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Sympathy for the Devil

by Michael Shermer, Feb 02 2009

Why we should show some compassion for Ted Haggard

I just watched the HBO documentary film, The Trials of Ted Haggard, produced by Alexandra Pelosi (which the media seem curiously intent on identifying not as a filmmaker but as the daughter of Nancy Pelosi, the Speaker of the House). The film is a follow-up to her 2007 film Friends of God, in which Haggard was prominently featured just before his downfall from revelations that he had homosexual relations with a male prostitute, with whom he also did methamphetamine. And all this happened right in the middle of the political debate about gay marriage, in which Haggard condemned homosexuality as an abomination and gay marriage as a sin that should never be legalized.

Now, I enjoy roasting a hypocrite as much as the next person, and I sat down to watch Pelosi’s film sharpening my typing fingers in preparation for slicing this evangelical hypocrite to pieces, especially after just watching him on Larry King Live, in which he failed to apologize to gays for condemning the very “lifestyle choice” he also presumably made. (In his Christian worldview homosexuality is a choice — a bad choice, a sinful choice, but a choice nonetheless). But I came away feeling some compassion for Ted Haggard, sympathy for the devil as it were. I don’t know if Pelosi intended her film to have this effect — I suspect not from her off-camera comments in the film as she follows the fallen preacher around Phoenix selling insurance door-to-door and bumming rooms off friends at which his family can live. But given what we know about the power of belief, and the fact that this man devoted his entire life and essence to being an Evangelical Christian and all that stands for — which is a lot when you are the titular head of the 30 million-strong National Association of Evangelicals — what a striking conflict his life has been (and by all accounts still is).

By now, most of us know that homosexuality is not a “choice,” any more than heterosexuality is a choice. Asking a gay person “When did you choose to become gay?” makes about as much sense as asking a straight person “When did you choose to become straight?” The answer is the same: “Uh? I didn’t choose. I’ve always felt this way.” Right, and all the evidence from biology, psychology, and behavior genetics (twin studies) points to the fact that most people are born straight, some people are born gay, and some are even born bisexual, and that’s just the way it is. In a large population (and six billion members of a large mammalian species certainly counts) with considerable variation in most characteristics, it is inevitable that even something as seemingly straightforward (if you’ll pardon the pun) as sexuality will likely show variations on that central theme.

To find peace and happiness in life you have to be true to yourself, and herein lies Pastor Ted’s conflict: Being true to himself meant being in absolute conflict with his religion, which was, at the time, not just his faith but his livelihood and the only means he had of supporting his family. As Upton Sinclair observed: “It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his job depends on not understanding it.”

The only resolution for Haggard was to live a secret life, and when that secret was revealed there was no way for him to peacefully resolve his conflict. And from what was shown in the film and in his public interviews of late, that conflict is still not resolved for the simple reason that if you are gay or bi you cannot simply choose to feel differently, even if you are given such bizarre diagnoses as these suggested by his Christian counselors: “heterosexual with homosexual attachments” and “heterosexual with complications.” Haggard’s response was refreshingly honest: “I wasn’t sure what that meant.”

Me neither Ted, because it’s a bullshit diagnosis by people who don’t understand the psychology of sexuality because their religion is driving the science, and that’s a recipe for quackery. Yes, you can choose (or at least try to choose) not to act on your feelings (don’t go to gay bars, don’t watch gay porn, etc.), but short of a Clockwork Orange scenario of extreme behavior modification protocols (and even this is unlikely to do the trick), Ted Haggard cannot and never will be able to square the circle of his sexual essence with his religion. Something has to go, and that something is his religion, or at least his religion’s attitudes about homosexuality.

Christianity needs to change its beliefs about homosexuality and to quit condemning those — even those in its own flock — to a life of guilt, self-loathing, and conflict. Not only does Ted Haggard need to publicly apologize to the gay and lesbian community for condemning them, his Colorado Springs New Life Church — and Christianity in general — needs to apologize to Ted Haggard for ruining his life, not only by exiling him from his home, community and friends, but by forcing him to live a lie. The data are in: homosexuality is not a choice. Christianity needs to follow the data instead of forcing the data to fit its religious dogmas.

In the film you can hear the guilt in Ted Haggard’s voice and see the self-loathing in his face. Ted Haggard is a broken man, broken not by his biology but by his religion. You cannot “fix” people’s biology, but you can change their religion, and it’s time for Ted Haggard to give up on his religion — and perhaps religion altogether. Short of that, perhaps one of the most charismatic religious movers and shakers of our time can change his religion from within by standing up to his fellow Evangelical leaders and saying to them (and to everyone else) something like this:

Ladies and gentlemen, I was wrong. When I preached that homosexuality is a sin, I was wrong. When I proclaimed from the pulpit that being gay is an abomination, I was wrong. When I dissembled and pronounced that I ‘hate the sin but love the sinner’, I was wrong. I say this not because I was a hypocrite in denouncing the acts that I myself was committing, but because our beliefs about and actions toward homosexuals is un-Christian. I make no excuses for my actions or pronouncements, but I will remind you that I was mirroring what was taught to me by my Evangelical mentors, whose beliefs about gays led them to comb the scriptures for passages that best suit their prejudices — much like the slave-owning Christians of centuries past justified with holy writ their abominable beliefs and actions toward their fellow humans by treating them as chattel. My mentors were wrong. My teachers were wrong. The church is wrong and I am wrong. Homosexuality is no more a choice than heterosexuality is a choice. People are born with their sexuality, and so to condemn a person to a life of guilt and shame over something they have no control, is to do violence to the very nature of human nature and to contradict truth and deny reality. So, in the words of the great Anglican defender of the faith and champion of religious tolerance, Oliver Cromwell: ‘I beseech you, in the bowels of Christ, think it possible you may be mistaken.’

87 Responses to “Sympathy for the Devil”

  1. tmac57 says:

    While I agree with almost all of what you have written here, I have one nit to pick ,where you state:”Being true to himself meant being in absolute conflict with his religion, which was, at the time, not just his faith but his livelihood and the only means he had of supporting his family.”
    I couldn’t disagree more with the idea that this was the only means that he had to support his family. Mr. Haggard had open to him all of the same choices of employment that any other person of similar talents and background had. It is too bad that he chose the one that was in direct conflict with his sexual orientation. Bad choice pastor Ted .

  2. Jolly Bloger says:

    If living a secret, deceitful life was Haggard’s only crime then yes, I’d feel sorry for him too. He went far, far beyond that. He took classic ‘bully’ behaviour to a new extreme by projecting his own self-loathing onto others in an unforgivably terrible way.

    My angry letter to Haggard here:

  3. Max says:

    Pedophilia is not a choice either.
    One of its goals – summed up by a supporter, Frits Bernard – is advocating the acceptance of pedophilia as a sexual orientation rather than a psychological disorder. Some activists also promote the related goals of “normalizing” the concept of sexual activities involving an adult and a child, legalizing such activities by lowering or abolishing the age of consent laws, and/or reform of child pornography legislation. Pro-pedophile activists have described their movement as analogous to other new social movements, in particular the LGBT social movements, and some call for what they describe as “children’s rights”, to allow children to make their own decisions about sexual relationships without constraint by their parents or other adults.

    • The very nature of evangelicalism is contrary to the nature of humanity. It is not natural to love one’s enemies, or put others before ourselves and forgive those who have severely wronged us.All who think they are following the teachings of the Bible are really not doing so at all.There are thousands of laws in that book that cannot be adhered to by believers because it is impossible to do so,(There are more than ten commandments) and because many of those laws are not clear and must be interpreted by either self,or instutionally imposed religious authority, so count the hyprocrites, they are more than the sands of the ocean since they are not following the rules. according to the same Bible, there is none righteous, no not one.There is really nothing in religion that gives anyone the right to guide another’s moral behaviour (outside of somehow convincing others that although the leader is really not morally better, his God has selected him to lead).The nature of evangelical religion itself is an incubator for hypocrisy.

