Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Dialogue With a Bisexual Agnostic on Homosexuality, Round Two

[See Part I and Part II of the first round]

My past cited statements will be purple, and my (anonymous) opponent's words will be in green.

*****

Overall, it is undeniable that the traditional media in all its forms is overwhelmingly secular and leftist and thus (quite yawningly predictably) biased against Christianity. The same holds for the entertainment industry and academia.

Of course, it doesn’t - that was never my contention - but that network nevertheless wields enormous influence in the media, in both television and radio. No such liberal counterpart exists in either radio or television. The highest rated tv and radio talk shows are all conservative, or semi-conservative. This is undisputable. So I don’t know where you base your claim that the media is “overwhelmingly… leftist… and… biased towards Christianity.” It might be that we disagree on what exactly constitutes “anti-Christian bias” in this particular case…

Talk shows are overwhelmingly conservative. I agree. That's why I was careful to qualfy my contention ("traditional media"). As for that sector of the media (the networks, CNN, MSNBC, the major liberal papers: New York Times, Washington Post; the liberal newsweeklies: Time, Newsweek, etc.), yes, they are undeniably rather far left. You want proof again? Your argument suffers when you in effect demand hard evidence. Just look at all the damning medical data you now have to contend with. :-) So let's do it again!

I refer readers to the web page Media Bias Basics, put out by the Media Research Center. Here is a typical excerpt (in blue):

American Association of Newspaper Editors (ASNE) . . . The most recent ASNE study [1997] surveyed 1,037 newspaper reporters found 61 percent identified themselves as/leaning "liberal/Democratic" compared to only 15 percent who identified themselves as/leaning "conservative/Republican."

This page offers tons of evidence of the liberal bias. It is simply impossible to deny it. But you want to disagree with it? Okay; if so, here's another article: The Media Elite revisited - relevance of 1986 book by Robert Lichter, Stanley Rothman and Linda Lichter - Special Section: The Decline of American Journalism, National Review, June 21, 1993 by Ted J. Smith, III. Excerpt:

Finally, a 1992 poll of 1,410 journalists from a wide variety of print and broadcast organizations provides clear evidence that journalists are becoming more liberal. Conducted by Indiana University professors David Weaver and Cleveland Wilhoit, the survey found that the number of journalists who identified themselves as Democrats had grown from 35.5 per cent in 1971 to 44.1 per cent in 1992, while the number of Republicans had declined from 25.7 per cent to 16.3 per cent. As the authors note, much of this change is the result of widespread efforts to foster "diversity" in the newsroom. Because female and minority journalists tend to be even more liberal and Democratic than white male journalists, increases in demographic diversity have actually produced substantial decreases in political diversity.

Of course, in this context, I was not trying to prove what you claim here; namely, that such a thing was the "primary" objective of the movement. I was only denying the assertion that it had "nothing to do with seeking approval." In many instances, it certainly does have to do with that, and this is proven precisely by the sorts of reactions I have cited. Equally obviously - as in any movement of many people - not all do this, by any means, but surely enough do for one to be able to identify it as a significant consideration, in a sociological, generalized sense (as I did).

It may be the individual sentiments of certain people within the gay rights movement, but that is not at all what the movement is legally concerned about. That is why the movement is called gay rights and not gay acceptance. What we are fighting for is our right to marry members of the same sex, if we so choose, and to have secular courts recognize such unions. Personally, I could care less if the christian right morally approves of what we do within the privacy of our own homes -- that’s not what we’re fighting for, and if it was, it would be a worthless cause . . . The majority of people associated with the gay rights movement are staunch supporters of the first amendment. The people you speak of are the exception, not the norm. I’m sure you could cite many horror stories, but so can I (think Ann Coulter!), so they’d just cancel each other out, so to speak.

Old ground, so I refrain from further comment . . .

I’m sure plenty of people within the gay rights movement label your views bigoted and intolerant. But likewise, plenty of people within your movement label our view that homosexuality is perfectly natural (as the APA, a reputable medical organization, contends) anti-Christian, anti-God, anti-Bible, anti this, anti that. We are labeled “sodomites”, “whores”, “idolatrous”, among other less-than-polite terms. We are condemned to hell… the more extreme fringes even picket the funerals of homosexuals.

