Guest Blogger

Being an Atheist in the Queer Community

Filed By Guest Blogger | December 18, 2008 4:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Marriage Equality, The Movement
Tags: agnostic, Greta Christina, LGBT, LGBT atheists

Editors' note: Greta Christina blogs at Greta Christina's Blog.

I want to talk about being an atheist in the queer community.

This is going to be hard to talk about. But it's been on my mind a lot lately, and I think it's important to say.

I see a lot of parallels between the atheist community and the queer community. I think that the two movements have a great deal in common -- the importance of coming out of the closet, an ongoing family argument between the more diplomatic and the more confrontational activist philosophies, being a scapegoat of the religious right, etc.. In a lot of ways, I think the atheist movement today is very much where the queer movement was in the early '70s -- newly visible, newly vocal, pissed off as hell, still finding its voice, just beginning to gain real strength. I think the two communities could learn an enormous amount from each other, and I think that they're natural allies.

And yet, I'm having a realization that I'm finding extremely unsettling.Scarlet letter
I've been an out queer, and an active participant in the queer community, for over 20 years now. I've felt for years like the LGBT community was my home base. I've only identified as an atheist for less than two years.

And yet I'm finding that I feel more at home -- more welcomed, more valued, more truly understood -- as a queer in the atheist community than I do as an atheist in the queer community.

Like, a lot more.

In the last year or two, after a stretch of being more focused on other issues and movements (sex radicalism, mostly, plus of course the atheism), I've been getting more involved again with the LGBT movement. I've been reading LGBT blogs; I've been participating in an email list of LGBT political people; I've been donating money to LGBT causes; I went to the recent LGBT bloggers' conference.

And here are some of the things I've experienced.Duerer-PrayerI've been exhorted to pray. I've been told about "our Creator." I've seen comments in LGBT blogs, listing bigoted and wildly inaccurate anti-atheist canards that could have come straight out of the religious right's playbook. I've heard inaccurate statistics bandied about regarding how many believers and non-believers there are in the U.S.... statistics that diminish atheists' numbers and our strength. (For the record, we're more than five percent, people.) I've heard the inaccurate and insulting canard about "fundamentalist" atheists... and, when I've pointed out that this term is both inaccurate and insulting, had the language firmly defended.

I've heard the LGBT movement described as divided into two distinct groups: the reasonable ones who want to work with religious groups, and the unreasonable ones who think that religion is a delusion. (As if it were impossible to think that religion is a mistaken hypothesis about the
world, and at the same time still think we need to work with religious groups.) I've heard the atheist movement described as divided into two distinct groups: the good ones, the "live and let live" ones who don't criticize religion, and the bad ones, the intolerant "fundamentalist" ones
who think they're right and say so. (Where have we heard that kind of language before?) I've heard LGBT leaders talk about how important it is to reach out to people of different religious faiths... with no mention whatsoever made of reaching out to people with no religious faith. Not
even in lip service.

Whisper
And I've been in the unsettling position of being the person that LGBT people come to to tell about their godlessness.

Have you ever been the out LGBT person that other LGBT people came to, privately or semi-privately, to tell you that they're L, G, B, or T? That's how I'm beginning to feel as an atheist in the queer community.

I'm not going to pretend to speak for these folks. I don't know exactly how they feel about their lack of religious belief, or why they're choosing to stay quiet about it for the moment. It could be any number of reasons: from not wanting to be alienated from the community, to not having the time or energy or inclination to do Godlessness 101 education, to not wanting to raise potentially divisive issues at a time when we've already had a lot of infighting, to just not thinking that it's that big a deal, to other reasons that probably haven't occurred to me. I don't pretend to speak for them, and I'm certainly not going to be anything but supportive of them. Like LGBT people, non-believers need to come out of the closet on their own timetable, and for their own reasons.

Coming_out_of_the_closetBut I think we all know that, when you make yourself visible as an LGBT person in a non- specifically- LGBT group, and a whole bunch of people come up to you privately to tell you that they're LGBT... you know that there's a problem. You know that something's going on in that group that's making LGBT people feel like they can't be completely out.

It seems like that's happening for atheists and other non-believers in the LGBT community.

And the whole thing is making me really sad.

