The Line Between Opinion and Morality

The Supreme Court’s decision in Obergefell v. Hodges legalizing gay marriage nationally whipped the Internet into a rainbow-colored whirlwind of hope and love.  Supporters, gay, lesbian, and straight alike flocked to computers and mobile devices and the streets to share links and proudly display rainbow flags and profile pictures.  History was made.  It was a victory for the United States and humanity.  But even amidst all the celebrating, it was hard to ignore the ever-present voices of discord.

Leading up to this decision and certainly after it, the question (now answered) of whether to support same-sex marriage has been a divisive issue.  Everyone knows someone who opposes the idea for one reason or another.  The most obvious examples of this are the conservative Christian zealots, who express hatred openly.  I think reasonable people everywhere can agree that people who spout hatred are wrong, whatever their intent or denomination.  More subtle and ultimately more manipulative, however, are those who ask us to “respect their opinion” as they respect ours.

Certain opponents of marriage equality try to cast the issue as merely one of opinion, rather than a moral difference.  You’ll be able to recognize these people easily, because they are typically the first to speak out against equality while at the same time claiming that, as Christians, they love everyone.  It’s just that, for them, God defines marriage as being between a man and a woman.  It’s not that they have any problem with gay people (not that there’s anything wrong with that), it’s that God says (let’s not even get into where or how he supposedly says this) these people are unnatural and, based on the particular sect to which they adhere, may or may not be going to hell.

These supposed Christians then go on to say that this is merely their opinion.  That they respect others, and expect theirs to be respected in return.  That they have the right to believe their own religious beliefs.  That any negative response accusing them of intolerance is an attack against religion.

How to respond?  Hmm.  Let’s see.  How about…no.  I mean, hell no.

The fundamental disconnect, here, is that these people see the issue of marriage equality as merely a matter of opinion.  I see it as a moral issue.  They don’t get, or refuse to acknowledge, that for most of us, the belief that gays and lesbians shouldn’t be allowed to marry is actually offensive.  That it’s the same as thinking that Jim Crow laws should still exist.  That’s right, Christians, that’s exactly what I’m saying: being against gay marriage is the same thing as being a racist.  It’s the same kind of moral choice.  They don’t believe this; they see themselves as having the moral high ground.  So when supporters of marriage equality do get offended, the religious get offended back, and accuse us of attacking them.

Let me state things plainly, just in case I haven’t been clear enough: the belief that marriage should be a right reserved to heterosexuals is morally wrong.  It’s akin to racism, sexism, or any other type of bigotry.  And despite what certain Christians–Mormons, for example (we’ll leave the question of whether Mormons actually are Christians for another day)–will have you believe, it is okay to disapprove of people who think this way.  In the same way that it’s okay, if not morally obligatory, to oppose racism, it’s okay and morally obligatory to defend the rights of gay people.  In other words, if you’re against equality, I don’t respect your opinion, and I don’t have to.

That’s what great about this country, at the end of the day.  We can all have our own opinions.  Even opinions that are intolerant and wrong.  But make no mistake: the fact that you have a legal right to believe anything you want, no matter how stupid, doesn’t require others to respect that opinion.  Especially when the opinion in question is morally abhorrent.

Which is not to say that I condone hatred or intolerance of those who believe stupid things.  I don’t.  I’m just saying that people with opinions that a majority of society now finds morally reprehensible shouldn’t expect to be patted on the head for expressing them.

Respecting the opinions of others, respecting difference, is important, but there’s also a line that must be drawn.  I will respect your opinion that Michael Bay is a fantastic movie director, even though I find his films vapid and ridiculous, because  nobody’s life or rights or well being is in question when we discuss film directors.  I won’t respect your opinion that gays or lesbians deserve less than equal rights than heterosexuals, because that opinion is harmful to others.  I may defend your right to have that opinion, but I won’t respect it, and we won’t be friends.  Them’s the breaks, kids.  Opinions have consequences.

Game of Thrones Season Five

As a fan of George R. R. Martin’s novels, the fifth season of HBO’s Game of Thrones was in many ways the most interesting to date: it was the first in which the show truly diverged from the books in a major way, and the first in which the story progressed chronologically beyond them.  It’s well known at this point that Martin informed the show’s creators (D.B. Weiss and David Benioff) of the major plot developments and endings for the main characters, but what isn’t known is which parts of the show represent the showrunners’ inventions and which represent revelations from Martin himself.

Season Five saw a lot of major plot developments, including (apparent) endings for a number of characters, so the question of who influenced these events is particularly interesting.  Spoilers abound for the books and the show, so if you don’t want to know, stop reading here.

