Saturday, 23 March 2013

The dangers of unnecessary defence.

A few days ago I retweeted this meme about sexuality tweeted by @secularbloke:

Now, I should say that I think this image has a good point to make; it's pretty clear that sexuality is not a matter of choice, and it can be worth pointing out to people that nobody is ever accused of "choosing" to be straight.

However, I've written before about the dangers we run into when we miss the point on various controversial issues; for example, when we attempt to defend abortion with the "what if she was raped?" argument (as though there weren't plenty of other defences), or when we defend a person's actions, when they didn't do anything wrong anyway, by suggesting they may not have understood what they were doing.

I begin to think one or two of the arguments we make against homophobia may fall into the same trap.  The meme above makes a good point, in response to the common (often, I suspect, rather disingenuous) misconception that being gay is a choice.  Well, OK... but the question I think we're forgetting to ask ourselves is why would my sexuality be anything to do with you if it WERE a choice?  The suggestion seems to be that if homophobes could be convinced that sexuality is not a choice they'll decide it's none of their business; I think this rather misses the more important point that, actually, it just is none of their business.

Although it's slightly less clear-cut, I think one might make a similar case for the common argument that homosexuality is "unnatural".  It isn't, there's good evidence for that fact, and very arguably the pernicious myth that being gay is unnatural ought to be challenged... but I think we might make a parallel argument that actually, why would it matter if it were unnatural?  Who cares whether it's natural?

Humans do all sorts of things that are "unnatural" and against our biological purposes. Never mind the arguments about gay marriage, marriage doesn't happen in nature; my condition of shackedupness is more "natural" than the marriages of religious people who disapprove of me.  I use birth control which is not natural (as do the majority of people), but nobody seems to want to tell me that means I'm not allowed to have sex, or that I wouldn't be allowed to get married if I happened to want to.

What's "natural" about wearing clothes, or doing calculus, or playing rugby?

To feel hurt and to defend oneself when called "unnatural" is very... well, natural.  But perhaps another point we should be just as keen to make is "what's so great about being natural anyway?".

By arguing that sexuality is not a choice, however rightly, we risk implying that if it WERE a choice we would be doing something wrong by being gay or bisexual.  By arguing that being gay or bi is natural, however rightly, we risk implying that if it WERE unnatural we would be as guilty and repellent as our detractors suggest.  The fact is that sexuality is nobody else's business, and would not be even if it were a matter of choice.  People's sex lives are their own concern, and that is true whether what they want to do is considered "natural" or not.  I'm not saying we should stop making the arguments we already do, I'm just saying there is a danger when we defend ourselves against one point that we might unconsciously be conceding another.

Tuesday, 5 March 2013

You might be a religious hypocrite if...

We're all familiar with the logical contradictions of religious belief; people being certain they've picked the one right god out of thousands, thinking the idea of an omnipotent being makes sense, calling Islam a religion of peace without falling over laughing...

But recently the hypocrisy has been bothering me more than the illogicality.  A couple of days ago I asked people on Twitter for their most hated examples of religious hypocrisy.  Many people replied, and I'd like to thank them for their help in compiling the following (far from exhaustive!) list for religious believers to think about.

You might just be a religious hypocrite if:

You don't accept evolution but you take antibiotics.

You believe in the Young-Earth creation story but use petrol.

You credit an omnipotent, omniscient being with all the good stuff, but blame him for none of the bad stuff.

You believe in your god on the grounds that it can't be disproved, but think invisible unicorns, the Flying Spaghetti Monster and other deities are silly.

You've had life-saving medical treatment and then thanked God for your recovery.

You think you're exercising your right to free speech when you tell us we're going to hell and then scream persecution when we tell you your religion's a crock of shit.

You believe your magic book is the work of an infallible god, but think you're allowed to overlook the bits on slavery and genocide.

You call yourself "pro-life" while supporting war and the death penalty, and opposing gun control, state-funded healthcare and stem-cell research.

You claim to believe that God looks after you but you still lock your doors, use seatbelts and take medicines.

You tell your congregation homosexuality is an abomination and then turn out to be gay.

You think the idea of a loving God who'll torture you for eternity makes sense. (Actually, that one makes you not so much a hypocrite as a moron.)

You categorically disavow evolution despite not understanding its most basic principles.

You say the Old Testament is not to be taken literally... apart from the bits that are.

You use Leviticus to argue against marriage equality, while ignoring all the bits about tattoos and trimming your beard.

You believe in heaven, but oppose euthanasia and assisted suicide.

You believe you'll go to heaven when you die, but you'll fight tooth and nail for that heart surgery.

You tell us science is a hoax or doesn't work ON FUCKING TWITTER!!!

You think God's rules are set in stone and must be obeyed on pain of being sent to hell, but you drive on Sundays and have kids out of wedlock.

You think a human foetus has more rights than a human adult.

You think other people need God's rules to be moral, but you ignore them yourself.

You thank God for saving one life in a disaster that kills dozens or hundreds or thousands.

You think people need the threat of hell to be moral, and think that makes YOU more moral than us.

You accept evolution but still believe in the original sin of two people who categorically never existed.

You accept all the benefits and perks handed to you on a plate by modern science, but cry like a little bitch when it shows up the ridiculousness of your religious beliefs.

You tell us that God is beyond human comprehension, then give us a list of his pet hates and tell us in detail what'll happen to us if we disobey the rules.

...I'm certain there are many, many more - if I've missed any that bug you, please add them in the comments.

(My thanks to @PaulADennett@Cull58@paulsellick@adamwt1978@danielsilas@Dianora_1@590409@LolloJames@DJCSouthport@WCHamilton@yanquetino@Graham_Gowland@richardsweet@billyrunaway@hookstonecol@MrMRM513@OgreMkV@BobPowellUK@westhamfool@BrianBuchbinder@ZEN_racer, and @LJ_Graey.)