Triaging Moral Disagreements

Excel and I are having a fight, so the Turing Test results will go up tomorrow, after I beat the program into submission. In the meantime…

Calah Alexander and Melinda Selmys had two really great reaction pieces to Pope Francis’s interview that I’d like to share.  First up, Melinda Selmys has an essay up at Spiritual Friendship titled “Field Hospital for the Wounded.”  She picks up on Pope Francis’s language, and expands the metaphor to talk about how to evangelize without exacerbating the pain of those you’re trying to help.

Let’s contextualize this… experience in terms of Francis’ notion of the Church as field hospital. I happen to have handy a little text-book on military triage, and I find in it two principles that I think are relevant. The first is that if you don’t know what you’re doing and the patient is badly injured but not at the point of death you should do nothing. Hold the person’s hand, talk nicely to them, reassure them until the doctor gets there. The second is that there are some kinds of wounds that can be treated by anyone who knows first aid, but many can only be treated by a specialist. Even if the wound is potentially life-threatening an unskilled medic may do more harm than good and they may make it difficult, or even impossible, for effective treatment to be applied once the patient receives more qualified medical care. Note that this is a book on military medicine: these caveats are addressed to people who are trained to work in field hospitals.

Relations between the Church and the gay community involve a lot of very old, very deep wounds—some of them infected, most of them involving severe complications. Someone with a superficial knowledge of the subject matter cannot address it effectively, particularly in a single presentation. Words like “bigot” and “homophobe” are the gay community’s way of saying “Ow! You’re hurting me. You don’t know what you’re doing. Just leave me alone.” Nor is this an irrational response. We all have the right to insist that amateur medics not attempt emergency surgery on us, particularly without anaesthetic.

The anger that Christians so often seem to feel when they receive this rebuke is, I think, instructive in telling us part of what’s wrong with the approach that tends to be taken. If I go to help someone, and they refuse my help, I shouldn’t be mad. In so far as their refusal makes me angry, that anger is evidence that my help is in some way self-serving.

Calah picked up similar themes in her post today (“Seek God in Every Human Life”). She writes:

Someone said to me the other day that it’s hard to find a perfect strategy for fighting a mean-spirited, narcissistic movement. I think the crux of the issue is right there. “Fighting a movement.” It’s easy to be angry, bitter, or downright hateful toward a movement…

When you get right down to it, even the idea of “people” is an abstraction. It’s easy to hate an abstraction, because you don’t have to deal with the consequences. The gay marriage movement can’t have its feelings hurt, can’t be wounded, can’t be hurt or scarred or angry by the way anyone treats it or talks about it. Same goes for the anti-gay marriage movement. So everyone feels like they have carte blanche to say what they want without the risk of damaging a human soul, because they’re talking about a movement, lots of people, not a person, not that person, not you, not me. But they don’t. There is no such thing as “people”. There is only a person, many persons, each of them with a soul beloved of God.

Interacting with a person means treating their pain as, at the very least, data. A doctor may have no choice but to hurt in order to heal, but she secures the trust of the patient first, and thinks hard about whether there’s any other way to address the injury or provide palliative care.

In my case, I don’t oppose civil gay marriage, so this is seldom the field in which I end up doing triage. But when I disagree with friends in other areas related to sexuality and ethics (say, casual hookups), I don’t open by asking the person to repent. I try to be genuinely curious about how we both think about relationships and how to show respect for a partner.

After all, I’m most concerned that a friend is acting ethically to the best of their own understanding. And then we can jump into metaphysics and philosophy and try and untangle how we ended up in two different places in normative ethics. But the first step is trying to see whether the person is doing the right as God gives them to see the right, and working out how to improve our vision and understanding as we go.

About Leah Libresco

Leah Anthony Libresco graduated from Yale in 2011. She works as an Editorial Assistant at The American Conservative by day, and by night writes for Patheos about theology, philosophy, and math at www.patheos.com/blogs/unequallyyoked. She was received into the Catholic Church in November 2012."

  • stanz2reason

    Leah, while I see the sense of the battlefield metaphor, I think it’s presumptuous to assume that anything is wrong in the first place. To continue with the metaphor, how do you propose a seemingly healthy person should respond to a doctor who insists on treating wounds they never had? Perhaps the pushback the Church gets are some peoples way of saying ‘I have taken what you’ve said into consideration, disagree with your ethical assessment, will continue my behavior as before and would prefer you to mind your own business’.

    • jscalvano

      The case I would imagine is far more common is a doctor, well trained in identifying injuries, informs a person they need treatment and that person responds saying “No doctor, I’m actually perfectly healthy.” Most doctors on a battlefield don’t have time to treat imaginary wounds; whereas, many people, when injured, downplay the scope of the injury.

      • KG

        Downplaying the scope of an injury is not the same as having no symptoms of injury whatsoever.

        Respectfully, I submit that your comment reiterates Stanz’s point about presumptuousness.

        • jscalvano

          “Downplaying the scope of an injury is not the same as having no symptoms of injury whatsoever.”

          I do not see where I tried to equate the two. What point were you trying to make by pointing out they were not the same?

          Could you propose some reason as to why my comment reiterates Stanz’s point about presumptuousness? I fail to see how it does.

          Edit: Forgive me if I seem rude, I often try to do a point by point analysis of other people’s arguments. Some of the niceties tend to fall by the wayside before I finish.

          • KG

            Okay, perhaps I misinterpreted your comment. It seemed to me that you were suggesting that, in the analogy, those who live a homosexual lifestyle are injured in some sense, but are downplaying the extent to which they are injured, and require someone with sufficient knowledge/training to step in and insist that they require treatment. But the point is that those they are trying to help see no injury whatsoever, they are not downplaying an injury. The assumption that Christians are equipped with this knowledge/training to identify injury where non-Christians see no injury whatsoever is what seemed presumptuous. My apologies if that was not your intent.

          • jscalvano

            Ah, I see where part of the problem is. If you want to focus on homosexuality, the metaphor gains another layer. (One the Pope mentioned so I’m working within the context of the interview.) The wounds the metaphor refers to are not the sins like homosexuality. The Pope refers to those as things like high cholesterol or worrying about blood sugar levels. The point of the metaphor is that it doesn’t do any good to try to address high cholesterol in someone who is bleeding out from a cut femoral. The first step has to be to stop the bleeding. And here the Pope says that to stop the bleeding, the priest must proclaim the salvation of Christ Jesus. Christ has redeemed the world. All men have sinned, he includes himself and I will here include myself, but all men can be saved through Christ Jesus. If you think the bleeding wounds are homosexuality, then you are missing the entire point of the metaphor.

            Therefore I took stanz2reason’s extension of the metaphor to mean that there were men who had never sinned and that priests offering salvation to these men were offering salvation to righteous men. My response was to contrast that with the situation in which men who had sinned but claimed they had not are being offered Christ’s salvation by priests, who recognize all men to be sinners, and were denying that salvation even though they had sinned and therefore required it.

            The import of this message is that Christ is offering you salvation, and all you have to do is accept it. God loves you and above all wants you to be free from the weight of sin.

            Disclaimer: I am Catholic in case you had not gathered that.

          • KG

            Jscalvano, I appreciate your response, and you have clarified your point a bit for me.

            But still, the notion that those of us who don’t accept the specific conception of divinity that your community does are essentially bleeding from a cut artery, and require your community’s intervention, feels invasive and presumptuous.

            And I still object to the characterization of homosexuality as a potentially life-threatening condition like high cholesterol. I acknowledge that your effort now is to analogize homosexuality to a health risk that is not as *urgently* life threatening, but it’s still being characterized as a serious illness. I can only sincerely repeat that this is hurtful.

          • TerryC

            So if a blind man is standing at a precipice, about to fall, but refuses to believe that the precipice exists, and finds it hurtful for someone to tell him his situation, then that person should remain silent and let the unbelieving blind person fall, because the unseeing person’s feelings are the most important thing?

          • avalpert

            But the precipice doesn’t exist – you happen to be hallucinating it and just tackled a blind man for no reason at all.

            Good work.

          • TerryC

            Ah, there it is. Reality and truth exists whether or not you believe they are so. I don’t presuppose the existence of the precipice based on my qualifications, but based on the qualifications of men like Plato, Augustine and Aquinas, or in our geological metaphor Eratosthenes and Ritterhouse. On in another sense Scripture or in our geological metaphor survey maps of the National Geological Survey.
            Your disbelief in the precipice does not negate its existence.

          • avalpert

            Ah yes, there it is. Reality and truth exists whether or not you believe they are so too. Your presuppositions, whether based on your qualifications or those of great philosophers in their time, are not truth or reality.

            Your belief in the precipice does not negate its non-existence. Your certitude in your wrongheadedness doesn’t make your attempts to ‘cure’ others any less wrongheaded.

          • Michael

            You mean Plato, the guy who made up Atlantis? The guy who wanted a facist dictatorship as his ideal society, with philosopher-kings at the top? Plato was a flake. Augustine was a horrible misogynist. I wouldn’t take their word on anything.

          • stanz2reason

            You should first demonstrate that you are more qualified than the blind man to determine such a thing. Running with the metaphor, you’re as blind as he is.

          • jscalvano

            I’m going to reply here since the conversation below seems to have gone off on a bit of a tangent.

            I will first of all admit that I do not struggle with homosexuality attraction nor do I have any close friends or family who are homosexual. As such, I am not qualified to do much more than point to teachings by people I respect with regard to such subject matter. And since I’m assuming you have seen most of the arguments and rejected them I do not think it would be a fruitful discussion for either of us to discuss homosexuality. I apologize for any hurt I may have caused through insensitivity and would like to ask that we set aside the topic of homosexuality for the time being at least, since it was not the most important part of Pope Francis’s message, at least in my opinion.

            To advance our discussion, I would like to ask you a question. (This is directed to either/both stanz2reason and KG.) I will first off assume that you are good people, such that you have an ethical code that you attempt to follow. So my question is this, has there been a time when you have before you two choices, one good according to your ethical code and one bad according to your ethical code and you have chosen the bad one?

          • stanz2reason

            The point I was going for was that it is presumptuous to feel that you are in a position as Catholics to address an issue like homosexuality better than anyone else, especially better than a person with a same-sex preference. I understand the metaphor (stopping the bleeding before treating the high cholesterol), and I see the sense of it in terms of prioritizing your missions.

            As high cholesterol is a fairly definitive marker of poor health, it makes it difficult to illustrate my suggestion so lets try something else. Running with the metaphor (stay with me now), let’s replace ‘high cholesterol’ with ‘left-handedness’, and what’s more lets say that the doctor is a self-proclaimed expert in treating the supposed affliction of left-handedness. Less than 1 in 10 people are left handed after all. Righthandedness is just demonstrably the natural way. We certainly don’t make the sign of the cross with our left hands. How then should a lefthanded person respond to a self-proclaimed expert in treating the supposed affliction of left-handedness?

            [Side Note: Incidentally, both of my parents are left handed, went to Catholic Schools first grade through college and have stories that during their formative years were brow beaten (even the occasional ruler to the knuckles) to be right-handed. This occurred to me after I typed this, but seemed worth noting]

          • Neko

            Such people are simply being obstinate by choosing a left-handed lifestyle.

          • stanz2reason

            They’re also propagating a dangerous left-handed agenda that’s destroying the moral fabric of our society. First, it’s owning left handed scissors. What’s next? Owning multiple pairs of left-handed scissors? Or sex with animals?

          • Neko

            Look, Obama is left-handed. That is all you need to know.

          • stanz2reason

            Incidentally Clinton, Bush I & Reagan were also left-handed. So I see what you’re getting at… Ronald Reagan was a socialist.

          • Neko

            Don’t be silly. Reagan’s left hand was chaste and did not know what his right hand was doing.

            (I’m starting to repent of my cheap shot…)

          • stanz2reason

            Excellent mixing of metaphors btw ;)

          • Neko

            : )

          • Slow Learner

            My first introduction to micro-aggressions, structural bias and ingrained prejudices (as the recipient) were all from being left-handed, so it’s actually quite a good example.

          • Donalbain

            I have no problem with people being left handed. I just wish they wouldn’t shove it down my throat!

          • Slow Learner

            Having someone’s hand down your throat would tend to be uncomfortable, left or right!

          • TerryC

            It is only presumptuous if we are wrong.

          • stanz2reason

            No. It’s presumptuous regardless. The grounds for believing that you are right is vested in the assumption that you are right from the get go. You’re presuming the validity of your position before making the argument, hence my charges of being ‘presumptuous’.

            Demonstrate that homosexuality is ethically wrong outside of a Catholic/Christian/Religious context.

          • Mr. X

            ” The grounds for believing that you are right is vested in the assumption that you are right from the get go. You’re presuming the validity of your position before making the argument, hence my charges of being ‘presumptuous’.”
            First of all, the Church reaches its moral conclusions by argument and reason, it doesn’t just assume that it’s right.
            Secondly, your argument assumes that your opinions are correct, so you’re being equally presumptuous, not to mention hypocritical.

          • stanz2reason

            KG said :“The assumption that Christians are equipped with this knowledge/training to identify injury where non-Christians see no injury is what seemed presumptuous.”

            That is exactly what I’m referring to.

    • Randy Gritter

      Often we protest most strongly that we are fine when we are in denial about our sickness. My friend just had this. The doctor told him he had a stroke. He got very angry at the doctor claiming he was fine. But the stoke happened. At some level he knows it. He does not want to face it.

      I do think that dynamic happens in spiritual hospitals too. People over-react to being told they are not fine because they know there is truth in it and are not willing to admit it. If someone tells me eating meat is evil I don’t get angry. I just disagree. But if it is something I see some truth in and I am in denial about it. Then I can get very angry.

      • stanz2reason

        The health metaphor is misleading. See below the ‘left-handed’ metaphor for more clarification of my position.

        • Randy Gritter

          My point still stands. If you think the expert is truly nuts then he won’t bother you so much. If you think he might be right then he will. People’s hearts know the truth of God. So yes, the anger people show is data. How to deal with it? I am not sure a better doctor is needed. My friend who had the stroke does not need a more skilled doctor. He needs people he knows and loves to tell him the doctor is probably right.

          • stanz2reason

            “If you think the expert is truly nuts then he won’t bother you so much.”

            When the “self appointed expert” and his “self appointed expert” friends keep their “self appointed expert” opinions to themselves, I’d imagine there’d be less push back. When the “self appointed expert” not only engages in an endless campaign of brow-beating & marginalizing but insists his baseless “self appointed expert” opinion become public policy he gets push back.

          • Randy Gritter

            I don’t agree that Christians engage in a campaign of brow-beating and marginalizing. I don’t agree that they insist their opinion become public policy. Sure there are some guys on the fringe saying crazy stuff. Mostly I think it is in people’s imagination. People hear simple teaching and interpret it as brow-beating. People engage in political debate and somehow that is insisting your opinion become public policy. It is an over reaction. The anger is out of proportion because deep down everyone knows what is right and what is wrong.

          • avalpert

            Do you live in the US? Did you follow any of the gay marriage referendum over the last few cycles?

            It’s great that you are so dug in that you can view any argument from the other side as confirming that they really know you are right – but it does you a huge disservice in trying to actually understand where the other people are coming from,

          • Randy Gritter

            I am trying to understand people. I do take it as data when they get angry. But I do see a reasonable Christian argument frequently responded to with unreasonable anger and accusations of hatred and the like. I have not searched out these sort of debates so I have not seen the inverse a lot. That is a reasonable person defending gay marriage and irrational responses from the other side. I am sure it does happen. I can understand why that happens too. If I explained why most people on that side would not buy it. Still over-reactions have explanations.

          • avalpert

            And I see reasonable non-Christian arguments frequently responded to with anger and promises of wrath – in fact I’ve seen it a lot and if you haven’t you don’t pay that much attention even to some of the threads on Leah’s blog. But I am guessing it isn’t that you don’t see it, it is that you can’t recognize it because you have difficulty understanding what a reasonable defense of gay marriage is and what an irrational opposition to it is.

            Yes, over-reactions have explanations, the one you happened to prefer isn’t the only, nor often the best, one.

          • Randy Gritter

            I didn’t say my explanation was the only one. For some, I know people react because they have been hurt by the church or their have some painful family issues tied up with religion. There are lots of reasons.

          • stanz2reason

            I don’t agree that Christians engage in a campaign of brow-beating and marginalizing. I don’t agree that they insist their opinion become public policy.

            Then you haven’t been paying attention. You are brow-beating under the guise of ‘teaching’. That you don’t or can’t realize this is really part of the problem. It doesn’t occur to you that you’re engaging in behavior that is damaging.

          • FatherMapple

            People differ on what is helpful. Someone falling down might be too embarrassed to ask for help up. Someone who thinks they don’t need health insurance out of principle might not know of the sickness in their bodies that will manifest itself in a year’s time. Some people see the harm in hunting animals and think the death of the animal is bad (killing off the wolves in Yosemite), while others see the problems caused by people’s encounters with dangerous animals that could lead to deaths as bad (like the alligators eating pets, children, elderly in Florida). Many people are of different opinions of what is harmful. The difference in the gay marriage debates is the two sides think opposite things – 1 believes God knows better, and from a desire to help someone live a more fulfilling life, want’s to share God’s planb for people. The 2nd believes I should do anything I want as long as I can’t observe the harm done to others (my right to swing my fist ends at your nose, or to save children, etc). Both sides hold different views on the long term societal harm.

            But just because a person doesn’t like the idea the other side has doesn’t mean the intentions are malicious, or being brow beaten into people. I would respectfully request you pay attention to the words the Christian commenters are using, and take their normal meaning. If the commenter says they’re not brow beating, perhaps it is you who is too sensitive and reading things into it.

            I don’t know you’re situation of course, so that’s why I only encourage you to reflect on the other person’s actual intentions, and then possibly (not have to) adjust your expectations then.

          • stanz2reason

            FatherMapple… My point is being misunderstood here by relying on the help/harm examples by using fairly clear cut instances where a persons well-being (after having fallen or having an unknown illness) is worsened. This is not an appropriate comparison, as I’ve noted considerably below with my notion of someone intent on fixing ‘lefthandedness’. Any reasonably benign condition would suffice as a replacement here, though also as noted below, lefthandedness appears to be a fairly strong stand-in in this case.

            It is not the intentions of those seeking to “help someone live a more fulfilling life” that is the issue, but the audacity to do so in the first place based on nothing but your religious views. That you’re doing something detrimental with good intentions doesn’t cover you here. In the instance of gay people, I fear it never occurs to some that a gay persons life is maximally fullfilled by being with their partner. Moreso than if they continued to do so but were guilted into feeling bad about it. Moreso than if they simply abstained and denied their God-given sexual preference. Moreso if they lived a lie by being with a member of the opposite sex.

            I am paying clear attention to the words people use along with the context in which they’re used. You’re blind to the harm caused to someone by the mere comparison of their sexual preference to some sort of sickness. I believe you honestly feel they’re doing something harmful to themselves and feel compelled to right a wrong, yet your judgement of such a thing is only consistent with and valid within the context of your Catholic (or whatever) worldview. By ‘helping’ these people you’re marginalizing them. By sharing your teachings, which include a fairly clear punishment schedule for them should they choose not to deny something that is part of the very fabric from which they’re made, you’re causing irreparable harm, both to the person and to the church by furthering yourselves from those you claim to want to help. In short, you’re doing something bad. Your intentions while well meaning are ultimately irrelevant.

          • Randy Gritter

            So if you do something bad with good intentions it is OK but if a Christian does something bad with good intentions it is not OK?

          • stanz2reason

            I never said or implied that. Taking someones intent into consideration might help in resolving the issue (ie. an approach to a resolution for someone acting with malicious intent would be different from someone acting with well intentions), but is doesn’t somehow make the results of their actions OK, for me or for anyone else.

          • FatherMapple

            You use so many words that seem to reinforce my point that your valuation of what is “harm,” “benign,” “bad” come from a place where there is no fixed standard to judge those things from. These things you don’t like, or the things you think are harmful, are not considered bad or harmful by Christians. So the problem here is how do you assess your morality without any standard to guide it by? To many christians, people choosing to live a homosexual lifestyle, no matter how the person is harmed, is just as detrimental as someone choosing to live in slavery – are we truly to let people do as we please despite, to most or many, it being behavior that is harmful to themselves?

            You don’t like the Christians calling what homosexuals do bad, but you’re quick to say what the Christians are doing bad. By what standard? There is none. Morality derived from self-fulfillment, within a society, or from standards that are not fixed outside human existence will eventually just collapse in on itself since it is too relativistic to hold a fixed view.

            Allowing gay marriage was celebrated by the Polygamists because they knew that just defining marriage as “recognition that I love someone” would open up the ability of marriage to their lifestyle. That’s an easy A causes B type of argument. But modern medicine takes away the biological penalties of incest – so because it is possible, and people feel it, and some aspect of society doesn’t like it but perhaps I do, then why should it be banned?

            There is no argument for the marriage of homosexuals besides the slippery slope and “I (or someone I care for and am sympathetic with) feel fulfilled”

            So please, stanz2reason, you know what Objective criteria that the Christians are using to judge the worth, or whether something should be allowed, but you can’t state what yours is. Without some way to judge the goodness or badness besides your personal revelation, which will change from person to person in detail even if in some kind of big group (not all of society big, just largish) we’re going to be left to psychopaths, sociopaths, and others who have hard time discerning “good” and “evil” except by how their bodies tell their brain to act.

            I’m not Catholic. I just like Moby Dick, or the White Whale, which is why I chose this name.