It's ticking me off, too. But mostly, it's making me sad. It's reminding me of my earlier days in the community, when we were fighting for the B to be included in LGBT, and people who I thought were my family were telling me that I didn't belong. It's making me feel like I have to fight for my place at the table. It's making me feel like I have to choose between being welcomed, and speaking my mind about things that are deeply important to me. It's making me feel like my home is not my home anymore.

Being a queer in the atheist community, on the other hand...

Being a queer in the atheist community is almost a complete non-issue.Welcome_mat
I write a lot about the parallels between the LGBT movement and the atheist movement... and atheists, of all sexual orientations, are always interested. When I talk about sexual orientation and queer politics and history -- or just about my own personal experiences in my own queer
relationship -- atheists want to hear what I have to say about it. And when I don't -- when I just want to talk about creationism or Pascal's Wager or the problem of evil or the meaning of life -- then they want to hear what I have to say about that, too. Not as an LGBT representative,
either; not as What The LGBT Community Has to Say About Pascal's Wager. Just as Greta.Straight against h8And the atheist community has been fierce and outspoken in defense of LGBT rights. To give just one example: The atheist blogosphere needed no prodding to blog about Prop 8. They were all over the issue like a cheap suit. Almost every atheist blog I read had something to say about it; many of them blogged about it multiple times. And they were all over the issue from very early on. Hell, I know straight atheist bloggers who were blogging about Prop 8 before I was.

This isn't just true for Prop 8 or same-sex marriage, either. The atheist blogosphere talks about homophobia a fair amount. They see it, among other things, as one of the main examples of how traditional organized religion is stubbornly adhering to unsupported dogma at the expense of real human lives. And that makes it a big issue for them. Apart from just, you know, being appalled by it because it hurts their friends and loved ones. Apart from it just being the right thing to do.Fly swatter
I'm not saying that I've never encountered homophobia or homo-stupidity in the atheist community. I have. But I've found it to be very rare, very much the exception. And maybe more to the point: when it does show up, it gets smacked down like a bug, by a dozen different hands or more. I don't always have to be the one to do the smacking. I don't even usually have to
be the one to do the smacking. When a homophobic or homo-stupid commenter shows up, the atheist blogosphere -- straight and queer -- promptly tears them about sixteen new assholes. I have never before been in a community where I felt so strongly that straight people had my back.

On the whole, the atheist community has been just about the most LGBT-positive community I've been in that wasn't, specifically, an LGBT community itself. I've had to do almost no Queer 101 education in it. I've been able to just relax and be myself.

Now. I do understand that this comparison isn't entirely fair. For one thing, the modern queer movement has been active and loud, visible and vocal, for a good 40 years now. The rest of the world has had time to, as the chant goes, get used to it.The.End.of.Faith
The atheist community? Not so much. The atheist movement has been around for a while; but it's only been active and loud, visible and vocal, making itself an un-ignorable presence in the world at large, for maybe the last five years or so. Straight people -- including atheists -- have had a long time to get educated about LGBT issues. Religious believers -- including LGBT folks -- haven't had as long to get familiar with atheism. So it's not terribly surprising that there should be troubling attitudes about atheists and atheism in the LGBT community. Disappointing, but not
surprising.

And it's not like this situation is universally terrible. It's not. There are queer believers who are saying and doing lovely and supportive things for their non-believing compatriots. There are other queer non-believers who are talking openly about their godlessness -- I'm hardly the only one. And it's not like anyone's throwing rocks at me or anything. It's not terrible.

It's just bad enough to make me feel like I'm not quite at home anymore.Bridge
I am both an atheist and a queer. I feel like I'm one of the bridges between the two communities, and that makes me happy: I think the two movements are natural allies, and I think there should be bridges between them. (If only for reasons of pure pragmatism, I damn well think the LGBT
community should be working like crazy on that alliance. IMO, the atheist movement is going to be a force to be reckoned with in the coming years and decades: it's come very far in a very short time, and it's growing by leaps and bounds every year.)

But lately, I'm feeling like this bridge is a lot more strongly supported on one side than it is on the other. I'm feeling like the people on one side of the bridge are heartily cheering me on and welcoming me with open arms, and the people on the other side of the bridge are a whole lot more conflicted about me, with a fair number of them heartily wishing that I'd just shut up.

And I'm finding -- sadly, but not entirely surprisingly -- that I'm feeling more strongly identified with my new friends who are cheering me on.

