I’m not Hitchens, and so I’m often not as articulate when I speak as when I write. But here, after some thought, is what I find annoying about Charlie the Atheist Homophobe’s arguments.
His obsession with words and their proper definitions would be a lot more persuasive if he weren’t being so self-serving and hypocritical about how he argues his position. When he called Tracie and me two weeks ago, the burden of his argument was that the word homophobia has a colloquial meaning that has changed and evolved from its dictionary definition, so as to incorporate such things as “disgust” rather than strictly “irrational fear” (the meaning of “phobia” in a nutshell). Charlie was supportive of this evolution of homophobia’s meaning, of course.
But he is not similarly supportive of a change and evolution of the definition of marriage. While homophobia gets to expand its meaning to include a variety of emotional states, marriage does not get to expand its meaning to include a variety of relationship commitments, including same-sex couples (even though the almighty dictionary says it can). And Charlie’s whole justification for opposing any expansion of marriage‘s definition is an appeal to tradition and consensus, the very things he thinks should be ignored in the case of homophobia.
It’s a pure double standard, of the sort that people who are smart enough to know better often hold, so as to convince themselves that an intellectually and morally offensive point of view is in fact intellectually and morally justified. But as Russell said, if the guy isn’t actually out to impinge on anyone’s rights, then his word games are just so much noise.
I personally still don’t get why people so desperately latch onto these kinds of justifications. I’d find it ridiculously presumptuous of me to instruct a couple of strangers, who happened to be consenting adults, on what term they were allowed to apply to their personal relationship commitment, because “traditional” terms made me uncomfortable. If gay people want to be married and call it “marriage,” how does that harm me? How does it negatively impact my life in any degree whatsoever? What’s it got to do with me anyway? Nothing, that’s what.
And yet Charlie is so desperate to justify his folly that he’ll call my position irrational. Whatever. Seems to me the dude’s on no more sensible, let alone honest, ground than Tony Perkins.