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If you still have doubts about gay marriage…

June 3, 2016

Aware as I am that gay marriage is taking off at the rate of knots, it is also clear that it is doing so to the wide disquiet of the middle public in various societies.

In Ireland, the referendum sorted it out; there’s nothing like actual popular vote to put to bed any rumour that the Gay Agenda are working behind the scenes high up to push their views on a dissenting public. Such rumours certainly surface in Britain, France and America to name a few.

Sensible governments are forced to ignore their public – or else to not consult them in the first place, knowing that they’ll get a lot of contrary responses which they then can unfortunately not ignore, despite how irrational they are. It is with vain hope that I write this thinking it could change anyone’s thinking on the matter; I expect my readers are generally raging Lefty liberals who already agree. Still, I would be remiss if I didn’t put in my two cents, so here is a list of common arguments against gay marriage, and my rebuttal.

Marriage is for creating children.”

If marriage really was about creating children, then despite right-wing snorting about how “it’ll be polygamous marriage next”, polygamous marriage would indeed have been the next logical step after monogamous, heterosexual marriage – as long as there was at least one man and one woman, children would be created. And I didn’t hear anyone making a huge political argument against heterosexual couples getting married when they cannot have or do not intend to have children; no doubt you could locate such an argument now, suspiciously only after the great hoo-hah about gay marriage.

Marriage is a Christian institution.”

Except in all the countries where it’s not. Marriages happen all over the world – among small tribes, within cults, in places untouched by Christianity or any world religion. In other words, marriage is whatever society wants it to be. In fact, it’s surprising now similar it is between societies considering how far it spreads; the thing all marriages seem to have in common is commitment.

It makes rational sense, then, to assume that marriage is entirely about mutual commitment, if it is about anything at all; so whomever can engage in it can marry, at least in the social sense. Legal reasons to object are due to pragmatism – the family courts have a hard enough time with monogamous marriages, let alone polygamous ones. Such set-ups tend to “work” only in societies when one sex has fewer legal rights than the other.

We are a Christian society, so we should respect Christian values.”

What defines a Christian society? I’m going to make a prediction: if any currently Christian society becomes majority Islamic within the next few decades, all the living conservatives will still claim that they live in a Christian society, not a Muslim one. The alleged reason will be that the culture and heritage of Christianity is the relevant point, not the actual number of practising believers.

The inconsistency of this viewpoint is that, as it currently stands, conservatives repeatedly put forward the argument that majorities matter more than minorities, and that is why minority rights like gay rights do not matter so much. The real reason why conservatives would not accept that their once Christian society is now an Islamic society is because they are Christian, and like all groups of people, dislike it when their privileges are stripped to make way for social change. That is why such people criticise the gay rights movement – their view of the “aggressive gay lobby” is that such people are attempting to gain, not equality, but special privileges.

With such an obvious conflict of interest, the best solution seems to be one of neutrality. Secularism is neutral. You don’t have to worry about whether you have majority Muslims or majority Christians in a society whose government and legislature are based on neither. Therefore, in order for Christians or Muslims to not feel discriminated against by their own government, both sets (and all other religious groups) must be considered equally irrelevant to law and governance. When governments ignore the thoughts of the general religious people and put through laws which are against that culture, they are instantly lambasted for being “Orwellian”.

But in fact, they are sensibly not putting religious feeling before rationality – knowing that if they change the law, culture will follow, and an attitude of tolerance will filter down the generations. Once that happens, no one will even question that it is fair and right for gay people to be treated identically by the law. When that happens, the irrationality of anti-gay policy will be all the more obvious; people’s perceptions will no longer be clouded by a cultural stubbornness against gay rights.

I don’t care either way, I just don’t think religious people should be forced to accept it.”

You can’t say that you don’t care either way and then clearly side with the religious authority. If you’re taking a side, you have a preference. It’s straightforward; do we arrange policy around collective traditional belief, or do we form policy around liberal egalitarian thinking? The latter theory posits that minorities must be represented, and traditional institutions do not automatically deserve to be immune to criticism.

If you think religious institutions should be able to do whatever they like, you’re ascribing them too much reverence. It’s not a good idea for them to be segregated from rationality. Religious institutions who want exemption from gay marriage are asking to be exempt from law; gay people who get married are asking to be included within it. Such citizenship concerns should lead any conservative person to broadly approve of equalising movements.

But nobody wants gay marriage. Most gay people don’t even want to marry.”

I won’t even try to refute that, as that would take some extensive research. It may surprise some people to read that it’s actually irrelevant whether gay marriage is wanted or not. Conservatives have a hard time with the idea of equality for equality’s sake; they don’t understand that it matters inherently whether you have different rules for different people.

Only, of course, they do realise it deep down – because whenever conservatives are on the receiving end of an imbalance, they complain like the buggery. Moreover, they do so whether it affects them personally or not, in defence of people vaguely like themselves (i.e. Christian, right-wing, etc.).

If we’re going to keep talking about “Orwellian” this or that, how about a society that has different rules for different people for no reason? The legal differentiation between gay people and straight people looks weird in the 21st century; this concept we have of fair democratic states looks like a joke. People whose job it is to look into the matter have found no substantial evidence that there was every any reason to treat homosexuality differently in law to heterosexuality. All that is happening now is a rather late redressing of an injustice committed by past culture.

Marriage is a sign of commitment between one man and one woman.”

It’s astonishing how often I hear this expressed as if it’s a matter of common sense. Why is it a sign of commitment between one man and one woman? We have reached the optimum cultural, generational, political point of immovability; you say that marriage is a sign of commitment between one man and one woman. I say it’s not. I say marriage is a bizarre legal contract which gives financial rewards to people who decide that they can put up with another person, and binds them uncomfortably to a decision they may have entered into a little too lightly, subject as people are to whims, hormones and emotions.

Marriage is the decision of two people to declare, often naively, that they’re going to be able to stick to each other like glue for the rest of their natural lives. Forgive the cynicism, but that strikes me as the kind of delusion that can be suffered equally between gay people and straight people. In the interests of justice and equality, let everyone make the same mistake.

I’m not suggesting that marriage never works (my parents have certainly had a good run) – but it’s obviously difficult, and our individualism doesn’t always respond well to the level of compromise and sacrifice. If we’re talking about human nature, it’s worth remembering that gay people and straight people have it equally.

But gay people are clearly not suited for marriage because of their promiscuity.”

Ah, but again you see, even if it’s true, it doesn’t matter. If we can agree that restricting the rights of minorities for the sake of it is Orwellian, then that includes this perceived minority within homosexuals; gay people who prefer monogamy and long term relationships. It would be mad to ban gay marriage just because most people wouldn’t take it. Its possibility is important, in order to account for the few who want it. After all, numbers could increase drastically in the course of a few short years; there could be a mass-cultural shift back towards marriage in general.

This viewpoint also defines commitment, and therefore marriage, in rather restrictive terms. For the sake of argument, let’s say that gay marriage is fundamentally different to straight marriage. Does that make it inferior?

People who claim that the world was a better place when marriage was a more respected institution have the blinkers on. What that actually did was trap women into financial dependency, which in turn sometimes tied them to abusive husbands. Husbands took on a large financial burden, usually being the sole breadwinner.

Sex in history has entered popular perception as having been this contractual thing, whereby a woman serves a man with sexual favours she does not enjoy much herself, in return for his magnanimity in marrying her. Conservative people criticise the gay lobby or “militant feminists” for wishing to invert these patterns, but is it any wonder that they do? These tales of woe may not describe the majority of old-fashioned marriages, but it is a possible narrative of traditional marriage which successive generations are inclined to avoid.

If traditional marriage is an institution of duty to society, then modern marriage including gay marriage is something much less sober and more optimistic – an actual expression of love. I may personally think it naïve, but I also think it a vast improvement on just pairing people off so that they won’t be a disgrace to society, something which still happens all over the world. It is a sign of the times and the culture that people object to the marriages of yesteryear and have therefore completely redefined it for the modern age.

