Same-Sex Marriage (and other stuff)

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Same-Sex Marriage
First off, I need to issue a few disclaimers: I don't feel that I have any particular agenda in the conflict over same-sex marriage, above and beyond the normal agenda of any philosopher. That is to say, I'm concerned with reason and truth, but I don't stand to lose or benefit personally from how the issue is resolved - except in the sense that I may end up living in a society that is more or less fair after its resolution. In other words, I consider myself relatively impartial, though I am going to make these comments from (in a few cases) a deeply personal frame of reference.

Secularism and Homophobia
The first thing we have to do is parse apart some of the components of homophobia. First I want to tackle the question of homophobia "in the large" and (at the end of this article) I'll make a few personal observations about an experience that helped me come to grips with my own personal attitudes toward some same-sex 'issues'.

In most of the civilized world, we live in secular societies; i.e.: societies that are based (in principle) on reason, the rule of law, and due process rather than by religious fiat. as you read the preceeding sentence I hope you caught my implication that a society based on religion is not civilized. That is correct, and here is why: since religion relies on humans voicing claims about how they believe a supernatural god (or gods) wants us to behave, those claims cannot by definition be verified adequately. If god were to somehow show up and explain patiently to us, his/her/their views on same-sex marriage, then it would be reasonable for us to factor those views into our politics, but since the various god/gods of our ancestors haven't participated in the same-sex marriage debate, all that we have is various "holy books" which purport to explain the views of the gods. We cannot have a civilized discussion about those "holy books" because treating them as evidence is hearsay at best and nonsensical at worst. One proponent could claim "my diety says same-sex marriage is evil" to which I can rejoin "I just invented 21 dieties that say same-sex marriage is awesome." Unless you're a barbarian, you cannot take seriously the idea of establishing a society around whatever some guy makes up and asserts is the will of the allmighty. Besides, if the allmighty/allmighties had something to say about this matter, they could easily enough notify us, by placing 100 mile-high letters carved in solid diamond, into orbit around the Earth.

In the civilized world, we seek to establish civil societies, founded on reason and law, and consequently we establish a barrier attempting to keep religious opinion - but not the opinions of the religious - out of the public square. You'll note that I acknowledge that the opinions of the religious can and should carry as much weight as any other opinions; that is the only way to make a civil society work. We acknowledge that if you believe the allmighty/allmighties don't like same-sex marriage then, by all means, you shouldn't engage in the practice. But, if your interpretation of the will of the allmighty/allmighties is all you bring to the table as a basis for discussion, then it carries as much weight as my interpretation of the will of The Rolling Stones. Now, I don't actually know what The Rolling Stones' opinion about same-sex marriage is (which makes this example easy) but my interpretation is that since they've collectively been married a whole lot, they're probably in favor of marriage, so, obviously, they must also be in favor of same-sex marriage. Does that make sense to you? It makes about as much sense as my having to listen to someone tell me their interpretation of what some 2,000+ year-old tribal diety's opinion is on the topic. More importantly, it's actually possible to ask The Rolling Stones their opinion and if somehow they decide to share it with me, and I get an authenticated e-mail or voice message from Mick Jagger, I'll pass it along. Meanwhile, if Yaweh, or Odin, or Ra, or Brahma decides to arrange those 100-mile-tall diamond letters, we can deal with that unlikely event when it happens.

In the United States Of America there is a law that says that "Congress shall pass no law establishing a state religion" (in so many words) So we're faced with a simple choice between realities:

  1) The country's existing laws against same-sex marriage are established based on religious principles (i.e.: the state is attempting to comply with the will of Yahweh and all homophobic dieties) The laws are based on divine fiat, in other words.

-or-

2) The country's existing laws represent a consensus among the governed at the time when those laws are passed. The laws are based on social consensus, and nothing else.

Obviously, in the first case, such laws would be unconstitutional, since they amount to an implicit acceptance into law of someone's interpretation of the will of Yahweh and other homophobic dieties. If I may make an aside-comment, those who adopt homophobia because of Leviticus' interpretation of Yahweh's will are generally acting inconsistently because they tend to cherry-pick Leviticus. The US has no laws against tattooing (Lev 19:28) or wearing cotton/polyester blend shirts (Lev 19:19) or Justin Beiber's music (Marcus: 1.314)

What the faithful often ignore regarding the constitution and their interpretation of their faith, is that that stuff is generally in there for their own protection against their fellow believers who believe in different gods. Every christian (for example) who is opposed to the idea of having the koran taught to their school-kids ought to support wholeheartedly the laws that prevent their bible from being taught to someone else's school-kids. The history of the US is filled (achingly and painfully) with underdog stories in which the catholics are scared that the protestants are going to teach the evils of papacy in school, and embrace secularism - until they have the chance to teach only their version of reality by creating their own name-brand school system, etc. Without constitutional protections against state establishment of religion, christians would have to worry about whether the buddhists and the muslims might ever be able to out-vote them and put their own laws in, instead, etc. These are not theoretical scenarios: the US was founded by a bunch of politicians steeped in the ideals of The Enlightenment. The Enlightenment was, largely, an intellectual backlash against the horrors of the 30 years' war - christians arguing the details of the doctrine at the cost of countless lives. We atheists would just as soon ignore the entire issue and teach objectively verifiable science and the philosophy of ancient Greece and leave religion completely out of the picture; it's the faithful who need laws to keep eachother from pissing eachother off.

So, consider - if you're a fan of the current laws against same-sex marriage and you want them to stay in place, you're actually asking to live in a world in which if the wheel of religious belief turns, same-sex marriage might be required by whatever religion is the top dog and shouts the loudest, etc. We rationalists and civilized people are trying to protect everyone from that kind of nonsense; it only leads to hair-pulling and tears.

The Social Consensus
So, if we let the allmighty/allmighties voice their own opinions when/if they will, all we're left with is the social consensus. Social consensus and the law has interesting problems of its own. There is really only one primary doctrine that justifies the passage of laws in civil society: harm. If you have a democratic society in which any arbitrary law can be passed by a majority, then you wind up with a majoritarian tyranny. Suppose I can get 51% of the vote to ban Justin Beiber and to only allow radio stations to play music by The Rolling Stones: well, that's that. We've seen in the history of the US that majoritarian tyranny is not a great thing; the Volstead Act prohibiting alcohol amounted to a tyranny of the majority who didn't want their friends and neighbors to drink. In the case of alcohol, the argument was made that it causes harm. That's how that law even got passed at all; my law against Justin Beiber would be an illegal law because I'd have to show (in principle) that Justin Beiber was damaging to society.

There have been several laws passed by majorities against same-sex marriage. Those laws represent a huge waste of the money that was spent lobbying for them, and influencing their passage, because - well, it's hard to show how same-sex marriage harms anyone who's not involved in it. A same-sex couple can embark on a harmful marriage just like a different-sex couple. I ought to know, I've done it twice myself! But my poor choices of brides has not noticeably hurt anyone else's marriage regardless of their sexual orientation. When someone says that "same-sex marriage harms the sanctity of marriage" they need to make an argument for how it harms it. While they're at it, they should include a theory of why my bad marriages didn't do any harm, but a good same-sex marriage would.

What they're really saying is "I don't like it!" Well, you're welcome not to like it. You're also welcome not to like The Rolling Stones. Your opinion is worth exactly as much as mine. I'm glad your opinion isn't worth more than mine, and you'd better be really really glad mine isn't worth more than yours.

In the US we saw similar massive social conflict over a topic that today we recognize as a no-brainer: giving females the right to vote. Until shockingly recently it was the opinion of a controlling interest in society that females shouldn't be allowed to vote. Nowadays, like most civilized societies, we recognize the obvious fact that females are just as capable of having political views and expressing them as males are, and that their opinions should weigh as much as males'. The conflict surrounding this issue was intense and a great deal of important and heavy thinking was wasted over it (I say "wasted" because the outcome should have been obvious) including a wonderful bit of reasoning by the consequentialist philosopher John Stuart Mill. Mill wrote a lengthy argument entitled "The Subjection of Women" which you can get from Project Gutenberg if you wish to further your education. Many of Mills' arguments are specific to the question of gender equality in social representation and the natural abilities of the female. What do women's abilities have to do with anything?

