Beliefs Culture Institutions Politics

Disciples look to pull convention from Indiana over religious freedom bill

Rev. Dr. Sharon Watkins, left, and Rev. Geoffrey Black of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) offer a Litany of Response.

(RNS) Though the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) has made Indianapolis its headquarters for nearly a century, the denomination is considering pulling its next biennial convention out of Indiana over a new state law that allows businesses to turn away gay customers.

Gov. Mike Pence signed the Religious Freedom Restoration Act on Thursday (March 26), the day after receiving a letter from church leaders pleading with him to veto it and threatening to move their 2017 General Assembly outside the state.

The bill protects business owners who invoke their religious beliefs to deny service to LGBT customers. A photographer, for example, may refuse to take pictures of a lesbian wedding on the grounds that his faith rejects gay marriage.

Rev. Dr. Sharon Watkins, left, and Rev. Geoffrey Black of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) offer a Litany of Response.

Photo courtesy of United Church of Christ via Flickr

The Rev. Sharon Watkins, left, and the Rev. Geoffrey Black (president of the United Church of Christ) offer a Litany of Response.

“Purportedly a matter of religious freedom, we find RFRA contrary to the values of our faith — as well as to our national and Hoosier values,” stated the letter, which was signed by Sharon E. Watkins, the church’s general minister and president, as well as the leaders of its overseas and domestic missions.

“As a Christian church, we are particularly sensitive to the values of the One we follow — one who sat at table with people from all walks of life, and loved them all.”

The General Assembly will bring more than 6,000 church members to whatever U.S. city the church decides upon and is expected to generate about $5 million in tourism dollars. After Pence signed the law, ministry leaders said they are weighing the costs of moving not only the General Assembly, but smaller meetings — such as the more frequent gatherings of the 125-member board of directors — which most often meets in Indianapolis.

Associate General Minister and Vice President Todd Adams said the church’s board will decide whether to yank the General Assembly from Indianapolis at its next meeting, which begins on April 10.

Other businesses and conventions, including Gen Con, the world’s largest gaming convention, which brings an estimated $50 million to the state each year, have also threatened to find another place to hold their events.

NCAA President Mark Emmert on Thursday afternoon said in a statement that his organization, which hosts the men’s basketball Final Four in Indianapolis next week, is “especially concerned about how this legislation could affect our student-athletes and employees” and that it will examine how Indiana’s RFRA could impact future NCAA events in Indiana.

Pence, after signing the law, told reporters that Indiana “should have done this a long time ago,” and he rejected the idea that Indiana would pay a financial price for the law. The state’s economy is doing well and the media have misconstrued the bill, which does not sanction discrimination, he said, but protects government from forcing people to act against their deeply held religious beliefs.

Pence, a Republican, cited similar laws in dozens of other states, and the national Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which came into play in the controversial Supreme Court Hobby Lobby decision in 2014. Then, the court allowed the business an exemption from a part of the Affordable Care Act that Hobby Lobby owners find objectionable on religious grounds.

“Faith and religion are important values to millions of Hoosiers and with the passage of this legislation,” Pence said in a statement, “we ensure that Indiana will continue to be a place where we respect freedom of religion and make certain that government action will always be subject to the highest level of scrutiny that respects the religious beliefs of every Hoosier of every faith.”


About the author

Lauren Markoe

Lauren Markoe has been a national reporter for RNS since 2011. Previously she covered government and politics as a daily reporter at the Charlotte Observer and The State (Columbia, S.C.)


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  • This is how religion is rotted from the inside, when it allows sin to dictate its direction. Thank God for the Catholic Church.

  • Because child molesting priests and bishops who cover up to heir acts are far better people than 2 consenting adults in a loving monogamous relationship. 🙂

  • The Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) threatens to pull its convention out of Indianapolis after the governor signs a controversial religious freedom bill.

    And is that a threat or a promise?

  • “As a Christian church, we are particularly sensitive to the values of the One we follow — one who sat at table with people from all walks of life, and loved them all.”

    – Sharon E. Watkins, the church’s general minister and president:

    What an ignorant leader she is. The same Jesus she references said that marriage was man and woman/husband and wife.

    And never said a word about homosexuals or homosexuality. And of course, that was maintained throughout the entire New Testament.

    Time for a back to Bible school lesson Ms. Watkins.

    And she can use whatever “version” she’d like to. None contain any pro-gay scriptures. But though, quite the opposite.

  • Gotta admit, I am surprised to see the Disciples of Christ messing up THIS badly. Presbyterians, sure. Unitarians, sure sure. But the Christian Church is supposed to know better, much better, than to stoop to this kind of stuff.

    Yet here they are, putting their own unbelievable stamp of approval on multiple Gay Gestapo bullying incidents all over America, each bullying and reprisal incident aimed squarely at Christian small business owners who are simply trying to live biblically and ethically as customer-serving, Christ-centered, Bible-honoring business people.

    It’s unbelievable and unprecedented that the Disciples of Christ would dishonor their own denomination like this, but this is exactly what happens in a nation that has — as Ben Franklin so concisely phrased it — forgotten God.

    Let’s be honest: This nation is a 99.999 percent lock-on for total divine judgment — and American Christians are hankering to get THEIR well-earned slice of the catastrophic pie !!

  • Of course, not all the victims have been boys, but I guess in some people’s minds only the cases with male victims were crimes. It appears that “Be Brave” may be a disciple of Uganda’s Father Simon Lokodo, who says that men raping girls is “natural” and “the right kind of child rape.”

    Dear readers, are you honestly surprised?

  • Be Brave – please cite chapter and verse where Jesus actually said what marriage constitutes? As a biblical scholar who reads the NT in the original Greek, I can find no text in the gospel where Jesus makes this statement. Neither can I find such a condemnation of gay marriage in the Old Testament. I do see the bible sanctioning having multiple wives (OT & NT), sanctioning owning slaves (OT & NT), having sex with slaves (OT), and loads of other social behaviors that we now deem abhorrent. You need to actually read the bible, and when you do, you will realize that Sharon Watkins is right – Jesus ate with whoever sat at the table with him – no questions asked.

