Religion Beyond the Right

As a closer look at the Boy Scouts’ debate shows, God doesn’t wear tidy political labels.

Comments: 214

  1. It's always interesting to watch religion run headlong into reality. What was once believed without equivocation must now be nuanced when they're clearly in conflict with common sense and decency. It takes a while for religion to catch up, and it always arrives embarrassingly late. It gets there gradually, by degrees. Homosexuality starts out as an abomination, in the few times it's explicitly mentioned in the Bible. Then views evolve to hate the sin, but love the sinner, though when the "sin" is an integral part of who the "sinner" is, it's hard to see how to separate the two. Such rhetorical gymnastics serve only to excuse the bigotry while continuing to demean and castigate one's fellow humans for the very essence of who they are.

    The ploy of using benign religions to point out contradictions in more conservative ones is giving them all too much credit. Religions have already convinced us that they deserve respect even when they're at odds with human decency. We're supposed to think that they have a monopoly on morality while they send a signal to gay kids that their kind is not welcome in the Scouts.

    Maybe atheists can learn a thing or two from the devout. We can say that we love religious people, but hate the religion. By their standards, that would be progress.

  2. Love religious people; hate religion. I like that. Except I also hate hateful religious people.

  3. Just a point of fact, "Love the sinner hate the sin" is not a Christian quote. The words are no where in the books that make up the Bible. I think is was just a clever way to get around the main teachings of Christ. What would Evangelicalism be without being able to demonize groups of people and having to love everyone.

  4. I very much "recommended" your post, but has anyone thought of ending the organization of scouting? It's devolved pretty much into a religious offshoot for a long time now and outside that setting it is now fairly anachronistic. My brother was a scout, but none of my three sons was the least interested in it, nor did I ever suggest it. I never liked the idea of putting little boys into mock military-type uniforms and institutions.

  5. It says in the Bible not to eat the meat of certain animals, including pigs. OK, if my local Scout troop has a barbecue serving pork ribs, do we quote the Bible and denounce it?

    Some people think that the Bible is a treasure trove of quotations to be taken out of context (or neglected).

    Jesus spent a lot of time with people who weren't super-popular in his society, and he enjoined us, in the words of Leviticus 19:18, to love our neighbors as ourselves. If you want to quote something, quote that -- Jesus was asked what was the greatest commandment, and he said (echoing Deuteronomy 6:5) to love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and mind, and love your neighbor as yourself. Why don't we try that?

  6. And while we're at it why not try to observe Christ's dictum "Let him who is without sin cast the first stone"? How many thieves, adulterers, and possibly even pedophiles are serving as scout leaders right now?

  7. The first part is poor theology; purity laws only apply to Jews. The second part is very true-- see the first part of your post. The third part is also very true-- up to a point. Jesus didn't just spend a lot of time with the dregs of society-- tax collectors, prostitutes, probably even gay prostitutes-- he partied with them; bringing on the condemnation of the respectable sectors of Jewish society.

    As for the Golden Rule part: People think that Jesus is endorsing the Golden Rule, when in those passages, Jesus is answering a question about the "Greatest Commandment" in one; and he is himself posing that question to a "young lawyer" (a religious law lawyer) who answers in a similar manner (which merely shows that that attitude was becoming common in the 1st century; verifiable by third party Jewish midrash sources). However, Jesus becoming incarnate on Earth, completed the first covenant, so the law of Moses (from a Christian point of view) no longer is applicable. What Jesus really wants you to do, is treat others better than they want you to treat them, without them having to tell you how they want to be treated. Think of it as Golden Rule+ or 2.0.

    If all Christians actually tried to live the Golden Rule+ philosophy, now that would give the world something to talk about. bc

  8. 'Behold, I place before you a door that no man can shut.' Revelation, the letters to the seven churches.

  9. Orthodox interpretations of religions seem to exclude a lot of people, as if they think God doesn't have enough to go around for everybody, so humans are going to restrict the pool on God's behalf. I think God is quite capable of including whom God wants, without human beings running interference (allegedly) on God's behalf. And I happen to think God includes everybody and that there's plenty to go around.

  10. All true.

    This is part of a larger truth: religion when one lives it is love of one's fellows, it is treating all as brothers, it is treating others as one would want to be treated, it is caring for orphans and the less fortunate. I speak of all religions, because they all say some version of these things.

    The religion of lifestyle conservatism is the opposite of all of that.

    There are many good and deeply religious people who reject such misuse or religion. Among them are such fonts of stalwart old fashioned religion as the current Pope, and Pope Leo XIII who addressed Labor and Capital in the 1890's in terms still not yet honored.

    Conservatives hijack and pervert religion.

  11. I never had brothers, just plenty of sisters, some of which are nuts but I love them anyway.And I'm a secular humanist social justice agnostic. BOO!!!

  12. Mark, I wish I had said. I can't think of of a conservative cult on earth that isn't based on ignorance and hatred of others. It is high time we faced the truth. Fundamentalist religions deserve no respect.

  13. All false. All of us pervert religion as we are human and subject to making bad decisions. The beauty of the Christian religion is that we are taught to love our enemies and those that abuse us. God is most likely a lot more inclusive than we are and I would heartily recommend that none of us in glass houses(all of us) throw any stones. I also suspect that denying openly gay men to become scout leaders is based as much on fear of liability as fear of their homosexuality. Would you place a heterosexual male in charge of a young girl's scout troop ?

  14. The Southern Baptists have cried foul. They did not like integration either. But are the other Baptists also of one mind against? These are the Baptists we could call the Christian Baptists to distinguish them fro the Southern Baptists, who are a branch of the Taliban (same social attitudes and a different theology).

  15. I would support lifting the ban on both gay scouts and gay scout leaders, and allowing troops to select appropriate leaders at the local level. If a troop is sponsored by a religious organization, presumably troop leadership acceptable to the sponsoring organization can be found. At the same time, the Boy Scouts' National Council should not be passing judgment on a local troop's decision of whether or not to employ a gay scout leader, nor should one local troop have the ability to require that another local troop follow its dictates on gay leadership.

    In sum, I'd leave the gay leadership decision to the local sponsoring organization, as there are clearly diverse views on this subject.

  16. I don't think the intent of this vote is to give the National Council power in deciding who should be a local leader. It would, I assume, give them oversight power should someone be discriminated against based on his sexuality. Under our national laws, the gov't can't tell an employer whom to hire to do a job unless the employer has refused to hire, say, qualified African-Americans. Now some still believe that African-Americans are inherently unqualified to do certain kinds of jobs precisely because they are of black heritage. The law says you can think that if you like, but you can't act on it in hiring. The criteria that the opponents of gays in Scouting want to continue to use say that, inherently, homosexuals lack the qualifications to be a Scout leader (or until now, even a member) because of who they are and should systematically be denied involvement in Scouting. Firstly, that is ridiculous, since plenty of gays have been successful Scouts. They were qualified. Secondly, that is discrimination against a group based on the beliefs of certain religious leaders, but not all, giving preference to the religious beliefs of certain people involved in Scouting, as Mr. Bruni points out. That contradicts the supposed ideals of Scouting. What it really comes down to is the need for certain people in Scouting, in every part of our society, to come up with a justification for their own discriminatory practices, a need within themselves they never question, and ought to.

  17. The issue of gays accepted into the Boy Scouts as members and leaders -- while an important milestone to celebrate -- doesn't concern me as much at the national organization hushing up incidents of sexual abuse and not turning over the perpetrators for proper investigation and prosecution. The documented incidents and the list the Scouts' organization holds in secret needs to be addressed openly and names and incidences turned over to law enforcement. Similarly to the Catholic Church, turning a blind eye or kicking the perpetrator out of the Scouts but into an unsuspecting community sets up the potential for more victims and does not absolve the Scouts of their responsibilities as a leadership organization. I hope the national organization will address this injustice with the same fervor and soul-searching as they've invested in the debate over welcoming gays into the Scouts.

  18. I am against 'bans' just because some one or some organization says so. We are not sheep, and don't have to blindly unthinkingly follow. No sirree Bob.

  19. These organizations claim their original leader was the last "lamb". So what was the crusades about? I think they are confused because they refuse to believe the message is so very simple. Yes sirree, Bob!

  20. The religions that are not on the right are in the best position to talk to the religions of the right. They know the lingo and the texts and they have often worked through and rejected the religions of the right. But they do not send missionaries to right-religion areas.

    For some reason we rarely see on TV encounters between right and non-right Christians where people actually are enlightened. The market for such encounters would be above all right Christians who find themselves losing their faith, or at least the right part of it. Such Christians cannot run their thoughts by fellow right Christians and may not know any non right Christians who have the background and experiences to understand what they are dealing with. Dramas, or better reality shows, would be very useful to them. Right Christianity may have a great deal to do with their absence. But then again, there may not be a large audience for this sort of intensity. We prefer our fluff non-existential.

  21. Of course, many right-wing Christians consider the folks to the left of center, like me, to be heretics and essentially non-Christian (and, though it is only occasionally expressed, going to hell). So, why would they care to discuss anything with, to use a good old word from John Calvin, the reprobate? Too often they "know THE truth," so that anyone who disagrees is just plain wrong.

  22. What about atheists? Do atheists have rights? Our country is supposed to be neutral when it comes to religion. The facts, however, like "a well regulated militia", are subject to interpretation. We let religions, particularly the evangelical, run the country.

    I would like to see am atheist "non-prayer" breakfast someday.

  23. Polls show we atheists are the most hated group in the country, even while our numbers are exploding.

    And no, we don't have any rights. How can we have religious rights when we have no religion?

  24. "I would like to see am atheist "non-prayer" breakfast someday."
    Organize one.
    A rabbi in Davnport, IA once organized an alternative one to which many of us progressive Christians went. The official ones tend to be quite evangelical in tone - and Jews are generally not included.

  25. I was a Scout in NYC in the 60s and 70s and tolerance ruled. We were Jews, Chinese, Protestants, Blacks and we didn't meet at a church. The focus was on nature and the outdoors. I never thought of the Scouts as a particularly religious group.

    Scouts remain non-sectarian and do not discriminate against gays in other leading Scouting nations, including the UK where Scouting was founded.

    The ban was put in place in 1992 under Mormon pressure. Mormons are 2% of the US but support more than a third of troops. Mormon Scouts rarely form mixed groups and often meet in churches and hold religious services, against Scouting’s non-sectarian principles.

    BSA are hypocrites. No rules prevent divorced men, ex-cons, adulterers, alcoholics, or single men living with their girlfriends from being Scout leaders.

    BSA has a choice. They can bow to Mormon and Baptist pressure and become the Boy Scouts of Mormons and Baptists or they can return to their non-sectarian roots and remain the Boy Scouts of America, for all Americans.

    The conservatives should hear the words of Scouting’s English founder, Baden Powell:
    "Buddha has said: 'There is only one way of driving out Hate in the world and that is by bringing in Love.' Scouting's aim is to produce healthy, happy, helpful citizens, of both sexes, to eradicate the prevailing narrow self interest, personal, political, sectarian and national, and to substitute for it a broader spirit of self-sacrifice and service in the cause of humanity."

  26. It seems to me that the Scouting debate is a microcosm of what is frequently done in the name of one religion or another around the globe. And it also seems to me that most of the places in the world where "hotspots" exist, to some degree or another religion (or religious differences) plays a part in the strife.

    Behind it all is the notion that a particular religion holds the moral/spiritual/righteous high ground over the other ones and therefore must be unequivocally correct in its understanding and interpretation of what is right. Humble, forgiving, compassionate, introspective, open, accepting, caring, etc., etc.?? Only if you are a member of the "club" and hold the same values.

