Debating Marriage Equality

This post has turned out to be far longer than I expected it to be. There didn’t seem to be an obvious place to break it into two posts so I have left it as a single post. I apologise to readers if it is too long. If you do find it long and hard to read, please let me know and I’ll bear that in mind for future posts.

Recently here in limeyland there have been discussions and votes on changes to the law on marriage. The basic proposal is that same sex couples should be allowed to marry in the same way that heterosexual couples do. This discussion and vote has been inevitable since same sex couples were granted rights to a civil partnership some years ago.

By chance, I have been working on a project in London for the past month. This means that I regularly walk past the houses of parliament on my way to and from the client offices. On a few occasions there have been protesters and campaigners outside the houses of parliament making their feelings on the subject known. Living in a democracy, this is a right we have and I support that right. When people feel strongly about something, they should be able to make their voice heard.

With this specific subject it is pretty much a for or against, there isn’t really a middle ground where the two extremes can meet and discuss a workable compromise. This makes the campaigning very polarised. On one side you have those wishing to keep marriage for man and woman only. This is a utopian dream where life is perfect and there is nothing to upset the sensitivities of nice upstanding people. So far as I can tell, the strongly opinionated in this group belong to the religious in our society. I don’t recall seeing anyone making an argument for keeping marriage to man and woman who was not religious, or at least sympathetic towards religion. The basic argument seems to be that marriage was ordained by god as being between a man and a woman. Since homosexual acts are a sin anyway they shouldn’t be encouraged in law.

On the other side the argument is one of basic fairness. The current situation denies some couples the rights and protections that are available and expected by those who are able to marry. Interestingly, there are religious people on this side of the debate too. Which does beg the question, is the bible (or any other holy book) actually that clear on the subject?

In amongst the discussions some very unhelpful things have been said. I cringe each time I hear a phrase that implies that same sex couples are somehow less worthy of or less able to engage in a long term and loving relationship. There are also those who make the utterly disgusting association between homosexuality and paedophilia, there is no link, plus heterosexual people commit disgusting crimes too. Equally, I find the accusations of bigotry or homophobia of poor taste, the accusation may be true on some but certainly not all who object. Throwing insults is never going to be a productive way to have a discussion.

Part of the problem that I see with this debate is that the two sides are entrenched, there is no way to have the debate in a rational way. It will always become emotional simply because of the nature of the discussion.



On a personal level, I have no real investment in the subject. Whichever way the law swings, there is no obvious impact on my life. I have no one who is close to me who will be directly affected by the vote and eventual law change. What the subject does show is how my own views have undergone significant change over the years.

In my more devout days I would have been utterly opposed to the idea of allowing same sex relationships. Sex was for marriage and for man and woman only, anything outside of that was sin and should not be allowed in law. I was very much in the ‘hate the sin, love the sinner’ camp. Though I do see how that comes over as a patronising and, in some cases, devaluing sentiment. Over the years my attitude softened significantly. I am not sure how well it maps with my journey away from faith. There were definitely signs that my attitudes had become more liberal before I started to leave creationism and faith behind.

I think my change in attitude is down to my change in understanding. There was a time when I believed that gayness could be cured and it was just a sinful habit. This was reinforced by a couple people I knew of at the time who seemed to turn from straight to gay as young adults. The modern claim that they were born that way did not fit. I still don’t think it does for those specific cases, there is a lot of emotional trauma involved for each individual.

Science tells us that homosexuality is something that will happen and seeing it in other animals confirms the case. I’ve seen it suggested that homosexuality came about because of the curse from Adam’s sin; I would counter that this can’t apply if other animals demonstrate the same tendencies too.

The scientific discussions of sexuality cased me genuine confusion in those early days. As I got used to the idea that science was uncovering more and more about sexuality (and gender) so more and more I had to question my own assumptions on the matter. Leaving faith made following the science much easier.

As I look at the marriage arguments now, I can’t see any logical or moralistic way to object to allowing same sex unions. I think claims that it will lead to a breakdown of the institution of marriage are vastly overstated.

