Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Know thine enemy. And their arguments.

I, as I would think many liberals do, get irritated when conservatives accuse us of believing X, Y, and Z when we don't. Likewise, I get a bit irritated when liberals accuse those who are more conservative of believing things they don't actually believe. Such often seems to be the case with liberal Christians misrepresenting the beliefs of the more conservative Christians. Below is a clip of Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd addressing a pastor in what is apparently a Q&A session. I'm embedding the video from The Last Word as that is where I first saw the actual video (I had read about it earlier at Pharyngula). Lawrence O'Donnell finds the response "brilliant." From a political perspective, yeah, he's been getting good press from what I've seen, so it's probably working out for him. But from a perspective of making a good argument, it is not impressive. I'll go more into Rudd's remarks from the video below the fold. First, I'll address how they misrepresent his opponents position. Then further below I'll cover other problems with his remarks. (The clip I'm interested in starts around 40 seconds in if you'd like to skip ahead.)

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First, I do not believe people when they are born choose their sexuality. They are gay if they are born gay. You don't decide at some later stage in life to be one thing or the other. It is...it is how people are built and, therefore, the idea that this is somehow an abnormal condition is just wrong.
I grant there are a number of conservatives that claim there is a "gay agenda" where gays are supposedly out to convert/recruit children into being gay. I don't know exactly how large this group is, but it is not all of conservatives. There are others who will agree that people are born gay, but that this is not how God intended it to be. Rather, people are born gay due to us living in a fallen world (from the story of Adam and Eve disobeying Yahweh/God by eating from the tree). These people are against gay marriage because they believe it is a sin and don't think people should be sinful. Many of them view homosexuality as something that can be managed. To them, allowing gays to marry is probably much like giving alcohol to a drunkard. It's not responsible to do so. It is from these people that we get crap like gay revision therapy and probably a good number of myths about gays that portray them in a negative light (i.e, gays are responsible for the spread of AIDS, they are often child molesters, etc.).

Secondly, if you accept that it is natural and normal for someone to be gay, because that's the way they are, then it follows from that that I don't think that it is right to say that if these two folk here who are in love with each other and are of the same gender should be denied the opportunity for legal recognition of the duration of their relationship by having marriage equality.
This is essentially addressed with my last remarks. It is "natural and normal" from what I can see for people to get addicted to alcohol. That doesn't mean you let those people drink as much as they want. He seems to be equating natural and normal with good. While this is a mistake a lot of people make, even conservatives, I doubt they will buy into it this time.

The Bible also says that slavery is a natural condition. Because Paul said in the New Testament,* "slaves be obedient to your masters," and therefore we should have all fought for the Confederacy in the US Civil War.
Many conservative Christians will not agree on this point. They often make two points: (1) Slavery was essentially done "wrong" in the US because (2) the Bible is really supporting "indentured servitude." Now, for anyone who's read the Bible, that second point is clearly bullshit, but that's what they claim. And likely they will scoff at his remark.

What is the fundamental principle of the New Testament? It is one of universal love.
And many of the people who are against gay marriage will likely agree with this statement. But, once again with the first point, if someone has a drinking problem, the loving thing to do is to get them help. Also again, many of these people view homosexuality as a problem &mdash doesn't matter if it is natural or not — where people with that problem need help.

* His words were nearly incomprehensible here, but I think this must have been what he was trying to say.

OK, now I'm going to get away from what I suspect conservatives will see wrong with this to what I personally see wrong with this. I'll just tackle the first two together since they are rather similar. On those quotes, it doesn't matter if homosexuality is natural or not. It could be a choice for all I care. If it were, it would be a choice that doesn't hurt anyone, so why prevent people from making that choice. On the flip side, being natural is not a reason to allow it. What if it were natural for people to be pedophiles? Does that mean we should allow pedophilia? I would certainly hope not!

For the third quote, he's really put an elephant in the room. That makes it rather clear that the Bible is not a source for making moral decisions. So why go to the Bible at all? For "universal love"? You don't need the Bible for that! I'm much in agreement with PZ (from Pharyngula) when he said the following:
Rudd doesn’t seem to think things through. He does consult his “Christian conscience”, but doesn’t he realize that his riposte — that he’s no more compelled to oppose gay marriage because of a Biblical injunction than he is to support slavery because “the Bible also says slavery is a natural condition” — is a knife to the heart of the whole notion of the Bible as any kind of moral authority at all? I’d be happier with him if he’d consider the logical consequences and simply abandoned Christianity altogether.

P.S. In the title, by "enemy" I really just mean "opponent." I was just keying off that common phrase. I'd hope that would be obvious anyway, but I still wanted to clarify.

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