    And we sit and wonder why on earth there are so many messes out there today.

  27. humble, forgiving, open, etc. these words describe the emerging group of my fellow Christians with whom I pitch my tent. Please do not put us all in the camp of the self-righteous. And btw, please also consider who largely has been the bearer of and witness to those wonderful virtues across the centuries of human history.

  28. Watch it--there is still a ban on atheist scouts.

  29. The religious discourse on homosexuality from the right almost always revolves around 1st Amendment rights--the right to express bigotry, the right to restrict other people's freedoms and the right to practice exclusionary policies stating piously that they only are doing this because of their "Christian" beliefs. Then those espousing this line get all bent out of shape when people point out the obvious--that they are prejudiced and narrow minded, and maybe not very Christian.

    But Frank is right. The religious communities that are inclusive--the "welcoming" congregations need to step up and confront these retroactive and calcified thinkers. The inclusive Christians know that scouting isn't about sex. It is about providing healthy activities for boys and teens. It is a matter of stepping up for real morality, not the false morality espoused by the exclusionists, who are making scouting a dirty joke rather than the great adventure and character builder that it should be.

  30. As usual, Frank, you make a lot of sense. I think the (oxymoronic) Religious Right dubbed themselves that. I'm a religious person--Roman Catholic now Episcopalian. (Our Cathedral has many "Recovering Catholics" as a former Deacon put it--including herself!)They are the Pharisees of today. Jesus soundly condemned the ones of HIS day. They are professional hatemongers, perverting The Christ's message to suit their own bigoted ends. I'm a Gay man, partnered for 33+ years, legally married for almost 33.

    As to the Boy Scouts, I'm appalled. Lift the ban completely or continue to be hit in the pocketbook. Scouts now are taught, "A Scout is bigoted & intolerant. A Scout does not respect other people's differences." That is NOT what Howard Lasker taught us by example years ago. He shepherded Albany's Troop 33 for many years, welcoming a diversity of boys--3 besides myself now are openly Gay--one married to a Rabbi! We had several young men w/disabilities. I've heard the BSA has been coopted by the "Religious Right." (What else do we call them--except again, the Pharisees of today?). Gay men are NOT child molesters. One of my "PKisms" is I HATE children! Implement appropriate safeguards (Our Safe Church, e.g.). Any adult regardless of orientation who abuses children deserves criminal charges & incarceration. The BSA must return to a SECULAR organization. Our Troop was sponsored by the Jewish Community Center but there was NEVER any religious test or requirement.

  31. I just wanted to say "thanks" Mr. Bruni, for writing this important piece
    I consider myself a moral person. I am a Unitarian Humanist. I am also a mature, white, gay man. And in my youth I was a Boy Scout.

    Thanks for making the point that all religious views should be respected, not just the rigidly judgmental religious right. I think they've missed the point of Christianity and the message of inclusion that Jesus articulated by his words and actions.

    In my youth, on my Methodist Sunday School wall there was a picture of Jesus seated on a tree stump telling a parable to a group of small children. The children represented all the races: white, black, yellow, brown, and red. I could not figure out how Jesus could sit down with all races of people as presented in the picture, while my church elders excluded from its sanctuary anyone of dark skin. They barred African Americans from church membership.

    I am not sure the elders ever saw that picture on the Sunday School wall, and I they did, I think they missed the message. So clearly portrayed, that even I, a young five year old boy, understood what Jesus was saying: We are all brothers and sisters in this world.

    Thanks for writing this essay today.

  32. The Boy Scouts can believe whatever they want about what's proper or moral or right. In light of that, then yes: people who don't agree with them shouldn't be a part of their organization. But if they insist on such an exclusionary policy, then it's necessary that they be refused public accomodations for their meetings and events.

  33. And the BSA and all it's branches should be denied tax exempt status. Donations to the BSA etc. should not be allowed as tax deductions from federal income taxes.

  34. As a Presbyterian minister, and colleague to Rev. Mark Greiner, he is spot on, as is Scott Ward. To clarify, the Presbyterian Church USA is still not fully in line with ordaining gays and lesbians. It can happen, but it is not assured in all of the church. And more than 100 individual churches have left the denomination in the last year, signaling an intransigence about accepting gays and lesbians.

  35. Thanks for clarification on the PC(USA), Art. I was about to make the same comment when I saw yours. We Presbyterians are still a long way away from full inclusion of GLBT deacons, elders and pastors, but the door has been opened. Other denominations, like the UCC, have been way ahead of us on this.

    But there are, within the PC(USA), liberal congregations and leaders. I would count myself -- and my wife, who is the pastor of a large progressive congregation in Nashville -- among them. It is lamentable that Frank Bruni should have to write about moderate/liberal/progressive Christians and churches as though we're something new. And it is equally lamentable, in my opinion, that Christian progressives have done such a poor job of making their presence, indeed their existence, known. I think we fear being like "them," the loud conservative evangelicals, so much that we fail to promote our views and beliefs. That needs to change and perhaps reporters like Mr. Bruni can help us.

  36. Frank,

    I agree with what you have said. Nonetheless, if I had a young son I would be nervous sending him to scout camp with a gay leader.

  37. Pedophilia has nothing at all to do with one's sexual identification. The vast majority of pedophiles are heterosexual. It's a criminal act and has nothing to do with whether a person is straight or gay.

  38. In spite of the rantings of certain misinformed individuals on the subject of homosexuality, I have NEVER seen any valid evidence that a person's sexual orientation can be "changed". If a male child at sexual maturity is attracted to other males, that is his nature as much as the boys who find girls to their liking. And the same is true of females. Many people fear what literally cannot be 'changed' -- our fundamental sexual orientation.

    To continue to treat gays as, some how, citizens with less rights than other people is barbaric. Such views demean a whole class of humans needlessly and the Episcopal Church and the Presbyterian Church have acknowledged this fact by ordaining ministers based on their fitness for the job, not on determining whom they are sexually attracted to.

    Ten states have now passed marriage equality laws that allow two same sex people who love each other to be married. They have realized that love and devotion should be nurtured in all people. Not just in certain instances, but by all citizens who wish to "tie the legal knot", so to speak. These ten states are acknowledging that ALL THEIR CITIZENS are entitled to the exact same rights.

    If the Boy Scouts organization refuses to understand that the real problem with allowing or not allowing gay members or leaders is really about discrimination, intolerance and refusal to treat all people with equal justice, they will have lost the opportunity to teach a True Life Lesson to their members.

  39. Faith based bigotry and prejudice is still bigotry and prejudice.
    I wonder why it is that religious dogma is still used to hurt people.
    Why should ancient biblical Iron Age views on human sexualilty govern our conduct today when we have modern science, biology, medicine, and psychology to inform us?

  40. The Bible calls male homosexuality an "abomination" (no mention of Lesbians) which is the basis for the church's condemnation of same. Yet what is missed is the context of the word abomination as used 2000 years ago. The Bible also refers to wearing wool and cotton together as an "abomination" and eating rabbit is an "abomination" as well. In biblical terms an "abomination" meant "not customary". This is hardly a basis for those who justify discrimination and condemnation of gays as an edict from God.

  41. glad to read this (as I wear my cotton shirt and wool pants).

  42. I remember meeting a man who told me " I am a Christian conservative". After reading this piece, I wish I'd replied that " I am a Christian liberal".

  43. There is an alternative and better point of view here. We should not pay respect to religious and faith-based points of view in public policy. We should pay respect to reason and evidence, both of which tell us that homosexuals are people to and equally deserving of respect. Why we give such undo, preferential status to views held for any other reason is unjust, unkind and provides moral cover for terrorist attacks held for equally invalid, faith-based "reasons".

  44. This is true reason and consistent with the U.S. Constitution.
    We should stop allowing federal tax deductions for donations to churches, mosques, and temples.
    Money is policy. Separation of Church and State requires tax codes to deny deductions for donations to religions.
    Let every American support the church of his or her choice. Let our federal government support none.

  45. I was under the assumption that anything offensive to Rick Perry is somehow more important than anything offensive to the rest of us. He prays for rain once a year and somehow thinks that makes him an authority on religious matters (and, of course, science matters). What a joke.

  46. What I find particularly sad is that religious leaders who should know better are teaching children to hate and to discriminate. Sadness turns to anger when I think about gay kids (who are often already stressed) listening to this nonsense.

    There is no subtlety to the message that gay kids turn straight kids gay. I wonder how long that takes to occur. Is it based on total time of exposure? What are the variables in the formula?

  47. This is a complicated situation for the Boy Scouts of America. The direction they take will be determined by representatives of the chartering organizations. Others may have an opinion, but only they vote. It is unclear how they will vote. No matter how the vote comes out, many within Scouting will be displeased.

    The largest chartering organization is the Mormon Church and the signal they gave was significant and consistent with the church's own doctrine on gays. However, representatives of the Mormon chartering organizations may not vote in the direction that their church leaders suggested. The Catholic Church supports the second largest number of chartering organizations. How their representatives will vote is largely unclear. The Baptists, by in large, have made their opposition to any changes clear.

    Regardless of who this vote comes out further change is possible. It would be wrong to automatically assume that any future changes would be in the direction of more acceptance of gays; although this is the more likely outcome.

  48. The United Church of Christ has been progressive for a long time.

  49. The important truth of this editorial is that the so called "religious right" is not typical of most religious people. Religion is so different from the way the religious right is portrayed in the press. Look at the nuns and their defenders. Look at most congregations. Look at retreat centers and monasteries. Look at Bread for the World and Pax Christie. Look at Gumbleton, Chittister, Steindle-Rast, Keating, Freeman. Read Huston Smith.

    Egad! In fact, look at the bible. No where does either the old testament or the new testament teach that one comes to virtue by judging others and telling them what to do. On the contrary. Jesus is quoted, "Judge not and thou shalt not be judged." "Remove the beam from thine own eye before you try to take the mote out of your brother's eye." And on and on.

    Why is one small extreme segment portrayed as typical of religion?!

  50. When your religious liberals and religious moderates fight for their values as ferociously as the religious conservatives, then we can start to take them seriously. Until then, the conflation of "religious" with "conservative", or better yet, "bigot", remains all too justified.

  51. I don't recall Christ bashing Gays. When he said "Follow Me" I don't think he said "Everyone Except Gays". This whole matter is more nonsense created by Christians who are assuming Christ's will. God has created indefinite purgatory for these people.
    Or maybe worse.

  52. It seems really weird when there is actually NOTHING in the canonical gospels ascribed to Jesus about homosexuality -- he does address the question of being a eunuch briefly -- and the few Hebrew scripture references have more to do with hospitality codes and an ignorance of e-coli than anything else. If we are going to take Leviticus literally, then no cheeseburgers; menstruation has to take place in tents; slavery is back, etc. Nothing of this makes sense. Let's hope that when the neurobiologists' understanding of human sexuality gets reviewed in Vatican III -- and let's schedule that ASAP -- and an interfaith dialogue is successful, maybe we can leave all this behind as yet another historical nightmare that human beings have survived, like slavery, pogroms, witch burnings, and other low points.

    If I were going to start a religion, which I never would, the logo would be the DNA helix.

  53. All man-made religions are weird. It's just that some are more familiar than others.

  54. All religions are man-made for the power and money involved for the 'leaders'.

  55. Can you name one non-man-made religion?

  56. It seems patently obvious that just about anything that the Governor of Texas is for, reasonable people should rally against. Rick Perry has hitched his wagon to some of the most strident, dogmatic, exclusionary, bigoted, and hate filled groups in the country. And he is not the most thoughtful and pragmatic of men.

