Posts Tagged ‘religion’

The following are thoughts from the outside.  I apologize for the length.

Voters in the state of California recently passed Proposition 8, a ballot initiative amending their state constitution and legally defining “marriage” as a union between a man and a woman.  This bill was, obviously, the center of much controversy, as California was previously one of the few states in which homosexual couples could be married under the law.

While the purpose of this post is not to comment on Prop 8 or to share my thoughts on homosexual marriage, I will say that I think the passage of this measure (and the ideology reflected therein) will go down in history as one of the great fuck-ups of our generation.

With all the attention that was paid to Prop 8 in the weeks leading up to and following its passage, I began to ruminate on the subject of homosexuality.  I will begin with a few comments about sexuality in general.

Sexual activity serves a number of purposes in the animal kingdom.  Among these are relational bonding, play, and, obviously, reproduction.  It will surely come as a surprise to some that “homosexual behavior has been observed in 1,500 animal species,” and that, “no species has been found in which homosexual behavior has not been shown to exist, with the exception of species that never have sex at all, such as sea urchins and aphis.” (1)  (The Wikipedia page on this subject is interesting and informative as well.)

With that said it is hardly surprising that homosexual behavior is found in humans.  (So much for the absurd idea that homosexuality is a choice.)  What is surprising, however, is the rather odd stance humanity has taken with regards to homosexuality.

Or is it?  A quick Google search for “percentage of people that are homosexual” and a skimming of a few of the results turned up estimates identifying between five and ten percent of humans as homosexual.  (I’m going to assume that these estimates are accurate.)  Have non-normative minorities not been pushed to the outskirts of society throughout history?  The Jews, African-Americans and other ethnic minorities, a number of religious groups, and women (specifically with regards to occupational opportunities) immediately come to mind, though there are undoubtedly other examples.

In America homosexuality is a taboo subject.  However, In recent years, as post-modernism has started to sink in and the first generation of children born in the “information age” has matured, the topic has become more accessible in public discourse, though it is not yet safe to say that homosexuality is “out of the closet.”  One reason for the hesitance with which the subject is approached is the overbearing influence of Christianity in the United States.

One unfortunate consequence of Christianity’s stranglehold on the American consciousness is the introduction of political action against homosexuals.  In 1996, Bob Barr (R-GA), introduced the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) to Congress.  It was made into law on September 21st of that year.  When President George W. Bush ran for re-election in 2004, he secured the support of a large percentage of religious voters by promising to push a constitutional amendment through Congress that would have been very similar to Proposition 8, if it had passed.  Currently only four states allow same-sex couples to marry or participate in civil unions (though several others will recognize same-sex marriages or civil unions established in other states). (2)  With the odds heavily stacked against homosexual individuals, is it any wonder that a number of them have responded as they have?

This last statement requires explanation.  In situations involving the persecution of one people group by another, one generally finds that members of the groups under attack will respond in one of two ways.  First, they will quietly absorb the persecution and try their best to live a happy life under the circumstances.  Or, second, they will adopt a kind of “fuck the establishment” mindset and begin to accentuate the differences for which they are being marginalized in their behavior patterns.  When it comes to the public perception of the group at the receiving end of the blows, the stereotype is often defined by those individuals who have chosen to “fuck the establishment.”  Such is the case, or so it seems, with homosexuals.

As a result, in some ways, homosexuals may be responsible for the position they find themselves in.  (Not that homosexual people are responsible for instigating their ostrazation, but that they don’t do much to help the case against their aggressors.)  Sexuality, contrary to popular opinion, is only one aspect of being human, but many members of the homosexual community wear their sexuality on their sleeves instead of incorporating it into the rest of their personality (this is, of course, assuming that sexuality does not define personality).  Like I said when I began, these are thoughts from the outside, but it seems to me that gay-pride parades, flamboyant clothing, and drag shows are not necessary parts of a homosexual lifestyle.  Why must being homosexual include participation in these activities when they only serve to perpetuate and reinforce the negative stereotypes some people have about them?  Granted, not all homosexual individuals participate in drag shows and parades, but those who do affect the way those who are more moderate are perceived.

I realize that these issues are likely reflective of the wider trend in American society towards sexuality as a public interaction.  There is also a good chance that, because I am on the outside, I do not completely understand the homosexual lifestyle, possibly rendering my questions inane.

But hey, I thought I’d at least put it out there.

Void damn the distance.


(1) http://www.news-medical.net/?id=20718

(2) http://gaylife.about.com/od/samesexmarriage/a/legalgaymarriag.htm


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It is a rare thing to hear the truth in church.  It is a rarer thing to see the truth on a church bulletin board.  However, just the other day I happened upon this jewel:

“Eternal life: an offer you can’t refuse.”

Very true, but for different reasons than the church member who arranged the letters on the marquee would like to realize.

Before I explain why, suppose for a moment that “eternal life”, as marketed by several world religions, is a reality: that by believing in their mutation of god and dedicating your life to his/her/its service, you can earn eternal life in a virtual utopia.  If this were actually the case, then it would, sensibly, be very difficult to resist the urge to join that faith so as to guarantee your ticket into such a paradise.  However, back in reality, buying the argument in favor of eternal life is much more difficult.

It seems to me that eternal life is the nail on which the whole of (western) religion hangs its hat.  To demonstrate this, ask yourself the question, “What’s left of religion if you remove eternal life from the equation?”  The answer is that if eternal life disappears, so does everything else.  Dietary guidelines?  Gone.  Behavior restrictions?  Gone.  Moral codes?  Gone.  Why?  Because there is no longer any reason, outside of pure, stubborn, personal commitment, to follow the laws laid down by religion.  What former believers would then discover is that there are and have always been reasons for getting along with others and having a moral code that are better than the reasons supplied by their discarded deities. Can it realistically be argued that the millions of Muslims and Christians in the world would stay true to their respective faiths if they did not think that there was a glorious reward waiting for them at the finish line?  Pausing for a moment to consider human nature, I think not.  Certainly, if eternal life were removed from the dogma of these religions, you would find some individuals who could not bring themselves to abandon their beliefs; perhaps pastors and imams would be saved from apostasy by the fear that they would not know what else to do with their lives.  But, to combine Hume and Occam, which is the easier argument to accept: (1) there is one god who is understood in many different ways and has devised a number of systems with which to test the mettle and commitment of humans to find out who is fit for heaven, (2) there are many gods, all of whom have designed their own gauntlets for humans to run to see who can get into the respective paradises of the respective gods, (3) there is a god(s) but no eternal life, (4) there is no god(s) and eternal life is simply a grandiose fabrication formulated by the founders of world religions to capitalize on humanity’s fear of death and keep the seats filled?  For anyone who picked (1) or (2), think about what you are asserting when you claim that there is a god(s) and that there is eternal life.  I’m going with (4), though I have not here argued against the existence of god (don’t worry, that post is forthcoming).

So, back to our church marquee.  (Which said, in case I’ve been rambling too long and you can’t remember, “Eternal life: an offer you can’t refuse.”)  True, you cannot refuse the offer of eternal life.  But neither can you accept it.  Why?  Because it is not being offered.  Indeed, the only form of an even extended life that I can think of is that which is being enjoyed by Einstein, Ol’ Blue Eyes, and Honest Abe.  And even this must be granted to us by others, not attained by completing a cosmic evaluation.  Perhaps, instead of longing for the eternal life of fairy-tales and mythology, we should strive to leave such an indelible mark, to contribute so much to our world, that we cannot simply be forgotten after our deaths.  That seems to be an afterlife worth pursuing.

Void damn the distance.

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