Wednesday, April 08, 2015

Sexual behavior is not a choice, but religious belief is???

I-S: People are raised to be Christians, so to some degree, it is who they are. Yet it is possible to decide that you will no longer be a Christian. On the other hand, we don't get to choose our sexual orientation, and we can't just decide to change it. Most of us are heterosexual, and we never faced a decision to become heterosexual. It just happened that way, and we have no choice in the matter.

VR: I think there is a lot that is problematic about this statement. 

First of all, many atheists (Dawkins is an example, but there are others) deny the existence of free will, but this contrast won't float unless we do. 

Second, traditional Christians don't typically claim that homosexual orientation is a sin. They often claim that homosexual acts are sinful.  So, if your orientation inclines you toward members of the same sex, they may say you cannot engage in morally justified sex. Christians have also traditionally claimed that heterosexual acts by persons not married to one another are also sinful. Since not everyone is in a position to enter a marriage, that means that those persons are also barred from sexual activity. 

The critic of Christian opponents of homosexual activity, therefore, are assuming the view that persons have a moral right to fulfill their sexual desires in accordance with their orientation. But, thus stated, this argument comes into problems. We have to then get clear on what constitutes an "orientation." Richard Carrier has recently "come out" as polyamorous and has said that this is his orientation. And if we accept his claim, then what is next? Sadomasochism? Pedophilia? At the very least with the last category, I think most of us would be inclined to say that people with that orientation are obligated to remain celibate rather than act out this orientation. 

But we can surely choose what we do about our sexual orientation, whether to pursue sexual activity, or not. 

Atheists, often in response to Pascal's wager, tell us that they couldn't will themselves to be Christians if they wanted to. I don't think I could turn myself into an atheist by force of will, either. 

Hence, I don't think the contrast I-S wants to draw will work, at least not the way he wants to draw it. 

37 comments:

John Moore said...

(1) Free will has nothing to do with it. Even without free will, you can be caused to change the way you think. Without free will you're not to blame in any spiritual sense for your bad ideas, but you'll still suffer the consequences. So it's still important to have good ideas.

(2) Traditional Christians think it's a sin even if it's just in your heart (Matthew 5:28). So Christians really do claim homosexual orientation itself is a sin.

(3) Why not use consent as the moral test for sexual activity? If both parties are mature enough and give their willing consent, then it can't be wrong.

The problem with polyamory is just that it's sometimes doubtful whether all parties freely consent. That's also the problem with polygamy and sadomasochism.

im-skeptical said...

I agree with John Moore that the issue of free will is a red herring. I do not subscribe to fatalism.

One's sexual orientation is biologically determined, but one's religion is not. Therefore, it is virtually impossible to change sexual orientation. Religion is a matter of 'nurture' as opposed to 'nature'. It can be deeply ingrained, but not necessarily. Many people have used reason to overcome their religious training. For others, it may be so deeply ingrained that no amount of reason can overcome it.

With regard to sinful behavior, if you can agree that people are homosexual by 'nature', then it is both unreasonable and heartless to call then sinful if they express that orientation. After all, sex is one of the most basic instinctive behaviors common to all creatures. You can't reasonably expect someone to refrain from sexual activity just because the way he does it doesn't agree with your superstitious beliefs. If it's consensual and not harming anyone, who are you to declare that it's a sin?

And by the way, animals engage in homosexual behavior, too. Do you expect us to believe that they are sinful?

B. Prokop said...

"So Christians really do claim homosexual orientation itself is a sin."

You are wrong, John. You could not be more wrong.

As The Catechism states: "men and women who have deep-seated homosexual tendencies ... must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided ... Homosexual persons are called to chastity ... homosexual acts [are] acts of grave depravity" (my emphasis)

Note the clear distinction between tendencies and acts. There is absolutely zero condemnation of tendencies - none.

And as I have already and quite adequately explained in conversations below this one (so no need to repeat myself here), laws prohibiting same-sex marriage cannot rationally be characterized as discriminatory, whereas compelling people who do not approve of them to participate in them is in clear violation of the First Amendment.

Jezu ufam tobie!

