Stephen Measure

The Religious Evangelism of the Rainbow Flag
June 15, 2019

In the town where I live, one of our local stores has a large cross on its roof. When you see this cross rising prominently above the store, the religious beliefs of the store’s owners are clearly communicated. This same message is delivered when you see someone wearing a cross around their neck. In both cases, the symbol silently declares, "I believe in Christianity." It is a subtle form of evangelizing, a silent witness of what someone believes.

And at times it goes beyond subtle. At times the display of the cross is aggressive enough that the message delivered goes beyond "I believe in Christianity" and becomes "I believe in Christianity, and you should believe in it too."

Which brings me to the subject of the rainbow flag. This symbol seems to be everywhere nowadays, displayed not only by activists, but now by ordinary run-of-the-mill businesses and government offices as well. But the rainbow flag is not just a pretty decoration; it is a symbol, and symbols have a meaning, a message they deliver. And what is the message being delivered by the rainbow flag? It is a declaration of allegiance to two specific progressive religious beliefs.

Put simply, this is what the rainbow flag declares:

  • "I believe same-sex sexuality is not a sin."
  • "I believe in gender identity."

Same-sex sexuality
The conflict over same-sex sexuality has always been the main focus of the rainbow flag, and that conflict only exists because some people think that same-sex sexuality is a sin while others don't. That's all it comes down to: a disagreement about the nature of sin. If no one believed that same-sex sexuality was wrong, there would be no conflict; if no one believed that same-sex sexuality was right, there would be no conflict. It is the difference in belief about the morality of same-sex sexuality that causes the conflict.

If someone declared "I was born to love Anime," who would care? Why would anyone waste time objecting when there is nothing at stake? Likewise, if no one believed that same-sex sexuality is wrong, then no one would have ever said, "I was born gay." Why would they? Who would care? Sexual identity, the belief that people are "straight" or "gay", is only used in order to destroy the belief that same-sex sexuality is wrong. If no one had a negative opinion about same-sex sexuality, then there would have been no reason to develop the concept of sexual identity. Why would you waste your time if nothing was at stake? But some people do believe that same-sex sexuality is wrong; and in response, those who believe same-sex sexuality is morally right use sexual identity as a weapon to attack the opposing belief.

And make no mistake, this is a religious conflict—because morality is the realm of religion. Do not misunderstand me, I am not saying that morality is only the realm of formal religion; I am saying that morality is the realm of religion, which can be either formal or informal.

Everyone has a religion. Those of us who admit to being religious often belong to formal religions, with church buildings and scriptures and rituals and everything people stereotypically think of when they think of religion. But those who claim to not have a religion actually do have a religion despite their denials. They don’t belong to a formal religion, that’s true, but they belong to an informal one. They have to. How else could they have a concept of right and wrong? Science is silent on the matter (how do you measure right and wrong?) and nature is full of conflicting messages (is it okay to eat your young?). Logic will not save us either. Cold logic on its own can provide no preference to Humanism over Social Darwinism or anything else for that matter, not without relying on some underlying values such as "all humans have equal rights," but these underlying beliefs are not proven in a laboratory, nor are they demanded by logic. They are chosen. They are believed because people choose to believe them, and people choose to believe them because they have been persuaded to choose to believe them. And it is that belief by persuasion, rather than proof, that is a hallmark of religion. Everyone has a religion because deep down everyone has values they believe because they have chosen to believe them.

Which leads us back to the topic of the rainbow flag and one of its core messages: "I believe that same-sex sexuality is not a sin." Or put another way: "I believe that same-sex sexuality is morally right." When displayed in a subtle and discreet way, that is what the rainbow flag says, but it is often displayed more aggressively, with its message becoming: "I believe that same-sex sexuality is morally right, and you have to believe that too." Or using the language of progressivism so common today: "Change your backwards religious beliefs, bigot."

Gender Identity
But the morality of same-sex sexuality is not the only message communicated by the rainbow flag. It also communicates a belief in gender identity: the belief that a person’s gender is determined by their identity, not by their biological sex. In other words, the belief that a biological male, with XY chromosomes and 100% male anatomy, is actually a woman if he identifies as such. Gender identity is a religious belief. Its proponents might claim that gender identity is a secular belief rather than a religious one, but that claim is the most blatantly obvious untruth of our day. I do not understand why more people don't realize this. Perhaps it is because we have all grown so accustomed to conservatives being on the religious side and progressives being on the secular side of a conflict that when gender identity completely flips the situation around (with conservatives arguing in favor of the secular reality of biological sex while progressives preach blind faith in unprovable identity) we don’t know how to handle it. But gender identity is a religious belief. It is a 100%, pure, unadulterated religious belief. Allow me to illustrate.

