LGBTQs are leaving religion, but atheists shouldn’t celebrate

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As an atheist and a queer person, I'm not surprised by Gallup’s finding that fewer LGBTQ people are religious. But I want to caution all people—atheists included—against celebrating this.

  • Thank you for explaining this nuanced perspective. As a person of faith who belongs to an LGBT-welcoming faith tradition, I agree with your words 100%, and they are vital coming from an atheist leader like you.

  • Lles Nats

    Pass.

  • “No one should celebrate the fact that some people are leaving their communities because they feel unsafe, unwelcome, or unwanted.” Emancipation from superstition in and of itself is worth a party or two.

  • Curious

    “I hope that all people, atheists included, would rather see LGBTQ people belong to safe and welcoming religious communities than see them leave their communities simply because they THINK they have to.”

    Wow. Even given my expectations of the “faitheist” crowd and Mr. Stedman in particular, this is incredible.

    The “social justice” crowd, which includes Mr. Stedman, love to shout about the dangers of “erasing people’s lived experiences.” Yet they seem happy to do the same when those “lived experiences” don’t comply with “social justice” dogma. The same goes for “mansplaining,” “whitesplaining,” etc. Here we have Mr. Stedman engaging in what could reasonably be called “faithsplaining.”

    Isn’t Mr. Stedman “erasing the lived experiences” of LGBTQ people who have found that religion is not for them, that religion is in fact the number one (and, really, only notable) agency that works against their rights (*)? He is flat-out telling them they are WRONG, that they only THINK religion condemns them. He is faithsplaining to them that they ought to stay in the “safe, welcoming community” that tells them they are evil, sinful, or even demonically possessed, simply because he prefers religion to atheism despite being an atheist himself. “Atheism for me, but not for thee,” says Stedman.

    Stedman may even be erasing his OWN lived experience! He has frequently written and spoken in interviews about how, as a teenager, an evangelical church filled him with self-loathing over his sexual orientation. Yet in this piece he conveniently doesn’t mention that at all. Churches are described only as “safe spaces.”

    Well, my own “lived experience” after reading this article is that Stedman has finally crossed the line from merely offensive to…something else.

    (*) This includes the “lived experiences” of gay people in California who remember the Catholic Church’s involvement in passing Proposition 8, regardless of what Mr. Stedman’s cherry-picked poll says lay Catholics supposedly believe about gay marriage.

  • The Great God Pan

    Next week, Chris Stedman expresses concern that black people are unwilling to join the KKK due to the perception that they are not welcome.

    Please be sure to click!

  • Cold Industry

    Churches are now the KKK? Good luck defending that analogy.

  • Joe

    God gave them over

  • Jeremiah

    No one should celebrate the fact that some people are leaving their communities because they feel unsafe, unwelcome, or unwanted. All of us, atheists included, should want LGBTQ people to have safe and supportive communities—even if they are religious ones.

    Would I feel welcomed in their church if I opposed their life-style ? Of course not!

    I have a brilliant idea ! Why don’t they start their own church !!! Of course its called tolerance only if you surrender your beliefs.

    Atheist ???? Why would anybody be a “nothing” ????

  • Curious

    Unsurprisingly, Stedman just retweeted a link to an article calling for online publishers to do away with user comments on their sites. Stedman doesn’t like the rabble being able to defile his sermons with questions or contradictions.

    His temporary stand-in at RNS, Sarah Jones, also took to Twitter during her tenure here to express frustration over the plebes being allowed to disagree with her.

    They went to elite universities, dagnabbit, and secured cushy jobs as “public intellectuals,” and what is their reward? The unwashed masses get to publicly argue against them! It’s just not fair! The peasants should know their places.

  • Larry

    I am just going to leave this picture here for your perusal.

    https://cleonette.files.wordpress.com/2012/07/kkk.jpg

  • walker

    wait lmao chris works as a chaplain and sarah is a communications associate how are they “cushy public intellectuals” also what elite universities are you talking about

  • In the coming decades, religious persecution of queer people is likely to continue to fade in places such as the US. Religious institutions change as the larger culture changes, as do most other institutions.

