Chad Ellis
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In a recent thread, Alaren challenged people who say that it's bigoted to be intolerant of homosexuality (on the grounds that it's innate, akin to race or sex). His argument, as I understand it, ran roughly as follows:

1. Science suggests that while there is clearly a genetic component to homosexuality, it is not genetically deterministic in the way that race or sex is. The identical twin of a black gay male will be black and male but has roughly a 50% chance of being gay.

2. If we divide all causal factors into genetic and environmental, that means that homosexuality is at least partly environmental.

3. For many people, their religious beliefs are also environmental; thus, if it is true that homosexuality is beyond someone's control then it must also be true that Christianity is beyond someone's control.

4. Therefore, if it is bigoted to be intolerant or negative towards homosexuality (based on Christian beliefs) it is therefore also bigoted to be intolerant or negative towards Christianity.

I'm sure that's not entirely right, and I hope Alaren will correct me. For now, I'll work under the assumption this is basically the argument.

The first area I disagree with is the conflation of everything other than genetics under the term "environment". This treats effects caused by hormones in the womb as equivalent to lessons taught by parents to peer pressure during high school prom night. I don't think that's a useful conflation.

It may be true that some Christians have limited or even no choice in their beliefs. Certainly a child raised in a given faith is much, much more likely to hold that faith as an adult than a child raised in a different, or no faith. (And hey, if Calvinists are right none of us have any choice in our beliefs.) I think this is certainly worth bearing in mind when we talk about choices and intolerance.

That said, there does seem to be a meaningful difference -- perhaps in kind perhaps merely in degree -- between being GLBT and being Christian. First, the great majority of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered people self-describe as having no choice in the matter and having been, if not born that way, then at least GLBT since early childhood. I've been bisexual as long as I remember and I don't even know what it means to say that it's something I chose to be. Christians, meanwhile, regularly report that faith is, at least in part, a choice -- even a constant choice.

Similarly, the "success" rate at becoming ex-gay is very low, even before we take into account that those trying conversion therapy are highly motivated. I don't know of a single person who has set out to become homosexual and succeeded (although, to be fair, I don't know of any who has tried, either).

However people come by their religious views, they change (when they change) differently than sexual orientation. It's too broad a topic to try to cover here in depth, but we all know people who have become atheists or theists, and it isn't the same.

With that in mind, I think it's incorrect to conflate sexual orientation and Christianity. There may certainly be similarities, and I'm the first to agree that our conventional views on choice and free will are unlikely to be accurate, but I think there is sensible room between "everything about us is chosen" and "life is deterministic". Similarly, it is possible that some things are beyond choice (even if not purely genetic) and that other things, while certainly influenced, can still reasonably be judged part of what we're at least partly responsible for, whether for praise or blame. I think it is likely that our sexual orientation lays in the former category for most of us and that our worldviews are in the latter.

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I would put in that I think he notion of "choice" here a bit of a proverbial red herring.

When I was in high school, my perception was that a certain clique in school actively tried to recruit people in school as being "gay". Typically the targeted social misfits who seemed unsure of themselves. One person who was a friend of a friend (as I then perceived things) chose to stop coming round to where I would encounter him, and the friend who this other kid had stopped hanging out with told me the guy had been recruited to this clique. The guy telling me this was a bit bummed and explained that the friend who would no longer hang out with him had decided that his social standing would improve if he chose to be gay and hang out with people who also self-identified as such.

As an adult, I imagine that the reality involves more of a "coming out". Yet hypothetically let us suppose that the kid did in fact choose to be gay in this case. What fundamental difference does it make?
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whac3 wrote:
I would put in that I think he notion of "choice" here a bit of a proverbial red herring.

When I was in high school, my perception was that a certain clique in school actively tried to recruit people in school as being "gay". Typically the targeted social misfits who seemed unsure of themselves. One person who was a friend of a friend (as I then perceived things) chose to stop coming round to where I would encounter him, and the friend who this other kid had stopped hanging out with told me the guy had been recruited to this clique. The guy telling me this was a bit bummed and explained that the friend who would no longer hang out with him had decided that his social standing would improve if he chose to be gay and hang out with people who also self-identified as such.

