Thursday, January 9, 2014

NOM as agent of the Catholic bishops

National Organization for Marriage and the U.S. Conference of Roman Catholic Bishops are pretty much the same thing. Today they are indulging in a post that sarcastically denigrates the many, if not infinite potential combinations of sexual orientation and sexual identity that are possible in nature. I suppose that this is in support of the initiative to repeal California's AB1266 (transgender protections law) should it actually qualify for the ballot. More on that later. The post is not worthy of discussion. However the climate in which it is provided is another matter.

Frank Schubert, NOM's political director and a True Defender of the Faith® would be the campaign manager if the initiative to repeal AB1266 progresses to the November ballot. Frank has amazingly claimed that transgender people don't exist. This is not based on anything scientific. Rather, it is predicated on Frank's simplistic religious zealotry. In case you haven't figured it out, gay people don't exist either.

If you were going to buy a house and if you were an astute buyer you would probably bring in an engineer, possibly an appraiser as well, to evaluate the economic logic and intrinsic value of your purchase. The important things about these two people you hire is that they are experts and they are disinterested. They have neither an economic nor emotional investment in their findings either way.

Presumably, you would trust the reports of your experts over any claims made by the current owner of the house. At least I hope that you would. These folks consult bishops whom they are supposed to be obedient to. Those bishops have it pretty good. Some guy in NJ just purchased an eight bedroom home with an in-ground pool. Imagine what that costs to maintain. Dolan lives in a veritable palace in the middle of midtown Manhattan. The bishops are anything but disinterested in issues affecting the integrity of the Church and their lifestyle.

What Frank Schubert is asking people to do is to trust his biased judgment which is predicated on reaching a predetermined religious outcome. Frank has surrendered his judgment to the writings in ancient sacred texts. Frank forgets that God gave us the power to reason and to learn.

As a society we have determined that impartial scientists are our best experts. Scientists are not infallible. However, we place weight on research that is published in a well respected scholarly journal where articles are subjected to peer review. Peer review assures us, among other things, that the methodology conforms to the scientific method.

According to conservative Christians, all scientists are atheists and are bent on conclusions that are politically correct. Most scientists are, indeed, atheists. Nevertheless, good science is impartial. It begins with a hypothesis which is tested. Conclusions are based on the observations of experiments. The findings of scientists are just as important when the initial hypothesis is wrong as when it proves to be correct. Christians have 1,001 reasons not to trust even the very best science. Yet they don't (at least most of them don't) confine their treatment of cancer to prayer.

Those same godless, anti-Christian, politically correct crackpots seem to have come up with good things like chemotherapy, surgery, radiation therapy, immunology and a host of other treatments that Christians avail themselves of every day. Religious extremism includes a great deal of selective observation and confirmation bias.

A classic example of this has occurred with Pope Emeritus Benedict. When he was Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, then Cardinal Ratzinger wrote, in a treatise about same-sex unions, that “Allowing children to be adopted by persons living in such [same-sex] unions would actually mean doing violence to these children.” I don't know what education and experience Ratzinger has in order to make that judgment but conservative Catholics take this as something akin to the word of God. Popes are infallible and neither Benedict nor Francis has revisited these vile words, as well as much more in the same document that denigrates gay people.

Pope Benedict fka Cardinal Ratzinger was wrong. There exists a mountain of scientific evidence that Ratzinger was wrong. Study after study after study demonstrates that children do just fine when raised by gay couples. No legitimate study demonstrates otherwise.

The Church and conservative Christians are also wrong about transgender children. Gender identity disorder is an ongoing conflict between a person's physical gender and the gender he or she identifies with. There is no recognized, medically appropriate, treatment to reverse this conflict. Therapy consists of providing a supportive environment to prevent anxiety, depression and suicide. Sex reassignment surgery is an option but it is not a cure.

The Christian concept is based on a simplistic understanding of the natural world, as it was understood in biblical times. There are men and women and they are attracted to the opposite sex. Furthermore, God is perfect and does not make mistakes. I am not at all sure how they explain away intersex people (people with ambiguous genitalia and sometimes even ambiguous chromosomes). As for science on sexual orientation or sexual identity, conservative Christians often resort to "they used to think is was okay to smoke." Without belaboring the influence of the Tobacco Institute, it took a mountain of unbiased peer reviewed research to convince us that smoking causes cancer.

It is the same kind of research that has concluded that sexual orientation and gender identity are probably continua with gay - straight and male - female, respectively, at extreme ends. When further confronted, the same Christians will resort to quoting the Bible. They seem to assume that we all believe that the Bible is authoritative. This perfect God, for example, decided  that all of the people and creatures that he created were unworthy of continued life. He drowned every man, woman, child and creature on earth for the sins of a few. Noah, two-of-each animal, Mrs. Noah and her in-laws were, supposedly, allowed to survive. Makes perfect sense to me. These same people believed Bush when he claimed that God told him to invade Iraq. They also believed Ms. Backmann when she claimed that God called her to be President. This is not a world known for critical thinking.

We cannot make gay people straight and, for the most part, we cannot turn religious zealots into critical thinkers. We cannot convince these folks of anything but we can convince others. That includes the electorate and folks administering the legal system. Of course most judges believe that the Establishment Clause means precisely what it says so they are all activists.

Getting back to California's AB1266, those seeking to nullify the law obtained a couple of thousand signatures above 95% which now requires a full verification due by February 24. This in spite of the fact that verification has been running at about 79% of the gross count. The valid signature rate  would have to increase to 82% for the measure to appear on the ballot. The verification rate has been fairly consistent among the counties with LA at 78%. Even conservative Orange County was below 80%. As I have previously stated, I don't think that this is going anywhere. It remains to be seen.
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