At last; a real Christian.

And of course, you too Kim in Portland.
Excellent. Please just repost this every time you hear from a buttsore christian about any matter whatsoever.
I live a block away from that church. My wife was born into the United church and I was born Catholic. Like most educated, independently minded adults we abandoned religion the second we got away from our parents. This is the real problem - the moderate churches are hemorrhaging members - while the radical hard core ones are growing.
This was a really good and well thought response Richard thanks. As a Christian and a gay man I this really resonates with me.
Here's the thing: There should be a Christian area of the "It Gets Better" channel, to encourage those Christians to keep fighting within their organizations to oust the homophobes.

We have to reach out to those who would defend the honor of LGBT's everywhere and let them know that their actions are valued and they will eventually win this fight if they keep it up. Just like slavery in the 1800s, just like interracial marriage, women's sufferage and segregation.

Let's drive the bigots into the closet!
It would be lovely if you could post a video to ItGetsBetter page saying all these things to Christian gay teens, I believe it would work wonders for their peace of mind.
just like fighting any other "ism" out there, if you're not trying to be part of the solution, you're part of the problem. Christian straights who sympathize with this issue, but still sit silently in their churches are supporting the bigots by enjoying their heterosexual privilege.
As a man, I have found that the sin in sex is not who we do it with, it's the irresponsibility in how we use it. Even then, I'm not fit to judge ANYONE else's sins. As a gay man who believes in God, this letter really moved me. Thanks Richard.
What tiare @6 said. Please tag your video with the words "Christian" or "religion" or "God" so it can be found by some kid searching.
Richard, a big thank you for writing such a well thought out letter. Your words are greatly appreciated.

Don't ministers go to Pugatory for saying "pissed off"?

That was sweet.
Surprised (disappointedY Dan had no comment.
These were the Christians I was raised by, too. But when your parents found a breakaway catholic community called Vedanta, plan the liturgy, have renegade hippie priests celebrate mass until they leave the priesthood, and perform the transfiguration themselves when no priest would come, God was Love, not Judgement, and the Bible was metaphorical. Until puberty, I had no idea that intolerance existed in Christianity.
ditto 14
Yeah, the problem is that people who are LGBT supportive don't have much need for 'church' in their lives.
No comment was necessary from Dan because this is the nature of the world. The haters are always fired up. The lovers are basking languidly in the warm bath of good feelings. And while I'm glad the minister wrote in, he pretty much throws in the towel even while promising to do what he and his congregants feel able to do:
It hurts to recognize that. It hurts even more to know that our voice is always going to be drowned out by the majority of our Christian siblings. Because we don't have the numbers or the money...
Dan's earlier point is that the right-wing extremists have been collecting the microphones and the booty in front of their podiums for decades; they didn't start out with all the resources and credibilty.

It's why the arc of the moral universe is so bloody long, and why its curvature toward justice is often indistinguishable from a straight line pointed at oblivion.
I read somewhere once that the reason America has clung to religion while Europeans simply see church as a place to get a birth registered and a child educated is because our First Amendment didn't just free up church from state, it created a religious "marketplace" - if you didn't like it one place, you go to the next. Eventually, new religions sprang up and all sorts of ungodly interstate-side "mega church" stadiums ... whereas in Europe, the state monopolies let the ancient faiths rot on the vine.

Sometimes competition is a good thing; sometimes it is not.
@17: See, as someone who isn't religious and has never regularly attended church even while young, I think churches have a lot of potential and offer a lot of good things. I like the idea of a community of people getting together and working on community service and social justice. I like the organization of volunteers to help community members through illness or death or life events. I like the idea of having a place to take kids where they can learn to sit quietly for a bunch of time every week. I like the idea of hearing some uplifting motivational speech every week and having coffee and pastries afterwards and hanging out with people. All these things are good, yet I don't want to get religion to have them.

I've found that volunteer organizations that meet regularly offer a lot of the same benefits, but it would be nice to have something like this that brought in a wider range of ages and interests. I've considered becoming a Unitarian, but even that seems too faith-based for me, and I don't like the idea of vaguely accepting everyone's beliefs as valid when, frankly, I don't. Someone should start some kind of Humanist Community Service Group and Uplifting Debate Salon.
@ 19, said "religious marketplace" existed well before the Declaration of Independence, never mind the Bill of Rights. Our separation of church and state was a result of that, not the other way around.
Thanks for your heart felt message Richard. With all the press that the bigoted right-wing conservative American christians get it is refreshing to see a message of peace and love.
The problem with mainstream conservative churches is the same problem with most of society: Too many people don't want to think for themselves. They want to be told "this is right," "this is wrong," "this is good," and "this is bad," etc. If people thought through issues instead of just believing what they've been spoon fed, there wouldn't be so many problems.

