The Last Superstition: No Kinky Sex!

Chapter 4: Natural law

We now get to the section on “natural law” morality, which Feser begins by telling us that New Atheists and secularists hate “traditional morality”, by which he means homophobia, and insinuates that Richard Dawkins is, if not a pedophile, then at least an apologist for pedophilia.

He starts by going back to final causes, applied to organs: eyes are for seeing. And it’s not wrong to wear glasses, if you need them, because they help you to see, and seeing is what eyes are for.

He tries to preempt the “being gay is natural, and has a genetic component” argument by comparing homosexuality to having a clubfoot or a predisposition to alcoholism: harmful genetic defects that impart no blame to the victim, but also conditions that we are expected not to wish for:

Even amid the depravity of modern civilization, most people realize that the life of an alcoholic is simply not a good thing, even if the alcoholic himself thinks it is and even if he “doesn’t hurt anybody else.” We know in our bones that there is something ignoble and unfitting about it. […] We all know in our bones that someone obsessed with masturbating to pictures of naked toddlers is sick, and not living the way a human being ought to live [p. 134]

If you’ve spent any time discussing gay rights, you know how this dance goes: pedophiles are icky and bad, zoophiliacs are icky and bad, necrophiliacs are icky and bad. So what about gay people? Well, homosexuality is defined by buttsex, which is icky and thus, by induction, bad. To which the obvious rejoinder is that if you don’t like buttsex, don’t engage in it.

Feser tackles this argument thusly:

Now I realize, of course, that many readers will acknowledge that we do in fact have these reactions, but would nevertheless write them off as mere reactions. “Our tendency to find something personally disgusting,” they will sniff, “doesn’t show that there is anything objectively wrong with it.” This is the sort of stupidity-masquerading-as-insight that absolutely pervades modern intellectual life, and it has the same source as so many other contemporary intellectual pathologies: the abandonment of the classical realism of the great Greek and Scholastic philosophers, and especially of Aristotle’s doctrine of the four causes. [p. 135]

In other words, homosexuality and any other icky sex is immoral because of the ick factor, and the ick factor is a reliable guide to morality because Aristotle, even if you fools are too foolish to recognize his brilliance.

Feser then explains, at length, that living beings have an essence, and conforming to this essence helps them to live in a way that promotes health and well-being. Sex was designed for reproduction, and “Mother Nature very obviously wants us to have babies, and lots of them [p. 142]”, and it’s immoral to choose to go against what nature wants.

Now if there really are Aristotelian natures, essences, final causes, etc., then the lesson of all this for sexual morality should be obvious. Since the final cause of human sexual capacities is procreation, what is good for human beings in the use of those capacities is to use them only in a way consistent with this final cause or purpose. This is a necessary truth; for the good for us is defined by our nature and the final causes of its various elements. It cannot possibly be good for us to use them in any other way, whether an individual person thinks it is or not, any more than it can possibly be good for an alcoholic to indulge his taste for excessive drink or the mutant squirrel of our earlier example to indulge his taste for Colgate toothpaste.

This comes across as a variation on the naturalistic fallacy (which, it amuses me to note, is often used by crunchy-granola hippie types whom Feser would, I’m sure, abhor), combined with condescension, with Feser in the role of the parent telling his child, “No, you can’t eat the entire bag of cookies. You may not realize it, but it’s bad for you. Trust me.”

Unfortunately, he fails to explain why the sorts of sex acts he doesn’t like are bad for you. He just says that they’re not in line with what nature intended. He also repeats his earlier mistake, of thinking that there are only two possibilities: either everything has an Aristotelian final cause, or nothing does.

