SSM, Reason, and the Religious Divide: The Essential Meaning of “Marriage”

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President Obama declared his affirmation of same-sex “marriage” yesterday. His opinion changes nothing except the legal and political environment. More specifically, it has no effect on what marriage actually is, because the meaning of marriage is not up to anyone to decide—not even the President.

What I mean is that marriage has its own enduring nature or essence. I know many would disagree with me on that. Where you stand on that one question, though, will largely determine where you stand on SSM. Is there, or is there not, something—some nature or essence, that makes marriage what it is? Or is “marriage” up for grabs? If the former, then the SSM advocate carries an exceptionally strong burden of proof, to show that majority of cultures through history have gotten marriage wrong by making it about male and female. If the latter, then marriage can be whatever it is at the moment, and there’s no good reason to oppose SSM.

In this series I have been explaining that not all opposition to SSM is religious in nature. I could hardly forget while doing so that these non-religious arguments somehow seem to keep being proposed by people of faith. One has to wonder, if the non-religious arguments are that great, the why are the people on our side so overwhelmingly religious?

I think there might be a very good sociocultural answer to that question, and I intend to propose it in a moment, after I first clarify who I am talking about here and who I am not. On both sides of this issue there are some who have taken their stance only because “that’s what my kind of people think about this.” Make no mistake: support for gay “marriage” has a lot to do with aligning with one’s social group. So does opposition to it. I’m not talking about that kind of support or opposition, but about that which is well informed and thought through.

Some of us who have thought about it think marriage is what it is, and that social movements don’t change that. Girgis, George, and Anderson have developed a strong case for the enduring identity of marriage on natural, not religious, grounds. Others think precisely the opposite: that social currents are exactly the right place to look for the definition of marriage.

Is this not a religious difference after all, however? Could it even be that religious people are fooling ourselves and trying to do the same with others? We have our biblical reasons to oppose SSM, after all, which we know won’t be allowed into legislation or into the courts. Maybe we’ve manufactured some handy-dandy non-biblical reasons to take into battle in their stead. There’s a hint of truth in that. We do have biblical reasons that we can’t deploy in the legal fight. We do bring natural-law reasons instead, as that theory suggests. All of that’s irrelevant, though. The question is, what about the reasons? How do they hold up under challenge? If they’re strong, it doesn’t matter where they came from.

It’s not as simple though, as opening up an article and assessing its arguments. The best arguments for man-woman marriage depend lean heavily on the supposition that there is something that marriage is, and that its nature, its essence, isn’t up for a vote. That supposition is no longer widely shared. Many of us take it that we can mold the meaning of marriage to suit the temper of the age.

Many of us, in fact, take it that we can mold the meaning of almost anything to suit ourselves. Is there an enduring essence of maleness and femaleness, or, as some now maintain, does each person have the option to choose (pardon me, but I can’t avoid saying it this way) his or her own gender? Is there an enduring essence of humanness, or are we (as again some hold to be true) of pretty much the same sort of thing as the animals? Are we on our evolutionary way toward becoming something else? The questions can be multiplied. Interestingly, answers to all of them seem to line up along a religious divide.

Herein, I suspect, lies the reason for the religious divide which exists even for non-religious arguments. Though I have done no social research on the question, still I am suspicious that this is what separates the parties: believers in God are far more likely than non-believers to hold that certain things have their own enduring nature, essence, or definition. Thus we are far more likely to hold that marriage, gender, and human nature have stable and lasting meanings.

That’s my theory. Supposing I am correct, why might that be so? I can think of at least three reasons.

1. Pride of progress, or, chronological chauvinism. Non-believers are more likely than believers to think that every new generation is wiser than every earlier one. This is, unfortunately, a silly conceit associated with the fallacy of thinking that all knowledge is scientific knowledge. Obviously scientific knowledge is increasing day by day. Does that mean wisdom is, too? Or literary expertise, or musical creativity and virtuosity? Obviously not. These have virtually nothing to do with science. Neither does marriage. Why would we assume we are any smarter than the ancients (read: anyone born before 1960) concerning the nature of marriage?

Believers are more likely than non-believers to recognize that fallacy for what it is. We are therefore less likely to fall for the fallacies of scientism (“science is all there is of knowledge”) and chronological snobbery (“our age knows more about everything”).

2. The sexual revolution. The children of the 60s—and their children—are running the country. The message of the 60s has been that whatever consenting adults decide to do is just fine. Though there both biblically- and non-biblically based arguments against this foolishness, Bible-believers have at least been more motivated than non-believers to give them proper respect—in theory at least, if not always in practice.

3. Evolutionary theories of origins. Darwinian evolution is an all-encompassing theory, covering every aspect of organisms’ physical and behavioral characteristics. It is furthermore—and crucially—a theory of change, of things that are always on their way to becoming something else. Of course evolution can accommodate and explain stasis in populations, but still for all that it remains a theory of change. Today’s humanness is a snapshot along the road of history, so why shouldn’t today’s marriage be the same?

If I’m right, then a theory of marriage such as Girgis, George, and Anderson’s, arguing as it does on the basis of what marriage is, faces uphill sledding among non-believers. Why believe that anything is what it is, or at least that it is so in its essence?

I am hoping my estimable friends Holopupenko and G. Rodrigues will fill in some gaps for me here. They are better equipped than I to show, for example, that these differences pre-date Christianity by hundreds of years. Can a man step in the same river twice? Is he still the same man if he does? Was Heraclitus correct to think change is the only reality? Or was Plato closer to the mark with his eternal forms? They know more than I do about what a nature is or might be, too.

Regardless of that, though, I hope you see that these are not necessarily religious questions. Religious belief can inform them, certainly, but questions like these can also be asked and answered independently of such belief. I refer you again to the paper by Girgis et al. Granted that its arguments are more readily received by those inclined to accept that there could actually be something that marriage actually is, that doesn’t mean others need not pay them any attention. Perhaps their force is adequate to cause someone to believe that for the first time.

I think there’s more that could be said about this, but I’m exploring and proposing ideas here, not trying to work out a final disquisition on them, so I’ll leave it at this. What do you think?

Series Navigation (SSM, Reason, and Religion):<<< SSM, Reason, and the Religious Divide: More Non-Religious Reasons to Oppose SSMSSM: Reason and the Religious Divide Part 4: Children >>>

47 Responses

  1. Tom Gilson says:

    I almost forgot to mention–there is at least one further big reason explaining the religious divide of which I spoke here. Coming soon.

  2. Sault says:

    Re #1 – Perhaps non-believers are more inclined towards the belief that we’re doing better now than we used to – but believers are more inclined towards the fallacy of appealing to tradition. Tit for tat.

    A believer might point to the Bible and their religious tradition, but a non-believer might point to statistics that show that divorce rates are lower in states that allow same-sex marriage.

    Obviously scientific knowledge is increasing day by day. Does that mean wisdom is, too? Or literary expertise, or musical creativity and virtuosity? Obviously not.

    What an incredible statement!

    After hundreds of years of advancements in philosophy, we are none the wiser? Even from the non-secular point of view – 2,000 years of Christology means nothing?

    Musical creativity and artistic prowess has increased by leaps and bounds in the last few hundred years – we are able to express ourselves in ways inconceivable to previous generations.

