Counterfeit Marital Love in Same-Sex and Straight Relationships

comments form first comment

Recently Bill L. has asked me to explain how my position on same-sex “marriage” squares with certain sociological facts about divorce. It seems he was thinking divorce was my major concern, whereas the fact is, divorce is only symptomatic of what I’m concerned about.

At any rate, he asked me whether my position implied that certain groups who have higher divorce rates should be denied the right to marry. It’s a strange question, to say the least—especially since his data actually supports my real position (which is not to deny marriage to certain ethnic groups!). I’ll accept his question anyway, though, as an opportunity to clarify what I’ve been trying to say.

Structural differences in relationship types

Here’s my main point, in short. Genuine marital love is both inward- and outward-focused. That’s inherent in the structure of marriage. It’s a design feature of man-woman marriage, and for most of history it’s been unavoidably so. (There are marriages where the spouses lack love, but I’m talking here about the structure of the relationship, not the love that its participants may or not experience based on their own relational/emotional health.)

Some straight marriages today, however, and all gay marriages, lack the structural component of being outward-focused. This means that their form of marital love is inherently oriented in a different direction than the form of marital love experienced originally in man-woman marriages. It matters, as we’ll see.

That’s a preview of where I’m heading with this. It’s an aspect of the marriage debate that has been given too little attention.

Now, back to Bill’s question, and the implications of both culture and structure on marital relationships.

How Bill L.’s data actually supports my point

Do Blacks have a higher divorce rate because of their skin color? I hope no one thinks so! That’s not just offensive, it’s absurd! And by the way, the same data indicates that Whites divorce more often than people of Asian ethnicity. Is that a matter of skin color? Obviously not.

But the graph Bill L. linked to actually helps me make my point. I’ve been trying to help him and others see that there are systemic issues involved here. It’s not just about “this marriage and that marriage.” Marriage is an institution within a culture. Different ethnicities have different subcultures within broader culture. Some of them are obviously more conducive to stronger families. You can see it laid out for you on that graph.

Generally speaking, if a man and a woman are committed to one another and their children in an environment that discourages separation and teaches the importance of staying together while raising a family for the sake of the children and the community, where adultery is actively discouraged; and where the members of the couple are reasonably emotionally healthy, and where extraneous stresses are at a minimum, the couple’s chances of thriving together are very high.

Continuing on that theme, marriages do best where the cultural message supports them, where there are significant numbers of good marriages being modeled, where people say to each other, “Hang in there, you’ll make it!” and help others understand how to sustain a marriage through the hard times.

This is a multigenerational matter, and for that reason, too, it’s a systemic/cultural matter. Emotional health is associated with parent-child relational health. Lousy marriages tend to reproduce themselves generation after generation, and strong marriages tend to reproduce themselves, too. These are general tendencies with exceptions, of course.

So the health of marriages, in general, heavily influenced by long-term, culturally situated influences and effects.

Counterfeit marital love (straight and gay)

SSM undermines all this by approving, endorsing, and celebrating the inward-focused, “you and me, babe” attitude toward marriage. Note that this is just a shade off of the self-focused,”you make me feel good, babe,” which is a variant of the blatantly selfish, “I’m in this for me.”

This is not just theory; it’s supported by the relational facts of gay coupling. While again there are exceptions, relational infidelity among gay male couples is so frequent as to be considered virtually normal. The word among gay men is that “committed monogamy” allows for occasional sex with others. (I’ll get you more data on that later today.) This is not the picture of marriage that we want to celebrate! But it’s a product of (among other things) relationships that are inward-focused and/or self-focused.

But it’s not just about same-sex marriage. Man-woman marriage has suffered many of the same errors and mistakes over the last fifty years. It was about fifty years ago that it was first possible for a man and woman to think of sex (married or unmarried) and marriage as “you and me, babe.” The reason of course is contraception.

Sex with no possibility of children means the possibility of sex for one’s own pleasure and nothing but that. As a corollary, it means the possibility of romantic coupling for the couple’s own pleasure and nothing but that.

Original marital love

There was a time when marriage was always a matter of “you and me and the family.” It was systemically other-oriented. for there is nothing that requires more selfless sacrifice than raising a child. It was systemically outward-oriented in another sense as well. Couples knew they were raising children in a community, so their very inward-oriented relationship was by its nature turned out toward the larger community environment.

The sex act between a man and a woman was always “for us and for our love,” but “with a view to the possibility of even more people–little ones!–to love.” It was never just inward-focused. Real marital love is unconfined, uncontained, overflowing love.

(Yes, there have always been distortions, failures, mistakes, and sin. I am not speaking of the individuals here but of the way marriage is and has been structured—and how best to support it at its best.)

This is what marital love originally was, and it’s what defines uniquely defines marriage. The proof of it is in the state’s recognition of marriage as a unique institution. The state does not recognize any strong, committed friendships, except for marriage. What is the state’s interest in marriage? It’s not the friendship. It’s not the sex. (Why would the state have to license sexual activity?!) The state cares about marriage because it is the core institution that supports the growth, thriving, and long-term viability of society.

Why would the state want to license sex?

Gay “marriage” is, at its best, strong friendship plus sex. (The number of gays and lesbians who marry in order to have children is small, and there is nothing in their mutual sexual act in any case that carries the implication that “this is for us, but not just for us.”)

I don’t know why the state would recognize strong friendship on its own. So what the state must be recognizing when it approves of gay marriage is the sex part. Why should the state recognize that? I don’t know why gays aren’t yelling, “get the state out of my bedroom!”

So now I go back to the differential divorce rates among various ethnic groups. Bill L’s intentionally shocking question was, should we disallow Blacks from marrying because of their higher divorce rates? It was shocking in more ways than one: it shocked me to see how poorly I’ve communicated, or how little he had gotten it!

The difference between married persons (of whatever ethnicity) and gay couples is that married people can at least possibly have a “you and me and the rest of the family” kind of relationship, even at the moment of their sexual enjoyment. This is never what gay sex is about. It’s never what homoerotic behavior is intrinsically for.

Man-woman marriage is no longer in every case what it used to be in every case, and some male-female relationships are of the “just you and me, babe” variety. Society’s next generation, however, will be built by children of families that are looking beyond themselves—or so we hope.

How not to support the real thing

Genuine marital love—the outward-looking, self-forgetful, giving and overflowing kind—is a very high calling. It is very good, and it’s also very challenging at times. It needs support.

And to support that kind of love in marriage relationships—where even the most intimate moments carry the possibility of overflowing into new life and other person to love—the worst thing we could do is to endorse as “marriage” a completely different kind of relationship, one whose structure is entirely inward looking. The effect of that would be to give state licensure to a relationship that the state has no interest in. It would be granting public support and approval to inward-focused marriage. It would seriously undermine society’s already weakened support for long-lasting, outward-oriented marriages. Those marriages have lost a lot of social support already, but this would be celebrating the death of that support.

That’s one aspect of the harm SSM can and will do. There are others.

And yes, the real thing really matters

A final word before I go. I am quite sure some people reading this will yawn and say, “So what? What’s so bad about ‘you and me, babe’ relationships? It’s still love.” I have one final point to add about that kind of love. I agree that it’s love, but it’s stunted love, inward-looking love, love kept confined, love cut short at its inception. It’s a weak, counterfeit model of marital love. It’s not the kind of love that builds strong societies. And it’s not the unconditional, other-oriented, outward-looking kind of love that is God’s kind of love.

top of page comments form

115 Responses to “ Counterfeit Marital Love in Same-Sex and Straight Relationships ”

  1. My wife and I will be celebrating our wedding anniversary this month. Our marriage is consciously and deliberately childless, but I assure you our love is “the outward-looking, self-forgetful, giving and overflowing kind.” You may consider it a “stunted love, inward-looking love, love kept confined, love cut short at its inception . . . a weak, counterfeit model of marital love,” but we are fortunately not bound by or legally subject to your opinion. (If I sound a little brittle, it’s because I feel that your comments implicitly denigrate my marriage, whether you intended that or not.)

    We could, of course, have chosen to live together without entering into civil marriage. But we would have deprived ourselves of all the legal and intangible benefits and obligations that follow from that contract. We feel as entitled to solemnize our loving relationship by civil marriage as any other couple, childless or not, and the law emphatically agrees that we do have that right.

    I cannot help but believe every loving couple should have equal access to those same legal benefits and obligations — it would seem grotesquely hypocritical for me to believe otherwise. And I cannot see any objective reason to enjoy these rights and obligations while denying them to same-sex couples.

  2. Your love may be of that sort, Adam. I won’t disagree with that. Your love is not that way structurally, so if you’ve accomplished that outward orientation, that’s great. Still, it will not become the self-sacrificial love that parents uniquely experience. That’s not denigration, it is merely fact.

    Your relationship may well be of the sort that would encourage other marriages to hang in there through all the tough times. You may be able to encourage other people to become more in relationship than they would be individually. I don’t doubt that.

    Remember, I’m talking about cultural/structural effects; not the variances that apply to individual marriages, but the broader-level influences. “You and me, babe,” marriage is not structurally oriented toward the same kinds of outward things that “You and me and the family” marriages are oriented towards.

    Again, if you’ve risen above what your relationship’s structure would naturally orient you toward, then kudos to you. There are too many intentionally childless relationships that aren’t that way.

  3. By the way, I did not judge anyone’s individual marriage. I wrote,

    Sex with no possibility of children means the possibility of sex for one’s own pleasure and nothing but that. As a corollary, it means the possibility of romantic coupling for the couple’s own pleasure and nothing but that.

    and,

    Man-woman marriage is no longer in every case what it used to be in every case, and some male-female relationships are of the “just you and me, babe” variety.