There were three primary arguments presented against women's right to vote. The first was the religious (which I hope I have already dispatched by being dismissive of the allmighty) the second was that women lacked the ability, and the third was that women's participation in the political process was not normal. Mill dispatched the second argument, from ability, by pointing out that females can be observed to be sometimes more competent than men, sometimes less so - therefore we can only conclude that it's the case that women are just as disparately capable as men. For the ability argument to hold water, one would have to show that all females, all the time, were incapable of exercising judgement and that allowing any of them to vote, would cause harm. You can re-cast Mill's argument to today's same-sex marriage discussion and it's just as relevant. If the argument was made that same-sex couples cannot raise children (for example) then we simply observe that there are plenty of different-sex couples that cannot raise children very well, either. And there are same-sex couples that seem to do just fine. In other words, they seem to be all over the landscape of competence, just like any other human beings - which is a profound and simple observation arguing against enforcing any specific preference.

Normal
The last of the three arguments against acknowledging females' right to vote was that the "woman's normal place is in the home, not politics" (remember, Margaret Thatcher hadn't been born, yet!) Mill could have shortened his treatise considerably by simply writing "Queen Elizabeth I" and stopping there. Instead, he made a sublimely elegant argument, namely:

If something is "normal" then there's no need to make a law favoring or preventing it, since that's what people are going to tend to want to do, anyway.

In other words, if same-sex couples desiring marriage was an aberration, we wouldn't even be having this discussion. Because there wouldn't be any same-sex couples wanting to get married. But, in fact, that there appear to be plenty of same-sex couples that want to get married indicates that normal includes same-sex marriage. Actually, normal marriage includes multi-way marriage (what, don't a couple billion muslims have a say in what is 'normal'?) of various genders. Indeed, in ancient Ireland there were several references to ceremonial marriages between kings and warriors and horses. "Traditional marriage" is a much broader phenomenon than the followers of Yahweh think it is, apparently. There are references to same-sex marriage in Zhou and Ming period China, as well as in Rome. Emperor Constantius II passed his equivalent of a "Defense of Marriage Act"(DOMA) making same-sex marriage a capital offense. John Stuart Mill would point out that if it was such an abnormal thing to begin with, there's no need to pass a law threatening to kill someone for doing something they wouldn't want to do, anyway.

Putting it all together, then, we can see that the reality of the situation: there's a tyranny of the majority enforcing its opinion, which is based on interpretations of the will of the allmighty/allmighties against a minority that want to do something that is quite normal.

The OMG Factor
Now, I'd like to shift gears and talk about some extremely subjective stuff. This is purely my opinion, and some analysis of my own mental states and reactions at various times. As opinion, I won't try to defend it one way or another, but I'd like to share it because perhaps it'll be useful, somehow, in your process of sorting out your own feelings about same-sex sex.

I'd probably describe myself as a "libertine" except that, among libertines, I'd be pretty conservative. I've got my share of kinks and have enjoyed my fair share of moments in which I've woken up on the bathroom floor wondering if I enjoyed myself last night, or not. There was one memorable incident in which I - uh - well, you don't need to know that. But it involved very detailed dreams of having sex with a woman I know and (briefly and embarrassingly) being unsure whether we were lovers or friends or what.. Anyhow. I consider myself to be fairly open-minded. But for a long time, I worried that I might be at least slightly homophobic.

Like everyone on the internet - including you, since you're reading this - I've seen my fair share of "porn" (whatever that is!) including various combinations of various things. I've certainly enjoyed the guy-on-gal stuff I've seen, and the  girl-on-girl stuff is OK in spite of its generally cheesy falsity. I tend to avoid the guy-on-guy content and I finally had to admit to myself that it made me a bit uncomfortable. It doesn't make me "let's have a stoning!" uncomfortable, to be sure, but my eye does not linger. Why? Am I a homophobe? I used to think that if I were an open-minded person, guy-on-guy stuff would just be neutral to me; it would have as much effect as a picture of a pile of cinder-blocks or something like that. But instead, it made me uncomfortable.

I've spent a lot longer than I want to say, dissecting my reaction to erotic materials that I do not like, and I think I have a conceptual framework that now allows me to understand why. Let's say I accidentally click on some thumbnail and it brings up a picture of some guy bent over the back of a couch getting anally jackhammered by another guy. My first reaction (sexually, I am more than slightly dominant) is to try to cast myself in the role of the guy on top (Mr Jack Hammer, if you will) and it doesn't work because I'm really not that into anal sex and uuuuh - at that point my brain hits a switch and tries to cast me into the other role in the scene. And my next thought as Mr Couch Cushion is "ow! no way! ow!" because I don't like that role, either. I've forced myself to experience this and sometimes the sensation of my mind switching back and forth as it tries to find "me" in the scene is pretty acute.

Because there's nothing in the scene that I immediately relate to, my overall impression is not excitement but rather a sort of second-hand imagined pain and discomfort. The total experience of the picture is negative. Not highly negative, but it doesn't make me want to see more and it doesn't turn me on - because there's no "me" in that picture. When I see something fairly outre, I find I go through the same process, which is why I'm actually pretty comfortable with a lot of fairly crazy stuff. But whenever I run up against imagery in which there's simply noplace I can fit "myself" as an actor, my reaction is to back away from it fairly quickly. For a while I experimented with trying to teach myself to fit myself into every scene as the photographer and I noticed that I was suddenly emotionally open to a much wider range of activity than I otherwise would be interested in. That was kind of cool, and it fit well with my theory, until I started thinking about some of the "damsel in distress" images, particularly the low-quality ones that look like they were trophies shot by a serial killer, and I decided that I am not the camera.

It's fashionable in some circles to imply that those who are virulently anti-gay are "projecting" or "displacing" their own issues and are probably demonstrating self-hatred more than anything else. Anti-gay crusaders such as Ted Haggard and pope Ratzinger certainly do make for schadenfreuede a'plenty, but that may also fit with my theory. Their discomfort is acute because of who they immediately identify with in the erotic situation. If I'm looking at an image which combines sex and violence, it makes me uncomfortable for the exact same reason. Perhaps this is all trivially obvious to you who are wiser than myself.

If we understand that our visceral reactions to other people's sexuality are rooted in our own opinions and not the will of the allmighty/allmighties, then I think it gets a lot easier to deal with the discomfort that our reactions cause us. David Hume famously pointed out that when someone is offended, the "offense" and the experience of being offended is entirely in them; the other party can even be completely oblivious to it. Indeed, Hume points out that outside of the person being offended or insulted, there is nothing happening. In modern terms, there are no offensive "porn" pictures - "2 girls, 1 cup" is only offensive if an offended person is there to watch it. In this part of our lives, a tree can fall soundlessly in the forest.

I'm glad to be living in a time when females' participation in the political process is an accepted norm in civilized societies. I'm happier still that slavery is more-or-less universally acknowledged to be an injustice and those who practice it do it only under threat of punishment or in safe fantasy worlds. I feel happy and slightly proud to see that the tremendous injustice which has resulted from the societal dominance of several homophobic religions is finally being rolled back a little bit, and I hope that these few words I cast out will serve as my own little flag-waving "rah! rah!" gesture of support.


PS - Recently I've noticed I'm reluctant to write here. It's because I'm just too darned busy doing other stuff to spend all my time hanging out on DA arguing/debating/cheering/commenting/etc with other people. My choice is to fall silent entirely or to spend less time talking back. So, if you comment on this and I don't respond, I mean no disrespect. I'm just busy.
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I had a lot of fun reading your argument. Thank you, it's not an easy matter and I was rather pissed about the subject.
(In my contry we have been through this debate until recently, god-mad people have been awful as usual, but now same-sex marriage is legal and I think very few people would argue to ban it.)
I was thinking that no religious person would read your argument, but I was wrong after all
bloedzuigerbloed's avatar
Divides's avatar
I need to read your journals more often.