    Virtuosity? Our methods of learning and teaching have become more effective and more efficient (surely we can’t give science all the credit there, either!) and we see more musical talent than ever before.

    This holds true for any number of different fields of knowledge – math is a great example, for instance.

    You’ve made the point before that science is not the only way to find knowledge, so how can you possibly say that there has been no non-scientific progress in even the last handful of generations, much less over the last few thousand years?

    It might not be true in every instance, but I don’t see how you can rationally deny that humanity becomes more knowledgeable with each passing generation!

    I can only add two other observations at this point in time.

    First, it is interesting to me that there is a correlation between education and accepting same-sex marriage. You might have seen this graphic floating around Facebook. People are more likely to approve of same-sex marriages when they are Democratic, non-religious, and better educated.

    Second, there is the observation that apparently same-sex marriages were a part of the Christian tradition, at least at one point in time.

    That was an interesting read for me after having observed some of your theological arguments against it.

  3. Holopupenko says:

    Sault:

    You seem to think appeal to tradition is somehow incorrect on its face an in all circumstances. Could you please provide a cogent, sound argument why you believe this is so? Hint: appealing to tradition in a strictly logical sense is a fallacy. But, you must understand there is speculative truth (about reality) and practical truth (what to do morally in that reality). Appeals to tradition based in the nature of human beings in terms of how to act is by far not necessarily a bad thing. So, I’m waiting for you to back up your assertion.

    Tom:

    I am NOT any kind of expert on marriage, so I’ll say my peace and withdraw… also because we’ve got graduation and end-of-academic-year meetings keeping me way too busy.

    You’re valiantly trying to apply word “nature” to marriage in a univocal sense, i.e., you’re using the word “nature” as a rough synonym for “essence” like you would, e.g., for a person or a rock. This won’t work because “marriage” is not an independently-existing extra-mental being, i.e., it is not a “substance” and so cannot have a “nature” in the sense you’re thinking. When you speak of the “nature” of marriage you must employ “nature” analogously because it’s not a “thing” in same way a person or a rock are things.

    So forgive me for some technical terms, but this is necessary:
         (1) a “nature” signifies substance as a principle of activity: “the principle or cause of motion or rest in that in which it is primarily, by reason of itself an not accidentally.” The “nature” of a rock is “rockiness”: it behaves like a rock and not like a kangaroo whose “nature” is to exist such that “kangarooness” is actualized
         (2) a “substance” is being in the primary sense: primary substance is the independently-existing extra-mental thing, i.e., this kangaroo is a per se substance (organic unity), while a rock is a per accidens substance (accidental unity); substance is essence to which per se existence is proper
         (3) “essence” is the quiddity or “whatness” of a thing; so per (2) essence in actual existence is a substance, and hence the two are distinct: one may know the essence of George Washington without him actually existing

    What his means is that one must speak of marriage/matrimony in a different way.

    I cannot speak for my Protestant brethren. However, for Catholics, matrimony is a Sacrament—the outward sign of inward Grace that bears its image and is its cause (Peter Lombard) or the sign of a sacred thing in so far as it sanctifies men (Aquinas). Because matrimony is a form of and a channel of God’s Grace (= a supernatural gift of God to rational agents for their eternal salvation), this makes it a deadly serious issue for Catholics—one that is NOT reducible to the pinheaded political expediency of Biden. (Yes, we are indeed deeply embarrassed by this man, and, if I were his Bishop, I could not in good faith permit him to partake of other sacraments—like the Eucharist—while he is in a state of sin for which indestructible ignorance or “following one’s conscience” is no excuse.) I can point you to much more voluminous information in the Catechism of the Catholic Church or in the online Catholic Encyclopedia… but fair warning: there’s a lot there to digest.

    That there are political dimensions to marriage I’m not disputing: politics is the art of living together for the benefit of the whole polity, and so there are many issues (such as supporting the very existence of a society) that fall under political considerations, and hence there are MANY, MANY solid, historical, societal, medical, psychological, etc. reasons for traditional (one man, one woman) marriage to be the central and only acceptable form of unity that enters into forming a society. Homosexual unions (let alone homosexual “marriage”—heh) are inherently disordered because they are—quite literally and across a wide range for considerations (biologically, psychologically, philosophically, theologically)—UN-natural. To go against our own natures is to become inhuman… not to speak about going against the Creator who created us. So, all those cute “arguments” the pro SSM folks are promulgating are non-starters on their face: those arguments are reducible to “it’s a “right” (heh) because we want it that way.” So much for reasoned discourse.

  4. Tom Gilson says:

    Sault,

    The statistic on divorce are not as clear-cut in interpretation as you suppose. Correlation and causation, you know. And if you intended that as an answer to an appeal to tradition, you would first have to establish that I were making that appeal in some fallacious manner. I think you’re just throwing that word “tradition” around without regard to whether it connects to the blog post or not.

    I did not say that we were no knowledgeable than we were 2,000 years ago. I said it is a mistake to assume that the passage of time by itself leads to greater wisdom. I should have added “in all matters,” to be more accurate. I’ll amend that.

    Musical creativity has not, my ignorant and philistine friend, increased by leaps and bounds since Bach or even Palestrina. Sure we can express ourselves in ways they couldn’t imagine, but that’s orthogonal to musical virtuosity or creativity. Or would you argue that James Joyce is more creative and skilled than Shakespeare?

    Is there a correlation between knowledge of math and knowledge of what is marriage?

    The correlation between education and the acceptance of same-sex “marriage” is a correlation between years of exposure to authorities who believe in SSM and acceptance of that authority opinion. Don’t deny it. (Don’t assume you know what’s the relevant variable in a correlation-causation conclusion. I’m not assuming it.)

    The correlation with being Democratic is too obvious to have mentioned.

    The “apparent” observance of SSM in Christian tradition betrays your gullibility, your utter lack of discriminating attention to what constitutes credible history and what is utter speculative propaganda. You might at least say it is hypothesized, or theorized, or proposed, and then I might have given you credit for a hint of the proper skepticism toward the theory. But no, you bought it hook, line, and sinker.

    You must really want it to be true.

    Does that make it true for you?

    Does that make it true for history, for reality?

  5. JAD says:

    I wonder, when President Obama didn’t believe in SSM was he an intolerant bigot?

  6. Sault says:

    @ Holo

    You seem to think appeal to tradition is somehow incorrect on its face an in all circumstances. Could you please provide a cogent, sound argument why you believe this is so? Hint: appealing to tradition in a strictly logical sense is a fallacy.

    Tom said that non-believers were more subject to the fallacy of “chronological snobbery” (in the this-generation-is-better sense) while I counter by saying that believers are subject to a different form of “chronological snobbery” (in the-ancients-did-it-better sense).

    I assume we both were describing a strictly logical fallacy and one that happened occasionally. I don’t think that either of us intended to say that anyone categorically falls into these fallacies – only that one side or the other is more likely to drift towards their respective errors.

    Every generation gets something right, and every generation gets something wrong. Just like Isaac Newton standing on the backs of giants, if we ignore the past then we never reach greater heights or see further into the horizon. If we ignore contemporary contributions, then we not only do a disservice to those who came before us, but we rob our children of the knowledge that we could give them to enrich their lives as well.

