Saturday, August 29, 2009

On Perverse Thinking

Well, if it isn't another delirious Curmudegeon post about homosexuality. The latest entry in the the Curmudegon's hall of shame is Tony Jones on Perverse Unions, the topic being--you guessed it--same-sex unions. It is a notable for the Grootmudgeon's perverse thinking. I will not judge Jones's reasoning here, because I don't think it is as important as judging and countering the fallacies that Groothuis and Christocrat fanatics spew on a regular basis about same-sex marriages, and that is what reasonable people need to get accustomed to doing in defense of an entire (and rather small) class of people that is marginalized and assaulted on a pretty regular basis.

In the beginning, Groothuis accuses this Tony Jones of "opining idiocy." I am sure that he does not consider this an ad-hominem attack, both because he is not calling Jones an idiot, but his opinions, and because he provides "rational" explanations of why Jones's thinking is idiotic. Well, I don't remember ever calling Groothuis an idiot (I will accept corrections on this matter) but I certainly might have called some of his ideas idiotic misleading, and/or dishonest (and other qualifiers), which was sufficient to get me banned from his blog. Tony Jones's idiotic opinion is, it turns out, that he disagrees with the notion of "slippery slopes," and that he "defends blessing and legalizing homosexual and lesbian 'monogamous' relationships. He stares into the camera and opines idiocy with great smugness, packing fallacies and absurdities tighter than sardines in a can run over by a steam roller."

Groothuis's arguments against homosexuality? First, "God said so": "These unions themselves are unnatural, wrong, and ungodly in themselves--whatever they lead to. The biblical norm is heterosexual monogamy [...] [Homosexuality is] sinful autonomy writ large and ugly. We should love, not hate, people in this situation."

There you have it, a philosopher's thinking at its lowest. "We should love, not hate, people in this situation" is a convenient "out" after accusing same-sex couples of engaging in "unnatural, wrong, and ungodly" behavior. The best way to love the GBLT community? To remind them that, though they are sinning against god, people are praying for them to stop being the way they are, while consistently and actively refusing to extend to them rights we all have. My thought on this is: Who cares if homosexuality is ungodly? Only "godly" people, of whom the Grootmudgeon and Ted Haggard are shining examples, I guess. What about those who don't believe in a different god or in no god at all? Too bad for them, because in Groothuis's theocratic, Christocratic plans, homosexuals would be deprived of simple human rights, like being who they are (and we are not talking about pedophiles or mass murderers) and not being discriminated against on the basis of sexual orientation.

The next argument goes: "Monogamy refers to 'one spouse.' Spouses are of the opposite sex of their spouse. Using 'monogamous,' as Jones does, for same sex unions is a semantic absurdity." Let's break it down.

First of all, the dictionary definition (for people who live in the 21st century and not those stuck in the Old Testament), is as follows, courtesy of the Merriam-Webster online dictionary:
2 : the state or custom of being married to one person at a time
3 : the condition or practice of having a single mate during a period of time

See? One person at a time, a single mate. As for spouse: ": married person : HUSBAND, WIFE", husband and wife being defined, respectively, as "a male partner in a marriage" or "a female partner in a marriage." Nowhere does it say that a male partner in a marriage must be married to a female partner, and not to another male partner. You can look up the definition of marriage yourselves, will you? Only in Groothuis's world of fervent beliefs are spouses "the opposite sex of their spouse." There is no semantic absurdity, only a straw man, which Groothuis is adept at setting up and destroying for his own enjoyment and the miseducation of his readers/followers.

But that is not all. Let's take the reasoning one step further. I guess there would be no point in reminding Groothuis that until the XV amendment was ratified in 1870, "black man" and "right to vote" in the same sentence would also have qualified as an absurdity, and that for women and the right to vote to exist in a semantically non-absurd sentence we had to wait another 50 years after that. The history of the United States is pervasively spotted with such absurdities and injustices, thanks to a large extent to Groothuis's predecessors in thinking. Luckily, as Victor Hugo eloquently stated, "you can resist an invading army; you cannot resist an idea whose time has come."

The final argument is about the existence of slippery slopes. "Legalizing abortion on demand led to an overall cheapening of unborn life in America [...] Legal scholars are already arguing for the legal legitimation of polygamy, since same sex unions are considered marriages in some (debauched) states."

Again, it would be useless to remind the Grootmudgeon that not all slippery slopes are created equal. For example, I can imagine the slippery slope argument being used by racists who wanted to keep black men from voting: "If you give a negro the right to vote, his horse will be next!" Or, all kidding aside, how about a realistic argument: "If you give a negro the right to vote, women will be next!" Yes, and? Did extending the right to vote to blacks and women end the United States, or civilization as we know it?

Or what about the fact that the same slippery slope arguments used now against same-sex marriages were used before anti-miscegenation laws (preventing interracial marriages) were struck down in the Supreme Court's Loving v. Virginia--in 1967?!? Read, for example, what a Tennessee court said in 1872 (PDF) when it refused to recognize an interracial marriage solemnized in another state:
Extend[ ] the rule to the width asked for by the defendant, and we might have in Tennessee the father living with his daughter, the son with the mother, the brother with the sister, in lawful wedlock, because they had formed such relations in a state or country where they were not prohibited. The Turk or Mohammedan, with his numerous wives, may establish his harem at the doors of the capitol, and we are without remedy. Yet none of these are more revolting, more to be avoided, or more unnatural than the case before us.

Almost 140 years on, and still no trace of "the father living with his daughter, the son with the mother, the brother with the sister, in lawful wedlock", not even in Tennessee, Mississippi, Oklahoma, or Arkansas, the very places where you would have expected the slippery slope argument to become reality (wink wink). So much for that slippery slope.

But let's assume for a moment that the right to same-sex marriage were granted by federal amendment or by a Supreme Court ruling. Does it necessarily follow that polygamy would follow? I suspect not. Aside from the moral reasons that would lead one to want to deny polygamy as a right (I am not saying there are or aren't any), there are practical reasons to do so. If you think that marriage law are complicated now, wait until courts are called to rule on separations, divorces, attribution of property, in a polygamous marriage. Also, one can foresee tax complications of a scale unknown to current society. And again, there would be plenty of parental issues in play in a marriage that involved multiple spouses. The list, of course, goes on.

As Jones correctly says, our society makes pragmatic decisions about these supposedly slippery slopes. So to imply that a different type of 1 to 1 union than the one we currently accept would lead society down the slippery slope of polygamy or interspecies marriage (an argument that the impossibly stupid and odious Sen. Santorum was fond of making--and he was voted out of office) is, itself, on a slippery slope: if we allow it to stand, that will lead us down the slippery slope of granting the status of "logic" to all illogical arguments.

Let's make a deal: I will stop calling "logic-incapable, ghost-believing, sanctimonious individuals" those who believe that the Bible should determine how we all live when Groothuis and his allies stop calling states where "same-sex unions are considered marriages" debauched.

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