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William Crawley | 10:02 UK time, Thursday, 10 February 2011

"It is ... disturbing to hear some Christian leaders today claim that they have no choice but to regard homosexuality as a sin. They do have a choice and should be held accountable for the ones they are making."

That's the view of the Boston University biblical scholar and pastor Jennifer Wright Knust in her new book Unprotected Texts: The Bible's Surprising Contradictions about Sex and Desire.

She writes: "I love gay people, but the Bible forces me to condemn them" is a poor excuse that attempts to avoid accountability by wrapping a very particular and narrow interpretation of a few biblical passages in a cloak of divinely inspired respectability." Professor Knust offers an alternative reading of the Bible here.

Jennifer Wright Knust's comment piece, based on her book, links to a recent Piers Morgan Tonight interview with Pastor Joel Olsteen, who told the broadcaster that the Scriptures clearly teach that homosexuality is a sin.

Comments

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  • Comment number 1.

    Well, it's an interesting article, if a tad convoluted. The reality is much simpler. Is homosexuality a sin? No. Sorted. Quite why we need ancient Hebrew and early Christian backup for modern moral and ethical decisions is not at all clear to me. We are in a position to learn from the bible, but we'd be pretty poor excuses for thinking moral beings if we demanded that we repeat its mistakes.

  • Comment number 2.

    Well, I think I'd first consider the author's comments in the Washington Post concerning Sacred Scripture: Debunking 'Biblical marriage': Why the Bible can't dictate today's sexual morals
    By Jennifer Wright Knust
    "Written more than 2,000 years ago at a significant historical and cultural distance, the Bible gathers together a diverse collection of ancient books, edited over time, not a coherent, divinely inspired set of instructions that can easily be applied."
    My guess is that with a view of the Bible as a jumbled set of abridged & outmoded texts,it's not surprising she would not find divinely inspired teachings on homosexuality, or any other issue really.
    If I shared the same outlook, I'm not sure I would bother with Scripture to begin with.There are plenty of self-help books out there that will make me feel better about myself & reinforce my perceptions of the world.

  • Comment number 3.

    mscracker, it's not about reinforcing one's own perception about the world; it's about challenging that of others.

    We rely on other people to present contrary suggestions about how things are in order to challenge our own presuppositions and fixed subjective perspective. In our own, private, self-interested worlds, we would quite happily construct fantasies to justify any old action we wished to take - public discussion and critique is what prevents this from happening.

    Isn't that what Christianity is about as well, to at least some extent? The "Good News" that is to be presented as a challenge to the pragmatic nihilism of geopolitics, commercialism and comfortable tribalism?

    The view of the bible as "not a coherent, divinely inspired set of instructions" represents this well; probably much better than the view of it as just an alternative and competing claim to objectivity.

  • Comment number 4.

    mscracker, you seem to think there are only two position one can hold with respect to the Bible: a literalist reading or an outright rejection of the text. Knust is not alone amongst modern theologians in arguing for a more nuanced set of alternatives. One can take the Bible seriously without reading it literalistically or ignoring its cultural, historical and political background.*

  • Comment number 5.

    Dear Mr Will,
    Thank you, but actually I'm Catholic and take a Catholic view on Sacred Scripture. I have good Baptist & Mennonite friends who very much disagree with that position & have some lingering doubts re. my salvation. But we are still friends.

  • Comment number 6.

    I hold to a so-called 'high' view of the Bible, and I don't think much of the JEDP hypothesis or the redaction theories of the origin of the gospels. Furthermore, you can be sure that if the Bible states that so-and-so wrote a book of the Bible, then 'modern scholarship' will find every reason under the sun to 'prove' that that person didn't write it (often based on subjective factors, such as 'a difference of tone' or vocabulary, as if any particular author is only allowed to use a maximum of 1,000 words - or whatever!)

    However, I am also not a 'literalist', if by 'literalism' we mean 'refusing to look at both the immediate and general textual context as well as the cultural context'. So even a 'Bible believer' can have a nuanced view of the interpretation of scripture.

    I may pen a few thoughts about the homosexuality issue later, after I've satisfied my stomach's cravings (sadly not with French omelette and fries!)