B. Prokop said...

"If both parties are mature enough and give their willing consent, then it can't be wrong."

Interesting standard there. So If I desire to be murdered, and my friend is perfectly willing to kill me, and we both give our willing consent to the act, then "it can't be wrong"?

Jezu ufam tobie!

Steve Lovell said...

Agreed Bob,

On top of that, you don't have to watch (m)any nature documentaries to realise that some animals "engage in killing behaviour" (and it even seems that this might sometimes be consensual).

The response "Do you expect us to believe that they are sinful?", is simply terrible.

John Moore said...

You didn't give an interpretation of the Bible passage I referenced. Christ clearly said it's a sin even if you want to do it, not just if you actually do it. Right? And if you have homosexual orientation, it seems to me that's the exact same thing as wanting to commit homosexual acts. And wanting to is a sin, according to my understanding of the passage (Matthew 5:28). So homosexual orientation itself would have to be a sin ... unless you have some special esoteric interpretation of Christ's words in Matthew.

B. Prokop said...

"You didn't give an interpretation of..."

Wasn't aware that I was required to. But in any case, I'm a Catholic, and Catholics don't particularly go in for "proof verses", preferring to search for the contextual significance of any particular passage (the context sometimes being the totality of Scripture) before deciding on its "meaning" (yet another dodgy, Protestant concept). Nowadays, by the way, that's known as "canonical criticism" - a fairly new term first used in 1973, but an old and venerable method going all the way back to the Early Church Fathers, especially Jerome.

But throwing caution to the winds and playing along with the "proof verse" game, let's take a look at Matthew 5:28, shall we? Here's the whole thing: "But I say to you that every [man] who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart." (Revised Standard Translation) For clarity, I have substituted "man" for "one" due to the "his" used later in a prepositional phrase clearly referring to the subject of the sentence, in contrast to the "her", which equally clearly does not.

Well. How is this verse even remotely relevant to your statement "Christians really do claim homosexual orientation itself is a sin" when Christ is explicitly speaking of heterosexual attraction of a man for a woman? This verse has nothing whatsoever to do with "homosexual orientation" and is in no way applicable to any discussion of it.

Jezu ufam tobie!

im-skeptical said...

Does Bob not see the clear and obvious hypocrisy of his stance? Homosexual tendencies are accepted with respect, and discrimination should be avoided, but they shouldn't ask you to sell them a cake or to take their picture because that would be going too far. That would be tantamount to condoning homosexual acts, and would constitute an imposition on your freedom (to discriminate against gay people).

Bob, perhaps if you looked in the mirror, your two faces could speak to each other and come to some kind of agreement.

oozzielionel said...

I read Bob as completely consistent. To translate into my Protestant nomenclature, he is separating the sin from the temptation. James 1:14,15 breaks down the difference. Adding in my experience with temptation and sin in general, there seems to be a point in the process when contemplation conceives the sin before the action takes place. So, my answer is to agree with Bob that the orientation (preference, predilection, propensity, proclivity, predisposition, appetite) is more closely tied to temptation than to sin. However, as IM correctly interprets many Christians (perhaps Catholics excluded), the identification with(giving oneself over to, surrender, yielding to, agreeing with) is likely where the the temptation conceives and the sin is birthed. However, this is not observable behavior and is only relevant to the individual's effort to identify sin, not in the community's ability to recognize it.

Another category that goes beyond this is those that call evil good.

B. Prokop said...

Oozzie,

Not sure I totally understand you, but as long as we're clearly delineating temptation from sin, I think I see where you're going. Temptation, in and of itself, is almost never sin. It only becomes so when we willfully enjoy the temptation, or seek it out. (In the Old Days, we used to call that "the near occasion of sin" - don't know whether that terminology is still in use.) Even the greatest of saints can be solely tempted - heck, Christ Himself was tempted in the Wilderness without sinning.

What did you mean by your last sentence?

Jezu ufam tobie!

oozzielionel said...

By community, I mean both in the sense of the church and the civil law. In civil law, we usually only punish behavior. My impression is that this is getting mushy with "intent" and "conspiracy" and crime "prevention" issues. In the sense of the church, it would be in the context of "seeing a brother in sin" to correct them. The main idea is that sin is much clearer to identify in others in terms of behavior.