But lest you think that he’s simply a prude who doesn’t want anyone having fun in bed, he magnanimously concedes that there’s more to sex than merely delivering sperm to a vagina;

All sorts of lovemaking might precede this. It does mean, though, that every sexual act has as its natural culmination [dare I say “climax”? — arensb], its proximate final cause, ejaculation into the vagina, and that the man and woman involved in such an act cannot act in a way to prevent this result, nor act to prevent the overall process from having conception as an outcome, whether or not that outcome is what they have in mind in performing the act, and whether or not that outcome would be likely to occur anyway even in the absence of their interference. It also means, partly for reasons evident from the foregoing, that they may indulge in this act, in a way that is consistent with its procreative final cause or natural end (understood in the broad sense of not only generating children but also rearing them, with the need for stability that that entails), only if they are married to one another.

</MoralScold>

In other words, blowjobs are immoral. Hand jobs are immoral. Frottage is immoral. Hell, go to your favorite porn site, click on “categories”, and cross out everything except “creampie”.

Feser’s moral code is remarkable in that it seems to take little or no account of what a person wants; it places a fairly low value on personal freedom. You shouldn’t use your sex organs just for fun because someone else designed them for reproduction:

Nature has set for us certain ends, and the natural law enjoins on us the pursuit of those end. [p. 147]

It’s also remarkable how many hoops he’s willing to jump through to justify doing the things he likes, while condemning the things he doesn’t like: on one hand, he considers slavery to be immoral, as we all do. But Aristotle, on whose ideas he basis his moral system, endorsed “natural slavery”. He gerrymanders his way out of this dilemma the same way that so many apologists do, by saying that slavery as endorsed by Aristotle (or Old Testament Hebrews, in the case of other apologists) was very different from that practiced in the antebellum south. In other words, it’s not intrinsically wrong to own another human being as property; it’s just that Americans did it wrong. (See p. 147 and endnote 9.) Ditto polygamy, which permeates the Bible, on p. 151.

If the penis is meant for ejaculation, and you’re only supposed to use organs for their intended use, then that would make peeing immoral. He gets around this by saying that the penis is designed for both ejaculation and urination, and that it’s only immoral to act against one of these functions (for instance, I’m guessing, by having a vasectomy). But then, that would imply that it’s not immoral to, say, have oral, non-procreative sex with your partner, as long as you retain the ability to have procreative sex at some other time. (I’m guessing that similar reasoning allows him to use his ears and nose to hold up his glasses without having to say penance.)

It’s also not immoral, he tells us (p. 148) for a sterile couple to marry, as long as their sex always ends with semen in a vagina. And no kinky stuff!

Finally, we get to his opinion on gay marriage:

The $64 question in recent years, of course, is: “Does natural law theory entail that homosexuals can’t marry?” […] they can marry someone of the opposite sex. What they can’t do is marry each other, no more than a heterosexual could marry someone of the same sex, and no more than a person could “marry” a goldfish, or a can of motor oil, or his own left foot. For the metaphysics underlying natural law theory entails that marriage is, not by human definition, but as an objective metaphysical fact determined by its final cause, inherently procreative, and thus inherently heterosexual. There is no such thing as “same-sex marriage” any more than there are round squares. Indeed, there is really no such thing as “sex” outside the context of sexual intercourse between a man and woman. Sodomy (whether homosexual or heterosexual) no more counts as “sex” than puking up a Quarter Pounder counts as eating; […] For if “same-sex marriage” is not contrary to nature, than [sic] nothing is; [p. 149]

In other words, reproduction involves sex, so Feser decrees that nothing you do with your genitals aside from trying to conceive counts as sex, and further defines marriage as being for sex. And this definition must on no account be changed! In short, Feser has come up with a rationale to pretend that his prejudices and opinions are objective facts.

There’s a bright side to the above: if nothing other than semen-in-vagina counts as sex, and if pornography is a depiction of sex acts, then nothing outside of the aforementioned “Creampie” category counts as sex, and whatever you masturbate to ouside of that category isn’t pornography.

Series: The Last Superstition

Persuasion ≠ Persecution, Dumbasses

So I was pointed at an appalling post, and after clicking around a bit, found this other post, entitled “The battle Gay Rights advocates will never win”.

