, with emphasis placed on riding on slow-moving residential streets, and sidewalks for safety reasons. That way, kids can choose to ride, or not to ride, but if they choose to do so, they will do it in the safest way possible.”

Religious leaders have their own points to make on the matter. “It is very important that people avoid cycling in the roads,” says the Pope. “It is especially holy to abstain from cycling altogether, but when cycling is reserved for the sidewalks, there is a holy purpose for that cycling, and that purpose is safe transportation under God’s watchful eye. Transportation in the road is not a valid form of transportation because it is like testing God. We should not expect God to protect us from our unsafe decisions. Mountain biking and cycling in parks should also be avoided because cycling must always be used as a form of transportation. Doing it for recreational purposes, regardless of the benefits of fitness, is an invalid form of cycling, and it offends God.”

The Pope has also spoken out against providing helmets. In countries where cycling is a common form of transportation because most cannot afford cars, the church has been providing anti-cycling education, treating injured cyclists’ wounds, but also forbidding the use of helmets. “I will not condone giving out bicycle helmets,” the mother superior of the Sisters of the Sidewalk says. “These injuries are the result of poor behavior. God is offended that people will test him by cycling in the road. And you know, he is even more offended by people who do this while wearing helmets. These people are testing God, but are not fully trusting him to protect them during that test. Besides, even with a helmet, people can still get bicycle related injuries. We must legislate against road cycling everywhere, and protect people from these injuries. Walking is the safest form of transportation. Next time you need to get somewhere without a car, ask yourself, how would Jesus travel?”

 

Variety of Religious Practice: Head Coverings

Ever notice how even within a single religion, religious practice varies significantly from person to person? It can vary slightly, or it can vary a great deal, depending on the person, and the situation. It’s a phenomenon I will refer to as variety of practice, and I’ve noticed it a lot in my encounters with both my previous faith, and others around me. Religious head coverings are part of many religions, and they are no exception to variety of practice. In fact, they are a very easy way to discuss the phenomenon since they are easily observable.

Take Islam for example. If you mention religious head coverings, it’s the first religion on people’s minds, and for a good reason. There has been much debate over whether or not it is oppressing for women to be forced to cover their heads, or even in some cases their entire bodies. But not every Muslim woman covers her head. In countries like the the US, where we aren’t supposed to let any one religion make laws for other people (although we have had some difficulty following that rule lately), there is no law saying that, for example, all women must wear the hijab (headscarf), or the burka (full-body covering where only the eyes are unveiled.) This means that except in cases where there is heavy familial pressure to do so, women are able to choose the religious garb that they believe they should wear. Some choose one of the aforementioned head coverings, but others choose not to wear any at all, even though they identify as Muslim, and follow the teachings of Islam. From what I’ve read (and please correct me if I’m wrong. I’m not an expert on Islam), there is some debate as to whether or not the verse in the Quran instructing women to be modest actually implies that they should wear a hijab or burka, or simply that they shouldn’t show any cleavage. This leaves it up to the Imams, and individuals within the Islamic community to decide for themselves whether not women should dress that way, and to what extent. Naturally, some women prefer to look like everyone else on the outside, and don’t want to walk around with something that identifies them as belonging to a specific religion on their heads. Others may feel that the hijab or burka is an excellent way to practice their beliefs, and wear it because they want to.

Not all head coverings are for women, though. Sticking with eastern religions, let’s look at Sikhism. Strict Sikhs are taught never to cut their hair, and they wear their hair in turbans as part of their religious practice. I happen to live in a town that has a significant Indian population, and some of my neighbors are Sikh. One guy I met at my local community college surprised me when he told me he was a Sikh, because the Sikhs I had met all wore turbans, and he had short hair that was clearly visible, and not covered by a turban. I had assumed he was Hindu or Muslim, based on his nationality and his short hair, but nope. He’s Sikh. He explained to me that even within his family, some men wear turbans while others don’t. It’s just a matter of how strictly they follow their religion’s teachings. Some are very strict, while others, like him, prefer to dress like everybody else.

