sent in by Cameron Riddle
There has been no point in my life at which I would have called myself an atheist, but a seriously devout interest in all things spiritual is something that has only affected me for the past eight years. This initial interest in spirituality turned into a period of intensive questioning of the nature of God. At the end of 1997, when I was fourteen, and at boarding school, I was invited to attend school Christian Fellowship by some mates of mine. This became the highlight of my week – tea, biscuits, and cake at Bob the rev’s house after a walk across the Bigside playing fields. One would get out of prep early to get there for 9:00pm, and it was a relaxing and friendly way to end Wednesday, away from the institutional austerity of the boarding house.
“Bob the Rev.” or alternatively, the Reverend Robert Marsden, the school chaplain, was a man of conservative religious views, and these I challenged with questions he would often fail to answer to any satisfactory standard: “We’ll come back to that one,” he’d say, and move on to another raised hand. We normally discussed biblical themes and moral issues, and I remember well the session on sex and fornication in which he could not tell me why God gave people sexual urges at a time when He didn’t want them to satisfy them. We all know that people in general start experiencing sexual desire at about age 13, but rightly, in the context of our society, only get married much later. This discrepancy has always been one of the many complications that our society has endured as a result of its defiance of nature. I now believe that the reason why religions have traditionally promoted chastity has nothing to do with God and everything to do with possessiveness of women in patriarchal societies.
Nonetheless, I quickly became very interested in Christianity; its contradictions, inconsistencies, impossibilities, and above all, the way it was believed in by so many people and yet just didn’t seem to work. Even when I was 14, I wondered how one man’s painful death lasting a few hours could pay the equivalent of what was owed for the sins of an uncountable number of millions of human beings, each single one of whom supposedly deserving of eternal perdition. Bob Marsden went in for the hard-line fundamental of Christianity quintessentially based on Romans 3:10: “There is none righteous, not one.” Ie. All are guilty and deserve to be eternally separated from God. Bob the rev. was not a fire-and-brimstoner, but he did believe in some kind of eternal hell for those who failed to accept the salvation offered to them - and it was of course merely offered, not given. A group of Christian evangelists came to visit the school to run a Christian focus week in late 1997. They told me that God’s gift of salvation could be likened to your uncle buying you a mountain bike, but telling you it was still at the shop and all you had to do was pick it up. I forgot to object that this implied a limit either to God’s power, his love, or his mercy, all three of which, I was always told, were infinite: Why not bring the bike to the nephew to make sure he definitely gets it? Especially in view of the eternal consequences! Four principal things were clear: We were bad, salvation was free; we could get it if we chose it, and the consequences either way were eternal. To claim this “free” salvation, one had to live a sexually pure and sober life, devoid of hedonism, swearing, and other vices. It did not seem to me that this salvation was particularly free. Nor did it seem to make sense that my friends and I were just as much at risk of hell as Saddam Hussein or Joseph Stalin, on the grounds that we were all sinners in God’s sight anyway. The human race was plain bad. End of story. I once suggested to Bob that I might as well be a thoroughly evil person like Stalin and then suddenly mend my ways and go to heaven. He didn’t get it.
A year later at the end of 1998, I was very moved by the story of Victor Hugo’s Les Misérables. The Christian allegory of the novel is obvious: Jean Valjean, a suffering sinner who has just completed nineteen years as a slave in the quarries for stealing bread, is taken into the home of a saintly bishop, the Bishop of Digne, but repays him by running away with his silver. When Valjean is caught and the Bishop is given the opportunity to see him returned to the hard labour from whence he came, he lies to the police, saying he gave him the silver as a present, so that Valjean does not have to go back to slavery. Valjean repays the bishop’s kindness by being a good man for the rest of his life. This story played a tremendous role in my formation as a Christian. I had been confirmed in mid-1998, but not until after pondering over this theme of free salvation and unconditional love for a while did I begin to truly love Jesus, the saviour not only of my own soul, but of those of all people. It is ironic, in retrospect, that it was a 19th Century French novel that brought me to Christ, and not his so-called word, the Bible, which had always just seemed incomprehensible and disturbing. Indeed I had begun to read the Bible when I was eight years old and had merely found it frightening and austere. For me, Christianity had been stripped of its dogmatic nonsense that never made any sense, and turned into a simple study in perfect forgiveness.