    Musical creativity has not, my ignorant and philistine friend, increased by leaps and bounds since Bach or even Palestrina. Sure we can express ourselves in ways they couldn’t imagine, but that’s orthogonal to musical virtuosity or creativity. Or would you argue that James Joyce is more creative and skilled than Shakespeare?

    Then what is the metric of musical virtuosity or creativity? Should it be longevity? Popularity? Critical review? Diversity?

    We have more evidence of diversity today. We have more evidence of popularity today. Even a perfunctory search on YouTube reveals child prodigies of all sorts. The common man has (and is taking advantage of) the easiest access ever to creative tools in the history of mankind.

    So I guess what I’m asking is what you’re basing that assertion on – by what metric or measure?

    You might at least say it is hypothesized, or theorized, or proposed, and then I might have given you credit for a hint of the proper skepticism toward the theory. But no, you bought it hook, line, and sinker.

    &@*(%&!!!

    You’re right, I absolutely did. It seemed plausible, the names sounded right, and I accepted it at face value. It pisses me off that I’d fall for something that took me less than 2 minutes to debunk on Google. Adelphopoiesis isn’t same-sex marriage.

    Well, I’ll do my best to do better going forward.

  7. G. Rodrigues says:

    @Sault:

    Musical creativity and artistic prowess has increased by leaps and bounds in the last few hundred years – we are able to express ourselves in ways inconceivable to previous generations.

    The idea that the arts are progressive is simply false. This is common knowledge, but reading say Hazlitt’s little essay titled “Why the arts are not progressive?” will show you why. And Hazlitt is hardly a suspect; his political sympathies lied with the radical left, but he was too good a critic to let ideology (completely) blind him. What does progress is our *understanding* of the arts — and looking at the gobs of anti-intellectual and anti-literary foolishness passing for literary criticism that is currently being taught in the universities, even I am given to doubt this. But these fads will eventually blow over. Or not. In which case, serious criticism will leave the universities and address itself to the common reader, as Emerson envisaged.

  8. Tom Gilson says:

    Sault,

    1. If you need a quantitative argument to show that Bach was as musically creative as anyone today, I weep for you.

    2. Read the first chapter of Chesterton’s Everlasting Man. You can find it free online easy enough. I think it’s the first chapter; it’s about the artists in the cave.

  9. Holopupenko says:

    Come on! Who really considers rap meriting consideration as music? Rap is display of “progress”? Really? Plato was spot on 2,400-odd years ago regarding music and its affect on the soul. Sometimes stepping backwards from an abyss is true progress. I’ve been weeping for a while over this, Tom…

  10. BillT says:

    “Regardless of that, though, I hope you see that these are not necessarily religious questions. Religious belief can inform them, certainly, but questions like these can also be asked and answered independently of such belief.”

    Actually, no one really escapes a religious perspective on this or really any issue. For everyone has a religion. This “religious” perspective is better referred to as a worldview and everyone has one. Everyone has a narrative that accounts for our existence, its meaning and its purpose. Everyone’s opinions on this issue and every other is informed and shaped by that worldview. Whether believer or atheists we all bring a perspective based on our presupposition to our understandings. I don’t think those that believe in God should have to leave the basis for their opinions at the door. The atheists certainly don’t.

  11. d says:

    I think its much simpler. The religious divide exists because the scriptures that are the legacy of Abraham (the dominant religions in this country) consider homosexuality an abomination, and say so in plain, vile, morally reprehensible words. The non-religious don’t believe God is delivering them books with words that say homosexuality is an abomination, so they tend not to believe it, or they are more open to arguments to the contrary.

    I’m not sure it needs to be more complicated than that.

  12. BillT says:

    “The religious divide exists because the scriptures that are the legacy of Abraham (the dominant religions in this country) consider homosexuality an abomination, and say so in plain, vile, morally reprehensible words.”

    You see. The secular perspective has no issue putting forth its worldview. It’s simple. God is morally reprehensible. No leaving their religious view at the door. They state it right up front.

  13. d says:

    BillT,

    Those adjectives referred to the noun “words”, not “God”. If by chance there is a good God, I think he’d side with my view here – or rather, my view is closer to His side.

  14. BillT says:

    d,

    No. Those words refer to God as they refer words written in the Bible and the words written in the Bible are God’s words. But I am glad to see you think God’s on your side on this one. It might be a tad presumptuous of you but from one who believes they can define God it’s not surprising.

  15. d says:

    BillT:

    Insofar as one believes those are God’s words, then one might be also applying the adjective to God himself with that sort of statement. But for those that don’t hold that premise, your point doesnt apply.

  16. BillT says:

    d,

    Coming from someone who, from what I can tell, doesn’t believe in God at all your opinion on the infallibility of the scriptures isn’t exactly compelling.

  17. Victoria says:

    @BillT
    Atheists, for all their bluster about not believing in the One True God of the Bible, end up fashioning an idol in their own image – the very worst of Romans 1:18ff – this is pagan idolatry all over again, only the atheists are too blind and foolish to realize it

  18. d says:

    Victoria,

    Always love how you circle it around, every time, to an ad hominem attack on the psychology of atheists.

    Your determination not to meet your opponents in honest debate, is something to behold.

    There’s nothing more idolatrous about saying a God probably would be on my side of the SSM debate, than it would to say that he would side with those who oppose murder – its obvious for those of us with a functioning moral compass.

  19. Holopupenko says:

    Like “honesty” actually, really, objectively MEANS something to an atheist like d? Really?

  20. Victoria says:

    @d
    whatever god you imagine is NOT the God Who has revealed Himself in the Creation or His Word.

    I maintain that His design ideal for human sexuality is male+female; I also maintain that, in the fuller light of the New Testament revelation, we (Christians) are to treat our fellow human beings with compassion and love, not as our enemies. That’s why I said over in the other thread that I strongly disagree with those who go around shouting “God hates [insert group of people here]” (I think it got formatted incorrectly in that post).

    It is not a question of whether or not God is on any particular side of an issue, but are we on His side?

  21. BillT says:

    “There’s nothing more idolatrous about saying a God probably would be on my side of the SSM debate, than it would to say that he would side with those who oppose murder – its obvious for those of us with a functioning moral compass.”

    In light of God’s specific condemnations of same sex anything, this has got to be one of the most stunningly absurd statements of all time. And given that you don’t believe in God, your opinion about whether the Bible is His word is totally and completely moot.

  22. Sault says:

    @ Tom

    1. If you need a quantitative argument to show that Bach was as musically creative as anyone today, I weep for you.

    FWIW I do agree with you, but… bringing up Bach as an example is a very small sample set. Compare 30, 50, 100 composers from his day against a comparable number from ours. Is there an objective way to measure any difference in creativity? That would be an illuminating comparison!

    2. Read the first chapter of Chesterton’s Everlasting Man. You can find it free online easy enough. I think it’s the first chapter; it’s about the artists in the cave.

    Working on it. Still trying to find the essay by Hazlitt. Found some commentary on it, but not the actual essay itself yet. I have a feeling that it’s going to take a few days to digest and ruminate over – I won’t be able to give you a quick response on these.

    @ Holo

    Come on! Who really considers rap meriting consideration as music? Rap is display of “progress”? Really?