    I imagine that future generations of queer people might return in greater numbers to those institutions given a more welcoming atmosphere.

    Then again, there’s the competing pattern of the ongoing loss of church membership to the category of “none” with each younger generation, and with it, a possible permanence of attenuated church membership across many subgroups.

    Time and demography will tell. We live in sociologically interesting times.

  • Vlad Chituc

    People here literally compared religion to the KKK several times, and you seriously think the problem is that Chris doesn’t want his ideas challenged?

  • I’m a peasant who went to a blah state university, and yet, I can see the wisdom in eliminating comment threads in larger venues which are hard to moderate and so often degenerate into yelling matches between hoards of trolls… and I say that as someone who’s personally stirred up a major stink on this blog with some regularity.

    But, if a post on Chris’s Twitter account bothers you, then read what Popular Science had to say about their decision to close their comment’s section:
    http://www.popsci.com/science/article/2013-09/why-were-shutting-our-comments

    They cite scientific evidence for their decision, btw. Do read the article. It’s fascinating.

  • Right now, I’m trying to imagine Quaker abolitionists joining the KKK.

    I imagine that many members of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference had heavy membership in the KKK during the 50s and 60s when they organized all of those sit-ins and marches to protest racial segregation.

    And then there’s the large numbers of Jewish people who participated in the Civil Rights Movement. I’m sure the KKK would have welcomed them.

    And Martin Luther King, a pastor in the Baptist church, no less? Definitely KKK material.

  • Theophilus

    The message is that atheists shouldn’t celebrate LGBTQA folks leaving Christian churches; the assumption is that Christians themselves aren’t celebrating. And biblically-sound churches indeed aren’t “celebrating” the departure of anyone. But if gays and lesbians are not willing to remain celibate they are sinning and probably will want to leave rather than facing (not hate but) confrontation over their sin. And churches that have taken it upon themselves to redefine right and wrong in this regard are doing them no favors.

  • ronald

    If the athiests want the alphabet soup sinners, they are welcome to them. They can celebrate all they want and have a pride parade for the damned! Lol!

  • I didn’t know that laughing about unending torture and suffering was a Christian virtue.

    And Jesus said unto them, “Blessed are those who reap the joy of schadenfreude!”

    I don’t remember that beatitude.

  • Well, they could find another church here:
    http://www.gaychurch.org/find_a_church/

    Over 7,000 churches and counting.

    That notion of Christian right and wrong is quite flexible between subgroups and shifts with the sands of time. Here’s a little whisper from the past: you know the Southern Baptists were founded by slave holders and their supporters, right? While the Quakers tended to be abolitionists?

    When I first moved to the Twin Cities, I was shocked by the number of rainbow flags hanging on church buildings. Drive out into the suburbs and rural areas and the picture shifts.

    This is not a static universe. Even religion changes. If you are young enough, your children or grandchildren will most likely look upon negative religious views opposing queer people and shudder. In fact, you can currently say that about most Millennials. Around 68-70% support same sex marriage and nearly three quarters say that gay and lesbians should be accepted by society. (From 2013 & 2014 surveys by the Pew Research Center.)

    If Christianity doesn’t continue to change in the coming decades, there won’t be enough people placing money in the collection plates to keep their doors open. In fact, many churches have closed since the recession hit. That trend could accelerate if Christianity, for some reason, lost the flexibility it has shown in the past regarding other contentious issues.

    You’re on the wrong side of history. Those people who are young now are the leaders of our near future and a good number of them are entering the halls of power as we have this conversation.

    I can guess what you are going to say, though: God’s laws are timeless. Well, in time, folks are going to largely forget that version of God’s laws, just as many people have forgotten that God’s laws were once used to support the enslavement of human beings.

    That which does not adapt to its changing environment, perishes…

  • ronald

    It’s OK. There are always things we don’t know, but as long as we keep an open mind we can learn things.

    Now you know, and knowing is half the battle!

