Fallows on anti-Mormon “bigotry”


James Fallows is irritating in a different way from Andrew Sullivan. He’s reliably…middle. Safe; predictable; good at thinking what Everyone thinks.

Sometimes what Everyone thinks is just wrong. Fallows as Everyone thinks anti-Mormonism is simply another bigotry, like racism.

Groan.

I do understand the political handicapping aspect of stories about the “Mormon angle.” It’s like asking three years ago whether America was “ready” for a black president. Or whether we’re “ready” for a Hispanic, female, Jewish, Asian, Muslim, atheist, gay, unmarried, overweight, etc President.

Not quite. Some of those items are based on ideas or beliefs, while others aren’t. It’s not sensible to treat them all as the same kind of thing for this purpose.

To be against Mitt Romney (or Jon Huntsman or Harry Reid or Orrin Hatch) because of his religion is just plain bigotry. Exactly as it would have been to oppose Barack Obama because of his race or Joe Lieberman because of his faith or Hillary Clinton or Michele Bachmann because of their gender or Mario Rubio or Nikki Haley because of their ethnicity.

No, no, no, no, no. Not “exactly as” – differently from. Religion is not the same kind of thing as race or gender or ethnicity (it is however the same kind of thing as “faith” – does he really think Lieberman has a “faith” as opposed to a “religion”?).

It’s very very simple. Race and gender aren’t systems of ideas; religions are. It really is necessary to know what candidates think and believe, because what they think and believe will (obviously) influence what they do in office, even if all they think and believe is “I will do whatever it takes to stay in office.” It really is necessary to know, for instance, whether or not a given candidate can separate her religion from her work. Some people can, but it’s no good just assuming that everyone can. It’s also no good just assuming that Mormon beliefs couldn’t possibly inspire or motivate any whacked actions in office. “Mormon” isn’t just a label or an identity and we can’t treat it as such. Imagine if a Dominionist were a candidate for president – we would really have to discuss that!

 I do understand that voters assess a whole suite of traits, including race and gender and class background and religion and family status, in deciding whether or not they are comfortable with a candidate.

See what I mean about Fallows? That’s so…what is it, it’s so normal and so clueless. He’s not a clueless guy but he has this instinct for the wrong-by-banality. It’s not about being “comfortable” with a candidate, it’s about doing our best to get a sense of what the candidate will do in the job.

But for people to come out and say that they won’t back a candidate because he’s Mormon and therefore a “cult” member is no better than saying “I’d never trust a Jew” or “a black could never do the job” or “women should stay in their place” or “Latinos? Let ‘em go back home.”

Not the same thing. Mormon beliefs and political beliefs are the same kind of thing; being black and political beliefs are not.

 I disagree with most of the LDS church’s political stances, and I hated the role it played in the California Prop 8 struggle last year. But to be against candidates because of their religion? That should be seen as bigot talk — yes, even when applied to Mormons.

So there he just comes right out and says it (yet apparently still doesn’t realize he’s said it). “I disagree with the candidate’s politics, but to be against candidates because of their politics? That’s bigot talk.”

Really? So does this also apply to libertarians, socialists, communists, anarchists, centrists, reactionaries, fascists? You disagree with their politics but to be against candidates because of their politics is bigotry?

It’s nuts.

Comments

  1. bad Jim says

    Back when Romney was doing his missionary work, the Mormons would not permit boys with the least bit of African ancestry to become priests, which is to say to participate in any meaningful way in the church, since all other boys become priests at an early age. See Blacks and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. It wasn’t just a nutty religion, it was a nutty and racist religion.

  2. Caryn says

    Simply knowing that someone is LDS doesn’t provide enough information to determine much about their politics. Reid, Romney, and Huntsman are all LDS.

    It does tell you things about their epistemology though.

  3. Saikat Biswas says

    He seems compulsively opposed to any kind of religious criticism whatsoever. Thoughtless. Lazy. Stupid.

  4. David the "other" David says

    I take people at their word, if they “I’m a catholic” I take it to mean they belong to the catholic church and believe in its doctrines, If they say I’m a neo-nazi I take it to mean they belong to a neo-nazi group and believe in its doctrines. Its not bigotry its just taking people at their word.

  5. quantheory says

    I think this has to be the essentialist view of religion talking. You just say that these are the people who are Mormon and that’s what they were born into and that’s their culture and that’s how they’ll die and that’s fundamentally who they are and their identity.

    Of course, there’s a very serious problem with this, which is that, even if someone who was raised Mormon will always have been raised that way, the beliefs themselves are a contingent part of a person, and something over which they have some degree of control (insofar as people can reflect upon their beliefs, examine them, and try to inform them better). It’s not an unchanging essence of a person, but a fluid property which people not only can change, but may be morally responsible for insofar as their beliefs inform their actions. It would be absurd to say that someone has a moral responsibility to try to figure out the “correct” race or gender or what-have-you, but it’s morally obligatory that people not unthinkingly buy into a religion that requires them to, say, sacrifice the neighbors’ children.

    But the more important objection is the one you pointed out. Having dark skin, or an unusual last name, or female genitalia, or an attraction to people of the same sex, does not interfere with one’s being a good politician. Believing that environmentalism is pointless because Jesus is about to come back, that does interfere. Being incapable of doing a job properly, even if you can’t help it, means that you shouldn’t get the job. If there was an OCD candidate running, maybe we would not want to be mean or unfair to her, and maybe she wouldn’t be immediately disqualified, since she could potentially be properly treated and have the symptoms under control. But it would be reasonable to ask about her mental state. Similarly, if a Mormon candidate is running, we should be very certain that those beliefs won’t interfere with the candidate’s performance before considering them qualified.

  6. Ken Pidcock says

    The funny thing about LDS is how visible the seams of its fabrication remain. I mean, it was 1830, for Christ’s sake. It’s apparent, to anyone who’s interested, how this particular guy made up this particular shit. But it’s disrespectful to mention this inasmuch as we are all supposed to acknowledge how important made up shit has been to our cultural heritage.

    And, to be honest, I only oppose Romney for his policy positions. I support a president who has been quite adamant in his devotion to made up shit.

  7. says

    James Fallows is irritating in a different way from Andrew Sullivan. He’s reliably…middle. Safe; predictable; good at thinking what Everyone thinks.

    Yes, that is exactly my reaction to Fallows. He does often have some interesting things to say, but he comes across as such a stuffed shirt that you can never be sure whether he is thinking for himself or just regurgitating the conventional wisdom.

  8. Rieux says

    Imagine if a Dominionist were a candidate for president….

    Um, what? “Imagine”?

    There’s this Congresswoman from my proud state, see, and she has some, er, interesting ideas….

    (Am I missing some sarcasm?)

  9. says

    I disagree with most of the LDS church’s political stances, and I hated the role it played in the California Prop 8 struggle last year.

    Without them “playing their role” (this is code for doing things that their religion says to do), I doubt PropH8 would have passed. It destroyed families and continues to do so as the case against the proposition wends its way through court. Why in the world would anyone who cares about other people want to reward an ideology that just tore down already established rights for thousands of families?

  10. winking.demon says

    Beliefs matter. If a person believes in astrology and alien abduction, then it is a direct reflection on their ability to do the work of an elected official. It is not bigotry to call an adult who believes in Santa Claus a fool. I’m reminded of the old saw “Every time you make something idiot-proof, they go out and invent a better idiot.”

  11. Grace says

    A practicing Mormon believes the current Prophet speaks directly to God, that he is essentially God’s mouthpiece and is here to lead humanity. There is a saying in the LDS Church, “once the Prophet has spoken, the thinking has been done.” No questioning allowed, only blind obedience.

    The current prophet and President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is Thomas S. Monson.

    If Romney is a practicing Mormon, it would be extremely likely he would consult the Prophet in matters of Government if elected.

    And it’s possible God’s preference for those whose skin is “white and delightsome” would have an effect on their policies. I the recent past excluding Black males from the preisthood was acceptable. Skin color is a sign of your favor (or lack of favor) with God.
    White, delightsome skin is what God loves best.

  12. daveau says

    I’ve always felt that calling someone out for irrational beliefs is legitimate.

    It’s also no good just assuming that Mormon beliefs couldn’t possibly inspire or motivate any whacked actions in office.

    In one sense, singling Mormons out is unfair (I know it is the subject here), because I feel the same way about all religions. My issue is the hypocrisy of calling Romney out for not really being Christian when the Christian candidates are even more wacky and clearly want to inject their beliefs into the office.

  13. sailor1031 says

    To the extent that a candidate’s religion indicates stupidity, gullibility, lack of concern with facts and common sense, a sense of tribal loyalty – of course it is fair to use it as one of basis of judging that candidate. Just as putting the family dog in a crate, lashing it to the roof of the family station wagon and driving for twelve hours without giving the dog any bio-breaks is a basis for judging a candidate.

    http://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/statements/2011/sep/13/gail-collins/mitt-romney-and-dog-car-roof-one-columnists-obsess/

  14. Svlad Cjelli says

    I really hate young children. I think that the best thing we could do to make the world a better place is to cook the young children in oil and build many new, reliable rockets to send the remains on their way out of the solar system.

    I’d like to run for president. Vote for me.

  15. Kevin says

    Once again, someone confuses the difference between discrimination and evaluation.

    The clearest example of this I ever saw was on Maury Povich’s show (or maybe Springer, I don’t remember) quite a number of years back.

    The “panel” for this show were a bunch of late-teen, early 20s adults dressed in their “Club Kid” get-up. For those who slept through the 80s, these young adults would dress in the most outlandish costumes possible — designed specifically to shock and call attention to themselves.

    And here they were on stage, claiming that because they dressed (including hair, makeup, piercings, etc.) this way, they were being “discriminated against” on their jobs.

    No. You’re being evaluated. Different.

    Same with Romney’s religion, or Perry’s, or Lieberman’s, or anyone else’s. If your religion commands that you believe in certain ways and advocate certain opinions, then it is my right to evaluate you on the basis of that advocacy. And it is neither discrimination nor bigotry for me to disagree with you on that basis.

    Not discrimination. Evaluation. Please make a note of it.

