Tuesday, June 24, 2008

The Immorality of Homosexual Marriage

I have moved discussion of the Pledge Project to my other blog, Atheist Ethicist Journal. That blog continues to track cases where the Pledge is used as a gate to keep atheists (or any who do not say the Pledge for any reason) out of public office and other moral offense. Atheist Ethicist Journal will continue to cover things that you can do to promote the moral case against 'under God' and 'In God We Trust'.

However, Sporkyy at Unscrewing the Inscrutable posted an endorsement of the E Pluribus Unim petition . The posting, 'Under God'/'In God We Trust' petition also contains a poster that demonstrates one of the moral problems with "In God We Trust" as the national motto. I would not mind seeing the poster in a few civic buildings and schoolhouse walls myself.

On to business as usual:

Since the California Supreme Court declared it to be unconstitutional to prohibit marriage among people of the same sex, I have noticed an important problem in the way people have talked about this issue.

The word 'morality' has been used almost exclusively by those who are opposed to the decision. They are writing that the Supreme Court decision is a defeat for morality, In some cases, they have argued that the Court is threatening to eliminate all moral constraints. If all things are now permissible, then murder, rape, and theft also become permissible.

Let's put the facts on the table. The California Supreme Court decision is a victory for morality because it protects the interests of innocent people from those who would harm those interests without justification. The Supreme Court's decision that permits homosexual marriage was no more of a defeat for morality than the 1st Amendment rights to freedom of the press and freedom of religion. These freedoms, too, were once branded as enemies of morality since people who were allowed to practice a different faith and not instructed in the One True Religion were at risk of adopting immoral practices.

This does not say that the Court's decision was an accurate interpretation of the law. There are unjust and immoral laws – such as laws that allow a person to marry somebody of a different gender while prohibiting marriage to somebody of the same gender. The Fugitive Slave Law in the 1850s, Jim Crow law, segregation, the Japanese Internment, and the like represent other immoral laws. There are a slew of questions to be asked whenever any court is asked to enforce injustice and immorality.

Yet, none of that is relevant to the point of this essay – that a society that permits homosexual marriage is more moral than a society that does not.\

It is a mistake not to put it in these terms, and to allow those who like morality to religion or to scripture to make their assertions unchallenged. In this sense, silence implies consent. In this case, refusing to challenge claims that link morality to scripture means that most people only hear that they are linked. If that is all they hear, then that is what they will believe, which will perpetuate the myth, much to our disadvantage.

As a matter of fact, the 'morality' that we find in scripture is a morality that was invented by man, and then assigned to God. It is a theory that is filled with error – just as ancient theories of astronomy, physics, and economics were filled with error. This is not to say that everything found in scripture is mistaken. Ancient peoples were able to get some of the more obvious moral facts right, just as they were able to get some of the more obvious scientific facts right. But this does not change the fact that there are whole areas filled with error.

Then, these man-made moral errors get assigned to God, creating a situation where injustices get carried far into the future – thousands of years into the future – where injustices thought moral by primitive man are still being inflicted on innocent people today.

One of those ancient moral superstitions – the moral equivalent of the scientific superstition that the Earth is the center of the universe – is the claim that there is something morally objectionable with homosexual relationships. This is an ancient prejudice – like the permissibility of enslaving those who are from another country – invented by man and assigned to God.

Those who are familiar with this story know that there is a measure on the California ballot that will amend the Constitution to bar homosexual marriage. In that fight, I once again see that those who support the amendment are allowed to have a near monopoly on the use of the term 'morality'. In that fight, I once again see a people willing to give consent (through their silence) to the idea that whatever violates scripture is immoral, and whatever is immoral should not be permitted.

I would like to start to read those who are opposed to this Amendment that the Amendment itself is a threat to morality. It is a threat to the moral principle that the state should protect the interests of its peaceful citizens, and that one of the key moral principles that hold any moral society together is equal respect for those who do no harm.

I would like to hear the fact that reported that those who wish to prohibit homosexual marriage and who defend it through scripture are no different in principle than those who wrote into the U.S. Constitution that black slavery was permissible and defended it with references to scripture.

I would like to hear some people use this opportunity to point out that while some things found in scripture correspond to morality, that others do not, and that we can create a more moral society by ignoring certain biblical prescriptions (as with slavery) than we can by obeying them.

16 comments:

Anonymous said...

"If all things are now permissible, then murder, rape, and theft also become permissible."

I've heard the arguments for and against same-sex marriage, but I've NEVER heard its opponents suggest legalizing it would eventually lead to murder, rape, or theft.

