Clawing out of the Cesspool

Thanks all for the mostly good behavior on the two preceding posts on queer issues.  I know I’ve got a fairly diverse audience, and it can be hard to negotiate different frames of reference without misinterpreting or even just taking offense at the wrong thing (and thereby missing the insult your sparring partner spent a while crafting!).

After looking at comment thread in the last post, Adam Lee was pretty put off by what he termed the “cesspool of anti-gay hate” that bubbled up.  I can guess some of the specific comments he was referring to, so, just as a reminder: My comment policy is not to call out every comment I disagree with (that would mean disruptive or unpleasant people got first dibs on my time), and you all are free to walk away from a fight that feels unproductive.

I usually prefer to write for the people I disagree with.  It’s easier for me to write targeted to some specific idea of an audience, and a mildly hostile interlocutor is a good match for my (probably a little excessively) pugilistic style.  So I can’t be surprised when the people I’m tailoring my posts for show up and get a mite, well, disagreeable.

Before and after my conversion, people have accused me of being accomodationist of some pretty awful ideas, and I guess that’s true to an extent.  I don’t make an effort to make these comment threads a safe space, and, if I’m going to bother to engage someone who tees me off, I work really hard to not give them an excuse to write off my arguments, so I tone down my outrage.  I’m not universalizing this strategy, but it’s what I like doing and sometimes it pays off.  I’m trying to make it easier for people to change their mind and encounter the information that might help them do it.

And speaking of which: If you notice people think your comments are hateful, that is data.  It may not mean that your rhetoric or position is actually wrong, but it’s extremely likely that the way you’re expressing it isn’t winning over the people you’re trying to help (and you are in the conversation to be helpful, not to vent, right?).      People are usually telling you the truth when they say they’re angry.  That’s a fact about the world.  Whether they’re ‘right’ to be angry is a different question, but whatever the answer is, it doesn’t change the fact that, while they’re angry, it’s harder for them to engage with the content of your argument.

This is what I like to call “handing weapons to the enemy.”  If your interlocutor doesn’t want to change his mind, there are two ways for him to stay safe: rebutting you and coming up with a reason to not engage with you.  The content of your arguments is supposed to take care of the first, and your tone is what takes of the second.  When you go too aggressive, or match the abusive tone of the person you’re speaking to, most people will mentally downgrade the soundness of your argument.  It doesn’t matter that they started it.  And remember that most people, yes, you included, are bad at calibrating a match to the interlocutor’s tone.  We usually intensify.

It’s not required that everyone play in my style on my blog, but don’t be surprised that the general approach means some nasty stuff comes into the sunlight.  Ignore it if you like, but, if you want to engage, I’d challenge you to draft one comment as you would if you were talking to your objectionable uncle or anyone you loved and you wanted to correct them charitably.

Read over the draft and try to decide what has to go and why.  What are you losing by not getting angry?  If you’re worried you sound too conciliatory, could you just preface the whole thing with “I really, vehemently disagree with what you said.  Let me try to explain why.”  I promise to still believe you’re frustrated, even if everything that follows is pleasant.

"Well, I would love to know if you now believe that homosexuality is intrinsically disordered."

Go Ahead, Tell Me What’s Wrong ..."
"Any chance of you ever addressing the evidence that led you to accept the truth ..."

Letting Go of the Goal of ..."
""Wow, an unevidenced assertion from a religious dipshite. "Your quotes are the evidence and reason ..."

This is my last post for ..."
""Congrats on leaving your brain behind!"Comments like yours are why lots of atheists leave atheism. ..."

This is my last post for ..."

Browse Our Archives

Follow Us!

What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • Gosh almighty, mercy me, good thing I only commented on FB, not on the blog, or the poor sensitive souls in your general reading audience would all have cried.

    • anodognosic

      I read a couple of your comments on FB. Not only did they not change my mind, they left me with no desire to engage in their substance. In fact, they just briefly made me want to insult you. Maybe that’s success in your book, but I think the hope is that this comment section aspires to something higher than that.

      • Ted Seeber

        The comfortable never convert. If what somebody writes makes you mad, you need to figure out why and if they have an actual point.

        • KL

          “Comfortable” and “offended” are not the only two options. You can challenge someone charitably and/or reasonably without causing personal offense. Socrates converted many by asking calm questions.

          • Ted Seeber

            Insult isn’t possible in text- the entire subtext of tone of voice is removed, thus any perceived insult is entirely on your side of the screen. A man can be simply asking calm questions and *still* offend, if the other side has framed the debate in such a way as to take offense at any hint of being wrong.

    • I suspect, Ted Seeber, that the process of figuring out the actual point is made easier for all when the point is made politely and in a less pejorative manner. Leah’s point, from what I could deduce (and to deduce it was not difficult) was that the rhetorically-charged attitude some commenters adopt, particularly in response to certain issues, is useful for one and only one thing in and of itself, and that is preaching to the choir. It does not clarify your argument’s position; what Leah suggests (“I really, vehemently disagree with what you said. Let me try to explain why.”) would do so with a minimum of fuss, *and* keep the author from being written off as hotheaded. Be Michael Corleone in conversation, not Sonny, because Michael is a guy people can deal with. This is not a difficult point to understand, though it seems to need to be made about once a month.

      If what Leah writes seems objectionable to you, perhaps you ought to examine whether your deduction of her point was correct. But at least you display some wisdom in the matter in what you say; I am not sure anodognosic is aware that a sneer is not an argument. Reading his comment, I found no substance to engage. I do not want to insult him (her? I do not know) but if someone asked me what relevance their opinion in that comment has to anything of substance at all I would need three weeks and a shovel to answer them.

      David Zincavage, your comment so misses the point that it makes me angry. Therefore, I will not comment, but let the philosopher Robert Spaemann do the talking. “When we say that someone must learn to ‘accept himself’, we are not recommending the closing up of this inner difference [between “what we are” and “what we ought to be”], a return to blind self-assertion, the response of defiance when criticized for some inconsiderateness: ‘That’s just the kind of person I am!’ ‘The kind of person I am’ is only the other side of ‘the kind of b****d he is!’, which is how we nail someone pitilessly to the character revealed in his behavior and deny him the possibility, which forgiveness could facilitate, of appearing in a different light.”

  • I find that simply disagreeing with the homosexual act is labeled quite quickly as “anti-gay”. That is also data. No thought or argument is necessary when you’ve captured the language.

    • I was just about to say the same. All that’s required nowadays to be labelled as “anti-gay” is to state that homosexual acts are sinful. (It’s funny that no one labels me a anti-straight hater when I state that all acts of extra-marital sex between heterosexuals are sinful as well.)

      • They might if you also included the clause “and there’s no such thing as legitimate heterosexual marriage”.

        • Ted Seeber

          But that would be a lie, because the species needs to procreate.

          • Niemand

            Seven billion people and increasing. The species is reproducing fine. You can relax about that one.

        • Why would I say that when there is such a thing as a legitimate heterosexual marriage?

          • Ted Seeber

            Because he fails to understand what we mean by the word marriage. Which is what this all really comes down to- definitions of words.

          • I’m not making a point about the existence or lack of existence of heterosexual marriage, or the exitence or lack of existence of homosexual marriage. I’m just pointing out that you (Catholics) aren’t called “anti-straight” because you’re fundamentally not against straight relationships in the same way you’re against gay relationships.

