Barry Eisler

Friday, March 16, 2007

Homosexual Acts Are Immoral?

First it was the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Peter Pace, opining earlier this week that homosexual acts are immoral.

Now Kansas Republican Senator Sam Brownback says he agrees: "I believe that homosexual acts between individuals are immoral and that we should not condone immoral acts." (The irrepressible former lawyer in me seized on that "between individuals" qualifier, wondering whether Brownback was intentionally creating a safe harbor for group sex. But I digress...)

What's going on?

First, note the language. Both Pace and Brownback were almost lawyerly in their focus on homosexual acts, rather than homosexuality itself. In fact, Brownback explicitly claimed that homosexuality isn't immoral, while homosexual acts are: "I do not believe being a homosexual is immoral, but I do believe homosexual acts are."

Generally, I like a legal and moral focus on behavior rather than conditions, thoughts, feelings, or or other internal matters. Who cares what people are, or what they think or feel, when it comes to the organizing principles of a society? For all sorts of reasons, we should focus on what people do. So let's examine Pace's and Brownback's position as they stated it.

General Pace compared homosexual acts to adultery. Both are external behaviors, not internal states, so fair enough. But adultery necessarily has all sorts of negative consequences. Consensual sex doesn't. So I don't understand the stated basis for Pace's position. He does offer a clue, though: "My upbringing is such that I believe that there are certain things, certain types of conduct that are immoral." Let's come back to that in a moment.

The apparent basis for Senator Brownback's position is a bit more straightforward: "I'm a Catholic and the church has clear teachings on this."

This is interesting. Neither man claims to predicate his beliefs on reason: Pace cites his "upbringing," and Brownback his religion. It occurs to me that there is a huge cultural gulf at work here, a fundamental difference in worldviews. The way the cultural difference expresses itself with regard to views on sexuality is only a manifestation, a symptom of something much larger.

Perhaps this is the heart of the matter: there's a kind of person who accepts uncritically what's taught by parents, by religious leaders, or by other authority figures. And there's a kind of person who isn't satisfied with a "that's what I was taught" basis for morality, or anything else -- the teachings must also stand up to reasoned inquiry or they will be modified or rejected. Actually, the distinction is more subtle than that. Both groups do employ reason (Pace offered up the gay sex = adultery argument, which is at least an attempt at reason, however obviously flawed). But the first group uses reason to try to buttress a belief in which it's already invested, while the second group uses reason to examine the belief itself.

Put it another way: there are people who believe their subjective tastes are a sound basis for law and morality. And there are people who can use reason to distinguish between their subjective tastes and objective morality. One group believes certain views are ordained by God, and that those views must therefore be correct. The other group believes a wrong view couldn't come from God, no matter what's claimed in a religious text or by a religious leader or anywhere else.

Brownback also said, "We should not expect someone as qualified, accomplished and articulate as General Pace to lack personal views on important moral issues. In fact, we should expect that anyone entrusted with such great responsibility will have strong moral views."

I wonder why Brownback suddenly shifted his precise focus from external behavior to internal states? No one (no one reasonable, anyway) cares particularly about General Pace's private opinions. The question is, was it appropriate for Pace to air that opinion, particularly while in uniform, particularly while many gay Americans are fighting and dying in Iraq and Afghanistan? Does Senator Brownback have any thoughts on that?

Sidenote: Senator Clinton's initial reaction to General Pace's comments was to courageously note, "Well, I'm going to leave that to others to conclude." My God, at least Senator Brownback wasn't so afraid or scripted or whatever that he professed not to have an opinion. Later, Clinton changed her stance: "I disagree with what he said and do not share his view, plain and simple."

Related news: today's Wall Street Journal reports that "Poland's schools chief said teachers who promote 'homosexual culture' to students will be fired, insisting he's not on an antigay crusade."

I'm always curious about these terms... "homosexual culture" and "gay agenda." What are these things? What would it mean to promote them?

I had some gay teachers in high school. I'm not sure if they were promoting anything beyond what they taught in the classroom. I didn't receive any brochures about the awesomeness of the gay lifestyle or anything like that, but one guy did wear pink shirts... was he trying to tell me something? Regardless, I seem to have turned out heterosexual.

Judging from my own experience, I believe most of one's sexuality is inborn, and that environment matters at most at the margins. So I can't help wondering if people who are afraid of some "gay agenda" or gay teachers or hidden messages in SpongeBob Squarepants cartoons or whatever sense that they themselves are perched precariously on some sexual fence, and that it would take only a slight environmental nudge to topple them over to the other side. Why else would they be so exercised about the susceptibility of others, if they didn't feel it in themselves?
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38 Comments:

Anonymous Linda Opdyke said...

I am not gay, but a wonderful neighbor is and the current national brouhaha has reached my little town. Within the last several weeks, our new mayor (elected mayor amongst the town council reps themselves) publicly stated he will NOT perform any civil unions, despite the new law in NJ, due to his religious beliefs. A second council member leaped to "amen" the comment. I was under the impression our mayor was elected to represent EVERYONE in my small town, not those of his own practices and beliefs. Unfortunately, the law states that if he denies civil union to gay couples he must also deny marriage ceremony to heterosexuals, thus preventing any real action against him. But perhaps his public show of arrogance and "holier than thou" will provide him enough feedback to reexamine his prejudice. Public opinion published in the papers does not support him. A truly sad situation all the way around, but especially for our small town.

Friday, March 16, 2007 12:06:00 PM  
Blogger Marshall said...

A well-reasoned exposition and thoughtful conclusion. Being anti-gay / anti-gay behavior is the safe option for too many people, politicians included. No, it's not courageous, but it offends the least number of people, besides taking a page right out of Machiavelli: leading with love (or compassion, or open acceptance), while always an option, is rarely as effective as leading with fear. The current political leaders are, by and large, classic fear mongers; their stance on homosexuality and its behaviors is no surprise here.

Friday, March 16, 2007 1:30:00 PM  
Blogger Karina said...

I concur with Marshall, indeed a well-reasoned and thorough exposition.

But that's the heart of the matter, isn't it?

With folks who bring their emotions into their "thinking," reason cannot even make a dent.

I haven't lived through the ages, but judging on my history, that seems to be the saga of our human existance.

~ K

Friday, March 16, 2007 3:15:00 PM  
Blogger Spinetingler Magazine: Online Reviews said...

So many people try to blur the lines by likening homosexuality to being a pedophile, which is absurd and cheap, as it is meant to play off fears without reason as the basis for evaluating something.

Gay couples have the right to marry here, and I am thankful they do. And one of the reasons I'm thankful is because of children. It is not illegal to be a homosexual. (Nor should it be.) And it is not illegal for a homosexual couple to live together.

What then, when one or both partners already have children? When I worked with kids one of the problems we encountered was with children who lived in same-sex partner homes. It had to do with legal rights. Without the ability to legally recognize the partner as a parent there were situations were children were displaced when their primary custodial parent was unavailable. This is a real issue, causing serious disruption to their lives.

In my experience, having come out of the church community and as a Bible school graduate, it is ignorance that breeds fear and narrow-minded attitudes. I have friends who are gay. My brother-in-law is gay. I have other friends who say things like, "Sex, that's all gay people think about" - something I know to be absolutely untrue.

Note when people drag the children into it, they're so concerned about the best interests of the kids. But do I see those people fighting to get kids out of homes where they're being abused? Do I see them lobbying for tougher penalties for sex offenders who target children? Do I see them lobbying for more funding for education and social assistance for kids from impoverished families?

No. I see them strutting across their moral high ground with their nose in the air deluding themselves with the idea that by God, they will have done a great thing for kids if they can just keep them out of reach of those horrid, immoral people.

Like living with a drunk is okay? What about a situation where there's physical abuse? Sexual abuse? I've handled removing a child from a home for sexual abuse - girl being abused by step-father, nothing "gay" about that but there is something immoral about it. I've dealt with removing kids being neglected, and kids who've been victims of violence.

The best interests of the kids is just a cheap excuse to hide behind in the gay debate, because it prevents people from having to actually address the real issue.

