How do the Fundies Reconcile This…?

Reader Alan can’t figure out why anyone would use Leviticus 20:13 (below) to condemn homosexuality:

If a man lies with a male as he lies with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination. They shall surely be put to death. Their blood shall be upon them.

This is his argument (which may have been made in other places before):

In what way does a gay man lie with a woman? He doesn’t. He’s gay… So he’s not committing an abomination.

Does anyone lie with a man as he does a woman?

Maybe closeted gay men who have sex with their wives and who sneak around to have sex with men… they lie with both men and women the same way. So if you take Leviticus literally, those guys would be an abomination.

So would Bisexuals.

And asexuals.

But not homosexuals.

Alan’s right. Biblical Literalism makes your head hurt.

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.

  • John L

    We’ve wandered into sophistry.

    • Adam Kamp

      Sophistry indeed. The only good thing about this chain of argument is that it might convince a Biblical literalist who likes gays (or IS gay) and is looking for a way out. But there are too many other reasonable readings of that passage that to try to use this to convince a True Believer is laughably naive.

  • vexorian

    This is wrong.

    You cannot use a logic bomb against an entity incapable of understanding logic.

  • http://www.facebook.com/Dharmaworks David Benjamin Patton

    I’ve always though this verse probably meant it is an abomination for a man to take the passive role in anal sex with another man. This is fairly consistent with the Greek and Roman attitudes toward men and boys having sex with each other at that time in history. In Greek and Roman society it was OK to take the male or dominate role in gay sex but not the female or passive role. That was severely frowned upon for grown adult men. This is perhaps one reason why many sexual relations were more pederast  in nature than strictly. It was more OK to fuck a boy or youth who was not yet a man than it was to fuck another man as that would be unseemly. In this sense I think it would be more akin to prison sex – or a type of sex based on opportunity within social acceptability – than actual pedophilia. I think it’s also worthy to not that homosexuality as we understand it today did not exist back then. Sure, there were gay men and women but the concept of an exclusive sexual and romantic same sex attraction was unheard of.

    • Stev84

      The last sentence isn’t entirely true, I think. See Plato’s Symposium for example:

      Men who are a section of that double nature which was once called Androgynous are lovers of women; adulterers are generally of this breed, and also adulterous women who lust after men: the women who are a section of the woman do not care for men, but have female attachments; the female companions are of this sort. But they who are a section of the male follow the male, and while they are young, being slices of the original man, they hang about men and embrace them, and they are themselves the best of boys and youths, because they have the most manly nature. Some indeed assert that they are shameless, but this is not true; for they do not act thus from any want of shame, but because they are valiant and manly, and have a manly countenance, and they embrace that which is like them. And these when they grow up become our statesmen, and these only, which is a great proof of the truth of what I am saying. When they reach manhood they are lovers of youth, and are not naturally inclined to marry or beget children,-if at all, they do so only in obedience to the law; but they are satisfied if they may be allowed to live with one another unwedded; and such a nature is prone to love and ready to return love, always embracing that which is akin to him

      Sure, the whole creation story preceding that is mainly intended to be humorous, so it’s hard to say how serious one is supposed to take this, but it sounds like the author is aware that some people have no interest in the opposite sex and only marry out of familial and social obligation. The idea seems to have been known, but it certainly wasn’t an identifier as it is today.

    • http://profiles.google.com/davydd.norris David Philip Norris

      As Stev84 said, I agree with everything but the last sentence. If you were socially passive in the ancient world (i.e., not a free male, which included women and slaves), your ass (or any orifice) was literally fair game. However, while you were expected to a certain extent to fulfill your societal obligations by taking a wife and bearing children (which was more to prove virility as a male than anything), same-sex marriages (official or unofficial) were certainly not uncommon in ancient Greece and Rome. It wasn’t until Christianity became the law of the land that homosexuality was outlawed.

    • Rwlawoffice

      This is really reading a lot into this verse that isn’t there. It is simply an euphenism for having sex with another man. How that sex is accomplished is irrelevant.

