Dispatches from the Creation Wars

Anti-Gay Lies

Alain’s Newsletter is, much like the Worldnutdaily, home to a variety of religious right loonies. But this essay by someone named Jean Valjean Vandruff may take the cake. It’s a virtual cesspool of ignorance capped off by one giant whopper of a lie:

Is homosexuality an inborn behavior? A few years ago, Dr. Simon LeVay, a homosexual, made a discovery – that a brain cell cluster (neuron group INAH3) is smaller in homosexuals than in heterosexuals. He stated, “This small brain cluster ’causes’ homosexuality; therefore, it is natural.”

This is made up out of thin air, a blatant lie. Not only did LeVay not say what is attributed to him, he went well out of his way to say that his study could not confirm such a conclusion. Here is his study, and this is what he says about it:

The discovery that the nucleus differs in size between heterosexual and homosexual men illustrates that sexual orientation in humans is amenable to study at the biological level, and this discovery opens the door to studies of neurotransmitters or receptors that might be involved in regulating this aspect of personality. Further interpretation of the results of this study must be considered speculative. In particular, the results do not allow one to decide if the size of INAH 3 in an individual is the cause or consequence of that individual’s sexual orientation, or if the size of INAH 3 and sexual orientation covary under the influence of some third, unidentified variable. In rats, however, that sexual dimorphism of the apparently comparable hypothalmic nucleus, the sexually dimorphic nucleus of the preoptic area, (SDN-POA) (16), arises as a consequence of the dependence of its constituent neurons on circulating androgen during a perinatal sensitive period (17). After this period, even extreme interventions, such as castration, have little effect on the size of the nucleus. Furthermore, even among normal male rats there is a variablity in the size of SDN-POA that is strongly correlated with the amount of male-typical sexual behavior shown by the animals (18). Although the validity of the comparison between species is uncertain, it seems more likely that in humans, too, the size of INAH 3 is established early in life and later influences sexual behavior than that the reverse is true. In this connection it would be of interest to establish when the neurons composing INAH 3 are generated and when they differentiate into a dimorphic nucleus.

Compare what he actually said to what Vandruff falsely claims he said. LeVay was a careful scientist and he did not engage in overdue speculation. He gave reasons why one conclusion seemed more likely and suggested how further research might confirm or disconfirm that conclusion. Mr. Vandruff is simply pulling false statements out of his posterior region and distorting the truth in order to make his case.

He goes on to quote Paul Cameron’s thoroughly discredited “statistics” about gay men living 30 years less than straight men and to actually claim that the INAH 3 size differential is caused by homosexuality because the Bible says that God “gave them over to a reprobate mind”, and “reprobate mind” apparently means “brain with enlarged hypothalamus region”. You can’t make up arguments that stupid if you tried. Just more fevered idiocy from ignorant bigots.

Update: Wow, if you thought the author was an idiot, check out the forums and see what some of the readers are like. We’re talking epic stupidity.

Comments

  1. #1 Ben
    March 20, 2006

    Jean Valjean Vandruff

    And people laugh at me when I sign my essays Lord Adelaide von Sillypants.

  2. #2 John Cercone
    March 20, 2006

    Pardon my ignorance, but biblical interpretaition is not my strong suit.

    If this passage from Romans 1 means what I think it does, is it not saying that God causes homosexuality?

    Hence it is god given?

  3. #3 Bill Ware
    March 20, 2006

    Wow, that piece was so hilariously asinine that I signed up the the newsletter. I figure I could use a good laugh a few times a week.

    Dr. Levey is too good a scientist to engage in rank speculation, but that doesn’t stop me as this post on the Genetic Basis for Sexual Orientation clearly shows.

  4. #4 Bill Ware
    March 20, 2006

    John Cercone,

    What I’ve wondered myself is that if God didn’t love homosexuals, then why does He keep making so many?

  5. #5 Kapitano
    March 20, 2006

    John Cercone. I think you’re thinking of reasoning like this: “God deliberately causes homosexuality, so he would be a hypocrite to condemn it. God, being good, can’t be a hypocrite, so christians are incorrect when they say God hates homosexuals.”

    The thing is, that kind of hypocritical belief is not difficult to hold. Like the judge who tells the defendant “Ignorance of the law does not excuse breaking it”, a believer can say “Being predestined to offend God does not lessen the offence.”

    In a lot of ancient myths, like that Oedipus, the gods preordain people’s crimes but still exact punishment. Oedipus was “preprogrammed” to kill his father and marry his mother by the gods, and there was no hint in the myth that the gods were wrong to make him suffer for it.

    In short, people can stretch to any hypocrisy, and religion gives them an easy way to do it.

  6. #6 Jim Lippard
    March 20, 2006

    Kapitano:

    Not to mention that the book of Exodus repeatedly says that Pharaoh was going to release the Hebrews, but God kept hardening his heart so that he wouldn’t. Apparently God had put so much work into designing the spectacular series of plagues that he didn’t want them to go to waste.

  7. #7 VisualFX
    March 20, 2006

    People like that simply make me sick. You are right, some of those posters are unbelievably stupid and ignorant, especially that one spewing of scripture by “Pastor Martin.” [easy stomach].

    –JK–

  8. #8 Skemono
    March 20, 2006

    Sounds like pretty standard fare for them.

  9. #9 tacitus
    March 20, 2006

    60 Minutes recently had a very interesting story on research into the causes of homosexuality. Statistically, for every older brother a man has, they are 33% more likely to be gay. Scientists are speculating that each male pregnancy causes a stronger hormonal reaction in the mother (kind of like the body producing antibodies against an invasive infection) which, in some way, attempts to feminize the foetus.

    Very interesting stuff.

  10. #10 Ed Brayton
    March 20, 2006

    Well, most people who dispute that there is a genetic component to homosexuality simply don’t know anything about genetics. They think that there has to be a gene that controls it, so that if someone has that particular gene then they’re gay and if they don’t, they’re not. That’s a ridiculously simplistic caricature of how genetics works. No one thinks that it’s that simple. There are any number of ways that homosexuality could be largely determined biologically without such a scenario. As mentioned above, there may well be hormonal elements to it, events that happen during development in utero, and dozens of other possibilites that provide a general predisposition toward homosexuality. That doesn’t mean anyone who has them is going to be gay. If there’s one thing we’ve learned from decades of study on genetics, it’s that how genes express themselves is highly dependant on very complex interactions with environment, both in utero and after we’re born.