From around mid-1999 to mid-2001, I became more and more Christian. From mid-2000, I became more and more Christian in a particular kind of way. Studying the English Reformation, specifically Henry VIII, in May and June 2000, made me decide I was not Protestant, as I had been brought up, but Roman Catholic. This was a matter of the heart rather than a matter of practice. I never regularly attended a Catholic Church, or went to confession even once, but in my heart, that was what I was. Why?
Catholicism was vibrant, colourful, decorated, beautiful, and best of all, interestingly enough, Latino. My time in France had turned me into something of a Francophile, but by mid-2000 I was well into all things Latin, and Catholicism, at the end of the day, was the Latin religion. Protestantism by contrast was the religion of grey Northern Europe; austere, emotionless, and, I believed, rather stricter – I mean look at the Puritans. Catholics could live it up, celebrate, and be merry, as this was what their religion seemed to allow, even encourage. In my continued study of the English reformation in A-Level history, I passionately supported the counter-reformers. Mary I of England was a misjudged, misunderstood woman who by no means deserved to be called “bloody Mary.” Her Protestant sister Elizabeth, whose glorious reputation lives on, was cruel and often brutal; in many ways worse towards the Catholics she ruled over than Mary had been to her minority of Protestant subjects. I even speculated on how life in Britain would be better if the Spanish Armada had landed, envisaging a combination of Mass, processions, and partying.
The first months of 2001 were an explosion of religiosity. A school trip to Paris in February allowed me to spend a great deal of time in Notre Dame Cathedral and the Sacré Coeur. When I later joined the MSN Community, UK Christians, I named myself Sacred Heart, not with the Sacred Heart of Jesus or Mary in mind, but merely as a translation of the name of the famous Parisian Basilica. During the Easter season I spent an abnormal amount of time in the St. Mary’s Episcopal Cathedral praying, and by the middle of the year I was burning candles for Mother Mary in my room. I continued to attend St. Mary’s, seeing High Anglicanism as a good compromise between the Roman Catholic faith I wished to join and the regular Anglican tradition of my family. In my obsession with all things Latin, closely linked to my faith, I became a dreamer, longing for an imaginary place; a remote Spanish or Italian village on a rocky mountain surrounded by virgin plains with the sea on the horizon and a starry sky above.
My final year of school also saw me become disgruntled and rebellious, and yet, strangely enough, this went well, rather than badly, with my religious faith at the time.
It was late 2001, after the September the 11th attacks, when things began to go wrong. During mid-September to early December of that year, I worked as a food runner in the restaurant Est Est Est on George Street to fund my forthcoming gap year in Peru. This was an exhausting and often-stressful job involving two return journeys by bicycle a day, half of which I had to do in the dark and all of which I had to do in the cold. I would emerge from the workplace on weekends only to receive abuse on the street from the Friday and Saturday night drunks. Pious as ever, I prayed constantly, not to get out of my own predicament of a barely tolerable temporary job, but rather for blessings on the suffering, food for the hungry, protection of my loved ones, and world peace. I wanted to be a saint, and even inwardly pledged to someday give up all excess of material comfort and dedicate my life to serving God and looking after the needy. This, of course, was not with the aim of receiving anything in particular in return, but my love for Jesus had to prove itself with self-denial and sacrifice. This ideology was not wholly good for me. I felt guilty for my material wealth, guilty for my continued sin, in spite of its minor and inevitable nature, and worst of all, genuinely afraid of Satan. This fear of a literal Satan, who would do everything possible to see me eternally damned, lost me hours of sleep. I never confessed it to anyone but suffered it particularly in the darkness of night. I held convictions during this period which I have since turned on their heads; pre-marital sex was a sin, any involvement in sorcery was a sin, swearing was a sin (I felt guilty whenever I was angry with anyone, let alone swore), drunkenness was a sin, and so on. I never succumbed to the belief that homosexuality was a sin, however. Indeed I was offended and disappointed to discover, on UK Christians, that it was such an issue. Indeed the discovery that this was such a prominent Christian doctrine was the beginning of the end of my orthodoxy.