Absolutely; this goes on. My argument, however, does not rest on any of these things. I have casually stated (not made an argument) that homosexuality is contrary to the Bible and Christian sexual ethics. But I think you knew that already (and so do most homosexuals; even the ones who try to desperately rationalize away the biblical data). So I don't see how this is objectionable from a dialogue standpoint. It's what Christians (and particularly Catholics, which is my affiliation) believe. I have made my argument mostly from sociology, medical facts, ethics, the "natural / unnatural" distinction, and societal considerations (an opposition to the fallacies of libertarianism and the myth that individuals' actions do not affect the larger society). Hopefully, you will interact with my own arguments in the depth I think they deserve, at some point, rather than our going over and over the usual unfortunate modus operandi of the debate on both sides.

Even if the courts legally recognized gay marriage, that doesn’t mean you’d be legally bound to. White supremacists don’t morally approve of/recognize marriages between blacks and whites, nor are they legally bound to (exceptions, of course, would be public officials such as judges).

But interracial marriages have no discernible effect on society (only on racists, who are already increasingly relegated to the wacko fringes of society). Children being raised without a parent of one gender or the other certainly does adversely affect society. If people have no children on a wide scale (as today) this negatively affects cultures and nations, because when a nation goes under zero population growth, it starts to lose population, leading to the eventual death or great demise in influence and power of a culture within two to three generations. I would define homosexuality as broadly opposed to both the family, as traditionally and widely defined, and against procreation (since neither male homosexuality nor lesbianism can produce children in and of themselves).

. . . . not nearly as much as he [Pat Robertson] specifically blames homosexuals, especially in public. I’d be less inclined to label him a homophobe if he directed his ire at every class of sinner, but that is not the case. He singles out homosexuals, and this can only be because he finds them more repugnant, repulsive, and odious than the rest. So I’m afraid my first example does not illustrate your point. ;-)

I'm not sure he is placing homosexuality far away above all other classes of sinners. I doubt, for example, that he would think an abortionist or murderer or rapist was on a higher moral plane than a homosexual. I would have to see examples of what he wrote to analyze his case further. It may be that he places undue emphasis on some sins over against others, but it still isn't true that all he talks about is homosexuality, as if he doesn't preach against other activities that Christianity regards as sinful.

I am not very familiar with his [C.S. Lewis's] works, though I vaguely recall having read a portion of his book Mere Christianity back when I was 14, maybe 15. He basically argued that our intuitive sense of right and wrong could only be attributed to the existence of a higher power (or something to that affect). I chuckled, for this argument hardly lends any credibility or validity to Christianity. To theism? Yes, of course -- and I’m open to the possibility of a higher power --, but “theism” is not a synonym for “Christianity.” There could be a god whose concept of sin is radically different than yours.

You have assumed that he thinks that such basic arguments prove Christianity or something. Lewis wouldn't argue in such a fashion (nor would any apologist who knows much at all about theistic philosophy and agnostic objections to same). So your chuckling as a 14-year-old (even as a very intelligent one) was almost certainly misplaced, and I would advise you against caricaturing Lewis as a simpleton. Lewis himself converted to theism at first and then to Christianity, so he is well aware of the distinction between the two.

I should also note that this concept of right and wrong most of us have usually limits itself to murder, rape, dishonesty, and theft, not homosexuality. During my Catholic days (and before I realized I was attracted to both sexes), I never felt homosexuality was wrong,

If you want to argue that the fact of most people naturally and instinctively feeling that homosexuality is unnatural and wrong is irrelevant, then your feeling that it was right would be equally irrelevant. The argument from instinct or feeling obviously is a two-edged sword.

and I had a difficult time accepting the church’s teachings on this matter.

Many of us have a difficult time accepting many Church teachings. That has no bearing, of course, on their truthfulness or falsity. I have a hard time applying many of the Church's teachings, but I accept them based on reason and faith, not based on how my own particular feelings, desires, emotions, or drives lean.

Naturally, the disagreement only intensified after I realized I was attracted to men too.

See the above reasoning.

I believe both moral relativism and absolutism are inherently contradictory.

