In my last post, I commented on how religious moral systems are inadequate in the ways in which they fail to properly account for the real world. Here, we’ll look at the issue of gay marriage as an example of where monotheistic attempts at morality are flawed and ultimately fail us.
In spending too much time and concern with imagined transgressions and harm, religious moral views steer us away from the actual conditions humans and other animals actually experience. This shift in emphasis from real to imagined often creates more harm than good.
Opposition to gay marriage on religious grounds shows what is wrong with religious conceptions of morality and why secular morality is far superior in practice.
Valid moral arguments must have sound logic and valid reasons.
Pious opposition — Invalid reasons; bad logic
When you strip away the bad logic and invalid arguments, it becomes apparent that homosexuality and same-sex marriage are not moral issues.
Ask an opponent of gay marriage the following: “Can you tell me a valid reason why you as a heterosexual can marry and have all the benefits that come with it, whereas homosexual couples cannot?” What you will hear in return is a bunch of invalid reasons, including:
- The claim that gay marriage offends God (really? You know that how???)
- Others will elaborate and say the bible specifically says that the gay lifestyle is immoral and the penalty is going to hell (the Bible does not actually make this explicit claim).
- Still more assert: “I don’t want to offend the (presumably loving) being that made the rules”.
- Here is the kicker — a startling claim made by one NZ Herald respondent: that the dictionary definition of marriage doesn’t say anything about same sex couples marrying (as if moral progress is made via lexicography).
The gay lifestyle is a consequence of being gay. Many believers claim that being gay is a choice, despite the fact that all evidence points to the contrary — that sexual preference is a complex mix of developmental and genetic factors. There is a clear reason for this denial:
Failure by the religious to acknowledge the fact that gay people are born gay amounts to condemnation on the basis of innate identity. This is immoral.
Condemnation on the basis of the sexual orientation a person is born with is morally the same as discrimination on the basis of colour.
Pick your flavour — biblical moral relativism
The Bible is a deeply flawed book filled with contradictions. This in part explains part of its success as a guide for believers. You can pick and choose those parts that confirm what you wish to be true while ignoring the other, contradictory and less convenient passages.
For instance, the books of the Bible gay marriage opponents point to as evidence for their position (one man one woman) also advocate polygamy among numerous other marriage arrangements, including a gem from Exodus which says a slave owner can assign male slaves to female slaves (how moral of those slave owners!) This cool infographic shows marriage according to the Bible.
Upon reading the Bible it is clear that if we are to live our lives based on bronze-age edicts in Leviticus (Deuteronomy, Numbers, Genesis…) we are advocating for a regression back to primitive, morally repugnant times.
Progress in human rights has always had its challenges. Staunch defenders of the status quo is to be expected, but in the areas of human rights, moral and scientific progress, religious opposition has always been an impediment.
From slavery, the oppression of women to barbaric acts such as stoning people for working on the sabbath — we no longer accept these biblical definitions of roles and justice. We (at least in my country) have simply moved on — and a good thing too. These ideas do not deserve respect and for the most part are positively immoral.
When the issue of “should we grant homosexual couples the same status we enjoy as heterosexuals” is finally put to rest, let us look back in 20-30 years to celebrate the victory of compassion over the scornful who tried in vain to convince us that they acted morally.
For more on the science of sexual orientation: