Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Ignorance Is Not A Point Of View

The debate around the St Marks "Sex in the City - Is Gay Okay?" discussion held at the church three weeks ago just doesn't seem to want to die. Homophobes continue to post their ignorant remarks  in such a manner as if to show that a) they know what they are talking about and b) they have some kind of hand-written note from "God" to authorize them to hate and to persecute others in its name.

Yes sirree, Port Elizabeth has a "prophet" in its 'burbs - another one who claims to know what "God" said and meant, intent on not letting anyone get on with their lives without being told off for being the "lustful sinners" they are.

In today's episode, let's look at the comment made by a Nigel Wakeford, a regular in the Herald "chirps" column. In my humble opinion, Mr Wakeford is just showing his ignorance. 

In today's "chirp" he uses the words "bred" and "born" as though to illustrate a clear-cut difference between a person being born gay or transgender or having some kind of biological cause to being gay or transgender - and someone who is, for example, "taught to be gay" by (according to the sermon at St Marks) child molestation, masturbation or fixation with one's own genitalia, and other environmental factors such as being raised in a "broken home" etc. I have to wonder at the sort of mind that can dream rubbish like that up and actually look at a person and think it's perfectly true.

It should be noted again, that the above claims as made in the St Marks discussion are based upon absolutely NO credible medical, sociological or otherwise scientific or even academic sources whatsoever, but are merely the theories and claims made by a very small number of extremely biased conservative charlatans who have been discredited by peer-reviews, and dismissed and essentially laughed out of their professions by their colleagues. Just Google the name "Paul Cameron" to satisfy your curiosity, or simply have a look here to see the root source of virtually all right-wing anti-gay and anti-trans propaganda in circulation today. Sadly, conservatives around the world continue to refer to this sheer unadulterated quackery as a foundation for their propaganda and use cardboard credentials to try and turn their baseless claims into "expert witness" from 'Dr' S. A. Quackery Phd.

But I digress. "Bred" and "born" - at least, as they are used by Wakeford, have overwhelmingly similar and overlapping meanings - in the online version of the Merriam-Webster dictionary for example: 
"1: to produce (offspring) by hatching or gestation
a : beget 1
b : produce, engender [despair often breeds violence]
3: to propagate (plants or animals) sexually and usually under controlled conditions [bred several strains of corn together to produce a superior variety] " and "
a : mate
b : to mate with : inseminate
c : impregnate 2"
These points all indicate a natural point of origin, having far more to do with BIOLOGY i.e. nature rather than "nurture". Similarly, the online Oxford dictionary provides kindred definitions for the words "breed" and "bred" - all of which make no mention of environmental influences outside of say, humans influencing which animals breed and reproduce offspring for purposes of genetic and biological characteristics. 

The Oxford definition includes the following, which indicates to me why Wakeford used this comparison:
"verb (past and past participle bred /brɛd/)
[no object]
(of animals) mate and then produce offspring:
toads are said to return to the pond of their birth to breed.../
/...[with object] produce or lead to (something) over a period of time:
success had bred a certain arrogance"
In both Merriam-Webster and Oxford, these clearly refer to figurative contexts in contrast to the other uses which are all clearly related to biological contexts - and are not meant to be taken literally. But then, some people just tend to be susceptible to literal interpretations of whatever they read, such as the school song, tabloid news - their bibles, etc. The Merriam-Webster dictionary entry cited first above states at point 4: 
"a : bring up, nurture [born and bred in the country]
b : to inculcate by training [breed good manners into one's children]
I doubt he will appreciate the irony in that, folks - if, like me, you can read between the lines, but since this fellow is so keen on forcing his view of Christianity down other people's throats - even other Christians, that he regularly sends "chirps" to the Herald to remind us how "wrong" and "sinful" and "lustful" gays are (and in so doing, how righteous he is). In this case, he came rushing to defend the people who peddle lies and quackery from their pulpits in order to subject people to scapegoating and social terrorism. All this aside, let's look at this argument from a "Christian" perspective.

Herald "Chirps" 20130829
Like most Christians, he believes his god created everyone. Nothing wrong with that in my view, as long as he doesn't try to force his views on me - but unlike moderate and live-and-let-live Christians, he believes this while also denying that his "God" created people gay. He then appears to agree with this view as a means to justify the persecution of gay people - and to defend those who are doing it, on the basis of his claims that his "God" calls homosexuality an "abomination" and that his bible backs him up on this. 

Christo-fascists tend to consider the above viewpoint as pretty much an open-and-shut case, and to most people who have no clue about what they would find if they had to take the trouble to do a little research of their own, this would appear to be an accurate summation.