There is one part of the whole process that does leave me concerned though. That is the matter of using the weight of law to force people to fall into step. One example is that of marriage registrars and churches. The majority will very likely welcome same sex couples and grant them the wedding they want. There will be some who have difficulty with the idea and I think that forcing those people to step into line is not helpful. People should have the option to say, “I’d rather not bless this union because it makes me uncomfortable, please use someone else”. On a basic level, why would anyone want to get married where the officiator is there under duress and fear for being sued? Far better to find someone who is happy to bless it.

One of the sad things about the gay movement in the UK over recent years is the small numbers who have gone specifically into a situation knowing and expecting to upset someone and then they cry foul when the reaction they were intending to provoke came about. This is an underhand tactic which I do not approve of. Sadly it makes easy news and headlines and leaves naive people hurt and labelled as villains.

If someone is blatantly spreading homophobic propaganda, then that’s a different matter and they should be dealt with under anti-hate laws. Also, accepting that some people can’t help being gay also means accepting that some people can’t help being disgusted by it. Let’s all live and let live and not go out of our ways to create an issue where none needs to exist.

That UK law will be changed to allow same sex couples to marry is pretty much inevitable, but there will still be a fight over it and it won’t be a whitewash vote. On balance I would say it’s a good thing this is going to happen and I don’t think it’s going to break society. I do worry that small minded people will carry on looking for a fight over it.

As an atheist I find myself wishing there were more people acting Christ-like on the issue.


Is it deconversion or just another conversion?

Since the great admission to my wife, almost two years ago, that I had rejected my Christianity and considered myself an atheist, we’ve had a number of discussions on the subject of faith and our opposing attitudes to it. On the whole these have been positive discussions, in the sense that we’ve mostly been able to have them without unhelpful emotional extras. This is how I had always hoped we’d be able to converse about faith, it’s a source of sadness that I spent several years alone in my journey afraid that we’d discuss my loss of faith in a negative or hurtful way, only for that fear to turn out to be unfounded.

It has not always been a smooth ride, we have had difficult discussions and there have been moments when one or other of us has got angry or upset. Those times have been the minority though and it is to my shame that I must admit I did not give her enough credit, having known her for all those years, I should have been able to predict her reaction better.

We’ve discussed many aspects of faith, getting braver with the depth of subject as time has moved on. We’ve probably discussed faith in greater detail in the past eighteen months than we had in the previous ten years of marriage, maybe even our whole marriage, though I’m less certain to place a bet on the latter. We’ve challenged each other and answered deep questions. We clearly disagree on the value of faith but we’ve been able to display to each other that it doesn’t have to be a deal breaker and that disagreeing with dignity is possible.

One of the lighter discussions we’ve had is over the semantics of how to describe my loss of faith. I refer to it as a deconversion, and all across the internet, where people of former faith hang out, the same word comes up. It makes sense to use conversion with the ‘de’ prefix because it signifies a step away from and in the opposite direction to the original conversion.

My wife does not like the deconversion word and prefers to describe it as another conversion, because it is a second conversion from one form of faith position or worldview to another. I have a bit of a problem with her logic, which is that I associate conversion directly with religion. I had a conversion to religion and now I have deconverted away from it. Her definition is not as narrow as mine, she takes the broader definition that conversion does not have to mean a religious conversion, it could mean a significant change in world view. In this case, my world view was one of a religious bent and now I have converted to an atheistic world view. Using that logic deconverted doesn’t make any sense and my experience is in fact, just another conversion. That makes sense semantically, to change world view is to convert from one to another, you don’t deconvert or unconvert, it’s a nonsense word to use.

Further complication arises when I see Microsoft Word underlining deconversion with a squiggly red line, clearly my computer thinks that no such words exists. If the word does not exist in Her Majesty’s beautiful language, then clearly it is not a word I can use to describe my position. So what is the best word to use? Does it matter?

Like many former Christians on the internet, I embrace deconverted as a description of my current faith state. The word has a great benefit because it immediately gets across the fact that the person to whom the word is being applied has not just moved away from religion but moved towards atheism. No further explanation is required. Try to get across the same meaning using ‘conversion’ instead and suddenly a whole sentence of supporting explanation is required. ‘Deconversion’ gets the meaning across far more efficiently; that it may not be a real word is irrelevant. However, I do accept that there is a negative connotation associated with the ‘de’ prefix and I do not consider my atheism as being negative at all.