  4. Fortunately, Tom, your theory of “marital structure” and your disapproval of “romantic coupling for the couple’s own pleasure” carry no legal weight whatsoever. I am legally protected from them. If I find them unconvincing and antiquated and choose to ignore them, I’m free to do so.

    Increasingly, same-sex couples enjoy the same protection under the law. I think that’s a good thing.

  5. Adam,

    Our marriage is consciously and deliberately childless, but I assure you our love is “the outward-looking, self-forgetful, giving and overflowing kind.”

    I don’t know why you’re getting upset. You’re marriage is indeed a marriage and it remains *structured* as an outward-looking institution that the state would want to encourage and support. The state knows nothing about your decision to remain childless, and that “don’t ask” attitude is a deliberate decision by the state – for good reason, I think.

  6. Also, Tom (or anyone else): as I’ve mentioned in the other thread, there’s nothing stopping same-sex couples from raising children. Given that, wouldn’t it be better, both for them individually and for society in general, for those couples to be married?

  7. Tom, you said your argument carries no force of law. I take this to mean that you wouldn’t expect it to convince any reasonable judge that the state should side with you in determining marriage laws. Is this accurate?

  8. No, that’s not what I meant when I answered Adam. I misunderstood his question.

    Laws and their judicial interpretations are based in reasons. This is one form of reasoning against SSM. whether it has force of law isn’t the question, unless “force of law” has a technical meaning I’m unaware of. The question is whether it is an argument that could support legal reasoning in favor of man-woman marriage. I can’t imagine why it wouldn’t.

  9. Well, voters and legislators are routinely persuaded by all sorts of extremely poor arguments; so that doesn’t seem like a good guide. Judges, however, practically have “evaluate arguments well” as part of their job description. So I’m forced to wonder – if your argument could support legal reasoning, why hasn’t it? Do you think that every single one of these judges (over 30 of them, in a row) is biased in some way?

  10. Given that, wouldn’t it be better, both for them individually and for society in general, for those couples to be married?

    If by married you mean endorsed, valued and encouraged by the state *in the same way* as a male/female couple would – the answer is no.

    For the reasons Tom outlined here, the state would prefer to *first* endorse/encourage male/female couples, and then *second* SS couples. The only way it can do that is if each one is legally distinct.

  11. SF

    Do you think that every single one of these judges (over 30 of them, in a row) is biased in some way?

    You’re wrong about ‘every single one’. Several judges have decided against SS ‘marriage’ for legal reasons. They were later overturned – also for legal reasons. Where any of them biased? Probably.

  12. Also, Tom – in a much broader sense: this sort of argument doesn’t seem to be convincing anyone at all. The young, the old, the middle-aged, liberals, conservatives, independents, catholics, evangelicals, other religions, the nonreligious, lawyers, judges, presidents, congressmen, upper class, middle class, lower class….practically every conceivable group is showing an upward trend in my “side”. Public approval of SSM is locked in at >50%, and rising. It’ll almost certainly be >60% by the end of the decade. Possibly even higher.

    Given all the disparate groups, this can’t be attributed to any kind of bias; and given all the campaigns to make people aware of arguments such as this, it can’t be attributed to ignorance. So, how do you explain this?

  13. SteveK: What I’m referring to is the unbroken string of wins since Windsor was decided. It’s truly unprecedented. Nothing like this has ever happened in the U.S. before.

  14. SteveK –

    The state knows nothing about your decision to remain childless, and that “don’t ask” attitude is a deliberate decision by the state – for good reason, I think.

    Well, that invites comparison to the U.S. military’s former policy with regard to homosexuality, “don’t ask, don’t tell” – as you must be aware.

    The military was forbidden from looking into homosexuality among the troops – but if it was discovered anyway, by other circumstances, the servicemember would be discharged.

    What if a married couple “tells” – that is to say, loudly announces an intention to remain childless? And perhaps takes steps, even surgical ones, to remain so?

  15. I explain this, SF, in terms of the overwhelming victory won since the 1960s by the “you and me” understanding of sexuality, coupled with the displacement of Aristotelian metaphysics with a Rousseauian/Darwinian version that sees both marriage and law as malleable according to the mood of the moment, along with some incredibly successful manipulations and maneuverings by homosexual activists, and conservatives terribly slow response.

    So is your response to my argument, “Nobody believes it”? Or do you actually have an opinion of your own on its actual strengths and weaknesses?

    Ray, you have an annoyingly inveterate need to revert to individual, atomistic cases, as if occasional exceptions could change structural principles. Don’t bother. If you’re going to ask a question about my argument, please show that you have some idea what you’re asking about first, okay? You said it “invites comparison.” You said nothing about the actual analogy that exists, and you showed no awareness of the thrust of my argument. I’m not interested in playing that game with you. (I’ve called it a game before with you, and I still see it that way.)

  16. Tom, SteveK has already stated that he’s okay with the idea of civil unions. Would you be okay with such things, too?

    If yes, it’d be nice if you could note a few specifics as to how they’d differ in practice.

    To give some focus for the question, I summarized the situation with Deboer v. Snyder. If you had your druthers, how would you want such situations handled? What rights, if any, should the couple have with respect to their partner’s adopted child(ren)?

  17. Tom –

    Ray, you have an annoyingly inveterate need to revert to individual, atomistic cases, as if occasional exceptions could change structural principles.

    Sorry, it’s the engineer in me. As I’ve heard said, “In theory, theory and practice are the same. In practice, they are different.” I like to see what happens when the rubber meets the road. You want to learn humility about applying abstract thoughts to the real world, try writing computer programs. Each of the first thirty versions or so, you think you’ve got everything covered… only to find out you missed something else important.

  18. I’ve seen a lot of arguments against SSM from natural law that develop a concept of man-woman marriage. But a lot of people seem to get lost in the metaphysical weeds.

    Tom, while it is one thing to lay out a metaphysics of love and relationships, do you think another fruitful path would be to deny that marriage is an individual or corporate (couple, throuple, etc) right? It seems to me that government is not intended to distribute retirement benefits and tax benefits to “married” couples while discriminately withholding those benefits from single persons.

    The best explanation of marriage as a legal institution is that it is a duty and privilege involving the responsibility of commitment to jointly raising any natural children that arise from it. Granting benefits, affirming personal dignity, and all that jazz are not what the government is normally in the business of doing. Or as Tina Turner would say, “What’s love got to do with it?”

  19. Ray,

    What if a married couple “tells” – that is to say, loudly announces an intention to remain childless? And perhaps takes steps, even surgical ones, to remain so?

    Then each state can decide what it wants to do with them. My preference would be to give them a civil union license.

    I cannot image such a thing, but maybe some states want more of these kinds of relationships. If they do, the only way they can legally encourage more of them is if they are a legally distinct entity.

  20. Tom –

    Computer programs are not social structures.

    I find them fairly closely analogous to that subset of social structures called laws, though. Both are created by humans in an attempt to systematize operation in the real world, seek to model and capture aspects of the real world in a formalized way, need to be comprehensible and manageable by humans… and yet have to try to cope with the complications and uncertainty of the real world.

    And yes, careful selection of test cases is important in evaluating both, too.

  21. You may find them closely analogous, but you’re wrong.

    Social structures are not breakable by tiny errors in single lines of code. People are not lines of code.

    ’nuff said.

    Show me you understand what you’re objecting to or please quit objecting to what you don’t understand. Please.

  22. Tom –

    Social structures are not breakable by tiny errors in single lines of code.

    Social structures in general, no. Laws, which I very specifically and explicitly made the subject of my analogy, definitely are. You may have heard of a recent example…

    People are not lines of code.

    People aren’t laws, either. The laws governing legal marriage – ‘schmarriage’, in the current parlance – are laws, though.

    “Show me you understand what you’re objecting to or please quit objecting to what you don’t understand. Please.”

  23. Tom,

    Let me try to see if I’m understanding you correctly, OK?

    The reasons you oppose SSM:

    1. Same Sex Relationships (SSR) are too fickle. They have too many partners outside of the relationship, or they don’t take the relationship seriously enough. And as an extension, they would lead to raising children who would hold similar views.

    2. The cultural message does not support them.

    3. SSRs are not geared towards creating families.

    4. Giving sanction to the above would lead to too many straight people not taking marriage seriously.

    Please let me know what I’ve left out or gotten wrong.

  24. There are many reasons besides these, Bill L., so I wouldn’t want you to think this was the whole story. But this post was only about some of my reasons, so you’ve posed this question well for this context.

    Your first point is kind of close to the mark but not quite. It’s not about fickleness exactly; it’s more about modeling true lifelong depth of relationship. Please note, however, that this is not part of the argument I made on this blog post.

    Whether the cultural message supports same-sex relationships or not has nothing to do with my reasoning.

    Your third point is a premise in my argument, not a conclusion, or even an interim conclusion. I think I’m going to direct you towards rereading this post rather than restating what I wrote in it, because the family-orientation, or lack thereof, is the basis for that entire discussion.

    Your fourth point is a very weak version of what I was trying to communicate. It’s true: it would lead to too many straight people not taking marriage seriously. It would have other deleterious effects as well, however, one of which would be the degradation of support given to straight couples who want to take marriage seriously but need help in maintaining that motivation through the hard times.

    I hope that helps clarify things. I really appreciate your summarizing what you understand of my argument; it has got to be helpful for both of us in the course of trying to understand each other. Thanks.

  25. You asked me to let you know what you might have left out, and I appreciate your awareness demonstrated in opening that door. I’m not going to try to accomplish that here, however, since there’s really too much, and simply to list the points without arguing for them or explaining them would not be wise in an environment where people are looking for weak arguments to criticize.

  26. Tom,

    Genuine marital love—the outward-looking, self-forgetful, giving and overflowing kind—is a very high calling.