    Thankfully the country saw that.

  57. Thank you, Frank. An Episcopal priest in NJ.

  58. Why does god need to be involved in boy scouts anyway? Churches usually have their own, parallel scout organizations like Awanis or Straight Arrows and Daisies/Rainbows. Why do they get to have both their own and hijack a public - civic minded group too?

  59. Sounds like a chicken-or-the-egg situation, Frank.

    We have many religious schisms in this country, and they're not all confined to Christianity. The more liberal of the schisms have been at odds with the more conservative for a long time, even within the same branches, such as Judaism or Presbyterianism; and the more liberal generally favor far more inclusiveness than the more conservative.

    But I wouldn't approach those arguments with a ten-foot pole, because I have no religion myself (I'm about as lapsed a Catholic as you can imagine). These are fights that need to take place among those who profess the same faith, if not precisely the same interpretation of a faith; and there's precious little that's democratic or "fair" about faith.

    It seems to me that a side first needs to win those arguments, without a lot of help from me (or, presumably, you), before an argument can properly be made about inclusion or exclusion of gays in the Boy Scouts of America simply on religious grounds.

    Better that we make arguments on grounds other than religious, because I know that those of faith would be offended and contemptuous of me if a child of Caesar sought to point out to one schism or another of the Kingdom of God that they were being "unfair".

  60. As someone teaching in a liberal Christian seminary in the Midwest, I applaud Mr. Bruni on this well-argued piece. It makes it clear that we tend to privilege the Christian right over the Christian left when it comes to respect for religious values.

  61. No Mattias...It is up to liberal and humanist christians to engage their conservative brethren.....We who are the agnostic, atheist, humanist, and apathetic do not speak their language and even more so, they dismiss us as unbelievers whose words are those of the devil trying to lure them from their righteous path.
    Liberal christians need to get off their collective butts and carry the torch against wrongheaded fundamentalism
    They don't listen to the rest of us.

  62. LaContra, you are right. And that is exactly what I do in my work and writings. For instance, my book "A Violent God-Image" debunks "wrongheaded fundamentalism" as a way of playing God! Many of my liberal and humanist Christian colleagues do attempt the dialogue, although it is often not welcomed by those who claim that they are knowing God's mind and therefore do not need to listen to us.

  63. Every person in this country has had either a gay friend, teacher, coach, preacher, doctor, police officer, Sunday school teacher, relative, co-worker, mentor – or you pick the label. And in many cases did not know it.

    Bigotry, no matter how cloaked or disguised is disgusting.

    The BSA will change, along with all the other institutions. This tide towards respect, dignity, inclusion is irreversible – as it should be.

  64. Much of the religious right’s objection to homosexuality comes from Paul’s epistles. Unfortunately, the same man who wrote a beautiful passage on the nature of love (1st Corinthians 13) also railed against homosexuality and considered women to be of a lower status than men.
    The Quakers have an explanation for this dichotomy. They believe that the spirit of God inspired the words of the Bible, but since the inspiration fell on the ears of fallible humans, something got lost in the translation. The prejudices and social mores of the time had corrupted the text.
    It should be noted that even Paul wasn’t completely sure of himself. He conceded to the possibility that some of his writings had more of Paul in them than God. If only the religious right would admit to the same fallibility.

  65. Thank you George. According to the Gospels, Jesus does not say one word about homosexuality. And the Old Testament prohibits the eating of pork and shrimp and the wearing of garments made of mixed fibers (throw away your cotton/poly blends!) and a slew of other proscriptions that virtually no one follows.

    The teachings of Jesus are best summed up in his statement: "He among you that is without sin, let him cast the first stone."

    It is time for people in general, and Christians in particular, to live and behave in keeping with this, the simplest of instructions.

  66. Paul's stance about women has been misunderstood by Biblical literalists who read the translation that most upholds their beliefs. As well as a lack of understanding Paul's reference to "the law" in not allowing women to lead, he accepted and praised the women leaders in the church. Look at the final chapter of Romans. Whereas this doesn't have anything to do with the failure of BSA to be inclusive, I felt as if poor old Paul needed a shout out.

  67. Would that be the same Paul who is quoting misogynists, not affirming his own view, about women's head coverings, then says in effect, let it go? (I Cor. 11/4-16, which concludes: 'But if anyone is disposed to be contentious, we have no such custom, nor do the churches of God.') & where did he 'rail against homosexuality', rather than against paederasty?

  68. Should the Boy Scouts' ban on gay leaders continue, I believe it is now time to also denounce those who support the Boy Scouts in their prejudice.

    Too often we voice objection to leaders of organizations or religions, while excusing the supporters who put money in the collection plate or subscription envelope, and in the meanwhile continue to participate in the association.

    If a person continues to subscribe to an organization's policies, particularly one who is silent, that person is both complicit in the organization's discrimination, and equally culpable.

    Many former Eagle Scouts turned in their badges. More honor to them. Let's look past the leaders. Let's look to the followers.

    "A man is known by the company he keeps."

  69. As an Eagle Scout myself I completely disagree. As far as I know there is no rule SPECIFICALLY banning gays; it is, rather, an interpretation of another rule. The hesitancy to allow homosexuals in scouting is occurring almost solely for the reason that the scouts gets most of their funding from the Mormon church, and without their support would basically go broke. It is essentially blackmail.

    The solution to the problem is to have the majority of Americans who SUPPORT gay rights donate to the BSA, and release them from the yoke of the Morman church and its intolerant views. The Boy Scouts will then be free to openly include all Americans in their wonderful program.

  70. "We’re hearing a lot about the organization’s need to remain sensitive to people whose religions condemn homosexual behavior. Their morals must be properly respected, their God aptly revered. But what about the morals and the God of people whose religions exhort them to be inclusive and to treat gays and lesbians with the same dignity as anyone else? There are many Americans in this camp."

    Frank, once you bring God into it and assign to him the beliefs you want him to have, you make further discussion impossible. And that's really all there is to say about it.

  71. Ironic, all this brouhaha over whether gay men and boys should be excluded from the Boy Scouts, given that in all likelihood the founder of the Boy Scouts, Robert Stephenson Smyth Baden-Powell, was gay himself.

    My own view on the subject is that the ban is offensive in that it consciously or unconsciously equates gay men with pedophilia, as illustrated by Tony Perkins, who falsely asserted, "The research is overwhelming that homosexuality poses a [molestation] danger to children." However, according to the American Psychological Association, "Homosexual men are not more likely to sexually abuse children than heterosexual men are."

    It is estimated that two-thirds to three-quarters of all cases of child molestation involve men with young girls and that 90% of child molesters are men who target children within their network of family and friends. Despite the fact that young girls are much more likely to be molested, we don't ban men from proximity to young girls such as working in public schools. And although some heterosexual men molest young girls, nobody jumps to the conclusion that heterosexual men in general are likely to molest young girls. So why the double standard against gay men?

  72. So true! Thank you! People just don't seem to get that homosexual is not a synonym for pedophile.

    How about the story in today's paper about the presumably heterosexual male SCHOOL BUS DRIVER who abducted & held 3 girls for 10 years??

  73. I don't know. If you think about the popular notion of the conservative or ultra-conservative Republican as a fairly uninformed person and maybe even a simpleton, is the expression Conservative Christian an oxymoron?

    Homosexuality has been chastised by men of the cloth and witch doctors ever since. It's a deeply embedded part of certain cultures and religious doctrines.

    But it is wrong. Eric Holder said it so eloquently: "Sexual orientation is an immutable characteristic." It is equivalent to "Separate is not equal" and in the same pantheon.

  74. See this article?

    [Research by David C. Barker of the University of Pittsburgh and David H. Bearce of the University of Colorado uncovered that belief in the biblical end-times was a motivating factor behind resistance to curbing climate change. “The fact that such an overwhelming percentage of Republican citizens profess a belief in the Second Coming (76 percent in 2006, according to our sample) suggests that governmental attempts to curb greenhouse emissions would encounter stiff resistance even if every Democrat in the country wanted to curb them,” Barker and Bearce wrote in their study...]

    This is what we are up against. This goes a long way towards explaining why we are having massive problems getting Congress to fix the economy, or why we are having trouble passing marriage equality legislation, or why a third of our states are headed towards banning birth control pills, or why we can't give our children a decent science education, or why the Age of Reason is suddenly being viewed as a colossal blunder by conservative commentators, or why everything that goes wrong is a conspiracy by evil government agents, or why the entirety of western civilization teeters on the edge of total collapse.

    When it all goes down, just remember this article. This is why we will be starving to death by the millions. By the hundreds of millions.

    It is being done on purpose. By design.

  75. Yes. See my earlier comment.

  76. Biology holds the answers.

    The reason prohibitions against homosexuality are so widespread and have existed for thousands of years is that homosexual behavior reduces reproductive fitness.

    Many aspects of human culture are motivated by biology. Societies invent culture to reinforce our biological needs. The most fundamental biological need of all is to reproduce.

    All societies have codes that address mate selection, pair bonding and childbirth. These are the things that make babies and without babies, no more people. Any behavior that reduces baby making would be rejected. Making lots of babies has always been universally admired.

    There are some words in a 3000 year old text that condemns homosexual behavior. Of course it would. Our ancestors were carrying out customs that probably existed for many thousands of years prior.

    The reason conservatives embrace such teachings is because the religious mindset and the conservative mind operate in a very similar fashion. Primarily, they both want to adhere to the old ways. They seek comfort and stability in the way things used to be. They reject new ideas and methods. (tea party?)

    To the religious people, I say God has nothing to do with condemning homosexuality. It's just man's ignorance in trying to satisfy the natural need to reproduce.

    To the non-religious people, when will we stop using a man-made compilation of fables as an authoritative text on the fundamentals of nature? Study biology, please.

  77. "The most fundamental biological need of all is to reproduce. " No it isn't. The most fundamental bio need is to eat.

    It's dangerous to set up false hierarchies. At first the divergence from accuracy seems tiny and trivial, but over time the effect can be immensely damaging. Remember the Mars probes that went disasterously astray because of a tiny mathematical mistake? That's the model for this comment--he same thing is true in thinking.

  78. Mary,

    I disagree. All biological organisms exist to reproduce. We eat so we can reproduce. From the minute we are born, our entire life's struggle is targeting toward reproduction. Everything else: culture, joy, invention, grief, are just byproducts of the human intellect. The human intellect itself developed so we can survive in order to reproduce. Natural selection operates on reproduction and nothing else.

  79. @Bruce Rozenblit.

    Nope. You must eat to reproduce. Starvation blocks the ability to reproduce. Therefore, first you must eat, only then can you reproduce.

  80. The problem lies at the heart of Christian theology in the rejection of the Old Testament as a bindind and relevant part of the Faith. As soon as you decided that one part of the Bible can be ignored,you create the possibility for deciding another part of the Bible can be ignored.thus, every strain of Christianity can claim to be the Truth, repesent true Christian values and thus Christian values becomes a meaningless term. This lies at the forefront of the religion, and is not limited to this one idea of homosexuality or modern times.

  81. "But what about the morals and the God of people whose religions exhort them to be inclusive and to treat gays and lesbians with the same dignity as anyone else?"

    Thank you for this. My faith (Unity Christianity) teaches that we are spiritual beings having a human experience and that on that deeper spiritual level we are perfect, whole, and complete. The essence of the Divine is within us and manifests through us into the world - when we allow it. We are all connected. Separation and judgment come from our human selves, the part that lives in fear and anxiety and does not know that we are truly spiritual beings.

    I read recently that the Golden Rule should be revised to state, "Do unto others because they are you." We are all one.