He (yes, the author is quite obviously male) goes on for a few pages, whining about bakeries being forced—forced!—to serve gay customers as though they were ordinary members of the public, and the usual whining. But if we skip down to the conclusion, he writes (emphasis added):

So to gay rights advocates I say – you may have been able to convince a large part of our population to think there is nothing wrong with your way of life – but you will never convince or convert Bible believing Christians into accepting your lifestyle or to service your weddings or other events than honor homosexuality.

Christians have faced far greater persecution than what you or the courts can bring against us and in your futile attempt to force total acceptance of homosexuality – you will actually strengthen and galvanize Bible believing Christianity, and if you are not careful you may turn others against you as they see the results of your persecution of Christians.

Many people have pointed out that right-wing homophobes behave as though they think that having to accept that gay people exist is somehow persecuting them; that telling them that they can’t just be dicks to anyone they feel like somehow limits their freedom of religion. But this guy actually says so. Normally I’d say that this marks him as a troll, but of course Poe’s Law says that there’s no way to distinguish a real belief from a parody, so who knows?

I also note that he writes “to gay rights advocates” about the problems with “your way of life”. Of course, many straight, monogamous, vanilla, dare I say boring people support gay rights. And while it would be nice to persuade him to be more accepting of people who aren’t exactly like him, I’ll settle for him obeying anti-discrimination laws, and telling him to suck it. And by “it” I mean a rainbow-colored dildo.

Bigoted Amendment Is Bigoted

Today, according to the Dallas Morning News, Greg Abbott, the Attorney General of Texas ruled that

Domestic partners can’t receive health benefits from counties, cities or school districts because doing so defies Texas law on traditional marriage, Attorney General Greg Abbott said in an opinion made public Monday.

This fuckery was made possible by Texas’s 2005 amendment to its constitution that said that

This state or a political subdivision of this state may not create or recognize any legal status identical or similar to marriage.

(Others have already pointed out that marriage is identical to itself, and therefore this amendment bans one-man-one-woman marriage. Go read them for yucks, then come back.)

A Dallas Fort Worth CBS affiliate writes:

Tea party-backed state Sen. Dan Patrick of Houston asked Abbott, a fellow Republican, to review the matter in November. […]

In a statement, Patrick said the measure, known as the Marriage Amendment, was passed by “an overwhelming majority of the Texas Legislature and ratified by more than 75 percent of Texas voters.

“This opinion clearly outlines that cities, counties and school districts cannot subvert the will of Texans,” Patrick said.

At first I thought that maybe AG Abbott’s hands were tied: after all, the 2005 amendment is—and by all appearances was always intended as—a big ol’ fuck-you to the gay community. As much “we don’ like your kind ’round here” as they could get away with. In which case the AG may not have had a lot of legal leeway.

At the same time, he could have said, “Look, the Supreme Court is expected to rule on DOMA in the near future. Depending how they rule, the 14th Amendment might come into play and invalidate Proposition 2. So let’s wait and see.” But he didn’t. Presumably either because he prefers the conclusion he came to, or because he thinks the Texas constitution is so clear that it doesn’t matter how SCOTUS rules.

At any rate, it looks as though an amendment introduced to make doubly sure that only straight people get to enjoy the benefits of marriage—it’s a well-known principle that what makes a thing enjoyable is knowing that someone else can’t have it, right?—is working as expected. Congratulations, Texas! Just don’t come whining when you’re not allowed to change voting laws without getting an okay from the feds because you have a history of discrimination, okay?

Is Christianity Against Das Kapital?

Oh, BillDo! Will your histrionic antics never cease to amuse me? (Spoiler alert: no.)

Last week, Lawrence O’Donnell opined on Louie Giglio withdrawing from participating in Obama’s inauguration because of an outcry over a homophobic sermon he delivered in the 90s (and, to my knowledge, has so far failed to apologize for). That, and the irony of Barack Obama being sworn in on a book that contains so many horrific passages that he and every decent person on the planet disagree with. Watch it, because it’s quite good:

http://www.youtube-nocookie.com/embed/gJgNQsQDkqk

At 2:51, Giglio is quoted as saying,

if you look at the counsel of the word of God, Old Testament, New Testament, you come quickly to the conclusion that homosexuality is not an alternate lifestyle. Homosexuality is not gay, but homosexuality is a sin. It is sin in the eyes of God, and it is a sin according to the word of God.