  16. Luna_the_cat says

    Connected to this, a bit, I just stumbled across an interesting thing today on a blog which focuses on researching jury reactions in trials and how best for lawyers to manage them:

    “Simple Jury Persuasion: Christian religious concepts increase racial prejudice”
    http://keenetrial.com/blog/2010/12/17/simple-jury-persuasion-use-christian-religious-concepts-to-increase-racial-prejudice/

    I suppose this surprises no-one here (sure doesn’t surprise me, but I like seeing it documented in an independent venue) — but if you tie the threads together you get a rather interesting picture:
    1. Religion and religious concepts and belief have a strong effect on attitudes, including attitudes towards ethnic identity (something, Fallows please note, that people cannot change).
    2. It’s pretty obvious to say that attitudes have a strong effect on political situations, in terms of what legislation is likely to be proposed, supported or enforced, and in whether a legislator is capable of or inclined to truly support the rights of constituents.

    Especially of interest to me were the author of the post’s words,

    Race is a complicated thing but what is disturbing is the results of this study are not correlational but rather showing a direct effect of religion on bias against African Americans.

    .

    My conclusion: Fallows isn’t just full of sh**, his obfuscation is also actively obscuring an issue which ought to be of concern.

  17. says

    Yes, that is exactly my reaction to Fallows. He does often have some interesting things to say, but he comes across as such a stuffed shirt that you can never be sure whether he is thinking for himself or just regurgitating the conventional wisdom.

    Exactly. I’m so glad it’s not just me.

    Rieux – yes, that was an allusion to Bachmann. (I almost included “(I’m looking at you, Michele Bachmann)” but went for economy instead.

  18. says

    Mormonism is much more controlling and fanatic than most other religions are in today’s world. Being an Arizonan, I remember all to well the embarassment Ed Mecham was as our governor.

    Embedded concepts influence everything a human being does. The embedded concepts of mormonism are insidious and detrimental. The only way I’d even consider voting for a mormon is if they were a “jack mormon.”

  19. Brother Yam says

    I can’t help but notice the full court press that the LDS has unleashed in the media. Between the ads showing “nice,” “normal” people as Mormons and the press trying to show that Mormons are not a dangerous meddling cult, I have a feeling that the uncovering of their machination in the Prop8 debate have given them a black eye.

  20. says

    Oh yes, those ads showing the nice “normal” people who are Mormons – I saw a billboard with one of those the other day. Three photos, three people, all reassuringly “normal”-looking. “I’m a Mormon. I’m a Mormon. I’m a Mormon.” Oh well in that case, Mormonism must be perfectly reasonable.

  21. says

    I guess the point he’s trying to make is that if Romney self-identified as Mormon, but was pro-LGBT (as some Mormons are, believe it or not… still boggles my mind, I mean, wouldn’t you just be not Mormon then? But it is indubitably true that many are) and we agreed on all his other politics, then it would be wrong to hold that self-identification against him.

    I agree with that as far as it goes. Of course, I’d prefer a candidate who didn’t believe in crazy bullshit — but since realistically any candidate who gets elected POTUS is going to believe in zombie Jesus or burning bushes or some other such claptrap, it’s not something I’m losing sleep over.

    It’s probably not okay to hate on Romney because he’s Mormon. It’s okay to hate on Romney because he’s anti-marriage equality, and it’s not completely insane to think Romney is anti-marriage equality because he’s a Mormon (though I think it’s wrong in this case — Romney just holds whatever opinion he thinks will be favorable to him at the time). And with that in mind, I think it would be fair, knowing nothing about a candidate than that she is a Mormon, to immediately say, “Well, what do you think about same-sex marriage then?”

    Romney’s views on same-sex marriage are a problem. Romney’s views on magic underwear are no more of a problem than, say, Obama’s views on the resurrection or Biden’s views on magic penis chopping. If I put on my hardcore atheist hat, yeah, none of those things endear me to a candidate. But if I put on my American voter hat, well, if I refuse to vote for any candidate who believes in some crazy myth, I’ll be staying home every November.

  22. says

    James, if that is the point he’s trying to make, then he needs to make it. He totally failed to say that, and what he did say simply does amount to “ignore any candidate’s religious beliefs because not to do so is bigotry.” If he meant “if you know a candidate will not act on the basis of the illiberal views and agendas of the religion she belongs to, then you shouldn’t make her religion an issue,” then he should have said that. It has to be spelled out.

    I think it’s still a dubious idea, frankly, because you can’t know that a candidate won’t act on the basis the illiberal views and agendas of the religion she belongs to. I wouldn’t have thought ahead of time that Obama would do some of the faithy things he’s done, and I would have been wrong. I was wrong. He chose the very illiberal RicK Warren to give the “invocation” for his inauguration.

    Voters need to be wary about this stuff, and candidates need to be pressed on it, very hard indeed. They won’t be, but they certainly should be.

  23. says

    Believing is above all else a means to belonging.
    Belonging is one’s source of identity, answering in large part or completely the question ‘what am I?’

    So the question ‘what does the candidate believe?’ becomes ‘what group provides the candidate with his or her identity?’

    From the current military assault on the Egyptian copts, and in an apposite summary: “Vivian Meleka has no intention of removing her cross. ‘That incident actually made me want to find the biggest cross I could possibly find and wear it … don’t ask me to hide my religion and my identity.'”

    Trouble is, to be a Mormon, one has to present to the world as taking the works of Joseph Smith seriously. But then again, it’s not the world’s wackiest religion.

    I believe I am right there. Please tell me I am.

    http://www.theage.com.au/world/egyptian-military-failure-written-in-coptic-blood-20111014-1lp8u.html#ixzz1anCikESa

  24. says

    Notice than in addition to listing Joe Lieberman’s “faith” in the same category as race and gender and ethnicity, Fallows claims that opposing Romney for being a Mormon is comparable to saying “I’d never trust a Jew” — but that statement equivocates between the Jewish religion (i.e. beliefs) and the Jewish people (i.e. ethnicity). Antisemites are invariably preoccupied with the latter, not the former.

    My take on Fallows’s column is here.

  25. says

    OB: “Ian, you want there to be wackier religions?!”

    Things could be worse. You said so yourself.

    “Imagine if a Dominionist were a candidate for president – we would really have to discuss that!”

    Mitt Romney could have become involved on the side with some Haitian cargo cult. Or even Scientology.

    Always look on the bright side, I say.

    ;-)

  26. says

    Well that’s a thought. Bachmann could get the nomination and pick Peter Wagner for her running mate – he’s the Dominionist guy who thinks the sun goddess is 1. real 2. satanic 3. the reason god smote Japan with the tsunami. Oh and 4. not a nice lady.

  27. dubliner says

    People grow up in a culture. That culture has a major imact on them as individuals. Not everyone can shrug it off easily and completely. When it comes to determining whether or not to vote for someone from a specific cultural background surely it makes sense to examine their personal opinions on the values you hold dear rather than dismiss them based on all their cultural baggage. Should I dismiss every American I come across as a science hating, creationist, war mongerer because that is how the culture appears to many outsiders or should I look at each individual and see where their values are compatible with my own? I’m very uncomfortable with the idea of entirely dismissing someone because of a label like Mormon or Catholic. You won’t find too many catholics who believe all the dogma intrinsic to the church they identify with in my experience. I don’t know any Mormons but my impression is that they too span a continium.

  28. says

    Dubliner:

    I have only ever got to know one Mormon on speaking terms, and he was outwardly an everyday sort of man. As far as I could tell, his religion (read group identity if you prefer) was very important to him. While I to age 18 used to affiliate myself with a Christian church, I find it an incredible stretch to profess belief in the Book of Mormon. (Generally, the wackier the beliefs, the more eager the hierarchy is to protect believers, and particularly the youth, from outside influences. Understandable.)

    Politicians are a special case. The most spectacular was probably James G Watt, Reagan’s Secretary of the Interior, appointed in 1980. He was all in favour of mining the national parks, as went on record in the US Congress saying “I do not know how many future generations we can count on before the Lord returns, whatever it is we have to manage with a skill to leave the resources needed for future generations.” This was interpreted to mean ‘let’s get in there with the chainsaws and oil rigs, because Jesus will be coming back soon.’

    From Wikipedia:

    ‘A public controversy erupted after a speech to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce by Watt during September 1983, when he mocked affirmative action by saying about a coal-leasing panel: “I have a black, a woman, two Jews and a cripple. And we have talent.” Within weeks of making this statement, Watt submitted his resignation letter. During 2008, Time Magazine named Watt as the sixth worst cabinet member in modern American history.’

    So yes, politicians’ religious attitudes are important. Watt was a career bureaucrat, but was selected by Reagan, who was both elected and quite religious. I recall Reagan saying something to the effect that the Lord could well use a nuclear war in place of the Biblical trumpet blast to announce his return.

    Here in Australia a former Health Minister, a devout Catholic, usurped the role of the Therapeutic Goods Administration and blocked the importation of the abortion-inducing drug RU-486. That same man is favoured by the polls to become PM in two years’ time.

    Christ help us.

  29. Interrobang says

    I’m not okay with Mormonism per se because Mormonism basically wants to eradicate everything that I am — bisexual, gender-neutral, atheist, feminist, radical, social democrat, childfree, skeptical, not-“normal-looking,” non-normative, and all that kind of stuff, with a wide anti-authoritarian streak. The Mormons would want me to be a submissive housewife with a passel of kids and a godspeaking prophet for a husband whose every utterance should be treated like scripture, in a suburban, right-wing neighbourhood somewhere, white picket fence not entirely optional. Aside from the fact that I can cook, I’m a shitty housekeeper and I hate kids. So yeah, me and Mormonism don’t exactly see eye to eye on much of anything.

    That right there would be enough for me not to vote for an openly Mormon candidate. (Disclosure: I’m Canadian and it’s considered pretty declasse to be openly religiously sectarian while politicking, so that’s culturally off-putting to me.) If that makes me an anti-Mormon bigot, I’m fine with that, since they’re collective anti-me bigots, and I don’t recall being required to like people who want me to stop existing.

