Vacuous

Joseph Reisert of Colby College recently wrote a tremendously flimsy, unballsy, muddling, vacuous, dumb piece about gay marriage in the local paper.

If you are sure that gay marriage is wrong, you need to listen to what same-sex couples have to say about their lives, their families and their relationships. Whatever your religion may teach about homosexuality, it is not the doctrines of any faith but the human testimony of our fellow citizens that must frame our laws.

And the testimony of our gay neighbors, friends, colleagues and relatives will make a compelling argument for the legal recognition of their relationships.

He starts out alright. Marriage between either combination of gender should be recognized by the government so as not to discriminate on the basis of, well, gender (most definitely not sexual orientation). Marriage is a secular contract where the government is concerned. As such, no compelling reasons exist for why there should be discrimination against both men and women – both straight men and women and gay men and women.

Why, they will ask, must they be compelled by the law to regard with shame something at the core of who they are?

Yes, who would ever think about forcing some separate-but-equal label on an entire group of people. Vermont recently recognized that civil unions, for example, do not fit their (or the federal) constitution. One action for one group can never be the same as a different action for another group.

But if you are sure that marriage must be redefined to include same sex couples, you need to listen to what traditionally inclined people have to say about their lives, their families and their relationships.

Uh-oh.

I was reared to believe that, absent some compelling reason, I should become a husband and father and that, in whatever career I might aspire to find success, nothing would be more important than fulfilling to the best of my abilities my duties to my wife and children. It is not for me to judge my success in those roles, but I will say that I think of myself first as a husband and father and only secondarily as a teacher and scholar.

Superficially, there’s nothing wrong with this. Being told that being a quality parent is one measure of success is most certainly not a bad thing; it’s a virtue. But when someone who doesn’t like working on the pretty looking surfaces digs down very slightly, it becomes clear what’s wrong here. Reisert is working with what he was literally told, not the principle behind what he was told. Such a willingness to work from convenience is one of the reasons rule internalization is so rampant. If Reisert looked at the principle behind what he had been told, he would likely find a strong emphasis on being a good member of a family. It just so happens that as an average male child, his likely future role in a family was as a husband and father. That isn’t really the point, and if it is, it’s a bad one.

How painful it is, then, to be told that the words “husband” and “wife” are objectionably discriminatory and must for that reason be effaced from the statute books. If the proposed changes to marriage are enacted, I will no longer be in the eyes of the law a husband and father, but only a spouse and a parent.

I have no wish to deny my gay relatives and friends any esteem, affection or recognition for who they are, but I claim the right to the same esteem, affection and recognition they desire.

The government is not in the business of making you feel good about your family role. Reisert needs to take responsibility for himself and figure out his own way to achieve a sense of esteem. Perhaps his family could provide this. Crazy idea, I know.

If the government gives Reisert the recognition he so greatly desires, it is inherently denying gay couples the rights they deserve. The statements he makes amount to nothing less than a call for a separate-but-equal policy institution.

If we are to take seriously the analogy frequently drawn between present-day prohibitions on same-sex marriage and the one-time prohibitions on interracial marriage, then we must say that taking pride in being a good husband to one’s wife is as discriminatory and wrong as being proud of the achievements of what used to be called “the white race.” To me, that is inconceivable.

I personally prefer logic, but I guess this will do for Reisert.

The analogy is inaccurate in its popular form. As I’ve said in the past, this is discrimination based upon gender, not sexual orientation; chromosomes are not germane to the ability to enter into a government-sanctioned contract. But I’ll assume for a moment that the analogy actually works. Reisert did not take it to its logical conclusion.

If Reisert understood his own point correctly, he wouldn’t be going off on drawing connections between “the white race” and husbandry. The former is outside the analogy and arbitrarily drawn into the fray because it seems like it could be related. It is not. Taking pride in being white is taking pride in something outside marriage. Taking pride in being a husband is something within marriage. If he had have talked about taking pride as a white husband, he could have drawn an analogy with taking pride as a straight husband. That would work because each one assumes virtues in something unrelated to husbandry. But he could also continue the analogy and place virtually any characteristic before “husband” (i.e., tall husband). He didn’t do this because 1) he doesn’t understand the analogy and 2) drawing connections with things like height and weight are less offensive than drawing connections with race.

Furthermore, Reisert has assumed a singular definition of “husband”. To him it means “male married to a female”. This is erroneous. A husband is a man in a marriage (or at least can be defined as one). It just so happens that history has discriminated on the basis of gender and (until recently) made all husbands men married to women.