  • Eating with sinners does not constitute agreement with their acts of sin. Jesus was leading by example, and His Words never encouraged anything but faithful adherence to the laws of God…..corrupted by the Pharisees over time.
    The man/woman marriage is inferred quite boldly in Genesis, for God created man and woman for each other. Jesus condemned divorce, thus clearing up polygamous or multiple marriages in one’s lifetime.
    Jesus never spoke of homosexuality most likely because it would have been unnecessary to address a sin that was so socially reviled, that elaborating on it was moot. Every reference to gay love in the Bible is a condemnation, an abomination.
    So, all people may sit with God in Church, all are welcomed. Gays who wish to sit with God should not sit there as gays and believe that God now accepts their behavior. Just come as children of God and leave your lust outside. Listen to the all wise God.

  • I’m not surprised. Jim Jones’ People’s Temple was affiliated with the Disciples of Christ. Suggest the poison goes back at least four decades.

  • Eating with sinners means not ostracizing and attacking them for their sins. Being civil to them, even friendly even though they are sinners.

    But a plain reading of such things is so inconvenient. But where is the fun of that? Without religious excuses for your nonsense you would just be a run of the mill obnoxious bigot.

    “His Words never encouraged anything but faithful adherence to the laws of God”

    Which is why he joined in to stone Mary Magdalene to death for her adultery. 🙂

    I love how Conservative Christians love to rationalize their anti-social malicious behavior towards others. It really destroys any pretense that they are worth taking seriously.

  • Amen! The heresy of modernity has affected all religions identifying themselves as Christian. The Catholic Church has been steadfast.

  • I am proud of the Disciples for taking such a strong position–clearly and so soon after this legislation was signed. This legislation is a slippery slope , both un-Christian and un-American. Where will it end? Could businesses deny services to people with tattoos? Other religions? People who own or carry guns? Registered Republicans? Anyone as long as a religious justification can be offered? It’s a very dangerous they’re starting down.

  • Seriously!?! I would like you to produce your sources, please, regarding this “gay activists fighting age of consent laws” accusation, as well as the proof that intergenerational sex is “embraced” by the gay community. What exactly offends you about two people who love each other having the right to do so? How does this negatively affect others’ relationships, unless to diminish the pool of romantic applicants available for their own perusal? I seriously do not understand how the synapses of the brain work in people who are so closed minded to equality on all levels…

    To accuse Larry of being hateful and discriminatory, when I see the exact opposite (him being inclusive, you being misinformed and blind to the reality which is *actual* non-traditional love and relationships, not the fire and brimstone, bestiality-type love that so many “religious” people today preach it to be), is both baffling and heart wrenching.

  • Your Jesus also said “Judge not lest ye be judged”. It is up to your God to place judgement on these people, he did not task his followers with being his avenging angels. By discriminating against these people and making their lives miserable, you are guaranteeing that you, also, will fail to gain entrance into your paradise, your Heaven.


  • Oops, Larry…..Mary Magdalene was never threatened with stoning, nor did Jesus ever come close to stoning anyone.
    Where can I buy the Gay Atheist Bible…..or did you write it, you little rascal?

  • Carrie – you should read the whole bible too, but not in some warped translation – and all translations are warped. If you care that much, learn to read it in the language in which it was written. By the way, slavery is assumed and endorsed from Genesis through Revelation, not just a verse here or a verse there. Why aren’t you advocating that we should follow the words of scripture exactly here also? Or is that just a matter of correct interpretation or that out culture isn’t the same. If you want to a case from the text, you have to read the whole text, every part of it, not just the parts you want to read. Your comments actually sound just like those that were used by Southern slave owners before the 1860s – they argued from the Bible that slavery was right, natural, and ordained by God because that is what their Bibles said.

  • Well, if I owned a business in Indiana, the law would allow me to discriminate against Catholics, Methodists, Lutherans, and any Evangelical Christians who came into the business. I could argue it was against my religious beliefs to even associate with such people, let alone do business with them or for them. Or I could decide that people with red hair were evil, and not do business with them.

    Sounds pretty ridiculous when you put it in those terms doesn’t it? But the law would allow any of those kinds of discrimination, plus any other looney stuff I could dream up.

    It also means that I could…..discriminate against anyone who held political office!!!

  • @James: Larry doesn’t read books. She reads what atheists in echo-chambers say about books.

    @Larry: I’ve eaten many a pleasant meal with gay persons, and I’m about as interested in stoning them as Jesus was. Your point?

  • “Could businesses deny services to people with tattoos?”

    No, but they could refuse to create tattoo designs and apply them.

    “Other religions? ”

    No, but they could refuse to conduct the rites of those religions or express agreement with their tenets.

    “People who own or carry guns? ”

    No, but they could refuse to supply guns or gun-related paraphernalia or advertise gun shows or supply instructions about how to operate and care for guns, etc.

    “Registered Republicans?”

    No, but they could refuse to endorse or produce materials endorsing Republican candidates or participate in a Republican campaign.

    Get it yet?

  • HA-HA-HA! This has us almost in tears! The Catholic Church has been steadfast at what? There are probably more sexually active gay priests in the Catholic Church than in any other Religious Institution. Where have you been? This is what is so unbelievable about the Rc pundits …

    Talk to any HONEST priest and he will tell you what is. Where have you been sitting in the pews, Andy (from Mayberry?)