B. Prokop said...

Adding to what I just posted, it is notable that the author of Hebrews* wrote that Jesus "was in every respect tempted as we are, yet without sin." Not sure what "in every respect" means here. Does it mean that there is no possible temptation that He did not also experience? Or does it mean simply that just as we are tempted, so was He?

But the important point is that, by itself, temptation (to include, I would imagine, "tendencies") ought not to be confused with sin.

* Pope Benedict XVI (as did Tertullian) suggests the writer was Barnabas, one of Paul's companions.

B. Prokop said...

Good point about "mushiness". This is one reason why I have always absolutely hated * the use of entrapment by law enforcement agencies. I simply do not believe it is their job to tempt people into committing crimes that, had they been left alone, would otherwise never have committed. Entrapment essentially turns our police force into pimps.

* Hah! Here's one case where I will freely admit to being a "hater"!

Jezu ufam tobie!

oozzielionel said...

Bob,
I think I clarified my wrong "last sentence?

"calling evil good" was aimed at advocates of the gay agenda. Homosexual behavior was once widely considered immoral but now it is now widely considered immoral to to call it immoral.

im-skeptical said...

Bob,

I'm still waiting to hear how your two very different stances are to be reconciled:

1. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided

2. Making a cake for a gay couple should be regarded as equivalent to participating in a sinful activity and therefore is a violation of your religious freedom.

Even if you have talked yourself into believing your own dubious rationalization that refusing to serve gay people is not discrimination, you can't deny that it still has the appearance of discrimination (because it is). And therefore, it is STILL a violation of your catechism.

Kathen said...

John Moore

The Catholic Church (I am not sure about other forms of Christianity) does indeed teach that you can sin mortally in your thoughts. However such thoughts can be about straight sex not just gay sex and you do have to give consent to the thoughts. You do have to deliberately think about sex. A passing thought that you try to ignore is not enough. Anyway it cannot be said that the Church teaches that homosexual orientation in particular is a sin; it could be argued perhaps that any sexual orientation is a sin, or at least produces a temptation to sin. Indeed I think that was the teaching of the medieval Church, that any instance of sex involved some form of sin.

Anyway I don't think the Church's teaching about 'impure thoughts' implies in itself that gays are more sinful than straights. Anyone can have sexual desires after all.

My grandmother was educated at a Catholic boarding school where she was made to wear clothes when she had a bath because the nuns thought that the sight of their own naked bodies might make the girls have sexual fantasies that would endanger their souls. I am quite sure they were not worried about gay sex, fantasies about straight sex would be quite enough to damn them.

Papalinton said...

"Homosexual behavior was once widely considered immoral but now it is now widely considered immoral to to call it immoral."

Hoo-bloody-ray! And not before time religious-inspired homophobic bigotry be consigned to the dustbin of history. As civil law widens such anti-social religious-sanctioned behaviour is properly and rightfully constrained in a maturing community. As an enlightened society we are now responding to the better angels of our nature and of our humanity.

I feel content on this issue.

B. Prokop said...

You know, the footnote to my last posting got me to thinking. Since there's so much loose bandying about of the word "hater" of late, perhaps we all ought to come clean and admit to just what we do hate. I'll start.
I hate:

Rap
Ugly buildings
Anything ugly
Bright or unnecessary lighting at night
(Most) Country Western music
"Reality" TV (and I don't even own a TV - I just hate the fact that it exists)
Litter, especially when it's in the water
Atheism (not atheists!)
Pornography
Car alarms
Disney
Sin
Blind partisanship, be it on the right or the left
The Digital Age
Islamic Extremism
The fact that there are no canals on Mars (and no Martian Princesses)
Threats to the First Amendment
Cults
Delaware
Trade paperbacks (why couldn't they stick with mass market ones - they're such a perfect size)

So... if you don't see it on that list, don't assume I hate it! Now who's brave enough to follow my example?

Jezu ufam tobie!

oozzielionel said...

haughty eyes,
a lying tongue,
hands that shed innocent blood,
a heart that devises wicked plans,
feet that make haste to run to evil,
a false witness who breathes out lies,
one who sows discord among brothers.