    Two points. You seem to imply that Christianity teaches that moral marriages must intend children. Paul says that marriage is a metaphor for something:

    Ephesians 5:31-32:

    Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh. This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church.

    If marriage is best understood as a metaphor for the relationship of Jesus to Christians, procreation doesn’t seem of primary importance.

    My second point is that you’ll find plenty of same-sex marriages that exhibit outward-looking, self-forgetful, giving and overflowing kind of love: those same-sex couples adopt children.

  27. Alright, I am trying to re-read through what you’ve written so we can at least come to an understanding. I suppose no one has ever accused you of being too economical with your words. 😉

    For simplicity I will just try and stay focused on the issues in this post. I know you have others, just as I raised other issues in the previous post that you did not address even though the question of mine you replied to in this post was tied to those issues. But let’s move on…

    I hope you’ll forgive me for thinking that fickleness was part of your argument on this post since you said “….relational infidelity among gay male couples is so frequent as to be considered virtually normal. The word among gay men is that ‘committed monogamy’ allows for occasional sex with others.” That is how I took your meaning.

    So what I gather is now:

    1. Creating long-lasting families is what is important in marriage for society.

    2. SSRs are not geared towards long-lasting families.

    3. A societal acceptance of marriage that is not geared towards long-lasting families would erode the attitudes of seriousness and support towards marriage.

    I know I’m leaving out the important descriptions. I’m intentionally making this as simple as I can. How does it look now?

  28. DJC, Paul doesn’t say that marriage is only that, and the Bible is replete with references to parents and children and the value of that relationship.

    My second point is that you’ll find plenty of same-sex marriages that exhibit outward-looking, self-forgetful, giving and overflowing kind of love: those same-sex couples adopt children.

    How many? And in how many of them is their most intimate expression of love the kind of act that intrinsically reflects the generation of new life to love?

  29. Bill L., that’s pretty bare-bones in form but you intended it that way. I think maybe if you include the importance of intrinsic, structural other-orientedness you might be a lot closer. It’s not just about long-lasting families, it’s also about other-orientedness as a virtue that builds individuals, families, communities, and societies in good ways.

  30. OK then. Let’s change #1 a bit to

    1. Creating long-lasting families through other-orientedness is what is important in marriage for society.

    2. SSRs are not geared towards long-lasting families or other-orientedness.

    3. A societal acceptance of marriage that is not geared towards long-lasting families would erode the attitudes of seriousness and support towards marriage.

    I hope that’s better.

    If it is, let me ask you some things:
    You seem to agree that at least some SSRs do in fact create long-lasting families. I suspect you would think the same of some that have that sense of other-orientedness. So for #2, we could say that there is some percentage who are geared that way, and some percentage who are not, correct?

    You also seem to agree that this is true of hetero-relationships/marriage – there will be percentages in each category. Correct?

    If that’s the case, why do you single out homosexuals and only homosexuals? Is the percentage just that different? If it is, do you have any data to support that?

  31. As for this,

    If that’s the case, why do you single out homosexuals and only homosexuals? Is the percentage just that different? If it is, do you have any data to support that?

    All I can say is, wow.

    Please re-read the article’s headline. Then re-read the article.

    You seem to agree that at least some SSRs do in fact create long-lasting families. I suspect you would think the same of some that have that sense of other-orientedness. So for #2, we could say that there is some percentage who are geared that way, and some percentage who are not, correct?

    I don’t know if you’ve caught the whole structural basis of the argument I’ve presented.

    I appreciate it that you’re trying to figure out what I’ve said. There are deep value differences here that are likely to be hard to hurdle. I can see why it’s taking a while to get there. Thanks for going for it. In fact, I’m pretty sure that although I wrote “wow,” as I did, what you intended to say was different from what I understood when I read it. I’ll calm down a bit and ask you to explain for me, too.

  32. “same-sex couples adopt children”.

    I suspect this statement brings with it way more philosophical baggage than was actually intended. Let me explain…

    Firstly, is biology destiny? Or, put another way, is it a good thing to transcend biology?

    Humans, like most complex animals on this planet, are a bi-sexual lifeform. Each human is genetically either male or female*, and one of each is needed for reproduction. Historically speaking, this fact has featured strongly in human society in two key ways:

    (1) mythology of sex. Historical mythology of sex generally includes something that represents male and something that represents female joining to produce some form of new life.

    (2) pair-bonding. Humans tend to feel ownership and responsibility towards their offspring, which leads both male and female to identify strongly with their children and their children’s welfare. This is commonly expressed through pair-bonding.

    Note that it is not just the mechanics of reproduction that drives this behaviour. Humans seem driven to pair-bond in ways that many other animals are not. Mechanics of why this is so are unimportant to this discussion.

    In the contraceptive era, we have radically changed both these features. The mythology of sex is now representative of pair-bonding, not new life. Indeed, new life is often seen as risk factor not an end. And with the removal of procreation from pair-bonding, so we also remove the significance of sex.

    Thus, procreation is not the focus of the pair-bond, it’s an optional extra. Our pair-bond is not an expression of our biology, but only of our will. Children may or may not be imported into this, but again it is an act of will. Even heterosexual couples do not see their marriage primarily as vesting in a societal pattern leading to propagation of humankind but as seeking a place of fulfilment (and the great sadness of women spending 20 years of their life aggressively using medicine to prevent pregnancy only to then turn around and use even more invasive techniques to revive it as their fertility wanes). I’m not claiming these descriptions are universally true, but they are shared norms within which our modern society dwells.

    We further see the rejection of the sex distinction altogether. Normalisation of transsexualism again glorifies the will of the individual above both biology and the mythology of procreative sex.

    But is this a good thing? Do we look forward to the future where sex (the biology) is done away with, sex (the act) is a mere activity, and our wills are unfettered by our natures? Is nature morally accidental, or does it embody an inherent virtue? This is the fundamental issue under discussion, and SSM (or similar) merely a presentation of it.

    Note, too, that this goes beyond sex. Are the inherent differences between peoples a good thing or a bad thing? Should everyone’s experience of life be the same? Who or what gives us our roles and our values? We live in a society that glorifies fame and riches (celebrities) and yet is offended if the person next door is better off than ourselves. When everyone is pampered, who does the pampering? Some are different to others; is this a something to be opposed, or should we just get over it?

    Thus, we could re-phrase the question: “Is circumstance destiny?”.

    What does it really mean for “all men to be created equal”, and how should this play out in society?

    *1: a very few humans are technically neither male nor female, but we consider these “genetic or developmental deformities”, in the same way as someone born with Down’s syndrome or missing a limb. Moreover, my understanding is that such people are typically sterile.

  33. Addendum, to bring it back to the topic at hand:

    Where do we want society to go, from a multi-generational perspective, and how does that constrain our options with respect to sex, sex roles, marriage and procreation?

  34. @Andrew W:

    Where do we want society to go, from a multi-generational perspective, and how does that constrain our options with respect to sex, sex roles, marriage and procreation?

    I have got nothing but agreement with your attempts at clarification, but since a “me too” is the most fatuous and risible of comments, I will add the following. There are distinct types questions; in order of logical priority, and as a first approximation, we could rank them as follows:

    (1) The nature of marriage. Does it have an essential nature?

    (2) Assuming that it does indeed have an essential nature, something essential in its definition that is not merely a product of social convention, the next question would be what is its nature.

    (3) Even if two people agreed with the essentialist conception of marriage, and even if they agreed, at least in broad outline, on the essence of said nature, they could still disagree on the moral relevance of the facts.

    (4) And even if two people agreed on the essentialist conception, on the essentials of the nature and the moral relevance, they could disagree on what this entails for Society at large.

    (5) And even if two people agreed on the answers to (1) through (4), they could still disagree on what and how the Law should translate this.

    From my POV, part of the frustration in these discussions is the constant conflation of the various different questions. And I should remind that even in a discussion as polarized as this one, there is ample room of disagreement between two people on the same side of the barricade: the fact that two people, say me and Tom, agree, at least in general broad outline, on the essentialist conception of marriage, does not mean that we agree on how the Law should, if it should, take account of this fact.

  35. Tom,

    OK, I’ve reread your OP and your additional link several times and I’m obviously not capturing it in your eyes… so how/where would you incorporate the idea of other-orientedness in what I’ve presented in the simplest way possible?

  36. Does it have an essential nature?

    Does anything at all have an essential nature?

    Robert Reilly asks and answers this much larger question in .

    And I think this might be the real root of the reason there’s a religious divide on this issue. It’s not just because (as the pro-gay people like to say) our holy book instructs us on what to think. It’s because ever since Rousseau and Darwin, through their differing yet complementary influences, many people have come to conclude that nothing biological is what it is essentially (Darwin), especially in human society (Rousseau).

    On a biblical view, that’s obviously wrong; but it’s also obviously wrong on an Aristotelian view. That’s why there are both religious and secular reasons for opposing malleable marriage definitions.

    But since Aristotle is out the window (on this matter at least), when we speak of natural law explanations, they fall on ears that cannot hear. I don’t think present culture has the categories to conceive of any such thing as an essential definition for anything at all, at least not in biology or society.

    If nothing has an essential nature, then marriage has no essential nature. It’s not what it essentially is but what humans make it to be. We can make it for gays, or whoever or whatever we wish. That’s if marriage has no essential nature.

    I plan to write a blog post on this soon, in which I’ll also address how this influences beliefs in gender fluidity.

  37. Bill L., thanks for asking.

    You made other-orientedness strictly an instrumental good, a cause for long-lasting families. I see other-orientedness as both an intrinsic good and an instrumental good.

    Man-woman sexual marriage includes other-orientedness as a structural feature, by way of the nature of the sex act. This is good in itself, and it has good effects in the couple, the family, and the community.

    Homosexual sex does not include this structural feature. This is a privation, a lack; and some readers will know what that translates to.