Married orthodox Jewish women, like Muslim women, are taught to cover their heads. If I understood what I read about this correctly, they believe, as many Muslims do, that hair is sexual, and something that should only be revealed in certain situations, such as to their husbands. In some communities, Jewish women are supposed to cover their heads in the synagogue only. In others, they are expected to also cover their heads in public. There are even some rules about women having their heads covered while their husbands are praying. There is huge variety of practice in Judaism, so it is very difficult to speak for everyone in the religion (and I am not particularly experienced with Judaism either). Some Jewish women wear a scarf or hat, but many, believe it or not, cover their heads with wigs! While this sounds odd (seriously, if showing hair is bad, why is wearing a wig any better?), my understanding of why this is considered a solution is that revealing one’s own hair is what is questionable, not showing some kind of hair in general. But again, it depends on the person, the community, which rabbi a woman listens to, and certainly how strictly she adheres to the rules as they are explained to her. Not to mention, not all Jews are orthodox, and to my knowledge, non-orthodox Jews are far less likely to require a female head covering when out in public. I can’t speak for non orthodox Jewish rules for in the synagogue though, as I have never been to one.  For more information on Jewish teachings about female head coverings, I found this article helpful and interesting:

http://www.myjewishlearning.com/practices/Ethics/Our_Bodies/Clothing/Hats_and_Head_Coverings/head-coverings.shtml

Jewish men are also expected to cover their heads when they pray, which makes me kind of happy with Judaism. I mean, if you’re going to require one gender to cover their heads, why not expect the other one to do it too? If you don’t think God is sexist, then that’s probably the way to go when it comes to head coverings. According to the article I found, Jewish men are expected to always cover their heads while in prayer, but not everyone wears a yarmulke or other head covering at all times. This article mentions that some take the head covering idea to an extreme, and actually wear one on top of the other–it’s extra spiritual or something. 

http://www.myjewishlearning.com/practices/Ethics/Our_Bodies/Clothing/Hats_and_Head_Coverings.shtml?PRET

Then there’s Christianity. A surprisingly small percentage of Christians know this, but Christianity actually does have a rule about head coverings, and some people do follow it. 1 Corinthians 11:5 says, “But every woman praying or prophesying with her head unveiled dishonoreth her head; for it is one and the same thing as if she were shaven.” That comes from the American Standard Version, and I found it online. But you can look at other translations, and they all say pretty much the same thing. See this link if you don’t believe me and scroll down to where it says “Other Translations.” Or just look the verse up in your Bible. 

http://www.kingjamesbibleonline.org/1-Corinthians-11-5/  

I actually knew a Christian girl when I was growing up, who strongly believed this verse was true, and decided to cover her head at all times. I’ve seen recent pictures of her and she’s not doing it anymore, but at the time she thought, you know what, I might end up praying at any time potentially, so covering my head ensures that I’m always ready. And I totally respect that decision. But most Christian women don’t even know this verse exists. And many who do (and I used to be one of them) choose not to follow it. I, for one, didn’t like covering my head. I also disliked doing anything just because I was a girl. I didn’t think religion should be sexist. 

Catholic women don’t usually wear female head coverings anymore, but they used to. In my family’s church, I’ve only seen one or two women cover their heads, and it’s a pretty big church. But I was raised Roman Catholic. What Catholics don’t want you to know (and I’ll talk about this in a page I’m working on, because I think this fact should be broadcast to the world), Catholicism is divided on some pretty fundamental issues. There is a group of Catholics called Tridentine Catholics, or Traditional Catholics, and they basically reject the decisions made in the Second Vatican Council, and follow the old ways of worship. These included having women cover their heads in mass, among other things. They wear what’s called a mantilla, also known as a chapel veil, which is basically this lacy thing that looks a bit like an oddly shaped doily. If you’d like to know more about it, check out this link:

http://catholicismpure.wordpress.com/2014/01/15/why-women-wear-mantillas-in-church/

I actually think the mantilla is very pretty. I don’t buy the bullshit about how it’s modest. It’s barely covering the hair. (Seriously, they’re lace. You see right through them.) I do, however, recognize that for some women, it is a sign of reverence and devotion. But this is America, so they don’t have to attend a church where doily-wearing is mandatory. They are free to make their own decisions about whether or not to cover their heads, and they do. 

Variety of practice doesn’t just apply to head coverings. It applies to other aspects of worship and religion. I’ve heard people argue, for example, that you can’t be Catholic if you’re willing to vote for a pro-choice politician, or a politician who supports marriage equality, but guess what! There are tons of tithe-paying Catholics who do it all the freaking time. Tough titties. People are people, and while you may be able to get them to believe in your God, you can’t necessarily get them to agree with you on everything. Just look at how many directions Protestantism has gone in since the reformation began. People will disagree, and will join forces with others who have the same ideas. But even within those groups, there will be variety. Because ultimately, people are individuals. They are not defined by the groups to which they belong. As a matter of fact, it is the people who define those groups. As an atheist, I see this more and more in cases of religion, and it explains why there is so much variety of practice in something that’s supposedly created by God–it’s not. It’s being created, passed down, and recreated by people every single day.

