I’ve heard two major types of Christian arguments against homosexuality (or, more precisely, against acting on a homosexual orientation). I find both unpersuasive, and I thought I’d close out this series inspired by Christiopher Yuan by explaining why I don’t buy the arguments and why I think one of them is never worth making to non-Christians.
It is Bad because God forbids it.
God asks people to do a lot of strange things, especially in the Old Testament. At the most horrifying end of the spectrum is the story of Abraham and Isaac, and over in the less frightening but still perplexing category are Judaism’s arbitrary seeming laws of kashrut (rabbit meat is verboten, and apparently Jews may not drink wine or grape juice that was prepared by non-Jews).
I’ve heard people make arguments that these laws are good in themselves, but most people endorse obedience to God as an end in itself. If you take a somewhat fideist tack, the more bizarre/horrifying the rule, the more praiseworthy the submission of will. (This line of thought has some frightening implications which are being discussed by commenters arguing about God’s genocides).
As far as I could tell, this is the type of argument Yuan was making when his visited Yale. The only proof-texts he cited were from Leviticus, and he didn’t have anything bad to say about homosexuality except that it was counter to God’s will for him.This may seem obvious, but since plenty of apologists, including Yuan, make this mistake, let me be clear: If your argument is premised solely on God’s preference/command, atheists and other non-Christians will not be persuaded. The only argument you ought to be making to me is that your god exists. If you succeed at that, then we’ll talk.
It’s baffling to me that many Christians choose to make arguments about homosexuality, masturbation, contraception, etc their primary mark in the public square. The arguments aren’t accessible outside their sect’s framework, so us atheists are left unmoved or repulsed.
But there is another strategy…
God forbids it because it is Bad.
This is the natural law/Theology of the Body kind of strategy and its much rarer than the first maneuver, at least in my experience. I still don’t agree with the premises or the conclusions derived from them (Why is vaginal sex uniquely unitive? Why is a woman with a hysterectomy allowed to have sex while a woman using a diaphragm is not?), but at least the assumptions are supposed to be accessible to me.
When I hear this kind of argument, I’m willing to listen, but I need to hear that the person making the argument knows something about human sexuality and relationships. Anyone making a pitch that gay people can’t love each other deeply and selflessly is too out of step with lived experience to get me to budge unless they have a really strong explanation of why my subjective experiences and those of my friends are mistaken.