Supporting Dan Savage is Imperative

The Dan Savage Smokescreen and Religious Bigotry

By now I am sure you are all aware of the controversy surrounding homosexual rights activist Dan Savage.  I wrote a post on Friday titled “Dan Savage was Right”.  It was important for me to argue that there was nothing inaccurate in Savage’s statements.  As this controversy has failed to die down, it now becomes imperative that Savage be supported.  It is becoming increasingly clear that the outrage coming from the Christian Right is not only manufactured nonsense, but a smokescreen for a much more nefarious goal.  The Christian Right is attempting to use this issue as a means to reduce accurate questioning of religion in public.  This is part of the “war by religion” that the Right is trying to rebrand the “war on religion”.  It is starting to seem that whenever we speak out against Christianity, we are bullies or bigots.  This is false and it is unacceptable.  It is time to support Dan Savage…

The Christian Right is earnestly trying to label Savage as a bully.  That claim is outrageous.  Savage did nothing of the sort.  In fact, he did not even trash Christianity.  The entire message of the controversial segment of Savage’s lecture was an attempt to reconcile homophobia with the bible.  Savage argues that one can still be Christian and support gay rights—all he/she would have to do is to apply the same logic that is used for things like slavery.  Savage points out that many Christians “ignore lots of bullshit” in the bible.  The same “ignoring of bullshit” can and should be applied to homophobia.  The bible is chock-full of things that many Christians do not support/believe.  As an atheist I believe the entire thing to be a work of fiction, but let’s put that aside for one moment.  Assume that I am wrong and there is a god who inspired the bible.  The harshest condemnation against homosexuality comes from Leviticus.  Modern Christians ignore almost all of the things that are condemned in Leviticus.  Why should homosexuality be one of the exceptions?  That is all Savage is stating.  This is not bullying.  This is the truth.

The current trend is for the Christian Right to label any questioning of its beliefs as bullying and bigotry towards religion.  What is alarming is the fact that many people are buying this propaganda.  The fact that is being overlooked is that disagreement and questioning are not bullying or bigotry.  It is imperative that we not allow fundamentalist Christians to define the terms of this discussion.  Savage must be supported.

What needs to develop is a strong campaign supporting the exact opposite view that the Christian Right is propagating.  It needs to be clearly demonstrated that religion is no longer “off the table” when it comes to acceptable discourse.  When religious people propose religiously motivated laws, such as defining the term of marriage, they have put their religious beliefs in the political ring.  As a voter, each of us has the right (and I would argue the duty) to ask the tough questions behind any piece of legislation that is before us.  Religions cannot be exempt from this.  The Christian Right cannot be allowed to define the terms of this debate.  If someone, like Savage, points out the hypocrisy of a religious political belief it is not “religious bigotry or bullying”.  In fact, it is incumbent for the religious to defend their position.  Savage was accurate in calling those who left the room cowards.  If someone is going to stand before you and insist that an entire group of people (say homosexuals) be denied a right that is available to everyone else (heterosexual marriage) based on religion, then they need to defend that belief.  They need to defend it in the same manner that other political beliefs are debated and defended.  To hide behind concepts of “religious bigotry and bullying” is cowardice.  At least have the courage to defend your religious views and the book they are based on.  Have the courage to argue that they are valid and not works of fiction.

In my life, I challenge the political ideas of the religious daily.  This does not always take a controversial route.  I simply ask them to explain why I should agree with them.  When they reference the bible, they usually get a response from me that apes Savage’s.  I point out all of the other things that they choose to ignore.  If they cannot defend their beliefs adequately, and they never can, I inform them that they may want to rethink their position and certainly should stop pestering me to accept it.

I would urge anyone reading this to not be duped by the phrases “war on religion”, “bigotry towards religion”, and “bullying towards religion”—unless that is really what is going on.  You will find that true cases of the above are rare in the developed world.  In the U.S. the Protestant fundamentalist and Catholic Church have moved religion to the front of many debates.  They do not have the right to call “foul” whenever they are treated as a true debating partner.  If the Christian religions want to talk about their dogma, doctrines, policies, and beliefs in a national discourse that is great.  Then be prepared for those with opposing views to criticize and to highlight the backwardness of your policies.

Lastly, do not fail to notice real bullying and bigotry when you see it.  What Savage stated was neither.  Criticizing the bible is not bigotry—there is much to be criticized.  Questioning the supposed validity of the bible is not bigotry—it is called looking for the truth.  You know what is bigoted and bullying?  Saying such things as “homosexuals are an abomination”, “homosexuality is not natural”, or a TN law that actually states that children can no longer be found guilty of bullying if their reason for the “bullying” action is religiously based—those are real examples of bigotry and bullying.  It is the Christian faiths who are guilty here—not the groups they are railing against.  For more on that topic please visit some of my previous posts like here and here.  In short, Dan Savage needs to be supported.  This issue extends far beyond three minutes of a speech that he gave.  The issue at hand is no less than allowing religions a free pass when it comes to their bigotry and bullying.  The issue is no less than treating religions the same as any other political actors.  If we fail to support Dan Savage, if we fail to fight to treat religion like an equal political partner, then the terms of those discussions will be dictated to us.