  4. The Mother says:

    I watched “Constantine’s Sword” and watched the smarmy, arrogant Mr. Haggard explain exactly why his church had every right to infiltrate the military and make the lives of non-Christian recruits a living hell.

    No, I don’t have any pity for him now.

  5. MadScientist says:


    The pedophilia argument is absolute nonsense though – how many victims are willing? Perhaps a few (early teens?) might be experimenting or else seduced by some other means (I will give you X if you do Y) but of those, how many wouldn’t then think they made a mistake? Parents have an obligation to look after their children, and preventing them from making mistakes and becoming victims of pedophiles is just part of that obligation. Maybe pedophilia is as natural as being a serial rapist or murderer – that doesn’t make it acceptable.

    I have frequently condemned religions for their unnatural view of homosexuals. Homosexuals have been around before christianity and eradicating homosexuals would do no good; there will be more in the next generation. Homosexuals are often blamed for all the evils of the world, but what horrible things have they done and who are their victims? Although I am not homosexual, the persecution of homosexuals by most religions is only proof to me that those religions are primitive and evil. Ted Haggard as the sterotypical self-hating homosexual would be comical if it weren’t so sad.

  6. tudza says:

    Was I asleep when the news “Gay gene absolutely, positively a reality!” came out? How about the one, “Science says gays are slaves to their genes.”?

  7. Max says:

    “The only resolution for Haggard was to live a secret life…”

    What about doing meth? No choice there either?

  8. dude says:

    Okay, except there’s a difference between how you feel and what you do. Every straight and gay person can say what day it was when they decided to act on their feelings (unless they haven’t done so yet).

    We don’t know know how much of sexual orientation is a choice; we do know how much of sexual activity is a choice.

  9. Voltaire says:

    An excellent post, Mr. Shermer. Well said.

  10. Skepacabra says:

    In a relativist wonderland we can forgive everyone because free will is just an illusion & everyone is just a product of their nature and nurture, etc. But at a certain level people have to be held accountable for their actions or else society would cease to function.

    And just because Haggard reaped what he sowed and led himself to his own ruin doesn’t mean I have to feel sorry for him. There are more than enough people who are suffering that don’t deserve their fate to get my sympathies without me having to extend that to those whose downfall is actually a sign that the good sometimes triumphs. While he seems to have managed to raise a decent liberal or moderate religious daughter who publicly has said her family should apologize to gays, let’s face it. The man is pure evil. Similarly, I didn’t feel sympathy when Megatron was dumped into space by his fellow Decepticons and left for dead, nor when Emperor Palpatine was betrayed by his own apprentice just like he betrayed his former master.

  11. Steve Norley says:

    Although I can and do feel sorry for anyone who is secretly homosexual and has been brought up to believe this to be a terrible ‘sin’ or even disease, I cannot extend this feeling to Ted Haggard. Haggard could have used his not insignificant influence to dampen his church’s blatant promotion of homophobia. Failing that, he could at least have ‘suffered in silence’ like, no doubt, so many of his ‘flock’. Instead, he decided to actively campaign against people like himself, making many lives even more miserable in the process.


  12. korshi says:

    I remember seeing Haggard in the documentary Jesus Camp, and he came across quite camp, a bit sleazy and very condescending. I agree that being you could forgive him for being gay, which probably has a genetic component, but he also 1) cheated on his wife for at least 3 years, 2)paid for a prostitute, 3) did meth and 4) possibly molested a member of his congregation. All of which are either morally dubious or very, very hypocritical for someone in his position, and none of which are normal behaviour for a gay person. I feel more sorry for the other people involved. You make a good point, but Ted Haggard is a poor poster child for the many gay people who are undoubtedly broken by their religions.

  13. Mike says:

    Being UK based I am new to this particular news story though not people denying their sexuality.Here it has been Max Moseley’s kinky antics that have recently been in the news (but similarly is about private and public behaviour)

    It seems that Haggard is having a hard time though is not contrite – in fact the Bible has something to say about this:-

    “I say unto you, that likewise joy shall be in heaven over one sinner that repenteth, more than over ninety and nine just persons, which need no repentance.” Luke 15:7

    Presumably Mr haggard hasn’t remember this bit but I think that a little compassion from his critics might not go amiss as well, he is seems a ruined man.

  14. Colm says:

    Oh dear, I would not have thought that Oliver Cromwell was a good example of a “great champion of religious tolerance”. His campaign in Ireland would belie this utterly. Even to this day in Ireland he is seen as possibly the worst extreme of religious bigotry ever to hit the island. The actions of Cromwell helped to ignite centuries of bitter conflict between Catholics and Protestants in Ireland.

    In addition, I don’t think he was an Anglican. He was a Puritan.

  15. ejdalise says:

    I would guess, but don’t know for sure, the filmmaker is well aware using her real name carries both baggage and perks. I am going to guess the small bother of being identified as the speaker’s daughter is more than offset by the benefit associated with sporting the name.

    As far as Haggard . . . no; actions have consequences. I feel no sympathy; if anything, I feel he has not paid enough. Consider for a moment the years of indoctrinating of his “flock”, turning them into intolerant people. Consider the effect his counsel has had on powerful political figures.

    Besides, he is not a victim of his religion. He is not a victim at all, for I don’t believe for one moment he believes in anything he preaches. At a base level, all but the most delusional of witch doctors know they are but charlatans using religion as a mantle of legitimacy. You can feel sympathy for the believers, but not the priests, preachers, or anyone claiming the right to be a spiritual guide, a mouthpiece for whatever divinity they profess to serve. To them religion is but a tool serving their personal ambition.

  16. While tolerance and forgiveness are always appreciated, it takes considerable twisting and omissions to exonerate this guy. As others have stated, he was not genetically predisposed to methamphetamine, prostitution, or adultery. Nor was he irretrievably locked into the ministry as his sole venue for income, as the allusion to his employment selling insurance shows. Haggard wasn’t even locked into his religion, as scores of religionists turned skeptics and/or atheists will attest. He didn’t even have to abandon Christianity, just move a few feet to the left into a more tolerant Christian denomination. Ah, but that would have meant losing his power base as a leader among evangelicals. His refusal to do so had nothing to do with religion, but with personal power.

    No, Haggard was faced with many turning points in his life, as we all are, and he consistently and knowingly made the wrong choices. Now he pays the consequences. Now – and only now – is he humbled.

    Were Haggard to do as Shermer suggests and denigrate the evangelical hatred for homosexuality, all he’d accomplish is to receive their dismissal. After all, why should evangelicals listen to or believe a homosexual, drug-abusing, adulterous, hypocritical apostate? His denouncement of evangelical tenets would merely, in their eyes and with their mindset, paint him as proof of that which he now denigrates. They’d probably offer him a place in one of their ridiculous de-homo programs.

    Tolerance and forgiveness are all well and good, but Shermer’s arguments that such should be extended to this guy are simply wrong.

  17. Shahar Lubin says:

    The “it’s not a choice” argument had been trotted out for quite some time. Personaly I(I am bisexual myself) find it faulty. For one thing it’s sensitive to the kind of abbhorent, disgusting and quite stupid(yeah I know, but I’ll allow my self one ad hominom in his case) thoughts of people like the above posting Max. It’s sensitive to the kind of Ex Gay shenanigen and what ever bullshit they come up with next(ok two).