Two consenting adults choose to enter a relationship and want to make a commitment to each other. What's wrong with that? Then people impose rules, say they can't get married, so if they live together they're living in sin.

Not by their own choice. Think of it this way. It wasn't so long ago that an African-American couldn't have a relationship with a Caucasian.

It's time to step out of the dark ages. The principal of the school my niece and nephew are at - who I also did my practicum under - is gay and you know what? If Kevin and I had kids I'd be thrilled to have this be their principal because he is a fantastic educator and an amazing person.

What's next? We start discriminating in relationships because of who's into bondage?

Friday, March 16, 2007 3:23:00 PM  
Blogger Sandra Ruttan said...

My apologies - that post was me. Forgot what I was logged in as. Sorry!

Friday, March 16, 2007 3:26:00 PM  
Anonymous Betsy said...

Barry,

Well said, and I thoroughly agree! It's rather sad that people can't seem to adopt a live-and-let-live attitude. But we reside in a world of sheep. The majority of people have no idea how to think for themselves. They are bored and lonely and unhappy and seek peace and solace by accumulating things and involving people in their lives for the sole purpose of increasing their happiness and contentment.

When such actions don't work, they resort to emulating those they think are happy. Many times that involves joining a religion, cult or organization that expects them to take more than just their precepts or ideals on faith. Often it means taking on the beliefs of the individual religious leader, or someone who is a zealot. Faith requires them to believe without questioning; therefore, it feeds their innate belief that something outside themselves will make them happy and peaceful.

Such mindless "following" creates mob mentality. There is no thought, no reason, behind the things they believe or spout. They become like puppets, dancing to someone else's manipulations. They live under the delusion that those thoughts and beliefs are their own, but in truth, they are just brainwashed with the ideas of others. They give so little thought to what they are saying, they don't see that the things they profess to believe are diametrically opposed to their own actions.

Such is the banner of the religious right. On one hand they profess to live by the words of Christ...to love one another, love your neighbor, love your enemy, turn the other cheek. On the other hand they denigrate gays, aids victims and numerous other groups. There is banning and shunning, even violence against those to whom their supposed beliefs say they should love and help unconditionally. Religious fanaticism has resulted in more wars and more deaths than all other excuses combined.

I'm not saying there is no place in the world for organized religion, I am saying moderation in all things. It is our right and our duty to question ALL things, whether religious, political, governmental, educational, technical or scientific. Whatever God the fanatic believes in, that God gave him the brains and the facility to think, and capitulating to the thoughts of others is rather like looking the gift horse in the mouth. It makes me wonder what the world would be like if even half the population would actually stop following others and really think about things in a rational manner. It could be an interesting world!

Betsy

Friday, March 16, 2007 3:30:00 PM  
Anonymous Lee Child said...

Barry says, "Judging from my own experience, I believe most of one's sexuality is inborn, and that environment matters at most at the margins. So I can't help wondering if people who are afraid ... sense that they themselves are perched precariously on some sexual fence, and that it would take only a slight environmental nudge to topple them over to the other side."

Barry, that's an argument I don't like to make anymore, because really it's a taunt that descends to their level ... it's saying, "Hah! You're secretly gay!" as if being gay was a bad thing.

So what's going on? Religion is fundamentally anti-rational, to be sure, but it's possible to apply reason within the borders of a religion, I think. Texts can be studied and analyzed. The bible that Christians use is a rambling mish-mash of all kinds of prohibitions, and I don't like the way people cherry-pick what to notice and what to ignore. The oft-quoted passage that (allegedly) calls homosexuality merely an abomination is next to other verses that require a woman to be stoned to death if she wears clothes made of more than one type of fabric, and farmers to be stoned to death if they plant different crops in adjacent fields. Why aren't people up in arms about those issues? Because they're not coming from a sincere religious position, that's why. (The bible also explicity cancels all those prohibitions upon the appearance of the messiah ... and Christians believe that happened, I think.) There's no rigor there.

People like Brownback don't believe in evolution, either, which doesn't help. The rational Darwinian position would be delight at the existence of homosexuality. Less competition for the DNA transfer.

There's no empirical evidence that gay people are more dangerous sexually to children, either. The opposite tends to be true, in fact.

So why all the hate?

Because people love to hate, sadly. In particular they love to hate vulnerable minorities. The number of available targets is drying up because of the progress the rest of us enforce, which tends to concentrate the hatred on the remnant.

My preferred response is the threat of violence. Someone made a gay-bashing comment to me (in San Francisco, of all places! At a writer's conference, of all things!) and I said, "That's my family you're talking about (my daughter is gay) ... so you've got three seconds to get out of my sight or I'll break your back." The person left, real fast. I'm sick of being a soft-hearted liberal.

Friday, March 16, 2007 4:36:00 PM  
Anonymous Rene said...

Instead of playing Mother May I with the States, if you had a religion where gay marriage and sex was allowed, could the States do anything to stop it? The government wants to define marriage as a union between a man and a woman to possibly get around the fact that marriage is considered a common right by the Supreme Court.

Common Law Marriage

While the various state courts have prattled on for almost 200 years about what the laws of their states do and do not allow concerning marriage, the US Supreme Court cut straight to the heart of the issue in declaring that statutes controlling marriage can only be directory because marriage is a common right, which is not subject to interference or regulation by government. Or phrased another way, the God-given right to marry existed prior to the creation of the states or the national government, and therefore it is beyond their purview to alter, modify, abolish, or interfere with, such a right.

THE U.S. GOVERNMENT vs INDIVIDUAL RELIGIOUS FREEDOM IN THE U.S.

In summary: religious freedom shall not be limited except when a government can prove a "compelling interest" to do so. And then, the government must select a method that results in the least possible interference with religious freedoms of individuals, churches and other organizations. This is a very onerous burden on the government, and applies to every law that is passed.

Christians believe that promiscuity will lead to the downfall of civilization.

A British anthropologist named J. D. Unwin wrote a book called SEX AND CULTURE which is often quoted in defense of that argument. J. D. Unwin's book says marital monogamy is a requirement for a healthy culture.

If you said - if homosexuals were allowed to marry, there would be more marital monogamy. They would fall back to the position that God says homosexuality is wrong.

They sometimes follow that up by saying that allowing gay marriage is a slippery slope that could cause a domino affect resulting in the acceleration of the downfall of civilization due to fewer people participating in marital monogamy.

From their arguments, I believe they think the gay agenda is the downfall of civilization because they believe that a homosexual culture is a promiscuous one.

Marriage on the Brink

British anthropologist J. D. Unwin reached the same conclusion some 200 years later. In his 1934 book, Sex and Culture, Unwin chronicled the historical decline of 86 different cultures. His exhaustive survey revealed that “strict marital monogamy” was central to social energy and growth.

The Lost Sex Study

Seeking to test the Freudian notion that civilization is a byproduct of repressed sexuality, the scholar J. D. Unwin studied 86 different societies. His findings startled many scholars - above all, Unwin himself - because all 86 demonstrated a direct tie between monogamy and the "expansive energy" of civilization.

Unwin had no Christian convictions and applied no moral judgment: "I offer no opinion about rightness or wrongness." Nevertheless, he had to conclude, "In human records there is no instance of a society retaining its energy after a complete new generation has inherited a tradition which does not insist on pre-nuptial and post-nuptial continence."

Friday, March 16, 2007 10:42:00 PM  
Anonymous Kelly Jaakkola said...

Hi Barry.

Interesting post. I agree wholeheartedly with the position you lay out.

But there was one part that gave me pause. You said: "Judging from my own experience, I believe most of one's sexuality is inborn, and that environment matters at most at the margins. So..."

