Lowered Expectations + Vague Statements = Person of the Year

fckh8-pope-meme

By now you’ve heard that the Advocate has named Pope Francis its person of the year. In perhaps one of the most cringingly apologetic and sycophantic pieces published about the Supreme Pontiff, Lucas Grindley reaches to draw the barest scraps of meaning out of the most innocuous of statements. In fact, reading this piece, you’ll notice that most of the article is Grindley doing little more than repeating himself or explaining why other people deserve the praise more. I almost feel as if the editorial board made the decision, and poor Lucas was tasked with writing it up. But let’s examine this article to see if we can divine the thinking that makes what appears to be pandering to pop culture lionization into a legitimate choice.

As I mentioned, the first six paragraphs are about how other people should have been given this honor. Grindley focuses especially on Edie Windsor, the brave woman whose case got a part of DOMA thrown out in court. It’s followed by this remarkably cop out

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Thus begins my new piece for Queereka. Read the whole article on that site.

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Don’t Mess With My Dad (or “Why I Take It Personally”)

One of the ways that human beings justify being cruel to one another is through dehumanization tactics. We recoil from actual harm, we don’t want it on our conscience, but we get around that by making the Other that we’re fighting into a broad stereotype, an amalgamation of all those things we most hate and fear, ascribing to them the worst traits that we can possibly come up with. It gives us license to do what we would very much like to do without having to feel guilty about it. It gives us justification.

Much of our literature and media is based on this very idea. One of the main plot arcs of To Kill a Mockingbird, for example, is the gradual humanization of Boo Radley from creepy recluse to trusted protector. This is hardly an uncommon trope, and it can be applied to texts as diverse as Enemy Mine and 48 Hours.

And while it is an interesting trope, it is also a way that we oppress specific people. Among the most prominent are racist caricatures of black people, often in “coon” or “brute” styles, but there are certainly more. Much of that persists to this day.

Similarly, much of the opposition to LGBT inclusion and rights has been based on this dehumanization, associating queer people with pedophiles, disease carriers, and suggesting they are somehow more violent. You should have seen the sites that I refuse to link to, both not to give them the link juice and because I wouldn’t do that to you, my handful of faithful readers.

To get a good example of how stereotypes can have subtle effects, take a look at this lawsuit by a gay couple in New Jersey who’s engagement photos were used by an anti-gay group in Colorado to defeat two Republican lawmakers who weren’t sufficiently pure on hating the gays. If you’ll notice, nothing about the pictures nor what is written on the political advertisements suggest that this couple was married, or engaged, or that the politicians in question were pushing for marriage. All they say is that two men kissing is not in accord with “family values” and suggesting that it will somehow be more common in Colorado. The scary message that got two GOP reps primaried out of their jobs was nothing other than “gay people exist, and you might have to look at them.” Remind me again how most Republicans are not homophobic?

This is why all of the wishy-washy “Oh, it’s just about protecting marriage” people are full of shit. This couple became the embodiment of every stereotype of the gay community, every fear about children’s safety and “innocence”, every description of AIDS, every mad fever dream about hedonistic, drug fueled lives trying to drag down the morality of entire towns.

But even more insidious than the stereotypes regarding the gay community is not one about us, it’s about our parents. The quacks who promote “reparative therapy” and other such filth often suggest that being queer is a result of poor parenting, that the same sex parent is distant and doesn’t provide enough love and connection, so us queer folks seek out that love in others of the same sex. Seriously, see how Richard Cohen, a big name in the conversion therapy movement, tries to cuddle away the gay. Or you can watch the pretend news station’s pretend doctor pretend that lesbian parents turn little boys into transwomen. Here’s the execrable Tony Perkins suggesting that his kids could never be gay because he raised them right. I’d say that you can’t make this stuff up, but clearly, you can.

This is not new, but the reason I’m writing this is that I just read this post by anonymous blogger Registered Runaway, guest posted on Rachel Held Evans’s blog. I highly recommend reading the whole thing, but the rough outline is that he describes how wonderful his father is, how accepting he was when RR came out, how supportive he’s always been…and how this amazing dad was in tears and suffered extended anguish because he was pointed to a video that re-enforced religious doctrines about homosexuality suggesting that his son was broken and it was his fault.