  82. I like the original wording of the Golden Rule:

    "Don't do to others what you find abhorrent to yourself."

    That means if you don't want to be discriminated against, do not discriminate. It means if you don't want your rights trod upon, don't trod upon others' rights. Etc.

  83. Truth is plural like beliefs. Each person has many which can be measured on a scale from black to white. Actual black and white are only micron thick hairs on the right and left sides of the spectrum, hardly to be seen.

    The power people exercise over others through religion, scouting troops, political affiliates and even economics is derived by sticking ones finger in that gradient and pronouncing that this shade or that is the one and only truth in denial of all others.

    How un-scouting to be tied to that point. Time to change and break out of a self constructed box of stupid and perhaps with a better apology than Niall Ferguson.

  84. Freedom of religion also means or maybe even primarily means freedom from religious tyranny. Isn't this what banning anyone in the name of religion would be doing? We see this entire country kowtowing and/or being "ruled" (as in making rules) by those who impose their views on the rest of us.

    Scouting, which is supposedly inclusive, not only has this "issue" with gays, but the organization, supposedly a community one, also does nothing to be inclusive of atheists and religious people who happen to be non-believers or those with no affiliation. Frankly, I am really tired of all the public praying and "God blessing" of America. If there is a God, certainly he or she would certainly bless all beings around the world.

    Frank Bruni, I love your columns and your incredible depth of thought. Amen.

  85. I don't get people like Jay Lenrow. It's not about forcing troops to choose gay leaders. It's about ensuring gay people have the same rights as everybody else. Would Lenrow say that troops should not be forced to choose Jewish leaders or African-American leaders?

  86. Actually, in the 1950s & 60s, my younger brother was in a boy scout troop that didn't accept Jewish leaders....

  87. While I can't speak for him, to me it sounded as if Mr. Lenrow was saying that a troop should not be forced to choose any specific leader, be they gay, straight, Christian, Jewish, atheist, etc, In other words, no one could force a troop to hire me or you, but at the same time your or my identity or religion or lack thereof should not be a bar to being chosen, either. It should be the qualifications that we bring to the position, not what we are.

  88. For your acknowledgement of progressive Christianity and its passion for inclusivity, God bless you, Mr. Bruni. The United Church of Christ, the tradition I am ordained in, also embraces people of all orientations as beloved children of God.

  89. I don't have a dog in this hunt. I did not like being a boy scout and quit and my children don't like scouting. Actually my daughter liked the Brownies, but my wife and her friend got drafted to lead the troop. They weren't the smart ones. They didn't limit their troop to "approved" friends, and welcomed everyone. And then everyone proceeded to take advantage of them, turning them into social workers and babysitters. After one year, my wife and her friend gave up. Being welcoming is a wonderful idea. Frank needs get down in the trenches with some inner city moms and see how it works out for himself.

  90. Every faith community has its extremists and radicals. It's not limited to Christianity or Islam. There are extreme Jews and Hindus and even Buddhists. They're a relatively small minority within their religious traditions, yet it seems like the media can only see them and publicize their often repulsive actions and sayings. Meanwhile, there are literally BILLIONS of good, faithful people worldwide who actually are trying to practice their faith's version of the Golden Rule, and trying to revere God (however they call the Deity) and love their neighbors. Yet these days, whenever some outrage in the name of religion is publicized in the media there never seems to be any meaningful journalism about what the mainstream of religious thought has to say about the issue. And there's virtually never any regular press coverage any more of the doings of the mainstream religious communities, except on the odd occasion when a Pope or a new Archbishop of Canterbury is selected. That's really inexplicable, especially in a country like the U.S. where the vast majority of people identify as believers and as members of a faith community, few of which are on the fringes. Yet it's only the fringes that get covered any more. And we've become much, much poorer for that.

  91. You were doing well until you mentioned the Pope and the Archibishop of Canterbury, both of whom are opposed to full equality for LGBT minorities, and both of whom judge homosexuals for our "sinfulness".

  92. I am a devout seclularist married to a devout Catholic for nearly 40 years. We have no cognitive dissonance. I respect the immortal teachings of Jesus, just don't believe he is a deity. She was born and raised in the Pacific NW where priests tell their flocks to question everything, because blind faith is not true faith. As a result, my wife supports birth control, based on common sense, and supports freedom of choice, because criminalization of abortion has been tried and failed. Well to do women fly to Europe, and less well off women walk to the dreadful back alley. I support all moderated religions, and have an automated monthly contribution to Planned Parenthood, with my wife's encouragement. Freedom of religion does not include the right to impose one's faith on others. We were absolutely not founded as a Christian nation.

  93. Without commenting on anything except the last sentence, I think I would say that last sentence is not accurate. Sure the colonists who went to Virginia in 1607 were looking for gold, riches of any kind. But many of those who went to Plymouth, not all, but many; many of those who went to Maryland; many of those who went to Pennsylvania; some of those, like the Dutch and French Huguenots who came to New York...these people were looking for religious freedom and constructed their societies around religious beliefs and tenets. If you look at the lives of the "founders" and those who wrote the Declaration of Independence and Constitution, you will find people who believed in God whether as theists, like Jefferson, or as practicing Christians, like John Adams and Charles Carroll. Taking religion, especially Christianity, out of American history would mean leaving a lot of people in Europe--and all of their descendants.

  94. In the world of "Conservative Christianity" (whatever that actually is), it seems that the Pharisees appropriated the mantle. For no good reason other than that it is they who pursued power and control the most.

    Another reason why a perfectly good word -- conservative -- was hijacked, taken over and twisted by the contemporary so-called conservatives, who are anything but all the modest virtues the classic definition of that word evokes.

  95. IMO, it's the height of arrogance to think you can know the will of God.

  96. Maybe "Christian Conservatives" should be more accurately named "Old Testamentarians" since their views are largely based on the Old Testament of the Bible rather than the actually "Christian" New Testament. Personally I don't think of them as Christian at all. I Jesus Christ even a factor in their thinking and religious views?

  97. Well said, PH! And of course Christ said nothing that can be interpreted as supporting slavery or of condemning gays. The OT is a handy rule book for cherry-picking bigots.

  98. Thank you for this observation, Patricia. I never thought of it before. You have just clarified a dissonance that I couldn't verbalize. These "Old Testamentarians" should be called out for the non-Christians that they are. As an atheist and secularist I don't judge them for not being Christians, only for their hypocrisy.

  99. You are attempting to apply logic and reason to the argument... for which there is none in the first place.

  100. Organized religion is: 1) a power structure explicitly designed to increase itself; 2) a belief system formulated around the idea that we are right and everyone else wrong; 3) a dogma perpetuated by inculcating its members before they are old enough to know better and by claims of supernatural phenomena.

    Religion cannot, however, claim a verifiable monopoly on morality. In fact, religion has long foolishly attempted to eradicate behavior, such as sexuality, that is fundamental to human nature, and can thus be shown to be demonstrably harmful to people.

    Untl we are able to have widespread belief in a system of morality based on the fundamentals of what allows people to live and work in harmony with one another, we will continue to have the kinds of anomalies faced by the BSA.

  101. Personally I wish we could live without religion -- I and most of my friends do to no ill effect; we haven't used the absence of God to molest children, cheat on our taxes, or kill our neighbors. But given how many people seem to need religion, let's not turn it into a club to beat each other over the head with, especially for something none of us chose: the gender of those we love.

  102. Very well said.

  103. Those who profess belief in things that can't possibly be true are complicit in the construct of "us vs them." The religious who would make the argument that the Boy Scouts need to be inclusive in order to be Christ-like have no more, or less, grounding in reality than those who would have the Boy Scouts exclusive on religious grounds. They must either admit that you can't have your own reality, or allow the excluders to have theirs.

  104. OutCasting, our LGBTQ youth public radio program, will be doing a half hour special on the Boy Scout ban. It will be broadcast on WDFH and on Pacifica stations around the country next week, just before the Boy Scouts of America takes its votes. We've talked with Evan Wolfson, who litigated the Jame Dale case before the Supreme Court, as well as other prominent individuals involved in other organizations fighting the ban, and to Scouts themselves about the nuances of the possible lifting of the ban and how it would affect them. Have a look at our site next week for an in-depth documentary about the ban, its history, and what the current proposal would actually do. And listen when the program is carried on WDFH ( and many other Pacifica affiliates next week. It's going to be a good program that sheds light on the many issues involved.

  105. Universal Scouting organizations in the world over, including Boy Scouts of America, which is closely tied to the Catholic Church and other right wing evangelicals has had as many child molesters as the Catholic Church. Which has covered up the heinous crimes against humanity. Of course this hypocrite organization has ban in force because it can hide its past and avoid liability. Just as the Catholic Church has done with it being a State, within a State, enjoying all the diplomatic privileges and immunity, and not accepting the responsibilities. The basic facts are that this patriarch organization like the Catholic operates in a similar fashion with an outward hypocrite self image of good.

    The real bottom line issue is not about gays or lesbians , but rather closet child molesters, who can hide behind the outward facade and the organization it self protecting this menace by avoiding legal liability. The real facts are that there have been cases in the US, Canada, UK, Scotland, Ireland, New Zealand, Australia, Brazil, Argentina, Chile, South America, Kenya, Germany, Austria, India, and other places that have still not come to lite. It is more likely that some of these yahoos that are for this ban, are themselves hidden pedophiles hypocrites who prey on the innocent.

  106. Indeed. The Christian right has no monopoly on religion and the majority of the left are church goers as well, a fact often overlooked by the media (and the pundits as well) and one inevitably hears the views only from the Christian right (fair and balanced anyone?). However, from my perspective in the red state heartland, the Christians whose views tend toward the left, are much more tolerant and compassionate than the Christians whose views tend right. It is not unusual to hear the words what would Jesus do and quoting scripture of Jesus' attitude towards the downtrodden and the poor from the Christian left and the quoting of selected passages from the scripture that supports the viewpoint of limitation, restriction, prohibition and privilege from the Christian right

  107. As to the important question, how did it happen that we have come to assume that "religious values" are the same as those of "the religious right" and "Christian conservatives," I look to something that happened right here in NYC in 1984, at least regarding Catholics.

    This was toward the beginning of John Paul II's papacy. After the time of Paul VI, which many criticized for being chaotic, but I found to be a thrilling period of creativity and renewed commitment to charity and fellowship, John Paul empowered many conservatives like himself as spokesmen, including Archbishop John O'Connor of NY. During the presidential election of 1984, Democratic VP candidate Geraldine Ferraro, with other Catholic pro-choice politicians, signed a statement that acknowledged the mere truth, that there was a "diversity of Catholic opinion" regarding abortion. (Opinion polls have always shown that to be the case.) Right away O'Connor slammed her, publicly declaring that she had "distorted Catholic teaching." It had not been her intention to present "Catholic teaching," only to point to the variety of Catholic thought on the matter. She assumed we would go on as before, flourishing in a post-Vatican-II Church that tolerated and even encouraged diversity of opinion. But she was wrong. After that time, fewer and fewer liberal Catholic voices could be heard, their opinions were no longer acceptable, and liberal Catholics were marginalized, even de-facto excommunicated.

  108. Roman Catholics form the largest single religious body in these United States of America.

    The second largest religious body, or so I have read, consists of lapsed Catholics.

    Any questions as to why this is the situation?

    Cardinal O'Connor once washed my feet at a Holy Thursday celebration. As a gay man I thought I might protest by putting glitter on my lacquered toe nails. I didn't do that out of respect for the Church I know and love. I thought such a protest woud be tacky as well as a waste of time. (I think God might have cracked a little smile at my idea. She is not intollerant.)