I admit, though, that it can be a little overwhelming at times, since you tend to come up with a lot of side points that do, indeed, contribute to the main point, but can also open up so many side-incites for the reader that it can at times be hard to keep focus on the main point. Not that that's really a bad thing, just means there's a lot of food for thought <3. Sort of the mental equivalent of eating too much at the buffet, and not having enough room for the main course, or whatever. (In this case, probably the biggest "side item" was the point about feelings of mild homophobia from trying to project ones-self into the work and coming out uncomfortable. I mean, I've been familiar with the theory for awhile, but I don't think I thought about it in as much depth until now. I don't believe I experience homophobia the same way, since I'm not exactly closed to all forms of male-on-male IRL, but what it did do was create some interesting thoughts about other, possibly related phenomena with myself >.>.)

At any rate, I full-heartedly agree with your overbearing point here ^_^.
Jaygie's avatar
Uncivilized individual speaking:

I think I have spent the better hour or longer typing up a counter argument that no longer exists due the awesome powers of the delete button. It was good to write it down but not debate worthy nor do I think debating over a topic where both sides are concreted in their ideas is very productive. I have spent way too much time reading over your essay (and various comments) and thinking of things to say that would be of any worth. I have decided that anything I say probably will not produce anything of value since I am religious and my points will mostly be founded on religion.

Instead I just created a list of what I disagree on and why:

Society's laws that are based on religion are uncivil. Barbarian in: By this definition then that means that most countries and societies are uncivil and therefore we are uncivilized individuals.

God is homophobic. Barbarian in: Homophobic indicates that God hates gays. In this scripture God does not have a footnote excluding gays. John 3:16 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

Contradiction: You'll note that I acknowledge that the opinions of the religious can and should carry as much weight as any other opinions. But, if your interpretation of the will of the allmighty/allmighties is all you bring to the table as a basis for discussion, then it carries as much weight as my interpretation of the will of The Rolling Stones. Barbarian in: Just a quick point on that thought; religion is based completely on what the will of the Almighty is. You should simply clarify that religious people are allowed to have opinions just so long as their religion doesn't get in the way.

Comparing religion and religious beliefs to the Rolling stones is not an accurate or considerate comparison to those of us who are religious, but it was funny.

I feel this statement is patronizing: Besides, if the allmighty/allmighties had something to say about this matter, they could easily enough notify us, by placing 100 mile-high letters carved in solid diamond, into orbit around the Earth. Barbarian in: I have my belief as to why God doesn't do this but since it's religious it won't hold water.

If something is "normal" then there's no need to make a law favoring or preventing it, since that's what people are going to tend to want to do, anyway. Barbarian in: Normal is subjective and I don't think it holds a very strong argument. Rape, lie, murder, cheat, steal, etc.. are things people are going to tend to want to do anyway. So why are there laws against these again? It's normal isn't it? I feel like this is leading up to an argument over anarchy. :/

Majoritarian Tyranny. If you have a democratic society in which any arbitrary law can be passed by a majority, then you wind up with a majoritarian tyranny. Suppose I can get 51% of the vote to ban Justin Beiber and to only allow radio stations to play music by The Rolling Stones: well, that's that. Barbarian in: America is a democracy. Are you saying that it's better to let the minority rule? There's a reason we base laws off of majority votes. Are you suggesting that the majority of America has made bad laws? It's because of the majority we were able to give women's rights and get rid of slavery. Just because a majority rules on it does not necessarily mean that the law will be passed. Laws have to go through a long process before they are passed. I'm just a Bill: [link] Bills have to go through the House of Representatives, the Senate, and the President to get passed, and if they aren't passed they CAN go back through the process so it's not 'well, that's that' though it can feel that way. I honestly don't see how we have majoritarian tyranny in America so I don't agree with this argument.

There is really only one primary doctrine that justifies the passage of laws in civil society: harm. Barbarian in: If harm is an invalid argument then what is the purpose of the laws against murdering, raping, stealing, and lying? By allowing same sex marriage we would therefore be reiterating social laws. I'm more interested in the idea of same sex parents raising children than just gay couples being handed a marriage certificate. I don't think as a society we really know what the affect of this sort of thing will bring psychologically and socially to children on a large scale if raised by same sex parents. It could or could not be harmful; is this scientifically proven? Would I even like the idea of using children to scientifically figure that out? I believe in marriage between a man and a woman if just on the basis that it socially works; if it ain't broke don't fix it.

I actually agree with your view on what is considered offensive and that it is only if a person chooses to be offended then they are. But to say there there is nothing offensive isn't accurate because that would mean that people who don't get offended don't exist. There is again that obnoxious social standard to keep in mind. Just because someone might not like wearing any clothes does not mean it's a good idea to do it out in public. Posing the argument that being naked in the middle of Wal-Mart 'isn't hurting anyone' probably won't go over too well in court either and many people will probably be offended. That's a different tangent in and all of its own.

I was going to add a few comments about your conversation with ~Avestra when I realized that most of my material was meant for ~Avestra and not you. My only two cents I can add is that I do not agree with euthanasia for humans. It could be misused on so many levels and yes I will say it, I think it would be very harmful (because it causes death) to a lot of people. I can only imagine what the lawsuits against doctors alone would look like if euthanasia was allowed. I'm not going to go into much more depth than that because that's just a whole 'nother can of worms.

I won't be offended if you didn't reply because I'm naturally a non-confrontational person anyway and I wouldn't want a long-winded conversation lasting much longer beyond this post. I just saw that there weren't any religious people (or even just people with a different opinion) standing up to the plate so I thought I'd go up to bat. I appreciate you letting me share my opinion on here and it probably just benefited me more than it will anyone else because I was able to deeply think about the issue myself which is something I have not yet done.
mjranum's avatar
I have decided that anything I say probably will not produce anything of value since I am religious and my points will mostly be founded on religion.

Well, that's certainly a problem. Since religion's claims aren't backed (generally) with any kind of empirical evidence or subjective argument then it's hard to not simply dismiss them. I mean, if you say "god says X" I need to either treat it as a matter of opinion, or ask you for your evidence that god does, in fact, say that. I don't simply dismiss religious arguments because I'm a horribly nasty person - I dismiss them because they frequently make claims about truths in the real world but they are only supported by what can generously be called "rather weak evidence."

Society's laws that are based on religion are uncivil. Barbarian in: By this definition then that means that most countries and societies are uncivil and therefore we are uncivilized individuals.

I agree with you. Generally, there are too many laws in effect that are somehow based on religion; that's one of the reasons why I consider myself fairly antisocial, and I argue that societies need to ground their laws on argument from need. I.e.: if you're going to legislate against something, you need to argue how it harms society in general or how/why it's going to be accepted as "wrong" by a large enough part of the population.

God is homophobic. Barbarian in: Homophobic indicates that God hates gays. In this scripture God does not have a footnote excluding gays. John 3:16 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

The problem with using biblical references is (as you mentioned above) I will dismiss them out of hand as simply being the opinions of a bunch of bronze-age liars, which have been granted undue authority due to suspiciously convenient claims of divine authority.

The other problem is that it's very very easy to cherry-pick from the bible and pick the parts that are convenient to a particular argument at any given time. I could argue back at you by quoting from Leviticus but you could argue Leviticus doesn't apply, etc, etc, ad nauseam but the fact is that the evidence that John or Leviticus were speaking on behalf of god or gods.

You'll note that I acknowledge that the opinions of the religious can and should carry as much weight as any other opinions.

Then I wouldn't say you're a "barbarian" at all. Thank you.

Just a quick point on that thought; religion is based completely on what the will of the Almighty is. You should simply clarify that religious people are allowed to have opinions just so long as their religion doesn't get in the way.

Minor but very important nit-pick: religion is based on human interpretations of human interpretations of what some guy thousands of years ago claims the almighty believes. If you're willing to acknowledge that the process by which that happens is prone to flaws, you cannot claim to be sure what the will of the almighty is, let alone how/why you can interpret that text as evidence of the almighty's existence in the first place.

Comparing religion and religious beliefs to the Rolling stones is not an accurate or considerate comparison to those of us who are religious, but it was funny.