But in too many ways we have a lazy society that can't be bothered to think about truth, justice and kindness. They want to be told what their opinion is so they can just go with it and not have to do any "hard" thinking for themselves.
+1 Rev. Bott - Peace be with you.
From what I've read the problem with liberal churches is that they lose members because they usually demand little of their members. It's sort of anti-intuitive, but churches that demand more sacrifice, more adjustments of lifestyle and a greater proportion of your life taken up with the church, are much better at getting and keeping members. Conservative churches are much more likely to be deeply involved in the lives of their members, but it's not a conservative specific thing. Churches that lean left but are also demanding of members, like those dedicated to social justice, also earn and keep members.

I'm in the god is an imaginary friend crowd, but I'd sure rather deal with Rev. Bott than Rev. Eddie Long.
People are far more committed to hate & blame than tolerance and acceptance (even here on this post, where people love to blame) To be accepting, you have to accept yourself, and own your own shit, like Mr. Bott does. It's not easy, and most people would rather sit back and say it's "all those awful Christians/bigots/gays, etc. It's not me, I'm wonderful & good."
A big high five and thank you to Rev. Bott for his honesty. And Richard, actions do speak louder than words. It's just really unfortunate that some can't or won't listen.

You da man, peace!
Meh. Who cares in the end. By professing a religion you're still and always will be part of the problem.
As a gay atheist, I only have this to say:

Wow! You made my (Sun)day.
That was a nice read on a sunday morning. Thank you Rev. Richard Bott.
@28 - When you ask for all or nothing, you inevitably get nothing, doofus
I wish the It Gets Better channel on youtube had a separate religion section. There is a video by a young Muslim kid who came out recently and is accepted by his family. I know quite a few gay Muslims in very bad situations and I know that that particular video would be helpful to them and people like them but the video is pretty much buried at this point. Yes, quite a few young educated adults will abandon religion but quite a few, like myself, feel a degree of loyalty to their communities. Anyway, I am glad to see that tolerant and good religious people are speaking out even if it is in a smaller voice than the intolerant loud ones.
PS, hi everyone.

long time lurker, first time poster.
31: it is religion itself that is the problem, not just the "extremists." Go ahead and support "moderates" like Mr. Bott if you must; some day you'll have to oppose them as well. Just because his particular interpretation of what "the guy" "demands" of us happens to align with your point of view doesn't make his beliefs any more just or right or sensible or sustainable:

“While religious moderates don’t fly planes into buildings, or organize their lives around apocalyptic prophecy, they refuse to deeply question the preposterous ideas of those who do. Moderates neither submit to the real demands of scripture nor draw fully honest inferences from the growing testimony of science. In attempting to find a middle ground between religious dogmatism and intellectual honesty, it seems to me that religious moderates betray faith and reason equally.”
~Sam Harris
#34: right on, Dingo. Thanks for the Harris quote.
to all the other christians out there...
see ?..was that so frickin hard ?
thanks rev bott.
@34 - Way to dodge the actual comment directed your way, doofus.
The liberal, loving Christians have always been there. Many of them even saw the problem. They just didn't do anything when they needed to.

Of those of us who could have fought and made a difference, many left, fed up with the bigotry and pundits.

But the church didn't go away. It just became more and more conservative. Over the years I've realized that leaving was a mistake. I should have stayed and fought.

Now I've gone back, but I feel like I'm the only one standing up and speaking out. I know I'm not, but we don't seem to have much of a voice.

This is why posts like this from Dan are so important, they give voice to the movement for change.
Hi tazzo @32 & 33, glad to see you posting.

"And because the guy who said, "Love one another as I have loved you," would demand it of us."