September the 11th and its aftermath made me more aware of Islam, which I respectfully believed to be false due to the faith’s denial of Jesus as the Son of God. I got on very well with a French Arab I worked with called Kareem, and never tried to proselytise to him, despite my devout Christianity and his devout Islam (which seemed, admittedly, to conveniently exclude Koranic prohibitions regarding sex). Things went haywire when I was made more aware of Christian fundamentalism - the heart of darkness of my own religion. Fundamentalism was ugly, loathsome, bigoted, and arrogant, and came in the form of a guy called Mcleod who joined an MSN Group of which I was a member, UK Christians. UKC was going to be highly important in my Christian life. Mcleod called the Pope the “Antichrist,” and reminded us of Sodom and Gomorrah to illustrate that gays could not be Christian. He furiously refuted my suggestion that catholic and Protestant Christians should see each other as brothers, saying that “RCs” were not Christians because they obeyed the Pope and not Jesus. His real reason for joining the group was to tell us that September 11th in the USA and flooding and foot-and-mouth disease in Britain were divine chastisements for our toleration of Catholicism, homosexuality, and assorted other sinful behaviour. I suggested that if God was so anti-Catholic, He might rather choose to chastise a Catholic country, to which there was no response. He also came out with the usual hypocrisy of how he didn’t hate Catholics - just their “system”. There were many fundamentalists like Mr. Mcleod still to come, but equally disturbing was my discovery of a Roman Catholic personal web site predicting the coming mass-chastisement of the west for our use of abortion and contraception, for our fornication, and of course, the favourite, homosexuality. According to this guy one shouldn’t “touch” one’s girlfriend/boyfriend before marriage, chew gum or be absent-minded during mass, be ignorant of Catholic doctrine, and it went on. In large letters, on his homepage, it said “BIN LADEN TO NUKE WASHINGTON IN 60 DAYS”. That was November 2001, 2 years ago. To my knowledge, no such thing has happened, but having looked at his web site recently, I see he continues to claim that his predictions are accurate. Most are founded on erroneous interpretations of Nostradamus and Revelation. He had an entry about a soul that had allegedly visited hell. I attempted to view this but it had been banned for breaking certain Internet rules. I do remember a certain quote from the site, however, along the lines of:
“Have you ever been burned in an accident? Well bear in mind that people who go to hell burn over and over and over again for the rest of eternity.”
He also had various passages, allegedly messages from Jesus and the Virgin Mary. Jesus complained at length that people were not paying enough attention to him after all he had suffered for them, that it hurt him every time they failed to attend mass, that he knew as he was crucified that for many people, his sacrifice was in vain, etc. Mary had similar emotional blackmail to deal out, including warnings of the coming chastisement from God. I never believed that any of the material really was from Jesus or Mary. One thing was for certain, however: if there were to be a chastisement of Europe involving an invasion by a non-Christian power, I would relish the opportunity to die for Jesus.
In December I had a brilliant month involving, amongst other things, a trip to Paris with a long-standing Christian friend of mine, Sam Partington. I’ve known Sam since I was five, and since then we’ve shared a spiritual zeal in some shape or form. We spent a lot of time in Notre Dame Cathedral again, by that time my personal favourite Cathedral in the world. The last night we were there we went to an organ recital. I placed a written prayer in a box, lit candles for saints, and prayed some more before heading out into the Latin Quarter. I took Christmas very seriously, viewing it as a celebration of the most important event ever to happen in the history of the human race: the birth of Christ. My religious zeal at the end of 2001, however was not as great as that of the previous Christmas, when I had just wanted to see a huge street party for the closest thing we had to the 2000th anniversary of his incarnation. I remember reading a post on UKC on Christmas Eve written by a Christian who disapproved of Harry Potter. This was another aspect of modern Christianity I found absurd – and worrying.
