Wednesday, March 21, 2007
by Wayne Besen
If it were discovered that homosexuality had a biological basis, it would be morally acceptable for a mother to use a hormonal treatment patch to ensure her child was born heterosexual, Rev. Albert Mohler Jr., president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, suggested on his personal website
"If a biological basis is found, and if a prenatal test is then developed, and if a successful treatment to reverse the sexual orientation to heterosexual is ever developed, we would support its use as we should unapologetically support the use of any appropriate means to avoid sexual temptation and the inevitable effects of sin," wrote Mohler.
His comments raised the ire
of gay activists who accused him of promoting eugenics
and abandoning moral principles on the sanctity of life. But, in Mohler's desire
to root out homosexuality, he fails to consider an equally compelling question: If a biological or genetic basis for religious belief is discovered, would it also be morally acceptable to create a hormonal patch to eliminate fundamentalists, such as Mohler himself?
Before you dismiss this question as hypothetical or academic, consider that research into the origins of spirituality is a robust field of inquiry
. There are currently about a dozen studies that show shared personality traits among religious people, suggesting a genetic or biological basis.
In 2005, Laura Koenig, a psychology graduate student at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis, postulated a likely genetic link
to spirituality by studying male fraternal and genetically identical twins. Koenig demonstrated that the identical twins had a much greater likelihood of sharing analogous religious beliefs into adulthood than the fraternal twins who were about a third less similar than they were as children.
Mohler's view on eliminating homosexuality is shortsighted, culturally myopic and leads us down a slippery slope. Once we allow prejudice and preferences to determine who lives, what moral basis would Mohler have to stop China, for example, from eliminating future political foes by eradicating those with religious inclinations in the womb? Karl Marx considered religion "the opium of the masses." It is not a stretch to speculate that if the former Soviet Union possessed a hormonal patch to "cure" this addiction they may have used it.
In Mohler's world, conservative Christians are a majority and considered a paragon of virtue. However, the late singer John Lennon is not the only person who has "imagined" a world without religion and its Inquisitions and suicide bombers. Indeed, there are prominent scholars and writers who consider religion to be little more than a psychological defect - much like the Southern Baptists now consider homosexuality.
Oxford evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins wrote in his best-selling book The God Delusion
that, "Religious behavior may be a misfiring, an unfortunate byproduct of an underlying psychological propensity which in other circumstances is, or once was useful."
If future scientists or world leaders conclude that religious behavior is no longer useful or even potentially harmful to the evolution of the species, religious expression could theoretically be diagnosed as dangerous and thus considered expendable.
This sounds far-fetched until you consider how drastically times and attitudes have changed in recent centuries. For example, Massachusetts, the onetime home of Puritanism and witch burnings, today marries same-sex couples. The Europe of brutal religious wars and the Crusades is now largely secular.
How painfully ironic it would be for Mohler to wake up in twenty years to find masses of potentially gay babies "corrected" in Kentucky, but an even larger number of future fundamentalists medically modified in California. If social conservatives doubt this could happen they ought to read their own websites, which are filled with examples of Christians who have been persecuted worldwide.
Mohler may look to the lab and gleefully envision a future without Elton John or Ellen DeGeneres. But there is also no shortage of people that would prefer a world without fundamentalists such as Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell. You simply cannot claim to respect the sanctity of life and then carve out a gay exception, unless you are prepared to surrender your moral authority when the exception becomes the person in the mirror. Perhaps, it is time for all of us to stop playing God and start accepting people exactly as God created them.
Monday, March 12, 2007
by Wayne Besen
Mitt Romney, the former Massachusetts governor and Republican presidential candidate, is the king of crass, the maven of craven and the show pony of phony. He switches positions quicker than a porn star and is more slippery than an okra plate dipped in country butter. I never thought the religious right would be gullible enough to buy Romney's eleventh hour conversion, but apparently he can buy theirs. According to an article in Sunday's New York Times, the ultra-wealthy Romney is desperately funneling cash
to right wing organizations and literally banking on their support.
The Times revealed that a foundation of Romney's recently made $10,000-$15,000 contributions to the anti-abortion Massachusetts Citizens for Life, Massachusetts Citizens for Limited Taxation and the Massachusetts Family Institute. Moneybags Mitt also funneled $10,000 to a non-profit organization tied to the National Review magazine; he slipped $35,000 to the Federalist Society; and pumped $25,000 into the coffers of the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank.
Some of these American Mullahs were critical of Romney until he showed them the moolah. In a comic, if unintentional, slip, Citizens for Life praised Romney as one of Massachusetts "strongest assets." Yeah, I guess an estimated net-worth of $500 million would qualify as such. Not surprisingly, these "values" groups claim that their recent inclinations to support Romney had nothing to do with his donations and that their sudden helping hand is not a quid pro quo for his handouts.
Amazing how these protectors of the family don't question why their new Daddy Warbucks hadn't bought them so much as a Starbucks coffee before he started running for president. Personally, I don't believe that any of these organizations truly support Romney. I just think he has given them so many hundred dollar bills that they have begun to confuse him with Ben Franklin.
In the most shamelessly transparent move yet, Romney even joined the National Rifle Association giving new meaning to the term "soldier of fortune." There are still concerns in Evangelical circles about Romney's Mormon religion, but it seems his affiliation with the LDS will matter less if he becomes an ATM. The almighty dollar is the right wing's equivalent of an ecumenical prayer.
