What are you afraid of?

Last week, I blogged about Christian Post writer Matt Moore, a self-described “redeemed sinner” who posted an open letter to gay youth proclaiming that Jesus would save them from a life of drinking, drugs and meaningless sex. As I’m sure you would expect, I found his goals misguided and his metaphysics incoherent. In response, one of my readers left a comment saying:

Why are people so threatened by Matt Moore’s experience? Because it takes away their excuse to continue to sin? If Matt can be set free from sin and God is real and homosexuality is sin, then it makes them wrong and no one wants have to admit that they are wrong and sinful. Is it easier to mock than face the possibility that Matt may be right? Could it be possible that you are wrong?

This may be the falsest false dichotomy I’ve ever witnessed. It seems this person believes the chance of that entire bundle of claims being true is high enough to warrant serious consideration, and they present it as though this is the only other option, rather than a conglomeration that becomes increasingly unlikely as a whole with every new claim that’s added on. But even if Matt Moore’s experiences contain some element of truth, this still doesn’t demonstrate that any of these other things are real.

While Moore might just be a religious huckster or opportunist, it’s also entirely possible that he genuinely believes being gay means a life devoid of true happiness, and he feels that God personally called him to stop having relationships with men. It could be that his life was indeed terrible, and that his religious beliefs have helped him to become happier and more fulfilled as an individual – unlikely as it may seem.

All of this might be the case, but none of it tells us anything about the validity of various supernatural and theological concepts. Moore’s religious feelings and life experiences do not mean that the idea of “sin” is actually a real thing, or something that ever had any bearing on him. It does not mean that this “sin” is something he was “set free” from, or that it is something that anyone can be set free from. It doesn’t mean that “sin”, whatever it is, has these particular dynamics at all. And it doesn’t mean that being gay constitutes one of these “sins”.

It doesn’t show how the designation of “sin” would relate to any structure of morality. It doesn’t tell us what the consequences are of this “sin”. It doesn’t say why this is something for us to avoid. It also doesn’t mean that any deities really do exist. It doesn’t mean the specific, Judeo-Christian deity named “God” exists. And it doesn’t mean this God is actually capable of “freeing” us from our supposed “sin”.

That’s a whole lot of completely unsupported assumptions packed into just a few sentences. And the idea that we would find this the least bit “threatening” further assumes that we’re just as ignorant as they are. Would they accept the testimony of a supposedly “ex-gay” Muslim as evidence in favor of a specific interpretation of Islamic doctrine and theology? It seems highly doubtful. So why would they think there’s any reason to treat one Christian’s feelings as credible evidence of claims like “God is real” and “homosexuality is sin”?

And atop this logical house of cards, they rest the accusation that we must be seeking an “excuse to continue to sin”, which Moore’s experiences allegedly deprive us of. But for it to be the case that our criticism of his writings is only a cover for our pursuit of a justification to “sin”, we would first have to accept all of the underlying assumptions that are required for the concept of an “excuse to continue to sin” to be meaningful. I certainly don’t. So why would I think I needed any sort of excuse to keep doing something I don’t believe is wrong?

As Megan McArdle said, “It is a vast, and pervasive, cognitive mistake to assume that people who agree with you (or disagree) do so on the same criteria that you care about.” And our Human Conjunction Fallacy here seems to believe the rest of us also suspect that the “God exists, gays are sinning” scenario could actually be true. In their estimation, we consider this probable enough to be scared by the possibility, but instead of accepting its ramifications, we’ve just chosen to stick our heads in the sand.

What they’ve failed to recognize is that we’re not just on the other side of the fence here. We’re actually worlds apart in our beliefs. They think we’re talking on the same level as they are, but they’ve made the mistake of assuming that the entirety of their personal theology is accepted by everyone. It’s rather like believing that those who don’t follow your god must be worshipping the devil. They really don’t understand just how much of this we truly don’t believe. That’s why they expected that out of all the possible sequences of supernatural claims, we would somehow be especially worried about this one.

If anyone is feeling “threatened” here, it’s probably the one who refuses to face the fact that their favorite god is neither loved nor feared by us, but completely absent from the equation. We see their god as no more of a cosmic danger to us than the gods of any other faith, and thus not a relevant factor in our lives. And because of us, they have to contend with the reality that there are people out there who aren’t just selfishly denying a god they know in their hearts to be real, but who honestly see no reason to believe this. Is that so threatening? It shouldn’t be, but I guess it’s easier to ignore the possibility that you might be wrong.

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What are you afraid of?
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11 thoughts on “What are you afraid of?

  1. 1

    Sin (in the orginal Greek) means “to miss the mark” as an archer misses the bull’s eye.

    We all miss the mark — look at Babylon falling with global warming, the financial scams, geometric world population growth, no jobs (modern machinery was supposed to make things easy for us).

    If this world was a better place I probably would-have gotten married, had children and lived happily ever-after. Instead I feel doomed.

    Only way out would be a miracle: if enough wise people got together to abolish money, laws and international boundaries.

  2. 2

    I’ve noticed that this seems to be the default with a lot of religious people. They do not seem to be able to conceive that someone might totally reject their basic premise that their god exists. No we must be diffing god, rebelling against god or mad at god. We can’t possible believe that their god is just a old myth.

    This does make talking to them a very tiring process.

  3. 3

    I’ve always been frustrated by this phenomenon, but I’ve never thought to articulate why I found it so damn annoying. Thanks for this! I’m always impressed by the clarity and insight in your writing.

  4. 4

    The biggest problem with people like Matt is they presume everyone needs “saving”, and that the stuff they’re peddling is the panacea. I rarely drink, the only drugs I do are prescriptions for my medical conditions, and the sex I have with my wife is anything but “meaningless”. I don’t need “saving” and I definitely don’t need self-righteous gasbags telling me my life is inadequate or defective because their imaginary friend says so.

  5. 7

    […] Why are you closed-minded people so hostile to my Christian arguments about the evils of homosexuality? Why must you persecute me for daring to voice a politically incorrect opinion? Why can’t we have free speech, what are you so afraid of? The marvellous Zinnia Jones deals this this line of “argument”. […]

  6. 8

    Found this old video of yours when it was oddly recommended by YouTube. I’m sorry for first thinking it to be some SNL character but it may be I am as guilty at stereotyping liberal atheists as you are at condensation to, well everyone else. I did find it funny and ironic that while you mocked “them” (Christians, Jews, Muslims?) for their not considering that their world view didn’t matter to you, you missed the point that your world view really doesn’t matter to them. (Ask a Muslim.) You see, if they are right, your misguided philosophy has no bearing on even your own true motivations. Just as you might believe your philosophy explains the whole universe and how and why things happen and why we are here, people of faith absolutely believe that their faith does. And just like yours, their understanding of the universe does not stop at the walls of their church or yours.

    So while you thought you were making a clever intellectual point about their intolerance, you just exposed yours.

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