I beg to differ. Not about whether it was funny or not, but regarding its accuracy. From my position, that religion is a matter of opinion and not grounded in reliable statements of the opinion(s) of the almighty, then I am being fair in comparing mere opinion with mere opinion. Obviously, I'd take the Rolling Stones' opinion more seriously, since I know the Rolling Stones more or less exist and I can ask them to clarify their opinion if I don't fully understand it. Unfortunately, the almighty does not choose to be as accessible or clearly-spoken as the Rolling Stones.

Barbarian in: I have my belief as to why God doesn't do this but since it's religious it won't hold water.

I'm glad you recognize that your beliefs don't constitute objective truths.

Yes, I am being patronizing. But I'm being less patronizing than those who claim to be following the almighty opinions of the supreme creator of the universe! Obviously, you're not saying "I'm here on a mission from god!" or anything that silly but religious claims do depend on claiming access to knowledge that somehow is denied to the rest of us.

Normal is subjective and I don't think it holds a very strong argument. Rape, lie, murder, cheat, steal, etc.. are things people are going to tend to want to do anyway. So why are there laws against these again? It's normal isn't it? I feel like this is leading up to an argument over anarchy. :/

I agree - that's a crucial argument. The notion that norms are purely a social construct brings in a great deal of intellectual baggage. To reject the notion of social norms you wind up having to refute utilitarianism - which is a bit harder than arguing for rejecting biblical revalation.

I do, however, reject utilitarianism as well. (It's in my chain of journal entries Re: "morals") The question is how to build working societies - as a matter of survival - not how to build moral societies. If we had a society in which random slaughter was a "normal" form of interpersonal interaction, it would be difficult for that society to grow and succeed because people would be spending a lot of time looking back over their own shoulders.

Extreme anarchist arguments or arguments of extreme moral nihilists equate to anti-socialism. The challenge to make to them is simply this: humans are social animals because it works.

You could go a ways toward trumping many of my arguments by subsuming social utility under religion - but that would entail admitting that religion was a socially convenient lie and a mechanism of social cohesion and control. That's actually an argument I make elsewhere.

America is a democracy. Are you saying that it's better to let the minority rule?

I don't agree. But that's probably a whole different debate.

I don't think the minority should rule, either (BTW, in the US, it does) I was offering majority tyranny as one of the problems we need to deal with if we step away from religious doctrine. If you're going to decide what is "normal" in a society you can either define it in terms of "average or common behavior" or try to put some kind of restrictions around what is "normal" and attempt to decide what is "right" I am uncomfortable with many social arguments around this, whether they be religious, utilitarian, or positivist.

If harm is an invalid argument then what is the purpose of the laws against murdering, raping, stealing, and lying?

I don't think that harm is an invalid argument! Actually, I think it's probably the only argument that is valid. The question is how do you show harm and whether my disagreeing with your opinion is "harm" or not.

One of the common tropes in conservative debate right now is that atheists and social egalitarians are being unfair to the religious by pushing for homosexual rights. Because it's unfair to stop them from being unfair. Actually, it's fair to stop someone from being unfair if you want to take a utilitarian tack on that particular problem.

I believe in marriage between a man and a woman if just on the basis that it socially works; if it ain't broke don't fix it.

Well, then you've just blown your own argument to ribbons. Here's why:
for all intents and purposes - with the difference of that tiny detail of being called "married" - gays are permitted many of the rights of married couples. This has not in any way shape or form impacted married couples negatively. From a standpoint of social utility, how is granting gays that right going to reduce it for straights? How is gay marriage going to reduce straight marriage?

If the argument was that gay marriage will somehow "lessen" straight marriage, then you need to confront the fact that straight marriages fail about 50% of the time. In states where gay marriage has been permitted - marriages continue to fail about 50% of the time.

Another problem is that historically homosexual marriage predates christianity. If you want to adopt a historical perspective you might just as easily argue that straight-only marriage is the one that is non-normative (and has certainly, since the invention of the abrahamic religions) been harmful.

I don't think as a society we really know what the affect of this sort of thing will bring psychologically and socially to children on a large scale if raised by same sex parents.

Here's another fact for you to consider: until the advent of the bacterial model of infection, huge numbers of women died in child-birth. It was normal for children of both genders to be raised by a single male parent. Or to be raised by adoptive parents or in-laws. Guess what? Humanity survived just fine. We also notice that, economic factors aside, children appear to survive just fine if raised by separated parents ("broken marriages") of heterosexual parents.

Science doesn't "prove" things cleanly like that. What science does is points to observations about objective reality - namely that marriage doesn't appear to be particularly sacrosanct or important to a child historically or at present.

Perhaps if the almighty cared so much about heterosexual marriage he wouldn't have killed off so many women in childbirth or so many men in wars, hmm?

I actually agree with your view on what is considered offensive and that it is only if a person chooses to be offended then they are.

My argument was lifted from Hume, let me be clear about that. (Though I had my own formulation of it when I was a teenager)

I was going to add a few comments about your conversation with ~Avestra when I realized that most of my material was meant for ~Avestra and not you.

My experience with ~Avestra is that she can speak for herself; if you have an argument with her, by all means have at it and hold onto your hat.

My only two cents I can add is that I do not agree with euthanasia for humans. It could be misused on so many levels and yes I will say it, I think it would be very harmful (because it causes death) to a lot of people.

It's been customary through a great deal of human history and hasn't really caused much of a problem. And, nowadays it still remains customary - though we hide it carefully. A friend of mine, for example, is dying of mesothelioma. After courses of surgery, chemo, and radiation, his doctors told him they are switching to "palliative care" - what that means is: lots of drugs until you die of being eaten by your cancer. But a lot of the patients who suffer that sort of death die of morphine overdoses or other painkiller overdoses. Society recognizes eventually that when someone is confronting an inescapable awful death that it's not a bad thing to give them a way out.

The idea that people will start putting otherwise healthy people to sleep seems farcical. And it would be relatively easily controlled. In Switzerland where physician-assisted death is legal, there are independent psychological evaluations as well as physician evaluations to determine that the individual really does wish to die and has good reason to wish so. What's wrong with that?
(I highly recommend that, if you are concerned with this topic, you check out the documentary on death with dignity by Terry Pratchett; it's on youtube)

won't be offended if you didn't reply because I'm naturally a non-confrontational person anyway and I wouldn't want a long-winded conversation lasting much longer beyond this post.

Fair enough.

I appreciate you letting me share my opinion on here and it probably just benefited me more than it will anyone else because I was able to deeply think about the issue myself which is something I have not yet done.

I do appreciate your sharing your opinion, though I don't agree with some of it.

Thank you for writing!



Jaygie's avatar
Sorry for the late reply! I thought that I'd have time to answer a week ago, but I haven't gotten to it. I will answer but right now I'm in Japan for two weeks so it'll be a while. Thanks for being patient.
AndreasAvester's avatar
America is a democracy. Are you saying that it's better to let the minority rule? There's a reason we base laws off of majority votes. Are you suggesting that the majority of America has made bad laws?
No, the point is that when majority decides to make some law, they are not allowed to infringe the human rights of any minority. If majority disregards minority's human rights, then that's no democracy, that's a totalitarian regime. For example, in Nazi Germany majority voted for Hitler and decided to kill the Jewish minority. This decision was supported by the majority, but was it democratic? Of course no. So in short, yes, according to what the definition of “democracy” means, majority is to decide, but they must take into consideration minority's human rights. And I think that currently gay human rights are being infringed in USA. So yes, majority made a bad law when it comes to gay rights. Just like in past majority had made bad laws about women's rights, allowing slavery etc. (luckily these are corrected now, but only after long campaigns by the oppressed).

I don't think as a society we really know what the affect of this sort of thing will bring psychologically and socially to children on a large scale if raised by same sex parents.
We know. After World War 2 many children in Europe were brought up by two women – mother and grandmother. Also currently lots of families are with only one parent after a divorce. There are families where a child has two lesbian mothers and two gay fathers (I actually know one such family). And so far seems like these kids are just fine. It's not necessary to have two parents of opposite sex.
By the way, I was brought up by my mother, my uncle (her brother) and two neighbors, who were both old enough to be my grandmothers. And I'm just fine. So why does a family must have a “a set of male and female genitalia” for it to be a good, loving family, which will love and care for the children?