And what better place to start than with the fictional story of Supergirl. The Supergirl TV series has heavily advocated for the acceptance of same-sex sexuality through many of its episodes; and in the recent season, belief in gender identity is now being advocated for as well, with a new superhero introduced who is a biological male but identifies as a woman.

Now, put yourselves in the shoes of the show’s writers. Imagine that you believe in gender identity. Imagine that you want to persuade your audience to believe in gender identity as well. You believe that if a biological male identifies as a woman, then that biological male actually is a woman. But how do you deliver that message to your audience? How do you make it clear to them that this character—this biological male—is actually a woman within the fictional reality of your show? Biology is no help. DNA, anatomy, everything observable, everything measurable—everything scientific—contradicts the message you want your audience to believe. So what do you do? How do you advocate on behalf of gender identity when reality itself is arrayed against you?

Ah, but this is a superhero TV series remember? Reality, what’s that? People can fly in this fictional world! How? SUPERHERO MAGIC!

What? Physical reality says that people can’t shoot lasers from their eyes? Well, in our world they can: SUPERHERO MAGIC!

What? Physical reality says that people can’t travel back in time? Well, in our world they can: SUPERHERO MAGIC!

What? Physical reality says that a biological male can’t be a woman? Well, in our world they can: SUPERHERO MAGIC!

And the superhero origin story writes itself: This particular superhero is born into a family whose superpower is passed generation to generation, with the superpower being inherited in each generation by a single daughter.

I bet you can see where this is going.

That’s right, in the Supergirl TV series, the biological male who identifies as a woman is the one who inherits this superpower thereby proving that, according to the laws of the fictional reality of the Supergirl TV Series, this biological male is actually a woman. And what proved that this character was a woman? Was it biology? Was it science? No. It was SUPERHERO MAGIC!

Except, superhero magic doesn’t exist in the real world. All we have is science … and religion.

Which brings me to the story of Russell’s Teapot (named after its creator Bertrand Russell). Imagine I told you there was a china teapot orbiting out in space somewhere between Earth and Mars. This particular teapot is too small to be seen by telescopes, so you can’t actually prove it’s there (or prove it isn’t there). But it’s there, and you have to believe it’s there because I told you it’s there.

When confronted with this unfalsifiable claim about an unseeable teapot out in space, how much obligation do you feel to believe it?

Now tell me, if a biological male claims to be a woman, how do I prove they are not a woman?

Don't you see? Gender identity provides no way to disprove someone's identity. We are expected to simply accept their words, even when their words directly contradict empirical reality. What could be more blatantly religious than that? Gender identity provides an unfalsifiable claim. Gender identity doesn’t determine gender based on chromosomes. It doesn’t determine gender based on anatomy. It doesn’t determine gender based on brain scans. It doesn’t determine gender based on anything concrete. According to gender identity, you are whatever gender you claim to be. No proof required—and therefore no disproof allowed.

But unfalsifiable claims are not the realm of science. You don’t believe an unfalsifiable claim because it has been proven to you. You believe an unfalsifiable claim because you have been persuaded to believe it. And that is the difference between science and religion. Science is conveyed through proof, and religion is conveyed through persuasion.

(What’s amusing is that Bertrand Russell was an atheist. He created the teapot analogy to argue against religion. And here we are, decades later, using that same analogy to argue against progressive atheists/secularists and prove that they believe in a religious belief after all, namely: gender identity.)

Biological Male A knocks on my front door. I answer and he says, "I am a woman." Biological Male B knocks on my back door. I answer and he says, "I am a prophet." Neither offers any empirical evidence. Neither provides a way to scientifically prove or disprove their statement. Both simply make a claim and expect me to believe them. How are the two situations any different? Isn’t it obvious that gender identity is a religious belief? This example is particularly telling to me because, as a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (often called Mormons), I actually do believe in modern-day prophets. But I don’t believe because it has been scientifically proven to me; I believe because I choose to believe. It is a religious belief, not a secular one. I see no reason why gender identity should be treated any differently.

Let’s break gender identity down to its underlying religious beliefs. Remember according to gender identity, our gender isn’t based on our physical bodies; it is based on our identity. In other words, gender identity makes the claim that there is something unseeable, something unmeasurable, something unprovable that is more us than even our physical body. In religious lingo, this is referred to as our soul. But gender identity goes beyond that basic belief in a soul. Here are the three underlying religious beliefs inherent to gender identity:

  1. Humans have a soul, an unseeable, unmeasurable part of ourselves that is more us than even our physical bodies.
  2. Human souls have a gender.
  3. Sometimes the gender of a human soul doesn’t match the gender of their physical body.

