Monday, March 02, 2009

Hate the sin and love the sinner

Thanks to David C. for that piece by Corvino on the APA petition. It strikes me as far more rational than anything else I've seen from the pro-petition side. Rather than respond to it as a whole, I would like to make a note of one comment he makes.

I also agree that, while there’s a difference between orientation and conduct, the two cannot be teased apart as easily as some religious conservatives would like. Who we are is intimately connected with what we do—especially when it comes to deep personal relationships. Those who profess to “love the sinner but hate the sin” often distort that deep connection.

I admit that it is difficult to hate the sin and love the sinner. If you oppose the passion of my life, or my deepest and most powerful intimate relationship, how can you claim to love me? I understand the force of these comments.

But in order to have a civilized society, you have to hate the sin and love the sinner. You have to associate with people whose actions you disapprove of and whose beliefs you disagree with heartily. And if you want to have a philosophical society, and not just a secularist echo chamber, you have to be able to have respectful exchanges with people on the other side. You have to be very reluctant to draw that conclusion that says "If that's what you believe, then we just can't talk at all."

Advocates of a Dawkins-style New Atheism seem to be moving in that direction with respect to belief in God. They seem to me to want to remove religious faith from the sphere of serious discourse, to laugh it out of the intellectual marketplace. This is a dangerous course.

I believe that GLBTs make a serious mistake when they shut people out who don't approve of them. There is a dialogue and debate on gay issues that has to take place within communities of faith. It is to their advantage to respect the integrity of those traditions while staking out their own positions in response. This is especially important for GLBTs of faith, and there are many of those. They, too, benefit in the long run if they can learn to hate the sin (which to them would be the sin of thinking homosexuality to be a sin) and love the sinner.


Jim Jordan said...

Great points, but having countless run-ins with a gay fundamentlaist, I know their response to be, "If you think homosexuality is a sin, then you hate the homosexual, period."

I have a good friend who's an atheist. He believes that I am wrong about my deepest passion, Jesus Christ. But he does NOT hate me, so it isn't a given unless someone adopts it (disagreement = hate) as a rule.

This whole gay reaction is a braintwister. What do you say to someone who declares that you hate them...above your own objections?

Perezoso said...

GLBTs of faith, and there are many of those.

Yeah, like the clergy itself (not only queer catholics [and jews, muslims], but plenty of Ted Haggards)

Another of Reppert's patented Red Herrings. Associate the g-word with atheists (since a lot more believers than atheists, far more g-word believers than atheists), and then set up the little moralistic-defamation game.

A better topic: examine the support given to Prop 8--really unconstitutional, and even those secularists who don't care for same-sex marriages should realize that--by churches, such as the Mormons. Or, even better, examine the history of fraud, deceit and violence that makes up MormonCo. King Brigham Young: that was a sinner--and queer as a 3 dollar bill.

Victor Reppert said...

I think you just have to make the case that this kind of "gay fundamentalism" is inherently self-defeating and cuts off the process of dialogue that is essential to their own well-being. If that fails, you're out of luck.

Victor Reppert said...

Perry: What are you talking about? What I am defending is the necessity of civilized relations with people with whom we disagree and whose conduct we disapprove of. I didn't even attack atheists in general. Just some want to cut off intelligent dialogue with believers and put us in cultural zoos.

Perezoso said...

Actually, I agree. Tell that to the fundamentalists on your site, who consider a Dennett a sign of the anti-christ or something.

How you set up the issue leaves something to be desired: if the post is about fostering tolerance between believers and non-believers, OK--though most non-believers have plenty of war stories of dealing with fundies (even in California). You had to resort to the Ad DeGeneres.

Gordon Knight said...


I agree with much of what you say, but I think what is missing is the context. I have some experience in small Christian Colleges, and I can attest that the attitude of the more conservative Christians was not "hate the sin, love the sinner," but rather, "hate the sin, and harrass the sinner"

There is real anti-gay prejudice, and it causes a lot of suffering, including suicide and the occasional commital to some weird re-education camp. Not the mention the suffering that happens from being shunned, or the guilt.