As an adult, I imagine that the reality involves more of a "coming out". Yet hypothetically let us suppose that the kid did in fact choose to be gay in this case. What fundamental difference does it make?


This honestly sounds to me like a case of choosing to live as if gay, even if not 'really gay'--I suspect that this man may find himself coming out as straight 10 years down the road.

It is not at all unusual for people who have homosexual thoughts/feelings to try to live as a straight person, get married, have kids etc. It's not that they've chosen to be straight, it's that they attempt to live that way, and it doesn't usually work out that well. My own mother, who is a lesbian, told me once that she 'wanted to do what was expected'--she wanted a normal life, kids, white picket fence etc. She chose to try to live as a heterosexual, but eventually gave that up. I suspect that is what the friend from this anecdote may eventually do.

(Edited: spelling)
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There are lots of things in human development that can alter the sexual preferences. I think if each of us were honest with ourselves we'd find a great deal of what we are attracted to sexually has some correlation with events in adolescence. The flip side is, there is no way I can CHOSE what I am attracted sexually.. I mean there are therapies that claim to do this and perhaps new sexual memories in adulthood can affect and perhaps even change sexual preferences, but for the most part, sexual preference, even those that society would deem as criminal, are static. I think most mental health professionals would say something similar.

Now what one does with these sexual preferences is probably a more contentious topic.
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I'd like to comment on the op but there is nothing more to add.
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Something like this becomes interesting for determinists. On one hand, neither individual had a choice in settling into their "type" for their respective lifestyle aspects. On the other, it certainly seems like if the veil of free will is adopted the sexual aspect is less of a choice. Does that still hold any relevance once you remove free will again? Are there degrees of choicelessness in a world without choices?
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We have free will to live withing the confines society allows. We are also the product of out nature's bent into shape to for our nurture's.
 
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Chad_Ellis wrote:
In a recent thread, Alaren challenged people who say that it's bigoted to be intolerant of homosexuality (on the grounds that it's innate, akin to race or sex). His argument, as I understand it, ran roughly as follows:

1. Science suggests that while there is clearly a genetic component to homosexuality, it is not genetically deterministic in the way that race or sex is. The identical twin of a black gay male will be black and male but has roughly a 50% chance of being gay.

2. If we divide all causal factors into genetic and environmental, that means that homosexuality is at least partly environmental.

3. For many people, their religious beliefs are also environmental; thus, if it is true that homosexuality is beyond someone's control then it must also be true that Christianity is beyond someone's control.

4. Therefore, if it is bigoted to be intolerant or negative towards homosexuality (based on Christian beliefs) it is therefore also bigoted to be intolerant or negative towards Christianity.

I'm sure that's not entirely right, and I hope Alaren will correct me. For now, I'll work under the assumption this is basically the argument.

The first area I disagree with is the conflation of everything other than genetics under the term "environment". This treats effects caused by hormones in the womb as equivalent to lessons taught by parents to peer pressure during high school prom night. I don't think that's a useful conflation.

It may be true that some Christians have limited or even no choice in their beliefs. Certainly a child raised in a given faith is much, much more likely to hold that faith as an adult than a child raised in a different, or no faith. (And hey, if Calvinists are right none of us have any choice in our beliefs.) I think this is certainly worth bearing in mind when we talk about choices and intolerance.

That said, there does seem to be a meaningful difference -- perhaps in kind perhaps merely in degree -- between being GLBT and being Christian. First, the great majority of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered people self-describe as having no choice in the matter and having been, if not born that way, then at least GLBT since early childhood. I've been bisexual as long as I remember and I don't even know what it means to say that it's something I chose to be. Christians, meanwhile, regularly report that faith is, at least in part, a choice -- even a constant choice.