    Also, it seems you made long-lasting families into one of the major goods I was proposing. I could have mentioned that, but I didn’t, since I don’t think it’s necessarily distinctive enough to set apart man-woman marriage from other couplings. It doesn’t rise to the level of goodness I would assign to other-orientedness. It’s certainly good, but love (other-orientedness) is a higher good.

    (There are data indicating that gay relationships don’t last, but I didn’t want to go dig it out, and I didn’t want to introduce it anyway since I didn’t want to make my point dependent on social research.)

  38. OK, it seems I need to reword more drastically than I had realized. Is this closer?

    1. Love and other-orientedness is what is important in marriage for society.

    2. SSRs are not geared towards love or other-orientedness.

    3. A societal acceptance of marriage that is not geared towards these would erode the attitudes of seriousness and support towards marriage.

  39. @47
    Good summary of the different questions to be wrestled with. I think western society has been taught over the years to say NO to question (1).

    The reason I think that is because in the west we are taught to value everything a scientist says and downplay what everyone else says – especially philosophers and old crusty religious folk. The constant drum beats of Darwinism and a naturalistic view of reality are taking root and the effects of those beliefs are being played out in society.

  40. Bill L,

    That’s still not very close. Number 1 is almost there but not quite, and number 2 is far off from what I believe.

    Let’s try it this way. I can’t simplify it to as few items as you had hoped.

    (This is a part—and only a part—of the harm statement with respect to same-sex marriage.)

    1. Marriage has historically been an institution that has been structurally oriented to be both inward- and outward-looking.
    2. Marriage in the mid-20th century began transitioning, for many although not all couples, to an inward-looking, not outward-looking form.
    3. To be outward-looking as an individual or a social unit is good in itself; it is a form or expression of love.
    4. An inward-looking relationship tends to be self-oriented or even self-centered and selfish. This is bad in itself.
    5. SSM is structured to be inward-looking but not outward-looking. It supports relationships with the weakness of item 4. (Not all SSRs are inward-looking, but the structure of the relationship certainly supports it.)
    6. SSM actually re-defines marriage so as to exclude the outward-looking aspect from its definition.
    7. SSM therefore removes from the definition of marriage its outward-looking aspect.
    8. SSM therefore fundamentally alters the most society-building, society-supporting aspect of society’s most fundamental social unit, and does so in a way that eliminates its structural support for an outward-looking approach to life.
    9. Families, children, and communities have already been significantly harmed by that very trend beginning among many heterosexual couples.
    10. SSM approves, endorses, and extends that harmful trend.

    I might be able to reduce that to fewer items if I gave it a half-hour more thought, but I have to move on to other things.

  41. Here’s the shortest form I’ve been able to compress it into, along with my biblical sources. It’s still not real short. It’s the best I can do, since I can’t assume everyone understands human systems theory or virtue theory.

    Marriage has historically been both inward-looking (romantic love and developing the home) and outward-looking (toward the new lives to be loved, and the community in which they and the couple will live). To be outward-looking in this sense is good in itself, a form of love, an intrinsic good apart from all other goods that might also flow from it. To be inward-looking only is to be self-centered.

    Marriage began transitioning toward an inward-looking only relationship, for many though not all couples, in the mid-20th century. This came about when contraception made children optional in marriage: marriage changed structurally, such that outward-looking became less an automatic aspect of marriage. Human nature tends toward greater selfishness and less other-oriented love (inward-looking marriage in this case) when other-centeredness is not supported. Families, children, and communities have suffered significant harm as a result.

    SSM is structured to be inward-looking; it lacks any inherent outward-looking aspect or function. SSM couples may or may not choose to live other-oriented lives. Some do, some don’t.

    But the acceptance of SSM actually removes from the definition of marriage its most society-building, society supporting, other-oriented aspect that functions structurally within marriage to cause couples to be larger than just the pair, and better than just their romance, and more loving than just their mutual embrace. It takes as normative the harmful changes wrought by the heterosexual revisions of marriage over the past several decades, and it writes off the most socially fruitful, individual-and-couple-growing part of marriage, as if it were the least important thing about it.

    In a word, structurally SSM is designed to be just for the couple, just “you and me, babe.” That’s weak. As a system it supports and motivates self-oriented relationships.

    The “biblical” source for this? The book of Proverbs. Also Peter Senge’s The Fifth Discipline; family systems studies in general, and my very secular graduate studies in psychology, especially in human motivation. Here’s a quick taste of it, demonstrating how systems affect behavior.

  42. Thanks for trying to summarize your position Tom. I see now that I was too focused on the details you had previously presented without trying to deal with your larger picture.

    Now, if I understand you correctly, the main concern of your big picture is the negative effects caused by the overall erosion of marriage in society. Is that correct?

    I think you tried to point out these negative effects in #31 on your previous post. But I am wondering how these harms you’ve described actually manifest. For instance, I have no doubt that children do prefer to grow up with their own mother and father (Let’s set aside for a moment that I don’t see how this will be impacted by SSM). I also have no doubt that more and more couples are not having children (my wife and I for example).

    But these harms that you speak of must be manifest in some way in society. So what are those ways? What negative effects are being seen in this trend you have described as starting in the mid-20th Century?

    A slightly different direction: what if someone says that couples who tend not have children are actually more “other-oriented” then those who do? What if their decision not to have children actually fosters a sense of community identity where they see their neighbors, friends, and all citizens as more worthy of their love and efforts? One might hold the view that couples who have their own children are actually more self oriented – that is, “this is only about you and me and the offspring that we create?”

    Look at this first in couples who adopt… They recognize that their are too many children in the world who don’t have loving homes. It could be said that they have recognized that children don’t need to be products of their own genes in order to be worthy of their love. They might even say that people who see the need to produce their own offspring are the more selfish. Then what about people who have no children? What if they see that the main problem facing this planet is largely one of overpopulation. In fact, they may believe that this is what will doom us all. Their decision then would seem more other-oriented.

  43. Hi, Bill, and thanks for those questions. You’re making me think. I like that.

    I’ll start with an easy, partial answer: This article recommended by Ray includes data showing that children tend to make couples (esp. Whites, in America) more community oriented. Empirically, there is little reason to think that “their decision not to have children actually fosters a sense of community identity where they see their neighbors, friends, and all citizens as more worthy of their love and efforts.”

    That’s one piece of it, and it’s indicative of what I’m trying to communicate here. Marital intimacy is inherently, systemically, structurally ordered toward the expansion and growth of love beyond the pair. This is good in itself, I think, since it gives room for the couple’s love to overflow, even out of their most loving moments. It’s love unconfined, uncontained, running over, at least potentially; or if not (since of course not every moment of intimacy results in a baby being born), it is the couple’s abandonment of themselves to that potential future. In the sixties they spoke of “free love,” meaning “love” (I use the word advisedly) without cost. This is free love in the sense of love given freely and allowed freely to grow.

    This structural feature is good also in the sense that sometimes we all need help looking beyond ourselves.

    You speak of the couple that remains childless for reasons of concern about world population. That is, in the first case, misinformed; the Western world in particular is not growing at all, and in many places is not even replacing itself. The same is true in China. But suppose someone without that information decides it would be good for the world if they refrained from bearing children. That’s not the same kind of love at all. It’s love for a concept, not for a person. People are harder to love than concepts. It’s a richer experience to love a person, though, and it does more good. And yet it’s harder. One reason man-woman marriage is good is because it’s structured so as to give us a rather powerful kickstart in the direction of loving a very small, very needy person, and to do so very self-sacrificially.

    You say, “One might hold the view that couples who have their own children are actually more self oriented – that is, ‘this is only about you and me and the offspring that we create?'” No one who cares about their offspring can take that attitude–not unless they hole up in a cabin and live off the land. Children (including most home-schooled children) live unavoidably in a wider world of school, sports, church, clubs, and so on. Parents who love their kids have to care about that wider world, and about the much wider world of nation and of the future. Structurally, again, this does not lead toward cocooning but toward involvement.

    I don’t know why this wouldn’t also apply to couples who adopt, except that some of the structural inducements are not present. (How many gay couples adopt, by the way? Are we talking about setting policy based on rare exceptions, or are there some real numbers involved?)

    As for the harms done by the dissolution of marriage culture, just ask any child of divorce whether they liked that their parents split up. In some cases the answer would be, “Yes, it got better once we got away from all the drinking, arguing, violence…” or whatever. In many cases it would be, “I can’t believe my dad (or mom) was so selfish, and I’m still angry about it.” Ask any child of divorce whether they would have rather had a home like some others their age whose parents are still married and love each other, and I’m sure you can predict the answer.

    I could say more about the actual effects in culture, except that some of the relationships are difficult to draw out because of the multiplicity of variables involved, some of the effects are quite plain but I’ll need to track down the information sources for you, and besides all that, my wife and I are about to do something together. I’ll be back–though any other commenter is welcome to jump in and supply the information I’m not getting to yet.

  44. Related to my comments above, here is an excerpt from http://www.thepublicdiscourse.com/2014/08/13612/ that expresses a similar idea:

    Manent argues that modern life—the “modern project”—grounds itself on the power of the human will to transform the world around us. Obviously, humans have always known that they could change the world to some degree. But the ancients were more aware of their limits. They were also more modest in their ambitions. They held that we need to reconcile ourselves to an existing order of nature that, even if flawed, is still essentially good. And in recognizing nature’s limits and the need to conform to its order, they found real freedom. Moderns see the world very differently. Modern life “frees” us from thinking that we need to conform to any natural order—or even from believing that a natural order exists.

    In Aristotle’s time, men and women saw the natural purpose of marriage—its telos—and they tried to pursue it, however imperfectly. Moderns want marriage to be different, so they work to reshape it according to their will. And since we’ve lost our understanding of an objective human nature and moral order, we quickly come to regard the desires of our will as “human rights” with which others are forbidden to interfere.