What would the world be like if ANY of the "mainstream" spokespersons for Christianity - Palin, Perkins, Roberts, Falwell, etc. - ever abided that simple idea.
I agree with gember @20: When you distill the important messages of Christianity (love, acceptance, forgiveness), and dispense with the harmful nonsense (selling daughters into slavery, calling homosexuality an "abomination"), you are basically left with a group of like-minded people who enjoy socializing and doing volunteer work together. You don't need a church for those things, there's far too much that has to be rationalized...imho.
Thank you. After spending an evening with a few liberal, intelligent, but stubbornly homophobic people, this is what I needed to hear.
I don't buy it, Richard. You have A LOT MORE to do before I feel your "hurt." How about you move past hurt to anger, and in the style of your main dude, throw the homophobes out. As long as you support an institution that condemns us gay folk, then you are in the wrong camp. Are you preaching as you are writing to us here? Are you yanking the chains of the ones you report to? Are you teaching your congregation to see through the lies of other Xian types? Words are not enough. Until I see you at least ranting on TV, I'm not impressed. You cannot participate in a hateful group and then say "not me, I didn't do it." You are the group -- not just your church but the larger Xian world.
@37: "In defense of the New Atheist strategy of creating tension and making atheism visible we have a body of research on advertising that shows that repetition and ubiquity are essential for mainstreaming an idea. We have the historical examples of social movements that changed the zeitgeist by ignoring the people urging caution, and by working around the people whose value systems put them in opposition to their goals. We know that hostility towards atheists was at a fever pitch well before the NA's arrived on the scene, a time during which accommodationist arguments were common but vocal atheism was not. And we have the all-important verdict of common sense, which says that you don't mainstream your view by getting down on your knees and pleading with people to treat you nicely."

-Jason Rosenhouse…

When you repeatedly show that "All" actually makes sense, whilst "Nothing" is demonstrably fucking retarded, you actually get people to shift their beliefs more rapidly and more closely to "All" than with strident accommodation for stupid fucking ideas.
@20: your "Humanist Community Service Group and Uplifting Debate Salon" exists under the name of the Ethical Culture Society. It was never my thing, but if you're serious about wanting a secular humanist organization, that's where to go.
Actually, lewlew,

He acknowledges his shame. Maybe you missed it. All of us within Christianity share that shame, it is a collective one. It is called guilt by association. Of course, many don't acknowledge it or take offense at being identified with something they know that they haven't personally done. It is my shame, anyway, and I own it. So, I choose to work from within. I don't expect you to pat me on the head, I'd rather hear that I'm still failing you. I'd rather acknowledge both your anger and your pain. I do not take offense on being lumped in with others. I'd much rather say that I am sorry and I'm trying desperately to change things. I'm sorry.

And, no I don't expect you to believe me or trust me either. Actions do speak louder than words.

it sure worked for the NAZIs and Communists

(in your best exaggerated southern belle drawl-)

"At last; a REAL Christian......"





if you girls keep mocking yourselves you'll put the troll out of work
Do homosexuals have any collective shame to feel guilty about?
Wow...... I shouldn't be reading the Slog while the game's on, because now my eyes are all filled up and I can see neither the game nor the computer screen very well....

God Bless all those who carry the true message of the Carpenter in their hearts each day, and God help those whose hearts are still too hardened to understand...
@49 Making straight men look bad on the dance floor, and allowing unregistered comments. I think that pretty much covers it.
I don't mean to pick on a guy who seems to be sincere in his beliefs. BUT: if you acknowledge that the Christian church has more homophobic elements than non-homophobic elements, shouldn't it be obvious that the God who inspired the church is either non-existent, homophobic, or, at best, highly negligent?
@25-- Fact of the matter is, some people feel more confident they're getting a reward in the afterlife if they'd paid their way in in some way shape or form. Because otherwise, they'd just have to hope they've done enough.
@20 - In my city, there is a Secular Humanist group on the campus of the state university that does just that. Interestingly, they are part of the interfaith federation in my city, mainly because it is the best way to tap into larger community service projects and social justice events.

Even more interesting, the interfaith federation welcomes their participation and respects their right not not believe.

I'm one of those liberal, non-homophobic followers of Jesus. I'm also an educated, rational person, who just happens to be a person of faith. I can't explain why, as much as I might try. I just have sense of their being a higher power, and the Christian narrative resonates with me.

At any rate, I've made a firm commitment to stop being on the sidelines in this fight, because it is a matter of social justice and basic human rights. I've seen too many people hurt by people professing to be speaking for God, and I've heard too much crap issuing forth from the mouths of people in my church.