That makes it very difficult, then, to argue in favor of anything, doesn't it? This whole discussion is reduced to the level of arguing over whether vanilla or cholcolate ice cream is "better." Without some standard at some point, constructive discussion is impossible. And so we pretty much have gone around in circles and resolved very little, because you have admitted that logical and moral systems reduce to nonsense.

I don’t know what to label my moral code -- it is somewhere between absolutism and relativism. I do believe certain acts are always wrong no matter if the person committing them believes so too; however, there are other acts I don’t believe are inherently wrong, or right -- I believe circumstances render that judgment.

Situation ethics . . . very well, then; make your case for homosexuality. Let's see how well it stands up to scrutiny. If all it amounts to is the usual "if it feels good, do it," then you are in the wrong place, because I don't waste time trying to argue against hedonism and suchlike. How can one even do so? The nature of those outlooks preclude rational discussion. Reason plays no part in them. So you either have to argue reasonably or there is no point in arguing at all.

Now from my opponent's new blog, here are further comments:

I had the chance to read Mr. Armstrong's second installment of his response to my email critiquing his debate with a homosexual. Although he does raise some very valid points, particularly in regards to the scientific information he cites, he nevertheless winds up proving my point:

You had one single point to make? I didn't know that . . . if so, you haven't made it based on any compelling reasoned argument, as I will show.

even though he argues from many different angles against homosexuality, the primary reason he opposes the gay rights movement is because it is contrary to his religious beliefs. This is made clear when he writes that "Christians... must oppose homosexual legal activism because it is directly contrary to Christian teaching (my emphasis)."

One could have a field day with this; it is so fallacious. First of all, I haven't stated this myself. You have concluded it because (seemingly) it is the conclusion that you were looking to find.

Secondly, it all depends on what one means by "primary." There is "primary" and there is "non-negotiable." These are two different things. For most Christians who take the Bible seriously and accept traditional Christian orthodoxy (as reflected in historical beliefs passed down for now 2000 years) seriously, the prohibition against homosexuality is indeed non-negotiable. It still doesn't follow, however, that one's religious commitments must necessarily be the primary reasons for opposing homosexuality.

As an analogy, say I weighed three hundred pounds and was a member of a religion which regarded all 300-pound persons as gluttons, and urged its members to weigh 180 pounds or less. Would you argue that the "primary" reason I wanted to lose weight was because of my religious affiliation? That seems to me clearly false. The primary reason would be to feel better, look better, to be better received in some circles which might frown upon overweight people, to avoid the callous, unthinking judgment of many folks that I eat too much, etc. Those are all the true primary reasons. And they are true regardless of what my religious belief is. They are instinctive and natural and have very little to do with religion at all.

Likewise, with homosexuality. The most compelling arguments against it (the ones I have provided for you and my readers) are all non-religious, and indeed they have to be, in order to be based on reason, because the biblical prohibitions (revelation) do not particularly delve into the reasons for why it is wrong (just as the Bible is also not a scientific textbook, nor meant to be construed as such; not that the Bible never uses reason; it does do that, too, particularly in St. Paul's letters).

God left that for men to discover by use of their own reason, and with the benefit and hindsight of personal and cultural experience. I thought it was just as wrong when I was a practical atheist for ten years of my life, and when I was rather politically liberal (in favor of abortion, feminism, sexual liberalism, etc.). And the reason I did goes back to the natural / unnatural distinction, and an instinctive understanding that an unnatural thing is also unhealthy and therefore undesirable. This is epistemically far, FAR prior to any religious considerations (both logically, and in my case, chronologically and experientially).

This goes back to when I noted that C.S. Lewis taught that Christian morality merely reflects what people already know on other grounds. It didn't cause it; it was already there. Christian or other religious belief may verify it and coincide with what we feel and believe ourselves, through use of our senses, reason, and experience, but then again, that is not a primary cause, is it? Belief in God works the same way. It is generally present before folks get particularly "religious" or construct epistemological justifications for theistic belief (even you yourself do not rule it out or think it is absurd nonsense with no possibility). If it is already there (like morality in general and the instinctive aversion to homosexuality in particular) it can hardly have been caused at all by a religious belief-system, let alone that system being supposedly the "primary" cause.

