Earlier this month, North Carolina voters approved a constitutional amendment defining marriage as the union between a man and a woman, effectively banning same-sex marriage. This wasn’t quite far enough for Pastor Charles Worley, however. In a sermon to his congregation, he shared some of his own ideas about the subject:
“I figured a way out, a way to get rid of all the lesbians and queers but I couldn’t get it pass the Congress – build a great big large fence, 50 or a hundred mile long. Put all the lesbians in there, fly over and drop some food. Do the same thing with the queers and the homosexuals. And have that fence electrified so they can’t get out. And you know what? In a few years they will die out.”
We’ll ignore his faulty logic (and the terrifying realization that Godwin’s law is infiltrating real life) and focus on the overall message: gays and lesbians are not real citizens and do not deserve the basic rights we attribute to all humans. While this is a horrifying statement for anyone to say (especially someone in a position of authority), the most disturbing part is the reaction of the audience, which wholeheartedly agrees with him.
In an interview with Anderson Cooper, a member of Worley’s congregation attempted to justify his statement, calling it a metaphor (but never explaining what the metaphor actually was) and trying to say that nobody would actually put gays and lesbians in concentration camps. But throughout the interview, she comes across as ignorant and confused, unsure of her own opinions. When asked if she believes adulterers should be put to death, she struggles with an answer for a while before finally saying yes. And while she asserts that homosexuality is wrong, she can’t seem to come out and say that homosexuals should die.
This interview is indicative of the cognitive dissonance caused by religion. The woman says that no one would go through with Worley’s suggestion, but also says that it should be done if “they can’t get the message that [homosexuality] is wrong.” It seems like she’s trying to hold onto the “Christian” value of love while accepting the words of her pastor, which contradict that value. We see this in most religious fundamentalists—the struggle to reconcile the contradictions between the teachings in holy books, the ideas their pastors promote, and their own sense of morality. By parroting his words, and failing to form her own coherent thoughts on the subject, this woman demonstrates an extreme of one of the main dangers of religion—the blind acceptance of dogma.
This situation illustrates a popular quote by H.L. Mencken: Morality is doing what is right, regardless of what you’re told. Religion is doing what you are told, regardless of what is right.