    It is some times difficult to be a Catholic. What keeps me going is the admonition that Catholics are obliged first and foremost to follow their consciences.

    It took the Church 300 years to apologize to Galileo. I wonder how long it will take the Church to apologize to the GLBT community.

  109. I see no reason for the Boy Scouts to even be a religious organization. I was a freethinker Eagle Scout but if I had let others know I was a freethinker I would have been kicked out. It's the reason I didn't encourage my son to be a Boy Scout. One's religion - or lack of it - should not even be a consideration.

  110. I never rose above the Tenderfoot rank because I was an open skeptic before I was a Boy Scout.

  111. In a perfect world the vast majority of us would simply ignore a numerically-small far religious right, and they'd be free to inhabit their little world without impinging on the rest of us (or we on them). Unfortunately, what we have in the real world is a sizable number of people who not only feel free, but *obliged*, to derail pragmatic problem-solving in the name not just of upholding their belief system, but of elevating it to primacy in the hearts and minds of everyone else.

    On the Boy Scouts issue and other controversies, what seems clear is that the far religious right not only seeks absolute freedom to exercise its religious beliefs, but has absolutely no interest in permitting others to live their lives *free from* those religious beliefs. I actually feel a little sorry for the Boy Scouts of America, because I think it's trying to bridge a divide that cannot be bridged. Thanks to its absolutist stance on many social issues, I think the far religious right is leading the country to a showdown over whether freedom to exercise religious beliefs trumps the freedom not to be oppressed by another's exercise of religious beliefs. I retain just enough optimism to think that the far religious right won't like the outcome of that showdown.

  112. And they packed the Supreme Court to neuter the constitution ban on faith based legislation inscribed in the first clause of the first amendment. Enforce that ban and they all become politically irrelevant.

  113. The only reason we hear more about the "religious right" than the "religious left" is that the former are easier to manipulate and more useful the the powers that shape our media and politics.

  114. Even though I accept the reality of the ongoing push and shove on the subject of homosexuality -- reluctantly -- I take some satisfaction in Mr. Bruni's op-ed and the enlightenment found in these nine comments (as of midnight in Portland, Oregon). Many Americans know that there are more urgent concerns such as global warming which merit careful attention and serious dialogues. Mr. Jason Collins found the courage to "come out of the closet." If this great athlete proved that he is just as successful as a gay man, I feel that his bravery ought to send a message to everyone. I got it and will find lots of satisfaction in the future. I write while recalling what Christ said to the righteous: let he who is without sin cast the first stone. The moral weight on those words has been felt ever since, and it should be among the spiritual citizens from sea to shining sea -- whatever faith they enjoy. Even those who are truly ethical but occupy no seat in any religious citadel.

  115. As much as we are quite rightly impelled to give voice to the minority of people who are willing to express their love of a benevolent creator feeling love for all its children, it is ultimately the same enabling a culture of hate, intolerance and bigotry that has dogged humanity since its earliest days. There are many compassionate Christians. There are many empathetic "spiritual" people. However, their reluctance to call out the demagogues and hate-mongers among them is much more telling than any lip-service to empathy and acceptance that they profess. Hopefully in the future, there will be very little to distinguish these polite and tactful individuals from the tidal wave of hatred and prejudice that have defined their fellows for centuries. It's time to stop endorsing self-delusion, and time we called out close-mindedness and the willful denial of progress that these supposedly good people represent. Until we all accept the truth that everyone should be judged by the actions they accomplish during their time on this planet rather than their adherence to some arbitrary set of superstitions, we will never move forward as a species.

  116. There are different interpretations of the message of the Bible. While it lists homosexuality as wrong, it lists Jesus dying for your sins as right. Jesus taught salvation by repentance. Paul taught salvation by faith. David taught salvation by God, and was into victory prayers. There are Trinitarians and Unitarians. So, I’m not surprised there are differences of opinion on whether gay is good or bad. As I recall, some first graders didn’t like girls, and that is similar to not liking a different race or cast.

  117. Excuse me - the Bible does NOT list homosexuality per se as being wrong.

    In fact, neither the Jewish nor the Christian scriptures has much to say about homosexuality at all. The prohibition of raping male prisoners of war to show their submission to the victor in Leviticus, for example, was an admonition to respect the prisoners' humanity and was not a condemnation of man-on-man sex in and by itself.

    The word homosexuality itself did not exist until the late 19th century There are a number of books and other publications which explain and refute the so-called anti-homosexual admonitions in both the Jewish and Christian scriptures. ( Incidentally, the Quran also has very little to say on the subject.)

    As for the Bible itself - it is no secret that people can make it "say" whatever they want it to say, hence the proliferation of numerous "Christian" sects, each one claiming to be the sole interpreter of scripture. The Bible has never been surpassed as a tool in controlling people's behavior. It is also a great tool for those intent on relieving incredulous fools of their money.

    Personally I get great solace and enjoyment in my biblical studies. However, I have no use for the doctrine of sola scriptura and the nonsensical idea that the Bible is both inerrant and infallible. Such attitudes toward scripture serve only to cheapen it. Taken litterally it makes no sense.

    In any case the US is governed by the US Constitution and NOT by someone's interpretation of the Bible.

  118. So happy to see a description of Christianity which acknowledges that its believers run the political spectrum from far left to far right. I'm not an adherent of any organized faith, and find the Golden Rule to be enough. However, I know Christians and so-called Christians of all political stripes ("so-called" because I can't believe Christ, as an historical figure if not a religious one, would recognize their views and behavior as based on his teachings.). If I'm willing to accept that all Muslims aren't the Taliban and all Jews aren't rabid Zionists, then all Christians aren't right-wing zealots.

    Re. the Boy Scouts, if they aspire to teach the young men of our country, they should accept both members and leaders along the sexual identification spectrum, as well. My husband was a longtime scout and didn't become an Eagle Scout only because he couldn't in good conscience complete the badge for faith. That was long ago, and I hope the Scouts can change to suit the times. Thanks, Frank Bruni.

  119. "Selective literalists" as you put it, have been giving Christians a bad name for close to 2,000 years. Read Garry Wills series-- What Jesus Meant?, What Paul Meant?, What the Gospels Meant? and the latest, Why Priests?-- for some thoughtful commentary on what the Christian scriptures actually say. Or watch his book tour appearances on Charlie Rose; where he addresses some of the most misunderstood areas. bc

  120. We get through life on provisional constructs, whether we describe ourselves as religious or pride ourselves on empiricism. Religion is not alone in running headlong into reality, as Gemli puts it.
    Medicine, for example, embraces absurd doctrine for decades at a time:. 'schizophrenia is the result of poor mothering' has caused anguish just as sharp as 'your sexual orientation is a sin'. And despite their principles science-based institutions, too, often hang onto cruel error long after its harm has become apparent.
    There is no human institution that does not embrace absurdities. To write off religions' millennia of human thought, story, and poetry because bone-headed literalists have lately been coopted by cynical politcal forces is...Philistinism.
    While you're looking up the Philistines, read the book of Job and consider whether religion can't be a source of sorely-needed wisdom about hard reality despite the monumental idiocy of any humans--priests or atheists--insisting that they have the only true approach to understanding.

  121. Religions historically are not inclusive. The very nature of the types of religions seems to separate us all. not bring us together. History is replete with facts that show most wars and even most politics is based on one religion trying to put their beliefs on another. So why is so hard to understand that the bible tells people what to do, what to think causes problems. I would prefer all religions to go away, but that won't happen. There is much too much power and money in religions so there will always people who make sure they stay around.

  122. The late Sidney Harris wrote the best one-liner on religion ever, to wit: All religions are true in what they affirm, and false in what they deny.

  123. It's time for the broad center of American people to reclaim and redefine "morality" as a term of honor, not a badge of intolerance and prudishness. We need to reject and counteract the influence of those who frame right and wrong as a function of how many assault weapons they can buy, or whether it's okay to bomb abortion clinics to protect unborn fetuses. It's time for us to fight the influence of the far-right who would rather enrich already a staggeringly wealthy select few as opposed to helping the vast majority of Americans succeed. Our country is on a slippery slope down, and I fear a a major confrontation between opposing views is lurking if we can't begin to marginalize the very small but vocal ultra-conservative minority that seems to have taken over the GOP.

  124. "But there’s a religious center. A religious left. There are Christian moderates and Christian liberals: less alliterative and less dogmatic, but perhaps no less concerned with acting in ways that reflect moral ideals. We should better acknowledge that and them."
    So where are they? Why do we hear so little from them? Why do tvhey let the zealots define the conversation?

  125. Because actively contending with fools is a more than full time job... we have better ways to spend our limited time in existence.

  126. This isn't a fair characterization. The religious left and center are extremely active. My denomination has been making national pronouncements on what people call "homosexuality" for 40 years now. Many of our churches openly proclaim themselves as "open and affirming." It's unfortunately, the the combination of media fascination with fundamentalism and the big, big money that flows into the religious right create the impression that we're silent. We're not silent. Far from it. (You can read my columns on HuffPo.)

  127. Because there is no Us/Them. There is a huge panorama of Christian beliefs but as you move from conservatism, it becomes less yes/no, right/wrong. And thus, since most radio friendly Christians are of the yes/no kind (makes a great sound bite), we 'others' just move forward to make our worlds a better place on a local level. Also, the more liberal you go, the more you get a group that believes that religion is private/family matter and politics should stay out of it since we are a country of many religions and beliefs. Why add MORE religion to the national conversation? Yikes!

  128. The local council in Morris County NJ released a statement to the press that they support allowing gay adults (as well as kids) to be allowed into scouting.

    As a former adult leader in this council, I was proud of my council. We don't get the press coverage, but in many states we are the silent majority.

  129. Once again a fine example of the fact that religion is a very poor indicator of morality.

  130. The Boy Scouts of America had worked for a century to be inclusive and broad minded; one of the first organizations to reach out to inner city youth and establish minority leaders in some of the poorest reaches of our nation. Our grandparents were Boy Scouts. My urban father would have been a great boy scout, but there was no opportunity in his neighborhood. He chose to serve his country in the military and found, at that time, one of the least bigoted places in his life.

    The Boy Scouts, by leading prejudice and weakness, are leading their own way
    to oblivion. It is so disrespectful to the work of thousands of leaders and scouts who worked their entire life to open Scouting doors. For any parent worried about the lessons of justice and friendship for their son or daughter, the organization has become toxic.

  131. I have stopped describing someone as "Christian" because, with the complicity of the press, the term has been co-opted by Evangelicals and Southern Baptists. Someone who self-identifies as a "Christian" is unfortunately assumed to be one of the socially conservative denominations. That's too bad. Only more socially progressive denominations, such as Episcopalians and Presbyterians, can counter this. It's time they made some noise. It's time the press gave them a voice.

  132. and how very much i appreciate this piece giving "a voice" to someone from one of those denominations. How refreshing...and how startling! Not all of us Presbyterians are "socially progressive," but, thanks to our form of government, those of us who are at least have been given a place at the table.

  133. I wish I could do more than just "recommend" this comment, syfredrick. I wish I could hand it out to everyone I see.

  134. I am a Presbyterian Church (USA) pastor. The press mainly follows things of sex and scandal. When we hold out General Assembly (national, every 2 years), the media focuses on issues like homosexuality, but is less interested in other positions taken or mission accomplished.

    The press will not give us a voice - we must make the noise.

