Responding to Tom
Somebody put a comment on one of my posts. This is very exciting. Now I need to respond to it, because Tom is both polite, respectful, and in disagreement with me on almost everything.
We agree that reason is a tool, but you argue that with only reason humans would engage in all manner of anti-social activity, because we would reason that stealing and murdering would be good for us when there are no consequences. Well, that would be true if the only possible way to have consequences was that there was an omnipotent god watching everything. Actually it is entirely possible for other human beings to police our behaviour, and that is in fact what happens. When society breaks down and the rule of law broken, people do go out and steal, kill, and rape to their hearts content. The level of religiosity in a society won't affect bad behaviour when there are no earthly police to actually enforce laws and punish offenders. Reason is a necessary component of this because it allows us to understand when we're breaking laws and when our stated moral principles are at odds with our actions. Religion is superfluous to this process at best, at worst it can gum up the works by creating different streams of 'justice' for believers and unbelievers, or by trying to reconcile contradictory religious rules within the legal system.
I see nothing in Tom's discussion on homosexuals to ease my fears about Christian homophobia. The problem here is that homosexuality is not a choice, it is a fact inherent in nature, just as heterosexuality is. It is akin to gender or race- something that people are born with. If you were to say 'I don't hate African Americans, I just hate people who are being black', it would be equally meaningless. Christianity has made an attempt to reconcile this by never acknowledging that it is a fact of nature, moving sexuality into the realm of choice and therefore into a fair arena for moral scrutiny, but it doesn't wash. I am straight. I could not choose to be gay if I wanted to. I know I would never enjoy sexual relations with a man- so I therefore know that those who do engage in them must not feel the same way that I do, that there must be something different about how they feel about the world. I can't then turn around and say that it is a moral choice they are making- how can what you feel about the world, how you are born, be a moral choice? The choices you make are how you are going to live- honestly seeking what you desire, or trying to conform to what other people want you to do? Of course some desires lead us to harmful behaviour, and when we choose to seek fulfillment of those desires we face moral consequences. But there is nothing intrinsically harmful about who people are sexually attracted to. There are a whole slew of ways that people engage in immoral activity to satisfy their desires- rape, incest, pedophilia, even unsafe sex- because people can be harmed by these activities. But when two adults with no other commitments desire each other there are no other stakeholders, so whatever they choose to do is between them, and none of the business of the rest of us.
So when you say you hate homosexuality but not homosexuals, I see only hatred, and no morality. This bible you like so much says you should stone them or something, but it also says you shouldn't suffer witches to live or tolerate people of any divergent faith at all. If Jesus was a real person, I don't see how it matters, so was Buddha, so was Muhammad, so was Nietzsche, the fact that these people existed doesn't mean that what they said, or what was said about them, is true.
Finally, I am accused of hating Christians, which is a reasonable judgement given the tone of most of my posts. I don't, at least not as a class of people. There are a good group of people who are Christians for whom I do feel deep contempt, but there are also some people of other faiths who fall into that category. What I despise about them is their immunity to reason, their unflinching demand that others conform to them, their readiness to use whatever tools come to hand to achieve their goals, which all too often includes violence. I do have Christian friends, I admire a great number of people who also happen to be Christian, but I have to say I admire them and like them in spite of their beliefs, there is always a bit of the sceptic in me that wants to challenge them.
So thanks for your comment Tom, I doubt I'll convince you of anything here, but I think just airing out my arguments every once in awhile is good for me, and I hope you (and others) will feel free to comment in future.