  • Theophilus

    Yes, things do change over time. Harvard, Yale, and Princeton were all founded by men who held views like mine. And yes, I am on the wrong side of history; I believe women should not be pastors, that the earth is young, that fornication and sodomy are wrong, that only those who place their trust in Jesus Christ will attain to eternal life. And, as you say, God’s laws are timeless.

    Many people have denied that Jesus Christ rose bodily from the dead; even those who have claimed to be Christians have done so. But no one ever denied that Christ rose bodily from the dead because the Scriptures were not clear enough or unambiguous enough — they denied it for some other reason. Similarly, no one who claims to be committed to the authority of the Scriptures comes to the view that homosexuality is good in the eyes of God through a fair and honest interpretation of the Scriptures.

    Whether churches that remain faithful to the Scriptures win a popularity contest is of no concern to me, and I know it is not important to my Lord. Nonetheless, a faithful remnant will survive.

  • Shawnie5

    “Whether churches that remain faithful to the Scriptures win a popularity contest is of no concern to me, and I know it is not important to my Lord.”

    Not to me either, Theo. Actually, if we’re only talking about the church, the “streamlining” that comes from declining popularity is a good thing. We have long needed something to winnow out the nominal “christians” who mainly wanted to go along with the crowd and be socially correct. These phonies have been the bane of the church ever since Constantine.

  • Well, now I know that some Christians feel zero regret over laughing a lot (lol) when they think of others suffering eternal agony in their god’s hell.

    If I weren’t friends with far less blood thirsty Christians in real life, your statement would solve “half the battle” of dismissing your religion as a hateful and violent farce.

  • Similarly, no one who claims to be committed to the authority of the Scriptures comes to the view that homosexuality is good in the eyes of God through a fair and honest interpretation of the Scriptures.

    You know, its funny how, no matter what part of Christendom one listens too, so many Christians make the same claims of honest, accurate biblical interpretation as you do. Sometimes, it’s akin to watching two children saying:

    “Yes it is!”
    “No it isn’t!”
    “Yes it is!”
    “No it isn’t!”

    To an outsider, it’s mildly entertaining at first and sometimes fascinating, but becomes tiring with the passage of time. Still, I’m thankful for the John Shelby Spongs, Mel Whites, and Rob Bells of the world. I’m grateful there’s an increasingly large chorus of voices yelling, “No it isn’t!” in your general direction.

    However, you and Shawnie have both made it clear that declining cultural relevance isn’t important to you. That’s a curious admission.

    And so, I offer you both violins to fill the night air with music while we watch your part of Christendom fall to ashes. The firelight and the music are welcome… the fading of a terrible, hurtful theology even more so.

  • Theophilus

    Thanks for highlighting my most important line — I don’t know how to do that…

  • You need to use a small bit of html code called a blockquote. Suppose you wanted to quote, “Marbles are made of glass.” To do so, type the following:

    (blockquote)Marbles are made of glass.(/blockquote)

    Make sure you replace “(” with “”. And thus, you get:

    Marbles are made of glass.

    Notice that the html code disappears when you surround it by “”.

    You can italicize words by using (i) and (/i) and you can bold words by using (b) and (/b). Again, remember to swap the parentheses with less than and greater than symbols.

    It’s even possible to turn words into links that take you to webpages when you click on them, but this particular blog doesn’t allow that kind of code, sadly:

    (a href=”webpage address“)text you wish to link to webpage’s address(/a)

    That one’s a little more complex but give it a try on some other blog. It works and its pretty darned nifty!

  • I replied below to explain the html code I used.

  • Drat, unlike my own blog, this blog automatically deletes greater than and lesser than symbols even when I’m not typing actual code. So, now what I wrote is terribly confusing. So, let’s restate this without the use of the actual symbols.

    In the examples I gave above, make sure you replace the left parenthesis with a less than symbol. Also, make sure you replace the right parenthesis with a greater than symbol.

    Notice that the html code you type disappears and becomes active when you surround it by less than and greater than symbols.

  • “<”
    “>”

  • OK, I just figure out how to retype this in a way that makes sense. Here’s the corrected text (crossing fingers):

    You need to use a small bit of html code called a blockquote. Suppose you wanted to quote, “Marbles are made of glass.” To do so, type the following:

    (blockquote)Marbles are made of glass.(/blockquote)

    Make sure you replace “(” with “<” and “)” with “>”. And thus, you get:

    Marbles are made of glass.