  • Comment number 7.

    PaulR: thanks for your thoughts.I do believe Christianity as presented in the Bible is challenging to the status quo & to self interest. And that's why I said that if I didn't hold firm convictions as to Sacred Scripture being divinely inspired, I wouldn't bother with it.It's too much work & too challenging to our comfort zones.

  • Comment number 8.

    I agree a nuanced approach is required towards the Bible and it's a fascinating record of views, beliefs and history. My approach is to view much of it metaphorically or through a distillation process- filtering the goodness & separating away the sediment. I can see that -as Andrew demonstrated in another thread- some may judge that as being too selective and not taking the rough with the smooth, but I disagree. I think all Christians are at different stages of a selective approach to the Bible and it's churlish to assume some greater authenticity of approach just because the selectivity has been sanctioned by the (conservative) consensus of the day.

    This may seem obvious but Christians are only Christians because of Christ. Not Paul, not the writings 500yrs before in Leviticus. If it weren't for Christ we would be living a very different reality. Christ never mentioned homosexuality. I take my cue from him on this subject. It was obviously a non issue for him, it's a non issue for me

    Homosexuality - sexuality in general is problematic because as sexual beings we are attracted to beauty. Some people seem to therefore assume, from their own personal feelings, if we can resist going down that path- so can they. Homosexuality can be fundamentally different from this superficial appreciation of beauty. There is a spectrum of sexuality and there are some males that are created very much at the female end, and vice versa. This has to be accepted and can't be changed just as we wouldn't expect to change many peoples disposition to heterosexuality.

    The waters get muddied when homosexuality is influenced by environment and the scope is broadened to include receptive bisexuality. This can be seen in single sex environments such as the armed forces,the Catholic Church,monasteries, nunneries, single sex schools. Some of those examples - like the U.S military - the debate has been opened up & (eventually) dealt with pragmatically, with no sense of threat felt by those in the military itself.

    The situation is very different in the Catholic Church, where an unwillingless to be open and pragmatic about sexuality has caused some really horrific abuse to take place. When the debate has been broached by reasoned individuals who suggest Priests should be able to marry, they've been censored.

    There is something that again seems obvious- The Bible is a work in progress over many centuries. As Christians our focus is on Christ. It is not a Musuem piece. In antiquity, it was added/ammended time and time again & it should be again, additions written into the Bible- To reflect Christianity in our age- 2000 yrs down the line.

  • Comment number 9.

    This may be of interest, considering the Religious context in which homosexuality is being discussed
    http://www.advocate.com/News/Daily_News/2011/01/04/Father_Cuti%E9_Catholic_Church_Full_of_Gay_Priests/

  • Comment number 10.

    mscracker # 5

    "I am actually a Catholic and take a Catholic view if scripture."

    Would you like to enlighten us on that?

    What is the Catholic view if scripture?

    You've mentioned on various threads that you are ill informed about a variety of subjects which you have still ventured an opinion on. I am not criticising you here. Having lived in the US for a while I fully realise that information is not spoon fed to you and that you have to search. And your partaking in discussion on here is commendable.

    However, given that the Vatican did its level best to stop ordinary Catholics having access to scripture, removing teaching licences from Catholic Scripture Scholars, excommunicating some, I'd genuinely like to know what the 'Catholic view' of scripture is.

  • Comment number 11.

    Dear RJB:
    What is the Catholic view of scripture? It's best found in the Catechism.
    (I don't find the index to be user-friendly, though.)
    In the past, I've heard comments re. Catholics having been kept from reading the Bible from non-Catholics and disgruntled fallen away Catholics too, but I disagree.And truthfully I haven't heard that expressed recently til you mentioned it.
    I often find in discussions that there is more to a news item than I am aware of therefore it is prudent to investigate beyond the surface.It may be a matter of semantics but I'd venture I'm more "uninformed" than "ill informed." But perhaps that's just British usage for not having all the facts?

  • Comment number 12.