  30. John Morales says

    Interrobang,

    If that makes me an anti-Mormon bigot, I’m fine with that, since they’re collective anti-me bigots, and I don’t recall being required to like people who want me to stop existing.

    Alas that Mormons are not mainstream Christians; the latter hold that one should love one’s neighbour as ones-self, and your comment would be properly barbed.

    (Imagine the cognitive dissonance among that mob!)

  31. says

    dubliner – did you read the post? You’re saying exactly what I said (but as if you were disagreeing with me). I didn’t endorse “the idea of entirely dismissing someone because of a label like Mormon or Catholic” – I said it’s necessary to find out whether or not the candidate separates the religion from the politics, and the like.

    The point is that it’s a disastrous mistake to treat religion as a mere label. Of course it’s no good “entirely dismissing someone because of a label like Mormon or Catholic” [emphasis added] – but it’s also no good assuming a candidate’s religion is a mere label.

    I’m not saying don’t think about it, don’t ask any questions – I’m saying think about it, ask questions.

  32. Seth R. says

    “If that makes me an anti-Mormon bigot, I’m fine with that, since they’re collective anti-me bigots, and I don’t recall being required to like people who want me to stop existing.”

    Yes, that does make you anti-Mormon.

    It also makes you a bigot.

    Because you’ve tarred the entire group with the brush of your own un-nuanced (and not that well-informed) opinions about what we are or are not.

    I’m an active fully practicing Mormon and have been for over 30 years, and I honestly couldn’t give a toss whether you want to be a lesbian, a career woman, childless, or whatever else. Nor am I interested in making your life any more difficult through various laws and what have you. I know plenty of Mormons who have the same outlook.

    But I do have issues with folks online talking out of their butts and declaring that because I’m a Mormon and take my faith seriously, I am therefore automatically a racist, misogynist, anti-gay, extreme right wing, Young Earth Creationist, who is incapable of rational thought, and shouldn’t be put in positions of responsibility or allowed access to sharp objects.

    That position most certainly IS bigotry by any definition. And it is not less so simply because 5 out of 10 commenters in the Huffington Post’s comment section agree with your intellectually impoverished notions.

  33. says

    Seth R – but that’s not bigotry, given what we know about the teachings of the Mormon church. Maybe you ignore the teachings of your church, but nobody can know that in advance. Are you seriously claiming that the Mormon church has no problem whatsoever (or that it “couldn’t give a toss”) about gender equality and gay rights?

  34. says

    To elaborate – the claim is not at all that you’re automatically anti-feminist and anti-gay rights – it’s that we can’t know you’re not unless we ask. What we don’t automatically know is that you don’t agree with your own church. Nobody has any reason to assume that, and it’s unreasonable to expect people to assume it.

  35. Seth R. says

    Ophelia, it doesn’t really matter what the LDS Church did or did not do in California regarding Proposition 8.

    Because I’m not talking about official church policy. I’m talking about judging an individual based on association with that organization.

    And anyway, even with respect to what the corporate LDS Church did in California, misinformation abounds. For instance, the actions of the LDS Church in California are routinely exaggerated or distorted in sensationalized docu-dramas.

    But be that as it may, did it never occur to you that maybe I, as a Mormon, don’t feel the need to be affiliated with the Prop 8 campaign BECAUSE of my Mormon beliefs and affiliation and not in spite of them?

    I opposed the corporate LDS stance on Proposition 8 when it happened. But not because I was “pro gay” (whatever that means), but because AS A MORMON, I did not feel government had any business being in the marriage business in the first place. For me, marriage was a religious ceremony and a matter of private belief, not something the government had any interest in. I saw certain campaign affiliations of my church as damaging that independence.

    I’m a committed believing Mormon. I attend church every Sunday and rarely miss (even when I have a cold or something). I spent two years of my life right out of high school living off rice, bread crusts, and whatever else I could scrounge out of a bad budget in Japan trying to teach my religion to a bunch of people who were mostly indifferent to the message. I donate a lot of money to my church for various causes (Prop 8 not being one of them). I’m not here saying “oh, I’m a Mormon, but you should accept me because I don’t take all that stuff seriously.” I’m not saying I’m just like you. But I am saying you don’t appear to have a really good grasp on what this faith tradition actually IS, and what scope of beliefs and ethics it actually encompasses.

    And based on that poor grasp of the subject, people here then feel entitled to make sweeping generalizations about what Mormons are or are not. It’s the same pattern of bigotry we’ve seen time and time again. Only difference is that bigotry against Mormons is still considered funny in certain segments of America.

  36. Luna_the_cat says

    @Seth R
    …I’m not talking about official church policy. I’m talking about judging an individual based on association with that organization.

    So, if someone were associated with, say, a White Supremacist group, you wouldn’t feel it was appropriate or just to judge what they are likely to believe, on the basis of that association?

    No, I am not saying that Mormons are a White Supremacist group. I am pointing out the fallacy of saying that one’s associations are not a probable guide to one’s beliefs.

  37. says

    Seth – what Luna said.

    Of course I don’t know what you personally believe. You say “did it never occur to you that maybe I, as a Mormon, don’t feel the need to be affiliated with the Prop 8 campaign BECAUSE of my Mormon beliefs and affiliation and not in spite of them?” – well of course it didn’t, because I’d never heard of you before. But it also wouldn’t have because I can’t possibly know without being told that Person X believes the opposite of what his church believes BECAUSE he is a member of that church. We can only go on what information we have. The Mormon church has some very conservative beliefs about women and gays. If you don’t share them, by all means say so, but don’t expect anyone to know that ahead of time. You can’t have both the label and total freedom from the implications of the label – that doesn’t make sense.

  38. quantheory says

    I’ll go one further. I am consider the LDS Church to be one of the most powerful anti-gay organizations, the Catholic Church being another. Straight supremecist, if you will.

    Actually, it doesn’t matter whether or not you will. It’s true, regardless.

    So when I’m thinking about politically active members of such organizations, and I’m a bisexual person (something that has been legal for less than a decade in much of the U.S.), by what right can they claim that I shouldn’t be concerned? I damn well will be, just as I’m concerned about Republicans in general, or people who hang out with the wrong pundits. Some types of generalization are wrong, but giving up on generalization is not only wrong but impossible.

    Of course, such people can assuage my fears somewhat with a good record and the right words. But if they justify said fears, then it’s a moot point. And if they refuse to speak about a particular topic, then I have to guess at their position given the information I have.

    This is not about whether or not I’m going to be nice to a Mormon neighbor or coworker. This is about trying to form my opinion of how ethical and reasonable certain strangers are going to be, politicians who might obtain a great deal of power and authority over my life (and the lives of millions of other people, besides).

    And, certainly, the gay rights issue is a small fraction of the relevant concerns at play here. What is a given politician going to do about women’s rights? Abortion? Church-state separation? Does this person think he is chosen by God, and will that affect his thinking? Do his religious beliefs involve some other problem that’s not on my radar yet, some problem that I’d only take note of if people who are critical of his religion bring it up?

    These things are very, very important.

  39. says

    As with this, for instance –

    I opposed the corporate LDS stance on Proposition 8 when it happened. But not because I was “pro gay” (whatever that means), but because AS A MORMON, I did not feel government had any business being in the marriage business in the first place. For me, marriage was a religious ceremony and a matter of private belief, not something the government had any interest in. I saw certain campaign affiliations of my church as damaging that independence.

    But that’s you – that’s you opposing the stance of your own church. The rest of us can’t just assume that presidential candidates who are members of that church are going to do the same thing. It’s ludicrous to expect that, and rather self-righteous, too – we’re not doing anything invidious in taking the word “Mormon” at face value.

  40. Seth R. says

    Actually quant, I fully agree that you ought to be concerned whether Romney is going to do much to harm the causes you care about. If you didn’t like Prop 8, it’s fair to ask whether he did and wants to do it again.

    But the online rhetoric – even in this comment thread – is taking it quite beyond that reasonable position.

    And to clarify, the LDS official position is anti-gay marriage and anti-gay sex. Not “anti-gay.” Maybe you don’t care about the distinction, but most of my Mormon acquaintances do.

  41. says

    Seth – no it isn’t. That’s what we’re saying: that we ought to be concerned whether Romney, and any other candidate, is going to do much to harm the causes we care about. Religious affiliation can be one motivation to do that kind of harm. Yes there are people who don’t follow their church’s teachings in all particulars, but no it’s never a good idea to assume that ahead of time.

  42. says

    Honestly, Seth – where did I say anything else? I said

    Race and gender aren’t systems of ideas; religions are. It really is necessary to know what candidates think and believe, because what they think and believe will (obviously) influence what they do in office, even if all they think and believe is “I will do whatever it takes to stay in office.” It really is necessary to know, for instance, whether or not a given candidate can separate her religion from her work. Some people can, but it’s no good just assuming that everyone can. It’s also no good just assuming that Mormon beliefs couldn’t possibly inspire or motivate any whacked actions in office. “Mormon” isn’t just a label or an identity and we can’t treat it as such.

    What exactly is it that you’re disagreeing with?

  43. quantheory says

    @Seth,

    I appreciate the clarification, although it’s still a bit fuzzy which statements you think are reasonable and which you don’t.

    On the other point, I would like to note that I don’t consider there to be a meaningful distinction between being opposed to gay sex, and being anti-gay. Being opposed to gay sex and gay marriage also implicates loving gay relationships in general, which I see as a pointless denial of a very basic and otherwise universal source of meaningful happiness.

    I’d go a step further and note that, from my perspective, considering same-sex relationships inferior to otherwise similar opposite-sex relationships is no better than considering interracial relationships inferior to otherwise similar intraracial relationships.

    I’m fully aware that many believers (Mormon or otherwise) recognize a sort of “love the sinner, hate the sin” distinction between how they feel about gay people versus gay sex. I’m no more interested in this explanation than in the Louisiana judge who said that, although he’s “not racist” and has “black friends”, nonetheless he would not marry black people to white people, telling them to go find a different judge if they insisted on being married. This “hate the sin” part seems unethical enough all by itself.

    Or to put it differently, I not only think that your Mormon acquaintances are wrong about gay sex, I also think that believing it to be in any meaningful sense not “anti-gay” is itself a troublesome delusion. One of the primary qualities of prejudice is that it is either invisible to the people who possess it, or else rationalized into a virtue.