          • MumbleMumble

            What Christians are doing that is bad is restricting rights of homosexuals that are available to heterosexuals. This is not fair. There is no rational argument for doing this.

            I would also like to point out that to many Christians, denying homosexuals the right to get married is considered wrong and immoral. Are you saying they lack a moral compass? Just because someone has a different approach to morality than you does not mean that they have no morals. The argument that we need some definition of morality, therefore we need the Catholic Church’s definition is absurd. You do not have sole ownership on morality.

            In the US, we believe (some of us) that all people should be treated equally under the law. By denying homosexuals access to marriage, we are violating this principle. Your defense of inequality is something that you should consider.

          • FatherMapple

            There is a right to be married, but the Supreme Court said that the states define what that right is. So in Texas, the right is between a man and a woman. In California, it’s two consenting adults. Therefore, their rights – as the states define them – is equal. It is completely fair – it is where people choose to live, voting on the laws they choose to live under, and according to the styles they had a fair chance to vote for. Therefore, the people are treated equally under their own laws.

            There is a fundamental right to get married, and the federal government can’t stop someone due to not paying taxes, or etc. But the equal protection of the laws means the laws as they stand – there is no fundamental right to get married to who you want. Even in California you can’t marry your siblings, or an animal. But the reasons for that are no longer biological or health concerns since we can prevent all those – they are moral laws only. So on what basis do we judge the right and wrongness of these limitations?

            I didn’t make the argument that we need the Catholic Church’s definition. I’m not Catholic myself. In fact, I didn’t even propose that those be adopted. Perhaps you could re-read my comment and try again, but address the same matters I was talking about.

            People with a different faith that includes the tenants of Islam, or Christianity, or Hinduism, Buddhism, etc – they have moral absolutes, an objective standard you can point to and say “Good or bad” but without those non-personal, subjective standards, there is just what people will tolerate. And some people will tolerate a lot if it doesn’t happen to them – like the pre-WW2 Germans, or Communist Russia, or The Mongol Hordes, or Confederate Americans, or slavers, or any group you want to pick from history.

            If it’s right and wrong, it should be right and wrong, or good and evil, or right/incorrect regardless of the circumstances. These moral philosophies dictated by the majorities are not that.

          • stanz2reason

            Worth pointing out that as there are implications at the federal level (SS benefits, taxes, immigration status, etc.) the issue isn’t entirely limited to the states.

          • FatherMapple

            That already got sorted out, so I don’t think there is an inequality in that regard anymore. The states figure out what marriage is, the Feds have to play along. It’s a precedent that has never been seen before in American history, but it’s how it works now, apparently.

          • avalpert

            “The states figure out what marriage is, the Feds have to play along. It’s a precedent that has never been seen before in American history, but it’s how it works now, apparently.”

            What on earth do you mean – that has always been how it is. States have defined marriage differently and the Federal government recognizes the State definitions. It wasn’t until DOMA that some states’ definition was singled out to not be accepted by the Feds and that is why it violated the Equal Protection Clause of the 5th amendment.

          • MumbleMumble

            Then what moral philosophy do you believe in that makes you equate homosexuality to illness?

          • FatherMapple

            I didn’t in the comment you replied to.

            To the comments above that, I gave analogies to situations where people are unaware of something that is going on, that there is a normal understanding of what people do in response to them, and that some people don’t choose to do those things.

            I didn’t judge whether what happened was bad or good – if you think falling down is good, there are people who think being “slain in the spirit” is great! If you think being ill and having to die is bad, there are people waiting and wanting to die, thinking its better than their current situation. I gave a more complete answer to the animals being killed or killing other people, and whether some people think either is worth living with. But I passed no value judgement nor equated being homosexual to being ill.

            I think you might be projecting more than what is there. It’s ok, it’s a common mistake.

          • MumbleMumble

            You gave analogies to doctors treating patients with illnesses in a discussion of religious minded people talking to homosexuals. You also lumped both sides of the gay marriage debate into two groups and assigned the proponents of gay marriage the group that only thinks of themselves and doesn’t consider long term harm. I think my mistake was an honest one.

          • FatherMapple

            I didn’t say the second sentence, and can’t figure out where you think I did upon review.

            I said the Christians knew the long term harm under their objective standard, but didn’t say the proponents of gay marriage don’t consider the long term harm. I said the Christians wouldn’t want anyone to live in any kind of slavery, and continue to harm themselves – but it was said from a Christian perspective as to the two groups.

            I didn’t say your mistake wasn’t honest. But we’re getting into nitpicky details – not the actual questions of how do we justify things apart from some standard – how do we attribute or find that worth. I’d prefer to get back on topic.

          • MumbleMumble

            I believe that we should justify things based on reason the best we can, not adherence to an unassailable standard. In other words, I agree that we need a standard, but that we should be able to logically and rationally defend that standard. What makes a particular thing good (or moral)? What makes a particular thing bad (or immoral)? We should be able to answer these questions on a given topic. In the example of gay marriage (and homosexuality in general), I have not encountered a logical, rational argument that irrefutably states that homosexuality is immoral.

          • FatherMapple

            “I have not encountered a logical, rational argument that irrefutably states that homosexuality is immoral.” Because you can’t state logically that it is moral either. It’s a different standard – morality is illogical – there is no basis to begin logic unless some prior goal or purpose is attributed to the reasoning – whether that is “People are worth something” or “People’s feelings/ideas are worth something” (which is a separate axiom), “logic and reason should be the guiding principle”, etc.

            In effect, you’ve made logic and reason an unassailable standard. But if there is no value judgement before hand to figure out the good or bad question you posit, then there is no way to start or end the exercise. Nothing irrefutably states homosexuality is moral. So… where does the standard come from?

            I am sincerely asking this. It seems to me, anyone non-religious is picking standards as arbitrarily as the people who are religious.

          • MumbleMumble

            “Nothing irrefutably states homosexuality is moral.”

            I agree with that. But I don’t need to prove that homosexuality is moral. I’m not claiming that it is. I’m saying that it isn’t immoral. For it to be one or the other, a reason must be provided. If you say homosexuality is moral, then what is the reason? If you say it is immoral, what is the reason? And can your reason be refuted by logic? Do your conclusions follow from your premises, and are your premises grounded in observable facts?

            I am okay with making logic and reason my standard. I feel that these are the best objective tools that we have to discern truth to the best of our ability.

          • avalpert

            “There is a right to be married, but the Supreme Court said that the states define what that right is. So in Texas, the right is between a man and a woman. In California, it’s two consenting adults. Therefore, their rights – as the states define them – is equal.”

            Where has the Supreme Court said that the states define what the right to marriage is? It certainly wasn’t in Loving.

          • FatherMapple

            Of course it wasn’t in Loving v Virginia. Loving was about a protected class of people exercising fundamental rights. Windsor, the decision this year, said that States have the ability to define what marriage is since it is within their historical realm of power and the federal government does not have the ability to create multiple classes of marriage within a state that decides for itself. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_v._Windsor#Majority_opinion

            If you’ll notice, even the Wikipedia article has to just quote large portions – because as the article mentions, there is no clear lining up of precedent for the State being able to define a fundamental right, and the Feds not being able to define it as well and then supersede it.

          • avalpert

            Windsor did not say that States can define a fundamental right or that the Supreme Court could not overturn a state definition. Windsor was decided on equal protection grounds – the case that could have been decided on right to marriage grounds was punted on standing grounds.

          • FatherMapple

            For the benefit of the community, I’m going to quote some actual language from the Supreme Court to you, and let that be the determiner of whether you’re actually reading the things I link to. All quotes taken from this page, which is an easy access to the majority opinion. http://supreme.justia.com/cases/federal/us/570/12-307/opinion3.html

            “For marriage between a man and a woman no doubt had been thought of by most people as essential to the very definition of that term and to its role and function throughout the history of civilization.

            Accordingly some States concluded that same-sex marriage ought to be given recognition and validity in the law for those same-sex couples who wish to define themselves by their commitment to each other. The limitation of lawful marriage to heterosexual couples, which for centuries had been deemed both necessary and fundamental, came to be seen in New York and certain other States as an unjust exclusion.

            After a statewide deliberative process that enabled its citizens to discuss and weigh arguments for and against same- sex marriage, New York acted to enlarge the definition of marriage to correct what its citizens and elected representatives perceived to be an injustice that they had not earlier known or understood.

            By history and tradition the definition and regulation of marriage, as will be discussed in more detail, has been treated as being within the authority and realm of the separate States.

            This is one example of the general principle that when the Federal Government acts in the exercise of its own proper authority, it has a wide choice of the mechanisms and means to adopt.

            Though these discrete examples establish the constitutionality of limited federal laws that regulate the meaning of marriage in order to further federal policy, DOMA has a far greater reach; for it enacts a directive applicable to over 1,000 federal statutes and the whole realm of federal regulations. And its operation is directed to a class of persons that the laws of New York, and of 11 other States, have sought to protect.

            State laws defining and regulating marriage, of course, must respect the constitutional rights of persons, see, e.g., Loving v. Virginia, 388 U. S. 1 (1967) ; but, subject to those guarantees, “regulation of domestic relations” is “an area that has long been regarded as a virtually exclusive province of the States.” Sosna v. Iowa, 419 U. S. 393, 404 (1975) .

            The definition of marriage is the foundation of the State’s broader authority to regulate the subject of domestic relations with respect to the “[p]rotection of offspring, property interests, and the enforcement of marital responsibilities.” Ibid. “[T]he states, at the time of the adoption of the Constitution, possessed full power over the subject of marriage and divorce . . . [and] the Constitution delegated no authority to the Government of the United States on the subject of marriage and divorce.” Haddock v. Haddock, 201 U. S. 562, 575 (1906)

            the Federal Government, through our history, has deferred to state-law policy decisions with respect to domestic relations. In De Sylva v. Ballentine, 351 U. S. 570 (1956) , for example, the Court held that, “[t]o decide who is the widow or widower of a deceased author, or who are his executors or next of kin,” under the Copyright Act “requires a reference to the law of the State which created those legal relationships” because “there is no federal law of domestic relations.”

            Marriage laws vary in some respects from State to State. For example, the required minimum age is 16 in Vermont, but only 13 in New Hampshire.

            Here the State’s decision to give this class of persons the right to marry conferred upon them a dignity and status of immense import. When the State used its historic and essential authority to define the marital relation in this way, its role and its power in making the decision enhanced the recognition, dignity, and protection of the class in their own community. DOMA, because of its reach and extent, departs from this history and tra- dition of reliance on state law to define marriage.”

            I really don’t have to go any further. Please read the rest if you have more comments.

          • avalpert

            Yeah, quoting further really won’t do you any go because you don’t seem to understand what you are reading.

            I will repeat, Windsor was decided on equal protection grounds – nothing you have quoted here suggests otherwise. The parts you haven’t quoted make it abundently clear, you know when it says “The federal statute is invalid, for no legitimate purpose overcomes the purpose and effect to disparage and to injure those whom the State, by its marriage laws, sought to protect in personhood and dignity. By seeking to displace this protection and treating those persons as living in marriages less respected than others, the federal statute is in violation of the Fifth Amendment.”

            Windosr does not anywhere say that states define fundamental rights – nothing you quoted here suggests otherwise. Windsor does not anywhere say that the Supreme Court could not overturn a individual state’s definition of marriage for violating fundamental rights – nothing you quote, nor anything anywhere in the opinion, suggest otherwise.

            For the benefit of the community, you should back off areas you don’t really understand like constitutional law and biology.

          • FatherMapple

            The logic is simple, and in the opinion. I’ll try to explain it more simply.

            Marriage is a fundamental right.

            Since it’s a fundamental right, the protection of the laws regarding it can’t be discriminatorily applied.

            Who defines marriage?

            The states define marriage.

            Who then defines the fundamental right?

            The people who define marriage.

            Therefore, there can’t be two classifications of the status the states are creating.

            Therefore it’s an equal protection of the laws since the federal law created a separate class of a fundamental right that the states define.

            I graduated law school. I got the constitutional law thing down. That’s why I asked for your opinion on biology, hoping you could enlighten me. I didn’t ask about evolution. The portion about domesticated sheep stated, and I quote: “Thus, a homosexual orientation, if one can speak of such thing in animals, seems to be a rarity.” . . . “About 10% of rams (males) refuse to mate with ewes (females) but do readily mate with other rams.” Therefore, they will not have children, as I suggested orginally. It’s pretty A to B to C.

          • avalpert

            Yeah, the problem is the logic you list here is not the logical flow of the case. It in no respect rests on marriage being a fundamental right. An equal protection case does not require a fundamental right to be violated and the plaintiffs in Windsor never claimed that one was and Kennedy’s opinion doesn’t hold that one was.

            You either don’t have the constitutional law thing down or your are arguing disingenuously.

            Your failure on biology is more fundamental – you don’t seem to understand how gene pools persist across generations. Like I said, start by reading up on inclusive fitness and maybe you will start to understand how your pretty A to B to C misses the mark.

          • FatherMapple

            The biology thing wasn’t even my subject to bring up! I only made the assertion that if an animal who is homosexual won’t have children, then we shouldn’t argue natural equivalents for human conditions or even argue that the natural order is relevant. I don’t care whether the biology says purple people eaters exist, or only through blue and red people eaters having children – it’s totally irrelevant, and you are not addressing the logic that an animal that refuses to mate with the opposite sex and therefore won’t have children is completely at odds with how we should deal with human beings.

            The logical flow of the case doesn’t matter either – only the logic of my argument. I am making an argument that comes out of the logic of Windsor with other Supreme Court logic – read Roberts’ concurrence. He states the same problems I do with the case, and gives the future prediction that I do. It is a logical flow of how the right is realistically being defined in the states and being worked out in pragmatic practice. Kennedy doesn’t even use real equal protection logic – if any other subject matter was being argued, it would be supremacy clause and over, regardless of whether the states historically kept the subject under their traditional powers.

            And Kennedy does state, in the quotes I gave you, a fundamental right was being violated by the discrimination of a class of people given the right by state people.

            I am being more than genuine. You are not reading plain text but projecting things on my comments that aren’t contained. I never mentioned evolution until you did.

          • avalpert

            “And you are not addressing the logic that an animal that refuses to mate with the opposite sex and therefore won’t have children is completely at odds with how we should deal with human beings.”

            I’m not addressing that because it isn’t logical. We should deal with human being who choose to not have children the same way we deal with human being who choose to – with empathy.

            But even your assertion that homosexual animals necessarily die out is false – because you don’t understand biology.

            “The logical flow of the case doesn’t matter either – only the logic of my argument. I am making an argument that comes out of the logic of Windsor with other Supreme Court logic – read Roberts’ concurrence. ”

            First, Roberts dissented, he didn’t concur. Second, his dissent explictly points out that the question of whether marriage as a fundamental right extends to homosexuals isn’t at issue in this case:
            “That issue, however, is not before us in this case.”

            He nowhere says that, when/if they decide a case where it is the issue that the State gets to define what is the fundamental right or the Feds can’t overturn a state assertion – as you do.

            Finally, please show me any quote where Kennedy refers to a fundamental right being violated. You do recognize that not all rights granted by a state are fundamental rights, don’t you?

            As a footnote, “I never mentioned evolution until you did.” You are right you didn’t, instead you said, “The natural course of animals that are homosexuals is that they die out, childless” which is a statement about evolutionary biology whether you realize it or not, a statement which is incorrect. Animals which are homosexual, or asexual, gene’s can still pass on even if they don’t have children themselves. They no more die out than every other individual being dies out.

          • FatherMapple

            “your assertion that homosexual animals necessarily die out is false – because you don’t understand biology.”

            I said THE animal. A animal. The one. Numero uno. Not multiples. NOT the race or species. That’s all I said. Time and time again. It’s perfectly logical. It’s not about evolutionary biology. It’s that a animal that is a homosexual will not have kids. If there are multiple animals that are homosexuals, those specific animals will not have children. NOT THEIR ENTIRE SPECIES. Just the ones that are homosexual. PERIOD. END OF LOGICAL ASSERTION. I never claimed more.

            I mispoke with the concurrence and dissent. That is my miscommunication and fault.

            It doesn’t destroy the logic of my argument which is not contained to ONLY the case. NOT ONLY THE CASE. I could make it more conspicuous, but really, I’ve done enough. I never said whether “marriage as a fundamental right extends to homosexuals isn’t at issue in this case:” I never asserted that. I said the state defines THIS fundamental right. I know the states don’t grant all fundamental rights, or all rights granted by a state are fundamental . I DID NOT SAY THAT. EVER. Please go back and read what I wrote, not what you thought I said.

            This is the last time I’ll address your nit-picking and refusal to actually read the words I’m spending the time to type to you.

          • avalpert

            Oh, so all you were saying is that when a homosexual dies he dies – you are right, that’s true, it is an uninteresting tautology, but true. If that was all you meant good for you, how insightful. When a homosexual dies, he dies, when a heterosexual dies, he dies.

            But… is that really all you meant, are you sure you didn’t meant to imply something about passing on their individual genes to the next generation, something about continuing his gene pool, not his race or species, his individual gene pool, something which isn’t true…

            And, of course when you said: “There is a right to be married, but the Supreme Court said that the states define what that right is” and followed that with “Of course it wasn’t in Loving v Virginia. Loving was about a protected class of people exercising fundamental rights. Windsor, the decision this year, said that States have the ability to define what marriage is” you weren’t talking about THIS CASE and ONLY THIS CASE. So when you dismissed the evidence that your logic is incorrect – i.e. Loving demonstrates that States cannot define the fundamental right of marriage however they like – by referencing THIS CASE you didn’t mean THIS CASE. Or, once again, your logic is wholly wrong – states don’t define the fundamental right of marriage and the Federal courts can change state definitions if they violate the fundamental right of marriage.

            Of course you aren’t going to address my ‘nit picking’ since that nit picking continues to expose your ‘logic’ as wrong. Sorry about that.

          • FatherMapple

            “But… is that really all you meant, are you sure you didn’t meant to imply something about …”

            That is really all I meant. You are still trying to put meaning where there is none, and take away the plain meaning of words. The plain meaning of my words doesn’t pertain to the arguments about subjects you’d prefer to bring up in your expectation – because what you wish to discuss is not what the rest of the thread was talking about. Someone, not me, many ways above, suggested that homosexual behavior in nature shows it’s natural, and so because it’s natural we should continue to allow it, or at least not make a value judgment on it’s worth. Mumblemumble also pointed out that just because some behavior is natural means it shouldn’t be continued, as I did as well.

            I mentioned that Windsor reinforced the same thing you did – that the states define what marriage is. Windsor didn’t set that up, and I never claimed it did. But it did state that States have the ability to define what marriage is. In that language. I even discussed how Loving played into the greater tapestry of cases, since there was a specific ethnicity problem which is a protected class. Those words and explanation is there. You just refuse to spend the required quarter-hour to look at the words and take it on board.

            Your nit picking is a childish expectation that people want to discuss what you’re talking about, and know what you’re talking about, and will change the topic of conversation to what you want – irrelevant things outside the discussion of a greater morality, the existence of such, or the ability to discern it. To a certain extent your attempts have worked in that we keep talking about my comments which, as you stated just now, say things you don’t think they say. That is because I never tried to say those things.

            My logic is only wrong if you apply it to arguments I am not making. You are asking me the equivalent of wondering why my pie recipe doesn’t tell you how to get to the post office. It never will.

            I hope you have a good evening and wish you the best in your endeavors. I truly do.

          • avalpert

            Great, than all you meant by:

            “The natural course of animals that are homosexuals is that they die out, childless. Are you saying a natural argument would allow the society to let homosexuals die out childless?”

            Is that, like heterosexual, homosexuals natural course ends in death. So yes, of course society will let them die childless just like they would let anyone who so chooses to die childless.

            So thanks for that – adding so much to the conversation.

            “I mentioned that Windsor reinforced the same thing you did – that the states define what marriage is.”

            No, you said Windsor suggest that states define what fundamental rights are. Which they don’t, they could not define marriage in a way that violates the fundamental right – thus Loving.

            You can call it childish but that is simply because you are wrong and unable to admit it (maybe even to yourself). It isn’t nit picking to point out that what you are saying either doesn’t have implications of interest at all or the implications you think they have are wrong.

            To recap, when homosexuals die they die out just like everyone else. That is fine by nature and find for human society. Marriage is a fundamental right, States have no ability to define marriage in a such a way that contravenes that fundamental right.

          • FatherMapple

            You’re dismissal of the logical implications of treating people like nature treats it’s own outside of an intelligent, civilized context shows your willingness to willfully ignore contrary context at all costs, despite that point being brought up over, and over. You’ve missed the context, upwards of 6 or 7 times in a row. Other people recognized how serious it would be if we took nature and survival of the fittest as our guiding principle for civilization, and discussed it in the non-limited way you are. I’m sorry it’s a hard truth to be told, but you aren’t getting the point.

            The states could define marriage in any way but barring religious, ethnicity, national origin, or completely barring access to it. But the state could also say “No more marriage for anyone.” Or “Marriage can be with an animal.” Or “Marriage can be between siblings.” The decisions to define marriage used to be based on health and welfare principles springing from traditionally religious principles – since religious ceremonies was the context in history where marriage came from. Defining who you can marry is sort of the whole debate going on in America right now – not whether it’s barred by paying child support. Again – you can ignore the obvious context and keep crusading that the Feds define it – but they don’t. The Feds just make sure people aren’t denied marriages based on 14th and 5th Amendment type of criteria. They don’t define what the union actually is (gender basis, animals, siblings, parents, etc), what the legal benefits are, whether it exists or not, whether there’s alternatives like civil unions, etc. The states define it.