    I didn’t claim that rap music was progress… but in every musical genre (including rap) there are examples of virtuosity and artistic quality. I won’t state any examples from rap – not much point, I figure.

    If we are talking about not an innate increase in musical talent but an increase in knowledge of music and knowledge of talent (which is what I understand Tom’s earlier statements to mean), then better examples would be from metal and jazz.

    I saw Meshuggah a few days ago, for instance. Incredible show – for a band with three sentences spoken throughout the entire show and no stage antics, they had an amazing presence. Palpable…. and their technique was nothing short of flawless. For those who don’t know, Meshuggah is a technical metal band (in the style sometimes referred to as “djent”) that uses often tortuously complex polyrhythms and odd time signatures while still managing to be brutal as hell. 8-string guitars… mmm… If detuned metal isn’t your thing, you’ve still got bands like Dream Theater and Rush.

    Jazz? If any musical style deserves to be called progress in music, jazz would be it.

    Polyrhythms – popularized in the late 50’s/early 60’s. Used in both jazz and metal (as mentioned). Modern invention. Progress? Dang skippy!

    Science isn’t the only area that can show progress is what I’m trying to say. How much have we as humans changed? That is hard to say. Have we made progress musically over the last 2,000 years? I think that it is hard to argue that we have not.

    I don’t have the ability to critique paintings or sculptures, and I don’t have the knowledge on hand to state examples in literature or poetry, but at least as a musician I can say that in music we’ve come a long ways.

    …after all, Hazlitt and Chesterton never had jazz or metal to enlighten them! \m/ o_o \m/

  23. d says:

    Anyhow, getting back to the main point a little..

    Arguments for same-sex marriage do not necessarily rise or fall on the existence of an eternally unchanging essence of marriage. For how are you to say that same-sex partnerships do not also embody that essence? Bible quotes? Its actually quite plausible that natural law actually justifies homosexuality and SSM (insofar as the theory could be said to justify anything, I suppose)

    Also, even if some thing has an unchanging essence, it doesn’t mean that our legal intuitions must (or even should) reflect that essence. Divorce and divorcee marriage are such examples, if we’re working from the Orthodox view of marriage. Divorces are not recognized. Divorcee marriage is a contradiction in terms.

    Yet how many would vote for a constitutional amendment to ban all divorce, and eliminate recognition for marriages between divorcee couples? Most would consider it wrong for government to *actually* reflect the genuine orthodox view of the essence of marriage in its laws, and would oppose any measures vehemently.

    So an actual argument needs to be given that shows why this alleged essence of marriage needs to be reflected in our laws – its not good enough to simply assert that the essence exists.

  24. G. Rodrigues says:

    @d:

    Arguments for same-sex marriage do not necessarily rise or fall on the existence of an eternally unchanging essence of marriage. For how are you to say that same-sex partnerships do not also embody that essence?

    Arguments for 2 + 2 = 5 do not necessarily rise or fall on the existence of an eternally unchanging essence of number. For how are you to say that 2 + 2 = 5 does not also embody that essence?

    Also, even if some thing has an unchanging essence, it doesn’t mean that our legal intuitions must (or even should) reflect that essence.

    Also, even if some thing has an unchanging essence, it doesn’t mean that our legal intuitions must (or even should) reflect that essence.

    So an actual argument needs to be given that shows why this alleged essence of marriage needs to be reflected in our laws – its not good enough to simply assert that the essence exists.

    So an actual argument needs to be given that shows why this alleged essence of number needs to be reflected in our laws – its not good enough to simply assert that the essence exists.

    Now, I grant you that my parody is a little heavy-handed and may, on occasion, miss the point. But your whole argument is very very very bad and misinformed by an acute case of ignorantitis. It might as well be properly called a non-argument, a new category of discourse that I have invented just for you. But unfortunately, it is not anything we have not been treated to before. Now, I could try to scrounge up an answer but since this ground has already been covered, why should I? Besides, you never give actual, cogent arguments or respond to the challenges that people pose you, so why should anyone humor your demands? Please, do not misunderstand me. This last question is a genuine curiosity on a matter of general principle, not a subtle, or not-so subtle, hint for you to get lost.

  25. Victoria says:

    @d
    So what you are saying up in #23, in essence (no pun intended) is that in a secular, diverse society such as ours, the government should define laws and uphold rights and responsibilities that promote ‘life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness and justice for all’, while not unduly constraining the rights of any particular group. We should promote a culture where diverse groups can live together in tolerance of each others’ opinions and beliefs (agreeing to disagree on core issues), doing the best that they can do to ensure a peaceful, harmonious and orderly society.

  26. d says:

    G. Rodrigues,

    Actually, I provide arguments and do respond to points all the time. You have a habit of flippantly categorizing them all as non-answers/non-arguments and then proceed to ask where all the arguments are.

    But, I’ll try to make my previous point clearer. From Tom’s OP:

    Is there, or is there not, something—some nature or essence, that makes marriage what it is? Or is “marriage” up for grabs? If the former, then the SSM advocate carries an exceptionally strong burden of proof, to show that majority of cultures through history have gotten marriage wrong by making it about male and female.

    Tom’s point crucially depends on an implicit premise, which just seems to be taken for granted.

    a) The legal institution of marriage should mirror the essence of marriage

    Without that premise, Tom’s statement about burden of proof doesn’t hold. I provided a genuine, real counter-example that challenges that premise – divorce. That counter-example shows us that (a) is not true (at least not without caveats and other arguments).

    One route to take here, is to show why there are some exceptions to (a). Then we could see if those exceptions do or do not apply to SSM.

    For example:

    In some cases, in order to mirror the essence of some thing in our legal institutions, the government may require some excessive powers. A corruptible government should not be entrusted with such excessive powers. In those cases, our legal institutions should not reflect the essence of the thing in question.

    Something like that might show us how some people could believe that divorcee marriage does not reflect the essence of marriage, yet could still believe that the government should recognize them. But this would seem to open the door wide for SSM proponents too.

  27. d says:

    Victoria,

    Something like that yes. I guess my #26 was also along those lines.

  28. Victoria says:

    @d
    Ah, but even Jesus, when He answered the Pharisees’ question about divorce in Matthew 19:3-12

    Some •Pharisees approached Him to test Him. They asked, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife on any grounds?”
    4 “Haven’t you read,” He replied, “that He who created them in the beginning made them male and female,” 5 and He also said:

    “For this reason a man will leave
    his father and mother
    and be joined to his wife,
    and the two will become one flesh?

    6 So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore, what God has joined together, man must not separate.”
    7 “Why then,” they asked Him, “did Moses command ⌊us⌋ to give divorce papers and to send her away?”
    8 He told them, “Moses permitted you to divorce your wives because of the hardness of your hearts. But it was not like that from the beginning. And I tell you, whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery.”
    10 His disciples m said to Him, “If the relationship of a man with his wife is like this, it’s better not to marry!”
    11 But He told them, “Not everyone can accept this saying, but only those it has been given to. 12 For there are eunuchs who were born that way from their mother’s womb, there are eunuchs who were made by men, and there are eunuchs who have made themselves that way because of the kingdom of heaven. Let anyone accept this who can.”
    The Holy Bible : Holman Christian standard version. 2009 (Mt 19:3–12). Nashville: Holman Bible Publishers

    The issue of divorce did not change the fundamental nature of what marriage is – the union of a man and a woman; God’s original intent for that union was that it should be permanent and inviolate (hence the prohibition against adultery).