Half of my congregation already hates me for speaking out about other issues, and trying to drag the congregation kicking and screaming into the 90s (the 21st century is a bit much to ask of them right now). I might as well alienate the other half by speaking for those who institutional religion has marginalized.
Best thing on slog in quite a while.

And no sarcastic, caustic comments from Dan.

A win-win.
thou shalt not homophobe.
@43 said
"As long as you support an institution that condemns us gay folk, then you are in the wrong camp. Are you preaching as you are writing to us here? Are you yanking the chains of the ones you report to? Are you teaching your congregation to see through the lies of other Xian types? Words are not enough. Until I see you at least ranting on TV, I'm not impressed. You cannot participate in a hateful group and then say "not me, I didn't do it." You are the group -- not just your church but the larger Xian world."

Lewlew, are you American? If so, then you are part of an extremely fucked-up group, a group that actively promotes murder and terror around the world. Are you yanking the chains of your leaders? Are you spending all your time changing the minds of other Americans? Until I see you ranting on TV, I won't be impressed. You, a taxpayer, *are* the group -- not just your group of friends, but the whole capitalist, war-mongering world. Even if you are not American, as a citizen of whatever country you belong to, you are responsible for all the evil actions of that country.

Of course, I don't believe what I just said. But that seems to be how *you* think. Or do you only think that way when you are putting the blame on someone else? Something tells me you don't take responsibility for the bad deeds of others. Even if they are in "your group."

@46KIP, Yeah that's it. We need to do the work of changing minds in even the most hateful and stagnant congregations of our faith because those hateful stagnant minds are the ultimate sources of pain and oppression of queer people, but we should avoid wallowing in our own glory pointing out how much better we are than "them," because that's "their" argument and not ours.
Dingo, are you saying that only a society without religion is a just society?

And if that is what you are saying, is that all it takes? Get rid of religion, get rid of the problem?

What IS this problem you are referring to? Homophobia, or something more encompassing?
37: I didn't "dodge it." It was a meaningless response to my comment that religion itself is the problem to begin with. As I said, you cannot criticize religion for being inherently bigoted, damaging, superstitious nonsense on one hand and reward the religious for professing interpretations of religion that suit you on the other. Mr. Bott has what seems on the surface a palatable interpretation of the "guy's" "demands" regarding homosexuality. But in the end it doesn't matter: his very belief in the existence of the "guy," his profession as a minister, and his alignment with "Christianity" are precisely the beliefs that are the foundations of religious homophobia, even if he himself isn't a homophobe.

And 61: homophobia is the matter at hand, obviously, but anything that makes a virtue out of the outright denial of human knowledge, as "faith" does, is clearly an undesirable thing.
This is an important conversation and it represents an opportunity for gay-Christians to stand up in their Faith and say enough is enough. If for no other reason that to save innocent children we MUST reverse the negative branding of homosexuality because it is a LIE. Courage means action in the presence of fear, not silence.

Joe's comment above is accurate Deena and it isn't an attack on religion and you don't need to play your over-used "atheist-card." Joe gave an accuarte account of history and you know that.
Christians need to stop apologizing for those "other" Christians and take some responsibility for the continued discrimination of the LGBT community by RELIGION. We need new Christians that reject that lie about homosexuality and we need that NOW.

These ridiculous statements that some people just "use religion to support their bigotry" is intellectually offensive and a fabrication. It is a traditional Christian belief that "homosexuality is wrong" and that should be painfully obvious to anyone who is honest and objective. Stop with the tedious "interpretation" bullshit, just say WE DON'T BELIEVE THAT. Stand up and reject that belief. Individuals, churches and denominations need to SAY IT. Continuing to ignore it makes you an accomplice to discrimination and death. For God's sake - take a stand!

It is time to end the lie about homosexuality. Christians invented that lie, so they need to extinguish it. Who wants to go first?
i find liberal christianity even harder to take then the conservative kind. i mean, sure, i agree with this guy's politics, as a non-asshole that's a given. but why does he think that the magical fairy pony rainbow jesus is any more of a "real" thing then the WARKILLDEATH jesus? it's all a bunch of made up nonsense for people who can't handle the world as it actually presents itself to us. and given his politics, he has less of an excuse to waste his time and brainpower on some ridiculous belief system made up by terrible ignorant people.

so, yeah dude, i appreciate the kind words but to couch it in terms of your b.s. doesn't make the b.s. smell any better.
You evangelical atheists are idiots. Get past your arrogant, "if you weren't so stupid you would be an atheist like me" to see what is actually important here.