You're usually precise and careful with your words, so this surprised me on two levels:

(1) The first one is probably my own lack of imagination, but I can't imagine what kind of personal experience could lead to your conclusion that sexuality is inborn. I'm not saying it's not; I just wonder what the evidence could be. Certainly, you don't see sexual orientation in babies. (Of course, that isn’t a prerequisite for the "innate trait" argument. Secondary sexual characteristics, like developed breasts, also don't appear in babies, and nobody would argue that those are "learned"). But by the time you do get to an age where talk of sexual orientation makes sense, how do you know you can discount the role of environment up until that point? (And by the way, if you look to nonhuman animals, you actually tend to see lots of bisexual behavior, although the homosexual acts tend to be talked about as "dominance" rather than "sexual". Who says politics doesn't affect science?)

(2) This argument seems to suggest that if homosexuality was not biologically determined, then it would be perfectly acceptable to condemn it as immoral (with all the horrible side effects that tend to go along with that).

Again, I'm not claiming that sexual orientation is not biologically determined. (And I'm also not claiming that if there is an environmental component, then that puts sexual orientation under a person's voluntary control.) What I am questioning is the validity of making such a biological claim, and the wisdom of basing a moral stance on that (perhaps tenuous) biological claim.

-- Kelly

Friday, March 16, 2007 11:05:00 PM  
Blogger Barry said...

Thanks for all the comments, everyone.

Anonymous, forgive me, but your arguments are vaguely stated and I'm not sure what you're really trying to say. Is this a "slippery slope" argument you're presenting? Are you arguing that two adults having sex is the same as an adult having sex with a child? If so, you're missing something so fundamental that I doubt my pointing it out will make a difference.

Sandra, you said, "I have other friends who say things like, "Sex, that's all gay people think about" - something I know to be absolutely untrue." Hmmm, I don't know about gays, but it's all I think about... purely for artistic purposes and for writing "love scenes" in the novels, of course.

Lee, that's a fair point; the "why else would you be so exercised about this except as some sort of reaction formation?" argument does feel like a taunt. But it's the only explanation I've been able to come up with, and Ted Haggard certainly provides empirical support.

To me, sexuality is like left or right handedness. So when someone is arguing about the immorality etc. of what to me is roughly equivalent to left handedness, I think, what is really going on here?

But our explanations aren't mutually exclusive, and I think you're probably right: there are people who just want to hate, or to reassure themselves that they're securely part of the in-group by pointing a finger at minorities -- and gays currently present the easiest outlet for this unworthy urge.

Kelly, as you note, "inborn" doesn't necessarily connote a trait that expresses itself at birth, secondary sex characteristics being a primary example. So the experience -- certainly anecdotal -- to which I refer was the overwhelming attraction I suddenly felt at adolescence to the opposite sex. I claim no scientific proof that the attraction wasn't environmentally determined, but it sure didn't feel that way to me.

As for the argument that "if homosexuality was not biologically determined, then it would be perfectly acceptable to condemn it as immoral," I don't see why you think that argument would follow. I certainly don't think it does. My argument is this: sexuality is largely innate, so concerns that we might "catch it" from teachers or other environmental factors are misplaced.

Cheers,
Barry

Saturday, March 17, 2007 10:48:00 AM  
Blogger Joshua James said...

I wish I had something to add here, but I don't other than to say Bravo and great frigging post and comments thereafter . . .

Saturday, March 17, 2007 11:39:00 AM  
Blogger law dawg fed said...

Something to irritate everyone, regardless of where you stand on the issue....:

http://news.aol.com/topnews/articles/_a/furor-over-baptists-gay-baby-article/20070315023809990001?ncid=NWS00010000000001

Saturday, March 17, 2007 12:44:00 PM  
Blogger spyscribbler said...

I'm sorry, I just don't get it. Why would anyone care how other people like their sex? That's the whole part I just don't get. I never think about how my neighbors like and enjoy their sex. I could care less, unless they want to unwillingly involve me, and that's a whole different matter.

If there's supposed to be separation of church and state, how can he base a political argument against homosexuality on a religious belief?

Religion may teach morals, but our religious beliefs are not always ethical. We cannot scoop up our own religious beliefs and claim them as the moral conduct that needs to be legislated by our government.

We don't have to look far to see the disastrous results of not separating church and state.

Geez, it's sex, not murder. Go have fun. It is supposed to be enjoyable, for crying out loud. For something that is so basic to our instinctual beings, I just don't understand how we manage to tie it in so many knots.

Saturday, March 17, 2007 9:54:00 PM  
Anonymous Kelly Jaakkola said...

Hi'ya, Barry. Great discussion.

You say: "My argument is this: sexuality is largely innate, so concerns that we might "catch it" from teachers or other environmental factors are misplaced.

Okay, if I can restate this a little bit, it seems that the basis of your argument is made up of two parts. One is a conditional statement: IF sexuality is largely innate, concerns that we might "catch it" from teachers or other environmental factors are misplaced.

And the second is a factual claim: Sexuality is largely innate.

Does that seem a fair and accurate restatement? Assuming it is...

First, let's look at your factual claim, which you say is based on: "the overwhelming attraction I suddenly felt at adolescence to the opposite sex. I claim no scientific proof that the attraction wasn't environmentally determined, but it sure didn't feel that way to me."

Okay, it didn’t feel like it was environmentally determined, because it felt so strong, and not at all like a "choice" you could make or unmake. I get that. But I also think that the belief that we can identify the cause of an urge by its strength is probably misguided. There are many cases where people have overwhelming urges, attractions, obsessions, etc. Even staying within the area of sexuality (because that's fun), one might feel an overwhelming, all-consuming attraction for a particular person, for example. Or... purely hypothetically speaking, of course... one might have a particular sexual fetish that's a gigantic turn-on. But I think you'd be hard-pressed to make the case for biological determination there.

I should also point out that this belief that strength of an urge maps to causal origin is perhaps dangerous in this particular arena, because it suggests that if something DOES have an environmental component to its origin, then that means it's a weaker urge that someone can simply choose not to have. I don't think there's any evidence to support this. By the time you're an adult, your brain parses, views, & approaches the world in particular ways, at least some of which was definitely learned (e.g., you learned English instead of Hungarian; you can read; etc.). But you can't just turn those things off, or choose not to have them. To take an example from your own books -- If John Rain could walk into a room and NOT check it out for danger, choke points, etc... or if he could see a potential threat and NOT have a visceral reaction to it... well, then I'll shut up. ;-)

Now, the conditional part of your argument -- As stated, I agree with it. But my point is that framing it that way begs the question -- what if sexual orientation is NOT largely innate? What if there IS a significant environmental component involved?

It's a legitimate question. My own answer is that even if there is an environmental component (and again, we don't know whether there is or not), then concerns that we might casually "catch it" are misplaced. You probably didn't learn to speak English by being causally exposed to some random adult who speaks it. And you CERTAINLY didn't learn to speak English by being exposed to someone who lived an "English lifestyle," but only spoke English to other adults when you weren't around.

Okay, enough for now.

-- Kelly

Sunday, March 18, 2007 3:37:00 AM  
Anonymous Kelly Jaakkola said...

Oops. I meant to say "You probably didn't learn to speak English by being CASUALLY exposed..." (not "causally"). Sorry.

-- kelly

Sunday, March 18, 2007 9:05:00 AM  
Blogger Richard Jennings said...

You can get free access to that WSJ argticle with a plugin called netpass from: http://news.congoo.com

My free tip :)

Sunday, March 18, 2007 11:34:00 AM  
Blogger BayAreaKen said...

This whole topic disgusts me. Because Gen. Pace brought it up, let's talk about what is immoral.

It’s immoral to fire all military Arabic translators (translators that are in sorely low supply) because they may be gay. (done)

It’s immoral to send our troops to their deaths for a “pack of lies” (done)

It’s immoral to ship our wounded soldiers to hospitals that are dilapidated, put them into a bureaucratic system so convoluted it takes weeks to process paperwork for the treatment of their wounds, and to leave them in puddles of their own urine. (done)

It’s immoral to sign “action memos” (Rumsfeld) that instruct our soldiers to commit torture on prisoners. (done)

It’s immoral to out active and covert CIA agents (done)

It’s immoral to conduct a war based on cherry picked intelligence (done)

It’s immoral to keep our soldiers in the middle of a civil war we started (done)

It’s immoral to conflate the tragedies of 9/11 with Sadaam Hussein (done)

It’s immoral to inject politics into the Justice Department and fire the competent attorneys who were doing their jobs (done)

It’s immoral to be the President of the United States and ignore the will of the American People (done)

It’s immoral to rack up such a huge national debt (done)

It’s immoral to put cronies and incompetent people in important jobs that they are clearly not qualified for (done)

It’s immoral to put lobbyists for oil companies in charge of the Environmental Protection Agency (done)

It’s immoral to keep thinking that gays are the problem while ignoring the forest fire around you. (on-going).

