More On Why Same-Sex “Marriage” Seems To Make Sense To So Many

Back in October I explained why I think it is that same-sex “marriage” (SSM) makes so much sense to so many people. It’s because so many—not just SSM advocates—have bought into a distorted definition of marriage that goes something like this:

Marriage is the legally-recognized faithful, uniquely committed, loving, social, economic, and sexual union of two non-blood-related consenting adults of opposite sex….Marriage carries with it certain legal, economic, and social benefits, not least of which is the social approval accorded to the partners’ sexual relationship.

Does that sound about right to you? I’ve done informal surveys among Christians, and I’ve found that even many SSM opponents see marriage that way. They had better look out. It’s a view that’s centered entirely in the couple: their feelings, their benefits, their satisfaction. It’s all about the romantically loving pair.

Given that view of marriage, I can’t find much to criticize about SSM advocacy, because if two men think they’re experiencing romantic love, it’s hard to think of any principled reason why they shouldn’t be “married,” based on that above-stated view of marriage. If that were the way I viewed marriage, I would even find it hard to criticize something as extreme as Ed Coffin’s Huffington Post suggestion that we abandon marriage altogether.

This dilemma applies not only to gay people but to all people. Why do two people need to align themselves with a traditionally religious but now civil commitment in order to be taken seriously? Can we not be committed and moral without the label of “marriage”?

I have no earthly idea what he means by “moral” in that context, but I’ll set that aside for now. What I want you to notice in that article is how exclusively he keeps his focus centered upon the couple:

It’s perfectly reasonable for two people to want to commit themselves to each other, one can only wonder why two people would make such a decision….

Why is it that we need to make an official and permanent public commitment (unless, of course, we later decide to divorce, which many married couples ultimate [sic] do)? …

Is it possible that we are enforcing an ideology that assumes that two people must be “married” in order for their commitment to be official? …

I’m 100-percent supportive of the idea that marriage should afford same-sex couples the same rights in the eyes of the government that it affords opposite-sex couples, but I think we –not just gay people but straight people, as well — need to rethink the entire idea of “marriage.” What’s the point? Are two people who make a lifelong commitment to each other without making it “official” by calling it “marriage” any less committed than anyone else? I think divorce statistics might suggest otherwise. Why do we keep enforcing this idea that we must be “married” in order for our commitment to each other to be taken seriously?

Not very many years ago, everybody would have regarded this not just as weird, immoral, or strange, but literally impossible. That’s because not long ago marriage meant the founding of a family. Marriage was about two people loving each other enough to commit to that lifelong relational project together, with children in mind from the beginning. Marriage was never only about the couple. It was about the couple and the life that would naturally flow out of their love. Marriage was never self-contained, it was generative. It was future-oriented.

Today, however, “it’s all about the two of us” has become not only a frequent view but a dominant one. And to the extent marriage is only about the couple, to a proportional extent same-sex “marriage” actually makes sense. Why should loving, committed relationships be limited to opposite-sex pairs?

What I’m saying is that the pressure against marriage we’re seeing today is nothing new. It started decades ago, with heterosexual couples taking the self-oriented position that it’s about “our feelings,” “our commitment,” “our need to be together,” rather than “our commitment to unite together in all ways and to raise a family.”

Let’s take this another step deeper. The only reason anyone would mount an attack on marriage is because they see marriage as an enemy in some way. Homosexual advocates are clamoring to revise marriage because (as Coffin’s article so clearly demonstrates) they hate it.

Or maybe not.

Maybe what they hate is the late-20th century counterfeit they grew up with. Marriage for the couple’s satisfaction. Temporary marriage. Marriage to be discarded when the couple’s self-fulfillment was placed at risk. Marriage in which the children were discardable by at least one of the parents, too. Marriage as it was never intended to be.

I grew up with parents who loved each other until the day my mom died; my dad still loves her in her absence. I know I’m in the minority. The kind of marriage I’m defending might just be one that SSM supporters can’t even imagine.

I know I’m painting with a broad brush, and that this does not count as a rule for who supports or opposes SSM. We all make our decisions based on multiple factors. Still I think that if heterosexual marriage hadn’t lost its family-centered purpose and then fallen apart over the past fifty years, same-sex “marriage” would be as literally unthinkable as it was in 1950.

 

Comments 83
  1. Saskia

    Hi Tom,

    I know you are maybe sick of this question, but I’d like to hear your opinion on it anyway: what about a man or woman who knows they are infertile. Should they be allowed to get married? By this logic they are in the same position as gay people.

    Saskia

  2. Bryan

    “Not very many years ago, everybody would have regarded this not just as weird, immoral, or strange, but literally impossible. That’s because not long ago marriage meant the founding of a family. Marriage was about two people loving each other enough to commit to that lifelong relational project together, with children in mind from the beginning. Marriage was never only about the couple. It was about the couple and the life that would naturally flow out of their love. Marriage was never self-contained, it was generative. It was future-oriented.”

    What evidence you do you have that “everybody” actually held to such a nuanced definition of marriage, other than the mere historical fact that straight people often married and most of the time had children (which to me sounds like a tautology). And is not a family started with same sex couples adopt children? What if they have adoption in view from the beginning?

  3. TFBW

    I have no earthly idea what he means by “moral” in that context…

    I’ll hazard a guess that he’s using it as a rough synonym for “socially acceptable”. In the absence of an objective morality, intersubjectivity seems to be the only viable model of morality in which it can be some sort of collective concern.

  4. TFBW

    Bryan said:

    What evidence you do you have that “everybody” actually held to such a nuanced definition of marriage…

    I figured that “history of marriage” would be an appropriate search term to find evidence on the matter. That lead me to a BBC article, which had some interesting points. See points eight and onward in particular. Here are some choice excerpts.

    Roaming bards sang of love during medieval times and Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet acted it out on stage, but it wasn’t until the Victorian era that it became accepted as a foundation for marriage.

    Catholic and Anglican doctrine have historically elevated procreation as one of the primary reasons for marriage. But in the late 19th Century, a “silent revolution” began taking place, Dormor says. With more children surviving and family sizes ballooning, couples started using rudimentary methods of birth control to limit pregnancies. “It begins the process of decoupling procreation from marriage, at some level,” Dormor says.

    Surely you could have done this meagre piece of research yourself? If you doubt someone’s remarks, verify them. You have the whole Internet at your disposal. Your comments bely a desire for Tom’s remarks to be false, rather than a scepticism that they might not be true.

  5. Brap Gronk

    “Still I think that if heterosexual marriage hadn’t lost its family-centered purpose and then fallen apart over the past fifty years, same-sex “marriage” would be as literally unthinkable as it was in 1950.”

    If that were the case, do you think homosexual couples would desire to adopt children and give their relationship a family-centered purpose?

  6. Tom Gilson

    Saskia, that’s a good question.

    How do couples find out they’re infertile? Except in cases of gross deformity or advanced age, they found out by trying to have a baby.

    I don’t think it would be at all fitting for the government to ask couples to show they are fertile before they marry. Do you?

  7. Tom Gilson

    Bryan, you ask a really silly question:

    What evidence you do you have that “everybody” actually held to such a nuanced definition of marriage, other than the mere historical fact that straight people often married and most of the time had children (which to me sounds like a tautology).

    The “nuanced position” of which you speak was that “marriage meant the founding of a family.” My evidence that everybody thought that way is in the fact that that was what marriage entailed, except in rare cases where the couple turned out to be infertile.

    I know the meaning of tautology and I don’t see how it applies here. Would you care to explain?

    And is not a family started with same sex couples adopt children? What if they have adoption in view from the beginning?

    If this were a debate about same-sex couples marrying expressly with a view to founding a family, and if it were no other debate besides that, then my argument here would not apply.

    Would you characterize this debate that way? Would you characterize it as even somewhat close to being that way?

  8. Brap Gronk

    Tom, let’s assume marriage hadn’t lost its family-centered purpose and then fallen apart over the past fifty years. If that were the case today, do you think some homosexual couples would desire to adopt children and give their homosexual relationship a family-centered purpose (as opposed to a relationship that’s all about the couple)?

  9. Tom Gilson

    Brap Gronk, if the culture of marriage were strong, then there would be very few homosexual couples in that situation. I really think there are very few in that situation anyway. So yes, I think that the scenario you’ve proposed is likely to be true, as a what-if.

    What’s your point?

  10. Pingback: More On Why Same-Sex “Marriage” Seems To Make Sense To So … | Love Advice

  11. Phil Torres

    “Not very many years ago, everybody would have regarded this not just as weird, immoral, or strange, but literally impossible. That’s because not long ago marriage meant the founding of a family. Marriage was about two people loving each other enough to commit to that lifelong relational project together, with children in mind from the beginning. Marriage was never only about the couple. It was about the couple and the life that would naturally flow out of their love. Marriage was never self-contained, it was generative. It was future-oriented.”

    It is simply impossible to make such generalizations. Marriage has been *so many* things throughout history. It has involved the father giving away a piece of property — his daughter — to another man. There have been forced marriages, arranged marriages, marriages without ceremonies, and so on. A short summary can be found here: http://en.wikisource.org/wiki/Catholic_Encyclopedia_(1913)/History_of_Marriage.