    Taking it further, I would argue that it simply doesn’t matter whether it’s innately biological or not. Even if it is 100% a choice people make, they have the same right to make it.

  11. #11 Grumpy
    March 20, 2006

    Statistically, for every older brother a man has, they are 33% more likely to be gay.

    But not if the man is left-handed. Which is just baffling.

    Regardless, it’s still a no-win scenario for gays. Whether it’s nature, nurture, or moral choice, we’ll never see the end of folks who insist that gayness must be cured.

    The scary thing about the 60 Minutes piece was the (unstated) possibility that homosexuality could be prevented by adjusting the environment in utero (except in the cases of the gay & straight twins shown). Scary, because we’d then have to face a choice: if homosexuality is preventable, should we prevent it? We face the same choice about deafness & blindness. Or, if we eradicate schizophrenia and alcoholism, do we risk stifling sources of human genius?

  12. #12 Treban
    March 20, 2006

    Statistically, for every older brother a man has, they are 33% more likely to be gay.

    Shit, I have five older brothers and two cousins that might as well be. . .I’m pretty sure I’m not gay but I may have to look into it now.

    I have come to conclude that genetics plays a large role in personal developement. I was adopted by my dad when he married my mom – I didn’t meet my bological father until I was 18. When I did I was amazed to discover that we shared a lot of personality traits that I know didn’t come from my parents or my many sibs.

  13. #13 tacitus
    March 20, 2006

    Shit, I have five older brothers and two cousins that might as well be. . .I’m pretty sure I’m not gay but I may have to look into it now

    LOL, Last week Stephen Colbert on Comedy Central scoffed (in his mock right-wing pundit manner) that since he had five older brothers (he really does) that should make him 233% gay.

  14. #14 Treban
    March 21, 2006

    I have got to remember to set the DVR to record him. . .It’s great fun to flip between him and Oh,Riley.

  15. #15 raj
    March 21, 2006

    Alain’s Newsletter has been discussed over at Ex-Gay Watch. Some of the people there at XGW–most of whom are against the religious-based “ex-gay” movement–have noted that comments that they tried to post there are either deleted or not posted.

    It’s fairly clear that Alain’s Newsletter is nothing more than another advertising exercise for the ex-gay and anti-gay movements.

  16. #16 Pushpak
    March 21, 2006

    Gosh, replace homosexual with jew and you’ve got text lifted from Nazi propaganda.

    The word is out about these nutters and props to Google for slapping them down.

  17. #17 David Heddle
    March 21, 2006

    Romans 1 does not indicate that God caused homosexuality (it is silent about the cause) but rather that God, in human terms, eventually “gave up” on those who are unrepentant in their immorality. (And therefore Romans 1 is not silent in its condemnation.)

    Whenever I give talks about science and Christianity, I point out three areas in which Christians have disagreed or continue to disagree with science, and in each case I believe science was/is correct: 1) the obvious example of Galileo 2) the age of the earth and 3) whether homosexuals are born that way.

    For number three, I point out that research indicating that (at least) some people are born gay is on fairly solid ground.

    The debate between conservative Christians and opponents on this question is very interesting. Generally Christians argue that gays were not born that way because God will punish such behavior, and God being a good God would not punish people for how they were born. The opponents turn it around and say: God, being a good God would not punish people for how they are born, therefore homosexuality, at least in the form of monogamous, committed relationships, is acceptable.

    So both sides start from the same premise: A good God would not punish people for the way they were born.

    I’m amazed that many Christians will take that point of view, for it has been declared heresy (a form of Pelagianism) time and time again. Orthodox Christianity actually teaches this: God will punish each and everyone of us precisely for how we are born (original sin) which is why we need a savior. Not because we will become sinners, but because we are born sinners.

    So, ironically, the correct Christian perspective on the nature/nurture debate is: yes I believe you probably were born gay–but it doesn’t serve as an excuse anymore than the fact that I was born a sinner serves as an excuse.

  18. #18 Chance
    March 21, 2006

    A good God would not punish people for the way they were born.

    I’d go further, a good God wouldn’t punish anyone but rather forgive them. I am never ceased to be amazed at people who provide a greater standard for their own children than what they expect from a God they worship.

    I’m amazed that many Christians will take that point of view, for it has been declared heresy (a form of Pelagianism) time and time again.

    Virtually anything and everything has been declared heresy. Big deal. It’s all just opinion about unprovable things. Your heretical to someone elses religion. Jesus was seen a heretic in his.

    Orthodox Christianity actually teaches this: God will punish each and everyone of us precisely for how we are born (original sin) which is why we need a savior. Not because we will become sinners, but because we are born sinners.

    So essentially create the disease, provide the cure, but make sure everyone has the disease from birth even though they really haven’t done anything but breathe air.

    Oh and if they refuse your ‘cure’ torture them.

  19. #19 Raging Bee
    March 21, 2006

    So. Mr. Heddle, once again an “orthodox Christian” tries to excuse anti-gay bigotry by trotting out the line that “we are born sinners,” and silently, implicitly, with no actual logic or evidence, treating homosexuality as the equal of all other — far more harmful — forms of “sin.”

    Tell us, Mr. Heddle, if homosxuality is really that bad in the eyes of God, why is it not even mentioned by the Ten Commandments or Jesus himself?

  20. #20 tacitus
    March 21, 2006

    …the correct Christian perspective on the nature/nurture debate…

    While I believe you are right about gays being “born that way” I always find it amusing when a Christian says this sort of thing. You interpret your religion in this way, but millions of “orthodox” Christians believe otherwise and will point to Biblical evidence to back up their stance on this issue. The Bible is such a slippery beast for something which is supposedly inerrant :)

    The most galling thing about all this fuss over the gay issue is that it’s become little more than a useful tool in the neo-con’s grab for power. Do you think that Karl Rove really cares deeply about banning gay marriage? Of course not, but that hasn’t prevented him from pushing the issue for all its worth in order the energize the religious right into voting for Bush.

    And so the term “morality” has been hijacked by the right-wing for religious and political purpose to mean “pro-life”, “anti-gay marriage” and very little else. So preachers rail against gay marriage in the pulpit on Sunday, then go home and download pornography, fiddle their taxes, and cheat on their wives the rest of the week (yes, I know, not all religious people are like this, but their “Sunday morality” doesn’t make them any more moral than us non-believers the rest of the time – survey after survey has proved this).

