Some Thoughts on Robert Gagnon’s “Secular Case against Cultural Endorsement of Homosexual Behavior”

I’ve often suspected that the only valid* reasons for opposing homosexual behavior were religious ones, so I was very interested to read Gagnon’s self-described “secular case.” I view it as a “good thing” that religious opponents even feel the need to offer a “secular case” because there was a time when a list of Bible verses probably would have been sufficient to settle the matter.

So what are his secular objections to homosexual behavior?

1) The nature argument. Marriage is not just about more intimacy. It is about merging with one’s sexual other half or counterpart, a complementary sexual other. Erotic desire for what one is as a sexual being is sexual narcissism or sexual self-deception: an attempt at completing oneself sexually through merger with a sexual same. Most people intuit something developmentally deficient about being erotically attracted to the body parts and essential gender that one shares in common with another.

1. This argument gets off to a bad start: “Marriage is not just about more intimacy. It is about merging with one’s sexual other half or counterpart, a complementary sexual other.” This is simply an expression of a priori bias against same-sex marriage: Gagnon rules out same-sex marriage as a matter of definition. But let that pass. Whether we call it same-sex “marriage” or “schmarriage,” what secular reason is there to believe that it needs to be about merging with one’s sexual other half or counterpart? So far as I can tell, Gagnon doesn’t provide one.

2. “Erotic desire for what one is as a sexual being is sexual narcissism or sexual self-deception: an attempt at completing oneself sexually through merger with a sexual same.” To call that “narcissism” seems like a stretch to me. It’s not as if homosexuals are trying to have sexual relations with their identical twins (who would have genitals identical to their own). As for “self-deception,” I’m aware that someone who believes Romans 1 to be the word of God may believe that homosexuals are self-deceived about their orientation. From a secular perspective, however, I don’t see any reason to think that self-deception is the best explanation. Rather, when someone professes to have a homosexual orientation, I think the best explanation, by default,  is that the person is truly sincere and not just superficially sincere (as the product of self-deception).

3. “Most people intuit something developmentally deficient about being erotically attracted to the body parts and essential gender that one shares in common with another.”

“Developmentally deficient”? That seems like a very odd description. It suggests that normal development includes going through a homosexual phase before arriving at a heterosexual one, which strikes me as implausible. I doubt even Gagnon believes that. In any case, I do not find any evidence or reasons in Gagnon’s article to think homosexuals are “developmentally deficient.”

 

Okay, I’ve lost interest in blogging a response to the rest of Gagnon’s case, at least for now. I welcome others to respond in the combox, however.

* By “valid*,” I mean reasons that would be objectively valid for religious believers, given their worldview.

About Jeffery Jay Lowder

Jeffery Jay Lowder is President Emeritus of Internet Infidels, Inc., which he co-founded in 1995. He is also co-editor of the book, The Empty Tomb: Jesus Beyond the Grave.

  • Wes McMichael

    The most significant secular argument to date for opposing same-sex marriage is What Is Marriage?: Man and Woman: A Defense, written by two very young, but brilliant philosophers and Robert George, a highly noted philosopher of law. All three are personally religious, but they do not bring that into their arguments.

    I find their arguments ultimately unconvincing, but they are of a much higher quality than Gagnon (who by the way will likely respond to your post as is his online habit).

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Richard-Norris/1405051812 Richard Norris

    The argument seems to rely on a sort of essentialism, which is a part of natural law. Natural law philosophy proceeds from Aristotelian thought, which requires the concept of an Unmoved Mover. This is ultimately no more secular than any religious argument,

  • Pingback: Is Robert Gagnon Gay? | thomascwaters.com

  • tcwaters

    Gagnon’s pretend secular arguments prompt me to wonder, is Gagnon gay? http://thomascwaters.com/2013/04/07/is-robert-gagnon-gay/

  • Francois Tremblay

    Psychoanalyzing your opponents =/= arguing against a position.

    • Japooh

      Read the title of the post – the author doesn’t suggest that this will be a refutation, or argument against any position.

      • Francois Tremblay

        Psychoanalyzing your opponents =/= Rational discourse.

        • Japooh

          Wow, can’t thank you enough for bothering to reply with something useful. I think I’ll stick with my comment too.

          • Francois Tremblay

            You’re welcome.

  • tain

    Nobody ever seems to mention the fact that the lining of the anal canal is thinner than the lining of the vagina, so penetration can lead to rupturing and tearing allowing faeces to enter the blood stream, which can lead to a whole host of health problems. It is an unsafe practice.

    • TheBlackCat13

      By that logic we should ban everything but lesbian sex, since vaginal intercourse is also unsafe.

      Since when do we outlaw stuff that consenting people want to do because it is unsafe? Smoking is legal, drinking is legal, skydiving is legal, free climbing is legal, skiing is legal, tattoos and piercings are legal, base jumping is legal, etc.

  • g0027717

    I agree with Gagnon that my marriage is undefinably “narcissistic”. My husband’s too much like me! Look at our genitals! They’re the same! In fact, being married to someone of the same race is narcissistic for the same reason. We’re about the same height and weight, too. Come to think of it, marriage between two humans is species-narcissistic. That’s like self-love. In fact, marriage between two sentient beings is like loving a version of yourself. Come to think of it, marrying a physical object violates God’s — oops, I mean Nature’s — complementarity of physical/spiritual dualism. So I’m a homosexual, homoracial, homoconstitutional, homospecies, homosential, homophysical narcissist. How immature. Maybe it’s just a stage.