    It’s called H-Y-P-O-C-R-I-S-Y, my dear fellow … or maybe you just don’t want to know the truth. Do a wee bit of research and learn something. To see the pope and his gang “laboring” over the gay issue is almost deliriously_________whatever … a joke, but what is NOT a joke is the CHILD ABUSE! And how this is still NOT being addressed in that 0 tolerance policy. Stop living in a vacuum, Andy, and wake from your delusion of steadfast dictum. Maybe Cathy Grossman should do a Pew Study article on the number of sexually active gay priests in Religious Institutions. Oh baby!

  • Yet baking a cake or providing flowers for a wedding is exactly the same thing as participating in sin.

    Go figure.

  • What, it sounds ‘pretty ridiculous’ for a merchant to define his custom?

    We live in a time where addled bourgeois think everyone must be the legal profession’s bitch.

  • No, she doesn’t, because her beef is that the sensibilities of her special snowflakes might be injured. The rest of us are not So Very Special.

  • All you are doing is reinforcing what I am saying.

    Your Christian belief is merely an excuse to act like raging jerks to others. Flinging poo in the name of your version of Jesus. Again, I fail to see socially redeeming aspects to the belief shown by any of your behavior.

  • “No, but they could refuse to create tattoo designs and apply them.”

    Untrue. My strongly held religious belief demands that I do not participate in the sins of the person desecrating their skin by not selling them that coffee.

    “No, but they could refuse to conduct the rites of those religions or express agreement with their tenets.”

    Such “rites” include refusing any and all goods and services housing, employment, or medical care. As displayed by many Christian folk invoking such beliefs.

    “No, but they could refuse to produce materials endorsing Republican candidates or participate in a Republican campaign.”

    So you are saying they have a right to attack the free speech rights of customers because of their religious belief.

  • It is. Catholics can attend Protestant services, but may not participate in their heretical Communion. If they do, they commit sin because the act infers agreement with the “celebration”.

    Cakes are merely cakes, but offering one to knowingly be used in a gay
    wedding is tantamount to offering sacrifices to a pagan god.

  • “So you are saying they have a right to attack the free speech rights of customers because of their religious belief.”

    Sellers don’t have free speech rights?

    Imagine all the lawsuits that could be brought by everyone who ever had a book or an article rejected! What a banquet for constitutional lawyers!

  • This whole article, as well as the response by this church, is off the charts. The gay activists have been very busy researching, and coordinating targeted attacks on businesses that are knowingly Christian. They go there, demand the business do a “work” for them, while flaunting their gay persona. They know fully well that the business will be tempted to decline their business by exercising their First Amendment right; they are then taken to court, and in many cases could stand to lose their businesses by acting out their faith. If I were gay, I’d despise this form of activism, as only forces States to write laws such as this one in Indiana. If I were gay, I think I’d frequent a gay run store, but instead these activists do not. It is like picking a fight with a bully, and then complaining when you get knocked down.

  • RevBookDoctor: As far as the First Amendment goes, have that right (free exercise of religion). Most business people, though, will do what is best for their business. But forcing Christian business owners to cater at gay weddings, would be like forcing a Jewish meat store to sell pork.

  • Denying business to people based on personal prejudice is not free speech, its not freedom of religion. Its an attack on the customer, open commerce and a harm to society at large.

    I will make myself perfectly clear:

    Screw the bigoted christian business owners!

    Their need to discriminate in their businesses are not an important interest in comparison to keeping open commerce open to all.

    Why should a customer who seeks nothing more than the goods and services normally for sale by a business have to suffer because someone is an uncivil malicious bigot?

    What about their rights? They aren’t the ones trying to do something anti-social, uncivil or harming the public.

  • “Most business people, though, will do what is best for their business.”

    Most. But bigoted Christian business owners want to do whatever they can get away with if they can call it religious belief. That includes attacking the public at large with segregated businesses.

    If one feels that treating ALL reasonable customers buying the goods and services you have available to the public is being “forced”, you don’t belong in business. You deserve to go bankrupt. You are too stupid and uncivil to engage in open commerce. Screw them. The public interest in open commerce is worth more than the need of a business owner to make an @$$ of themselves to a customer.

    Your analogy is overused and stupid. It is more like a Jewish deli selling kosher salami to a Muslim than a kosher salami being asked to make ham.

  • Not according to Shawnie. She is quite eloquent on that subject. Let’s you and she have a fight over it.

  • “Screw the bigoted christian business owners!”

    Aren’t you being a bit redundant? We already knew that this is your ultimate position. Freedom for me but not for thee, just like I said.

    “What about their [the customer] rights? They aren’t the ones trying to do something anti-social, uncivil or harming the public.”

    Yes they are. They are deliberately attempting to violate the conscience of another using the threat of retaliation. That is as uncivil as it gets. Reprehensible, in fact. While a small part of me is sympathetic to same-sex unions themselves on religious freedom grounds (because some religions allow it), I have no sympathy whatsoever for anyone who tries to force another to participate in it. And MANY Americans will draw the line here as well, because however they may feel about gay marriage they don’t want to see someone’s grandmother bankrupted and ending up a public charge because she didn’t want to decorate the site of a gay wedding.

  • “Their need to discriminate in their businesses are not an important interest in comparison to keeping open commerce open to all.”

    Let’s cut the BS about “commerce” here. “Commerce” is not some kind of sacred cow. Every constitutional lawyer knows that the Commerce clause was never intended to be used in this manner. It had to do with preventing states from erecting trade barriers against one another (hence the “interstate” language). The modern-day entanglement of the Commerce clause and anti-discrimination law was due to the government wishing to end private racial discrimination that was the legacy of slavery (and indeed it was a national disgrace) and having no legitimate constitutional authority to do so. They therefore seized on the Commerce clause as something to hang anti-discrimination upon, which ultimately necessitated pretending that any act of business affects “interstate commerce” whether it actually does or not. It was a sophistry…

  • …necessary for a unique and otherwise unsolvable problem, and that is why the courts have gone back and forth in how broadly or narrowly they interpret it. They KNOW that it has been an excuse for federal overstepping. That is why, although they may grant same-sex marriage, they may hesitate to prioritize “commerce” over religious freedom.