            Here;s you, trying to quote me last post:
            “No, you said Windsor suggest that states define what fundamental rights are.”

            Here’s your post before that quoting me again:
            And, of course when you said: “There is a right to be married, but the Supreme Court said that the states define what that right is” and followed that with “Of course it wasn’t in Loving v Virginia. Loving was about a protected class of people exercising fundamental rights. Windsor, the decision this year, said that States have the ability to define what marriage is”

            You are trying to have it both ways, saying I only said one thing, when what I said was one thing which was true and then explained it further when you mistakenly thought I was wrong- the states can define what the fundamental rights are (for most pragmatic purposes). If they decide everything but whether someone can’t have access to marriage based on race, national origin, etc. and 5th amendment type of protection – and the states define all the others: the state defines marriage.

            I am hesitant to let you have the last word because most people would doubt the logic other people have recognized and allow it to be diminished due to your misplaced ad hominem attack, which you instigated despite it’s incredulous premises. Perhaps the third time will be the charm: Kind regards, and best prospects.

          • avalpert

            “You’re dismissal of the logical implications of treating people like nature treats it’s own”

            I hope you appreciate the irony of attributing that to me in a thread where you keep complaining I am attributing things to you you haven’t said.

            For the record, I don’t think we should use nature as the determining factor of morality – still doesn’t mean that there is anything wrong with someone dying childless (actually, the only one here who connected nature to how we should view homosexuals was of course you:

            “The natural course of animals that are homosexuals is that they die out, childless. Are you saying a natural argument would allow the society to let homosexuals die out childless?”)

            As for your continued ignorance of what a fundamental right is, what the limits of how states can regulate in areas involving fundamental rights and whether that is in anyway novel – it’s boring. Yes, states define marriage, just like they define most gun ownership regulations – that in no way implies they define a the fundamental right of marriage anymore than it means they define the fundamental right to bear arms. As soon as the Supreme Court (and it really is a question of when not if) determines that homosexuals have a fundamental right than states could no more determine otherwise than they could ban interracial marriage.

            I am not hesitant to let you have the last word because anyone who actually reads the whole thread here would already recognize that you are trapped inside a misguided worldview that prevents you from maintaining a coherent logic and requires you to keep backtracking and redefining your statements – to the point of making them meaningless babble. So with that said, have at the last word is yours.

          • FatherMapple

            My original quote “are you saying a natural argument would allow the society to let homosexuals die out childless?”

            Your quote: “he only one here who connected nature to how we should view homosexuals was of course you:”

            I specifically said I don’t think we should connect nature and how we view homosexuals. It wasn’t my idea. I was asking for clarification of another person if that was THEIR idea. They said no. You then said I didn’t understand biology. My concern with you was only your allegation that I didn’t understand the logic in my own question I asked of someone else. That specific justification for societal change – which you’ve only now offered your opinion on, is an opinion of which I respect and agree with.: Your quote: “For the record, I don’t think we should use nature as the determining factor of morality – still doesn’t mean that there is anything wrong with someone dying childless.” I said the same sentiment. I never said otherwise, but asked someone else if that was what they thought. Context is everything, and you continue to miss it even in this most recent post.

            Your quote: “Yes, states define marriage, just like they define most gun ownership regulations – that in no way implies they define a the fundamental right of marriage anymore than it means they define the fundamental right to bear arms.” (Please ignore the contradictions in the statement, right? I’ll just keep going regardless, I suppose.)

            There is a Constitutional provision for making sure no state completely prevents the banning of bearing arms, a fundamental right protected in the Constitution expressly.

            Marriage has been found to be a fundamental right by the SCOTUS, but there is no fundamental protection to ensure it never goes away, or that it isn’t changed into something other than marriage between a man and a woman since there is no Federal domestic relations law. A state can make marriage go away, or change it’s definition, or call it civil unions, or many other things. As long as there is no equal-protection measure preventing some people from access to have legal recognition of their relationship with certain benefits (not based upon the arbitrary restrictions of gender, age, consanguinity, license fees, etc falling outside of the federal equal protection or due process, such as race, national origin, etc) then the states can continue to define marriage differently, give marriage different benefits, or get rid of it altogether.

            The only reason I need to clarify further is because, “you are trapped inside a misguided worldview that prevents you from maintaining a coherent logic and requires you to keep backtracking and redefining your statements”

          • stanz2reason

            You use so many words that seem to reinforce my point that your valuation of what is “harm,” “benign,” “bad” come from a place where there is no fixed standard to judge those things from.

            In many ways there is no fixed firm standard to judge such things, but like the subjective discussions of films or books, we can still discuss the stories, place the work in context of other films, compare the aesthetics, etc. and possibly come to a consensus of sorts which films are good, and which are not. Perhaps I can not say ‘The Shawshank Redemption’ is an objectively better film than ‘Dude, Where’s my Car?’, but I can note the differences between the two films and present a fairly convincing argument that this is the case, even if I couldn’t say definitively so.

            With Ethical matters, it is no different. The ‘Rightness’ or ‘Wrongness’ is ultimately a judgement of the subjective individual, yet that does not prohibit one from making arguments for/against certain behaviors. As these arguments take place, our moral sensibilities progress & evolve both as individuals & as a larger society. 50 years ago (even 25 years ago really) it was just assumed homosexuality was ‘wrong’, yet when enough people pose the question ‘But why is it wrong?’ the only answer people could come up with was to retreat to citing scripture & citing some nonsense of natural law. The general public sees through the veil of such shallow arguments and wisely changes its moral tastes, so to speak, accordingly. It has nothing to do with whether or not it is something I ‘like’ vs. something I ‘dislike’, but the strength of the arguments for judging a certain behavior as ‘good’, or ‘benign’ or ‘bad’. There are plenty of behaviors I dislike that I can not label as immoral, and plenty of behaviors I do like that I can label as immoral.

            While I understand that the notion of people living a homosexual lifestyle (whatever that means) might set of the moral receptors of Christians, the comparison between slavery is an inappropriate one. For the two scenarios, ask yourself 1) What wrong is being done? 2) On what grounds am I condemning such a behavior? (ie. what are the arguments you’d put forth to demonstrate that harm is being done) 3) Who is being wronged? I’m highly skeptical that your answers for one with be as compelling as answers for the other. Personally I’ve found that an ethical position that can’t be justified in a purely secular context is probably faulty. Moral issues have always been and will continue to be relativistic and society will be just fine. Moral objectivity is an illusion. Society didn’t fall apart when we freed the slaves, nor when we gave women the right to vote, nor when we gave equal rights to blacks & other minorities. It’d be 20/20 hindsight to say these moral matters we obvious or a sure thing at the time.

            You don’t like the Christians calling what homosexuals do bad, but you’re quick to say what the Christians are doing bad. By what standard? There is none.

            The standard I’m using is gay teens jumping off bridges because of continued harassment, harassment that can be traced back to it’s roots in the Christian community. The standard I’m using is the self-evident inequality of present law that places different standards of recognition and privilege upon different couples on the basis of genitals. That seems a good place to start.

            There is no argument for the marriage of homosexuals besides the slippery slope and “I (or someone I care for and am sympathetic with) feel fulfilled”

            This is just silly. Without citing scripture, what are the arguments for the marriage of heterosexual couples?

            you know what Objective criteria that the Christians are using to judge the worth,

            A mass delusion isn’t a very compelling example of an ‘objective criteria’. The figments of your imagination aren’t grounds to claim the higher ground here.

          • FatherMapple

            You are very good at sounding like you addressed my question, but not actually addressing the question asked. I shall try to rephrase for clarity.

            If you do not determine value judgements on what is more appealing, you can not discuss the movies as you mentioned as being better or worse. You can compare and say things are different, but you can’t attribute value. That “better” or “worse” is still a subjective judgement you have to rationalize by creating a standard of “good” or “bad”. That is why art or movies are not appropriate to compare with ethics or morals.

            “Moral objectivity is an illusion.”

            Are we talking morals here? Morals are intrinsic – each person has them. There is no society where “murder/theft for fun” is acceptable. Killing when it’s the enemy, or it’s people considered by our society to non-human, or by the government to punish crimes is in various degrees sanctioned, but never just “for fun.” If morals weren’t objective, then why would they exist? Many people besides us have tried to give natural law arguments, or existential treaties on how it benefits the few to play together as a whole – so why is it bad if the whole chooses to oppress or not value someone? Why do you and I still feel like that is bad, if the preservation of self is still taken care of? Why not some kind of “for the good of the whole, at the cost of the few?” Relativistic moralism doesn’t have answers for these things.

            “progress & evolve both as individuals & as a larger society”

            What do they progress from? What starting point? How d they evolve? Evolution the scientific process requires MORE complex systems to be created over times to develop different species – there is a standard of complex and less complex, as well as just “differences” amongst species. But the Peregrine Falcon, despite being faster that the Bald Eagle, is not a “better” bird than the other. We can say faster, or smaller, but not “good” or “bad.” Even if we say “It is better at flying” we are saying that being fast has some kind of value over and above being slow. We attribute that worth, not the birds. So how do we rate the differences matters very much, not just identifying the differences. Identification of differences doesn’t spontaneously generate valuations of good/evil, good/bad, etc. Those are coming from somewhere else.

            Spiritualism is universal as well. Even previously un-contacted tribes in the Amazon have spiritualism even if they truly believe in only faith based upon sight/experience. If I as a scientist observed something happening thousands of times over that is universal in any application in any field, like gravity, or humans seeking spiritualism despite any circumstances, then it would be an accepted and standard part of our knowledge base. There is no other phenomenon that modern man denies as universal except spirituality that is found in a truly universal sense.

            The problem you have with people expressing their ideals as a moral absolute is that it contrasts with your own moral absolutes, but the difference between absolute Them and absolute You is that one is static, unchanging, and one is changing according to the circumstances. “Moral issues have always been and will continue to be relativistic and society will be just fine.” Again, many societies had quite relativistic valuations on human life, but they didn’t burn down either. Well, some did. Rome did. The Greeks diffused their city states. The Chinese empires. The English Commonwealth. The current society will burn down one day, or disappear, it’s just we’re short sighted enough to think it won’t happen eventually.

            The perception that there is worth in the lives of people, or the right to vote, or that slavery is bad, or that teenagers committing suicide is bad, or that people don’t get to live according to their own sight of what marriage laws should be about, all comes from an attribution of worth that, if judged on an individual basis whose feelings we need to cater to, would cripple society with the conflicting interpretations. That wouldn’t work.

            “The standard I’m using is the self-evident inequality of present law that places different standards of recognition and privilege upon different couples on the basis of genitals. ”

            You are intrinsically noting the “badness” of people committing suicide, but fail to acknowledge some kind of actual basis for that feeling. If that feeling comes from somewhere, but we can change it if it’s some kind of social norm or impressed value from non-divine sources, why is this a persuasive argument? Why should I care about other people? Why does the survival of the species matter? I’m not asking rhetorical questions – they need answers to justify these feelings you keep mentioning that all people find self-evident, but can’t be graded in the larger sense of things.

            What are the arguments for the marriage of heterosexual couples, outside of how we feel about things? What objective criteria would give either heterosecuals or homosexuals the unalienable right to marry? Turn about is fair play, supposedly. Your question cuts both ways.

            Unfortunately, the mass delusion you mention is actually the natural state of human beings – they inquire why things happen, and know there is more out there than the physical existence. With an objective standard, at least we have something in common. “How I feel” allows some minority, majority, or single dictator to change the course of everyone’s lives – and I think that is not a valuable notion at all.

          • Slow Learner

            Spiritualism may be universal to humans; so is Dunning-Kruger.
            If spiritualism exists in every human culture, that definitely tells us something about how our minds work; it is highly unlikely to tell us something about a deeper reality.

          • FatherMapple

            How our minds work, in comparison to how minds work in other animals, or how they relate to the rest of existence could tell us something about a deeper reality.

            It is also highly unlikely that any humans would be created at all. Yet, neither of us dispute the existence of the world and the people in it. I am sure there is enough truth to find in the fact of existence and asking basic questions such as “Where did we come from? Where are we going? What purpose does this or that serve in the meantime?” No people group exists without some kind of purpose-seeking. Teleological or Ontological – whatever you’re argument: to propose a contrary worldview to the Christian one based solely on a contrary philosophical basis without attempting to explain some of these answers is going to look like prideful rebellion at the accepted innate understanding of human kind – a kind of innate understanding we consider to be truth in any other concept.

            Still, even if the universal-ism of spiritual nature is discounted, the rest of the argument above (to which it is a corollary) still stands.

          • Slow Learner

            I lacked the time to respond to the rest of your argument as it deserved, and it has since been handily demolished by stanz2reason.

            You assume that humans are created – oops.

            No, neither of us dispute the existence of the world, or people in it.
            Yes, we can start with basic questions, like “Where did we come from”. However, I am not proposing a contrary worldview to the Christian one.
            Firstly. there is no unitary Christian view.
            Secondly, my view is not built by opposition to a Christian view.
            Thirdly, if you assume that a sound philosophical basis must needs claim certainty in answering every question Christianity claims to answer you are sorely mistaken.
            The mention of “prideful rebellion” appears to be gratuitous – against what real authority would I be in rebellion? And how is stating that I don’t share a common delusion “prideful”?
            Finally, the “innate understanding of human kind” is frequently wrong. We have flawed minds. Some of us work to improve them. However the number of areas in which human intuition fails is well known and beyond my scope to rehearse here. So no, “we” do not consider innate understanding to be truth.
            I think, FatherMapple, our primary disagreement is at least one inferential leap back from here, because every time you explain your view further I see you bring in more premises which I would dispute.

          • FatherMapple

            I didn’t assume humans are created by a divine being any more than they were created over a process of millions of years. I used the word created in a common sense, not a specific Christian view you attribute to me.

            I never claimed a single unitary Christian view – some believe in literal 7 days for creation of the universe, and some billions of years. The only unitary view Christians have is a omnipotent/omniscient divine being who decided to deal with Evil (because it is an objective standard) instead of making people improve themselves to get to a blessed Eternity – therefore humans and their moral valuations have true objective worth/value. That’s all I’ve discussed so far, and all I meant, despite your reply.

            Stanz2Reason him/herself wouldn’t say it was all demolished – if you read his comment, he even stated most things are not possible to know for sure and people are going to have to work things out best they can – but the premises are truly just as arbitrary as some objective viewpoint in their valuation. I’m preparing a better response to his comment currently. That’s different from finding a cohesive worldview I am asking about in this whole discussion, or from you.

            “However the number of areas in which human intuition fails is well known and beyond my scope to rehearse here.”

            Then how do you answer questions about how people are worth things? Based on our own selfish desire for self preservation? I’m asking for answers, not hand waiving that occurs because you are projecting bias into the comments that aren’t there. If we’re no debating our existence, then how do we come away with value linked to that existence to value different people? If existence is arbitrary, then the worth (whether it’s some instinctual empathy or a more nuanced “save the whole by sacrificing a few”) must be justified if other viewpoints are going to be thrown out. That innate understanding that people have worth is what I’m talking about – that is the basis most people are working from, but not analyzing here. I would ask you to do so as well.

          • Slow Learner

            The understanding that people have worth, is based upon a combination of empathy and self-interest.
            I wish to be treated as having worth by other people; I am like other people; therefore I insist that other people are treated as having worth.
            Seeing other people in emotional pain, I empathise and feel some of their pain, and wish to prevent it.
            Both of these have evolutionary justifications, based upon our nature as a social species.

          • FatherMapple

            So why are empathy and self-interest things that have value? If our intuition and instinctual responses are not to be trusted always, then why trust the intuitiveness of empathy and self-interest? We get individual “gain” from the biological responses of being safe – but why is there “bad” associated with being unsafe? Not HOW, but WHY is it good or bad? Why do we then build society to build more of it? What is the purpose – the goal? The valuation we base the continuation of those principles of empathy and self-interest?

          • Slow Learner

            Empathy and self-interest have value to me. I consider them to have value generally because I value them, and because people I like and respect give evidence of valuing them too.
            You speak as though they have value objectively, when they do not – if there was no life in the universe, empathy and self-interest would have no value. None whatsoever – they have to be of value to some entity, in order to have any value at all.

          • FatherMapple

            “if there was no life in the universe, empathy and self-interest would have no value.”

            On this, I agree. Without people able to make value judgement there would be no value to judge. But that inferential step – “they have to be of value to some entity” – where does that come from?

            “I consider them to have value generally because I value them”

            There are others who give value to very basic motivations that seem intuitive to them. How do we determine which should prevail – majority vote?

            If it is intuitive to be empathetic and self-interested, but intuition (or something that is self-evident to us, natural state, instinct, other kinds of synonyms in the same general category) doesn’t hold value either in and of itself – why should you value that empathy and self-interest? Is it ok for other people to not value those empathetic and self-interest traits? Why are some people interested in themselves, and some not? Why are there people who are not empathetic?

            If those kinds of traits are the basis of society, but there are people who don’t have empathy and self-preservation/interest, what gives us the right to act in accordance with our own feelings on what is the overflow of our empathy towards these people (as in this rule or law will create a more empathetic society if people conformed to this)?

            Hypothetical: person without empathy harms someone. We have a modern insanity justification for those people – not sentenced to guilt for “knowing” it was against the rules, but need treatment because they’re sick, etc. But we as a whole our modern societies are saying “That person didn’t act with enough empathy and only with self interest, so they should have autonomy taken away”

            Why is one better than the other? This is where I get troubled by people justifying rules with empathy and self-interest – there are many standards of what is empathetic, and even amongst modern societies, they don’t agree – In Germany, their attitudes towards child molestation is much less severe in America – sentences for similar crimes are much lower. In America, many people think gay marriage is all self-interest and no empathy, and many who think it is empathetic to allow gay marriage and not just self-interested since it helps improve society, and there are people in the middle.

            Does it come to majority rules then?

          • stanz2reason

            I’m unsure which question I’m not answering, as I thought I addressed the only question you posed So on what basis do we judge the right and wrongness of these limitations?”. Perhaps something I’ll say below with clarify. I’ll also point out I’ve written a short novel here, so I apologize in advance for any spelling or grammar errors. I hope they don’t muddle what I’m trying to communicate.

            If you do not determine value judgements on what is more appealing, you can not discuss the movies as you mentioned as being better or worse.

            Of course you can. By saying a movie is ‘good’, you are saying that it satisfies your subjective taste, not that it is good in an objective sense. We might discuss elements of the film (convincing actor performance, story cohesiveness & pacing, aesthetics of the set pieces, the impact of the music, etc.) that we found compelling which makes the dialogue of film comparison comprehensible between people. Patterns & trends emerge. Some films are well received in small groups (say a kids film), while others are well regarded, pretty much across the board (like ‘Shawshank’). Others are panned or ignored upon their release, but emerge years later as a widely recognized ‘good’ movie. Yet even in a situation where there is unanimous consensus that a film is good, this still has no meaning in an objective sense as the ultimate judgement of such a things is the subjective individual. This confusion, you might even call it a fault, is due to limitations in our language and a sometimes unwarranted assumption that what is ‘good’ by my tastes is and should be ‘good’ by yours, creating an illusion of the existence of some objective standard.

            Art, film, food, clothing. Anything where somethings ‘goodness’ is a matter of subjective taste is a perfect comparison to ethical taste, so to speak. Where ethics issues are different are that there are real world consequences of a perceived ethical violation, some being tolerated as a consequence of living in a society, some demanding addressing verbally, while others demand being addressed through action or force. Not having a ‘because God said so’ or some other illusory objective ground to stand on might make you feel uncomfortable, but that doesn’t really speak to the truth of what I’m suggesting.

            Morals are intrinsic – each person has them. There is no society where “murder/theft for fun” is acceptable.

            While I agree to a point that we are born with certain inherent instincts (such as from limiting harm, particularly with regards to protecting children) from which some of the most basic acceptable societal norms are drawn, I would say that they constitute ‘morals’ as much as the hunger instinct constitutes ice cream preference. I’d also point out that unanimous consent on a moral issue might be thought of as effectively objective, in that for most intents and purposes it can be considered so, however it is still the product of the subjective tastes of the individuals making that judgement.

            If morals weren’t objective, then why would they exist?

            In order for roads to function most efficiently and drivers to be most safe, societies create organized systems of standards and laws to govern the operation of such things. Such systems share much in common from society to society (traffic lights, stop signs, etc.) but are all different in varying ways(driving on the left vs. driving on the right) eliminating the notion that traffic frameworks are objective in any sense.

            Similarly, in order for society to function we establish standards (deeming certain behavior ‘good’ and others ‘bad’) that govern how people are expected to act. Such standards are similar from society to society, yet all different on one level or another eliminating the notion of ethical frameworks being truly objective, especially since even within a single society moral tastes evolve over time. The notions of what behavior is acceptable and which is not isn’t determined by some outside standard, but by the subjective tastes of those making the judgement.

            why is it bad if the whole chooses to oppress or not value someone? Why do you and I still feel like that is bad, if the preservation of self is still taken care of? Why not some kind of “for the good of the whole, at the cost of the few?”

            Again, my view is that ethical judgments are the product of the subjective individual. In addition, your questions are fairly broad making it impossible to give an answer that would be the same 100% of the time. With that in mind I’ll address your questions with the following:

            “why is it bad if the whole chooses to oppress or not value someone?” My response to this would depend on examining why this person or persons are being oppressed, how they are being oppressed, and what are the likely consequences of them not being oppressed. Were I to determine that the reason for their oppression was unwarranted, the means by which they’re being oppressed was overly excessive, and likely consequences didn’t justify the oppression then I would deem it ‘bad’.

