William Lane Craig’s “proof” that Biblegod exists.

William Lane Craig’s did an opinion piece Fox News and offered 5 “proofs” that God exists, and they are, if nothing else, at least instructive on his apologetic style and tactics.

1.  God provides the best explanation of the origin of the universe.

2.  God provides the best explanation for the fine-tuning of the universe. 

3.  God provides the best explanation of objective moral values and duties.

4.  God provides the best explanation of the historical facts concerning Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection.

5.  God can be personally known and experienced.

I’m not going to concern myself here with answering these questions. They have all been dealt with elsewhere, and questions 1, 2, and 4 are of no concern to me at all (question 4 is loaded, and not even a legitimate question). But I would like to take a moment to examine his apologetics.

Notice that 4 out of 5 of these “proofs” are assertions that the positing of a God “provides the best explanation” for whatever question he doesn’t know the definitive answer to. This is a common apologetic by which folks figure that if *you* don’t know the answer to some cosmic question, then my answer wins by default.

As many philosophers have pointed out, positing a God as the answer generates more questions than it answers. But more to the point, positing an an arbitrary explanation is not somehow better than accepting the absence of an immediate explanation. Sure it’s fine to hypothesize and speculate, but a hypothesis is not an explanation.

For example: No one knows for sure where Jimmy Hoffa is. If anyone on Earth can answer the question of what happened to him, no one seems to be coming forward. We can speculate all day long, but wouldn’t it just be simpler to explain his disappearance using God as an explanation? I mean, it’s simple, it has biblical precedence, and – most importantly – it is unfalsifyable.

God might have taken Jimmy Hoffa. You can’t prove God didn’t, and since you don’t have an explanation of your own, then this explanation is the best one, right?

Only if your mind operates the way WLC’s does. The lesson here is that WLC uses the phrase “provides the best explanation” without defining the criteria for an acceptable explanation. If he tried, you’d find that, for him, an arbitrary explanation is every bit as acceptable as any other, so long as it’s an explanation he likes. Moreover, he has no qualms about employing the “if you don’t know the answer then my answer wins by default” apologetic. Good thing for him that he’s not a lawyer.

His third point parrots an apologetic that has become fashionable over the last few years, the “objective morality” argument. This amusing apologetic attempts to assert that, if it weren’t for his god arbitrarily deciding what’s right and what’s wrong (which changes from time to time whenever his god decides it’s going to change), then no objective morality exists. This translates to the astonishing proposition that biblegod has done us the favor of informing us about what is right and wrong (which we would not otherwise be able to know) based on objective reality that he created, and does not depend at all on anyone’s thoughts or feelings… including his. This argument can only sound reasonable to those who do not have any clue what concepts are involved.

“Objective”, put simply, means “without reference to personal feelings”.

  1. free of bias: free of any bias or prejudice caused by personal feelings
  2. based on facts: based on facts rather than thoughts or opinions

Leaving aside for the moment the question of whether biblegod is even a legitimate example of moral behavior, if you’ve read the bible, you know that biblegod makes up rules as he goes, changes the rules arbitrarily, breaks the rules whenever he likes, suspends the laws of nature, regrets his decisions, plays mind games (and here, and here), and dispenses with them when its convenient. What’s more, if one were to accept that biblegod created everything that exists, then no objectivity would be possible to him, since he is the creator of all facts. Since he would be the author of all facts, then he could not refer to facts to derive an objective moral code. It would be the exact opposite of objectivity.

Only a being that did not create reality, that did not create facts, could possibly look outward to facts and derive truth from them. If reality was created by a god, then god could not possibly be “objective” about his moral code, since all of reality is an expression of his (personal, subjective) will. Not only would his own decisions be subject to his own feelings, but so would all of reality. If god created everything, then god would not be able, by definition, to reference anything objectively. It would be the equivalent of a painter who painted a painting, and then looked to his painting for instructions on how paintings ought to be painted.

WLC’s logic is formulated as follows:

  • God created everything (all of that which exists).
  • Now that facts exist (which God created), God looks to those facts to derive a moral code that is free of bias or prejudice caused by personal feelings.
  • God then demands that we follow his moral code, which we could not have discovered without his help (for reasons that are not explained).