Does that mean I should call myself an atheist convert?

I need to think about that one. I don’t like that description because saying convert tends to imply a position of faith and I absolutely reject any notion that that is where I am. I want it to be clear that I do not subscribe to a faith position. For now I’ll settle for no I would not call myself an atheist convert, maybe this is just a side effect of my rejection of faith and I’ll soften in my attitude to this word we’ll see. It is an interesting thought and I am sure we’ll return to it again at some point in the future, after all it does help to unpackage the thought processes of the past few years.

I’m now wondering what other semantic discussion are possible within this situation.

Answers on a postcard ….


Ken Ham’s Big Fat Lie

Ken Ham’s book, The Lie, is apparently 25 years old now. Somehow I’d managed to miss out this book during my creationist years and so I have not read it. A page about the book on the AiG website did make me sit up and pay attention though (

Leaving aside the mountain of scientific evidence that soundly refutes creationism, Ken Ham does at least have one very good point to make. That is that if you accept evolution, there is some compromise to be taken when believing the Bible. Many people have made this point over the years. Some argue that compromise and the Bible do not mix and any compromise you make when reading it effectively means you are following a flawed faith.  This was certainly a view I held for a long time and reading some of what Ken Ham writes, it would seem he has a similar perspective.

I’m not that black and white about it anymore. I do find significant difficulty matching Genesis with known Evolutionary facts and historical evidence. The Biblical narrative simply does not fit and those are the reasons for my eventual leaving Christianity.

There is a certain honesty in the literal creationist belief system. That is the uncompromising acceptance of the Biblical accounts as absolute fact. Yet this position does have its issues, especially when faced with the weight of science. It is such a shame that we now know that the early Genesis chapters are not factual events and are simply amalgamated stories. This reveals literal Biblical belief to be founded on untruth (or a Lie even).

Pauls Words

At the start of his page, Ken Ham quotes 2 Thessalonians 2:11 (And for this reason God will send them strong delusion, that they should believe the lie.) Reading that page I get the impression the whole of the AiG ministry hinges around this verse. The implication being that the lie being referred to is evolution.

Being curious about the context I read around the verse. This chapter opens with Paul talking about an apparent false teaching to the Thessalonians to do with the Lord having already come back (vs 2). This false teaching apparently came from a misunderstanding of something Paul said and he attempts to put that right in this letter. He goes on to talk about the “man of lawlessness”, which commentators seem to indicate referrers to the anti-Christ. I wondered at first if Paul was referring to the person behind the false teaching, but the next reference (vs 9) does seem to indicate the anti-Christ, or at least someone close to him.

Whatever it is Paul is referring to, he goes on to talk about end times and then makes the statement that Ken Ham quotes.

If Paul is referring to end times, the context of this quote is clearly related to that and the delusion that God sends is directly related to the lies told in relation to falsehoods spread during end times. This makes me wonder what this has to do with evolution. Unless we’re already in end times, evolution is completely out of scope here. So now Ken Ham needs to show that the prophesy and global wickedness associated with end times and all the tribulation that follows it are happening now. He also needs to show why that verse should be referring to evolution, especially difficult because nowhere in the bible is evolution or the processes that lead to it, mentioned.

There is also the not so small and highly inconvenient issue that he is accusing his god of intentionally making people believe a lie which will result in their condemnation. Actually, that issue exists even if the verse is not talking about evolution. To be honest, I’m far more interested in how a perfect god explains that than I am about the semantics of what the lie is actually referring to.

I think tying this specific verse to evolution is a blatant deception, or at least a risky strategy. Of course, having not read The Lie, it is possible I’ve jumped the gun here and he’s referring to wider end times nastiness. If that’s the case, then he still needs to show how we are in end times and that evolution is wrong, which it isn’t.

Ken Ham’s whole ministry is based on the lie of creationism. It’s a lie that fooled me for many years and it’s a lie that continues to fool many more. I’m glad I’m out from under it.