            Why do you and I still feel like that is bad, if the preservation of self is still taken care of?

            People are empathic by nature, some more than others. We instinctually understand on some level the pain & suffering of someone else, even if our own well being is taken care of. We are moved by someone elses plight (or even a character in a film) as their experience triggers a level of emotion, understanding and sympathy in our minds that makes their suffering part of our own.

            Why not some kind of “for the good of the whole, at the cost of the few?” The notion of ‘the needs of the many outweight the needs of the few… or the one’ (sorry, had to work that in there) is east to agree with on a basic level, however it is overly simplistic as it assumes an equal level of cost between all the players. In other words it’s easy to say 1 dying & 99 living is preferable to 100 dying. Yet real world ethical decisions involve weighting costs bared by people where the different exchange rates, so to speak, make determining a definitive proper course of action difficult. Is the inability of the many poor to afford healthcare more bad than taxing the few who have more money? I believe it is, but I feel the opposing view has a measure of validity to it. The real world doesn’t offer many black and white moral choices. I feel the best decisions are debated and judged in good faith, and that’s a bit of idealism that I’ll stick to.

            What do (moral values) progress from? What starting point? How do they evolve?

            I’m not really sure what you’re getting at. Asking where moral values came from is like asking where the English language came from or who the first person to speak it was. I suppose I’d say values evolve based on cultural re-assessments of previous values determining which are worth keeping around and which are worth tossing. While I can understand this presents a frightening picture for the faithful, I’d only point out that were you to chart how people treated and regarded each other over the course of human history, the trend has, as a whole, gotten better. I used the term ‘evolution’ to note a change over time. I wasn’t suggesting a literal comparison to biological evolution. Natural selection determines one (or at least current evidence suggests so), which the subjective judgements of a society in its present form determine the other.

            Spiritualism is universal as well….If I as a scientist observed something happening thousands of times over that is universal… then it would be an accepted and standard part of our knowledge base.

            Similarities, even in irrational behavior amongst geographically separated groups, shouldn’t be a surprise given that we’re all the same species. The widespread notion of spiritualism is the ‘universal phenomena’ in question here, not whether or not there’s truth in it. This is a matter of human psychology which is not really denied, however it is not proof of the immaterial.

            The problem you have with people expressing their ideals as a moral absolute is that it contrasts with your own moral absolutes, but the difference between absolute Them and absolute You is that one is static, unchanging, and one is changing according to the circumstances.

            No. The problem I have with people expressing their ideals as morally absolute is that they have insufficient reason to think so. Were I to accept the existence of an absolute moral standard, I’ve no reason to believe anyone has access to it, nor do I think they’d have anyway of demonstrating that if they did.

            The current society will burn down one day, or disappear, it’s just we’re short sighted enough to think it won’t happen eventually.

            Perhaps, but I think it more likely to be the result of someone being absolutely convinced of the righteousness of their position, rather than someone who has taken the time and made the effort to re-assess their values as the situation demanded. In any case, it’s premature to assign blame or attribute cause for events that have yet to pass.

            The perception that there is worth in the lives of people, or the right to vote, or that slavery is bad, or that teenagers committing suicide is bad, or that people don’t get to live according to their own sight of what marriage laws should be about, all comes from an attribution of worth that, if judged on an individual basis whose feelings we need to cater to, would cripple society with the conflicting interpretations. That wouldn’t work.

            Sounds like you have a lot on your mind. I offer the suggestion that despite the messiness of it all regarding the truths of moral subjectivity, that the fact that society has developed and is currently still standing should be evidence enough that your fears are misplaced.

            You are intrinsically noting the “badness” of people committing suicide, but fail to acknowledge some kind of actual basis for that feeling. If that feeling comes from somewhere, but we can change it if it’s some kind of social norm or impressed value from non-divine sources, why is this a persuasive argument?

            The level of badness I assign is the product of my own valuation of someones life weighted against the actions of those who would abuse a person to the point of suicide. The basis for that notion is that it is the product of my judgement, nothing more. There is, I feel a reasonable assumption that my audience would have a level of understanding where communication is made simpler by simply saying ‘so & so is bad’ rather than ‘as a result of my subjective moral tastes I feel so and so is bad’. As I’m privy to more information, my tastes might shift. In the matter of abusing someone to the point of taking their life, I feel that shift to be unlikely.

            Why should I care about other people?

            Aside from the obvious potential benefit of ‘you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours’, I think this is an answer people must determine for themselves. In my experience I’ve found assisting others to be a rewarding experience in itself. It is an action to which I have assigned value. Perhaps this is product of our natural empathy.

            Why does the survival of the species matter?

            Who knows.

            What are the arguments for the marriage of heterosexual couples, outside of how we feel about things? What objective criteria would give either heterosecuals or homosexuals the unalienable right to marry? Turn about is fair play, supposedly. Your question cuts both ways.

            Thanks for the ‘turn about’ without answering my question, but I’ll answer yours. You could make a case the there are no reasons to award rights to ‘married’ couples, but I don’t buy it. There are logistical issues that are simplified by awarding civil rights & privileges to married couples, many involving medical & economical factors, living arrangements, etc. In addition, while raising children isn’t a pre-requisite for marriage, it is invariably a high possibility event. Having a system in place that allows parents to co-manage the development of the child is simplified by recognizing a relationship. Governing a parental environment that is stable is a messy business, but I feel the childs interest is best serves by having an incentive for parents to stay together via a penalization for leaving.

            Unfortunately, the mass delusion you mention is actually the natural state of human beings – they inquire why things happen, and know there is more out there than the physical existence. With an objective standard, at least we have something in common. “How I feel” allows some minority, majority, or single dictator to change the course of everyone’s lives – and I think that is not a valuable notion at all.

            But the mass delusion IS the objective standard. I feel it is a mischaracterization to suggest that the acknowledgment of morality being a subjective phenomena leads to governing ‘how I feel’. I doubt there are many dictators who spend a lot of time questioning and revising their convictions. I feel it more likely that they are either convinced of the righteousness of their position (divinely inspired or otherwise) or simply choose to ignore the suffering of others altogether.

            If you’ve made it this far… I applaud you. Best. -S-

          • FatherMapple

            First, I want to say thanks for the thoughtful response. I would like to respond some, but appreciate your civil tone and considered words. I am attempting to clarify my own responses a bit for many of the same reasons you are: neither of us expected to write philosophical novellas when we woke up this morning. :) Please give me the evening to respond fully because you raise some great points. I am going to go do dinner, then bedtime for my kid, and hopefully finish the post in the evening. Until then, thanks.

          • stanz2reason

            I know. LOL!! What I expected to be a 5-10 minute reply was like an hour and a half of disqus hashtags. I can’t vouch for my cohesiveness as I’m bleary eyed. I’m more accustomed to 100 word responses. Hopefully it makes sense on some level.

          • FatherMapple

            I really am composing an answer still. I forgot a social engagement last night, ran to it last minute, and have been badly prioritizing our productive exchange for others that might not have been as productive. Forgive me. I am at work, and will try to finish it during lunch, although the amount of work I’ve done so far, I’m not sure I deserve the break!

          • stanz2reason

            No rush. I’m actually doing work today for a change. I’ll keep an eye open for it.

          • Andre Boillot

            Fr. Mapple,

            “So please, stanz2reason, you know what Objective criteria that the Christians are using to judge the worth, or whether something should be allowed, but you can’t state what yours is.”

            Also, stop eating shellfish, it’s an abomination too.

          • FatherMapple

            Father Mapple is a character in a book, called Moby Dick, or The White Whale. I’m not a Franciscan, and only a father in that I have an 8 year old son. There was a time on the internet, in the 90s, when no one used their real names, and I liked this one.That aside:

            I think you might be thinking I’m a Christian. I’ll explain the reason you’re mistaken about whether Christian are allowed or not allowed to eat shellfish, wear clothes of multiple fabrics, etc. The Christians believe that the shellfish thing, stoning people, having cities of refuge, all the things people bring out to show Christians as possible hypocrites is a portion of the Mosaic law which applied to the Jews. It was a covenant that was fulfilled with the death of Jesus Christ, who paid for the sins of all people and therefore there was no need for strict adherence to the law to be righteous and go to Heaven, such as continued animal sacrifice (also a requirement to atone, or pay for violations of the Mosaic law). Therefore, since the Mosaic law no longer requires strict adherence to since the death of Jesus, you see Peter and Paul saying that there is no unclean thing to eat or drink, even if it was sacrificed to another idol or god. The Jews were told to rest on the Sabbath, but Jesus told the Jews they had missed the point, in that the Sabbath was made for men, and not men for the Sabbath, so it’s ok to do things like heal a leper or a withered limb even if it looks like work. Jesus preached that he fulfilled the law, lived it perfectly, and that after his sacrifice, there would be a new covenant based only on belief and acceptance, not on ritual observation – which, coincidentally, in the time of Abraham, Isaac, Job, and many others before Moses, was how it was then as well – people saved by faith and belief, not strict adherence to rules. Paul says that while the law helps us identify the nature and personality of God, and is good teaching to live by, there is no need to strict adherence except that people should be grateful for what Jesus did for people, and out of that overflow of generosity the people will abide by God’s teaching.

            Therefore, your advice for me to stop eating shellfish since it’s an abomination is misplaced.

            If you want citations for the above, just ask. Or research yourself! It’s all available online if you search for “Do Christians have to obey the mosaic law” and if you take the time to read a few links.

          • Andre Boillot

            So, I should not refer to you by the name you go by. Deal.

            “Therefore, your advice for me to stop eating shellfish since it’s an abomination is misplaced.”

            Not when the oft-cited biblical condemnation of homosexuality comes from the same books, it isn’t.

          • FatherMapple

            There are many laws in the mosaic covenant that were moral, some were dietary or for health reasons, and some were ritualistic, to impress on people the seriousness of their relationship with God.

            You seem to be saying that since the Bible contains two things, then both must be observed regardless of the context or other parts of the Bible that explain this discrepancy you seem to think is deilitating to the authority of the Bible. But the book also contains many examples of what NOT to do, like have sex with siblings – but to understand it’s an example, you’d have to read an entire page sometimes to get to the part of the story where the person is rebuked for doing so.

            A common sense reading of the Bible, instead of quoting pieces out of context, will show you the same thing I explained above, but I’m not sure if you got all the way through. I would recommend you read the book of Romans. In large print, it won’t be more than 15 or 20 pages. It is a little dense. But it explains this very idea you’ve latched on to, to the satisfaction of everyone who actually sits down and reads it.

            You are trying to reduce the Bible to something more simple than it is – I’m sorry, but that won’t work. Just as the Constitution of the United States has the so-called Intellectual Property Clause, it is pointless to read it without citing the very first sentence of the same section. So, while it is all and good that the Constituion says “To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries.”

            But the President can’t do that, Congress does, and then Congress explains in laws how to promote it, what the limited Times are, who authors are, etc. The clause must be read in context.

            I encourage you to sit down and read some of the Bible, and not just portions you think are contradictory. I think you will start to agree with literally thousands of years of scholars, including reputable, modern, secular scholars, that there is not a contradiction in the point you are attempting to make.

          • Andre Boillot

            Maple,

            “You are trying to reduce the Bible to something more simple than it is – I’m sorry, but that won’t work.”

            What I’m trying to show, is that Christians don’t agree on how to interpret the Bible, and rejecting your claim that Christians use a common, objective criteria when making moral judgements. They do not.

          • FatherMapple

            I can see, with that explanation, of what point you were trying to make. If I didn’t make the connection most would, I apologize, but it seemed a few jumps to get where we are now.

            At the risk of sounding like a True Scotsman, delivering from the mount of what True Scotsmen are, I think there are as much variation in Christian interpretation as there are interpreters of the Constitution. At least! But the example you gave was using a Jewish specific provision, and while many Christians might be ignorant of what is actually contained in the Bible, chapter 3-5, and chapter 14 of the book in Romans, or the teaching of Peter in Acts upon having the revelation of clean or unclean animals are pretty black and white text that are hard to argue with.

            Making an argument to go against what the text plainly says, and what probably (somewhat arbitrarily and based on anecdotal studies) what 95% or more Christians believe in versus the small minority is going to be tough, at best. It would be like holding all Christians to the same teachings for the Ku Klux Klan, all Muslims for Al-Qaeda, or all atheists for Joseph Stalin’s same beliefs. What is allowed to eat is not a “maybe this, maybe that” like, say, transubstantiation – or whether communion becomes flesh, or just spiritual flesh, or is just symbolic.

            Also, there is just the case for basic misuse of the same material – like justifying the Crusades, or the Spanish Inquisition, conquering the Native Americans, etc. There is no possible interpretation that stands up to actual reason in the Bible for those things – it was people just using it as a means to an ends. So, I wouldn’t paint all Christians, or any religious group, with quite so broad a brush in dismissing their ability to have an objective criteria for moral judgments. In fact, I’m not sure I did claim all Christians did, and if so, then perhaps all the caveats I’ve just expressed were assumed, which would be my mis-communication.

            However, I do believe there is only a possibility for objective criteria when making moral judgments when there is an objective standard, and much of the discourse on this blog has been aimed at trying to find that standard in something less fluctuating than human experience. To that end, I think any Religious person, using a divine standard that exists outside of a person’s interpretation, is a logical point to base such a criteria on. If it doesn’t change, it’s objective as can be.

          • Andre Boillot

            Maple,

            “But the example you gave was using a Jewish specific provision, and while many Christians might be ignorant of what is actually contained in the Bible, chapter 3-5, and chapter 14 of the book in Romans, or the teaching of Peter in Acts upon having the revelation of clean or unclean animals are pretty black and white text that are hard to argue with.”

            Again, I’m referring to all the examples of Christians citing passages in what you point out are laws which no longer apply. I mean, if nobody cited Leviticus to condemn homosexuality, we wouldn’t be having this conversation.

            “However, I do believe there is only a possibility for objective criteria when making moral judgments when there is an objective standard, and much of the discourse on this blog has been aimed at trying to find that standard in something less fluctuating than human experience. To that end, I think any Religious person, using a divine standard that exists outside of a person’s interpretation, is a logical point to base such a criteria on. If it doesn’t change, it’s objective as can be.”

            Which makes it seem all the stranger when the divine standard seems to shift, as you’ve pointed out. No?

          • FatherMapple

            “seem all the stranger when the divine standard seems to shift, as you’ve pointed out.”

            If the divine standard changed, it would be strange.

            The standard doesn’t change in the Bible, the rules for earthly governance of people does. This is discussed, again, in Romans, which I referred you to, and in the book of Hebrews (specifically 11, citing all these people who were “saved” despite not fulfilling the Mosaic law, and etc.). There’s not much more to say until you go and read them for yourself, because while I can keep summarizing them, you’ll keep coming up with the same questions modern secular scholars think are already answered.

            The nature of God, and the basis of the covenants hadn’t changed since Genesis 3 – people had a promise that God was going to fulfill things and make things right, and then live with that faith in a promise that God knew best. It wasn’t even a faith in the existence of God for someone like Moses, who saw the miracles, but more like a “do I submit to the authority of God and have faith that God would deliver those promises.” Even the apostles of Jesus don’t have the promises fulfilled totally fulfilled – Jesus’ second coming, final end to new opportunities for sin, etc., – despite seeing the miracles with their own eyes over a period of 3 years, the resurrection, etc. The problem was not “Is God real” because, as Jesus and Peter state, even Satan knows God is real – it’s whether to subject yourself to God’s rule. So the Apostles taught the Second Coming of Christ as the fulfillment of the promises.

            So, the nature and standard doesn’t change – the specificity of the revelation, as the people needed it, has. Again, explained in Romans. Have you read it yet? Because you keep mentioning quotes from Leviticus, but not the context of Leviticus – just how some imperfect people are quoting it for some reason. Charging exorbitant interest rates is in Leviticus too. So… Christians hate bankers?

            Again, context. The answers are already there. You’re asking me to answer questions not in dispute.

          • Andre Boillot

            Maple,

            “So, the nature and standard doesn’t change – the specificity of the revelation, as the people needed it, has.”

            I’m not going to argue against the idea that the New Testament is good at ret-conning many of the “dark passages” of the Old Testament. There’s a pretty good track record of people being able to, hundreds of years later, receive further revelation that what they’d once been told was or wasn’t permissible (and with a lot of these guidelines, we’re not just talking preference, but pretty explicit indications of absolute good/bad) is now, pardon the pun, kosher and/or they were just missing the point on some of these issues.

            “Because you keep mentioning quotes from Leviticus, but not the context of Leviticus – just how some imperfect people are quoting it for some
            reason.”

            I mean, I get it, I used to be Catholic…some people just don’t “get it” with regards to the OT sometimes, especially when there’s no tradition to fall back on, and they rely on scripture alone and their own interpretations. They’re out there though, many of them, and relevant to this discussion. Also, while I get that Christians would see no problem framing Leviticus in terms of the context of Romans, I’m not sure it’s accurate to say that I’m taking the laws listed in Leviticus completely out of context. I would further say that, when the proper context of Romans, etc. lags so far behind the original passages in question, one might rightly begin to wonder who’s doing the revealing – us or god…

          • avalpert

            Geeze, all that and you miss the real reason why you can’t compare the description of the prohibition against shellfish with that against homosexuality – they use different words. ‘Abomination’ as used to describe homosexuality is not the same word used to describe shellfish (detestable may be the better translation there).

            No, the real question is if you are going to condemn homosexuality as an ‘abomination’ because that is how it is described in Leviticus than you must also condemn ‘Natural Family Planning’ which leads to the ‘abomination’ in Leviticus 18:19…

          • FatherMapple

            Homosexuality and adultery are given the same penalties under the Mosaic Law. Yet, Jesus, who professed to fulill the law and explained by the Apostles, didn’t stone the woman caught with an adulterer and instead told the authorities to “cast the first stone, he who is without sin.” Paul tells in Corinthians that to discipline a member who is committing incest/adultery, they should not kill him, but confront the person, and withdraw fellowship (hangout time, or association) if the person won’t conform to the teachings of the church – after a series of escalations to try and help the person overcome the sin and make a heart felt change. But there is no mention of stoning, or capital punishment.

            So, even with sins that have similar punishments, similar severity, and similar motivations (desire for physical gratification, or romantic fulfillment in an inappropriate relationship) there is a change in how the believers are supposed to deal with it. Explained, pretty explicitly and in detail, in the Bible.

            So, reaching out in love, concern, and forgiveness for the person, even if there is a “problem” that continues. It’s pretty revolutionary.

          • avalpert

            Great, so where is that explicit detail in the bible that explains why one abomination (homosexuality) needs to be dealt with harshly while another (natural family planning) is the preferred method of birth control of the Church.

          • FatherMapple

            I don’t know a thing about natural family planning (go to bottom, of comment, I did some reading before posting it. I left this to show my thought process, hoping that would help you follow it), and suspect it’s a doctrine of some Church. I’ll infer that it’s about having sex and letting God decide if the couple has children? Don’t know much about that term specifically. You’ll have to explain it – it’s apparently not universally held belief – and it’s not in Leviticus by any similar (to what I think it may be) reference.

            Looking at your quotation of Leviticus 18:19, it says not to have sex with a woman during her menstrual cycle. Ok. I’m going to have to ask you to give more context, because the punishment I see, by looking at the passage as a whole, seems to be exile in Leviticus 20:18, but not stoning, which is proscribed under the Mosaic Law for homosexuality in leviticus 20:18 – and adultery (which is different than rape, of course, but rapists get put to death as well), and incest. So… why are you worried about the difference in treatment between the menstrual cycle sex and homosexuality again? You realize God claims to be objective, omniscient, omnipotent, totally benevolent, and so any declaration like this wouldn’t need a greater justification. So…. whats the problem?

            Possible Important Side Note: I’m providing a summary article for you to look at: http://www.hebrew4christians.com/Articles/Redux/redux.html
            It looks like a great site, and the article is on point for the questions being raised in this branch of the discussion that has devolved into Christian beliefs specifically in contrast with Jewish law, which parts of the laws were for a specific people at a specific time, etc. The author has some real chops.

            Perhaps we can have a better discussion after you read this article and see the difference between Jewish and Christian understandings of the Mosaic Law? There is a reason each considers themselves a separate religion from the other.

            Wait- I just read the first two paragraphs of the Wikipedia article on Natural Family Planning. And? Post-Resurrection-of-Jesus, as I already explained takes an attitude of love the sinner, hate the sin. If this NFP is a sin, then sure, I guess it’s a bad thing. Like lying or bearing false witness? People do that all the time. But it’s not the same level of sin as homosexuality even in the Mosaic Law, so I don’t think it’s quite the “abomination” you think it is, if the Mosaic Law saw it as different severity in punishment as well.

            Also, again, I’m not Catholic. Never professed to be. So, my knowledge of the Humane Vitae, cited in the article as the basis for some of this NFP, is limited and almost nothing – but it seems the Catholic Church doesn’t hold Humane Vitae to be infallible? All side issue stuff. Again.

            Just read Romans, Hebrews 11, and the links provided. Let’s get to the meat and discuss objective moral standards, the possible existence of them, if they’re discernible, and what an alternative is or would be based on, and stop worrying about parsley.

          • avalpert

            My apologies for assuming you were Catholic – I wouldn’t have used that example. Anyway, the basic connection was that NFP, Catholicisms approved birth control, encourages sex during the period that is called ‘nidah’ in Leviticus. That act is part of the group called Toevot (abominations) in 18:26. The same term used to describe homosexuality that i so frequently repeated today.

            FYI – biblically the punishment for rape is most certainly not death. Much worse, it is marriage.