    P.S.: I kind of like this advise from Flannery O'Connor about venturing opinions.
    "In the first place you can be so absolutely honest and so absolutely wrong at the same time that I think it is better to be a combination of cautious and polite"
    — Flannery O'Connor
    And this about the Bible:
    "When you leave a man alone with his Bible and the Holy Ghost inspires him, he's going to be a Catholic one way or another, even though he knows nothing about the visible church. His kind of Christianity may not be socially desirable, but will be real in the sight of God."
    — Flannery O'Connor (The Habit of Being: Letters of Flannery O'Connor)
    One of my very favorite authors.

  • Comment number 13.

    mscracker;

    Thanks for those vignettes. And never fear - RJB doesn't have all the facts either.

  • Comment number 14.

    The link to Professor Knust's alternative reading of the Bible doesn't seem to work - at least on my browser, so I don't know what point she has made, but the following is something that has occurred to me regarding this debate.

    In the debate about the Bible and homosexuality, there is a phrase which seems to crop up frequently, and that is the phrase 'the divine order' (it seems to have the same chilling effect on me as the phrase 'New World Order'). This phrase is also used when referring to the issue of women priests (or the lack of them).

    Here is some phraseology from the website of the Anglican ultra-Conservative pressure group 'Reform': "...the divine order of male headship, which makes the headship of women as priests in charge, incumbents, dignitaries and bishops inappropriate."They also have an article, which condemns homosexuality on the basis that it violates the order of creation.

    So, according to this interpretation, heterosexual marriage is considered the only permissible sexual relationship on the basis of the 'divine order' rooted in the creation. Of course, Jesus referred back to Genesis 2:24 to establish the foundation for marriage: "a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife...", thus defining marriage as the relationship between one man and one woman. So clearly there is a biblical justification for this.

    There is a problem, however, with this theory. While this 'divine order' for marriage may possibly be considered to be 'the norm', it cannot preclude possible departures from that 'norm'. If that is not true, then how do we explain the widespread polygamy allowed by God throughout the Old Testament period, which obviously violates the principle of "one man, one woman" of Genesis 2:24? How do we explain the fact that God established the nation of Israel on the basis of the twelve tribes, descended from and named after the sons of a man, who had two wives, and furthermore had sex with his wives' maidservants? I am, of course, referring to Jacob (see Genesis 30:1-13). Of course, he had sexual relations with Bilhah and Zilpah in order to procreate, rather than pursue an agenda of pleasure. But that is not the point. Jacob had sex with these two women, and it makes not one scrap of difference that his two wives gave him permission to do so (and, of course, Bilhah and Zilpah presumably had no choice in the matter. I take it that this coercion was a cultural norm, and not part of any 'divine order').

    According to the ethics of a group like 'Reform', the sexual behaviour of Jacob can be nothing other than 'sin'. Therefore, according to this logic, some of the tribes of Israel descended from men who were the offspring of immoral sexual acts.

    If the concept of the 'divine order' is so important, then why did God establish the 'order' of His people - Israel - on a foundation of what modern evangelical conservatives would call sexual immorality which, to the modern mind, involved what could have been the rape of sex slaves? Whatever one's view of the role of Israel, it must surely be true for Christians that the Israel of the OT represents the Church to some extent, due to that nation's calling as 'The People of God'. So one would think that this concept of 'the divine order' would be most evident in the establishment of the nation of Israel! Why then was this 'divine order' violated by establishing Israel on the foundation of one man having sexual relations with the four women with whom he lived - two of whom were not even his wives?!

    So here we see biblical evidence that calls into question the legitimacy of the foundation concept that is appealed to, in order to justify a particular understanding of human sexuality. Of course, this then has implications for our understanding of homosexuality. If this notion of 'the divine order' was not followed in the establishment of Israel, then one has to ask to what extent this idea is really applicable. In fact, celibacy is also a departure from 'the divine order' within creation, because Genesis 2:18 explicitly states that "it is not good for man to be alone", and this is in the context of a relationship with a woman. And yet celibacy is most definitely advocated in the Bible - see 1 Corinthians 7:7-8.

    It's clear to me that the Bible does not support a simple idea of 'the divine order' as regards human sexuality. This has very profound implications, I would suggest, and it certainly demolishes the claims of a group like Reform.

    More anon (perhaps)....