I'm feeling more like an atheist than I am like a queer.

And if this trend in the LGBT community keeps moving in this same direction, then that's just going to get stronger.

So how do I want this to change?

That's tomorrow's post.


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Excellent post. I can tell you that as a lesbian and an atheist, I would much rather tell someone that I'm gay than an atheist. People seem to more easily accept gayness than godlessness. We do love us some Jesus in this country.

Roobert Patrick | December 19, 2008 1:48 AM

Many atheists (straight and gay) refrain from being open because of another concern: self-image. They don't want to think of themselves as someone who "disparages others' beliefs." They're unaware that this makes them "fellow travelers" who might as well be religious themselves.

Holy cow! (If you'll pardon the ironic expression.)

I have never seen someone so completely and perfectly express what I've been feeling on this topic! I have said each and every one of these same things to myself for years now, but never was able to articulate them as well!

Thank you. I've been feeling some of these same things since I attended the Creating Change conference last January and noticed all the focus on Rev. Gene Robinson and the National Religious Leadership Roundtable, but with no mention or consideration to the atheists, agnostics and irreligious among the audience.

Many people mistakenly assume that I'm an atheist because of bad experiences with religion, and it takes a lot of energy to convince people that it really has more to do with reason and reflection.

I'm all for working with progressive faith traditions and building bridges with conservative faith traditions, but not at the expense of making atheists feel like outcasts. I'd love to see every LGBT interfaith group include at least one atheist/humanist perspective at the table.

Thank you for this article. You've described almost exactly what I've been feeling about this.
For what it's worth, I've been made to feel inadequate and flawed more often due to my lack of faith than due to my sexuality or gender identity.


I've long been both an out gay man and an agnostic. For most of my childhood I lived in the Bible Belt. As you can imagine, not a good combination.

I now confidently call myself an atheist. I believe in god beings as much as I believe in invisible unicorns. I'm not agnostic about either.

I have no beef with religious folk as long as they don't support anti-gay supremacist bigotry. Unfortunately that disqualifies many.

In fact, I've been so disgusted by the Christian Fundamentalists and their never ending massive efforts to indoctrinate children against gay people that I had to make a video: The Gay Atheist Strikes Back.

I know there are many people who believe in the supernatural who are not supremacist and whose world view welcomes gay people. I have no beef with them. But because extremist religious folk use ancient barbaric texts to support their supremacist ideologies, I feel it is necessary to confront those sources of supremacist ideology directly.

That's why, although my video might come across as unrelenting, I find its message completely necessary and warranted. Ugly banal beastly anti-gay bigotry and the anti-gay industries must have their religious supernatural arguments rendered powerless.

Thus, if you are religious and use your religion as a weapon against me and my gay family, I will no longer ignore your religion. I will strike back where you are vulnerable: the realm of reality and rationality.

At least, that's how I feel now. If I were to be included in all civil laws as an equal citizen, I would let all the crazy fundamentalists alone. Afterall, history is already in the process of marginalizing them. I'm only contributing to that process because the cult heads are targeting me and my kind. :)

I have been a gay atheist most of my life and glad to find another. Because we are free thinkers and cannot by our own nature join a herd, we probably cannot organize in a group.
It was harder for me to come out as an atheist in the mountains of North Carolina for many years, than it was to come out as a bisexual man.
I have since moved to California because of the religious oppression I endured in North Carolina, especially among the Southern Baptists.
When our local theatre here in Palm Springs showed Bill Maher's film "Religulous", the theatre was packed (standing room only) with gay men. Few lesbian in the audience which I thought interesting.
Good for you and hugs.

I know many people who now feel no need to be closeted about anything LGBT but do about being atheist or agnostic.

Back when I was a columnist for the Texas Triangle, I regularly hammered HRC and the usual transphobic suspects frequently - but I also took on the growing christianist theocracy movement. What I found interesting was that I did have some fans among an older, male crowd that generally isn't well-known for trans-positiveness. And, I actually don't know what these men's views were on trans stuff; they did, however, thank me profusely for being out about being agnostic and for being willing to 'go there' on the religionism issue when no one else would.

Karen Collett | December 18, 2008 9:37 PM

Just as a quick link to a page I've found useful in this context: Atheism vs. Agnosticism.

(Greta, the link to your Atheist vs. Agnostic? article is broken.)