  44. Luna_the_cat says

    @Seth R

    Maybe going off track from the issue of political judgments just a little, but:
    …to clarify, the LDS official position is anti-gay marriage and anti-gay sex. Not “anti-gay.”

    Right, so the LDS doesn’t want to kill/imprison/condemn-to-hell gay people, the LDS just wants to tell them that they are not allowed to take pleasure in the bodies of the people they love, and cannot have any legal right of association with their loved ones which would give them things like, say, power of medical attorney or automatic inheritance or tax benefits or the ability to allow a loved one from a different country to join them in residence. In other words, you aren’t against the people, you just want to restrict their associations and deny them the rights that other partnerships share.

    Sorry, but…in my book, trying to force a group into crippled lives as second-class citizens is actually “anti-” that group. It’s so awfully nice of the LDS that they don’t actually want to kill gays like they do in Uganda, but you know what — that’s just not good enough.

    I want my friends to be treated like they are what they are: people, and full and free citizens with all the rights thereof.

  45. says

    And to clarify, the LDS official position is anti-gay marriage and anti-gay sex. Not “anti-gay.”

    Uhm, that has to be the stupidest thing I’ve seen written in a while. It surpasses the stupidity of the trolls from Elevatorgate. Just plain stupid.

    YOU CANNOT BE ANTI-GAY MARRIAGE AND/OR ANTI-GAY SEX AND NOT BE ANTI-GAY!

  46. Godless Heathen says

    And to clarify, the LDS official position is anti-gay marriage and anti-gay sex. Not “anti-gay.” Maybe you don’t care about the distinction, but most of my Mormon acquaintances do.

    What distinction?

  47. Escuerd says

    And to clarify, the LDS official position is anti-gay marriage and anti-gay sex. Not “anti-gay.” Maybe you don’t care about the distinction, but most of my Mormon acquaintances do.

    Why should anyone care what your Mormon acquaintances think on the matter? They are (mostly, I presume) not the ones who are actually being affected by the Church’s anti-gay policies.

    The distinction is a petty, semantic one. Policies designed to accord gay people a lesser status in society (as the LDS Church’s polices obviously do) are anti-gay in effect even if not in intent (though, to be clear I don’t believe that the intent is sincerely not anti-gay either). Sure, there are Mormons who hold no particular personal animosity towards gay people, and I know that it makes them feel better to rationalize their Church’s anti-gay actions by noting that the Church could oppose gay people’s very right to exist, and doesn’t.

    How very generous of them.

  48. Seth R. says

    Let’s get one thing clear here – the LDS campaign (which I dislike, for reasons I’ve already mentioned) – was not viewed by Mormons as an attempt to get rid of rights that gay people had.

    At the time of Prop 8, California already had an extensive civil unions legal framework that afforded gay people essentially the same rights that married people had already. You can debate about how effective this was in reality, of course. But that would simply raise questions about improving the existing civil unions laws. As far as Mormons were concerned there were no rights being denied. The law they were pushing was not denying gays inheritance rights, or hospital visitation rights, or access to public services. Gay people were still free to have sex with whomever they wanted, and arrange their family relationships as they wished.

    As far as my acquaintances who supported the LDS Prop 8 push were concerned, there were NO rights being denied to gays whatsoever.

    So let’s be clear on the motive here – the LDS I knew pushing that campaign were not motivated by “let’s deny rights to gays.” Actually the motivation they had was resentment and worry that the socially popular gay movement (let’s face it – it is a socially fashionable and popular movement in modern society) was attempting to bully religions into changing their own core beliefs. That gay advocates were attempting to proselyte people over into the same lifestyle, that they were aggressively targeting churches to do it, that they were attempting to infiltrate the public education system and teach children to view homosexual sex favorably in spite of the wishes of the parents. Also the worry was that we were going to be coerced by the government to allow and embrace gay marriages in our own religion.

    Agree with it or not if you want – that was the motivation behind the campaign. It had nothing whatsoever to do with gay rights – it had to do with Mormon rights – Mormons attempting to defend their own space to believe as they choose and let the gays do whatever they want “away over there.”

    Point of Order:

    Sex is not a “right.”

    There are tons and tons of people in the USA who aren’t “getting any” tonight. And no one in their right mind is suggesting that the US government ensure that they do.

    I would also disagree that sexual activity is a core part of the human being as well. Hollywood may want you to think relationships, marriage, and love are essentially about sex. But sex is, ultimately, only a small part of any of those things.

    Sex is something you choose to do. It’s not something you had no choice over.

    Just like Mormonism actually – something you choose to do, affiliate with, be.

  49. says

    Oy veh. Seth – the issue isn’t the government ensuring that people get sex – it’s your saying

    And to clarify, the LDS official position is anti-gay marriage and anti-gay sex. Not “anti-gay.” Maybe you don’t care about the distinction, but most of my Mormon acquaintances do.

    It’s about the LDS opposition to gay sex. That’s got nothing to do with the government. It’s got to do with an illiberal opposition to other people’s engagement in normal activities such as sex.

    You’re trying to make the case that it’s bigotry to think that a Mormon could be illiberal in various ways because she or he is a Mormon. Commenters are disputing your “distinction” between anti-gay and anti-gay sex. Gummint not relevant.

    As for the motivations – right – the LDS idea was that people getting equality and rights was an attack on their religion, because…what, their religion depends on some people remaining unequal and without rights?

    Now why would anyone be wary of a Mormon presidential candidate?

    Actually the motivation they had was resentment and worry that the socially popular gay movement (let’s face it – it is a socially fashionable and popular movement in modern society)

    What do you mean “modern society”? Certainly not the 1/3 of Americans who identify themselves as evangelical. Mormonism is pretty fashionable and popular too.

  50. Seth R. says

    Since when were Mormons ever “pretty fashionable and popular?”

    The conservative Christian right doesn’t like us because they think we’re a cult who is trying to “make you lose Jesus.”

    The left wing doesn’t like us because – at least the USA Mormon contingent – tends to skew politically conservative, and we didn’t adopt the popular stance on some key flagship social issues.

    Well, we are widely talked-about right now. I’ll grant you that. But popular?

  51. Seth R. says

    I’m also not sure what’s “illiberal” about opposing a certain lifestyle choice if politically you have no intention of restricting it.

    Unless you are defining “liberal” in a such a vague way that it basically means “every opinion I personally find pleasant.”

  52. Luna_the_cat says

    @Seth R.

    “Hospital visitation rights” =/= medical power of attorney.

    However, more to the point, those lovely civil partnerships are not recognised outside the state. A legally partnered couple have no legal rights over any such matters, as soon as they set foot outside California. A couple travelling to Utah, for example, would be completely up the creek if they were in a car accident there. There, it’s not only legal and medical power of attorney which can be denied, it IS even the right to visit each other in hospital.

    Nor is a state-approved civil partnership recognised in Federal law, so income tax benefits cannot be invoked; nor could such a relationship be used as grounds for a visa for someone from another country.

    Marriage, however, is a legally binding status which must be recognised by other states; that is part of Federal law.

    So yes; whatever comfortable denial your LDS acquaintances (and, apparently, you) wrap yourselves in, you ARE in fact denying rights to this group.

    Point of order: Other people getting married does not impact on the ability of Mormons to live their lives and enjoy their ability to access legal rights and services.

    Second point of order: Mormons insisting that other people cannot get married, however, very much does interfere with the ability of a group to live their lives and access legal rights and services, and results in real and documented harms to real people.
    http://www.equalitymaryland.org/uploads/4377/original/cu_fact_sheet.pdf
    http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/05/12/how-hospitals-treat-same-sex-couples/

    You are free to believe whatever you want. What you should not be free to do is use those beliefs to deny equal rights and freedoms to other people. And your excuses are a bit pathetic; in the real world, denying rights and freedoms is exactly the result of denying a certain group legal marriage.

  53. quantheory says

    As far as my acquaintances who supported the LDS Prop 8 push were concerned, there were NO rights being denied to gays whatsoever.

    Forget Prop 8 for a moment. My objections were to Mormon doctrine itself, and its total potential political influence, not one particular political action. Although it’s worth pointing out that, since the distinction was purely semantic, continuing to actually have the “separate but equal” statuses of domestic partnership and marriage seems like a petty insult (albeit one now part of the California constitution).

    That gay advocates were attempting to proselyte people over into the same lifestyle,

    Of course, LGBT advocates tend to be the ones that think that sexual orientation can’t be changed, so this would be a weird thing for them to do. And marriage equality doesn’t make this any easier for them to do.

    that they were aggressively targeting churches to do it,

    “Targeting” in what sense? If by “aggressively targeting churches”, you mean “actively criticizing church doctrine”, that’s not something that one should try to use the law to stop. Free speech and all. Also, churches make themselves a much more appealing target when they are against legal marriage equality, whereas if we had legal equality a lot fewer people would care.

    that they were attempting to infiltrate the public education system and teach children to view homosexual sex favorably in spite of the wishes of the parents.

    Still not about marriage equality. Also, this harkens back to the gay version of the blood libel, where homosexuals swoop in to prey on youngsters, converting them to a lifestyle of drugs and wanton sex that causes them to die young. That myth has killed more than a few people.

    Besides which, it might not be necessary to have schools teach “favorable” things about gay sex, but honestly, sometimes you have to do something to protect gay kids and kids with gay parents from harassment.

    Also the worry was that we were going to be coerced by the government to allow and embrace gay marriages in our own religion.

    Forbidden by the First Amendment. You guys don’t have to marry Jews if you don’t want to. Or black people. Why would you be forced to marry gay people? Every time I hear this claim, it is either backed up by a legally irrelevant example, or a fabricated one, or by nothing at all.

    These are pretty out-of-touch fears, and it would be quite surprising if a whole bunch of Mormons suddenly came up with these concerns independently. But that’s not how this works, is it? I’m pretty sure that there were certain cultural channels, channels that people trust, that were raising these concerns in an over-the-top manner.

    Mormons attempting to defend their own space to believe as they choose and let the gays do whatever they want “away over there.”