  45. Been busy doing family stuff for a few days – many birthday parties in August. Anyway…

    Tom –

    Ray, if laws were the topic of this post your analogy would be relevant. Have you even read it?

    You’re planning on incorporating your views on marriage into the laws of the United States. I’m afraid you have to confront nitty-gritty real-world considerations to do that.

  46. No, first of all, you’re planning on incorporating your views on marriage into the laws of the United States. Second, we can talk about whether gay marriage is a good idea without talking about existing law. (Is that blindingly obvious, or what?)

    If laws were the topic of this post, then reference to laws might be relevant. Have you even read the post?

  47. Well, actually, Tom, in this case Iwasn’t replying to “your argument”.

    I was replying to SteveK’s comment and you responded to what I wrote to him. And then I replied specifically to that comment of yours.

    With respect to your actual argument, though, since you asked – this line stands out:

    I don’t know why the state would recognize strong friendship on its own.

    When people are living together and sharing assets and trusting each other to care for them in illness and misfortune, there are important legal implications. Marriage offers a ‘package deal’ that resolves a huge range of these issues.

    The current alternatives are a very pale shadow of legal recognition in actual practice. (Or see here, or “Myth 8” here.)

    I’m not married to the idea of same-sex marriage. Actually, I’d love to see the government get out of the marriage business altogether. Legally, there’d be civil unions – likely a couple types, with perhaps automatic conversion to a child-appropriate type if the couple births or adopts a child. (That would make divorce – absent domestic violence – harder, for example.) Tying the benefits and duties of child-rearing to those actually rearing children seems sensible to me

    As noted in the other thread there’s already an important distinction between marriage as conceived in many religions and the legal convention. I’d like that distinction to be more explicit.

    If, as you quoted in the other thread, you want to “change our reputation from those who hate gays, to those who love them”, you might at least consider what burdens you might be putting on them. (Unless you want to make their lives harder, legally speaking.)

  48. Unless you want to make their lives harder, legally speaking.

    Seriously? What a low level of maturity you exhibit, Ray!

    So, by this “logic”, coaches should not makes the lives of athletes harder by imposing the pain of training; parents should not make the lives of their children harder by imposing (in some cases, live-saving) discipline; teachers should not make the lives of students harder by imposing homework; judges should not make the lives of criminals harder by imposing legal sanctions.

    In all these cases–to one extent or another–only a low-maturity mind would focus on the “hardness” of the ordeal rather than on the end product, that is, on improving a person’s athletic prowess… or person’s character or their intelligence.

    In the Ray vision of reality, choice is the final arbiter of what is good and what is evil… all while sneaking in the wholly-undemonstrated notion that the ontological character of homosexuality is a good or that homosexual acts are morally good. Sanctions against homosexual acts and relations are NOT directed to making life “hard” for a person suffering from such a disorder: they’re imposed to keep such people from hurting themselves and others AND to opening the door to the improvement of moral character. The “hardness” aspect is that which is experienced whenever a person moves from viciousness to virtuousness. Bad habits ARE hard to break… that’s the whole point: moral character development cannot happen without hard work… just like athletes don’t win medals by eating Häagen-Dazs and sleeping in.

    So, instead of whining about how “hard” life is, Ray, get out of your emotional self and provide us an actually sound argument for why the disordered homosexual state is a “good” for human beings. I’ve seen nothing that comes close to being an argument from you in this respect. Rather, all we get is “don’t make life hard for others by denying them something my personal, subjective opinion holds as ‘good’.”

  49. In your comment #21 you were responding to Steve.

    In my comment #22 I called out your “inveterate need to revert to atomistic cases, as if exceptional cases could change structural principles;” to wit, your example, “What if a married couple “tells” – that is to say, loudly announces an intention to remain childless? And perhaps takes steps, even surgical ones, to remain so?”

    At that point I was making an effort to steer the discussion back toward structural principles.

    In #25 you responded to what I said there, and from there through numbers 26, 29, 30, 31, 32, 58, and 59 the conversation was between you and me.

    So when you say, “Well, actually, Tom, in this case I wasn’t replying to ‘your argument,'” you’re reaching far back into the discussion.

    But let’s look again at what you tried to distract me from pursuing. In #58 you wrote,

    You’re planning on incorporating your views on marriage into the laws of the United States. I’m afraid you have to confront nitty-gritty real-world considerations to do that.

    I answered to correct your misunderstand of who is introducing what, and then went on, “we can talk about whether gay marriage is a good idea without talking about existing law.”

    In other words, Ray, yes, if this were about political strategy there would be nitty-gritty real-world considerations to take into account. The thing is, that’s not what this post is about, and it wasn’t what SteveK’s #9 was about, either. Have you read the original post, or the follow-up comments? Really?

    Going on:

    When people are living together and sharing assets and trusting each other to care for them in illness and misfortune, there are important legal implications. Marriage offers a ‘package deal’ that resolves a huge range of these issues.

    For some reason, though, no one seems to have thought about the state recognizing “strong friendship” that doesn’t include sex. Why do you suppose that is?

    If, as you quoted in the other thread, you want to “change our reputation from those who hate gays, to those who love them”, you might at least consider what burdens you might be putting on them. (Unless you want to make their lives harder, legally speaking.)

    I’d like to do that. That is, actually, I have considered the burdens involved. These things need to be weighed; and I’m seriously convinced that gay marriage would do the harm that I described in the OP, and more.

    It’s one thing to wish the best for a group of people. It’s another thing to wish them what they consider to be the best, which also promises to bring harm to many, many more people in the long run. There is a limit there I cannot cross.

  50. Also to be weighed in the balance, as Holopupenko has rightly said, are the costs and pains versus the gains for the individual person. Though it may seem strange to you, Ray, and though we haven’t brought it up in this thread much (if at all) before now, we believe that virtue is better for a person than vice, we believe that sex is (or can be, should be, and usually is) virtuous within marriage but never elsewhere, and we believe that marriage is for a man and a woman.

    We believe that the pursuit of a virtuous life is good and does good, even if there are costs involved. We believe that virtue is a category of good whose benefits outweigh all burdens it imposes. We believe in absolute, objective right and wrong, and that to do wrong is to incur and to inflict harm.

    These things I have taken into consideration as well.

  51. …we believe that sex is (or can be, should be, and usually is) virtuous within marriage but never elsewhere,

    Do the secular posters here understand why we believe this. There is a very real world and practical side to this understanding. Having sex is to be completely vulnerable and ultimately intimate with another person. Doing this inside a marriage is to do it in a place of ultimate commitment for this ultimate intimacy.

    We often hear the phrase that someone “used” someone. Do you know what it means. You “use” someone when your intimacy exceeds your commitment. When your commitment to them fails to protect someone’s shared intimacy with you. Sex outside of marriage is using someone. An act where the commitment doesn’t match the intimacy. Not a good thing.

  52. Good comment, BillT.

    But is using somebody and having sex with them for selfish gain *really* wrong?? Serious question.

    It’s going to be impossible for secular visitors to relate to your comment unless they can first wrap their heads around the reality of objective human purpose, human love, human nature, goodness and virtue.

    Without these things being *objectively* real the only form of marriage that exists is the relativistic form where nobody is really wrong about what marriage ultimately is. It’s whatever you want it to be, and for whatever reason you want it.

    There’s a huge divide here that cannot be bridged until relativism is done away with.

  53. Steve,

    You’re right but some might see that the “…the reality of objective human purpose, human love, human nature, goodness and virtue.” has real world applications that they are familiar with as well. One can hope.

  54. Andrew W,

    There are two issues I (as a secularist) have with the quote from Chaput.

    But the ancients were more aware of their limits. They were also more modest in their ambitions. They held that we need to reconcile ourselves to an existing order of nature that, even if flawed, is still essentially good.

    It seems quite likely that Solomon, one of the authors of the Bible who happened to have 700 or so wives, believed polygamy was an essential aspect of marriage and within the law of nature. It seems entirely possible that, if he were alive today, he might well argue that the restriction of marriage to one woman, monogamy, is a rejection of the natural order. Only divine revelation in the form of Jesus’ later teachings about marriage would be expected to resolve such a disagreement.

    So it seems strange to expect secularists to recognize a law of nature that is already known to be misperceived or perceived only in part, requiring divine revelation over time to illuminate. And isn’t it possible that marriage as understood today could also be misperceived or perceived only in part and that future Christian views will change?

    Moderns want marriage to be different, so they work to reshape it according to their will. And since we’ve lost our understanding of an objective human nature and moral order, we quickly come to regard the desires of our will as “human rights”

    I think “moderns” see the will as a necessary part of any kind of theory of natural law. Both mind and body are equally shaped by evolution, so there is no reason to appeal to one law for the body and another law for the mind. If there is objectivity about human nature and morality, it must necessarily include both body and mind. If the human mind, as collectively expressed through changes in social culture over time, reveals that marriage is less about genome exchange and more about intimacy between persons, than that is what the natural law of human nature is. Treating the human mind as if it somehow must defer to the reproductive machinery of the human body just isn’t implied by evolution.

    Christianity sees the human will as corrupt without Christianity, while secularists do not. That’s the difference.

