Saturday, April 25, 2015

Religious Bigotry Revisited

The discussions about religious-based bigotry against gays never end.  I recently posted about religious bigotry against gay people.

In the latest round at Victor Reppert's blog, he thinks it's wrong that Vanderbilt University should disallow discrimination based on religious "creed" in its school-sponsored clubs and organizations.  In this case, a non-denominational Christian organization called InterVarsity had ousted one of its leaders who was homosexual on the basis that he didn't adhere to the "basic Christian doctrines".  There was no explicit mention of homosexuality, but because of that homosexuality, it was presumed that the person didn't meet the ideological requirements of the group.  The university rightly recognizes this as unjust discrimination.  I call them bigots.  Victor thinks I would do the same in a similar situation (for example, if the Campus Freethought Alliance were infiltrated by the Campus Crusade for Christ), and therefore, I am being intellectually dishonest.

In our examination of this issue, it would be useful to start with a working definition of 'bigot'.  Here is the Merriam-Webster definition:
a person who is obstinately or intolerantly devoted to his or her own opinions and prejudices; especially :  one who regards or treats the members of a group (as a racial or ethnic group) with hatred and intolerance
So as I see it, the hallmark of bigotry is prejudice based on some group membership rather than what a person actually believes, says, or does.  The religious group at Vanderbilt made the presumption that this person, due to his homosexuality, doesn't meet their creedal requirements.  The issue is not simple, because many Christians believe that homosexuality is antithetical to their religion.  However, that is certainly not the case for all Christian denominations, and there are many gay people who are faithful Christians, and even members of the clergy.  So it is hardly a universal claim among Christians that homosexuality is a violation of the fundamental tenets of Christianity.   And it seems pretty clear that it was a matter of discrimination based on sexual orientation in this case, rather than non-adherence to the "basic Christian doctrines".

Let me make my own position clear.  I don't believe that an organization should be prohibited from requiring its members to be ideologically aligned in some way.  But qualification based on that requirement should be determined on an individual basis, not by virtue of membership in a group as determined by race, religion, sexual orientation, etc.  If I were a member of the hypothetical "Campus Freethought Alliance", I would not have a problem with Christians, or people of any religion becoming members of the group.  But if they wanted to work at cross-purposes to the goals and ideals of the organization, that would be cause to exclude them from membership.

How is this different from bigotry?  There's no prejudice involved.  There's no group-based discrimination.  It's that simple.  InterVarsity made a presumption based on sexual orientation.  That's prejudice, and that's what makes them bigots, in my view.  In the hypothetical case that Victor presented to me, there is no prejudice involved, and no bigotry.  I certainly would no exclude people just because they were members of some religious faith.

And that's where Victor gets it wrong.  He presumes that I would be just as much a bigot as those Christians whose bigotry he defends.  But he's absolutely wrong about that.


  1. Victor responds: "Are you telling me that religious groups can't have conduct codes as well? If someone is openly and unrepentantly gay, and the doctrinal statement of the ecclesiastical organization prohibits such conduct as sinful, then the person does not represent the teachings of the religious organization. Now there are other religious organizations they can lead, such as the Metropolitan Community Church. But it isn't honest for someone who is in a leadership position of a religious organization to openly endorse activity that the group proscribes.

    This has nothing whatever to do with the sinfulness or lack of same of homosexuality itself. A person who is a leader in an Orthodox Jewish campus group should not be openly eating McDonald's cheeseburgers, because such cheeseburgers are not kosher. It doesn't matter whether there is anything really wrong with eating cheeseburgers or not, the problem lies with accepting a leadership position in a religious group that proscribes it."

    I reply: Of course they can. They can have any membership rules they please. But they don't have the right to be sanctioned by the University. So InterVarsity continues to exist today without the official recognition of Vanderbilt. This is good for everyone. The organization is perfectly free do do what they please, and the University is not forced to provide approval and sanction for their policies which are not consistent with those of the University.

  2. Yes, this post from Victor was the clincher for me in deciding to refrain from commenting at DI. His comments to and about me were simply wicked. And if they are a reflection of the character of his behaviour then he is not fit to be engaged.

    To write that I would applaud if believers were murdered was beyond the pail, all that is not decent, respectable or moral. That sort of unguarded comment is that which I want to stay very well clear .

    Creedal inspired bigotry is still bigotry. What a waste of intellect that man is.

  3. I agree. And I think what he said about you is even nastier than what he said about me. It's deplorable that he and his followers can say thing like that and then tell us that we are the reason his blog has devolved to gutter sniping. I intend to comment further on this soon.

    I want you to know that if you ever want a place to post something you have written without making your own blog, you can let me know about, and I'll put it up for you. Not that there's be very many readers here, but sometimes you just feel like saying something.

  4. If you don't mind, I'd appreciate that opportunity to respond to Reppert's nonsense here on The Skeptic Zone.
    When or if you comment on any of DI's OPs I will very much take the opportunity to respond here.


  5. In follow-up THIS OP from Bruce Gerenscer spells out pretty much how religious bigotry and discrimination is perpetuated and maintained by, and is so deeply ingrained in the Christian ethos.

    His insight into Christian bigotry and discrimination cannot be better illustrated than reading the commenters and Reppert himself over at Dangerous Idea.

    1. Good article. I'll bet that every Christian at DI will claim that they follow the Jesus of the bible, like commenter Ed Chapman, even as they espouse the very ideas that Bruce Gerencser is talking about in his post.

    2. This comment has been removed by the author.

    3. Yes. That's the nature of blinkered faith.