Thank you, Karen, for your link to Atheist vs. Agnostic. It has greatly help to clarify my position as agnostic who does not believe in fairy god tales.

my thanks are added to the others above.

i've often thought like Zoe, the first commenter. it's actually easier to tell people i'm queer than an atheist. the atheist part gets stranger looks than the queer part, and the atheist part also usually gets, "I'll pray for you."

i've always thought that a strange reaction. if i don't believe in a deity, why would you pray for me? it's illogical.

it reminds me of a line in one of my favorite films, "The Ruling Class" with Peter O'Toole. he is a paranoid schizophrenic who believes that he is Jesus Christ. since he is in line to the British throne they need to "cure" him.

in a scene in the movie, two proper British ladies come to see him about something. one asks him, "Tell me. How do you know that you are God?"

his response: "It's simple, Madam. Every time I pray to God I find that I am talking to myself."

perfect answer.

when i do tell people, i actually tell them something specific. i say that i identify as an "existential atheist". it's actually a better explanation for me, since i really do identify with existentialism as a philosophy of life. i live in the here and now and not in mythological promises.

oh, and yes, there is such a thing as an "existential theist". "deist" might be a better word to use, and historically most are/were Roman Catholic. strange.

people who are atheist, to me, are also existentialist in a pure sense. there is a misunderstanding about existentialism because most people have been fed the line that it is a somber, suicidal, hopeless philosophy. that is far from the truth. it's about living what is now and accepting it as now. a major premise is that everything based on my existence and what i do with it. some choose to be pessimistic and hopeless. others, i include myself, are hopeful and optimistic. i can wallow or i can act. i choose to act.

again, thank you.

Well, it's one thing to be called a queer by a Christian and quite another thing to hear them snear "godless queer" at you with all their intendant thoughts about being satanic, a baby stealer, demon-possessed, etc....

I came out as gay long before I quit the Catholic Church and established myself as an atheist. There are aspects about both which are analogous and there is a type of atheist person who I think is stuck inbetween his atheism and his former religion. That usually shows up as an attitude in which one must constantly find a way to denigrate that religion or any religion. It seems to me that an atheist should get past that. And such people just make me cringe.

On the other hand I get ticked off when I have to "hold back" on certain issue because a discussion in that matter would be denigrating religion. Like religion isn't set up to denigrate LGBTQ people in the first place. I've even been kicked out of discussions on blogs for "going there."

Well, I don't care anymore, I'm going to speak my mind. Holding back means allowing those religious to make points about human history which are patently wrong in the first place. They want to call it outrage, I call it simply making a point, and keeping things real.

Thank you, Greta...

So excited to see this post. I feel as if whenever I bring this up, I get hit with the lack of suffering of atheists... sure. I get that. I am not saying that as an atheist, I am noticed for it, and thus experience hate crimes, etc. But it was honestly so so so much easier to tell my friends and family i was queer. My mom responded with, "Really? Are you dating anyone? Can I meet her?!" I still haven't told her I'm an atheist. Isn't that funny? She'd be crushed.

I disagree with the popular notion that theists are "people of faith" and atheists are "unbelievers" or people "without faith". Unless one is able to prove as a scientific fact that God does or does not exist, both theism and atheism is an intellectual position that is chosen in the absence of an irrefutable logic --- therefore, they are both forms of "faith". One person has faith that God exists, another has faith that God does not. Neither one can run a conclusive scientific experiment.

"Faith" is a word that is popularly used very imprecisely, and can mean different things to different people. I agree with Dr. James Fowler of Emory University, who proposes that "faith-making" is whatever psychic mechanism one employs in order to give one's existence purpose and meaning. And under that definition, both theists and atheists can, and usually do, have an internal faith-making mechanism. Without this mechanism, a person can't know what it is they are trying to do with their life.

Robert Patrick | December 19, 2008 12:41 PM

"Unless one is able to prove as a scientific fact that God does or does not exist, both theism and atheism is an intellectual position that is chosen in the absence of an irrefutable logic --- therefore, they are both forms of "faith". One person has faith that God exists, another has faith that God does not. Neither one can run a conclusive scientific experiment."