I could go on. It's too depressing.

Sigh.
Rgds,
Ken

Monday, March 19, 2007 3:24:00 PM  
Blogger Marcus Maximus said...

"There is something profoundly wrong when opposition to the war in Iraq seems to inspire greater passion than opposition to Islamist extremism," Sen. Joseph Lieberman said in a speech last week. What is profoundly wrong is that too many of us are operating off the default assumption and have lost sight of who our real enemies are.

Check your views of immorality at the door, please.

Thursday, March 22, 2007 11:05:00 AM  
Blogger Marcus Maximus said...

Oh, BTW -

I believe the question was:
"Homosexual Acts Are Immoral?"

The answer is that that they are.

Morality refers to the concept of human ethics which pertains to matters of right and wrong — also referred to as "good and evil" — used within three contexts: individual conscience; systems of principles and judgments (sometimes called moral values) shared within a cultural, religious, secular or philosophical community; and/or codes of behavior or acts of morality.

The liberal mind seems unable to grasp, or wrap itself around, the concept of these rights or wrongs, or codes of behavior or conducts of morality, that our culture so vehemently clings to. “So long as it doesn’t hurt anybody…” is a common liberal statement made by such individuals who think of themselves as progressive, right minded, and of a ‘higher moral ground’ than the religious community, which is often labeled backwards, stupid, and even harmful to society.

They often forget that it is religion that makes up the very fiber of this country. And if they are reminded of this fact they’ll likely point their fingers at it and say “that is exactly what is wrong with this country (or the world) in general – too much religion – too much judgmental mentality.” But they can not escape the fact that it is these very religious, secular, and philosophical codes of behavior and actions that make us who we are. And though the saying “…so long as it doesn’t hurt anybody,’ may hold true – this mentality IS being passive to the moral ideals and values of our society and does, indeed, do harm.

All three of the major world religions judge homosexuality as wrong - and as a sin. You can argue scripture all day, and until you are blue in the face, but there is no getting around this common fundamental belief. But our society, our cultural, has stepped outside religious boundaries and beliefs and has opened its arms and has accepted homosexuality on one very basic point: homosexuals are human, they need love, they need understanding, they need compassion, and most of all - they need acceptance of who and what they are. True religious people can give love; can even give understanding & compassion – but acceptance of homosexuality as a way of life is something that cannot be done. It is immoral, it is a sin. We can argue about whether that is right or wrong – but bottom line: that is simply the way it is.

The military has fairly strict codes of conduct, based upon a moral belief system, which keeps the military community running as it should. If you commit any act of sexual misconduct, you are put out of the military. This includes homosexual conduct. Does this equate homosexuality with adultery, pedophilia, prostitution, etc. etc.? No, it does not. Where a Major will be court-martialed for adultery and charged with conduct unbecoming to an officer – he will be sentenced to serve time at Leavenworth and then be put out of the military. On the other hand, a young female lieutenant who goes to her commanding officer and tells him she is a lesbian will simply be put out of the military with little or no consequences. Again, we can argue about whether that is right or wrong – but bottom line: that is simply the way it is.

Barry said that he likes “…a legal and moral focus on behavior, rather than conditions, thoughts, feelings, or other internal matters. Who cares what people are, or what they think or feel, when it comes to the organizing principles of a society?” Though this is, I suppose, a very pragmatic approach – it is the conditions, thoughts, feelings, or "other internal matters" that is the very basis of society and cultural norms. You want to take emotions out of the equation, but that is unrealistic. People are full of thoughts, emotions, wants, needs, hopes and fears. These feelings are often shared amongst the group dynamic (society) and make up a shared view of morality: of right and wrong, of good and evil. There’s no escaping that very basic fact.

You are trying to be ‘reasonable’ with something that is not based on reason.

Thursday, March 22, 2007 2:18:00 PM  
Anonymous Rene said...

You want to take emotions out of the equation, but that is unrealistic. People are full of thoughts, emotions, wants, needs, hopes and fears. These feelings are often shared amongst the group dynamic (society) and make up a shared view of morality: of right and wrong, of good and evil. There’s no escaping that very basic fact.

Isn't this precisely the reason there are laws in this country other than those in the Bible and other "moral" texts?

There are several instances of the laws of this country being in conflict with the Bible. Are the laws of this country immoral?

The liberal mind seems unable to grasp, or wrap itself around, the concept of these rights or wrongs, or codes of behavior or conducts of morality,

What theonomist mind doesn't seem to grasp is that we currently live in a representative democracy and not a theocracy. There's a group of theonomists working on changing that though.

Slavery in the Bible

"[Slavery] was established by decree of Almighty God...it is sanctioned in the Bible, in both Testaments, from Genesis to Revelation...it has existed in all ages, has been found among the people of the highest civilization, and in nations of the highest proficiency in the arts." Jefferson Davis, President of the Confederate States of America.

What were Galileo's scientific and biblical conflicts with the Church?

The Holy Tribunal in Galileo's condemnation states: "The proposition that the sun is the center of the world and does not move from its place is absurd and false philosophically and formally heretical, because it is expressly contrary to the Holy Scripture. The proposition that the earth is not the center of the world and immovable, but that it moves, and also with a diurnal motion, is equally absurd and false philosophically, and theologically considered, at least erroneous in faith."

Eppur si muove (and still, it moves)

In 1992, 350 years later, Pope John Paul II officially declared Galileo innocent.

Deuteronomy 17

17:3 And hath gone and served other gods, and worshipped them, either the sun, or moon, or any of the host of heaven, which I have not commanded;
17:4 And it be told thee, and thou hast heard of it, and enquired diligently, and, behold, it be true, and the thing certain, that such abomination is wrought in Israel:
17:5 Then shalt thou bring forth that man or that woman, which have committed that wicked thing, unto thy gates, even that man or that woman, and shalt stone them with stones, till they die.


First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution

"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances."

DOMINIONISM (A.K.A. CHRISTIAN RECONSTRUCTIONISM, DOMINION THEOLOGY, AND THEONOMY)

All religious organizations, congregations etc. other than strictly Fundamentalist Christianity would be suppressed. Nonconforming Evangelical, main line and liberal Christian religious institutions would no longer be allowed to hold services, organize, proselytize, etc. Society would revert to the laws and punishments of the Hebrew Scriptures. Any person who advocated or practiced other religious beliefs outside of their home would be tried for idolatry and executed.

Video of Stoning to Death

According to traditional interpretations of the Sharia (Islamic Law), stoning to death is primarily prescribed as a punishment for married people who engage in extramarital sex.

The Qur'an does not mention the act, but there are several authoritative hadith which speak of Muhammad ordering people to be stoned to death.


Hadith regarding stoning

In stoning to death, the victims's hands are tied behind their backs and their bodies are put in a cloth sack. Then, this human "package" is buried in a hole, with only the victims heads showing above the ground. If its a woman, she is buried upto her shoulders. This is to give her an seemingly equal (but nonetheless impossible) chance to escape recognizing her lesser physical strength.
After the hapless individual has been secured in the hole, people start chanting "Allah hu Akbar" (meaning, God is great), and throw palm sized stones at the head of the victim from a certain distance (a circle is drawn).
The stones are thrown until the person dies or until he/she escapes out of the hole and crosses the circle. Escaping is impossible, given that the individual's hands are tied behind their backs and they are buried in a hole upto their necks or shoulders (in the case of males and females respectively).