    The main reason, though, is that it misses the point. There’s nothing wrong with been gay or practicing the “gay lifestyle” or not with just having fun with a friend. Nothing wrong. Zero. Whether it’s a choice or not is irrelevent in my opinion. It’s a non sequiter at best and at worst it cast lgbt sexuality as a possible genetic disorder. It was wisely recatagorized as not being a mental sickness but it could be looked upon as the former. “Oh, don’t hate us, pity us”. And what happens if they find a way to actually change one’s orientation, then it would be OK to then oppose homosexuality. You will have a choice in that scary future.

    It’s obviously a personal and philosphical view, but I choose to be who I am. I choose to be alive, I choose to be human, I choose to have sex with whoever is willing, able, of age and of sound mind and I choose to love, cherish and marry that person If want as well. There is no god, so religous morals are irrelevent and we do no harm to society, so secualr moral opposition is falacious. This line of thinking is more solid, more logical and more in line with the skeptical mind set.

  18. Joe Chip says:

    I choose to be human

    Erm, no you did not.

  19. Max says:

    Shahar, so you agree with me that the “it’s not a choice” argument is faulty.

    Assuming that pedophiles and gays don’t choose their orientations, the question is whether acting on their orientations causes harm or hinders functioning in society.

    And as I pointed out, there are pro-pedophile activists who want to “normalize” the disorder rather than control or cure it.

    They’re not the only ones.
    “The autism rights movement (ARM) (also neurodiversity movement or anti-cure movement or autistic culture movement) is a social movement that encourages autistic people, their caregivers and society to adopt a position of neurodiversity, accepting autism as a variation in functioning rather than a mental disorder to be cured.”
    “Many hearing people view deafness as a disability, defined by impairment in the sense of hearing. However, for a large percentage of those who do not hear, deafness is not a disability but a separate culture, a linguistic subgroup of society with its own vibrant vernacular and a deep connection among its members…
    During the mid 1990s, M.J. Bienvenu, an openly lesbian Deaf activist told New York Times Magazine writer Andrew Solomon, ‘If you are deaf, you know almost exactly what it is like to be gay, and vice versa.'”

    Radical Deaf activists oppose cochlear implants and research into cures for deafness.

    Body Modification EZine on Body Integrity Identity Disorder
    “A small number of hospitals are beginning to recognize BIID as a legitimate disease that is ‘curable’ through amputation. However, the mainstream medical community tends to give these hospitals so much backlash after they perform such procedures that they are often forced to stop.”

    But the next disorder to go will probably be GID.
    “Many transgender people do not regard their cross-gender feelings and behaviors as a disorder. People within the transgender community often question what a ‘normal’ gender identity or ‘normal’ gender role is supposed to be. One argument is that gender characteristics are socially constructed and therefore naturally unrelated to biological sex.”

    So that’s the slippery slope. Everything is normal, everything is acceptable, no need to cure anything.

  20. Kevin Murphy says:

    Michael, I haven’t seen the documentary, but the way you describe Haggard I can see no possible way *not* to feel sorry for him. It’s just human nature to feel compassion for those in pain.

    (I saw him on Oprah, and I felt the same)

    But I think it’s far more important to consider all the hundreds or thousands of other people that he, in his religious works, knowingly guided into the same level of self-loathing and emotional pain as he experienced.

    The man, so far in his life, appears to have done more to increase the level of human ignorance suffering in the world than he has to decrease it.

    Unless Haggard takes your advice and publically recants, I can see no way I could feel any empathy for him beyond the basic human instinct to wish no suffering on others, as you so eloquently explored in your post.

  21. Robert DeCaire says:

    Ted Haggard is an evil man. He chose to believe something that drove him to hate himself and to hate others. There are plenty of gay Christians out there, and last time I checked being a Christian in the first place is a “lifestyle choice.”

    If Haggard is suffering now, it’s because he has reaped what he has sown, if I may steal that metaphor. He doesn’t deserve our sympathy. If he hadn’t been such a reprehensible person, he wouldn’t be in the situation he is in now. If he hadn’t been caught, he’d still be out there screaming fire and brimstone at the gay community he vilified out of his own jealousy and self-loathing.

    It’s a particularly satisfying point that it is his own Christian community that has done the most damage to his life. They’re all a bunch of sharks, turning on their own in a moment of weakness.

  22. Rogue Medic says:

    Oliver Cromwell’s quote is a poor choice. Cromwell appears to be saying that others may be wrong. Cromwell appears to be saying that Cromwell is not wrong, because others may be wrong. This is not at all a healthy message.

    As a genocidal ancestor of Hitler, Cromwell makes Ted Haggard seem comparatively almost like a good guy.

    But back to the subject of the post – Ted Haggard, who is not a good guy.

    Sympathy for The Devil?

    The Devil?


    He is not that bad. He is no Oliver Cromwell. He is bad, but there are people who murder, physically torture (as opposed to his psychological torture), rape – maybe he is guilty there, but he is still not The Devil.

    Sympathy for someone, who has only gone from being a tyrant to being just another (still vicious and hateful?) unimportant person? No.

    I can feel sympathy for the Travoltas, even if their Scientology may have caused the death of their son (maybe it did not). I can feel sympathy for Christine Maggiore, even though she killed her daughter through her devotion to AIDS denialism. She should have protected her daughter, not killed her daughter. This is tragic.

    But just another vicious and hateful hypocrite being exposed and losing his power to encourage others to be vicious and hateful? Because he can no longer persecute people for something he does not like about himself? There is a lot to not like about him, but he probably draws the wrong conclusions about what it is.



  23. Kimpatsu says:

    The difference between peadophilia and homosexuality is that children are not willing participants in sexual activity (they lack the capacity to consent), and so unlike homosexual acts between consenting adults, paedophilia is child rape. Are you really in favour of legalising rape?

  24. Henk says:

    Well said Mike. I worry about the bipolar support you engender.

    I have a very hard time casting the first stone when it comes to “sin”.

    Clearly there is a lot of responsibility to be dealt with here. I do take note that loved leaders lead loathsome lives. I am sure i would be stoned to death 2000 years ago and burned at the stake 500 years ago.

    Maybe guilt is just a bad case of celestial mistimimg.

    Thanx for reporting on this weeks sattelite of love.

  25. Thomas Goodey says:

    “And what happens if they find a way to actually change one’s orientation, then it would be OK to then oppose homosexuality. You will have a choice in that scary future…” That is an interesting slant on it. In fact there is much research nowadays that suggests that male “innate” homosexuality can be largely ascribed to the chemical environment to which the fetus is exposed in the womb. This suggests that in the near future this environment could be monitored and modified by some implant – maybe not even nanotechnological – and then the mother – or maybe the Government – would be able to decide, whether or not the soon-to-arrive boy child would be homosexual. This suggests that in a few generations maybe male homosexuality will become very rare, at least in the civilized world. My guess is that very few mothers would actively opt for a homosexual son.

  26. Clive van der Spuy says:

    @max:”The difference between peadophilia and homosexuality is that children are not willing participants”

    Exactly. And in so far as they do consent the only issue is to prevent psychological harm and thus to set limits to their consent. Parental authority backed by legal prescription. The “age of consent” is obviously a continuum situation and any particular legislated age subject to debate.

    Note that ALL Haggard’s supposed sins involve private behaviour by a consenting adult/s. These are not sins and should not be illegal in the first place.

  27. Jeff says:

    Sure, Haggard was and still is detestable for all the hateful things he did in the name of Christianity. That is why I admire Michael for his generosity in summoning up feelings of sympathy for this hypocritical, narcissistic, delusional jerk. It is ironic that Michael is the one practicing one of the few virtues that can be found in the Jesus myth.

  28. Jim says:

    Maybe Mr. Haggard should go back to his 30,000,000 churchmembers and ask ALL those also living a lie to step forward and come clean.
    Then he would have a new congregation to work with “out” in the open so to speak – as I am sure there are more than a few other hypocrites hiding behind their religion.