Happy thinking!

Feel free to leave comments, even if you’re correcting me on something. While I may disagree with religions, I don’t want to misrepresent anyone’s beliefs, which is why I often include links to pages written by people who actually follow a particular religion. I trust them to explain it accurately.

 

 

What Movie Romance Teaches Us About Sexual Assault and Manipulation

We’ve all seen them:  the scenes where the guy hits on the girl, who rejects him. Then he rushes to her, spins her around, and plants a big sloppy kiss while squishing her body up against his. In movies, this is love, passion, and a sign of things to come:  the start of a happy relationship. In reality, this is called sexual assault. This kind of behavior should never be condoned in real life, and boys and men alike watching these scenes get the wrong idea about how romance works. Worse, sometimes they act them out in real life. These scenes can also give girls an inaccurate idea about love, and even render them incapable of recognizing sexual assault when it happens.

As someone who has experienced sexual assault in the past, I can’t help but cringe a little at these scenes, even in iconic movies and musicals that I’ve loved since my childhood. I’m not going to argue that sexual assault (or rape for that matter) shouldn’t be shown in films or books–it should. But I’d like for it to be presented as what it is, and for the characters involved to have to at least discuss what one did to the other so that they can have some semblance of a truly healthy romantic relationship in the end, rather than a hastily scripted wedding scene.

Take this scene in Guys and Dolls, for instance (if you don’t mind the singing). If you want to skip most of the singing, start watching at 3:16. You’ll get the idea.

http://www.tcm.com/mediaroom/video/415266/Guys-And-Dolls-Movie-Clip-I-ll-Know.html

Sky and Sarah are one of the show’s lead couples, and–you guessed it, at the end, they’re married. Even though Sarah is clearly repulsed by him, and not at all interested–heck, she freaking slaps him–the hero gets the girl. What kind of world do we live in where even a violent act like smacking someone in the face as hard as you can doesn’t mean no, and isn’t taken as a sign that things won’t work? Granted, in the plot of the story, Sky has a lot of money riding on his bet that he can take prudish Sarah on a date–but still, she rejected him multiple times. This is not the start of a beautiful romantic relationship; it’s a crime. While she does eventually fall for Sky, that isn’t the point. She’d rejected him, and once a person is rejected, he or she needs to back off and leave the rejecter alone. The only person who can turn that rejection into a date is the rejecter. If that person changes his or her mind, then yay for the rejectee! But in reality, that doesn’t happen often.

Scenes like this one have perpetuated the idea that the key to successfully getting someone to date you is persistence, not, you know–asking politely and letting the other person make their own damn decision. While yes, persistence can eventually get someone to do what you want, it’s not acceptable to beg that person until he or she just wants you to stop. Besides, do you really want someone to date you just so that you’ll shut up and stop hitting on them? Wouldn’t you rather have that person date you because he or she is attracted to you and wants to date you? I’m going with the latter reason.

Not to mention the fact that sexual assault is ILLEGAL, and morally objectionable. Just because there’s no penis-in-vagina action doesn’t mean it isn’t wrong. There’s a reason consent is required in relationships. Both parties have to decide they want to do something, and pressuring that person until they give in is not true consent.

An important part of the concept of consent is that if one of the parties involved is not emotionally or physically capable of saying no, they can’t give consent. All participants need to 1) understand what they’re doing, and 2) know that at any time they can say no, and that no will be respected. I once saw my brother hitting on a girl who was maybe 13 at the time. He was about 14, and much taller than she was. I could tell she was trying to shrug his arm off her shoulders, and her body language told me she wasn’t interested in his advances, but she wasn’t saying anything with her words, and he was still, well, advancing. My brother’s very bad at reading social cues from body language, so I wasn’t surprised by this. I was maybe 16 at the time, and I said to her, “He’s not responding to your body language that you’re not interested. You should tell him verbally.” She responded, “No, it’s ok, I don’t mind.” Granted, this was in front of him. Had I been older, I would have taken her aside and said this to her privately, but I still stand by my observation and the words I said to her. The girl probably didn’t understand this, but it is clear to me that at the time she was not mature enough to give consent. If you don’t feel comfortable verbalizing your no, then your yes doesn’t mean anything. Which brings me to another scenario where movies are at fault:  manipulation.

