What It Really Means To Tell Gays To “Resist Their Temptation”

Via Dan Savage, A Christian decodes for his brethren:

When you tell a gay person to “resist” being gay, what you are really telling them—what you really mean—is for them to be celibate.

What you are truly and actually saying is that you want them to condemn themselves to a life devoid of love.

Be alone, you’re demanding. Live alone. Don’t hold anyone’s hand. Don’t snuggle on your couch with anyone. Don’t cuddle up with anyone at night before you fall asleep. Don’t have anyone to chat with over coffee in the morning.

Do not bind your life to that of another. Live your whole life without knowing that joy, that sharing, that peace.

Just say “no” to love.

Be alone. Live alone. Die alone.

The “sinful temptation” that Christians are forever urging LGBT people to resist is love.

Being, of course, the one thing Jesus was most clear about wanting his followers to extend to others.

Can we stop with this cruel idiocy already?

This is the heart of the matter. In talking about what is good or bad morally, it is inescapable that we talk about what is beneficial or detrimental to both individual and collective flourishing and there is no way to see how denying gays the moral right to love can in any way be to the good of either their minimal emotional and psychological well-being or to the maximum benefit of their overall happiness in life. To dismiss love as a trivial, expendable good is to divorce oneself from reality.

Maybe some people, whether straight or gay, are really good at being single and could do it all their lives. But for all those who aren’t and for all those who regardless of whether they could happily live a life of celibacy nonetheless happen to be in love anyway, it is reckless with their hearts and their lives to impose on them strictures against the full embrace of love. Most people need love. It cannot be a good to suppress this.

And any God which was worth listening to about morality would know this. Anyone claiming to speak for God, as Christians so blithely do, can have their claims about morality made on behalf of God tested with the simple question, “Does what they say God thinks is good really test out as good according to independent measures of value?” If it doesn’t, they’re either not speaking for God in any logically intelligible way or God is just an evil being and not a good one after all.  (Or, of course, there is just no God and that’s the real reason for their error.)

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About Daniel Fincke

Dr. Daniel Fincke  has his PhD in philosophy from Fordham University and spent 11 years teaching in college classrooms. He wrote his dissertation on Ethics and the philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche. On Camels With Hammers, the careful philosophy blog he writes for a popular audience, Dan argues for atheism and develops a humanistic ethical theory he calls “Empowerment Ethics”. Dan also teaches affordable, non-matriculated, video-conferencing philosophy classes on ethics, Nietzsche, historical philosophy, and philosophy for atheists that anyone around the world can sign up for. (You can learn more about Dan’s online classes here.) Dan is an APPA  (American Philosophical Practitioners Association) certified philosophical counselor who offers philosophical advice services to help people work through the philosophical aspects of their practical problems or to work out their views on philosophical issues. (You can read examples of Dan’s advice here.) Through his blogging, his online teaching, and his philosophical advice services each, Dan specializes in helping people who have recently left a religious tradition work out their constructive answers to questions of ethics, metaphysics, the meaning of life, etc. as part of their process of radical worldview change.

  • http://wildernessvagabonds.com Oroboros

    Just last night I renewed this promise to the universe: if the Christian God exists and is really so mean and petty as some of his followers depict, then I choose hell and damnation.

  • Chris

    One of the many and plentiful reason to chose a life full of love and devoid of GOD/S. As my family has.

  • http://hellboundalleee.blogspot.com Hellbound Alleee

    What they’re really expecting is for you to engage in risky behaviors by conducting yourself on the Lowdown, in shame. After all, if you live openly and freely, you’ll live longer in health. The Christian Lifestyle is more about furtive meetings with so-called “straight-acting” guys “discreetly.” Somewhere not clean. That’s the Christian way. It’s a lot more self-sacrificing. That way you can have a wife at home who gets screwed (not screwed) in the end.

    And that’s the way Jesus wanted it.

  • mikespeir

    I agree with the thrust of this post. I just think people are misguided in suggesting Jesus would have countenanced homosexuality and lesbianism. As an atheist, of course, I say, “Who cares?”

  • Daniel Fincke

    Mike, by saying that he wouldn’t have countenanced it do you mean “embraced” or “dealt with” or “approved of” or, even, “thought of” it? While I agree with you that Jesus’s opinion on the matter would have been worth only as much as its correctness or incorrectness and should be granted no more authority than that, there is a way in which one might extrapolate Jesus’s first principles (judging by his most consistent emphases or the patterns he exhibited when resolving controversies, etc.) and apply them in a contemporary context.

    An example is returning to the American founding fathers. They themselves may have, if pressed, come to some anti-democratic morally retrograde conclusions about a whole number of legal or moral issues. And in some cases, they not only may have done so but demonstrably did. But insofar as they were in principle champions of democratic ideals and ideals of separations of powers, etc. we can extrapolate what those ideals really entail and interpret better formulated visions of such things that we have today as essentially in the “spirit” of the Founding Fathers, even where the prejudices of their time may have made it unlikely they would have solved a question quite as we do or even in cases where they had solved the question, as a matter of fact, opposite of us in specific cases.