Can anyone state with a straight face that the moral code that is described in the bible is “free of any bias caused by personal feelings”?

(Hint: Commandment #1 is “Thou shalt have no other gods before me”)

By the definition of “objective”, the only criteria for objectivity is that facts are identified without reference to personal bias or feelings. A moral code is objective, by definition, if it is arrived at by referencing facts, without reference to personal bias or feelings. So much for point #3.

His final point is the most amusing of all.

“God can be personally known and experienced. The proof of the pudding is in the tasting. Down through history Christians have found through Jesus a personal acquaintance with God that has transformed their lives.”

All members of all religions believe that they have experienced exactly what WLC believes he has experienced with his own personal god. All people of all religions have their life transformed. Guess what? Leaving religion transforms your life too.

The funny part is that, before his god can be “personally known and experienced”, one must fully accept that it is real. Can you think of any other thing that actually exists that must first be believed before it is experienced?

Do you need to “believe” a bullet exists before it will penetrate your skin? You can reject the fact that it exist all you want… you will still find yourself bleeding pretty badly when it is fired your way.

Do you need to “believe” that gravity exists before you feel its effects? You can deny it all you want… you’ll still find yourself approaching the ground really quickly when you step off the ledge.

Do you need to “believe” that poison will kill you in order for you to feel its deadly effects? You can deny it all you like… you’ll still die pretty fast after chewing that cyanide tablet.

Do you need to “accept” that medicine works better than prayer? Sadly, the graves are filled with children whose parents refused (and continue to refuse) accepting that fact.

The bottom line is that things that are real will be experienced whether or not a person believes they are real. If something is real, then it does not require anyone’s belief in order for them to experience it. Why, then, is WLC’s god only experienced by those who already believe in it?

Hmmm… could it be that what they are experiencing is a creation of their own mind? Yeah, I think that’s the best explanation.

The most commonly overlooked aspect of skepticism (or, why PZ Myers doesn’t understand skepticism)

PZ Myers recently blogged about how a person known to him confided a story to him about how she had been raped by a prominent member of the skeptic community.

Now I’ve been sitting here trying to resolve my dilemma — to reveal it or not — and goddamn it, what’s dominating my head isn’t the consequences, but the question of what is the right thing to do. Do I stand up for the one who has no recourse, no way out, no other option to help others, or do I shelter the powerful big name guy from an accusation I can’t personally vouch for, except to say that I know the author, and that she’s not trying to acquire notoriety (she wants her name kept out of it)?

So he told the story as it was told to him. Well, the important parts, anyway.

Of course, the blogosphere erupted. Those who don’t much care for PZ pointed out to him that it’s a pretty big deal to level unverifiable accusations from an anonymous source at someone whose career might be affected by such accusations. Those who have always liked PZ immediately ran to his defense. That was to be expected.

Much of the furious debate raging about the charges involve pointing out to PZ that it is inappropriate to take an anonymous, third-hand account at face value, particularly where such a grave charge is concerned.  As a general rule, the consensus on that side of the debate is that no matter how serious the charges, we don’t just check our skepticism at the door. If we don’t just take the word of anonymous third-hand accounts from other, we shouldn’t be expected to accept it from PZ. Moreover, a purported skeptic like him ought to know that.

PZ’s faction seems to believe that a charge this serious warrants an immediate suspension of our normal skeptical standards. With a serious charge such as rape, you ought to just believe it. Take it on faith, you know?

(I’ve already written on why one can and should remain a skeptic while still acting appropriately, so I won’t get into that here.)

In fact, PZ and his band of merry men have gone out of their way now to argue against skepticism (where women’s claims are involved, of course!), deriding “Extreme Skepticism (TM)” as too much of a good thing, I guess, and instead branding it “denialism“.

See, when you require evidence for a scientific or philosophic claim, it’s skepticism.

When you require evidence for a criminal complaint, it’s denialism. Got it? Good.

So PZ writes a little short sketch called “SkepticDoc MD” which delighted his devoted fan base. It’s a little story about a doctor who won’t believe anything his patients tell him and demands concrete proof for everything. Funny, right?