  • Comment number 15.


    mscracker

    I don't particularly wish to criticise Flannery O'Connor, but that quote about the bible and the Holy Ghost... trouble is, it's exactly what many Christians might say and we could replace the word 'Catholic' with 'Protestant', or 'Evangelical' or 'Anglican' or 'Charismatic' or whatever flavour of Christian we wish and find people to agree.

    To be honest, sometimes it just confuddles me.

  • Comment number 16.

    I have to agree there Peter, that quote could have any denomination slotted in and resonate with a reader. My own personal inspiration towards Christianity-away from visible Church,draws me to Universal Unitarianism. Although in the cultural context of experiencing both Catholic and Anglican Churchs, Im drawn every time to the Anglican experience- the service, atmosphere and the singing/hymn part definitely make a deeper connection than its Catholic counterpart

  • Comment number 17.

    mscracker

    "What is the Catholic view of Scripture? Its best found in the catechism."

    Actually you are wrong. Its best found in a series of encyclicals:
    Providetissimus Deus, Spiritus Paraclitus and Divino Afflante Spiritu, which specifically deal with the scriptures.

    (You will also find loads on it in other encyclicals like Gaudium Et Spes, Rerum Novarum, Mater et Magistra, Pacem in Terris, Populorum Progressio, Justicia in Mundo and a host of others.)

    The catechism is rather dull and turgid in comparison. In your quest for knowledge try reading some of these. They will explain why, based on the scriptures, the Catholic Church used to support justice for all people, rights for workers, freedom of speech, democracy, equality, the dignity of every person - including 'hand wringing liberals', the right to education, the right to work and many, many more things which will expand your knowledge.

    And Theophane is of course correct, I dont have all the answers. Dont listen to me. Listen to the teaching of the Catholic Church, all of it, not slanted views of a few conservatives who think that the Bible was written by Denzinger.

  • Comment number 18.

    Is it any surprise the Catholic Church attempted to maintain a monopoly on interpretation of the Scriptures? Since study of the Bible has been wrested from the Church and other vested interests and subjected to objective scrutiny (ie using modern methods, and without the premise 'God exists', such as from the time of Hume and Gibbon), the Church, the Bible and Christians' claims about themselves have been left in tatters.

    Literalism has been left to that rather noisy band of sectarians, and it is little surprise too that they are regarded as something of a scourge by the older, more orthodox churches, who would like to keep pushing their theology-is-esoteric envelope to salvage some credibility. Their line is always, first: "You just don't geddit", swiftly followed by some claim of victimisation. Having rowdy literalists shouting, er, EXACTLY the same thing somewhat undermines their salvage effort.

    Ryan: I appreciate your tone, and that you've come across as gentle and measured, but with respect, you make a number of affirmative statements about homosexuality, which you say is a "non issue" for you.

    Despite this, your third and fourth paragraphs are peppered with statements of what homosexuality "is", and they flow from your assertion that sexuality is "problematic".

    Those two paragraphs of yours betray some pretty hard to shift casual prejudice - please understand that I realise we are often not aware of our casual prejudices and we all have them about one thing or another, so this is not a personal attack - and those prejudices are primarily derived from faulty religious ethics. I would say THAT is what is problematic, not the subject that faulty ethics deigns to treat. If the ethics is faulty, then what it finds about its subjects will be faulty.

    For an instance of your casual prejudice, you present homosexuality as decadent and a matter of temptation indulged. It is this, you say, that causes some people to resent homosexuals. That's a value-laden statement.

    Then you trot out this pretty airy bit of philosophising: "Homosexuality can be fundamentally different from this superficial appreciation of beauty."

    But you just said the problem with sexuality is that we're attracted to beauty. Where are you going now?

    "There is a spectrum of sexuality and there are some males that are created very much at the female end, and vice versa. This has to be accepted and can't be changed just as we wouldn't expect to change many peoples disposition to heterosexuality."

    More value-laden stuff, including some good old-fashioned (biblical?) misogyny.

    Males are "created"? At "the female end"? Unfortunate as you suggest that is, it "has to be accepted and can't be changed". Homosexuality in males simply is not a gender issue. Even if it were, what would be so wrong with that that we would want to change it?

    There is a "spectrum of sexuality" and spectra, such as they are, do not admit of the binary you immediately then invoke.

