Friday, January 14, 2011

Religious people using facts & reason? Cool!

In his new book Fall to Grace: A Revolution of God, Self and Society, Jay Bakker, the son of Jim Bakker and Tammy Faye Messner, asserts that homosexuality is not a sin:

The simple fact is that Old Testament references in Leviticus do treat homosexuality as a sin ... a capital offense even. But before you say, "I told you so," consider this: Eating shellfish, cutting your sideburns and getting tattoos were equally prohibited by ancient religious law...

The truth is that the Bible endorses all sorts of attitudes and behaviors that we find unacceptable (and illegal) today and decries others that we recognize as no big deal."
Leviticus prohibits interracial marriage, endorses slavery and forbids women to wear trousers. Deuteronomy calls for brides who are found not to be virgins to be stoned to death, and for adulterers to be summarily executed.

Examining the original Greek words translated as homosexual and homosexuality in three New Testament passages, Bakker, and others, conclude that the original words have been translated inaccurately in modern English. What we read as homosexuals and homosexuality actually refers to male prostitutes and the men who hire them. The passages address prostitution -- sex as a commodity -- and not same-sex, consensual relationships, Bakker says. The word homosexual first appeared in an English-language Bible in 1958. Bakker is part of a group petitioning Bible publishers to remove the words homosexual and homosexuality from new translations and replace it with terms that more precisely reflect the original Greek - an action not meant to be more politically or socially correct, but to be more historically and linguistically accurate.

Bakker, 35, is pastor of Revolution NYC, a Brooklyn evangelical Christian congregation that meets in a bar. And he is not alone in the Christian community at this Biblical basis for saying homosexuality is not a sin.

All this came up in a blog by Cathleen Falsani, Religion Columnist aka "God Girl", called Is Evangelical Christianity Having a Great Gay Awakening? Why should an Atheist like me care? Because it's an example of religious people thinking and using reason, history and facts to explore the rules that should guide our lives. And I am always supportive of any effort based on reason, history and facts.

And note how this reason-based, history-based and fact-based exploration by Bakker and Falsani and others hasn't gotten rid of their belief in an invisible super friend. At some point, these folks, and others, have decided that faith in an invisible super friend doesn't have to mean ignoring reason, history and facts. I'm not actively trying to encourage people to abandon that overall belief, but I love any effort that encourages people of faith in an invisible super friend to think, to undertake research and to acknowledge human failings in religious dogma.

Many Atheists are frightened at the rhetoric and actions of many people of faith who are working to suppress science, knowledge, and even basic freedoms and human rights. It's nice to know Atheists aren't the only ones frightened by such.

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