  29. d says:

    So divorcee marriage reflects the true unchanging essence of marriage?

  30. Victoria says:

    @d re #27
    I think I could agree on that, provided that tolerance has its classical meaning – agree to disagree without censure or one group calling another bigoted or hateful.

    In the New Testament, Christians are not called to condemn the unbelievers even though we disagree with their morality / beliefs. That is God’s authority, as Judge of all the earth. We are called to present God’s offer of redemption to you.
    I don’t hold this position on same-sex marriage out of hate for those who have to live with that situation – I have friends, family and coworkers who are in the LG&T communities (don’t know any B’s, know a lot of T’s) = they know I have the view that I do, but they also know that I am there for them and would never turn my back on them.

  31. Victoria says:

    @d
    No – divorce is a symptom of our sinful nature, of our fallen state, our hardness of heart – it represents a failed marriage, does it not? It still does not change the nature and purpose of what a marriage was designed to be, which is based on God’s design for human sexuality – that is our fundamental point here. Surely you can acknowledge at least that male and female are the biological norms (complementary sex organs, designed for procreation as well as pleasure, as well as complementary emotional and psychological natures).

    Allowing remarriage after divorce is a concession to human weakness and failure to honor a commitment and a promise. How is that related to the fundamental design of human sexuality?

  32. G. Rodrigues says:

    @d:

    You have a habit of flippantly categorizing them all as non-answers/non-arguments and then proceed to ask where all the arguments are.

    I do? Maybe you are right. So let us go through your post #23, shall we?

    Arguments for same-sex marriage do not necessarily rise or fall on the existence of an eternally unchanging essence of marriage. For how are you to say that same-sex partnerships do not also embody that essence? Bible quotes? Its actually quite plausible that natural law actually justifies homosexuality and SSM (insofar as the theory could be said to justify anything, I suppose)

    You start by saying

    (A) Arguments for SSM do not depend on the essence of marriage, on what marriage is as a matter of objective fact.

    So what marriage is is irrelevant to the issue. Arguments? None. But how can what marriage is be irrelevant to the issue? The real point of these assertions of course, is to back up the real claim that you want to make, that there is no objective matter of fact to what marriage is, because then you are allowed to define and redefine it anyway you want. Then you go on to say

    (B) How do we know that SSM partnerships embody such essence?

    First, (B) does not follow from (A), as you insinuate by introducing with “For how are you to say”. You are introducing an epistemological difficulty (arguments? None. Of course, since it is an “eternally unchanging essence” it is “obvious” we will have vast difficulties in knowing it, right?) which is quite besides the point whether knowing what marriage is is indeed relevant to the matter, which plainly it must be, if there is indeed an objective matter of fact as to what marriage is. Second, the way you frame your questions is loaded from the get-go. First, you speak of “existence of an eternally unchanging essence” which is *your* rhetorically charged language for some “ineffable unknowable” (my expression this time), then you follow with the obvious question, of how can we even know such an “ineffable unknowable”, and worse yet, how can we possibly know that SSM partnerships do not as a matter of fact embody such an “ineffable unknowable”. Third, the predictable happens. Since it is an “eternally unchanging essence”, it can only be supported by Bible quotes. Even better, it is quite plausible that natural law indeed justifies SSM partnerships, but just so you do not get your feet wet, you parenthetically add insofar as “the theory” (your rhetoric is so boringly predictable) can justify anything whatsoever, because after all, it is only a “theory” and how can we ever know an “eternally unchanging essence”, right?

    I have only sifted through your first paragraph. There is not a trace of an argument there, just a heap of unargued claims and rhetorically loaded questions. Maybe, I do have the bad habit you mention, d, but you sure go to great lengths to prove me right, again and again. Now, I will end by repeating the end of my previous post, but why should I or anyone else make an effort to give you an answer? We have already covered some of this ground, *nothing* has sunk in, you are completely ignorant of “the theory” and assume a petulant, dismissive attitude, so why should I or anyone else humor you? Why should I or anyone else humor you when your argument hinges on establishing that there really is no matter of objective fact to what marriage is, but that if that is indeed so, then SSM partnerships can qualify as marriages as well as a man and his dog or a woman and the Eiffel tower?

  33. G. Rodrigues says:

    @d (continued):

    First, a clarification. Marriage is not a substance to have an essence; rather human beings have. And it is on the essential nature of human beings qua human beings that the question of what marriage is as an institution with its inseparable cultural and social aspects, of necessity prior to the state and state laws, can be answered, e.g. what functions or purposes it has, what goods it fosters. What grounds the answer, whatever answer there is, is the essential human nature. And all these are *objective* matters of fact. You can be excused for your sloppy language, because not only you are ignorant of “the theory”, but I may have not been careful enough to stress that we can only speak of the quiddity of marriage in an analogous sense.

    Now, let us look at your argument in post #23 shall we?

    Also, even if some thing has an unchanging essence, it doesn’t mean that our legal intuitions must (or even should) reflect that essence. Divorce and divorcee marriage are such examples, if we’re working from the Orthodox view of marriage. Divorces are not recognized. Divorcee marriage is a contradiction in terms.

    Yet how many would vote for a constitutional amendment to ban all divorce, and eliminate recognition for marriages between divorcee couples? Most would consider it wrong for government to *actually* reflect the genuine orthodox view of the essence of marriage in its laws, and would oppose any measures vehemently.

    The argument seems to be the following:

    1. Under the “Orthodox view of marriage”, marriages are indissoluble and divorce is forbidden.

    2. But divorces not only happen, they are recognized by the law and the divorcees can marry again.

    3. There is no will in society to ban divorcees from marrying again.

    4. Therefore either marriage has no “eternally unchanging essence” or even if it has, our laws do not have to recognize it.

    Your slip of the tongue is telling. You go from “the theory” e.g. natural law theory, to “Orthodox view of marriage”, by which presumably you mean the view of marriage as a piece of the authoritative, revealed Christian teaching. The two are not to be confounded. Not only that, but anyone with the minimum of acquaintance with both natural law theory and revealed Christian teaching can see the error you are committing. Why? Let us start with the “Orthodox view of marriage”. In one passage of the gospels (*), Jesus chides the pharisees precisely on the question of divorce: that because of the hardness of their hearts, Moses had conceded them a certificate of divorce, but that this was not to be the case from the start. So what we have here? An explicit concession by Jesus that under the Law, an opening was made for divorce on account of human frailty. There was never any such opening for homossexuality. Why? Because divorce and homossexuality are not on par, they are not on the same metaphysical plane. And that is why your argument is a non-argument, based on ignorance, both of the actual natural law theory arguments and Christian teaching, and a good deal of confusion. Protest as indignantly as you want about my habit of pointing out the obvious, but cogent arguments from you?

    And just to stress the point made in the previous post, if there is no objective matter of fact as to what marriage is, then neither you nor anyone else has the authority to define it. You cannot invoke anything to say that marriage is this or that, because marriage is an airy nothing that cannot be located. In particular, you can save us the tosh about commitment, about consent (if I can eat a cow without its consent, why should I need its consent to marry it?) or whatever bromides you wish to foist on us.