Predictably, Bill Donohue thought O’Donnell’s editorial wasn’t quite cricket (emphasis added):

Pastor Giglio’s crime? He’s a Christian. Practicing Christians, along with observant Jews, Mormons, Muslims and millions of others, accept the biblical teachings on the sinfulness of homosexuality. In the 1990s, Giglio addressed this subject, citing Christian teachings, and that was enough to set off the alarms in gay quarters.

Over the past few decades, many homosexuals and theologians have tried to argue that the Bible’s passages condemning homosexuality should not be read as condemning homosexuality. In their postmodern mind, they say that interpretation is wrong. O’Donnell, to his credit, knows these savants are delusional. While he readily admits that the Bible condemns homosexuality, his level of cognitive development does not allow him to discern the difference between behavior and status, which is why he falsely claims the Bible condemns “gay people.”

Now, given that he’s just spent two spittle-flecked paragraphs explaining how Christianity is anti-gay, I wasn’t expecting his very next post to be entitled Is Christianity anti-gay?. I guess he enjoys making me do spit-takes.

To say that Giglio backed out because of his “previous anti-gay comments” is tantamount to saying Christianity is anti-gay because it sees homosexual behavior as sinful. It also sees adultery as sinful. Does that mean Christianity is bigoted against heterosexuals?

Right. BillDo’s flavor of Christianity places some restrictions on heterosexual behavior, like mandating marital fidelity; and it also places some restrictions on homosexual behavior, like not being allowed to have the kind of sex you enjoy, or being allowed to marry the person you love, or have your union recognized as legally equivalent to Kim Kardashian’s umpteenth marriage, or being portrayed in a favorable light in sitcoms, and if gays have to have the unmitigated gall to exist in the first place, could they at least have the decency to emigrate to a leper colony somewhere? Because the children or something.

With regard to homosexuality, the teachings found in Christianity were taken from Judaism. Moreover, Islam also sees homosexuality as sinful. Are we to believe that the adherents of all these world religions are “anti-gay”?

Why, yes. To the extent that they agree with BillDo’s anti-gay interpretation of their holy scripture of choice, yes, they are. That was easy.

What, am I supposed to believe that if a bigoted belief stops being bigoted if enough people accept it?

(Update: Oh, poo. I just realized I posted this without explaining the title: it’s a mashup of the titles of BillDo’s two posts: “Should Obama swear on Das Kapital?” and “Is Christianity anti-gay?”. I could fix the title, but that would break the permalink. So oh well.)

Good On Ya for Standing Up for Your Principles. Now Go Away.

A business owner in Annapolis has found that his deeply-held convictions are about to come into conflict with the law, and rather than give up his principles, he’s going to, if not close up shop, then at least scale back shop:

An Annapolis company whose old-fashioned trolleys are iconic in the city’s wedding scene has abandoned the nuptial industry rather than serve same-sex couples.

The owner of Discover Annapolis Tours said he decided to walk away from $50,000 in annual revenue instead of compromising his Christian convictions when same-sex marriages become legal in Maryland in less than a week. And he has urged prospective clients to lobby state lawmakers for a religious exemption for wedding vendors.

(Source: Washington Post.)

This seems as clear a case I can imagine of a business owner having to choose between money and bigotry. He chose bigotry. I wish him the best of luck in not getting hit in the ass by the door on the way out.

As far as can make out, he’s not actually shutting down his business. He’s just pulling his business out (heh-heh) of the wedding business.

In case anyone’s wondering why he can’t just pick and choose his customers:

“If they’re providing services to the public, they can’t discriminate who they provide their services to,” said Glendora Hughes, general counsel for the Maryland Commission on Civil Rights. The commission enforces public accommodation laws that prohibit businesses from discriminating on the basis of race, sexual orientation and other characteristics.