    Legally? That’s fine (and not interfered with by marriage equality).

    But socially? As far as the “national conversation” goes? We are always going to have some conflict, as long as gay kids are raised by religious families that tell them that homosexuality (or “practicing” homosexuality) is inherently sinful. There really are not two separate communities, because we are still a part of society as a whole, and therefore are your families, members (or more often ex-members) of your churches, your next-door neighbors, coworkers, and so on. And if you feel obligated to discriminate, or tell any of those people about how bad gay sex is, and that affects LGBTs, they have every right to give you an earful in response, and the rest of us have every right to side with them.

    Sex is not a “right.”

    Oh? So if there was a law that said that black people and white people couldn’t have sex with each other, you wouldn’t consider that a violation of anyone’s rights? Or if they could, but they couldn’t get married? Or if they could sort-of get married, as long as they didn’t try to actually insinuate that it was normal by actually calling it “marriage”?

    Hollywood may want you to think relationships, marriage, and love are essentially about sex.

    Why do religious people speak as if nonbelievers generally get our values from, or for that matter even particularly like, “Hollywood” culture?

  54. says

    Seth – What do you mean? Mormons are plenty fashionable and popular! Not universally, but certainly in some places. The “gay movement” is hardly universally popular either, so you can’t have meant that.

    “Restricting” it is exactly what we were talking about, remember?

    But actually I certainly do consider it illiberal to oppose “a certain lifestyle choice” if it’s public opposition and there is no good reason to oppose it. This of course is all the more the case when it’s not a choice. Being gay is not “a lifestyle choice” any more than being straight is.

    We’ve come full circle. You think it’s bigotry to be cautious about Mormon candidates for political office unless one knows that the candidates separate their religion from their work. I think it’s bigotry to oppose gay marriage and gay sex.

  55. Luna_the_cat says

    As a side note, I would point out that there is a qualitative difference between:
    1. an individual not having sex because s/he did not have an available partner or because s/he did not want to;
    and
    2. a group being denied the right to have sex with anyone who they were attracted to, by reason of decisions made and opinions held by none of the parties involved!

  56. says

    Let’s get one thing clear here – the LDS campaign (which I dislike, for reasons I’ve already mentioned) – was not viewed by Mormons as an attempt to get rid of rights that gay people had.

    Seth, put yourself in the shoes of a family who is not allowed to be a legal family for a second. Is that OK?

    At the time of Prop 8, California already had an extensive civil unions legal framework that afforded gay people essentially the same rights that married people had already.

    So there was a sub-tier legal thingy with some of the same privileges and responsibilities as straight marriage? Some people were not treated as well as others. And you are OK with that?

    As far as Mormons were concerned there were no rights being denied.

    Try telling that to George Takei. Try telling that to the couples married by Gavin Newsom. The Mormons you speak of were wrong or lying.

    The law they were pushing was not denying gays inheritance rights, or hospital visitation rights, or access to public services. Gay people were still free to have sex with whomever they wanted, and arrange their family relationships as they wished.

    They were not pushing a law. They were denying equal rights to people and PropH8 legally forbids non-straight people from arranging their family relationships as they wish.

    As far as my acquaintances who supported the LDS Prop 8 push were concerned, there were NO rights being denied to gays whatsoever.

    Your acquaintances were wrong, then. And they were anti-gay.

    So let’s be clear on the motive here – the LDS I knew pushing that campaign were not motivated by “let’s deny rights to gays.”

    YES THEY WERE!!!! Stop pretending that marriage is not a right!

    let’s face it – it is a socially fashionable and popular movement in modern society

    *eye roll* People are being treated as subhuman and some of us are trying to end that and you have the nerve to say it is just a fashionable social thing?

    Actually the motivation they had was resentment and worry that the socially popular gay movement was attempting to bully religions into changing their own core beliefs.

    Completely false. Mormons know as well as anyone in the USA that they are free to believe whatever bigoted thing they want. No, there was no bullying of religions at all. Religious people are still free to be bigots about whoever they want.

    That gay advocates were attempting to proselyte people over into the same lifestyle

    You mean, if I scream at you long enough to stop being a bigot, you might turn gay? (Well, it did work on Roy Ashburn, but still, that’s a ridiculous thing to say–and bigoted.)

    that they were aggressively targeting churches to do it,

    Gee, I wonder why non-straight people would target anti-LGBT churches with protests. Hmmm…. I do wonder…

    that they were attempting to infiltrate the public education system and teach children to view homosexual sex favorably in spite of the wishes of the parents.

    “Homosexual sex”? “Infiltrate the public education system”? This is crap right out of the Mormon Bigot Handbook, and it’s all lies. Teaching children that lesbian, transgender, bisexual, and gay people are people, too, and deserve the same respect and tolerance given to other people in society is not teaching children to view sex between people of the same sex favorably.

    Also the worry was that we were going to be coerced by the government to allow and embrace gay marriages in our own religion.

    The only time Mormons were ever coerced about marriage was when the government forced them to stop creating church harems through polygyny. The government has NEVER forced a church as a church or as a religious body to embrace any marriage it didn’t want to perform or recognize. You damn well know that!

    It had nothing whatsoever to do with gay rights – it had to do with Mormon rights

    That is not true. Mormon rights were not on the chopping block. Mormon rights were not being hindered. You ought to take that back unless you can establish where Mormon rights were being infringed on, which you can’t.

    Mormons attempting to defend their own space to believe as they choose and let the gays do whatever they want “away over there.”

    Mormons being bigots. Mormons idiotically forcing other people to do what Mormons want instead of respecting other people’s rights and civil boundaries. This is unbelievable the amount of untruths being told by you!

    Point of Order:

    Sex is not a “right.”

    Lawrence v. Texas 2003. It is a right, one that was a long time coming, but it is here and it is recognized by the supreme law of the land. No one is taking that away from us again.

    There are tons and tons of people in the USA who aren’t “getting any” tonight. And no one in their right mind is suggesting that the US government ensure that they do.

    What does having sex have to do with PropH8? NOTHING, that’s what. You are derailing your own comment. Plus, why are you so obsessed about whether or not other people are having sex. Let it go, man!

    I would also disagree that sexual activity is a core part of the human being as well.

    For some people it isn’t. For others it is. Your opinion carries no weight on how others find sex. Of course, from the way you have been arguing, I doubt you realize that.

    Hollywood may want you to think relationships, marriage, and love are essentially about sex. But sex is, ultimately, only a small part of any of those things.

    Sex is something you choose to do. It’s not something you had no choice over.

    You hate sex or don’t really care for sex. Bully for you. I suppose that makes PropH8 OK in your mind?

    Just like Mormonism actually – something you choose to do, affiliate with, be.

    A stupendous finish! PropH8 is all about sex! Spread the bigoted Mormon word! *sigh*

  57. Seth R. says

    First off, I understand that what SOME of my Mormon acquaintances where advocating basically amounts to a sort of “separate but equal” segregation arrangement. I’ve already publicly pointed out that I don’t think that works.

    In fact, I might as well link to a blog post I wrote in the summer right before Prop 8 criticizing my church’s stance on the campaign:

    http://www.nine-moons.com/?p=813

    Hopefully that clarifies my position. I am merely conveying how my defense-of-traditional-marriage acquaintances viewed the whole Prop 8 thing. I’m not endorsing it personally. I think my own blog post I linked to makes it pretty clear I already had the same problems with the argument that you guys are bringing up in the first place.

  58. Seth R. says

    In fact, I can even add a government benefit that is denied to gays, but allowed to heterosexual partners.

    I’m a bankruptcy attorney. I can filed a joint bankruptcy for a man and woman who are legally married. They pay one flat fee to me, one court fee, one legal procedure, and their debts are wiped out. Nice.

    I can even do it for a man and a woman who never legally got married, but have been cohabitating, and basically acting like they are married (under a sort of “common law marriage” argument).

    But I can’t do the same for a gay couple – and I have represented several gay persons. This is a matter of federal law, and it seems unfair to me. I would have liked to charge the two gay men I represented a few years ago my single fee that I charge for married couples. But because I had to file two separate bankruptcies, I had to charge them twice as much to cover my workload. Nice guys, good clients. Felt bad for them.

    Believe me – I do get it.

    I merely felt the other side ought to be heard. And I don’t think they are doing it because they “hate gays.” Nor is it correct that there is no place for gays in the LDS Church – like they were matter and anti-matter.

    Anyway, I think I’ve managed to participate in a threadjack, but my brain isn’t really working full speed at the moment, and I’m not sure how to refocus the conversation.

  59. says

    I merely felt the other side ought to be heard.

    No, they don’t need to be heard. All they have is bigotry and you are perpetuating that bigotry here.

    Aratina, it’s beyond ridiculous to conclude from my remarks that I “hate sex.”

    It’s beyond ridiculous that you think your personal tastes (or distastes) when it comes to sex should have any bearing on anyone else’s personal tastes (or distastes). I won’t sit back and let you minimize how Lawrence v. Texas happened in 2003, less than a decade ago. What you think about sex and how little you think about sex has no bearing on whether or not PropH8 represented bigotry espoused by Mormonism and took away fundamental human rights, which it did.

  60. Escuerd says

    @Seth R.

    You can debate about how effective this was in reality, of course. But that would simply raise questions about improving the existing civil unions laws.

    Oh, of course. A church works to deny gay people the same legal status, and then its excuse is that if the separate status that is available to them (no thanks to the LDS Church) is not good enough, they certainly aren’t the ones to blame.

    But the LDS Church has also been working against civil unions for gay people, though they’ve tried a little harder to keep that low profile (e.g. Referendum 71 in Washington http://www.dailykos.com/story/2009/10/08/791032/-Mormon-fingerprints-on-Ref-71-ad- ).

    As far as my acquaintances who supported the LDS Prop 8 push were concerned, there were NO rights being denied to gays whatsoever.

    And if these Mormons can rationalize it to themselves with sophistry, who are gay people to complain, eh?

    Agree with it or not if you want

    We don’t need your repeated assurances that we can agree with you or not.