  55. Christianity sees the human will as corrupt without Christianity, while secularists do not. That’s the difference.

    The problem with secularists of your ilk, DJC, is how anti-empirical you are when it comes to issues and challenges to your disordered worldview that you a priori reject out-of-hand so as not to hurt your ideological commitments. You are a fearful lot when it comes, in particular, to original sin (hence, why humans are broken by nature)–perhaps the most empirically-verifiable characteristic of humans beings. Here’s a nice compare-and-contrast for you:

    The doctrine of original sin accounts for much of human evil. Indeed, it is empirically verified every day. As G. K. Chesterton put it, “Certain new theologians dispute original sin, which is the only part of Christian theology which can really be proved.”12 Even non-Christian Darwinist Michael Ruse thinks so: “I think Christianity is spot on about original sin—how could one think otherwise, when the world’s most civilized and advanced people (the people of Beethoven, Goethe, Kant) embraced that slime-ball Hitler and participated in the Holocaust? I think Saint Paul and the great Christian philosophers had real insights into sin and freedom and responsibility, and I want to build on this rather than turn from it.”13

    I don’t expect much from atheists in terms of reasoned argumentation and discourse… and you’ve certainly not disappointed me in this regard.

    12 G. K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy (Chicago: Moody, 2009), 28
    13 Michael Ruse, “Darwinism and Christianity Redux: A Response to My Critics,” PhilosophiaChristi NS 4, 1 (2002): 192.

  56. DJC,

    The other problem is that you’ve smuggled an unjustified “ought” in there.

    Both mind and body are equally shaped by evolution, so there is no reason to appeal to one law for the body and another law for the mind.

    Fine, but then there’s also no reason to appeal to either. You’re completely without referential basis except to an appeal to “what works”.

    So lets define “works” for a society as “maintaining a consistent social order for several centuries”. Based on the evidence, what sort of societies have managed that so far?

    “But”, you might object, “what about human rights? Or happiness? Or self-determination?”. But that’s just been dragged in from left field. We’re talking empirical evidence of what “works”, not something that happens to conform to whatever moral bias you’ve invented (or been indoctrinated with) to defend against the empirical evidence. We’re a product of evolution. We have no inherent meaning, and your appeal to it is as relevant as appealing to your preferred flavour of ice-cream to avoid a speeding ticket.

  57. Holopupenko –

    So, by this “logic”, coaches should not makes the lives of athletes harder by imposing the pain of training

    In half the cases you list, people voluntarily submit to such discipline to improve themselves; in the case of parents, they are legally responsible for the care and upbringing of their children precisely because they cannot care for themselves; and in the case of judges, they are dealing with people who have deliberately harmed others.

    So – by the power of law, mind you – which class do you propose to put homosexuals in? Are they harming others in a legally actionable way, such that their choices must be proscribed by force? Are they to be declared incompetent to care for themselves? (At least there’d be precedent…) Or would you propose restrictions that people can voluntarily take upon themselves if they are so inclined?

    In the Ray vision of reality, choice is the final arbiter of what is good and what is evil…

    False, and you should know it, but I no longer imagine you might revise your preconceptions.

    all while sneaking in the wholly-undemonstrated notion that the ontological character of homosexuality is a good or that homosexual acts are morally good.

    No, at most I’ve asked for justifications for why homosexuality might be bad enough to sanction with the force of law. But, again, preconceptions.

  58. Tom –

    At that point I was making an effort to steer the discussion back toward structural principles.

    But SteveK introduced state power, and that’s what I was talking about. As I made clear.

    I answered to correct your misunderstand of who is introducing what,

    Rather depends on what court circuit you’re talking about theses days, doesn’t it?

    it wasn’t what SteveK’s #9 was about, either.

    That’s not how I read it – especially when bringing up “state support”.

    For some reason, though, no one seems to have thought about the state recognizing “strong friendship” that doesn’t include sex. Why do you suppose that is?

    For roughly the same reason nobody really seems to have accepted the notion of marital rape until fairly recently.

    I’d like to do that. That is, actually, I have considered the burdens involved. These things need to be weighed; and I’m seriously convinced that gay marriage would do the harm that I described in the OP, and more.

    And yet, as I pointed out before, the majority of ‘defense of marriage amendments’ ban civil unions, too. If you’re motivated from love, you might ponder relieving what burdens you can find in your conscience to acknowledge.

    We believe that the pursuit of a virtuous life is good and does good, even if there are costs involved. We believe that virtue is a category of good whose benefits outweigh all burdens it imposes.

    Christians are also supposed to believe that virtue must be chosen, not compelled, though. Or have I got that wrong?

  59. Ray, don’t ever forget who is trying to exert force by the power of law. It’s not marriage conservatives.

    Second, don’t miss the point of Holopupenko’s argument, which is this: If homosexuals experience pain as a result of legal conservatism on marriage, that by itself would not make legal conservatism immoral, because not all pain is bad.

    “Are they harming others in a legally actionable way, such that their choices must be proscribed by force?”

    That depends on what the law says, doesn’t it? If the question is whether the law should be changed, there’s nothing terribly persuasive about pointing to the law that’s in question and reminding everyone what it says.

    Are they to be declared incompetent to care for themselves? (At least there’d be precedent…) Or would you propose restrictions that people can voluntarily take upon themselves if they are so inclined?

    No.

    That was easy, and thank you for asking.

    Except I’m curious: What do those questions have to do with anything?

  60. Rather depends on what court circuit you’re talking about theses days, doesn’t it?

    No, actually, it was not any court that introduced the idea of gay marriage. Sheesh.

    As for the discussion about what SteveK or you were talking about, I’m ready just to say, “whatever.” I’m a little tired of trying to straighten out such an inconsequential matter.

    For some reason, though, no one seems to have thought about the state recognizing “strong friendship” that doesn’t include sex. Why do you suppose that is?

    For roughly the same reason nobody really seems to have accepted the notion of marital rape until fairly recently.

    Do tell. I mean really, do tell us what in the world you’re talking about.

    And yet, as I pointed out before, the majority of ‘defense of marriage amendments’ ban civil unions, too. If you’re motivated from love, you might ponder relieving what burdens you can find in your conscience to acknowledge.

    I’ll make a deal. If gay activists will settle for civil unions, so will I. But they’ve published their strategies, and I don’t believe they will.

    We believe that the pursuit of a virtuous life is good and does good, even if there are costs involved. We believe that virtue is a category of good whose benefits outweigh all burdens it imposes.

    Christians are also supposed to believe that virtue must be chosen, not compelled, though. Or have I got that wrong?

    You’ve got the context wrong. You also left out the closing sentence:

    We believe in absolute, objective right and wrong, and that to do wrong is to incur and to inflict harm.

  61. Christianity sees the human will as corrupt without Christianity, while secularists do not.

    Now you’ve stepped in it. 🙂

    The only way you can know if something is corrupt, is if you know what the uncorrupted version is. This requires that you have an encounter of some kind with that concept.

    Now, as far as I know, nature (via evolution) has never, EVER, evolved a human being with an uncorrupted will. Nobody has encountered the concept, either directly or indirectly. So how do you know if a human will is actually corrupt?

  62. Tom –

    Ray, don’t ever forget who is trying to exert force by the power of law. It’s not marriage conservatives.

    It’s who’s been exerting the power of law. Indeed:

    I mean really, do tell us what in the world you’re talking about.

    Husbands could rape their wives legally everywhere in the United States up until the early 1970s. This was due to the longstanding legal notion of ‘coverture’ in English common law. “By marriage, the husband and wife are one person in law: that is, the very being or legal existence of the woman is suspended during the marriage, or at least is incorporated and consolidated into that of the husband” – Blackstone. (The Christian doctrine that spouses have ownership rights over each other’s bodies probably didn’t help.) It took about twenty years for that to finally be eliminated everywhere.

    Over time, the circle of who really counts as human has expanded, legally and morally. It included women – eventually – and recently even includes homosexuals. Newly recognizing a right to self-determination does tend to lead to a reconsideration of existing laws.

    What do those questions have to do with anything?

    You just said that context was important, yet you ignored that I was addressing the specific cases Holopupenko brought up in an attempt to bolster his point? I’m relieved that you don’t plan on forcibly committing homosexuals, as has been done in the past. I’m a little disappointed that you’re not proposing to persuade rather than force, though.

    So what’s left? If you’re planning on legally imposing hardships on people due to the harm they cause – or even just continuing to impose such hardships – obviously you need a rather good case. Indeed:

    If homosexuals experience pain as a result of legal conservatism on marriage, that by itself would not make legal conservatism immoral, because not all pain is bad.

    As Stephen Donaldson put it in one of his novels, “Suffering is good for the soul, but it’s usually best to wait until the body has no choice.” Inflicting the minimum necessary harm would seem to be called for. Indeed:

    I’ll make a deal. If gay activists will settle for civil unions, so will I. But they’ve published their strategies, and I don’t believe they will.

    I think what I said to MikeH a while back covers the ground. “[E]ven if civil unions were regarded by your opponents as a ‘stepping stone’, so what? Does that mean you have to, as well? Why can you not say, ‘this far and no farther’?”

    Sure, there will be some that are never satisfied. (Some of them are Christians, even.) But if what you’re arguing for really is just, what do you care?

    to do wrong is to incur and to inflict harm.

    And we’re back to thresholds again. “Less good” is not the same as “bad”, and is quite a ways from “bannably bad”.

  63. Ray, you’re still not making sense. I don’t know how coverture relates to your previous point.

    Who really counts as human has a lot to do with Gen. 1:26, Gal. 3:28, and the enduring influence of that kind of thinking on Western culture. You need to examine some comparative sociology.

    So what’s left? If you’re planning on legally imposing hardships on people due to the harm they cause – or even just continuing to impose such hardships – obviously you need a rather good case.

    I’m fine with that. I am quite convinced that we have made a good case. So my conscience with respect to that is clear.

    But if what you’re arguing for really is just, what do you care?

    It’s a political world. If what I’m arguing for really is just, but someone else is going to wrest that argument away from me to use it for something damaging, false, and unjust, I’m inclined to spend more of my energies on preventing the damage and injustice.

  64. Tom –

    I don’t know how coverture relates to your previous point.

    Sure, Christians claimed that males and females were equal. Yet for a couple millennia – a millennia and a half, at least – they built a legal system where women were far from equal. There was a blind spot.

