Homosexuality: Morals and Ethics Catch-All Thread

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Given that another thread that started out in one area branched back towards the morality (or lack thereof) of homosexuality...

I think the main focus of this thread, at least as I envision it, is what, at the core, is the disconnect between the two sides of the discussion in regards to homosexuals and what is wanted by each side in the discussion.

I really would like to keep this focused on stuff other than gay marriage, since there's a thread for that already. Just more of an open spot for both religiously-minded folks and more secular folks can discuss the topic.

One thing I want to start off on, that I was thinking about in light of the prior thread:

One point Nomad made was that we're all born broken, and the only way to heal that is through a relationship with Jesus.

My contention with that is that I don't believe we're born broken at all. However we came out of the womb, no matter what bodily/mental/emotional imperfections we may have, we are just as we were intended to be. It's what we do to improve or reduce the world at large that makes us more or less whole, and those are the things we need to contend with, no matter what our belief system may be. Being gay doesn't make me "less than" someone who's straight, but being a liar would make me less than someone who is truthful. The former is something that I can't control, the latter is. Being a sexual being is part of being human, and no matter how we express it, it doesn't make a person "more than" or "less than" another. Rape, on the other hand, more than handily qualifies as something that makes the rapist "less than" those of us who don't engage in that action.

Thus why I argue that being gay is not, nor should it be, a constraint to the full set of rights I should have as a human being.

Humans exhibit homosexual behavior - they have for nearly as long as we've been keeping written records. This phenomenon has been observed and documented in hundreds of other animal species, as well. It's quite common in nature, and occurs for a variety of reasons. It's a normal variant of sexual behavior in the animal kingdom (of which we are most certainly a part of, not separate from), and to claim it's somehow an abhorrence of nature is to completely and utterly miss the point. I'm not even going to bother to refute the "sin in god's eyes" or whatever as the entire premise of such thinking is flawed; that is to say, supernatural explanations for natural phenomenon are bogus. (When you can establish beyond reasonable doubt that your god even exists in the first place, then we can talk. Otherwise, it's all hot air and sophistry.)

Basically, this is what happens when you base your worldview on ancient myths and scriptures; they don't mesh with what we know about the world, and when push comes to shove, reality takes a backseat. As with same-sex marriage, there is not one secular, logical, reason or evidence-based argument against homosexual behavior; they are all faith-based, to some extent. And as such, there's no reason to take any of them seriously.

Nicholaas wrote:
As with same-sex marriage, there is not one secular, logical, reason or evidence-based argument against homosexual behavior; they are all faith-based, to some extent. And as such, there's no reason to take any of them seriously.

There is one very good reason to take them seriously - there are a lot of people who hold those beliefs, and historically some of them have shown themselves to be capable of appalling violence and coercion against those who don't. There wouldn't be much of a controversy if people could follow the kindergarten rules of not hitting others and keeping their hands to themselves.

Aetius wrote:
Nicholaas wrote:
As with same-sex marriage, there is not one secular, logical, reason or evidence-based argument against homosexual behavior; they are all faith-based, to some extent. And as such, there's no reason to take any of them seriously.

There is one very good reason to take them seriously - there are a lot of people who hold those beliefs, and historically some of them have shown themselves to be capable of appalling violence and coercion against those who don't. There wouldn't be much of a controversy if people could follow the kindergarten rules of not hitting others and keeping their hands to themselves.

Truth. I meant it as more of a criticism of their position intellectually, not so much the bigotry as a social force.

Furthermore, folks who believe in such nonsense also tend to believe that restrictions on their god given "right" to exhibit such bigoted violence are examples of government "tyranny".

Rubb Ed wrote:
One point Nomad made was that we're all born broken, and the only way to heal that is through a relationship with Jesus.

My contention with that is that I don't believe we're born broken at all. However we came out of the womb, no matter what bodily/mental/emotional imperfections we may have, we are just as we were intended to be.