            Saying “all acts of extra-marital sex between heterosexuals are sinful” is worlds apart from saying “all acts of sex between heterosexuals are sinful”- and it’s the latter you’re extending to homosexuals, not the former.

          • Ted Seeber

            True, Jake, but that comes more down to the Catholic definition of chastity than the Catholic definition of marriage.

          • Doragoon

            You’re assuming there’s an intrinsic different between homosexuals and heterosexuals which the Catholic Church does not. The catholic church does not say that people with homosexual inclinations cannot have sex. It’s gays who are claiming the inability to have any kind of sex except that which the church has determined is sinful.

          • Erick

            I see someone has miscontrued the reason for the Catholic ban on homosexual acts. For Catholics, homosexuality is not special. In fact, it is marriage that is special. Outside of marriage, sex is sinful.. doesn’t matter if you are homo, hetero, alien, third gender, etc.

          • Erick — as a factual point — I think (?) you’re wrong here, though I suppose it depends on what exactly you mean by “special, ” and perhaps also what you mean by “homosexuality”.

            The current Catechism of the CC (here) says that “Basing itself on Sacred Scripture, which presents homosexual acts as acts of grave depravity, tradition has always declared that ‘homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered.’ ” A little later it describes the inclination to engage in such acts as “objectively disordered.”

            Now the Church does NOT teach that heterosexual fornication is intrinsically disordered. Wrong? yes; mortal sin? yes. But She is making a distinction between sex that is sinful and “natural”–e.g., heterosexual fornication–and sex that is sinful and “unnatural”–e.g., homosexual acts–whatever the genders, orientations, marital status, or degree of commitment of the partners.

            You can like it or hate it, agree or disagree; but it’s hard to deny that there’s a distinction being made there.

          • The catholic church does not say that people with homosexual inclinations cannot have sex. It’s gays who are claiming the inability to have any kind of sex except that which the church has determined is sinful.

            I hear what you’re saying, but honestly, switch the roles for second. If someone came up to you and said “No no, heterosexual sex is intrinsically wrong. But, presuming you’re willing to get married, you can have all the homosexual sex you want,” You’d laugh at them, right? You (presumably) haven’t the slightest desire to engage in homosexual sex. Someone offering this as consolation for not being allowed heterosexual sex might as well be offering you the opportunity eat nothing but brocolli for the rest of your life.

            I don’t really know what the experince of being homosexual is like, but I have to imagine it’s a lot like being heterosexual, just for the other gender. Telling a homosexual that they can have heterosexual sex (assuming the right marriage and purity conditions are met) is, from their point of view, exactly the same as someone telling you you could have homosexual sex. In practice, it’s totally useless to them that they have your permission to engage in sexual activity they have absolutely no desire for, but not be allowed to engage in the kind of (what seems to them healthy) sexual activity they are actually attracted to.

            It sounds an awful lot like you’re discounting the desires and experiences of homosexual people on the basis of your theology. If you want to do that (and admit to it) that’s fine, but most non-religious people aren’t going to take your arguments seriously. I just have a hard time believing you know what a gay person is thinking and feeling better than they do on the basis of a doctrine of your Fatih.

          • Ted Seeber

            @TGGWS (did I get the right letters?) – It is objective fact that homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered. The only reason it was changed to “gender identity disorder” in the DSM-IIITR was because of politics, not science (it was at this point that I started seeing psychology as hopelessly biased and merely creating experiments that confirmed the opinion already held).

            But that says nothing about same sex attraction itself; only the act is disordered, NOT the person. Do you understand?

          • Erick


            Disordered is not equivalent to immoral. Disordered merely reflects the idea that natural biological design meant for sex is BOTH an expression of the most sacred love for your partner and procreation children TOGETHER. In the case of homosexual acts, it is not open to the procreation of children, even if it is an expression of sacred love.

            The immorality does not come into play until one decides to actualize disorderliness. This is then sin. Using your example of sinful and unnatural, homosexuals are basically in the same boat as an unmarried heterosexual couple who use contraception. Heterosexual couples who use contraception are also in your words having sinful and unnatural sex. This is what I mean by homosexuals not being special.

          • It’s TGWWS–but no worries!

            I do understand. But …

            The quote from the catechism says that “acts” of homosexual sex are “intrinsically disordered” (no matter who does them, homosexual or heterosexual) AND that the “inclination” towards homosexual sex is “objectively disordered.” So it’s not just the deed, but the desire to do the deed, that is “disordered” in the Church’s mind.

            But yes, that is quite different from saying that the PERSON is disordered. For example, my “act” of eating four pounds of Mars Bars would be “disordered,” and my “inclination” to eat four pounds of Mars Bars would also be “disordered,” but that is not the same as saying that I am disordered. I may very well be (in non-Mars Bars related areas) a perfectly ordered, nice, just, reasonable, temperate, noble, unselfish, and charitable person.

          • Oh, sorry. Previous comment @ Ted Seeber. This is @ Erick.

            “Disordered is not equivalent to immoral.”

            I think that is true … I could definitely go with “Disordered is not equivalent to sinful.” I’m just not quite sure what we mean by “immoral” here.

            Not sure what you mean by saying that homosexual acts are (or can be) “an expression of sacred love.” If you mean that homosexuals can feel agape for each other, and can intend their acts to express that–well, yes; but … It’s like the child who cuts up her mother’s best drapes to make a Valentine. We are touched by the sentiment expressed, but there’s no question but that the child has made a serious mistake in choosing her way of expressing her noble feelings. (No sarcasm intended there.)

            “Using your example of sinful and unnatural, homosexuals are basically in the same boat as an unmarried heterosexual couple who use contraception. Heterosexual couples who use contraception are also in your words having sinful and unnatural sex.”

            Pretty much, yes. In fact, Humanae Vitae ( talks about the link between contraception and homosexuality. Also, see here: Or you can just read the portion of the Summa from which that author is commenting:

      • I don’t even go for the “it’s a sin” angle. I just show that it’s biologically incoherent and out comes the “anti-gay” card.

        Heck, I had one atheist agree with me that the homosexual act does not make sense biologically….and in the next breath he asked for scientific proof for God. The duality was amusing.

      • kenneth

        Therein lies the reason I can’t take the anti-SSM movement’s arguments seriously. They’ve never once advocated banning civil marriage for heterosexual couples engaged in sinful sexual behavior. If they had the stones to have the state enforce upon them the same moral proscriptions they want for others, I could at least respect the consistency of their argument. Every time I’ve suggested this sort of equity I get lots of hemming and hawing and contortions about why that just can’t work out. I’m sure I will presently hear more of the same…

        • Kennith…I don’t think you understand the arguments, or you wouldn’t have stated the above. Even if heterosexual marriages engage in “sinful sexual behavior”, their biology is still ordered towards the natural sexual compliments of male and female. Homosexual relations are not and can never be ordered towards natural human male/female sexuality.

          If you can show that homosexuals are using their reproductive systems the way they were designed (…or ordered towards…), then I’ll be on your side in a second. So, I await your proof that male semen belongs in the digestive system of another male….for starters.

