Sappho and Erinna in a Garden at Mytilene (by Simeon Solomon, 1864) [public domain / Wikimedia Commons]
See Part I
And by the way, I studied all this stuff about society, in college. I majored in sociology and minored in psychology. College was great insofar as I thoroughly learned how secular minds think. Few fields are as secularized as sociology and psychology. Consequently, I have utilized that background ever since in my Christian apologetics. I understand my opponents. I used to think the same way, as a “practical atheist” and devotee of the occult.
You touched on two biological facts – breastfeeding and childbirth – and that’s legit though not as you probably intended. The idea that a male can’t nurture and love a child as extensively or well as a female, however, is entirely a construct of your religion and your society.
Here’s more “anthropological talk” for you: Males in the Aka tribe breastfeed. Their breasts don’t provide milk or sustenance – that’s biology for you – but they do provide a nipple to suck on, and sometimes that’s all the baby needs to quite down. In fact, babies in the Aka tribe spend 50% of their time with their fathers, because while the women are hunting the men are doing all the work that you say only the deep, nurturing love of a mother can accomplish. All tasks and decisions in the tribe, in fact, are shared equally between males and females throughout each day (with the exception of the top chiefs who are invariably male). Breastfeeding is no exception.
Love and nurturing are not biologically limited capabilities. I challenge you to prove that they are. Study after study shows what you can see just by looking at differing people around the planet – men and women can both raise children, both can do so successfully, and the most important metric regarding the success of children later in life has nothing to do with the gender of the parents, but rather with the stability of the household and being raised in a supporting, nurturing environment.
I was raised by a single father from the age of three. My mother is violent and psychotic, and addicted to drugs. She was as likely to beat me as ignore me, but she almost never hugged me. There are plenty of women who dislike children and want nothing to do with them. Reproduction is an urge that many human beings share, but not all of us have it (asexuals exist in both genders) and it has nothing to do with a persons biological sex or gender.
First of all, I’m very saddened to hear this, and sorry that you had to go through those horrific things. I can’t begin to imagine it. As one human being to another, this is very upsetting, to have to happen to anyone.
That said (and hopefully accepted and understood), this does rather dramatically verify one of my major points. Broken homes are a direct strong indicator of poverty, crime, dysfunctional children, and can have a profound effect on sexual development. There has also been shown to be a strong correlation of a poor relationship with father or mother, to atheism.
So here you are an atheist and with these radical views on gender and sexuality. If I had had a mother or father like that, I can see that I might have become an atheist as well. I have argued that these things arise from environmental causes, not genetic ones, and nothing you are telling me overthrows that observation.
Thank you for your sympathy, but your correlation fails in other areas. My father was raised in a similar broken home but is a devoted Christian. Of course, as you said broken homes do tend to lead to poverty, crime, dysfunctional children, etc. As I said before, the most powerful metric for predicting the future success of a child is that the home is stable and that the child is nurtured and loved. I didn’t get that, despite being in a heteronormative household. Study after study shows that if those two things are provided, the gender of the parents really doesn’t matter.
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Sociology and psychology are both fascinating fields. I’m studying cultural anthropology, so my perspective incorporates a knowledge and understanding of many different ways society can be organized. There are very few cultural or societal structures that haven’t been tried, successfully, by some group of people somewhere. People of the same genders raising children together isn’t a new thing in the world.
You can tell me about different societies all you like. They are a tiny minority now and throughout history. I could just as logically argue that there are cannibalistic societies that exist (several, in fact). By your “logic” I could say that that is normal, and that no one can oppose it on principle or from their worldview (religious or otherwise), simply because some tribes can be found that do it (i.e., to exist at all is to be normative and permissible and altogether proper).
I’m assuming you would disagree with that. Ancient Rome used to feed Christians to the lions for entertainment, and would throw newborn babies out in the snow to die (their form of infanticide). I’m assuming you would disagree with those things, too. Yet this was a major world empire for some 500-600 years before it was Christianized. That’s “mainstream.” The same empire that gave us our legal structures and other institutions did those kinds of things, too.