If your business is open to the public, it’s open to the public, not just to those parts of the public that you approve of. If a state passes a law saying “Jews and black people can shop anywhere that gentiles and white people can”, that’s great, but if you then add “unless the shop owner doesn’t feel like it”, that makes the law meaningless.

Predictably, the owner of Discover Annapolis Tours, Matt Grubbs, has his defenders:

Frank Schubert, the political strategist who ran campaigns against same-sex marriage in Maryland and three other states this year, said opponents predicted collateral damage from legalizing same-sex unions.

“This is exactly what happens,” Schubert said, adding that religious liberty is “right in the crosshairs of this debate. . . . The law doesn’t protect people of faith. It simply doesn’t.”

The first thing I note is that “religious liberty” here is used the same way as “states’ rights” in discussing the US Civil War: then, the states’ right in question was the right to own slaves. Here, the religious liberty at issue is the right to discriminate against gay people.

The second thing I note is the phrase “people of faith”. There’s just so much unthinking privilege packed into those three words. There’s the assumption that faith is a Good Thing; that believing things just ‘cos is something worth defending. And then there’s the assumption that all “people of faith” must agree with his views. I can name any number of self-professed “people of faith” who’d disagree with him.

Still, I suppose it could’ve been worse. At least Grubbs is complying with the law, rather than, say, suing for the right to discriminate. All the same: buh-bye.

Family Research Center Shooting

In case you missed it, someone shot up the <a href="http://wwwfrc.org/"Family Research Council headquarters in Washington, DC.

Greta Christina puts it thusly:

This is not acceptable. We do not shoot people just because we disagree with them.

(read the rest of it for context which makes it better.)

Hemant Mehta passes on official statements from the Secular Coalition of America

“While we disagree with the Family Research Council on nearly every issue, the debate surrounding the role of religion in the public sphere should be fought with reason and logic, not guns,” said Edwina Rogers, Executive Director. “We absolutely condemn this sort of senseless violence.”

and American Atheists:

American Atheists is saddened to learn about the shooting at the Family Research Council today. Our thoughts are with the security officer who was injured and the other employees who were traumatized.

American Atheists never advocate violence as an answer to disagreements, even with those who believe differently than our members.

I can’t think of anything to add. I don’t like the FRC or what they advocate, but you don’t go around shooting people you disagree with, or otherwise doing or threatening violence. This is not acceptable.

Obama’s Tepid Rubicon

Of all the adjectives that could be applied to the current Thing Dominating The News Cycle — Obama’s endorsement of same-sex marriage — the most popular seems to be “tepid”. Other criticisms I’ve run across are in a similar vein: that Obama was wishy-washy, didn’t pledge any actual support for marriage equality, and generally speaking, why the hell aren’t we at the point where he could just say “Of course I’m for marriage equality! I can’t believe we have to have this conversation!”

(In case you couldn’t tell, I spend a lot of my time on the left side of the Inter-Blogo-Echo-Chamber-Sphere, but I can only assume that the right also had its share of criticism, which probably sounded something like “Rar rar grarh destroy our country rarh grar socialist grumble grumble Ron Paul smash!”)

I understand this criticism, and agree with a lot of it (at least the sane stuff, not the “Obama is a communist from planet Reptilia”). And yet, I can’t help thinking that maybe for all Obama’s wishy-washy, weasel-qualified luke-warmth, maybe it doesn’t matter; that was all that was needed.

In particular, I’m reminded of pope John Paul II’s statement about evolution in 1996. It’s remembered as a watershed moment when the Catholic church finally admitted what was obvious to everyone with a minimal scientific education. But if you read the thing, it’s as wishy-washy as Aladdin’s lamp in the middle of the spin cycle. Even the central assertion, that evolution is “more than a hypothesis” is an endorsement so weak that 98-pound weaklings routinely kick sand in its face at the beach.

And yet, in retrospect it turned out to be a watershed moment, from which there was no turning back. Even John Paul II’s successor, pope Reactionarius XIV (the X makes it sound edgy) hasn’t really been able to undo that, as far as I know.