I don’t know what it is, but some skeptics have adopted this calcified attitude towards what constitutes reasonable evidence and reasonable claims. It seems to me that these are nothing but excuses contrived to justify denying reality, and that they are actually toxic to any kind of functional, societally useful version of skepticism; this is the skepticism of the status quo.

He begins his little story by immediately showing off his ability to drop context.

What if people actually operated as these advocates for purblind skepticism suggest? So I paid a call on SkepticDoc, M.D., the very acme of this form of skepticism. Here is how the visit went.

PZ: Doctor, lately I’ve been experiencing shortness of breath and an ache in my left shoulder when I exert myself…

SkepticDoc: Whoa, whoa, whoa, slow down! See the name on the shingle? It’s SkepticDoc. Do you have anything other than your feelings to justify wasting my time here?

See that little trick he pulled there? The man complained about a sensation he had been experiencing. To feel something in this context means to experience it through sensory apparatus. But SkepticDoc responds by using the word feeling in an emotional context.

Those are two very different things. But what’s a little context dropping for the sake of good satire, right?

PZ: What? I’m telling you my symptoms…

SkepticDoc: Yeah, yeah, your feelings. Do you have some physical evidence that you felt pain? Some independent corroboration that you felt this remarkable “ache”? So far, this is just gossip.

Here PZ equivocates first-hand experience with “gossip”,which is, by definition, the second hand telling of a story. Bad, bad skeptic.

I won’t parse through the entire sad attempt at comedy (it just gets worse from there). But the claims of Extreme Skepticism(TM) and denialism got me to thinking about one of the most commonly overlooked aspects of critical thought and skepticism. And it made me realize how poorly understood skepticism is even among those who claim to be skeptics.

I described skepticism in an earlier post.

Skepticism is the deliberate act of ensuring that one’s degree of certainty regarding the truth of any given proposition is proportionate to the weight of the evidence supporting the proposition, without reference to personal feelings or conjecture.

Skepticism is widely understood to be the refusal to believe something without evidence. But this is not the whole story. The flip side of skepticism is the refusal to disbelieve something for which compelling evidence exists.

Galileo provided a fantastic example of this aspect of skepticism. His telescope and calculations presented unmistakable evidence for heliocentricity. Although he officially recanted (on pain of death), he took his knowledge to the grave with him. In his heart, he absolutely refused to relinquish his belief in the evidence presented to him by his senses and reasoning mind.

But it’s not one or the other. Since new discoveries are always possible, absolute certainty of the truth or falsehood of any proposition is inappropriate. Certainty can only properly be held in degrees, and reason demands that the degree of certainty be proportionate to the amount of evidence for or against the proposition. That’s the “rational” aspect of rational skepticism.

And that’s how I know PZ and his ilk do not understand skepticism. If they did, they would know that extreme skepticism would be nothing more than scaling your certainly with extreme precision. It would not merely be doubting, as they have described it, but rather extremely well-calibrated degrees of certainty.

And that would be great! I’d take extremely well-calibrated, extremely rational, extremely well-researched skepticism over normal, frivilous skepticism any day of the week.

The caricature of skepticism presented by PZ and celebrated by his cronies was all the evidence I needed to see that PZ Myers is a sham of a skeptic and no intellectual ally to anyone who values critical thought. He’s a fraud with a gossip column. That’s all he is.

Should rational skepticism be abandoned in emergency situations?

Skepticism is the deliberate act of ensuring that one’s degree of certainty regarding the truth of any given proposition is proportionate to the weight of the evidence supporting the proposition, without reference to personal feelings or conjecture.

For this reason, it is common practice among skeptics to, as a general rule, withhold judgment on any truth claim until enough time has passed to have all of the relevant, discoverable facts fleshed out. A seasoned skeptic also understands that, as omniscience is impossible, there always remains the possibility of new discoveries that may warrant a revision of ones appraisal of the proposition, even after reasonable certainty has been established.

And this is a reasonable, practical approach under normal circumstances. But is it the most practical approach in all circumstances?