    One of the other interesting bits of info from the above-mentioned 60 Minutes piece on homosexuality is that gay man, despite all the religious propoganda saying otherwise, are no more inherently promiscuous than straight men. The difference? Women! It’s women who don’t like men to be promiscuous and so rein in the natural urges of straight men to sleep around.

  21. #21 David Heddle
    March 21, 2006

    I knew some of you would miss the boat. You would see my previous comment as a “homosexuality is sin” rant, though it isn’t. My comment, in a nutshell, was this:

    IF you think homosexuality is a sin, THEN you (as a Christian) should not be arguing that people cannot be born that way.

    The question of whether it actually is or is not sinful is a separate matter.

    Also, I noted the sneer quotes around orthodox, but it has a reasonably well-defined meaning–which is: accepting the teachings of the early church up to the time of the major schisms. Not everything I believe is “orthodox” ? yet the sneer quotes are meant to imply “orthodox” is a synonym for “what I believe.” The debate between Augustine and Pelagius was over original sin–Pelagius argued that man is not born sinful–and so would agree with the modern Christians who believe (a) homosexuality is sinful and (b) people are not born gay. Yet Pelagius and Pelagianism was/is considered heresy by Catholics and Protestants–hence Augustine’s view (Original Sin) is orthodox whether you agree with it or not.

    Chance’s comments of the irrelevant “I don’t like your God” variety. That’s fine, but hardly germane.

    Raging Bee wrote,

    “Tell us, Mr. Heddle, if homosxuality is really that bad in the eyes of God, why is it not even mentioned by the Ten Commandments or Jesus himself?”

    I don’t know?neither the Ten Commandments nor Jesus address having sex with children. Do you think we can reach a conclusion about that?

    Once again, the point is not whether homosexuality is a sin, but rather what is the self-consistent viewpoint on the nature/nurture debate if you do think it is a sin.

    Tacitus wrote, in the midst of black-helicopter-like neo-con paranoia:

    “but millions of “orthodox” Christians believe otherwise and will point to Biblical evidence to back up their stance [that gays are not born gay] on this issue.”

    That would be impossible. They may provide scripture that teaches that homosexuality is sinful, but they cannot provide scripture that indicates that people are not born gay, because no such scripture exists.

  22. #22 Chance
    March 21, 2006

    Chance’s comments of the irrelevant “I don’t like your God” variety. That’s fine, but hardly germane.

    Actually you missread me. I have no problem with God per se, just your version of him. So more correctly ‘I don’t like your version of God’. You don’t speak for other versions or for that matter even the Christian version which has many definitions.

    Also, I noted the sneer quotes around orthodox, but it has a reasonably well-defined meaning–which is: accepting the teachings of the early church up to the time of the major schisms.

    This is silly, Christianity was always a large mix of sects and groups. One cannot define orthodox teaching using the history of the church. Even once Catholism brought the religion under one roof it’s doctrines have changed quite abit through the centuries.

  23. #23 raj
    March 21, 2006

    For those of us who have no interest in Mr. Heddle’s religion, we frankly don’t give a tinker’s damn whether his god is good or bad. If and when Mr. Heddle produces any evidence that his god exists or ever existed, I might sit up and listen. Until then, no. And it is telling that none of Mr. Heddle’s co-religionists have ever produced any such evidence.

    I’ll leave Mr. Heddle with the following column: Kissing Hank’s Ass

  24. #24 David Heddle
    March 21, 2006

    Raj,

    I don’t understand your comment–isn’t the purpose of this blog to engage in intelligent and semi-polite discussion of different viewpoints? Do you agree or disagree? In a post that is, at least in a substantive part, related to how conservative Christians view homosexuality, would you really prefer no discussion from a self-acknowledged conservative Christian? If so, I find that curious, to say the least.

    Ed’s post, in part, was related to the foolishness of some Christians (see the forum he linked to) who argue that gays are not born gay–and then run with that premise to reach bizarre conclusions.

    My point is essentially in agreement–and argued that their premise is incorrect even according to their own beliefs.

    Do you see? I disagree with the same people Ed disagrees with–although of course we are presumably not aligned in our respective viewpoints.

  25. #25 Raging Bee
    March 21, 2006

    …neither the Ten Commandments nor Jesus address having sex with children. Do you think we can reach a conclusion about that?

    Couldn’t mention homosexuality without throwing pedophilia into the mix, could you? In answer to your diversionary question, the conclusion, based on plain dumbass common sense, is that God would be offended by doing things that are known to be harmful to innocent children, including having sex with them.

  26. #26 tacitus
    March 21, 2006

    Come on, David. You can find all kinds of articles published by all sorts of Christians that quote chapter and verse in an attempt to rebut the “born that way” argument. One of the most common points made is that the Bible calls homosexuality “unnatural” which they argue means that God would never allow someone to be born with that innate natural quality.

    Maybe you disagree, but on the face of it, it’s not an unreasonable extrapolation. At least, it’s no less reasonable than your argument that the Bible implies that Noah’s flood was only a regional flood or that a “day” means an age. (I don’t want to go off down that rat hole — just using it to illustrate my point).

    Maybe there isn’t much evidence that Karl Rove personally “masterminded” the whole religious morality thing for Bush’s elections, but there is little doubt that Republicans everywhere saw the anti-gay marriage vote as an electoral winner and rode the bandwagon for all it was worth. There is also no doubt that for the past few years, public morality == pro-life/anti-gay marriage.

    I agologise if you think I was sneering by adding quotes to “orthodox”. That was not my intent.

  27. #27 Ed Brayton
    March 21, 2006

    I have to agree with Mr. Heddle here. His comments were reasonable and actually signified an independent and interesting point of view within his Christian tradition, one not represented often by the folks I generally am critical of. I don’t know why that contribution has to be greeted with such vitriol. At worst, it should be treated as an opportunity to discuss the implications of it.

    I actually agree with him that the Bible teaches that God does punish people for things they cannot control, things they were born with, and so forth. That’s one of the primary reasons why I ultimately rejected the Biblical conception of God; I simply cannot conceive of a God worth worshipping that would do such a thing. Heddle is taking some of his fellow Christians to task for an inconsistent position, and that’s a perfectly reasonable thing to do. There are, of course, other positions to take. I think it’s a good reminder that not all Christians, even theologically conservative ones, think alike; hence, not all are open to the same criticisms. That’s a valuable thing to be reminded of now and then.