My six months in South America were very significant. A monumental step was to be taken in my Christian education with the discovery of one of the worst “Christian” organisations I can think of; the California-based evangelical literature producer, Chick Publications, named after its President, Jack.T.Chick. It was February 2002 when I happened upon a Baptist shop in Arequipa, Peru where, out of the corner of my eye, I caught sight of a rack displaying pocket-sized comic tracts. I went over for a read; the reason being that I remember having been handed such a tract on Princes Street in Edinburgh six months earlier. The tract was called Bad Bob, and featured, as its protagonist, a huge, bearded Southern biker who went in for bad behaviour of all kinds from unprovoked violence to drug dealing. At the end of the tract, Bob is saved after the terrifying experience of surviving a jail fire, in which his cousin in the cell next door is burned to death. “God gave you a second chance, but your cousin will be in flames like that forever,” is how the Christian policeman puts it. By saying a prayer expressing his penitence, Bob is saved, and according to Chick, will go to heaven. After reading this tract, I had responded to God’s call by saying such a prayer myself. The result is that ironically, and inconveniently for him, by Jack Chick’s reckoning I am saved, and in theory ought to be a born again fundamentalist. For a full read of any of Jack Chick’s tracts, please visit the web site www.chick .com. It ought to be age-restricted, but isn’t, so anyone can look. It is Chick himself who does the mediocre artwork that goes into most of these booklets. The rather more impressive artwork in certain tracts is left up to a talented African American who receives little or no credit on Chick’s site, but frankly, whatever the quality of the artwork, Chick tracts are disgustingly awful. The following list may give some idea of what he is all about:
- John 14:6 says that Jesus is the way the truth, and the life. It follows from this that all religions other than Conservative Protestant Christianity lead to damnation. It is worthy of note that Liberal Protestants do not escape Chick’s wrath.
- Hell will be the eternal dwelling place of a good 99% of people who ever existed because of their failure to “accept Jesus as their saviour” (convert to evangelical Christianity).
- The Catholic Church is the great Whore of Revelation 17.
- The Pope is the Antichrist.
- The Vatican is a tool of Satan and is responsible for all the evil ever committed on the planet including Nazi Germany, Communism, the Ku Klux Klan, and the creation of all “false” religions, including Islam.
- Allah was based on the Pagan moon God of ancient Arabia and Islam remains a pagan religion. (Interesting how he knows this whilst the Muslims do not).
- Roman Catholic veneration of the Virgin Mary is another of Satan’s tricks to have them unwittingly worshipping a demon. (Again, millions of Roman Catholics disagree with him, but he seems to know best).
- Rock music, Halloween, alcohol, the New Age, Freemasonry, sex, evolution, and Liberalism are all Satanic tools. The only thing that is not is the Bible, but even there you’d better get the correct version: nothing but the KJV will do.
The list could well continue. Jack chick has drawn cartoons in which Catholics, Buddhists, and Muslims are quite explicitly shown going to hell, sent there by Jesus himself. One of his favourite titles is Are Roman Catholics Christians? My simple response would be that they believe in, love, and seek to follow Jesus Christ, so the answer would be yes. Loving Jesus and being good is not enough for Chick, however, or for the ridiculous figure who passes for God in his cartoons; a gigantic, illuminated despot who sits on an unnecessarily large throne and spends his days judging people after they die. The God Chick has created is a highly dangerous, fanatical incorporation of all modern far right bigotry and bullying; homophobic, undeniably racist, he self-indulgently wallows in his own importance. Nothing could have been further from the Jesus I knew. The other side of Chick’s god, of course was the scourged and bleeding carcass hanging limply on the cross, a wonderful instrument of perverted emotional blackmail. His claims about other religions have been successfully refuted many times, but this does not stop him selling them, and making much money in so doing.
I spent many hours reflecting on Chick’s theology in all its brutal and bloody absurdity during my time in Peru. Even as I sat on a log drinking instant coffee on a sweaty night in the Amazon Rainforest with my guides Pancho, and Fultón, I pondered over Christianity. I met an evangelical jungle guide in the jungle-locked city of Iquitos called Carlos Grandez, one of the best jungle guides in the city. He came to my hostel room one morning to advertise his tour, and noticed the Bible on my desk. He had a friendly and pleasant manner, and picked it up with interest, turning to one of his favourite passages in the book of Isaiah. In a short conversation about his tour, he said that everything was included in the price except beer.
“…but because you’re a Christian you won’t be drinking beer,” he said with a slight chuckle. I told him I was unaware that Christians had to abstain from alcoholic beverages, and that the law as I perceived it forbade excessive, rather than any consumption.
“Oh, but if a brother who is weak in faith and alcohol tolerance were to see you drinking, he might well join in and end up sinning,” came the reply. In the end I did not go on his tour, not because of the beer issue, but because he was setting off too early. Carlos Grandez spent his life in one of the wonders of God’s creation; the Amazon Jungle, but the massive scale, amazing beauty, and intricate design of this environment still allowed him to believe that the God who created it was offended if you took one swig of lager too many. I never pondered, until a year later when I studied Albert Camus’s L’Etranger, on the contradiction between the natural world’s apparent indifference to man and the claim made by religion that a personal God had created it for man. The Amazon is an environment that perfectly embodies harsh beauty. The mosquitoes are an endless torment, the heat is a plague, and the dangers of snakes, spiders, stinging ants, and piranha are only too prevalent. Yet, this is the world God made for man; a world covered mainly by water, for man, who has no gills. These thoughts were to occur to me only later, when my piety had been conquered by rationality.