  135. Dear Mr.Bruni,Religion always does seem capable of muddying the waters as all religions "interpret" the word of God. It is amazing to me that Christians all read the same book,the Bible,yet walk away with hundreds of different interpretations of the words in that book(the same can be said for all "religious" screeds). Religion isn't science and that,to me,is the problem;religion seems to demand that individuals make a choice and if anyone is opposed to that choice,they are condemned to an unfortunate after-life. If all the proponents of the variuos religions believed in their God,then that God will settle the issue with no action required in the here and now. Unfortunately,that doesn't happen and people are burned at the stake,wars are fought,etc.,all in the name of a,supposedly,loving God. It matters little what the BSA does concerning homosexuality as the larger problem is the intrusion of religion into everyone's lives!

  136. May I suggest that "religion" and "organised religion" are two very different things? Many who curse God would be more accurate if they directed their ire at those who claim to speak for God rather than at God him/her/itself.

  137. "Religion isn't science and that,to me,is the problem;religion seems to demand that individuals make a choice and if anyone is opposed to that choice,they are condemned to an unfortunate after-life."
    A major point of the article is that this is not true of many religious folks - especially those to the left of center.

  138. The Scouts, over many years, have contributed mightily to societies around the world. Whether for the character-building, camping and outdoor skills they teach, or the morality and leadership lessons, they have contributed positively to millions of young men. But, as society has changed, the Scouts have not. It is as anachronistic as a fax machine. It still has things it can contribute, but there are other technologies that do things better. Certainly there are other organizations out there that can help young people build character and teach the positive values all societies hold to be essential. If the Scouts don't suit you, find an organization that does. Leave the Scouts to those who wish to exclude. It will whither and die if it can't change to suit the needs of today's societies.

  139. Actually, the organizations that "wither and die" are the ones that bend to every breeze and change with every new popular theory.

    The ones that "stick to their guns" are the ones that last. Ask Orthodox Jews, around for oh say something like 4000 years!

  140. Catholicism, Orthodoxy and all other "Christian" religions stem from the Jewish tradition. Why not also give credit to the Mosaic law which in turn laid the foundation for these now-venerable, once novel religions? All observant Jews are enjoined to do good works to help mankind, as a mitzvah, and as a fulfilment of the Law. Why be hung up on some 20th-century contrivance, hopefully already becoming outdated, that relates to the expression of the private, indeed sacred, gift of sex? Why should sexual preference weigh so heavily, involving as it does the most intimate and inner expression of the self? Why not consider the entire person, not just a hyper-sexualised construct of that person, on the basis of a childish inability to accept that which is other?

  141. Right, but as Mr, Bruni points (or alludes to) is Catholic Social Teaching. This is as much a part of Church doctrine as everything else and is non-negotiable for Catholics. CST teaches concerns itself with the good works you describe for those who are vulnerable and disadvantaged, respect and solidarity for the rights of the worker, care for our natural world, and the right of life and dignity for all human beings (regardless of their respective faith or lack thereof).

    So, even though some conservative people who refer to themselves as Catholics (some clergy included) spend all their obsessing over the autonomy and sexual preference of others doesn't mean there is a problem with the religion. The problem is with their own bigotry and stupidy.

  142. @Gabe Catholics are not the problem by any means. Most of them take no notice of the Vatican, and practise birth control like most people have to, and what's more, advocate for LGBT rights at a rate greater than any other religious group, greater even than the national average.

    It is therefore a serious mistake to alienate Catholics. It is the hypocritical, autocratic and curmudgeonly Papacy that is the problem, as it has always been since the days they executed people like Giordano Bruno for the heresy that the Sun as at the centre of the Solar System.

  143. Muhammad the prophet claimed that all religions that trace themselves back to the patriarch Abraham are Islam.

  144. I think that California has the right idea. (Senate Bill 323, by Democratic Sen. Ricardo Lara, would repeal the state tax-exempt status of any youth organization that discriminates based on gender identity, sexual orientation or religious affiliation.) I hope that other states follow this lead.

    I want to stay out of the religious debate of it. I will say, however, that God is Love.

  145. If California passes this silly legislation the Supreme Court will strike it down on constitutional grounds when it is challenged. It should be pointed out the Girl Scouts, an organization the liberals seem to like, would also lose their tax exempt status if a law like this passed. Girl Scouts may accept boys who think they are girls but they still don't accept boys who identify as boys.
    There is also a pragmatic issue all the homosexual supporter conveniently ignore. What will be the new logistics for a campout ? Currently in coed youth organizations teenage boys and girls don't sleep together in the same tent. Will we be isolating the homosexual boys in one man tents if the proposed policy passes ? If not, then will BSA begin to allow a boy and a girl in a Venturing crew to share their two man tent ? How will it work ?

  146. I think you would be more informative and less mystical to observe that humans evolved as social animals which is why we are programmed to be sympathetic with each other.

  147. This is an excellent editorial that speaks to the illogical and unfortunate hold that the so-called religious right has on many areas of our politics and law. For example, why does the religious right's objection to abortion rights or even contraception trump a deeply held moral objection to the state's use of the death penalty? No one has ever accepted the argument that those with religious and moral objections to the death penalty should be exempt from paying the portion of state income tax that supports it, or that we should outlaw the death penalty on the basis that it offends many citizens' beliefs. Religious freedom under the Constitution means freedom from religion or being subjected to any one faith's bigotries, just as much as it means the freedom to practice one's beliefs.

  148. The "religious right" has captured the soundbites on this and other issues in our society. I totally agree with Mr Bruni. Why do "they" create the moral value system? Even worse, why doesn't anyone criticize them for their hypocrisy about their "core" beliefs? If they are pro-life-then why are they for capital punishment? If they are peace loving-they why are they pro gun? If they are good Christians-they why are they against social programs to help the poor? If they are good Christians-then why are they against preserving this planet's environment?
    Why-because it is about money...and power...and Mr Perkins and his crowd are not about religious beliefs but about the money that they make and the power they can exert.

  149. Every last law that gives any respect whatsoever to faith is unconstitutional under the plain meaning of "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion".

  150. Maybe just start a new scouting group, based on different principles than the original Boy Scouts. Why bother with the old group?

  151. The Boy Scouts today are not the "original" Boy Scouts. When I was a Scout many years ago, there were no requirements that one espouse any particular religious view or even any religion. Nor were there any prohibitions against gays or anyone else from being a Scout.

    In the late 1970's there was a concerted attempt by the Mormon and Baptist churches to take over the Scouts and impose their narrow points of view on the organization. It was one component of the "Culture Wars." Until then, most Scout troops were sponsored by schools and VFW posts, without a political or religious agenda. Today more than 70% of troops are church-sponsored, with the Mormon and Evangelical Baptist churches being the primary sponsors. These troops are more interested in promoting their own agenda, reinforcing church membership, and recruiting new members. Its time to return the BSA to its roots, teaching non-sectarian moral values and outdoor skills, not a particular faith's catechism.

  152. I am an Eagle Scout and a United Methodist clergyperson. I support lifting the ban on gay scouts and leaders. To those concerned about child safety, BSA has extensive practices to promote child safety, as do most youth organizations. In schools, churches, sports groups, Boys Clubs, neighborhoods and society at large tragedies happen, but Scouting takes child safety very seriously. Scouting is proactive at protecting children from abuse.

    Sabatia7 is mistaken about the history of Scouting. Scouting formed as a movement for Christian youth and later broadened to include all who believe in God. Boy Scouts of America has always required a belief in God for participation regardless of whether the sponsoring organization was the VFW or a Christian church. As noted elsewhere atheists and agnostics may not be a part of the group. We can debate the wisdom of this policy, but the presence of the religious doctrine is beyond dispute. The United Methodist Church and the Latter Day Saints (Mormons) are the two largest sponsoring organizations of Boy Scouts in America.

    As rightly noted in the article there is diversity of belief within the church on the subject on homosexuality. I am hopeful we will lift the ban, welcome all boys and leaders into the program that has been an important part of my personal and spiritual formation. I hope to share that experience with others.

  153. Ironically, the founder of the Scouting Movement in 1907, Robert Stephenson Smyth Baden-Powell, 1st Baron Baden-Powell, in the British Army from 1876 until 1910 serving in India and Africa, lieutenant-general in the British Army, adulated hero of the 1899 Second Boer War in South Africa, writer, was gay.

  154. Seems your article has no moral compass except "common sense" which shifts with each generation. What did "common sense" dictate during puritan days? How about "common sense" in the 60s? Is there no true moral north? We have authoritative moral texts like the Bible, Koran, etc. These haven't changed, but some interpret what they say differently to accommodate lifestyles and beliefs. Can we not just take the Bible, for instance, at its word? At least Christians who claim the Bible as their sacred text should take it at face value when considering what is and is not moral RE: sex and marriage. The Bible is exceptionally clear RE: homosexuality in both Old and New Testaments. We're in a culture/society who's moral values are not only accepting homosexuality but literally celebrating what was an abomination 50 years ago. Huge shift. If we discount the Bible's teaching on homosexuality, how long before we discount the Bible's teaching on beastiallity? Yes, many churches and denominations have interpreted the Bible in a wide variety of ways justifying and condemning so many things. Nobody can say what is moral or not without some kind of moral authority behind them. Without reference to some moral authority all we have is opinion and "common sense" which shifts with each generation. Is there one moral authority, or are we doomed to be ruled by myriads of moral authorities? Welcome to the amoral world where nobody's wrong except the person who clings to the Bible.

  155. The Bible approves of slavery. Bring it back?

  156. You have a point. I choose the Bible teaching: "Judge not, lest you be judged." And what about: "And why beholdest thou the mote that is in your brother's eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye?" Maybe your sin of choice is greed (a frequent favorite with Christian conservatives), or lying (for convenience or profit for yourself or your children), or jealousy, or gossip. If Christian conservatives paid more attention to their own sins, and less to passing judgment on the rest of us, many of their criticisms would go away.

  157. The Bible condones slavery, rape, infanticide and a slew of other acts that we modern humans consider horrible crimes. This is the moral authority that you wish to live by? Times change, and our understanding of life, the universe and everything else change with it.

    And what is it with you folks and bestiality? Is that really such a huge concern for those of us that don't live within a day's drive of a quiet, isolated farm?

    Your moral compass is spinning like a top. Re-examine your principles.

  158. The literalist interpretation of certain , passages in the 1st (Old) Testament doesn't stand up to scrutiny either. This is the world of the ancient near east where God then as now has to deal with what the facts are on the ground. In this world those who are the most friutful multipliers win. Theologically speaking God had no reason to sanction non-child bearing unions - He wasn't in charge of Missions Impossible. Things have clearly changed as God would have been the 1st to predict. The literalists literally have it wrong- a condition that could be remedied by standing in God's shoes for a minute or two. The commandment isn't "love thy straight neighbor as thyself". The rest was a concession to military realities in the world of the ancient near east.

  159. Why are we still following an ancient text written 2000 years ago for a bunch of nomadic barbarians wandering the desert? Civilizations have come and gone, we have had a couple of Enlightenments, and people still want to follow the advice given to these barbarians? Why continue to live and think like barbarians? That many people do explains a lot.

    For all we know the book is mostly fiction given there is no historical evidence that much of it really happened including the Jesus Myth. Yet the Bible still serves for too many as literally the right way to live. No wonder we are so dysfunctional.

  160. Some things you consider modern have been tried before and been around a lot longer than 2000 years. The "Jesus Myth" which you hold in contempt has a following of 2 billion people.

    Look at recent history where societies tried to create their own morality or a lack of it. I'm talking about Nazi's and Communist.