An emergency situation is a situation in which a chain of events has been initiated that, if left un-interfered with, will result in an undesired or adverse outcome. It doesn’t matter whether the emergency situation is active (there’s a guy with a gun to my head saying he’ll kill me unless I give him my wallet) or passive (I’m bleeding badly and I need a bandage), the nature of an emergency is such that if it’s left unaffected, an undesired outcome will result.

Emergencies, by their nature, have a critical time constraint where action is concerned. What that constraint is, is not always known, but the fact that such a constraint exists must be.

As skeptics, we are conditioned to ensure that all propositions are accepted as true only when appropriate evidence is presented. Sometimes that takes time and thorough investigation. Clearly in emergency situations this isn’t always possible. How, then, can rational skepticism be applied? Are we to believe all claims of emergencies, since the claimant has no chance at providing the necessary evidence within the time available before the critical moment of an adverse outcome? Should we refuse to believe claims of emergencies, citing skepticism as an out-of-context value that trumps all other values?

Clearly neither answer provides a universally desired outcome. People frequently manufacture “emergencies”, so the former option makes the skeptic vulnerable to fraud. On the other hand, people (including skeptics!) frequently find themselves in legitimate emergency situations where the provision of sufficient evidence is untenable, so the latter answer fails.

The key to solving this mystery is to remember that one need not fully accept a claim in order to respond appropriately to it.

If a man tells me that he’s having chest pains, I do not need to fully accept his claim in order to call an ambulance. If a child runs into the yard and tells me his sister is drowning in the backyard pool, I do not need to accept his claim with certainty in order to make a mad dash to the backyard and jump into the pool if I see someone in it. If a woman tells me she was just raped by a friend of mine at a party, I do not need verification in order to contact the authorities and get her whatever medical attention, moral support, and crisis intervention/police support she might require.

The nature of an emergency situation is such that action must be taken immediately in order to interrupt a potentially disastrous chain of events. Neither belief, acceptance, or certainty is required for action. A rational judge of values will generally know right away that the price of demanding evidence for claims of an emergency situation is almost always higher than the risk one assumes by simply acting on it. 

Might the kid be lying about his sister drowning? Sure, he might be. But I’d rather find out I’ve been pranked than to find out I allowed a kid to drown.

Might the guy be lying about his chest pains? Sure. But I’d rather find out I’ve had the wool pulled over my eyes than to find out I’ve let a man die who I could’ve helped live.

Might the woman have lied about being raped? Sure, she might have. But I’d rather find out that I’ve been the victim of fraud than to find out I’ve failed to assist a victim of rape.

This might help to clear up some of the murkiness being purported by our friends over at Freethought Blogs, where the false dichotomy of “either you believe the purported victim and help her or you withhold judgment and abandon her has been the new line in the sand between Atheism plussers and their antagonists. The fallacy here is in the dishonest “package-dealing” of the withholding of judgment with “believing the rapist”, as though a refusal to accept one side uncritically is tantamount to going all-in with the other.

Nothing could be farther from the truth, and it is perfectly consistent with the “You’re either with us or you’re against us” mentality that pervades the FTB cult.

The fact that there is a risk associated with refusing to act when someone claims an emergency situation means that there is a value judgment required when such a claim is made.  The fact that the cost associated with the risk one assumes by refusing to act is often higher than the risk associated by acting means that it is often in a skeptics best interest to act in the absence of information.

It is for this reason that the statement “I am withholding judgment on that claim” does not translate into “I am refusing to act on the claim”, despite what our friends over in the pseudo-skeptic community might have us believe.

To act on someone’s claim that an emergency situation is taking place (even while withholding judgment on the truth of that claim) is consistent with rational skepticism. To claim that one must immediately decide whether they believe the claim or not before acting is a false dichotomy, and those who propagate this false dichotomy do so for the usual reasons – to justify moral condemnation toward all those who won’t accept their claims on faith.

To put it simply: When someone says they need help or that they’ve been victimized, in the absence of any other information, a rational person acts as though the claim is true. No need to know whether or not it is. And it is unjustified to demand that the claim be believed. Belief is not a prerequisite for appropriate action.

