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Austin Cline

Homosexuality and Atheism: A Parallel

By October 12, 2005

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There are a number of ways that the experiences of gays and atheists in America parallel each other. Both, for example, have the problem of living "in the closet" or "coming out" to friends and family. Both also have to contend with the fact that too many Americans consider homosexuality, atheism, or both to be completely unacceptable under any circumstances.

Chris Long writes:

[My friend] dropped this bomb: “If you don’t believe in God, nothing you do really matters to me. It’s not ok.” It’s not ok to not believe in God. Unless a person believes in God, their actions don’t matter.

I’d made reference, after that point and without understanding the full weight of what had been said, that the same type of thinking pressed people I’d been very close with to shun me and speak to me only with civility after finding out I was gay. Perhaps that was a bit of a stretch, but I find it difficult to reconcile myself with her statement that it’s “not ok” to not believe in God. So many people say it’s not ok to be gay in the course of my daily activities that it gets to be a bit difficult to keep on. I understand how my sexuality might not coincide with another’s belief, or how someone else’s atheism might seem to say to a Christian that what they believe is not the right way.

I realize that Long is talking about a friend of his, but the bigotry of his person strikes me as unusually extreme. I realize that there are a lot of people out there who are bigoted against atheists, but this goes farther than most of what I see or read about. This sort of xenophobic tribalism is at the root of a significant percentage of the death, destruction, and suffering which humans have inflicted on each other throughout the millennia.

Once a person asserts that another human being no longer matters because of some accidental trait (skin color, religion, ethnicity, tribe, etc.), there is no serious barrier to full dehumanization and, in the end, inhuman atrocities. When a human being no longer matters, then their needs, desires, and suffering no longer matters either. When what a person does no longer matters, then what happens to them no longer matters either.

Quite frankly, I’d be afraid to know such a person or to have them as a neighbor. I wouldn’t be able to trust them an inch and would avoid contact with them because I would have to assume that they are a danger to me, my family, and my property. Remember, this person considers herself a “good Christian” and is probably regarded as such by members of her church. It is just such “good Christians” who have willingly participated in atrocities all through Christian history.

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