Similarly, the "success" rate at becoming ex-gay is very low, even before we take into account that those trying conversion therapy are highly motivated. I don't know of a single person who has set out to become homosexual and succeeded (although, to be fair, I don't know of any who has tried, either).

However people come by their religious views, they change (when they change) differently than sexual orientation. It's too broad a topic to try to cover here in depth, but we all know people who have become atheists or theists, and it isn't the same.

With that in mind, I think it's incorrect to conflate sexual orientation and Christianity. There may certainly be similarities, and I'm the first to agree that our conventional views on choice and free will are unlikely to be accurate, but I think there is sensible room between "everything about us is chosen" and "life is deterministic". Similarly, it is possible that some things are beyond choice (even if not purely genetic) and that other things, while certainly influenced, can still reasonably be judged part of what we're at least partly responsible for, whether for praise or blame. I think it is likely that our sexual orientation lays in the former category for most of us and that our worldviews are in the latter.



My first reaction is to recall that for many people their liberal or conservativeness appears to have a (large) genetic component.

My second reaction, based on knowledge of a long tradition of homosexual behavior on ships and prison where the opposite sex are unavailable but also "downlow" behavior and what goes on in video stores and female college dorms, is that most human beings are bisexual.

Only pure gays/straights have no choice. Bisexuals who are mostly straight or nearly gay have little choice with regard to their major preference and a lot of choice over their minor preference.

It's because of the pressures we place on people that they act straight or gay. We place strong pressure to choose ONE person. Society places strong pressure to be straight. And finally, our local community places strong pressure on us to conform or be ostracized.

By definition, any strong bisexual is going to have trouble being happy.

By being brought up that sex is sinful and intended for only two people, a lot of unhappiness results for people who are not strongly straight.
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I don't know why questions of genetics, environment, or choice matter to questions of bigotry. My choices deserve as much respect as what I have no control over.

That doesn't mean that you aren't allowed to disagree with people or fight like hell if others try to impose their beliefs on you. I also feel no obigation to be tolerant of other's intolerance.
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It would be a lot easier if some of these religions just took the stance that Satan manipulated these babies in the womb to test the faithful and their ability to keep his law. Then choice becomes irrelevant, as you can frame the debate as not catering to the spawn of the Devil. Making it about choice and sin makes everything too complex.
 
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maxo-texas wrote:
My first reaction is to recall that for many people their liberal or conservativeness appears to have a (large) genetic component

I think it is a mistake to say being liberal or conservative or religious or not religious has anything to do with genetics at all. They are all belief systems, they have nothing to do with DNA. Your DNA determines your hair, eye, skin color, your gender, height, whether or not you'll be bald, etc. Being raised in a religious/not religious, conservative/liberal household teaches you what to believe in... and that changes in a lot of people as they get older and have new experiences, meet new people etc.

As far as the argument of whether being gay is genetic or environmental - while the statistics may be true that for identical twins if one is gay, the other has a 50% chance of being gay... that does not dismiss the idea that is isn't largely based in genetics.

Also, there are some environmental factors that have permanent effects on a person - especially factors that happen while in the womb. There are theories that suggest hand-dominance is determined in the womb, so it's not necessarily genetically determined, but something still determined before birth. If being gay is determined through genetics or in the womb, it would still be accurate to say a person is born gay.

And if being gay is a "choice" than sexuality would be a "choice" which would mean that everyone would be bisexual or omni-sexual and that just isn't true. Sure there are a lot of "straight" people who might actually be gay or bisexual, but they are repressed and probably miserable. The only "choice" they have compared to an out gay/bi person is to remain in the closet and to not act on their natural impulses. Maybe that is why so many fundamental conservatives say being gay is a choice, maybe a number of them are closeted gays and made a "choice" to remain in the closet and fein a straight lifestyle.