  28. #28 Chance
    March 21, 2006

    it’s no less reasonable than your argument that the Bible implies that Noah’s flood was only a regional flood or that a “day” means an age

    Not to go down that rathole either as it is a dead end BUT I don’t think there is anyway to pretend Noahs flood wasn’t global in the bible myth. Of course in reality it was local. But the mythological story is one about redemption so the point matters more than the water.

    And I used to be a day=age guy until I realized I was simply trying to rescue a belief by pretending the bible said somethign else. Oh how I argued and argued, but now I just say, ‘yep. it says day. I doubt the guy in the cave meant age and I shouldn’t demean him to make an ancient book fit modern knowledge just to rescue an untenable belief that the bible is perfect.’ I simply admit to myself that the fellow was relaying information that 6000-7000 years ago was the mythology of what he thought. I find that honorable if incorrect.

    I was demeaning both the bible and science by insisting day meant age. As if the guy writing it couldn’t tell the difference.

  29. #29 DougT
    March 21, 2006

    David H. said

    So, ironically, the correct Christian perspective on the nature/nurture debate is: yes I believe you probably were born gay–but it doesn’t serve as an excuse anymore than the fact that I was born a sinner serves as an excuse.

    Yes, but serves (or not) as an excuse in what sense? If you are speaking strictly from a theological perspective- as in that this argument will not suffice as an excuse in the eyes of God at a final judgement- that’s one thing. It’s been my experience that a lot of conservative Christians have used such language to actually mean something about how people treat one another in this life. Generally, it involves justifying some pretty unpleasant behavior. Christians tend to be very quick to point out that homosexuality is a sin and leave hanging the question about how as sinful individuals themselve they should treat other sinners. I guess I’ve run across attitudes of smug self-righteousness often enough in these situations to be unsurprised when that is the outcome. Please don’t take that as an accusation of that sort of behavior on your part.

    Ed observed

    His [David's] comments were reasonable and actually signified an independent and interesting point of view within his Christian tradition, one not represented often by the folks I generally am critical of.

    For a more extended analysis of a very similar viewpoint taken from a position of genuine compassion for gay folks, you might want to check out the Musings On website (http://www.musingson.com/index.html). The author uses some of the same arguments as David (even citing Pelagius) and supports same-sex civil marriage.

  30. #30 David Heddle
    March 21, 2006

    DougT,

    “Yes, but serves (or not) as an excuse in what sense? If you are speaking strictly from a theological perspective- as in that this argument will not suffice as an excuse in the eyes of God at a final judgement- that’s one thing. It’s been my experience that a lot of conservative Christians have used such language to actually mean something about how people treat one another in this life. Generally, it involves justifying some pretty unpleasant behavior.”

    I think I was clear that it (being born that way) is not an excuse –and yet you are contrasting two cases, one in which it is not an excuse and another in which it is.

    To reiterate, I meant that being born to sin, whatever the sin may be, is not an excuse in God’s eyes. I’m not sure how I even could have been interpreted as suggesting that it is an excuse to treat homosexuals in a non-loving, non-compassionate way.

    Have you actually encountered conservative Christians who agree with me (that people are born gay) and use that as an excuse to mistreat them? Every Christian that I have encountered whom I felt mistreated gays had the opposite viewpoint–that they were not born that way.

    Or did I misunderstand you?

  31. #31 JY
    March 21, 2006

    David Heddle,

    One reason your observations, reasonable as they may be, might have provoked some snarky responses were, in my mind, because of the “Orthodox Christians” passage, which you explain with:

    Also, I noted the sneer quotes around orthodox, but it has a reasonably well-defined meaning–which is: accepting the teachings of the early church up to the time of the major schisms. Not everything I believe is “orthodox” ? yet the sneer quotes are meant to imply “orthodox” is a synonym for “what I believe.”

    Although I don’t question that you intended the term in this way, I’m surprised that you are unaware that the term ‘orthodox’, even used in conjunction with ‘Christian’ does not have a single, well-defined meaning. For example, were you to look up ‘Othodox Christian’ in Wikipedia, you’d find yourself on a page discussing the Eastern Orthodox Church — and most readers would probably assume that’s not what you were referring to by the phrase. Taking the words separately, you could have simply been talking about some particular version of the Christian creed, the one you consider to be authoritative. In this sense, you appear to be saying ‘right-thinking Christians all believe …’, which, if interpreted that way, is bound to generate some snarky responses on a forum like this (deservedly so if so intended). So even if the phrase ‘orthodox christian’ has a well-defined meaning, it isn’t so well-defined as to be unambiguous in a discussion on the Internet.

    Also, you tend to reinforce the (mis?)interpretation of your remarks with the phrase “So, ironically, the correct Christian perspective…”. It’s more difficult to argue that you are using an indicative label when you go on to substitute a much more contentious term in its place: “correct Christian”.

  32. #32 David Heddle
    March 21, 2006

    JY,

    I appreciate you comments.

    The term Orthodox Church refers to the Eastern Orthodox Church. The term orthodox Christianity, I would argue, is understood by most to mean the basics of early Christianity, prior to the east-west schism, as enumerated by the early ecumenical creeds and councils. So orthodox roughly means “traditional.” Thus the Trinity is an orthodox doctrine, while the rather different LDS view of the relationship between the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit is not. This is independent of which view is correct. So I disagree: orthodox Christianity is a term that is not ambiguous, and is not at risk of being confused with the Orthodox Church.

    As for the term “correct Christian”, I agree that “orthodox Christian” would have been better.

  33. #33 Bill Ware
    March 21, 2006

    Saying we have all sinned and that might well include being gay gets us nowhere. Redemption required that we repent of our sin and change our behavior. One can stop being a thief or adulterer, but one cannot stop being gay.

  34. #34 Irrational Entity
    March 21, 2006

    While one may not stop being gay regarding attraction, the response would be that homosexuals should be celibate. Popular comparisons are usually alcoholism and a violent temperment, which almost certainly have genetic components. These are problematic in that the later cause harm while homosexual romance can be beneficial, but the traditional perspective can rely on divine command or natural law arguements of various kinds.