    (*) Too lazy to track it down; maybe if Victoria is reading this, with her mad skillz in Bible quoting, can help me.

  34. Tom Gilson says:

    d, you say

    Tom’s point crucially depends on an implicit premise, which just seems to be taken for granted.

    a) The legal institution of marriage should mirror the essence of marriage

    Your counter-argument of divorce holds no water, as has already been shown to you. I could also add more simply that the fact that there is divorce does not change the legal definition of marriage. To allow marriage without regard for gender certainly would change it.

    That leads me to where I can address the question, “should the legal definition of marriage mirror the essence of marriage?” I use “essence” in a different sense than G. Rodrigues: “that which marriage essentially is.” I think that can be predicated of something that is not a substance. There is something that, say, running essentially is, even though running is not a substance.

    So should the legal definition of marriage mirror the essence of marriage? To do anything else would be foolish. If there is an actual fact as to what marriage is, then to call another practice by the same name as if it were the same thing, though it differs essentially would be factually wrong.

    Who wants our laws to be based on error?

    And who wants to experience the results of that error? If genderless marriage legally replaced man-woman marriage, then the fundamental binding institution in society, which has been sickened to the core by our no-fault divorce culture and our so-called sexual freedom, would finally be pronounced legally dead.

    Am I overstating it? Sure. Credit me with an overdone rhetorical flourish there. Marriage would not be dead if that happened. But it would be further enfeebled by the toxic addition of “genderlessness”—and that’s bad.

    The effect of weakened marriage on our culture’s children has been tragic enough already. Too many are being raised without fathers. Too many are being raised in poverty, which can be traced in many cases to single parenthood, especially where the economy is generally weak. Too many are being left alone too many hours of the day. Too many lack the security of knowing how much they are loved by both of those who brought them into the world.

    We must strengthen marriage, not take it down still further by changing its legal definition to include something that has nothing to do with what marriage actually is.

  35. JAD says:

    Victoria @ #30 wrote:

    I don’t hold this position on same-sex marriage out of hate for those who have to live with that situation – I have friends, family and coworkers who are in the LG&T communities (don’t know any B’s, know a lot of T’s) = they know I have the view that I do, but they also know that I am there for them and would never turn my back on them.

    Does Victoria fit the stereotype that promoters of SSM have of it’s critics?

    True or False: The majority of people who oppose same sex marriage are intolerant bigots?

  36. d says:

    JAD,

    I’m sure there were plenty of people in the 50’s who treated black people well, were nice to them, were maybe even friends with some, but still thought they should sit in the back of the bus, and stay away from their daughters. But no matter how nice they were, their views were still prejudiced.

    It’s hard to see all these ominous, but entirely speculative, theoretical fictions that are trotted out again and again to warn us of all the dangers of SSM and what devastating effects it will have on marriage and society in any other light, but prejudice (see the article Tom referenced at the start of this series).

    Such the off-the-cuff, pretend anthropological/sociological fictions are almost always a sure sign of prejudice at work — especially when there’s actual empirical data that can be referenced (see sociological studies of countries where SSM has been legalized).

    They are the same type of rationalization one might have seen from segregationists, anti-suffrage and the like. I mean, its not *really* prejudiced to disallow women to vote – its just logical and based on a rational and honest assessment of the nature of the weaker sex. Right? Rarely do people with prejudiced beliefs feel they are prejudiced. They always have “good” reasons for their positions, but rarely reference any data.

  37. G. Rodrigues says:

    @d:

    It’s hard to see all these ominous, but entirely speculative, theoretical fictions that are trotted out again and again to warn us of all the dangers of SSM and what devastating effects it will have on marriage and society in any other light, but prejudice (see the article Tom referenced at the start of this series).

    Such the off-the-cuff, pretend anthropological/sociological fictions are almost always a sure sign of prejudice at work — especially when there’s actual empirical data that can be referenced (see sociological studies of countries where SSM has been legalized).

    When out of arguments, do the following:

    1. Refer to the other people’s position as “ominous, but entirely speculative, theoretical fictions” mangling the actual arguments along the way.

    2. Point out how strongly the empirical evidence supports our position.

    Rinse and repeat.

    As far as 1., I do not know about the article Tom referenced not having read it, but natural law theory arguments are *not* of the slippery slope type, although a posteriori, they can be used to substantiate such type of arguments of a prudential nature. And as a self-avowed consequentialist you are in no position to complain about slippery slope arguments. You also would have to explain what you mean exactly by “entirely speculative, theoretical fictions” to evaluate your judgment. That you do not, is I suspect, because you never offer arguments anyway (oh go ahead and make my day by pointing out my bad habits), and that if you were to actually substantiate them you would end up in self-contradiction. Not that you have actually substantiated *your* own underlying metaphysical assumptions on human nature that animate your moralistic fervor in denunciating SSM opponents — because it is all so “obvious” right? Wrong. Your position, as far as you made it intelligible, is, to quote Prof. Edward Feser:

    Their position rests ultimately either on an appeal to something like Rawlsian “considered intuitions about justice” – academese for “groundless and parochial liberal prejudices my friends and I all have in common” – or on a neo-Hobbesian contractarianism, which is not really a moral position at all, but a non-aggression pact between the members of whichever group of “rationally self-interested individuals” can collectively convince the mob (or at least the judicial bureaucracy) to implement policies favorable to their interests.

    That something like this *must* be true, is simply because you reject the essentialist picture of human nature and thus, in the particular case of marriage, there is no objective matter of fact as to what it is or what its purposes are, what goods it is supposed to foster, etc, so it can only be a matter of convention, which ultimately devolves into a power-struggle. Either way, you are simply an ignoramus, you cannot distinguish a cogent natural law theory argument from the empty verbiage you inflict on us, and your unargued, groundless opinions about “ominous, but entirely speculative, theoretical fictions” can be safely consigned to the flames as so much sophistry and illusion (to borrow from a famous opponent of Christianity). As far as 2., besides being a sure sign of philosophical illiteracy, what exactly does the empirical data support? What could, in principle, such putative empirical data support? And are you aware of *all* the empirical data available, or just of a tiny sample that happens to confirm your biases?

    Rarely do people with prejudiced beliefs feel they are prejudiced. They always have “good” reasons for their positions, but rarely reference any data.

    And the cherry on top of the cake: psychologize your opponents as ultimately irrational people who can only offer post-hoc rationalizations for their thinly veiled bigotry. Another great example of one of your “arguments”.

    The irony is so lovely that it alone is a motive for a healthy chuckle. That you are so lost to it is just… sad. I cannot think of another word, really: sad.

  38. Tom Gilson says:

    Beyond that, I also get tired of people who reject valid slippery slope arguments just because some slippery slope arguments are invalid.

    If no slippery slope argument were ever valid, then no extrapolative prediction could ever be valid, for that’s all a slippery slope argument is, along with the further condition that the predicted outcome is not one most parties would welcome.

    The SSM slippery slope argument simply says:

    a) Marriage has been under increasing attack over the past many decades.
    b) Morality has been likewise.
    c) The principles by which SSM is supported are the kinds of principles that can, and predictably will, be used to justify further of the same.
    d) “Further of the same” includes outrages currently considered unthinkable; but then, ten years ago SSM was unthinkable, so let’s take that as a lesson in how quickly the unthinkable can become a virtual requirement for people who would like to be considered socially progressive.