    It could perhaps even become the World church of gay, meth shooting super christians.

    Sympathy – I think not.

  29. John Caley says:

    To lighten the mood somewhat, I was amused that Michael apologised for the pun in using the word ‘straightforward’. To a British reader there was a much funnier – albeit unintentional – one in the previous paragraph.

    Here in the UK, the word ‘bum’ is equivalent to ‘butt’ in the US (as ‘arse’ is to ‘ass’), and consequently ‘bumming’ is a coarse and juvenile allusion to gay sex.

    Hence my childish, laugh-out-loud reaction to the mental picture of the film-maker in Phoenix following the gay preacher round ‘bumming rooms’!

  30. Steve says:

    You’re much more charitable than I – he’s lived a lie all these years? Well, too bad for a wasted life. He’s ruined his life and his wife’s life? What a shame.

    Where’s his wife’s self respect? Why is she still with him? Did he contract HIV from his presumably unprotected extramarital sexual encounters? Did he pass it to her? Did he put her at risk? (Of course he put her at risk.)

    So, he’s reaped what he’s sown. The real shame is that if he dies miserable and broke, his fellow evangelicals will be able to use that has an object lesson — incorrect as so many of their lessons are — that homosexuality ruins lives. No, lies ruin lives. He lived a lie, he got what was coming to him, and good riddance.

  31. Kenny G says:


    • Science is, indeed, driven by one’s religion. But can science also be driven by one’s non-religious perspectives?

    • Most are heterosexual, just as most are right handed — and, certainly, we don’t want to condemn those who are left handed. But would we be rightfully concerned if behavior-related diseases such as AIDS, hepatitis b and a host of others were common among lefties?

    • Those of us who have watched video clips of gay parades must not allow our preconceived notions to drive our misconceptions that the gay lifestyle is not preoccupied with sex and that, in turn, self-exposed to health risks. Are we not complicit in the deaths of thousands of gays when we void our thinking of this reality that presents itself as plain as a naked emperor?

    • If there is no God, how does one account for the success of super churches?

    The success of virtually every super church can be attributed to one thing: the personality of the pastor. Ted Haggard is no exception. His intelligence, people skills and business acumen are common among the leaders of big ministries. God has nothing to do with their success.

  32. William Patrick Haines says:

    Well any conservative ideologue whether religios or economic will be driven to blame those whom they look down upon .Christains seem obsessed with sexual sins I guess due to their partnership with economic extremist reactionaries have to over look other sins like selfishness and greed so they have to attack others whom they view as loathsome .
    Like wise Libertarians obsessed with extoling the virtues of unrestrained capitalism while ignoring any sane and civilized measures that protect the workers the enviroment or provide a reasonable safety net love vilifying those less fortunate. I doubt if the nightmarish libertarian feudalistic utopia was ever established people with a handicap diffrent sexual orientation religios beliefs or race would receive protection from those
    saintly employers

  33. Amanita Verna says:

    It’s traditional in Christianity to talk about “loving the sinner” but “hating the sin”. Interestingly enough, science is leading the way toward a renewed appreciation of this old Christian idea.

    Research in many different fields seems to be producing evidence that humans are not as able to control our behavior as we like to think we are. For instance, there is evidence that some decisions are made before consciousness is even aware of them — but then consciousness comes along afterward and rationalizes the decision that has already been made, giving the individual the illusion of being more “in control” than he/she really is.

    If these findings are reproduced and consolidated into a new theory of mind (and I think they will be), we will be obliged to transform our attitudes about guilt, blame, and punishment. The old emotion-laded, moralistic attitudes toward our fellow humans (which a surprisingly large number of so-called Skeptics on this list seem to share) will no longer be justifiable on any rational basis. What we will be left with is the necessity of making rational choices about what types of behavior society is going to tolerate and what types of behavior must be forbidden for the good of all. This can then be followed by a quest to find humane, effective methods to prevent behaviors that society deems antisocial.

    This certainly does NOT mean that we will no longer be able to protect ourselves from pedophiles, sociopaths, and others who engage in antisocial behavior. On the contrary, we may actually find ourselves — for the first time — able to do something that would actually prevent these behaviors. Right now, mostly all we do is rant and rave about them in moralistic terms — our ability to prevent them is practically nonexistent.

    If people who engage in antisocial behaviors are genuinely unable to control themselves, we can feel compassion for them and as Christian teaching has long instructed us, we can still “hate” (that is, forbid) the behavior itself.

  34. Kenny G – you are implying that homosexuals are more concerned with sex than heterosexuals and AIDS and other sexually-transmitted diseases are more common among homosexuals. Both statements are false. Sexual behaviour is not driven by sexuality, but by a combination of factors including individual hormonal drive, social attitudes and availability.

    Homosexual men in Western societies tend to have be more sexually active because there are more partners available (other gay men). Heterosexual men in the West would be equally sexually active if the opportunities are available. This is not generally the case. Heterosexual men are highly sexually active in societies where partners are easily available; these tend to be poorer societies either where female prostitution is widespread and cheap and / or where it is socially acceptable for men to have several girlfriends at one time.

    In the US AIDS and STDs are higher among gay men because they are having more sex, but worldwide the diseases are either higher among heterosexual men and women or equally proportionate on a population basis. In other words, the equation homosexual=vulnerability to sexual disease is plain wrong. The equation sexually active=vulnerability to sexual disease is accurate.

    There’s a strong case to be made for distinguishing not between gay and straight sexual behaviour, but between male and female sexual behaviour. There’s plenty of anecdotal evidence to suggest that men of all sexual orientations would be highly active with many partners if given the chance. Are women less active in reality? And if so, why? Unfortunately not enough research has been undertaken to examine this issue dispassionately taking into account the many psychological, hormonal, social and other factors involved.

    As for the main article…. I think this one of Michael Schermer’s weaker pieces. Nicely written, but I he’s let his initial, emotional reaction overcome a more considered response. Haggard created / found himself within a worldview that was inherently contradictory. But he lives in a broader society where freedom of speech and information allowed him to revise that worldview at any time. He not only chose not to do so, but he forcibly imposed those contradictions on his family and his followers. He has no doubt suffered, but his suffering is minimal compared to the suffering he has imposed on others. When he understands that and offers not only an apology but an action plan to attempt to reverse the damage he has done, only then will I consider that he deserves pity.

  35. Chaz Mena says:

    You know, I read some of the comments above and I realize that this issue will be with us for a long time. Someone said: “pedophilia is also a choice” another said “if there is no god, how can you account for super churches”. Apparently culturalization is not these folk’s vocabulary. Is it so hard to understand that some cultural norms are simply NOT interpreting, reacting to, or mirroring reality? By reality (and this is for all you post-modernists here) I mean “that which can be measured or appreciated by our own senses or the instruments we create to help enhance our sense”. Got it? What is soooo hard about saying “our cultural/religious/political take on ______________ is/was/will be wrong ?

    I myself am heterosexual and have been since I was born, many homosexuals feel similarly. Bi-sexuals are those that are engaging in the human right to do whatever they wish to do with another adult.
    Pedophilia is pathological, bestiality is also (though according to Pete Seeger, strangely, it’s not), extreme fetishism is –consult the American Psychological Association on this.

    Let people be, stop imposing your will on others unless they are hurting other folks. If you believe in some god or whatever, let him/it/she sort it out.

  36. randy says:

    Re: Cromwell, I think he was being sarcastic. That’s how I read it, anyway.