I believe in marriage between a man and a woman if just on the basis that it socially works; if it ain't broke don't fix it.
Heh, apparently you aren't very familiar with other traditions like polygamy. For example, this curious African tribe [link] Why is American family model “the correct one”? Why aren't other possibilities just as good, if people prefer them instead of a marriage between a man and a woman.

It could be misused on so many levels and yes I will say it, I think it would be very harmful (because it causes death) to a lot of people.
It causes death? So you say a person has no rights to commit a suicide?
And yes, I agree that there are ways how this may be abused. For example, kids don't want to take care for their old mother, so they convince her to agree to euthanasia. It may put pressure on elderly people. But that's not an argument for not allowing euthanasia at all, it's only an argument for regulating it well enough. A similar example. A possibility to return to work after giving birth to a child may put pressure on a new mother to restart working sooner than she would like (maybe she wants to spend more months with her newborn child). How do we solve this? By forbidding women to work? Of course not, we solve this by making laws, which forbid employer from forcing new mothers to return to work, we solve this by giving mothers some money in the first moths after birth of a child, so that there's no financial pressure for them. And the same goes for euthanasia too. If there are risks – solve them, don't just prohibit the whole thing.
Jaygie's avatar
Response to
Paragraph 1: I can accept that reasoning and now see where you're coming from there. For me to completely agree with you I'd have to believe that gay marriage is a 'human right' though; I haven't yet decided what to think on that. Sorry I don't have much more to say on this.

Paragraph 2: Most of those are still example of small scale, but I don't doubt the possibility of kids being okay. The relationship of a mother and grandmother raising someone is socially different than a lesbian couple, but as an example of unconventional parenting I can accept, but not a logical reasoning for gays parenting. There is a saying that it takes a whole village to raise a kid. Here's an article about gender confused kids if you wanna read it: [link] Perhaps not the best example because deep down I think the Mom just wanted girls and got stuck with 3 boys. Gay or not, I think kids need to at least know their gender roles growing up so they aren't so confused and I think having gay parents would perpetuate this, but I don't know.

Paragraph 3: It's not just the 'American family model' I think of it as the 'human family model' because that's what we've been doing (as a majority there are exceptions like that African tribe) for thousands of years otherwise we would've died out of existence. I think your assumption that I'm not familiar with polygamy is rather amusing. It's ironic because I actually belong to a religion which believes in polygamy (but doesn't practice it because of laws, and not in the same sense as that African tribe). The reason I only specified 'man and women' is (I thought of this when I typed it up too XD) I didn't think I needed to drag in polygamy into the conversation since we were only referring to gay rights, which still pertains to only 2 persons. Though I don't think legalizing polygamy would be any more of a good thing, perhaps even worse. XD

Paragraph 4: When I said 'it could be misused on so many levels' I wasn't focusing on the topic of suicide, but it's one of them. I do not agree with suicide. A person has a right to do anything they want; we cannot or rather should not take away a person's agency. I do know that suicide is a very harmful thing and it's not just because of death but the way it affects people. Gal I work with had her brother-in-law die (not from suicide) and six months later her brother (because they were bff's and couldn't cope with his death) killed himself. This hasn't created anything positive I'll say except now the brother's wife tried to kill herself last night. Whether it's because of the brother's suicide that pushed his wife to this I don't think I have the knowledge to say, but it can easily be plausible to be true. Just couple of months ago I had a friend's dad commit suicide. It's been devastating for them. Why would I want to allow a drug to run rampant out there that does this to people? There are plenty of other ways to die. People still have the right to kill themselves without euthanasia (in fact the drug probably wouldn't be hard to get a hold of illegally) and not allowing euthanasia does not infringe on this. It might not be as pleasant of a death, but if they want they can go and die. Not having euthanasia doesn't seem to be stopping anyone on this 'human right'.

I haven't ever heard of suicide being a good thing. It's permanent; you can't go back on that kind of decision. On a religious basis, it does depend on the circumstance, but it detrimentally decreases your chances of going to heaven. Other complications is that I can only think of the lawsuits alone that would cause problems with allowing euthanasia. Kill grandma to get the life insurance policy. Family backs out on so and so's decision to go to the other side of the rainbow and sues doctor that he coerced his patient into dying. Drug is used to kill innocent people. An actual bad doctor misuses drug on a patient. Just on the news, it happened about a day or two ago. Cop gives a young girl a ride because it's freakin' 100 degree weather and she didn't look too well. Cop gets permission and lets her sit in the front seat because of the AC. Girl takes officer's gun and kills herself while he's driving. Besides the evidence that the girl was by-polar the Mom already believes that it was the police that killed her daughter. That situation (not likely pertaining to officers though) will be multiplied by over a hundred country wide but in terms of euthanasia.

Instead of trying to give people who want to commit suicide some mental help (because you'd have to be mentally imbalanced to want to die) they instead hand them the needle 'cause it's cheaper than months of psychological care. I can't say I know anyone to have 'recovered' from wanting to kill themselves, but I'm pretty positive that there are quite a few who got intervention before they pulled that trigger are probably VERY grateful that they are alive. There is a saying that goes when a person tries to (or succeeds) commit suicide they are really just in action instead of words asking for help. Why just let them give up when they can still fight and live normal lives? Yes there are different circumstances but why should we be so quick to the trigger? Things don't have to happen as fast as people think they do. I think when the question pertains to death that it needs to be very much deeply thought through whether it's pulling the plug on a brain dead relative, signing a DNR (do not resuscitate), letting a loved one succumb to the last stages of cancer and die from it rather than fighting it painfully, or in a more urgent situation deciding to let someone donate their organs to save others instead of trying to save them. Death is never an easy answer, so I don't think we need a drug to make death easy and fast. The drug euthanasia is not needed; death comes anyway. I'm a bit more lenient on the other topics above because as I've said, I haven't yet been able to fully think them through and come on a solid inner-moral decision, but this topic I will not be persuaded because I have long ago already have come to my reasons why not to legalize euthanasia because someone had me think about; gay rights is a more recent thing for me. If it's any consolation, I don't prohibit euthanasia in use for the death penalty.

I think that just about covers it. Uh, sorry for the looooong reply, and again I won't be offended if you don't give a detailed reply, but a quick message saying that you are opting out of the conversation would be nice.
AndreasAvester's avatar
Marriage (a piece of official paper) as itself isn't a human right just like, say, a chance to get an official paper, which says that you have insured your 40" TV. If there is no such thing at all as an official marriage institution in some country, then their citizens' human rights aren't infringed (as long as it's not a totalitarian regime, which forbids people to live in a family with their chosen person). The problem here is inequality and discrimination. Imagine a country, which said that white people are allowed to officially get married, but black people can't do it officially, they can only live together with their chosen partner unofficially. In my opinion forbidding gay marriage is exactly the same as this hypothetical example, because that's discrimination and inequality. And not being discriminated IS a human right.

What was described in that article was a completely different problem. If a child has, say, one parent, but he isn't kept locked in parent's house and is allowed to see other members of his society, then he sees that there are also other family models besides having only one parent and that shouldn't make any confusion. The problem with those boys was that their mother tried to keep them “locked” and not let them understand the rest of the society, so they got very confused.

Anyway, what that mother did was very bad, but for another reason. If an adult person doesn't like something in his society, he is allowed to protest it, to break the rules, to campaign for a change. Only when you do that, you have to experience lots of hatred from people who dislike your political ideas, you see people being surprised, people thinking that you are a weirdo and so on. First women, who started feminism and fought for their rights, were disliked and ridiculed by most of the society. People who fought against racial discrimination (Martin Luther King, for example), received lots of hatred. Yes, they made the world better, but they paid the price for it. And that was their choice – they were adult and made a conscious decision.

But what is this mother doing? OK, she wants to fight against gender segregation, she wants gender neutrality. In that case she should be wearing men's clothes HERSELF. But instead she has made a situation, where her children experience all the bad reactions, where they are the ones to suffer because of HER fight against what she dislikes in the society. And that's where the problem is. A parent should never do things, which make their kid's life worse.