I get the impression that sophisticated conservative Christians are sort of oblivious to how Joe and Shane shmoe, at God is love U, may take the "homosexuality is a sin" view as a licence to hate and harass.

Being a "gay fundamentalist" does seem irrational, until you hear the horror stories, of how anti-gay hate has ruined people's lives.

Anonymous said...

It seems that it would be in the interests of the GLBT community to proceed a little more carefully. Instead of polarizing the debate (or being enablers to that end) they ought to try and take the higher ground here.

Victor Reppert said...

The anti-GLBT hate does not follow necessarily from the doctrine that homosexuality is sinful, nor does it follow from the existence of conduct codes that proscribe this conduct. Issue separation is required here.

Gordon Knight said...

Of course they are logically distinct, but we should not be deaf to real life consequences that follow from fairly abstract philosophical considerations.

In other words, "gay fundamentalism' results from the remarkably viralent anti-gay feeling that is often draped in theological cloth.

Victor Reppert said...

We can explain their response this way, but we still have to maintain our distinctions. The response may be in some way understandable, but it is wrong and ultimately self-defeating.

Jim Jordan said...

Gordon wrote---In other words, "gay fundamentalism' results from the remarkably virulent anti-gay feeling that is often draped in theological cloth.

Virulent anti-gay feeling? Aside from the "God hates gays" guy, I don't know what you mean. The "gay fundamentalist" [I love the sound of that] is not railing against some merciless attack. No, they're railing against a simple "No" vote on a referendum, anyone who doesn't believe a marriage between two men is the same as a marriage between a man and a woman.

I think the gay rights movement has come full circle. In the 70s, they fought against mean-spirited laws that held that teachers could be fired if they were known to be gay. They succeeded because the law was mean-spirited. Who would deny a living to someone based on a personal preference? Now, we see GFs throwing condoms at people in church services and seeking to ruin people who don't agree with them. They are becoming the kind of mean-spirited rabble they once rightfully opposed. With such a draconian approach, gays will end up an island unto themselves.

Ilíon said...

Profoundly unserious man: "... Being a "gay fundamentalist" does seem irrational, until you hear the horror stories, of how anti-gay hate has ruined people's lives."

Well, no, sexual immorality has ruined people's lives.

Ilíon said...

VR: "The anti-GLBT hate does not follow necessarily from the doctrine that homosexuality is sinful, ... "

The doctrine in *not* that "homosexuality" is sinful. The doctrine is that homosexual acts -- along with all other sexual immorality -- is sinful.

Anonymous said...


You're welcome! I'm glad you appreciated Corvino's piece.

I probably should post a link to your comments at the site Corvino's editorial is on.

"But in order to have a civilized society, you have to hate the sin and love the sinner. You have to associate with people whose actions you disapprove of and whose beliefs you disagree with heartily."

An excellent point.

Anonymous said...


Since you find Gordon Knight so "profoundly unserious," perhaps you can enlighten us as to:

1. How homosexual acts are in and of themselves always immoral,


2. How you know gay people never have their lives ruined by the anti-gay hatred of others, but rather only by their own sex lives.

I'm sure we all look forward to your answers.

Ilíon said...

Profoundly Unserious Person #2,
Sorry, I don't play the game you want to play: you're not *interested* in getting at truth. Hell, you're not even interested in understanding what I've said already.

Anonymous said...


I am not an unserious person, let alone a "profoundly unserious" one.

Since you do not have the decency to answer straight forward questions when put to you, or to avoid using insulting monikers like "profoundly unserious person #2" when Gordon's name and mine are available to you, I feel free to ignore the rules I'd usually impose on myself in a forum like this.

You are, Ilion, a profoundly stupid person.

Other people are not required to accept your assertions on morality (or anything else)simply because you assert them.

You make blanket assertions about people and then accuse commenters of playing games when they ask you to explain yourself. That is childish in the extreme. (Indeed I am reminded of arguments from primary school.) I think you need to limit yourself to less intellectual websites than this one.