  37. Richard Baldwin says:


    You’ve done it again! You’ve presented a reasoned response that makes sense to me. I hated Ted Haggard as the quintessential example of the self-righteous asses that make-up the clergy until I heard him and his wife on the Larry King Show. I began to see him as just another fallible human being like myself. Your ability to see him as a human being was the compassionate way to go, for we all make mistakes and demonstrate hypocrisy. The problem with Michael Phelps or a Ted Haggard is that they chose to set themselves up as examples and therefore bring more culpability on themselves in doing so. I think your solution was the right one: he should apologize to everyone (not just ask for pity because he is, after all, only human), admit his former religious beliefs were wrong, and denounce those beliefs. That doesn’t mean he must become an atheist, but he should at least adopt a more reasonable religious worldview.

  38. kenn pappas says:

    Unfortunately, when homosexuality is condemned in New Testament writings, as is sexual desire in general, as “unsaintly”, it is because there is a conflict in doctrine as rigid thinkers try to work out what “saintliness” is. Consider Paul the Apostle’s words in Ephesians 5.1ff,

    “Be ye therefore imitators of God, as beloved children; and walk in love, even as Christ also loved you, and gave himself up for us … but fornication, and all uncleanness, or covetousness, let it not even be named among you … for this ye know of a surety, that no fornicator, nor unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, hath any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God.”

    Paul asks his following to imitate God in love, yet in the same passage, condemn fleshly desire. God’s love is a two-edged sword. “Imitators of God” love with ungodly rules, it seems.

    All it takes to accept homosexuality as a way of life, at least from the biblical perspective, is to consider that Paul the Apostle, as did other church fathers, was a man working out his perception of God’s love, and that the direction supplied to his followers was certainly not a complete definition. The message of love is emphasized, but it excludes unconditional love and the love of some people. It’s a bit presumptuous of Paul to set up the rules for God’s love, especially when there’s good indication that his guy Jesus acted otherwise. In the Gospel of John, Jesus comes to bat for the prostitude who is threatened with stoning merely because she’s a prostitude, which falls under the category of “unclean”. Jesus 1, Paul 0.

  39. Peter says:

    It never ceases to amaze me how rationality flies out the window when the conversation waxes sexual. Reading the comments here about homosexuality is a good example of how HOMOPHOBIC people still are; I mean, if you can’t even get the Skeptics to be on your side, what hope is there? And then they’ll go out and cry on tv about Martin Luther King, Jr. and lament the treatment of Blacks. A lot of hypocrites in our own group, I’d say.

  40. Sheldon W. Helms says:

    Christians aren’t being “un-Christian” when they bash and condemn gays. They’re being “good Christians.” The bible clearly condemns homosexuality, whether we like it or not. (Just more evidence that it was written by people, and not via psychic hotline to an omniscient being.) But you can’t take the position that they’re being better Christians if they act like good people; being a better Christian means following the bible more precisely…and to do THAT, you have a lot of groups to denigrate, condemn, and stone to death.

  41. Harvey Sande says:

    The sad part is not what has happened to Ted, but the unfortunate fact that nothing will be learned from it by the vast majority of those who are, or claim to be, genuinely religious. Ted’s struggle between his beliefs (dogma proven untrue) and his sexual urges (fact) is an example of the denial necessary for religious belief.

  42. J'Carlin says:

    The problem he would have in admitting that his religion was wrong on homosexuality is that his whole religion is based on Paul’s misanthropy and hatred of all things sexual. If everything you do as a human, especially those things you do with your genitals is a sin, you can then internalize the need for a Savior. And Guess what? Paul created one for you: Christ the Son of God, the result of God raping a woman committed to another man, who was tortured, died for a few days and miraculously went to Heaven to save all from the wrath of this dysfunctional God who hates all human sexuality.

  43. bill babishoff says:

    A nice observation, however, I do not agree that a person is absolutely born “gay”. Some seem to be, others turn gay by choice. Some men have an emotional attraction to other men, some a physical attraction and some just enjoy rectal sex. I used to live in Long beach, CA and was constantly having men “hit” on me, but I never had homosexual desires. I would explain that I like women, not men but that answer was rarely good enough. I was often told by other men “you don’t know if you don’t try it”. Well, I’m not interested in trying it. if I was, I would. Obviously these men thought that if I tried it I’d “become” homosexual too. Clearly some people are born that way AND others choose to be. There is nothing wrong with either. It’s just human sexuality expressing itself.

  44. Con Healy says:

    Surely Michael, you jest! Quoting Cromwell in an essay on compassion is like quoting
    Caligula in an essay on sexual abstinence.

  45. MNW says:

    It always amazes me how some of the biggest prejudiced bigots in the world are always associated with Christianity in some way.

    The world would be so much better off if Jesus Christ was aborted by Mary.

  46. Mr Know It All says:

    Ummm.. there is no “devil”.. only hypocritical slimeballs like Teddy-boy who choose to abuse, exploit and oppress others for their own selfish reasons. I think it was the seduction of big money, power and politics that was the real turn-on for him. Straight or gay, the same is true for countless others like him.

    Hitchens is right.. “religion poisons everything”.. even the best laid plans of a schitzo, homo, drug using, presidential advising pastor.

  47. Ray L. Walker says:

    I’ve been an atheist since age 15. Prior to that my education was Roman Catholic. I am familiar with the Bible. Romans 1 clearly and distinctly labels homosexuality as an abomination before the Lord.

    I cannot understand how anyone that knows the power the New Testament has on the Christian who accepts it as divinely inspired, can suggest that all they have to do is accept the homosexual lifestyle as ok, whether biological or not. The Calvinists would say God predestines men to hell and some to heaven. As long as Christianity is a faith based on a Bible written by God, they are stuck with it. The liberal Christians have given up the idea it was written by God and adopt it as a social lifestyle, like Kiwanis or Rotary. Masons.

    I live in the Bible Belt. Moderate liberal Christians are not the majority.

  48. Jim Taylor says:

    Interesting indeed to read the article on Ted Haggard in a strangely sympathetic light — feel sorry for the guy and what he has perpetrated in the name of his twisted interpretation of his religious belief and teaching. This reminds me of the un-attributed saying: “God, save us from your followers”. Perhaps Haggard is reaping the punishment that he has sown, and for this I do not feel sorry for him, except perhaps in a cosmic sense that he duped himself with his extreme religious beliefs.
    As a practicing pagan, I get quite a different perspective on this sort of argument — it’s like watching the monotheists vs the non-theists. Many pagans would subscribe to an ethic that goes something like this: “If it harms none, then do what you will”. And we don’t pile up a bunch of crap on top of that ethic.
    There are a lot of good comments here — it shows the high caliber of our fellow Skeptics.

  49. sonic says:

    By what philosophy do you think anything is a choice?

  50. lalalala says:

    I don’t see any Christians on this blog calling for Haggard’s repentance and writing condemning ultimatums, just the reductionists and relativists, who are bashing the gay Haggard. But that doesn’t fit our meta-narrative in the Skeptic world. If a mother and her adult son consent to sex, then are they being true to themselves? Is Hitchen’s alcoholism true to himself?

  51. Perspective says:

    I have mixed feelings about people who castigate others, I´m not even sure if they believe what they say.
    A different perspective on homosexuality though is that it may very well just be another of natures methods to control populations. I believe most mails have participated in some homosexual encounter as part of the experimentation stage of growing, some young people may think that it must mean they are homosexual and that belief is reinforced by what they are taught both formally and informally. One myth that has been propagated is that only humans practice homosexuality, obviously they must not have observed either dogs or monkeys.
    About pedophiles, even though their behavior is reprehensible, it may be that we do far more damage by how we react to it. Even though the young person is not responsible, they very well might have found some pleasure in the contact. When we say how terrible the person was who controlled the event, we make them feel that their feelings were bad, not that that kind of feeling is normal and that the problem is that the other person used their power in an inappropriate manner. This is possibly a much greater damage than the physical contact itself.