So this may be a convenient "club" for you to dismiss my entire set of secular / medical arguments since you simply have to claim that it's all allegedly based on supposedly irrational religion from the Bible, which can't be argued with, etc. It's not nearly that simple. I'm here to tell you that my opposition is not based at bottom simply on revelation, but rather, on various factors which are consistent with that revelation, but not necessarily based on it.

To step back a moment and do a little religious philosophy: one can approach Christianity in at least two different ways:

1) One can accept a certain interpretation of revelation and Christian teaching and force-fit all the rest of reality into it, even if this involves absurdity and irrationality. For example, one could (falsely) claim that the Bible denies the sphericity of the earth or heliocentrism, and so reject those scientific findings that strongly suggest otherwise.

2) Or one can realize that biblical interpretation itself is subject and dependent upon many other things, including linguistic, cultural, and scientific considerations. This approach recognizes that all truth is God's truth, and that reason and revelation are fundamentally compatible. Reason can be brought to bear on all subject matter, including religious. Religion is reasonable; it ultimately transcends reason, but it is not contrary to it. Therefore, one has nothing to fear from reasoned inquiry. It will always support Christian claims, because they are reasonable (so it turns out after repeated testing of the claims).

This is obviously the approach I take, and it is that of the Catholic Church and most of the more learned Protestant apologists, whereas the first option is anti-intellectual and a type of "fortress mentality." It's the stereotype of religion, based on how its detractors want to portray it, for their own personal and political ends.

And so it turns out in this present debate. The findings of medicine, sociology, physiology, anthropology, and so forth, back up the Christian claims which date back more than 4000 years, just as, e.g., the Big Bang cosmology confirms what Christians believed all along about the universe having a point of origin, and not being eternal.

My apologetics is entirely reason- and facts-based. That's why I don't have to appeal to the Bible at all. Instead, all I have to do is appeal to man's own systems of knowledge which are more than able by themselves to prove the folly of various behaviors and points of view. You can keep bringing this back to religion and the Bible if you wish, simply because I am a Christian, but I will keep using secular knowledge and information against you. Readers can see what is happening here: who is actually arguing using reason on grounds that both parties basically accept (science and observation), while the other keeps trying to create straw men so as to dismiss the other without dealing with rational arguments.

. . . the presence of such corruption of morality during the course of history does not prove that homosexuality was either usually normative nor that it was or is morally defensible.

It doesn't prove as much, no, but it does prove that discriminatory behavior against certain segments of the population was not based on any real evidence, but rather, based on religious and/or racial bigotry; on the misguided belief that one's religious worldview is inherently superior to that of others, and hence, that all views/lifestyles not in conformity with such religious beliefs must be outlawed.

Here we go again; you continue to do exactly what I just described . . . if you keep that up, one will be forced to conclude that you wish to engage in sophistry and propagandizing, not constructive rational argument. I must say that I expected (or at least hoped) much more from you. I hope you will give us some actual argument in favor of your position before we are done.

This smacks of religious persecution against the minority and as far as I am aware our constitution does not allow for that to take place within our legal institutions. You admitted, as I previously noted, that Christians must oppose gay activism because it is directly opposed to Christian teaching. That's fine -- I just don't know how well such an argument would hold up in court, especially in light of what our constitution says.

Which is precisely why I didn't make such an argument .. . . I made a host of others, which you acknowledge as "very valid," but have not yet dealt with. In fact, my understanding of this very point was proven by how I argued when I myself was in a courtroom and faced with a jail sentence for my participation in Operation Rescue (blocking of abortion clinic doors, to save lives) back way in 1989. When I got to have my say before sentencing (which turned out to be one night in jail!), I made an appeal to ancient, pre-Christian Greece and the accepted beginning of modern medicine, because the Hippocratic Oath outlawed abortion. My specific argument was that opposition to abortion goes far beyond Christianity, even to ancient pagan Greece. This is an argument from reason, not religion, and it is absolutely relevant in a legal environment. You oppose it yourself on non-religious grounds. So why is it that you can't seem to comprehend that I could oppose homosexuality primarily on non-religious grounds, while I also oppose it on Christian, biblical grounds?