    As a gay man, I sometimes get very annoyed when self-appointed "gay rights activists" decide they're going to speak on my behalf.

    By the same token I don't much like being spoken about in the barstool philosophy of a well-meaning Christian. What you wrote is in a cocked hat, well-meaning or not. And it is saturated in unexamined values and prejudices which, carried to extremes, are the real problem for gay people. You make no departure from those root causes of that prejudice you think you're attacking. You're just purveying the same prejudice 'lite'.

    My mother gave me a little joke prayer when I was a kid. It read: "Oh Lord, please help me to keep my big mouth shut until I know what I am talking about."

    Just so.

    And since someone else mentioned it, the faulty ethics to which I refer are those derived from "natural law" as Christians see it. This came long after Jesus and the Bible, and is derived chiefly from Aquinas who was fortunate to have got access to Aristotle and so used his method.

    Aquinas was a towering figure, but Christians' conception of natural law is, I'm afraid, a matter of faith as much as their belief in their god. And that is because Christian natural law does not stand up philosophically. It was savaged for two entire centuries and was dealt its death blow at the beginning of the 20th Century by G.E. Moore.

    So any Catholic theologian with a decent knowledge of philosophy - all of them in other words - knows full well that ethical pronouncements derived from natural law are invalid. The effects of those pronouncements is unjust. And even presenting them as truth is unjust and dishonest.

    But a sense of honour and honesty is not something I expect any more from the Catholic hierarchy and certainly not from their madcap shouty evangelical literalist counterparts.

  • Comment number 19.

    About Face- Sexuality is problematic only if it's seen as a problem. The problem being people don't face up to their own sexuality. It is no great irony to me, to be made aware some of the most hardlined, visceral opponents to openly accepting homosexuality - who condemn and who oppose UN decriminalisation- are in fact (celibate) homosexuals.

    That homosexuals of one grade (the Priest Class let's call it) are often the biggest barricade to other homosexuals is quite a big point.

    The other points you tear apart (while actually making value laden presumptions of your own, assuming you know my sexuality) are there for a reason. People need bridges of understanding. Chasms exist because people do not know how to traverse them. You take people in small steps and hopefully the end result you will get some semblance of a normal society where people *feel* free to love and marry without contention as to whether it's same sex or inter faith. The end result is what is important, you use whatever tools and ingenuity you can muster to get there.

  • Comment number 20.

    AboutFace (@ 18) -

    "Since study of the Bible has been wrested from the Church and other vested interests and subjected to objective scrutiny (ie using modern methods, and without the premise 'God exists', such as from the time of Hume and Gibbon), the Church, the Bible and Christians' claims about themselves have been left in tatters."

    "Left in tatters"? Not as far as I am concerned, and I am sure I speak for many other people as well. I think what you mean is: these claims are "left in tatters" as far as you are concerned.

    So fine. You are entitled to your opinion, just as Hume and Gibbon were entitled to their opinions (which is all they were, unless you can prove otherwise).

    "It was savaged for two entire centuries and was dealt its death blow at the beginning of the 20th Century by G.E. Moore."

    There you go again!! "Dealt its death blow"! What is this remarkable 'death blow' that G. E. Moore dealt? Please elaborate. I would be most intrigued to analyse this claim.

    (Or is this a case of trying to sound clever by name dropping, and thereby hoping that no one will notice that you have failed to support your claims with any evidence?!)

  • Comment number 21.

    Ryan,

    I have appreciated your support on a number of occasions and also your laid back (theologically speaking) view on homosexuality but I have to ask,

    do you actually believe

    Homosexuality - sexuality in general is problematic because as sexual beings we are attracted to beauty. Some people seem to therefore assume, from their own personal feelings, if we can resist going down that path- so can they. Homosexuality can be fundamentally different from this superficial appreciation of beauty. There is a spectrum of sexuality and there are some males that are created very much at the female end, and vice versa. This has to be accepted and can't be changed just as we wouldn't expect to change many peoples disposition to heterosexuality.