What utter nonsense! The cheapest trick of charlatan philosophers is to ask an opponent to prove a negative. No rational person could ask another to prove that God does not exist any more than they would ask him to prove that a "star Wars" or "Lord of the Rings" character does not exist. This is the kind of placatory tolerance which only serves to permit the continued domination of human thought by idiotic unreason. Perhaps the negative designation "atheism" itself (stemming from "not theist")shoudl be replaced. How about "thinking creature?"

The utter nonsense is yours: First I say that such a test is impossible, then you call my comment "nonsense" because you agree exactly with what I say! I am not asking an opponent to prove a negative, I am pointing out that that negative cannot be proven --- just as you did!

Atheism is an intellectual position not arrived at via direct observation and/or irrefutable logic. Therefore, it is a "guess" and a form of faith. I stand by my initial comment.

Yet another time where I fell so lucky to live in Europe ... How times have changed since our youth, when we admiringly looked at "America, the land of the free"!

Sitting over here in (Western) Europe, I'm really amazingly shocked to read this... I never realised that the religious atmosphere was that strong.

I can't think of anyone here who would feel pressure to not admit they're an atheist. Just thinking about it, I have a good proportion of my friends who are openly so (being Wiccan myself, the rest are pagan alonside the usual smattering of Christians or Muslim people). I also cannot imagine any religious person here daring to castigate someone for being atheist.

Even in strong Catholic countries such as Italy or Poland, being atheist is not looked down on or seen as something which needs to be 'fixed' by the mainstream, though there is a Catholic right who would act differently.

The realisation that the pressure to be religious is that strong in the US really makes me terribly sad. My father's the ultimate atheist (well, apart from thinking he is god sometimes!) and proudly shares that with everyone he can. If he couldn't do that, I would feel terribly angry. That's his right!

I had never thought about what it is like to be atheist, nor about atheist inclusion. Thank you for opening my eyes and for giving me thoughts to mull over.

So glad to see so many comments! It's making me very happy. Mostly I'm commenting to supply the broken link on "Atheist or Agnostic?" (sorry about that): it's:

http://gretachristina.typepad.com/greta_christinas_weblog/2007/01/atheist_or_agno.html

And Mar, I'm sorry, but your comment reveals a lack of understanding about what atheism is. Atheism is not an unshakably certain belief in the non-existence of God. It is the opinion that the existence of God is implausible and unlikely. It is the opinion that there is no good evidence or arguments for God, and that, unless and until we see some good evidence or arguments, we're going to assume that God doesn't exist.

The fact that we can't conclusively prove with 100% certainty that God doesn't exist doesn't mean we can't make a reasonable evaluation of how likely it is that he exists. There are lots of propositions that we can't disprove with 100% certainty, but that we can still conclude are so improbable that we can comfortably reject them. And it doesn't mean that our conclusion that God doesn't exist is equivalent to religious faith.

Austin Cline a brilliant godless gay man writes well thought out essays. I subscribe to his newsletter.

http://atheism.about.com/mbiopage.htm

GretaC, I was following you until you added that last sentence. If atheism is "an opinion" and a "conclusion" then why do you say it is not "equivalent to religious faith"?

Because you do not invest a soulful and fervent "trust" in that opinion the way religious people do in their "faith"? (If you feel excluded by the Christian America around you, then maybe you are putting more "trust" in this opinion than you would initially suppose.)

Just because you are not going around criticizing or killing, or wishing you could, all the people who disagree with you? Are you claiming that atheism is a "better" or more "intelligent" conclusion than theism is? If so, then next we need to look at what is your criteria for a conclusion to be "better" or more "intelligent".

I'm not challenging you, I'm simply asking for a clarification.

You see, even though I ascribe to a form of theism, I do not suppose that theism is either intellectually, and certainly not politically, superior to atheism. In a way, I am still an atheist: I do not believe that God exists in the same sense that you and I exist, but instead that God is something that is behind existence itself, outside the space and time that you and I exist in.

To some of you, talk like that is nonsense, and so be it. But I read writings about physics and global cosmology --- for instance, what was the nature of the Big Bang? --- who talk about such stuff all the time, not in the name of religion, but science. One thing is sure: There may not be a Creator, but in our universe there are Forces of Creation, which may or may not involve an "intelligence" --- because our solar system and our planet and our species did come about somehow.

I don't think I said anything to the contrary... I feel the same way you do.