*Edited: removed personal anecdote
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horfrost3 wrote:
maxo-texas wrote:
My first reaction is to recall that for many people their liberal or conservativeness appears to have a (large) genetic component

I think it is a mistake to say being liberal or conservative or religious or not religious has anything to do with genetics at all. They are all belief systems, they have nothing to do with DNA. Your DNA determines your hair, eye, skin color, your gender, height, whether or not you'll be bald, etc.


Why can't DNA have anything to do with how you think?
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Chad_Ellis wrote:
However people come by their religious views, they change (when they change) differently than sexual orientation. It's too broad a topic to try to cover here in depth, but we all know people who have become atheists or theists, and it isn't the same.


And I agree that it isn't the same. But I also maintain that the religious experience is more like sexuality than sexuality is like race or sex. I think it would be interesting to ask those Christians who maintain that their religion is a choice, whether they could just "switch religions" on a whim. I doubt many would say yes. I do not think religion is an immutable characteristic. Neither do I think it is a "lightswitch." I think it is, like so many other aspects of human existence, inescapably gestalt. Whether or not it is "chosen" will depend greatly on what is meant by choice; but certainly it is not immutable.

Your final claim seems to be, though I may have misunderstood you, that religion is more something we're "at least partly responsible for, whether for praise or blame" than is sexuality, because to whatever extent either is choosable or at least mutable, religion is much more willfully mutable than sexuality. I probably accept the claim that religion is more mutable, at least in our present culture, than sexuality, but I do not think that fact speaks at all to your argument about responsibility, for the simple reason that sexuality is separable from sexual activity.

Here, again, we see a great deal more in common between sexuality and religion than between sexuality and race. One cannot be "a non-practicing Asian." One might be a non-practicing homosexual, and one might be a non-practicing Catholic, but what would it mean to be a "non-practicing woman?" In the other thread, a few people brought up the "being homosexual isn't evil, but having homosexual sex is" argument. People in that thread didn't seem to think it was a very good argument. And yet they found it perfectly acceptable to say of Christianity, "I don't have any problems with your faith, I just have problems with you practicing it (i.e. defending traditional marriage)."

I see some parallels there.
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rshipley wrote:

Why can't DNA have anything to do with how you think?


HOW you think (thought processes, type of learner, etc) and your IQ are different and those are most likely genetically linked, WHAT you belief is not genetic.

Believing in a certain religion is not genetic. For example, there is a difference between being jewish ethnically and being jewish religiously. You can be ethnically jewish, but not believe the jewish faith; you may not be jewish ethnically, but be of the jewish faith. Ethnic groups are genetic.

In the Christian faiths, you are not born Christian, you are baptized Christian, there is a difference. One of my parents is Catholic, the other is Lutheran. I am not a mixed religion genetically; I was raised and baptized Catholic. So were my siblings, but now one of my siblings is Lutheran, another agnostic, another Buddhist. If your belief system was genetic, you could not change it. I can't change my eye color, I can wear contacts to give the appearance of a different color, but that doesn't change my DNA. I can dye my hair, but when it grows in, it grows in the color determined by my DNA. See the difference?
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Alaren wrote:

Here, again, we see a great deal more in common between sexuality and religion than between sexuality and race. One cannot be "a non-practicing Asian." One might be a non-practicing homosexual, and one might be a non-practicing Catholic, but what would it mean to be a "non-practicing woman?"


A non-practicing homosexual is still homosexual. You can't NOT be gay if you are gay, you can just be single. And yes, while you can't change your religion on a whim, you can still change/convert to another religion. If you are gay you can't convert to straight, it doesn't work that way.

Sexuality is more related to being left-handed or right-handed. A left-handed person can force themselves to write with their right hand, but it would be difficult and they would never be as capable with that hand then the one that they are naturally inclined to use. Hand dominance isn't necessarily genetic, but some scientists believe it to be determined in the womb.
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Alaren wrote:
I think the "lightswitch" theory of sexuality is obviously false.


Alaren wrote:
The one I know became a lesbian when she took on militant feminism as an ideology. She's quite adamant that her sexuality is a chosen rejection of patriarchy.

