Sunday, November 08, 2015

What are religious reasons

Cal: These terrorists based their actions on ancient documents, an imagined afterlife, and the pronouncements of men imbued with religious authority. (I can't think of a much more uncritical and irrational approach to belief.)

And likewise,  Christians who oppose homosexuality basically use a "because He said so argument." 

When I mentioned divine commands in the last thread, I was rightly corrected by two commentators who pointed out that the case against gay marriage typically comes in the form of natural law argumentation rather than divine command argumentation. People on this issue don't typically just say "because He said so." I brought up divine commands because 

I remember when I went to groups like Campus Crusade for Christ, where very often speakers (such as Josh McDowell) would make a case against premarital sex. The argument was almost never in the form of "God said it, I believe it, that settles it." Nor was hell threatened.  There reasons presented always had to do with achieving stable happiness on earth. 

That doesn't mean that arguments were all necessarily or equally good. But I think atheists are sometimes naive about what kinds of reasons religious people have for what they believe. 

A good friend of Bob's and mine from college days, Bill Patterson was an atheist. He also gave some of the most forceful anti-abortion arguments I have ever heard. 

The arguments against SSM typically take the form of natural law arguments. I suppose you could argue that these are implicitly religious, in that they appeal to the idea of inherent purposes which materialistic atheists might reject. But it's very far removed from "God said it, I believe it, that settles it. 

Here is an example. 

4 comments:

Hugo Pelland said...

"Here is an example"

This was a very interesting read; I couldn’t stop because I was so amazed... definitely the worst view of sexuality and opposition to same-sex marriage I have ever heard! Someone trying to do a satirical piece would literally write the same; it would be a hit as text for a comedy club in San Francisco...

But regarding SSM specifically, the key aspects are:
" But when you’re talking about marriage, you’re talking about a relationship with a sexual aspect to it."
Under the law, no; that is still the main point. It is about 2 people entering a legal contract about their public and legal life. It is not about their private sexual encounters. The rest of the article is thus completely irrelevant, since all arguments are based on the view that gay sexual acts are unhealthy, which is not part of the equation. The analogy with food proves the point perfectly:

"Look at eating. If you base your eating habits on what gives you pleasure, you’re going to have some very unhealthy eating habits. [...] We don’t call that health food. We call it junk food. What does that say about the kind of sex just based on pleasure?"

Opponents of same-sex marriage:
- think you can choose to suddenly like broccoli over carrots, or steak over tomato soup.
- want what you eat in the privacy of your home to influence which privileges you get under the law.
- claim the food eaten by other healthy people is still clearly junk food, because they don't like that food, and so it must be junk food.
- don't want vegetarians to have kids unless they start to eat meat and marry someone who also does.
- thus conclude that, since marriage is only about kids and eating meat, vegetarians should not be allowed to marry. It would be promoting some unhealthy lifestyle.

And no, it's not just 'like being allowed to smoke, even if it's unhealthy'. Marriage contracts cover some of the most important aspects of our lives. So this is an extremely unfair comparison:
"it is very frequently necessary for the government to tolerate unhealthy behaviors. I wouldn’t argue for legislation that prohibits homosexual relationships, any more than I’d argue for the state to outlaw smoking."

" What’s your definition of marriage? Well, abstractly, I think it’s the project in which two people try to love each other in as many ways as it’s possible for two people to love each other: physically, sexually, personally, totally, forever. Practically, I think it’s a life-long and exclusive commitment between a man and a woman which is geared towards mutual support, sexual reproduction and the raising of children. "
Great! That's what it means for me personally as well, but under the law, why should we care about the private details of the 'physical', 'sexual', 'personality', 'forever'? Each person is an equal citizen under the law. Marriage laws cover the agreement between 2 people, for as long as both are willing, not forever, not with children promises, not with mandatory sex, and certainly not only for people who have heterosexual-sex-mostly-for-reproduction-purposes. The author proves how the opposition to same-sex marriage is purely emotional, not based in facts, and an attempt to impose a personal disdain for other people's personal decisions, and unchangeable healthy nature which they view as unhealthy 'junk'.

Hugo Pelland said...

Let me add something positive though (because I always skip over what I agree since it's not as interesting to discuss...)
"That doesn't mean that arguments were all necessarily or equally good. But I think atheists are sometimes naive about what kinds of reasons religious people have for what they believe. "
This is completely true. I have heard many atheists, or even theists too actually, make comments against certain religious doctrines they find ridiculous without ever considering the reasons for it, which quite often are more rational than the first impression made them to look like.

Miguel said...

Just like I've never really seen anyone using the infamous "the Bible says it so" pseudo-argument for God's existence or the truth of Christianity. At least not in the crude and fallaciously circular form that is usually poked fun at.

I find it that most believers have some real reasons (even if we disagree with them) for their belief in God, some that actually correspond to natural theology arguments when properly formulated. Many people are stunned by the mysterious existence and order of the universe, a feeling that corresponds to much of what is discussed in cosmological or teleological arguments. And perhaps it could be said that many people experience some sort of weak religious experience, for instance when they read the Bible and think or feel that there is *something* in Jesus that speaks to them in a very special way; they then follow some sort of principle of credulity and believe the Gospel. That seems very different from a mere "the Bible says Christianity is true therefore it's true" to me.

Mr. Green said...

Victor: People on this issue don't typically just say "because He said so.”

Exactly; even people who aren’t particularly educated in the philosophy behind such issues generally have some sort of understanding that there are reasons for it, not that they are arbitrary regulations with no justification one way or the other. In fact, claiming “because someone said so” with little to no understanding why is far more commonly what people say about Science™!

I suppose you could argue that these are implicitly religious, in that they appeal to the idea of inherent purposes which materialistic atheists might reject.

I wouldn’t go that far, although there is a philosophical connection to be traced out if you argue for it; but the same line of argument applies just as well to more mundane instances of directedness, such as the nature of gravity or the nature of an electron, so it’s hard to escape it altogether.