Dan to religious closet-case: change your religion

Dan Savage devoted this week’s column to gay people with religious issues. So, as with cheating and partner-letting-self-go, let’s decide whether Dan got it right! Here’s an excerpt from the question:

Religion has been for me a source of strength in my times of weakness, a rock in the times of storm, and above all a home to return to when I have lost my path. In the teachings of my particular religion, to indulge the particular desires I am experiencing will condemn me to fates too grotesque to mention. I am rational enough to realize that there is no way that I can pray away these desires. My question is this: How does one prepare for a life of celibacy and solitude (as that is what is required of me to remain a member of this particular faith)?

Actually, it leaves me wondering what he means by “fates too grotesque to mention.” Excommunication? Airport restroom lovin’?

Dan says:

Find yourself a brand-new religion or sect, or jettison the bits of your current faith that dont work for you. If you know anything about the history of Christianityand it sounds like you dontthen you know that the revisions began before the body was cold. No reason to stop now.

On the one hand, Dan sounds like an atheist who doesn’t grok the religious mindset. To him, they’re all basically equivalent and interchangeable, to a believer perhaps not so much.

On the other hand, a lot of gay people of faith seem to be able to do just as Dan suggests. After all, the beliefs “God is just and loving” seems to conflict with the belief that “God created me gay and wants to torture me for it” — so you basically have to jettison one or the other. Or both.

Thoughts?

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chanson

C. L. Hanson is the friendly American ExMormon atheist mom living in Switzerland! See "letters from a broad" and the novel ExMormon for further adventures!!

9 thoughts on “Dan to religious closet-case: change your religion

  1. Unfortunately, I have to agree with the sentiment that “On the one hand, Dan sounds like an atheist who doesnt grok the religious mindset. To him, theyre all basically equivalent and interchangeable, to a believer perhaps not so much.”

    This loses him credibility. Yet, I think that his advice isn’t completely irrelevant…rather, couldn’t we hope that through more research and intense study (like many of us did when we had such tough doctrinal or historical issues?) would cause someone to “shake out” so to speak (or to re-evaluate their religion radically?) So the advice isn’t terrible.

  2. Andrew #1 – I’m not sure why Dan loses credibility with that statement. He recognizes that religion fills a need for some people. It sounds more to me like someone from a different religious tradition (than mormonism) – where people can CHOOSE which congregation they attend.

    I was just discussing this with a religious friend the other day – she looks for congregations, not denominations. So, she just moved to a new place, and will probably attend a number of churches to figure out where she wants to attend regularly. From what I can tell, this is incredibly common among mainstream Christian churches. Among some believers – there is a big difference between say, Presbyterians and Methodists. But for others, not so much. You don’t have to become re-baptized or anything.

    Did I misunderstand your comment?

    chanson – as far as people able to reconcile their faith with who they are…I can’t say. I wonder if it’s like some Roman Catholics I know who remain faithful, but use birth control.

    I think it’s part of the human condition to (sometimes) hold beliefs that directly contradict one another – or are in conflict. For example, a belief that dependence on foreign oil and fossil fuels is bad – but a person not being willing to give up their personal vehicle…In general, yes, it would be nice if everyone practiced as they preached, but in my experience it doesn’t always happen that way.

  3. The fact that the questioner says “that is what is required of me to remain a member of this particular faith” makes it look like it’s not just a case where he’s a generic Protestant who would be OK with just picking whichever Christian congregation he connects with. If he were, his problem would already be solved. It sounds like he’s Mormon or Catholic or something along those lines.

    However, there’s one other clue that makes Dan’s advice seem appropriate in this case. The questioners explanation for sticking with his faith is “Religion has been for me a source of strength in my times of weakness, a rock in the times of storm, and above all a home to return to when I have lost my path.” What’s striking is that it’s not: “I’m certain that the teachings of my faith are true and that God wants me to live a life of celibacy and solitude.” So it might be reasonable to point out that the comfort he’s getting from his religion might also come from some other religion; one that’s OK with the gay…

  4. Isn’t this the reasoning that everyone uses when searching for religion? You examine a particular faith and weight its teachings against your own beliefs to find the best fit.

    I find nothing wrong with Dan Savage’s advice. It seems like common sense.

  5. O/T … but am I the only one here wondering if this site hasn’t seen a huge surge in hits since the whole “Main Street Plaza” kiss-a-my-doodle erupted?

  6. I think it’s perfectly valid advice, and much healthier and useful than whatever advice he’s giving himself/getting from his church.

    If he’s rational enough to realise he can’t pray away the desires, perhaps he can be rational enough to eventually realise that all religion is simply the construct of humans and that no person has got more authority, knowledge or wisdom to tell him how he ought to live his life than he himself already possesses.

    And I agree that I don’t see why Dan Savage should lose credibility by stating the perfectly reasonable and rational response of if your social network isn’t working for you, then find one that does – but don’t try to force yourself into a system that hurts you. I think that’s advice which should be given and followed far, far more often.

  7. Jake and Craig — Good points.

    The reason the advice seemed questionable was because it seemed like he might be telling the guy to will himself into believing something he doesn’t believe. If someone were to show me proof that I’d be happier as a believer than as an atheist, I still wouldn’t be able to will myself into believing that God really exists. So if the questioner, say, believes that the LDS church is the only true church, then telling him to just believe in some other religion might not be realistic advice.

    OTOH, as I said in #4, it looks like that might not be this guy’s situation…

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