    Actually the motivation they had was resentment and worry that the socially popular gay movement (let’s face it – it is a socially fashionable and popular movement in modern society)

    Only relative to where it was a decade or two ago. Not at all in an absolute sense. In 2007, 43% of respondents to a Gallup poll said that they would not vote for a gay person for president (for a Mormon, the number was 24%). Data from the General Social Survey still show that even now a plurality (~45%) of Americans think that gay sex is “always wrong”.

    Luckily, this number is falling as more people get to actually know gay people as human beings rather than as some abstract group of “other”.

    was attempting to bully religions into changing their own core beliefs.

    And therefore, we should use the force of law to prevent them from getting married. That’s a pretty lame non-sequitur.

    That gay advocates were attempting to proselyte people over into the same lifestyle

    Projection much?

    Many gay activists are trying to ensure that other young gay people don’t go through the same unnecessary pain and repression that many of them did. They are not trying to turn people gay, but to foster wider respect for themselves and people like them.

    It is churches like yours that is insisting that people live a certain way.

    that they were aggressively targeting churches to do it, that they were attempting to infiltrate the public education system and teach children to view homosexual sex favorably in spite of the wishes of the parents.

    For all your pretense earlier, your true anti-gay feelings are showing here.

    Also the worry was that we were going to be coerced by the government to allow and embrace gay marriages in our own religion.

    Right, just like the Christian Identity movement and Southern Baptists were coerced by the government into recognizing interracial marriages. But if that were your actual concern, I suspect you would push for a constitutional amendment to prevent the government from forcing this sort of thing on you, not to prevent gay people from getting married at all.

    – that was the motivation behind the campaign. It had nothing whatsoever to do with gay rights – it had to do with Mormon rights – Mormons attempting to defend their own space to believe as they choose and let the gays do whatever they want “away over there.”

    Please explain how exactly is allowing gay couples to have the same legal status as straight couples violating Mormon rights.

    Sex is not a “right.”

    There are tons and tons of people in the USA who aren’t “getting any” tonight. And no one in their right mind is suggesting that the US government ensure that they do.

    You’re equivocating. There is a difference between a right for adults to freely associate and engage in consensual sexual activities and a right to be guaranteed a sex partner. Treating these as equivalent is stupid at best, and dishonest at worst.

    Hollywood may want you to think relationships, marriage, and love are essentially about sex. But sex is, ultimately, only a small part of any of those things.

    Did you know that plenty of gay activists point out the same thing? Their relationships are not solely about sex any more than straight people’s relationships, though anti-gay folks frequently portray it that way.

  61. quantheory says

    I know that this is probably beating a dead topic, but one particular line of Seth’s came back to me again and I had to say something about it.

    Hollywood may want you to think relationships, marriage, and love are essentially about sex. But sex is, ultimately, only a small part of any of those things.

    Really? You really thought that you needed to say that? My guess is that most commenters here are over the age of 16, and have realized that relationships are about more than just sex (or flowers and sex, for the more romantically-minded). There’s also commitment and sacrifice and compromise and division of day-to-day labor and all those other things that people learn about as they get older. Some of us are actual grown-ups who experience all that!

    I don’t know whether it’s the gay thing, or the atheist thing, or the fact that we’ve been *shock*horror* expressing a less restrictive view on sex. But we aren’t emotionally retarded.

    Nonetheless, romantic relationships, the kind marriage is related to, the kind we’ve really been talking about, do usually have a sexual component to them. Sexual attraction plays a role in how people get into them. It plays a role in how people react to each other within them. A lack of sexual fulfillment is a big part of why many people leave them.

    Without any sexual interaction or even attraction, at all, we’re not actually talking about the same category of relationship, are we? For example, limerence, that state of love where someone means the earth, moon, and stars to you, the crush-but-also-more, the newlywed state, the corny-gestures-and-bad-poetry state, is never limited to sexual attraction. But sexual attraction is closely linked to it. The fact that relationships without sex exist does not change the importance of relationships with romantic love, and sexual chemistry, and all the attendant psychological phenomena.

    Those relationships are most certainly a core part of the human experience, and are also, definitely, denied to LGBT people who want to live within the confines of Mormon doctrine. (This before we even get to the question of raising children.) No sex also means either no falling in love, or evading the object of said love as an object of temptation and torment.

    You don’t seem emotionally retarded either, and so I think you must know this. You know that, even though sex isn’t everything, sexual attraction matters! So I’m wondering where this simplistic, paternalistic message, about how relationships are more than just sex, came from. It seems really disrespectful, and I think maybe a sign of why this conversation has been engaged so much irritation.

  62. says

    Seth, your blog post may clarify your position, but it also confirms that you have a good deal of hostility to gay marriage and to, how shall I say, people on the wrong side of “the culture wars.” This remarks, in particular –

    While I sympathize with the LDS leadership’s desire to “draw a line in the sand” on the slow loss of ground in America’s relentless culture wars, I think the writing is on the wall, and it’s time to face reality.

    That victimized note, as if religious conservatives were obviously the downtrodden minority.

  63. Seth R. says

    Well Ophelia, we do feel we are fighting a slow losing battle and becoming increasingly marginalized, and our views less and less respected.

    I mean, Ophelia, you DO think your views are “winning” socially, don’t you?

  64. Seth R. says

    quant,

    I agree that the gays I know are mature adults. I don’t consider actual gays to be sex crazed maniacs. I never bought into that prejudice. Maybe in the 1970s the gay community went a bit nuts. But that’s largely calmed down as far as I can tell and things are much more civilized now.

    The problem is that the advocacy movement sometimes goes overboard and seems to be defining the group solely by its sexual activity. My comments above were a backlash to that perceived excess.

    You said that sex is admittedly not the only thing in human identity. But that it is, nonetheless, a very important thing.

    OK, I agree. But is it the most important part of human identity?

  65. quantheory says

    But is it the most important part of human identity?

    No, but I don’t see that as relevant. It doesn’t have to be the most important thing to be worthy of serious concern.

    My right arm is not the most important part of my body, but if someone told me to cut it off as a sacrifice to the volcano god, I would consider them to be advocating a terrible course of action for terrible reasons. And while they would have every right to denounce me for that decision, I would consider this both immoral and deluded.

    My relationship with my parents is not my most important social outlet, but if someone told me to never speak to them again because it would generate bad karma, I would consider them to be advocating a terrible course of action for terrible reasons. And while they would have every right to denounce me for that decision, I would consider this both immoral and deluded.

    And if I was in a long term, loving relationship with a man right now, and someone told me to leave that relationship because it was sinful, spiritually unclean, or forbidden by God, I would consider them to be advocating a terrible course of action for terrible reasons. And while they would have every right to denounce me for that decision, I would consider this both immoral and deluded.

    That’s not to say that people should never be asked to change, or to give up something important to them. If I said that I would be rather a hypocrite, what with the denouncing religion and all. But there needs to be a good reason. Asking gay people to be celibate for religious reasons (or bisexuals to leave same-sex partners, or transsexuals to live as their biological sex) is asking a very deep, intimate, even extreme sacrifice, for no discernible benefit at all, as far as I can see. And trying to pressure or deter them into that sacrifice by shaming, guilt-tripping, denouncing, shunning, ostracizing, insulting or stereotyping them is something that bothers me quite a lot.

  66. Seth R. says

    Sure, but we do ask people to possibly sacrifice their right arm – or even more. Such as when we call on them to go to war, or enter a burning building. So I think we can agree that there are some things that people are willing to sacrifice an arm over, and maybe rightfully so, right?

  67. says

    Maybe in the 1970s the gay community went a bit nuts. -Seth R.

    It really is maddening reading all your passive-aggressive bullshit aimed at gay people. How in the world did “gays go nuts” back then?

  68. quantheory says

    So I think we can agree that there are some things that people are willing to sacrifice an arm over, and maybe rightfully so, right?

    Right, which is something I’ve already acknowledged. Right there, in the post you’re replying to.

    That’s not to say that people should never be asked to change, or to give up something important to them.

    The problem with the scenario I proposed is that there is no volcano god. Therefore, the sacrifice is pointless. It doesn’t help anyone at all, except for the person who is so desperate to appease the deity (and/or the cult that worships it) that living with one fewer arm is preferable. Such a person may believe that she has made the right decision, and that her actions have prevented a much greater form of suffering or evil. But she’s mostly just been pressured or terrorized into making her life more difficult.

    Within the context of the belief system, the sacrifice makes sense because it provides certain overriding benefits (like preventing death by volcano). But the sacrifice isn’t really good, because we can find out that the belief system is false.

    This is the central problem I have with most religions. It’s not that they are false and they just happen to have unethical rules. Rather, the fact that they are false causes them to prescribe ethical rules that don’t match up with the actual effects of actions.

    To put it differently, being “anti-gay sex” isn’t just wrong because of the burden it places on gay people. It’s wrong because none of the justifications for that burden are real. The ethical misstep isn’t speaking out in favor of one’s beliefs. The ethical misstep is recklessly gambling with one’s ethical system by basing it on something as arbitrary and detached from reality as faith. Or by failing in one’s duty to critically examine one’s beliefs in the first place.

    In short, if, within the context of Mormonism, this position seems OK, that’s not a reason to excuse Mormons. Rather, it’s a good reason to point out that Mormonism is a false religion louder and more frequently, just as one should point out that volcano gods do not exist and thus do not demand human sacrifice. Of course, from your perspective, this impasse is an incentive to promote the idea that Mormonism is true.

    But to me, Mormonism is not special. It’s wrong for similar reasons that every other religion turns out to be wrong. Just another influential but bad idea that I hope people eventually give up on. The chance that it’s actually the true religion seems vanishingly small, and smaller with each new thing I learn about it. So it shouldn’t be any surprise that I see it as being not particularly different from my hypothetical volcano cult.

  69. Escuerd says

    The problem is that the advocacy movement sometimes goes overboard and seems to be defining the group solely by its sexual activity.

    The anti-gay advocacy movement, perhaps.

    Gay advocates, on the whole, generally understand that gay people’s relationships involve more than sexual activity, and YOU were the one who first alluded to this notion on this thread, and you’re still trying to insist that this misperception is really the fault of gay people themselves (not the good ones who don’t speak up, mind you, just those uppity ones who advocate for gay rights).

