Responding to Michelle Goldberg's "Homosexuals Are Hellbound!" Salon readers wonder worry about the future of gay rights in America -- and the future of religion.

Published October 20, 2004 9:01PM (EDT)

[Read "Homosexuals Are Hellbound!" by Michelle Goldberg.]

When I began reading Michelle Goldberg's "Homosexuals Are Hellbound!" I wasn't prepared for something so toxic. How did we come to this?

I'm gay. I get up in the morning, go to work, go to my health club on the way home, chat with friends there, go home, take care of my pets, eat dinner, and go to bed. I look at pictures of cars I could never afford in magazines, take care of my house, visit my family, and socialize with friends. Forgive me if I don't understand this poisonous hatred. Maybe someday Jesus can explain it to me.

The lesbian couple in their quiet Ohio suburb wondering what their neighbors thought of them reminded me of a documentary on the Nazis a few years ago. In it, an old Jewish woman recalled the day the Nazis marched into Austria.

She said she hadn't known what to expect, but was shocked to see crowds throwing flowers and cheering. Suddenly people began breaking into Jewish-owned stores and dragging Jews into the streets. After decades, the disbelief in the old woman's voice was still fresh: "These were our neighbors. Our children went to school together."

This country is heading in a very dark direction.

-- Michael Smith

Thanks for the excellent article exposing the religious right's war against gays in the American heartland. The rise of fundamentalist extremism in this country is troubling, and downright dangerous when coupled with the right-wing politics.

I happen to know about Rod Parsely, because my brother lives in Columbus and attends World Harvest Church. Three or four summers ago, I paid him a visit and visited his church. Though I was already familiar with evangelical fundamentalism and "mega churches," I was still shocked by what I discovered.

I found a seat inside the enormous auditorium, with its large choir and larger stage. After a few minutes of improvisational shouting, Mr. Parsely's mother stood in front of the cameras and shouted to the congregation, "How much do you love God? Throw your wallets up on stage!" Scores of people rushed the stage, wallets in hand. It was just like a scene out of Fritz Lang's "Metropolis." At that moment, I felt like a Jewish teenager had who accidentally stumbled into a Nuremberg rally.

The service proceeded to the usual performance art: dragging supposedly crippled people in front of the cameras and "healing them," hate-mongering sermons, and people in the aisles shaking and falling to the ground, set against loud, throbbing music. Mass hypnosis, fear, hate. And wallets.

That's who Rod Parsely is.

-- Daniel Thomas

Ms. Goldberg does an excellent job covering the issue of intolerance in the religious community, but omits any mention of gay-friendly religious organizations.

I wonder how many pro-gay church and synagogue members feel they have little power to counteract their anti-gay colleagues simply because they aren't aware of the growing number of gay-friendly congregational movements: Besides the Metropolitan Community Church, there are More Light Presbyterians, Reconciling Methodists, Integrity Episcopalians, Dignity Catholics, Evangelicals Concerned -- just to name a few. But many people, even in the gay community, are not aware that such groups exist. Perhaps if that changed, the anti-gay church community would not have the power it now exerts.

-- Steve Pearson

Religious fundamentalism has infected politics in Ohio and gotten Issue 1 on the ballot. The World Harvest Church (or as, I like to call it, "Six Flags Over Jesus") propagates a message of hate and bigotry under the name of God's love. How sad for anyone searching for a meaningful relationship with Christ it must be to discover that God will only accept them on certain terms. And how sad for any gay or lesbian relatives of World Harvest Church's parishioners.

Should Issue 1 become law, it will mark a day of darkness for gay and lesbian Ohioans like myself. My partner and I have certainly discussed moving if Issue 1 passes, even though doing so would require uprooting our family and professional lives. To think that the great Republican Party is using this issue to rally their base isn't surprising. They certainly can't point to any other successes in this state as reasons to reelect W, not with our economy in the crapper and job loss at an all-time high.

-- Lori Lasley

[Read "Team Bush Declares War on the New York Times," by Eric Boehlert.]

According to Eric Boehlert's article, the RNC has denied that the president made the following statement to a roomful of supporters: "I'm going to come out strong after my swearing in with fundamental tax reform, tort reform, privatizing of Social Security."

That denial is simply not credible. Although I have no personal knowledge of whether or not Bush ever uttered that exact sequence of words, they are entirely consistent with his policy proposals. Indeed, the president's Web site, www.georgewbush.com, advocates "a pro-growth, fair and simpler tax system" and quotes the president as saying, "We need tort reform." Furthermore, the site states, "The President has advocated the establishment of voluntary personal accounts within Social Security."

Although I could find no specific advocacy of "privatizing" Social Security on the Web site, creating personal accounts is generally viewed as synonymous with privatization. It is private companies, after all, who will oversee these accounts.

Since Bush publicly endorses all three positions, it is not a huge stretch to imagine that he would "come out strong" for them at the beginning of his second term should he be reelected. The RNC is on shaky ground when they accuse Suskind of fabrication. They themselves are trying to distract us with finger-pointing and hair-splitting while they hide the truth in plain sight.

-- Lori Falco

[Read "Revolt in the Ranks in Iraq," by Mary Jacoby.]

We are the proud and scared parents of a son that will be in Iraq until 2006. Four years ago we voted for Bush. This time we'll be voting for Kerry.

Shortly after 9/11, our son, Paul, dropped an athletic college scholarship to defend his country against terrorism. He believed, as we did, the tales told by Bush about weapons of mass destruction and the link of 9/11 to Iraq. Now we know the truth.

Our son has just served a year on the DMZ in Korea and will now be in Iraq until 2006.

We believe that a president should always go to war as the last resort. President Bush jumped into the war on the assumption that Iraq may attack the USA and that they maybe had WMD and that they maybe were linked to 9/11. We don't trust Bush anymore. He's an arrogant, "bring 'em on," "go it alone," little mad cowboy! My son the soldier respects Kerry because he has served his country in combat and Kerry tells us the truth.

For the sake of our son and all the men and women in the military, we beg you to please vote for Kerry. He is a man of diplomacy, respect and maturity that can work with our allies to plan for peace.

-- Nadine and Bob Daugherty

By Salon Staff

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