Do you have any evidence that this is even a remotely-common argument?

Alonzo Fyfe said...

The argument that I am referring to is that all morality comes from God. If we declare that we have the right to ignore God's moral law with respect to homosexuality, then why not ignore God's law with respect to murder, rape, and theft? All morality comes from the same place, and what we do to one moral law we can do to all of them.

veggiedude said...

Morality coming from god is ludicrous and insulting and anyone who thinks that are just plain closed minded. But the next time you come face to face with one of these people, you might want to ask them if the Dalai Lama is an immoral person with absolutely no morals at all. What will they say?

MorseCode said...

"If we declare that we have the right to ignore God's moral law with respect to homosexuality, then why not ignore God's law with respect to murder, rape, and theft?"

If we declare we have the right to ignore god's moral law with respect to shellfish, then why not ignore god's law with respect to homosexuality, ham, and multi-cotton fibers?

Alonzo Fyfe said...

Morse Code

I covered the shellfish problem in an earlier post, where I blamed the destruction of Hurricane Katrina on God's punishment for the shrimp industry there.

Source of Hatred

Matthew said...

alonzo, I don't understand an arguments here. How does "equal respect for those who do no harm" require marriage privileges to be granted to any individuals who want them? It seems that any person right now, without discrimination of any kind, is free to marry a person of the opposite sex. To marry a person of the same sex requires a different definition of marriage from the one under which our marriage laws were created. Whether we decide to extend the definition or keep it the same, I don't see any moral (I use the word in your sense) obligation to do so.

Eneasz said...

To anon1:

I've heard the arguments for and against same-sex marriage, but I've NEVER heard its opponents suggest legalizing it would eventually lead to murder, rape, or theft.

What, you've never heard of the Family Research Council? Here: http://www.frc.org/get.cfm?i=bc04c02 they state "virtually no society has ceased to regulate sexuality within marriage as defined as the union of a man and a woman, and survived". They've said that gay marriage is more devistating than the plots of child-rapist Warren Jeffs. And these people are just the polished public face of such fundamentalist extremists.

Matthew:
Whether we decide to extend the definition or keep it the same, I don't see any moral obligation to do so.

First, marriage comes with legal benefits and protections granted by the government. To grant it to some people and not others demands justification. Protection from slavery was once only granted to whites. The benefit of being able to vote was once only granted to men. There were no good reasons for this, only simple bigotry. There is no good reason to deny the benefits and protections of marriage to gay couples aside from bigotry.

Furthermore, to deny a group something as human and as basic as marriage is an intentional move to degrade and debase them. To show that they are sub-human and will not be regarded as equal to us. There are a number of basic rights which are often stripped from targets of hatred and bigotry simply to dehumanize them. One of them (surprisingly, until you think about it) is access to toilet facilities. Another is marriage.

The reason to change the law is to stop systemic degredation of a segment of society due entirely to bigotry. Most people would consider that a moral obligation.

anticant said...

"If all things are now permissible, then murder, rape, and theft also become permissible." This was precisely the argument used in Britain in the 1960s by the more extreme opponents of the Wolfenden proposal to decriminalize consenting homosexual behaviour in private between men aged over 21.

Fortunately, influential church leaders of most main denominations were wiser than they appear to be today, and broadly supported the reform [which became law in 1967] on the ground that even though consenting homosexual acts were sinful, it did more social harm than good to criminalize them.

Nils Confer said...

You may have already covered this elsewhere...If we redefine marriage to permit people of the same sex to marry, where do we stop with the new definition? And if easily changed, what happens if culture continues to move in a direction away from clear lines provided by natural and biblical laws (i.e. multi-party marriages, trans-species marriages etc)?

Pngwn said...

"And if easily changed, what happens if culture continues to move in a direction away from clear lines provided by natural and biblical laws (i.e. multi-party marriages, trans-species marriages etc)?"

Trans-species marriages likely won't be a problem. Marriage, as far as government is concerned, is a legal agreement (mostly dealing with property, and medical rights). An animal can not make medical decisions for a person, nor can they make any use of human property (at least, not without help from a human; they can't serve their own food).

There is then, of course, the issue of consent. A man can consent to marry another man. A woman can consent to marry another woman. A dog can not consent to marry a human; they don't have the mental capacity.

As for multi-party, the bible has several examples of polygamy, so I'm not sure where you are going with that one. King Solomon, for example, was said to have 700 wives.

The slippery slope argument has never really held water in this situation. We have already redefined marriage several times. In fact, interracial marriage was legalized as recently as 1967.