These two statements seem at odds.
 
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Alaren wrote:

And scientifically speaking, it supports my assertion that sexuality is more like religion than like race, at least in the sense that it is apparently not biologically determined, or at least not by any biology present in utero.

Unless you flip it on it's head: Sexuality is more like race than like Christianity, at least in the sense that there is not a genetic predisposition towards Christianity.
 
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Alaren wrote:
horfrost3 wrote:
A non-practicing homosexual is still homosexual.


Whereas "a non-practicing Asian" is nonsense.


You could say a non-practicing Asian is someone who is asian, but who goes against the customs and traditions of their race. Or a non-practicing woman could be a person born in a woman's body who does not identify as a female (man in a woman's body.) A non-practicing homosexual still has attraction to people of their gender, even if they aren't dating and are choosing to be celibate.

It's different to be a non-practicing Catholic and a non-practicing homosexual. How do I know? Because I've been in both situations. I was raised Catholic and had a difficult time coming to terms with my sexuality because of my faith and after I came out I choose not to date, but I still found women attractive, I couldn't turn it off. As a Catholic, you have to work at your faith, your faith doesn't remain as strong if you don't make an effort. I wasn't born Catholic, I was baptized and when I was 17, I was confirmed. Confirmation is a person choosing their faith. I didn't choose to be gay, I am gay and it was a very difficult struggle for me. I still consider myself Catholic, though most Catholics would consider me a non-practicing one since I am in a committed same-sex relationship. So, in my experience there is a very real difference between being gay and being Catholic.

Alaren wrote:
horfrost3 wrote:
If you are gay you can't convert to straight, it doesn't work that way.


But how is it even possibly to determine whether someone has "converted" or not, when we don't even have a good definition of "homosexual" to begin with? The supposed "immutability" of sexuality remains an unsupported article of faith, and maybe even one with scientific evidence to the contrary.

There is a lot of grey areas when it comes to sexuality, but some people are truly only attracted to one gender and for those people they can not change. There are people who experiment or who are curious and who later return to opposite sex relationships, but they were most likely never gay to begin with.
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Alaren wrote:
spoon wrote:
Alaren wrote:
I think the "lightswitch" theory of sexuality is obviously false.


Alaren wrote:
The one I know became a lesbian when she took on militant feminism as an ideology. She's quite adamant that her sexuality is a chosen rejection of patriarchy.

These two statements seem at odds.


That is because of your continued refusal to accept that the mutability of a trait does not equate to simple flick-of-a-switch choice.
No, I completely accept that. I think we disagree where, though, it falls on a "ease to flip" scale.

On a scale of 1-10, where 1 = flipping a lightswitch, and 10 = nearly impossible to do, where do you place "changing your sexual orientation".

I'd give it a 10. I wouldn't even know how to approach it.



 
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Alaren wrote:
spoon wrote:
Alaren wrote:

And scientifically speaking, it supports my assertion that sexuality is more like religion than like race, at least in the sense that it is apparently not biologically determined, or at least not by any biology present in utero.

Unless you flip it on it's head: Sexuality is more like race than like Christianity, at least in the sense that there is not a genetic predisposition towards Christianity.


I do not think it is coherent to talk about race as a "genetic predisposition." Given MZ twins with a predisposition toward heart disease, life choices can have an impact on empirical outcome. Given MZ twins with a "genetic predisposition" to be Asian, however, life choices are irrelevant.
That would be a 100% predisposition.
 
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horfrost3 wrote:
rshipley wrote:
Why can't DNA have anything to do with how you think?


HOW you think (thought processes, type of learner, etc) and your IQ are different and those are most likely genetically linked, WHAT you belief is not genetic.


But the sort of thing you tend to believe might be.

Quote:
If your belief system was genetic, you could not change it. I can't change my eye color, I can wear contacts to give the appearance of a different color, but that doesn't change my DNA. I can dye my hair, but when it grows in, it grows in the color determined by my DNA. See the difference?