    You guys really ought to know when to leave well enough alone.

  • I have a business degree, so I know all about target markets. If a Christian business feels they cannot sell their product to people who are flauntingly and obviously attempting to provoke a challenge, then they have that right; however, their business might suffer from their decision, and consequently go out of business. But it is not the government’s position to allow frivolous law suits go forward.

  • True Christianity? It should scare everyone to death.

    “Execute them”- JESUS (Luke 19:27)
    “Hate Them” – JESUS (Luke 14:26)
    “Avoid Them” – ROMANS (16:17)
    “Do not associate with the GUILTY..” (1 Corinthians 5:11)
    “Bad company….” (1 Corinthians 15:33)
    “Do not even to eat with such a one.” (1 Corinthians 5:11)
    “Do not receive him…or greet him..” (2 John 1:10)
    “tell him his fault.” (Matthew 18:15)
    “Have nothing to do with him!” (Titus 3:9-11)
    “LET HIM BE REMOVED” (1 Corinthians 1:13)
    “In the name of Jesus..keep away from him!” (2 Thess 3:6)
    “CURSE HIM” – (1 Cor. 16:22)
    “Deem them unworthy” – JESUS (Matt 10:13)

    Humans have rights. But bad ideas have no rights.

    Modern people see bad ideas in Christian philosophies
    In ways apparently not available to ancient people.

    Religion should be gently discouraged and ultimately abandoned.

  • Albuquerque Admin,

    “Jesus also said “Judge not lest ye be judged””

    No – Jesus (bible character – no indication he was a real person)
    spoke out of both sides of his mouth:

    “Deem them unworthy” – JESUS (Matt 10:13)

    After that it is easy to go to the next step:

    “Execute them in front of me” – JESUS (Luke 19:27)

    Jesus may not even have existed
    but like Hercules, Mithras and Zoroaster there may have been some individual who began this contradictory nonsense – all of which was clearly dressed up into a pile of legends and superstition.

  • Greg,

    “Gay activists..”

    Yeah. There were “Slave activists” once upon a time too – they demanded freedom from slavery.
    You are fighting on the wrong side.

    Gays deserve all the freedoms the rest of us have.
    But if you are going to deny that fact – because your religion tells you to – you are making the same defense the slave owners made 200 years ago.

    “Because the Bible tells me so” is a recipe for only violence and ignorance.

  • Greg,

    “Gays have all the rights we have”

    No they don’t. What planet are you writing from?
    And with this legislation Gays will be denied many more rights.

    Religion is a parade of bigotry and hatreds – the world must abandon it all.

  • Christians are determined to go to war with each other – this always happens when separation of church and state is broken.

    Christian Evangelism is a brain dead thing to do with one’s life.

    “Execute them” – JESUS (Luke 19:27)

    Americans need schooling in how ignorant philosophies like Christianity and other religions work against the interests of freedom. Meanwhile Creationism is sweeping the poorest parts of the country which most needs science and academic studies.

    “Religion punishes questioning and rewards gullibility. Faith is not a function of stupidity but a frequent cause of it.”
    – Wendy Kaminer

  • Please sight verses where Jesus said marriage was between a man and wife. I call your [expletive deleted].

  • Matthew 19:4-6 “Haven’t you read,” he replied, “that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’b ? So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.”

  • Greg,

    ONLY ONE !? Fine!

    Protection from Discrimination:
    In many states, homosexuals, lesbians, transgender and bisexual people do not have the right to protection from harassment and discrimination based on sexual orientation.
    In many states a gay person can be fired just for being gay. Equal protection is even forbidden in some states by law.

    This single national disgrace is the cause of many suicides of gay people as well as an argument for further persecution of Gay people.

    Do you really think Gays would choose to be Gay
    if they had any choice?

    Shame on religion.

  • Andy,

    “The heresy of modernity…”

    What’s that? What’s wrong with modernity?

    We need modernity in order to keep us safer from the evils of the past. Hindsight is 20/20 they say, so we can learn what to avoid in the future.
    That should make modernity better than anything we’ve ever known. We have nothing to fear or doubt about our life as we go into modernity every day.

  • Greg,

    I had no idea that you could be fired
    for being heterosexual where you live. How do you hide your girlfriend from your boss? Does she call you at work, secretly?

    Clearly you lack seriousness. Thanks for the heads up.
    I’ll ignore all of your posts from now on.

  • Getting fired for being a homosexual? There are plenty of discrimination laws on the books, if that is your objective, but of course you want even more. Look, if I were a homosexual, I would not want to work for a Christian company that is trying to uphold Gospel values. It is just best not to work there. However, since you bring up the point, why don’t gay people just start their own church, and call it the Church of One, or something, and then start businesses from it which only hire gay people, and discriminate against straight people. Then they could use the First Amendment to declare free exercise of religion. I don’t have a problem with that. Why always approach these problems from the other “oh woe is me” side of things? Enough already.

  • “I have a business degree, so I know all about target markets.”

    Actually it means you know how to talk about target markets. Most business degree grads (obviously you are not an MBA or you would have bragged about that in a more specific manner) aren’t worth squat in actual business.

    Show me a business which went under because they didn’t discriminate against its customers. The argument didn’t wash when businesses were engaging in racial discrimination, it doesn’t now. Same exact argument, “the haters won’t patronize me if I don’t play along”. Its amazing how often you have to parrot the arguments used to support of segregation verbatim in order to support these laws.

    There is nothing frivolous about discrimination lawsuits. These “religious freedom” laws are designed to encourage discrimination and avoiding rule of law for the most flimsiest reasons. The only thing frivolous here is pretending religious freedom is the same as being a malicious jerk.

  • “Aren’t you being a bit redundant? We already knew that this is your ultimate position. Freedom for me but not for thee, just like I said.”