If we're looking for a "foothold" on the slippery slope, there is a much stronger foothold in "consent" compared to "between a man and a woman."

Alonzo Fyfe said...

Pngwn's response that the boundaries of marriage should be those of any other contract (children and animals lack the capacity to enter into binding contracts).

With one exception.

As I argue here, an aversion against incest is almost certainly an inhibiter to intra-familial sexual abuse. Consequently, I support the practice of condemning incest.

However, there is no reason to treat homosexual relationships any differently than heterosexual relationships. That is to say, there is reason to condemn those forms that contribute to the spread of disease, cause harm, or violate the rules of consent.

See also: a moral template for an example using homosexuality that illustrates the method for answering questions such as this.

Jesse Reeve said...

First, I hope that you don't consider this comment off-topic. It's a response to your comment in this thread, but its subject matter is also relevant to the post you linked, "Legalizing Incestuous and Polygamous Marriage." If you feel that it derails discussion here, I can take it to the comments section of that post instead.

As I argue here, an aversion against incest is almost certainly an inhibiter to intra-familial sexual abuse. Consequently, I support the practice of condemning incest.
Since you believe in a presumption of freedom-- placing the burden of proof on those who would restrict freedom-- I'm disappointed that you don't provide any evidence to support this claim, in this comment or the linked blog post. Making claims like these without evidence is bigotry.

However, there is no reason to treat homosexual relationships any differently than heterosexual relationships.
Wikipedia: "According to the Mayo Clinic, approximately 95% of incidents of sexual abuse of children age 12 and younger are committed by offenders who meet the diagnostic criteria for pedophilia; and that [sic] such persons make up 65% of child molestation offenders."

"The best epidemiological evidence indicates that only 2-4% of men attracted to adults prefer men. In contrast, around 25-40% of men attracted to children prefer boys. Thus, the rate of homosexual attraction is 620 times higher among pedophiles." Ray Blanchard, et al. “Fraternal Birth Order and Sexual Orientation in Pedophiles.” Archives of Sexual Behavior, Volume 29, Number 5 (2000), pages 463 to 478.

Does the evidence supporting a link between child sexual abuse and homosexuality constitute a reason to treat homosexual relationships differently? If not, what's different about the (unsupported) link between child sexual abuse and incest?

faithlessgod said...

Jesse Reev
e
Your first quote from Wikipedia seems quite independent of your second quote, the argument appears to be a non sequitur, but that is the least of its issues. Still the fact the large majority of sexual abusers of 12 and sub-12 year olds are diagnosed as peadopiles seems hardly surprising.

As for your second quote, it is most likely taken from ... Conservopedia, hardly a reputable nor reliable source of unbiased data. I am guessing that you obtained it from there, since this is the #1 google hit for your quote.

However, maybe you did not and you obtained it from an even less reliable source since, otherwise you mis-quoted the key figure of "6-20" as "620", that is you have exaggerated this by an order of magnitude. A huge error.

But there is more this study was published and funded by the Paul Cameron's Family Research Instiute which, according to a source you like - wikipedia - is designated a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center.

As for the the quality of this study, as already noted published by the highly disreputable Paul Cameron (see wikipedia again):
"an empirical study manifesting even one of these six weaknesses would be considered seriously flawed. In combination, the multiple methodological problems evident in the Cameron group's surveys mean that their results cannot even be considered a valid description of the specific group of individuals who returned the survey questionnaire. Because the data are essentially meaningless, it is not surprising that they have been virtually ignored by the scientific community."[http://psychology.ucdavis.edu/rainbow/html/facts_cameron_survey.html]

For you to praise this, which is implied by you using it to support your case here, is at best, incompetence. The alternatives are all worse, that is this is the most charitable analysis of you using such bad "evidence" in support of your case. Lets leave it at that.

Jesse Reeve said...

Faithlessgod, thanks for your reply. The quote from Blanchard et al. was a copy/paste from a cite in this article ( http://www.catholicculture.org/culture/library/view.cfm?recnum=6506 ) and I didn't notice the omitted hyphen. I didn't meta-examine the Blanchard et al. study since Wikipedia cited a similar figure for slightly different circumstances: "In U.S. school settings same-sex (female and male) sexual misconduct against students by educators "ranges from 18–28% of reported cases, depending on the study"" ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Child_sexual_abuse#cite_ref-159 ) but it looks like your linked analysis is correct and Blanchard et al. is junk. Again, thank you for the fact check.