    Your comments above are simply unfounded; and in our modern age — with an overpopulated world; with contraception; where women are no longer seen as property; where people have the freedom and liberty to love whomever they choose — marriage is indeed about the couple. Opposing SSM is hurtful to a whopping 3.8% of the population (many of whom wouldn’t even get married!). Again, there are bigger fish to fry, like helping the 38.5% of the American population — including many Christians — who are obese. The Bible is quite clear that people given to gluttony should put a knife to their throats. It says nothing remotely similar about homosexuality — and indeed it says *nothing* about gay marriage per se.

  12. Phil Torres

    “If that were the way I viewed marriage, I would even find it hard to criticize something as extreme as Ed Coffin’s Huffington Post suggestion that we abandon marriage altogether.”

    Come on! The Apostle Paul himself opposes marriage! He explicitly says that it is “better” not to marry than to marry. He *explicitly* states that. The only reason single people should enter into marriage is because they are “unable” to “control” their animal urges. If you took the New Testament seriously, you’d be arguing on this blog that Christians everywhere shouldn’t — following Paul’s explicit exhortations — get married. Why aren’t you doing this? Why haven’t I found any mention of this revelant bit of capital-‘t’ Truth on this website (http://www.biblestudytools.com/1-corinthians/passage.aspx?q=1%20Corinthians+7:1-16)?

    The New Testament’s message on marriage is this: Christians, abandon the institution unless you can’t control your sexual urges!

    Next to Paul’s epistle, Ed Coffin’s suggestion doesn’t sound so crazy.

  13. Phil Torres

    Here’s a challenge. Paul says:

    “Now to the unmarried and the widows I say: It is good for them to stay unmarried, as I am. But if they cannot control themselves, they should marry, for it is better to marry than to burn with passion.”

    – It’s better to marry than burn with passion, but it’s even better to stay unmarried. Why aren’t more Christians advocating being single?

    “To the married I give this command (not I, but the Lord): A wife must not separate from her husband. But if she does, she must remain unmarried or else be reconciled to her husband. And a husband must not divorce his wife.”

    – So, no divorce. If she does divorce, no re-marrying. This is very common phenomenon in the US; why isn’t it a target of Christian outrage? I mean, it’s everywhere, yet I hardly hear a single Christian talking about it.

    “Now about virgins: I have no command from the Lord, but I give a judgment as one who by the Lord’s mercy is trustworthy. Because of the present crisis, I think that it is good for you to remain as you are.”

    – Virgins should stay virgins. Why isn’t “Abstinence always” more of a church phenomenon than “Abstinence until marriage”? Clearly the former is better than the latter.

    “Are you unmarried? Do not look for a wife, [for] those who marry will face many troubles in this life, and I want to spare you this.”

    – Who on this website is married? Tom, did you look for a wife? If so, you went against Paul’s explicit exhortation. Why no blog posts about this?

    “What I mean, brothers, is that the time is short. From now on those who have wives should live as if they had none […] For this world in its present form is passing away.”

    – I have no wife. So, according to Paul, I should continue to live this way. Why aren’t more Christians talking about this?

    “An unmarried man is concerned about the Lord’s affairs—how he can please the Lord. But a married man is concerned about the affairs of this world—how he can please his wife—and his interests are divided. An unmarried woman or virgin is concerned about the Lord’s affairs: Her aim is to be devoted to the Lord in both body and spirit. But a married woman is concerned about the affairs of this world—how she can please her husband. I am saying this for your
    own good, not to restrict you, but that you may live in a right way in undivided devotion to the Lord.”

    – Tom, is your devotion to the Lord divided between family and God? What about other denizens of Thinking Christian? I’m not making this up; these are Paul’s exhortations.

    “So then, he who marries the virgin does right, but he who does not marry her does even better.”

    – Again, this looks like it should be a bigger issue than gay marriage. Yet Christians say nothing about men not marrying virgins and a whole lot about two men who’ve been together for 20 years signing a document with the government.

    “A woman is bound to her husband as long as he lives. But if her husband dies, she is free to marry anyone she wishes, but he must belong to the Lord. In my judgment, she is happier if she stays as she is—and I think that I too have the Spirit of God.”

    – No divorce, but women can possibly re-marry. It’s better not to re-marry, though. How many Christian women neglect this — don’t give it a second thought — and look for another husband after their former husband dies?

    Obviously, the Bible says a lot more about marriage than this. We can get to the other stuff later, if you’d like.

  14. Tom Gilson

    Phil, you’re angry and you’re practicing the old tactic of argumentum ad fragenblitzen (question after question after question …).

    These questions you’ve brought up have good answers, but I don’t believe you want to hear them. If you did you’d bring them forth in such a way that answers could be given. When you throw them at us all at once like a nebelwürfer, it’s not seeking knowledge, it’s purely an intimidation maneuver.

    I’m not, however, intimidated, because I know those questions of yours aren’t that hard to deal with. You misunderstand the Bible, that’s all, and it’s not all that hard to understand it properly in historical and literary context. You’ve got a lot of things wrong in spite of that.

    But I’m not going to try to do the impossible: to satisfy you with answers when all you want to do is throw questions like ordnance.

    I am truly saddened and grieved by your anger. I’ve already said this but I’ll repeat it once more: I care about men and women who feel limited and oppressed, but taking the long view, there will be a lot more pain and loss and grief in the world–and there will be much more restriction of freedoms, too–if the institution of marriage is not brought back to better health.

    You ignored that the first time I said it. That’s unfortunate and I’m sad about it, but I can’t control you in it. So be it.

  15. Brap Gronk

    Tom, I was questioning the “unthinkable” part of your last sentence (and by extension, the OP). You seem to be claiming the falling apart of marriage (and the resulting view of what marriage is now) as the main reason why so many people support SSM today. I agree that SSM was probably unthinkable in 1950, but I think that had more to do with society’s attitude as a whole toward homosexuality. Since that time, homosexuality has certainly become more open in the US, and it appears to be more accepted, or at least acknowledged. I see this push for SSM as a natural step in the evolution of society’s acknowledgement of the reality of homosexuality and the desire of homosexuals to live more or less like everyone else. (Notice I said the “push for SSM”, not SSM itself. I have no intention of jumping into that argument.)

    So my point is that the desire of some homosexual couples to have or adopt children and raise a family, coupled with society’s evolving acceptance or acknowledgement of homosexuality, would have led to support for SSM even if marriage had not fallen apart over the past 50 years. (I agree the number of couples seeking SSM might be smaller, but I understand it’s a small number now anyway.)

  16. Bryan

    @TFBW #4,

    Really? This is your evidence with which you are trying to tear me down? All that says, starting from the beginning of the article, is that marriage has been evolving for quite some time. So not only is the “conjugal” view of marriage archaic and obselete, it may not even be historically accurate or relevant.

    I wish people on this board weren’t to quick to interject with snide comments. You usually end up looking foolish.

  17. Phil Torres

    I would indeed be very happy to have answers to those questions. There are a lot of them only because Paul makes a lot of exhortations that few Christians today take seriously. (I’ve never heard any Christian, in fact, implore another person to take Paul’s words seriously. But there those words are, about as univocal as one could ask for.)

    Two quick points:

    First, I *love* it when Christians like you tell me that I don’t understand the Bible. I’ve been told by Christians throughout my life that, for example, I’m an ignorant fool for interpreting Genesis metaphorically. I’ve been told that I don’t understand the Bible when I questioned the practice of glossolalia. I’ve been told that I’m being silly for questioning whether hell is real. I’ve been told that I don’t understand the Bible when I question whether Jesus really was born of a virgin. As philosophers of religion have pointed out — including theistic ones — a hallmark of religious traditions is the vast diversity of mutually incompatible thought. (Compare this with science, where there’s immense agreement on the most fundamental of issues.) In other words: every time you tell me that I “misunderstand” the Bible, I could find you huge swaths of Christians just as passionate, sincere and epistemically confident as you that would say the exact same thing about *you* and your particular hermeneutic frameworks. (Indeed, more and more Christians today are holding that the Bible does not actually condemn homosexuality. According to these Christians, it is *you* who seriously and painfully misunderstands scripture.)

    And second, I’m only angry in the sense that if this were the 1960s, I would be quite upset that white people couldn’t marry black people. Again, there was a considerable push-back by *conservatives* in the US against the mixing of the races. Many found the thought appalling. Many cited the Bible in defense of “traditional” marriage (which was monochromatic, so to speak). Thus, if Tom and I were having this conversation in the 50s or 60s, Tom would no doubt be arguing that interracial marriage is a radical departure from what marriage in the US means, and that my highly progressive position is ultimately going to hurt the institution. That is the conversation we would very likely be having. But, as the saying goes, most conservative ideas were once progressive or liberal ideas. Thus, even religious conservatives today see blacks and whites marrying as morally acceptable. So it will be with gay marriage: someday Christians as a whole will look back on Tom’s discriminatory position and sigh: “Well, you know, that was just part of the times. People didn’t know any better back then.”

    Once again: yes, please tell me how Paul meant something other than what he quite clearly said in Corinthians. I would genuinely be interested in seeing how you wiggle around the obvious. (I should add that I have known a few Christians who *do* take Paul’s word seriously for themselves, and for that reason have not, as Paul suggested, looked for a wife — for fear that starting a family would take away devotion from God.)

    PS. This is another great — and highly sophisticated — article on marriage. I highly recommend that everyone read it. It shows how Tom’s account of what marriage has historically been is factually misguided. It also discusses how marriage is indeed a “contract” between individuals and governmental institutions. Please read.