      I am curious about the rest of your post. I have seen others here argue that Roman culture was more moral than our own because of its attitudes about sex. If that is your position are you saying that forced sex by men against young boys is morally okay? Or would you agree that prison sex against young boys is morally repugnant. Please understand, I am not implying that your position is condoning it, I am genuinely asking.

      • http://dogmabytes.com/ C Peterson

        In Roman society, sex between men and boys was a moral act. We don’t generally see it that way today. Morals change. You can’t compare the morals of one society to those of another, except abstractly.

        • brianmacker

          I disagree. There are objective measures by which you can compare moral systems. For example moral systems with rules that have double standards are objectively unfair.

          • http://dogmabytes.com/ C Peterson

            You’re free to disagree, of course. This is a matter of opinion, not fact. Personally, I don’t believe that morals (or fairness) are subjectively or objectively comparable in the sense of “rightness” or “wrongness”. Moral systems are what they are. The only way I would compare them is in terms of how well they work for a society. A moral system that leads to societal problems can be considered to fail in an objective way. Did the acceptance of sex between men and boys in ancient Rome or Greece cause societal problems? None that I’m aware of, so I’d consider this to be fine (by the standards of the time). Does the lack of acceptance of same-sex relationships in the U.S. cause societal problems. Yes, so I view this as a system of morality that can be improved upon.

            • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

              Did the acceptance of sex between men and boys in ancient Rome or Greece cause societal problems? None that I’m aware of, so I’d consider this to be fine (by the standards of the time).

              When you say ‘society’ you just mean the men, right?  Not the boys?

              • http://dogmabytes.com/ C Peterson

                No, when I say society, I mean society. Men, women, slaves, children, soldiers, the types of governance and administration, commerce and economy, foreign policy, recreation, and all the myriad other things that make up an entire culture.

            • brianmacker

              Oh, it’s a matter of fact whether you recognize it or not. You made a blanket statement about moral systems which was false. A moral system that allows slavery may work “just fine” as a system “for society” and for hundreds of years but that is not how you measure whther it is moral. A system of moral law that allows murder is not even a true set of rules because you can get around any rule by murdering others. You could consent to any other rules in such a system and then just get around them by murdering anyone who attempted to invoke let alone enforce a rule you didn’t like.

              Morality is about reciprocal cooperation. Rules that are inharmonious with this basic truth are objectively immoral.

              • http://dogmabytes.com/ C Peterson

                You do not understand what matters of fact are if you believe this. How the Moon was formed is a matter of fact. Whether the Earth was ever flooded is a matter of fact. The question of absolute versus relative morality is not… which is why philosophers have been arguing over it for as long as there have been philosophers. It isn’t a question that can be answered factually.

                • http://www.facebook.com/people/Brian-Macker/518709704 Brian Macker

                  I wasn’t making a statement of absolute morality vs. relative morality.  You are out of your depth here.  

                  The question of absolute vs. relative (I think you mean subjective) morality is a false dicotomy, in that both positions are false (and can be proven to be false by example). 

                  It is you who chose one of those two false positions, subjective morality.   There are many other positions and my statements are in fact consistent with those.    I didn’t posit any abosolute moral system.   I showed that your subjectivist clams were false as has the other commenter.

                  Your statement that “You can’t compare the morals of one society to those of another, except abstractly.” is false.

                  We can compare the morals of say southern slavery to that of the north and objectively say that one is better than the other.   You on the other hand would say:
                  “In the Southern US, black slavery was a moral act. We don’t generally see it that way today. Morals change. You can’t compare the morals of one society to those of another, except abstractly.” 

                  That’s total nonsense, and I don’t have to believe that there is one single best and absolute moral system to have shown you to be wrong.

                  You have in  claimed that  for every moral system there is no way to order any two of them as to the superior and inferior.   This is false.

                  I can certainly come up with two moral systems that  cannot be ordered, for example one where you are allowed to rape young boys, vs an identical one where instead you get to rape young girls.   You cannot order those two systems on a moral scale.  

                  However that does not mean every pair cannot be ordered.   A simple example would be our current legal system in the US vs. the same exact system except allowing for black slavery.   Obviously the former can be ranked morally superior to the latter.  

                  One can also rank on specific subjects.   Like one society having a morally superior set of rules on boy rape regardless of other issues. 