Thus we see the problem with the demand that one must automatically believe a claim of victimization such a rape.  First off, when someone claims they’ve been raped by someone else, it is logically impossible to believe the victim’s story uncritically without accepting the accused party’s guilt uncritically. The problem with that is obvious. But more importantly, as we’ve seen, it is not necessary to do so in order to respond appropriately.

If someone claims they’ve been raped (or otherwise victimized), get them the help they need right away. Alert those who need to be alerted. Continue providing support. That is the extent of your role. If a specific accusation is involved, let the professionals sort out the facts and handle them appropriately. Determining someone’s guilt without sufficient evidence is neither your right nor your responsibility.

Skepticism should be applied in all situation. A skeptical position does not require inaction, insensitivity, or any hesitation to help someone in need. There is no reason, ever, to check your skepticism at the door.

The underappreciated damage of fraud

The Huffington Post reports on a con man named Jim McCormick who took a joke golf ball finder (basically a modified dowsing rod) and converted it into an equally effective Bomb Detection Device, named it the ADE 651, and then somehow convinced the military and police forces of 20 nations (including Britain and Iraq who attempted to use the device in the global war on terror) that it would be such an effective tool in keeping troops alive that he was able to charge them up to $42k per unit.

He sold tens of thousands of these units, and netted a profit of over $78 million. Thousands of people were injured and killed when these useless devices failed to detect bombs at various checkpoints. 

And now the sentence for this has been handed down – 10 years in prison.

This story reminded me of a conversation I once had on the Objectivist Living forum. I was irritated by the story of psychic Sylvia Browne‘s “reading” that Amanda Berry was dead. As a result, Ms. Berry’s mother Louwana Miller went to her grave filled with anguish that her daughter had been murdered.

If Ms. Miller really believed that her daughter was dead, it isn’t a far stretch to imagine that her motivation to maintain the search for her daughter abated as well. It’s impossible to know if this resulted in a prolonged period of being kidnapped for Ms. Berry, but it is certainly not out of the realm of possibility. This would be another unintended consequence of the fraudulent reading provided by Ms. Browne.

I tried making the point that fraud is illegal, and that it ought to be treated as such, even if the results aren’t immediate and obvious. In doing so, I was accused of advocating nanny-state politics by my friends (and trolls) on the OL forum.

Steve Novella over at SkepticBlog makes some good points that speak to the overall principle, as well as why McCormick should be held responsible for each and every death caused by his fraud.

My question is – why didn’t the “cavalier disregard” for killing people with his fraudulent scheme warrant more than just 10 years? This seems to be a hole in the law. (I’m sure this varies widely from country to country.) There should be a separate charge when fraud predictably leads to horrific outcomes, such as death. I know that if someone dies in the course of committing a crime, even though the death was not intended, it’s still felony murder. Why doesn’t this also apply to fraud?

As I attempted to point out over at OL, damage is damage, whether caused directly by force, or caused indirectly by fooling someone into injuring themselves. Novella makes a valiant attempt at sharing responsibility by pointing out that victims of fraud do have a responsibility to conduct due diligence, and that is similar to the point that my friends at OL were trying to make.

And it’s true – due diligence is the responsibility of each and every person who endeavors to invest real, social, or emotional capital. But there is also the responsibility of those who would profit from that investment to be honest brokers. This is why the term “due diligence” has the word “due” in it – it draws that line of demarcation between the diligent work that is “due” from the investor, and the expectation from the profiteer that he or she will be an honest broker.

As I pointed out on OL, I am happy to debate where that line of demarcation should be – but I will not debate whether or not that line ought to exist.

My contention is that psychics ought to be required to inform their clientele that the have no powers that ordinary people do not possess. To claim to have the power to provide a service that you do not have the power to provide is fraudulent, and ought to be illegal.

I also believe that McCormick should be held responsible for all who died as a result of his deliberate fraud.

And I think that legislators need to rethink the effect that ordinary frauds, snake-oil salesmen, and shysters have on ordinary citizens. Defrauding people is not a right, it’s not harmless, and it should be treated with no less gravity than the direct use of force.

