Choking on a Smile

The leader of the Liberal Democrats, Tim Farron, was asked to clarify his views on homosexuality. Mr Farron, who says he’s a Christian, was asked if he thought homosexuality was a sin. He chose not to answer immediately, then did answer. This is how Christopher Hope put it:

‘Tim Farron has finally clarified his view on gay sex after admitted that it had come a distracting “issue” for his general election campaign. The Liberal Democrat leader said in a BBC interview that gay sex is not a sin, after five days of pressure to clarify his stance on the issue. Mr Farron had faced criticism for days for failing to answer questions about his position on homosexuality. Mr Farron refused to say four times in an interview with Channel 4 News last week whether he believed being gay was a sin.’

The most interesting story is missed.

Consider the debate between writers Andrew Sullivan and Douglas Wilson on the question of same-sex marriage. Douglas Wilson is significantly Christian. Andrew Sullivan claims to be a Catholic while being significantly homosexual.

In their debate it was asked of Wilson what his position would be if, for instance, his son told him he was gay. Sullivan – after Wilson offered the slippery ‘hate the sin, love the sinner’ line, asked an odd question. (The question was odd because if Sullivan is a Christian, one wonders why he didn’t already know the answer to a question which relates directly to his own sexuality.)

He asked Wilson:

‘What if he said “I’m gay and I’ve never had any sex with any other man”? What sin did he commit?’

Wilson replied:

‘I don’t believe that homosexual orientation is a sin.’

This reasoning should be obvious as sitting under the ‘hate the sin, love the sinner’ line. Wilson’s reasoning seems to come straight from the Bible, specifically Leviticus (20:13) which states:

 “If a man practices homosexuality, having sex with another man as with a woman, both men have committed a detestable act. They must both be put to death, for they are guilty of a capital offense.”

It is plain that homosexual acts are the problem. This formulation gives the Christian (if they know their Bible) the ‘get out’ clause which allows them to state, no, they do not think ‘being gay’ is a sin.

This is why the fuss made about Tim Farron is missing the point.

Why didn’t Farron immediately state that ‘being gay’ isn’t a sin? Why refuse, four times in an interview, to answer this question using the get-out clause above? It would have ended things right there.

Days later, he says that ‘being gay’ isn’t a sin – something the significantly Christian Douglas Wilson knew straight away.

Why didn’t Farron close the entire line of questioning down immediately by saying the same thing? It was Farron’s refusal to answer which got the press excited. By the time he popped up saying ‘being gay’ isn’t a sin, the hounds have worked out that isn’t the same thing as homosexual acts being sins, which is why the hounds sharpened their question to ask about ‘gay sex’.

And now Farron has been forced to state that he doesn’t think ‘gay sex’ is a sin, when the Christian book states it is. What of Farron’s position now?

Is he lying about his views to avoid being battered by the press as a homophobe? Would a professional politician do that? If he would, what does that say about his Christian convictions?

And the answer to that might be why Farron didn’t immediately play the sin/sinner card to begin with.

Image result for mr wickham

A Toasted Mind

Peter Hitchens thinks cannabis is a dangerous drug which could make those who use it violent. He might be right about that. There should be an enquiry. Who wouldn’t want one?

The desire to die seems to me to be one of the most interesting things about many of these attacks. Why don’t we focus more on this desire? Do we consider the doer’s death incidental?

The IRA didn’t have this tendency. IRA murderers wanted to remain alive to organise more death and plant more bombs. Were many or most or some of the IRA mass-killers on drugs?

If they were not, then it is clear acts of mass violence and murder are possible *without* the killer being made unhinged by chemicals, thus posing the question how relevant is the drug-use in some of the latest lunatics’ behaviour? Maybe it’s very relevant. Maybe it’s not.

If many of the IRA were on drugs, then those IRA persons are strong evidence that one can be a deranged lunatic who is happy to murder and torture without wanting to die themselves.

Suicide is a serious business. To want to die is to want something which runs counter to hundreds of millions of years of evolution and natural selection. What could make a person happy to die?

A person might be happy to die because they think that, after their death, they will continue to be alive. On a religious worldview, killing yourself is no more than jumping a stream.

The murders these maniacs do is one thing, but that they all seem to be happy to die is possibly more important because there’s no mystery to humans being violent.

Why should a person, whose mind is affected by drugs (or ideology or both) become violent and want to hurt others?

Why is violence what surfaces, instead of a desire to go brass-rubbing or flower-arranging?

Could it be that the drugs don’t make a person violent? Might the drugs allow the latent violence to surface? (This is not a distinction without a difference.)