There’s this scene in The Notebook that reminds me of my sexual assault, and it sucks that this is considered the start of a great movie romance, when really, it’s manipulation.

This is the beautiful Ferris Wheel scene, where Noah threatens to kill himself to get a date with a hot girl he’s never met.

Let me repeat that. HE THREATENS TO KILL HIMSELF TO GET A DATE. And she says no at first, until he drops one of his hands and dangles, pretending to slip. The girl below them yelling at him has to be my favorite character in this scene. It’s been a while since I saw the movie all the way through, but this scene always stuck with me. I thought at first it was romantic, and a beautiful image of the persistence that proves that Noah loves her. Frankly though, it’s actually proof that Noah is a manipulative jerk who knows he’s getting a pity date, and doesn’t care. He’s convinced himself that if he can just get a date with her, she’ll fall for him. It happens to work out that way for him–just as Sarah’s one date with Sky happens to work out for Sky too, but in real life, that’s simply not the case.

She seems to be thoroughly turned off by Noah’s irrational, immature behavior. The only thing she’d be thinking in real life is, how do I get this guy to leave me alone and get off the Ferris wheel? Noah is not actually suicidal, and she doesn’t like him, so there is no reason for her to date him. She should say no, or, if she says yes, should say no once they’re back on the ground. So she does something immature to retaliate? It’s funny, but pantsing someone doesn’t make up for the manipulation.

Having been sexually assaulted by a guy who threatened to kill himself so he could get alone with me, and have my undivided attention whenever he felt like it, I can honestly say that this is a tactic used in real life by real douche bags–and listen–whoever’s reading this:  DON’T BUY INTO IT. It’s one thing if a close friend reveals his or her depression or suicidal thoughts. If it’s someone you know well, it may be legitimate, but when a person you don’t know well does it, there are 2 reasons they could be doing it for, and those are for your attention or pity, both of which can be used to manipulate you.

As a young woman who watched these scenes growing up–and saw many others just like them–I didn’t recognize my sexual assault until well after it happened. I knew I had been touched, often against my will by that manipulative loser, but I didn’t understand consent. I thought my absence of a no was giving him consent, but in reality, I only let him touch me because I was afraid he would kill himself if I did anything that would upset him. Even after I broke off my relationship with him, I still thought he was genuinely suicidal. It took the convincing of some very close friends, one of whom had legitimately struggled with depression, to get me back on the path to safety and healthy thinking–and guess what? That “suicidal” asshole? He’s still alive, even though I broke it off. He had no intention of killing himself, but man, did he milk it for the attention. This is not to say depression is not real–it is. I’ve known people who’ve suffered from it. But usually, they don’t talk about it to people they don’t know well, and when your distant acquaintances start telling you what sound like their most intimate, dirty secrets for absolutely no reason, after conversations that you could barely call deep or intimate,  you should be suspicious. They’re not telling you because they’re your true love. They want your pants off, and your shirt too.

Happy thinking my fellow daters.

 

Spiritual Warfare: How it’s All in Your Head

Many religious belief systems involve a good vs. evil situation—you know, the good supernatural deity fighting an evil supernatural being. In Christianity, this situation is a fight between God and the devil, also known as Satan or Lucifer. The devil is believed to be cunning, powerful, and have a whole slew of people under his control. Psychics, witches, gay people, teenagers who play Dungeons and Dragons or listen to Rock music—you name it, Satan has it. Yet somehow, God is always believed to be winning.

Theists who believe in spiritual warfare often expect to see signs of it, mini spiritual battles, in their own lives—and they do. As a child growing up Catholic, I was raised to believe in spiritual warfare, but I wasn’t really convinced. I noticed at an early age that only the people who believed that everything was attacking them seemed to get “attacked,” and people like me who were super religious but didn’t look for signs of the devil at the grocery store, never seemed to have to face him. At first I was disappointed—I wanted to show my faith and face the devil. But I also had a skeptical bone in me that said, he’d better make it clear that he actually is the devil before I go all “prayer-warrior” on him (because that’s what you’re supposed to do). I was also skeptical about the so-called “power of prayer.” But that’s a topic for another post.