Thursday, March 22, 2007 4:30:00 PM  
Blogger Barry said...

"There is something profoundly wrong when opposition to the war in Iraq seems to inspire greater passion than opposition to Islamist extremism."

Marcus, it might be that people are against the war because they're concerned with how badly it's damaging our ability to oppose Islamist extremism, and with how much its strengthening that extremism.

Or it could be either/or: you're either for the war or for the extremists, as Lieberman implies in the quote you posted. This is certainly a simpler worldview, and, I imagine, a more comfortable one if you think the war makes sense.

"It is the conditions, thoughts, feelings, or "other internal matters" [not behavior] that is the very basis of society and cultural norms."

Not in my experience as a lawyer. Laws regulate behavior, not thoughts, feelings, or worldviews, and rightly so. The only exceptions have to do with intent, and intent only comes into play when behavior is present -- for example, in the crime of attempted murder. There is no crime of "Wanting to Murder" or "Hating Certain People" or "Wish I Could Sleep With My Neighbors Wife" or "Boy I'd Like to Steal That." Do you think there should be?

"You are trying to be ‘reasonable’ with something that is not based on reason."

I don't think morality has to be based on reason, but I do think it has to stand up to reason. If what passes for morality can't stand up to reason, I will reject it.

The notion that homosexuality and homosexual sex are immoral cannot stand up to reason. I therefore reject these notions. If your moral system is based on something other than reason, or doesn't have to stand up to reason, you might reach a different conclusion.

Best,
Barry

Thursday, March 22, 2007 4:42:00 PM  
Blogger Marcus Maximus said...

“…it might be that people are against the war because they're concerned with how badly it's damaging our ability to oppose Islamist extremism.” Really? Explain to me how the war is damaging our ability to oppose Islamist extremism. Must we all be card caring members of the Blame-America-First Crowd? http://www.realclearpolitics.com/articles/2007/03/the_blameamericafirst_crowd.html

You know, Barry – I work with lawyers every day – I know how they think. But you said, “Laws regulate behavior, not thoughts, feelings, or worldviews…” According to wikipedia - Human behavior IS the collection of activities performed by human beings and influenced by culture, attitudes, emotions, values, ethics, authority, rapport, hypnosis, persuasion, and/or coercion. So laws and the enforcement and regulation of those laws are based on all of the above, or more roundly put – the Human Condition. You cannot take the Human Condition, the key element, out of the equation. Being human is not a reasonable thing, we humans do unreasonable things all the time. So again, I fall back to: You are trying to be ‘reasonable’ with something that is not based on reason.

I didn’t get any of Rene’s comments, his point was lost upon me. I suppose the “The liberal mind seems unable to grasp, or wrap itself around, the concept of these rights or wrongs, or codes of behavior or conducts of morality,” comment set him off. But religion aside – ANY – no, correction - EVERY group must form and adhere to some moral code, whether that group be influenced by religion or not. Group morality develops from shared concepts and beliefs and is often codified to regulate behavior within a culture or community. Various defined actions come to be called moral or immoral. Individuals who choose moral action are popularly held to possess "moral fiber", whereas those who indulge in immoral behavior may be labeled as socially degenerate. The continued existence of a group may depend on widespread conformity to codes of morality; an inability to adjust moral codes in response to new challenges is sometimes credited with the demise of a community. Within nationalist movements, there has been some tendency to feel that a nation will not survive or prosper without acknowledging one, common morality, irrelevant of what that morality actually is.

So this brings me back to my point: Homosexuality is immoral. At least by the moral standards of the United States (and most everywhere else in the world) today.

But before I turn to the arguments against homosexuality, I want to state a preliminary argument in favor of it: namely, that homosexual relationships make some people happy.

I grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area – and a number of my very close and personal friends (in fact an ex-girlfriend of mine) are, indeed, gay. I might add also that none (none) of my homosexual friends are in or have ever been in a successful monogamous relationship. Don’t know why that is, or if it means anything at all, but I’m putting that out there for you to chew on. I am not saying that my friend’s unsuccessful relationships are indicative of all homosexual relationships, but I do believe it’s a good representative cross section of the group.

So, what about homosexuality? Most arguments against homosexuality fall into three broad categories: (1) religion condemns it; (2) it's harmful; and (3) it's unnatural.

Let’s look at that last point: It is unnatural. People have a basic, ethical intuition that certain behaviors are wrong because they are ‘unnatural.’ The natural sex partner for a man is a woman, and the natural sex partner for a woman is a man. Tab A goes into Slot B. Sex is a wonderful thing, and the ‘natural’ part of sex is its primary evolutionary purpose: the reproduction and continued survival of the human species. Argue with me as you wish – but homosexuality serves no biological function – none. The “Go Forth and multiply…” is completely lost upon homosexuals.

Natural law reasoning is the basis for almost all standard moral intuitions. For example, it is the dignity and value that each human being naturally possesses that makes the needless destruction of human life or infliction of physical and emotional pain immoral. This gives rise to a host of specific moral principles, such as the unacceptability of murder, kidnapping, mutilation, physical and emotional abuse, and – as some who read your blog might say – war.

"I Was Born This Way"

Many homosexuals argue that they have not chosen their condition, but that they were born that way, making homosexual behavior natural for them. But because something was not chosen does not mean it was inborn. Some desires are acquired or strengthened by habituation and conditioning instead of by conscious choice. For example, no one chooses to be an alcoholic, but one can become habituated to alcohol. Just as one can acquire alcoholic desires (by repeatedly becoming intoxicated) without consciously choosing them, so one may acquire homosexual desires (by engaging in homosexual fantasies or behavior) without consciously choosing them.

Since sexual desire is subject to a high degree of cognitive conditioning in humans (there is no biological reason why we find certain scents, forms of dress, or forms of underwear sexually stimulating), it would be most unusual if homosexual desires were not subject to a similar degree of cognitive conditioning.

Even if there is a genetic predisposition toward homosexuality (and studies on this point are inconclusive – I have yet to see the report on CNN about scientists identifying the “Gay” gene), the behavior remains unnatural because homosexuality is still not part of the natural design of humanity. It does not make homosexual behavior acceptable; other behaviors are not rendered acceptable simply because there may be a genetic predisposition toward them.

For example, scientific studies suggest some people are born with a hereditary disposition to alcoholism, but no one would argue someone ought to fulfill these inborn urges by becoming an alcoholic. Alcoholism is not an acceptable "lifestyle" any more than homosexuality is. That being said – there are a lot of alcoholics in the world.

The second point I made: (2) it's harmful – goes without saying. A close friend of mine died of AIDS during his sophomore year of college. It was a tragic loss for his family, his friends, and his “significant other,” and I certainly wish he were still around today, I really do. So saying that homosexuality is harmful is self evident.

I’ve already covered point (3).

No – I am not a homophobe. I still love my friends easily as much as before I knew they were gay. But I look at my ex-girlfriend and often think about what a shame it is that she never had the family she wished for when she was young. Instead she has a ‘wife’ (not the most attractive woman on the planet, I might add) and a house full of cats.

You know – sometimes I wonder what the point is of debating the un-debatable? Is it likely that I changed anyone’s mind? No - - highly doubtful. Is it likely that any of you will change my mind? Again – highly doubtful. – But bottom line is: that is simply the way it is.

Friday, March 23, 2007 11:16:00 AM  
Anonymous Rene said...

All three of the major world religions judge homosexuality as wrong - and as a sin. You can argue scripture all day, and until you are blue in the face, but there is no getting around this common fundamental belief.

You are holding up one of the major religions of this world as the moral code of the United States even though it also requires death by stoning for a variety of offenses. Included in that list of offenses is practicing another religion. Again, is practicing another religion also immoral?

When religion loses its credibility

So this brings me back to my point: Homosexuality is immoral. At least by the moral standards of the United States (and most everywhere else in the world) today.

Over fifty percent of Americans believe homosexual acts should be legal. Are you going to argue that people are advocating laws in conflict with their moral code?

Gallup poll on homosexual relations

So saying that homosexuality is harmful is self evident.

