Last night, in my talk, I said that I didn’t think religion was necessarily a force for evil. Then, this morning, I was sent a link to some convoluted religious sophistry that made my lip curl in revulsion. Maybe I was wrong.
The link will take you to an article by Orson Scott Card in which he complains about homosexuals. That probably tells you all you need to know; Card has this reputation for letting his mormonism hang out in the ugliest ways possible.
Look at these horrible rationalizations for oppression.
One thing is certain: one cannot serve two masters. And when one’s life is given over to one community that demands utter allegiance, it cannot be given to another. The LDS church is one such community. The homosexual community seems to be another.
There’s one of the first danger signs in religion: exclusivity. The “us vs. them”/”if you aren’t with us you’re against us” mentality. The idea that the religious community is everything, and you must narrow your humanity and allow no other allegiances. What a selfish and restrictive collection of lies; how cult-like.
We Latter-day Saints know that we are eternal beings who must gain control of our bodies and direct our lives toward the good of others in order to be worthy of an adult role in the hereafter. So the regulation of sexual drives is designated not just to preserve the community of the Saints but also to improve and educate the individuals within it. The Lord asks no more of its members who are tempted toward homosexuality than it does of its unmarried adolescents, its widows and widowers, its divorced members, and its members who never marry. Furthermore, the Lord even guides the sexual behavior of those who are married, expecting them to use their sexual powers responsibly and in a proportionate role within the marriage.
There are several misrepresentations here. One is that homosexuality is all about sexual behavior, which must be controlled in ways of which Card approves. Throughout, get the impression that all Card considers when he thinks of homosexuals is the gross icky carnal things they do with their bodies; an infantile idea that sex is all about and only about slippery bits of meat sliding about, which must be regulated.
I know heterosexual and homosexual couples, and I don’t even think much of, let alone obsess over, their private physical behavior. I see them as people who love each other, which ought to be enough for all of us.
The other joke in Card’s comment is the implication that the LDS community uses “their sexual powers responsibly and in a proportionate role within the marriage”. I knew women with 15 children when I lived in Salt Lake City, and we all knew the local polygamists. “Responsible and proportionate” is one of those ideas that is dependent on local mores, and much of the rest of the world considers the Mormons to be, well, wacky and weird.
The argument by the hypocrites of homosexuality that homosexual tendencies are genetically ingrained in some individuals is almost laughably irrelevant. We are all genetically predisposed toward some sin or another; we are all expected to control those genetic predispositions when it is possible. It is for God to judge which individuals are tempted beyond their ability to bear or beyond their ability to resist. But it is the responsibility of the Church and the Saints never to lose sight of the goal of perfect obedience to laws designed for our happiness.
Just for clarity’s sake: Card uses the term “hypocrites of homosexuality” to refer to those who favor tolerance, rather than those who demand that everyone follow their personal peculiar restrictions. It’s just one of the many little ironies in the article.
The claim that there are genetic predispositions to “sin” is an amazing conflation of science and religion — genes do not dictate what should be, but only what is. I personally suspect there are genetic predispositions for empathy and for love, and weaker genetic factors that tend to promote opposite-sex preferences; but environment is a stronger influence that can sway individuals in all different directions but none of that has anything to say about how people must behave, and definitely is not support for the bogus religious concept of sin.
That last sentence is classic. Obedience will make you happy. Obey even when the laws are arbitrary and will make you miserable. And what if you choose to disobey?
This applies also to the polity, the citizens at large. Laws against homosexual behavior should remain on the books, not to be indiscriminately enforced against anyone who happens to be caught violating them, but to be used when necessary to send a clear message that those who flagrantly violate society’s regulation of sexual behavior cannot be permitted to remain as acceptable, equal citizens within that society.
The goal of the polity is not to put homosexuals in jail. The goal is to discourage people from engaging in homosexual practices in the first place, and, when they nevertheless proceed in their homosexual behavior, to encourage them to do so discreetly, so as not to shake the confidence of the community in the polity’s ability to provide rules for safe, stable, dependable marriage and family relationships.
Nice. Stay in the closet, gay people, deny your desires, or you “cannot be permitted to remain as acceptable, equal citizens within that society.” And then the rest of his essay goes on and on to protest that he really isn’t a homophobe.
If this is godly morality, I want nothing to do with it. Let’s think about godless moral guidelines — they are far superior, since they don’t require insane interpretations of the delusional fantasies of religious kooks as a foundation. Card’s essay does suggest three principles to me.
Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.
It’s the basic one, the foundation of civil behavior in a human society. If two mutually consenting individuals want to do something together that causes no harm to others, it is not our privilege to deny them, or worse, punish them for it.
Love one another.
The desire to love and be loved is the keystone of human interactions; it’s primal, I suspect it has biological roots, and it’s part of the toolkit that drives socialization. I admit it, I wouldn’t trust someone who says they don’t love anyone. It’s a warning sign that you are dealing with a psychopath. (Which, by the way, makes me suspicious of celibate priests and nuns who place their personal attachments on an imaginary being.)
This particular rule does not define who you should love, and any attempt to do so should be regarded as intrusive and unethical.
Your first loyalties are to yourself and the individuals who love you.
When I see Card claim that this abstract community united by common foolish beliefs demands “utter allegiance,” I am repelled — no ideology should be so demanding or exclusive. That is not what matters, and it doesn’t matter what organization you are talking about — if it tells you you must obey, that it is more important than the people who care about you, walk away. Replacing human connections with blind loyalty to ideology is ultimately destructive to the culture one is trying to build.
And that applies to any atheist institutions we work towards. Keep your perspective — doing right by the people in your family and community are important.
Notice, too, what makes Orson Scott Card so disgusting: his beliefs violate all three of those moral considerations. Not that he cares, since they’ve been made subsidiary to his dedication to his batshit insane beliefs that Jesus visited an America inhabited by Lamanites and Nephites, that there is magic underwear that will protect the wearer from harm, and that after death good Mormons get to establish their patriarchies on other planets and become gods themselves.