The Nazis annihilated six million Jews and many millions of others (Poles, Gypsies, homosexuals, political dissidents, Catholic and Lutheran dissidents), and made lampshades from their skin. Stalin starved 10 million Ukrainians in the 30s. Mao killed 60 million of his own people. ISIS goes around murdering entire villages, raping girls and selling them into slavery, and beheading Coptic Christians and others, just because they aren’t Muslims.
I can find every behavior under the sun that was considered “normative” by some society or other. They all thought they were justified in what they did. You would disagree with many of these behaviors.
Thus, by the same token, your examples prove nothing as to the fundamental question: what is gender? What is proper sexuality? What is natural and what is unnatural? I reject your anomalous examples as irrelevant, just as you would reject the cannibals, etc.
Over time cannibalism causes kuru and will utterly destroy a society. It’s not a stable practice. As for your other points about Ancient Rome’s practice of infanticide, the Holocaust, etc. here is the thing—both of these were common practices in a number of societies. In fact, for most of human history the complete annihilation of your enemies, the rape of their women, and the enslavement of their children was the typical and normal outcome of war. This is in your Bible—“ But if they refuse to make peace and prepare to fight, you must attack the town. When the LORD your God hands it over to you, kill every man in the town. But you may keep for yourselves all the women, children, livestock, and other plunder. You may enjoy the spoils of your enemies that the LORD your God has given you.” That’s the Lord your God commanding mass murder, mass enslavement and mass rape. It is far from the only point in the Old Testament where this is said.
We as a society have evolved past that. We’ve decided it was wrong and immoral and that we shouldn’t do it. You see, feeling that something is morally and ethically wrong isn’t the same as saying that it is detrimental to society. America functioned perfectly well as a society despite chattel slavery being a thing. I don’t have to agree with something in order to acknowledge it as a trait that is normal (in the sense of that trait being something commonly found within multiple societies) or nondetrimental (in the sense that this trait being within a society does not prevent that society from succeeding).
Rome fell for a lot of reasons, most of which revolve around the inability of the Roman government to effectively police it’s empire due to political, economic, and religious changes. It didn’t fall because Roman citizens enjoyed having anal intercourse with each other. In the same sense, the Holocaust—while terrible and horrible in every way—was not special or unique in the history of warfare. In relation to the way war was fought for most of human history, it was “normal”. The sheer size of WW I and WW II were new, and the capability of communication we had developed was new—it was the first time housewives ten thousand miles away could see the effects of war with their own two eyes. That’s why it had and has the effect that it does. Not because it was somehow worse than what had come before.
“Thus, by the same token, your examples prove nothing as to the fundamental question: what is gender?”
Yes, it does. My examples prove that successful societies the world over have developed, over the fullness of time, very different concepts of gender and sexuality thus showing that gender and sexuality are fluid social constructs. Homosexuality is natural and normal. It is natural in over 5,000 different species including human beings. Your moral and ethical judgement against it is your own viewpoint, not objective facts of the universe. So it is with your religion’s teachings regarding homosexuality—that is your religion’s teachings, and it doesn’t apply to anybody except those who choose to follow your religion.
As for my “radical” views on gender and sexuality, they really aren’t that radical. Not anymore. The generation coming up right now, the people who are 12 to 21 at this very moment, mostly agree with me on this. Scary, huh?
Even if it can be shown that same-sex marriage was and is present in many societies, this proves nothing ethically or morally, because morality isn’t derived from a mere head count.
In some societies same-sex marriage is considered morally and ethically wrong. In other societies it isn’t. In ancient Judea, the marriage contract put forth in the Bible is something of an ownership contract. It was in fact mostly secular; there was no official religious marriage ceremony until 1184 in the Christian faith. Marriage in the Bible is crazy – incest, polygamy, rape, beating your wife. These are all examples of marriage institutions in the Bible that are apparently approved of by God.
You can have the last word. This would obviously go on forever, as we agree on nothing besides: 1) the goodness of being charitable to those of different opinions, and 2) pedophilia, rape, and the Nazi Holocaust being wrong.
I could answer all the other stuff you bring up (already have in various papers, and these are standard, garden variety atheist arguments that all good apologists are acquainted with), but I don’t have unlimited time, and can’t do everything at once.
I’m delighted that we can talk in a civil fashion. Thanks for your thoughts. We agree on little, but you are eloquent and passionate, and I admire those qualities.