It’s no less destructive to trick someone into putting a gun to their head and pulling the trigger than it is to put that gun to their head and pull the trigger yourself.

The Decoder Ring Doctrine

One of the more curious doctrines of the Christian faith is what I call the “Decoder Ring” doctrine, and it basically states that unless you’re a Christian, you cannot understand the words of the Bible or the teachings of Jesus. Your spiritual eyes are not open, they claim, and you cannot understand the mysteries of the bible or God. This doctrine is not limited to Christianity by any stretch of the imagination, but it is wholly embraced by almost all forms of Christianity. My mother used to tell me all the time that the reason so much of Christianity’s doctrine didn’t make sense to me was because my “spiritual eyes” weren’t opened.

They back this doctrine with scripture: 1 Cor 2:14 “ But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.”

Of course, to an advocate of reason the dynamic of all this is clear: ANY doctrine makes sense to one who has already accepted the doctrine as true. This would apply across the spectrum of possible beliefs. So if you happen to be a Mormon who believes Jesus walked around in North America a few hundred years ago, that idea doesn’t raise a single red flag. And if you happen to be a Scientologist who believes that the universe is trillions of years old, that doctrine makes perfect sense as well. This is the reason that faith-based doctrines are always given in small doses. The pushers of these doctrines know that until you’ve invested countless hours, boatloads of social capital, and thousands of dollars into their particular brand of faith, you’re not likely to believe that, for example, our bodies are inhabited by pissed-off aliens that a trillions of years old.

But to those faithful, your skepticism is clear evidence that you simply cannot understand. It’s not that the idea of three wise old men travelling across the desert carrying expensive gifts without transportation, direction, or security in order to donate them to an immaculately conceived baby-god sleeping in a feeding trough inside a barn while his “virgin” mother (wink wink) and father-who-really-didn’t-do-it (wink wink) look on with blissful smiles is ridiculous – it’s that you simply can’t understand it. See?

One of the few times in my adult life that I sat through a sermon took place at my parents funeral. I don’t begrudge having done so – my mother wanted the gospel preached at her funeral and as far as I was concerned she was going to have it even if I had to preach it myself – but sitting through it was painful to say the least. The preacher we found to preach it was a local guy who had never met my parents. I’m grateful to him for the service he provided. And almost if by providence, he began his sermon with a “decoder ring” disclaimer! He told us point blank as he began his sermon that if there were any in the gathering who were not Christian that what he was about to say would not make sense. He said we would not be capable of understanding the words he was about to say. As fantastic a claim as that is, I inwardly smiled knowing that it was an idea my mother agreed with completely. “Thank goodness”, I thought, “my mother is being granted her last wish”.

Once the sermon was over and I had eulogized them myself, we moved on to the burial site and the socialization began. Had I been anywhere BUT the funeral of my own parents, I would’ve cracked the joke that kept scrolling through my mind “Great sermon Pastor, I think? Honestly, I couldn’t understand a word of it.” Still, I found the entire “decoder ring” doctrine fascinating – not so much the doctrine itself but the fact that people don’t seem to see the obvious problems with it.

First there’s the obvious objection – what could be more pretentious than to assert that an intelligent human being who speaks the same language you speak cannot understand plain English (or whatever language you happen to speak)? Unless you believe that there is some magic which scrambles a non-believers brain, on what grounds could you possibly assert that someone else is incapable of grasping something you are capable of grasping. It’s a condescending proposition.

But let’s say for a moment that this was somehow true… that your very acceptance of a doctrine provided you with a magical decoder ring that enabled you to understand normal, everyday words and that someone else’s disbelief disabled them from understanding those very same words. What exactly would this mean?

(Keep in mind that this doctrine is not limited to Christianity; I’m going to approach it using Christianity as the example, and you can apply the principles to whatever faith-based system you like. Scientology is another very good example.)

The premise here is that once you accept that the words of the bible are true, only then are you equipped to understand what they mean. Belief precedes understanding. What a fantastically backwards idea! The adherents of this doctrine are literally admitting that they accepted a doctrine prior to understanding it. This is reason in reverse – literally the opposite of the process by which a proposition ought to be accepted.