    I worked for a while in Louisiana while driving to and from on I-10 you can see a billboard claiming Obama is Satan. If you listen to the radio you can hear a self declared Jew preaching the apocalypse and how it revolves around Jerusalem. According to his guests, he never agrees or disagrees. the government is secretly bringing in 10's of millions of Muslims and creating secret cities for them practice terrorism in this country. His propaganda, week after week, is always the same the end of the world is coming and only some Christian's and some Jew's will be saved.

    There are always some people who would believe anything they're told and others always willing to burn down their own house. Fires are hard to put out once started.

  161. These people are not living for this life, they are concerned about their lives after death, which are said to be eternal.

    Belief in life after death is not useful to make this life better. And there is no possibility whatsoever that the human soul can be separated from the organic brain it has grown in to go anywhere else.

  162. Religion is a very poor battle ground for either side of this dispute.

    Dueling faiths and gods and scriptures and prophets lack any relationship to common sense, logic, facts or reason or natural law. And when they move on to the civil secular natural world field they all fall apart. Faith was used to bless slavery and Jim Crow.

    Let us instead begin with natural law and logic and reason and facts in a civil secular world. There is only one human race. And among our closest biological kin are the bonobo and the chimpanzee. Divided by the Congo River they each display very different social structures and physical appearance.

    While the gracile bonobos have a matriarchal society that uses bi-sexual behavior and sex to maintain stability, the robust chimpanzee community is a patriarchal society that uses bi-sexual behavior and violence to maintain cohesion and order. Humans are a little bit of both.

    Race is a physically obvious factor. Sexual orientation is not. Jason Collins did not have to come out as black. Race and sexual orientation are both natural biological factors. No matter what your god or scripture or prophet says.

  163. While I agree with much of your assessment, when you say that "Jason Collins did not have to come out as black," you suggest that hiding one's relational and sexual identity is some sort of privilege. That it causes no harm, no pain, no trauma to go through your life hiding a core part of your identity, hiding your most intimate relationships from other people you love and the world in general. Race may be "physically obvious" in ways that have equally obvious negative consequences in a racist culture, but, first, sexual orientation isn't invisible for many people and, second, hiding it does its own cruel violence to the self. Try asking heterosexual people to spend even a day not mentioning their spouses, girl or boyfriends, interest in the opposite sex, etc, even in the most casual ways--e.g., "We went to a wedding this weekend."--and they'll struggle mightily. This is because none of us is an island. Who we are is in large measure defined by all of our relationships. Given this, the freedom to safely come out is the same as the freedom to safely live in your own skin. It's the freedom to be fully, unapologetically your whole self. In this sense, I'd suggest that for Jason Collins to fully be Jason Collins, he surely did have to come out. It's not a luxury that competes with the opposite exposure of race, but a necessity that, along with the ability to safely share race, ethnicity, gender, and other obvious and non-obvious characteristics, makes us free.

  164. The ban on homosexuals in scouting has its roots in fear - fear that not injecting religion into the scouts might cause the children to stray down pagan paths and the unspoken fear of being mistaken for a homosexual. But it's not scouting that needs examining; it's religion itself. Dealing with homosexuals is only one place where religion clashes with reason, and until we become willing to look at the actual risks and rewards of religion, these types of injustices will continue.

    "Impossible" you say, "We will never ban religion. It's been tried elsewhere and it doesn't work. I agree, we can't ban religion; that won't work. However, we can search for the truth - the truth about what religions really do to the normal (pristine) functioning of the human mind. When we come to understand the downside of religion, we won't have to ban it. When we learn how religion, any religion, affects the proper functioning of the mind, we will simply choose to reject religion. After it was shown that the world is round, there was no longer a need to ban the idea of flat world. Shown the truth of the matter, the natural mind of man is programed to reject that which is not born of reason – and religion, by definition, is not reasonable. and

  165. Religions needs to be removed from public discourse.

    Leave religion in the churches, and remove the favored tax status of religions that use the pulpit to promote political action.

    As for marriage: the states and federal government can avoid much of the current uproar by recognizing only civil unions as qualifying for government benefits conferred upon "marriage."

    Want your marriage blessed by a guy who talks to imaginary friends in the sky? Go for it, but don't confer economic benefits upon it.

  166. Historically the "religious right" has not been the designation of the religiously devout, but turned into be a pretty accurate designation for their religious practices because they actively chose to be politically active as a group. And as the group, they had more of the same than less, hence it was quite easy because they essentially named themselves.

    When Jimmy Carter was elected, those in power of most of the evangelical sects determined that they could effect changes to society through their ability to influence the upper echelon of our government. The elected portion where their dollars and connections could place them in a position to move things one way or the other.

    But Jimmy didn't turn out to be their boy and they turned to sloganism, suggesting that the Moral Majority or Silent Majority was the next big political player and those seeking election to higher political office would do well to take notice.

    Ronald Reagan didn't necessarily take notice - right away. But he did lean further towards their goals than Jimmy, and it opened doors in Congress which gave them the power they wanted in being influential regarding the laws that were passed.

    To be honest, I believe that it was this Moral Majority that adversely affected the full implementation of the 14th Amendment for 50+ years in the south, which still exists in spirit today.

    Roger W. Norman
    SirMusic Studio

  167. "But what about the morals and the God of people whose religions exhort them to be inclusive and to treat gays and lesbians with the same dignity as anyone else?"

    Isn't this why Boy Scouts of America is reassessing its ban?

    BSA is, in fact, considering other viewpoints. Or is that not really the issue? Is the real issue that BSA is considering the viewpoint of people whose views conflict with your own?

    As the parent of a Boy Scout, I am satisfied that it is working to resolve this issue. I'm not condemning it in advance.

  168. Exclusion of those who are different - skin tone, sexual orientation, etc - is one of the many ridiculous penchants of religion. We'll be better off when we can move beyond the constant anthropomorphizing of the fairy tale's protagonist, acknowledge, and take responsibility for our misdeeds.

  169. here, here! What is wrong with people? We have moved beyond the dark ages. We understand why the sun "rises" now, why rain falls, why species go extinct (nothing to do with gods!). We don't need religion anymore. Religion is nothing more than fairy tale and fantasy. Are people not intelligent enough to realize that this is so clearly make-believe? I ask religious people: do you believe in the tooth fairy and santa claus too?

    When will we stop giving credence to such fantastical delusions? I'm sorry, but I have to admit that I lose a little respect for people that actually believe in a god.

    And I no longer have patience for their god-sponsored hate, intolerance, and cruelty. Opinions based on fantasy (religion) have no business in our public square, our government, our community. Grow up, get educated, and stop clinging to some stupid fantasy like a child.

  170. I think it's bizarre the way people keep talking about what "Jesus thinks about homosexuality". I've read the Bible and as far as I can remember, Jesus never discussed the subject. All the stuff about homosexuality is probably from the Old Testament and maybe St. Paul. I'm not sure, because the Bible thumpers never bother to say what part of the book they're quoting.

    I do remember that Jesus said it's sinful to oppress debtors while getting lenient terms for oneself. But somehow bankers who foreclose on debtors while receiving government bailouts are never denounced by the religious right for their sinfulness. Go figure.

  171. I left organized religion several years ago. I can retain and practice Christian tenets without being part of a church community that always includes bigots. (I've been a member of several congregations since childhood.) I've developed a more diverse and open social and support community since then. Until the church begins to "be" the church in practice and not just in words ("love one another" comes to mind), I won't be back.

  172. AMEN.

  173. I thought the mandate of the Scouts was to raise young boys to be fine, socially conscious adults. To sow the seeds of character that deal with their behavior in society, rather than how and where they pray, and what form of sexual intimacy they will take on as they mature and form families.

    Perhaps the error of the Scouts was to allow support and endowments from religious groups. The Boy Scouts are nonsectarian, and as such, should follow the laws of America, which was founded on the priniciple of separation of church and state. Despite being a practitioner of my faith, I am always appalled when it tries ot weigh in on issues of civic debate and influence members of their flock to impose the sexual values of the church on every American.

    And I'm also apalled, always, at the focus of any religion on the sexual practices of man, except for the core teaching of "love one another as I have loved you." That type of love excludes predators, the type of scout leader the hard right most fears.

    But predators exist irrespective of the values are taken on by organizations. And, in fact, I would think it would be harder for predators to sneak into scouting in a more open culture of tolerance and vigilance.

    Today, young people tend to be far more humane, compassionate, and socially conscious than their elders. Perhaps young scout members have a lot more to show their leaders than to tie a good knot.

  174. "RELIGION, n. A daughter of Hope and Fear, explaining to Ignorance the nature of the Unknowable." --Ambrose Bierce, The Devil's Dictionary

  175. Try to read Rod dreher's essay about "Sex and Christianity". It can be found on the website "". In short it states that restricting sex to marriage was christians way to protect women, slaves and children in the first centuries after Jesus's birth. I guess the church are stucked to this paradigme today because it's hard for old institutions to change and because it supports males as superios. But you could also say that christians prevailed as women today are in command of their sexuality. Maybee it's time for all christians to move on and take care of the poor and save this planet given to us.

  176. When did the scouts become a religious organization? When I was in the scouts in the 60's I don't seem to remember that aspect. It was all about the badges. Badges? We need the steenking badges...

    "Religion is regarded by the common people as true, by the wise as false, and by the rulers as useful." Seneca the Younger (c. 3 BCE – 65 CE)

  177. The Boy Scouts Of America (BSA) is one of the oldest and most successful organizations in the world for teaching and guiding boys toward successful lives as men. Now we have groups and individuals on the fringe of society, who want to change the BSA and make it into something more like they are. No matter how vocal they are, or how much attention they get from the liberal press, we must remember that they are NOT in the mainstream of parental attitudes about what is best for their children. It would be much better if these groups and individuals formed a new organization which would provide a scouting experience for parents who want their son´s to be exposed to homosexual values during their formative years. One cannot argue with success. Leave the BSA alone.

  178. "Homosexual values"?

    I am not sure what those are, if they indeed exist and can be truly associated with an entire group of people whose only other common denominator is sexual orientation.

    But I do know that there are PLENTY of straight people I would not trust around children, including a bunch of self-professed religious people, even clergy.

  179. As long as morality is viewed through religious eyes rather than objective precepts of equality...fairness...yes the golden rule...communities will be subject to self centered distortions and preconceived notions of justified harm to "others".

    One man's idea of holiness becomes one woman's hijab...

  180. what is even more frustrating about the scouts is that if you are an atheist you are absolutely not allowed to be a scout leader. they have a list ot 20-30 religions that you must select from on the form. it says if you are an atheist you cannot be a leader of any sort. i was in scouts as a kid and loved it. i wanted my son to enjoy it also but somewhere over the past thirty years it turned into a christian right thought control club. what happened to hiking and enjoing nature??

  181. It is a private organization; it's not a tax supported public entity.

    It's like a club, and they can admit anyone they want, or keep out anyone they dislike.

    Since you are an atheist, why would you even want to join?

    BTW: there are many MANY other religions than "Christian" and the Scouts do not discriminate against any organized religion, only the LACK of belief in god.

  182. It's supported, Concerned, each and every time they seek to utilize publicly-funded accommodations. My tax dollars, everyone's tax dollars.

  183. Prejudice against gays is bigotry. It is time to call it by its proper name.

    I don't remember that Jesus ever preached bigotry.

  184. Here's the rub: God didn't say anything about any of this. God didn't say anything about anything as a matter of fact. What we have are MEN, who lived over a thousand years ago, saying what they believed god said. That's different.

    The world is different. We know things we didn't know then. We know that homosexuals are born that way; we know that women are not chattel to be controlled by men as they control their barnyard animals; we know that over-population kills and that all families are better off when each child is wanted and made on purpose.