                • http://dogmabytes.com/ C Peterson

                  It isn’t apparent to me that you know much about the philosophy behind ethical systems.

      • http://profiles.google.com/davydd.norris David Philip Norris

        I wouldn’t say that it was “moral.” Hell, Roman culture glorified death and violence to the extent that killing was entertainment. But the Romans were pretty laissez-faire when it came to social mores. So long as you paid taxes, showed proper reverence for the emperor, and didn’t try to start uprisings, you were free to conduct yourself however you liked. That citizens were content mattered to the Romans because a happy populace is a peaceful populace, so if they didn’t have to intervene, they didn’t.

        But no one would say raping a boy because his social status makes it okay is acceptable. What it does tell us, however, is that our concept of gender and sexuality is fluid and changeable throughout history, which runs factually counter to what evangelicals are screaming about biblical manhood and womanhood (i.e., divinely sanctioned chauvinism and misogyny) being fixed and established by God from time immemorial.

        In the ancient world there was no such thing as gender as we know it today. Barring a sudden change in fortunes, sexuality wasn’t a matter of choice. What mattered was your social standing and status as a freeman. That determined who penetrated who, and a freeman could not be penetrated (i.e., play the part of a woman or a slave) without calling into question his ability to carry his social standing. Few cultures outside of Judaism had rigid gender expectations regarding sexuality; and up until Christianity came along and made it a capital crime, homosexuality was just one of many sexual modes. The ancients would likely be baffled by conservative Christians scowling at a same-sex couple. “What’s the big deal?” they might say. “They aren’t hurting anyone.”

        So they were asking different questions that had nothing to do with morality. It wasn’t so much “Who are you attracted to?” as it was “Who are you allowed to fuck?” If you were really lucky, you’d end up as the favorite slave of some rich nobleman who would take you as his lover. There are numerous examples of this happening in Greece and Rome.

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

    And as I have often said, as long as they do not do it lying down, it is perfectly acceptable from the standpoing of Leviticus and Biblical literalism. :-)

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Natalie-A-Sera/743004321 Natalie A. Sera

    Well, I’m not sure where asexuals come into this picture — either they don’t lie with anyone, or maybe they lie with just one sex,  or maybe with both, but I think the latter unlikely, since they’re not particularly interested in sex. Now when it comes to hugging, who cares what gender you’re hugging?

  • observer

    *shrugs* To me, it means that you should be truthful (i.e. no lies) to another man.

    • Baby_Raptor

      So men are expected to lie to women, but not to other men? 

      That’s some Fucked up thinking. 

    • Pedro Lemos

      Hehe… nice subterfuge…
      But, sadly, it only works in english…

  • jamesprobis

    I’d say the bigger issue is a twisted morality that doesn’t forcefully reject the whole “they shall be put to death” thing. If you can read that and decide that homosexuality is the thing that is wrong there is something fundamentally broken inside you.

  • Annie

    All of this Leviticus nonsense can so easily be proven wrong.  If we skip down to Leviticus 20:21 (very same chapter) we see that if a man “shall lie with his brother’s wife, it is an unclean thing; he hath uncovered his brother’s nakedness; they shall be childless.” 

    I am sure there is at least one man who has successfully impregnated his brother’s wife in this world.  Shoot.  I’d bet there’s at least one in Georgia.  (Not picking on Georgia… just choosing a random state.)  We could easily have physical PROOF that Leviticus is wrong.  But, I imagine the fundies would come up with some argument as to why Leviticus 20:18 should be taken literally, but Leviticus 20:21… er, not so much.

    • Annie

       Oops.  Last sentence should read “…why Leviticus 20:13 should be taken literally”.  Sorry… I haven’t figured out how to edit posts.

      • http://gloomcookie613.tumblr.com GloomCookie613

         Are you mobile or on a computer?  If you’re on a computer (and even some mobile devices), look under your comment to where the “reply” button is.  To the left of that should be an “edit” button (where the “like” button is on other peoples’ posts).  Click on it and it will reopen the box to input your text with your original text in it for editing.  Then click the “save edit” button under the bottom left corner of the text input box.  If you have any other questions or are confused, feel free to send me a reply and I’ll try to help you out. No need to apologize, we were all new to the commenting system at some point. :)

        Here’s the shorthand version:

        Click “edit”
        Correct text
        Click “save edit”

        Good luck! 