It seems like the big problem here is that this guy wants to have the title “husband” because it has a sentimental meaning to him. Let him keep it. And also give it to any man who gets married. And “wife” can go to any woman. A “husband and husband” or “wife and wife” marriage poses no actual issue and allows straight couples to drop their dumb argument over sentiment and petty legalese.

It was right to abolish all racial distinctions in law because race has no biological reality and no moral significance. Sex, however, is a part of our nature. To deny its moral significance is to ask us to deny who we are.

Oh, come on. Sex has a “moral significance”? How so? Is it more moral to have a penis? Is it more moral to marry someone with complementary genitalia? Sex is unrelated to morality except where it is used as cause for discrimination. Reisert is doing just that under the guise of sentiment.

The rise of out-of-wedlock births has been a social calamity of the greatest magnitude, and all of us — straight and gay — bear its costs. To redefine marriage so as to deny recognition to the wives and husbands, fathers and mothers, who are striving to do their duty to one another as mates and to the fruit of their unions, is not only to encourage the separation of procreation from marriage,…

The government isn’t telling to you stop putting your penis into your wife.

but also to dishonor all those who feel that their lives are, in substantial part, defined by their acceptance and embrace of the natural and biological roles they feel they were born to fill.

When one groups’ definition of acceptance necessarily defines another group as being an unacceptable, separate-but-equal entity, that definition is one of discrimination, all gussied up in fairness and tolerance.

That is also the essence of the claim for recognition our gay friends and relatives make: being gay is who they are. But we should not deny difference to honor it. I love my mother, and I love my father, too. I do not pretend that they are the same: I just love them both equally. Nor should we have to pretend that gay relationships are exactly the same as straight ones to recognize and honor them. Let us find a way to honor both.

Jesus Tyrannosaurus Christ. This guy sucks at analogies. Flat out. If we take this to its logical conclusion then tall marriages are not exactly the same as short ones. Let us find a way to honor both.

It doesn't force you to be moral

Atheism doesn’t force a person to be moral, it merely allows for it. And better than any religion.

Atheism comes with no specific set of beliefs, no system of thought. In common usage it is simply a rejection of all gods. This is compatible with a bunch of philosophies, both good and bad. Importantly, however, it is compatible with good intentions.

In the spirit of Kant, atheism allows perfectly for good will. That is, what a person intends is the important element in deciding the goodness or badness of an action, behavior, thought, etc. It’s the idea behind the phrase “It’s the thought that counts”. Give a person a fantastic birthday present because you want to impress everyone with your wealth and the intention is to self-aggrandize. Most people, myself included, regard that as a generally bad intention. But regardless of what one thinks of self-aggrandation, the point should be clear: intention matters. A low-quality gift given after much consideration to the happiness of the recipient is a much better gift, at least philosophically, than the fantastic present.

Atheism jives with good will. Any action with a good intention is ultimately good because consideration has been given to others; people are considered above all else. Religion is evil in this regard (and most regards, for that matter).

Religion teaches that good intentions should stem from a desire to please some magical man in the sky. This is not good intention; it is selfishness. It is a desire to please some god in order to gain access to a reward at the end of The Yellow Brick Road (or at least a desire to avoid punishment). That is action out of self-concern, not for the sake of being a good person. Religion does not allow for purely good intentions except when the actor forgets his particular god(s).

It doesn’t force you to be moral

Atheism doesn’t force a person to be moral, it merely allows for it. And better than any religion.

Atheism comes with no specific set of beliefs, no system of thought. In common usage it is simply a rejection of all gods. This is compatible with a bunch of philosophies, both good and bad. Importantly, however, it is compatible with good intentions.

In the spirit of Kant, atheism allows perfectly for good will. That is, what a person intends is the important element in deciding the goodness or badness of an action, behavior, thought, etc. It’s the idea behind the phrase “It’s the thought that counts”. Give a person a fantastic birthday present because you want to impress everyone with your wealth and the intention is to self-aggrandize. Most people, myself included, regard that as a generally bad intention. But regardless of what one thinks of self-aggrandation, the point should be clear: intention matters. A low-quality gift given after much consideration to the happiness of the recipient is a much better gift, at least philosophically, than the fantastic present.

Atheism jives with good will. Any action with a good intention is ultimately good because consideration has been given to others; people are considered above all else. Religion is evil in this regard (and most regards, for that matter).

Religion teaches that good intentions should stem from a desire to please some magical man in the sky. This is not good intention; it is selfishness. It is a desire to please some god in order to gain access to a reward at the end of The Yellow Brick Road (or at least a desire to avoid punishment). That is action out of self-concern, not for the sake of being a good person. Religion does not allow for purely good intentions except when the actor forgets his particular god(s).