I spent the early stage of my time in Peru in a state of devout endurance, and I suffered from homesickness and depression once the initial thrill had worn off. I prayed and went to mass with my host family, the Requenas, and spent some time working at a home for abandoned children, the Casa Verde, where the poverty, compared to what I as a European was used to, was miserable to see. The Casa Verde, however, was to be converted into one of the most pleasing achievements of my gap year. At the suggestion of my brother Douglas, my old school in Edinburgh, Fettes College undertook a fundraising campaign for the Casa Verde. David, my other younger brother, was Head of School, and therefore in a position to help organise this. It yielded a number of thousands of pounds, all of which was sent out to Mr. Volker Nack, the German organiser of the Casa Verde, who received it with immense gratitude, and has now used it to improve the conditions for the former street children living there.
I had an unpleasant experience in February during the time I spent in Cusco with my friend from school, Rudran Kathiravel, in which I was led into what was essentially a brothel by a Peruvian stranger whose acquaintance we made on a city tour. I did not know the nature of the establishment until we were inside, but I escaped without getting dragged into any mischief. I distinctly remember looking, with relief and happiness up at the illuminated white statue of my Lord and master looking down from above the city, convinced that he must be most pleased with what I had done.
I spent the rest of my time in Peru travelling and teaching English in two main Arequipa schools, one of which was an Anglo-American school called Prescott, the other of which was a Roman Catholic school called Sagrados Corazones. I really loved the work, but SSCC, as it was called, was a particularly good laugh, and I made friends there with whom I still communicate. Working there increased my sympathy for Roman Catholicism, and I remember in particular the beautiful celebrations held for Easter in March and Corpus Christi in June, just before a strike, or “paro” turned the city of Arequipa into a war zone. Towards the very end of my time in Peru I went to Lima for a long weekend to visit a girl whom I had met with her 13 year-old cousin Carlos in the chapel in Jorge Chavez Airport in February. When we met I was praying fervently to God in that small but essential place of worship, to which I would love to return someday. She was keen to emigrate to Europe to study, but was stalled for lack of funds. Keen as I was to help her, I myself had only to enough to get by on, and was in no position to fork out hundreds of dollars. She made it to Barcelona to live with her mother in the end, however, and recently I went to visit her there. I was happy to at least be able to give moral support during the time I spent with her and her family in the poverty of outer Lima.
I returned from Peru overjoyed to have done something so worthwhile, and son after getting back, a revolution took place in my personal spirituality. The Conversations with God series by Neale Donald Walsh was a set of books I had heard of before but never read. I happened upon Book One and Friendship with God whilst on Princes Street with my friend James Henry, nicknamed “Veg.” I purchased both of them and promptly read Book One very quickly. It seemed to be telling me truths that I had known all along but had chosen to suppress. There was no reason to be afraid, because neither hell nor Satan had ever existed. God did not judge; there was no way He could be made angry, disappointed or harmed. Most earth shattering of all, there was no “right” and “wrong”. These were just imaginary extremes unique to each individual, institutionalised in the form of rules and laws which people would only break. The only authority was that of oneself and what one chose for oneself to be. It was a remarkable liberation. I was a free man. No longer did I have to feel guilty about anything, no longer could I feel I'd let God down, or was not living up to his standards.