And this, I guess, is why I don't see much room for discussion on this issue, because the two sides begin from such fundamentally different start points. Either one side or the other is right, and there's really no room for compromise. The best we can hope for is that the two sides agree not to legislate against the other, and that's unlikely to happen with social conservatives as long as they see homosexuality as a moral\behavioral issue rather than a biological one.

So...what more is there to talk about? One person believes A, one person believes B, and...that's pretty much that.

On the choice and natural issues I think it may be more useful to start making the point that even if it were a choice it still wouldn't be immoral or unethical.

Also on the choice issue, but of the other side; most people don't choose the religion or sub-religion they're born and raised in. This does not by any means excuse their behavior but it may serve to help remind that much if not all of their discomfort or hate is taught and forced onto them from day 1. Their parents having been likewise trained to believe that teaching their children such is right and so the cycle continues. That then becomes a problem with those particular subgroups and broader change must address breaking this cycle.

I fully agree with what Aetius stated aboved. Like the other concept that makes me sigh at my phone when it comes up - race - religion exists if for no other reason than lots of people say it does.

So I think it's beneficial - mandatory, even - to approach the topic from a religious point of view. This is because I am not aware of a strong humanist / atheist push to marginalize homosexuality.

I don't feel the same way as Rubb, though. I do think humans are, as a species, fundamentally flawed, and it is our responsibility both as individuals and as a species to improve ourselves...to become more like Christ was. I use Christ as a stand in because I do believe there are multiple paths to improvement, and Jesus just happens to be mine, culturally. Replace with your god(s) of choice, there.

Our fundamental responsibility, as I understand it, is to treat all members of our species equally, and the second is to be caring stewards of where we live. Golden rule, amirite? I have found enough scriptural evidence in my own culturally holy text (as well as almost every other text I've studied) to support this. Even the Jewish ten commandments not focused on worshiping God fulfill these responsibilities.

In order to fulfill our first responsibility, I don't think there's room to marginilize activity that does not degrade fulfilling that same responsibility, or the responsibility to be good stewards. Therein lies the difference between two consenting adults loving who they need to love, and "crimes," like rape or sexual acts involving children or those mentally incapable of making sexual decisions. Beastiality seems to directly conflict with being a steward of those animals who rely on our actions for survival.

Nicholaas wrote:
As with same-sex marriage, there is not one secular, logical, reason or evidence-based argument against homosexual behavior; they are all faith-based, to some extent. And as such, there's no reason to take any of them seriously.

I see this idea expressed all the time - laws need to have secular, concrete benefits, you can't resitrict someone's else's rights unless they're causing demonstrable harm to someone else, that kind of thing. It seems reasonable and comes off as fairly progressive. I think the problem is that "subjective morality" can cut both ways, and I'm not sure people who make this argument have fully thought it through. There are a whole range of behaviors we restrict today where another person isn't harmed, I'd bet some of those restrictions you'd agree are valid.

Can we be sure the wellspring of homophobia religion? I've heard people being horrible about gays who don't mention religion at all. The assumption that all the Romans and Greeks were all fine with gays seems a big one.

NormanTheIntern wrote:
I think the problem is that "subjective morality" can cut both ways, and I'm not sure people who make this argument have fully thought it through.

A call to base laws on logical, rational or evidence based reasoning is entirely a call to stop basing laws on (potentially) subjective, individual moral norms. It should not matter in law that 2 given groups of people have differing moral codes; the law shouldn't legislate in favour of 1 group's morals at the expense of the others. The legal system should, in part, provide a sort of moral level playing field.

see also: legislation around free markets should attempt to provide a level playing field for all market players and not allow the biggest and richest to establish de facto monopolies.

NormanTheIntern wrote:
I see this idea expressed all the time - laws need to have secular, concrete benefits

There's nothing a priori about legal frameworks that require them to be secular in nature. While it's true that western legals systems are slowly tending towards secularism away from their judeo-christian (and Roman) foundations plenty others either have or continue to be motivated by religious moral frameworks. I think legal systems should be secularised for the reason I just gave above, YMMV.

NormanTheIntern wrote:
There are a whole range of behaviors we restrict today where another person isn't harmed, I'd bet some of those restrictions you'd agree are valid.