Witchcraft, and any other form of “magic” is perhaps the most common thing to associate with the devil. This is probably because there are so many Bible verses preaching against it. My dad’s personal favorite was Exodus 22:18, which says, “Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live.” But there are plenty more. Leviticus 19:31 says, “Regard not them that have familiar spirits, neither seek after wizards, to be defiled by them: I [am] the LORD your God.” See this link to read more, and if this isn’t your favorite version of the Bible, by all means look up the verses in yours. http://www.kingjamesbibleonline.org/Bible-Verses-About-Witchcraft/ 

Having read Leviticus 19:31, it’s hardly surprising that Christians often freak out about the Harry Potter series–I mean, Harry Potter is a wizard, and the Bible says not to “seek after wizards,” therefore, wizards are against God, and anything against God is OF THE DEVIL! This is the kind of reasoning that got Harry Potter banned from my household and my reading lists for most of my young life, for fear that it might open up a door to the spirit world and taint my soul.

Luckily, either the panic about the Harry Potter books died down, or my parents gave into my pleading, because when I was around 12 or 13, they finally said yes and let me read the books–or rather, my mom said yes. My dad, who was and still is a very spiritual man to the point of ridiculousness, would never allow it, so my mom said, you can borrow the books from the library as long as you don’t let your dad see. And I did. And I got through most of the then 6 books before my dad caught on. Unfortunately though, one day I was careless and forgot to hide the book before he came home from work, and he had a fit. He said he felt extraordinary uneasiness and knew that evil had come into the house through that book, and I was to return it immediately. Instead, sensibly, I hid it again so that he couldn’t burn it in a fit of spiritual fervor (I didn’t want to lose my borrowing privileges). Then I thought about it, and I realized that the book had been in the house for several days, and the previous books had been in the house for days or even weeks at a time. I liked to borrow a book and read it, then read it again to remember it better, so I would keep them for the full length of the borrowing period when I could. I had even started reading the books to my younger brothers, so I sometimes had more than one Harry Potter book in the house at a time, and my dad never noticed “spiritually” that they were in the house until he saw the book. Even my middle school aged self thought, isn’t that funny? If it truly was the devil, and if the book were truly making him feel uneasy, shouldn’t the book have done that regardless of whether he consciously knew what was causing the uneasiness? I mean, if this was the same uneasiness that comes from Tarot cards, ouija boards, and playing Dungeons and Dragons, shouldn’t it not matter whether the person knows what’s there? Shouldn’t the spiritual person just feel the spiritual attack, and then have to tear through the house to find whatever’s the conduit of the evil?

Ironically, just last year I caught my dad watching reruns of the Harry Potter films on TV, and even tivoing them to watch later, so clearly his stance has changed. But as a child, that really got me thinking about the whole spiritual warfare thing again. I mean, it didn’t seem to affect people who didn’t believe, nor did it seem to affect people who believed in God but didn’t believe in spiritual warfare, so it seemed to me to be a self-perpetuating belief. And that seems to be the case for many things that theists freak out about.

Penn and Teller did a great episode on ouija boards, in which they did a great experiment that shows that it’s actually being controlled by the people using the board, not by a spirit. Long story short, if you blindfold participants and rotate the board 180 degrees without telling them, they will still move the board to where they think the “yes” and “no” options are, even though they can’t actually see them, and with the board rotated, they will be wrong every time. To see that experiment, go to this link and watch the video from about 2:00 in to 5:30. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JA5uYhXpa-E

Then there are psychics. Growing up I was always told that, as was supposedly the case with Harry Potter, psychics could open the door to the devil and other demons. I was taught that even touching something a psychic has touched can lead to possession by a demon, and that if I were to consult with a psychic, or otherwise communicate with the spirits, I could be letting evil spirits into the world and into my life, which was a very dangerous thing to do. There is a whole Penn and Teller Bullshit episode on psychics, and I highly recommend checking it out, but now I’m going to use a different example. There’s an episode of the show “Trading Spouses” where they brought on this lady named Marguerite Perrin, who is an absolute psycho. Frighteningly enough, she reminds me of my brother’s godmother, who believes strongly in spiritual warfare and often talks about “putting on her spiritual armor” and other nonsense. Here’s a link to the video. Try to focus on how she reacts to meeting the guy in the suit before she finds out he’s a psychic, and then how she reacts AFTER she finds out.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q86VBFjeMtY

Basically, this lady is totally civil to the man when she meets him initially. Doesn’t freak out about him having demonic traits. But then, when she finds out what he does for a living, she throws a fit.