  18. Tom Gilson

    There is no God, says Phil Torres, but there is the omniscient Phil himself, who knows how I would have regarded black-white marriages decades ago.

    Unfortunately there is absolutely no basis in fact for his supposition. It’s tendentious, insulting, and it does nothing to advance the argument. If Phil thinks there is strength in the argumentum ad futurum (“someday Christians as a whole will look back … and say…”), then his supposed year of philosophical study at Harvard is called further into doubt. Unless of course he is omniscient, in which case the argument has some basis in authority

    As for 1 Corinthians, Phil, I implore you to read what Genesis says about marriage, and Jesus, and Paul in Ephesians, and the entire Song of Solomon. I urge you to read literately and not fundamentalistically; for your approach to the Bible is in fact more fundamentalist than Bob Jones’s. I call on you to notice that Paul was speaking for himself and not for the Lord; and that he did not make it an absolute instruction. I beg of you to consider that the reasoning he gave was related to the instability of the current times, and the difficulty that could cause families. I ask you to please note how highly the family is regarded in Timothy and Titus.

    I ask you, in other words, not to try to force one passage and your out-of-context interpretations upon the rest of us.

    Beyond that impassioned plea for you to do your own homework, I am still far from convinced that if I gave you the answer you asked for, you would give a rat’s ear that I did it. I don’t trust you any farther than I can throw pixels at you. And that’s my honest assessment of how much value I place on this discussion.

  19. Tom Gilson

    And if you think Christians are not discussing the divorce question, Phil, it’s not our fault your ear is tuned only to one frequency. Try googling it. Try looking in any church library. Try asking a pastor.

    Try not to be so fundamentalistic in your search for knowledge about religion.

  20. SteveK

    Phil,

    So it will be with gay marriage: someday Christians as a whole will look back on Tom’s discriminatory position and sigh: “Well, you know, that was just part of the times. People didn’t know any better back then.”

    If it’s going to be similar to how the Roe decision affected society then I’d be proud to hold this perspective.

    Edit to add: I may have misread Phil’s comment. Not sure. I’ll let my comment stand for now…

  21. Robert Jones

    Tom,

    I’ve seen a few of your recent posts explaining why the push for same sex marriage has been so successful, but I don’t think your explanation is correct.

    The problem is that you’re focusing entirely on the definition of marriage, and I think that many supporters of same sex marriage are not thinking in those terms. For many people who support same sex marriage, this is simply a debate over whether gay and lesbian couples should be given the same benefits as straight couples. These people are not reasoning from the definition that you mentioned in your post. For many people, the definition which is most relevant to this debate simply says that marriage consists of the benefits that the government currently provides to heterosexual couples.

    The reason I believe the the movement has come so far is that opponents have not convincingly explained what’s wrong with allowing gays and lesbians to marry. I personally know many, many people who support same sex marriage, and if you asked them why they support it, I think a typical reply would be “Who cares if they get married? How does it affect me?” A lot of people simply don’t see anything wrong with same sex marriage, and so they have no reason to oppose it.

    So while it’s interesting to compare different definitions of marriage, I think that for many people, this is not the point of the debate. In order for opponents of same sex marriage to win, they would have to argue much more convincingly that same sex marriage is harmful to society.

  22. Phil Torres

    There is no God, but there is the omniscient Phil Torres, who knows how I would have regarded black-white marriages decades ago.

    What I as saying is that THIS was the issue that preoccupied religious conservatives of the day. Its a testament to how liberal our society has become that no one takes anti interracial marriage seriously anymore. Simple point, Tom.

    And if you think Christians are not discussing the divorce question, Phil, it’s not our fault your ear is tuned only to one frequency. Try googling it. Try looking in any church library. Try asking a pastor.

    Reread what I wrote. Divorce is not an election issue. Its not part of the culture wars. Its just not as big a deal to most Christians as gay marriage. Yet Paul says quite a lot about it, and nothing about gays getting married. Again, simple points.

  23. Phil Torres

    Again, I should re-iterate that it’s deeply amusing to me when people like Tom tell me that I’m not reading the Bible properly. Maybe Tom should pay more attention to the growing number of Christians who read scripture as being perfectly compatible with gay marriage. The fact is that the Bible is so ambiguous, so conducive to multiple and mutually incompatible interpretations, that one can read it to say just about anything. You might even find people like Tom who seem to reject the obvious interpretations: e.g., Paul says that getting married will distract from worshipping God — and, contra Tom, Paul even says in that passage that these aren’t his words but God’s. So please, don’ be so sure that you know how to read the Bible properly — in context, etc. There are just too many Christians out there who would completely disagree.

  24. Tom Gilson

    Just out of curiosity, what evidence do you have that miscegenation preoccupied religious conservatives then?

    Please provide information showing more than that some people had certain opinions. How many? How widespread was the agreement? How many disagreed?

  25. Tom Gilson

    I have paid considerable attention to people misreading the Bible in support of gay “marriage,” Phil.

    Besides that, what you’ve done here was nothing more than a deflecting maneuver. The question was about 1 Corinthians and your ham-handed attempt to force an interpretation out of all context. You just changed the subject. Is there some reason you didn’t want to continue discussing it?

    The reason Paul didn’t mention gay “marriage” is because no one had ever thought of it. He did, however, cover principles that make it easy to determine what he would have thought of it.

  26. Phil Torres

    “I have paid considerable attention to people misreading the Bible in support of gay “marriage”.”

    The point is that they’re just as sure as you are that you are misreading the Bible. Welcome to religion.

    “The reason Paul didn’t mention gay “marriage” is because no one had ever thought of it. He did, however, cover principles that make it easy to determine what he would have thought of it.”

    Generally, timeless books tend to contain ideas that are applicable to all times. The Bible isn’t much help if it doesn’t address the major moral questions of the day. Sure, Paul said some stuff from which people can extrapolate to the contemporary world. But, this is precisely where conjecture, guess-work, interpretive frameworks, theological inclinations, and so on, enter the picture. Again, more and more Christians – sincere, genuine and epistemically confident – are holding that the Bible *doesn’t* condemn homosexuality.

    There is lots of literature on how the cultural push against interracial marriage was led by Bible-thumping conservatives – it certainly wasn’t progressives leading the charge against equality! One still sees residues of this, in fact, among contemporary Christians. As Christianity Today discusses in an article entitled “Opposition to Interracial Marriage Lingers Among Evangelicals,” evangelical Christians still lead the way in maintaining that interracial marriage is bad for society!!! Unbelievable. (http://blog.christianitytoday.com/ctpolitics/2011/06/opposition_to_i.html) Notice, by the way, that the “unaffiliated” group is most likely to say that interracial marriage is perfectly acceptable.

    I *suspect* that there will be similar surveys published 30 years from now titled something like: “Opposition to Gay Marriage Lingers among Christians – in Particular.” As Bertrand Russell once noted, just about every instance of moral progress that’s occurred throughout history has been opposed by church leaders, from the emancipation of slaves to the liberation of women to – today – the right for gays to enter into a contractual agreement with the government. The history of Western religion is not one to be proud of. (But the history of secular progressivism certainly is!)

  27. SteveK

    Phil,

    The point is that they’re just as sure as you are that you are misreading the Bible. Welcome to religion.

    For heaven’s sake, Phil, people disagree with each other in every area of life.

    The way we sort it out is by reasoning through all the various claims. You continue to point out the obvious, that people disagree about what the Bible says. Welcome to life, Phil. How about you tell us something we don’t already know? That sure would be helpful. You’re spending a lot of time making a point that we already understand.

  28. SteveK

    Phil,

    …just about every instance of moral progress that’s occurred throughout history has been opposed by church leaders, from the emancipation of slaves to the liberation of women…

    I’m not so sure this is entirely true, but please Phil, you’re cherry picking. Don’t forget to add to this list -atheists, naturalists, skeptics, unbelievers, secularist, rationalists, etc, etc.

    What’s your point, Phil? I’m struggling to find one.

  29. Phil Torres

    “For heaven’s sake, Phil, people disagree with each other in every area of life. The way we sort it out is by reasoning through all the various claims.”

    Even this is something that many Christians would disagree with you about (but not, of course, scientists – they’re whole thing is putting forth tentative views and then arguing about them!). Consider, for example, the Pope’s claim that only Catholics are going to heaven, because the Catholic Church is the only “true” church (all others are false). Not much room here for debate. Think about this: according to the Pope — who, mind you, is literally infallible! — people like Tom are going to hell.

    Or consider many Evangelicals. Are they interested in “reasoning through all the various claims” in an effort to “sort it out”? Obviously not. Welcome to religion.

    http://www.cbc.ca/news/world/story/2007/07/10/vatican-church.html

  30. Bryan

    Phil,

    It seems that Paul was “against marriage” because he thought the eschaton would occur within his own lifetime, per 1 Cor 7. Otherwise, claiming that “time is short” and that it is better not to marry is patently absurd. (If we would have followed Paul’s advice, our species would have died out centuries ago.) This is the view widely taught in universities and seminaries. But that’s a whole ‘nother can of worms. 😀

  31. Phil Torres

    @Bryan:

    I completely agree. Paul appears to be an apocalypticist (like Jesus apparently was). Obviously, he was dead wrong that the end times were imminent. But as you mention, this is a whole other can of worms. No doubt readers here will insist that I’m reading the Bible completely wrong and have no idea what I’m talking about if I were to mention this. 🙂

  32. Tom Gilson

    Phil,

    The point is that they’re just as sure as you are that you are misreading the Bible. Welcome to religion.