Please enumerate some restrictions on behaviour without the potential for harm currently in force in the US or UK which were put in place and motivated by a purely secular argumentation.

As for Nomad's comments, that is certainly a talk for elsewhere. I take true issue with a human being born anything but infinite potential, and inherently good.

Regarding homosexuals, their right to marry, their rights as human beings; we do not live under a religious rule. As I said elsewhere, I will fight that. I am open to any cogent argument that homosexuality should be made illegal, or their unions. Sadly the truth is that the only argument is had by cherry picking bible passages (at best), wholesale misinterpretation, or outright lies about what one claims to hold divine (at worst). The anti freedom understanding of the bible is horrid but not so horrid as their understanding of tradition or history. "Traditional Marriage" is meaningless and comes from television and film rather than any basic anthropological understanding of our history. I can only assume, using the same insane slippery slope logic of the religious anti-freedom corps, the next step is that we lay claim to our wives and daughters as chattel. That is traditional biblical marriage, after all. And that is at least supported by whole texts. One need only look at Pope Benedict's actions to see that is not far off of the mark. His stance on women and homosexuals is

1Dgaf wrote:
Can we be sure the wellspring of homophobia religion? I've heard people being horrible about gays who don't mention religion at all. The assumption that all the Romans and Greeks were all fine with gays seems a big one.

The wellspring? Probably not. It certainly reinforces it, though, and provides and extremely healthy environment for confirmation bias to thrive.

But no, the objections most likely extend from the general idea that people fear what they don't understand. Survival instinct, and a general lack of perspective, and no desire or incentive to gain an alternative perspective, are probably the driving forces of the most basic homophobic reactions.

Ultimately though, I've never heard anything remotely compelling that shows what allowing gay marriage would do to society other than make the privileged majority uncomfortable. Every argument is amorphous or irrelevant.

DanB wrote:
NormanTheIntern wrote:
There are a whole range of behaviors we restrict today where another person isn't harmed, I'd bet some of those restrictions you'd agree are valid.

Please enumerate some restrictions on behaviour without the potential for harm currently in force in the US or UK which were put in place and motivated by a purely secular argumentation.

Just to be clear, I meant there are probably some restrictions without a strictly secular basis that you'd probably agree with. I think when people say "we can't codify our morals unless someone else's rights are infringed", they maybe aren't fully on board.

1Dgaf wrote:
Can we be sure the wellspring of homophobia religion? I've heard people being horrible about gays who don't mention religion at all.

Very hard to tell these days but western modern western civilisation is strongly rooted in modern Christian morality and intellectualism.

1Dgaf wrote:
The assumption that all the Romans and Greeks were all fine with gays seems a big one.

I don't know a whole lot about Roman cultural practice around homosexuality but the Greeks had a very complex relationship with it and it's acceptance was by no means uniform across the assorted city states and probably not specifically accepted by all given individuals. The Athenians were broadly accepting of it. And pederasty (and older man taking a younger lover as the "passive" partner) is reported as being widely practised across the Greek world. Where pederasty was practised being and older man who is also the passive partner was widely regarded as something to be ashamed of. IIRC The Spartans generally regarded it as shameful to be an older man who took young male lovers even though as a young man it was common to take and older man as a lover as means of "practice" for when you were old enough to be wed.

Homosexuality was an acceptable target for jokes in Greek comedies but then again having a large penis was widely regarded to be hilarious so it's hard to estimate how much such jokes reflect a level of genuine social disdain.

Can you provide an example of a restriction that does not have a secular basis?

NSMike wrote:
Can you provide an example of a restriction that does not have a secular basis?

Blasphemy laws in the UK. Last test case was in 1991. Was recently abolished though.

NSMike wrote:
Allow me to clarify, then: an example of a restriction that is regularly enforced that does not have a secular basis.

Well blasphemy law was regularly enforced in the UK in my lifetime (up until about 1998 with the passage of the EU Human Rights Act)

Polygamy in the UK and US remains broadly illegal though

Allow me to clarify, then: an example of a restriction that is regularly enforced that does not have a secular basis.