The goal of the It Get's Better Project is to save the lives of kids-certainly a more important goal than spreading atheism. This minister isn't preaching-he's trying to practice the words "Love your neighbor as yourself". His goal is admirable whether one believes the source of the words is divine or not.
I really like the idea of a "Christian" section in the IGBP.
#62 - It's not meaningless, it's very important. Try using that gray stuff between your ears and you'll see why.

Of course, blowhards aren't usually capable of understanding any point other than the one they themselves love to beat to death, so I don't know why I bother.
It's not only meaningless, it's the worst sort of creeping, toady, spineless apologetics there is.
@18 -- yeah, I had the same thought

@40 -- I consider that THE most subversive and radical sentence ever -- contemplating the full array of demands it actually makes is nothing short of stunning. And I'm atheist.

@51 -- Dangit! My drink!
@69 Never read Slog with a full drink in just never know... :)
@70 I know, I know *le sigh* But the thread had been so nicely serious up until then! I was lulled into false complacency, I tell you!
@62 - "anything that makes a virtue out of the outright denial of human knowledge, as "faith" does, is clearly an undesirable thing."

Well, yeah, creationism is stupid, for example. Then again, my intense experience of, say, Bach on the pipe organ is a feeling that I can only describe as mystical. I'm not denying any human knowledge. I am simply experiencing something so complex it's beyond explanation. To me, that experience is religious. I have no dogma nor scripture; I don't care whether god exists or not; yet I am a religious person because of the way I interpret my experience. My religion, such as it is, sure as hell doesn't make me susceptible to homophobia, nor deny the general theory of relativity, etc. It does sharpen my ability to think clearly, to grow, and to be compassionate towards others.

I think you are making the same mistake that creationists and religious homophobes are making: a) taking scripture literally and b) thinking that science and religion negate each other. Science and religion have nothing to do with each other. They're different realms. It's perfectly possible to have an imaginary friend and to be a very good scientist. You can know every fact in the universe and that itself might make you believe in god because it's all so fucking mind-blowing.

My point is, who cares if some people are religious? Why are you and others here attacking their religiosity? That's just pointless to me. Attack homophobia, yes! Demand that Christians work more vocally to help defeat homophobia within their ranks, sure! But to blame homophobia entirely on religion is silly, and to spend your energy accusing all religious people of being "part of the problem" is counterproductive. I'll bet you Communist Russia was plenty homophobic in all its lovely atheism.

And as for Mr. Bott, if he chooses to project all his best humanity, his sense of love and justice, onto Jesus, and say that it's because of Jesus that he does the best he can, well I say let him. For all I can tell, he's doing good work, and in terms of compassion and moral courage, he's miles ahead of some atheists posting here.
Hey, all... I'm the letter writer. Many thanks to Dan for believing that the letter was important to share with his readers.

For the many words of encouragement, thank you.

Some responses...

@6 - tiare (et al!) - I will take your suggestion of posting a video to the ItGetsBetter page to heart, and ask others from my congregations and other affirming congregations to consider doing the same.

@18 - rob, I hope I'm not throwing in the towel. I don't think I am. The Christians with whom I'm working will keep working and, I believe, will help more people to stand up against the hate.

@28 - Dingo, I don't want to put words into your mouth, so let me check this one - would it be fair to say that from your perspective anything that has a religious connection is tainted It doesn't matter what religionists do to try and help positive change happen in the world, the fact that it comes out of a faith-base automatically screws it up?

If I've read that right, there's not much that I can say that'll make a difference... but let me toss one thing into the mix. You'll never hear me try and convince you that my path - this whole progressive/liberal/whatever Christianity is the way for anybody other than me. It's *my* way. Works for *me* (most of the time.) Even as a minister, I have no desire to convince you - or anyone else - that it's the way you have to live your life. You want to discuss, explore, chat - that's cool... but I don't ever want you to have to believe what I believe.

What I hope we can do is work together on the things upon which we can work together - you out of your perspective on life, the universe and everything; and me out of mine. There are going to be places we disagree. But, on those places where we *can* work together... why not?

