Monday, July 29, 2013

Keepin' It Secular (A Debate On Gay Marriage)

The other week I had a debate with a Christian over that onerous issue of gay marriage. He's a guy I've come to know through several philosophy and debate group meetups. Although he's a pretty conservative Christian of the Calvinist strip, he's actually a decent guy and I enjoy conversing and debating with him. We are always able to set aside our differences and engage each other with mutual respect even after long heated discussions. That's the way it's supposed to be.

Last month he had challenged me on gay marriage at a debate meetup. He's against it, I'm for it. Then last week, at a philosophy discussion meetup I challenged him again on it. I wanted to get to the root at what his justifications are for beings against it are. Here's what argument ultimately boils down to:

  1. Gay sex doesn't lead to the procreation of the species, therefore
  2. it is unnatural.
  3. Because gay sex is unnatural, gay marriage should not be recognized by law.

This is a common argument that many opponents are giving against gay marriage because they can try to appeal here to nature and not to their Bible. So let's break down this argument as I did during our debate on it. 

First, I made an objection to his definition of unnatural as relating to procreation with the fact that oral sex and anal sex doesn't lead to procreation, and yet it is recognized by law. He supports the right for sinful sex acts to be performed among consenting adults, but says that gay marriage is different because marriage by definition is between a man and a woman. He get's this definition from somewhere in the Bible.

So I objected with the fact that the Bible allows incest, polygamy and child brides. He said, as pretty much all Christians do, that god tolerated those things but didn't approve of them. But after debating him on the fact that the Bible does endorse those things, not just tolerate them, I said to him that we live in a secular democracy, and that there is no reason why in a secular country, we should use a Biblical definition of marriage (even though it is disputed that the Bible only endorses a one man + one woman combination). He insisted that it's part of nature that homosexuality is a mutation and is therefore unnatural. So I probed this further.

I argued that if homosexuality is a mutation, a deviation from the natural order, it is still natural. Natural means "of nature" and since gay people are born the way they are, homosexuality is natural and even found in animal species. He said this was controversial, but even if true, still wouldn't warrant the rights of gay people to marry. He also has concocted this theory that as gay people gain more power, they will teach people to be homosexual in the hopes of one day turning everyone gay. Now this absurd theory - if we can even call it a theory - diminishes his credibility enormously on his stance against gay marriage because it exposes what may be behind his real motivations.

I could not get him to admit that homosexuality was natural because he refused to even take a stance on whether or not gay people were even born gay. He basically said the jury's out on the science behind that, and that he's an agnostic about it. Leaving that aside, I asked him whether down syndrome babies were natural, considering they are born with a mutation that causes a Chromosome deficiency. He said people with down syndrome are natural. So I asked should a person with down syndrome have the right to marry someone else, regardless of whether the other person has down syndrome or not? He said yes. Then I asked, why such an exception for gay people? And again, he retorted back to the fact that gay sex doesn't procreate. This seems to be his picking point.

So I asked about two senior citizens marrying, or if two infertile people marry, they cannot ever procreate either. He then said what I've heard many gay marriage opponents say in this position, which is that gay sex by its very nature cannot lead to procreation, whilst heterosexual sex can by definition, even if there's a problem that prevents procreation, like age, or infertility. So I asked in response why marriage has to be based on whether those involved can procreate "by definition." And he basically reiterated what he said before about marriage being defined as between a man and a woman. This back and forth went on for over an hour, and eventually I had to go home. We ultimately ended up getting nowhere, making no progress at all, just as we weren't able to last month. 

This is the heart of the problem - the definition of marriage. Out of curiosity, I looked up the definition of marriage on, and it gives several versions:

  1. a legally, religiously, or socially sanctioned union of persons who commit to one another, forming a familial and economic bond
  2. a. the social institution under which a man and woman establish their decision to live as husband and wife by legal commitments, religious ceremonies, etc 
b. a similar institution involving partners of the same gender, as in gay marriage; same-sex marriage.

Definition 1 is gender neutral. Definition 2 has the heterosexual and homosexual counterparts. But a conservative theist will never agree with definition 2b. To them, definition 2a is the definition of marriage, handed down to us by god for all eternity. And as usual, debating with theists usually comes down to an argument over semantics. That's why it is so important to keep it secular. By disallowing religiously based definitions into the discussion, we will better foster a more fair, secular republic because secularism means being able to justify laws without reference to god or religion. Without a biblical definition of marriage to argue under, the gay marriage opponent has little meat to his argument as is evident from my debate above.


  1. It's interesting to see how he tries to respond to common counter-arguments to his positions. Like for example if two infertile people should be allowed to get married. He clearly doesn't have a good answer, but it's interesting to see what he came up with.

    1. This guy is so hard to pin down. I want to corner him on his faulty logic but he tries very hard to weasel his way out.

    2. yeah, those types of people do seem to be very slippery. That's one thing that I have found very interesting listening to the atheist experience. They seem to do as good of a job as anyone I've seen keeping people from jumping around to different topics.

  2. This guy is mistaken - all the evidence indicates that homosexuality is not a choice, any more than heterosexuality is a choice.
    I've asked a few Christians who take the "choice" position when they decided to be heterosexual, and whether they could choose to be homosexual. None of them seemed particularly interested in offering a response :-)

    1. Some people are born stupid however. That we know is not always a choice.



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