This lady is so funny, yet such a perfect example of so called spiritual warfare, that I have to point out another clip, where she goes ape shit over a dryer that she seems to think is possessed or something. Seriously, it’s a dryer for crying out loud. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GlNUU43md4A

If the devil has in his control all of these people, as well as tons of ordinary, everyday objects like broken dryers, then we’re seriously screwed. It often makes me wonder why so many people think God is winning.

It all makes way more sense when you think about spiritual warfare as a product of an individual’s imagination. In fact, it explains a lot of things.

Happy thinking!

Catholicism’s True Stance on Homosexuality Part 3

Sorry for the late post–I’m going to aim to not make posts that require this much length to finish  so that I can post more frequently.

Now we’re finally getting to the meat of things. In my previous two posts, I commented on this video, in which multiple Catholics, some of them gay themselves, explain the church’s stance on homosexuality. There’s a lot wrong with this video:

http://www.lifesitenews.com/blog/this-new-film-on-being-gay-and-catholic-just-might-blow-your-mind

If that link doesn’t work, try this one (it’s the same video):  http://vimeo.com/93079367

Part 1 dealt with the misconceptions about gay people that are presented in this video.

Part 2 discussed the misuse of words and language by Catholics, as they define homosexual acts as “disordered,” and “contrary to natural law” without fully realizing the harsh wording of the first statement, and the fact that the second is devoid of any actual meaning if you use your noggin.

Part 3? Well, here I’m going to talk about the culture of Catholicism, how it actually treats gay people, and the language it uses to describe them due to the fact that Catholics, like many other branches of Christianity, fail to understand how sexuality works, and probably won’t bother to learn unless they leave the church.

It’s not uncommon to hear a Catholic use phrases like  “the gay lifestyle.” In fact, the people in this video use it. In my experience I’ve even heard them use the phrase, “the gay agenda,” which is a ridiculous phrase. They also mention “the gay church” in this video, a phrase which suggests that being openly gay is a religion–you know, like Christianity, Buddhism, Islam, etc. The reason they talk like this is that they see everything through a lens of religious belief. Every other way of life has to fall into a category, and they see hierarchies where there aren’t any. As good religious people are supposed to do, they apply their faith to every aspect of their lives, from their basic observations to their thoughts about other people and how they live. Except for one problem–it doesn’t accurately represent reality. There’s nothing religious about being openly gay, so this “gay church” thing? It doesn’t exist. There are gay people in every religion, and gay people with no religion.

There’s also no “gay agenda.” Gay people are as varied in personality and political opinion as any other group of people. What unites them is their struggle for equal rights. (And not all gay people agree with the gay rights movement either. The poor confused people in this video are a perfect example of that.) When it comes to “the gay agenda,” I’ve actually heard a Catholic priest argue that gay people don’t just want to be allowed to marry. They want to be allowed to convince kids to be gay, and then everyone will be gay and we won’t have anybody having kids. This is ridiculous because of the fact that, while a person can experiment with gay behaviors to figure out his or her sexual orientation, the majority of people will still be straight. According to Wikipedia, about 3.8% of people in the US identify as LGBT.  

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/LGBT_demographics_of_the_United_States

The page acknowleges that some people identified as having same sex attraction but didn’t consider themselves LGBT, which makes it a bit confusing and hard to give an exact number. (Not to mention the fact that when you look at the state-by-state percentage, one starts to wonder if some states simply have a lot of people in the closet), but still, the number of gay people is a small percentage of the population compared to the majority of people, who are straight. Being straight is not going to become less popular just because being gay is becoming less and less frowned upon, because, as many Christians fail to realize, one’s sexual orientation is not a choice. For a person who has zero attraction to the same sex, no amount of public approval of gay people will turn that person gay. The only thing that might make the number of known gay people grow is society treating gay people as human beings so that they feel comfortable being themselves. The number of people who experience one sexual orientation or another in actuality won’t be affected by public acceptance or lack thereof.