The other thing - I realize now that when I wrote that last line, "And because the guy who said, 'Love one another as I have loved you,' would demand it of us," I left the pronoun ambiguous. The "us" was meant to refer to my Christian co-religionists. I apologize for not making that clearer.

#43 - lewlew - I think Kim said it best, "I don't expect you to believe me or trust me." There's little that Christians in general (especially when I watch some of the Christian pundits on Fox or CNN) and nothing that I have said or done that is deserving of your trust.

To respond to your questions: the words that I wrote to Dan are words that I have put in front of the congregations with whom I have been called to serve. Our congregation has celebrated same-sex marriages since they have been legal in British Columbia (and I believe celebrated Same-sex covenants before the legal question was settled, here.) Within my denomination (and in conversation with other denominations) I've yanked chains. And lewlew, I'll rant anywhere I get the opportunity... including when I meet with representatives of other churches. I'm not sure if you'll ever see me on TV - partially because I know there are better voices against heterosexism in my denomination, and partially because I'm north of the 49th parallel - I don't think any of the stations in the US would be particularly interested in hearing the challenges of a Canuck.

I *am* part of the problem - so I had better bloody well be part of the solution.

@52 - Brett... we could get into a wonderfully involved discussion about that one! I think my short-form answer would be that I see the church as a human institution - and like all institutions created and maintained by human beings, it's royally screwed up. I think many of the (human!) cultural teachings have been perpetuated by uncritical exploration of scripture. For me, it's the human parts that need a lot of work. Then, again... I may simply be totally delusional.

@55 - Sheryl - one of the central working documents of my denomination (The United Church of Canada) is entitled "Mending the World". We believe we need to engage in that work with others - of whatever belief structure - faith-based, humanist, whatever. It's good to hear that there are other groups trying to do the same.

@43 - Rev Dr DJ Riz - Amen! *grin*

@60 - John - If I start to wallow, I hope someone will give me a good swift kick, as fast as possible. That's part of the reason that I've enjoyed reading Dan's words. They're challenging in a way that doesn't let me rest.

@63 - AndrewW - I DON'T BELIEVE THAT HOMOSEXUALITY IS WRONG. Period. (I'll follow that up with religious arguments like interpretation with my co-religionists (hey, Dan, I kind of like that phrase), but when it comes down to brass tacks, that's it.)

Damn. I talked too much again. Shutting up now.

Christ's peace - r
@73 thanks for your further comments. all that said even tho i agreed w/ @18's comment, i'd rather far more christians were of your kind than what we usually get. love one another as i have loved you is world changing -- if it ever actually caught on.
How many times has Richard Bott written an email to hard right Christians who shout out about the death of gays or 'love the sinner, hate the sin' freaks ??

Thanks for the dose of sanity, Dingo.
You know what, though? I was thinking about this & for every LGBT youth/adult that Bott's church connects with & supports, is a win. And that billboard (in the original pictures of his church) is a pretty damn big poke in the eye of any homophobe driving past.
Here's the thing, if we are going to argue in terms of the Bible and what God wants, then the haters win. Objectively, there is no way to know which Biblical interpretation is correct. While it might feel better to listen to this guy's views, the fact remains that more people seem to like the hater Christians' views more. So if appeals to the Bible are enough justification for your attitude towards gay people, than the haters are as justified as the allies.

There's no way to claim that one religious view is more correct than another. If we accept "because God says" or "because the Bible says" we're just getting back to an earlier era in Christian history when various Christian sects would war it out over what is the true Christianity.

No thanks. I don't need to participate in that kind of bullshit. How many goddamn threads have we filled up with competing religious views and arguing over what God and Jesus really want? Fuck that. It isn't helpful.
@62 I think it's easier to make people of religious faith pro-gay than it is to make them atheist.
However, I agree that when people see texts as divinely inspired, they create fundamentalists that we all have to fight.

@73 Please do make a video. You may not get on the teevee much, but the Youtubes ain't too shabby these days.
@ Richard Bott - you are an eloquent, measured and passionate advocate. Viewed within one frame of reference, your actions and words have unquestionably done good in the world. For those things I respect you.

That said, it seems clear that you believe a few things to be capital-T "True":

(1) That there is a god -- a supreme being who has consciousness, created the universe and takes an interest in human beings.

(2) That a human being who lived a couple of thousand years ago was in some way either the son of that god or an aspect of him/her/it.


(3) That the words and actions of that human being allow us today, if we look at them correctly, to get closer to more capital-T "Truths".