Frank Gurucharri | December 19, 2008 6:37 AM

THANK YOU, GUEST BLOGGER.
I believe you are correct- -atheists and agnostics are the next "hate" group for the righteous religious. The false stereotype of non-believers is that they are immoral and people with no values. Ironically, religion and morality are not related and proven many times historically by the evil perpetrated by even major religious institutions- -the Crusades, the Inquisition, Slavery, Segretation, the Oppression of women, hatred toward the LGBTQ communities and now also atheists and agnostics. So much for "god is love."
Frank Gurucharri

Three Cups Of Tea For Rick Warren

Three Cups Of Tea For Rick Warren

http://tinyurl. com/4we7v7

First off, I don't agree with having religious words spoken officially at civil, tax-paid ceremonies. You know Warren will have to make at least one reference to the blood shed for "us" by the savior of the world, Gee-sus Christ.

Someone else can have the portion of Gee-sus's blood allotted to me; I won't need it nor ask for it.

Some people's need for washing in idol blood is the main reason we LGBT people are taking such a licking at the ballot box. Thirty states have passed anti-equality marriage laws or amendments in the last 8-10 years, in addition to the Federal "Defense of Marriage Act".

I'm not sure if I agree with the tenor of this article but I'm sending it out for others to read as an example of listening to other voices, using our president-elect' s seeming guiding principle.

IMO, how long do we LGBT people have to wait in order to have our birthright to be recognized?

The writer, Tom Hartman, quotes from Joseph Lowry who is giving the benediciton for examples of racial and gender discrimination being "values" of the fundies that have been largely discarded socially and legally.

Hartman makes reference to there being one America and bringing "the enemies of America's true values of love and tolerance over to our side."

American history seems to me to be about control, coercion, and co-option. How much longer do we LEGIT folks need to wait for the enemies of our equality to understand that yet again they're on the wrong side of the fence?

The fundies have never been right, except in their own minds, about any social or civil topic throughout my knowledge of history.

At my age I don't have a whole lot of time to wait before I'm too old, tired, ill, and penurious to enjoy my inheritance of citizenship thanks to religious obstructionists.

Robert Patrick | December 19, 2008 2:52 PM

Just ditch the loaded word "atheist" and use "rationalist" or "intelligent person" and there's no need to prove or disprove the existence of God. It is entirely in the court of believers to prove a belief, not of a rational person to disprove it. Again, apply your same logic to "disproving" the Tooth Fairy or Santa Claus. It's not necessary to prove that God doesn't exist, nor is it a matter of faith not to believe in God. The only thing that makes you think so is that subterraneanly you're accepting belief in God as a rational "theory," and not believing in God as a "counter-theory" or challenge to it. That's a waste of time and damaging to the intellect. When someone says, "The universe is too vast and complex for anyone to have made it, therefore someone must have made it," that is not reasoning which can or needs to be refuted. A concept which has no reasonable proof is nonsense. Not believing in such a concept is by definition not a belief or "faith."

Nice... and within hours confirmed by some a couple of the comments on this thread.

I've been struggling with this in a slightly different way - now at a point in life where inheritance plans and giving is more important, I've wondered where my (meager) money will do more good: giving to LGBT orgs? giving to atheist orgs? Last year I decided that giving to atheist orgs does more. I've never met an atheist who didn't support gay issues (though I'm sure there are a few) -- it's simply a non-issue to most atheists. OTOH I have seen many, many religious LGBT turn right around and condemn atheist issues.

This is really interesting, and upsetting to hear, partly because it's so counter to my experience and the prevailing sentiments in my (queer and non-queer) communities. In most of my school, work, family, and social locations, the dominant attitude was that a belief in god was illogical, a sign of being right-wing, and associated with "stupid" people. As a result, I've always been much more comfortable being out as queer than as someone who is involved in a faith community (albeit one in which many people identify as non-theist). Furthermore, the inner voice (and the voices of people around me) saying that choosing to believe in god/spirit/etc is non-rational has seriously impacted my ability to become someone who is a person of faith, which I'm trying to learn to do.

I wonder how much of this is a regional and/or rural/suburban/urban difference (I grew up and now live in northeast cities)?

Dogmatists of all stripes are annoying. I find the Sam Harris rhetoric as superficial as that of the noisy Christian believers (as opposed to doers).

Neither religion nor atheism make people bad.
Neither religion nor atheism make people good.