    I think a better approach might be to question the traditional understanding of original sin in coordination with arguements of biological causation. Humanity does not seem to have ever been in a perfect state to have fallen from, especially if you accept the arguements and evidence for religious belief systems well before humanity reached its current form. Then the arguement that homosexuality is acceptable to God would be on stronger ground within Christianity.

    Of course, this change requires a very different theology regarding Jesus, sin, and various other important positions. I think that might be why old-earth creationism holds ground against theistic evolution. Holding that humans are a special creation, they can retain a more traditional understanding of original sin.

  35. #35 Bill Ware
    March 21, 2006

    I don’t need to rely on a story to tell me that nobodies perfect. A brief look around is all that is required. In fact I just washed my hands and saw myself in the mirror. Proves my point in a jiffy.

  36. #36 Kapitano
    March 22, 2006

    tacitus wrote:

    Statistically, for every older brother a man has, they are 33% more likely to be gay

    One third exactly? Sounds like an indication of small sample size, or incompetent statistical manipulation.
    —–
    Ed Brayton:

    There are any number of ways that homosexuality could be largely determined biologically without such a scenario.

    There is a very large number of hypothetical ways to biologically explain any human behavior.

    Unless you can show either there’s no plausible way for environment to produce the effect on it’s own, or actually find the codons in question, it’s pure speculation.
    —–
    Treban wrote:

    I didn’t meet my bological father until I was 18. When I did I was amazed to discover that we shared a lot of personality traits that I know didn’t come from my parents or my many sibs.

    Did you try counting the traits you didn’t share?
    —–
    On the red herring debate about left and right wing christians, you can use scriptural interpretation to support or attack any position you chose. That’s the point of religion.

    That some christians use the bible to irrationally justify views we happen to agree with doesn’t mean we should softpedal on the irrationality of faith.

  37. #37 Chance
    March 22, 2006

    Redemption required that we repent of our sin and change our behavior

    To be redeemed one needs to have faith in Jesus, it’s something that is being done to you.

    At least thats the party line:-)

  38. #38 raj
    March 22, 2006

    Saying we have all sinned and that might well include being gay gets us nowhere. Redemption required that we repent of our sin and change our behavior. One can stop being a thief or adulterer, but one cannot stop being gay.

    Irrespective of whether one can stop being gay, the fact is that being a thief, and adulterer, a practicing alcoholic, a murderer, or whatever, has different consequences, both for the individual and for society than if someone is gay and a practicing homosexual. That is the difference that conservative christians apparently wish to ignore.

  39. #39 Dagonz
    March 22, 2006

    Ah, but the anti-gay crowd will claim that homosexual activity is deleterious to the individual (through some form of self-loathing and “a life expectancy reduced by 30 years”) and to society (because it undermines masculinity and traditional roles).

    In fact, it’s this undermining of masculinity that threatens them, just as it has threatened Western societies for more than a few centuries, because those societies were based on male authority figures (warrior-class nobility, replaced by politicians).

  40. #40 Treban
    March 22, 2006

    Kapitano wrote;
    Did you try counting the traits you didn’t share?

    Yes I did – I was only with him for a week and haven’t repeated the expeirience because he is an odious man and he is not my dad. But I also noticed that a lot of the traits we didn’t share were, for the most part, traits that I learned from my dad. I also would not claim that all of them came from the genetics he gave me but I believe that a lot of them did. My understanding of genetics (limited to be sure) lends to my belief. Behaviour in many ways can be influenced by the genes we are given, many mental “illnesses” are genetic in nature – we are provided, at least in part, with brain chemistry from our parents. It is not much of a stretch to suggest that specific personality traits can be passed on through the genes.

  41. #41 raj
    March 22, 2006

    It is not much of a stretch to suggest that specific personality traits can be passed on through the genes.

    It isn’t a stretch at all. Dog breeders should know–the myriad breeds of dogs have been bred from wolves to exhibit particular personality traits.

  42. #42 Bill Ware
    March 22, 2006

    Kapitano wrote: “Unless you can show either there’s no plausible way for environment to produce the effect on it’s own, or actually find the codons in question, it’s pure speculation.”

    Researchers in the 1950’s and 1960’s set out to prove Freud’s idea that being gay was do to some factors in upbringing. Imagine their surprise when they found that none exist. There is no relation between upbringing and adult sexual orientation. Studies since then only confirm this result.

    Finding condons is not necessary to show a genetic relation. The genes for eye color, for example, have yet to be found. Genetic effects do follow certain patterns, however. See this paper which relates how sexual orientation and handedness are genetically manifest in a similar way.

  43. #43 David Heddle
    March 22, 2006

    Raj and Dagonz,

    Raj wrote:

    “the fact is that being a thief, and adulterer, a practicing alcoholic, a murderer, or whatever, has different consequences, both for the individual and for society than if someone is gay and a practicing homosexual. That is the difference that conservative christians apparently wish to ignore.”

    Dagonz wrote:

    “Ah, but the anti-gay crowd will claim that homosexual activity is deleterious to the individual (through some form of self-loathing and “a life expectancy reduced by 30 years”) and to society (because it undermines masculinity and traditional roles).”

    People might make these claims, but they have nothing to do with Christianity. The bible does not teach: “things that are harmful to your body or society are sins.” For example, smoking is not a sin. Therefore, the question of whether or not homosexual activity is harmful (or even beneficial) to an individual or society is irrelevant in terms of whether it is treated by conservative Christians as a sin. Similarly, whether or not they are anti, pro, or ambivalent with regards to homosexuality is irrelevant. The only relevant issue for conservative Christians is whether or not the bible calls homosexual activity a sin. The answer to that question is the determining factor, regardless of one’s personal view (as a conservative Christian) on the matter.

    So, Raj, it’s not that conservative Christians wish to ignore that certain sins are more harmful to society at large, it’s that they are not liberty to set the criteria for what is a sin.

  44. #44 Bill Ware
    March 22, 2006

    Chance said, “To be redeemed one needs to have faith in Jesus, it’s something that is being done to you.”

    Ah, sorry, I meant to note necessary, not sufficient conditions.

    Hmm… Do we need to have “faith in Jesus” or do we need to “believe in His teachings”? Is there a difference? Does it matter?

  45. #45 Bill Ware
    March 22, 2006

    Dagonz wrote: “In fact, it’s this undermining of masculinity that threatens them, just as it has threatened Western societies for more than a few centuries, because those societies were based on male authority figures (warrior-class nobility, replaced by politicians).”