    But is it the most important part of human identity?

    What does this have to do with anything? Has anyone been suggesting anything of the sort?

    One thing that really annoys me about the Mormon variety of bigotry is the friendly face they (e.g. you) try to put on it.

    “Oh, we love gay people, and think they’re just wonderful, but their relationships are wrong, and they’re trying to take away our religious freedom and indoctrinate our children, so you can see why it’s important that we prevent them from gaining the same legal status that we have. Sure, this might have negative effects on gay people’s lives, but it’s not because we hate them or anything, so it’s all OK. What’s more, it’s not even violating their rights (as I define them), only privileges. That no one is trying to take those same privileges away from me is immaterial. The gays will surely take our rights if we don’t keep them in their place.”

    I certainly accept that what people believe about their actions should affect how we evaluate them morally. If someone is hurting others out of ignorance rather than malice, then that ought to mitigate how harshly we judge them for it. But if it is out of willful ignorance (e.g. your ad hoc rationalizations for why policies that do little more than cause harm to gay people are not really “anti-gay”), then that raises one’s responsibility.

    Perhaps many Mormons are too faith-blinded by their trust in the LDS Church to realize that their anti-gay actions actually are doing harm to gay people, but that simply shifts more of the culpability to the church itself for pushing these kinds of tortured rationalizations to justify their bigoted policies and beliefs to otherwise nice people.

  70. Seth R. says

    Aratina, everyone knows there was a lot of group orgy, unprotected, drug accompanied, free sex going on in certain quarters back in the 70s. Call it a backlash against the restrictive laws that had existed before and excitement about those laws being thrown down if you want. If it makes a difference to you, a 60 year old gay man who is an online acquaintance of mine (and in no way associated with my faith – nor does he ever wish to be) confirmed this. He lived through it and felt that in the wild excitement following the striking down of certain anti-gay laws, there was a lot of excess.

    Escuerd, we don’t agree with homosexual sex.

    So of course we’re going to put a friendly face on it. There’s nothing wrong with this. Sure, maybe it makes it harder for people who disagree with us to bag on us, but I don’t frankly care about making your job easier. And since when did gay people being “nice” have to do with anything? It doesn’t have anything to do with anything. No more than Mormons being “nice” has anything to do with anything for you.

    quant – we’re hitting an immovable bias that you have.

    Really, this whole discussion is boiling down to:

    “I don’t believe in make-believe stuff”
    “I consider your beliefs to rest upon make-believe stuff”
    “And I don’t think trivial make-believe stuff is a good reason to tell me not to do something I want to do (or my friends).”

    Well, maybe this will come as a surprise to you, but this whole bit about “make-believe” and “trivial” is what I call question-begging. Since there’s a lot of bare assertion going on here, I’ll weigh in with my own.

    It’s not trivial – it’s the most foundational and important part of our transcendent human destiny, and it’s worth dying over, changing who you are over, and sacrificing for.

    See, I can make bare assertions as well. But this doesn’t exactly get us anywhere.

    I don’t care if you don’t believe in fairies. Nor do I care about the presumptions that build upon that bare assertion of yours. Likewise, I imagine you don’t care about what flows out of my assumptions either.

    You can either believe that homosexuality is a natural alternative healthy human expression that should not just be allowed, but even congratulated. Or you can believe, as I do, that it is a distortion of the human identity, which should be either corrected, controlled, or simply coped with (I tend to lean toward the last).

    There is equally little evidence to support either position. So we are at an impasse on this. I’m not going to change your mind, and you are not going to change mine.

    The question is what we do with that difference of opinion. Do we get nasty about it and throw insults and anger at each other? Or do we do something else?

  71. Luna_the_cat says

    No, Seth R., what it boils down to is:

    The push for LGBT people for rughts and tolerance does not require that you adhere to anything. It does not restrict your rights. It does not impose limitations upon your life. If you don’t approve of gay sex, you are in no way required to participate in it.

    Its mere existence neither picks your pocket nor breaks your leg.

    Unless, of course, you take it as a “right” to impose restrictions on other people, and if you consider it a limitation upon your life not to be able to.

    Conversely:

    Your disapproval of it being used to restrict the ability of those who DO wish to participate, DOES in effect pick their pocket or break their legs. It hurts them.

    “I demand that you stop beating up on me”
    has slightly more moral weight than
    “I demand the right to beat up on you.”

  72. quantheory says

    “quant – we’re hitting an immovable bias that you have.”

    I don’t think that it is an immovable bias. I just think that, so far, we haven’t actually been having the “Is Mormonism true or not?” discussion, but rather merely talking about the effects of Mormonism on human beings.

    My statements would certainly be question-begging in the “Is Mormonism true?” debate. But in the discussion that we’ve been having, it’s simply a way of pointing out that our different conclusions are due to different starting points, and that the discussion probably can’t be completely resolved as long as we disagree on “Is Mormonism true?” question. I’m open to talking about that question as well, although I’m not sure about this really being the right forum to keep on hammering this.

    “There is equally little evidence to support either position.”

    I disagree, because I think that Mormonism *in general* and atheism *in general* are not equally likely based on the evidence we have. And I think I can back that up in a discussion about which the two is actually true, but that’s not what we have been talking about so far.

    “So we are at an impasse on this. I’m not going to change your mind, and you are not going to change mine.”

    Statistically, this is true. Most debates between atheists and believers, by far, don’t end in a conversion. But it’s also a self-fulfilling prophecy. If you declare that an issue can’t be resolved, I’m sure that you’re usually right.

    “The question is what we do with that difference of opinion. Do we get nasty about it and throw insults and anger at each other? Or do we do something else?”

    Well, I think we agree that gay people and straight people should have the same legal rights (though perhaps for very different reasons). I think we also agree that Mormons should have the same legal rights as any other religion or philosophy, in terms of practicing freedom of speech, expression, practice, and freedom of conscience, as long as those practices don’t impinge on the rights of others.

    Outside of the legal/governmental sphere, my goal is to continue engaging with believers (again my interest in Mormonism in particular is limited), and if there’s an irresolvable ethical disagreement that I think is based on a falsehood, I’ll argue against that falsehood itself.

    Some people change their minds. Everyone eventually dies. The mainstream beliefs in a given culture shift. So there is hope that eventually the right viewpoint, whichever one that is (and you know where I’m placing my bets), will become predominant. Not by bullying its way to the top, but by being in the right. But this requires a culture that actually prioritizes being right, and by extension the standards of evidence that help distinguish true from false.

    So maybe let’s just promote skepticism, critical thinking, rigor, and other tools for distinguishing between the probably true and probably false, and let the best philosophy win.

  73. says

    I think this thread is a perfectly good forum for that discussion – the “is Mormonism true?” one.

    Seth –

    You can either believe that homosexuality is a natural alternative healthy human expression that should not just be allowed, but even congratulated. Or you can believe, as I do, that it is a distortion of the human identity, which should be either corrected, controlled, or simply coped with (I tend to lean toward the last).

    What do you mean? What do you mean by “a distortion of the human identity” and why do you think such a thing requires correction, control, or coping?

    That looks to me like an attempted secularization of what is actually a religion-influenced gut-level distaste. I think you should interrogate it.

    Let me re-do your dichotomy. You can think either that homosexuality is just a human (and other animal) sexual variation that harms nothing, or that it is somehow (but it’s so hard to say how) Wrong and a perversion or, slightly more politely, a distortion.

    In other words, you can think it’s harmless, or you can think it’s harmful.

    Do you think it’s harmful? Is “a distortion of the human identity” necessarily harmful? If so, to whom? And why?

  74. Seth R. says

    “That looks to me like an attempted secularization of what is actually a religion-influenced gut-level distaste. I think you should interrogate it.”

    True enough. But the same applies to the other side of the debate as well. Are not the arguments in favor of homosexual sex not equally influenced by “gut-level” impulses? What’s to say those arguments are correct either?

    quant is correct in pointing out that what I’m debating here is not whether homosexuals should have rights. I think I made it clear enough that I think they should. And I’d like the “marriage” question to be off the table entirely and relegated to a matter of private belief. I outlined what I understood to be fears among my fellow Mormons about being pressured in their own sphere of belief. But I don’t necessarily share those fears – at least, not all of them. I thought Prop 8 was a mistake on the LDS Church’s part, and not conducted in our best long term interests.

    But if we want to talk about whether homosexual sex is “right” or not, well, I don’t see a lot of objective evidence one way or the other on the subject. It seems to me that folks on both sides of the debate are simply believing what they want to believe. Claims of having “science” or “God” on one side or the other just don’t strike me as convincing.

    I’m actually stuck in a very awkward place in this debate. I don’t really find myself comfortably on either side. I see the valid points both sides are making, and neither side appreciates me saying anything good about the other side.

    Furthermore, homosexuality isn’t even the topic I originally wanted to debate. Somehow, I clumsily got into it anyway though. No idea how to get back to the original topic Ophelia.

    Let’s see…

    Ophelia, you made the original point that religion is a voluntary affiliation, whereas other things like race and gender are not.

    But I don’t think the divide is that clear necessarily.

    Judaism is a religion, but a lot of sociologists actually consider it an ethnicity. Where exactly did it make the jump from “voluntary” to “involuntary?” And I can tell you as well, Mormonism is a lot more like an ethnicity than a lot of religions. This is something that you are pretty firmly born into. It certainly FEELS like it’s in your blood and as much a part of you as your right arm. It didn’t feel voluntary to me growing up anyway.

    And how much of homosexuality is about what was imposed on you through no control of your own, and how much of it is what you choose to be?

    I know of Mormons who are homosexual, but voluntarily chose to reject homosexual sex. One of them actually married a woman, started a family and is now in his late fifties after 30 years of marriage and content with the choices he’s made. But he reports getting tons of anger from other gay people at his choice. He’s been called mentally ill, deluded, brainwashed, traitor to his gender, a Mormon dupe, a liar, you name it.

    Why?

    Because his very existence blurs the boundaries in ways I think many in the gay community are not comfortable with. Many gays seem to take comfort in the idea that they “had no choice” about their sexuality (if we are to judge by much of the online debate I’m seeing). This man’s life throws that into open question again. A question that a lot of people do not want to revisit.