Most people in the local general community pay lip service to religion, but comparatively few people take it seriously, as more than a social networking service. The local LGBT community is predominantly non-religious, though not necessarily predominantly atheist.

Well, as a gay Christian, I can assure you that atheism - gay or straight or anything in between - is just fine by me. Christianity as my Episcopal church practices it is just wonderful for me. But that doesn't mean it's for everyone, and I most certainly respect your lack of faith as well. Hope that helps a little. :)

I think religion is deeply personal, and I views it as God's instructions to me. You're not me. Those instructions to me, are not applicable to you. You need your own instruction, wherever that comes to you, personally. From your heart, from your head, or from somewhere or someone, "out there." Atheism and theism are neither in themselves good or bad. It's what a person does with it that counts. I'll certainly take any atheist over Fred Phelps, James Dobson, or Rick Warren any day.

My God tells me that I will know His followers by their actions. Those guys, well, so far, haven't seen a darn thing that indicates they follow the same savior I do. Trust me, you are fully equal to me in my view and just as valued as a person.

Seeing that last comment, I had to jump in again.

Of all the comments over all the years I have been an atheist who reads about it voraciously, this last statement was the kindest, most eloquent statement from a believer I have encountered on the topic.

Thank you.

A. J. Lopp: I'm not saying -- and have, in fact, never said -- that I think atheists are better or more intelligent than believers. What I think is that theism is a mistaken idea about the world. That's not the same thing. Being mistaken about something doesn't make people bad or stupid -- we're all mistaken about some things -- and being correct about something doesn't make people good or smart.

And what I think is that a strong case can be made for the atheist position without (a) having to prove that position 100% conclusively, or (b) having that position be the equivalent of religious faith. I can think of hundreds or thousands of propositions that I agree or disagree with without being able to prove or disprove them with 100% certainty... and my positions are not the same as religious faith.

If you want to know what I think the difference is between religious faith and simply having an opinion or coming to a conclusion about something, then you might want to read my piece, What Would Convince You That You Were Wrong? The Difference Between Secular and Religious Faith. And if you want to know the main reasons I have for my lack of religious belief, then look at my piece The Top Ten Reasons I Don't Believe in God. (Sorry for the self-linkage, everybody, but it really is the best way to answer the questions that were asked.)

Asked to pray at an LGBT event? Say it ain't so!

the LGBT activist community has such a strange relationship with religion. I see far too often the "idiotic Christian" message here in the comments, the idea that anyone who expresses a religious viewpoint is a moron who needs to just get real.

And then, on the other side, there's this. We lose all around, but that's probably because LGBT people have far less in common than any community that came together based on beliefs instead of... well, we don't even know what.

Thank you, you are most kind. Made my little day! :)

I think an argument can be made that theism and atheism are not all that far from each other, really.

You have questions. So do I. So did Jesus, Confucius, Buddha, and the leader of every religiron.

We see the same things: the vastness of the cosmos, the wonder of life in all its forms, the beauty of nature, and we are awe struck.

I see the hand of God in all of it. You see something else, perhaps. Chance? Millions of years of evolution? So do I. I think I see that spark created by some unknown force that drives these wonders. Perhaps you do not. Neither of us knows for sure.

The truth is, despite what the religious right would have you believe, scripture is nothing more than the written word of man, trying fruitlessly to explain the author's experience with God. It is nothing more than that.

Two thousand years ago, some people in Israel thought they had seen God in the person of Jesus. Others clearly did not. As to my faith, all I can say is that my life experience seems to agree with the former. Still, the question remains.

That question we both share. Neither of us can possibly know the answer. But, I think you will agree, exploring and pondering what we think we see is infinitely puzzling and rewarding, regardless of the slight shift in perspective we both have. So, in the end, are we that far apart as we ponder the unknowable?

Greta, Wonderfully crafted words. I too have felt much more support as a gay man in my Atheist & Other Freethinkers of Sacramento group than I often get from the local glbt community even though I am the priciple co-founder of our community center (1986) and the present form of our glbt pride celebration (1984).

I might suggest to the readers if they are hesitant about the word "atheist" they look at www.the-brights.net. Brights are people from all over the world who hold a naturalistic worldview.

I too have been very disturbed of the Christian religiousity at the last Creating Change I attended in Oakland where so much emphasis was put on Christianity. As an atheist I was very uncomfortable as I am sure Jews, Pagans and Muslims and others were.