I'm sure many christian right lawyers will cite this and that scientific study, arguing that, unless we outlaw all forms of homosexual behavior, our nation will suffer dire consequences (presumably at the hands of their god).

Of what use is this continuing silly caricature? Do you actually think a Christian lawyer is stupid and dense enough to stand there in court and make an argument from science and then appeal to divine judgment? If you think this happens, why don't you produce for us a court transcript of someone actually doing it? When the Supreme Court outlawed sodomy as recently as the 80s, do you think it relied on the Bible for its legal judgments?

Homosexual behavior may or may not be harmful to those who engage in it -- that is not the point; it has never been the point.

Obviously it isn't for you, since you refuse to interact with the alarming statistics, and insist on endangering your own health and in effect, that of many others, by your espousal of the lifestyle as just as healthy and natural as heterosexuality. You, too, are free to act in stupid and irrational ways with regard to your own physical and mental / emotional health. But you will pay a price. I have warned you and others reading this, what the price will quite possibly be (disease, an early death, etc.). But you are free to ignore reason and fact and do as you please. Millions do. They smoke; they act in immoral sexual ways (promiscuity, abortion, divorce, etc.) and will continue to do so, because this is the human condition.

And yes, I believe that if one continues to deliberately engage in mortal sin, with full consent of the will (knowing full well that it is grave sin), that they could quite possibly end up in hell. I don't know for sure who will go there; only God knows that, but I can warn people that they are on the wrong path, out of love for them and concern for their eternal happiness. If you think that is "hateful," so be it. It won't stop me from expressing love and concern for you as a person. I have to stand before God one day and give account for my teaching and "preaching" as a Christian apologist and evangelist. And I will not stand there and say that I was too scared to proclaim God's truth in certain areas because it was unfashionable or unpopular, or because I would be slandered by many for so dong. No; truth is truth. If I am wrong in the end, at least my motives were pure, and I was trying to prevent the misery of others, and not trying to harm or hurt them.

If it were, and if such a view (especially if con) were valid, we'd also have to outlaw sex between an HIV-positive/AIDS-infected person and a HIV-free/AIDS-free person.

Why must everything be reduced to the legal issue with you? Why can't you simply see (using reason as your guide) that the behavior is unhealthy, as I proved, and either accept that or make some argument against it?

But we don't, because our nation's belief in individual liberty allows for people to engage in self-destructive behavior.

To some extent, yes. But we have laws against cigarette and alcohol advertising for this reason (and drunk driving). Are you conceding that homosexuality is self-destructive, and you simply don't care; you will do it anyway, damn the consequences and how much others suffer? If you die young as a result, don't you think that will affect the people who love you? So much for radical individualism. If you become very sick or die, that affects many people. They suffer. I know; my brother died of leukemia at 49. My dad has lung cancer now. He is a smoker. Statistics show that if he hadn't smoked all those years, that he would likely not have developed lung cancer. But again, that is trying to reason with people who are dead-set against reason and don't care, if it involves something that they desire or are addicted to.

Granted, our legislative branch of government is not always consistent in upholding this cherished belief as is evidenced by its fatuously drafted legislation against certain drugs, but just because bad legislation is written into the books doesn't make it right.

I couldn't agree more; hence my disagreement with the so-called "gay marriage" laws.

Later in your response, you provide a considerable amount of medical/scientific evidence "against" homosexuality. The medical/scientific points may or may not be valid in the debate to secure equal rights (not "special" rights, as conservatives contend) for homosexuals/bisexuals/transgendered people but this has nothing to do with its moral component and, more imporantly, its legal component.

It has quite a bit to do with the morality, because immoral things are invariably unhealthy and destructive. This is obvious. If you smoke, you die younger than you would otherwise. Those who do drugs have overdoses (Jimi Hendrix, Keith Moon of the Who, etc.). If you live a life of sexual promiscuity (either heterosexual or homosexual) you will end up miserable (are Hollywood stars known for ther incredible happiness and stable relationships?). A life of crime causes one to end up in jail or die young. It also has relevance to the legal arguments, because law and legislation have an interest in protecting the larger society from harmful tendencies and trends.