I’ve made it a point whenever some pastor or politician calls for imprisonment, deportation, or the wholesale slaughter of LGBT people to take it personally, because it doesn’t allow the people saying these things to dehumanize me. When they talk about a large, anonymous swath of the population, they are talking about me, not some faceless, hypothetical bisexual. It’s me they want imprisoned, it’s me they want deported. It’s me they’re calling a pedophile and a terrorist. It’s me they want to kill.

And it’s my father that they’re discussing when they talk about how absentee fathers create queer sons. They don’t know me or my father, yet they feel entirely comfortable talking about us and our relationship. Not some speculative dad and his theoretical kid, my dad and I.

My dad is one of the best dads I could have asked for. When I brought a girl home once, she expressed her surprise that when he greeted me, it was with a peck on the lips. Guys don’t do that. Families don’t do that. I’ve never known anything else.

I can talk for hours about the time we spent watching every episode of Babylon 5, marathoning Firefly during a hurricane, or dissecting why Deep Space Nine and Enterprise are our favorite Star Treks. He started my interest in politics, and I remember how his eyes lit up when I took International Relations in my freshman year of high school because it meant I would watch the news with him every night and we would discuss it. He has never been too busy for me, and relishes every moment we spend together, even when it’s just being a human pell for me to practice my point control when I visit (it’s not necessary, but he wants to feel like he’s helping me become a better fencer).

My father, a quiet farm boy from Wisconsin, has never withheld his love or affection from me. I couldn’t ask for a better person to have raised me (along with my mom, who is awesome in entirely different ways), so the suggestion that he somehow broke me is more infuriating by a factor of I-can’t-even-count-that-high than even the suggestion that I’m broken.

These sorts of lies are vile in unimaginable ways. They are spiteful in the scattershot fashion in which they hit everybody even remotely close to their target. I hope my father never has to hear somebody tell him that he is responsible for my being queer. Other than it being a false premise that it’s something that blame should be assigned for, it’s also an evil attempt to guilt parents into trying to repress their children’s natural sexuality by appealing to their instinct to protect their children and the horror that accompanies the idea that not only had they failed, they were the cause of the harm.

I love my father deeply and have never doubted his love for me, not even when I was struggling with coming out. I can’t wait to see him again and show him some of the cooler stuff he can do with his new phone (he’s figured out a lot of it, but it’s his first Android device). We’ll share a glass of brandy, geek out over Google Sky Map, and probably watch a new show together. Then, the day I leave he’ll wake me up so we can get gas for my car, and he’ll pay to fill up my tank for the trip home while we talk about why whatever classic rock song is on the radio is so awesome.

So yes, when somebody suggests that bad fathers make queer sons, I take it personally, because I’m a queer son, and my father was and continues to be spectacular. I won’t let them get away with making broad statements and pretending it’s about imaginary people, that they’re not hurting real human beings. I refuse to pretend that they are not trying to kindly say my father failed somehow. That is what they’re doing, and the benefit of the doubt has long been spent.

And if you’re queer, they’re talking about your mother or father, too.

My dad has never raised his hand against anyone that I know of, but I also know he can take care of himself. It doesn’t matter. If you go after my dad, you go through me first. And make no mistake, I consider anyone who says that queer boys are created by absentee fathers to be going after my dad, and I will not stand for it.

Actions, Beliefs, and Civility

I was recently on Ashley Miller’s blog arguing with a moron who couldn’t get it through his thick skull that I don’t care about Dan Cathy’s beliefs, but I do very much care that he spends money made at Chick-fil-a to support organizations that encourage the death and imprisonment of LGBT people here and abroad. He didn’t get it and, inevitably, made the argument that, “Your militant actions will only hurt yourself… and others.”

First, veiled threat aside, what he means by “militant actions” is calling people bigots. There has been a pretty hard pushback on the right against being called things, and there is an implication that if the pro-equality side would just be nice, everything will be wonderful and we can have a kind, civil discussion about being treated like real human beings.

In two words: fuck off.

Calls for civility are often used by sides that perceive themselves as losing an argument. The idea is that we are emotional creatures, we react to emotion, so by trying to make emotional appeals a liability, it prevents the aggrieved party from communicating in any way other than purely intellectually, which is less likely to connect with audiences. The group in power can afford this sort of behavior because if there is no change in opinion, nothing changes for them as well. It’s a safe position to be in, calling for calm, unemotional dialogue because it is unlikely to change the status quo. The powerful count on this, so they attempt to paint their opponents as irrational owing to their emotion.