    In response to your question about why no one thought of state recognition of relationships outside of reproductive ones, I’m saying there’s been a similar blind spot.

    I am quite convinced that we have made a good case.

    Obviously I disagree, especially in light of:

    If what I’m arguing for really is just, but someone else is going to wrest that argument away from me to use it for something damaging, false, and unjust, I’m inclined to spend more of my energies on preventing the damage and injustice.

    That’s perilously close to, ‘I won’t give someone their just due because they might then squabble for more than their just due.’

  65. Ray, I don’t think you’re actually in a position to judge blind spots with respect to Scriptural hermeneutics, and I don’t see you displaying much awareness of the flow of history or of comparative anthropology and sociology with respect to these topics. Feel free to disagree. It’s the battle of the blind spots, and neither of us is likely to persuade the other.

    That’s perilously close to, ‘I won’t give someone their just due because they might then squabble for more than their just due.’

    Of course it is.

    I’m not opposed to civil unions, rightly constructed under the law. I’m highly opposed to gay marriage. I don’t think I’m under a moral imperative to campaign for civil unions, though, especially since I think it’s likely someone would co-opt my efforts for purposes I never intended and wouldn’t desire. It’s a strategic choice with a moral decision-making background.

  66. I’m still wondering why gays didn’t fight for the civil unions that most states already had, but with equal benefits. Do you know, Ray?

  67. Rom –

    neither of us is likely to persuade the other.

    No doubt. But you did ask me a question, so I answered it.

    It’s a strategic choice with a moral decision-making background.

    OK, so long as you’re indifferent about giving people their just due. Christians, as you acknowledge, have kind of an image problem in this area already – but that’s your choice to make.

    SteveK –

    I’m still wondering why gays didn’t fight for the civil unions that most states already had, but with equal benefits. Do you know, Ray?

    Because Republican strategists turned ‘gay marriage’ into an issue for the 2004 campaign, to help drive conservative voters to the polls. That was when the issue really went national. Again, most – around 3/4, in fact – of those amendments banned civil unions as well as same-sex marriages.

    Sun Tzu advised to leave your enemy a line of retreat unless you want a fight to the death. Especially in 2004, no one was interested in offering a line of retreat, or any sort of compromise. So I’m not entirely shocked they aren’t being offered a compromise now.

  68. Dishonest word-twisting:

    “OK, so long as you’re indifferent about giving people their just due.”

    As long as you’re indifferent about being honest in debate…

  69. Tom –

    Dishonest word-twisting:

    If you were being sarcastic with your “Of course it is”, it didn’t come across to me, I’m afraid.

    I’m pointing out that, given the fact that Christians definitely have an image problem in this area, it might make sense going to some extra effort to at least offer what you feel in conscience you can. Maybe you take the hit of picking the harder strategy – turn the other cheek, as it were – to demonstrate your good intent.

    But as you said, neither of us is likely to persuade the other.

  70. I wasn’t being sarcastic.

    Being close to injustice is not the same as being unjust. To promote civil unions would also to be close to promoting the injustice and harm of gay marriage. Sometimes a person has to walk a judicious line.

  71. Andrew W,

    The other problem is that you’ve smuggled an unjustified “ought” in there.

    A more thorough response might be a bit off-topic here, but in short,
    meaning comes from values, and if moral values evolved for the common good (which is the presumption under naturalism), then common good is a moral value. What is valued by human beings on the whole, all things considered would be a measure of naturalistic morality, not what “works”. The Oliver Curry paper mentioned in this post describes how the apparent naturalistic fallacy need not actually be one: https://www.thinkingchristian.net/posts/2014/04/some-serious-thinking-on-evolved-morality/

  72. DJC,

    I didn’t get to the Curry paper as soon as I had hoped. I’ll cover it in more detail when I can. In the meantime, I want to lift out what I take to be Curry’s basic belief about evolution and morality, as he summarizes it. This is early in the paper, but I think it’s what he’s arguing for throughout.

    Let us assume, for argument’s sake, that humans are in possession of a suitably-modified suite of primate adaptations for cooperation. Such a discovery would update Hume’s psychology and moral philosophy in the following ways. “Passions” would be revealed as a certain kind of evolved motivational system (Lawrence and Calder, 2004); and moral passions would be revealed as evolved motivational systems for cooperation. And an updated psychology would lead to an updated meta-ethics. So, values would come to be seen as the proximate goals of adaptations; and moral values would come to be seen as the proximate goals of adaptations for cooperation. Looking further ahead, such a discovery would suggest that, as Hume envisaged, moral philosophy should begin with the investigation of the moral passions and, as such, should be seen as a branch of biology, psychology or anthropology.

    Now, let’s suppose Curry’s argument succeeds. If so, then moral statements are the verbal/social expressions of moral passions, which are “evolved motivational systems for cooperation.” That is, moral statements are verbal/social expressions of systems that evolved for cooperation, which in turn can be explained by the adaptive value provided in cooperation. I think it’s fair to condense that to this:

    Moral statements are verbal/social expressions of certain (cooperative) systems that have proved adaptive.

    I think it’s also fair to say this:

    If it had happened, somehow, that those cooperative systems had not proved adaptive, the moral expressions associated with them would never have appeared in human behavior.

    Is that right, in your view?

    If so, then both cooperative behavior in general, and more specifically the cooperative behaviors of moral expressions, are explained completely by their evolutionary adaptiveness.

    So far so good?

    (I don’t want to keep going if it turns out you think I’ve wandered off track already.)

  73. Tom,

    Thanks, DJC. Now one more question: What is adaptiveness? Or if you prefer, what is adaptedness?

    In evolution, an adaptive trait would be any genetically-linked trait that, in hindsight, played a role in enabling an organism to better reproduce. Adaptedness is the degree to which current adaptive traits seem to help a species thrive in a particular environment, giving some hint as to how current and past environments selected those organisms, or more accurately, deselected other organisms unlucky enough to not have what it took to survive.

    In the context of morality, the moral passions that Curry refers to would have genetic precursors or analogs in social mammals. Full-fledged morality in the form of propositions and laws would not be expected to have a genetic component (apart from the considerable genetic components of language use) but would be learned, shaped and influenced by information transmitted through culture.

  74. Hmmm…

    So in some pre-linguistic proto-humans, perhaps some hominid population, the passions that were associated with adaptive cooperation functioned in the group to support successful reproduction.

    In more up-to-date terms, these cooperative behaviors were completely explained by their contribution to the population’s success in making babies who successfully made babies.

    Did morality serve any other purpose in these proto-humans? Did it mean anything else? Was it anything else?

    Now for the harder question: take the word morality out of that question, and replace it with language or social learning. (“Culture” is such a multi-faceted word, I thought it better to hone in on something more nearly precise.)

    I don’t know whether the causal chain you ascribe to morality includes anything that can be explained by anything other than each piece’s contribution to success in making babies that successfully make babies.

    If so, that has certain important implications. If not, then this would be a good time for me to stop and find out where I made my mistake.

  75. Tom,

    So in some pre-linguistic proto-humans, perhaps some hominid population, the passions that were associated with adaptive cooperation functioned in the group to support successful reproduction.

    Well, moral passions are assumed to be made up of a variety of emotions each having a potentially unique evolutionary history.

    For altruism, the neural adaptations and pathways related to oxytocin in organisms would hint at a possible evolutionary history. The earliest stages of altruism would be when early mammals first started to care for offspring rather than leaving them to fend for their own. Next, if oxytocin pathways and receptors become modified such that caring and valuing extends to mates, we would then have pair bonding and joint caring for family. Finally, in primate and proto-human societies, oxytocin pathways and associated emotions seem to permit the full range of caring and valuing groups regardless of interrelatedness.

    But there is more to moral passions than altruism and niceness, there is also emotions that lead to ostracism, shaming, vengeance, etc. These, too, are emotions identified with neurotransmitters and neural adaptations that likely have a long evolutionary history.

    Jonathan Haidt discusses a range of moral emotions that seem to be crucial to moral behaviorhere. Anger, contempt, shame, compassion, gratitude are all crucial moral passions that seem to have primitive analogs in many social mammals, more so in primates.

    Did morality serve any other purpose in these proto-humans? Did it mean anything else? Was it anything else?

    Yes. As we go backwards in time, morality as a single concept seems to dissolve into separate and distinct emotions that each have more specialized functions. Altruism initially ensures that mothers care for children in the early mammals, anger initially intimidates predators or rivals. But later these emotions are co-opted into social behavior.

    Now for the harder question: take the word morality out of that question, and replace it with language or social learning. (“Culture” is such a multi-faceted word, I thought it better to hone in on something more nearly precise.)

    I don’t know whether the causal chain you ascribe to morality includes anything that can be explained by anything other than each piece’s contribution to success in making babies that successfully make babies.

    Well, language use has its own evolutionary history and its own benefit to the species apart from morality. If moral emotions already exist, language use clearly enhances and creates full-fledged morality as a complex system of values and ethics we experience today.

    So if I understand the full scope of your question, yes, the causal chain of events resulting in morality must be explained solely by each adaptation (each distinct moral emotion, each step in language use, etc.) contributing independently to reproductive success under naturalism.

  76. Tom –

    Being close to injustice is not the same as being unjust.

    No, but it does make it easier to step over the line without noticing. I try to steer well clear of injustice for that reason. In any case, I don’t think we have anything else to say to each other on this point.

  77. Re: #92: Apparently the more frighteningly suicidal a GLBT person feels, the more likely he or she is to seek religious counseling.

    (It’s that whole correlation/causation thing, you know. You’re welcome to work on alternate causal explanations for Holopupenko’s linked article, too.)

  78. One way to avoid stepping perilously close to injustice in a small thing like a blog discussion is to quote a person’s whole thought, and not just out-of-context snippets.