About gender neutrality vs. gender equality. I definitely support gender equality – equal opportunities to chose a job you like and do whatever you want without being told that women or men can't do that. But with gender neutrality it's trickier. There are both pros and cons. In Sweden they actually are now trying to implement gender neutrality in the whole society by starting with children - [link] Only it seems like there are also a bunch of reasons why it leads to bad things as well. Anyway, if a kid loves pink color, he/she should be allowed by society to wear pink clothes regardless of his/her gender, but this one example also is more about gender equality not neutrality.

It's not just the 'American family model' I think of it as the 'human family model' because that's what we've been doing (as a majority there are exceptions like that African tribe) for thousands of years otherwise we would've died out of existence.
Now this is totally wrong. Check the facts and statistics before making any claims! [link] [link] [link]

I think your assumption that I'm not familiar with polygamy is rather amusing.
No, it isn't. That's exactly what you showed – you are unfamiliar with it. And with “being familiar with” I didn't mean “have heard that there are a couple of weird tribes in remote corners of the world, which are doing it all wrong”. You made a rather bold assumption that one man and one woman marriage is the right form of family, which works the best, therefore “it ain't broken, so don't fix it” (don't allow any additional options). That's a very narrow view. From the day of birth every child gets socialized. His parents and the whole country teach him how they are living in this society. And in addition to this they also teach that “this is the correct way of living”. Yes, they say that there are also few exceptions to this rule – a couple of weird tribes in remote world corners, who are doing it all wrong. And the way society tells this information is intended to create mistrust and dislike towards these different customs and different cultures. Basically kids are taught that all the societies, which live differently, are bad, evil, people are unhappy there etc.

Why is every society doing this with their children? Firstly, for the sake of sustainability. Each parent wants his children to continue living the way he/she does. Just like if you are a Christian, you want your kid to pray Yahweh not Buddha. Secondly, because each person wants to think that the way he lives is the correct not wrong way. Go talk with people from some African tribe, in which each woman has multiple husbands, then talk with people from some other society where men have many wives, then talk with your own mother. Every person will answer the same – mine is the correct way of living. See a pattern? This is when you finally will “become familiar” with different traditions. You will start wondering, whether your way of living really is the correct one. And then you will come to one of these 2 possible conclusions.
1. There is no such thing as the correct family model. People have all kinds of families and all of them are working just fine. In all of these societies kids are happy and it works for them. Conclusion - there are different alternative models and all of them are equally good. (This happens to be my conclusion. “A family” can be just about anything as long as it's members are happy.)
2. All of the different alternative models are somewhat working, but one of them works better than others. And here you present a long list of well researched arguments, which explain why.

What you did instead was saying “this is how I live, it works for me, therefore it is the only family model, which is working and is correct”. And this is not a grounded argument. Imagine time when first Japanese restaurant was opened in USA. I can imagine some conservative people saying “we have been eating grain, vegetables and beef for centuries, we have good health, therefore our diet works, so if it ain't broken, don't fix it, don't start eating rice and uncooked fish”. OK, by now we know that both diets are good, they are alternatives from which both “are working”. With nutrition it was easy. If food has all the nutrients and vitamins, it's working. But how do you compare different family models? I guess criteria could be something like 1) are all the parents happy living like this, 2) are children happy; 3) can children material needs (food, clothes) be easily supplied; 4) can children mental and emotional needs be easily supplied. For the sake of an argument we can imagine and assume that one day scientists will find out that one family model really is better than others. “One man and one woman” is better than “two gay fathers and two lesbian moms”, “mother, her sisters and grandmother”, “two lesbian moms”, “one mom and several brother fathers”, “one father and several moms”, “one father”, “one mother” etc. So does a country really have rights to prohibit people from having other family models, which also work, but are slightly worse? Let's return to my example about food. We know that vegetables are much better than McDonald's food? So why don't we ban McDonald's, but still let people choose also this slightly worse option? In my opinion, because people should have rights to freely choose what they want. OK, you can continue this by saying “adult people can decide, but they can't decide for their children, every child deserves only the best and shouldn't receive something worse just because he happens to be unlucky with parents”. OK, but then we should say that one is allowed to eat McDonald's food only after reaching the age of 18 or 21. Let's ban giving kids junk food! I guess by now you see where it goes – a tyranny, a totalitarian state, where scientists say how people should be living and they are given no choice, if case some particular individual happens to dislike what scientists picked as “the best for everyone”. By the way, scientists may say that jogging is a better hobby than drawing, because it keeps one healthy, but for myself I still prefer art.

About euthanasia. Your definition is very different from what usually is understood with this name. So how it's done. 1. Euthanasia is available only for terminally ill patients. 2. It is only for people, who can't move, who are tied to a hospital bed and can't move even their hands to be able to commit a suicide. 3. It's performed only by doctors in a hospital. 4. A doctor is forbidden to suggest his patient euthanasia, he is forbidden to try convincing patients to choose it. Patient must request euthanasia themselves. 5. Patient signs some agreement paper (if he can't move a hand even enough for a signature then there's some alternative procedure). 6. There must be some procedure to make sure that signature and agreement aren't a forgery (having some witnesses or something like that). 7. Country must pay for palliative care to make sure that sick people don't feel like being a burden on their family member's shoulders.

What you talked about was mostly bullshit. For example, why should people be willing to pay huge sums in black market for that poison, which is used for euthanasia in hospitals, to use it for killing themselves, if, firstly, they can buy some sleeping pills for a couple of bucks and drink the whole bottle at the same time, secondly, there are thousands of other different poisonous substances around us, which we can use to kill ourselves cheaply?

The reason why I support euthanasia is because my grandmother died from cancer. The last 2 months of her life were pure agony. She was given some medicine to prevent pain, but it wasn't working well enough. She was tied to a bed, she couldn't move and was begging my mum (who was taking care for her) to kill her. Yes, my grandmother did a stupid thing. If you know that you are to be tied to a bed soon, kill yourself now while you can move. But don't you think this is a rather nasty thing to say to someone who didn't expect cancer pain to be that bad, and one day found himself wishing to die sooner and being unable to move?

It detrimentally decreases your chances of going to heaven
I don't believe in afterlife, and I am an atheist. So if you want me to take your argumentation seriously, don't talk such stuff. For me a sentence “Yahweh doesn't like suicides” means just as much as “in order to get some rain, you must run naked around some fire and do the 'rain summoning dance' for a pagan god”.
AndreasAvester's avatar
I really like what you wrote in the disclaimer – that you are concerned with reason and truth. I wish more people were thinking like this. And living in a fair society is important too.

I'm lucky to live in one of the world's least religious countries. According to statistics given in Wikipedia 7% of people attend religious services regularly here. Only about 40% of people believe in God. The reason I'm mentioning these statistics is because the amount of gay-haters is much larger than the amount of religious people here. And gay marriage is not allowed in Latvia. So called reasons are 1) homosexuality is immoral; 2) gays are sick and need to be cured; 3) that's unnatural (and usually gays are compared with pedophiles); 4) being gay is bad for demography (currently in Latvia each year there are much fewer births than deaths, so it seems like we are dieing out); 5) anal sex is bad for health. I guess you see that all these “arguments” are crap. Basically they are all pseudo arguments – a lame attempt to find something that sounds better than the true reason “I don't like gays”.

And then there's another curious opinion. Gays are OK only as long as they don't make prides, hide the fact, and are gays only in their bedrooms and stay silent outside. Arguments: 1) it's disgusting to look at the pride, which is in the center of the city (I guess people who say so haven't thought of staying at home that day and not watching it); 2) children will see this and start thinking that homosexuality is normal [and won't hate gays like their parents do – usually this addition isn't told loudly]; 3) children at young age will see homosexual behavior and because of this will become homosexual themselves [and being homosexual is bad]. Basically the same crap. I'm atheist, so maybe I don't like watching all the public Christian events and I don't want children to be exposed to Christianity. Why are their wishes better than mine?
And of course there's also the religious argument by those few who actually believe in God. But you refuted this one well enough already. Sadly homophobia isn't a problem only among religious people.

A month ago we had a gay pride here. Shortly before that I participated in a public debate about whether it should be forbidden, and also wrote an article about the issue. My approach was a little different than yours – I didn't speak about religion, I spoke about morals. I started with proving that morals often are irrational – what one finds immoral may seem perfectly fine for someone else (example: sex before marriage). So some % of population has no rights to force their morals on others. To avoid a tyranny of the majority laws should follow the harm principle (first explained in John Stuart Mill's work “On Liberty”). It was funny to look at people trying to argument and find victims in the fact that wrong people are getting married.