Yes, but your argument makes assumptions that I don't about genetics. I'm not saying you inherit your parents' religion. I'm saying that some people might have a tendency to have religion and others not or some might have a tendency toward conservative thought patterns and other toward liberal.
 
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horfrost3 wrote:
maxo-texas wrote:
My first reaction is to recall that for many people their liberal or conservativeness appears to have a (large) genetic component

I think it is a mistake to say being liberal or conservative or religious or not religious has anything to do with genetics at all. They are all belief systems, they have nothing to do with DNA. Your DNA determines your hair, eye, skin color, your gender, height, whether or not you'll be bald, etc.

(other stuff deleted)

http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/intersection/2011/06/16/is...

And also quite likely, the fact that you will be a risk taker, or not, or a firemen, or a fighter or a pacifist, or an artist or not, or not, or ... to the point:

a convervative or liberal..

See here...

http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/intersection/2011/06/16/is...

It's not yet settled science but it is very interesting.

Quote:
Human behavior emerges from the interaction and interplay of genes, socialization and environmental stimuli, working through ontogenetic neurobiological processes embedded in an evolutionary framework (Dobzhansky 1973). So far as the data suggest, a theory and method which includes genetic influences, no matter how large or small, accounts for portions of Conservative-Liberal orientations that environment-only models do not.


http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=the-genetic...

The Genetics of Politics
A study finds that biology strongly governs voter turnout
Quote:
Plomin states that “these findings are strong,” but in his analysis of the same data, he concludes that genetics was responsible for 40, and not 60, percent of differences in voting turnout between twin types. Forty percent is still “a lot,” he admits, and is also the average estimate of heritability seen in twin studies of personality, suggesting that voting is an example of a genetically influenced personality trait in general.


etc.

Think about it.

If being conservative or liberal changes the chances your genes will be passed on then it becomes a selection trait and become more or less common.

---
And on point

If being prone to religion or not affects your genes chances of becoming more common, then being prone to religion will become more or less common.

---
In the first iteration you might say, "AH HA, sure they can be religious but of different faiths!" And that's largely true...

But...
Religions have qualities. And if those qualities do not fit with your personality type then you will switch religions. So your genetic make up may make you less able to tolerate some religions than others.

So the qualities of a religion believed may be also genetically related.
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Or we could call them homosexual until they picked up with the opposite sex and then call them bisexual after that.

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I'll try to respond at greater length when I can:

Alaren wrote:
One cannot be "a non-practicing Asian." One might be a non-practicing homosexual, and one might be a non-practicing Catholic, but what would it mean to be a "non-practicing woman?"


The only reason there's any difference is that there are actions associated with homosexuality, insofar as homosexuals are very likely to kiss, cuddle, make love and form romantic partnerships with people of the same sex. (They're also likely to do the same things in cruder language.)

It doesn't say anything about whether any of them are immutable or not.

Quote:
In the other thread, a few people brought up the "being homosexual isn't evil, but having homosexual sex is" argument. People in that thread didn't seem to think it was a very good argument. And yet they found it perfectly acceptable to say of Christianity, "I don't have any problems with your faith, I just have problems with you practicing it (i.e. defending traditional marriage)."

I see some parallels there.


If "having homosexual sex" involved harming someone then I think quite a few reasonable people would oppose it. I don't think it's evil to be a pedophile, but I do think it's evil to have sex with children, because it violates the basic rights of said children.

I doubt you'll find anyone (other than perhaps a few anti-religious zealots) who objects to people practicing their faith in ways that don't harm other people. It's the harm that's objected to, not the religion.
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I doubt you'll find anyone (other than perhaps a few anti-religious zealots) who objects to people practicing their faith in ways that don't harm other people. It's the harm that's objected to, not the religion.


My experiences in the threads relating to Mormon proxy baptisms for the dead have left me feeling otherwise.
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