          • And yet, don’t Catholics believe that male semen ending up anywhere other than a woman’s vagina is sinful in the same way and for the same reasons? If so, kenneth’s point applies. Why aren’t Catholics also advocating banning condoms, reinstating sodomy laws, outlawing masturbation, and so on?

          • kenneth

            The idea that sexual interaction has no biological purpose beyond the maximum reproduction of each individual of a species is one that is rooted in theology, not real science. In many, many species, sex clearly has important roles beyond breeding – conflict resolution, establishment of social order, barter for resources. More than a little of that activity is same gender. It is also clear in many cases that family units with “gay” animals in them confer a survival advantage to their “nieces and newphews” by providing them with resources that would otherwise have gone to their own offspring. In the case of gay men at least, genetic factors which appear to drive their preferences also lead their mothers and other women related to them to bear more children. From an evolutionary biology standpoint, homosexuality is clearly not universally maladaptive or a burden to reproductive fitness even though the actions of individual gay family members are not procreative.

            Theologians’ “biology” is based on medieval or even Aristotlean simplistic presumption, not real data about how biology actually works. Science that is the least bit inconvenient or complex simply does not exist to them. There is enormous complexity in even defining gender in biology in the face of intersex and transgender conditions. The anti-SSM religious groups don’t even acknowledge such science. Anyone that doesn’t conform to the “a or b” versions of anatomical gender they learned in junior high school is simply written off as a radical queer or libertine. Many of the anti-SSM crowd still cleaves to the idea that the universe was created and populated by hand-made species in the span of six solar Earth days. Their attempts to argue from science are, shall we say, less than persuasive.

            It is also curious that gay people are the only ones whose legal recognition of marriage is conditioned on personal fertility or reproductive capacity. Nobody is proposing withholding civil marriage from hetero partners who are infertile, even those who deliberately render themselves sterile to avoid ever having kids. They can get married even if they have a medical condition that causes them to spontaneously abort. Hell, they can use abortion as their primary birth control.

            They can restrict their sexual interaction to the very same “disordered” acts that gay people perform, make a living posting it online, and STILL get a civil marriage license, all apparently because their original pelvic equipment afforded some theoretical chance of reproduction.

            If I bought into or used that sort of logic in any other venue besides religion, I’d get sent down for an MRI and denied a pilot’s license.

          • Ted Seeber

            We do advocate those things. What made you think we didn’t?

          • kenneth

            “……..Why aren’t Catholics also advocating banning condoms, reinstating sodomy laws, outlawing masturbation, and so on?”

            They have, in the past done all of these things (outlawing masturbation not so sure). They fought for the Comstock Laws which barred sales of contraception, and they’ve worked to outlaw it much more recently through back-channel means like gumming up the approval of Plan B birth control. They also banned sales of condoms in countries they controlled more tightly into modern times, like Ireland. They would do the same for all of us by the close of business today if they could, but they don’t have that kind of power anymore. The Supreme Court pretty well sealed off the avenue of sodomy laws in Texas v Lawrence. Mostly though, the reason they limit their crusade to gay marriage is because they don’t want to weave a net tight enough to catch their own people. Even the most strident Mass attending traditional Catholics would get highly annoyed if they found themselves in legal jeopardy by state morals police enforcing Church doctrine on THEM.

          • Yvain

            This is the first place where I’ve seen philosophically sophisticated opponents of homosexual acts, and I must admit I’m still very turned off by “natural law” theory. If I promise not to jump into accusations of bigotry and homophobia and so on, can I get some natural-law-perspective answers to the following questions?

            1. We seem to use things for other than their intended purposes all the time. For example, at the moment I don’t have a pantry and am using my microwave to store some perishable foods so the insects don’t get to them. I know someone else who, in a pinch, will use their microwave to dry clothes. This is a bit weird, and the clothes probably don’t end up looking very good, but surely it isn’t *immoral*.

            Likewise, the foot evolved/was created/whatever for walking, which is pretty necessary for human survival. Soccer players instead use their feet to kick balls, which is totally useless except for personal pleasure and maybe group bonding. The reproductive system is also necessary for survival of the species, and gay people are using it for something that brings only personal pleasure and maybe group bonding. How come the one is harmless fun and the other is a violation of natural law?

            The atheist viewpoint is that things may have purposes intended by evolution or (in the case of artifacts by their creators), but if the intended purpose isn’t immediately necessary and you can think of some other good use for them like drying clothes or playing soccer, then there’s no harm in turning them to a new purpose, even if that new purpose is something silly like having fun with your friends during a soccer game. What’s wrong with that viewpoint?

            2. For evolutionists, one of the major design goals for the human body was hunting food animals, and I gather creationists agree that most societies went through a hunting stage before developing agriculture and that the body is uniquely suited for this. Hunting makes sense as a goal because food is necessary for survival of the individual/species.

            However, as soon as society advanced to the point at which not everyone needed to hunt, some people stopped hunting and that was totally okay. They then used body parts adopted to hunting – like hands – for other purposes, some of them “frivolous” – like making music. They used long legs adapted to pursue game animals for…I dunno, interpretive dance routines. Because other people were producing food, the human species survived just fine, and people who liked music got to be happy too. The take-home lesson seems to be that if the species can support itself just fine without all humans exercising a certain natural human capacity, there’s no reason those humans should have to exercise that natural human capacity in exactly that species-supporting way if they don’t want to, and they can use that capacity for social bonding or personal enjoyment or any of a million other possibilities.

            There are more than enough heterosexuals to continue the species without any help from gay people, so where does this chain of reasoning break down when thinking about homosexuality?

            3. If a gay person is not planning to have heterosexual sex and children and procreation anyway, then assuming they practice sufficiently safe sex and aren’t going to get AIDS or anything, what exactly is the harm of him doing his not-children-having while having gay sex as opposed to while having no sex? It’s still the same amount of procreation either way.

        • Ted Seeber

          I’ve advocated banning civil and sacramental marriage for couples engaged in contraception and for infertile heterosexual couples. Mainly because I see it as being an impure form that causes divorce.

          • KL

            Ted, you may be aware of this, but if you advocate banning sacramental marriages for infertile heterosexual couples you are departing dramatically from Catholic teaching. The Church position is that even infertile couples can engage in sexual acts ordered toward procreation, regardless of whether procreation is actualized (in the same way that a fertile couple can engage in intercourse during a known-to-be-infertile period).

          • Doragoon

            Instead of banning infertile couples from marrying, it seems more prudent to simply make marriage a consent to adopt any relative’s child who would have otherwise been placed in foster care. That would seem to fulfil the requirement that the marriage be open to the possibility of children.

          • Ted Seeber

            KL-I know that I dissent from church teaching on that issue, because there’s always the possibility of a Miracle of Sarah type situation. However, I really don’t see why the government should support such a marriage at all. Nor why the church should be bothered to sanctify a marriage that is *decidedly* not open to procreation at all.

            Kenneth- that’s exactly why we’re against gay marriage- because we’ve seen from British Columbia’s example what happens when the State enforces marriage laws against us.

          • Ted Seeber

            Doragoon- I really, really, like your suggestion. Especially if we could make it federal. I tried, I really did, to offer a safe haven to my nephews while their parents were accused of child abuse. I was refused merely because they were in Vancouver, WA and I was in Oregon.