  52. Michael H says:

    Feel sorry (sympathy) for Ted Haggard? No…It is one thing to deny your sexual orientation…many people do and for many different reasons. But Christianity can be practiced BY A GAY person…many Christians are openly Gay. Granted…far more openly Gay men and women participate in organized Christian activities now then when Haggard began his career, but one of the teachings of the Bible is truthfulness…not only to others, but to oneself.

    I could muster a little sympathy for Haggard had he not been so aggressive with this damnation of Gays. At the very least…even if he could not bring himself to leave the closet (I don’t think I could have under the circumstances) he could have been less vocal, less active with his efforts to condemn Gays. OR…he could have actually taken the stance that one’s sexual orientation is no one else’s business. The Bible says very little that supports the Christian’s (some Christians)condemnation of homosexuality.

  53. Clovis Sangrail says:

    In their book Born Gay: the Psychobiology of Sex Orientation , Glenn Wilson, reader in personality at the Institute of Psychiatry in London, and Qazi Rahman, a psychobiologist at the University of East London, declare that “the accumulation of evidence from independent laboratories across the world has shown that the biological differences between gay and straight people cannot be ignored . . . our sexual orientation is a fundamental and immutable component of our human nature”.
    There is no choice in sexual orientation — only choice in how we act on it. After 46 years in a loving monogamous homosexual relationship I know my life is as valid, as loving, as nurturing and as harmless as any other relationship.

  54. max says:

    Most everyone seams to be missing the point. The deeper issue with Ted is not the sex or drugs, it is the fact that he was a leader of people. He new what he was doing, and yet he still chose to lead. There were others in his organization that also new of his wanderings, yet THEY let him lead.

    There in lies the real problem. The Catholic Church did the same things with their Priests that abused children. Instead of coming out publicly or sending them away where they could do no harm. The Church covered it up. Ted’s church covered this fact up as well, so did Ted.

    We see this happing in our public leaders, corporations all areas of our lives. Where is the moral outrage. We should condemn him not for his sexual desires but for his hypocrisy. Every hypocritical leader be they large or small should suffer the same fate as ted.

  55. Stacy Kennedy says:

    Ms. Pelosi did indeed intend for her film to make people feel compassion for Ted Haggard. (I heard her discuss the film with Rachel Maddow, who also felt unexpected sympathy for Mr. Haggard after seeing it.)

    Compassion, of course, may temper moral judgement, but does not preclude it.

  56. Jeff says:

    Whether homosexuality is genetic, developmental, or psychological isn’t the point. It’s about freedom for a harmless sexual lifestyle, regardless of its origins. Christianity’s stance on homosexuality certainly doesn’t help, but some people just need to take a deep breath and let things be the way that they are. I hope Ted Haggard gets to truly do that one day.

  57. alandelman says:

    As skeptics, we are often portrayed as hard-hearted and lacking the warmth and joy associated with so-called spiritual individuals.This thoughtful,generous,and compassionate piece by Michael does a great deal to dispel the negative image of skeptics. What good does it do to continue to rag on Haggard as he’s obviously delusional?

  58. gwen says:

    re:Post#3 As someone who has cared for children ravaged by sexual abuse by adults, I find your comments abhorrent. Have you ever seen a 10month old who has been vaginally penetrated by an adult penis? Would a 2 year old boy make you feel better? I have medically cared for both –and more, luckily I haven’t had to do the psychological cleanup, it would be too much to bear. You carry the point to the absurd. Should we also line up ‘willing’ victims for serial rapist or killers? Yes, people can be born with pedophilia urges, just as people can be born with cancer or other ailments. We TREAT them, in the case of pedophilia, barring success, you place them where they will do no harm to the rest of society. Unlike pedophilia, homosexual acts such as those by Ted Haggard were between two consenting ADULTS.

  59. Max says:

    “As someone who is too emotionally invested to think straight, I’ve missed your whole point, condensed your post into ‘homosexual=pedophile’, and gave a knee-jerk response.”

    Post #3 only points out that “it’s not a choice” does not imply “it’s acceptable”.
    I did explain in a follow-up post that the difference between the two orientations is that acting on one of them happens to cause direct harm. gwen, you say “We TREAT them”, but I gave examples of activists for pedophilia, autism, and Deafness who reject that these conditions are disorders and OPPOSE treatment. Of course that post has been DELETED. Talk about sacred cows.

  60. Jeff says:

    Hello Michael,

    While you raise a number of worthwhile points in your essay, I still can’t generate a great deal of sympathy for Mr Haggard. A little more understanding, perhaps, but that doesn’t undo all the damage he’s done during his fire-and-brimstone career. If more of these hate-mongering preachers, rabbis and imams could suffer the same fate as Haggard has maybe more people would get the message that religion isn’t the infallible guide to behavior they think it is.

    One point you did not raise and few others do is that even though sexuality is probably not a choice, so what if it was? Homosexual acts behind closed doors between consenting adults never caused the downfall of any civilization that I know of, and I have never understood how so many people get so worked up over it. Except in the sense that human tribes seem to need things to rally around, regardless of whether the particulars make any rational sense or whether they cause harm to innocents.

  61. opinionated old fart says:

    Having grown up in an evangelical church, I’ve seen a few people who
    had the same struggle that Ted Haggard has. These people are raised
    believing that homosexuality is sinful, and struggle with their own
    feelings. One teen at my church was known by everyone to be gay, I
    could see him struggle with this, believing it would send him to hell
    for all eternity, I can imagine Haggard going through the same thing. Years later after loosing my religion, a neighbor
    who was a Baptist seminary student seemed to be gay of the “flaming”
    variety. He had a brother with AIDs. When I stated my dislike of
    anti-sodomy laws, he was adamant that gays should not be allowed to
    commit those acts. Nearly thirty years later he is conspicuously out
    of the closet. My point is that I think it’s incredibly callous to not feel some sympathy for Haggard and others in his position. These people are raised with a world view that homosexuality is just as sinful as pedophilia. Of course they are going to fight against it in themselves and in others. Like much “evil” in the world, this (condemning homosexuality) is something that is done to them, and they then go out and do it to others thinking it is the good thing to do.
    These beliefs are not something these people can shed overnight, they are ingrained into them almost as deeply as your sexuality is. How difficult would it be for an athiest to change his beliefs and become a fundamentalist?

  62. Lloyd says:

    It is never ‘wrong’ to forgive or to feel sympathy. Forgiveness does not mean there are no consequences, I just means that the past can not be changed and you are ready to move on. I would never tell someone that they must forgive or feel sympathy, so please don’t tell me it is wrong for me to do so.

  63. Phonse says:

    “How difficult would it be for an athiest to change his beliefs and become a fundamentalist? ”

    An atheist does not have a religious belief system. There are all kinds of atheists, good,bad,gay etc etc. All they have in commmon is a refusal to believe without evidence. There is no philosophy of any religious kind. Most of them lead “good” lives but don’t accept the magic bits of religious stories.

  64. I believe in no dieties and others call me an atheist, while still others argue, no, he’s an agnostic. I don’t much give a damn what others label me. I don’t like the term atheist because it’s the negative alteration of theist. The label says nothing about what I am, only about what I am not.

    I believe in no dieties because I’ve never experienced anything that can only be explained by the existence of a diety. For the same reason, I don’t believe unicorns exists, nor the Cosmic Muffin. Dieties and questions as to whether they exist or whether I do or do not believe they exist simply don’t come up in my life.

    I don’t need any labels to describe what I am not – it is other people who need that label for me.

    That’s right, I’m spiritually generic.

