Resolution with Dorothy.

Remember my dad’s exchange with Dorothy?  I’m happy to report a happy ending to that discussion.  Dorothy responded with:

This has taken me a while to respond because I wanted to read and ponder what you opponents to my argument had to say. I must say that I’m very impressed with John’s knowledge and passion for his argument. It’s clear that he feels strongly about his side of this issue, and I respect that. Having read through all of his ideas and articles, it gave me a better understanding of WHY same-sex couples want to be ‘married’, not just ‘united’. Having said that though, I’m still not sure redefining marriage on our law books is going to change much in the way people think in terms of the right or wrong of it. It certainly will help in the workplace — no matter what someone thinks of gay marriage, the law will state that married same-sex couples will be afforded the same benefits as heterosexual married couples. That is definitely a plus if that is the goal. And John’s arguments are strong in that regard. I just think that getting people to accept it will be the difficult part. Remember how long it took blacks to attain equality — waaay too long! Gay marriage has an even bigger mountain to climb in that there is a theological argument against it. But I guess if you’re going to fight for it, you would have to start somewhere, right?

I never understand how anybody can say that arguing with people doesn’t change people’s minds.  Of course ineffective arguing doesn’t change much, but clearly communicated ideas supported by reason and evidence do change minds.  It always has.  Indeed, the atheist movement is full of people who had their minds changed in this way.

And also, what does it say that the dominant problem facing equality is that there are theological arguments against it?  The solution seems clear to me: it is the theology that must bend or disappear.

Father did take the time to respond:

Thanks, Dorothy, for reading through and pondering. Can’t really ask for more than that. I might add, it is just a pleasure to be able to have civil discourse on contentious topics. Can’t always have agreement, but achieving understanding is pretty darn good in and of itself. Go you.

Sounds like you are saying that a lot of theists will never accept same sex marriage, and I can’t argue with that, any more than I could argue with the claim that a lot of racists won’t ever accept interracial marriage. You’re correct that I feel strongly about the issue; not only from an empathetic and compassionate viewpoint but also from the perspective that the basis of America is that all are equal under the law: the rich and the poor, the weak and the strong, the heterosexual and homosexual. I also understand the passion of fervent religious belief.

Allow me to comment on “I just think that getting people to accept it will be the difficult part.” No doubt you are correct as far as some people are concerned. Some people will NEVER accept it. Some people still don’t accept interracial marriage; interfaith marriage; blacks, women, and gays in the military; Muslims as American citizens with equal rights; and so on. Discrimination is accepted all too readily against fellow Americans. However, in 1996 the polls showed only 27% of Americans in favor of allowing same sex marriage, but current polls show around twice that number—54%–in favor. Acceptance has DOUBLED in less than 20 years. So, even though “some” people will never accept it, it appears that a majority HAS. I suspect that number will continue to grow, just as the number accepting interracial marriage has grown since the Loving v. Virginia decision in 1967.

Part of the reason is that all of the dire predictions about the end of nation are bollocks and the spread of gay marriage will be the same type of non-event that repealing DADT was. Really, in the 13 countries and 13 states that recognized it, the negative consequences have been……..none whatsoever.

Although I understand and respect your right to narrow the biblical part down to a couple of quotes in Genesis, there are over 33,000—that isn’t a typo, 33,000—-sects of Christianity, and they don’t all narrow it down to that. Many Christians acknowledge that God has blessed and favored polygamists: Solomon (with 300 concubines and 700 wives); two wives were had by Lamech, Jacob, Ashur, and Elkanah; Esau and Rehaboam with 3 wives;Gideon, David, Abijah,Jehoram, Joash, Ahab, Jeholachin and Belshazzar all with many.

Not only does the bible acknowledge polygamy, it actually instructs how inheritance is to work in that instance, which surely indicates approval and acceptance:

Deuteronomy 21
15 Suppose a man has two wives, one whom he loves more than the other, and they both bear him sons, with the firstborn being the child of the less loved wife.

16 In the day he divides his inheritance he must not appoint as firstborn the son of the favorite wife in place of the other wife’s son who is actually the firstborn.

Even though you choose not to, a certain number of Christians will take verses such as this and realize the “one man, one woman” thing really isn’t all that clear cut.

In the bible, inter-faith marriages were theoretically forbidden, but hardly anyone pays attention to that in this day and time….although there are no doubt some who can never accept it, as you point out gay marriage will not be accepted by some.