    For your convenience, here it is:

    Being close to injustice is not the same as being unjust. To promote civil unions would also to be close to promoting the injustice and harm of gay marriage. Sometimes a person has to walk a judicious line.

  79. Tom, what’s your understanding of why people moved from an outward focus to what you call “you and me babe”?

  80. It has to do with the de-coupling of sex and childbearing through contraception and abortion, along with the human tendency to drift toward self-centeredness when given the opportunity.

  81. My understanding is that many people were desperately unhappy in marriages they felt forced to be in, and its at least in part because of that unhappiness that marriages became easier to avoid and to leave. Now, I’m not saying that’s entirely a good thing, but I think its important to consider.

  82. Tom –

    Well, bully for you! How come that thought never occurred to me?

    Look, I’m probably just being naïve, but it seems like ‘close to the line, but not quite over it’ isn’t entirely in the spirit of Matthew 5:39 and Matthew 18:22, that’s all.

    You can have the last word on this, if you like.

    (It’s that whole correlation/causation thing, you know. You’re welcome to work on alternate causal explanations for Holopupenko’s linked article, too.)

    Which was, of course, the point. Though you didn’t bring that to Holopupenko’s attention…

  83. I didn’t bring it to his attention because I’m a complete jerk who only sees my side of the story and refuses to treat the other side fairly.

    As for drawing close to injustice, my problem is similar. I see a fine line, a cliff, as it were, where a person could fall over into injustice in either direction. You want me only to notice the one direction, even though twice now I have brought it to your attention that there are two, and that there is no avoiding the peril of drawing close to injustice.

    And then, just because I’m a complete jerk, I refuse to fall over the cliff in your preferred direction.

    It’s hard maintaining jerk status so consistently, but I do my best.

  84. By the way, I’m curious: were there any controversial causal inferences implied or expressed in the article Holopupenko linked to? Was there any reason for me to have brought that to his attention?

    I offered you the opportunity in #94, Ray, to tell us if you saw any. You didn’t take me up on that; instead you got to the true heart of the matter and pointed out what a jerk I was being. Clearly that’s what needed to be said above all else, and I thank you for saying it.

    But now, on further reflection, I fear I might have failed in being a jerk, and I might have had good reason to act that way all along.

    Oh, dear me. It’s hard, but I do my best.

  85. Tom –

    I didn’t bring it to his attention because I’m a complete jerk who only sees my side of the story and refuses to treat the other side fairly.

    But at least you don’t engage in “Dishonest word-twisting”! 🙂

    For the record, I think you’re wrong, and biased, about this issue. That doesn’t mean I think you’re a jerk, or dishonest. Even good, friendly, helpful, thoughtful people can be wrong. Even about important things.

    I offered you the opportunity in #94, Ray, to tell us if you saw any. You didn’t take me up on that…

    I don’t really see the point, in that I doubt you’d agree with any such account. But if you insist, I draw your attention to the line, The Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI) published a study in February that found that one-third of millennials who left the religion they grew up with did so due to “negative teachings” or “negative treatment” regarding the LGBT community.

    Note, that’s “one-third of millennials who left the religion they grew up with” – a substantially larger number than those millennials who are LGBT. But, if someone is LGBTWTFBBQ, they are more likely to encounter, rather directly, “negative teachings” or “negative treatment”.

    If those teachings or treatment were in fact unjust, it would account for the lesser religiosity of LGBT millennials quite well. Somehow I doubt that’s what Holopupenko was suggesting, though.

  86. Ah. The way we know what Holopupenko should have meant is by reading something he didn’t say.

    If those teachings or treatments were perceived as unjust it would account for the same thing as if they were actually unjust. Also, if those teachings or treatments were perceived as uncomfortable or undesired, it would have the same effect.

    Somehow I doubt you were thinking about all the potential causes.

  87. Tom –

    The way we know what Holopupenko should have meant is by reading something he didn’t say.

    Well, I’m not commenting in a vacuum. I mean, I do have some context to work from given his comment history. (I grant that I frequently link to citations in my comments, but I wasn’t aware that it was a positive requirement at all times.)

    Somehow I doubt you were thinking about all the potential causes.

    Excuse me, I thought you were asking me “to work on alternate causal explanations for Holopupenko’s linked article”, so I presented one. I didn’t realize you were asking me to come up with “all the potential causes” (emphasis added).

    That’s rather a large job; I mean, to cover all of them you’d have to include things like time lords and the Great Green Arkleseizure. I’m gonna have to decline. I mean, I’ve got one son’s birthday tonight.

  88. Ray, you’ve twisted this thing around another time. You’re either fundamentally dishonest or incompetent.

    You write, “I didn’t realize you were asking me to come up with ‘all the potential causes.'” I wasn’t, and since I know you can read, I know you can re-read what I said about “all the potential causes” and know that I wasn’t asking for that.

    I knew already (believe me!) that you weren’t commenting in a vacuum, but I have no idea how that explains how you knew what conclusion the article Holopupenko linked to was favoring, or even what he was. I mean really, Ray, does this evil Holopupenko favor the view that irreligion causes homosexuality, or that homosexuality causes irreligion?

    Now, remember the context. I responded to an article of yours that very definitely draws a causal inference, and I showed that it’s not necessarily true.

    Then you slapped me on the wrist for not slapping him on the wrist for presenting an article that implied a certain causal connection. Which causal connection? Where do you find it?

    What’s really going on is you’re trying to find something to cavil over. Whether it makes sense or not.

  89. Tom –

    I mean really, Ray, does this evil Holopupenko favor the view that irreligion causes homosexuality, or that homosexuality causes irreligion?

    Based on direct quotes are from just one thread – the thread I linked to before: Unless, of course, the homosexual (or alcoholic or drug addict or…) intentionally disregards the anti-human nature phenomenon it is, or worse… imposes personal opinion to reclassify homosexual acts as “natural” or another “lifestyle choice” or whatever mental gymnastic of the day suit their whim. and My sense is (correct me if I’m wrong) you may experience–or have experienced–vilification by the LBGTQ community and its supporters even more than we do because you are perceived as a threat by them–a threat that directly challenges them to live virtuously rather than succumbing (difficulty notwithstanding, hence Grace desperately needed) to baser “needs” and A lingering sense I have from this and many other interpretations of reality that supporters of homosexuality have is they look for validation in all sorts of place where the evidence is next to nil. and The “arguments” you present are sophomoric and silly… and mere personal opinions, because at the end of the day you are all about will to power, I conclude that Holopupenko believes homosexuality causes irreligion. (Not the only cause, of course, but a cause.) Indeed, I have a hard time seeing how anyone could come to a different conclusion.

    Ray, you’ve twisted this thing around another time.

    Tom, it really seems to me that you are the twisty one. You invited me – twice – to come up with “alternate” explanations. “Alternate” to what? If Holopupenko’s intent wasn’t clear, how could I ever propose an alternative?

    And – whether or not you believe it, this is an honest request – what did you mean by “Somehow I doubt you were thinking about all the potential causes”? Can you rephrase that?

  90. Alternative to each other.

    “All” could mean, in your case, “more than one, at least.” That is, it’s silly for you to assume I really meant you were responsible to think of every single potential cause. It’s uncharitable for you to whack me with that assumption. “All” is a very expansive, ultimate word, except in common usage, sometimes it means something less.

    “She just smiled at you, Billy!” “Yeah. She does that all the time.”

    All? When does she do her homework?

    “I heard your dad yelling at you when he was dropping you off.” “I know. He does that all the time.”

    All? Doesn’t his throat get sore?

    This is not an unusual English language usage.

  91. Your conclusion that Holopupenko thinks homosexuality causes irreligion, besides being based on quotes that are virtually unreadable in blue ink (something to watch out for), is also very open to dispute. Those quotes also make sense on the view that irreligion causes homosexuality.

    Note also the symmetry: is it really so terribly more embarrassing to anyone if homosexuality causes irreligion, or if irreligion causes homosexuality? There’s not that much difference between the two.

    Is it more embarrassing, though, if religious counseling causes some suicides, versus more suicidal persons choosing religious counseling? Yes.

    And with that, I am officially done with this tiresome, caviling, needless argument.

  92. Tom – I’m done, too, except for one thing I can’t let pass.

    Note also the symmetry: is it really so terribly more embarrassing to anyone if homosexuality causes irreligion, or if irreligion causes homosexuality? There’s not that much difference between the two.

    Of course there’s a difference! I’m obviously irreligious, but absolutely nothing about that leads me toward homosexuality. (Indeed, I’m pretty much as vanilla as can be in that regard.) I cannot even imagine how, say, reading Russell or Dennett or Hitchens (or even Harris or Dawkins) could cause homosexual inclinations. The most that irreligion could do is reduce inhibitions against an inclination already present – and I can’t see how that could reasonably be called ‘causing homosexuality’.

  93. I came across this discussion quite late, but here’s my take. Since the 1960’s all of the following behaviours have been normalised by their treatment in the media: promiscuity, adultery, divorce, homosexuality, abortion, drug use, public drunkenness, prostitution, sexual perversion and the sexualisation of children, with major costs for society. We have now had two generations (Gen X and Gen Y) who have grown up in societies in which these behaviours have been presented as normal, including appearing in prime time television sit-coms watched by children. Almost all religions oppose these behaviours, so while being areligious may not lead to these behaviours, it almost certainly leads to support for other people’s ‘freedom’ to indulge in them. Trying to convince a person who has grown up in a society in which these things are considered normal that they aren’t normal or right at all, is an uphill battle.

  94. Dear SteveK, Kody may come to regret his decision, because as married women, the three additional wives will probably NOT qualify for welfare and food stamps. Ugh, Kody may find himself actually having to support his wives and children.