All this only serves to demonstrate the broad lack of knowledge among many Christians about their own religion however, when you look at academic sources which clearly show that the Christian bible does NOT (1) call homosexuality an "abomination" (since the word 'homosexual' did not appear in ANY bible before 1946, and the previous versions CLEARLY referred to activities relating to ritual sex i.e. in a ritual pagan religious context or setting of the time period referred to in that part of the bible) and (2) an 'abomination' does NOT mean what he clearly thinks it does - it means simply a minor violation of ritual Jewish temple laws of cleanliness in Leviticus (OLD Testament) and means both the previous definition which also sits alongside other "abominations" such as eating shellfish, having tattoos or other body markings, wearing garments of mixed-weave cloth, not putting a rail around your roof so people don't fall off it, and not sewing tassels onto your clothes. Funny, Mr Wakeford, I don't know when last I've seen you write any nasty letters about people eating prawns or wearing tattoos? (3) Usage of the word "sodomy" to describe homosexuality is also a demonstration of how warped the "general knowledge" of the Chrisitian bible has become among Christians themselves - and even in general society. When one looks at academic sources, looking at the setting and context in which the stories of Sodom and Gomorrah were told, it is obvious that the word "Sodomite" meant "an inhabitant of the city of Sodom" and that sodomy meant inhospitality towards visitors. Now if only tourist agencies and city councils in South Africa would take such a narrow view of visitors being treated badly! But once again, I doubt that Mr Wakeford would appreciate the irony in that.

A few sources:
Five Mistakes in Your Bible Translation
The real meaning of “sodomy” – inhospitality
Homosexuality And The Bible
Gays and slaves
Steps to recovery from bible abuse 
The Gay Debate: The Bible and Homosexuality

So then we have biblical "proof" that "God" is anti-LGBT = 0, and Demonstration that the assumption that "God" hates LGBT people is based on faulty translation and even deliberate manipulation, and a complete lack of comprehension of Christian scriptures by those using them as a weapon against other people = 3. 

Then we come to the SCIENCE - you know, the part that most conservatives believe is some sort of "liberal conspiracy" to strip them of their "right" to destroy other people's lives?

Science has demonstrated all too clearly that people who are gay or transgender are "that way" due to biologically determined factors - if you don't believe me, read for yourself what the scientists (REAL scienctists, who work for actual universities, and who have published widely cited, peer-reviewed and accepted studies - not the quackpot tripe that the St Marks "expert panel" referred to) say about it.

If you were to read through the interesting points about physiological differences and differences in biology evident in these studies, I'm sure you would wonder how people like Nigel would explain those away? And how about that last link about the gay animals, right? Did "God" conveniently forget he made them gay too? Or did he forget to tell them it was an "abomination"? Or are animals supposedly gifted with intelligence enough to make (allegedly) "sinful lifestyle choices" as homophobic Christians claim about gay humans? Or are humans just supposed to "know better"? Careful now, we're talking about animals here - and because it has to be in animal nature (otherwise animals wouldn't act it out un-coerced and spontaneously) it should logically be... c'mon folks - it's on the tip of your tongue...


This puts those who think like Mr Wakeford in a rather precarious position, doesn't it? If his knowledge and understanding of his own religion is this defective, and if medicine and science demonstrate no reason at all to doubt that there is a biological component in sexual orientation and gender identity - removing any semblance of CHOICE to "live a sinful lifestyle" - which - um, isn't actually "sinful" at all from the look of it - then how can he defend his lack of Christian compassion, combined with the use of his religion as a blunt instrument?


And so there we have it folks, the final score - Logic & Reason = 4, Ignorant Bigots = 0.

Some people like to sound clever, but they're not. Their arrogance in pushing their own narrow views and interpretations of their personal fairytales into law, and their determination to "be right all the time" at the expense of the dignity and human rights of their victims, often reveals the common chink in their armor - IGNORANCE.

Lastly, Mr Wakeford, if you believe your god created everybody, and once you realize the logic of the above - that you have been misled into hating people for no good reason, then you need to accept that your god created gay and transgender people just as they are - and that your resilient dislike and distaste for them is all your own, and also your own responsibility. Once you do this, you will see that the only 'sin' in this equation - that of spreading hate and persecuting others, and especially in the name of your "God" and your Jesus - is yours.

I don't believe in Mr Wakeford's "ogre" version of "God", but I know he does - and he says people will need to give account for their actions in the afterlife to this god. I sure would find his account, given the above, entertaining to say the least.