EDIT: Actually, I just thought of one, the restriction on the sale of alcohol on Sundays. The liquor aisles at my local grocery store are blocked off until a specific time on Sundays.

I'm not sure where I was going with this line of thought anymore, it occurs to me now that there are definitely examples.

I guess I should point out that most of these examples, though, will be unabashedly based in a religious context. Laws and restrictions that are not can be shown to have some clear secular reasoning that can be reached without a religious law hanging over it.

The ultimate question that then arises is: can we reasonably restrict the rights of a group, in this case homosexuals, without that religious context? Can we reach a rational, secular conclusion for this restriction that does not affect the whole population regardless of sexual orientation?

Also, can we all agree that restrictions which do not have a clear secular basis, or, more specifically, completely a religious basis, do not belong in a law that can be enforced upon the general population of a free society?

DanB wrote:
1Dgaf wrote:
Can we be sure the wellspring of homophobia religion? I've heard people being horrible about gays who don't mention religion at all.

Very hard to tell these days but western modern western civilisation is strongly rooted in modern Christian morality and intellectualism.

I've seen historians who argue the inverse, that modern Christianity was shaped by the past 20-ish centuries of western civilization. Considering the number of adjustments and re-alignments the Catholic Church and, more recently, the many post-Luther factions have had over that time period, most people who don't share in an Abrahamic faith would probably agree.

Kraint wrote:
DanB wrote:
1Dgaf wrote:
Can we be sure the wellspring of homophobia religion? I've heard people being horrible about gays who don't mention religion at all.

Very hard to tell these days but western modern western civilisation is strongly rooted in modern Christian morality and intellectualism.

I've seen historians who argue the inverse, that modern Christianity was shaped by the past 20-ish centuries of western civilization. Considering the number of adjustments and re-alignments the Catholic Church and, more recently, the many post-Luther factions have had over that time period, most people who don't share in an Abrahamic faith would probably agree.

Is it too simple to say that the changes in a society, culture, religion and so on are a dialectic process that's continually ongoing?

Rule of thumb on sex acts: is everyone involved consenting to what's happening? If so, there's no moral or ethical issue in play.

(Note that in other contexts we regard children and animals as being incapable of giving informed consent. That would apply here, as well.)

garion333 wrote:
Kraint wrote:
DanB wrote:
1Dgaf wrote:
Can we be sure the wellspring of homophobia religion? I've heard people being horrible about gays who don't mention religion at all.

Very hard to tell these days but western modern western civilisation is strongly rooted in modern Christian morality and intellectualism.

I've seen historians who argue the inverse, that modern Christianity was shaped by the past 20-ish centuries of western civilization. Considering the number of adjustments and re-alignments the Catholic Church and, more recently, the many post-Luther factions have had over that time period, most people who don't share in an Abrahamic faith would probably agree.

Is it too simple to say that the changes in a society, culture, religion and so on are a dialectic process that's continually ongoing?


Well it's obviously an ongoing two way street but you can draw a pretty straight line between intellectualism of the enlightenment the structure of contemporary western thought and society.

NSMike wrote:
Can you provide an example of a restriction that does not have a secular basis?

Sure - I also think it's important to point out that non-secular does not automatically equal religious. Someone in a previous thread mentioned the "ick factor", and that's certainly applicable beyond the realm of homosexuality. One thing I'd like to make absolutely clear here - I'm not directly equating homosexuality with any of these things, simply taking the general "concrete harm" framework that's been expressed and applying it to other things, which I think is completely fair.

You've noted blue laws already, which have a very clear religious connotation, but what about public lewdness laws? I'm not sure you can construct a defense of preventing someone from getting naked or having sex in public without straying into non-secular territory. Consider an argument that testing consumer products on animals is wrong - how can you make that case when animals are legally property, can be killed, eaten, skinned, etc? You make a moral judgement, even if the root cause of that judgement is an "icky feeling" when you think about cute fluffy bunnies being force-fed drugs. You decide that property rights can be limited by your personal moral code, even if your personal rights aren't being violated.