    Who brought up religion here, Phil? You’re insisting on proving our religious arguments are wrong. You’ve done so on the basis of some vague reference to something I’ve said about it somewhere. Welcome to illegitimate argumentation.

    Please read the discussion policy. I didn’t write the OP for the purpose of inviting random, vague potshots against unspecified religious arguments.

    This, though, is utterly, patently, and hilariously ridiculous:

    Generally, timeless books tend to contain ideas that are applicable to all times. The Bible isn’t much help if it doesn’t address the major moral questions of the day. Sure, Paul said some stuff from which people can extrapolate to the contemporary world….

    What you’re asking for is a timeless book that contains ideas applicable to all times, but if said timeless book doesn’t mention today’s issue in precise detail it’s insufficient. So said timeless book must specifically address every possible future ethical issue. I’m surprised you’re not complaining about the Bible’s lack of attention to intellectual property issues relative to computer machine code. That’s a tough one, you know.

    Regarding the emancipation of women and slaves, here’s my impatient response specifically for your benefit: that’s an ignorant lie. Simple as that. And I’m really tired of correcting it over and over and over and over again. You have no clue what brought liberty to this world over the past several centuries. Your ears are tuned only to a ridiculously small and skewed sample.

    I’m not going to argue that any further, because it would take us further afield. I’ll let my unsupported assertion stand against your unsupported assertion. Or if you like you could search “slavery” or “women” on this blog and get the rest of my answer.

    Even this is something that many Christians would disagree with you about (but not, of course, scientists – they’re whole thing is putting forth tentative views and then arguing about them!).

    You’re a bigot. You take a small skewed sample and you generalize it to smear Christianity in general.

    Do you believe that knowledge should be tied to evidence? You say you do. You don’t, though. If you did, you wouldn’t be so full of historical prejudice and ignorance and so confident in it.

    The Pope does not say what you say he did. But then you don’t care about that. If you did, you would check your prejudices against reality.

    You’re a self-deceived bigot.

    In case it’s not clear, I have no patience with people who are self-satisfied and smug in their ignorance. It’s intellectually dishonest, it’s alternately boring and annoying, and it’s also damaging to yourself and to anyone you deceive along the way.

  33. Tom Gilson

    Paul’s words about marriage were written “in view of the present distress” (1 Corinthians 7:26). Not about some future apocalypse, but about what was currently happening, there and then.

    But I suppose you’ll accuse me of jumping through some obtuse and obscure theological hoops to interpret “present” as something other than “imminent” or “future.”

    Here’s the thing, gentlemen. You think you know everything about the Bible and conservatives’ misinterpretation thereof. You are intransigent, incorrigible, know-it-alls. You have no tentativeness in you, in spite of your praise of tentativeness in science.

    If you cared about dialogue here you’d ask questions relevant to the discussion at hand, without resorting to fragenblitzen, and with considerably more expressed interest in finding out what we have to say rather than telling us in advance what we believe (even to the point of predicting what I’ll believe 30 years from now!!!).

    It’s especially amusing disgusting the way you come to such confident conclusions concerning your interpretations of the Bible, while telling us that our interpretations can’t be trusted because not everyone agrees with them!

    You are woodenly literal with respect to our religious texts where it suits you. You reject literalism where it suits you to reject it. The right way to read the Bible, by the way, is to handle it literately: to take it literally where the context calls for it, figuratively where that’s called for; to take it as timeless and eternal where that’s called for by the context, and to let the culture- and time-specific portions be so when the context calls for it, such as for instance when the writer uses phrases like “in view of the present distress.” Your reading of the Bible is generally illiterate.

    I have regard for you as fellow human beings. I pray for you. I care for your relationship with God and with all of reality.

    But I have no intellectual respect for the way you handle these discussions and these issues. None.

    You might deserve that respect if you would be willing to learn, but you’re not. Unless you change your minds, which I warmly invite you to do.

  34. Tom Gilson

    I’m sure I’m guilty of rambling in those last two comments. I’m writing these comment in the passenger seat of the car, using a keyboard with my mobile phone, but limited in screen space. It makes it hard to be precise. I’m sure I’ll want to hone those comments down to something more tightly argued tomorrow when I’m at my desk. I’ll let those loosely stated comments stand as they are in the meantime.

  35. Bryan

    Yes, Tom, Paul is talking about the “present distress” i.e, the imminent eschaton; the end times. Othwerwise, (per the rest of the paragraph, verses 27-31) why say time is very short? Why claim that the present form of this world is passing away? Why should I not seek a wife if the world is going to carry on for at least another 2000 years? I think the historical-grammatical hermeneutic supports Phil and I here, and many scholars would agree with us.

    Though I’m getting used to being told that I don’t understand the Bible. I used to wield that rhetorical weapon in my apologist days.

  36. Crude

    Why should I not seek a wife if the world is going to carry on for at least another 2000 years?

    You may as well be asking Tom why you shouldn’t get married and have a child if you’re two weeks away from deployment in the start of World War II. The idea of “hey this war’s eventually going to end” doesn’t matter with regards to the apprehension, because the *present time* makes getting married and having a child, at the very least, pretty questionable.

    I used to wield that rhetorical weapon in my apologist days.

    Bryan, you said that inerrancy could be disproven by, essentially, providing data that shows children raised by a gay couple on average performed well. When people accuse you of misunderstanding the Bible – or of misunderstanding arguments generally – there’s a good chance this is not ‘rhetorical weapon’, but ‘reasonable judgment based on observation and knowledge.’

  37. Bryan

    “You may as well be asking Tom why you shouldn’t get married and have a child if you’re two weeks away from deployment in the start of World War II. The idea of “hey this war’s eventually going to end” doesn’t matter with regards to the apprehension, because the *present time* makes getting married and having a child, at the very least, pretty questionable.”

    That doesn’t seem to be what Paul is saying though. He’s saying WW2 has already started. They’re in the thick of it. It could (and will) be game over for everyone at any moment, very soon. So don’t bother.

    But it’s 2000 years later, we’re all still here (thankfully, since we didn’t take Paul’s advice). (And he doesn’t mention children. He does mention sexual passions, though. Of course, if we’re living in the end times, it will only be about sexual passions, since there probably won’t be enough time to raise children.)

    “Bryan, you said that inerrancy could be disproven by, essentially, providing data that shows children raised by a gay couple on average performed well.”

    I didn’t say that. But if the Bible tells me one thing (that homosexuality is an abomination) and the world shows me that there isn’t anything wrong with homosexuality, then that doesn’t make me have any confidence in the Bible. It does make me think that the Bible was written by ignorant, primitive homophobes, though.

  38. SteveK

    It’s especially disgusting the way you come to such confident conclusions concerning your interpretations of the Bible, while telling us that our interpretations can’t be trusted because not everyone agrees with them!

    Exactly! They are trying to agitate, and generally piss people off rather than understand.

  39. SteveK

    Bryan,

    But if the Bible tells me one thing (that homosexuality is an abomination) and the world shows me that there isn’t anything wrong with homosexuality, then that doesn’t make me have any confidence in the Bible.

    How does does the world do that? If what you are saying is true, the world just showed you it was wrong for so, so long. Why trust the world now? What are the world’s reasons for changing its mind, and didn’t this same world tell you their prior reasons were reliable and true? Again, what has changed since then?

  40. Bryan

    “How does does the world do that? If what you are saying is true, the world just showed you it was wrong for so, so long. Why trust the world now? What are the world’s reasons for changing its mind, and didn’t this same world tell you their prior reasons were reliable and true? Again, what has changed since then?”

    Huh? The world; that is, the empirical evidence, the evidence of the senses, has never shown homosexuality to be an abomination. It is only ignorant homophobes, or religious texts, who’ve claimed otherwise.

  41. Tom Gilson

    os, I do not consider it inhuman to accurately identify bigotry and intellectual dishonesty, provided the charge is just and well supported.

    I have some more work to do tomorrow to support the charge, as I’ve already said.

  42. Tom Gilson

    Further, Bryan, let us propose a thought experiment. Suppose there is some act A that is truly an abomination. Your previous comment suggest that if A exists and is an abomination, then it would be identifiable as such, just by empirical, sensory evidence.

    How would empirical evidence be able to show that?

    My point is that the lack of “empirical evidence” for some abomination A does not mean that A is not an abomination.

    My further point, of course, is that your last comment was meaningless.

  43. Phil Torres

    “My point is that the lack of “empirical evidence” for some abomination A does not mean that A is not an abomination.”

    The point is that the empirical evidence clearly shows that gay couples are just as good parents as straight ones (e.g., http://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2012/10/study-gay-adoptive-parents-make-great-adoptive-parents/263893/), that gay people aren’t psychologically disturbed, and so on. This is why *every single* relevant professional / scientific organization has endorsed gay adoption and gay marriage, including the American Psychological Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and so on. (http://www.apa.org/news/press/releases/2008/02/students-safe.aspx; http://www.apa.org/pi/lgbt/resources/policy/index.aspx; and so on. Google it yourself.)