    But bringing this back to the point – I’m not sure there is a clear cut divide between “belief” and “biology.” How much of our identity can we be “blamed” for?

  75. says

    @Seth R.

    Aratina, everyone knows there was a lot of group orgy, unprotected, drug accompanied, free sex going on in certain quarters back in the 70s.

    What does free sex mean? Free of inhibition? Free of being prosecuted for doing it? Anyway, I’ve got news for you if you think that stuff only happened in the 70s and only within the gay community. That kind of stuff is not gays going nuts, it is people being people. I suppose you are going to tell me that your Mormon forefathers with their harems and breweries would never do that sort of thing? (Oh, oh! Wait. Don’t tell me. They were married. Big difference.)

    Call it a backlash against the restrictive laws that had existed before and excitement about those laws being thrown down if you want.

    No, I won’t. People having fun with other people is not what I’d consider a “backlash” of any sort. Besides, which laws are you talking about specifically which were thrown out? Please name them.

    If it makes a difference to you, a 60 year old gay man who is an online acquaintance of mine… confirmed this. He lived through it and felt that in the wild excitement following the striking down of certain anti-gay laws, there was a lot of excess.

    Which anti-gay laws? And so this acquaintance confirmed that he became sexually active at the time and celebrated and that other people did too? Big woop. That doesn’t mean that gay people went nuts.

    You can either believe that homosexuality is a natural alternative healthy human expression that should not just be allowed, but even congratulated. Or you can believe, as I do, that it is a distortion of the human identity, which should be either corrected, controlled, or simply coped with (I tend to lean toward the last).

    No, there is nothing about homosexuality to believe. Homosexuality exists whether you like it or not and there is simply no good reason to pretend otherwise or to treat homosexuals as subhumans. Your evidence-free faith is not a good reason, and your BS about True Human Identity™ is not a good reason.

  76. says

    Seth

    But the same applies to the other side of the debate as well. Are not the arguments in favor of homosexual sex not equally influenced by “gut-level” impulses? What’s to say those arguments are correct either?

    Well first of all you didn’t answer my questions, so that looks like a diversion. Maybe that’s because you think the gay rights issue is off topic, but I actually don’t think it is – because it’s the prime example where people have non-rational prejudices against something that religion helps to shield from scrutiny. I wish you would answer my questions, because I think they’re relevant.

    Second, no, not really. I grew up in the same world everyone else did, where there was an automatic “ew yuck” reaction to homosexuality. I turned a skeptical eye on that very early, for reasons I don’t know – I wasn’t procociously skeptical in all ways, certainly – but I didn’t grow up with no exposure to the gut-level “ew.” So no: I don’t think it is a matter of “a plague on both your houses” or “both sides are equally irrational.” I think pointing out that it’s very hard to find rational arguments that homosexuality is bad or wrong is not just parallel to saying the obverse. I think, in short, the case for gay rights is better than the case against. (You want to separate rights and the idea of wrongness, but I don’t think that can be done.) And as for what’s to say – the answer is the usual: reasoned argument and discussion, careful thought, asking and answering questions. This is your opportunity: explain to me why homosexuality is what you said it is – a distortion of the human identity – and why that is something to be corrected or controlled or coped with.

    But if we want to talk about whether homosexual sex is “right” or not, well, I don’t see a lot of objective evidence one way or the other on the subject. It seems to me that folks on both sides of the debate are simply believing what they want to believe. Claims of having “science” or “God” on one side or the other just don’t strike me as convincing.

    Well try harder. Seriously. The two are not equivalent. You need to come up with a reason to think homosexuality is bad and wrong in some way, and you haven’t done that. In the absence of a reason…it’s unreasonable to think it is.

  77. says

    Seth again – I take your point about Mormonism as identity. I realize that, and I think I phrased what I said in such a way as to take that into account. That’s why I made it a matter of asking questions, not one of rejecting any Mormon candidate without further thought.

  78. quantheory says

    But if we want to talk about whether homosexual sex is “right” or not, well, I don’t see a lot of objective evidence one way or the other on the subject.

    I think that this is a cop-out. Is it morally acceptable for me to sleep on my left side, instead of in some other position? Most people wouldn’t respond with “I don’t see any objective evidence either way, so you can’t say whether or not it is morally acceptable.” and leave it there. We usually see actions as morally neutral by default, and only worry about them after some specific concern raised.

    I can simply point to same-sex relationships that are psychologically and socially quite similar to opposite-sex ones, and say that they seem morally equivalent. The burden falls on the other side to explain where the moral wrongness of homosexuality comes from.

    “I don’t really find myself comfortably on either side. I see the valid points both sides are making, and neither side appreciates me saying anything good about the other side.”

    I think that I understand the awkwardness here, but I don’t know how much I sympathize. You may not fall clearly, 100%, on either “side”. But that obviously doesn’t mean that you don’t have a position. By saying “I think that point X is valid.” you are implicitly disagreeing with people who explicitly think that point X is invalid, which is equally true regardless of whether or not you take the “side” opposite to theirs.

    I also want to make a brief point about the notion of “choice” as it relates to homosexuality: I don’t think that it’s relevant, and it’s sort of a pet peeve of mine that LGBT organizations make such a big deal out of the biological influences on sexual orientation (not that I don’t understand the political benefits). I’ve said before, and probably will have to say again, that in an alternate universe where attraction to the same sex was 100% voluntary, I would still have much the same position as I do now. “Born this way” and “this is who we are” are useful rallying cries, but they doesn’t really address morality any more than when the opposing side calls homosexuality “unnatural”. (See: naturalistic fallacy.)

    I don’t consider it any of my business with a (attraction-wise) gay person who decides to live as a (behavior-wise) straight person. In fact, I would take issue with anyone who vilified such a person. However, I also take issue with the proposition that such a person has done something morally superior to gay people who live as gay people. And I also take issue with “ex-gay” propaganda that downplays the degree of sexual dissatisfaction that both partners tend to experience in such marriages. And I’ll that note the anecdotes regarding insults and vilification work both ways, as my gay ex-Mormon acquaintances can attest. Socially, my ideal world is one where this is a moral non-issue for everyone, rather than having a whole bunch of nosy people moralizing about other people’s harmless sexual choices.

  79. quantheory says

    And, having said all that, I note that the actual point of that paragraph, I believe, was about identity rather than sexuality.

    I have pretty much the same standards about religion as I do about sexual orientation. The main question for me is whether or not some kind of harm or damage is being done, some kind of effect surrounding a set of practices that raises a moral issue. If someone is causing harm to others due to something that they feel is a deep part of their identity, it doesn’t make the harm OK, it just changes which tactics might be most effective for dealing with it. If someone is doing something harmless or positive, it doesn’t make it any worse or better if it’s part of that person’s identity.

    All that said, it’s not so much Mormonism as a cultural background that bothers me. It’s more about Mormonism as a set of beliefs and practices. I don’t think that secular Jews or non-practicing and non-believing “Catholics” raise the same problems as devout Jews or Catholics. If the word “Mormon” started to refer to people who felt a cultural affiliation, but did not adhere to the Mormon faith, then those Mormons would not particularly bother me either. But right now it refers to a group of people whose culture I consider to have objectionable elements, and almost always implies the presence of those elements. It’s difficult to consider it as neutral, a mere cultural “difference” that people should be encouraged to keep just because it’s important to them.

  80. Escuerd says

    Escuerd, we don’t agree with homosexual sex.

    So of course we’re going to put a friendly face on it.

    Non-sequitur. I suspect that you are just trying to implicitly repeat that you are only opposed to the acts instead of the people. I get that this is the rationalization that many Mormons use, but others above have explained why the policies that they have been pushing are in fact harmful to gay people with no justification (Though I understand you would believe that there is justification, but for those of us who don’t buy into your religion, you cannot expect that to be seen as reasonable justification).

    There’s nothing wrong with this. Sure, maybe it makes it harder for people who disagree with us to bag on us…

    The problem is not that it makes you harder to “bag on”, but that you are offering a superficial sort of civility, and treating that as if it justifies any of the uncivil beliefs and policies that your church enacts. It doesn’t.

    And since when did gay people being “nice” have to do with anything? It doesn’t have anything to do with anything. No more than Mormons being “nice” has anything to do with anything for you.

    Actually, the point was about Mormons who are otherwise nice people with no personal animosity towards gay people. I am saying that putting friendly face on anti-gay bigotry serves to convince such people that trying to enact policies that restrict gay people’s rights is actually a civil thing to do. Most of the people who are affected by these policies don’t buy the faux-civility at all.

    “There is equally little evidence to support either position.”

    Even if two mutually exclusive claims are equally unevidenced (I do not think that this is the case here, but will leave that aside for the moment) this does not make them equally reasonable.

    The statement “God exists,” is much stronger than the statement “God does not exist.” I.e., it specifies more about the state of the world. This does not imply that it is false, but it implies that it takes more evidence to make it credible.

    A classic illustration of this is Russell’s Teapot. I.e. if someone were to posit the existence of a teapot orbiting the Sun somewhere between the orbits of Earth and Mars, and small enough that we could not detect it with any instruments available to us, should we then accept that the claim is perfectly reasonable simply because it is difficult to find direct evidence against it?

    If someone makes a strong claim (e.g. the existence of God, let alone the much stronger claim that Mormon theology is more or less accurate) and offers no evidence for it, I don’t see any reason why I should treat this claim as a respectable position, especially if it is being used to justify actions that clearly cause harm to others.

  81. Seth R. says

    I obviously bowed out of this conversation a long time ago. Mainly because asking me to articulate why I considered gay sex morally wrong brought on a lot of thought on my part that I’m still not sure I have a good handle on. In some ways it hardened my position, but in other ways not.

    But I did want to say thank you for having a reasonable discussion here without a lot of insult and acrimony. Well argued points to think about. Not saying I agree, but it was food for thought – and you can’t always say that about every comment thread on the Internet.

    Sorry about the necro-posting. Just wanted to say thanks and explain why I didn’t reply and still don’t feel up to a good reply.

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