            “Perhaps we can have a better discussion after you read this article”

            Oh I doubt that – that article is drivel and would not serve as a productive basis for discussion at all. Maybe someday when I time I’ll deconstruct it for you.

          • Randy Gritter

            Damaging? I get the theory. That homosexuality is not wrong. People just feel it is wrong because of Christianity. I just don’t buy it. I don’t think Christians have that kind of power to make people feel guilty. Only when what they say is echoed by an interior voice does it have any force.

          • stanz2reason

            It doesn’t need to be echoed by an interior voice… a few million exterior voices do the trick. Hearing that your most precious relationship in this world is an abomination affects people, and not in a good way. Those strong enough to ignore the rhetoric are still at the mercy of shameful public policy that treats them second class citizens. The faithful are skilled at placing themselves in echo chambers that reinforce their values, good or bad. My hope is that if enough of you hear and really being to understand that what you’re doing is harmful, however well intended, that these issues can be resolved. The shifts in public opinion leads me to believe enough people are actually listening.

          • avalpert

            “I don’t think Christians have that kind of power to make people feel guilty. ”

            Right, people can never be made to feel guilty based on peer reaction – only interior voices…

            See, what you demonstrate here is either a total lack of understanding of human psychology or an intentional dismissal of (more likely) alternatives to your preferred notion that it must be because they know you are really right. Frankly, any ‘discussion’ with you on this is pointless since you are so dug in behind your veil.

            The best response so far is autolokus’ above – I guess you believe that all those Christians who get defensive when called bigots do so because deep down they know they are bigots.

          • Randy Gritter

            I live in the real world. The Christian message is hard to find. Christian sexual morality is pretty much assumed to be false by modern music, movies, TV, etc. Nobody is allowed to voice a negative opinion about homosexuality. Free speech is dead because society is terrified someone somewhere will say something to make people feel guilty about gay sex. So I see peer reaction being almost 100% pro-gay. The church is a lonely voice. Yet people listen to her. Why? Because she is such a PR genius? Hardly.

          • avalpert

            You clearly don’t live in the real world – if you can’t find the Christian message than you aren’t paying any attention at all. If you don’t think people are able to, and do, voice negative opinions about homosexuality than you are very selective in what you read and watch.

          • Randy Gritter

            I hope we are all selective. I do find the Christian message but it does take a lot of effort. It is a small sliver of what is out there.

          • Neko

            deleted; question answered

          • ACN

            “Free speech is dead”

            Again, ridiculous. Completely ridiculous, and you should feel bad for saying that. You are not making ANY sense.

          • stanz2reason

            Here’s where you’re wrong Randy. Christian sexual morality is pretty much assumed to be false by modern music, movies, TV, etc. Christian values have been and will continue to be re-examined in the marketplace of ideas & ideals. Those that stand up to public scrutiny will continue to be embraced. Those that do not will be discarded. It’s faulty to suggest societies growing rejection of some Christian values is a the same as society rejecting all or most Christian values.

            Free speech really boils down to 1 thing, which is the prohibiting or at least limiting of the governments ability to restrict ideas or peoples ability to communicate them. This never was nor is a guarantee that there will not be free & passionate criticism of said ideas. You’re just as free to put forth ideas as you always were, and in fact you could argue that with the emergence of the internet, speech has never been more free than it is now. What you’re feeling is not a limiting of free speech but a reduction in the number of voices supporting your position and a growing number of those opposing it.

            You’re going to have a tough time convincing me that a membership of a billion people is a ‘lonely voice’.

          • Randy Gritter

            It’s faulty to suggest societies growing rejection of some Christian values is a the same as society rejecting all or most Christian values.

            Did I suggest that? I suggested that Catholic sexual morality is not taught or even respected by society. The idea that people feel guilty about this or that sexual behavior because the church has condemned it is just silly. It might have been true 1000 years ago but it certainly has not been the case for decades.

            Does that mean all Catholic morality is rejected. Not at all. Once you get away from sex most Catholic morality is accepted.

          • avalpert

            “Once you get away from sex most Catholic morality is accepted.”
            In this country? You mean like the death penalty, our approach to war, torture, euthanasia…

          • Randy Gritter

            On euthanasia you have a point. Really on all the life issues. I would say on war and torture most of the mass media is anti-war and anti-torture.

          • avalpert

            Most of the mass media hasn’t been able to move the dial people in this country – I hope you aren’t confusing mass media with public opinion.

          • Neko

            I would say on war and torture most of the mass media is anti-war and anti-torture.

            You must have missed Bush 43′s first term.

          • stanz2reason

            I should have been more clear and said “…It’s faulty to suggest societies growing rejection of some Christian sexual values is a the same as society rejecting all or most Christian sexual values.” That’s what I meant, but the way I said it makes it a far more broader statement then I intended.

            That being said, you said the following:

            Christian sexual morality is pretty much assumed to be false by modern music, movies, TV, etc.

            I feel this is too broad a statement, and that in reality the situation is more nuanced than that. For all the rejection of the notions that premarital sex is immoral, I feel people in general hold sex with a spouse in higher esteem than more casual sex. For all the increase in children being raised outside of a marriage, it’s still widely accepted and expected that a 2 parent household is preferable, and not simply for the logistical challenges of raising a child. For all the portrayals and real life instances of marital infidelity, this is still viewed widely as a fault. True the trend away from more traditional Christian values is inevitably happening via, of course, a natural selection of ideas, but the effects of those values are still fairly widespread, especially in the US.

          • Randy Gritter

            You really think so? Sex with a spouse is held in higher esteem than casual sex? I just don’t know what you could mean by that? Does anyone on the public stage say 2 parents are preferable? I’d like to know about it. Marital infidelity is a fault? Who is saying that? People sense these things but we don’t dare say them out loud. Are they Christian ideas? Not really. Pretty much every society except ours has had these ideas stronger than we do.

          • tom_ttac

            The thing is, some Christians ARE insisting that their opinions be public policy; that’s what opposition to gay marriage is. The anger is not “out of proportion because deep down everyone knows what is right and what is wrong,” the anger is there because people are being legally prevented from entering marriages with the person they love.

            It would be nice if “simple teaching” was the extent of what Christians who don’t agree with gay marriage do, but that is not the case in a lot of very significant instances. Instead, many Christian and Catholic organizations (including, you know, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops), are very much trying to influence public policy. I’m not really sure how you can claim this isn’t the case.

          • Randy Gritter

            I am not saying Christians don’t vote. We live in a democracy. The fact that somebody disagrees with you about politics is not a legitimate reason to be angry. There must be more going on.

            the anger is there because people are being legally prevented from entering marriages with the person they love.

            So suddenly they care passionately about marriage? You buy that? The significance of marriage has been in decline in public opinion for decades. Suddenly now people get angry over it? Gay marriage was never the issue. It is symbolic.

          • tom_ttac

            The average age of first marriage has increased over the last few decades, true, but despite this under 15% of people over 35 had never been married in 2010 (source: Elliot et al. 2012). Clearly, marriage is still an important thing in many people’s lives. Indeed, some people consider it to be a very important part of their lives, even if not everyone feels this way.

            In addition, there are many real, legal benefits that come with marriage.

            And yet, you claim that this isn’t important to gay people and that it is not legitimate to be angry that some religious organizations are spending lots of money and energy trying to thwart legalizing gay marriage.

            This really doesn’t make sense. I don’t think your assertions about the importance of marriage to people (gay people included) are justified, nor do I think your beliefs in the inappropriateness of their anger (and the implied “true causes” of the anger) are at all justified.

            (edit: edited to be a bit less sharp in tone)

          • Randy Gritter

            Actually the problem is I am trying to understand where they are coming from. Twenty years ago marriage was a silly religious idea that we should get rid of. Now it becomes a basic human right for any semi-permanent sexual arrangement to be recognized by the state as marriage. The only constant thing is that society continues to hate what the church says about marriage.

          • tom_ttac

            At no time did the majority of Americans believe that marriage is a “silly religious idea that we should get rid of,” which was kind of what I was pointing out in my previous post. Marriage has always been and continues to be a very important thing in many people’s lives.

            If you are really unable to accept that marriage is important for many people, including many gay people, I’m not sure I can do much for you.

            I’m not sure if you are trying to reference the fact that gay marriage did not become a significant priority of the gay rights movement until around 20 years ago. If so, I would say that that probably had more to do with the fact that before that time the gay rights movement had to be more concerned with other issues at the time, such as dealing with the AIDs crisis and, you know, not being thrown in jail for being gay. Also, at that time would have been difficult for many gay people to believe that they could hope to achieve enough support from the society around them to be able to legally marry. Thankfully, things have changed on all fronts since then. There was a vocal contingent of a more separatist nature that advocated for rejecting societal norms such as marriage, but it would be a mistake to attribute this belief to all gay people at that time (or really, even the majority of them at the time), and certainly a mistake to attribute those beliefs to all gay people since then.

            Also, up until rather recently the majority of Americans agreed with the church about marriage, at least with respect to the inclusion of gay partnerships in civil marriage.

          • Randy Gritter

            I guess we will see. Gays have traditionally not wanted life-long monogamous relationships. Maybe that is changing but I have my doubts. I still think it is mainly symbolic. That is they want approval from society. I have heard gay people say they are not personally that interested in marriage but they see gay marriage acceptance as important for those reasons. Maybe they are a minority.

          • ACN

            But remember, Randy isn’t a bigot against homosexuals. He has just drawn a number of far-reaching conclusions about the entire population from a trivial number of data points.

          • guest

            Gays have traditionally faced imprisonment or death for having sex with each other. After that they faced discrimination and violence. Hardly ideal conditions for life-long monogamous relationships.

          • guest

            Twenty years ago I was ten and many younger

            Millennials weren’t born. Now we can vote.

          • TheodoreSeeber

            Civil marriage is an oxymoron that needs to be eliminated.

          • avalpert

            Just because your marriage is uncivil doesn’t mean they all are.

          • TheodoreSeeber

            Any marriage without children has no civil purpose. Any marriage that ends in divorce has no civil purpose. Get your government out of my life.

          • avalpert

            Ah Teddy, the only uncivil marriage is the one with a husband who thinks orgasms are illogical – stop projecting your failings on others.

          • Mr. X

            “The thing is, some Christians ARE insisting that their opinions be public policy; that’s what opposition to gay marriage is.”
            So if people aren’t allowed to advocate for public policies based on their opinions, what are they supposed to do? Toss a coin? Pull options out of a hat?

          • tom_ttac

            I never said they weren’t allowed to; instead, I was replying to Randy’s assertion that there weren’t Christians insisting that their opinions be public policy. His belief that gay people are angry over nothing, rather than gay people being angry at real public policy implications of some religious organization’s efforts, is what I was addressing.

            To be fair: I do disagree with the opinion that gay marriage should be illegal (if that wasn’t already clear). But I never said you weren’t allowed to advocate for public policies based on your opinions. I just think those opinions are wrong in this particular instance.

            I might argue in this case that one should consider how much of one’s own opinions about life choices should be legally imposed on others; in this case, even if you disagree with gay marriage on a religious or ethical level you might believe that gay people should be allowed to get married regardless (which, I might add, is the opinion of many Christians, our host Leah included). Just as I might disagree with some Catholic (or other belief system’s) teachings, but am not advocating for legally preventing people from teaching and practicing those beliefs.

            (edited because somehow the sentence breaks were all strange.)

          • TheodoreSeeber

            So get your gay government out of my church, and end civil marriage entirely.

          • Neko

            Man, did you miss the 2012 election?

          • autolukos

            Let’s try this logic on another topic:
            Many opponents of same-sex marriage become angry when called bigots. If they thought their opponents were truly nuts, they wouldn’t let it bother them. Therefore, we know that, on some level, they acknowledge their own bigotry.

          • ACN

            Or how about something a little more direct, to help drive the point home for Randy:

            Many theists become angry when they’re told that their imaginary friends don’t exist. If they really thought the atheists (or theists of other flavors!) were truly nuts and wrong, they wouldn’t let it bother them. Therefore, we know that the theists are acknowleding the correctness of the atheist’s claim.

          • Randy Gritter

            Sure. I actually do think that Christian anger when it exists is based on a lack of faith. That lack of faith can be based on a rationally incoherent version of Christianity.

            In fact, I that many protestants over-react to Catholic arguments precisely because they know there is truth there. They can see that one church with one set of doctrines is inherently more coherent than one book with 30,000 churches and many different doctrines. Yet they don’t want to engage that idea rationally so they get angry.

          • Randy Gritter

            Actually I think Christians have under-reacted to being called bigots. I think the implication of the bigotry charge is that Christianity should be made illegal. That anyone professing Christian beliefs should be charged with hate crimes and sent to jail. That is where it is going. Do I think Christians are over-reacting to that? Not really. Some are voicing concern. Most of the Christian thinkers I know have not shown anger. If they did I would wonder if there was some truth to the charge. For some Christians I am sure that is the case.

          • ACN

            “That anyone professing Christian beliefs should be charged with hate crimes and sent to jail. That is where it is going.”

            *eyeroll*

            Is there any molehill too small that you might not melodramatically drag yourself to the top to be marty’d?

            Seriously, that’s ridiculous, and I think you know it. None of the people that you’re talking with have EVER made that claim, and none of us belong to an organization that would support that claim either. I suggest you consider withdrawing from this line of reasoning.

          • Randy Gritter

            I didn’t say I was being called a bigot. As far as I know nobody has said that to me on this site. But it is a serious charge. It puts you on par with some pretty nasty folks. If people actually believed that moral equivalence then things would get ugly.

          • homertexag95
          • autolukos

            Canada has long had abhorrent laws allowing broad restrictions of speech; it’s nice that some Christians have started paying attention when they begin to be the victims. Likewise, the issues with the proposed San Antonio ordinance begin well before it specifies protected classes. I don’t have much sympathy for Christians whose only objection to speech restrictions and anti-discrimination laws is that those laws now disadvantage people the Christians like.

          • avalpert

            In a country with a landmark legal case like Skokie it is ridiculous to think that being called a bigot means we think you should be illegal.

            It isn’t where it is going at all if you are a reasonable person – if you are reacting that way it is clearly an irrational reaction and probably because deep down you know you are a bigot…

          • Neko

            Randy: Pew says 78% of Americans identify as Christians. Why on earth would you consider yourself a persecuted minority?

          • Randy Gritter

            Funny, isn’t it. What does Christian mean? Those who seriously reorder their live around the truth of the Christian faith are a minority.

            I don’t think we are persecuted now. There are some exceptions but most Christians have been able to live their faith. Will it continue? I have my doubts.

          • Neko

            What does Christian mean? Those who seriously reorder their live around the truth of the Christian faith are a minority.

            This contention has been ongoing since the 1st century.

            Your anxiety and fear is unwarranted. Nobody is out to get you over gay marriage! Ease your mind and enjoy the day!

          • erin
          • Neko

            Rebecca Hamilton demagoguing anti-discrimination law to stoke Christian outrage. The tyranny.

          • Randy Gritter

            Christians have been worried about persecution since the 1st century. Of course, persecution has been constant since then. That is why we worry. We know history. When people reject God they don’t ignore the church. They attack the church. Just like they attacked Jesus.

            Is it about gay marriage? Not really. But more and more of a secular mindset is being written into law and even into the constitution. It is becoming a de facto state religion. That means being Christian starts to become an act of treason. Precisely the scenario that the Freedom of Religion clause was designed to avoid. But secularism is a religion that isn’t a religion. So it becomes the state religion by stealth.

          • Neko

            Randy,

            The Constitution and the law are secular institutions.

            My reference to the 1st century concerned debates about the truth faith. That you are unable to distinguish between the environment in which Christianity arose and 21st-century America is alarming, and to imagine that you are ripe for martyrdom in a country where Christianity thrives and where the chances of the state persecuting you for your faith are practically nil is an offense and a sin.

          • avalpert

            Yeah, the first time someone is brought on treason charges for practicing any form of Christianity I’ll be happy to listen to your delusions – until then this reflect nothing but the paranoia of someone with a ridiculous persecution complex.

            It is so far outside the pale of reality it belongs right alongside the people who insist the moon landing was faked and bigfoot roams the Portland suburbs.

          • kenofken

            Because they feel entitled to get their way in cultural and political issues 100% of the time, and enjoyed that sort of hegemony for 15 centuries or so. It is only recently that they have had to contend with a plural society, and that loss of privilege feels like persecution.

          • TheodoreSeeber

            Sociopaths and psychopaths do bother me, yes.

          • avalpert

            Self hatred isn’t healthy Teddy.

    • Mr. X

      First of all, it’s no more presumptuous than any other moral judgement.
      Secondly, the Church doesn’t “assume” that something is wrong, it reaches that conclusion based on a long and rather detailed chain of reasoning, which if I’m perfectly honest is more than can be said for most of its opponents.
      Thirdly, if it’s presumptuous of the Church to make moral judgements which others disagree with, why isn’t it presumptuous of you to judge the Church as being presumptuous?
      Fourthly, in my experience most people don’t actually understand natural law theory, and so are incapable of actually taking it (as opposed to a straw-man version) into consideration.

      • stanz2reason

        It’s presumptuous as the so called harms of homosexuality aren’t demonstrable or logically self-evident. It is far less clear that the harm of two people engaged in a same-sex relationship, if any at all, is as obvious as the harm done via a punch or even a harsh word. The grounds for your ethical claims are weak to begin with and non-existent outside of the religious framework from which they came. They exist only on the presumption that your religious framework is right to begin with. Demonstrating the wrongness of running someone down with your car does not require such things. So, yes, they are more presumptuous than other moral judgements.

        The church reaches their conclusions through a long line of questionable/poor/faulty assumptions, not the least of which is the reliance of natural law to justify ethical claims. Fruit of a poisoned tree and all…

        It is not presumptuous to point out that the grounds the church uses to make ethical claims make assumptions about the correctness of their position in the first place. I’m not presuming anything. I’m stating that which is self-evident.

        • Mr. X

          Perhaps you could tell us what exactly is wrong with the Church’s reasoning on the matter. Given that you seem to think natural law requires us to presuppose the rightness of Catholicism, I’m betting your counter-arguments will all be addressed to a straw man.

          • avalpert

            At root it is really simple – the notion that any sexual activity that doesn’t have procreative purposes is wrong is itself wrong.

          • TheodoreSeeber

            Why? Don’t just claim it to be wrong- prove to me that procreation is evil.

          • avalpert

            Let me hold back my shock Teddy that you provide a total non sequitur.

            I know words mean very special things in your mind that limit your ability to interact with your fellow human being but why don’t you give it a try and tell me how you drew the conclusion that I am claiming procreation is evil.

          • TheodoreSeeber

            You are promoting forms of sexuality that do not include procreation- and in fact, specifically exclude it. Thus you must believe procreation to be evil- so I’m asking why.

          • avalpert

            So logic isn’t your thing either? Tell me, are you really as dumb as you play here or is this all a trolling game for you?

          • Donalbain

            You are saying that it is not evil to eat carrots. Therefore you think that eating cabbage is evil!

          • tom_ttac

            Haha this is a bit far afield even for you. We believe that sexual activity that doesn’t have procreative purposes is good, but that doesn’t mean we think procreation is evil. Procreation is fine for people who want to do so at that time. I just believe in people making their own choices for living their lives and taking joy in the things that matter to them. Sometimes that is non-procreative sexytimes! Sometimes that is baby-making sexytimes! Sometimes that is watching a movie instead! Funtimes for all!

          • TheodoreSeeber

            If you didn’t think procreation was evil, then why promote sexuality that isn’t procreative? Your logic is flawed. Fun is not logical. Prove to me that your way is better, if you want me to admit that your way is better.

          • tom_ttac

            Sure, I’ll bite: “If you didn’t think procreation was evil, then why promote sexuality that isn’t procreative?” I think I already explained my rough reasoning before, but sure, let’s try some more if you’re unconvinced:

            I view your challenge as being equivalent to “If you don’t think that enchiladas for dinner were evil, then why promote dinner that isn’t enchiladas?” Now, to be fair, I think that enchiladas are pretty great, but even I can admit that dinners can be great even if they don’t include enchiladas. How does saying that we can have something other than enchiladas for dinner imply that I think enchiladas are evil?

            It seems like you think that I think that there is only ever one “correct” way to live your sexual life (either procreative or non-procreative) and that endorsing one way is calling the other way evil. Or maybe you just think that this is somehow an inescapable conclusion of logic? I am not sure. But suffice it to say, I don’t believe that there is only one correct way to live your sexual life, but rather that people might have different things that they want and make sense for them, and sometimes these preferences change at different parts of their lives. I do not see any contradiction in saying, “If you want to have non-procreative sex in a consensual, safe manner, go do it!” and “If you want to have procreative sex in a consensual, safe manner, go do it!”

            Though, I am curious: Do you honestly believe that I am lying about not believing procreation to be evil? Or, do you believe that I think that I believe procreation to be evil, but if I followed your “logical arguments” to their conclusion I would come to the inescapable conclusion that believing both procreative and non-procreative sex to be cool is impossible? I have to assume that you think the latter, but who knows.

            “Fun is not logical.” This is a rather vague sentence. On one hand, maybe it means, “There might not be logical reasons behind the things we find to be fun,” which I kind of agree with- after all, people are emotional beings, and a lot of the things we find pleasure from may not logically stem from physical needs! That being said, I’m not sure how that relates to the argument at hand.

            The other option is that you mean, “Fun, human joys and pleasures have no place in discussions of ethics or on how to live one’s life.” In this case, I disagree with you- finding joy in one’s life is important, and taking into account people’s feelings, joys, and, yes, fun is important in discerning how to live one’s life and how to ethically interact with those around you.