So maybe the same thing’s going on with Obama. Granted, he’s not the pope. It’s not as if he can control the hearts and minds of a billion people (especially when he can’t even control his own vice-president! Amirite? badoom-sha!). At the same time, he’s The President. He sets the tone. And the fact that we’ve gotten to the point where a sitting POTUS can unambiguously, if tepidly, express his support for marriage equality, must mean that some kind of rubicon has been crossed.

Perhaps in five years we’ll look back and see this as the moment when the country released a breath it didn’t realize it had been holding; or stopped unconsciously talking about gay marriage in slightly hushed tones (yeah, that seems pretty unlikely, given that a lot of the relevant voices have been pretty loud). Or maybe just as the moment when Washington definitively figured out which way the wind was blowing and decided that it was okay for the president to commit himself.

At least, that’s what I hope will happen. I could be wrong. I don’t actually have a tingly Rubicon-sense. It might just be gas.

War Is Peace. Slavery Is Oppression. Ignorance Is Strength.

Once again, it seems that the word “Family” in an organization’s name can be more accurately replaced with “patriarchy”.

The Illinois Family Institute didn’t like President Obama’s National Day of Prayer proclamation. No, they didn’t:

President Obama’s proclamation has raised the eyebrows of some because he is thankful that we live in a country that “respects the beliefs and protects the religious freedom of all people.” Critics have noted that this point seems to fly in the face of the President’s failure to defend the Defense of Marriage Act which would have huge ramifications for religious freedom should marriage be undefined to allow for homosexual couples. (The repeal of “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” is already causing problems for military chaplains.) The President’s prayer proclamation also contradicts his actions associated with his health care plan that could force people to pay for abortions and contraceptives against the teachings of their faith

Got that? Failing to uphold a law that tells gays they can’t marry the person they want is at odds with religious freedom. Not forcing gay soldiers to live a lie is at odds with religious freedom. Telling religious employers that they have to play by the same rules as everybody else is at odds with religious freedom.

Anti-Christian Bigotry
"Anti-Christian Bigotry" by Dana Simpson

I once had a discussion with my friend JB about the Civil War, and mentioned the argument that the war was fought not over slavery, but over states’ rights. She snorted and said, “Yeah. The right to own slaves.”

Your right to religious freedom ends when it affects people outside of your sect. Your right to worship as you see fit does not include the right to be kowtowed to, the right to make other people live by your rules, or even the right not to be offended. Put on your big-boy pants and deal with it.

Maryland Gay Marriage Bill Fails

Well, fuckbunnies. The bill to allow gay marriage in Maryland passed the state Senate, got out of committee in the House, avoided getting stuck with several amendments (that would have sent it back to the Senate), and finally got to floor debate in the House, only to be sent back to committee.

The proponents of the bill figured they didn’t have enough votes to pass it. And AIUI sending the bill back to committee rather than allowing it to be voted on meant not forcing delegates to reveal how they would have voted. I’m just speculating here, but for all I know there might also be some procedural reason, like if a bill fails, it can’t be reintroduced for another two years; not having an actual vote might mean that it can be reintroduced sooner than that.

This is disappointing, but life goes on. I have no doubt that gay marriage will eventually become as normal as interracial marriage.

In the meantime, go home, knock back a couple of rum and cokes, and fantasize about the patriarchs at NOM gagging on a bag of cocks. You know that a lot of them will be doing the same.

Gay Marriage Passes MD Senate

In case you hadn’t heard, the Maryland Senate passed a bill allowing gay marriage. So yay! Go Maryland!

From here, it has to go to the House of Delegates, so it’s not settled yet. So if you’re in Maryland, write your delegates and tell them that you oppose special rights for heterosexuals.

If this passes, Maryland could become the marriage mecca for gay couples in Pennsylvania and West Virginia who are willing to go out of state to get married, but not as far as DC, as well as Virginians who’d rather not deal with traffic in the District.