Arguments we shouldn’t be having

So a few days ago Natalie Reed wrote this great post titled “God Does Not Love Trans People.” Then our friend Be Scofield posted a totally missing the point response. I’m going to start by quoting the paragraph from Natalie that Scofield quoted from, only quoting the entire thing rather than just part of it. And I’ve bolded the parts Scofield left out… which is most of it:

These considerations are in play here as well… saying “God loves trans people” has absolutely no more underlying justification, evidence or substance than does “God hates fags”. Neither party has any evidence on which to base this, and both are just extrapolations based on assuming God’s will ought reflect their own. We cannot possibly know how God feels about anyone (entertaining briefly the possibility that He even exists). When you introduce “God loves trans people” into the dialogue, you have nothing backing you up with which to cause a transphobic religious believer to accept your message or reconsider their position, but you have just validated, supported and helped normalize his belief in God- a God that he probably thinks hates us very, very much. Congrats! You spur on religious belief which, more often than not, maintains a climate of bigotry towards LGBTQ individuals. You insulate and protect them. You assent to the foundations of their hate, which they claim as justification. Asserting there is a God, and supporting the human tendency towards religious faith (whatever its form), does nothing but bolster the underlying principles on which the Westboro Baptist Church is based. If we wish to fight these organizations, we can’t do so simply pitting our own intuitive, faith-based assumption of God against theirs. We need to attack the foundation: the idea that faith is a good, or at least harmless, thing, and that God’s will is what matters and takes precedence over secular considerations and ethics like “hey, maybe it’s kinda uncool to go around hating the fuck out of people just because they happen to have a non-normative gender or sexuality. Maybe instead of worrying so much about the unknowable divine, we might try to make things in this world not so shitty for queer folk”.

Scofield, disappointingly and somewhat predictably, interpreted that the following way: “There is no meaningful difference between Jerry Falwell and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in Reed’s analysis.” Holy fucking reading comprehension fail Batman! (Seriously, my brain right now is just going WTFWTFWTFWTFWTFWTF.)

No. The point is that by putting so much stock in a claim for which there is no evidence (“God loves trans people”), you legitimize the idea that such unsupported claims have a place in the discussion. You legitimize the idea that who God does or does not love should influence how we treat our fellow human beings. That’s the problem.

This applies to a lot more issues than just trans rights or LGBTQ rights. It applies to any issue where some liberal folks feel the need to cite religion to back up their positions. Newsflash! The question of whether to teach real science or pseudoscience in our public schools shouldn’t depend on the interpretation of a book produced by an ancient and scientifically ignorant culture! The question of how to best reform our health care system shouldn’t be decided by what Jesus would have wanted! We need a reality-based approach here, people!

  • jamessweet

    There is no meaningful difference between Jerry Falwell and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in terms of their epistemic warrant to pronounce on what God wants. The words that each man chose to put in God’s fictional mouth speaks volumes about their respective characters, of course.

    Recognizing that the two sentences in the preceding paragraph are orthogonal statements requires an ability for abstract thought that appears to be beyond what most H. sapiens typically engage in, alas.

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  • Sastra

    If, instead of religion and what God wants, the battle for respect for LGBTQ individuals was taking place on the field of astrology and what the planets tell us — do you think Be just might see the fundamental problem a little bit more clearly?

    Does the Age of Aquarius allow for gay marriage? Surely queer people who believe in astrology are not enabling those hate-filled astrologers who go off the tracks and say ‘no.’

  • sc_c44a445e0244a7893bd1a1b0828aea65

    It’s well worth following the link to Be Scofield’s pathetic essay, just to read Rieux’s excellent rebuttal in the comments.

  • Rieux

    Thanks, sc_etc. I’m off to post links over there to Chris’s, Ophelia Benson’s, and Jason Thibeault’s rebuttals to Scofield.

    You’ve got to say one thing in Scofield’s favor: he tends to bring out some very good work in FTBloggers.

    • Chris Hallquist

      Thanks Rieux!

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  • BecomingJulie

    What this comes down to is, no individual snowflake wants to believe it is somehow responsible for the avalanche.


    Once you can believe one unverifiable thing — for example, “God exists” — you have paved the way in your mind for believing other unverifiable things — for example, “God wants me to set fire to a hospital which performs abortions”. And a belief which is unverifiable is potentially a belief which is untrue (you don’t know for sure, obviously …..) And any action taken on the basis of an untrue belief is potentially dangerous.

    Ultimately, the difference between someone who is prepared to believe unverifiable things up to a limit (“my pastor says disease is God’s punishment for Sin; but I’m still going to call the doctor if I or a member of my family feel unwell”) and a full-on religious nutter who is prepared to believe unverifiable things up to a greater limit (“disease is God’s punishment for sin; so instead of trusting modern Godless medicine, I shall pray for my poorly daughter to get better”) is one of degree, not one of kind.

    Telling a moderate theist that they are acting as an enabler for the religious nutters is a bit like telling a snowflake that it is contributing to the avalanche. It’s self-evidently true, but they don’t like it.

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