I plagiarized a bit.

msgrx said...

So if it turns out that homophobia is biologically determined, would that make it alright?

im-skeptical said...

"So if it turns out that homophobia is biologically determined, would that make it alright?"

Homophobia is taught, the same as many other kinds of hatred.

Legion of Logic said...

As an enlightened society we are now responding to the better angels of our nature and of our humanity.

Every culture and society throughout history has considered itself to be enlightened. Tell me, what evidence do you have that your opinions about the correct morals of an enlightened society are right where the billions and billions of people that didn't agree were wrong? Please, no opinions. Just evidence.

Kathen said...

B.Prokop's list is a little odd.

Disney - what, all of it?
Sin - a bit general
the digital age - and here you are posting by computer
no canals on Mars - hey, if there were intelligent life on Mars we would certainly be at war with them. I am glad there are no canals on Mars.
Delaware - what, you hate a whole state? Is this an American joke I can't understand?

oozzielionel said...

Is hate of homophobes taught? And how do you detect homophobes? Is it a thought crime or do you have to wait for actual violence or hate speech? Is voicing a negative political opinion about the legalization of same-sex marriage hate speech? Is it a crime to be a heterosexual because it implies aversion to homosexual activity? The more I think about it, the more confused I get.

Legion of Logic said...

Homophobia is taught, the same as many other kinds of hatred.

The tendency to bully - and later in life, attack - those who are different may prove you wrong here, though I've not done any research on the subject. Animosity and distrust of things that are different is a very natural tendency among humans and does not need to be taught.

Kathen said...

Legion of Logic

Perhaps you should say what kind of evidence Papalinton could be expected to produce. What are you looking for? What evidence do you yourself accept where morality is concerned?

You might also explain the 'billions and billions'. That many?

im-skeptical said...

"The tendency to bully - and later in life, attack - those who are different may prove you wrong here, though I've not done any research on the subject. Animosity and distrust of things that are different is a very natural tendency among humans and does not need to be taught."

All you have to do is observe the attitudes of today's young people. Having been raised in a generally more enlightened society, they tend have no fear or hatred of gay people. This is strong evidence of the learned aspect of homophobic behavior.

B. Prokop said...

Disney - what, all of it?
THIS is a good idea of how I feel about Disney in general.

Sin - a bit general
True, but it's a great space saver.

the digital age - and here you are posting by computer
I also drive a car, but firmly believe the world would be better off without them.

no canals on Mars - hey, if there were intelligent life on Mars we would certainly be at war with them. I am glad there are no canals on Mars.
Ever since I was a kid (back in the 1950s-60s), the solar system has been getting steadily less and less interesting. No more swamps and dinosaurs on Venus. No more one side of Mercury forever facing the Sun and the other side in perpetual darkness. No life on Mars. Jovian moons bathed in lethal radiation that would kill an unshielded human being within seconds. Prolonged exposure to Lunar dust extremely hazardous to your health. Martian soil turning out to be pure poison. Etc., etc.

Delaware - what, you hate a whole state? Is this an American joke I can't understand?
Yup, the whole state. The damn thing has no right to exist. The bastards there have so designed their ridiculously expensive toll roads (the highest per mile charge in the whole country) so that no Delaware resident would ever need to go through a toll booth, while untold millions of out-of-staters have no way to avoid them (the state sits squarely athwart the major East Coast highway), thus bringing in hundreds of millions of dollars into the state coffers. No wonder they have no state income tax! The rest of the country is subsidizing their government.

If I could declare war on Delaware, I would.

Jezu ufam tobie!

B. Prokop said...

"As an enlightened society we are now responding to the better angels of our nature and of our humanity."

Linton's "enlightened society" is nothing but a product of his fevered imagination, as demonstrated HERE.

Jezu ufam tobie!

Papalinton said...

Bob says, Linton's "enlightened society" is nothing but a product of his fevered imagination, as demonstrated HERE."