And gay marriage isn't the only problem. There's lots of such ridiculous laws based on what part of the society finds wrong. Examples: forbidding euthanasia; limitations for assisted reproductive technologies (in many countries it is forbidden to use surrogate mothers); forbidding prostitution (assuming that women choose it freely and aren't forced); forbidding sadomasochism and sodomy; forbidding incest (assuming that both persons are adult, aren't mentally ill, choose to do it freely, and are using contraception to avoid getting sick children). What really pisses me off is that in a whole bunch of “normal” countries people can be put in jail for incest just like in some Muslim countries they can be put in jail for writing in Facebook that they are atheists. Yet we still claim that we are better and care for human rights. Only often human rights aren't a very popular idea in Latvia (and also the rest of Europe).

Anyway, there were about 500 comments for my essay. Few people agreed with me. Few didn't agree, but at least tried to give rational arguments. About 90% of comments accused me of being funded by George Soros or USA embassy, who want to use gays in their world domination plan, decided that I must be lesbian (no normal person can support homosexuals), accused me of wanting to destroy Latvia by destroying morality and so on. And no one believed that my only interest in the issue could be willingness to live in a society, in which discrimination is not considered to be normal.

For almost any person you can find some reason to discriminate him (sexual orientation, skin color, physical appearance, gender, religion, political views). Those people who are campaigning that gay minority must be discriminated and that a tyrannical country is OK often forget that a day may come when they will turn out to belong to some minority group. And then they will have a choice – either say that all minorities must be discriminated and start campaigning for their own discrimination or admit that they are hypocrites (we mustn't hurt a minority which I like, but we must discriminate those I don't like). Only most people will choose hypocrisy without even noticing it, without even thinking that far.
mjranum's avatar
If you only have 7% of the population attending religious services, then I'd bet that fewer than half of them believe any of it - they're just going to catch up on the gossip and say "hi" to friends, etc. That's nice - there's not a lot of motivation to get one's religion involved in politics, in that case.

the amount of gay-haters is much larger than the amount of religious people here

If it's not a left-over of religion (the abrahamic religions both contain the world's supply of anti-gay hatred, which is where you find it: islam, judaism, christianity and not in buddhist, shinto, or confucian/taoist societies) Although, come to think of it, it was punishable by death before christianity came to Japan. ...

a lame attempt to find something that sounds better than the true reason “I don't like gays”.

That's what I want to get at: why? Why don't they like gays?

I spoke about morals.

Good tactic. I have trouble making moral arguments because I feel like I'm lying (I don't believe morality is a useful concept) so I avoid them.

Your argument based on moral reciprocity ought to win the battle every time. "Would you want to live in a world in which others could enforce every whim they wanted against you? No? Then don't enforce your every whim on others and you'll have some moral high ground when they try it back on you."

forbidding euthanasia

Yes. Where does that come from? The abrahamic religions proscribe it. I don't know about buddhism or tao/confucianism, but the Japanese used to respect people for killing themselves. I have always wondered where these prohibitions come from. In the case of abrahamic religions, the whole notion of an afterlife of reward or pain becomes quite pointless if you just kill yourself, so they had to make it forbidden to preserve the authority of their religion.

(other rights elided) The problem is that they may seem like they ought to be rights to us, but to the people who get offended by them, they're not. The obvious answer seems to me to be the doctrine of harm and autonomy of the self: as long as I am not harming anyone else, what I do with myself is only my own business. That allows consent as well, since someone else can also do something with me, of their own will, and it's still nobody's business.

About 90% of comments accused me of being funded by George Soros or USA embassy, who want to use gays in their world domination plan, decided that I must be lesbian (no normal person can support homosexuals), accused me of wanting to destroy Latvia by destroying morality and so on.

Ouch. Yes, you do look like a destroying angel. :)

Seriously, though - one comeback that works well for me is to ask people, "if this or that is immoral, can you explain to me your basis for why you say it is so?" That puts them in the position of having to actually defend their 'morals' factually rather than as simple opinions. A closing argument is then to point out that as an atheist and skeptic your understanding of what is and is not moral to you has been laboriously constructed and is something you've put thought into, rather than simply treating it as a matter of opinion. It is, (if you believe in morality) immoral to assert a moral argument which you cannot defend.

Those people who are campaigning that gay minority must be discriminated and that a tyrannical country is OK often forget that a day may come when they will turn out to belong to some minority group.

Exactly. Immanuel Kant, FTW!
AndreasAvester's avatar
About non-religious gay-haters. They mostly belong to the older generations. So their hatred is related to upbringing – they simply got used to the idea that gays are bad, that homosexuality is illness. Well, basically just like these people “think” that sex before marriage is bad or shooting nude models is bad, they also think that gays are bad. That's the environment and beliefs in which they have grown up. The whole argument I sometimes have with these people usually goes like this:
Me: Why are homosexual people bad?
Old freaks: Because they are ill?
Me: Why is it illness?
Old freaks: Because that's not normal?
Me: Why is it not normal?
Old freaks: Because that's immoral?
Me: Why is it immoral?
Old freaks: Because homosexuality's bad!
There are also some people of my age, who think that gays are bad. But not that many. I guess they simply were unlucky with having weird parents, who managed to pass this irrational hatred to them. Official attitude in USSR was that gays are bad, even though the country embraced atheism. And you know what propaganda can do – if you call some group of people bad, then most people will swallow and believe it.

Seriously, though - one comeback that works well for me is to ask people, "if this or that is immoral, can you explain to me your basis for why you say it is so?"
I did that. In answer I got quotations of Bible verses...
And the answers from non-Christians aren't any better - “we all simply know it when something is wrong”. Basically they admitted that morality is whatever the majority of the society have taught them in childhood. In whatever environment you are socialized and brought up, that will be “the right thing”. And most people (even atheists) don't spend time thinking about what should be moral. They accept as moral the most common belief of their society and don't question it.

Actually this is one huge problem with some non-thinking atheists/agnostics I have had the misfortune to encounter. They actually think that “morality comes from the Bible” (from the the book not God – Jewish shepherd priests invented it, and now we apply it since it turned out to be a good thing). Or they claim that “our Western and Latvian cultures are based on Christian values”. And this is when things get fun:
Me: What are Christian values on which our culture is based?
Moralist: Um... Err... Well, the 10 commandments and that stuff about turning the other cheek.
Me: From 10 commandments first four say “thou shalt kiss Yahweh's ass”. The rest say: no killing, no lying, no stealing, be nice towards your neighbors and don't be a jerk, but turning the other cheek – well, no one is taking that seriously anyway. Now let's look at some indigenous tribe in Amazon rain forest, which have never even heard about Christianity. How are they living? Well, basically they have the same rules – no killing, no lying, no stealing, being nice towards neighbors and so on. And if someone breaks these rules he gets punished by the tribe. Hmm, how did they invented all that if Jews were the ones to invent human morals? Of course the answer is evolution. It's much easier for people to survive if they cooperate, but it's impossible to live together, when you are treating your neighbor badly. And that's plain self-interest and a need to survive.
Moralist: Starts yelling, calling me in rude names and declares me immoral (well, in the literal sense of the word I really am “immoral”).

And the reason why such stupidity is really disastrous – few years ago some crazy Christian politicians changed Latvian constitution and now there's a paragraph: “The State shall protect and support marriage – a union between a man and a woman, the family, the rights of parents and rights of the child. The State shall provide special support to disabled children, children left without parental care or who have suffered from violence.” Words “marriage – a union between a man and a woman” were added as a response to gay pride, originally in our constitution there was no such crap. And society didn't protest. At about the same time those politicians also came up with an idea that 7 years old kids must learn religion in public (not private damn it) schools. And people didn't protest. Even some non-religious people were thinking “well Christianity is what our culture and morals are based on, Christianity teaches us to be nice towards others, so it's a good thing that kids will learn some morals”. And such statements simply make me feel like screaming.

if you believe in morality
I don't like using the word “believe” when talking about one's views. I either know something (there is evidence, which I understand or have checked) or I don't know something (whenever there's no evidence available for the mankind or when I was too uninterested in the topic to spend time looking it up). So there should be no such thing as “believing” when it comes to one's opinions.