          • Niemand

            Instead of banning infertile couples from marrying, it seems more prudent to simply make marriage a consent to adopt any relative’s child who would have otherwise been placed in foster care.

            At which point you again have no excuse for banning gays or lesbians from marrying since they are equally qualified to adopt a relative’s child as a straight couple. More so in some cases. For example, all else being equal (ie no one is abusive, everyone willing to care for the child, no one homeless or otherwise financially incapable of caring for a child) would a child be better off going to live with his or her 90 year old grandmother and her 86 year old second husband or his or her 40 year old aunt and her partner? Or his or her unemployed, alcoholic uncle and his wife or his or her employed, stable, loving uncle and his partner?

      • Doragoon

        Got one better. You get labelled as “anti-gay” if you say that not every person who engages in homosexual sex must have a genetic predisposition for it.

        • Ted Seeber

          I’ll go even one better- I’ve been labeled as anti-gay for being *for* the elimination of civil marriage and the promotion of heterosexual civil unions.

    • Personally, I don’t much care what a religious person believes about the sinfulness of homosexuality. I do care when they say that their religious beliefs are sufficient justification for legally denying same-sex couples the same legal rights and protections granted to oppopsite-sex couples. If “disagreeing with the homosexual act” is labeled as anti-gay prejudice, it’s because the one attitude almost invariably follows on the heels of the other.

      • Ted Seeber

        Yep, but you’ve got the order backwards.

      • Erick

        =If “disagreeing with the homosexual act” is labeled as anti-gay prejudice, it’s because the one attitude almost invariably follows on the heels of the other. =

        Two can play that game, we find that invariably anti-Catholic sentiment and Christianophobia invariably follows on the heels of “disagreeing with traditional marriage.”

        • And if atheists were advocating laws that banned Christians from getting married, making it legal to fire people for being Christian, making it illegal for Christians to adopt, etc., etc., you would have a point. What gets usually labeled “Christianophobia” by theocrats is people pushing to roll back the special privileges that Christianity has historically enjoyed.

          • Ted Seeber

            From our point of view, you ARE advocating laws that make it impossible to have a sacramental marriage. The fact that other people have *also* advocated laws that make it impossible to have a sacramental marriage (no-fault divorce springs to mind, but I’m sure there are others) and ban discrimination against non-sacramental marriages, is just one more way you want to lock all the Catholics in the Cathedrals and not let us serve the poor, the sick, the homeless, the afraid.

          • Erick

            Yes, that’s what I learned in school. Puritans came to America because they had special privileges in England. Christians are not discriminated against in Muslim countries, or Hindu ones, or atheist ones. Black people were not Christian, that’s why they were segregated from white people all those years. Let’s pretend that only non-Christians know the meaning of discrimination and victimhood.

          • deiseach

            Re: firing people for being Christian –

            protection of conscience laws being whittled away, proposals that if a pharmacy owner states he or she will not fill prescriptions for contraceptives/morning after pills due to religious beliefs that he or she should not be in business and even more, that if doctors/nurses refuse to train in performing abortions (not refuse to assist, refuse to train) that they should not be permitted to become doctors/nurses, in the U.K. examples to absurdity of a woman being fired because she wore a cross in the workplace – she wasn’t going around saying “Non-Christians will go to Hell”, she wasn’t trying to convert her co-workers or the public, she merely wore a cross necklace.

            There’s a lot of whining about Christian persecution which is really just whining, but there are some small dots here and there where it does begin to be more about using the power of the state to enforce certain secular views regardless of other civil rights.

      • Doragoon

        Can we just drop all mention of civil law? If you believe civil law shouldn’t be based on an objective truth, then governments are free oppress people as much as they want. If you believe civil law should be based on an objective truth, then debate what that truth is and how we can find it.

        • If you believe civil law shouldn’t be based on an objective truth, then governments are free oppress people as much as they want.

          So far as I can tell, nobody actually believes this. It’s bizzare to argue that because there’s no objective truth, we should actively encourage behavior that is detrimental to everyone. That’s sort of like saying “since the rules of Basketball aren’t objectively true, I punch people instead of dribbling the ball”.

          Government can be based on some idea of objective truth (theocracy), or it can be based on collective will (democracy), or it can be based on whoever has the biggest guns calling the shots (most other forms of government), but I’ve never heard the “atheists have no basis for morality” applied to a government as a moral agent. Even if someone buys that atheism leads to amoralism, I don’t think you’ll find any takers for this idea that groups of people (amoral or otherwise) are somehow obligated to construct a government that doesn’t act in their best interest.

    • anodognosic

      “I find that simply disagreeing with the homosexual act is labeled quite quickly as ‘anti-gay’.”

      I’m sorry, but isn’t that just a simple, straightforward application of the term “anti-gay”?

      • Erick

        No, because there is more to being homosexual than just the acts themselves. You could be homosexual and not engage is sexual acts.

        When a Catholic disagrees with premarital heterosexual acts, should we automatically label them anti-love, or anti-sex, or anti-straight?

        • Ted Seeber

          I would also point out that same-sex attraction is not immoral and same sex attracted people are welcome in any Catholic parish.

    • Steve

      darrenl….”I find that simply disagreeing with the homosexual act is labeled quite quickly as “anti-gay”.”
      … forgive me, but can you point out how “disagreeing with the homosexual act” isn’t by definition being ‘anti-gay’??

      “I don’t even go for the “it’s a sin” angle. I just show that it’s biologically incoherent and out comes the “anti-gay” card.” Biologically incoherent?? What a puzzling term. What exactly would be ‘biologically coherent’?? Are felatio/cunnilingus ‘biologically coherent’?? What about masturbation?? Are hand-jobs ‘biologically incoherent’??

      Joanna… no one would label you “anti-straight” due to your view of the sinfullness of all acts of extra-marital sex simply because the parameters of this particular point are sexual relations within a marital relationship vs. those without. Sexual orientation doesn’t appear to be a factor in your views on this particular issue, thus labeling it as ‘anti-straight’ would be inappropriate (and rather silly).

      Erikk… “Two can play that game, we find that invariably anti-Catholic sentiment and Christianophobia invariably follows on the heels of “disagreeing with traditional marriage.” I’m not certain that categorizing the views of those who favor SSM as ‘disagreeing with traditional marriage’ serves as an appropriate comparison. People who are for SSM aren’t requesting that traditional couples lose their rights and privileges. They’re also not looking to permit heterosexual people from being terminated on grounds of simply being heterosexual. Ultimately the position of those who favor equal rights & privileges for same-sex is indifference to traditional heterosexual marriage, not opposition to it. It’s incorrect to then imply that their indifference towards 1 aspect of catholicism qualifies as anti-catholic.

      “You could be homosexual and not engage is sexual acts.” Perhaps you can label someone a homosexual simply based on their sexual preference, rather than whether or not they follow through with their desires, though I don’t know if you’d call someone an Athlete because they’d prefer to play sports, but never actually did. I think it a fair assumption that when referring to homosexuals in the context of SSM, we’re referring to people who prefer homosexual relationship and act on them as well.

      “When a Catholic disagrees with premarital heterosexual acts, should we automatically label them anti-love, or anti-sex, or anti-straight?” No, we should label them anti-premarital sex, as that is the variable that’s being judged here. When you disagree with homosexuality it then seems fair to label it anti-gay.