  65. MNW says:

    I’ve been an atheist since age 15. Prior to that my education was Roman Catholic. I am familiar with the Bible. Romans 1 clearly and distinctly labels homosexuality as an abomination before the Lord. – Comment by Ray L. Walker — February 4, 2009 @ 3:09 pm

    And Romans 2? Why is it that everyone who ever rolls out the Romans 1 “clear” condemnation completely misses THE POINT of Romans 1?

    YOU have to read Romans 2, if you want to understand why Paul is so “clear” in his condemnations of others in Romans 1.

    It’s basically like this….

    Romans 1:

    Look…over there…look at those awful people. Look at how they sin. Look at how they are.

    Romans 2:

    YOU are no different from them!!!!!!!!!!!!


    And…NO…Romans 1 does not say ANYTHING about homosexuals or homosexuality. Romans 1 describes HETEROSEXUALS that worship idols and other such nonsense, and that by doing so they no longer act on their NATURAL instincts and attractions, but instead choose to have sex with others of the same sex.

    I am a homosexual. I have always been attracted others of the same sex. I have never worshipped idols that looked like birds etc. I have never had a natural attraction to someone of the opposite sex. Romans 1 is not describing me or any of the gay people I know.

    But that is not the point of Romans 1. The point of Romans 1 is usually completely missed by those who believe themselves “educated”. I’m sorry to say, Ray, but you weren’t “educated” by the Roman Catholic church. You were indoctrinated by them. There is a HUGE difference between the two.

  66. Brent Yaciw says:

    Should we feel sympathetic for a drug addict who, knowing how much harm the drugs are doing him, still works hard at pushing drugs and hooking young people because that’s the only occupation he’s ever known? I don’t think so. I’m not ready to give Teddy a pass because he was sucked into the drug of religion at a young age, nor because he has finally recognized that the drug is doing serious harm and isn’t the “all good” high he thought it was.

    From what I’ve seen, Haggard is still in denial about religion; he’s rationalizing abuse and still claiming that there is a god, that faith is a virtue, and that religion in general is a positive force. He has not repented.

  67. Robert Kelly says:

    I’m a gay man. That doesn’t grant my opinions any extra weight, but I think having been closeted grants me some insight into this matter. My views are also certainly not universal among other gay men who loathe Ted Haggard and who wouldn’t share an ounce of compassion for him. But I say to the mob here: I can’t feel anything other than deep sadness and despair.

    First of all, one has to dispense with the conventional and lazy use of the word hypocrisy, and understand that a hypocrite is a person who believes something contrary to one’s stated views. Take a journalist who, say, puts on a condescending and pitying attitude to the witness of a family murder but inside doesn’t care, and is in fact happy to have the scoop. Or a more apt (and easy) example: A politician who says that they’re clean, but *knows* they’re not, and continues to stash stacks of hundred dollar bills in the freezer. These are individuals I think it would be fair to call hypocrites.

    Ted Haggard, on the other hand, is a complicated and damaged person. But he’s driven to act out his impulses nonetheless. He debases himself in dangerous situations while under the influence of mind-bending drugs. And he does this because he believes in part that what he’s doing is wrong, because he’s twisted up inside and really, actually psychologically damaged.

    The story itself is fascinating. He is clearly struggling with his sexuality. He says he still “struggles” with attraction to men, that he still finds some men attractive, but that he loves his wife and wants to stick it out. Says she’s a saint.

    He lost everything, was couch surfing and living in a hotel working as one of those guys hanging up door hangers, and selling insurance on straight commission. He was turned down from jobs because as soon as anything would go his way it’d pop up on the news and his employers would back out.

    He is suffering in a very real way and is a victim of prejudice and homophobia. Michael Shermer did the right thing in calling for an end to the scorn and ridicule of this lifetime of trauma often enough–I should add–spat out by straight people with little conception of what Mr. Haggard is going through.

    If you appreciate this perspective, please check out my blog at or by following the link through my name.

  68. Jennifer says:

    I can understand why Michael, who is not gay, can feel sympathy for Ted Haggard. Michael has experienced life as a fundamentalist but he hasn’t experienced the effects of Christian homophobia in his personal life. If he had, he might not be so forgiving.

    I hope the readers here will indulge my need to tell my own personal experiences in this matter.

    After the death of my life-time partner I was hospitalized because of nervous exhaustion. I was put under the care of a very charming and kind (except with regards to my homosexuality) Christian fundamentalist psychiatrist. It didn’t take long before she began urging me to pray to become heterosexual. (I had never expressed any unhappiness with my sexuality however.) She steadily upped the ante, involving her Pastor husband who came and repeatedly advised me that my relationship with my deceased partner was an abomination in the eyes of God. Given the circumstances of my partner’s recent death it was unbelievably cruel and insensitive of them both. This experience actually brought me to the brink of suicide. Their care was extremely destructive.

    Despite many efforts on my part to explain to them that homosexuality is not a choice, that their religion was being a force for evil instead of good inthis respect, they remain stubbornly insistent upon their homophobic viewpoint. As with all absolutist ideologues they cannot accept any criticism of their system of thought despite the suffering they are producing. What makes it all the more difficult for me is that apart from this aspect of their beliefs they are both very nice people.

    I intend to continue to fight the oppressive behaviour of homophobic Christians in the public sphere. If the clinic forbids the psychiatrist described above from treating any other homosexual patients all well and good. I will have achieved some measure of justice. Should I feel sorry for them when their homophobia is exposed?… absolutely not. Their behavior is dangerous, and needs to be opposed.

    As many posters here have pointed out, Ted Haggard has also harmed many people. Do I feel sorry for his current state of disgrace? absolutely not. When he finally apologises and takes a stand against Christian homophobia and promotes inclusion and grace for all, gay or straight, then I will forgive Ted

    Thanks for the space to tell my story.

  69. chickenfish says:

    Max – but I gave examples of activists for pedophilia, autism, and Deafness who reject that these conditions are disorders and OPPOSE treatment.

    This has been my experience as well. The feel good denial and politically correct trumps healthy logic every time.

    Homosexuality is sex and hopefully some love, a man walking down the street in makeup and heels is stupid. How do homosexuals make the distinction between someone who is gay and someone who is a freak in denial?

    As far as I am concerned, the jury is out until conclusive study can be done without outside influences from political and special interest groups.

  70. matt guzda says:

    being gays not a choice. choosing a job is a choice. he neednt of been a gay bashing preacher yet decided to do so. while the pressure on him to accept a hateful veiw of homosexuality must of been overwhelmingly strong, amongst his ” christian” bretheren, he had the choice to emulate the rights icon, joe da plumber.

  71. bj says:

    ted was just filling a void so the dumb scared anti-everthing religious freakos could continue their hypocritical lifes.a quality free secular education system is the only hope.

  72. pricklesngoo says:

    Everyone’s missed the point entirely. It’s not about Ted, sexuality, or compassion…it’s whether the need to be religious is a choice or genetic and if it is the latter, can there be a cure?!

  73. alistair says:

    Few will deny that Mr. Haggard’s journey has been a remarkable one; few people go through the Hell that he has being asked again to endure. We may choose to gloat a little bit, seeing a fundamentalist again stung by a second revelation of what he perceived as a sin against his religion and his God. Perhaps he’ll learn from this and salvage himself and his family. Maybe he’ll come to terms with who he really is and find some measure of comfort there. Of course, he may delve more deeply into denial and become a “healed” SuperChristian. No matter what he does, it is apparent that his days as a moral, religious role model are over. I just hope he finds peace.