The two cites I provided were intended to establish a correlation between homosexuality and pedophilia, and between pedophilia and child sex abuse-- mirroring the correlation asserted in this post ( http://atheistethicist.blogspot.com/2012/02/legalizing-incestuous-and-polygamous.html ) between incest and child sex abuse. The Wikipedia cite above in this comment makes the connection between homosexuality and child sex abuse directly, though only in "U.S. school settings."

My comment was intended as a reductio of the argument in "Legalizing Incestuous and Polygamous Marriage." Even if there is a correlation between homosexuality and child sex abuse-- and the Wikipedia cite provides at least some evidence for this-- that does not justify an opposition to same-sex marriage. Nor does it justify the notion that discriminating against consenting adult homosexuals will, in some nebulous, ill-defined way, cause homosexual pedophiles to refrain from molesting children. The same arguments apply to consenting incestuous adults.

Same-sex marriage should be extended the same protection under the law, and the same social respect, as heterosexual marriage. I know of no reason, morally speaking, not to give the same legal and social status to incestuous marriage. Such a reason may exist, but I have yet to see it.

Alonzo Fyfe said...

Jesse Reeve

I had a hard time determining the point of your argument. In fact, I had written a complete response before I found an interpretation that made sense.

Please tell me if I still do not understand correctly.

You argument is a reductio ad absurdum. Because the information above is not reason to condemn homosexual relationships, association between incest and child sexual abuse does not qualify as valid objections against incestuous relationships.

However, the information you provided does not draw any valid link between the condemnation of homosexual relationships as a way reducing child sexual abuse - not that I can see.

The leap from:

The best epidemiological evidence indicates that only 2-4% of men attracted to adults prefer men. In contrast, around 25-40% of men attracted to children prefer boys.

to:

Thus, the rate of homosexual attraction is 620 times higher among pedophiles.

appears to be a play on words. It applies the term "homosexual attraction" to male attraction to men and to male attraction to boys, and then treats them as identical.

Yet, that is as much a mistake as applying the term "animal" to elephants and to dragonflies and then claiming that all elephants are identical to dragonflies.

While boys have one quality in common with men (having a penis), they have far more qualities in common with women (shorter stature, relatively hairless bodies, higher-pitched voice, no ejaculation). Given the physiological differences, sexual attraction to a boy by a man is more hetero- than homo- (more different-from-self than same-as-self).

Consequently, it would seem that we can have a better effect on reducing child sexual abuse - even of boys - by promoting a sexual interest in men rather than with women.

If it were possible.

Which it is not.

It is also relevant that the cost of an incest prohibition is not the same thing as the cost of a prohibition that targets a sexual orientation.

At the same time, I would hold that the reason I gave for thinking that an aversion to incest reduces child sexual abuse at least gives a strong reason to suspect what any empirical research would find. Given the fact that incest takes place even with the current aversion to incest, there are two possibilities. (1) The aversion to incest does no work (or, what amounts to the same thing, there really is no aversion to incest), or (2) the aversion does some work and, among the work it does is motivate agents to avoid the sexual abuse of younger family members in cases where it would otherwise have occurred.

The fact that incestuous abuse exists combined with the extremely high probability (the near certainty) that the aversion to incest is the deciding weight that tips the balance in some cases implies that, if we remove the aversion, more will exist.

Jesse Reeve said...

At this point I have to admit that my argument was poorly phrased and difficult to understand. I apologize. Let me try to put it forth in a simpler, clearer form.

Evidence suggests a correlation between child sex abuse and incest (a disproportionate number of child sex abusers are related to their victims). Evidence also suggests a correlation between child sex abuse and homosexuality (a disproportionate number of abusers target victims of the same sex). If this justifies discriminating against consenting incestuous adults, why does it not also justify discriminating against homosexuals?

I would say that neither is justified.

While boys have one quality in common with men (having a penis), they have far more qualities in common with women...
Consequently, it would seem that we can have a better effect on reducing child sexual abuse - even of boys - by promoting a sexual interest in men rather than with women.


This reasoning does not square with reality. Pedophiles are not attracted to children because they share qualities with adults; they are attracted to children, period. Again, almost all child sex abuse is committed by pedophiles.

It is also relevant that the cost of an incest prohibition is not the same thing as the cost of a prohibition that targets a sexual orientation.

The costs are different in some ways; for instance, a prohibition on incest blocks off a relatively small number of potential partners, while a prohiition on homosexuality blocks off a relatively large number. But they are alike in one way: they are costs borne unjustly by people who do not deserve to bear them. Consenting incestuous adults are neither legally nor morally responsible for child sex abuse, any more than consenting homosexual adults are.