      Ted… (regarding a previous comment “…there’s no such thing as legitimate heterosexual marriage”) you replied “But that would be a lie, because the species needs to procreate.” So far as I know human procreation can and will happen regardless of whether or not it happens within the confines of a marriage. I’d also like to point out that being within the confines of a marriage is not a guarantee of procreation taking place.

      “I’ve advocated banning civil and sacramental marriage for couples engaged in contraception and for infertile heterosexual couples. Mainly because I see it as being an impure form that causes divorce.”
      … I’m not even sure where to start with this. 1) How exactly would you police those who choose to use contraception? 2) How exactly would you police those who are infertile? 3) On what grounds do you claim to have the right to do either #1 or #2? 4) Should a couple with children decide to stop having children, will their civil marital rights & privileges be revoked or suspending until they resume procreating?? 5) Should an couple with children suddenly become infertile (say due to menopause or testicular cancer) do they lose their rights? 6) Would you assign marital rights & privileges to a couple who adopts rather than procreates themselves?? 7) And how does any of this cause divorce? 8)… well you know what, if you can muster up a reasonable response to these I’ll add more, but otherwise I got to get back to work.

      • Ted Seeber

        #0. Marriage is required because procreation isn’t just about sex. Procreation done right takes 18+ years, depending on developmental advance/delay and a lot of other factors, many of them cultural. The lie that procreation does not require the unique talents of BOTH genders as parents is the most damaging lie yet to come out of the biased farce that passes for modern psychology.

        #1. The Comstock Law simply prevented contraception from crossing state lines. Seemed to do well enough given that the Eugenicists were against the Comstock Law.

        #2. Obvious- any “civil marriage license” that does not have a dependent reported to the IRS within x number of years after marriage loses their federal marriage rights.

        #3. On the grounds that the only real reason for discrimination in marriage to begin with is for procreation of the species.

        #4. Once again, true procreation takes 18+ years, but yes, if they abandon their children halfway through the process they *should* lose the rights that society has granted them for the raising of children.

        #5. If they have minor children, then obviously they are still in the process of procreating, see #0.

        #6. Yes. That would be a reasonable addition, IF they truly were procreating and intended to give the children the unique abilities of both genders.

        #7. This is where I finally get into religion- Sacramental marriage is defined as one person of each gender giving ALL of themselves to the other person; this has a tendency to be what we Catholics call “Open to life”, or as Kimberly Hahn put it “A love so strong that 9 months later you have to give it a name”. Under this meme, any sex not open to life is a form of rape- merely using the other person for your own pleasure. It’s definitional and axiomatic for me, and I realize that it probably isn’t for you, but it is one of the basic reasons why I am against non-procreative marriage. If you’ll notice, I do come out for civil unions for such people- just not marriage.

        #8. I believe my previous responses have been quite reasonable- even if based on different axioms than you are familiar with. Do try to keep an open mind, unlike the bigots who for some reason try to claim that being against non-procreative sex means you’re against people struggling with same-sex attraction or struggling with extra-marital sex. It is possible to separate the sin from the sinner- and we should. ALL sin is forgiveable, after all.

        • Steve


          0) “Marriage is required because procreation isn’t just about sex.” I’m not entirely sure what you’re getting at. Are you equating ‘procreation’ with what you consider to be the proper way to raise a child?? …because those are 2 separate matters. Beyond the basics needed for the biological survival, nothing else is really ‘required’ for procreation. It is your opinion that the best if not the only proper way to raise a child is with two parents of opposite sex. It’s not a matter of a lie vs. truth. It’s a matter of opinion and I simply disagree.

          1) I’m unsure how an a 150 year old law about transporting ‘obscene’ materials via mail can assist in properly policing whether people use contraception.

          2) So if a couple has a kid that dies, we’re now deeming that they no longer deserve the right to social security survivor benefits?? As a couple ages, will spouses be denied the right to make medical decisions if their partner is unable to do so themselves?? There are many many different ways to point to the problems of making marital rights dependent on having a dependent. I’m afraid I don’t have the time to go through them all.

          3) Are lesbians not able to be artifically inseminated?? Are gay man not able to donate sperm or have a surrogate carry the child?? Perhaps you should clarify what you mean by ‘procreation’ because being gay doesn’t mean your bits and pieces fall off or stop working.

          4) ‘Procreation’… you keep using that word… I do not think it means what you think it means… Again, taking your use of ‘procreation’ to understand you’re referring to the entirety of raising a child, you’re still not answering my question about how that law applies to people who have stopped having children (ie, typically over the age of 50)

          5) So what you’re really saying is all married couples who do not have dependents essentially become un-married in the eyes of the law… so you’d be cool with a homosexual couple being awarded marital rights so long as they were raising a child??

          6) I think I’m almost immune to your made-up ‘procreation’ definition. Regarding the intent “to give the children the unique abilities of both genders”, I take it you’re not referring to parents changing their offspring into hermaphroditic super-heroes, rather that they are exposed to both a masculine role model and a feminine role model (or something to that effect). You’re making assumptions that this is the only/best way to properly raise children and that your opinion on such matters deserves to be reflected in public policy. I disagree with both assumptions.

          7) You’re entitled to your views of what marriage is and what type of sex is allowable, so to speak. What you’re not entitled to is to have your views be mandated upon everyone else. And none of this refers to your assertion that this is all related to divorce.

          8) Nothing highlights a lack of understanding like thinking that people are “struggling with same-sex attraction or struggling with extra-marital sex”. Sexual preference is like any other preference. Saying someone is ‘struggling with same-sex attraction’ is as bizarre as saying someone is struggling with eating vanilla ice cream rather than the more morally acceptable chocolate ice cream. They’re not struggling with it. They’re just gay. They don’t need to be fixed or altered to suit your own moral framework. Personally I feel the view that the only sort of proper sex is procreative sex is a sad view. That sort of rigid sexual repression is un-natural. People like having sex, and their appetites vary from person to person. You might as well moralize the way people breathe. If you’d like to moralize such things within the boundary of your own home, you’re free to do so. You’re also free to voice your opinion. But you’re not free to demand that anyone else adhere to your views.

  • Emily

    I’m really wrestling with at what point I need to walk away from even reading comments here. The tone and mix of commenters has really changed a lot recently, and frankly, I think Adam’s right. I’m glad you’re writing in a measured and thoughtful way toward your new audience but trying to take part is turning me into a jerk a little bit – instead of being able to engage in reasoned debate for very long, I find myself bubbling up with what feels like “righteous” rage all the time, trying not to express much of that counterproductive emotion in writing, and then just ranting to my husband about it. Basically, I’m spending way too much time and energy in “someone’s wrong on the internet!” mode.

    This isn’t a “you should fix this” complaint. It’s your blog and this whole post was about why you’re running it as you are! It’s just ironic that as one of your somewhat long term Christian readers, I’m finding your site far more morally challenging now that you’re a convert than when it was an “atheist” blog. I thought Catholics and Protestants had more in common than not but we seem to be able to set each other off pretty well.

