Let’s agree not to legislate sin.

yay-10050992I recently stumbled across this blog post from The Atlantic, posted in April of last year, in which a young woman explains her position opposing gay marriage. I always appreciate reading opposing points of view that are written thoughtfully, and I have to commend this young woman for sharing her perspective.  And now I’d like to explain why she’s wrong.

Everyone in the whole world has sinned

The center of her argument is that she believes that homosexuality is a sin as defined in the Bible; but where others stop there, she does go further and acknowledge that even believing that homosexuality is a sin doesn’t mean that she believes that gay people are evil or bad.  Everyone is a sinner.

My belief is that sin is anything that goes against God’s design and His rules. People who don’t believe in sin obviously do not see anything wrong with homosexual behavior and they don’t know why people like me speak out against it, so their reasoning is that what I say must come from hatred.

But if I hated all sinners, I’d hate myself.

There are lots of sins that exist, and in fact, everyone in the whole world has sinned.

I have no interest in making an argument whether or not the Christian Bible does define homosexuality as a sin, although there are certainly a large number of Christians who would happily engage in that debate.  My obvious issue is that the Christian Bible does not define my legal rights.

Do you really want to start legislating sin?

If you really want to start legislating sin, let’s start with the Ten Commandments.  Let’s make it illegal to work on Sunday, to curse (or if you want to be more literal, specifically taking the Lord’s name in vain), or to commit adultery.  Should you have to pay a fine if you are jealous of your neighbor’s boat?  When you are mean to your mother, you spend a couple of nights in lock-up.

That all seems ridiculous, of course.  Even for Christians, sin is a part of life.  Some sins are also crimes, but there are a lot of sins that we know we’re going to end up committing from time to time – and we don’t expect to be arrested, fined or censored for them.

We legislate to protect citizens against acts that damage our society and hurt other people.  Gay marriage hurts no one.

Is it really just semantics?

The young woman in that original blog post did say that she wasn’t sure if maybe government shouldn’t just get out of marriage entirely.  I could argue that no one should be legally “married”, but all couples have a right to a legal commitment that is equal for hetero and homosexual couples.  However, a lot of members of the gay community feel strongly about that word “marriage”.

If it comes down to definitions, can we agree that we define words differently in a biblical sense than in a secular sense?  When you watch American Idol, are you really worshipping a false God?

In the end, if all individuals who are against gay marriage were as well meaning and well reasoned as this young woman, we could have a reasoned discussion and almost certainly end up on common, equal footing.

What Christmas means to this atheist.

I’ve been sitting on this blog post for a couple of weeks now, mostly because I just haven’t had time to finish it.  I’m also working really hard to balance complete honesty with respect.  I don’t want anyone to feel like I’m insulting their beliefs.  The opposite is true, but it’s a fine line.  In the meantime, Chris Stedman said most of the same things – only better.  For your sake, I should just link to his post and stop talking now.

I love Christmas and I celebrate it enthusiastically.  My tree is usually up sometime in early November.  I love buying presents, making cards, writing the family Christmas letter and listening to Christmas music.  I love spending time with my family, watching Holiday Inn on Christmas Eve with my parents, and the quiet cup of coffee Christmas morning before the madness of the day kicks in.

nativityI grew up in a Catholic family, where Christmas meant pageants recreating the birth of Jesus and Christmas Eve Mass – and I loved it.  I loved being in front of the congregation, reading the story of the wise men, Joseph, Mary, the manger and baby Jesus.  I loved the idea of humanity’s savior being born in the most humble of beginnings.  I loved helping to decorate our small church with Christmas flowers.  I loved the ceremony of bringing baby Jesus to the altar and placing him in the manger during Christmas Eve Mass.

And then I went home, crawled into bed and waited for Santa Claus.

I stopped believing in the literal reality of Santa Claus when I was five years old.  I continued to pretend to believe for years after, because it seemed important to my parents and because I enjoyed the myth.  I think I stopped believing in the literal reality of Jesus* a couple of years later, although I continued to pretend to believe for many years after, because it seemed important to my parents and because I enjoyed the myth.

I continue to enjoy both the aspects of Christmas.  I think that Santa Claus is a lovely story that encourages us to spread kindness and joy – and keeps little kids in line when they misbehave.  There are so many random acts of kindness and charity during the holiday season that we attribute to the spirit of Santa Claus.

I also still believe that the story of Jesus’ birth is a lovely story about greatness coming from humble beginnings.  Teachings attributed to Jesus inspire many people to do wonderful things for others.

There are vocal groups of atheists who put up billboards every Christmas to encourage people to give up their religious myths.  I want no part of that community.  I want people to believe in whatever it is that provides them with peace and joy.

I also wish that we didn’t need these stories to be kind and charitable to each other.  I would like to believe that humanity has the capacity to be our best throughout the entire year – not just at Christmas.  However, the annual reminder is the nicest possible kick in the pants – and it is comes with sugar cookies.

 

* To be clear, I do believe that the biblical representation of Jesus is based in historical fact.  However, I don’t believe that the bible is historically factual or literal reality.