    Let’s not forget patriarchal religions. The idea that marriage can be between two equals as a gay or lesbian marriage implies, rather than consisting of a dominant male, submissive female as they require, really drives them bananas as I mention in this post.

  46. #46 Kapitano
    March 22, 2006

    David Heddle wrote:

    conservative Christians are not at liberty to set the criteria for what is a sin.

    Sort of. They can’t rewrite the bible, but they can reinterpret the unclear bits and quietly ignore the clear but inconvenient bits. And don’t tell me genuine christians don’t do this – I trained for the catholic priesthood and saw it every day in believers who were not wingnuts.

    The bible forbids you to eat seafood, pork, fresh figs or dog, wear mixed fibre shirts, practice rotation farming, insult your parents or have defective eyesight while in church.

    None of these prohibitions have been enforced in living memory, but the one on (male) homosexuality has been obsessively enforced. The reasons for this are economic and political, not theological or ethical.

    In other words, a christian’s attitudes toward homosexuality have nothing to do the the words in the bible, for the same reason their attitude towards eating prawn sandwiches has nothing to do with the bible.

  47. #47 Chance
    March 22, 2006

    Do we need to have “faith in Jesus” or do we need to “believe in His teachings”?

    I vote the former and you should try to do the latter. But in theory we all fall short and can count on the character of the man and his promises of forgiveness. In theory.:-)

    For example, smoking is not a sin.

    In your view, but not all. The body is a temple, one should not dishonor it.

    Therefore, the question of whether or not homosexual activity is harmful (or even beneficial) to an individual or society is irrelevant in terms of whether it is treated by conservative Christians as a sin.

    This is exactly why so many people toss much of the bible aside. If something is beneficial to all involved but doesn’t agree with a certain take on a certain passage it’s a sin. And conservative Christians is a very broad term, so much so as to be virtually meaningless.

    The answer to that question is the determining factor, regardless of one’s personal view (as a conservative Christian) on the matter.

    Thats all any of it is at it’s core. Opinion about wha something means. It’s not the last word on right or wrong. It’s an opinion on a few sentences in an ancient book. Thats it. Nothing more. One’s personal view is EXACTLY what it is. Your opinions about your faith and what your opinions tell you is what the bible or anything else is saying.

  48. #48 David Heddle
    March 22, 2006

    I think you miss my point. I am not arguing that all who call themselves conservative Christians (common working definition for Mr. Chance: those Christians who claim the bible is inerrant and inspired and authoritative–so I dispute that it is a virtually meaningless term) will uniformly reach the same conclusions–they won’t. What I am saying is they will (or at least should) view as sin those practices which in good faith they believe the bible teaches as sin, and they should do so regardless of their personal views.

    As for inconvenient demands of the ceremonial law, there are solid theological reasons for discarding them, not the least of which are the teachings of Jesus (who, for example, worked on the Sabbath) and Paul. (There is at least one teaching in the New Testament, from Paul, that may indeed be described as routinely discarded for its inconvenience, and that is an instruction for women to wear head-coverings during worship–so there is some merit to your point, but not in the examples you (Kapitano) gave.

  49. #49 SharonB
    March 22, 2006

    Sorry, Dr. Heddle, but deal with this one:

    “Slaves, obey your masters.”

    …the essence of which is repeated not once, but numerous times…IN THE NEW TESTAMENT! (Titus 2:9-10; I Timothy 6:1; Ephesians 6:5; Colossians 3:22, 1 Peter 2:18) In not one case will you find the institution condemned as being immoral.

    Yet today, it would be unthinkable for an orthodox Christian to own another human being as property. I dare say it would be universally condemned as S-I-N.

    Don’t pretend to us that their can be no rational, progressive, cultural understanding of what sin is. We must not “check our brains at the narthex.”

  50. #50 Chance
    March 22, 2006

    those Christians who claim the bible is inerrant and inspired and authoritative

    Well that may include everybody or nobody for a whole host of reasons.

    What I am saying is they will (or at least should) view as sin those practices which in good faith they believe the bible teaches as sin, and they should do so regardless of their personal views.

    Exactly, what they think the bible teaches as sin. Opinion, simply opnion and nothing more. There is nothing authoritative in that view. It’s just one persons opinion about what something says versus anothers. And it’s all about what their personal views are.

    that may indeed be described as routinely discarded for its inconvenience, and that is an instruction for women to wear head-coverings during worship

    So, because it’s inconvienient you can discard a portion of the bible. Never mind that this inconvience only extends to someone messing up their hair, people just can’t be bothered. And it’s not like this was just a suggestion it says women without proper head covering are abominations. But I’m sure that was just put in there to show how man can’t ever measure up to the law.

    And Jesus didn’t condemn ceremonial law, he simply didn’t think it should be enforced over the needs of people. He put people above the law. That made him revolutionary. But thats another rathole.

    My father told me never to argue religion or politics and one day I’m going to head his advice.

  51. #51 Kapitano
    March 22, 2006

    David Heddle wrote:

    As for inconvenient demands of the ceremonial law, there are solid theological reasons for discarding them [...] so there is some merit to your point, but not in the examples you (Kapitano) gave.

    You’re going to have to explain that one. Cutting your hair above the ears (Lev 21:5) or seeing your parents naked (Lev 18:17) are explicitly forbidden in the bible, yet the law is discarded in practice. why are these and my first examples not good ones?

    What are the “solid theological reasons” for ignoring the prohibition on eating snails (Lev 11:30), or rabbit (Lev 11:15), or food which contains blood (Lev 19:26)? I don’t recall Jesus or Paul revising any of these.

  52. #52 raj
    March 23, 2006

    My father told me never to argue religion or politics and one day I’m going to head his advice.

    Good advice particularly regarding religion, particularly with people who truly believe that their myths and fairy tales have anything to do with reality.

  53. #53 David Heddle
    March 23, 2006

    SharonB,

    What Paul is teaching is quite clear. Slavery existed and was legal at that time. Paul told slaves to obey the law which meant to obey their masters. End of story. There is no debate or controversy.

    We can guess that neither Jesus nor Paul endorsed the Roman government, yet they both taught that Roman law was to be obeyed. So “slaves obey your master” is not teaching that slavery is morally acceptable any more than “pay your taxes to Rome” implies that the Roman government was moral. I think Paul was clearly against the institution of slavery, since when he sent Onesimus back to Philemon he asked that Philemon accept the runaway slave (who had also stolen) as a brother in Christ.