The next time you meet someone who tells you that you cannot understand the gospel message because you are not a Christian, ask them this simple question: “What came first, your choice to accept the gospel message or your ability to understand it?”

An exodus from bigotry

Another beautiful morning out on the Med! Why does my coffee taste like shit??

Speaking of excrement, it appears that our christian gay-curing friends over at Exodus International have had a revelation (get it?). EL President Alan Chambers, a gay man (no, there is no such thing as ex-gay), has apparently come to realize that, for years, he has been actively working in the service of those who hate him.

Well, almost…

You see, he’s halfway there. He has thrown out what he sees as the bathwater, but is still clinging to what he sees as the baby.

He realizes that he has caused a great deal of harm to many people. He has perpetuated the cycle of condemnation and guilt, the unscientific dogma, and the culture of prejudice and bigotry that causes people to loathe themselves, sometimes to the point of suicide.

The good news? He has come to understand the harm that he’s been inflicting upon others. He has issued a full apology, and to demonstrate how serious he is, he has shut Exodus International down completely.

Please know that I am deeply sorry. I am sorry for the pain and hurt many of you have experienced. I am sorry that some of you spent years working through the shame and guilt you felt when your attractions didn’t change. I am sorry we promoted sexual orientation change efforts and reparative theories about sexual orientation that stigmatized parents. I am sorry that there were times I didn’t stand up to people publicly “on my side” who called you names like sodomite—or worse. I am sorry that I, knowing some of you so well, failed to share publicly that the gay and lesbian people I know were every bit as capable of being amazing parents as the straight people that I know. I am sorry that when I celebrated a person coming to Christ and surrendering their sexuality to Him that I callously celebrated the end of relationships that broke your heart. I am sorry that I have communicated that you and your families are less than me and mine.

The bad news? He realizes that the doctrine he’s been preaching is wrong, but he is not ready to condemn the source of this doctrine. He’s not ready to accept that an evil ideology comes from a religion and a clergy he views as inherently moral.

I cannot apologize for my deeply held biblical beliefs about the boundaries I see in scripture surrounding sex, but I will exercise my beliefs with great care and respect for those who do not share them.  I cannot apologize for my beliefs about marriage. But I do not have any desire to fight you on your beliefs or the rights that you seek. My beliefs about these things will never again interfere with God’s command to love my neighbor as I love myself.

This is a phenomenon known as “cognitive dissonance” – the discomfort that accompanies the psychological clash between what you have accepted as true and a new discovery which contradicts it.

I personally believe that it is only a matter of time before he relinquishes his religion as a whole. This is the way things work. I remember when I gave AMWAY a shot, back in the early 90’s. When it didn’t work out, and I just wound up parting with a whole lot of money, I figured it was my fault and that the business itself was fine. It took me a while to accept that it is a high level scam organization that preys on people’s enthusiasm and ambition. But after a while I was able to accept it. It just took time.

A similar scene played out with Nate Phelps, son of the notorious Fred Phelps, leader of the Westboro Baptist Church. He ran away from the church on his 18th birthday, knowing it was evil, but not knowing exactly why, or what was “good”. For years he held onto the idea that his family was merely mistaken, and that if they would only rethink the message of the bible, they would see that it’s a message of love.

It took some time, but after a while he was able to accept that his family’s interpretation of the bible was legitimate, and that it was his premise – that the bible is a moral book – which was in need of revision, not his family’s interpretation of it. His story has a very happy ending.

For this reason, I accept Mr. Chambers’ apology as genuine and I will watch his progress with interest. I honestly believe that while he thinks he has arrived at a new place, he is actually on a journey, one which will carry him away from the deep-seated guilt and self-loathing he has no doubt felt for years, away from the unscientific claims of the clergy that claims homosexuality is a sort of disease in need of a cure, away from the dogmatic position that homosexuality is some sort of abomination that merits eternal torture, and toward a life of self-acceptance and self-esteem.

It cannot be easy for him and his organization to do what they’ve done. For a dogmatist to say “I’ve hurt many with my dogma and I apologize” is damn tough for anyone. Kudos to him and to all who follow his example.