    The waters get muddied when homosexuality is influenced by environment and the scope is broadened to include receptive bisexuality. This can be seen in single sex environments such as the armed forces,the Catholic Church,monasteries, nunneries, single sex schools. Some of those examples - like the U.S military - the debate has been opened up & (eventually) dealt with pragmatically, with no sense of threat felt by those in the military itself.


    This has no basis in reality, all homosexuality means is that we are attracted to the same sex, that is not problematic. Humans are sexual and everything flows from attraction - you just have to look at the adaptations in humans to encourage it.

    Your paragraphs are like some religious type trying to come to terms with something he knows does not fit with his beliefs.

    Homosexuality is like heterosexuality, very simple.

    Nailed in attraction is what drives our sexuality. I can have sex with a man in lots of different ways and my attraction to him and my sexuality get me past any problems I might have with his functionality. There is nothing I can imagine which would get me past having to touch the the bit a woman wees out of, I would run a mile. It is that simple. It has nothing to do with beauty. I am programmed towards men's bits not women's.

    That does not mean I cannot appreciate beauty I just see men as beautiful and women - I can tell if one is better than the other. I can name lots of male actors, describe them, tell you how attractive they are but I have terrible trouble remembering most female actors because I just don't pay them the same attention.

    I have a calendar of men on my wall why? because I would never look at a calendar of women.

    The easiest way for a heterosexual to think about homosexuality is to remember the last thing that turned you on and then understand that the same things on men turn gay men on, only obviously the male equivalent.

    I wouldn't normally say things in such blunt terms but I do think that some people don't actually understand what their own sexuality is.

  • Comment number 22.

    Aboutface

    You know why it has been so long in attaining even some rights for gay people? Coz gay people fragment and split at every opportunity. You get annoyed at gay rights activists. Why dont you support them? Support Christians who are on your side, even if they dont have all the facts.

    Those who are not against you are for you, even if their methodology is not to your liking.

  • Comment number 23.

    By the way Ryan,

    I still appreciate your support.

  • Comment number 24.

    Dave , I'm trying to gently express it in a way someone who doesn't think about what it's like to be Gay might understand.

    "I wouldn't normally say things in such blunt terms but I do think that some people don't actually understand what their own sexuality is."

    Exactly! It's a problem isn't it. This lack of understanding about sexuality. That's what Im expressing. AboutFace assumed, as did you, that someone is saying it's *your* problem, and to throw it right back at them

    I believe sexuality is a spectrum- alot of people are in the middle and others at either end, just becuase some males inhabit the same end of the spectrum as some heterosexual females isn't meant to be derogatory. It's just a fact one gay man and one straight woman might be attracted to the same guy and have the same hopes and aspirations wrapped up in that.

    Appreciation of beauty is an important facet- an integral factor but those who identify with that aspect but don't associate themselves as being Gay think that's all it is. That's why some think it's a choice and use handy quotes from religious books. One reason these utterances are expressed in Holy Books such as the Koran and Bible is that people have always had same sex attraction. That doesn't make a person Gay, but it does often seem to give another the right to turn round and say - * ya know what,I can see where you're coming from, look at those muscles and look at that guys tan he's cute- but ya know what, I made a choice to marry my wife and I respect god and my religious beliefs - you're weak- less of an equal because of this* -I wonder how common that scenario is.

    Human sexuality in that scenario is percieved as a choice and homosexuality a weakness or a problem.Except that it's their problem in how they perceive homosexuality.

    This is why I say people who are receptive bisexually think it's a choice.It Isn't.Not for those who are born with a natural disposition- one so obvious it's evident to others before puberty and before even they are aware of it.

    Another point is the environmental & behavioural impact on sexuality.
    Isn't it just so inconvenient for everybody that sexuality is so complicated and messy
    Abuse- Children are abused and their first, formative sexual experience is same sex. Human beings are fragile pretty much anyway you throw them- physically & metaphorically speaking. Does it cross anyones mind this is perhaps why some people think a head doc can fix it.

    Ya know what- all of that is contentious and not easy to read or accept but it happens. In the same way that some cultural settings foster same sex relationships in people who might not ordinarily have them. It doesn't make thier experience the legitimate , default experience. It is just their personal experience and if they can walk away and choose to be in a heterosexual relationship after, so be it.