    No redundant is the fiction that religious freedom entails a right to harm people in the name of your faith. We already knew you have no concept of what freedom actually entails. You consider it merely a license of Christians and Christians alone to do whatever they want to whomever they want. You value a license to be an uncivil bigot over the right of people patronizing a business like every other customer going through the door.

    If treating customers like human beings is an imposition on your religious beliefs, tough crap. That is the price you pay for doing business to the general public.

  • Greg,

    You are afraid. Nothing else explains your hatred of gays and your determination to silence their rights.

    This action in Indiana will increase the number of Atheists exponentially.

    It is the most counterproductive Christian move in USA history since the Southern Baptists used Jesus to defend Slavery 200 years ago.

    Congratulations. You hate gays and you lean on Jesus (a fictional jerk from an ignorant era) to deny rights to those who have the courage to face what they are.

    10% of humanity is Gay. It has never been otherwise.
    You are likely member of that group and you should not feel so ashamed about it. Denying them rights is worse than mean – it is costing some people their lives.

  • Atheist: Here’s my position: Jesus Christ is the Son of God, He has been God for all eternity, He is part of the Family of God, which is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. But he came from Heaven, took on a human form, and taught humanity the Mind of God. We can either accept to live within His limits, or we can choose not to. If we choose to, we will experience eternal life & Love with Him. If we rebel, we will end up totally apart from him in a place called Hell, which is run by the Devil. There will be torment beyond torment in Hell forever, and ever and ever. I choose God; you do not. That is your business, but I Love everyone on this earth, including gay people. My hope is that they eventually choose God Almighty, over the temptations of the Devil, and I will pray that they do. So stop spewing the hate charge at me. “Love” teaches what is right, indifference chooses sin, and allows sin to rule. I cannot embrace indifference… sorry.

  • Greg,

    “Hell….torment….must follow my invisible sky boss….
    I cannot embrace indifference… sorry.”

    You are misunderstanding.
    I don’t care what you believe. You can believe whatever you like. You can believe
    Whatever you want to believe about Jesus – it is fine with me. Jesus, Sasquatch, Loch Ness monster, Leprechauns, Mermaids, Yahweh…..whatever you want.

    Just keep your Jesus Leprechaun superstitions out of my laws and we’ll all get along fine.

  • Last time I checked, this country was founded by Christians; and its laws reflect that. That is where the freedoms you have come from: you should be thankful.

  • @Greg,

    “The country was founded by Christians….you should be thankful.”

    What garbage!
    More nonsense from the peanut gallery!

    This country was founded by people who hated religion. And don’t you forget it!

    They didn’t believe in your Jesus at all:

    “In every country and in every age, the preacher has been hostile to liberty. He is always in alliance with the despot, abetting his abuses in return for protection to his own.”
    – Thomas Jefferson

    You are the one who should be thankful – you only have the right to your religion because Atheists allowed you to have it:

    “Congress shall make no law establishing a religion, but it shall not prohibit the exercise thereof” – US Constitution

    You are the one who should feel lucky – you owe everything to Atheism. Pray that it survives your Christian nonsense.

  • Actually, this country was founded by Deists who were smart enough to know that freedom of and freedom FROM religion were important enough to the Item #1 in the Bill of Rights. And if the Episcopal Church was scheduled to have our convention in Indiana I’d be lobbying to do exactly what our Disciples of Christ friends are advocating.

    Seriously. Enough of making Jesus look bad — during Holy Week, no less. Time to get back to loving your neighbor as yourself — and you do NOT love your neighbor by writing, passing or signing laws that use religion as an excuse to discriminate against your neighbor. Period.

  • Susan,

    “Enough of making Jesus look bad — during Holy Week, no less.”

    Christianity looks bad by itself – not because of me.

    “Execute them”- JESUS (Luke 19:27)
    “Hate Them” – JESUS (Luke 14:26)
    “Avoid Them” – ROMANS (16:17)
    “Do not associate with the GUILTY..” (1 Corinthians 5:11)
    “Bad company….” (1 Corinthians 15:33)
    “Do not even to eat with such a one.” (1 Corinthians 5:11)
    “Do not receive him…or greet him..” (2 John 1:10)
    “tell him his fault.” (Matthew 18:15)
    “Have nothing to do with him!” (Titus 3:9-11)
    “LET HIM BE REMOVED” (1 Corinthians 1:13)
    “In the name of Jesus..keep away from him!” (2 Thess 3:6)
    “CURSE HIM” – (1 Cor. 16:22)
    “Deem them unworthy” – JESUS (Matt 10:13)

    Humans have rights. Bad ideas have no rights.
    Holy week is an excellent time to point out that Jesus is a terrible idea.

  • This country was founded by people who didn’t believe the republic could survive WITHOUT religion. That only a moral and religious people could handle the liberty being given to them. From the looks of things, they were probably right.

    And why do you feel it necessary to misquote Jefferson? He spoke of priests, not preachers. The founders were quite wary of Catholicism, particularly of the established variety.

  • Shawnie,

    The ONLY record the founders of the USA left us
    regarding their religious interests amounts to overwhelming CONTEMPT for religious claims, superstitious nonsense – and Christian preachers of every shade:

    James Madison – “Religion debilitates the mind” it is “superstition” and “tyranny” we “need it not”

    Benjamin Franklin – “Faith shuts the eyes of reason”

    Thomas Paine – “All churches… are built to enslave and terrify mankind and monopolize power”

    John Adams – “As I understand the Christian religion… most bloody religion that ever existed”

    “The United States of America should have a foundation free from the influence of clergy.” – George Washington

    I couldn’t have said it any better myself.
    Thank Goodness so many Americans are coming to their senses and abandoning Religion.

  • Cowardly use of ellipsis there, Max.