Am I correct that you believe those things to be true? If so, I believe that in the broader frame of reference, you are and will always be doing harm. Why should I, or anyone else, believe that YOUR intrepretation of the words and actions of this human being/son of god/prohet are right, while all those other folks out there, the ones who say that the derived "truth" means that homosexuals will burn in hell, among other wonderful things, are wrong?

Everyone has a right to believe whatever they want to believe. That does not mean that every fact that every person "believes" in is worthy of the same respect as every other. I can believe that god created the world in a week a few thousand years ago and for whatever reason chose to sprinkle his/her/its creation with millions of telltale signs that something else entirely happened. I can believe that a flying blob of spaghetti reached down its noodly appendage and did all the same. I can believe that George W. Bush had the best interests of humanity and the United States in mind when he chose to invade Iraq. I can believe that Paz de la Huerta has a really nice rack. People may believe all these things with equal fervor, but one of them is more likely to be true than the others.

Without some common frame of reference in which to discuss and test the likely truth of these matters, we cannot really even start a discussion. Once you restrict your frame of reference by saying "no matter what the evidence may say, I believe X," the discussion is really at an end.
Props to this church:

I am not even going to address the issue of the legitimacy of religion :-/ As an atheist, I know very well how people will cling to their beliefs, regardless of arguments and reasoning to the contrary. Nudging them in a less violent and destructive direction seems to me more doable, especially if I can use their own materials (eg the Bible) do do such nudging...
As a Christian who spends a lot of time being embarrassed by other Christians, it's nice to see one who makes me proud.

Rev. Bott, you make me proud to be a Christian. Thank you, and God bless.
I'm sure we've all moved on by this point, but since I have been accused of being the dirtiest, smelliest, hairiest kind of ape there is, I will try to explain where I am coming from. Here's my logic:

-The impulse to religion is hard-wired into the human brain. It's a sanity buffer; keeps the inherent meaninglessness of all things at bay. Even people who aren't expressly religious our who don't believe in god - like myself - still use little paralogical faith-based workarounds to answer the question "Why should I get up this morning?"

-Religionists, moved by their faith, have been responsible for some of mankind's most stunning achievements. I'm thinking basically everyone from Bach to MLK. It is a powerful engine for inspiration, selflessness, and collective action. WHEN DEPLOYED PROPERLY.

-You are telling someone who wants to deploy this unavoidable and useful force in a productive way to fuck off because his beliefs are ridiculous. I will bet my bottom dollar that your beliefs are ridiculous, too. Your belief that we will wake up one morning and humanity will suddenly turn into a bunch of rational actors is -certainly- ridiculous.

Finally, on the subject of all or nothing; if the entire history of the 20th century isn't enough to convince you that fanaticism is bad news, I don't know what to tell you, kid.
While not every Christian lives this way or knows it to be true, the Bible actually encourages us to...

1) Be accepting of all people (even if that does not mean affirming all elements of their lifestyles).

2) Think rationally and critically, weigh evidence, and use our brains as we ascertain truth.

3) Do both of these things as we engage the world.

So many people here seem to think that the Christian claim is plainly false. It surely could be false, but without an intelligent reason to believe that atheism is true (or whatever your truth claim is), you're being just as closed-minded as you think Christians are. There's plenty of Christians out there who argue with kindness for the truth of their views using the full battery of scientific and philosophical evidence available. Search YouTube for debates with William Lane Craig or try "apologetics" on iTunes. Truth ought to trump our opinions, no matter how tightly we hold them. Do you have a good reason for believing what you think is true?
Thank you, Richard Bott, for proving that not all Christians are bigots.

A side note to those who say that religion is always going to be part of the problem. First, do you base your understanding of reality entirely on science? If so, then remember that "science" was used by Nazis to legitimize the Third Reich, science lead to the atomic bomb and most forms of warfare, and "science" was (and still is) used to legitimize the repression of women. While I don't think that we should ignore the evidence for evolution, or the many benefits that science has granted us, I think that we should recognize that most "belief systems" that we use to organize our perception of reality often have biases and cause greater problems that we may initially think. Science is not the objective solution to everything, nor is religion the only way to perceive the world. Both can create an environment for human compassion or human suffering, and I think that more people need to not ignore the history of scientific abuse.
I LOVE this, and you, Richard Bott.

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