The relative prevalence of AIDS among heterosexuals, homosexuals and bisexuals varies by location. In some locations, there are more cases of AIDS among heterosexual males. Unprotected sex is risky no matter what group you belong to.

CDC.GOV - AIDS Public Use (Vintage 2002) Request

Friday, March 23, 2007 6:03:00 PM  
Blogger Marcus Maximus said...

Rene,

You seem to be stuck on Christianity - and you are correct that Christians make up the majority in our country, indeed, 80% of the U.S. is Christian and 15% adhere to no religion or are Atheist/Agnostic. Other religions comprise 5% of the U.S. population. According to the CIA World Factbook, the U.S. is 78% Christian and 10% no religion, while other religions comprise 12% of the U.S. population. In descending order, the largest identified religious groups are Protestant (52%); Roman Catholic (24%); Mormon (2%); Jewish (1%); and Muslim (1%)- All of which consider homosexuality as immoral and as a sin. You can not argue that fact.

You also seem to be stuck on the biblical texts referencing stoning, or other various methods of doing away with the wicked and sinful. I never argued that religion wasn't hypocritical and nasty. It is. (I happen to fall within the 10% agnostic group.)

You also seem to believe that religious teachings unto themselves are immoral - as are the laws and actions of our own government. Well, to that - all I can say is to each his own. What is the point of debating the un-debatable?

As for over 50% of Americans believe homosexual acts should be legal - I don't think that I need to remind you that sodomy and oral sex are not exclusive to the gay community. BTW - 86.5% of all statistics are made up right on the spot. Ha. Suffice it to say that I don't put much stock in polls or statistics - both are untrustworthy and easily manipulated. And as for the legalization of homosexual acts - I seriously doubt that will ever happen. Really.

Please don't quote anymore scripture at me - as the son of a Southern Baptist Minister I have had enough scripture for one lifetime.

Friday, March 23, 2007 10:03:00 PM  
Anonymous Rene said...

In descending order, the largest identified religious groups are Protestant (52%); Roman Catholic (24%); Mormon (2%); Jewish (1%); and Muslim (1%)- All of which consider homosexuality as immoral and as a sin. You can not argue that fact.

You keep referring to religious texts as being the "moral" code of a country. While, I believe the laws of a country codify a "moral" code. Which one takes precedence in your mind?

You also seem to believe that religious teachings unto themselves are immoral - as are the laws and actions of our own government. Well, to that - all I can say is to each his own. What is the point of debating the un-debatable?

The Bible (and texts of other religions) denies religious freedom and the U.S. Constitution protects it. Which one is immoral?

And as for the legalization of homosexual acts - I seriously doubt that will ever happen. Really.

Supreme Court Rejects Ban on Homosexual Acts

Thursday, June 26, 2003

WASHINGTON – The Supreme Court ruled 6-3 today that Texas' ban on gay sex is unconstitutional.

The court's majority cited the "due process," or fair proceedings, clause of the Constitution.

The majority opinion written by Justice Anthony Kennedy was broad and could have implications for the sexual privacy of all Americans.


Lawrence v. Texas

Lawrence v. Texas, 539 U.S. 558 (2003),[1] was a landmark United States Supreme Court case. In the 6-3 ruling, the justices struck down the criminal prohibition of homosexual sodomy in Texas. The court had previously addressed the same issue in 1986 in Bowers v. Hardwick, but had upheld the challenged Georgia statute, not finding a constitutional protection of sexual privacy.

Lawrence explicitly overruled Bowers, holding that it had viewed the liberty interest too narrowly. The majority held that intimate consensual sexual conduct was part of the liberty protected by substantive due process under the Fourteenth Amendment. Lawrence has the effect of invalidating similar laws throughout the United States that purport to criminalize homosexual activity between consenting adults acting in private.

Saturday, March 24, 2007 5:47:00 PM  
Blogger Marcus Maximus said...

You keep referring to religious texts as being the "moral" code of a country.

No, actually YOU keep referring to religious text. I realize that you probably despise and hate organized religion (and the government, too, for that matter) but neither of these entities are going away anytime in the near future. BTW, the laws of a country DO NOT codify a "moral" code of a society or culture, they reflect it.

The Bible (and texts of other religions) denies religious freedom and the U.S. Constitution protects it. Which one is immoral?

Show me. Show me where the bible denies religious freedom.

Indeed, 80% of the U.S. is Christian. Obviously you feel that you have been marginalized by our society in some way - but 80% is still a majority of the country. Which follows that the majority of the country feels that homosexuality is immoral and is a sin. Believe me, you do not want to have this become a ballot issue - because I think that homosexuals will come up on the short end of the stick, no matter what party is in control of congress.

The Supreme Court Rejecting a Ban on Homosexual Acts - does not constitute 'legalizing' homosexual activity and certainly not legitimizing homosexual activity.

The court's majority cited the "due process," or fair proceedings, clause of the Constitution. The majority opinion written by Justice Anthony Kennedy was broad and could have implications for the sexual privacy of all Americans.

All the court up held was our freedom of privacy. Sodomy and other "sexual" acts are not just limited to the Gay community. Suffice it to say though, what happens in the bedroom, stays in the bedroom.

Truthfully, Rene - I am not as invested in this subject matter as you are - obviously - so I will concede the floor to you. "You Win" - if only by default. I wave the white flag, I throw up my arms, whatever it takes... Suffice it to say that I will not convince you, any more than you will convince me, that either one of our standpoints are the most correct. Have a nice one :o)

Sunday, March 25, 2007 7:24:00 AM  
Anonymous jh from toledo said...

So many topics, so little time. I don't have a lot of time, and it looks like I came in near the end of this one, so I will make some quick comments.

First, good that you could get a little Catholic bashing in there Dave, it's always an easy target. People acting on faith are not working in a vacumm. Catholics have two thousand years of great and learned men studying various moral issues. Their logic and reasoning is there to to look at. You become and/or stay a Catholic because you believe in what has been taught. Don't like it, leave.

No negative effects of homosexual behavior? Have we all forgotten AIDS?

How did you know you had some teachers in high school that were gay? Did they talk about it? Did they wear signs? Or is it something you assumed based on their behavior? However the knowledge was gained, you sure seem to remember it well. Did the heterosexuals teachers advertize their leanings as well? Probably not, as that seems to be a gay thing.

Finally, your comments (always used in place of a sound argument) that those who oppose are either afraid of homosexuals, or have their own homesexual feelings is only a lame attempt to shift the focus to the one bringing the argument rather than the argument itself.

Sunday, March 25, 2007 8:06:00 AM  
Blogger Barry said...

Marcus, your argument that homosexuality is immoral and sinful seems to boil down to five things: (1) religion says it is; (2) a majority of people think it is; (3) it's harmful; (4) it's unnatural because it has no biological function; (5) homosexuality isn't a state of being, it's a choice; and (6) as you repeatedly put it, "that is simply the way it is." If in paraphrasing what I think you are arguing I've misstated your positions, please accept my apologies, and please restate your argument as succinctly as I just did so we can analyze it better.

I'd like to address these points one by one. But first, a word on tone. Lately you've developed a habit of suggesting that your comments have "set somebody off" or "touched a nerve." I haven't seen any evidence of such reactions here; rather, they seem to exist only in your mind. Regardless, smug asides like those do nothing to foster rational argument; their purpose, and I presume their effect, is self-gratification. I don't object to you pleasuring yourself privately with self-satisfied rhetoric (after all, you know I believe that if it doesn't hurt anyone else, it isn't immoral and ought not to be prohibited). But please knock it off here.

All right, here are the principles you seem to be advocating. As you know, a principle must be broadly, if not universally, applicable -- or it isn't a principle at all. So if the positions you are articulating are principles, I know you'll be willing to apply them broadly. If you won't apply them broadly, we'll know they're not principles.

(1) Religion says it is.
I don't know enough about religion to argue. If it's true that religion says so, I'd say religion is wrong. This is easy for me because I base my principles on reason -- or, if my principles are based on something else, I insist that they also stand up to reason or I will modify or reject them. If you are more concerned with religion than with reason, you might reach a different result.

