With marriage equality efforts in Oklahoma, Utah, and elsewhere making headlines this month, the intersection of LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer) rights and religion has been a hot topic of discussion among atheists.

While many Christians in the United States support same-sex marriage—including, for example, nearly 60% of all American Catholics and over 50% of white evangelical Protestants under the age of 35—some atheists have recently debated whether Christians can truly support marriage equality.

Last week, this discussion received broader attention due to a series of tweets written by Dave Muscato, Public Relations Director for American Atheists, which were published by the official American Atheists Twitter account. Among the claims put forth in the tweets: “if you’re a Christian and an LGBTQ supporter, you’re doing one of them wrong.”

As a queer person and a former evangelical Christian—and an interfaith activist who works alongside many LGBTQ and ally Christians—the ensuing conversation caught my attention, and it has since been a topic of discussion among a number of atheist activists. On Monday of this week Michael DeDora—Director of Public Policy for the Center for Inquiry—challenged Muscato’s position in a post on The Moral Perspective.

I believe that you can of course be a Christian and also be LGBTQ or an ally, but I wanted to give both sides of this discussion an opportunity to argue their positions. So I have invited two of the participants in the initial Twitter discussion to defend their perspectives in this column—and I hope both atheists and Christians will share their thoughts in the comments.

Dave Muscato—Public Relations Director for American Atheists—wrote the initial tweet, and he defends his perspective below. Dean Roth—a queer Humanist and former evangelical Christian—offers a dissenting perspective in part 2 of this post.

Part 1: No, you can’t be a Christian and support LGBTQ rights, by Dave Muscato

Editor’s Note: The piece below reflects the opinions of its author, Dave Muscato. It does not reflect the views of Religion News Service columnist Chris Stedman, and it does not necessarily reflect those of Muscato’s employer, American Atheists.

Dave Muscato

Image courtesy Dave Muscato.

There are many parts of the Bible that are completely ignored by Christians. In many cases it’s because Christians don’t know what the Bible says. They haven’t read it and don’t care to. In other cases it’s because they do know what it says, but their own sense of morality overrides this—otherwise known as “cherry picking.”

Despite their claims, many Christians don’t get their moral compass from the Bible. If they did, they would be fine with slavery, they would not get divorced, they would not wear gold wedding rings, and they would not have sex before they were married—something virtually 100 percent of Christians do. Religion makes people into liars, which is one of the problems with it.

In reality, we all get our ideas about what’s right and wrong from society, the study of ethics, and the changing cultures in which we live. Not only did these precede the writing of the Bible—but they evolve and the Bible doesn’t. That’s good. There is no reason we should expect that our ideas about what is moral and immoral cannot be improved upon. This has never been true in the past and there are certainly a lot of things society disagrees about now that are likely to be settled one way or the other eventually. A pertinent example is marriage equality.

People who claim to be Bible-believing Christians and also claim to support marriage equality are hypocrites. Fortunately, the realization of this—and the inability to reconcile their belief that marriage equality is moral with what Christianity teaches about the morality of gay relationships—has led many to abandon Christianity. I hope it leads more to do the same.

Is it possible to be a Christian and support the right for gay Christians to engage in sexual relations if they so desire?

Not if a person identifies as a Bible-believing Christian.

There is no question that the Bible prohibits sexual relations between men (Leviticus 20:13) and says engaging is such behavior is detestable. God himself, speaking directly to Moses, orders execution as punishment for this. While execution is arguably prohibited for Christians (John 8), in no way is it suggested or written that sex between men is therefore acceptable for Christians.

Lest Christians think that Jesus wiped clean the slate and Old Testament law no longer applies, consider what Jesus said in Matthew 5:18: “Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill. For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass from the Law until all is accomplished. Whoever then annuls one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven…”

Being a Bible-believing Christian (or Jew or Muslim or other group that follows the Old Testament) requires a lot of rationalization. Some of the most creative people I know are Christians. They have to be, because the Bible prohibits all sorts of things Christians will defend as moral.

Now, of course, none of this really matters. The Bible isn’t true in the first place, and it makes no difference what the Bible says about the morality of gay relationships. Marriage is a human right and LGBTQ relationships are moral.

Am I “silencing” gay Christians by telling them that they are wrong about the belief that one can be both gay and Christian at the same time?

Oh, it’s much worse than that: I am telling all Christians that what they believe about the entirety of reality is wrong.

As supportive as I am of marriage equality—and, while I consider it a private matter, as a member of the LGBTQ community myself, I certainly am supportive—quibbling about this minor aspect of Christian doctrine seems ludicrous. Christians can cite this verse or that verse, interpret the Bible this way or that way, but it doesn’t matter. Have we forgotten that the Bible claims Jesus was a zombie?

That book has much more laughably obvious flaws than its position on gay relationships. The only thing miraculous about Christianity is that anyone takes anything the Bible has to say seriously in the first place.

(Click here to read part 2, where Dean Roth offers a different perspective.) 