It doesn’t force you to be an atheist

Evolution simply allows you to be one.

There are two primary reasons people reject evolution: ignorance and assumption. The ignorance is abundantly obvious; creationists are wholly unable to go toe-to-toe with anyone who has a modicum of knowledge about evolution. Ignorance isn’t a crime, but it’s far from a virtue. Assumption, on the other hand is less clear.

People equate evolution with atheism: if you believe in evolution, you must be an atheist. It’s not that far off the mark, but it does make assumptions. Evolution does not force atheism, it simply allows for it. But let’s not confuse the specifics. Evolution absolutely does deny the existence of virtually every god that man has so far created. The more popular gods out there come with a whole bag of characteristics that are incompatible with reality – the most notable that humans are an intentional result of some sort of pre-ordained plan. This is inconsistent with an intense compilation of science that shows humans are a product of a long timeline of change and adaptation; humans are no more pre-ordained than a snail or where a falling rock will land. Contrary thought it wishful thinking unsupported by evidence.

Of course, the magic playland of human-created gods isn’t the same as the concept of a hands-off, deistic being. An intentional creator of the Universe has the possibility of existing, even if it’s tremendously unlikely. Most people don’t like this idea because it offers a cold and useless explanation for the Universe; a deistic being says how the Universe came to exist, but doesn’t make humans as special as most people like to think. Beyond that, it still leaves open the question of how the deity itself exists. It’s a useless middleman that is equal in validity to any theistic beliefs, just without all the baggage.

It doesn't force you to be an atheist

Evolution simply allows you to be one.

There are two primary reasons people reject evolution: ignorance and assumption. The ignorance is abundantly obvious; creationists are wholly unable to go toe-to-toe with anyone who has a modicum of knowledge about evolution. Ignorance isn’t a crime, but it’s far from a virtue. Assumption, on the other hand is less clear.

People equate evolution with atheism: if you believe in evolution, you must be an atheist. It’s not that far off the mark, but it does make assumptions. Evolution does not force atheism, it simply allows for it. But let’s not confuse the specifics. Evolution absolutely does deny the existence of virtually every god that man has so far created. The more popular gods out there come with a whole bag of characteristics that are incompatible with reality – the most notable that humans are an intentional result of some sort of pre-ordained plan. This is inconsistent with an intense compilation of science that shows humans are a product of a long timeline of change and adaptation; humans are no more pre-ordained than a snail or where a falling rock will land. Contrary thought it wishful thinking unsupported by evidence.

Of course, the magic playland of human-created gods isn’t the same as the concept of a hands-off, deistic being. An intentional creator of the Universe has the possibility of existing, even if it’s tremendously unlikely. Most people don’t like this idea because it offers a cold and useless explanation for the Universe; a deistic being says how the Universe came to exist, but doesn’t make humans as special as most people like to think. Beyond that, it still leaves open the question of how the deity itself exists. It’s a useless middleman that is equal in validity to any theistic beliefs, just without all the baggage.

It doesn’t force you to be an atheist

Evolution simply allows you to be one.

There are two primary reasons people reject evolution: ignorance and assumption. The ignorance is abundantly obvious; creationists are wholly unable to go toe-to-toe with anyone who has a modicum of knowledge about evolution. Ignorance isn’t a crime, but it’s far from a virtue. Assumption, on the other hand is less clear.

People equate evolution with atheism: if you believe in evolution, you must be an atheist. It’s not that far off the mark, but it does make assumptions. Evolution does not force atheism, it simply allows for it. But let’s not confuse the specifics. Evolution absolutely does deny the existence of virtually every god that man has so far created. The more popular gods out there come with a whole bag of characteristics that are incompatible with reality – the most notable that humans are an intentional result of some sort of pre-ordained plan. This is inconsistent with an intense compilation of science that shows humans are a product of a long timeline of change and adaptation; humans are no more pre-ordained than a snail or where a falling rock will land. Contrary thought it wishful thinking unsupported by evidence.

Of course, the magic playland of human-created gods isn’t the same as the concept of a hands-off, deistic being. An intentional creator of the Universe has the possibility of existing, even if it’s tremendously unlikely. Most people don’t like this idea because it offers a cold and useless explanation for the Universe; a deistic being says how the Universe came to exist, but doesn’t make humans as special as most people like to think. Beyond that, it still leaves open the question of how the deity itself exists. It’s a useless middleman that is equal in validity to any theistic beliefs, just without all the baggage.