    Kapitano,

    There is a ton of information on this question. Most Christian thologians agree that the ceremonial law was set aside. For example, read of the first church council in Jerusalem, which is described in Acts 15, which in some sense dealt with the ultimate ceremonial law, circumcision, and declared it unnecessary for Gentiles. At that council, the law is described as an unnecessary yoke on the disciples, one that nobody has been able to fulfill. The continued restriction on food sacrificed to idols and from what is strangled and from blood that was written in the letter the council produced was of the “but don’t make your brother stumble variety” because the gentiles to whom it was sent were surrounded by Jews as the verse that follows (Acts 15:21) makes clear. This type of restriction is still valid: A Christian missionary in a Muslim country should avoid eating pork and drinking alcohol so as not to be an affront to those he is trying to reach. Consistent with this is that even after the requirement for circumcision was lifted, Timothy was circumcised to be more acceptable to the Jews (Acts 16:3).

    And Jesus, regarding the Sabbath, famously stated that the Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. This (to some) is additional evidence that the ceremonial laws were created to serve man (in large part by pointing out the futility in placing one’s salvation at the mercy of our ability to obey them)rather than man being created to serve the laws.

    This is the briefest glimpse of the flavor of these arguments.

    Of course, you can claim, without the inconvenience of investigating, that those are just excuses to avoid the burdens of the ceremonial law.

    The question with regard to homosexual behavior is whether its explicit condemnation in Leviticus is part of the ceremonial law, or whether it was part of the moral law, which is said to persist. That’s an interesting debate in its own right it must include in its consideration, from the New Testament, Romans 1.

    You wrote:

    “What are the “solid theological reasons” for ignoring the prohibition on eating snails (Lev 11:30), or rabbit (Lev 11:15), or food which contains blood (Lev 19:26)? I don’t recall Jesus or Paul revising any of these.”

    Maybe this will refresh your memory, first from Jesus:

    After he had left the crowd and entered the house, his disciples asked him about this parable. “Are you so dull?” he asked. “Don’t you see that nothing that enters a man from the outside can make him ‘unclean’? For it doesn’t go into his heart but into his stomach, and then out of his body.” (In saying this, Jesus declared all foods “clean.”) (Mark 7:18-23, NIV)

    Note, in the passage above, the parenthetical statement is in the text. As for Paul, he wrote:

    Eat anything sold in the meat market without raising questions of conscience, for, “The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it.” If some unbeliever invites you to a meal and you want to go, eat whatever is put before you without raising questions of conscience. (1 Cor. 10:25-27)

    and

    They [hypocrites] forbid people to marry and order them to abstain from certain foods, which God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and who know the truth. For everything God created is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, because it is consecrated by the word of God and prayer. (1 Tim 4:3-5, NIV)

    Of course, if you mean that while Jesus and Paul claimed that all food is good they didn’t explicitly say “and that means snails, too” then you are correct.

  54. #54 windy
    March 23, 2006

    What Paul is teaching is quite clear. Slavery existed and was legal at that time. Paul told slaves to obey the law which meant to obey their masters. End of story. There is no debate or controversy.

    And slavery was legal in the American South, what is the difference?

    I think Paul was clearly against the institution of slavery, since when he sent Onesimus back to Philemon he asked that Philemon accept the runaway slave (who had also stolen) as a brother in Christ.

    Wow, what a courageous stand against the institution of slavery: asking someone to be nice to a single escaped slave.

  55. #55 Chance
    March 23, 2006

    Most Christian thologians agree that the ceremonial law was set aside.

    This is most certainly not true and in any event truth is not determined by vote. Jesus put people first, on this we agree but he was a jew and kept his regard for the jewish law.

    Jesus nor Paul endorsed the Roman government, yet they both taught that Roman law was to be obeyed. So “slaves obey your master” is not teaching that slavery is morally acceptable any more than “pay your taxes to Rome

    This is simply absurd. On one hand you have the son of God proclaiming a moral code BUT you argue he had nothing but acquiescense to an immoral Roman and worldwide practice.

    That is simply an apologetic two step. And yes ‘slaves obey your master’ is a moral teaching. And pay your taxes is also that, a moral teaching to obey the laws that govern the land.

    This topic is so done.

  56. #56 David Heddle
    March 23, 2006

    Windy,

    “And slavery was legal in the American South, what is the difference?”

    I would say there is no difference. It is quite possible that Paul, in 19th century America, would have returned a runaway slave, especially a Christian. The reasons would have been both to avoid breaking the law and to provide a witness for Christ both among fellow slaves and among their masters.

    Some speculate that the American version of the institution was so much more heinous than the Roman version that it would have crossed a threshold whereby Paul would not have sent Onesimus back to a plantation. Perhaps, but I couldn’t say.

    “Wow, what a courageous stand against the institution of slavery: asking someone to be nice to a single escaped slave.”

    That is valid sarcasm if Paul’s mission was to promote social justice. It was not. Again, for example, he did not advocate a Jewish rebellion or even civil disobedience against Roman occupation. His mission (whether you agree with it or not) was furtherance of the kingdom of God. In that he clearly viewed living as a Christian and professing the gospel more important than personal liberty and property–and if you know his story it is clear that he practiced what he preached. Indeed, there is every indication that he would have viewed the harsher a Christian’s circumstances, the more powerful would be his witness.

    Chance,

    To my statement “Most Christian theologians agree that the ceremonial law was set aside” you answered.

    “This is most certainly not true and in any event truth is not determined by vote. Jesus put people first, on this we agree but he was a jew and kept his regard for the jewish law.”

    On the contrary, your first phrase “This is most certainly not true” is demonstrably incorrect, in fact trivially so. What major Christian theologians argue that the ceremonial law should be observed? Not Agustine, Aquinas, Calvin, Luther, Edwards, etc. The only group that I know who advocate at least a partial return (mostly in terms of punishments) are the “theonomists” who seek to establish a Christian thocracy.

    As for not being subject to a vote, you are correct. All these famous theologians, even when they all agree as they do in this case, are not singularly or collectively infallible.