This comes up a lot regarding groups that are attempting to gain power for themselves or lessen the privilege of those who want to continue to deny their existence. For example, the invocations of “militant atheism” are a big one. People like to complain that the New Atheists are mean and will turn people off from their message by saying that god doesn’t exist and religion does enormous harm around the world on a daily basis. We’re called “small-minded“, “shrill“, of course, “militant“. Tone trolls warn that this will not work, that pointing out that many religious believers do awful things just makes people who believe similar, but less harmful, things feel attacked, and the more effective method will always be the accommodationism of Alain de Botton and Michael Ruse.

This is nonsense. Since the advent of New Atheism, the number of people who claim no religious affiliation has gone from 8% in 1990, to 19% in 2011. Millennials,  the generation who have been exposed almost exclusively to gnu arguments, are the least religious generation we have data for. Richard Dawkins has a place on his website for people to tell their deconversion stories, and almost all of them cite the passion and forcefulness behind the New Atheists as a major factor in them coming to the conclusion they have.

New Atheism works because it recognizes and appeals to the human, emotional side of our decision making process, using emotion to improve the perception of their rational arguments. It is entirely irrational to treat human beings as if they have no emotions or that those emotions don’t matter. Again, I point to Ashley Miller’s talk about this very topic at Dragon*con. I also point to Julia Galef’s lecture on the “Straw Vulcan” at last year’s Skepticon. Her basic premise is that Mr. Spock presents a version of logic and reason that is actually irrational because it ignores the reality of people’s behavior and social interactions in favor of an idealized world where emotion isn’t just ignored, but actually doesn’t exist.

And it’s not like the other side of the LGBT issue isn’t appealing to emotions. What else is the point of saying that “their same-sex attractions are abnormal,” or trying to link homosexuality to pedophilia, terrorism, and the “recruitment” of children? These are all lies, everything I just linked to, and there are more lies that I could link to, but apart from being lies (which can be used emotionally as effectively as truth) they aim specifically at an emotional core in human beings: our sense of the virtue of protecting children from that which is Other.

So, I’m not going to get in the way of these people making emotional appeals, because it’s how we get people to understand that our point is much more than just academic. But, I will call them out on their lies, I will laugh that their attempts to play “I’m rubber, you’re glue” with the LGBT community, and I will not be civil about it.

You heard me, I’m not going to be civil.

I see absolutely no reason to be civil to a person who calls me a pedophile and a terrorist. Or who calls for me to be imprisoned. Or be deported (presumably to Planet Unicorn). Why should I be nice to somebody who blames teenaged victims of bullying for being harassed into suicide?

There’s a false equivalence underlying this entirely argument and that’s that there is no difference between working to promote the murder of gay people and calling people who do that bigots. Like Hemant Mehta I’m not even sure what else to call people are aren’t psychopaths like Kevin Swanson who think I (and the Muppets) should be killed, yet are also anti-equality. And then complains about being called a bigot for doing nothing more than expressing his belief that LGBT people should be murdered.

And also like Mehta, I disagreed (in her comments) with Rachel Held Evans that it’s possible to be against the rights of LGBT people and not be a bigot, much like you can’t be against interracial marriage and not be a racist. Words have meanings, and irrationally treating somebody differently (“I read it in a book” doesn’t count as reason) is bigoted. Sorry, thems the breaks.

It’s why Halee Gray Scott’s moronic “I’m Not Charles Worley” post was such a disappointment. She tries to argue that because she’s nice to LGBT people’s faces, that means that she’s not a homophobe for opposing same-sex marriage and working to make sure it doesn’t happen, or opposing same-sex hospital visitation, or any recognition of same-sex relationships. She seems to think that because she doesn’t want to round up all gay people into camps, that makes her not a homophobe. The problem is that her actions produce the exact same effect as Worley’s words. Intent is not magic, and just because you don’t specifically want that to happen doesn’t mean that it’s not your fault for cheering on the people trying to make their sick fantasies into a reality. Sick fantasties like Bob Jones’s wish on the steps of the White House that we go back to stoning homosexuals. Or like the sky tyrant smiting places that accept homosexuality.