    Notice that the html code disappears when you surround it by “<” and “>”.

    You can italicize words by using (i) and (/i) and you can bold words by using (b) and (/b). Again, remember to swap the parentheses with less than and greater than symbols.

    It’s even possible to turn words into links that take you to webpages when you click on them, but this particular blog doesn’t allow that kind of code, sadly:

    (a href=”webpage address“)text you wish to link to webpage’s address(/a)

    That one’s a little more complex but give it a try on some other blog. It works and its pretty darned nifty!

  • theophilus

    Thank you

  • Coolness!

    Thanks for replying back to me by using the new html code. I guess my explanation wasn’t quite the inscrutable mess I though it was.

    Yay! 🙂

  • greg

    Curious perhaps, but not a terribly good reader. If you look to the quote, which you yourself opened your comment with, you will find that Mr. Stedman qualified the religious communities he was suggesting LGBTQ people not thoughtlessly abandon as “safe and welcoming.” He did not say, stay with whatever community you have. If you are part of a faith community that rejects, condemns, or looks down on an LGBTQ lifestyle, I imagine in that case he would recommend leaving.

    He is not even remotely erasing the lived experience of LGBTQ people who have found religion is not for them. Again, see the qualification of safe and welcoming communities. Not all faith communities are anti-LGBTQ. From fringe groups like the various Pagan/Wiccan communities to things as large as the Episcopalians, there are a large variety of religious groups that are not only not against LGBTQ rights, but are actually wildly in favor of them.

    I know almost nothing about Mr. Stedman, but I think I can unequivocally say that he would not describe a safe and welcoming community as one that tells LGBTQ people that they are evil, sinful, or demonically possessed. Nowhere in this article does he make that point. It would be completely inaccurate and illogical to attempt to discredit his point that way.

    Not to mention the point of Mr. Stedman’s article is not to stop LGBTQ people from leaving religion, he is only suggesting that it is possible that religious communities can provide safe, positive, and productive communities for people. LGBTQ people often struggle with many issues involving socialization, physical, and psychological health, and establishing a stable life for which they lack support networks. I believe that Mr. Stedman’s point is that if someone possesses a stable community that is helping them live a happier, more positive life, they should not be encouraged to leave it based on the false assumption that if it is a religious community, it will be anti-LGBTQ lifestyles.

  • Shawnie5

    “To an outsider, it’s mildly entertaining at first and sometimes fascinating, but becomes tiring with the passage of time.”

    I understand perfectly that it seems this way to an outsider. To make sense of it you have to delve into both the scriptures and the considerable body of ancient commentary upon them, and most people don’t have the time or the motivation to do that.

    “However, you and Shawnie have both made it clear that declining cultural relevance isn’t important to you. That’s a curious admission.”

    Not really. It’s something that we are specifically directed NOT to be concerned about:

    “Don’t you know that friendship with the world means enmity against God?” James 4:4.

    “If the world hates you, you know that it has hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world” John 15:19

  • Shawnie5

    Please stop taking this trolling phony seriously. He’s one of your own.

  • To make sense of it you have to delve into both the scriptures and the considerable body of ancient commentary upon them, and most people don’t have the time or the motivation to do that.

    I’ve heard progressive Christians say the same thing, including a friend of mine who’s a Methodist pastor.

  • Hmmm. Let’s do a site search for “ronald”…

    sirwinston
    Jul 17, 2014 at 1:10 pm

    Please change the name of this site to “Anti-religion News Service”

    Thank you.

    ronald
    Jul 17, 2014 at 3:32 pm

    I, too, originally felt like you do when I first discovered this site.

    However, after a few days I came to realize that Religious News Services provides a really good function for religion. Are you familair with the Good Cop/Bad Cop routine? I’m sure you are from watching movies or tv shows.

    If gung ho religious warriors like you and me are the Bad Cop, this website is the Good Cop. We get all up in the heathens faces and yell at them and tell them to confess (repent), and then Good Cop comes over and says, Hey, sorry about that jerk. We’re the Good Cop. We’re nice and we believe in charity and being tolerant. Why, some of us are even “faithiests” who don’t believe in God but still act religious! You can trust us. We’re not fundamentalists.

    But the Good Cop is still a cop, do you get it? And it’s still religion. It’s just an act to trick people! So this site does a pretty good job of fooling people into thinking religion isn’t as hardcore as they think it is. And after they’re softened up, we swoop in and GET THEIR SOULS FOR CHRIST!!!!! YEAH!!!!

    Yeah, that’s a bit too over the top to be believable. Although, he’s a hard Poe to spot because his verbiage resembles some of the more awful encounters I’ve had with some Christian extremists.

    So, thank you for the tip.

    Btw, if by “one of your own”, you mean atheist, I’m not an atheist. I’ve grown weary of the inadequacies of theological labels but “agnostic” is the closest label that describes me. However, I find that particular label inadequate, too. I’m someone who is deeply spiritual but finds the paradigm of deities/divinity to be far too worn, restrictive, and anthropomorphic.

    Furthermore, I find the overly simplistic binary of atheist vs. theist to be tiring and inadequate, too. There are many who wander the borderlands that separate that divide but the current day’s politics polarize everything into a tribalistic either/or dynamic. There is a place in the middle where concepts remain in flux and undefined. There’s were I’m at. I’m OK with the unknown being unknown. I’m OK with mystery. I revel in it, actually.

    I don’t know what the answers are and I suspect that other folks don’t either: atheists, theists, or whomever. The universe is a perverse place. Whatever boxes we human beings use to contain it probably won’t be nearly perverse enough. I see religion as an elaborate series of nesting boxes, sometimes pretty to look at, but still boxes.

    If you read through the comments on this blog, you’ll see that I’ve battled with both extremist atheists and extremist Christians… both of whom are attracted to this blog in droves. There aren’t many who wander this space who I’d refer to as “my own”.

  • See my reply below.

  • That was a great summary/analysis of Chris’s post.

  • @Chris Stedman,

    “All of us, atheists included, should want LGBTQ people to have safe and supportive communities—even if they are religious ones.”

    Religion is against gays.
    Even the most welcoming religious communities are always going to attack you eventually.

    The same religious argument which calls for kindness
    is POISED AND READY to cut your throat.

    Since I think religion is harmful for countless OTHER reasons
    I will celebrate the departure of anyone who leaves these cults of death.

    Every ex-Christian and ex-Muslim and ex-Jew is an improvement to humanity.

  • @Chris Stedman,

    “All of us, atheists included, should want LGBTQ people to have safe and supportive communities—even if they are religious ones.”

    I’m afraid that is like asking the KKK to accept black members and treat them nicely.

    I’d rather ask everyone to leave the worship of hatred
    of people (religion) and start preaching against hateful ideas instead.

    “Kill Homosexuals” – Yahweh, (Lev. 20:13)

  • Curious

    SHORT VERSION: I saw Stedman’s “qualification.” I also recognized it as a redundancy and a red herring. People wouldn’t be leaving “welcoming communities” in such high numbers, so why even bring “welcoming communities” up?

    ___________________________________________________________
    “I believe that Mr. Stedman’s point is that if someone possesses a stable community that is helping them live a happier, more positive life…”

    Uh huh. Let me stop you there.

    If that were the case for that person then why would that person have left that community voluntarily? Why would the number of LGBTQ people abandoning religion be so (reportedly) disproportionately high? We wouldn’t be talking about LGBTQ people fleeing religion en masse if they were finding what you’re describing.

    And your only answer to this is to claim that they are making “false assumptions,” thereby discrediting their experiences. It is incredibly arrogant for anyone to say, “You were part of a stable community that helped you live a happier, more positive life, and you only left it because of false assumptions on your part.”

  • ronald

    I believe “lol” means “laughing out loud.” “Laughing a lot” would be “lal.”