    • Ted Seeber

      Catholics and Protestants have one big thing not in common that changes the picture completely. Authority. The Authority Based Axioms of a Catholic have to do with a couple thousand years worth of research into tradition and scripture. The Authority Based Axiom (singular) of Protestantism is “Scripture Alone”. While tradition *does* count for something (how would you know what books to put in your Bible without it), the logic system has only one base axiom.

      Perhaps this cartoon will help:

  • Alex Godofsky

    Making people angry isn’t what sabotages most of these arguments. Not even close. The problem is that many or most of the responses refuse to assume the other side’s position even for the sake of argument and/or outright beg the question.

    For example, on the Chick-fil-A post one of the comment threads was the following (paraphrased):
    Alice: “But Leah, Chick-fil-A are bigots that would deny gays their equal rights?”
    Bob: “Gay marriage isn’t a right; [argument for why gay marriage isn’t a right]; therefore they aren’t bigots.”

    Alice commits two sins: she assumes that her side is correct, and then she argues from that assumption. Bob also commits the sin of arguing from his own position. In this case, that sin is more grievous.

    These aren’t just wasted electrons; they make it almost impossible to actually argue the point. Unless Alice and Bob intend to settle the question of gay marriage then and there (yeah right) there is no point whatsoever in making an argument that will only convince Bob if Bob agrees with Alice, and vice versa.

    Alice and Bob each need to accept that neither is going to change his or her mind any time soon, and in the meantime they have to be able to agree on some general rules of behavior. Alice is never going to convince Bob of something like “people who oppose gay marriage shouldn’t say so because they’re wrong” and it’s silly to try. She might, however, convince him that “even if you oppose gay marriage, you shouldn’t say so in this way because it hurts people’s feelings and doesn’t convince them”.

    • MumbleMumble

      Agree to this. And I would also add, in addition to finding some general rules of behavior, that the discussion can branch out into other avenues. For example, people go back and forth about whether or not homosexuality or homosexual acts are sinful, but there are other things to talk about besides the inherent wrongness. Should religious views be codified into civil law? Does denying same-sex rights to homosexual couples violate the 14th Amendment? What are the actionable results that stem from these beliefs, and can common ground be found in those actions, if not in the underlying beliefs?

    • Ted Seeber

      I’m not convinced by that argument. People’s feelings *SHOULD BE HURT* when their beliefs differ with *OBSERVED FACT*.

      The real problem is in the definitions. The gay marriage folks have a point that as currently constituted, civil marriage in most states is unconstitutional (I find it interesting that they’re not willing to take that argument to it’s logical conclusion and legalize *all* forms of sex, including rape, based on some ancient pagan’s religious beliefs that some neo-pagan is trying to revive, but that is only a flaw in how they are arguing, not a flaw in their main point). The traditional marriage folks also have a point that heterosexual monogamy is a rather recent form of marriage that evolved by trial and error (well, relatively recent in that it seems to be less than 6000 years old in a species that has been around for more than 2 million years; and there are still some competing cultures in this world, mainly in developing countries, that practice other family organizations), and that homosexual relations have been tried and failed to promote a surviving culture in that time period.

      Those are the facts. To say that anything other than heterosexual monogamy is marriage is to ignore the trial and error evidence of the last 6000 years that defined the word for our culture. To say that current marriage laws are within the 200 year old Constitution merely because they were grandfathered in without looking at the obvious disconnect between freedom of religion and those laws is also against fact.

      Start your arguments there, and maybe you’ll get someplace. You WILL hurt people’s feelings along the way- people who are emotionally attached to things that are not fact do get hurt when the facts change their worldview. But don’t ban facts just because somebody might get hurt.

      • Erick

        I quite agree with you here. The problem is the definitions. What exactly is it that defines marriage? But there is a second question that’s related. Considering one’s definition of marriage, is there still a state interest to promote it (i.e. to provide benefits to encourage its occurrence)?

        • Ted Seeber

          The original state interest to promote civil marriage comes from England a couple of centuries ago, and was designed by a Protestant Queen to keep Catholics from getting married and having children, thus reducing, in the long run, the potential for rebellion.

          It eventually evolved into protection of children. But that was NOT the original intent.

        • Matthew

          “I quite agree with you here. The problem is the definitions. What exactly is it that defines marriage? But there is a second question that’s related. Considering one’s definition of marriage, is there still a state interest to promote it (i.e. to provide benefits to encourage its occurrence)?”

          Bingo. This is why I rarely engage on this issue. It seems obvious to me that A.) Marriage is, as a practical fact in the 21st century, centered around romantic attraction, B.) Marriage has not always been that sort of institution and there is no inherent reason why it must be, and C.) Government is not obliged to, and indeed probably shouldn’t, encourage romantic attraction. So the debate seems very odd. So same-sex marriage supporters have a point: given that civil marriage has become an institution centered around romantic…well, homosexuals can experience romantic attraction.

          So I think religious conservatives have lost this debate about 12 steps back. The exclusion of homosexual unions from the definition of marriage is quite coherent in a society where upwards of 60% of people say things like “every woman who can have children should”; or where there are harsh social stigmas against divorce and indeed divorce itself is hard to effectuate. There, marriage is as much a social duty as a codification of ones love. And it’s easy to see why that society had very little interest in homosexual unions. Present society? Eh. Why shouldn’t homosexuals be able to codify their love, same as the rest of us?

          So, traditional marriage, in a civil sense, has already changed. There’s no sense arguing against same-sex marriage from within a modern framework. To steal a line from Eliot (out of context, of course), we ought to be repairing “the marred foundations we forgot”.

      • MumbleMumble

        In the United States’ history, laws and definitions that had been grounded in tradition have been changed and updated. Numerous laws outlining people’s rights have been made, rights that have never before existed in human history. Now, the argument is being made that another update is required in order to promote the ideal that all citizens be granted equal protection under the law, and that no one be excluded from the rights that are afforded to others. This is part of an ongoing process to be better than we were before. To simply state that this is a bad idea solely because it’s never been done before is a weak argument. If everyone followed that mentality, the Americans with Disabilities Act would never have been signed.

        • Ted Seeber

          In that case, your argument should not be for expanding the definition of marriage, but for eliminating the restrictive term “marriage” from our laws altogether, and promoting civil unions for ALL- and not just normal civil unions between two adult consenting individuals either, but since true 14th Amendment rights do not cover enforcement of any one group’s religion, we would have to cover *all* religions.

          The best way to do that would be to eliminate the paper forms and change them into a linked list inside a computer. That way polygamous religions, interspecies religions, intermater religions, and non-consensual religions can also be covered.

          But first you have to get government out of the churches, and let churches define marriage for themselves.

          • MumbleMumble

            No, I am not advocating for a system that covers all religions – I am advocating for a system that is free from religion. I would be fine with removing any mention of the word marriage in regards to civil unions between two people (if, in the future, we want to talk about civil unions between more than two people, we can talk about that too). I do not think that private churches should have to sanctify any union that they choose not to – I do not think government should be involved in churches, just like I think churches should not be involved in government.

          • Ted Seeber

            Then in that case, Mumble Mumble, you’re at the same place I am- and according to the liberals in Multnomah County, Oregon you are an evil Catholic anti-gay bigot.