    Here is what Adams said:

    “As I understand the Christian religion, it was and is a revelation. But how has it happened that millions of fables, tales, legends, have been blended with both Jewish and Christian revelation that have made them the most bloody religion that ever existed?”

    I sometimes wonder the same thing. Jesus made similar comments in Mark 7:8.

    Adams also said this: “The Christian religion is, above all the religions that ever prevailed or existed in ancient or modern times, the religion of wisdom, virtue, equity and humanity”

    And this: “Republican governments could be supported only by pure Religion or Austere Morals. Public virtue cannot exist in a Nation without private Virtue, and public Virtue is the only Foundation of Republics.”

  • Paine was not a founding father at all. Franklin was, and said this during the Constitutional Convention: “I have lived, Sir, a long time, and the longer I live, the more convincing proofs I see of this truth — that God governs in the affairs of men. And if a sparrow cannot fall to the ground without His notice, is it probable that an empire can rise without His aid?
    We have been assured, Sir, in the Sacred Writings, that ‘except the Lord build the House, they labor in vain that build it.’ I firmly believe this; and I also believe that without His concurring aid we shall succeed in this political building no better than the builders of Babel: We shall be divided by our partial local interests; our projects will be confounded, and we ourselves shall become a reproach and bye word down to future ages…”

  • “I therefore beg leave to move — that henceforth prayers imploring the assistance of Heaven, and its blessing on our deliberations, be held in this Assembly every morning before we proceed to business, and that one or more of the clergy of this city be requested to officiate in that service.” — John Adams

    “Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports.” — George Washington

    And I think we need not reexamine Jefferson’s words about our fundamental rights directly deriving from Almighty God.

    Why are “new atheists” so dishonest?

  • Pedophiles are not homosexuals, you idiot. Let the cover-up continue.
    Blame the gays as usual.
    The priests are pedophiles who continue to prey on innocent children and your leaders are still covering it up.
    Bankrupt the entire Roman Catholic Church and be rid of them once and for all.

  • Shawnie,

    “Congress shall make no law establishing a religion..”


    In response to the absolutist claim that
    Jesus Christ is the Son of the true God and ALL things visible and Invisible and ALL who reject him shall be burned in eternal Hellfire after they are dead, the founders of the USA had one unified, IRREFUTABLE, unwavering answer:

    “Christ?! HA! Bugger off with your Horse Dung!”

    As for new atheism – it is just a defensive position which states we have put up with these silly, empty religious claims for way too long.

    There is no more support for this racist, divisive garbage religion anymore so it is simply being shamed out of existence:

    “Have nothing to do with him!” (Titus 3:9-11)
    “LET HIM BE REMOVED” (1 Corinthians 1:13)
    “In the name of Jesus..keep away from him!” (2 Thess 3:6)
    “CURSE HIM” – (1 Cor. 16:22)
    “Deem them unworthy” – JESUS (Matt 10:13)

  • We would be delighted to welcome all comers to Massachusetts, the first state to legally recognize same sex marriage, for the DOC General Assembly in 2017!

  • Max, that is an intensely misleading comment. You cannot convey the meaning in an almost any quote by using two words from that quote. How about some context ?
    Please post the full quotes so we can see what they actually mean, what they really say. Surely you can see that it is absurd to extract two words from a sentence, then post these as quotes representative of ANY text. You understand that, right ? Why not post the full quotes and let us evaluate them on their own ?
    (I should add, I am a medical scientist, with a range of research experiences spanning pure synthetic chemistry to development of methods for biopolymeric neural interfacing, from leading the (internationally collaborative) development of specific neurological treatments/therapeutics to application of advanced instrumental analysis for certain manufacturing industries to ensure environmental compliance. I have a Newtonian view of the natural world.I view religion as unrelated to my study, hence I have no opinion…

  • We need you least. Your intellectual position is so weak that you are compelled to lie. You draw people away from what is true. Why wouldn’t you post the full quotes ?

    Just as you did in the post about John Adams and the Founding Fathers: you edited their quotes.

    Why? Is it because you could not deal with their true content ? That they were not black and white?

    Is it because these quotes did not fit your “all or nothing”, “for or against” viewpoint? The reality of course is that Jefferson was a deist as were most of the Founding Fathers. But others were Christians. Others still expressed no beliefs.

    But Jefferson, and Adams, who you saw fit to quote, both expressed admiration for Christ and for parts or all of Christian morality, if not theology. Whereas you, former Christian, now must take the contrary viewpoint just as extremely as you once espoused Christianity. These men were able to embrace and espouse intellectual complexity. Your “us vs them” mentality is…

  • Pete,

    Christians are carefully taught to hate ‘certain’ sinners more than others:

    “Do not associate with the GUILTY..” (1 Corinthians 5:11)

    This is the seed of hating ‘others’ whoever they may be.
    Every priest, every preacher, every nun who celebrates mass by recommending the words of the Epistles are promoting hatred.

    Don’t be surprised when Christians make laws to isolate Gays or others.
    They are following their biblical teachings:

    “Bad company ruins good morals….” (1 Corinthians 15:33)

    These are celebrations of hatred, racism, bigotry …. THAT IS Christianity.

    “I have only come for the lost sheep of Israel” – JESUS

    Jesus is despicable. Maybe if people read their bibles they would properly abandon this racist, bigoted nonsense.

  • I’m interested in showing people what is in the Bible.

    Not because I care about it – but because YOU care about it.
    I recommend the entire book be thrown in the trash. It is dangerous nonsense.

    But if Christians are going to claim they can say
    “Love thy neighbor” (Out of context!) or “God is love” (Out of context!)
    or “Receive Jesus”, “Repent” , “Believe or be condemned”
    or such nonsense
    Why should I be responsible for putting your Bible’s uglier verses in context?

    I own nothing to your Bible or your religion.
    Instead it is you who owe an explanation of why Christians choose to pick out happy verses like “Love god and love your neighbor” with no context.