    For a bible-thumping Texas governor to suggest that the rights of a significant minority of people can be abridged because their identity is just the "flavor of the month" is a vile, unchristian (in the Christ sense) and ignorant slur.

    We must stop giving any ground -- any support at all -- to those who run around like the fools they are, pontificating about What God Says. God says nothing.

  185. Amen, brother.

  186. You don't have a "right" to be a Boy Scout.

    It is a private organization, without government funding. They can decide to admit only right-handed people, or have only bald troop leaders.

    I'm a woman (and former Girl Scout). What if I demanded to be a Boy Scout? even though I am female and over 50? not a leader -- a Scout? Do I have a "right" to join and participate, and ruin the Scout troop for the male children for whom it was intended?

  187. Exactly, Concerned, and as such they should not be given any public accommodations whatsoever.

  188. This is a superb column; it makes a number of salient, and too-easily forgotten, points. There is something missing, though.

    The fact that the BSA discriminates against atheists and agnostics has been entirely lost in the debate over discrimination against gays. The debate that now rages has simply not mentioned this, at least not that I have found.

    There are two possible reasons for this, although neither explains the lack of mention. One is the argument that such discrimination is not the same as discrimination based on sexuality; it is, after all, exclusion based on belief and not on what amounts to an immutable characteristic. It arguably follows from this that banning atheists and agnostics is just not nefarious.

    The other is that people feel that it is acceptable to discriminate based on belief, that we are okay with the idea that a national organization, often involved in civic activities and using public facilities, should favor those those who advocate religion over those who have none or who are not certain about the existence of any god.

    I do not like either of these reasons, although the second is more repellent than the first, and it seems to me that neither of them should go without saying. But the bottom line is that the BSA, a national organization purporting to welcome all boys, does not. Discrimination against gays is utterly unacceptable. But, in America, shouldn't discrimination based on religion be as well?

  189. Why and how do "religious" doctrines evolve and change? Because man made constructs (with emphasis on man) are imposed interpretations of what the founders, or long after the fact scripture, may have said or meant. They become rigid doctrine designed and imposed to serve power and economic interests. Humankind seems to have a gene that leads to blind cult like faith that always to violence, religious wars and persecutions. It is time in our evolution for us to return to basic original values in all faiths for tolerance, respect and most importantly, love.

  190. You have a good point here, Barbara8101, but there's one thing that should be cleared up quickly. Atheism is not "based on belief." It is, indeed, immutable.

    We do not "believe" there is not god. Just as I do not "believe" there is no alligator living in my basement. And as I do not "believe" there are no elves prancing about in my neighbors yard.

    Maybe agnostics believe things. I wish everyone would stop lumping them in with us atheists who have the guts to come right out and say, "Hey, folks, there is no god. Get a life, already."

    What we need in this country today is a friendly organization where kids -- boys and girls together -- who are atheists can be with their equally bright and enlightened peers. (Gay kids, too -- as long as they are atheists.)

  191. Until moderate and liberal Christians come "out of the closet,' the dominant image of Christianity will continue to be the Christian Right movement, which, in my mind, equates with hate group. Isn't it sad that Christianity has become synonymous with intolerance and hate.

  192. To get a real feeling about the extent of the right's hold on certain kinds of religion, turn on your car's AM radio next time you are driving around. As I found recently while driving from NC to Ohio, most AM stations these days are either country & wetern or fundamentalist Christian, the latter of which spew forth hate and venom against abortion, gays and the President. The hatred of these preachers towards the Obama Administration knows no bounds.

    The airwaves, one quickly concludes, are toxic and bitter, all in the name of Jesus Christ our Savior.

  193. That's true; which is why we bring cds along for our cross-country car trips.

  194. I recently visited Floridia and found it almost impossible to listen to the radio for the reason you are describing, Station after station! And similar experience in Arizona.But--the actual numbers of people who are Christian "adherents" are not much higher in those states, about 20% more than those with low numbers of "Christian adherents."

    As a progressive Christian (who would be counted as an adherent) I am tickled pink that those toxic preachers actually represent a small fringe group. They really care though, sort of like the (overlapping) minority of gun rights extremists. Good people must speak up.
    from Hoff Post website:
    "A study measuring religious bodies in the United States called the, “2010 U.S. Religious Census: Religious Congregations & Membership Study (RCMS)” was recently released by the Association of Statisticians of American Religious Bodies (ASARB). The most comprehensive study of its kind, it provides detailed county by county information on congregations, members, adherents and attendance for 236 different faiths groups. (The survey differentiates between specific denominations within the same tradition.)

    The researchers define adherents to be those with an affiliation to a congregation including children, members and attendees who are not members, and believe that the adherent measure is the most complete and comparable across religious groups. Congregations are defined as groups of people who meet regularly at a pre-announced time and location."

  195. "The Baptists have cried foul," Mr. Bruni asserts. Really? I thought the point of the piece was not to categorize faith traditions with a single characterization. But Mr. B didn't seem to get his own point. The fact is, like most Christian denominations --well, like most religions--theres a wide spectrum of views on the issue of homosexuality. I'm on the far left on this issue, and for very Baptist theological reasons. That doesn't mean I think Tony Perkins (if he is, in fact, a Baptist--I don't know) is a heretic, but only that he, as a Christian, has the freedom to interpret the scriptures in ways that he thinks are faithful. But I welcome the exchange with Mr. Perkins and try to persuade him that, in my judgment, he's wrong. The long and the short of it is that I believe we Baptists deserve an apology from Mr. Bruni, based on his own principle.

  196. It is extremely doubtful that a truly beneficent God created millions of homosexuals hoping they would be shunned and excluded from participation in society.

  197. Homosexuals are not shunned, and they certainly are not excluded from society. They are, as a group, more affluent and educated than heterosexuals and have always had the right to vote, to own businesses and property and to live with whomever they choose.

  198. To Concerned Citizen:
    With due respect, it seems naive to state that homosexuals have never and are not now shunned. Frank's column , after all, addresses the 'quandary' of the Boys Scouts of America's, as to 'what to do with them'. It's just one of many examples. I believe if you consult a dictionary you will find that it meets the definition of being shunned.

  199. Citizen, the allegation that as a group homosexuals are more affluent and educated is an oft-repeated myth, and just that - a myth.

    As for your other allegations, yes homosexuals have always had the right to vote and to own businesses and property - except when they were being harrassed, assaulted, jailed (until the British 1965 Sexual Offenses Act, it was illegal for a homosexual to have sexual contact with a consenting adult, and it wasn't until 2000 that the age of consent was made the same for both hetero and homosexual contact - all in Great Britian). As for living with whomever they choose - that was/is subject to the same problems.

    As for not being shunned or excluded - that's exactly what the Boy Scouts have done and want to do.

  200. As a person of faith and a member of a liberal, left-leaning United Methodist church, thank you, Frank.

    (The UMC national body still bars the ordination of openly avowed homsexuals - I guess it's OK if the person is still in the closet. Nonetheless, a large number of UMC churches are "reconciling" congregations, part of a movement within our church to remove this ban.)

  201. It's not a narrow band of Christians (and other religionists) who advocate inclusion. The UCC has been doing so for decades, as have the Disciples. The Episcopal Church made a major turn not long ago at the national level. The Lutherans (ELCA) have recently changed their public stance, as have the Presbyterians (PCUSA). That's most of what used to be called the mainline.

  202. Its really quite simple... If you make a policy or law that singles out a group of citizens for special treatment or reduced rights, you are acting immorally. In the eyes of the law and God.

  203. Thank you for this column. I'm a lapsed Catholic who came to see the Church's positions on homosexuality, women priests, etc. in fundamental contradiction to Jesus' message of "love your neighbor as yourself." While it is presumptuous to claim God as being on "my side" (check out Lincoln's 2nd Inaugural Address), I think about Jesus and the Pharisees or Jesus tossing out the money changers. His was a life-changing, radical message that has been co-opted by people seeking power over the rest of us.

  204. This is why Marx considered religion the opium of the people, not just the poor who are controlled and manipulated by religious fears, but the rich and powerful who use religion as the unquestionable foundation for their ideology--how can one argue with what God said, with what it says in the Bible, with what Jesus wants? Religion becomes the final arbiter in any debate, because how can one argue with God? God wants us to be free--so I am free to own a gun. God wants us to be capitalists so free enterprise is part of God's plan. God wants us defend Christianity so we invade Muslim countries. God wants heterosexual marriages. Any argument against that idea is a challenge to God Himself, the words spoken by heathens and the devil. Evolution becomes a mere theory because God made the universe. Those who use God for their own ends to terminate any questioning and to stop any contrary discourses are only interested in the financial and political powers this position proffers. They are not interested whatsoever in anything godly.

  205. One must realize that our nation (compared to many others) extended religious freedom via the Constitution.

    So the Catholic Church, the Mormons and other faiths believe homosexuality to be a sin. No one is forced to affiliate with any religious order ot denomination...

    So, leave the "Universal Chuch" or the LSD or any other religion... if you object to their interpretation of their holy books. There is no compulsion to be a member.

    As people are talking about the Second Amendment, in a move to be progressive,
    let's understand that the First Amendment has helped to make the U. S. a free country.

  206. "No one is forced to affiliate with any religious order ot denomination..." But their practices have a real effect on those who are not members. Under the first amendment I must respect their right to believe whatever they wish, no how bigoted or absurd. I am not, however, obligated to respect the beliefs themselves, nor should those beliefs be placed in a special class that is beyond criticism.

  207. Mr. Eddy, The ACLU have defended such offensive and dangerous groups as the KKK in terms of freedom of speech. They did it in the 1970s in Skokie, IL-- a town where many holocaust survivors lived.

    The ACLU, as a result lost a large percent of their membership -- especially Jews. The First Amendment is in the Bill of Rights not to protect generally accepted speech or rhetoric. It is to protect the most outrageousthoughts and diatribes.

    [I am very much against many of the teachings of the Catholic Church which exists as a 14th Century monarchy. Add: the Vatican's immense wealth and pomp which I find to be the antithesis of Christ's teachings.]

  208. I believe it was Leslie Weatherhead, well-known and well-published preacher in London during the war, who said that nothing the Bible said was true unless it was consistent with the teachings of Jesus.

  209. How does that apply to the Old Testament, and the beliefs of millions of Jews worldwide?

  210. As an Eagle scout and father of two teenage boys, I wanted my sons to be able to participate in the camaraderie and life experiences offered by scouting. I learned a lot from it. But I could not bring myself to have my sons stand and swear to believe in God, and to be part of a group that banned people for who they were. As much as we personally would have benefited from the experiences offered there, I couldn't go against my principles. What would that have taught my sons?

  211. Just one more time that religion shows its ugly side.

  212. It's about time someone wrote about the rest of us, the Christians who don't fall into the "Christian conservative" label. And there are millions of us: we love the witness of the biblical writers; we honor the truth contained in Hebrew and Christian Scriptures, but we are not enslaved by the letter of the law. We are free! And we follow the one who set us free. We read the Bible in the context of the times in which the books were written, and we rejoice in the revelation that continues in our day. Thank you, Mr Bruni.

  213. Terrific column. My only objection is in the first paragraph.

    "Their morals must be properly respected, their God aptly revered."

    We must respect the right of anyone to hold whatever belief they wish, but we are not at all obligated to respect the belief itself. In fact, the genius of our country is each person's right to assail a belief using well-reasoned arguments. The folly of our country is rather than reason, we use the irrationality of faith, emotion, and violence to bully others into accepting beliefs that otherwise have no foundation.

  214. PK, Mr. Bruni quite obviously was being sarcastic.