And the thing is, to an extent I feel bad for the people who genuinely don’t want to harm others, but feel compelled by their beliefs to do so. But that feeling is rather small and fleeting. Plenty of people have decided to excise bigotry from their beliefs and feel no compunction about calling bigots and homophobes what they are. John Shore has an excellent way of putting it:

But it is indisputable that the “Christian” belief system evinced by the letter above daily and directly contributes to the ruination of the lives of gay people and those who love them. To my mind anyone who at this point persists in clinging to those beliefs does thereby forfeit their absolute right to respectful treatment. Because when all is said and done such people are nothing but bullies. They are sweet-talking, reasonable-sounding bullies who are daring to use God as their weapon of persecution.

I owe such people nothing whatsoever. My allegiance is to their victims, and to the God they shame by their ignorant bigotry.

Similarly, the idea that somehow another person can kindly deny rights to others or gently be silent when the atmosphere they’ve previously created inevitably erupts into violence is complete bullshit. Going to another favorite blogger, Fred Clark succinctly explains why you can’t be nice about denying people’s humanity:

Look, here’s the deal: It doesn’t matter if you think you’re a nice person. And it doesn’t matter if your tone, attitude, sentiments and facial expressions are all very sweet, kindly and sympathetic-seeming. If you’re opposing legal equality, then you don’t get to be nice. Opposing legal equality is not nice and it cannot be done nicely.

So, no, I don’t see a difference between Charles Worley and Halee Gray Scott. Their intentions are different, but the results are the same. I see no difference between Peter Sprigg calling for the imprisonment and deportation of homosexuals and Dan Cathy who paid Sprigg to be able to spread that message far and wide. Nor are other people any different if they continue to pay Dan Cathy to be able to fund that message. Again, thems the breaks, and I really don’t give a shit if they personally have no problem with me. Their beliefs are entirely meaningless as compared to their actions, and supporting anti-LGBT people is supporting anti-me people, regardless of those personal beliefs that people do absolutely nothing about.

No, I will not be nice to these people. I will not moderate my tone or refrain from calling them bigots. Because they are bigots. I know I won’t get them to change their minds, but I can get the people watching to do so. I can get those people to see that discrimination is bigotry, be it against queers, racial minorities, women, or any other group that lacks power. And that’s how we’re winning, despite the people claiming that being called a bigot is the same as being set on fire. I repeat, with a different example: set on fire. For clarity, there are people who think that being called a bigot for lying about the homosexual community is just like being set on fire. Just for absolute certainty, being called out on bigotry is just like being set on fire. Are we perfectly clear on the logic there?

Civility is a privilege enjoyed by those in power and wielded like a weapon against those not in power. It preserves the status quo. Sometimes you want that. If we discuss whether Firefly is the greatest show ever made (it is), and you disagree, then maintaining the status quo is a good thing as it allows our friendship to continue despite your lack of taste in television. But when it comes to power dynamics in society, the problem is the status quo, where a group of powerful people with ideas that harm other human beings get to implement those ideas. By demanding civility, it robs the aggrieved of a method of effective communication and attempts to categorize entirely understandable anger with irrational fury. It is a trick, it is a trap, and it is not one that you should fall for.

So stand up for your positions. Be honest about it. Don’t be afraid of turning off those calling for civility: you will never change their minds. And most important, don’t feel that you have to be civil to people who want you dead just because they say it with a smile.

Fucking Religious Liberty, How Does it Work?

Let me start by saying that I can never properly express my joy and appreciation to the Insane Clown Posse for the ability to parody their “fucking magnets” line at every turn. It’s so succinct, even more so than Bill O’Reilly’s “tide goes in, tide goes out” routine, and makes the exact same point with exactly the same amount of intention: some people don’t know or don’t want to know how things work because they prefer their made up answers.

Which brings us to religious liberty, what it means, and why we really need to get our definitions straight. To be honest, I’d rather be writing about the return of the horrid Kill the Gays bill in Uganda and this laughable farce of a press release regarding it, especially considering the foreign aid that Uganda is going to give up to pass this thing is necessary to support the corruption sector of their economy.

With a key that large, no wonder they need $44,000. The car must be HUGE!

Instead, I will explore what religious liberty is & is not and, broader, what liberty is & is not.

We’ve heard a lot lately about the “war on religion,” a “secular vision for America,” and similar meaningless phrases. Newt Gingrich is particularly fond of linking secularists to Muslims (because both are, you know, super scary). Mitt Romney thinks that the government forcing religiously-affiliated institutions to cover contraception like everybody else is a violation of conscience. Rick Santorum, who’s religious views are so intertwined with his political ones that he thinks he can rule the country by God’s law and not be “pastor in chief,” agrees.

