Jay Lake (jaylake) wrote,
Jay Lake
jaylake

[politics] More on religious objection to gay marriage

In comments here, hkneale bestows the Clue Fairy on me, and takes me to task for being an antireligious hater. I am respectfully disagreeing, at length.

I fail to see how someone objecting to homosexuality due to their religious beliefs to be considered "unprincipled".

I think we are significantly misunderstanding each other, partly through my abbreviated choice of words. Let me try again.

First of all, I'm not a "hater". My belief in others' freedom of religion is as absolute as my belief in others' freedom of speech. As a staunch atheist, I could hardly think otherwise. To force people to deconvert is just as repugnant as to force them to convert, perhaps more so.

That being said, those very same freedoms guarantee that I am not required to agree with or obey your speech. Neither am I required to agree with or obey your religion.

As for religious commandments themselves, by definition, they are an Argument From Authority. This is certainly true in the Abrahamic religions, and so far as I know, it's true in most or all other world religions. The Argument From Authority is a logical fallacy in and of itself. Furthermore, religious commandments only apply within the framework of their religion. Just because they believe it, doesn't mean it's true.

This is not to say that many religious commandments don't have equivalent social principles. Exodus 20:13, "Thou shalt not kill", has a pretty broad application in any functional society. (As an aside, note the nuance that the original text, such as we understand it, could more accurately be translated as "Thou shalt not commit premediated murder", but the idea holds either way.)

On the other hand, many more religious commandments don't hold any water as social principles. Leviticus 11:12 states "Whatsoever hath no fins nor scales in the waters, that shall be an abomination unto you." (Likewise Deuteronomy 14:10.) Not eating shrimp doesn't have any application in a functional society, at least not one with decent refrigeration.

In other words, you can't base principled social policy on religious commandments. As a society, we don't even base religious policy on religious commandments. Otherwise all Jews and Christians would look and act like Orthodox Jews. Religious principles are selective, and in my opinion, quite necessarily so in order to ensure the long term survival of the religion over generations.

That is decidedly not the same thing as saying that persons of faith are not principled. Neither is it suggesting they shouldn't be permitted, or even encouraged, to state their beliefs, as you suggest I'm intending, further down in your comment.

The point I was trying to make is that we can't frame a social policy based on religious principles. Otherwise we'd all be subject to either majoritarianism, or the principle of maximum of offense. The evils of either of those options should be obvious.

Social policy gets framed based on cost-benefit analysis, moral considerations, and the social context. Our American political equivalent of religious commandments is the Constitution, and the body of legislation and case law which descends from it. Yes, those are Authority, but they're consensual authority established by our society, and malleable as our society changes.

A lot the people of my personal acquaintance who are against the practice of homosexuality (and therefore are standing against gay marriage) have reasons other than "God commanded it so." I know because I've asked them.

What are those reasons? As I said in my original post, I've seen no arguments that don't boil down to either antigay bigotry or religious commandment. What have you heard otherwise?

Would you respect them any more if they failed to stand firm by their principles? Probably not.

Not in the slightest. But neither do I think religious principles per se are a basis for framing social policy. If they were, we'd be a theocracy, and we all know how well that turns out.

When it comes to this whole gay marriage thing, I get much bemusement out of human behaviour. Those who openly support it are getting very hateful and malicious in their attitudes towards those on the fence, even when they are not normally hateful and malicious people. That's probably the last sort of attitude one should adopt.

You're implying it's hateful and malicious of me to stand against those who oppose secularism, equality under the law, and individual rights. I am almost certain I misunderstand you here, but let's be clear. I am quite capable of being deeply snarky about damned near anything (including myself), but I don't think I've ever been hateful and malicious about opposition to gay marriage. I simply think that such opposition is profoundly wrong headed and not grounded on the social and moral principles of our society. It is certainly in many cases grounded in the social and moral principles of individual religious belief, but those are not equivalent and do not apply within the framework of American constitutional democracy.

Don't be one of the haters.

Thankfully, I'm not.

Originally published at jlake.com.

Tags: politics, religion
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