    I don’t care about context if Context doesn’t fix the problem:

    “Bring to me those enemies of mine who would not have me as their King and execute them in front of me” – JESUS (Luke 19:27)

    Your Bible is just a dangerous riddle, NOT a good set of principles!

  • Pete,

    “Surely you can see that it is absurd to extract two words from a sentence, then post these as quotes representative of ANY text.”

    Wrong. They are salient excerpts!
    Clearly the Christians of Indiana don’t care about the context – I am responding their use of texts! Not mine!

    The Bible lends itself to slaughter and harsh judgement yet how many times have heard Christians say: “Judge NOT that ye be not Judged”?

    Has anyone ever put that one in context? NO!

    Or, “Forgive them they know not what they do” – Hmmm??

    Of course not! Because they are self satisfied and obstinate and they don’t understand that their endorsement of one end of the Bible as Holy Word of God means the other stuff which contradicts is HOLY too!

    “Kill them” – JESUS (Luke 19:27)

    The Poison in religion is the blatant duplicity in the RELIGION ITSELF.

  • (Part 1)
    Max, let me establish something. I included the spiel at the end to demonstrate my religious views. I said I view the natural world in a Newtonian way, that is, as a system of intricate and beautiful mechanisms. Does that sound like something a Christian would say ? To the extent that I am willing to express a religious opinion, it would align closely with Einstein, or Spinoza. I think it is arrogant to make declarations about the unprovable, and aim to I avoid it.
    While I am open to the possibility of the existence of phenomena outside of what I can analyse, I do not speculate on the characteristics of such phenomena. HOW could I ? I am a scientist, not a theologian. I am UNABLE to imagine a place or entity that does not conform, in some way, to natural laws. Granted, such great minds as Democritus speculated quite accurately on the existence of atoms, thousands of years before Dalton, or Rutherford, et al. (Cont’d in part 2)

  • (Part 2) But it is beyond my human capacity to imagine how a supernatural location might appear, since the notion of appearance is one governed in large part by the electromagnetic spectrum. Photons with wavelengths between 300 and 700 nanometers (a.k.a. visible light), are detected by the rods and cones in our eyes. The process of detection then causes channel proteins in retinal cell membranes to open or close. Sodium ions move into the cells, and the fluid inside the cells becomes more positively charged than the fluid outside the cells. As the initial stimulus causes sodium-channels to open, aggregate stimuli cause more to open, and an action potential is generated, moving along the nerve as a chemo-electronic message to certain structures of the brain which interpret, and give meaning to the detected visual trigger. If the photons are outside the (approx) 300-700 nm range, they will not cause retinal structures to trigger and we won’t see them. (Cont’d in part 3)

  • (Part 3 – I wrote a part 3 but it did not appear, so please view this as the actual part 3 if another does come up)
    Isn’t that beautiful, though, Max ? The rewards of studying science, are unending for the curious mind. I have always been very curious, and I am rewarded every day when I learn something new. As researchers, we use our knowledge to propose experiments, i.e. new methods aimed to solve problems, e.g. Removing persistent pollutants from water supplies. Scientists have colleagues all over the world. It is gratifying to be part of a team working to rid humanity of the scourge of disease, physical or mental, and while my studies have spanned numerous fields, it is medical research that I am most passionate about. I encourage you, Max, to study a course in science, whatever the field. We need more scientists, and thinkers unafraid to challenge authority. I have always said that scientists can be taught the knowledge but not the personality. (Continued in Part 4)

  • (Part 4)
    So Max, the very word supernatural means that the concept is beyond my ability to study, or even consciously imagine. I study the natural.

    But the metaphysical can BECOME the physical. I never forget that. It is arrogant and wrong to discount the metaphysical as untrue or non-existent.

    Which thinkers in 500 BC, even the most ardent atomists, would have conceived of an apparatus that would allow us to view atoms, their particle components, and even to study the properties of these tiny particles ? (The very UNITS of size measurement we use routinely today in chemistry, were not even conceived at the time of Democritus, since they had no use.)

    Technological discovery is exponential. And 2500 years ago, is not long, relative to when the first humans walked the earth a million years before that. The rate we discover new components of our physical reality is increasing all the time. Am I saying that God exists, and we just have not yet proved this ? No. (Continued in…

  • (Part 5) What I AM saying is that ideas that are ostensibly metaphysical today, MAY be physical tomorrow. My advice is to never disparage an unproven theory today, but to ignore it until it becomes physical reality, if that should ever happen.

    Why ? Because as a scientist I am deeply concerned with TRUTH. With the truth of what is and will actually happen, and what has happened, and what exists. It is incumbent upon me to correct falsehoods. I feel compelled to teach what is ACCURATE, insofar as that is possible.

    ow, the truth is, Jesus was telling a parable, about a man and his servants. What you have misleadingly suggested were Christ’s intentions i.e. were in actuality, Christ describing what the man in his parable had said to the servants. Do you not see how disingenous this is, to fit the statement as though Christ were teaching people to kill ? Or did you not understand that this came from a parable, i.e. an extended metaphor, a narrative ?

    (Cont’d in Part 6)

  • (Part 6) If I quoted Shakespeare, Cormac McCarthy, or any other storyteller, and I quoted a character, would you feel comfortable quoting me without including the fact that I was quoting a story ? Lets say I am quoting Star Wars. At one point the Emperor says something like, “yes, feel the hate. Now strike him down !” Something like that. Would you think it acceptable to quote me using those words, without noting that I was paraphrasing Star Wars ?

    Would it matter if I had quoted a story I made up ?

