A little about the queer stuff

A little about the queer stuff June 22, 2012

I had some major qualms about talking to a writer for the Blaze, but I remembered the byline from a pretty good interview with Todd Stiefel (a major atheist philanthopist), and I liked the questions that Billy Hallowell sent over.

Now seems like a pretty good time to mention that talking to someone doesn’t mean I’m endorsing them.  I generally find it easier to thrash out and clarify my ideas when I’ve got an interlocutor to play off of, so I’ve done some chatting with people who seem like they’d be good for that.  I’m not endorsing other pieces they’ve written or the outlets they write for.  Talking to people I disagree with (as I always like doing) means I’m trying to fight (productively) with them.

Hallowell’s distilled my answers into a piece that just went up, but I’d like to post the full answer I gave him to the inevitable, “So, you’re bisexual.  What about that?” question.  (I’m not knocking him for condensing, but I think it will help knock out at least some follow-up questions).  Here it is:


You mentioned some uncertainty in terms of how the Church handles homosexuality. What will you do if your views don’t mesh with the church’s?

I’m bisexual. Other queer people’s experience of their orientation varies, but, as far as I’m concerned, I’m bisexual because gender feels about as salient to me as hair color when it comes to looking for dates. That means I’m already out of step with the Catholic Church before you even get up to gay marriage or any issue like that, because the Church thinks gender is much more central to someone’s identity than I do.

I imagine I’ll do a lot more reading and pick a lot more fights over the next few years. I’m willing to not date women in the meantime, but I wouldn’t necessarily universalize that choice. C.S. Lewis once said he had no particular weakness for gambling, so he left it and other topics out of his discussion of moral behavior (see below). He didn’t think he had the standing to exhort others on the topic. Because I don’t find it much more of a privation to not date women than to not date redheads, I’m in a much different position than gay people or bi folks who care more about gender than I do. I’m not in much of a position to give advice.

As to the larger political question: civil marriage is different than sacramental marriage. If people can’t muster a convincing argument against gay marriage that doesn’t depend on the revealed truths of the Catholic Church, then asking the government to ban it is like expecting the State to enforce kosher dietary law on everyone (or even only secular Jews). I still support civil gay marriage.

And the the quote from Mere Christianity is:

Ever since I served as an infantryman in the first world war I have had a great dislike of people who, themselves in ease and safety, issue exhortations to men in the front line. As a result I have a reluctance to say much about temptations to which I myself am not exposed. No man, I suppose, is tempted to every sin. It so happens that the impulse which makes men gamble has been left out of my make-up; and, no doubt, I pay for this by lacking some good impulse of which it is the excess or perversion. I therefore did not feel myself qualified to give advice about permissable and impermissable gambling.



One other answer I quite liked got truncated, so I’ll throw that one up here, too, but it’s (presumably) a little less contentious:


What message do you have for other atheists who may be struggling and questioning their nonbelief?

I’d refer them to the Litany of Gendlin:

What is true is already so.
Owning up to it doesn’t make it worse.
Not being open about it doesn’t make it go away.
And because it’s true, it is what is there to be interacted with.
Anything untrue isn’t there to be lived.
People can stand what is true,
for they are already enduring it.

If you find yourself in a position where you might need to change your mind, you should remember that your decision doesn’t change the world.  You’ve always lived in whichever state of the world is true, so all you’re doing is changing how accurate your map is.  (And you’re obviously better off accurate!)

Whatever your religious beliefs, if you want to do heavy-lifting philosophical thinking, it’s a good idea to pause and think about thinking.  Learn about common forms of bias and flawed reasoning and work on spotting bad heuristics.  I like LessWrong.org particularly for this, and, personally, I usually find working on math or computer science gives me a better grip on other complex, abstract problems.


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