            Once again, you keep making vague, one-sentence demands of me without ever really laying our your own arguments or reasons why you think these one sentence challenges are at all relevant or substantial.

            “Prove to me that your way is better, if you want me to admit that your way is better.” Believe me, given our interactions here and my reading of previous comments you’ve left (back when I was just a lurker), I have no illusions or aspirations that I will convince you. What I’m hoping is to reach some type of understanding where we can each say, “oh hey, we disagree because we value these things differently” or something similar, which ironically maybe we’re getting closer to?

          • ACN

            Whoa, you DON’T want to have enchilada for dinner every night?????

            BURN THE WITCH!

          • MumbleMumble

            “Perhaps you could tell us what exactly is wrong with the Church’s reasoning on the matter.”

            First, it is wildly inconsistent in terms of how it is applied to public policy. We allow divorce. We allow infertile couples to be married. We allow premarital sex.

            Second, the reasoning itself makes assumptions that it cannot back up (e.g. claims that we can know when something is unnatural; something that is unnatural is also immoral).

            And third, it doesn’t matter (in the US). The Church’s reasons should have no bearing on public policy. Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion.

          • FatherMapple

            And Congress hasn’t endorsed, nor established an official church. So… what does the Establishment clause have to do with it? I would recommend you to some Constitutional history books. The decisions on the establishment clause are also available for free, but I think the effort of having someone edit them into a cohesive whole is worth the price of a book.

            In short, Congress can’t endorse a religion. They can’t endorse non-belief either. They can’t restrict the free exercise of religion either. So ALL beliefs can get tax-free status (even an unbelief charity), and ALL organizations with a non-profit motive can do the same.

            If the Church is responsible for the faith and beliefs of a large amount of people, and those people vote in congruence with their beliefs, then the Church should have a bearing on public policy in that method – which is the method un-believers can choose too.

            Inconsistency is not a bad thing, de facto. Why do you think it’s a bad thing?

            The natural course of animals that are homosexuals is that they die out, childless. Are you saying a natural argument would allow the society to let homosexuals die out childless? That is the logical conclusion of saying a homosexual nature is natural. I would rather not take our cues from animals.

          • MumbleMumble

            “Are you saying a natural argument would allow the society to let homosexuals die out childless?”
            What in the world? I’m saying you cannot claim to perfectly define what is natural and unnatural, and beyond that, it does not logically follow that even if something is unnatural that it is also immoral.

          • FatherMapple

            Ok, if you’re not attributing worth to valuations of what happens in nature, then I apologize for attributing the idea I described to you. I might have been projecting a common idea I see stated into it. It’s a common mistake. Forgive me.

          • avalpert

            “They can’t endorse non-belief either.”

            On the basis of what case history do you assert that the establishment clause prevents the government from endorsing non-belief?

            “and ALL organizations with a non-profit motive can do the same”

            This is flatly false, non all non-profit organizations can qualify for a tax exemption.

            “The natural course of animals that are homosexuals is that they die out, childless.”

            And this reflects a complete misunderstanding of evolutionary biology

          • FatherMapple

            Case history do I assert that the government is prevented from endorsing non-belief? The case history is legion under the free exercise clause – any case where an atheist sued a religious organization – they always quote various things that a person is “free to exercise or not exercise” a religion. Here’s a 7th circuit opinion for you, in the meantime to chew on. Skip to Paragraph 4 if you’d like to get to the meat. : http://law.justia.com/cases/federal/appellate-courts/F3/419/678/617423/

            Perhaps I could have even more pedantically stated “All charitable organizations with a non-business and non-profit motive can do the same” but I didn’t because I’m not getting paid to be a lawyer. However, I would reference you to this article, well written and up to date: http://ctb.ku.edu/en/tablecontents/sub_section_main_1308.aspx

            You can “find” in the document down to automatic recognition, and then go back through my comment and realize the obvious, common sense reading of what I said would fit this definition, and understand I’m not trying to be a lawyer and not using specific technical terms. This is a comments discussion, not a lawsuit.

            Complete misunderstanding of evolutionary biology? Pray, do enlighten me. Here’s the wikipedia article, for starters. Now, I understand it’s an EDITABLE encyclopedia, but studies show for science it is more accurate than other, more professionally vetted sources. I’ll point you specifically, at first, to the second paragraph, where they make the distinction between homosexual behavior and homosexual orientation – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Homosexual_behavior_in_animals

            Perhaps you could use this article as a beginning to our offtopic discussion of what happens to animals that are homosexuals. By the way – I didn’t mention evolutionary biology. You did.

          • avalpert

            Free exercise and establishment clause are not the same thing – you do not establish that the government couldn’t endorse non-religion over religion.

            “Perhaps I could have even more pedantically stated “All charitable organizations with a non-business and non-profit motive can do the same” but I didn’t because I’m not getting paid to be a lawyer.”

            That isn’t true either. Many organizations that have no business or profit motive can organize as nonprofits and not be tax exempt as a 501c type.

            But you already knew that because the link you provided as evidence of something, not sure what, when it clearly asks “Are nonprofit and tax-exempt statuses the same?” and answers:
            “No”

            “Complete misunderstanding of evolutionary biology? Pray, do enlighten me”

            I’ll try, why don’t you start by researching inclusive fitness (you can even start with wikipedia). Also, again your link doesn’t support your case it undermines it – or did you miss the domesticated sheep?

          • FatherMapple

            “Free exercise and establishment clause are not the same thing – you do not establish that the government couldn’t endorse non-religion over religion.”

            You didn’t read the 7th Circuit opinion, then. Quotes, and I hope you understand them:

            “”We have already indicated that atheism may be considered, in this specialized sense, a religion. See Reed v. Great Lakes Cos., 330 F.3d 931, 934 (7th Cir. 2003) (‘If we think of religion as taking a position on divinity, then atheism is indeed a form of religion.’)””

            Even more unambiguously, here’s the cited opinion in the case, Wallace v. Jaffree, 472 U.S. 38 (1985)), where the court said:

            “At one time it was thought that this right [referring to the right to choose one’s own creed] merely proscribed the preference of one Christian sect over another, but would not require equal respect for the conscience of the infidel, the atheist, or the adherent of a non-Christian faith such as Islam or Judaism. But when the underlying principle has been examined in the crucible of litigation, the Court has unambiguously concluded that the individual freedom of conscience protected by the First Amendment embraces the right to select any religious faith or none at all.”

            Therefore, belief, or un-belief, is considered equal measures according to SCOTUS.

          • avalpert

            Non-belief and theism are not the same thing and neither are free exercise and establishment clauses. For example, the argument that mandating the teaching of evolutionary biology violates the establishment clause has been tried with zero success.

          • FatherMapple

            Read the links and cases I posted. You haven’t, because the points you raise are answered in them. It makes you look disingenuous, and not informed on what’s going on when I am making a lot of effort to cite things specifically, and you just wave a hand due to your desire to discuss non-relevant points in the overall discussion..

            If you mean Apathy (for definitions sake, practically implied atheism) and Atheism with a capital A like militant atheism, are different in that one positively believes one thing, and the other doesn’t care. But for the purposes of our discussion, which you continue to not be a part of due to tangents, having a worldview based on a non objective belief in morals leads to the same problem, regardless of how ardently or firmly or actively a person holds a belief or doesn’t.

          • ACN

            FatherMapple, when you use “militant atheist” as a pejorative label, are you INTENTIONALLY trying to conjure up images of your debate opponents putting guns to others heads in service of rhetorical strategy, or are you just lazily copying the label because it’s an easy dig?

          • TheodoreSeeber

            I’d point out the church doesn’t allow divorce.

          • stanz2reason

            Lets ignore the fact that your condemnation of homosexual behavior is largely rooted in interpretations of very old, very silly fairy tales.

            Your conclusions that homosexual behavior in the human animal is somehow ‘unnatural’ don’t jive with observation of homosexual behavior in other animals, nor do they jive with the study of human sexual behavior which has demonstrated such behavior to vary widely between cultures and individuals. Who exactly are you to determine which sexual behaviors are natural and which are not, assigning ‘rightness’ & ‘wrongness’ as you see fit?

          • Mr. X

            “Lets ignore the fact that your condemnation of homosexual behavior is largely rooted in interpretations of very old, very silly fairy tales.”

            Man, I wish I had your mind-reading skills. You mean you can tell the motivations of some guy you’ve only ever interacted with in a single internet thread? Amazing.

            “Your conclusions that homosexual behavior in the human animal is somehow ‘unnatural’ don’t jive with observation of homosexual behavior in other animals, nor do they jive with the study of human sexual behavior which has demonstrated such behavior to vary widely between cultures and individuals.”
            I thought this might be the problem. “Natural” in “natural law theory” doesn’t mean “found in other species” or “statistically common” or even “genetically determined”, it means “what fulfils a thing’s final cause”. So your criticisms are in fact directed at a straw man.

          • Slow Learner

            Except even if the concept of “final cause” is a meaningful one, which I would dispute, you are unable to demonstrate what the final cause of a human being is.
            Any attempt to make moral or ethical judgements based on something so incoherent is doomed to failure.

          • stanz2reason

            Perhaps it would have been better had I replaced the word ‘your’ with ‘Christian’. While I might be correct, it was an unwarranted assumption on my part. Aside from that I stand by what I wrote.

            It wasn’t my intent to address natural law theory, especially a version based on definitions you’ve pulled from your ass. Should you wish to speak with any sort of authority of the nature of man and his behaviors it seems a reasonable place to start that you 1) actually study man’s behaviors and 2) contrast them with other animals to determine the uniqueness of such behaviors. I noted what I feel are compelling reasons for each of these in support of my position.

            I think you like using the term ‘straw-man’ without really knowing what it means. You’ve used it incorrectly there sport.

          • Mr. X

            “Perhaps it would have been better had I replaced the word ‘your’ with ‘Christian’.”

            Not really, because you’d still have been wrong.

            “It wasn’t my intent to address natural law theory,”

            A bit odd, then, to start criticising the Church’s view on homosexuality, seeing that this is based on natural law theory.

            “especially a version based on definitions you’ve pulled from your ass.”

            Not sure when/where I’m supposed to have done this. If you’re referring to my use of the term “natural”, then (a) this isn’t my definition, I’m just using the definitions employed by natural law theorists, and (b) words sometimes have specialised meanings in technical discussions. Get used to it.

            “Should you wish to speak with any sort of authority of the nature of man and his behaviors it seems a reasonable place to start that you 1) actually study man’s behaviors and 2) contrast them with other animals to determine the uniqueness of such behaviors.”

            As I said before, natural law theory isn’t based on what’s statistically common or observed in other animals. “Lots of cultures accept homosexuality” and “animals exhibit homosexual behaviour” aren’t the devastating rejoinders you seem to imagine.

            “I think you like using the term ‘straw-man’ without really knowing what it means. You’ve used it incorrectly there sport.”
            Yes, you’re right. “Straw man” usually carries connotations of deliberate deception, but I can’t really rule out wilful ignorance as an explanation for your arguments either.

          • stanz2reason

            Let me show you an example of what a strawman fallacy is:

            My arguments were made beyond the context of natural law theory, mentioning it in passing as a side note only after you brought it up. Regardless of the baseless incoherence of your criticism, by criticizing my points as if I had made them in reference to natural law theory (or your bizarre pseudo version of it) is a strawman fallacy. And no, a strawman is a strawman regardless of deliberate deception or willful ignorance.

            You’ve demonstrated, once again, and in rapid succession, that you haven’t the slightest idea what you’re talking about. It’s as if you took a first year philosophy class at your local community college, skimmed the chapter about logical fallacies and subsequently failed the class. I’d say ‘nice try’, but that would really be patronizing now, wouldn’t it? I’m afraid nothing else you have said is worth responding to.

          • Randy Gritter

            You refuted the claim “homosexuality is unnatural” but you used a different definition of “natural” than the original claimant. (Not sure if that was Mr X or St Thomas Aquinas). Refuting something that is defined differently than the initial claim is a straw man fallacy.

          • stanz2reason

            Randy… this is not a topic I care to go to great length on. I’ll note the following and leave it to you to respond as you see fit. For me the case is closed for now:

            “All those things to which man has a natural inclination are naturally apprehended by reason as being good and, consequently, as objects of pursuit, and their contraries as evil and objects of avoidance.” (Aquinas)

            “There is in man an inclination to things that pertain to him more specially, according to that nature which he has in common with other animals: and in virtue of this inclination, those things are said to belong to the Natural Law., which nature has taught to all animals, such as sexual intercourse, education of offspring and so forth. ” (Aquinas)

            “For it has been stated that to the Natural Law belongs everything to which a man is inclined according to his nature.” (Aquinas)

            You might accuse me of cherry picking, and there might be some validity to that, but there seems to be a disconnect here between the notions above and baseless determination that you’re uniquely qualified to determine which qualities of man are ‘natural’ and which are not. I’d put the studies of modern anthropologists and biologists up against the musings of Aristotle & Aquinas to guide me in determining what’s natural and what’s not. To speak with authority of what is ‘natural’ it is better to observe and study rather than downshift into some pseudo-philosophical moral masturbation regarding notions about lust.

          • Randy Gritter

            OK, so you don’t like his definition. I wasn’t actually following your discussion. It just seemed to me that something as simple as a straw man fallacy should be easy enough to get past. Disagreeing about definitions does kill discussion. It does lead to straw men all over the place. So if you can’t agree on one definition of the word “natural” at least for the duration of the discussion it is likely to be a waste of time.

          • Mr. X

            If it would help you, we could rename natural law theory qwerty theory and say that whatever doesn’t fulfil something’s final cause is unqwerty. It doesn’t really matter to me what we call it.

          • Mr. X

            “Not sure if that was Mr X or St Thomas Aquinas”
            Originally it was Aristotle, although it’s mostly thanks to Aquinas that the Catholic Church adopted NL.

          • Mr. X

            “My arguments were made beyond the context of natural law theory, mentioning it in passing as a side note only after you brought it up.”

            You claimed that the Church’s stance on homosexuality is baseless and irrational. The Church’s stance on homosexuality is the same as the natural law stance on homosexuality. Therefore, your claim is equivalent to saying that the natural law stance on homosexuality is baseless and irrational. Therefore, it’s quite legitimate to point out that your understanding of natural law is completely inaccurate and that your conclusions about Catholic teaching on homosexuality are untrustworthy. Even if you’re right about their logical validity, you’re only right by accident.

            “natural law theory (or your bizarre pseudo version of it)”

            “Bizarre pseudo version”? It’s the version presented by Aristotle, Aquinas, and the Catholic Church, i.e., by the biggest proponents of natural law. Please tell me how that counts as a “bizarre pseudo version”. Or on second thoughts, don’t bother, you’ve already demonstrated that you don’t know the first thing about natural law.

            “I’d put the studies of modern anthropologists and biologists up against the musings of Aristotle & Aquinas to guide me in determining what’s natural and what’s not.”
            Physicist: “Now, there are six different ‘flavours’ of quark: up, down, strange, charm, top and bott–”
            Stanz: “Don’t be ridiculous! Those aren’t flavours!”
            Physicist: “They aren’t flavours in the normal sense of the word, true. The word has a technical meaning in quantum mechanics.”
            Stanz: “Look, mate, I’ve had a fair few different types of food in my time, but never have I had anything with an ‘up’ flavour.”
            Physicist: “Well, like I said, they’re not really flavours in that sense–”
            Stanz: “Hey, I know, let’s go to the local ice-cream parlour, ask them for an up-flavoured ice cream with some charm sauce, and see what they say.”
            Physicist: “Once again, these aren’t ‘flavours’ like you’d get of food–”
            Stanz: “When it comes to flavours of things, I’d put the opinion of someone who actually makes and sells food for a living above the musings of some socially-challenged geek in a white suit. Quantum physics is a load of baseless intellectual masturbation, just like I always said!”
            Physicist: *facepalm*

          • stanz2reason

            The churches stance on homosexuality is, in part, based on their understanding of what they have taken it upon themselves to deem ‘natural law’. As it is also based partially upon scripture (where ‘natural law’ is not), treating the two as equivalent is incorrect. Perhaps a Venn diagram drawn with crayons might better illustrate this point.

            My primary complaint, which is clearly stated in the originating comment for this thread of some 200 comments was that Catholics see fit to declare themselves judges of what and what does not constitute rights from wrongs, naturals from unnaturals, goods from bads. From this you seem to think citing the Catholic understanding of what constitutes ‘natural’ supports you and refutes my position. You might as well cite scripture. This is a chief reason why it is difficult to take you even remotely seriously.

            Is that ‘scene’ supposed to illustrate a point? Are you a child?

          • Mr. X

            “My primary complaint, which is clearly stated in the originating comment for this thread of some 200 comments was that Catholics see fit to declare themselves judges of what and what does not constitute rights from wrongs, naturals from unnaturals, goods from bads. From this you seem to think citing the Catholic understanding of what constitutes ‘natural’ supports you and refutes my position. You might as well cite scripture. This is a chief reason why it is difficult to take you even remotely seriously.”
            So… you complain about Catholics making unjustified moral judgements, even though you don’t actually know how they make these judgements, and therefore have no way of telling whether said judgements are in fact unjustified. When somebody points this out to you, your only response is to throw out fallacies (even after these fallacies have been pointed out to you), and finally to resort to insults.
            Well, I suppose I can’t force you to think rationally. Hopefully, though, other people reading this will have seen how foolish your original complain was; for, since you clearly don’t know what you’re talking about, the only way you can be right is by accident.

          • stanz2reason

            you complain about Catholics making unjustified moral judgements, even though you don’t actually know how they make these judgements, and therefore have no way of telling whether said judgements are in fact unjustified

            I complain about Catholics putting forth that they’re uniquely qualified to make such judgements without demonstrating so. Something is wrong if it is unnatural… that it is unnatural because we say so… etc. This is not convincing, nor does it require a masters in divinity to criticize.

            When somebody points this out to you, your only response is to throw out fallacies

            Let’s recap here…

            I said “(with regards to catholics somehow fixing homosexual behavior) … I think it’s presumptuous to assume that anything is wrong in the first place.”

            You said “(1) First of all, it’s no more presumptuous than any other moral judgement. (2) Secondly, the Church doesn’t “assume” that something is wrong, it reaches that conclusion based on a long and rather detailed chain of reasoning, which if I’m perfectly honest is more than can be said for most of its opponents. (3) Thirdly, if it’s presumptuous of the Church to make moral judgements which others disagree with, why isn’t it presumptuous of you to judge the Church as being presumptuous? (4) Fourthly, in my experience most people don’t actually understand natural law theory, and so are incapable of actually taking it (as opposed to a straw-man version) into consideration.(Note, here is natural law brought up the first time)

            I addressed your points with (1)It’s presumptuous as the so called harms of homosexuality aren’t demonstrable or logically self-evident. (1) It is far less clear that the harm of two people engaged in a same-sex relationship, if any at all, is as obvious as the harm done via a punch or even a harsh word. (2) The grounds for your ethical claims are weak to begin with and non-existent outside of the religious framework from which they came. (2) They exist only on the presumption that your religious framework is right to begin with. (1)Demonstrating the wrongness of running someone down with your car does not require such things. (1)So, yes, they are more presumptuous than other moral judgements. (2 & 4)The church reaches their conclusions through a long line of questionable/poor/faulty assumptions, not the least of which is the reliance of natural law to justify ethical claims. Fruit of a poisoned tree and all… (Note: Here I could have expanded on some of the faults of natural law in the tradition of Aquinas & Aristotle, however since it was not the focus of the conversation, simply made a passing note and moved on… staying on topic isn’t a fallacy) (3)It is not presumptuous to point out that the grounds the church uses to make ethical claims make assumptions about the correctness of their position in the first place. I’m not presuming anything. I’m stating that which is self-evident.

            To which you replied (rather than refuting my points):

            Perhaps you could tell us what exactly is wrong with the Church’s reasoning on the matter. Given that you seem to think natural law requires us to presuppose the rightness of Catholicism, I’m betting your counter-arguments will all be addressed to a straw man.

            To which I replied (bare in mind I’m replying to the underlined portion, ‘your’ changed to ‘Catholic’ in light of your semantic complaints):

            “Lets ignore the fact that (Catholic) condemnation of homosexual behavior is largely rooted in interpretations of very old, very silly fairy tales. (Catholic) conclusions that homosexual behavior in the human animal is somehow ‘unnatural’ (1) don’t jive with observation of homosexual behavior in other animals, (2) nor do they jive with the study of human sexual behavior which has demonstrated such behavior to vary widely between cultures and individuals. Who exactly are you to determine which sexual behaviors are natural and which are not, assigning ‘rightness’ & ‘wrongness’ as you see fit?”

            … Let’s pause for a moment and note what I’ve responded to and the context in which I’ve responded. You’ve asked me what is wrong with the church’s reasoning on this matter. Let’s bear in mind Aquinas’ principle regarding our nature: “… good is to be done and pursued, and evil is to be avoided”. In addition he suggests that which is ‘good’ is in part a function of an inclination to things that pertain to (man) more specially, according to that nature which he has in common with other animals: and in virtue of this inclination, those things are said to belong to the natural law…”. It is fair for me to assume that my criticism of the Church’s reasoning should have some context over whether or not homosexual acts were (1) common with other animals and (2) to note how much they might deviate with ‘normal’ human sexual behavior. Were I to give arguments for both (1) & (2)… and I did… it seems reasonable to put forth the homosexual activity can be argued as ‘good’ here, outside the context of the remaining vagueness, poor conclusions and invocation of a magic God framework of Catholic natural law, but consistent with the general conversation. In addition, I finish off my comment going back to my original thesis questioning by what right do Catholics see fit to presume their place as fit judges for such things.

            Of course you have nothing to say about this, ignore it completely, dive into a semantic argument and accuse me of creating a straw man, which appears to be an accusation you seem intent on making (as you suggested it prior before I even responded) regardless of whether or not it applies. I noted I specifically wasn’t making my argument on the basis of Catholic natural law (It wasn’t my intent to address natural law theory…) or a version with ‘Natural’ was limited to what fulfils a thing’s final cause (by saying especially a version based on definitions you’ve pulled from your ass.) and suggested a better way (rather than the vague flawed reasoning of Aquinas) of determining the nature of man (1) actually study man’s behaviors and 2) contrast them with other animals to determine the uniqueness of such behaviors.)

            Let’s pause again and let me repeat that I specifically noted I wasn’t willing to dive into your version of natural law, and was offering something different.

            In what is a lovely example of both the strawman fallacy & irony, you accuse me (again) of strawmanning natural law… which I couldn’t have been more clear that I wasn’t addressing in the first place, meaning that you’re now strawmanning my points by accusing me of doing the same (even though I clearly have not done so).

            After I point this out, you suggest an equivalency between the catholic stance on homosexuality & the natural law stance. I point out where you’re wrong (though the offer for a venn diagram in crayon still stands), and naturally you ignore it.

            Finally, for what feels like the hundredth time, I try and keep the conversation on track by bring it back around the original topic, a criticism that Catholics see fit to declare themselves judges of what and what does not constitute rights from wrongs, naturals from unnaturals, goods from bads.… and your response to first again ignore what I’ve said, followed by complaints about imaginary fallacies (ignoring your own of course), complaints about somehow being insulted (despite offering a juvenile nonsensical piece of imaginary dialogue), and accusations of thinking irrationally, despite my points being fairly simple, clear and straightforward.

            To this, I can only shrug. Your appeals to the authority of the church (a fallacy), your appeal to nature to justify your position (a fallacy), the ambiguity by which you wish to define ‘nature’ or ‘natural’ (also a fallacy) along with your strawmanning (a fallacy) and perpetual misuse of the term leads me to believe you are not a serious person worth engaging with.

          • Mr. X

            Your summary really just proves my position. You said that the Church was being presumptuous because it makes moral judgements based on unconvincing arguments. However, since you clearly don’t understand these arguments, your opinions on them — and hence on whether or not Catholics are being presumptuous in this instance — are worthless, much as the opinions of somebody who thinks evolutions says that one day a chimp gave birth to a human are worthless when it comes to discussing evolution. This really isn’t a difficult position to grasp.
            Now, I do realise that a lot of people don’t understand natural law theory and end up strawmanning it. That’s fine. When, however, people persist in strawmanning it even when their straw men have been repeatedly pointed out to them, then it starts to look like a case of intellectual dishonesty or wilful stupidity. Either way, continuing a discussion with somebody like this is generally a waste of time. If you decide to talk about what actual natural law theory (as advocated by the Church, including when it comes to homosexuality) says, I’ll be happy to discuss it with you. If not, well, you’ve already exposed your dishonesty for the world to see.

          • Mr. X

            (And, BTW, when Aquinas and Aristotle speak of man’s “nature”, they mean their Form, and hence when Aquinas speaks of man as having a “natural inclination” to something, or being inclined to something “according to his nature”, he means that, if a man perfectly instantiates the Form of Man, he will be inclined to desire something. Given that individual men, like most individual things, fall short of their Form in various respects, it’s not at all surprising, nor is it a counter-argument to Aquinas, that some men desire things which they “naturally” should not, or fail to desire things which they should. Aquinas and Aristotle weren’t stupid, and were quite aware that sometimes people want to do immoral things.)

        • TheodoreSeeber

          “It’s presumptuous as the so called harms of homosexuality aren’t demonstrable or logically self-evident.”

          What part of it takes a sperm to fertilize an egg do you fail to understand?

          • tom_ttac

            I understand that it takes a sperm to fertilize an egg perfectly well; I just don’t believe that it necessarily needs to occur in order for a relationship to be positive, loving, life-affirming, and fulfilling.

            Surely some part of you knows that you keep trying to “catch” us in disagreements we don’t actually have, while ignoring the areas where our real departures in beliefs actually are. Why do you keep persisting in this?

          • TheodoreSeeber

            Without the child, how can the relationship possibly become positive, loving, life-affirming, and fulfilling?

            All of those are the products of natural parenthood. Anything less, is just play acting.

          • avalpert

            With a child you are poising another generation – so very sad for them.

          • guest

            I’d like to bet that at least one of his children will become a rabid atheist.

          • ACN

            As usual, utterly absurd.

            I defy you to demonstrate that human relationships can only be positive, loving, life-affirming, and fulfilling if they have children.

            You can’t.

            Or rather, you certainly can’t without circularly reasoning that “life-affirming” if and only if “has children”.

            You are embarrassing yourself.

          • guest

            Just a tip: what you just said would be emotionally devastating for any couple struggling with infertility. You basically seem to be saying that until a couple has children, they’re just play-acting. Also, I wonder if you would count the parents of adopted children as ‘natural parents’? Because gay couples are allowed to adopt.

    • LeahLibresco

      Actually, I think the metaphor is particularly good for exactly that reason. Doctors don’t always know where the boundary between normal and pathological is and still have to make judgements about when and how to intervene.

      There are few moral ideas that have total consensus, which shouldn’t paralyze us (I’m still pretty sure women aren’t the chattel of their fathers or husbands) but should prompt a little epistemological modesty.

      We can look back at how doctors have noticed their well-intentioned interventions caused harm, and then ask whether we’re likely to catch ourselves, if we’re the ones in error.

      (I quite recommend The Emperor of All Maladies and Normal at Any Cost in this domain).

      • avalpert

        But the challenge here is far beyond differing medical opinions among board certified doctors – here we don’t even know if we are a certified doctor, a med-school dropout chiropractor or a quack shaman.

        The epistemological modesty would be in not thinking you are a doctor of ethics in the first place – as you can see by the way your fellow Catholics responded in this thread, modesty in their ability to recognize the malady (even if they may admit they may get the cure wrong) is non-existent.

      • Guest

        I can certainly support a call for more epistemological modesty! But I worry that, to the extent that such modesty is at odds with evangelization, the call will not be heeded.

      • stanz2reason

        I’m not questioning how the metaphor flies amongst the faithful, but from the view of everyone else. The use of doctors in the metaphor implies not only that something is wrong in an objective way but that Catholics are somehow qualified to diagnose & treat such maladies. My sentiments on a more appropriate metaphor were made in a post below which I’ll toss up here:

        “As high cholesterol is a fairly definitive marker of poor health, it makes it difficult to illustrate my suggestion so lets try something else. Running with the metaphor (stay with me now), let’s replace ‘high cholesterol’ with ‘left-handedness’, and what’s more lets say that the doctor is a self-proclaimed expert in treating the supposed affliction of left-handedness. Less than 1 in 10 people are left handed after all. Righthandedness is just demonstrably the natural way. We certainly don’t make the sign of the cross with our left hands. How then should a lefthanded person respond to a self-proclaimed expert in treating the supposed affliction of left-handedness?

        I feel you deem yourself privileged to identify and cure the behaviors of people whose only wrongdoings are that they don’t jive with your notions of right & wrong. I’m not suggesting you’d be out of line to call out someone for smoking crack or a diabetic eating an ice cream cake as engaging in activity that is harmful to them. But regarding matters of homosexuality or casual hookups for that matter I feel it’s patronizing to feel you’re in a better position to inform people how they should or shouldn’t be behaving.

        • ACN

          “The use of doctors in the metaphor implies not only that something is wrong in an objective way but that Catholics are somehow qualified to diagnose & treat such maladies.”

          This, this, this. Thank you stanz.

          By proceeding with a doctor-medical metaphor like this, you’re actually ASSUMING the problem. The core issue is not “what do we do about this problem” the issue is that one group of people thinks that there is problem, and other groups of people don’t think so.

          • TheodoreSeeber

            It is worse than that. It is more like, one group of people set off a dirty nuke next door, the second group of people is getting the cancer, and the first group of people denies that they’ve set of the nuke.

          • avalpert

            Well I’m sure eventually your fellow Catholics will come clean to setting off a dirty nuke in this world.

          • TheodoreSeeber

            We’re not the ones promoting the dirty nuke of gay marriage.

          • avalpert

            No, you promote the dirty nuke of catholicism – it has killed far more people than gay marriage ever could.

          • Randy Gritter

            Pope Francis is talking to Catholics. Catholics believe we are all sinners in need of a savior. So the field hospital parallel is chosen with that in mind. It is even really assuming people understand they need help. They might not understand it in the categories of sin and salvation but evangelism assumes people get on some level they are meant for something more than their current life offers. People who don’t feel that are not really that open to evangelism. That is OK. We can only propose Catholicism. We can never impose it.

      • Randy Gritter

        Epistemological modesty? The trouble is that leads to paralysis. You just assert it does not have to but you don’t say why. The Catholic faith teaches that God gives us a way out. That He makes clear to us moral truths through the church. Not answers to every moral question but enough so we can form a conscience based on God’s truth rather than whatever ideas are trendy in our culture. The key is epistemological modesty but that should lead us to embrace God’s truth all the more. We don’t know but God does and we need to admit that and act accordingly.

        I wonder if we are missing the pope’s vision even at this. I wonder if He is really thinking of ethics first and foremost. Maybe we just need to tell that person who is in the hookup scene that Jesus loves them. I know it sounds corny but metaphysics is not the center of the gospel. Jesus is.

        • http://thinkinggrounds.blogspot.com/ Christian H

          “Epistemological modesty? The trouble is that leads to paralysis. You just assert it does not have to but you don’t say why.”

          I think the problem is that any evidence is self-report, which you can’t check. Perhaps Leah knows it doesn’t lead to paralysis because she tries for epistemological modesty and she isn’t paralyzed. I know that I pull off epistemological modesty (I almost typed “honesty,” and that’s really telling) without paralysis at least often enough to know that it’s possible. But this proof requires that you believe my self-report. Now, there’s no reason at all for me to lie about this, but even so I don’t know that I could expect you to believe me. So I would be loathe to use that as evidence. I would predict that other people (for instance, Leah) might be hesitant to say, “I know because it works for me,” on similar grounds.

          • LeahLibresco

            It’s like democracy; it works terribly, except relative to everything else.

          • Randy Gritter

            When you don’t have non “ad hoc” reason for believing you are right and the other folks are wrong you have 2 choices. You can ignore the fact that your thinking is quite arbitrary and just proceed. Or you can fret about your lack of certainty and act in such a tentative way as to be paralyzed. This is the difference between liberal protestants and conservative protestants. The conservatives just ignore that their doctrine is just one of many doctrines claiming to biblical. The liberals are aware of it but ignore the seriousness of the problem.

            So it is not a question of whether I believe you about how you feel. It is a question of whether we can be strong and humble at the same time.

            Catholics actually have a solution. They have a non “ad hoc” reason for believing their doctrine is the legitimate Christian view. It comes with a price. When you know it is actually God’s word then you have a responsibility to respect it like God’s word. You can’t choose epistemological modesty because you do know. The problem is not a lack of knowledge but a lack of courage.

            Now there are still pastoral concerns. You need to speak the truth in love. That means considering someone’s feelings. You don’t always have to share truth. You just can’t lie. If someone is not in a place to hear certain things today that is OK. Maybe they need professional help. But are we concerned about them or are we concerned about ourselves?

          • avalpert

            “Catholics actually have a solution. They have a non “ad hoc” reason for believing their doctrine is the legitimate Christian view.”

            Um, no. Asserting that it is the word of God is just as ad-hoc and arbitrary – you are merely choosing to ignore that just as the conservative protestants you mention above.

          • Randy Gritter

            Not actually. We don’t beleive God’s word is revealed by scripture alone. We believe in scripture, sacred tradition, and the magisterium. That is logically different in that the magisterium is living and able to resolve disputes over interpretation. A conservative protestant cannot tell you why his doctrine should be believed over the doctrine of the guy down the street who is also trying to follow the bible. We can. It is because God leads His church through the bishops and the pope. A church without those is inherently error prone.

          • avalpert

            Yeah, that you are incapable of recognizing that your special beliefs are no less arbitrary, prone to error or likely to be completely wrong than the ones you are so ready to note that of is kind of the whole point here.

            Your blindness to your own arbitrariness is exactly why you would benefit from some genuine epistemological modesty.

          • Randy Gritter

            I am not saying Catholicism can’t be wrong. I am saying that it follows a logical line of reasoning. It defines one faith. That makes it logically superior to Protestantism which defines a plethora of different faiths with not good way to choose.

            You think I have been arbitrary? Let me know where. I would be glad to discuss it.

          • avalpert

            There you go again. It’s logical line of reasoning is contingent on the arbitrary, logic-free assertion that, as you put it, God leads His church through the bishops and the pope. That put you exactly logically equal to Protestants, Mormons, Scientologists and Branch Davidians.

          • http://thinkinggrounds.blogspot.com/ Christian H

            What do you think “epistemological modesty” is? I’ve always understood that having it means 1) you admit that you could be wrong and 2) you therefore approach interactions with people who disagree with you in an attitude of both charity and openness to correction. But I realize this term isn’t well-defined; what do you think it means?

          • Randy Gritter

            Honestly? The term “epistemological modesty” is often used when someone wants to deny a teaching of the church without really denying it. Like saying you are pro-life but when you get into a pro-choice crowd you suddenly get all uncertain. It does not always mean that so I am assuming Leah does not mean it that way but the term has some baggage. Nobody really wants to be uncertain all the time. Leah indicated as much in her comment about women as chattel.

    • TheodoreSeeber

      If nothing is wrong, why do you need a guillotine to make it more wrong?

      • stanz2reason

        What in the world do you mean? Actually nevermind. I don’t wish to get sucked into the Ted vortex of insanely stupid things.

        • TheodoreSeeber

          I mean, if nothing is wrong with heterosexuality, why do you need the homosexual revolution?

          • avalpert

            Just because nothing is wrong with being white doesn’t mean blacks shouldn’t have equal rights…

  • grok87

    “Field Hospital for the wounded”
    “I try to be genuinely curious about how we both think about relationships and how to show respect for a partner.”

    Today’s office of reading (first reading) is from Ezekiel and seems to connect to both of these ideas. http://divineoffice.org/

    “For I will take you away from among the nations, gather you from all the foreign lands, and bring you back to you own land. I will sprinkle clean water upon you to cleanse you from all your impurities, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. I will give you a new heart and place a new spirit within you, taking from your bodies your stony hearts and giving you natural hearts. I will put my spirit within you and make you live by my statutes, careful to observe my decrees. You shall live in the land I gave your fathers; you shall be my people, and I will be your God.”

    So there is the image of a hear transplant- a tricky operation for a field hospital! It’s easy for our modern ears to misunderstand the stony heart image. We think-oh that means they were cruel, or unkind. But really the meaning is that of “not listening”, not following God, a heart/mind that is not open to his voice, that no words can enter into…
    So yes, first we must listen. That seems to be what Pope Francis is about as well. A refreshing change from his predecessor…

  • guest

    It is my deep and sincere hope that by the time my niece is fully-grown, gay marriage will simply be seen as part of the natural variation of human experience and not in the least harmful to anyone.

    It’s legal in the UK now and I haven’t really noticed any substatial difference in our quality of life. If anything, things are getting better; the economy’s recovering at least.

    I don’t really care about the feelings of bigots who are offended by gay marriage. As far as I’m concerned, it’s a self-inflicted injury. No-one is being forced to attend a gay wedding. If you don’t like it you don’t have to take part. I’d have very little sympathy for someone who broke their own arm and then blamed another person for the pain.

    I know it’s possible to be a Christian and be in favour of gay marriage or at least not opposed to it. The Quakers have proved that. It’s not a central part of Jesus’s teaching like giving to the poor. He didn’t say a word about it. He said ‘no divorce’, but no-one seems to be campaigning to get divorce made a crime (please don’t start!). So, it’s hard for me to have any sympathy with Christians who are against gay marriage. I don’t really want to heal their wounds; I want to stick my fingers in them.

  • dave

    Leah, this is a great post. I completely agree with your approach toward discussing this issue with my friends who find that the Christian position is oppressive. Thanks for the advice.

  • Anonymous

    “we now know that sexual identity is not a choice”

    Was Chirlane McCray born to be a homosexual or a heterosexual?

  • MumbleMumble

    “Moreover, we already “allow” gay people to get married. If two men want to live together, wear rings, be faithful to each other, etc., that’s not at all illegal, and I don’t recall anybody suggesting it should be.”

    Except for the whole “married” part. I’d also point out that the preservation of slavery and the defense of segregation were in part motivated by religious beliefs. But moving on.

    The reasoning does assume things. It assumes that something unnatural is immoral. It assumes that what is natural can be perfectly defined. Both of these assumptions are problematic. If I am missing something, please explain it to me. Please tell me why something that is “unnatural” is also immoral. Please tell me how a bunch of people can claim to know the exact natural function of everything.

  • TheodoreSeeber

    I’m to the point that I’ve been harmed enough by the debate itself, that I oppose civil marriage. Heterosexual or homosexual doesn’t matter. I oppose the entire concept of the government being allowed to dictate religion.

    • avalpert

      Well then you must be extremely happy that government can’t dictate religion – what with civil marriage being, you know civil and not religious.

      • Slow Learner

        Ah, but to our dear Theodore, anything civil, secular or temporal as opposed to religious, sectarian or spiritual is taking a religious position against his beloved Church. He doesn’t seem to grok the idea of neutrality.

      • TheodoreSeeber

        The fact that it uses the term marriage. purely a religious term, makes it religious. Civil unions do not promote religion- civil marriage does.

        • avalpert

          Marriage is no more a purely religious term than rape means consensual sex – oh wait, I forgot you don’t use English as a medium of communication but as you own little language with very special meanings.

          Carry on then.

    • Donalbain

      Awww.. diddums.

    • guest

      Good luck with that.

  • Irenist

    I see I’ve missed one of the blog’s periodic massive SSM discussions. A few observations, FWIW:

    1. Most modern secular folks see homosexual behavior as a morally neutral activity stemming from a harmless biological difference: akin to the differences in handwriting between left- and right-handed folks that stem from their different handedness–a harmless variation with morally neutral consequences. This analogy has been helpfully noted downthread.

    2. Catholicism, in the mainstream of the Abrahamic religions’ moral teaching from the Torah through today, sees homosexual conduct as immoral.

    3. The idea of the Church as a hospital for sinners, and Leah’s response to the Pope’s recent remarks employing the metaphor of triage, are intended as intra-Catholic discussions on how to relate to non-Catholics in the most helpful possible way.

    4. Nevertheless, those non-Catholics (including gay folks and straight allies) who “overhear” this intra-Catholic discussion by reading this blog are understandably displeased with the Catholic “diagnosis” of homosexual behavior as immoral.

    5. Unfortunately, the debate about whether to valorize or condemn homosexual conduct is an ethical question (including a question for “natural” law in the jargon of Thomism and other older Western ethical traditions like Stoicism, in which it means something like ethical counsel directed toward eudaimonia in the light of a knowledge of the telos implied by the essential human “nature” of being a rational animal; “essentialist ethics” might be better than “natural law” in many contexts) rather than a factual question about the “natural” (in the modern sense) world. Many folks (Ricky Gervais, e.g., has a lengthy stand up routine about the topic) are quick to point out that there is homosexual conduct among wild animals, therefore such conduct is “natural” (in the modern, not the Thomist, sense). However, that something occurs in nature does not mean that it is ethical: if readers will pardon the (egregiously unfair to gay folks, I hasten to say) comparison, even if pederasty occurs in nature–no idea if it does–that doesn’t mean that a human unfortunate enough to have been born a pedophile should engage in pederasty.

    6. Given that the argument is about ethical rather than scientific conclusions, it’s ultimately rooted in all sorts of questions (meta-ethics, metaphysics, etc.) that are nonadjudicable in the secular “naked public square” of the modern West. Neither Biblical citations nor la Wik’s diverting article entitled “List of animals displaying homosexual behavior” are going to settle the matter.

    7. People are going to continue to vote based on what they believe to be best for the world, their country, their family, etc. A few will look primarily to science to form those beliefs, others to religion . . . most to television. All of those groups are entitled to have opinions, to express them, and to urge their legislators to make laws in accordance with them. Even swing voters, Catholics, and other such unwashed types are peers. Then again, so are gay folks. We aren’t going to “settle this” anytime remotely soon, but here’s hoping we can be kind to each other.

    • KG

      A very useful summary.

      I hope that both sides can dispense with the discussion of the animal kingdom. It is difficult to see how debates over “naturalness” in that sense have any moral relevance.

      A call for kindness is always welcome. One of the reasons this argument rankles so much is that in some sense it is an argument over the very nature of what it means to be kind.

      It is very hard for nonbelievers to see how a public campaign against homosexual behavior (even if this campaign were to be mostly limited to the ballot box) could be interpreted as kind. That is because for many non-religious folks, kindness often is tied to a “live and let live” approach. A vote against civil SSM is one of the clearest ways in which a religiously-derived ethics system can (at least appear to) eschew that intuition of kindness.

      And this was also a debate about “epistemological modesty.” I rather like that phrase. Although this is a trait I strive to inculcate in myself, I am sure I could do better with it. But I also hope to see more of it in others.