    It could have been the other way: the studies could have shown that children of gay parents tend to commit suicide. But the empirical data unambiguously shows that it’s homophobic attitudes that are pathological, not homosexual tendencies.

  44. Whitney

    Tom has violated his own discussion policy in the name of calling out other people for doing so. This has gotten embarrassing. Nothing respectful or thoughtful here. Time to move on.

  45. David Martin

    Phil,

    I followed the links in your statment (#48) above:

    “The point is that the empirical evidence clearly shows that gay couples are just as good parents as straight ones (e.g., http://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2012/10/study-gay-adoptive-parents-make-great-adoptive-parents/263893/), that gay people aren’t psychologically disturbed, and so on. This is why *every single* relevant professional / scientific organization has endorsed gay adoption and gay marriage, including the American Psychological Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and so on. (http://www.apa.org/news/press/releases/2008/02/students-safe.aspx; http://www.apa.org/pi/lgbt/resources/policy/index.aspx; and so on. Google it yourself.)”

    The APA statment on adoption was issued in 1976. The study you linked was published in 2012. I’ve heard of studies in this area, but none old enough to precede the current thinking that homosexuality is normal. How are recent studies the reason the APA made a statment 36 years ago? Your links make it look like the APA (and perhaps other organizations?) put the cart before the horse. Which tends to make one wonder if the results of the studies are truly unbiased, or are skewed toward the current “scientific” thinking.

  46. Tom Gilson

    Thank you for that, Whitney. Are you Phil Torres or someone else sharing his computer? Your IP address is identical to his.

    If you are Phil, why the pretense? Just curious.

  47. Tom Gilson

    Phil, you didn’t answer the “abomination” question. You deflected it. You ducked it. Did you notice?

    And one study does not a doctrine prove.

    If you knew anything about social science, you would know that. You woulod know that when the scientist says, as was quoted in the article, “there is no scientific basis to discriminate,” that’s not the same as saying science has proved there is reason not to discriminate. It may seem like a fine distinction, but it is absolutely fundamental to science, especially social science. The one version is equivalent to “we have not seen evidence that gay parents are worse than others;” the other is equal to “we have proved gay parents are as good as others.”

    Social scientists know the difference. They also know the limitations of a single research study, and that it’s irresponsible to draw vast conclusions from just one study. You do respect science, right? Then why distort it so?

    Are you aware of the serious methodological weakness pervading the overwhelming majority of these studies? On what basis have you assessed the methodology of this one? Given these studies’ track record, it would seem important to be at lest aware of the question.

    Unless if course jumping to a supportive conclusion reinforces your biases.

    For my part I’d like to look into this study and see what’s really there before I accept or reject it.

  48. Tom Gilson

    By the way, Whitney, your use of Phil’s computer would have been less likely to have been notice if you hadn’t posted exactly the same thing first under the name “Phil Torres,” and then deleted it.

    These things show up in the admin’s mailbox automatically.

  49. Tom Gilson

    I’ve just made it home after a 575 mile drive. Whew.

    I’ve just looked over what I was writing somewhere around Charleson, WV, and I see that I called Phil and Bryan “bigoted.” That, I believe, is the only name-calling I did. I’ll have to come back to it tomorrow and show you more specifically why I think that description fits.

    I also expressed my opinion of your arguments. I don’t think there’s anything necessarily dehumanizing about having strong disagreements and saying so.

    And I said I have no intellectual respect for the way you have conducted your argumentation. That’s a fact, which I tried to temper with other more humanizing statements, but without trying to hide my view of your methods.

    Now it’s possible that the term “bigot” is an ad hominem. It’s certainly not a warm term of approval. But here’s the thing: when I see people stereotyping, I think to myself, “stereotyping is an expression of bigotry. They call us bigots, but they don’t see it in themselves. Why should it not be made apparent to them just what it is they’re doing?”

    If you’re not stereotyping then you’re not bigots in the way I have discerned you to be, and if so then I am wrong. If I am thus shown to be wrong, I will correct, retract, and apologize. If you are stereotyping then you are engaging in classic bigoted behavior and I have nothing to retract or apologize for. It’s not a vague term of disapproval I’m sending your way: it’s a very specific one and a testable one.

    I may have gone over the line when I called you smug and self-satisfied. You certainly show every appearance of it, but I don’t know what’s in your hearts, so I should have just said you appear that way, not that you are.

    I called you ignorant as well (I jumped the gun a few paragraphs ago when I said “bigoted” was the only name I called you). That was specifically in response to the (yes) ignorant charge that Christianity has stood in the way of the expansion of freedoms. I said I was tired of answering that one over and over and over again. Maybe it’s because I was in the middle of a long trip. Or maybe it’s because thereare some, like you, who will not pay the slightest attention to any information that contradicts your prejudices in this matter. I’ve tried again and again, and you won’t even begin to listen. That’s tiring, and I don’t mind that I said it was.

    If I’m wrong, and if you really aren’t as intellectually dishonest as I said you were, then would you kindly demonstrate it? Thanks. It would be much appreciated.

  50. Tom Gilson

    One final note before I hit the rack for the night. This one is specifically for Phil.

    We discussed (in a manner of speaking) the issue of women just a week or so ago. That is to say, you raised a criticism similar to what you said today. I responded with some information that called your statement into question, on a factual basis. You misread my statements, you called Christianity’s treatment of women virtually the same as Islam’s, you pulled Scripture out of context as you have here, you argued ad Google (even expecting me to go find your arguments there!).

    In the meantime you paid absolutely no notice to the historical and social information I had presented. You ignored it. You jumped to another topic on which you thought you could win, without caring one whit for facts that you should have paid some attention to. The problem with them of course was that they were not convenient for you to attend to; they directly contradicted you, after all. Better not to notice such things, right? Better to deflect them, to brush them aside, to attack from another angle?

    Finally I called you on all this, to which you didn’t respond.

    This is what’s happening over and over again: you’re telling Christians what we believe instead of asking. You are bent on telling us we’re idiots for believing the Bible when it says what you think it says. You won’t listen for a moment to any explanation that shows it says anything else.

    This produces alternating responses in me. Sometimes it’s massively boring. Sometimes I feel quite frustrated at your intransigence. Sometimes I’m angry over the deceit you’re attempting to foist on us. Sometimes I’m grieved for you, for your error.

    I’m not proud of any of those feelings except for the grief, and sometimes I think it’s okay too to be angry at deceit.

    There was a time when I thought you would be an interesting and thoughtful debate opponent. I’d like to be able to think that of you again. I’d like to feel like we were having an actual discussion, rather than you repeating falsehoods without attention to their correction.

    I’d like to think that. I’d like to think you thought the same things might be important to you. Are they?

  51. G. Rodrigues

    @Tom Gilson:

    Now it’s possible that the term “bigot” is an ad hominem.

    Anticipated appologies for the pedantery, but this is not correct. Ad hominem, literally “to the man”, is an informal fallacy where someone makes an argument, or attempts to undermine the opponent’s argument, by attacking his character. In the present case, it would be “You are bigot; therefore your argument X is wrong” or something in the neighborhood of this. As far as I can see, this is not what you did; instead, you made a charge “You are a bigot” period. And then went on to substantiate it.

  52. Phil Torres

    “By the way, Whitney, your use of Phil’s computer would have been less likely to have been notice if you hadn’t posted exactly the same thing first under the name “Phil Torres,” and then deleted it.”

    Tom, your server is terrible. (Not a criticism of you! But it is pretty consistently awful.) Whitney changed the name twice, and then made sure it was different when posting. Whitney is my partner, and she has her own opinions.

    I myself have trouble posting here all the time. Maybe the power of prayer would help?

    “And I said I have no intellectual respect for the way you have conducted your argumentation. That’s a fact, which I tried to temper with other more humanizing statements, but without trying to hide my view of your methods.”

    Not sure why you dislike me quoting scripture itself (usually Christians accuse opponents of not knowing what the Bible actually says), and scientific studies. And if I’m a bigot for supporting women’s rights, gay marriage, and so on, then, well, I guess I have absolutely no idea what that word means.

    ” you called Christianity’s treatment of women virtually the same as Islam’s, you pulled Scripture out of context as you have here,”

    Tom, what are you talking about? You brought this up earlier, and I responded to it explicitly. Please, go back and re-read that. As for scripture, I did no such thing. It is *you* who doesn’t seem to understand how to read scripture. For example, when it comes to hell, I sent you *multiple* websites by Christians arguing that hell is *obviously* a real place, given the Bible’s descriptions of it. If I am misreading, then millions of other Christians are reading. With respect to something like Jesus and Paul being an apocalypticist, if you go into a university with “smart” people and their “books,” the “literate” reading that they’ll give you is that Paul and Jesus were falsely convinced that the eschaton was imminent. You talk about “literate” reading — I would bet that I’ve read just as much academic theology, textual criticism, etc. as anyone on this site.

    “This is what’s happening over and over again: you’re telling Christians what we believe instead of asking. You are bent on telling us we’re idiots for believing the Bible when it says what you think it says. You won’t listen for a moment to any explanation that shows it says anything else.”

    show me where I’ve told anyone what they believe. There are times when I’ve said that “true” Christians “ought to” believe certain things. For example, Paul says that a wife will divide one’s devotion for God. He says that, and it’s about as unambiguous as one could ask. Do a Google search and you will find Bible study outlines from actual believing Christians — those who take what the Bible actually says more seriously than Tom — saying just this. And if you go to a university and ask a theology professor, he or she will say “Well, yes, Paul did think that. Why? Because he was falsely convinced that the parousia was about to happen.” Talk about literate, Tom. There’s a reason studies show that intelligence and education are both positively correlated with disbelief.