NormanTheIntern wrote:
I'm not sure you can construct a defense of preventing someone from getting naked or having sex in public without straying into non-secular territory.

That's very easy. If you're naked or having sex in public, children could see it, and there are scientific studies about the potentially harmful effects of children being exposed to sexual material.

Consider an argument that testing consumer products on animals is wrong - how can you make that case when animals are legally property, can be killed, eaten, skinned, etc?

Well, the judgment here is cruelty versus utility. Animals used for food, skins, etc. which are handled without cruelty are fine. Mind you, livestock can be handled cruelly and still have utility. It happens often: see the somewhat recent scandal of Costco dropping pork suppliers who mistreated their livestock.

Also, testing on animals may amount to a certain degree of cruelty, but the intention of the action should also be measured. If you give a mouse some revolutionary new drug that gives people hope for a cure or treatment for a devastating illness, and an unintended side effect arises, that is not intentional cruelty. It also could potentially prevent that side effect from harming the humans who may otherwise be subjected to the same treatment.

As for secular reasoning, animal cruelty has a pretty relateable side effect: pain and suffering. The moral judgment is in whether or not pain and suffering should be inflicted upon other creatures. There is no reason to bring a religious argument into that reasoning (if one even exists).

I'm not entirely sure how to address the public lewdness issue secularly. I'm also not sure it isn't obvious such laws don't have a religious context. Look up the Puritan history of the US.

But all of this distracts from my original question:

NSMike wrote:
The ultimate question that then arises is: can we reasonably restrict the rights of a group, in this case homosexuals, without that religious context? Can we reach a rational, secular conclusion for this restriction that does not affect the whole population regardless of sexual orientation?

Also, can we all agree that restrictions which do not have a clear secular basis, or, more specifically, completely a religious basis, do not belong in a law that can be enforced upon the general population of a free society?

Demyx wrote:
NormanTheIntern wrote:
I'm not sure you can construct a defense of preventing someone from getting naked or having sex in public without straying into non-secular territory.

That's very easy. If you're naked or having sex in public, children could see it, and there are scientific studies about the potentially harmful effects of children being exposed to sexual material.

Why bother with worrying about someone being naked in public? It is perfectly legal in Portland and it doesn't cause any problems. Lewd acts are still forbidden, but you can dangle freely while walking down the sidewalk. Note that the lewdness limitation covers, among other things, gentlemen who are a little too excited to be free and seen.

On the topic of sex/lewdness, I think there is another possible non-secular reason to apply. We already have laws covering exposing minors to sex acts(including pornography), as Demyx covered. But there is also the heightened risk of sexual harassment and other acts that involuntarily involve other people. Basically the same laws that apply to guys in parks running up to people in nothing but an open trench coat.

NSMike wrote:
As for secular reasoning, animal cruelty has a pretty relateable side effect: pain and suffering. The moral judgment is in whether or not pain and suffering should be inflicted upon other creatures. There is no reason to bring a religious argument into that reasoning (if one even exists).

A non-religious judgement, but a moral one nonetheless. If, as DanB posited, the law shouldn't enforce group 1's morals over group 2's, then you can't pass a law against testing consumer products on fluffy bunnies, and actually perhaps animal cruelty laws in general would be in question - right?

(Obviously things like quality control for animals raised as food would be in scope)

I'm not sure that I ever made the stipulation that morality be excluded from that determination, so I'm not sure why you bring it up.

This is dangerously close to the argument that if you accept the morality of gay marriage or gay sex acts, we must in turn accept bestiality and pedophilia. I have few doubts that 100 years in the future. And to make us feel old, we are close to 100 years after the passage of the 18th Amendment. But in 100 years I suspect we will see our 20th century attitudes to drugs in the same light as when looking back to temperance.

But I fail to see that as germane to the talk. It was the law in the colonies that to work on Sunday was punishable by a day in the stockade.

Further equating the rights of individual homosexuals with the pernicious moral codes that often crop up, as opposed to the larger human rights issue that it truly is serves to belittle to people seeking to be afforded their equal rights.

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