Dave Muscato is a civil-rights activist, public speaker, and Public Relations Director for American Atheists. He can be reached via Twitter at @DaveMuscato.

25 Comments

  1. —- There are many parts of the Bible that are completely ignored by Christians. In many cases it’s because Christians don’t know what the Bible says. They haven’t read it and don’t care to. In other cases it’s because they do know what it says, but their own sense of morality overrides this—otherwise known as “cherry picking.” —

    Dear writer, a true bible believing Christian will not cherry pick what to use from the bible. “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness. 2 Timothy 3:16.

    We are not under the Law, and the ceremonial laws cannot be perform, nor are required any more, because they were a shadow of the atonement for sins done by Jesus, for anybody that believe in Him will not perish but have everlasting life.

    Now, the bible clearly state what is right or wrong, and Christians should stand with what G-d say is right and also stand with what G-d say is wrong. Because G-d said it is wrong to practice homosexuality, we should condemn this practice.

    Sin is sin, whether lying of steeling, murdering or fornication, pornography or homosexuality. The Law shows that G-d is Holy, and that we need His righteousness, whether we are heterosexual or Homosexual.

    Jesus’s forgiveness is available to anybody, we are not to judge anybody, but we have to show what sin is and Whom can provide forgiveness of sin and reconciliation with G-d.

    And for anybody that believe in Jesus, His righteousness is imputed the them, by Faith, for us not to boast on our good word, but for Jesus to have all glory, because we also sinned and rebelled against G-d before we believed in Him.

    G-d Bless

    Remi

    • Either you are speaking out of ignorance or completely miss the irony of your statements.

      The biblical aversion to homosexuality come from the same part of the Bible you claim Christians are free to ignore, The ceremonial laws. All Christians cherry pick which parts of the ceremonial laws they want to follow or enforce upon others. Usually it is done whenever they want to sound stenorian or holier than thou.

      Sin is subjective based on the convenience of the person accusing another of it.

      If all sins are alike as you argue, then failing to follow ceremonial law which Christians do constantly is to be treated the same as committing acts which are as legal scholars described malum in se (wrong as a matter of course). You are choosing to enforce ceremonial law on others but not on yourself. Typical Christian hypocrisy two-step.

      Most importantly, what constitutes sin has zero bearing on what constitutes civil liberties. Pornography, adultery, fornication, blasphemy are all sinful to you, but perfectly legal and really must remain so in a free democratic society. Nobody should ever have to care whether a law is considered righteous to a Christian mindset. If your sole argument against LGBTQ rights is religious, then you are conceding you have nothing rational or relevant to say.

      • “The biblical aversion to homosexuality come from the same part of the Bible you claim Christians are free to ignore, The ceremonial laws.”

        The ceremonial laws concerning diet, clothing and so on were never given to Gentiles. However, Leviticus 20, where the sexual prohibitions are found, states clearly that God judged and rejected the Canaanites for these practices long before there was ever a Torah. Judeo-Christian sexual morals derive from a far more ancient standard, the Noahide laws, which Jews always expected righteous Gentiles to follow. This is why the Jewish Christians of the Jerusalem Church, themselves Torah-observant (no “cherry-picking” there), retained them for the Gentile converts to Christianity

      • Dear Lary, I do agree with Shawnie for the explanation of the ceremonial law (food, washing and ceremonial service) which are not necessary for the gentiles believers, and specifically mentioned in Romans 14. “The person who will eat anything is not to despise the one who doesn’t; while the one who eats only vegetables is not to pass judgment on the one who will eat anything; for God has accepted that person. Who are you to judge the servants of someone else? It is their own Master who will decide whether they succeed or fail. And they will succeed, because the Lord is able to make them succeed.” So if I want to eat clean animals and celebrate the feast to please the L-rd, which I do, it is up to me, but I will not judge anybody that does not.

        But when it comes to what is acceptable in the sight of the L-rd concerning intercourse, the marriage bed is undefiled. Also Romans 1 condemn those practices. ” For this reason God gave them up to vile passions. For even their women exchanged the natural use for what is against nature. 27 Likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust for one another, men with men committing what is shameful, and receiving in themselves the penalty of their error which was due.”

        Finally, we have to consider people practising this kind of lifestyle the same way as any lost person, loving them, because G-d loves them, that they may come to know Him and repent of all their sins, including their sexual sins. Nevertheless, they have the same right as anybody, but concerning marriage, G-d instituted it between a man and a woman since the garden of Eden.

        Shalom,

        G-d Bless.

        Remi

        illbehonest.com/Is-Someone-Born-a-Homosexual-David-Upton

        • You both are merely providing excuses for the same hypocritical behavior and neither of you provide honest interpretations of the Old Testament to support yourselves. The practice of the Canaanites which was so vividly proscribed was child sacrifice.

          Homosexuality is treated by Leviticus with the same degree of admonishment as other foreign practices. A sin merely because it is not part of the group culture (“abomination” language comes from the 17th Century translations).