God is against gay marriage, and if God is against it, I’m against it.”

Both the premise and the conclusion are faulty. God is against gay marriage in the minds of some, and not in the minds of others. There’s a bit of anti-gay sentiment in the Bible, but one could ignore that if one were so inclined, just as we ignore instructions to smite our enemies and not wear mixed fabrics. Conservative Christians (and other religions) criticise “cherry-picking” the religious text. They could not have read it very carefully – I have only skim-read the Bible myself and even I can see that it contradicts itself. You are forced to pick what you will believe – and presumably to accept that, within belief of God, one must still account for human interference.

Believers who do not think God is responsible for the evil of the world must agree that evil-doers use their free will to perform evil acts; this may include doctoring religious texts as a means of social control, or to reflect the attitudes of the time. It is unlikely that harm was meant by it, just as social control is always meant to improve society, not to impoverish it. Nonetheless, it can cause great harm. Indeed, we are now seeing the negative consequence of Ancient peoples putting their view of the world onto successive generations; people use those doctrines as an excuse to behave abominably to gay people and other groups.

If you cannot confirm from empirical evidence that your chosen holy book is the word of God, then the rational action is to accept that faith and religious texts are distinct. That the scripture may be as fictional as Harry Potter does not at all have to imply wrongness of faith. This removes from the debate any sense that being pro gay rights is in any way a direct attack on faith. Instead, it shows the impossibility of informing religious morality from scripture.

Once the sanctity of the holy book is questioned, the only moral guide left to a religious person is faith itself. The polite secular term for faith is intuition; intuition is another term for an opinion that is not informed by fact. In other words, anti-gay sentiment is not provably God’s opinion; it is nothing more profound than your opinion. Therefore the defence that you are simply reiterating God’s opinion is no defence.

Without the backing of the supreme being, it gets much harder to argue that your moral inclination is a better guide to life and conduct than anyone else’s. To claim that you know what God wants is either delusion, or more charitably, arrogance. Who is to believe that God speaks to you and you alone? Most likely, you would not believe anyone else who said the same thing while making a counterclaim.

Since it is impossible to determine from mere contradiction who is the true instrument of God’s wisdom, you either have to decide that one random bloke is – i.e., the Pope – or decide that no human can possibly determine God’s will. Again, if you decide that the Pope is infallible, then it is not the will of God you are following. It’s the will of the Pope. As a mortal, he is presumably subject to the same flaws of reasoning and intuition as everyone else.

Otherwise, there’s nothing to stop him declaring any old thing – something which he is clearly not allowed to do. I’m certain that if the Pope declared that God wants us all to be constantly naked and live solely off grass, people would fairly determine that he has gawn completely fruit-and-nut cake. There’s certainly no good in saying that he simply wouldn’t do such a thing: he might. Mortals go mad. There must be many degrees of derangement before making odd statements about grass. Who’s to say that anti-homosexual feeling isn’t one?

If God works in mysterious ways, there’s no great mystery as to why he’s let his holy book mislead people for generations. Maybe he wants us to all figure it out for ourselves; I daresay if I was the creator and ruler of billions of humans and countless animals, I would want them to sort out small administrative details for themselves. Marriage? Please. I’ve got to worry about this exponentially expanding universe. Imagine God face-palming up on his higher plane, wondering why we can’t figure it out for ourselves, when he gave us the capacity to reason.

No one can claim to be an agent of God’s will. There is no way to tell if you are, but for your own intuition. Intuition often verges on delusions of grandeur and has a lot to answer for. The crazed fanaticism and warped mind of the Islamic State terrorists is not so far removed from moderate anti-gay sentiment; both sets of people assume, without tangible evidence of any kind, that they and their ingroup alone understand the mind of God. The sooner we get rid of that assumption, the happier and more peaceful a society we’ll be.

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