      • Randy Gritter

        That is because for many non-religious folks, kindness often is tied to a “live and let live” approach

        Is this really true? I can think of smoking policy and environmental issues as examples of questions where non-religious folks line up with policies that are not “live and let live.” Not saying they are wrong. I mostly agree. I just don’t think “live and let live” is a consistent principle.

        • autolukos

          In most cases, those policies are justified on the grounds that smoking and polluting harm others, therefore justifying intervention to prevent that harm. The reasoning is, I would say, consistent with “live and let live,” as the policies attempt to solve an initial violation (real or imagined) of that approach.

          • Irenist

            Agreed, autolukos: I think the characteristic ethic of our time is that of libertarians and the Wiccan Rede, roughly: follow your bliss, so long as you leave others alone to follow theirs, and cause no harm to others. Smoking and environmental pollution harm others, and so run afoul of this ethic.

            In contrast, non-procreative sexualities (homosexual relations, heterosexual contraception, etc.) are seen both as routes to deep fulfillment and as harmless, and so like, e.g., cannabis, almost archetypical examples of the sort of thing that ought not be interfered with by the State.

            Frankly, I think that traditional societies have often viewed disfavored sexualities as “pollutants” of the moral ecology that lowered the overall “tone” (as the Victorians might have said) of a society, This was, I think, the point Pope Benedict XVI was trying to make in his speech a while back lamenting that moderns fret for natural ecology, but won’t lift a finger to preserve the “ecology” of human relationships. I think it’s also the point that 1980′s-era campaigners against televised violence and smut were trying to make.

            It’s a point that’s routinely dismissed as laughable prudery, and the analogy to “pollution” is at once:
            a) mentally unavailable to most anti-smut campaigners in the U.S., since they tend to be “drill, baby, drill” types politically
            b) presumably DEEPLY offensive to gay folks and contracepters (if I’m going to coin a word, I prefer the etymologically felicitous Latinate “-or” suffix to the Saxon “-er” suffix one encounters among various bloggers trying to get this word used to save space in these discussions, but then one wants to type “contraceptrix” when discussing the pill, which is going to alienate feminist interlocutors even more, so I surrender to the helpfully gender-neutral “-er” against my aesthetic inclinations) in much the same way as the pedophilia analogy ACN helpfully called me out on upthread
            c) actually, if traditionalist premises are at least granted arguendo, an entirely commonsensical point: a milieu in which peers and media accept behaviors as inoffensive or even normative obviously promotes them, which is why, e.g., my high school girlfriends’ parents quite sensibly wanted the “sullen and dissolute 90′s grunge kid” version of me well away from their daughters back when I was an insufferable atheist teenager instead of an insufferable Catholic adult

          • autolukos

            I think you are spot-on with regards to the analogy between traditional views about sexual regulation and modern views about pollution. Insofar as you read Benedict correctly, however, I think he mistakes disagreement about what a healthy relationship ecology looks like for disagreement about its importance.

          • Irenist

            That’s a great point, autolukos.

      • Irenist

        KG,

        “One of the reasons this argument rankles so much is that in some sense it is an argument over the very nature of what it means to be kind.”

        What a PERFECT formulation!

        “It is very hard for nonbelievers to see how a public campaign against homosexual behavior (even if this campaign were to be mostly limited to the ballot box) could be interpreted as kind. That is because for many non-religious folks, kindness often is tied to a “live and let live” approach.”

        Right.

        “A vote against civil SSM is one of the clearest ways in which a religiously-derived ethics system can (at least appear to) eschew that intuition of kindness”

        Well, those voters are often working with the “pollution of the moral ecology” intuition I discuss down(sub)thread..

        “And this was also a debate about “epistemological modesty.” I rather like that phrase. Although this is a trait I strive to inculcate in myself, I am sure I could do better with it. But I also hope to see more of it in others.”

        Sure. And given that the libertarian/Wiccan Rede intuition is now nigh-ubiquitous and the old Tory “moral ecology” intuition guttering its last light in the West for the foreseeable future, I welcome Pope Francis’ recent remarks, this “triage” blog post, and a rapid abandonment of my coregligionists’ assumption of entitlement to Constantinian privilege w/r/t civil SSM. But the Magisterium and the USCCB move at their pace, not mine.

    • stanz2reason

      Irenist!!! Where were you dude?? Nice summation.

      I’ll point out one thing. Noting the observation of homosexual behavior in other animals isn’t an attempt to justify the behavior ethically. We observe infanticide amongst primates, but wouldn’t consider that behavior ethically acceptable. The point of noting homosexual behavior is a response to the argument that it (the behavior) is unnatural in some way.

      • Irenist

        Hi, Steve!

        Yeah, the “natural” in “natural law” was intuitive in Hellenistic and medieval societies where teleology (of both the sophisticated Aristotelian and the folk “just so stories” varieties) was commonplace.

        Nowadays, outside of ignorant precincts where “just so stories” are still common (maybe Creationionist museums, or something), that association with the word “natural” is mostly vestigial outside of food marketing and woo-based medical crankery.

        Thankfully, I think the atheists, Catholics, and others hereabouts all know better than to make an “appeal to nature” argument. As I said above, since at least Aristotelian and Thomist (A-T) “natural law” flows from essentialism about H. sapiens being a rational animal with a given telos, I feel like “essentialist ethics” would be a better name than “natural law.” “Teleological ethics” might be even better, but I do love me some alliteration.

        (Note in this context that my suggested terms aren’t in tension with “virtue ethics”–a commonplace and useful description of A-T ethics–just highlighting a different facet, as “natural law” is intended to do, but nowadays usually doesn’t.)

        N.B., too, that I don’t think, e.g., Cicero’s “Academic Skeptic with Stoic and sometimes even Epicurean sympathies”version of natural law, or the Enlightenment republican revolutionaries’ “natural rights” are consciously essentialist. (Come to think of it, I’d be happy to argue the thesis that the latter’s combination of Cartesian mechanism with “natural” rights is actually kind of incoherent, if the topic ever comes up in another thread.) Someone more invested in those traditions might like to propose alternative terms, too.

        • stanz2reason

          I occassionally throw together 3 or 4 sentences that sound intellectual, thought beyond that theyre usually wrought with grammar and spelling errors as Im rushing to keep up. I bow to the ease with which you present yourself.

          • Irenist

            Thanks for your kind words, Steve. I think of my prose in blog comments as mainly being characterized by overlong parentheticals full of doubts, qualifications, clarifications, and preemptive argumentative concessions. That someone not only tolerates but likes it is welcome news indeed.

            As for your contributions, I consistently enjoy them, and I think you underrate yourself.

    • avalpert

      I would aruge with #3 – I don’t really see how blog posts on a public site whose subtitle is A Geeky Covert Picks Fights in Good Faith can be considered intended as intra-Catholic discussions – unless you think Leah’s intent is to pick fights with other Catholics.

      Leah can correct me, but I posit that her post wasn’t intended as limited to an intra-Catholic discussion at all.

      • Randy Gritter

        I think both quotes she shared were from Catholics saying that stuff the anti-gay marriage movement was saying was often not charitable and not helpful. I think Leah did try and broaden it but mostly to other ethical issues. I know people here are not going to ignore the SSM references and talk about hookups but it was there.

        She did not really point out that atheist communication can be uncharitable and unhelpful. That would have been the similar vice on the other side.

      • http://thinkinggrounds.blogspot.com/ Christian H

        “…unless you think Leah’s intent is to pick fights with other Catholics.”

        That does not seem at all unlikely to me. The only unlikely part about this is that Leah would so radically limit the number of people she is picking a fight with.

        • LeahLibresco

          Dead on. This was honestly intended more intra-, especially in the context of “Hey! Listen to vitriol as signals of pain, not hatred, and then wonder whether you’re being responsible when you intervene!”

          • avalpert

            Well then Leah I would suggest you make that explicit in posts – I mean if you aren’t intending the conversation to be aimed at your broader audience wouldn’t it be the polite thing to do to let them know?

          • Irenist

            Well, even the ostensibly intra-Catholic topics here benefit a great deal from the thoughtful non-Catholic input around here, and a “Papists Only” sign on Leah’s treehouse, even if only used on posts like this one, would be a sad thing to see.

            There are at least two kinds of non-Catholic responses I can think of to posts like this one:
            1. A response that disputes the Catholic premises of the post
            2. A response that brackets that deeper disagreement, assumes Catholicism to be true for argument’s sake, and joins Leah and the rest of us Catholics in examining the specific implications, e.g. “Assuming Catholicism correct arguendo about sexuality, what’s the least jerky way Catholics can interact with non-Catholics when sexuality is potentially an area of disagreement?”

            Both responses can lead to great discussion, of course.

          • guest

            I think the most obvious ‘least jerky way’ is to mind your own business about people’s sexuality unless they come to you for advice. If a gay man comes to church asking for help to fight his desire for cock, fine, help him, but if other gay men are happy as they are and want to get married, leave them alone.

          • LeahLibresco

            The second was pretty much what I was aiming at, and I meant it to be more broad ranging than just disagreements about sexuality. Next time I may append a meta note about why I’m interested, if the writing itself hasn’t gotten the point across clearly.

          • stanz2reason

            Two quick notes….

            I acknowledge the wisdom and value of steering the ship via small adjustments while on board, rather than moving entirely from external winds & waves. People might be less likely to instinctively swim against the tide your way. I still disagree with your presumptions (and feel they’re ultimately still a big part of the problem that will have to be addressed at some point), but your tactics aren’t entirely without merit ;)

            Perhaps the additional data of the responses here and reasons for them should be taken into consideration as well when making whatever self-re-assessments you’re proposing.

          • avalpert

            Ironically the least jerky way would be for Catholics to act as if they don’t assume their beliefs are true.

          • Randy Gritter

            It is a bit like you just did with the arbitrariness argument. You said I was incapable of seeing my error. Is that less jerky? Depends if you are right. Same with Catholicism, if we say to the person in the hookup culture we will give you very little of the Catholic thinking on the matter because you are just so incapable. If we are right then maybe we saved a sexually confused young person from becoming more sexually confused. But what if we are wrong? What if they can understand it and really change?

            Like I said, we have to look to our own motives too. Speaking such a counter-cultural truth might come at a cost. Are we thinking of the good of the other or what we want for ourselves? Do we just lack faith? Faith that it is really true. Faith that God can really change people.

          • avalpert

            I observed you are incapable of seeing your error because you continue to double down on it. Happy to be shown to be wrong on that one.

            Until you can accept that your claim on truth is no more grounded than other and approach your interactions that don’t share your faith that way you will continue to come across as offensive to others.

          • Randy Gritter

            But what if my worldview is more grounded? What if the fact that it is more logical, more historical, and more intuitive are some of the main reasons I hold this worldview? Just believing that makes me offensive? That really lets me off the hook. If I offend others it is because I have a well grounded belief system and they are just jealous. Maybe that is true. Maybe that makes it difficult. But I think the point of this post is that being right does not mean you have to be a jerk. Maybe sometimes it does but often it is avoidable.

          • avalpert

            You still don’t get it (I’m shocked). Believing anything is not offensive – even if your belief is so laughably wrong as yours is – what is offensive is when you can’t approach others with enough modesty to accept that your beliefs might be wrong and viewing the world from their lens may help you both better communicate with them and maybe learn something about the errors in your own belief along the way.

            I don’t think the point of this post has anything to do with whether you are right or wrong – Leah neither says nor implies her rightness when being “genuinely curious about how we both think about relationships” and trying to “untangle how we ended up in two different places in normative ethics.” In fact, her approach requires you to accept the possibility that your belief is wrong to be effective.

            That you think she does again reveals more about your incapability of seeing your error than it does anything else. That you insist they must be “just jealous” is only further evidence that you have dug such a trench around yourself to protect yourself from even conceiving of your mistakes.

          • Randy Gritter

            I find it ironic that someone who refers to my belief as laughable is trying to give lessons on epistemological modesty. Be that as it may, we don’t just come to positions. We have varying confidence levels in our various positions. Just because there are some things that someone is very confident in does not make them immodest.

            The trouble is that the level of certainty is part of the belief system. I think we need a high level of certainty around many moral questions. You have one life to live. If you are going to radically change your life because something is moral or immoral then you need to be sure. Catholicism asks you to be willing to die for the truth. Other belief systems don’t belief that type of certainty is possible. So there is a difference not in attitude but in content.

            I don’t see how that is incompatible with being curious about another person’s viewpoint and wanting to untangle differences.

          • avalpert

            Well, it isn’t really irony in the classical sense of the word, could be called hypocrisy if I was in fact desiring to demonstrate modesty or trying to argue without being a jerk but I never said I was. More like, ‘do as I say not as I do’ which may not be an effective pedagogy but that doesn’t make the content of the lesson wrong (Tu Quoque is a fallacy after all).

            Anyway, you keep missing the point completely. Yes, I get that some people need certainty in their beliefs in order to manage through the world, that isn’t unique to Catholics and Catholicism isn’t uniquely able to provide that. That certainty can lead you to anything from drinking the kool aid (in the classic sense with cyanide and all) to killing up all the Jews and burning the bodies in the city center (in the classic Catholic Lisbon sense) but is completely irrelevant to how someone, with any pretense of trying to engage in good faith, should interact with others.

            What you keep missing is it isn’t about you, your certainty or your belief at all. It is about respecting the other persons belief and approaching it with possibility that it might not be wrong.

          • Randy Gritter

            There you go. I actually agree almost with all of this. I just don’t equate respecting someone’s beliefs with keeping open the possibility they might not be wrong. I always want to respect a person’s beliefs. Sometimes I am sure they are wrong. Most of the time they are not completely wrong. Maybe even all the time. There is always some truth there. But often their central thesis is false. So what do you do? I typically try and raise a question. I think I do that respectfully even though I think you are implying I do not.

            I probably don’t tell people how wonderful they are often enough. It is a bit like sports rivals. You play hard and you play to win. Sometimes you get angry. You don’t do the mushy talk about how we all love the game. But it is true. You do all love the game and respect each other as fellow sportsmen. I think arguing on blogs is like that. You respect good opponents. You don’t always say it.

            ** Because this is Leah’s blog I avoided using the F-word in this last paragraph. I don’t want to upset her.

            *** Of course the F-word I am referring to is “football.” She does not seem to find that other F-word.

          • avalpert

            I don’t care if you respect others beliefs – it is about respecting others. Again, you make this all about yourself and what you are so certain of – get over it. If you can not get over yourself long enough to entertain that someone else you disagree with may be right you aren’t going to ever be able to engage them with true respect.

          • Randy Gritter

            It is about respecting others. I can respect a Muslim without respecting the Muslim religion. A good person who has fallen prey to a very bad religion. People are less understanding of that with homosexuality. I can respect a gay person but not really respect the idea that sodomy is not a disordered sexual act. A good person who has fallen prey to bad moral thinking. But I think you right. Respect the person but not always the belief.

            The rest of what you say seem to contradict that. If someone says the moon landing was faked. I want to respect the person. Do I actually have to entertain the possibility they may be right? Certainty does not have to imply disrespect.

            Is it about me? Depends. Is my certainty in myself or in another? If I believe in something because Jesus said it then I am not failing to get over myself but failing to get over Jesus. If I believed I know what I know because I am smarter or holier than the other person then some disrespect might be implied. But I believe it is because of grace. God revealed Himself to me without my deserving it at all. So how can I disrespect the other? I might do it because I am a jerk but it is not because of my creed.

        • avalpert

          Fair, I should have said pick fights exclusively with other Catholics.

  • guest

    It’s been 12 years since the Dutch legalised it, is that enough time for you? Most of Scandinavia has legalised it as well, and they always score highly on the UN index for happy countries. Norway legalised it in 2009 and they’re still doing really well. Not just economically, but in terms of their life satisfaction. What was the reason Jesus didn’t mention nuclear weapons? Because he didn’t know the future? But he was supposed to be a prophet, surely? Fact is, if Jesus didn’t mention it, it’s probably not worth all the effort that many Christian groups seem to put into fighting it. Maybe when all the starving people have been fed and all the naked people clothed and all the sick and suffering people have been comforted. Surely those were Jesus’s priorities. It wasn’t so long ago, actually, that gay people were locked up for living together, or for having sex. And many of the same groups who campaign against gay marriage in america are funding ministries in Africa which do call for gay people to be locked up, or often killed. The only reason opponents of gay marriage don’t campaign for gay sex to be illegal is because the discourse has shifted so much that it would obviously be a losing strategy. But the campaign to deny them the rights that the state grants to other married people comes from the same impulse to treat gay people as inferior and less than fully human.

  • Irenist

    Thanks, ACN. You’re right. Here’s the quandary I’m in: In these sorts of discussions, I often find myself wanting to make a point along the lines of “just because a tendency is biologically rooted, doesn’t mean it should be embraced.” In order to make the point, the typical move is to analogize the valorized tendency (here, homosexual inclinations) with something also innate, and uncontroversially bad. Unfortunately, the second half of this (uncontroversially bad) is the sort of thing that causes people to Godwin each other in other arguments, because they’re reaching for such an example.

    So I’ve seen people try “Well, cancer is biological, but we don’t embrace it,” and be met with, “You’re saying homosexuality is a CANCER?! What the heck is WRONG with you?”

    I suppose one could say, “Well, eczema/hayfever/nearsightedness is biologically driven and we don’t embrace it” but then the problem is that you’re trivializing the pain involved in “not embracing” it: e.g., people of good will inclined toward pedophila often end up in lonely celibate lives punctuated by support group meetings, whereas people of good will with hayfever just pop a Claritin or something.

    Obviously the root of the problem is that the underlying Catholic condemnation of homosexual activity is ITSELF understandably painful and cruelly offensive to gay folks who embrace homosexual relationships as positive.

    So, other than abandoning the Catholic position itself, or just never arguing the Catholic side and keeping one’s fool mouth shut (the latter admittedly an option I should probably embrace more), what do you think is the LEAST awful way to make the point? Your response has me thinking that “inoffensive but possibly trivializing” (hayfever, etc.) is the better route, rather than the “sexual inclination acknowledged to be perverse by both sides of the argument, but prefaced with an apology” route I took here.

    It’s VERY hard sometimes to get outside one’s own head and one’s own tribe and learn how not to hurt people coming from someplace really different.

    ACN, you’re coming from someplace different, and I’d really welcome further help with this, just as I appreciate your helpful comment above. What do you suggest? Thanks!

    • guest

      Not ACN, but maybe you could use something like cannibalism? The pedophilia example is especially damaging to gay people because the two things are often conflated. You see right-wing pastors claiming that the homosexual population has an especially hign number of pedophiles in it, for example. So you’re reinforcing an existing negative stereotype.

  • Renee

    My argument against marriage simply being about two people had little to do with what I think of homosexuality, but rather what I thought about father absent homes. It’s rather heartbreaking. Oprah LifeClass speaks about this epidemic, and only in African American new sources do I find if any speak about what can and should be done to improve marriage rates within these fragile communities.

    Just six years ago… we could have a conversation about “City without Fathers”

    “Behind Newark’s persistent violence and deep social dysfunction is a profound cultural shift that has left many of the city’s children growing up outside the two-parent family—and in particular, growing up without fathers. Decades of research tell us that such children are far likelier to fail in school and work and to fall into violence than those raised in two-parent families. In Newark, we are seeing what happens to a community when the traditional family comes close to disappearing.”

    “Often, in this void, the only information that our teens and young adults get on the subject of marriage, children, and family life comes through media reports about the lifestyles of our celebrity entertainers and athletes, who have increasingly shunned matrimony and traditional families. Once, such news might have been considered scandalous; today, it is reported matter-of-factly, as if these pop icons’ lives were the norm.”

    ———

    Half a decade ago, we could speak clearly and objectively. such as stabilizing the family. Now everything gets turned into religious people not liking people who happen to be gay.

    Cory Booker, actually did something to address the issue within his city. But the main stream media doesn’t cover it, because as a culture we are not suppose to care about men being fathers to their children and husbands to their wives. Despite clearly a benefit back to the community. In Richmond, Virginia the city alone spends over 200 million are year due to father absence in the home.

    All the media cares about is Cory Booker’s personal tweets and individual’s harassing him on his sexual orientation,and annoying each Pope with the same questions over and over again.”

    Marriage isn’t a judgement on homosexual behavior, rather the opposite it’s a judgement on heterosexual behavior.

    • Neko

      …only in African American new sources do I find if any speak about what can and should be done to improve marriage rates within these fragile communities.

      Half a decade ago, we could speak clearly and objectively. such as stabilizing the family. Now everything gets turned into religious people not liking people who happen to be gay.

      Nonsense. The issue of single-parent families is regularly reported in the press. And a whopping 61% of young [edited] minorities want to get married, but a nexus of socio-economic factors militate against marriage stability.

      http://www.nytimes.com/2013/08/03/opinion/blow-marriage-and-minorities.html

      I notice a strong propensity among some posters on this blog to blame much of what is wrong in the culture on the media. Would that it were so simple. It certainly doesn’t help the life prospects of the poor for the federal government to be engaged in a suicide mission, driven by radicals devoted to the interests of a tiny elite at the expense of the rest of the country. Income inequality in the US is at an all-time high; five years after Wall Street tanked the global economy, the rich are richer and the poor are poorer. Might not this fact exacerbate the conditions that undermine the creation of stable families among low-income Americans. But yeah, it’s all the media’s fault.

      • Renee

        Yes!

        Now we’re having a conversation.

        The problem with media is that we don’t read the news to begin with. How use Buzz feed for their mainstay for information.

        • Neko

          I don’t know. But reportage on “the breakdown of the family” has been persistent ever since I can remember.


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