          Christians by their nature cherry pick the Old Testament areas they want to enforce on others (but ignore for their own behavior). They are never “Torah observant” because they give themselves easy excuses to opt out. The vast majority of those who actually read the Torah in its original language, debate its interpretations and refer to centuries of dialogue on the subject do not treat it as rigidly as Christians do (when they want to sound tough in public)

          Romans 1 does not condemn consensual homosexual behavior, but condemns legalized rape as temple rites. The sin mentioned in that section is IDOLATRY. But that requires reading the entire section, in context. Something inconvenient when using the Bible to support vile bigotry.

          Neither of you discuss how irrelevant your faith is to civil liberties of others. What is sinful is never equal to what is illegal. An argument on the basis of sin means you have no rational arguments concerning rights.

          • Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites.

            1 Corinthians 6:9

            Hi Lary, according to the Bible homosexuality is a sin. Now, as a Christian, we should strive do what please G-d, and being a imitator of G-d. Was John the Baptise encouraging Herod adultery? Christian should abhor that which is evil; cleave to that which is good.

            I don’t know what you are, if you are religious or not, but if you do not put your trust in G-d Righteous servant, you will likewise die in your sins:

            Isaiah 53
            But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities;
            the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed. We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way;and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth;he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before its shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth. By oppression[a] and judgment he was taken away.
            Yet who of his generation protested? For he was cut off from the land of the living;
            for the transgression of my people he was punished.
            He was assigned a grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death, though he had done no violence, nor was any deceit in his mouth.
            Yet it was the Lord’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer, and though the Lord makes his life an offering for sin, he will see his offspring and prolong his days, and the will of the Lord will prosper in his hand.

            written 500 years before the Righteous servant came (Yeshua)

            Shalom

            G-d Bless.

            Remi

          • To put it briefly, nonsense. Leviticus 20 lays out all of the Torah’s sexual prohibitions (adultery, same-sex, bestiality and incest) which were well-known to all 1st century Jews and Christians–including Jesus–and immediately follows them with the command: “Keep all my decrees and laws and follow them, so that the land where I am bringing you to live may not vomit you out. You must not live according to the customs of the nations I am going to drive out before you. Because they did ALL OF THESE THINGS, I abhorred them.” Lev. 20:22-23.

            And, as has already been stated, it was the Torah-observant who decided what would and would not be required of Gentile Christians–not Gentile Christians themselves. And what they required, it turns out, is equivalent to the Noahide Laws: everything implied by the law of love of neighbor, plus sexual purity and abstention from blood.

            Finally, there are no “centuries of dialogue” on this subject. All such debate has been entirely manufactured within the last generation or so in order to rationalize a “way that seemeth right” to fallen man but leads to destruction.

  2. Bradley Sterrenberg

    Two thoughts…
    Why should one believe an atheist is a notable biblical scholar?
    Why should one believe an atheist is a notable Christian scholar?

    Two observations…
    Not all Christians are alike. (e.g. Roman Catholics and snake handlers.)
    Not all Truth is accurate.

    One conclusion…
    One can be both Christian and LGBTQ supportive.

    • Dear Bradley, people are not born Christian, we are all born under sin (see Romans 1 and 2, Psalm 14 and 51), one must repent and believe in the Gospel (that Jesus died for our sins and that by faith in Jesus we can have his righteousness) to have reconciliation with G-d.

      Roman Catholic Religion does not teach salvation by faith, thus those people are still in their sins.

      Jesus is the truth, the Bible is the Word of G-d and is Truth, only one interpretation of the Bible is right and what was meant by the Holy Spirit, if we look the passage in it’s context without twisting it to mean whatever we want.

      For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they draw to themselves teachers, having itching ears; 2 Timothy 4:3.

      G-d Bless.

      Remi

  3. Hi

    The Episcopal Church has gay priests and bishops. Do you, like many atheists, believe that liberal Christians like them are not real Christians? Only fundamentalists are Christians?

    Who decides who is a Christian?

    I myself am now a nothing, but I remember the liberal churches with affection.

    • Hi Dudley, who is a true Christian? That is a good question. Only the bible can say who is a true Christian.

      According to the bible, a true Christian is a person who has put faith and trust in the person and work of Jesus Christ, including His death on the cross as payment for sins and His resurrection on the third day.

      If a person claim that, then we have to accept him/her as true Christian.

      I found that good explanation only:

      http://www.gotquestions.org/what-is-a-Christian.html

      G-d Bless.

      Remi

  4. MadGastronomer

    How is it atheists’ business to debate whether or not Christians are Real True Christians? How is it atheists’ business to debate what Christians can and can’t believe? Do you want Christians debating who isn’t and isn’t a Real Atheist? Atheists generally don’t want theists telling them what they do or don’t believe, why are they now telling Christians what they do or don’t believe?

    Seriously, this is like straight people debating whether or not bisexuals really exist, or can really have a meaningful relationship with one or another gender.

  5. I’m not that impressed with Dave Muscato. He takes quite a few major assumptions for granted, not even bothering to explain or defend them.

    If he’s their PR director, I’m not that impressed with American Atheists either.

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