          • MumbleMumble

            Cheers to that.
            But, honestly, thank you for the discussion. This does actually give me hope that people who disagree at a fundamental level can still reach an agreement on policies and outcomes.

        • Erick

          Yes, but not all laws and definitions are subject to changes and updates. Only laws and definitions that have been considered defective or incomplete in their implementation. So please explain it to us. I still have not found a compelling reason for why is marriage defined to exclude same-sex relationships defective or incomplete? Why is it in need of change or update? Why is the reasoning of the tradition obsolete?

          • MumbleMumble

            Because the current definition of marriage gives rights and benefits to heterosexual couples that homosexual couples are not afforded. Civil unions do not provide all the same benefits as civil marriage. This is why the current law is incomplete.

          • Erick

            But marriage does not give the right to all heterosexual couples. It is an institution that is discriminatory to begin with, even against heterosexuals. Not all heterosexual couples can marry. In the US (accounting for the various states), consanguinity, polygamy, age, consent, the ability to consummate through sexual intercourse restrict who can or cannot marry. So are these rightful discrimination? If yes, what is different from those discriminatory restrictions and the discrimation against homosexual couples?

          • MumbleMumble

            These are separate issues, but all can be debated. In regards to consanguinity, there are health benefits that have traditionally stood in the way, but if those are found to be unjustifiable, then yes, if siblings want to get married, I think you can make a argument for that. Polygamy involves the contract expanding to include more than two people, so it is substantively different than the original argument. But it is still open for debate. Age restrictions are fairly lenient already, but have to do with consent, which has to do with one party not getting raped by the other. Getting raped is not a good thing, because it impedes the right of the person to not be raped. I will need an example for your last case there – the ability to consummate through sexual intercourse is a requirement for civil marriage? Can you point out that law to me?
            All these examples you provided are just more topics, which is fine. But they do not, by themselves, counter the argument that same-sex couples should have the same rights as heterosexual couples. We should be striving to make the system less discriminatory, not just abiding the discrimination that does exist.

          • Erick

            There was a point there that I guess you missed.

            Are there areas where you could rightfully discriminate in the insitution of marriage? If there are, why isn’t same-sex discrimination part of that rightful discrimination?

            A purpose, gleaned over the centuries, whether explicit or implicit, has been found for the provision of heterosexual marriage as an institution. If you want to change that definition, you should define the reasoning behind this change. We found compelling ones for mixed-race marriages, and other changes over the years. What’s the compelling one for same-sex marriage?

            Striving to make a system less discriminatory for no apparent reason other than to do so is not compelling.

          • MumbleMumble

            It is not compelling to fight against discrimination? Why not? Why not make things more equal? To put it another way, what is your reason to support and maintain discrimination, even in the face of millions of people who wish to end it? What damage is caused by giving the same rights that heterosexual couples get to same-sex couples? And what compelling argument was there to allow inter-racial marriage, other than the fact that it was discriminatory?

          • Ted Seeber

            If you are fighting against discrimination alone- if that is your only purpose, to fight against discrimination- then you should fight against *ALL* discrimination, regardless of reason. Not all religions share your definition of consent, for instance, or would agree with you that rape is a bad thing.

            If you are going to be tolerant, be tolerant of all. If you are going to discriminate, then you need a reason to exclude a given group from the discrimination.

          • MumbleMumble

            @ Ted (and also to further reply to Erick)
            That is actually my point – that we need a reason to discriminate as opposed to a reason to not discriminate. In the case of rape, your right to rape someone cannot impede someone’s right to protection under the law (which includes rape). Our system of rights limits (I guess you could say it discriminates) when placed in context. So you have the right to freedom of speech, but you can’t yell fire in a crowded theater. You have the right to practice your religion, but not when it involves slaughtering the first born of every child. The rights of others to be safe and secure supersede the rights of others who wish to harm them.

          • Erick

            You still don’t seem to get it. I’ve been saying is that not all discrimination is bad. There are plenty of areas in law where it is rightful to discriminate. You yourself think that a case could be made that consanguinity is rightful discrimination.

            Interracial marriage was allowed because skin color was not a sufficient reason for rightful discrimination (i.e. skin color did not constitute a real difference to the people engaged in the purpose of marriage). Everything that same racial people could do in marriage, an interracial couple could as well. That was the compelling reason.

            A case can be made however that homosexuality does constitute a real difference. For example, biologically, the ability to procreate is something that heterosexual people can do that homosexual people can’t. Why is that not good reason for discrimination then? If we can discriminate based on the possible health effect on children, why can’t we discriminate on ability to make children in the first place?

          • MumbleMumble

            Yes, I was missing your point. I hope I addressed it in the post above, but to reply directly: you are right, not all discrimination is bad, and we do have reasons to discriminate. We have reasons based on the rights of others, and how our rights affect other people. Same-sex marriage does not impede on the rights of others. In response to your justification on the grounds of procreation, this would still be unequal treatment because we allow infertile heterosexual couples to marry, so procreation cannot be a deciding factor.

          • Ted Seeber

            MumbleMumble- has it occurred to you that the only reason we do NOT discriminate against the infertile couple is *precisely because we can’t tell the difference”?

            I know that a heterosexual couple is infertile just by looking at them. Above, I gave a few ideas on how to discriminate against the infertile heterosexual couple, but they’re all based on not having children in a specified period of time and/or reducing the benefits of civil marriage for childless couples.

            Like I said before- if we’re going to discriminate, let’s discriminate based on something *real* not imaginary emotions. If we’re not going to discriminate, then well, a man marrying a shoe harms me no worse than a man marrying another man. A Mormon marrying 12 wives harms me no more than a man marrying another man. A Humong Cambodian kidnapping his 9 year old child bride harms nobody and is quite normal for their culture. Your beliefs about homosexuality are NOT a reason to reject the procreative definition of marriage. But they are a reason to be against discrimination, equally.

          • MumbleMumble

            But even if we could tell the difference, if a heterosexual couple was infertile, we would still allow them to have a civil marriage. And denying legal marriage rights to same-sex couples is NOT imaginary. These are real benefits that are unavailable to same-sex couples that are available to heterosexual couples. That is not fair, and there is no reason for it.
            A man marrying a shoe is not a contract between two people. A man marrying twelve people is not a contract between two people. A man kidnapping a 9 year old does harm somebody – it harms the 9 year old. In that case, we would have to throw out laws already in place in regards to rape, which most people (in the US, which is where I’m basing this argument) agree is a serious crime. We do not allow other cultures ways of life, or even their religions, to over-ride our laws. You can’t stone your wife if she cheats on you. We have laws to protect the rights of everybody, and sometimes this occurs at the expense of other people’s rights to do harm.
            But there is no harm caused by a same-sex couple getting married, but we still are denying them the same rights and benefits that heterosexual couples receive. And there is simply no justifiable reason for it.

      • Alex Godofsky

        Those are the facts. To say that anything other than heterosexual monogamy is marriage is to ignore the trial and error evidence of the last 6000 years that defined the word for our culture.

        In other words, they are just SO wrong that it is impossible to engage them in any kind of dialogue. Even temporarily assuming their position – just for the sake of argument, mind you – is logically impossible and immediately melts your brain.