Thanks for Reading.  I look forward to your comments.

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10 thoughts on “Supporting Dan Savage is Imperative

  1. Loren Miller from Bedford, OH, United States

    The problem of criticizing christianity remains the issue of subsuming one's identity into the belief system. For many believers, their belief is not just something they do but who they are; this is the depth of their indoctrination. As a result, they see any criticism of their faith as a direct attack on them. This is a phenomenon I have seen time and time again, and I suspect it's how those in power in their religious organizations want it. It's part of being a True Believer, part of buying into christian dogma, hook, line and sinker.

    That said, I don't see that we as atheists should change our tactics in the slightest, but I would make one very important stipulation. We attack the religion. We attack the belief. We do NOT attack people, except as they choose to attack us, and then we point out unambiguously in our counter exactly what we are responding to. Anyone with an even remotely objective point of view will be able to see what is going on in a given argument and the reason for our response to it. I would have no expectation of swaying anyone who has already drunk the Kool-Aid. Those who don't have a dog in this fight or those who are willing to look at both sides of the argument will see the difference.

    The way to fight this is on the facts, even as Dan has and doubtless will continue to do. We should do no less.

    1. reasonbeing from Rochester, MN, United States Post author

      Great point Loren. The key thing is to attack the religion and religious ideas and not people. We will never get far attacking individual people. As you point out, religion is so much a part of who they are, there is no way for them to not take it personally. It is highly unlikely that people will be swayed away from any belief while in that mental position.

  2. @HumanistTweeter from United Kingdom

    It's a very strange world we live in when our self-proclaimed 'most loving' people see an honest criticism of their interpretation of scripture as abhorrent, and yet cheer along a pipsqueak of a man suggesting that millions of men and women be encased in an electric fence and left to die. Very strange indeed.

    1. reasonbeing from Rochester, MN, United States Post author

      The fact that they do not see the irony of that is stunning. I am a married homosexual male who is sick and tired of this issue. If we remove religion from the equation this becomes a non-political issue. It would still be an issue to some folks in my opinion, but more along the lines that racism is today. Anti-homosexuality is nothing more than religious bigotry and it needs to be called out as such.

  3. SeattleKim from Kent, WA, United States

    I belong to a progressive church. The United Church of Christ is full of people who not only agree with Dan, but are working hard to promote tolerance and equality among all people. I totally agree that it is very ironic that many "Christians" fully believe that being LGBT is an unredeemable sin. That is bullshit. I believe that Jesus opened the Kingdom of Heaven to everyone. No exception. All are welcome, all are beloved children of God and nobody is better than anyone else. That includes athiests and those of other faiths. And yes, there are parts of the Bible that we ignore, recognizing that culture and customs of the time made their way into the Bible, and that culture and customs change. The big mandate is to love your neighbor as yourself. That doesn't change, and there are a whole lot of "Christians" who are not following that little gem.

    I would be happy to invite Dan to preach in our pulpit any Sunday, with our blessing. Lets see how the fundies react to a Christian Church embracing Dan's message. Insecurity takes many forms, and it is well represented in in many churches.

  4. RonWatts from Swan River, MB, Canada

    Supporting Dan Savage is a must. While controversial, advice in his column has been welcomed by many. Attacking religion is not of interest to me, though. Science, young as it is, offers much better information than any religious texts. One of the most pervasive statements made in science, whatever the branch of science, is diversity. Not just one of anything really, whether cats or grass or continents or molecules, there are many versions of everything and human behavior follows this example. We don't all mate the same way. In fact , we don't all mate and this has no adverse effect on the population numbers. The huge spike in population in recent years leads me to think it quite reasonable for even more people not to mate, and that our erotic behaviours become even more diverse. For a segment of our population to think they perform human sexuality the "right" way, and that others , the "wrong" way just ignores the facts of diversity.

    1. reasonbeing from Rochester, MN, United States Post author

      Thank you for your insightful comment Ron. As an atheist activist I do view attacking religion as worthwhile for many reasons. Sexuality is one prong of my "attack" so to speak. However, you are correct in pointing out that it is not the only way to fight for sexual equality. Furthermore, I welcome the idea of collaboration between anti-religion folks like myself and people who are not so much into that, as yourself. Equality and for diversity is what matters here. The different methods that we take to achieve that end are less important to me than winning that equality. As for my larger purpose of opposing religion…winning the sexual rights battle moves me one step closer…Thanks for stopping by. I much appreciate it and appreciate your taking the time to comment.


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