But those are just the GOP candidates (minus Ron Paul who thinks that state governments can do pretty much anything they want). Let’s instead look at other people. The Liar Tony Perkins recently threw a hissy fit about the Air Force Academy not promoting a sectarian charity. Archbishop Timmy “Apple Cheeks” Dolan has a little bit to say about everything, and it all proves how put upon his international, ludicrously wealthy tax free organization with billions of members is. Muslim students at the UK’s London School of Economics claimed religious discrimination because an atheist group posted a cartoon on their Facebook that portrays an imagine of the prophet Mohammed. Kind of. Sort of. In a way.

The question becomes, what is the common thread with all of theses? I’ll give you a minute to think of it.

If you said, “they all require other people to adhere to the religious doctrines of the speakers,” you’re correct. You get a prize!

It’s this jpg!

“Repsect” and “tolerance” are becoming code words from people like those mentioned above for the demand that others follow the dictates of their faith. It’s a problematic bug (feature?) that a lot of them have. Their faith demands that all people follow it, claims that it is the one true way and all others are false, and puts it upon its followers to wrangle everybody together under this set of beliefs. So, the easiest way for Apple Cheeks or the Liar Tony Perkins is to make it happen by default. If everybody is forced, legally, to act like a Catholic or an Evangelical, even if they don’t actually believe, then that’s good enough for God, right?

I somehow doubt it.

The pernicious way in which this is approached, however, is the real problem. I know that Rick Santorum wants everybody to believe what he believes. The voices in his head have made it very clear that that is the only way to tempt Jesus back to Earth. However, he likes to pretend that there’s some sort of reason that doesn’t stem from his holy book that would make people think that having a father in prison is better than having two gay fathers. It’s not so much that he denies that he thinks God wants things to be this way, but rather that he manufactures other reasons for those of us who think his mythology doesn’t count as an authority.

Listen, we as human beings are going to disagree on things. Disagreement, however, is not intolerance. We’re not saying that your opinions are invalid, we’re saying that they’re wrong, and there is a gigantic difference between those. For example, saying that homosexuals shouldn’t be allowed to marry is saying that their relationship is invalid, that it doesn’t count, since marriage is ultimately a validation of love, especially when done with no facts to support the assertion. Yes, people claim it’s also wrong, but the only evidence presented is provably false or from scripture, and I can point to thousands of works that make the opposite point.

Saying that somebody is a bigot for opposing equality is not intolerance because it doesn’t say that their opinion doesn’t count. Quite the opposite, it says that their opinion is so valid that it defines an essential part of their character. Their words matter, they exist, and they have meaning. The same can’t be said for their opinion of LGBT rights which don’t matter, don’t exist, and don’t have meaning.

This is where religious liberty comes back into the picture. This is an individual liberty, one that affords the exerciser the ability to believe and worship in whatever way they see fit. Liberty in general is an individual exercise, one which permits people to act in a fashion that suits them. This is the opposite of the “religious intolerance” crowd who see liberty as the ability for a group to exercise their preference on others. If it were the government telling them how they had to personally act, they would scream bloody murder, and in fact are screaming bloody murder pretending that’s what’s happening. But the fights being fought aren’t over the actions of the complainers, but rather over the actions of outside third parties that aren’t legally required to act in the fashion those complainers would have them act.

Religious liberty does not obligate the state or other people to believe and worship in the same way as you. Using the above example again, it is a violation of religious liberty to force an Evangelical minister to marry a same sex couple. It is not a violation of the religious liberty of that Evangelical minister to allow an Episcopalian minister to marry that couple.

Neither breaking the leg nor picking the pocket of any Christian anywhere.

The state is under no obligation to protect your sensibilities. It is a violation of religious liberty to force the Catholic Church to use their own money to adopt to same-sex couples. It is not a violation of religious liberty to refuse to pay them to discriminate against LGBT couples. And I’m tired of people who get this wrong (BTW: as of this writing, I’m top of the comments on that last link based on likes. Keep me there, my minions!)