        If that’s the case, why are you even commenting? What is the point? Are you just trolling around on blogs where people might discuss gay marriage-related topics in the hopes that you can change the subject to the rightness of gay marriage itself and thereby save one or two poor lost souls from the awful contradiction of their beliefs?

        • Ted Seeber

          No, I did NOT say that. In fact, I said the same sex people were *RIGHT* that we need to have a discussion on the fact that religious belief shouldn’t define law (and conversely, law should not define religious belief).

          Read the whole thing, not just the facts you disagree with personally.

          • Alex Godofsky

            The problem isn’t that I disagree with any part of what you said; the problem is that a gay marriage advocate probably wouldn’t agree with it, and that asking them to agree with it is tantamount (according to their own logic) to asking them to oppose gay marriage.

            The rule of thumb is that if agreeing with your argument could lead them to agree with you on gay marriage generally, it’s not a useful argument because the other side will reject it. This is a harsh but unavoidable restriction on the set of arguments you can actually make.

          • Ted Seeber

            Then the gay marriage advocate needs to take a step back from his own beliefs and try to come to more objective beliefs that fit the data at hand. I don’t see why denial of data is my problem.

            If they cannot give as much as one iota to agreeing with the other side, then they are simply unreasonable, and are not willing to debate at all. I don’t understand why I need to pander to somebody who is not willing to consider the possibility that they are wrong.

          • Alex Godofsky

            And so I say again: you are just refusing to engage them on the topic at hand. That’s fine; I generally refuse to engage 9/11 Truthers, etc. But if that’s the case you probably shouldn’t respond to the post at all, because your only contribution to the discussion will be yet another argument over the original question of gay marriage.

          • Ted Seeber

            I see no way to engage a Gay Brownshirt “Tolerance is not enough, you must Celebrate Gay Marriage in Your Church or be punished for the thoughtcrime” at all, any more than I can be expected to reasonably challenge Fred Phelps on his defense of the Seed of David from the Evil Homosexuals. Reasonable people are willing to admit they are wrong. What you are describing is people beyond all reason.

    • Brandon B

      Sometimes I wish this site had a “like” button. Well said.

  • deiseach

    I don’t know how to avoid being uncivil, because merely saying “I do not support marriage equality” is seen as anti-gay hatred and bigotry. So there is a problem from the start.

    Well, I will let those who want to get married (whether they’re straight or gay) argue this one out; I’m single and never ever likely to be married in what remains of my life, so I have no dog in this fight.

  • Fides et Ratio

    @ Adam Lee:
    Because the moral wrong of those acts does not cause harm sufficient to warrant the state exercise of power to punish it, but moreover because the punishment of those acts would be less likely to result in people reforming their lives than to cause counter reaction.

    The above does not precisely apply for the SSM debate vecas

    • Ted Seeber

      I’m not so sure as you that we aren’t seeing the counter reaction in the SSM debate.

  • Fides et Ratio


    .. because there is no movement to outlaw that which is presently a civil right, but rather to resist the normalization through act of law of a particular behavior.

  • Query: Why do folks keep saying that being anti-homosexual acts/marriage is a religious view? Last time I check Socrates was implicitly against it as well–in the Symposium, no less.

    “‘For love, Socrates, is not, as you imagine, the love of the beautiful only.’ ‘What then?’ ‘The love of generation and of birth in beauty.’ ”

    And again:

    “‘Those who are pregnant in the body only, betake themselves to women and beget children—this is the character of their love; their offspring, as they hope, will preserve their memory and giving them the blessedness and immortality which they desire in the future. But souls which are pregnant—for there certainly are men who are more creative in their souls than in their bodies—conceive that which is proper for the soul to conceive or contain. And what are these conceptions?—wisdom and virtue in general. ‘” Etc.

    The basic natural law perspective (touched on here) is that acts of love should be categorically fruitful. Not universally fruitful, but also not incapable of bearing fruit. (You can argue about the bindingness of that principle, of course.) So, biological acts of love ought to be such as are categorically suited to producing fruit on a biological level, and intellectual acts of love on the intellectual level, etc. The fact that this NL principle is ALSO the basis of a religious position for many people is a point worth making, but not a point worth obsessing over.

    Who cares if so-and-so’s religion holds up X as good or Y as bad? The question for all of us should be is is true that X is good and Y is bad?

    • Ted Seeber

      THAT is the discussion I’d like to see. I strongly suspect that heterosexual monogamy is *best*, but is it *best enough to codify into law*? And if it isn’t, then what allows us to say it does less harm than other non-procreative sex?

    • Erick

      Here Here

      I second this motion. Perhaps Leah can write a post on it and we can all debate its merits 😛

  • JeseC

    One thing I wonder about “tone” is how much it depends on how the speaker is perceived. To take an extreme example: I grew up in an extremely conservative portion of American evangelicalism. One thing I found was that, no matter what I said, I was going to be perceived as hostile or angry. That was simply how the culture was – a young woman did not disagree with a man, especially a man in leadership. The fact of expressing disagreement made me angry in their eyes.

    The example is extreme, but I think it applies in other areas as well. I’ve often felt in debates that firm disagreement qualifies me for angry or hostile. I’ve heard even worse complaints from my african-american friends about being perceived as angry for expressing an opinion. So I think it’s a good question to ask on both sides – before you talk about someone’s tone, as yourself “would I still respond this way if someone else said it?” and “how could they put their belief that wouldn’t sound angry?”

  • I understand what you’re trying to do here, Leah, and I appreciate it. But I’m afraid your words are almost certainly falling on deaf ears. For one thing, that religion all these commenters belong to – which is also the one you yourself belong to, right? – teaches that when you’re doing everything right, you should expect to be hated and reviled:

    “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when men revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so men persecuted the prophets who were before you.” -Matthew 5:10-12

    “Blessed are you when men hate you, and when they exclude you and revile you, and cast out your name as evil, on account of the Son of man!” -Luke 6:22

    I would think that this conclusion is hard for a Christian to deny. Aren’t these the words of the man whom you believe represents Morality incarnate? You do believe that, right?

    • I don’t think that implies a guarantee of every single Christian ever being hated and reviled on account of Christ.

      But, more importantly, there is a difference between being hated and being thought to hate others. Those two things have a tendency to cause each other, but they are still distinct things and being thought hateful is not an indicator a Christian would be faith-bound to discount.

      On the other hand that indicator is only useful in opponents for whom it depends on things we can control. There are some such people on the other side and they could give me a stop by telling me I sound hateful. But then there are others who automatically and obstinately assume that about every social conservative is driven by hate and I don’t see anything wrong with discounting their outrage as the bigotry it is.

    • leahlibresco

      I think Gilbert has a good point about being hated vs being thought to hate.

      Not all traditions have an explicit promise they’ll draw fire, but I do think that’s an assumption of most ideologies. If you think you’re right where most people are wrong, you don’t expect to be greeted as liberators with flowers. So not recognizing anger as data isn’t a problem unique to Christians.

  • Erick

    @ Mumble. You are quite correct. But then perhaps the correct solution is to discriminate against infertile men and women versus allowing homosexuals the right to marry? Regardless, I think I do understand your methodology. And it is sound to me.

    @ everyone
    If we could start from a clean, blank slate regarding marriage… where would you start with a definition? Are we just starting with long term love? Is that enough of a state interest for not just sanction but also subsidization?