        • Annie

          Gloomcookie- you are so very sweet to try to help me!  I’m using a desktop, but I don’t have any “edit” button (just a like and reply).  I use firefox, but tried opening up in explorer, but still nothing.  I also tried opening a patheos account, but it’s  not recognizing my user name and password.  I guess I better just get it right the first time.  Thanks again for your help… I’ll try again in the morning.

          • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

            I think it might have something to do with a disqus account, not just patheos, although patheos might do it.  When I click on some users’ names, I get a summary of how many comments they’ve made in various places.  Other users (like you) I just get a list of their most recent comments.

          • http://gloomcookie613.tumblr.com GloomCookie613

             I think Rich is right.  I’m commenting via an actual disqus account.  They’re not hard to set up and that allows for editing then in the way I described. :)  Sorry you’re having a hard time with it :(

    • http://gloomcookie613.tumblr.com GloomCookie613

       “I am sure there is at least one man who has successfully impregnated his brother’s wife in this world.”

      All you need to verify your hunch is to watch a few episodes of Maury sometime.   It’s been proven via DNA testing when someone’s slept with their partner’s brother and got pregnant!

      Bro, you ARE the father!

      • Annie

         And I wonder if any of those Maury guests are anti-gay Christians?  The idea that people can just pick and choose from their bible still baffles me. I am pretty certain that there is something that is banned in the bible that even the most diehard Christians simply cannot follow. But for some reason, when you bring this up to them, they just spout on about whatever their passion du jour might be.  It’s hard to reason with the unreasonable.

        • Alex

          > I am pretty certain that there is something that is banned in the bible
          that even the most diehard Christians simply cannot follow.

          Like, for instance, I have never heard a Christian say, “Barbecue? Sorry, the Bible forbids me to eat pork.”

  • gski

    If “as” is read to mean “when” then “If a man lies with a male as he lies with a woman, …” refers to a mfm scene. It all depends on what the meaning of as is.

  • http://dogmabytes.com/ C Peterson

    The bigger question is why a tribal commandment applying to a few hundred bronze age men should have any relevance in today’s society, regardless of interpretation.

    Of course, it’s physically impossible for a man to lay with another man as with a woman (assuming that sex is what is meant, of course), given the rather obvious anatomical differences. So I assume it’s just a euphemism. It isn’t too hard to figure out the intent. The thing is, though, it has been very common in many societies throughout history for men to be married to women and have men on the side. A strongly gay man might have problems with the sexual aspect of such a marriage, but many people are sufficiently bisexual that they could have sex with either men or women… so I think this piece of logic is a bit lacking.

    • http://twitter.com/InMyUnbelief TCC

      It’s pretty clearly a euphemism; the Bible is full of them, down to using “know” as a euphemism for sex and referring to “feet” when actually talking about the penis. We’re just dealing with people who were uptight about sexual language, basically. This almost assuredly means what the fundies think it means.

      • http://dogmabytes.com/ C Peterson

        It almost assuredly means that there is an Old Testament condemnation of male-on-male sex within the Jewish tribes. There’s nothing to suggest it applies to non-Jews, or to homosexuality in general. So the fundies probably have most of it wrong, even so.

        Of course, it is no more concern to me what ancient Jews thought of the matter than it is what ancient Druids thought. Basing your views on old ideas, without considering new information, is stupid.

        • http://twitter.com/InMyUnbelief TCC

          Yeah, it’s Paul that allows for continuity between the OT and NT on this issue. Why Leviticus rather than Romans always gets quoted by fundies is beyond me. (Maybe it’s because “abomination” is a stronger word than “unnatural,” especially given how Paul uses that concept in Romans 11.)

    • http://profiles.google.com/davydd.norris David Philip Norris

      The much bigger question is why are we still applying rules meant for a barbaric, xenophobic, erotophobic, misogynistic Bronze Age tribe to 21st century people.