What the behavior of those crying “religious intolerance” the loudest clearly demonstrates is that they have no faith. Archbishop (soon to be Cardinal) Dolan doesn’t have enough faith in his God to believe that God can prevent women from taking contraception given the option (he’s right, BTW), so the celibate, virgin man will instead cry like a celibate, virgin baby about how very unfair this is that he might have to give women the option to express their own religious liberty, including their right to reject his authority over them. Jesus apparently doesn’t have the power to keep people going to church (and it offers so many good reasons, let me tell you) if they don’t pick up the habit early, so Newt Gingrich is going to make sure kids get as much exposure as possible, before those anti-religious pagans can affect their opinions.

These people have “faith” in the same way that I’m “straight.” Sure, I’m attracted to women, but I fail to possess the crucial component of being “only or primarily” attracted to women. This is sort of the same way these people of “faith” are perfectly fine in the comfortable trappings of religion, but fail to have any real belief in the power of their divinity. It’s a sham and a farce and entirely unsurprising as they seem dedicated to making everybody else observe the window dressing of their religion and could care less if the home is equally empty inside.

So, when it comes to religious liberty, your freedom exists for your ability to act in the manner that you feel is correct and not to impose that on others. That means that your religious liberty allows you to decide not to marry a same sex partner, not the ability to refuse to do your job in issuing legal licenses. Your religious liberty allows you to decide not to use contraception, it does not allow you to accept public money while refusing to let others use it. Your religious liberty allows you to not portray Mohammed, it does not prevent others from doing so.

Click for larger version

The Liar Tony Perkins has claimed that the Obama administration has  “created an atmosphere that is hostile toward Christianity.” Quite frankly, if we’re talking about his idea of Christianity, I hope so. It’s a Christianity that demands obedience. It’s a Christianity that excludes people. It’s a Christianity designed for one purpose and one purpose alone: to give power to Tony Perkins.

Timothy Dolan’s Catholicism is designed to give power to Catholic bishops. Romney, Gingrich, and Santorum are all using their faith in order to leverage power for themselves. And if not allowing them to run rough shod over the rights of people who won’t live by their standards creates a hostile environment for that, I say bring it on and throw their outdated, stupid, and hateful ideas into the dustbin of history to make room for better ones.

Hitch

Human decency is not derived from religion. It precedes it. – Christopher Hitchens

That’s the quote I was thinking about when I started this blog. I almost named it “Human Decency,” but thought that may have been needlessly optimistic. Not that I’m not an optimist, but rather that my blog would contribute in a way that anybody can’t simply do for themselves. While I admit that the final catalyst to impel me to write here, after already exhausting my friends with invective and ire, was JT Eberhard seeking me out on Twitter after enjoying a comment I made on one of his blog posts, but thoughts of Hitch animated many of my ideas and always impel me to try just to be a touch wittier.

While I could contribute to the growing and unsurprisingly mixed things being said about Chris Hitchens, there seems little point in adding to a pile that I am, despite enjoying his work, woefully unqualified to add to. This is not false modesty, as I believe myself to be quite allergic to the stuff, but rather a recognition that when I attempt to discuss who the man was from nothing but reading his books and watching lectures, I can do little more than summarize his work, which seems like a lousy way to commemorate anybody.

Rather, this being my blog and I being a remarkably self-indulgent individual, I will discuss why this caustic, angry, tactless man has left an impression on me.

To begin with, as much as I would cringe inwardly when he would say something insulting that could just as easily be said in a way I felt to be more constructive, I could never fault him his point. Even when I disagreed, I could at least say that I respected the process by which he reached his conclusions. One such insulting conversation comes to mind. I agree with his point, but damned if it doesn’t make me uncomfortable the way he put it.

“…I’m perfectly happy for people to have these toys and to play with them at home and hug them to themselves and share them with other people who come around to play with their toys. So that’s absolutely fine. They are not to make me play with these toys. I will not play with the toys. Don’t bring the toys to my house, don’t say my children must play with these toys, don’t say my toys…are not allowed by their toys.”

That’s my current opinion on religion, said in possibly one of the best and worst ways possible. Perhaps it’s that he was unafraid to put things that way that I wish I could do so, not because I would, but rather because I want the ability.

He also shares my opinion on deathbed proselytizing. I covered it in my first post, meaning that at this point a full two thirds of my blog is dedicated to Hitch. Need to change that…

I also cannot help but admire some of the things he said about life in general, my favorite being…

“Death is certain, replacing both the siren-song of Paradise and the dread of Hell. Life on this earth, with all its mystery and beauty and pain, is then to be lived far more intensely: we stumble and get up, we are sad, confident, insecure, feel loneliness and joy and love. There is nothing more; but I want nothing more.”