Doesn’t that accurately describe the unfalsifiable claim made by gender identity? Biological Male A is a woman because he has a soul, and his soul is female, and his soul is more him than his physical body, therefore he is actually she.

Except, outside the realm of religion, he isn’t.

I’m actually 2/3 in religious agreement with gender identity. Like many people, I believe that humans have a soul. And, given that I belong to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, I believe that our souls have a gender. (If you’re curious, read the Family Proclamation of my church.) But it is with the third religious belief underlying gender identity where we part ways. My religion provides no reason for me to believe in gender-mismatched souls, and given that science doesn’t either (how could it?), I don’t believe it. And that’s why I don’t believe in gender identity: Science gives me no reason to believe it, and neither does my religion.

But many do choose to believe it. And many of them announce that belief by displaying the rainbow flag, silently but proudly declaring: "I believe in gender identity." Or, as is more often the intended message: "I believe in gender identity, and you have to believe in gender identity too."

Oh, gender identity believers will likely claim otherwise. Perhaps they’ll say they display the rainbow flag to declare that "transgenders exist" or some other activist reframing of the situation, but let’s break down what they are really saying when they make such claims. Let’s assume there is a person named Alex who is a biological male who identifies as a woman. Now, is there any controversy about whether or not the person named Alex exists? No, of course not. When a demand is made for everyone to believe that "transgenders exist", the demand is not to believe that Alex, the person, exists; the demand is to believe that Alex not only exists but is also actually, literally, a woman. In other words, when someone demands you believe that "transgenders exist", they are demanding you believe that people with gender-mismatched souls exist. They are demanding you believe a religious belief, an unfalsiable claim. They are demanding you believe there is a teapot flying unseen somewhere out there in space. You can’t prove it’s there. You can’t prove it’s not there. But they’re telling you that it’s there, and they’re waving their rainbow flag in your face, so you better believe it’s there, or they’ll keep on waving it and waving it until you do.

Religious Evangelism
Displaying the rainbow flag is religious evangelism to the same extent as displaying the Christian cross. At a minimum it is a declaration of religious beliefs that one holds; but very often with the rainbow flag it is more than that: It is a demand that everyone else adopt those same religious beliefs too. Those who fly the rainbow flag expect everyone to believe that same-sex sexuality is morally right. If your current religion declares it to be a sin, well then I guess it’s time for a new religion. Those who fly the rainbow flag expect everyone to believe in gender identity. If your current religion provides no reason for you to do so, well that’s just one more reason to convert to progressivism. It is religious evangelism, and it is steadily getting more and more in-your-face, obnoxious, and intolerant.

Let’s return to the cross on top of the store in my town. On the one hand, I applaud the owner for their faith. I share many of their beliefs and am happy to stand shoulder to shoulder with them against what I see as the dwindling morals of our society. But, on the other hand, when I need to buy garbage bags or a new toilet plunger or some other mundane household item, and I walk through the store doors underneath that prominent cross, and I see the workers at the register, I might wonder how welcome a Muslim or a Jew would feel working in a business with such a prominent declaration of a religious belief they do not share. And all the customers of potentially various religious faiths walking through the aisles, are they all welcome there? Am I, a Latter-day Saint, welcome there?

Don’t get me wrong. I have never had a problem at that store. Its workers have all been wonderful to me and to everyone I have seen. As I said, I applaud the owner for their faith, and I likely share the majority of it. Yet, there is that "on the other hand" … that slight friction … that small concern that a store which so prominently displays the symbol of religious beliefs that, although extremely close to mine, do have some profound differences, would not be accepting of me due to my religious beliefs.

Now, if I feel that way when a business communicates religious beliefs that largely agree with my own beliefs, imagine how I feel when a business declares religious beliefs that are directly opposed to mine. When I go to my corporate office and see a rainbow flag flying there, what message is intended? Are employees such as me who believe that same-sex sexuality is a sin welcome to work there? Must we hide our lack of belief in gender identity? And what if we are the customers? Are we even wanted?

And what of the government officials who fly the rainbow flag in public facilities? What of the embassy staffs who display it? Tens of millions of Americans believe that same-sex sexuality is a sin. Tens of millions of Americans don’t believe in gender identity. What message are these representatives sending to us, the unbelievers? Do they even represent us?

What arrogance. What unthinking, intolerant, arrogance.


Related essays:
Gender Identity Is a Religious Belief That I Don't Believe In
The War Between Identity and Behavior


topics: same-sex sexuality | gender identity

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