  • PostBibleCollegeAtheist

    They also put men with men in the same category of menstrual cycles, a woman is supposed to isolate herself for 4 days after her period.  But that is silly why would a woman do that in today’s society?

    Several instances of homosexuality in the new testament weren’t even the word for what we would consider homosexuality.  They were combinations of different words that Paul used close to homosexual acts, but not the same.  Mostly translating to rape of unwilling persons of the same gender as well as children.

    • Annie

       According to Leviticus 20, no one is really safe.  Even those who curse their father or mother should be put to death.  It seems to me that god wasn’t very creative with his punishments in this book. 

      • http://twitter.com/InMyUnbelief TCC

        I find the cursing proscription to be interesting, since I’ve seen it convincingly argued that this and some other laws (like the commandment about taking God’s name in vain) are evidence of a type of thinking where words are literally magic and can have tangible consequences. So a child who curses their father or mother is actually thought to be sending suffering down on them and so must be punished. (Why that prohibition wouldn’t apply to anyone is beyond me, though.)

  • Steve

    What about the gay Mormon guy who is married to a woman and is monogamous?

    • http://profiles.google.com/davydd.norris David Philip Norris

       Mormons are a whole other category of crazy.

  • http://profiles.google.com/davydd.norris David Philip Norris

    [Dons biblical scholar cap.]

    Actually, this verse is equally offensive to both gays and to women. The literal Hebrew is even more confusing: “And with a male you shall not lay [in the (or as the)] lyings of a woman.” Basically, the implied meaning here is to not make another man a submissive sexual partner, which brings to mind the prayer that orthodox Jewish men pray every day: “Thank God I wasn’t born a gentile, a slave, [or] a woman.”

    • http://profiles.google.com/davydd.norris David Philip Norris

      I should add that this chapter is largely about prohibiting pagan sexual practices that were common in the ancient Near East, which often included mass orgies, which usually included both incest and homosexuality. What people lose sight of in Leviticus is that it’s a set of rules meant to keep the Hebrews different (to “set apart”) from the other cultures around them. This is just another of those rules.

      It would be as if during the 1950s we decided as a culture that we weren’t going to be atheists because those godless commies don’t believe in God and we’re a free country, god-… I mean, darn it.

    • brianmacker

      So as a male you can catch but not pitch, and heterosexual dominatrixes are bound for hell?

  • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

    Pretty much an aside, but I was recently browsing kids’ bibles in a B&N, and came across one that ended Leviticus 18:22 not with “it is an abomination” or “it is detestable” but the more colloquial “I hate that”.

    (Seriously) 

  • okami151

     “If a man lies with a male as he lies with a woman, both of them have
    committed an abomination. They shall surely be put to death. Their blood
    shall be upon them.”

    Quick question for the gays: Exactly how often have you put your penis in a man’s vagina, in order to ‘lie with a male’ as you do with a woman?

    Just sayin’…

  • The Other Weirdo

    Wow, somebody needs to take a remedial English language class. It’s obviously a euphemism for sex, straight and gay.  You also need to watch more pr0n.

  • Alan Christensen

    For the record, I offered this interpretation with a wink and a smirk.

  • bandm

    “Of course I can’t lie with a man as I would a woman. Men don’t have c*nts”

    Direct quote from a married with kids, Jewish(went to synagogue on Saturdays, didn’t eat pork) Anglican priest who raped an ex-bf of mine.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_QPVVPRJ7QKLPU6TF5B4IZTENTI No

    Nominally cute as a retort, but how would they reconcile that? They’d say your tongue is perverted by the devil and seeks to distort “God’s” meaning for his ends, and leave it at that.

    Remember, we are dealing with the “godidit” crowd, for which no “it’s in the Bible” answer is too strenuous…

  • http://twitter.com/m_ethaniel Mistletoe Ethaniel

    I dunno.  I say leave the logic gymnastics to the real pros: the believers.

  • parge

    “If a man lies with a male as he lies with a woman, both of them have
    committed an abomination. They shall surely be put to death. Their blood
    shall be upon them.”

    Of course, they could mean “at the same time”. So they’re talking about threesomes, right?


CLOSE | X

HIDE | X