The bible commanded Levirite marriage: The name of this type of marriage is derived from the Latin word “levir,” which means “brother-in-law.” This involved a woman who was widowed without having borne a son. She would be required to leave her home, marry her brother-in-law, live with him, and engage in sexual relations. If there were feelings of attraction and love between the woman and her new husband, this arrangement could be quite agreeable to both. Otherwise, the woman would have to endure what was essentially serial rapes with her former brother-in-law as perpetrator. Their first-born son was considered to be sired by the deceased husband. Ruth 4 reveals that a man would be required to enter into a levirate marriage not only with his late brother’s widow, but with a widow to whom he was the closest living relative. This is an example of “biblical marriage”, but the Christians who won’t accept gay marriage due to Genesis generally have no problem ignoring the biblical requirement of Levirite marriage. You say some of the other stuff wasn’t a law of God, but this one was.

Non-virgin brides were required to be stoned to death on their father’s doorstep, but Christians manage to ignore this today also. They somehow manage to overlook that part of biblical marriage. This is another law of God.

The point of all this is that Christianity has shown an incredible ability to adapt. You don’t think a majority will adapt to this; from the way they have adapted to all of the other examples of biblical marriage, I think most will adapt nicely in time. You have made it clear that you won’t, and I understand your position.

It is somewhat depressing that the atheist is often required to demonstrate greater knowledge of the bible than Christians.

About JT Eberhard

When not defending the planet from inevitable apocalypse at the rotting hands of the undead, JT is a writer and public speaker about atheism, gay rights, and more. He spent two and a half years with the Secular Student Alliance as their first high school organizer. During that time he built the SSA’s high school program and oversaw the development of groups nationwide. JT is also the co-founder of the popular Skepticon conference and served as the events lead organizer during its first three years.

  • Art_Vandelay

    You have made it clear that you won’t, and I understand your position.

    JT’s dad…if I may just challenge you slightly here, you made a perfectly reasonable and coherent argument as to why her position is flawed. As far as I can tell, she never addressed why she rejects so many direct injunctions straight from the mouth of Yahweh but then somehow accepts these rather ambiguous biblical definitions of marriage. Do you really understand her position because it’s still contradictory and illogical from where I’m sitting.

    • 23cal

      Good call, Art. Yes, I think I understand her illogical and contradictory position. I don’t agree with it or think it is right, but I think I understand her head-in-the-sand-cherry-picking position. Hopefully the seeds were planted that over time she will realize her position is contradictory and illogical. I’m not holding my breath waiting for that to happen, of course. Oh, btw…..23cal is me, JT’s Dad, and John Eberhard…..kind of like a three-in-one trilogy. Novel idea, eh?

      • Lexie

        Sorry I posted my comment before I saw yours, which address what I said making mine redundant.

      • Art_Vandelay

        Brilliant! You should try to market that!

        Okay, I think I know what you’re saying. It’s not that you “understand” her position per se…just that you understand cognitive dissonance is a thing.

  • Lexie

    Maybe I’m being hopelessly optimistic here but I don’t believe I am. I don’t think that Dorothy has “made it clear” that she will never change her mind. So far she has at least being willing to consider the other side’s view point and think about our arguments. This is more than can be said for many people who have subsequently changed their minds. I personally have gone from someone who would not even listen to someone who tried to mount an argument against my faith to an atheist. I know other people who have made similar monumental changes in position on both the issue of the existence of a god and on homosexuality. Reason can and does change people’s minds. Dorothy doesn’t seem as opposed to reason as I was before the first seeds of doubt and free thought were planted in my mind. I hope that your father’s arguments will move her further along the path of reason and acceptance.

  • Stev84

    It does also doesn’t matter all that much whether Christians accept anything. Nobody is asking them to. Just that they shut up about it and stop discriminating. They can keep their theological opposition in their churches, but it has no place elsewhere. Certainly not in politics.

    In practice, of course, it matters somewhat because they can vote and America gives them the extremely shortsighted and dangerous power to directly vote other people’s rights away. But that is something nobody should be able to do.

  • baal

    I would like to think blacks have it better now than in the 1960′s but I fear that until the criminal justice system is rewritten totally, society is unconscionably stacked against them. Just one example – Mayor Bloomberg’s stop and frisk program in NYC.

    I’m glad Dorothy did some thinking and that JT’s dad is one obstinate mofo.