I have contacted the Task Force about including Atheists in their Religious Roundtable only to be rebuffed about such inclusion.

Although I am a Baptist Bible College graduate (1957, Jerry Falwell was a schoolmate) I have come by my atheism through study and experience. I am a former Metropolitan Community Church clergy who founded two MCC congregations (Des Moines, 1974 and Wichita, 1975).

Fundamental Christianity had too many unanswered questions and too much dogma. When I studied how we got the bible (something we didn't do at BBC) I learned it was really a book of myths no more believable than the gods of the Greeks or Romans.

Bottom line all unbelievers, gay or straight, need to heed Harvey Milk and "Come Out! Come Out! Wherever you are!"

Wow, Jerry!

There is no way you remember me, but I was the editor of TWN (The Weekly News) in Miami when you were there in '87 on behalf of MCC and I was covering that and did a story on your showing up of Falwell and his anti-MCC comments.

I must say, I'm mightily impressed at your de-conversion (as it were) and totally agree with your comments! You were something of a hero of mine then and now.

wow. reading this post made my jaw drop. i have found being a person of faith in the queer community incredibly difficult, so it's hard for me to fathom an atheist struggling with this. i am constantly hearing other queers equate religious folks with being ignorant, judgmental, and unable to think for themselves - to the point where i feel compelled to stay "in the closet" about being a Christian, lest i be judged myself. in my experience, there is a lack of queer spaces that are friendly to people of faith.

btw, i find your comment about theism being a "mistaken idea about the world" incredibly condescending, arrogant, elitist and divisive - just like the comments i often hear from other queer atheists about religion. one could just as easily say the same thing about atheism, but such comments only serve to foster hostility.

Robert Patrick | December 23, 2008 8:28 AM

With religious people one so often runs up against a blank wall. People who claim to know the entire nature of the universe call others "condescending." People who think that only those who share their beliefs will go to heaven call others "arrogant, elitist, and divisive." Above, Mel says, "there is a lack of queer spaces that are friendly to people of faith." All the major faiths consider gays abominations, condemn us to hell, and frequently torture and kill us in this world. And yet a prectitioner of one of them complains that gays are not "friendly" to him. The mind reels at such closed thinking.

I have no problem with atheism, and I was not passing judgment on those who are atheists. My point was, why can't we just stop being mean to each other, respect our differences, and focus on what we have in common? Why do people need to be arrogant about their beliefs? What good does that do?

Furthermore, your comment about all the major faiths considering gays abominations ignores that there are plenty of queer-affirming religious communities. You can't paint all people of faith with one brush.

Thank you, Greta. This was a good discussion to start.

There are so many comments I want to reply to, but most importantly, I want to address the notion that saying "believers" are "mistaken" is somehow offensive. I don't see how someone can find this insensitive or offensive when a large swath of believers, by definition, hold the position that non-believers are "mistaken." If you disagree about a matter of opinion, the only rational explanation is that you believe the person is mistaken.

What offends me are "sheeple", whether they are believers or otherwise, anyone who has lost the ability to think critically because of their dogma is far more dangerous to the world.

I was having a conversation today with Bil about how I was turned off by religion when I was growing up. I went to a number of churches with different people only to discover most of them didn't agree with many of the teachings of the church, didn't follow the admonitions of the church, and often couldn't explain rationally why they even went to that church other than "they've always gone there."

It is so-called "blind-faith" that makes me want to scream. I have an aunt who went to an anti-gay rally - a counter rally to one I had setup down the street, BTW - because she believed she was there to "pray for gay people." Yet the message was anything but "praying for gay people." It was "pray away the gay people."

Yet she couldn't understand why my mother and other family members were furious at her. She was blinded by her faith and there was no rational way to get through to her that her own view point was different than the church or that she was lending credence to a gathering that was openly hostile and damaging to her own family.

I could go on, but I don't think it is arrogant, offensive, or any such thing to say you believe someone is mistaken. That's better than calling them deluded or deranged, which is what atheists AND queers are often called by "believers".

I think it's arrogant and offensive to not view the world from another's perspective. And I feel the same when others summarily dismiss the discussion by claiming the "I'm offended" card. That generally means they are unable to rationally argue their point of view and shut down the debate to keep that fact from being revealed.