    I don’t know what you mean by “Jesus put people first”, but I suspect I disagree with you. He put the gospel first. If putting people first in the naive sense was what he had in mind, why not (as God) proclaim universal salvation? That would really put people first. Why the talk of Hell? Even in more every-day terms, he did not heal everyone who sought to be healed, and did not feed all who sought to be fed. He came to show the way to eternal life, not to provide equality and liberty and justice for all in this life.

    Yes he was a Jew, but he not keep the ceremonial law (which in somes ways is the gospel.) Again, he worked on the Sabbath and taught that all food is good. And he mercilessly harangued the Pharisees, the most accomplished ceremonial law abiders of the day.

    “On one hand you have the son of God proclaiming a moral code BUT you argue he had nothing but acquiescense to an immoral Roman and worldwide practice.”

    Absolutely not. Acquiescence means “passive assent or agreement without protest.” Jesus and Paul can be characterized as “violent moral objection without protest.” Their advocating obeying the law does not free the Roman government nor slave owners from being judged and possibly damned for their sins. What Jesus did not advocate was violent overthrow of Rome or the institution of slavery. That doesn’t mean he approved of either, in fact we can be sure he did not.

    Paul didn’t say, “return and obey your master because slavery is a noble and acceptable institution.” He said, in effect, “obey the law and return, preach the gospel, and leave your personal comfort and necessities, as well as the judgment of your tormenters, to God.”

    In modern terms we are pay taxes even though some of those taxes are used to commit murder. (That our taxes pay for murder would receive nearly universal agreement. Almost everyone agrees that at least one of the following: abortion, capital punishment, or dead Iraqi civilians constitutes murder). I’m to obey the law and pay my taxes. Those committing murder, though they may be sanctioned and/or protected by the government I help fund, will be judged at the appropriate time.

  57. #57 windy
    March 23, 2006

    “And slavery was legal in the American South, what is the difference?”
    I would say there is no difference. It is quite possible that Paul, in 19th century America, would have returned a runaway slave, especially a Christian. The reasons would have been both to avoid breaking the law and to provide a witness for Christ both among fellow slaves and among their masters.

    A slave lecturing his masters about Christianity in the American south? Hmm…

    I guess it is completely irrelevant what the Bible says about homosexuality, then, if the morality it preaches is completely culture-dependent.

    In that he clearly viewed living as a Christian and professing the gospel more important than personal liberty and property

    Christians should have had no problems giving up their property (slaves) as well, then, if Paul had suggested it.

  58. #58 David Heddle
    March 23, 2006

    Windy

    “A slave lecturing his masters about Christianity in the American south? Hmm…”

    I said “witness” not lecture. As St. Francis said (paraphrasing) “I witness all the time. Occasionally I even use words.”

    “Christians should have had no problems giving up their property (slaves) as well, then, if Paul had suggested it.”

    No argument there.

  59. #59 Chance
    March 23, 2006

    David,

    What major Christian theologians argue that the ceremonial law should be observed? Not Agustine, Aquinas, Calvin, Luther, Edwards, etc. The only group that I know who advocate at least a partial return (mostly in terms of punishments) are the “theonomists” who seek to establish a Christian thocracy.

    Are they not also Christian ‘thinkers’? You seem to accept those who agre with your opinion and disregard the others. Not person who addresses the bible or any other theological idea has any more leg to stand on than another so Aquinas and Pat Robertson have equal value from a faith standpoint.

    I don’t know what you mean by “Jesus put people first”, but I suspect I disagree with you. He put the gospel first. If putting people first in the naive sense was what he had in mind, why not (as God) proclaim universal salvation?

    Well if thinking Jesus putting people first is a naive, then count me as naive. And many think he did proclaim a universal salvation. What I think you do to Jesus is make him what he despised a pharisee. You make him less concerned about people and more concerned about rules and regulations the very thing he was most vocal in his opposition. You reduce humanities saviour to rules you try to figure out without seeming to grasp the underlying meaning of it all. It seems to me it leaves you somewhat vacant.

    That would really put people first. Why the talk of Hell?

    Who knows, illustration, product of his times. To show what he had done out of love for humanity, Lots of reasons that frankly aren’t worth exploring. Unless one also wants to explore why Thor controls thunder. Why pretend to know what was in the head of a fellow who lived 2000yrs ago. I think a few things may be told about the general character of the man but I don’t know what the guy next to me is thinking now let alone a historical figure from 2000 years ago.

    Even in more every-day terms, he did not heal everyone who sought to be healed, and did not feed all who sought to be fed. He came to show the way to eternal life, not to provide equality and liberty and justice for all in this life.

    thats your opinion, there are many more. I think Jesus wanted his followers loving and forgiving. Period. I think that is what he seemed to want from his followers. Your free to disagree.

    Yes he was a Jew, but he not keep the ceremonial law (which in somes ways is the gospel.) Again, he worked on the Sabbath and taught that all food is good. And he mercilessly harangued the Pharisees, the most accomplished ceremonial law abiders of the day.

    And now in your theology he is exactly the same as the pharisees that he ‘mercilessly haranged’ a keeper of a set of rules that a human must abide by. Congratulations you made a beautiful individual into the very thing he despised.

    Jesus and Paul can be characterized as “violent moral objection without protest.” Their advocating obeying the law does not free the Roman government nor slave owners from being judged and possibly damned for their sins.

    What utter and complete BS. Total in it’s form. It’s not a violent moral objection to tell slaves to obey their masters. If the same level of ‘violent moral objection’ had been carried through we would still have it. What was needed was a removal of an immoral thought and practice.

    And slavery wasn’t thought of as a sin apparently by Jesus or Paul. The problem apologists such as yourself always face is trying to put your modern moral view crafted from centuries of secular thought onto the thought and morality of a society 2000 years ago and then pretend they thought like you do now. It’s baloney.

    In modern terms we are pay taxes even though some of those taxes are used to commit murder.

    Thats doesn’t mean your taxes are also not used for good. Your building a strawman. If you don’t pay your taxes you are in essense stealing. You are recieving the benefit of government action in infrastructure, defense, research without picking up your rightful tab. That is immoral.

    Both are moral commands and their simply is no two ways around it. Apologetics 2 step aside.

    BTW the only reason you feel the need to defend something so obvious is that you cling to a belief that the bible is innerant/always good and totally the word of God. A belief which is itself irrational and makes you make such obviously wrongheaded arguments.

    I’ll let you have the last word. It’s simply pointless to continue this further.

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