Marcus, you've introduced and repeatedly referred to religion in this discussion. Your subsequent insistence that no one be allowed to quote scripture to you therefore strikes me as odd. I suppose there is a difference between religion and a religious text, but for purposes of this argument it seems a distinction without a difference. If you don't want people to use religious texts to illustrate inconsistencies in your religious position, you shouldn't make religious arguments to begin with. You can't have it both ways.

(2) A majority of people think it is.

I'm not sure how you define a majority... a majority of a neighborhood? A state? A nation? The world? Some other community? Regardless, although I would agree that a majority viewpoint should be given weight, I can't imagine why it would be dispositive. Throughout history, majorities have believed and done some terrible things, none of which were rendered moral by their popularity at the time.

(3) It's harmful.

Certainly sex can be harmful, heterosexual and homosexual as well, although I see no evidence that either homosexual or heterosexual sex is inherently harmful. Are you arguing that activities that are dangerous or possibly harmful are therefore immoral? If so, in addition to condemning sex generally, you must take a dim view of rock climbing, car driving, and high-fat diets.

(4) It's unnatural because it has no biological function.

I think this argument depends on one's definition of a biological function, and whether one thinks an absence of such a function makes a behavior a sin. I find the "sex is intended for procreation" argument arbitrary and narrow. Oral sex? Masturbation?

What is the "biological function" of anything? Is it sinful for us to use our voices to sing? Our fingers to play the piano? People once said, "If God intended man to fly, He would have given us wings." Your views on sex seem to me precisely analogous.

But even if you could convince me that a given activity had no "biological function," I still fail to see how it follows that the activity is therefore immoral.

(5) Homosexuality isn't a state of being, it's a choice.

I'm not up to date on all the scientific arguments on this one. My own view is that homosexuality is no more a choice than heterosexuality, no more a choice than left or right handedness. But even if it were a choice... so what? Assume that throughout history and across cultures, and despite all the discrimination and hatred, a majority of otherwise heterosexually inclined people choose to be homosexual. Does making a minority choice make one immoral? If so, it's bad news for people who use Macintosh computers (uh-oh, that would be me), put ketchup on their hot dogs, or didn't like Dances With Wolves.

(6) "That is simply the way it is."

This argument is so silly and circular that it isn't an argument at all, more a retreat into thoughtlessness (and repeating it three times, like a mantra, does make it seem more a sound intended to comfort yourself than an argument intended to persuade others). "It's immoral because it's immoral"? Come on.

JH, I meant no offense in surmising that homophobes are reacting to fear of something within themselves. How could I? As you know, I think homosexuality is an utterly normal part of the human condition, as evil, sinful, and immoral as left handedness. And I stand by the proposition: when someone's views are at odds with reason and contradict even the person's stated basis for his position, I search for other explanations. What psychologists call "reaction formation" seems one possibility with regard to homophobes, although of course there might be others.

Marcus, you said, "You know – sometimes I wonder what the point is of debating the un-debatable? Is it likely that I changed anyone’s mind? No – highly doubtful. Is it likely that any of you will change my mind? Again – highly doubtful."

Persuading any given individual is only part of the purpose of a discussion like this one. In fact, there's a much more important function: by subjecting dogmatic, fearful, irrational opinions to the light of reason, we expose them for what they are. And over time, views that were once respectable become untenable, and then increasingly disreputable, until finally even the few people who still cling to them are too embarrassed to utter them in polite society. This is the very history of the fight against racism, bigotry, and intolerance. We can all feel proud to have contributed to this chapter of that history -- after all, even those of us whose contribution has been unintentional are playing an important part.

Cheers,
Barry

Sunday, March 25, 2007 7:58:00 PM  
Blogger BayAreaKen said...

Questions: Can a person be immoral? I know they can do immoral things, but can they be immoral? If a person is a homosexual, and you believe homosexuality is immoral, does that make the person immoral?

Lastly, if you believe that homosexuality is immoral, and that by definition, the person is immoral, then wouldn't you logically NOT want to be friends with that person? How on earth can you explain that you condemn someone but still be their friend?

I think that murder is immoral. I think that murderers are immoral people. I would disassociate myself from any of my current friends if they became murderers.

The answer to your question: Are homosexual acts immoral?
No. No they are not.

Rgds,
Ken

Monday, March 26, 2007 1:29:00 PM  
Anonymous gregory huffstutter said...

I have a fairly unique perspective on this issue, as I’m a straight guy – happily married -- who grew up being relatively uncomfortable with homosexuality (thanks to a white-bread childhood in Oregon)… but I challenged myself by writing a murder mystery with a closeted cop and gay-rights activist as primary characters.

It took 5 years to complete the novel, and along the way, I interviewed several dozen gay police officers, soldiers, activists, authors, filmmakers, and average citizens – both ‘out’ and ‘closeted.’

One thing I can say after this experience… I firmly believe being gay is not a choice.

Many of my interview subjects knew they were ‘different’ from a very early age, even pre-puberty. And many – especially those that gravitated towards military/law enforcement careers -- would’ve have chosen an easier path if it were as simple as giving up beef for Lent.

Marcus is waiting for his CNN report to tell him they’ve found the gay gene. Check out this recent article in “Radar Magazine”… that day is right around the corner:

http://www.radaronline.com/from-the-magazine/2007/03/is_your_baby_gay_1.php

I’d happily go through point-by-point rebuttal of arguments above (Being homosexual is inherently bad for military unit cohesion? Then why has Britain, Israel, Germany, France, Australia and Canada all lifted their gay bans without their military units imploding?), but I take comfort that the religious-based morality arguments are losing out to simple demographics.

When you look at youth attitude studies, you see a majority hold pro-gay opinions:
http://www.hamilton.edu/news/polls/HotButtonIssues/analysis.html

This younger generation grew up with "Will & Grace" on Prime time, with "Queer Eye" and "Project Runway" showing gays as the final word on coolness and fashion, with Ellen shacking up with Portia de Rossi and still getting to host the Oscars.

Just wait until this new generation starts to vote and assume positions of power! I predict in the next decade or two, gay marriage bans will be as quaint as the notion that black athletes didn’t have the skills to quarterback football teams.

Monday, March 26, 2007 3:17:00 PM  
Anonymous jh from toledo said...

“Persuading any given individual is only part of the purpose of a discussion like this one. In fact, there's a much more important function: by subjecting dogmatic, fearful, irrational opinions to the light of reason, we expose them for what they are. And over time, views that were once respectable become untenable, and then increasingly disreputable, until finally even the few people who still cling to them are too embarrassed to utter them in polite society. This is the very history of the fight against racism, bigotry, and intolerance. We can all feel proud to have contributed to this chapter of that history -- after all, even those of us whose contribution has been unintentional are playing an important part”

Barry, ah so, we hit the heart of the matter. Anyone that disagrees with you must be using “dogmatic, fearful, irrational opinions ” in light of your vast reason? So it is your dream that persons who feel that homosexual acts are immoral, sick, and should have stayed in the closet will someday be to embarrassed to try to live by a moral code. Wow, great aspirations. Hope I am long gone before we get to that state. In the meantime perhaps a group hug will suffice.

Monday, March 26, 2007 4:50:00 PM  
Blogger Marcus Maximus said...

Barry,

Pardon my smug asides, insecurities, and otherwise defensive tone I might have taken in previous posts. I sometimes forget that how I perceive myself and/or what I say may be quite a bit different then how I, and my rhetoric, are actually perceived by others. Again, I apologize.

