Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Disbelief: On homosexuality, heaven, and epistemology

This is based off a forum post where I asked about how a Mother can be happy and tearless in Heaven while her homosexual son (intended just to give an example) is suffering eternally in Hell. I was asked:
Are you claiming there are no (former) homosexuals in heaven?
I'm not making that claim but a vast number of Christians (and especially Catholics) do.

I wouldn't make such claims because I don't believe in a 'heaven' nor a 'hell' nor a 'god' - I used to believe such things because I was inculcated with those beliefs as a child. Then I learned about Islam, Judaism, Zoroastrianism, Hellenism, Hinduism (esp the case of Sri Sathya Sai Baba), Sikhism, Shinto, Jainism (I really liked that one), Bahá'í, Cao Ðài, Cheondoism, Tenrikyo, Wicca, Rastafari, Scientology, Eckankar, Raëlism. I learned about how divided even just Christians are on hundreds of important theological points (with some 33,000 some-odd sects of just Christianity, thousands of those are very deep divisions). They can't even agree on the Trinity (see Arius, et al.). Yes, you call them Heresy and they call your beliefs Heresy and there is no evidence upon which to decide << this is the fundamental issue.

I learned about history and the role religion often plays in promulgating prejudices -- such as those today against those who don't share your normative sexuality or aren't gender binary; our gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgendered, queer, (and many others on the spectrum) fellow human beings who suffer emotional damage, physical violence, and a denial of fair and equal treatment under our laws, all at the hands of the small-minded. All based on ignorance and a fear that appeals to scripture as did Reverend Richard Fuller when he summed up the Christian position on Slavery in 1845: “What God sanctioned in the Old Testament, and permitted in the New, cannot be a sin”.

I read Martin Luther's "On The Jews And Their Lies", I read about the racism, slavery, and violence of the Vatican (and Islam, and many others) and I saw the result that played out as human populations rose, our technology for mass murder advanced but our ability to communicate and to know what was happened lagged behind -- by the end of it, some 200 million people enslaved, slaughtered, their culture destroyed and the 'survivors' emotionally destroyed. Africans and the natives through the islands of the Americas, the Aztec and Mayan people in South America, and the natives of North America. Virtually wiped out, not merely decimated. And it was largely a Christian people who did that, largely under the 'authority' of the Spanish Requerimiento and doctrine of Manifest Destiny.

But let me be clear, I DO NOT BLAME religion, per se, (see link)

But religions did drive this exceptionalism, and the moral failures that underpin it are coded right in the Torah, the Bible, and the Quran. If you would put God before your own child, if you would sacrifice your own child for God, what wouldn't you do if you believed God sanctioned it? If Christianity cannot get slavery right, what moral authority can it possibly offer? [and while I sure hope you are against slavery now, that doesn't account for the ~1400 years it was practiced openly by Christians nor the textual basis to which Rev. Fuller refers]

I also studied the sciences and philosophy, especially epistemology. How do we come to beliefs and knowledge? Critical question isn't it? Faith? You have but to look at the list of failed deities and religious to understand that this kind of Faith is a failed methodology.

So what has worked? Science? No, more fundamental -- removing known sources of factual error, removing known sources of cognitive biases, and removing known sources of illogic from our conclusions. Evidence is the only way we have to distinguish between competing claims. And it MUST come from our collective efforts - no single individual can know enough or be careful enough, this is the foundation of Peer-review, without which we fail (demonstrably) in the fundamentals of removing error, bias, and illogic.

It is out of these things that science is born. No effort is better for leaving in error, ensuring bias, and applying illogical constructs. It's a self-defeating proposition to assert otherwise, so it is "Self-Evidently" true.

That's my epistemic foundation. And from that I can tell you about a different kind of Faith, a Faith that demands it be held to the highest possible standards of evidence and scrutiny of methodology. A Faith that has proven itself successful in the advancement of knowledge when it is applied with rigour. A Faith that produces a convergence of belief on the evidence rather than a bifurcation of belief based on imaginary musing. It doesn't promise all answers nor pretend to certainty nor guarantee a false emotional security.

That's the kind of Faith I follow. And from it we have walked not on water but on the moon; not cast demons into pigs but cured formerly intractable diseases and increased our knowledge of the neurological underpinnings of mental illness; and fed the multitudes through evolutionary changes in our food supply not magic. We're also still petty, emotionally driven, human beings who suffer deeply from the emotional scars of our past and we do horrific things to each other as a result, but we are slowly getting better.

Superstitious thinking remains the root of much evil in the world and women have borne the brunt of much of it at the hands of men - from sacrificial virgins to the volcano gods to being burned as witches, it is disproportionately women who suffer at the hands of men who would presume to have authority over others.


  1. Thank you once again. This is excellent, clearly stated writing.
    From a recent stint on the Google+ Atheist community (a bit uninteresting) I might state I don't think 60% of the "members of that community" could even comprehend your writing...
    Thanks again for your address...I've been trying to mail you from a yahoo account but for some reason it's messed up. When I do get to mailing you - and it's no big deal, anyway...I suppose it'll have to be from the google address.
    I see that when I comment here it's with the google account anyway...
    I just created some yahoo addresses for alternatives, which probably wasn't that great of an idea...at least now I can be sure I get my daily weekly recommended dosage of TABLOID CRAP.

    1. Really appreciate the feedback & look forward to hearing from you.

      I'm not sure my writing style is as clear as it could be, but I do the best I can :)