    Also, I would be carefull about trusting Shawnie. She seems to have a personal vendeda against me, even though I just post the same kind of stuff as other CHristians here like Doc Anthony and Frank.

  • greg

    Again, did you read the article? (I know you have, I just think you are drawing illogical conclusions based on virulent and irrational hatred of any and all religion/spirituality, but I enjoy baiting you on the reading point) Mr. Stedman makes the point that people are incorrectly assuming that their religious community either officially disapproves of gay lifestyles or that the majority of the community members do, which is actually not necessarily the case. In reality either the religion takes no strong stance on the issue, does not enforce in any measure a strong stance on the issue, or the congregants themselves do not support anti-LGBTQ thought and so essentially eliminate the ability for the religious community to take a strong stance on the issue.

    It is true that historically most religious communities were vituperatively against the LGBTQ lifestyle, but that is probably also true of any organization such as the American Medical Association, Teacher’s Unions, probably most government organizations, and so on. Yet they changed over time and became not only more accepting, but actively working to defend the presence of LGBTQ people. Perhaps it was religion that was part of that, but I would look past religion to the human causes for anti-LGBTQ sentiment because not all religions historically taken a stance against LGBTQ lifestyles (see both Sufism, Hinduism, and Shinto for starters), while non-religious movements such as the nazis and various groups of communists were actively anti-LGBTQ.

    Regardless of the history, it is far more likely than ever that it is possible to be an active member of a religious community that genuinely supports LGBTQ rights.

    Mr. Stedman is not arguing for an absolute position that every person every time be strongly encouraged to stay in their religious community. He is only saying that people should not be mindlessly pulled out of them. What he is arguing for is a rational, truth-based approach to evaluating religion and whether or not it is a positive thing in some persons life.

    What you are arguing for is an absolute that religion is always and must always be harmful, has always been harmful, and will always be harmful. It is not rational and cannot be logically derived from the situation. In the name of some vendetta against religion, it seems you would like to see every LGBTQ person out of religion, even in cases where that action could potentially be harmful to some people. That does not sound very humanist or very altruistic to me. Besides the fact that I would strongly oppose based simply on its deep illogic.

  • Hello, Mr. Poe. How’s the weather in Baltimore?

    I’m well aware of what LOL stands for. “Laughing out loud” indicates the intensity of the humor experienced and is interchangeable with the experience of extended laughter over a comment made. The point is, that you pretended to experience pronounced pretend laughter because of your pretend Christian beliefs regarding hell but I suppose that we could pretend that my wording somehow invalidates the point I made.

    But, why am I even replying to someone with a fake internet persona, anyway?

    It’s too early. I need coffee, ffs.

  • HeathenMike

    Well-said, Greg! Some of the respondents seem to suggest that we’re engaged in some simple two-sided “war” with religion. In reality, religious and non-religious alike represent a nearly-infinate variety of viewpoints on all sorts of social, political, and life issues. Atheists can’t just expect to “blast” religious belief out of the water with the weaponry of logic and science. It doesn’t work that way. Human beings have tremendous capacity for magical thinking (including many people who have rejected their prior religious affiliations.) I thought Stedman made an excellent point that people struggling with their beliefs need safe space (and time) to work their questions out and have their decisions make sense to themselves. People who abandon a faith system under duress are most likely to remain volatile and reactionary in the the ways they think and how they consider and respond to information. If someone is going to militantly insist on ridiculing and dehumanizing everyone who doesn’t come 100% to agree with him or her atheism, well that person is just acting like an asshole. That approach is not going to result in more atheists. Sorry, it just won’t. If some people, in working through their own cognitive dissonance with their learned religious system end up retaining their religious identity but re-interpreting their doctrine to be respectful of diversity and to adhere more fully to the core tenets of “love thy neighbor as thyself,” well that still represents a big win for all of us who have ever felt targeted for bigotry by religious forces. (For the record, I’m a former Pentecostal, now-total non-believer, who still has “faith” in my own capacity to be wrong sometimes.)

  • HeathenMike

    Exactly. there’s thoughtful debate and commentary, and then there is blatent distortion of the other person’s original message. There’s a whole lot of the latter on this thread.

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