    @David Martin “How are recent studies the reason the APA made a statement 36 years ago? Your links make it look like the APA (and perhaps other organizations?) put the cart before the horse. Which tends to make one wonder if the results of the studies are truly unbiased, or are skewed toward the current “scientific” thinking.”

    I can’t give a course on this issue here, David. Do some research — there have been many, many, many studies on gay adoption and the psychology of homosexuality. Over and over and over again (if you don’t believe me then, please, go see for yourself) studies have shown that gay parents are just as morally competent as straight parents. I’m serious about this. I linked to one meta-study, but there is an overwhelming number of them out there.

    “And one study does not a doctrine prove.

    If you knew anything about social science, you would know that. You would know that when the scientist says, as was quoted in the article, “there is no scientific basis to discriminate,” that’s not the same as saying science has proved there is reason not to discriminate. It may seem like a fine distinction, but it is absolutely fundamental to science, especially social science. You do respect science, right? Then why distort it so?”

    Tom, ugh. It looks like you have no understanding of science at all. Have you ever studied science? (Serious question; just curious.) Read the above answer. A plethora of studies have been done. Indeed, the APA and 11 other scientific / professional organizations (just in the US; you want to talk about Europe? Japan?) have endorsed gay marriage and gay adoption *precisely because* all the empirical evidence quite unequivocally supports the hypothesis that “Gay people aren’t any different psychologically, parentally, etc. than straight people.” So, there is no scientific reason, no reason relating to any fact about the world in which we live, for telling gay people they cannot adopt. Again, it might not have been this way — and if it hadn’t, organizations like the APA wouldn’t have the same positions that they have. For them — for all of science — what matters is the evidence.

    “My point is that the lack of “empirical evidence” for some abomination A does not mean that A is not an abomination.”

    I didn’t mention this because, frankly, it’s idiotic. A lack of empirical evidence for the claim that Thinking Christian is an abomination does not mean that Thinking Christian is not an abomination. Yes, of course, but if you have evidence to suggest that Thinking Christian is a very good, well-reasoned, ethically good website, then you have reason for holding that Thinking Christian is not an abomination. A lack of empirical evidence for the claim that an asteroid will hit Earth in 2013 does not mean that there isn’t an asteroid going to hit Earth. Yes, but if you’ve actually looked and you see no asteroid coming towards Earth, then you have reason for thinking that there’s no asteroid heading towards Earth. This is Philosophy 101 stuff (a theme that emerged from our debate last time).

    Talk about dodging questions. Tom, you have yet to respond to the embarrassing study that found that Christians are disproportionately likely to oppose interracial marriage today! Again, it wasn’t progressives leading the charge against white and black people marrying, it was religious conservatives. Incidentally, this isn’t an anomaly. Empirical studies show that religious communities (in the US) are more racist, more close-minded, more likely to condone torture, more likely to support the death penalty, more likely to oppose women’s rights, more likely to oppose gay marriage, and so on. I have all of these — and many more studies just like them — cited on page 107-108 (I think) of A Crisis of Faith. Every single claim comes from a peer-reviewed article in a reputable academic journal. Looking at the situation holistically, it’s a disgrace. And it’s blogs like this that are contributing to the hurtful influence of thoughtless discrimination.

    Please do check out all those studies. Many are also discussed in the work of Phil Zuckerman. If anyone doesn’t want to buy my book, I would be happy to send them those two pages discussing all this research.

  53. Phil Torres

    @G. Rodrigues:

    Wasn’t going to mention this, because I don’t think Tom would believe it coming from me. The only thing I disagree with is your last line. How did Tom prove that I — with my explicit support for women’s rights, my endorsement of interracial marriage, and my support of same-sex couples — am a bigot?

    (I actually would like to add a bit more about what exactly an ad hominem attack is, but I’m afraid it will confuse the conversation. Maybe I’ll bring it up later, if the moment is right — but it’s a subtle point that would likely just muddle the waters here.)

  54. Tom Gilson

    You are right about ad hominem, of course, except that there has grown up around the term a technically incorrect usage that’s almost equivalent to “any personal insult.” It’s become fairly common usage, just like “That impacted me,” or “hopefully it won’t rain,” both of which are also incorrect, and yet both of which are common usages..

    See more here and here.

    I’m sure Phil will have trouble believing this, but that’s the reason I conditioned my statement, saying, “it’s possible it’s an ad hominem.” I did run too quickly past the niceties, and in that I was certainly wrong.

  55. Holopupenko

    How did Tom prove that I — with my explicit support for women’s rights, my endorsement of interracial marriage, and my support of same-sex couples — am a bigot?

    Because you ARE a bigot–an anti-Christian bigot, and as R. Rodriguez pointed out, Tom proved it with references.

    What’s amazing (well, maybe not…) is another aspect of the cute deflection just blockquoted: what you cited has NOTHING to do with your ridiculous and bigoted claims… which Tom pointed out. You can be for women’s rights and still be a bigoted anti-Christian… which you are, again because Tom pointed it out with references.

    Your being “for” the ideological movements listed doesn’t absolve you of being for them in a bigoted way–in particular against Christianity. Take the example of your alleged support of women’s rights: that “right” (I gather) includes the taking away the rights of the most innocent and defenseless members of humanity in incredibly violent ways–abortion. You take away the right to life of an innocent and “give it” to a stronger member of society. Dare we say bigoted hypocrite? Oh, but then, a child in the womb is, in your personal opinion, conveniently, non-scientifically, and pseudo-philosophically removed from the family of man as an “inconvenience,” or a “choice,” or “lebensunwertes leben.” Nice ruse. My wife and many others view people like you as being incredibly ANTI-woman (i.e., a bigot) because you’re anti-innocent human life.

    (I stand corrected and apologize, of course, if you’re pro-life.)

    “Endorsement of same-sex couples” makes you non-bigoted against Christianity? Want to try again?

    P.S. I AM ANTI-ATHEISM BIGOTED… in the same way a doctor is bigoted against cancer or multiple sclerosis (both, by the way, having natural precursors), or the way a judge is bigoted against drunk drivers. You are of a world view that puts more power in the hands of the already powerful by taking the most precious right-of-life away from the most defenseless… and then you try to get away with calling yourself some kind of a “rights” supporter. That betrays a lack of sensibility and prudence to understand right and wrong… but (again, I gather — please correct me if I’m wrong) you’re a moral relativist who conveniently “chooses” (heh – like that works per the machines you which you reduce humans per your own blog) what is right and what is wrong.

    I close with the following inane gem from your blog:

    what Jesus went through was horrible indeed by ABSOLUTE STANDARDS [emphasis added], but relative to the experiences of millions of other human beings throughout history, it was demonstrably not half as bad as it could have been. Surely the suffering of the girl in India was greater than that of Jesus; I would argue that it was probably much greater.

    What a sick piece of illogic! How does one even begin to unpack such self-serving, ignorant, opinionated nonsense? I mean really! “absolute standards”?!? Which one? (Memo: is-to-ought fallacy ahead) How is your version of morality “absolute”? “Millions”?!? So numbers count over substance? Deicide is “demonstrably not half as bad” as, say, the multiple atheistic-driven genocides? If Christ is God, then the smallest sin is an infinite transgression precisely because the object against which the transgression is directed is infinite. You missed that in Christianity 101… really? And, pray, tell, please actually DEMONSTRATE your claim… if you even have a clue what a demonstration is, or if you can distinguish one from, say, a proof.

    Amazingly inane atheistic balderdash.

  56. Whitney

    There seems to be a serious misunderstanding of the word ‘bigot’ in this thread. It means an intolerance of creed, and usually implies an *unjustified* intolerance. A doctor can’t be “bigoted” against cancer, because cancer is not a belief or doctrine or creed.

    And arguing points against the truth or validity of Christianity, or atheism, does not make one a “bigot” against it. This kind of unjustified name-calling is why this thread has degenerated.

  57. Tom Gilson

    Bigot: “: a person who is obstinately or intolerantly devoted to his or her own opinions and prejudices; especially : one who regards or treats the members of a group (as a racial or ethnic group) with hatred and intolerance”

    I have said here that stereotyping is of the essence of bigotry. I have identified instances of stereotyping.

    I have not called anyone a bigot for arguing points against the truth or validity of Christianity. This kind of false accusation is why this thread has degenerated.

    I’ll be back soon with further explanation.

  58. Holopupenko

    Whitney:

    A doctor can’t be “bigoted” against cancer, because cancer is not a belief or doctrine or creed.

    Actually, one can… but (you’re sensing correctly) only analogously so… in the same sense that George Washington IS the Father of our country, but only analogously so.

  59. Tom Gilson

    Phil, I need to take this in sections. First, the charge of stereotyping which led to my describing you as bigoted.

    Whitney said I called you a bigot for “arguing points against the truth or validity of Christianity.” I didn’t.

    You said, “If I’m a bigot for supporting women’s rights, gay marriage, and so on, then, well, I guess I have absolutely no idea what that word means.” But I didn’t say you were a bigot on those grounds.

    I said you were stereotyping Christians.