    Messy, uncatogorizable, muddied- when people just want to neatly put everything colour coded & filed with nice labels.
    Very simple- all that matters- however people turn out, is they find someone to love and share their lives with. Emotional and physical intimacy- we all need it to keep us ticking over. I think we all need to accept people for who they are even if we can't neatly catogorize how they got there. There will always be straight people, there will always be Gays, there will always be bisexuals- that's how we're made- evidently. It's either out in the open or underground. Society and religion can frown upon it, persecute it, be hypocritical about it, but it's going to exist as long as humanity does so people better start getting their heads round it

  • Comment number 25.

    Logica: You are a bluffer. It is not a matter of opinion that Christian philosophy has been levelled. I've given you the names. "Opinion" is what you get in forums like this. Hume was a philosopher, ditto Moore and Gibbon was a historian. They were concerned with facts and truth, so far as we can apprehend those things. Go and read up on Moore and the naturalistic fallacy if you are really interested. Read up on Hume's Natural History of Religion and Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion. See Moore's Principia Ethica. There are good entries on both in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy online. Read up on Gibbon's Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, particularly its parts on early Christians.

    And reflect that we have some 300 years worth of scholarship since Gibbon and Hume. Excuse me if it appears I'm name-dropping. I'm glad to have been able to introduce you to the major historical figures whose work has immediate relevance to this debate. I assumed anyone sticking their oar in would know that.

    Ryan: "About Face- Sexuality is problematic only if it's seen as a problem. The problem being people don't face up to their own sexuality. It is no great irony to me, to be made aware some of the most hardlined, visceral opponents to openly accepting homosexuality - who condemn and who oppose UN decriminalisation- are in fact (celibate) homosexuals.

    That homosexuals of one grade (the Priest Class let's call it) are often the biggest barricade to other homosexuals is quite a big point."

    I really don't want to appear precious here, but look at what you are saying man. You're basically saying homosexuals are their own worst enemies, and this is because they don't have the courage to face up to themselves. You say this as a well-meaning Christian trying his darndest to be charitable.

    Can you consider for a moment what it was that made homosexuality a matter of distaste? I will tell you. Abrahamic faith is what. That is not an often-enough asserted fact - and I use the term 'fact' advisedly.

    What underpins the prejudice against gay people? What gives justification to very basic in-group/out-group prejudice? What reinforces it? What inculcates it? What exacerbates it? Chiefly, with respect, the Abrahamic faiths.

    You seem to be implying that gay people's biggest problem are closet gay people who become priests and pastors. That's pretty insulting. It is pretty shallow-minded of you. You have ignored my point, which is that since, as you acknowledge, people are fragile, it is the casual prejudice you yourself engaged in which is really harmful and much more subtle and much more insidious. The messages we absorb at home and from teachers and peers penetrate far deeper than those shouted by some moronic demagogue from a pulpit. It is the source of that casual, unexamined, subtle prejudice that needs to be tackled.

    Think about it this way for a minute: Apart from the bullying and violence they suffer, there is also the drip-drip of casual prejudice which is absorbed by gay children and young people. This makes them unusually susceptible to depression, confusion and despair. That is a fact. To then hold up the prevalence of that depression, confusion and despair as evidence of how homosexuality is a regrettable condition, not to be encouraged, but deserving of compassion, only contributes to the cycle of damage. And it is deeply condescending.

    It is very often not gay people who need to take a good look at themselves in this. It is not gay people who need a little more self-examination here. I don't even blame religion primarily for this set of circumstances because it is also a fact that homosexuality wasn't problematised to the extent it is now until the period when it was designated a psychological disorder. But for once, in that instance, the religious moralisers were prepared to embrace the "science" with great enthusiasm.

    I make no apology either for being annoyed when I find myself the subject of quasi-philosophical, half-baked musings by the eminently blameless on a message board like this.

  • Comment number 26.

    Shamelessly stealing this from a much more witty American, but I like it and, considering the current theme of the thread, some might find it amusing. It was a written response to a fairly right-wing radio commentator who used Leviticus to justify her anti-homosexual agenda.