I’ve also heard Catholics say that the next goal on “the gay agenda” after marriage is to legalize pedophilia, polygamy, and bestiality. This idea fails to recognize that gay people are still individuals. Yes, they often unite to protest anti-gay laws, and to try to get marriage and other things like adoption made legal for them, but seriously, how would you like it if I said, “the next goal on the Catholic agenda is to ban all sex, not just premarital and gay sex, so that everyone will be a virgin and we’ll all die out!” Seriously, it’s not fun when someone puts words in your mouth, and that’s what they’re doing to an entire group of people. There is no “gay agenda.” There are only gay people, uniting at times to protest injustices and fight for what they believe they have a right to as citizens and human beings.

The reason I chose to include this in this post, and not in the language post, is because this kind of conversation directly influences Catholic treatment of gay people because it perpetuates assumptions, and creates a culture of ignorance when it comes to sexuality. Many Catholics truly do not understand how sexuality works. They aren’t aware of how many people are gay because they either have been so sheltered that they haven’t met a gay person, or they have, and that person is in the closet. It’s very easy to believe something is wrong when it doesn’t seem to affect you or anyone you care about. I invite you to think about the musicians in your church. I’ve met many Catholic organists because my mom works in music ministry, and I can tell you right now–many (not all, but many) of them are gay, and some of them are also Catholic. Surprised? You shouldn’t be. And many of them attend every single mass, every Sunday. Do you feel bad for them, having to listen to a homily that speaks against them several times in one day? I do. When I’m at mass and that happens, it’s all I can think about.

Once, on a multiple-day retreat which took place at Franciscan University in Steubenville, OH, I realized just how far Catholic ignorance extended. Having been thrust into deliberation of gay marriage by my own experience having a bisexual best friend (whom I will admit to having a bit of a crush on), I cringed a bit when one of the speakers talked about the immorality of homosexuality. I mentioned it to one of the girls with whom I had traveled to the event, and she said, “Well, all the people here are Catholic, so I mean, nobody here is going to be offended by it. There shouldn’t be any gay people here.” See the aforementioned percentage of the American population that is gay. There were hundreds of teenagers there–maybe even thousands. I really don’t remember the exact number, but it was a very large retreat. The odds of not a single person having even an inkling of homosexual attraction, especially if sexuality, as many believe, is more of a spectrum than a number of clean, exact choices, then there were definitely some gay or otherwise LGBT people there. Being Catholic does not make you any less likely to be gay/bi, etc, than being atheist, or Muslim. There are gay people born into every group, in every country in the world. I explained to her she that she was wrong and she seemed surprised. Then, I don’t know what made me say this, but I asked, “What if I were gay?” I’m not. But in the process of figuring out my opinion on the issue, I figured, why not imagine myself in their shoes? Could I really expect the country to legislate against someone no different from myself? Gay people are people, after all. I’ll never forget her response:

“I don’t think we could be friends. It would be too weird. You might have a crush on me.”

Is it any surprise that I’m completely for gay rights now? It sucks to admit this, but I used to think the way she did. Luckily, at that point, I was starting to understand how sexuality and attraction works. Imagine an experiment where someone decided to survey a large group of straight people, showing them pictures of tons of human beings of various ages and appearances, who happen to be the gender to which they are attracted, and ask how many of those people they find physically attractive. The truth is, even going with just physical attraction, nobody is going to select the whole list. I would even hypothesize that most people won’t select more than a quarter of the photographs as “attractive.” And I bet if they actually knew those people they found physically attractive, more than half of those people they chose for reasons of physical attraction would be eliminated for traits that can’t be noticed from just a picture, like an abrasive personality, or an irritating speaking voice. In the end, only a handful of the options would still be considered “attractive” by any given person, and the people whom one person finds attractive won’t match the ones whom someone else likes. Seriously, who hasn’t told a friend about someone they found attractive, shown them a picture, and found themselves making excuses like “this picture isn’t that good,” or, “the lighting’s bad,” when their friend doesn’t share their attraction or enthusiasm. Facebook has made this an increasingly common occurrence, and it just goes to show you that people are diverse in their attractions, even if they fall under the majority category of sexual attraction. Now imagine doing the same experiment with gay people, or bisexual people. Maybe the bisexual people would have a slightly larger pool of options, but it still would only include a few women and a few men, not the entire list. Heck, maybe some bisexual people would only find a few men attractive, and no women, or a few women and no men, and not because they discriminate by gender, but because none of the photographs from one group happened to fit what they are physically attracted to. That was a long hypothetical explanation, but my point is, there are way more variables than gender when it comes to physical attraction, so to assume that someone will be attracted to you because they can potentially be completely ignores all of those other variables that come in to play. Furthermore, to assume that you can’t be friends with someone because they have the potential to be attracted to you is to assume that if you’re a girl, you can never be just friends with a straight guy, and vise versa, which is just plain ridiculous. But I digress.