    Suppose there were a white man who had truly authentic personal relationships with African-Americans, without a trace of prejudice, but who thought Mexicans were “spics” and should all be deported. Might you call him bigoted? What if he said in response, “If I’m a bigot for having great relationships with African-Americans, then, well, I guess I have absolutely no idea what the word means”?

    If I identify bigotry in one respect in you, your not-being-a-bigot in other respects is irrelevant to whether you are in that one respect. Clear enough?

    So are you stereotyping? I think so:

    If Tom and I were having this conversation in the 50s or 60s, Tom would no doubt be arguing that interracial marriage is a radical departure from the norm…. That is the conversation we would very likely be having.

    … I don’t know how you can make that extrapolation without stereotyping

    THIS was the issue that preoccupied religious conservatives of the day.

    … as if it was THE issue that preoccupied conservatives then. Even your CT link speaks of “its near universal acceptance—even celebration—among evangelical leaders even as they announce sensitivity to the issue.” (You might ask my co-editor on the book True Reason for his view on it. You might ask my very Minnesota-Scandinavian Christian mentor in the mid-1970s, Dirke Johnson.)

    Here’s my point: you can find evidence of anti-miscegenation bigotry out there, but to say it characterized evangelicalism at the time is bigotry on your own part, because it wasn’t that widespread and it wasn’t descriptive of all evangelicals, not even the majority.

    You stereotyped when you wrote “Welcome to religion” as commentary on,

    Or consider many Evangelicals. Are they interested in “reasoning through all the various claims” in an effort to “sort it out”? Obviously not.

    “Many” does not translate to “characteristic of religion.” If it did, then one could say the same thing about atheism, political positions, and on and on and on. But it doesn’t and only one given to stereotyping would say it did.

    That’s enough for now.

    If you think that stereotyping is not bigoted, then you can try to mount an argument against your being a bigot on that basis. You would merely be one who stereotypes prejudicially in that case.

    Or if you think this is not stereotyping, you can try to make that case, and if you succeed in that you’re free from blame for that, too.

    But you would and Whitney still be guilty of intellectual incompetence and/or dishonesty for misrepresenting my complaint against you and then describing that misrepresentation as “unjustified name-calling.”

  60. Ray Ingles

    Holopupenko –

    the multiple atheistic-driven genocides

    A side point to this discussion, but since you bring it up: Monotheists are torturing people today. Christians are monotheists. So Christians are torturers? Uh… no.

    I’ll simply note that all the “atheistic-driven genocides” were done by communists. Since other types of atheism than communist atheism exist, your description of yourself as ‘BIGOTED’ might be more literally correct than you realize.

    BTW, I’m curious if anyone wants to reply to Robert Jones way back in #22. He does seem, at least to me, to have a very relevant point.

  61. Ray Ingles

    I see Tom got in a bit of response while I was typing my previous one, but Phil – I have to agree that the line “if Tom and I were having this conversation in the 50s or 60s, Tom would no doubt be arguing that interracial marriage is a radical departure from what marriage in the US means” was out of bounds.

    You could contend that Tom’s arguments re: SSM were very similar in form to the reactionary arguments against ‘miscegenation’ in the 50’s and 60’s. But saying Tom would have opposed interracial marriage back then is not just rude, it’s so general and hypothetical it’s “not even wrong”, as Wolfgang Pauli once quipped.

    I could construct hypotheticals where you would have been a malicious, sadistic slaveowner in the Antebellum American south. Had you been born in that time to slaveowning parents, and miseducated badly enough, you too would almost certainly have become an abusive monster. Had you been born to Abolitionist parents, things would most likely have been different still.

    Those kind of hypotheticals are – again – rude, but they are also useless in a discussion like this. If there are important parallels between arguments against SSM today and arguments against interracial marriages then, just point them out. That’s all that’s needed, or indeed relevant.

  62. Tom Gilson

    Now with respect to your interpretations of Scripture.

    First I note that you are convinced that there is no one accurate interpretation. Then, like the incompetent fundamentalist preacher you so despise (they exist somewhere, I’m sure), you take your preferred proof-texts out of context, you absolutize them, and then you ram them down our throats. Maybe you’ve done a whole lot of Bible study somewhere, but in this thread, that’s been your exegetical method.

    Are you proud of yourself for that? I mean, the first thing I’d like you to do with that information is consider just how thoroughly you’re aping that which you despise. You did it here.

    You misrepresented me when you wrote, “not sure why you dislike me quoting Scripture.” You know what I didn’t like about your use of Scripture: not the quoting but the proof-texting. I don’t like that when my own preacher does it (if he did it, which he doesn’t). I think your question there was dishonest, because you knew you were misrepresenting me.

    I’ve already addressed this bit of silliness:

    PHIL: Generally, timeless books tend to contain ideas that are applicable to all times. The Bible isn’t much help if it doesn’t address the major moral questions of the day. Sure, Paul said some stuff from which people can extrapolate to the contemporary world….

    MY PREVIOUS RESPONSE: What you’re asking for is a timeless book that contains ideas applicable to all times, but if said timeless book doesn’t mention today’s issue in precise detail it’s insufficient. So said timeless book must specifically address every possible future ethical issue. I’m surprised you’re not complaining about the Bible’s lack of attention to intellectual property issues relative to computer machine code. That’s a tough one, you know.

    You tell me

    When it comes to hell I sent you *multiple* websites by Christians arguing that hell is *obviously* a real place….

    … with which I have absolutely no disagreement. I only said that the descriptions of the forms of torment there are metaphorical.

    Not all Bible scholars think Paul and Jesus were mistaken apocalypticists. There are good reasons to doubt that interpretation. Matthew 24:14 is one, the book of 1 Thessalonians is another. The “time is short,” it says in 1 Corinthians 7, but first it speaks of “this present crisis.” There’s no necessity to conclude that Paul was referring to the end of the world there!

    I do talk about “literate” reading. I’m not saying you haven’t read widely. I said that about your proof-texting, and about the legitimacy of reading figurative language as figurative.

    And by the way, this isn’t about Scripture but it’s somewhat related:

    Even this is something that many Christians would disagree with you about (but not, of course, scientists – they’re whole thing is putting forth tentative views and then arguing about them!). Consider, for example, the Pope’s claim that only Catholics are going to heaven, because the Catholic Church is the only “true” church (all others are false). Not much room here for debate. Think about this: according to the Pope — who, mind you, is literally infallible! — people like Tom are going to hell.

    The Pope doesn’t say that.

  63. Holopupenko

    Ray:

    Give me a break–if you know anything about communism, then you know its primary animating principle is atheism. I’ve provided the quotes… whether that makes you feel uncomfortable is another issue. As a person who has a formal graduate degree from an Ivy League school in Sovietology and who lived and worked in the Soviet Union and former Soviet Union for 13 years, I have some knowledge on the matter. You, apparently, don’t… which is fine… except that you act upon said ignorance. Sigh…

    Now, admittedly I baited with my example… although the atheism-animating-communism point is unquestionably true. The bait you took is YOUR earlier (other posts) sweeping generalizations against Christianity (and faith in general)… akin to (but not said by you) “Salem witch trials, therefore Christianity is evil,” or “Crusades, therefore Christianity is evil.” So, you permit yourself broad generalizations (incorrect ones), but atheism-fundamentally-animates-communism (which IS correct) somehow is not.

    (Note: I give you some credit for @67.)

    You want specifics? No, I’m not going to be baited into doing your homework for you. Your “reasoning” here is so reflective of the “reasoning” on your site… which is itself a huge issue. I’m sticking with G. Rodrigues’ correct characterization of atheist “reasoning”: idiocy. Forget arguments and evidence for or against the existence of God (as if He were an existent among existents)… it’s the very view of reality atheism proposes that is so disordered.

  64. Tom Gilson

    Now concerning science, Phil,

    You praise tentativeness, and that’s good. I think that’s a definite virtue of the scientific mindset.

    The APA has a position on SSM and homosexuality, I’ll grant that. I know some of the activist pressure that has been applied to the APA.

    Aside from that, which you might consider controversial, there is also the fact that gay parenting studies are pretty much universally flawed. There is no good science on the outcomes of gay parenting. The study that the Atlantic reported on might be an exception, I don’t know; but if you’ll read what I wrote on that I took an appropriately open yet cautious stance.

    So your response to David about studies “over and over and over again” showing “gay parents are just as morally competent as straight parents” is uninformed at best. Further, what does “morally competent” mean in an empirical study? The same response of course applies to your objection to me about “a plethora of studies.”

    What happened to your tentativeness, I wonder.

    Have I ever studied science? Yes. I have an MS in Industrial and Organizational Psychology, a field of social science, with a very strong emphasis in the design, conduct, and interpretation of research. The stats course I took in that program was the same as the one taken by students in a parallel Ph.D. program. The lowest grade I got in my grad studies was an A.

    Thanks for asking.

    You accuse me of “dodging questions.” When you wrote that about interracial marriage and Christians I was at about mile 60 of my 575-mile trip yesterday. One of our family members was experiencing an intense although self-limiting (thankfully!) medical emergency. I was working off mobile devices. Sorry I missed it. I have responded to it now, in a comment above this one, where I showed how you misused that information in the context of our discussion. Now I will add, sure, there’s an embarrassment there. I don’t like it, and along with the vast majority of evangelical leaders I think it’s wrong. ’nuff said?

