Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Religions Lost the Homosexuality Debate the Minute They Adopted the "Unnatural" Justification

 I read something recently, and I think it's important to understand the answer to the question it asked.  I'm not saying the following question is right or wrong in this post; I'm just saying it's important to answer the question adequately. 

So say we agree that sexual orientation is primarily a function of nature. What then? Does it change anything about the debate?

Absolutely - as long as one side keeps insisting that it's universally unnatural - that all gay people choose to be gay. (especially if the claim is that they choose to FEEL homosexual attractions)

Does it change the "right" vs. "wrong" debate? Not really, especially for those (like Mormons) who don't have a "natural is always right" philosophy in the first place. However, it absolutely makes those who condemn it find a  "valid" reason to condemn it, since calling it unnatural simply isn't valid. It's an ignorant, incorrect argument, and it really shouldn't be made.

Don't get me wrong. I'm not saying all homosexual activity is biological and unavoidable and inevitable. I'm not saying there is no choice in the matter of one's sexual activity. I'm not saying anything like that. I'm not even arguing in this thread that homosexuality is good, bad, okay or reprehensible. There's no moral judgment in this thread at all. I'm just saying the discussion ought to be grounded in reality and solid arguments, and saying homosexuality (the feeling) and homosexual activity (the actions) are unnatural simply isn't reality or a solid argument.

That's why I say religions lost the debate the minute they latched onto the "unnatural" justification. That argument simply is wrong. 


Anonymous said...

Amen. Thank you.

Syphax said...

I'm not sure this is the case. When the medieval Natural Law theorists (Aquinas, etc.) used the term "natural" they were referring to the things that are in keeping with a thing's Final Cause - that which a thing is "directed towards" given its nature. This metaphysical definition is somewhat but not exactly the same as our modern definition of "natural" (nowadays it is sort of - whatever we see in nature is natural, or if a person feels it deep down inside it is natural, etc.).

So when Aquinas said that homosexuality or masturbation is "unnatural" or disordered he was saying that, given the telos/Final Cause/function of human reproductive organs, the natural use of those organs is toward procreation primarily and union with a mate secondarily. It had nothing to do with whether a person really, truly, deep down in their heart was a homosexual or chose to be such, nor did it have anything to do with whether homosexuality can be observed in animals, or whatever, it was an ethical and moral theory that centered on the Final Causality of persons and their parts. This is still the ethical core of the Roman Catholic Church (and the Orthodox Churches, though they never systematized things quite like the Catholics did).

So I don't think it's quite fair to say "religions lost the homosexuality debate the minute they adopted the 'unnatural' justification." Nor do I think it's fair to say that this theory is not grounded in reality or solid arguments - since Natural Law is based on observations about reality (re: Final Causality), and the Scholastics wrote thousands of pages of what I believe are "solid arguments" (though I am not a Natural Law guy nor a Catholic).

Papa D said...

Syphax, I understand that definition of Natural Law, but that isn't what the vast majority of religionists mean when they condemn homosexuality as "unnatural" - as evidenced by the attempts over the years to cure homosexuality in various ways and the claims that homosexuals are not "born that way" and, instead, choose to feel those attractions.

The LDS Church has abandoned that stance in its most recent official statements regarding homosexuality, and its members (and others) ought to follow that lead and stop making those fundamentally flawed arguments.

Syphax said...

Okay. So maybe what you meant is "religions lost the homosexuality debate the minute they redefined 'natural.'" And actually, on that I totally agree.

And I also agree that the LDS church should abandon that kind of language - not just for those reasons but also because since when did Mormonism teach that we should follow the "natural man" anyway? On Mormon theological anthropology we are carnal and devilish by nature and we are supposed to fight against this nature and assume our Godly nature.