Perhaps, the gay movement should embark upon a new strategy. Instead of spending millions of dollars on lobbying, we should just buy off our opponents at a fraction of the cost. I suspect we could get a hate crimes law for under a million. Marriage would cost a bit more, but we could sweeten the deal by throwing in free passes to the Holy Land Experience amusement park in Orlando.
On an equally troubling note for religious purists, the Southern Baptist Convention is redefining Sin to accommodate Republican presidential candidates. The SBC's Richard Land intimated in the Times that some divorces are more troubling than others, calling John McCainâ€™'s divorce a "molehill" compared to Giuliani's "mountain."
On MSNBC's Hardball, Land even said that Evangelicals would likely accept two marriages - but three brought up character and trust issues. With this shifting moral landscape among such "absolutists," can acceptance of Republican homosexuals be far behind?
It is amazing how the right wing creates Biblical loopholes when it fits their political needs. The Bible, if Land has read it, does not say that Giuliani's latest divorce was worse because he announced it at a press conference before he informed his wife. According to the Good Book - all divorce and remarriage is equally sinful.
Speaking of the Republican Marriage-Go-Round, Newt Gingrich told Focus on the Family's James Dobson that he was having an affair with a younger woman while he was working to impeach Bill Clinton for his affair with Monica. If this wasn't bad enough, America was reminded that in 1981, while his first wife Jackie Gingrich was recovering in the hospital from cancer surgery, Gingrich discussed divorce terms. Newt now claims that he does not remember the incident.
To most people, serving divorce papers to your wife in her sick bed would be a pretty seminal moment. If Newt can't recall this event, he must opt out of the presidential race because he can't be trusted with state secrets. In the meantime, I hope he finds a good neurosurgeon and I wish him a speedy recovery from his bout with nuptial amnesia.
The mere thought of a group that calls itself the Moral Majority endorsing any of these reprobate panderers and philanderers is perplexing and shows that they stand for nothing but money and power. On the brink of the next presidential election, the right is either looking for Romney's Brinks truck or spinning the sinning of Republican favorites, while labeling Democrats, who actually kept their families intact, anti-family.
Tuesday, March 06, 2007
by Wayne Besen
I told a few friends that I was going to the annual Winter Party in Miami Beach, and by their strong reactions you might have thought I announced I was going to an Al Qaeda meeting.
"So, you have finally joined the dark side of shallow body fascists," shrieked one friend.
I have to admit I had a great time, but I can see why these "circuit parties" freak out or intimidate so many gay men. For starters, I had never before been to a pool party where 5,000 men had 30,000 visible abs. In this place, "carb" was definitely a four-letter word.
The whole scene reminded me of the movie "The Devil Wears Prada
" where the main character was called "six," referring to her supposedly plump dress size. At the Winter Party, I was expecting people to address each other by the number of abs.
"Hey, four, are you going to the club tonight?"
"No, five and a half, I'm going to the gym so I can be at least a four-point five for tomorrow's party."
Drug usage appeared to be way down. I'd like to attribute this to gay men wising up, but it seems they have given up drugs for a newer addiction - text messaging.
Everywhere I looked, people were huddled in corners pecking away at their cell phones. I don't really get this new fad. Wasn't the telephone invented so we wouldn't have to type our messages? It is back to the telegraph, I suppose.
The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force
sponsored the festivities and deserves credit for throwing one heck of a party. A little eye candy for the cause is never a bad thing.
In other news:Bob Hattoy Dies:
Bob Hattoy was a trailblazing activist who delivered a powerful and historic primetime address to the 1992 Democratic National Convention about living as an HIV positive gay man.
However, what I most remember about Hattoy was that he was an ebullient, larger than life personality in a city full of suited clones and bureaucratic drones. In the mid-nineties I moved to DC without a job, which was a great conversation stopper at parties. The moment some people found out that I had no business card, they quickly excused themselves to "get a drink."Hattoy was different
. He treated me like a Senator when I had nothing to give back in return. Even at the height of his fame, he was incredibly down to earth and quick with a joke. While he will be lauded for his contributions to mankind, I will remember him for his humanity. We will hear much about his public life, but the true measure of the man was his private acts of kindness.Al Gore:
Al Gore had the foresight to help invest in what later became the Internet, and yet, people see him as a stiff. The former Senator from Tennessee was right on the war in Iraq, but the Democratic establishment would rather listen to Hillary parse her war position. Gore is ahead of his time on global warming, and all the pundits can do is discuss his ballooning weight. Suddenly, he wins a little gold trophy at the Oscars and now people are encouraging him to throw his hat into the presidential ring!
How screwed up are American values when leadership matters less than showmanship? Have we learned nothing after electing Bush because he'd be fun to share a beer with on the ranch? With the advent of cable TV, politicians are our new rock stars and elections have become just another form of entertainment. Why don't we just drop all pretenses and have Rosie run against "The Donald"?Nadine Smith:
Equality Florida activist Nadine Smith was unfairly arrested for "disrupting" a Largo, Fla. city commission meeting where city manager Steven Stanton was railroaded out of a job because he was planning to have a sex-change operation.
The thugs who arrested Smith justified manhandling her because a flier she gave to a man who requested one posed a serious "fire hazard." Thank God for the police, because we know how deadly fliers can be and how they have already caused an epidemic of city commissions across the nation to be reduced to ashes.
Please consider giving a donation to Equality Florida
. Our GLBT heroes, such as Smith, deserve our support as they fight in the trenches, so most of us can enjoy events like the Winter Party in peace.