And Bob may be right. With christianity burgeoning in Africa and Muslims taking over Europe and set to become the largest subscribed religion on earth, shortly to overtake christianity, with fledgling atheism in apparent decline, according to Bob's citation, it seems humanity still has a very long and difficult way to go before we rid ourselves of our innate primitiveness. Belief in supernatural superstition is the path of least resistance. Combating religious superstition, magic whacko, people rising out of graves, gods and demons, and disembodied malevolent non-corporeal entities that go bump in the night, it might well be a very long while to come yet, before we reach our better angels.

Old gods don't die. They fade away.

Legion of Logic said...

Kathen, according to a livescience link (I can provide the link when I get home, I don't know how to copy a link from a phone) the estimated total population of humans was 108 billion. If accurate, that is indeed billions and billions.

In terms of what sort of evidence he could provide, I would assume someone who places such value on basing beliefs on evidence would not believe that this is the dawn of the enlightened age of humanity without some form of objective evidence that isn't simply his opinion. Since I have no idea what his evidence is, I will leave it to him to demonstrate.

B. Prokop said...

" total population of humans was 108 billion"

That sounds about right. I remember hearing somewhere (I can't remember where) a couple of years ago that if all the people who had ever lived were alive today, the world's population would exceed 100 billion.

Jezu ufam tobie!

Kathen said...

Legion of Logic

I have no idea what the total human population is and I am happy to accept your figure.

But that was not what I was questioning. You said that billions and billions of humans disagreed with Papalinton's views on morality, and specifically with his views on homosexuality. Well, I suspect most of those humans died before they were able to form an opinion on the subject and there is no reason to think that the ones that survived agreed with the official view. We just do not know what most people thought. Indeed, for most of human history we know far too little to have any idea what people were supposed to think, let alone what they did think.

We do know that plenty of human cultures have accepted or at least tolerated homosexuality. Indeed I think plenty of Christians have thought gay sex was no more sinful than straight sex.

B. Prokop said...

Kathen,

This may not apply to you, but it most definitely does to certain frequent posters on this site. Your question simply brought this issue to my mind.

I really like this thought by Anthony Esolen: "If you despise tradition, then you assume that most men have gone badly wrong throughout all of history, and did so on those things nearest their hearts and minds." I have always marveled at how casually some people can simply dismiss the overwhelming mass of human experience over the millennia, somehow believing that our own tiny slice of history, constituting at most 4 or 5 percent of Humanity, is wiser than the 95% who have preceded us, and for no better reason than we just happen to be alive at the moment.

We may be "better" at technology than earlier generations (and even there I am not so sure, considering what a trash heap we have made of our planet), but as far as what really counts (those things which define us as human beings), we've made no discernible progress since Homer.

Jezu ufam tobie!

B. Prokop said...

HERE is a fascinating interview with Peter Kreeft, in which the rise of militant Islam and homosexuality are equated. Well worth a watch. At about 7 minutes in, he absolutely skewers the accusation of hatred made against Christians. Beautiful argument beautifully presented.

Jezu ufam tobie!

Legion of Logic said...

Kathen,

I was not specifically referring to homosexuality in that post, though I certainly agree how it appears that way and could have worded my post more carefully. Agreed, I do not know the thoughts of the majority on that specific matter.

But Papa said that there are certain actions and beliefs of an enlightened society, and I was curious to hear his non-subjective evidence on the matter. If it's merely his opinion, he is welcome to say so so the rest of us can shrug, say "Nice opinion that I'm not required to conform with in order to be moral or enlightened", and move on. But if he follows his own preaching and has his beliefs based on real evidence, it would be worth seeing.

I'm not holding my breath, since every single liberal and atheist I've pressed on this matter has finally caved and admitted it's just their opinion as to what constitutes a moral (or enlightened) society, and it usually happens to conform with their opinions (surprise surprise).

im-skeptical said...

"every single liberal and atheist I've pressed on this matter has finally caved and admitted it's just their opinion as to what constitutes a moral (or enlightened) society, and it usually happens to conform with their opinions (surprise surprise)"

And while you demand evidence for what others believe about the enlightenment of society, if you want to be honest, you must admit that your own beliefs are nothing more than an opinion. Or do you wish to prove me wrong?