    That, my skeptical friends, is a valid extrapolative prediction.

  39. JAD says:

    d,

    I asked @ 35:

    True or False: The majority of people who oppose same sex marriage are intolerant bigots?

    You answered:

    I’m sure there were plenty of people in the 50′s who treated black people well, were nice to them, were maybe even friends with some, but still thought they should sit in the back of the bus, and stay away from their daughters. But no matter how nice they were, their views were still prejudiced.

    You really didn’t answer my question. Were those people intolerant bigots?

    Let me rephrase the question I asked earlier and ask it again. In you opinion, are the majority of people who oppose same sex marriage intolerant bigots?

    And earlier @ #5, I asked:

    [W]hen President Obama didn’t believe in SSM was he an intolerant bigot?

  40. Fleegman says:

    Hi Tom,

    Just want to mention something about your slippery slope argument.

    a) [From my religious perspective] Marriage has been under increasing attack over the past many decades.
    b) [From my religious perspective] Morality has been likewise.
    c) The principles by which SSM is supported are the kinds of principles that can, and predictably will, be used to justify further of the same.
    d) “Further of the same” includes outrages currently considered unthinkable; but then, ten years ago SSM was unthinkable [because religion has done such a good job at demonising the gay community] , so let’s take that as a lesson in how quickly the unthinkable can become a virtual requirement for people who would like to be considered socially progressive.

    That, my skeptical friends, is a valid extrapolative prediction.

    I added the bits I think you left out, there. It’s only really a negative extrapolative prediction from a religious perspective. I thought you were supposed to be making arguments from a secular viewpoint?

    You also said this:

    The effect of weakened marriage on our culture’s children has been tragic enough already. Too many are being raised without fathers. Too many are being raised in poverty, which can be traced in many cases to single parenthood, especially where the economy is generally weak. Too many are being left alone too many hours of the day. Too many lack the security of knowing how much they are loved by both of those who brought them into the world.

    I couldn’t agree more, except it seems that last sentence was thrown in so it would have at least some relevance to SSM. Nothing else of what you said there, however, has anything to do with SSM, so I’m not sure why you mention it.

  41. Tom Gilson says:

    Fleegman, your bolded additions are (a) from your own perspective, in the first two cases, and (b) false, in the last one, and (c) irrelevant in all three. Thanks for sharing, but no thanks for throwing in something that adds nothing.

    If you think it’s only a negative extrapolation from a religious perspective that makes brother-sister (incestual) “marriage,” or polygamy, or father-daughter “marriage” unthinkable, then I suggest you have no place in a discussion on public policy.

    On my other quote, I can’t imagine how you missed that it all has to do with man-woman marriage versus SSM. Try again, please.

  42. Fleegman says:

    @Tom

    If you think it’s only a negative extrapolation from a religious perspective that makes brother-sister (incestual) “marriage,” or polygamy, or father-daughter “marriage” unthinkable, then I suggest you have no place in a discussion on public policy.

    Incest and father daughter marriages? Unlike in the case of SSM, there are actually good secular reasons to oppose those unions. Why do you think inbreeding gets such a bad rap?

    Polygamy? Where in the Bible does it rule out polygamy? Serious question. In fact, where specifically does it define marriage as one man, one woman? Again, serious question.

    On my other quote, I can’t imagine how you missed that it all has to do with man-woman marriage versus SSM. Try again, please.

    Where? You talk about broken homes (you equivocate on fatherless, here), poverty etc, these are not specific to SSM. It’s really as simple as that.

  43. d says:

    Finally some time to get to some of these posts…

    G. Rodrigues,

    (A) Arguments for SSM do not depend on the essence of marriage, on what marriage is as a matter of objective fact.

    So what marriage is is irrelevant to the issue. Arguments? None. But how can what marriage is be irrelevant to the issue? The real point of these assertions of course, is to back up the real claim that you want to make, that there is no objective matter of fact to what marriage is, because then you are allowed to define and redefine it anyway you want. Then you go on to say

    (B) How do we know that SSM partnerships embody such essence?

    First, (B) does not follow from (A), as you insinuate by introducing with “For how are you to say”. You are introducing an epistemological difficulty (arguments? None. Of course, since it is an “eternally unchanging essence” it is “obvious” we will have vast difficulties in knowing it, right?) which is quite besides the point whether knowing what marriage is is indeed relevant to the matter, which plainly it must be, if there is indeed an objective matter of fact as to what marriage is. …

    First, (A) is slightly misstated. It can be more generally put: The form of the /legal/ institution (LM) of marriage does not /necessarily/ depend on the facts of metaphysical marriage (MM).

    Second, I don’t think (B) follows from (A), it’s an /even if/ (though I may have written it confusingly on that go-round). So should be understood more like the following:

    (A) Legal marriage (LM) does not necessarily depend on the facts of (MM)

    But /even if it did/:

    (B) Maybe same-gender marriages also embody MM.

    In support of (A), I raised the divorcee marriage issue. Some don’t agree that it works, but I think they miss the point. In fact, I think the passages they cite may /prove my point/. Jesus notes that a concession /under the law/ was permitted to divorce. So rather than disproving (A), doesn’t this actually /confirm/ it?

    I actually found an interesting article from a Catholic who has an interesting take along these lines:

    http://sicetnonderful.blogspot.com/2011/09/aquinas-natural-law-and-homosexual.html

    It is permissible and even in a limited sense just for permission to be granted for certain actions considered immoral by natural law, insofar as those governed no longer have access to those relevant precepts of natural law. Legislation allowing homosexual civil marriage then becomes an issue of prudence with respect to the people governed, and the democratic or representative process of government is one structure that attempts to prudently determine the fittingness of prohibiting or permitting homosexual marriage. Some states have rejected homosexual marriages, while others have accepted it, assumedly on the basis of the constitution and understandings of their respective citizens. In this, the government is acting correctly, and even in accordance with the tradition of politics as treated by Aquinas and Augustine.

    This does not mean that Catholics need mindlessly or joyously accept the legalization of homosexual marriage. Insofar as it is permissible or right for a government to legalize homosexual marriage, the secondary precepts of the natural law must have been excised from the consciences of the nation. It is thus meet to grieve, not the legislation, but the widespread loss of these moral precepts. Even if a Catholic is perfectly right to vote against such, the passage of these acts of legislation need not be viewed as a monumental point of no return; nor, even, must we believe that the legislation is itself evil, because it is merely the act of a government attempting to maintain earthly peace. To assume it to be anything more is actually to make the government the guardian or magisterium of eternal truth, which I believe is a dangerous move.

    While not exactly a ringing endorsement for same-sex LM, its not really an outright rejection of it either.

    As for (B)… well, if you’re going to argue that we shouldn’t allow same-gender LM due to facts about MM, its only fair to question how we determine what the facts of MM actually are. On what grounds do you dismiss the idea that MM is not inclusive of SSM? Are those reasons of the sort that are prudent to include in our earthly governance?

  44. Tom Gilson says:

    d, you say,

    First, (A) is slightly misstated. It can be more generally put: The form of the /legal/ institution (LM) of marriage does not /necessarily/ depend on the facts of metaphysical marriage (MM).