I brought up all the medical facts because you wanted to state rather ridiculous falsehoods: that there was no difference at all in homosexual sex. Here is what you wrote:

In secular thought, two consenting adults of the same-sex are not harming anybody. The only argument against homosexuality is that it's immoral in the eyes of the judeo-christian god, whom you must remember is not everybody's object of worship. But former nation-states that outlawed homosexuality did so based on religious reasons not scientific evidence.

After that silliness, I hit you with a ton of medical-scientific evidence, which you cannot possibly refute (and so you haven't made the slightest effort to even try). If you don't make foolish, demonstrably false statements, then you won't be faced with a mountain of medical fact to have to rationalize away as you continue to engage in self-destructive (and immoral) behavior. I don't mean to be harsh, but I have a hard time with people who so brazenly disregard facts and reason. I can understand opposition to religion, because it is usually based on misunderstandings, but this sort of ignoring of the science is inexplicable, since you claim to be standing on secular, scientific ground, over against us "gullible" Christians who "follow ancient myths," etc ad nauseum.

We know that doctors inadverdently kill 195,000 people every year, but that doesn't warrant the outlawing of the medical profession, nor does it render it immoral.

If they killed themselves (on purpose) at a clip of 195,000 a year, would you favor outlawing suicide?

And now more comments from my opponent in my comments boxes:

Two consenting male or female adults engaging in sex doesn't harm anybody except themselves (assuming homosexual sex is absolutely detrimental to your health, no matter how cautiously you may engage in it, and how frequently, for that matter).

This is sheer nonsense! I've already dealt with some of the consequences above:

1) If you die young, folks who love you will grieve; they will have the loss of you not being there anymore. You're part of their life, too.

2) If you get real sick, this affects your job, and others around you. Now their life or situation is affected. It costs someone money to pay for your treatment. You take up hospital beds. You use up resources which could better provide for the poor or the sick people who didn't cause their own co dition by irrational and immoral behavior.

3) There are also psychological factors, which were outlined in the article I cited at length from.

4) IF Christianity is true, you place your eternal soul in peril.

5) Even if Christianity isn't true, based on the medical facts, insofar as you may lead others down the same path through promiscuity (which is quite common), you play a part in their own probable later health problems, and (if Christianity is true) their spiritual life becoming impoverished and their soul possibly endangered.

The government has no business outlawing such behavior amongst adults, and it has no right to deny such adults the right to legally establish their union in a court of law . . .

Since this is based on the bankrupt theory of legal positivism and the absurd, self-defeating notions of libertarianism, it is based on hardly any cogent reasoning at all.

especially in light of the fact that Mr. Armstrong has conceded that Christians oppose/should oppose homosexual legal activism because it is directly opposed to Christianity's teachings.

I have "conceded" nothing. I dealt with this strain of "argument" above at length. The legal argument can be made without reference to Christianity at all, if needs be.

The Congress doesn't/shouldn't draft legislation based on the teachings of Christianity, but rather based on what is permissible under the Constitution. One thing that certainly isn't permissible under the Constitution is the meddling of religion and state.

More boilerplate rhetoric. If this doesn't cease, and there is no sensible, confident interaction with my various non-religious arguments, than this dialogue will be over (at least my participation in it). As usual, I have replied to virtually everything you have argued, while you have ignored a great deal of my argumentation. That gets old real quick. As a veteran of now 350 dialogues, I can attest to that fact.

BTW, I run a far greater risk of killing myself by going rock/mountain climbing than by engaging in homosexual sex. This risk is even greater for habitual rock/mountain climbers. Maybe we should outlaw that, too? Oh, and why not outlaw driving as well? We DON'T HAVE to do drive... it's NOT an absolute necessity, generally speaking. It's a **convinience** at the **expense** of 50,000 innocent lives every year.

That's all well and good, and none of it proves that homosexual sex is healthy and no different health-wise from heterosexual sex, nor that it is "natural" according to human physiology, nor that it doesn't harm others at all. If you wish to concede that it is both unnatural and unhealthy, then I would consider this argument basically a triumph for the position I have taken. You started out saying there was no difference. Now, all you can do is point out that other activities are potentially harmful, as if that justifies homosexual sex?

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