  74. Scarlett says:

    What Christianity needs to do is to start being true to the teachings of Christ. I’m not aware of any passage in the New Testament where Christ condemns homosexuality. I do know it appears in the Old Testament. But it also says to sacrifice animals, give the death penalty to adulterers and cut off the hand of a thief. So, I’m not sure why Christians aren’t pushing to follow the Bible on those commands, but yet they feel compelled to rail against homosexuality. Perhaps because the real problem is politicians (and preachers like Haggard) using these “hot button” issues to whip up the followers into a frenzy come election time. Election time is the only time anyone feels gay marriage is a big deal, apparently.

    Christians need to reject the harsh Old Testament and follow the teachings of Christ who commands them to love the sinner and hate the sin and commands only those without sin to cast the first stone. He also said something about taking the log out of your own eye before trying to take the speck out of your own. Wise words if Christians would heed them. Haggard is but another false “prophet” and Christians are being led astray when they should know better.

  75. Max says:

    Scarlett, do you think religious Jews “sacrifice animals, give the death penalty to adulterers and cut off the hand of a thief” because they follow the harsh Old Testament?

  76. Mike Jones says:

    Scarlett, you sound like a Christian Fundamentalist. Christanity is more influenced by the apostle Paul than Jesus of Nazareth, Christ to believers.
    Paul states that male homosexuals deserve to die (Romans 1. 24-32)
    and also that “Sodomites will not inherit the kingdom of God” Corinthians 6. 9-10
    Paul had the advantage of literacy and was a Pharisee, having a much higher status than Jesus who came from an artisan background and was believed to be illiterate, using parables rather than the written word.
    Historians credit Paul with the spread of Christianity which otherwise would have been a Jewish splinter group and now only a small footnote in history.

  77. Pablo says:

    I agree that religious people’s beliefs about gays lead them to comb the scriptures for passages that best suit their prejudices. The Bible teaches that sin is sin and no sin is greater than the other. You don’t see propositions on ballots to ban liars, divorcees and other type of sinners. Why? Because then the finger points back at them.

  78. GregB says:

    First of all, it is vitally important for the religious right to claim that homosexuality is a choice because if it wasn’t a choice it can’t be a sin. i.e. “If you’re not in control of your actions than how can you be blamed for the sin that results from that action?”

    Ted seems to be telling us that being gay is a choice while at the same time denying that his gay exploits were the results of his choice.

    But the real argument is : So what? What if it’s not a choice? Does that really change anything? Is being gay morally wrong?

    I can make an argument for what murder or theft is morally wrong without invoking God. I am at a loss to explain how the fact that somebody is gay causes harm to anyone in any way. How does allowing my gay friends (who have been a couple for over 25 years) to have the same civil rights that my wife and I have in any way harm my marriage?

    And for those Christians who like to use the phrase “Hate the sin love the sinner”, you need to look up the meaning of “passive-aggressive.”

  79. Max says:

    GregB, are you saying that homosexuals can’t control their actions? If I were gay, I’d be insulted. Don’t confuse attraction with action.

    Did you mean to say, “So what? What if it IS a choice?”
    That’s the case with bisexuals, right?

    How might same sex marriage dilute the meaning of marriage?
    First, marriage has always been about making babies and starting a family. Second, same sex marriage is a slippery slope to “marriage is between any number of consenting adults”.

    “Hate the sin love the sinner” is a Gandhi quote. But if the “sinner” can’t control his actions, then it’s not a sin but a mental illness, in which case, “Hate the illness, love the ill.”

  80. Shahar Lubin says:

    Max says “How might same sex marriage dilute the meaning of marriage?
    First, marriage has always been about making babies and starting a family. Second, same sex marriage is a slippery slope to “marriage is between any number of consenting adults””
    So what if it does. How is that immoral? How is that dangerous enough to society for it to curtail equality? If it’s conesntual, if doesn’t hurt anyone, get the blip out of the way.

    Oh also, what history book are you getting “marriage has always been about making babies and starting a family.” from? Marriage is and have been about alot of things. Politics, commerce, control and even love. Even if that assertion was true(if you oversimplify the definition and focus only on judeo-christian societies) that argument smells of the logical fallacy of argument from antiquity. Women lost the right for property in getting married so it must be the way it stays for ever according to your logic.

    It’s amazing how skeptics can wrap the same old prejudicisms in a logic web, so they won’t have to change their minds. This isn’t looking at the evidence and seeing where it goes. This is the kind of cherry picking we accuse the creationsts and homeopaths to be doing.

  81. bj says:

    you people are really wierd

  82. MotherLodeBeth says:

    I am no expert, but its my understanding that Christianity teaches the idea of ‘free will’. As such Ted Haggart as an adult had the choice to be an adult or lie about who is is. Nowhere in the Christian texts does Christ ever mention gays/lesbians. In the Jewish texts there is no mention of lesbian sex. Unless people actually know the context of what they are quoting, they are misleading themselves and others. And on the issue of marriage, from the get go it was about protecting the estate of men. It wasnt about love and romance. Until the 70’s when Americans married, most ceremonies ended with ‘I now pronounce you Man and wife’. This went back to the whole idea of the wife as property. Read the book History of the Wife. The founding fathers said we had the right to life liberty and the pursuit of happiness. As such I think people have the right to choose whom they want as their partner(s) in life with all the legal protections they can have.

  83. Living Hell says:

    @Max – You’re completely right. Being a paedophile is no more a choice than any other sexual orientation. I believe part of the reason people find this hard to accept is because the media use the term ‘paedophile’ as a synonym for ‘child molester’. It’s not. Many who molest kids are not actually paedophiles but rather predators who take advantage of any situation that presents itself.

    I am a person who is unfortunate enough to be born with this despised orientation. It was never a choice for me. After all, why would anyone choose to be hated but nearly all of society? I understand that to act on my attractions is likely to cause harm and have therefore never touched a child in a sexual manner and never will. For those who allow their xenophobia and bigotry to cloud their judgement, I ask you: can you imagine a life where you can never allow yourself to act on your sexual attractions? A life in which you know that most people want you dead or at least locked up purely because of your sexual orientation; regardless of whether you act on it or not? A life in which you have to keep a core part of your being a secret from everyone you know and love? I would venture to guess that no one posting here understands what it is like. Even at the darkest times in their history, homosexuals have never known the depth of hatred directed as such as I.

    I’d suggest that those who seek knowledge and truth rather than simply wallowing in ignorance take the time to look into this issue as there are many innocent people who suffer a miserable existence due to the rampant paedophobia in our society.

  84. Linda Rosa says:

    Michael, I’m glad you wrote about Haggard. I saw the film also, and I was disappointed the filmmaker would shy away from hardball questions about homosexuality.

    I couldn’t help thinking that Haggard was using the film to speak to his old congregation, that was shunning him, so that he could show how rock bottom he had sunk, how humble he was. Preachers often brag about how low they had once fallen. “No one was worse than me!” And sure enough, at the end of the film, we are told Haggard was allowed back into his Colorado Springs home.

  85. Ron says:

    I normally would not wish any ill will to Ted Haggard – but I certainly don’t feel sorry for him – and if the other comments on here are true and he made other peoples lives a living hell or advocated that to advance his ideology (especially when it comes being gay) then he certainly deserves everything he is getting. He is a sad, sad man. His wife to. I do feel sorry for his kids. I couldn’t imagine being one of his kids – or what they are going to have to deal with as they grow up in the shadow of Ted’s transgressions.

    I also have more comments on this in my own 8th rate blog

  86. jdac says:

    I feel a certain sympathy for Ted Haggard, but only so long as I don’t think about who he is and what he represented and represents.

    He’s a moral and ethical train wreck. He’s a liar and a demagogue. Thinking of the world he wants to see realized in his warped religious beliefs enrages me.

    Each time I think of this, I find myself amused by Haggard’s suffering, and the chagrin that I hope his followers feel. Not so much by the pain he’s visited on his family, or gays at large, either personally or by proxy through his followers.