Friday, October 25, 2013

Arguments Concerning Homosexuality that Need to Go Away, Part II

Continuing the theme from last week, this post will examine two more common arguments involving Christianity and homosexuality, as always, I pick an objectively bad argument from both sides and attempt to argue for it to be retired from rhetorical service.


Reality: Critics of gay sex need to recognize and acknowledge that there is a distinction between the propensity of homosexual sex to lead to disease, and the propensity of promiscuous homosexual behavior to lead to disease. Although the CDC reports that sexually active men-with-men (CDC doesn’t screen these statistics by self reporting because of its subjectivity, although there are concerted arguments that self reporting should be a factor) are at a significantly higher risk of certain STDs,[1] the diseases that women-with-women pairings suffer from inordinately center around unhealthy eating habits, negligent healthcare provisions, and side effects related to deprivation of hormones from pregnancy;[2] things that might just as easily affect a celibate straight woman who loves fried food (don’t we all).

Unless you’re willing to argue that being a lesbian makes you afraid to go to the doctors and get screened for HPV, or that being a lesbian makes you fat, or that STD’s in gay men are generated ex nihilo from within the bodies of monogamous disease free partners (none of that, by the way, can be supported by science) stop using this argument. Yes, you’re at risk of disease as a promiscuous homosexual, especially if you don’t use protection. Just like you are if you’re a promiscuous heterosexual and don’t use protection. That doesn’t tell us much about healthy, monogamous gay partners, except that saying that they’re walking disease vectors is likely to infuriate them, get them to label you as out of touch with reality, and end discussion. Mechanical/structural damage to the body from gay sex is just as likely as mechanical/structural damage to the body from straight sex involving the same kinds of penetration and practices.

Bottom line: This argument is a distortion of scientific evidence designed to incite rage, dehumanize, and shut down discussion.  Stop.


Reality: I’ve heard several people make a prima facie rebuttal to this argument by ascribing it to the fallacious “appeal to nature.”[3] While that's true, I would hesitate to use that rebuttal in some Christian contexts, because if they wrongly think that this fallacy gives them leave to reject entire content of the bad argument (that people are born gay, while taught religion), it may entice the person arguing to try and deploy the first bad argument we discussed last week as a follow-up. As I mentioned in that post, scientific evidence overwhelmingly confirms that gay people have no control over or cognizance of the factors that lead to plasticity in their sexuality, or lack thereof, so whether people are truly “born gay” or somehow a cocktail of environmental factors cause them to become gay by the time they reach puberty, the truth of the first half of the poster holds: Being gay, as a mental state, is innate rather than learned. As such, I think Christian ethics regardless of conservative or liberal stripe should try to eschew labeling homosexual desires as an event in a single person as inherently sinful in itself. There are a number of innate conditions in people that lead to behaviors that are sinful, but to label a person with these conditions as ontologically sinful is a non-starter, and likely to lead that person to despair or, if they were a Christian to abandoning Christianity.

That pitfall aside, the “appeal to nature” rebuttal is sufficient to dismantle any comparison between the morality of being gay and practicing religion as a function of their “natural-ness.” Many of the things that people do that are good and kind are learned behaviors (ex. giving money to a charity overseas, that will never benefit you in any way), while many of the things that people do which are evil and hurtful are related to innate desires, typically expressed primal ways (rage, some theft, violence over “territorial” issues, etc.)

EDIT: One of my readers astutely noted that this argument is one of two surrounding homosexuality that trade on the same logical fallacy, the other being that being gay 'must be evil because it is unnatural.' If the argument consists of nothing  else (here, I'm thinking about a mistaken conflation of "natural" with "God-ordained," which is an entirely different question) it can be dismissed for the same reasons as the above argument.

As Karl Barth wrote, “...naturalness is not pure...”[4] and for the sake of logical consistency, we might add, "necessarily."

[4] Barth, Karl. The Epistle to the Romans. 6th. ed., (London: Oxford university press, 1960. Edwyn Hoskins trans.), pp 52.

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