PBS's Bonnie Erbe, Avowed Atheist, Moved by 'Emotional' Gay Church Service

What could move avowed atheist Bonnie Erbe to say something positive about religious enthusiasm? Here's a hint, the colors of the rainbow:

I walked into a huge church auditorium and there were thousands of gays and lesbians singing hymns and crying as they watched a gay pastor deliver a sermon, many of them for the first time. It was an extremely emotional experience.

Erbe, a contributing editor at U.S. News & World Report, shared this anecdote in a July 2 blog post entitled "Gays Aren't Necessarily Atheists," in which the journalist shared two experiences that blew apart her stereotype of openly gay people being atheists.

Spurred on by an article by colleague Dan Gilgoff entitled, "Gays Step Up Efforts to Reverse Gay-as-Godless Stereotype," the PBS "To the Contrary" host confesses:

I guess growing up in "godless" New York City, I, too, labored under the delusion that most gays and lesbians did not believe in god or go to church, as neither did anyone else I grew up with. I had two experiences, however, within the last 10 years ago or so, that made me realize some gays are extremely religious.

She's only now realizing this? Was she living under a rock during the whole controversy over the Episcopal Bishop Gene Robinson?

Eighteen days after Easter this year, Erbe confessed in her Thomas Jefferson Street blog that the atheism she grew up on was sorely lacking a sense of community that houses of worship foster among congregants:

The fact is, '60s and '70s atheism was a bit too uninformed about the psychological and social benefits of churchgoing. Religion answers the unanswerable. It creates powerful and important social networks among churchgoers. Unless and until atheists, agnostics, and other nonbelievers can somehow replace those benefits, or form their own version of same, religion will continue to be a powerful cultural force.

Unless and until then, Erbe might well find herself at home in the decidedly liberal, gay-oriented Metropolitan Community Churches across the country.

Ken Shepherd
Ken Shepherd
Ken Shepherd is a writer living in New Carrollton, Md.