I’ve introduced and repeatedly referred to religion in this discussion – if only because of all the groups that persecute homosexuals for whom and what they are – religion is right there at the top of the list. Not only that, but the whole subject matter is based upon what is, or is not, immoral. Most people draw their moral codes from the religion they follow. I thought it only stand to reason that religion would be a major part of the discussion. And let me clear up another point - I never said that “no one be allowed to quote scripture” to me – what I said, and/or meant, was “Please don't quote anymore scripture at me - as the son of a Southern Baptist Minister I have had enough scripture for one lifetime…” This basically means that I have heard it all - over and over again – and quite frankly I can do without it. But religion, too, may be worn lightly, or applied with rigor. And so here is a nice little scripture for you:

Matthew 7:1-6

1 Judge not, that ye be not judged.
2 For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again.
3 And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother's eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye?
4 Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye; and, behold, a beam is in thine own eye?
5 Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother's eye.
6 Give not that which is holy unto the dogs, neither cast ye your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn again and rend you.

(I used the King James version for dramatic effect.)

You may dismiss religion because it doesn’t coincide with your own principles or beliefs. Being that you are a man of reason, I can respect that. But for the rest of the world – a significant number, I might add – do rely heavily upon the word of Yahweh/Allah/God to guide them done a morally righteous path. We can’t forget nor dismiss these people - as ill-informed and/or misguided members of our population they may be – because there are just too damn many of them.

As for the majority issue - - This was in response to the following comment by Rene: “What theonomist mind doesn't seem to grasp is that we currently live in a representative democracy and not a theocracy.” The definition of democracy is simple, the rule of the people – the rule of the majority. If 85% of the U.S. population considers themselves to be religious which way would you expect this democracy to go on any given number of topics, homosexuality just being one of many? (And when he said “theonomist” – I really felt he was referring to me and I took offense. I am not a theonomist – hell, I didn’t even know the meaning of the word.) If you want to dismiss the ‘majority issue’ because it doesn’t jive with your reasoned principle, then so be it. Who am I to argue? But the question was if homosexuality is immoral – and though on a personal level you can say that it is not – on a collective and/or cultural level I must say that it is. Majority rules.

Let’s look again at the harmful effects of homosexuality. Remember in the 80s? Back when no one cared about AIDS because it was labeled as a ‘Gay’ disease and the religious zealots were all over it calling it “God’s reckoning?” Surely you must. AIDS is now every where, but if it weren’t for the overly promiscuous homosexual culture of the 80s - would this disease be as prevalent as it is today? Is the stigma of AIDS not attached to gay men for a reason?

I never said, “that whether one thinks an absence of such a biological function makes a behavior a sin.” I never mentioned sin in that particular point I was making. I basically said there was no biological purpose to homosexuality – therefore making it ‘unnatural.’ There is no biological purpose to homosexuality just as there is no biological purpose to singing, playing the piano or flying (unless, of course you meant the ‘mile high club’).

Homosexuality isn't a choice it's a state of being? So is that to say that all sexual persuasions are something we are born with? Pedophilia? Sadomasochism? Bi-sexuality? Asexuality? People are born this way and have no control over it? I am sorry, I just don’t buy into that. People do what ever it takes to make themselves happy. There are no figures to draw from here, but what do you think would happen if we took a typical high school in San Francisco and a typical high school in Norman, Oklahoma. Which school do you think would have the higher number of gay teens? The school with the pervasive gay culture or the school from the middle of the Bible belt? Yeah, I think you can imagine what the answer would be.

The "That is simply the way it is" comment is kind of funny if you think about it. Makes me think of all the times I told my kids something and them asking me “why?” All the time, why? Why? Why? And then finally – after about five minutes of this and out of total complete exasperation saying, “because I said so, THAT’S why.” "That is simply the way it is" – isn’t an argument, it is a state of being. It is pointing out that certain parts of our society are so ingrained into our cultural psyche that there is simply no changing it. Remember I did say that there was no point in trying to find reason in the unreasonable. It’s an exercise in futility.

It pains me somewhat that you feel that my opinions are “dogmatic, fearful, and irrational” and that once exposed to the ‘light of reason’ that they’ll be exposed for what they are (whatever that might be) and, frankly, I think your reasoning is flawed. I will tell you this much, I stand firmly behind my arguments and points, and I will never be too embarrassed to utter them in polite society. I think it is rather presumptuous of you to think that your views are the correct views, that everybody else shares your views, and that those of us who do not - are racist, bigoted, and intolerant. You spun your logic - and the topic - around so much, that you put yourself on the moral high ground. (As the Church Lady would say, “Isn’t that convenient?”)

You know, I don’t mind the occasional political debate – those can be fun. But when we start talking about morality issues – then that starts getting a bit more personal. Going off on me because I have different moral values than you, Barry - - well, that’s kind of messed up.

Monday, March 26, 2007 9:45:00 PM  
Blogger Barry said...

Marcus, I can't help concluding that your opinions on this subject are in fact "dogmatic, fearful, and irrational," as I said. I don't agree that this conclusion constitutes "going off on you," or that it's "messed up." But if my delivery came across as harsher than I intended, I hope you'll accept my sincere apologies.

If you can be friends with people you believe are immoral, it seems fair that I can regard you with similar warmth, despite my opinion of your opinions... ;-)

Cheers,
Barry

Monday, March 26, 2007 10:48:00 PM  
Blogger BayAreaKen said...

If you'll have one more post on this comment, here is an excellent blog post:

http://www.pamshouseblend.com/showDiary.do?diaryId=1159

It's about an interview with Joe Murray, " who has also served as National Director of Correspondence for Patrick J. Buchanan's 2000 bid for the GOP nomination, joined the AFA because it aligned with his pro-life outlook, is today uncomfortable with the label "conservative" because he feels that its definition has been hijacked by the fringe, though he's clearly not on the progressive side of the fence politically. "

Good reading.

Rgds,
Ken

Thursday, March 29, 2007 8:21:00 AM  
Blogger Dana Kaye said...

Another great post. I truly respect your use of reason and fact rather than emotion and personal bias to form your argument. Wish more politicians would do the same...

Sunday, April 01, 2007 6:46:00 PM  
Anonymous Adam Young said...

The term homosexual suffers the plight of multiple meanings which creates the condition of chaotic semantics.

In order to establish common ground between speaker and listener, new terms with specific defintions must be created so that a common denominator of understanding has a chance to breathe and exist.

Adam Young of CA

Thursday, April 19, 2007 3:33:00 PM  
Blogger Philip E said...

One assumption that seems to have been unchallenged in this debate is that the maintenance of civilisation in general, or of a particular national civilisation, should be seen by Christians as an essentially religious concern rather than a worldly objective that may (to use religious language) become idolatrous if implicitly treated as an end rather than a means. "Here we have no abiding city."

The pursuit of a particular vision of civilisation should be assessed by what it achieves in terms of furthering the commandment that we love one another; if the fruits by which it is known include the promotion of hatred in any direction, it should be found wanting.

With reference to what is or is not rational, I would accept that the same can be said of fallible human reason.

Sunday, April 06, 2008 10:09:00 AM  
Blogger Jonathan said...

I don't have much to comment, though I will start by saying that I've been immensely impressed by the columns you've been writing, Mr. Eisler, both with the smoothness of your writing and the solidity of your arguments.

My primary comment, however, is this: if someone needs proof that sexuality is not a choice, I offer myself up as the poster boy. I did not choose to be gay. I struggled for most of my life, and still struggle at times, with the fact that it would be so much easier to be heterosexual. If I could choose a different way, an easier way, a more socially acceptable way, I would. I was taught throughout my childhood that what was acceptable and desirable was a wife, children, a traditional family and home. I still want that, to a degree. But I cannot deny that the way that I am "wired", so to speak, is not in that direction. My attraction towards men, and my lack of attraction towards women, is as innate and unchangeable as my eye color or my bone structure. I know, I've tried to change it.

In my experience, however, trying to "pray it away", trying to "choose" to be straight, is impossible. It's only since I've started accepting the way I am more that I've found any measure of peace with myself. I do not believe I'm broken, I do not believe I'm somehow inherently wrong--and the only time I feel that way is when I try to be something I'm not. I appreciate how it might seem that sexuality is a choice to someone whose innate programming runs towards traditional lines, but the that belief couldn't be farther from the truth.

Thursday, May 14, 2009 8:45:00 AM  

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