My sympathy for Roman Catholicism in the face of Protestant fundamentalist bigotry was really just plain loyalty to my new Peruvian friends, and had little to do with religious fervour. I became increasingly angry at the incessant attacks made on the religion and its followers by Chick Publications, whose web site I still visited. Every time I looked I discovered another attack on the Pope, another insult to Catholic clergy, and more sickening condescension directed at followers themselves. I now had many Catholic friends in addition to the small Catholic contingent in my family, and the discovery of a belief system that said they were going to hell made things very personal. In August 2002 I entered an argument with the webmaster of The Jack Chick Museum of Fine Art. I find this web site disturbing for the way in which it excuses and justifies the activities of Chick’s publishing empire without actually being attached to it. Our debate concerned the book of Revelations and why, according to me, the Vatican could not be the Great Whore of Revelation 17. Apart from a large number of other factors, the Vatican is not built on seven hills, a factor that would be necessary for the interpretation to be valid. Monsterwax, the webmaster, was not going to accept that Chick’s interpretation was a lie. In retrospect, rather than attempt to argue that it was a lie, as I did, I might have had more success simply saying that since Chick was unable to prove its validity, maybe he shouldn’t be selling it, but he still does. Perhaps the worst aspect of Chick is his constant claim to only be informing people of their impending damnation because he “loves” them. However much he loves, he quite plainly loves his own beliefs rather more: Other people should change their customs in order to suit his theological convictions, not the other way round. He is at liberty to choose not to believe that they need to agree with him to be saved, but this he does not choose.
Over the months that followed I battered UK Christians, saying that there could not possibly be “only one way to heaven” due to the infinitely gross injustice this imposed on most of the world’s past, present, and future population. I became even more staunchly defensive of homosexual relationships, and quickly came around to seeing human sex and sexuality as something to be acted upon as love intended, not as religion intended. Religion had, after all, been guilty of heinous crimes, so why listen to it when it tried to rule any of your life, let alone your relationships? Moral issues were no longer complicated because there was no longer an obligation to find black and white where there was only grey. The incomprehensible technical workings of salvation no longer needed to be explained, as there was no salvation, for lack of anything to be saved from. Love was all there was and one was free to follow one’s heart.
Continuing to participate on Christian Internet discussion forums was not a mistake because it allowed me to learn more. I was threatened with damnation for condemning Jehovah’s violence in the Old Testament, and told my biblical knowledge was “abysmal” because I didn’t agree that all Bible prophecy had come true. I put up with having to read endless poor responses to what I had written which simply ran rings around the issue because the issue was unanswerable.
My discovery of the web site godhatesfags.com. introduced me to Rev. Fred Phelps of Westboro Baptist Church. Hateful, homophobic, excessively right-wing and “Christian”, Fred ruins the funerals of deceased homosexuals and advocates the death penalty for sodomy. Little was new here, but I reflected on how disgustingly evil one could be whilst still calling oneself “Christian” and decided there was no limit. Phelps is an extreme case, despised even by some fundamentalists, but I still hold mainstream Christian teaching responsible for his views. Christianity, ironically, refuses to repent of its sins. Having inflicted suffering on homosexuals for centuries, still it tells them that their variation on love is “sinful”.
It was, of course, obvious by now, that as far as the variations on Christianity I had encountered were concerned, I was “hell-bound”. I was a heretic, a blasphemer, and an idolater. I had rejected the supposed one true God who loved me enough to save me if I humbly submitted to a hateful system of belief, or alternatively consign me to eternal torture if I did not. I turned instead to a false idol, albeit a false idol who showed love to everyone in the world, regardless of whether they were Catholic or Protestant, Muslim, Hindu, or Jewish. This was a false idol that didn’t care whether you were straight or gay, so long as you did not harm others. The only morality was to love one’s neighbour, an ancient teaching shamelessly distorted by the world’s worst Christians. I had reached the point where even if the religious bigots were proven right, I would still go to hell sooner than accept that their beliefs were tolerable, simply because this is something I cannot do. Since I no longer believed in sin, a fundamental of Christianity, I found it increasingly difficult to call myself Christian.
In late 2002 I attended the evangelical Alpha Course once a week on Mondays, and unsurprisingly disagreed with all of it. I especially disliked the book Searching Issues by the evangelical Nicky Gumbel in which he attempts to persuade uncertain Christians that fornication, homosexuality, and New Age practices are indeed wrong. Obscure Old Testament verses about the death penalty for sorcery are supposed to mean people shouldn’t be doing yoga. Arguments designed to exploit your selfishness attempt to convince you that your wedding day will be better if you and the bride are still virgins. As for the whole gay thing, it’s just “not natural”
There is hope for Christianity. Today I place my faith in religious progressives such as Rev. Richard Holloway, the former Bishop of Edinburgh, and the Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams. There are many more like these who will bring about a new and enlightened understanding of gays, sexual equality in the church and a decisive defeat of bigotry. As for me, if being a Christian is about wanting to do good unto others, then I am one still. If it is about exclusivism, fanaticism, and oppression then I am out.