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Religion in ‘The Book of Ever’

Richard Wright, the author of Native Sononce said:

The more closely the author thinks of why he wrote, the more he comes to regard his imagination as a kind of self-generating cement which glued his facts together, and his emotions as a kind of dark and obscure designer of those facts. Reluctantly, he comes to the conclusion that to account for his book is to account for his life.

Where does the writer end and the writing begin?  To some extent every artist puts some of himself, of his or her own life, into his work.  Sometimes this is intentional.  More often, it is an unavoidable side effect of living and being an artist.  It’s certainly true for me.  I’ve discovered that writing is an intensely personal process for me: my ability to write successfully, such as it is, is intimately tied to my own life experience.  As Wright says, imagination serves as a glue and emotion as a designer, but the stuff of writing is memory and observation.  I suspect this is true of most writers.

It goes without saying, therefore, that there is much of me in my first novel, Exile: The Book of Ever.  In some ways, that reflection is literal: the book is set in New England, where I grew up and still live.  In other ways–in most ways, really–that reflection is thematic.  And one of the major themes of the novel is the question of faith.

The main character, Ever, is a young woman who grew up in a deeply religious community, one who managed to survive the apocalypse by remaining insular and holding true to a firm set of beliefs.  During her journey through the story, she often relies heavily on her faith in God to make decisions and maintain hope and determination.

More than a few readers of Exile have commented (with uniform courtesy and general acceptance) that they were surprised by the religious elements of the novel.  The simple presence of a religious theme seemed unexpected to them.  This isn’t surprising to me, and in fact is comforting in a way: I didn’t write the book for a religious audience, and as I’m currently not religious myself, I wouldn’t want to be pigeon-holed as a Christian writer.  I was pleased and flattered to see that my intent had, for the most part, succeeded: readers seem to see Ever’s faith as a part of her character, a driving force and a motivation.

Another theme of the book, and one I hope I conveyed adequately, is that all is not as it seems: that our reality is, in the end, defined primarily by our current perception and understanding, and that these things naturally change as we go through life.  Ever has faith, but by the end of the novel, hopefully it is clear that her exposure to the larger world and her experiences in it have begun to change her.

Faith is a journey that has no end except death, at which point, hopefully, our questions are answered one way or the other.  I was raised Roman Catholic.  I went to Catholic school for 13 years.  For most of my young adult life, I identified as an atheist.  Over the last few years, that atheism grew into something I like to call, tongue firmly in cheek, spiritual agnosticism.

I’m in the process of writing up an account of my long, strange, spiritual trip, but here’s the punchline: about a year and a half ago, for a variety of reasons, I decided to join the Mormon Church (the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints).  I was baptized, attended for over a year, and went through their temple ordinances.

I am no longer a Mormon (thank all of the many, many Mormon gods, thank Krishna, thank Christ).

Why?  The short answer is because, at the end of the day, I couldn’t force myself to knowingly participate in a cultish church whose doctrines are not only intolerant but batshit insane.

Religious belief for me is a bit like an electron: hard to pin down, and changed innately by the act of observation.  If you asked me what my religious beliefs were, I’d say that the most accurate description of me would probably be that I’m an atheist.  But it’s a bit more complicated than that, and as soon as I define it the questions return to swirling around in their cloud.  Suffice it to say for now, however, that my long-held, shortly-retired, recently-reacquired viewpoint on organized religion is generally negative.

I think my readers are going to be very surprised by the direction Ever’s spiritual journey takes in The Book of Ever.

Bookish Lifestyle Calls ‘Exile’ ‘A Journey and an Experience’

buttonTiffany from Bookish Lifestyle recently reviewed Exile: The Book of Ever Part 1 and gave it four out of five mustaches.  Here are some of her thoughts:

The main character Ever was wonderful and you could tell from the start that she was different and followed her own heart, but she also let on that she believed a higher power was willing it.
  The characters themselves were extremely well written.  There was not one person that I did not feel I couldn’t envision.  Ever was spectacular and original, crafted to gain the readers attention.  Ever is strong willed and is the kind of girl that you want on your side.  Not because she is fearless, but because she is afraid and still moves forward.  This is something that the other POV that you occasionally get, sees when most others do not.  Jared came in a little quick and seemed like her could possibly be a problem (love triangle), but he doesn’t come out that way once you know him.  Beyond these two there are still many characters that stand out, but to even give short details would consume this review.

Only My Camera, Like, ‘Gets’ Me

Like every teenage girl in the process of discovering herself and flowering into womanhood, I’m going through a photography phase.  All images taken with a Canon 70D and processed in Lightroom.