Human beings are animals: evolved creatures like any other. We are naturally savage and violent. It is civilisation which is unnatural. Good manners and central-heating don’t grow under rocks.

Stanley Milgram showed just how easy it is to get us to hurt others. It takes almost no effort to get humans to press other humans’ arms down on electrified plates, or flick switches to administer electric shocks.

(I challenge any ‘believer’ to read Milgram’s famous work on obedience to authority. It explains how the Nuremberg defence is, er, a genuine defence…The book will ruin the life of whoever reads it by completely destroying their romanticism about ‘evil’. And once ‘evil’ goes then its opposite follows…)

Violence is natural in humans.  Milgram showed we become torturers with shocking ease.

Willingness to die is the interesting thing about these attacks.

Why did the IRA have no suicide policy?

The Conversion Con

The word ‘conversion’, when it refers to switching religion, is absurd and pretentious. It is absurd because the word connotes the changing of one thing into another via a complicated and technical process – and that is what makes it pretentious. Nothing complicated or technical happens.

I mean to say, take a second to consider the self-importance of this ‘process.’

A person has faith that the universe was created be an all-powerful and benevolent supernatural power: an actual being which exists independent of their mind. This could be a faith they have held for many years and have, perhaps, told other humans they ‘knew in their heart’ that God was real and speaking to them. Their internal, physiological sensations were considered ‘evidence’ of and for this ‘truth.’ Perhaps for many years they attended a particular place of worship and were an active member of their congregation – perhaps working in the community on behalf of their church or mosque.

Then – and the reasons for this choice are irrelevant – they decided to ‘convert’ to another religion. What actually happens? What does the convert actually do?

Well, they need to take ‘instruction’ in their new belief. For example, if an Anglican decides to ‘convert’ to Catholicism he might need to know about the transubstantiation and consubstantiation, for example. There will be differing points of theology to study, maybe, and – generally speaking – there will be certain ‘this is how we do things here’ lessons to learn. In short – the whole process is a piece of outward showmanship and internal self-delusion.

It matters not one jot how much ‘instruction’ the convert accepts, they cannot escape one simple, devastating fact. They have to stop believing in something they previously believed. Quite why this doesn’t seem to bother them I don’t know.

It might be because the absurdity of what they have done is masked by the technical implications in the word ‘conversion.’ They don’t say they have stopped believing in one religion and started believing in another, or that one belief has been dropped and another been taken up. That would suggest the dropping of their original belief was easy to do, that it had not much substance to begin with.

To know how ridiculous the notion of religious ‘conversion’ is, do what most thinking people do when testing an idea. Apply the idea to another situation and see if it looks stupid.

A Newcastle United fan is, for whatever reason, disenchanted by his club. He wishes to ‘convert’ from Newcastle United to Sunderland FC.

Perhaps he might need to visit Sunderland’s sacred ground, learn of the club’s history and its most famous players; the club’s victories and defeats and so on. Perhaps, after showing interest in these things, he is allowed to join the Sunderland supporters club and then is finally accepted into the Sunderland congregation. He has converted – all praise the beautiful game!

Has he ‘converted’? Would he describe himself as a ‘convert’? Would his former comrades in black and white call him a ‘convert’ do you think? He would be called a traitor to his faith, his religion, the cause – or whatever football fans call the emotional, loyalty-based trickery which the corporate clubs use to take their money.

(What I find hilarious is that there is no chance that a NUFC would ever go over to Sunderland. But a Newcastle FC loving Anglican could easily become a Catholic without fuss. Football or God – which is the stronger faith?)

Religious ‘conversion’ – that it happens and is called what it is – is all one needs to know about the tissue-thin ‘faith’ a person purports to have. That they can drop it, that they can take up a different version of it – or swap religions altogether – is absolute proof that many faith-holders are simply deluding themselves about what they believe and about how important it is in their lives. More importantly, that other faiths allow converts to come over means the faiths themselves are doing no more than fighting for market-share.

No doubt many faith-holders would bleat that the process is ‘painful’ or they ‘grappled with their conscience’ – or something similar because they wish to give the impression of an emotional or psychological struggle. Don’t believe a word of it. This sort of language is to give weight to what is no more than a ‘drop one, pick up another’ move. At its root, that is all that happens.

The religious know they are deluding themselves, they know how irrational what they believe is. The ceremonial song and dance routine, wrapped up in technical language like ‘conversion’ and prettified with peacock-feathers and fake struggle – is the way that the rest of us can see their ‘religious conviction’ for what it is.