    You’re right. If the law wants to say that “marriage” is something other than what marriage is, then the law can do that. But this debate isn’t about what the law can do to language. It’s about what the law should do to marriage.

    But /even if it did/:

    (B) Maybe same-gender marriages also embody MM.

    Ummm… maybe? How about making an argument for that? There’s a strong argument being made that marriage is essentially a man-woman thing with a view to the families their union will produce. I can’t think of anyone who has made a metaphysically-based argument in favor of SSM. You ask,

    On what grounds do you dismiss the idea that MM is not inclusive of SSM? Are those reasons of the sort that are prudent to include in our earthly governance?

    First, I have an understanding of MM that excludes SSM. Second, I dismiss it on the grounds that as far as I know, there is no reason to believe MM includes SSM. I’ve never seen anyone support SSM from the basis of a metaphysical understanding of what marriage essentially is.

    So my take on (B) is, wow, you’re trying really hard to get us to accept a point that no one has ever tried very hard to support; or, you’re trying to get us to take on the burden of disproving something that (as far as I know) no one actually believes.

  45. G. Rodrigues says:

    @d:

    There is not much to say in response because you do not add much of substance to your previous posts, so I will content myself in saying this:

    1. I do not respond to “I think”‘s. That you “think” I do not doubt (note: I suppose you *could* be a cunningly programmed Eliza bot. If you are, I suppose you have passed Turing’s test). That you “think” that anything that anyone says can be turned and twisted to prop up your position, I also do not doubt. But only when and if you present a cogent rebuttal, will I deal with it.

    2. To follow your lead, I “think” the quote you produced just proves *my* point: “Insofar as it is permissible or right for a government to legalize homosexual marriage, the secondary precepts of the natural law must have been excised from the consciences of the nation. It is thus meet to grieve, not the legislation, but the widespread loss of these moral precepts.” The “widespread loss of these moral precepts” is not something you would agree with, is it?

    The *only* thing you can squeeze out of that quote, independently of whether the very statements in the quote are right or not, is that it is a matter of prudential judgment. I never said otherwise. Sure, the question is also a matter of prudential judgment. But since the main thrust of my argument has never been from that angle, I will leave it to Tom Gilson, who indeed has been arguing it.

    3. Tom Gilson has already dealt with the patent absurdity of your question, but your real objection seems to amount to the (old, very old) even if essences do exist, how can we possibly know them? Ergo, if they are unknowable, they are irrelevant. To quote the Catholic encyclopedia:

    The proponents and defenders of such a position are by no means always consistent. While they make statements of their case, based for the most part on purely subjective views of the nature of reality, that the essences of beings are nonentities, or at least unknowable, and, as a consequence, that the whole science of metaphysics is no more than a jargon of meaningless terms and exploded theories, they, on the other hand, express opinions and make implicit admissions that tell strongly against their own thesis. Indeed, it would generally seem that these philosophers, to some extent at least, misunderstand the position which they attack, that they combat a sort of intuitive knowledge of essences, erroneously supposed by them to be claimed by Scholastics, and do not at all grasp the theory of the natures of things as derived from a painstaking consideration of their characteristic properties.

    You *really* want to know the answer? Read a book on metaphysical essentialism or on the metaphysical foundations of natural law theory. As I have said already numerous times, I do not feel obligated or inclined to answer any and all of your challenges, no matter how loony or whacky, when you hardly if ever respond to ours.

  46. d says:

    Tom,

    First, I have an understanding of MM that excludes SSM. Second, I dismiss it on the grounds that as far as I know, there is no reason to believe MM includes SSM. I’ve never seen anyone support SSM from the basis of a metaphysical understanding of what marriage essentially is.

    So my take on (B) is, wow, you’re trying really hard to get us to accept a point that no one has ever tried very hard to support; or, you’re trying to get us to take on the burden of disproving something that (as far as I know) no one actually believes.

    Have you ever read Andrew Sullivan? He’s gay, and a Roman Catholic, and has strived to find synthesis between natural law, Catholocism and homosexuality.

    Here is an excerpt from an essay of his:

    But the analogy to alcoholism points to a deeper problem. Alcoholism does not ultimately work as an analogy because it does not reach to the core of the human condition in the way that homosexuality, following the logic of the Church’s arguments, does. If alcoholism is overcome by a renunciation of alcoholic acts, then recovery allows the human being to realize his or her full potential, a part of which, according to the Church, is the supreme act of self-giving in a life of matrimonial love. But if homosexuality is overcome by a renunciation of homosexual emotional and sexual union, the opposite is achieved: The human being is liberated into sacrifice and pain, barred from the matrimonial love that the Church holds to be intrinsic, for most people, to the state of human flourishing. Homosexuality is a structural condition that restricts the human being, even if homosexual acts are renounced, to a less than fully realized life. In other words, the gay or lesbian person is deemed disordered at a far deeper level than the alcoholic: at the level of the human capacity to love and be loved by another human being, in a union based on fidelity and self-giving. Their renunciation of such love also is not guided toward some ulterior or greater goal – as the celibacy of the religious orders is designed to intensify their devotion to God. Rather, the loveless homosexual destiny is precisely toward nothing, a negation of human fulfillment, which is why the Church understands that such persons, even in the act of obedient self-renunciation, are called “to enact the will of God in their life by joining whatever sufferings and difficulties they experience in virtue of their condition to the sacrifice of the Lord’s cross.”

    ….

    But all these arguments are arguments for the centrality of heterosexual sexual acts in nature, not their exclusiveness. It is surely possible to concur with these sentiments, even to laud their beauty and truth, while also conceding that it is nevertheless also true that nature seems to have provided a spontaneous and mysterious contrast that could conceivably be understood to complement — even dramatize — the central male-female order. In many species and almost all human cultures, there are some who seem to find their destiny in a similar but different sexual and emotional union. They do this not by subverting their own nature, or indeed human nature, but by fulfilling it in a way that doesn’t deny heterosexual primacy, but rather honors it by its rare and distinct otherness. As albinos remind us of the brilliance of color; as redheads offer a startling contrast to the blandness of their peers; as genius teaches us, by contrast, the virtue of moderation; as the disabled person reveals to us in negative form the beauty of the fully functioning human body; so the homosexual person might be seen as a natural foil to the heterosexual norm, a variation that does not eclipse the theme, but resonates with it. Extinguishing — or prohibiting — homosexuality is, from this point of view, not a virtuous necessity, but the real crime against nature, a refusal to accept the pied beauty of God’s creation, a denial of the way in which the other need not threaten, but may actually give depth and contrast to the self.

    This is the alternative argument embedded in the Church’s recent grappling with natural law, that is just as consonant with the spirit of natural law as the Church’s current position. It is more consonant with what actually occurs in nature; seeks an end to every form of natural life; and upholds the dignity of each human person. It is so obvious an alternative to the Church’s current stance that it is hard to imagine the forces of avoidance that have kept it so firmly at bay for so long.

    It can be found in full, here – its a good read: http://igfculturewatch.com/1994/11/28/alone-again-naturally/

  1. May 15, 2012

    […] a Christian arguing for a definition of marriage “one man and one woman” in terms of natural law or the essence of marriage. He also […]