The strongest examples of the way Catholics actually feel about gays don’t come from my experience though–they come from the experiences of the people in the very video they’ve made to promote Catholicism. The video spends several minutes talking about how hard it can be to be Catholic and gay. One man says, “A large part of the alienation I felt was just what homosexuality was in like, widespread Catholic culture. You know, kind of like, mean jokes got said about it. Or not mean, because, you know, ‘nobody we know is actually like that.’…but of course, you know, I’m sitting right there. …There’s this sense that well if I do [speak up/come out] they’re not gonna see me anymore, they’re gonna see this label. They’re gonna identify me with the enemy in some way.”

One woman says, “Sometimes it would be hard sitting there when the subject of ‘those evil homosexuals’ would come up. I would want so badly to just jump up and  yell at them, you know, I’m not what you think gay people are. But I couldn’t say anything.”

Another woman adds, “Unfortunately there are a lot of people who’ve had negative experiences. Usually it’s with people who have grasped the law, but who have not grasped the teaching that a homosexual is a person.”

Why is this a teaching though? Isn’t it obvious? When you see a human being standing in front of you, do you really have to ask if he or she is gay to determine whether or not that individual is a PERSON? This brings up the issue of getting one’s morality from religion alone, but that’s a topic for another day.

Then, a priest talks about how the church condemns “unjust descrimination.” I looked up the passage in the catechism, and it’s in paragraph 2358 on this page:  http://www.scborromeo.org/ccc/p3s2c2a6.htm

It acknowledges that, “the number of men and women who have deep-seated homosexual tendencies is not negligible,” yet so many Catholics still act like it is. It’s in their authoritative source, and they still don’t get it, and here’s why:  because a few words later in that same paragraph are the words “unjust discrimination.” I am thoroughly frustrated by that phrase because all discrimination is by definition unjust. There is no such thing as just discrimination, but saying it the way they do suggests that there can be. It suggests that maybe it’s just to say that gay people are people but they can’t get married or adopt or have any of the other rights that married couples are handed by the government, but, you know, it’s OK. They’re still allowed to give our church money and come to mass every Sunday. They just have to never have sex.

Another speaker in the video goes so far as to say that the Catholic church and other Christian churches should apologize to gay people for being bigoted. I nearly cheered when I heard that, but of course, not long after, the video ends with spiritual sounding classical music and smiles all around, because gay people are “heroes” for choosing to live celibate lives through the teachings of the Catholic church, and because the Catholic church is “truth.” The giant turn around from Catholics don’t hate gays to, Catholics often mistreat gays, and we’re sorry, and then back to “You (gay people) belong in the Catholic church. And we’re (Catholics are) gonna love you,” makes me wonder whether or not these people hear themselves. You can’t tell a group of people that you love and accept them, but only if they live by your rules, and by the way, they should also ignore the fact that you regularly misrepresent and mistreat them, because you’re awesome and they should join you. Seriously, in whose mind does this make any sense?

Not in mine. You really can’t love and accept gay people without also allowing them to live whatever life they find fulfilling. That may be a celibate life, but in a lot of cases that life may be living with a partner, or spouse if they want to be married. This so called “third way” of taking a sort of halfway stance between being anti gay and actually supporting marriage equality is really heavily leaning towards the former rather than the latter, because while it’s possible to comprehend, the idea that “this behavior is bad but the people who do it aren’t,” is nearly impossible to apply in practice because people’s emotions are a strong part of their sense of morality. You can’t turn off the feelings you automatically get when you find out someone’s done something you find morally objectionable.  Your reactions are automatic, and visceral. Understanding intellectually that a person is human and deserves fair treatment is a step better than some, but having a culture that collectively distrusts and misunderstands gay people brainwashes you into having the same reaction one has when finding out someone has murdered a child to finding out that a person is gay. Anger and disgust do not breed a welcoming community, so if you’re gay and looking for a religion, I advise you to steer clear of the Catholic church, no matter how much they tell you they have “truth.” You deserve a real community, not one that hates and distrusts you for being yourself.

Again, sorry for the delayed final post. 

Happy thinking!