    Not quite, actually. It’s one thing to miss a question, and another thing to dodge one. I missed this one, sure enough, and I recognize that. You, on the other hand, picked up a question (see my #25, your #48, and my #52) and deflected it rather than answering it. I made a mistake of overlooking a matter; you made a logical mistake of acting as if you had answered a question when in fact you had changed the subject. That’s not just a logical matter, of course, it’s also a matter of integrity.

    We could bring sociological studies head-to-head against one another if you like. Who is more giving? Who volunteers more? Who is more likely to care for others in need, especially others of different nationalities? Who invented hospitals? Who is delivering more clean water to needy parts of the world? Who is delivering more food voluntarily? Who provides more voluntary social services in the inner city? Who is more likely to preserve the life of a fetus or an infant?

    I’m not very embarrassed, by the way, to find out that we are more opposed to gay “marriage;” and as for our opposition to “women’s rights,” that’s a very broad category, and I’d be interested to find out exactly what we’re “opposed to.” I might agree with that, too, especially if it’s women’s so-called “right to do what she wants to with her body” when she’s pregnant.

    Now back to what you said about an “abomination.” You spoke of empirical studies showing whether X is or is not such a thing. What you missed there was that “abomination” is a moral category, not an empirical one. Maybe you can operationalize the definition of “abomination” such that it could be measured empirically, but that operationalized definition would necessarily involve moral judgments. In other words, you can introduce an a-scientific moral component M into a study by way of developing an operational definition M(od) for M. That makes M(od) measurable. But it does not make M scientific. So before anyone can accept what you said about science proving homosexuality is not an abomination, you would have to show us M(od) and we would have to have a philosophical discussion (not scientific but philosophical, I emphasize again) concerning the moral status of M.

    So your charge of “frankly, it’s idiotic” is out of bounds. It’s not only offensive, as you intended it to be, it’s also ignorant, as you did not intend it to be. That’s a bad combination.

  65. Whitney

    “Whitney said I called you a bigot for “arguing points against the truth or validity of Christianity.” I didn’t.”

    No, Tom; I never said that. I was clarifying what ‘bigot’ means. (Not that it matters at this point, as the conversation has gotten so muddled.)

  66. Tom Gilson

    If this thread doesn’t improve I will close it and I will strongly consider banning the person(s) who continue to take it downhill, if that happens. I’ll post Robert Jones’s excellent question in another blog entry.

    I’m sorry this went south on you, Robert. See the new blog post here.

  67. Tom Gilson

    Whitney, you can think what you wish about what you said.

    Other readers, I remind you of what she wrote:

    And arguing points against the truth or validity of Christianity, or atheism, does not make one a “bigot” against it. This kind of unjustified name-calling is why this thread has degenerated.

    She took my use of the word “bigot” as I had applied it to Phil, and she identified that usage with “arguing points against the truth or validity of Christianity.” Then she identified that with “unjustified name-calling” that she says actually exists on this thread.

    That is rhetorically equivalent to saying that I had called Phil a bigot for arguing points against the truth or validity of Christianity. It goes considerably beyond “clarifying what ‘bigot’ means.”

    More twisting and turning of the truth.

  68. Bryan

    Tom,

    Earlier on you said (to paraphrase) that unbelievers claims that there is no right interpretation of the Bible, while at the same claiming that their interpretation on some issues is undeniable, and you implicated me in that camp.

    What I actually believe is by utilizing the historical-grammatical hermeneutic, we can have more confidence in our understanding of some biblical passages more than others. Here, there is no contradiction. Where I think the problems especially lie, and what I think unbelievers are typically referring to, is in issues where, say, Catholics and protestants diverge (and maybe Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses). I think you can find strongly argued books and articles for Catholicism and protestantism. And this is a problem for the ordinary truth seeker. It can lead her to much frustration and confusion (not to mention agnosticism).

    “Not all Bible scholars think Paul and Jesus were mistaken apocalypticists. the book of 1 Thessalonians is another. The “time is short,” it says in 1 Corinthians 7, but first it speaks of “this present crisis.” There’s no necessity to conclude that Paul was referring to the end of the world there!”

    You are right in claiming that not all scholars believe Paul was a mistaken apocalypticist (I’ll ignore Jesus for now since that wasn’t my battle and these posts get long enough.) But such scholars are typically strongly conservative evangelical. It is hard to follow the evidence on this issue objectively when the conclusion was handed down to the developing mind of an 11 year old. Whereas, those scholars not beholden to a religious creed that is anathema can properly evaluate the evidence. Moreover, I know that moderates and even a few conservative scholars accept the apocalypticist conclusion.

    If I recall correctly, 1 Thess. is indeed one of Paul’s undisputed letters. Can I ask you what about it makes you think Paul wasn’t an mistaken apocalypticist (man that is a hard word to type)? I believe I addressed your comments about the “present crisis” in an earlier post, taking all of the evidence into consideration. What do you think the “present crisis” was, if not the end times? If it wasn’t the immiment end times, how do you make sense of the rest of the passage?

    Lastly, if you consider me one of the persons who brought this thread downhill, accept my sincerest apologies.

  69. Ray Ingles

    Holopupenko –

    if you know anything about communism, then you know its primary animating principle is atheism

    Well, not necessarily, but I’ll grant that atheism was a central principle of the Soviet, Chinese, and Cambodian regimes.

    The same way that monotheism is the primary animating principle of Islam. And Christianity. So the must be pretty much the same in practice, right?

    You want specifics?

    Funny, the only specifics you gave were things you also explicitly admitted I never said. So apparently you’re just going to say I’m wrong without actually arguing why. I suppose that might make you feel better, but since it’s of little utility to me I can’t find much motive to care.

  70. Tom Gilson

    Bryan, when you said this,

    It is hard to follow the evidence on this issue objectively when the conclusion was handed down to the developing mind of an 11 year old

    … you were also speaking about me. And all the believers who are on this blog.

    It’s tendentious, it’s stereotyped, it’s extremely bigoted, and it’s equivalent to your saying you think we’re all stuck in 11-year-old-children’s thinking.

    If so then you have no good reason to discuss anything with us, do you?

    And if you think that about us, then we have no reason to invite you to our conversation, which is in fact informed by adult thinking, real scholarship, and the ability to follow the evidence where it leads.

    Your apology for “bringing this thread downhill” would have been accepted if you hadn’t just done it again.

    I don’t care to have you email me again requesting you be re-admitted to this blog. This time it’s permanent.

  71. Jay

    Thanks Tom for this thought-provoking discussion. I often follow your posts but rarely comment. I sometimes get frustrated in trying to explain to my kids the importance of this and other moral issues. I needed reminding about this one myself. Being divorced, I give quite a bit of thought to the idea of re-marrying one day. I believe as the divorced percentage of our population increases, we find ourselves detaching from the committment we once intuitively understood. It’s hard not to be influenced by our culture. It’s really pretty simple though isn’t it? Putting others’ before ourselves. There is nothing more intimate and redeeming than unconditionally forgiving another person and caring for them- no matter what. Till death do us part. Even when is sucks. Even when it’s like heaven. This is the kind of love we experience and practice as husband and wife, and father and mother. This is the kind of love that Christ shows us. This is the kind of love that redeems us and makes life worthwhile. We find the highest value in losing ourselves. I grieve because this is the kind of love SSM participants and advocates do not understand. If they understood, they would not try to call it “marriage”.

  72. Debbie

    “It all depends on what your definition of IS is.” Is marriage something WE define or recognize? An analogy–we can EAT anything (or at least try)–that doesn’t make it FOOD. We don’t define FOOD–we recognize what it is. It is what it is. Does GOD define marriage or do WE. God did and does, but many think they do.

  73. Doug

    Debbie asks a good question. Who gets to define things? Well, the answer is “both-and”. That is, there is a God-defined “marriage” and there is a state-defined “marriage”. The reason that Christians are so defensive of the second is that up until very recently (as Tom argues) nobody would have even conceived of the possibility that the second was not an attempt to recognize the first.

    Well, that’s changed. God’s definition hasn’t changed. But there is an agenda afoot to wrest the state-sanctioned definition away from the heaven-sanctioned one.

    So let’s change the question: what, exactly, does the church lose if the state should redefine the word “marriage” to its purposes?

    Would this be, say, like having our face slapped? Sure thing.
    Would this be, say, like having someone sue us for our shirt? Definitely.
    Would this be, say, like having someone force us to walk a mile out of our way. Uh-huh.

    It is, after all, taking one of “our” words, and, well, degrading it. So be it. Our master tells us how we should respond: turning the other cheek, giving our cloak as well, and going the extra mile. This is how the world knows that we are true disciples (rather than taking offense at slaps, holding tightly to our shirts, or exercising our rights).

    The mystery of Easter will prevail — by “suffering”, the church will be glorified!

    In fact, this may well be one of those “who touched me” moments: the disciples would have been horrified to have known that an unclean woman touched their master — the law said that would make him unclean. But in the delightful logic of heaven, the heavenly things do not become unclean — rather, they heal the source of the uncleanness.

    The world has had something against marriage for a while (it wasn’t long ago that the same people claiming that it is hateful not to sanction SSM were saying that marriage was “just a piece of paper”). Because they long for what God provides. Unfortunately, they won’t get that with just the label. But they can have that if they insist.

Comments close automatically after 120 days. Comment numbering may be incorrect due to a temporary bug.