About morality. My definition – morality is basically the same as legislature. It gives a society a set of laws, which make sense for it's survival. And same goes for values. They often are (were) rational. Chastity, for example. 1000 years ago it made sense not to sleep with random strangers, because a society, which has lots of unwanted children, whose parents don't want to take care for them, is quote doomed to get problems. So chastity was announced to be a value. Only damn religious guys wrote it in their scripture that it's a value. And now we have contraception, so it no longer makes sense, but still we have the same old religious scripture, and conservative people claim that chastity is a value. That's why I mostly dislike our current moral code. Some laws are OK (no killing, no lying, no stealing), but many of the other laws make no sense in 21st century anymore.

So basically I have discarded most of the moral crap, and live the way I want – by my rules, for which I know the reason why they are good/useful. And do that for my own selfish interest. For example, I treat my friends well, because, firstly, I don't want to loose them (it's not in my interests to loose good friends), secondly, because it makes me happier to see my friends happy not sad or suffering. The only “moral rules” I have are 1) people should not hurt others, 2) they should not force their beliefs on others by force. There's a famous quote incorrectly attributed to Voltaire: “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.” I think it should be taken ever further: “I disapprove of what you do with your life, body, mind or time on Earth, but I will defend to the death your right to do it, if you aren't harming anyone else in the process”. That's why I support sale of alcohol (even though I don't drink), abortions (even though I would never kill my child like this), marijuana (even though I have no wish to use it). It's each person decision, and that's it. No one should be forced by others to do what they don't want.

Of course this my opinion has the same “is-ought” problem. When I propose these rules, I have no more authority to do that than a Christian, who proposes some different rules. And then I can only give my reasons and try to convince the society. Firstly, this is the only way how a society can be sustainable, because if someone feels hurt/forced, they might start civil wars, terror acts, Occupy protests, burning London, demanding women's emancipation or gay rights etc. Secondly, it's more pleasant to live in a society in which you are not forced to do things you don't like.

Another reason why I dislike morality is because there are lots of ways how Christian morals have been abused.
1. Church set moral standards impossible to achieve thus making everybody sinners, who must go to the church to get forgiveness. Firstly that made people feel bad for no reason. Take 7 deadly sins for example, there's nothing bad with lust as long as you don't rape anyone. Pride is OK too, if it is deserved and you don't lie boasting with achievements you haven't really done. There's no harm from laziness either. Secondly - church got rich like this from repenting sinners.
2. Moral rules were turned into an answer of everyday problems and became one-size-fits-all guidelines. Thus people got a permission to stop thinking about consequences of their actions and simply “do the right thing”. For example, consider rule “a divorce is bad”. It's stupid if people follow this “rule” thus causing lots of suffering for the whole family with everyday quarrels. In such case it would have been better to think about consequences instead of following the “moral rule”. And of course we can't always predict consequences of our actions, but often we can and in these cases we should at least think about them. (I once wrote a longer journal about this issue here - [link] )
3. “God wants you to obey the king” rule in Middle Ages.
4. All that crap which Christians have done (and are still doing, for example, by forbidding condoms thus spreading AIDS) in their fight against the moral crisis. [link]
DonDeCerveza's avatar
Very eloquent brother.

Being uncomfortable with issues is not the same as phobic.
I have gay friends, which I can not picture myself in their place, but I wish them all the happiness in the world.
Phobic is when you wish to control those doing whatever is making you uncomfortable.
Whatever happens between two (or more) competent, consenting adults is their business.

On the same sex marriage issue, I wonder if their marriages are actually more stable because they have more invested.
The sanctity of heterosexual marriage is questionable at ~50% divorce rate. (nothing personal man)
mjranum's avatar
Being uncomfortable with issues is not the same as phobic.

I agree. It made me uncomfortable and I had to figure out why because I didn't want to be simply reacting to something without examining my basis for behavior.
DonDeCerveza's avatar
The fact that you can reflect on your emotions makes you far more evolved than than the young earthers.
I usually find that when someone says, "the bible says that it is wrong", is actually saying that my preacher tells me it is wrong and it supports my uneducated fears so that makes it right.
I have found that a large number of these people have never reflected on their own lives to be true to them selves and have never actually read the bible for understanding.

Be cool.
Off to TAM next week, to spend a few days with the other heathens.
mjranum's avatar
TAM will be fun!!! I went in '08 and it was awesome! Have a great time!

"the bible says that it is wrong", is actually saying that my preacher tells me it is wrong and it supports my uneducated fears so that makes it right.

Yes, most people who claim to believe in the bible haven't read it as well as those who reject it as a mass of immoral teachings and myths. Coincidence?
curtneyjacobs's avatar
Nice! Thanks so much for the essay. It put a lot of things in perspective for me.
Nathanomir's avatar
This is one of the best written and argued essays I've read on this subject. Excellent!
Hi,
sweet! You made it well! It was really clear and understandable! Thanks for being explained well about the issue! It's a real issue now days! I think same sex-marriage is a gift from God. lol.
mjranum's avatar
I think same sex-marriage is a gift from God. lol.

That's a good one!
rikoh's avatar
It doesn't make me "let's have a stoning!" uncomfortable. Hahah. That's very funny. Might have been the highlight of my day.

It's interesting to read about your sexual soul searching. It's fine to have no homoerotic feelings. Rest assured, I'm guessing that most of us who are not straight, unlike you (you not being not-straight, that is), have had these same kinds of internal struggles.

So maybe someday you'll pull a Dostoevsky, of sorts, and renounce atheism, and homosexuals, and even the photographing of boobies, and all that is progressive, whatever that is.

Well, hopefully, some autocrat putting you through a mock execution is not in your future.

You can probably rest assured that you have no sugar in ya, if you have no interest in cock. Other than your own, anyway. And even if you did like cock, I think that that would hardly mean that you're queer. Who says that these highly rigid, polarizing distintions between orientations are sensible? Well, that's rhetorical on my part. What I'm really saying is that it's probably foolish of people to think in such black and white, you're either this or you're that terms. Are the borders between orientations really so rigid in reality, in nature? Probably only in the delusional minds of the religious and of the mentally stunted. Then again, I don't doubt that there are folks who are one-hundred percent one way or the other. Could be. But I wasn't saying otherwise. Only that it's probably common for a large section of the population to be less rigid in their various orientations, whether they admit or acknowledge it, or not.

It's good to hear you take the right position on the matter. :)

Great and educational read as usual. Thank you for writing here despite your reluctance. And, wouldn't we all be better off if instead of throwing away so much time on the internet we spent it reading Rousseau (not that I like Rousseau)?
mjranum's avatar
It's interesting to read about your sexual soul searching. It's fine to have no homoerotic feelings. Rest assured, I'm guessing that most of us who are not straight, unlike you (you not being not-straight, that is), have had these same kinds of internal struggles.

Yes, I just want to understand it. I'm very comfortable with myself and my sexuality - what made me pause to think was the visceral (literally!) reaction I had. That's certainly thought-provoking.

And, wouldn't we all be better off if instead of throwing away so much time on the internet we spent it reading Rousseau (not that I like Rousseau)?

Yes; I think that today's education lacks a great deal with respect to philosophy. Rousseau, Voltaire, Hume, Locke, Paine, etc - probably have more valuable thoughts than Justin Beiber and Britney Spears. But our educational system(s) are tailored to produce grist for the military mill or capitalist system. People who study philosophy tend to become anti-authoritarian.
rikoh's avatar
Pythiadelphie's avatar
:) I agree with you. Especially with your argument about secularity given that I live in a country where church and state are not properly seperated and you by default pay tax to the church(christian) and have to actively renounce your association with said church to make the state stop taking money for them from your acccount.

As to legislation being entirely based on the principle of harm: it would be great if that were the case. I think there are a lot of laws where the opinion of a group is applied onto the whole society because said group screamed the loudest or deposited the most money in influential pockets.

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