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.

Jesus: True Prophet or False Prophet? - Part 1
G&T Rebuttal, Part 6: Chapter 7
Not this Again!
A Primer in Religion and Morality
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.


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