    Same goes for Jesus—if in his context he represented a figure who reasoned out tough decisions with a principle of love over legalism and if in his context he was relatively progressive and ahead of the curve on social inclusion and on opposing outmoded traditionalisms which had lost their rational justifications and become lead weights to advancing people’s abilities to live well, then it is somewhat reasonable to project that in the contemporary context, he’d be a pro-gay sort.

    Now, I’m not sure if Jesus is all rainbows and progressive sunshine and certainly oppose any and all attempts to whitewash the actual Jesus who in fact, like our Founding Fathers, had some morally atrocious attitudes. I think you can make a case for him as enlightened and progressive in some ways for his time. But to treat him as a special moral authority with power to override other moral arguments by sheer strength of his inherent credibility is entirely unwarranted and something I oppose pretty vociferously in secular people. And, of course, I find his deification an even worse intellectual and moral error.

    But, as far as Christians go, for as long as they will idealize him on any level of scale from especially authoritative moral teacher to Son of God Himself, I will always prefer that their interpretations of what He means be in accord with good moral reasoning than the opposite. As morally and intellectually defensible as a religion can become, the less negatively consequential whatever its truth deficits become, and the more tolerable it becomes. So, those advancing the cause of progressing their religions are at least partially allies to be supported.

  • mikespeir

    That was quite a response to my short comment. I agree with your last paragraph: If Christians are going to delude themselves, it would be better that they do it in a way that results in good to the degree possible. But if the Gospels are historically accurate in reporting that he endorsed the Law, he took a dim view of homosexuality. I can’t escape the conclusion that he would have frowned on it, to say the least.

  • Mike

    “But if the Gospels are historically accurate”

    If? Where have you seen any sort of accuracy in the gospels?
    If means – Someone lived within 1000 miles of Israel, wore a robe, used speech, had friends and tempted by a trollop. Then ok it is accurate.

    If you mean that an actual person Jesus lived, died during the time period in question, that Nazareth was a town during his supposed birth, Harod did execute all babies with a borned on date of first, everything he said was membered like a child would word for word for over 70+ yrs and then written down by another fictitious person, and that person was plagiarized 3 more times out to 100 yrs from event, and all those were also called historical. Then the bible is not accurate, and can not be considered as a factual document of the history of the fictional character of Jesus and his fictional words.

  • http://freethoughtblogs.com/camelswithhammers/ Daniel Fincke

    Mike, the end of mikespier’s comment was “in reporting that he endorsed the Law” which is a narrower claim than that entire set of other contestable claims.

    Essentially your position Mike is tantamount to saying the entire record of Jesus is so spotty that we should dismiss any discussion of his historical views whatsoever and entirely throw into question whether or not there even was a Jesus and be silent on any speculations about what he might have thought about anything whatsoever since he may not have existed and since every single thing he said comes from a questionable chain of evidence.

    I’m not sure we need to go quite that far. We can get an idea of some things that are constant themes in the different stories.

    But, I’ll grant you this at the minimum, his attitude towards the law is really iffy, sometimes flouting it with anti-legalism and in other places expressing traditional fielty like in the place mikespier cites. We might say that the record is so split on this issue that and that comments about the law never going away might be add-ons to counterbalance the stronger and more radical theme of rejection of the law. Without knowing anything at all specific about the scholarship on this question (since, I do find Jesus a hopelessly problematic historical case for the reasons you cite and because of the many incentives to read him one way or another that threaten to bias interpretations, I would nonetheless venture to make the following wild hypothesis: the antinomian streak of Jesus strikes me as more likely true (if there was a Jesus) than the reactionary law upholder if I had to choose. But it’s a wild guess, uninformed by any textual scholarship.

  • Mike

    I meant poorly plagiarized in that the four gospels while blatant copies, still couldn’t get the stories straight or even the important details.

  • http://outofthegdwaye.wordpress.com/ George W.

    Did you pick up Dan Savage’s It Get’s Better initiative yet? I blogged about it yesterday and many of my friends have as well. It is a subject that I think would interest you, and something I hope your much-larger-than-mine reader base should be aware of.

    As to the subject at hand, I think Dan Savage again cuts to the heart of the debate. We are asking people who want nothing more than a completely consensual and requited relationship with another human being to just disavow that which is among the most fundamental definitions of humanity: Love.
    It seems to me to be one more petty religious excuse to circle the wagons and keep the fear alive. Faith seems to flourish under fire, and so the culture wars continue.

    We all lose when this happens, but none more than those wielded as wedges to keep the esprit des corps running high.

    Oh, and whether or not Jesus was personally anti-gay is beside the point. He was likely against adultery, yet defended a woman who was to be stoned for it. In the end there stood no accuser of that woman, and so I will assume that Jesus is not a supporter of condemning people for a victimless crime.