Hitch was a fierce advocate for LGBT rights, often more on behalf of his friend, Stephen Fry, than on his own behalf. He didn’t talk often about his bisexuality, and I admit it surprised me and possibly engendered a disproportionate affection as I saw myself in him in that respect. This is not to say that his sexuality was a vital part of his life or that that’s a reason to like somebody’s work which was more than sufficient on its own. It’s rather like finding that a brand new friend has also read your favorite obscure book. The friendship doesn’t hinge on it, but isn’t it so cool that this novel that you thought nobody had even heard of had somehow made it to both of you? I thought of myself in a future old age considering his words, “My looks by then had in any case declined to the point where only women would go to bed with me.” A distinct possibility.

However, when he spoke on issues of sexuality, it never seemed to be about him, such as this quote from a dinner honoring Stephen Fry with at least one Cardinal in the audience.

“He’s not being condemned for what he does, he’s being condemned for what he is…This is disgraceful! It’s inhuman, it’s obscene. It comes from a clutch of hysterical, sinister virgins who have already betrayed their charge in the children of their own church.”

Let it never be said that he didn’t stand up for his friends.

Nor that he didn’t stand up to his enemies, the nature of whom he made quite clear.

“There’s another immoral injunction. Go love your own enemies, don’t go loving mine. My enemies are the theocratic fascists. I don’t love them, I want to destroy them.”

I can think of nobody I know who wouldn’t consider “theocratic fascists” to be bad people, but Hitchens took it one step further. He was open about his disdain, free and pointed in his ridicule, and made no compromises regarding what he considered to be abject evil. Again, I am unable to disagree. I do hate theocratic fascists. I hate people who arbitrarily choose what makes them comfortable out of their holy books and then tell me I have to live by their capricious whims. I hate those who use God as a universal excuse for the most retched, abhorrent, vile behavior and the masses of uneducated vipers that lick the scent from the trail of those leaders, hissing at and biting everybody they pass. I have no room or time to love those people who love no others, and my tolerance isn’t inexhaustible either. I have no need to ever be in a room with the Liar Tony Perkins, Maggie Gallagher, Pat Robertson, Glenn Beck, Tom Coburn, or any number of despicable human beings who try to enslave people to their idiot philosophies and very specific yet entirely self-configured ideas of what their religion says. I have no reason to love these people, or forgive them while they continue to lie to people for the sake of their own comfort, or to ignore their often inhuman behavior, so I choose not to. It was by reading Hitchens that I learned how to do that and not feel guilty about it.

There are plenty of other reasons to respect Hitchens. I stress again, he was not a perfect man. He was deeply flawed, unwilling to engage in social politeness, and refused to soften his rhetoric regardless of circumstance. We can debate whether these are positive or negative qualities all, but I can’t say that I could engage in the indiscriminate way in which he applied them. That being said, it takes courage to live in such a manner, and I am sure beyond doubt that that is a positive quality.

As many others have noted, saying “rest in peace” is not quite appropriate. He is not resting and peace is a meaningless thing to the inert molecules that compose what was once an active and brilliant brain. Rather, I should leave this off with words that will remain with me now that he is no longer able to utter or write them.

“That which can be asserted without evidence, can be dismissed without evidence.”

 

“You’re expelled from your mother’s uterus as if shot from a canon toward a barn door studded with old nail files and rusty hooks. It’s a matter of how you use up the intervening time in an intelligent and ironic way. And try not to do anything as ghastly as your fellow creatures.”

 

“We are not immune to the lure of wonder and mystery and awe: we have music and art and literature, and find that the serious ethical dilemmas are better handled by Shakespeare and Tolstoy and Schiller and Dostoyevsky and George Eliot than in the mythical morality tales of the holy books. Literature, not scripture, sustains the mind and — since there is no other metaphor — also the soul.”

 

“My own opinion is enough for me, and I claim the right to have it defended against any consensus, any majority, anywhere, any place, any time. And anyone who disagrees with this can pick a number, get in line, and kiss my ass.”

And finally, since I can think of no songs that discuss death without also talking about an afterlife that Hitchens didn’t believe in, and “rest in peace” is so inappropriate, I will instead leave it with the words of another critic of religion, done in song form.