Research into the effects of “ex-gay” ministries

This is, actually, an under-researched area, but here’s a start:

The top three results for why people tried to change their sexual orientation included “To be a better Christian,” “I believed it was what God wanted me to do,” and “I feared I would be condemned by God.” After that comes such responses as a general desire to fit in, cultural pressures to conform, and a desire to please family and friends. But beyond the numbers lie the written responses of survey participants which illustrates the huge variety of their experiences

Question 8 asked why they quit the ex-gay movement. The top answer, by far, was that they failed to become straight. But one disturbing answer given by nearly a quarter of respondents was that they had had a nervous breakdown.

Only a relatively small minority of this particular sample, less than ten percent, say they weren’t harmed by their participation in the ex-gay movement.


NOM: Willing, deliberate liars

The National Organization for Marriage has been spreading a host of falsehoods about research into same-sex parenting. Every so I often I lob a tweet about this to Thomas Peters, NOM’s Communications Director. He never replies, which is a shame, because I’ve always wanted to know what he’d say when confronted with these blatant…inaccuracies.

Well, Rob Tisinai finally managed to get through to Thomas Peters. Anyone want three guesses on how he reacted? Well, here’s the answer:

So now I know what Thomas Peters will do when confronted with NOM’s falsehoods: He’ll act like facts don’t matter.

My my, what a surprise!

Peters’s response isn’t surprising either.


Burning Kittens is Wrong!

Kitten-burning is absolutely and definitively wrong! I don’t care what you tell me, or who says otherwise, I will bravely say it is wrong!

Yes, bravely. Because, of course, opposing the burning of kittens puts me in a minority, and marks me out as specially moral.

Oh, wait. No. It doesn’t.

Fred Clark talks about why people “bear false witness”, spreading malicious rumours in a story about the company Proctor & Gamble.

  1. They didn’t really believe it themselves.
  2. They were passing it along with the intent of misinforming others. Deliberately.
  3. They did not respect, or care about, the actual facts of the matter, except to the extent that they viewed such facts with hostility.
  4. Being told that the Bad Thing they were purportedly upset about wasn’t real only made them more upset. Proof that the 23rd largest corporation in America was not in league with the Devil made them defensive and very, very angry.

He goes on to talk about burning kittens, and how we use monsters to make ourselves feel good.

A few years ago there was a particularly horrifying kitten-burning incident involving a barbecue grill and, astonishingly, a video camera. That sordid episode took place far from the place where I work, yet the paper’s editorial board nonetheless felt compelled to editorialize on the subject. They were, happily, against it. Unambiguously so. It’s one of the very few instances I recall when that timidly Broderian bunch took an unambiguous stance without their habitual on-the-other-hand qualifications.

I agreed with that stance, of course. Who doesn’t? But despite agreeing with the side they took, I couldn’t help but be amused by the editorial’s inordinately proud pose of courageous truth-telling. The lowest common denominator of minimal morality was being held up as though it were a prophetic example of speaking truth to power.

We can all of us, at any time, find ourselves caught up in a lie like the one about Proctor & Gamble. When we do, we face a moral crossroads: how will we react to learning we were wrong? This applies to any form of misunderstanding or urban legend, but is especially acute when the story is malicious

CS Lewis had a pretty good analysis of this sort of thing in Mere Christianity. It’s written from a Christian perspective, of course, and I disagree with some of his premises, but I still think it’s insightful.

The real test is this. Suppose one reads a story of filthy atrocities in the paper. Then suppose that something turns up suggesting that the story might not be quite true, or not quite so bad as it was made out. Is one’s first feeling, “Thank God, even they aren’t quite so bad as that,” or is it a feeling of disappointment, and even a determination to cling to the first story for the sheer pleasure of thinking your enemies are as bad as possible? If it is the second then it is, I am afraid, the first step in a process which, if followed to the end, will make us into devils. You see, one is beginning to wish that black was a little blacker. If we give that wish its head, later on we shall wish to see grey as black, and then to see white itself as black. Finally we shall insist on seeing everything — God and our friends and ourselves included — as bad, and not be able to stop doing it: we shall be fixed for ever in a universe of pure hatred.

Monsters are also useful for enforcing in-group/out-group morality. Monsters are the other. We are insiders. They are outsiders. We are human, and sometimes we think like that. We want the monsters to be real.


Evelyn Hooker and Lord Wolfenden, 1957

I am reminded of a colleague who reiterated, “all my homosexual patients
are quite sick”, to which I finally replied “so are all my heterosexual patients.”

— Ernest van den Haag, psychotherapist

The studies which demonstrate that there’s nothing psychologically wrong with homosexuals are considerably older than you might think.

Note: This article and its meaning is further discussed in the comments at Slacktivist.


Inborn Sexuality: Does it matter?

Let’s imagine, for a moment, that people can choose their sexual orientation. Does that make it any more acceptable to discriminate on that basis? Of course not. People can equally choose their religious expression (if not their actual beliefs), and yet discrimination on those grounds is unacceptable.

Frankly, unless you want to date me, my sexual orientation is not much of your business.


Movement on Theology

Whenever we find ourselves concluding that a question is just too large to ever answer, I think it’s instructive to remind ourselves that we solved the biggest problem of them all.

Hold that thought. We’ll come back to it.

Theology has questions to answer. For example,

One of the vibrant issues across a number of academic disciplines, including theology, is the very broad area of ‘consciousness’.

This is a question theology addresses. It’s also a question addressed by neuroscientists, computer scientists, evolutionary biologists, and others. Where do you expect the answers to come from?

Science is what you know, philosophy is what you don’t know.

Bertrand Russell.

Theology has answered many questions. It’s answered a lot of them wrongly.


Exodus International Lied

Well, that surprises no one.

Exodus International claim that they don’t try to “cure” gay people. Rather, their mission is to help people with “unwanted homosexuality” grow closer to godliness through a new ideological “identity”. Or something. Their tax records tell a different story: from 2005 to 2007,  Exodus designated over $1 million for “various education programs and publications that explain how to change sexual orientation.” Further, in 2006 alone, they budgeted more than $124,000 for “missions and other outreach projects (that) allow Exodus to reach individuals not actively seeking help who may be open to change”. Okaaay.