    Be honest. Didyou know that is fallacious ? It is an irrational method of putting your position forward. It makes your position appear tenuous and weak. Why would you not use the quote where Jesus says, “I come not to bring peace, but a sword”. Or the quote about people who sneer at the Holy Spirit not being forgiven. Or the quote where Christ demands followers be more devoted to him, than their families.
    These fit with Reza Aslan’s description of Christ as a zealot. (Ctd…

  • (Part 7) I have read your blog. I like it. I am curious as to why your tone and writing style here is so different to your blog ? Writing says so much about the author: the reader is reading the author’s mind, such as it was when the words were typed.Your blog is written by an honest and passionate person, disappointed with his former religion, but overall a person committed to explaining why, and how, his worldview has changed. It has an authenticity to it, a fairness, a collectedness, a very human set of qualities. It is defined by its empathy, by your empathy.

    Here, it is like a different person: angry, sullen, bitter, they suggest a pamphleteer or a propagandist trying desperately to convince himself that his position is right. Hoping that his bitterness will appear as righteous indignation. Using the same truncated or false quotes, as though they were some original weapon in an intellectual armoury.

    The disparity is striking. Why the change ? What happened ? (Ctd part 8)

  • (Part 8)

    It is actually a bit sad, and I wonder if you have had a troubled few months since your last blog post.
    But you have questioned the popularity of the “judge not” type quotes from Jesus, while saying those who post such quotes apparently ignore the angrier or more zealous parts of Christ’s teachings.

    You should know that the number of teachings about helping the weak, the meek, the poor, the poor in spirit, those who thirst for righteousness, and so on and so on, FAR EXCEED the four or five quotes that tend towards zealotry. Christ never advocates killing and violence, and the only way to make it seem as though he does, is to quote instances where he is quoting somebody else – whether it be a character in a parable or otherwise.

    How can you chastise people for quoting Christ’s words on love, forgiveness and charity, while ignoring less palatable segments, when you should KNOW that the majority of what Christ said was about “the kingdom of Heaven” and charity…

  • (Part 9)
    You have also said there is no evidence he lived. On that, too, I would disagree. Both Suetonius and Tacitus refer to him. As Reza Aslan’s book “Zealot” discusses in some length, there is evidence that Christ lived outside of the Gospels, by which I mean, three or four historical documents that make mention of him. And despite disagreement on “Zealot”, the historicity of Jesus may not be settled (and may never be), but even I, who know very little of this area, have been able to tell that most scholars either say he DID exist, or there is not enough evidence to tell. In fact, the majority opinion is that he existed but was probably different than depicted in the Gospels.
    It stuns me that you didn’t care to know even that, about your own religion. YOU were the Christian. You believed in all this and followed it closely so why didn’t you know this stuff ? Or did you know it and chose to ignore it ?
    (Next is Part 10)

  • (Part 10)

    WHY do you seem so convinced ? Is it because you are a recent convert away from faith ?

    I have found that the newly converted, whether to OR from, towards or away from ANY cause or ideology, are typically the most fired-up, the most passionate. And yes I know the argument that ‘atheism isn’t a religion’, and I’m not arguing that. But atheism is a worldview – it is a perspective. And you can be converted to and from worldviews and perspectives – and to and from atheism. And recent converts as I said, always seem the most fired up.

    Maybe nothing I say will change your APPROACH. Certainly I have no intent to change your OPINIONS, since they, as I have said, are well beyond my intellectual focus. I have no interest in, nor desire to convert people to, or dissuade people from any religious beliefs. I find missionary zeal for any cause to be dangerous, and the only vocation I would encourage is the study and practice of scientific, medical or engineering research…

  • (Part 11) I do not mean to be harsh. I dislike it I’ve tried to temper my words. I want you to realise that you can criticise religion without being untruthful. Dawkins, Harris, Hitchens et al do a fine job in their respective capacities, without the dishonesty you’ve been using. You are just straight out lying.

    WHAT is the point of lying, when your position is supposed to be “ALL RELIGION IS DEMONSTRABLY BAD AND I WILL LET IT SPEAK FOR ITSELF”. Well – you haven’t done that at all. You haven’t let Christianity speak for itself, you’ve truncated and altered and changed quotes (and not just from the Bible but even from Jefferson and Adams). Why ?

    If your position is so strong and these evils in Christianity are all so self-evident, why have you had to take this approach ?

    I intend no negativity, but only that I might help you understand that you harm yourself and the cause for which you are advocating. You should be honest. Bare your experiences, like you do on your…

  • (Part 12)

    …like you do on your blog. Explain why you became an atheist, and respond to other comments uniquely, with your original perspective, because that is what will convince people, if anything. That is potent and powerful, because it is the truth.

    Let me say how grateful I am to you for your blog. It is a wellspring of human feeling and thought on the issue of religion. I admire it immensely. I have no talent for such writing, but I think I know it when I see it, and I have deep respect for you for sharing your thoughts there.

    In that spirit, let me ask you: why did you become religious initially ? What made you become a Christian ? Because your blog elucidates your reasons for leaving, and with clarity and seriousness. But why did you believe in the first place ?

    Having had a paucity of genuine spiritual experiences, my life has been focused on matters of learning, and that has satisfied me. (Continued in Part 13)

  • (Part 13)
    I want also to help others with my work because I feel compelled to do so. But I am mostly bereft of any deep spirituality, and I am curious what that is like.

    Did you have a deep sense of connection to your faith, or to God, or to some spiritual force ? Did you find comfort in your faith, its teachings, its teachers, other believers ? I am curious as to why you believed in the first place, because your blog, as good as it is, has not to my knowledge, touched on that or explored that in detail.

    I am hoping you’ll not regard my posts as disrespectful or mean, and hoping you will see them as one human aiming to share his ideas with another. If you want me to repost these over at your blog or via some other means of communication, I would be happy to do that. And of course if you want only to be left alone, I understand that as well.

    Take care,

  • Religious freedom is so important to stand up for in this time, in this country. During a time where society is telling us what is good and what is bad and shutting down values you have to stand up for the freedom to pray, the freedom to study your texts and the freedom to share your beliefs. If we are not standing up for these things now, what will happen in the future?