    Thank you for doing so much to educate people regarding God's Law. I have learned a great deal from your show, and try to share that knowledge with as many people as I can. When someone tries to defend the homosexual lifestyle, for example, I simply remind them that Leviticus 18:22 clearly states it to be an abomination. End of debate. I do need some advice from you, however, regarding some of the other specific laws and how to follow them:

    When I burn a bull on the altar as a sacrifice, I know it creates a pleasing odor for the Lord - Lev.1:9. The problem is my neighbors. They claim the odor is not pleasing to them. Should I smite them?

    I would like to sell my daughter into slavery, as sanctioned in Exodus 21:7. In this day and age, what do you think would be a fair price for her?

    I know that I am allowed no contact with a woman while she is in her period of menstrual uncleanliness - Lev.15:19- 24. The problem is, how do I tell? I have tried asking, but most women take offense.

    Lev. 25:44 states that I may indeed possess slaves, both male and female, provided they are purchased from neighboring nations. A friend of mine claims that this applies to Mexicans, but not Canadians. Can you clarify? Why can't I own Canadians?

    I have a neighbor who insists on working on the Sabbath. Exodus 35:2 clearly states he should be put to death. Am I morally obligated to kill him myself?

    A friend of mine feels that even though eating shellfish is an abomination - Lev. 11:10, it is a lesser abomination than homosexuality. I don't agree. Can you settle this?

    Lev. 21:20 states that I may not approach the altar of God if I have a defect in my sight. I have to admit that I wear reading glasses. Does my vision have to be 20/20, or is there some wiggle room here?

    Most of my male friends get their hair trimmed, including the hair around their temples, even though this is expressly forbidden by Lev. 19:27. How should they die?

    I know from Lev. 11:6-8 that touching the skin of a dead pig makes me unclean, but may I still play football if I wear gloves?

    My uncle has a farm. He violates Lev. 19:19 by planting two different crops in the same field, as does his wife by wearing garments made of two different kinds of thread (cotton/polyester blend). He also tends to curse and blaspheme a lot. Is it really necessary that we go to all the trouble of getting the whole town together to stone them? - Lev.24:10-16. Couldn't we just burn them to death at a private family affair like we do with people who sleep with their in-laws? (Lev. 20:14)

    I know you have studied these things extensively, so I am confident you can help. Thank you again for reminding us that God's word is eternal and unchanging.

    (if you google "Why can't I own..." with the auto-suggest feature on, it's the very first hit)

  • Comment number 27.

    Ryan,

    Now I understand where you where coming from and post #24 makes it clearer. I think I am closer to you on this now. Maybe because I have had to think about this all my life and my background I see things in a different framework and terminology. This is a discussion and like all things I may not be right but I'll try and see if I can bridge the gap (which may only be language)

    I think part of my confusion comes when you say female end of spectrum. What if we leave gender out of it and just concentrate on sexuality. The spectrum then runs from 100% homosexuality to 100% heterosexuality. There are people at both ends and some folk in the middle. How many in each place is difficult to assess without scientific experiment. Then rerun your statements and they might slot into place. Also leave beauty out of it - blind people have sexualities too and sexuality is more about how you react to what your senses tell you.

    I think the one area where I have a niggle is on environmental impact, be that association or abuse or coercion (peer pressure). I think what you are describing is changes in behaviour not necessarily changes in orientation. Bi sexual people can chose although even that is complex and other people seem to be able to chose to have same sex activities while maintaining their heterosexual orientation (and vice versa). I have met several men who are heterosexual in their private life but have sex with men for money. (I was working with an HIV charity distributing Condoms). I also know many gay men who have been married and have children who say that their orientation never changed but they slept with their wife as a choice to bury their orientation from public view. The latter type of discordance can be particularly damaging from a psychological point of view which is why the ex gay therapies are so frowned upon because this is what they try to achieve (ie change of behaviour not orientation).

    For relevance to this thread the "unprotected texts" ( am I the only one who sees the subtext in that title or am I just over analysing again) cannot have any relevance to this as they had no understanding of the separation of behaviour and state. They only discuss behaviours (cultural rent boys in temples, rape as part of domination etc) which have nothing to do with orientation. It is only in the David and Jonathan story that there is any real nuances towards what might be attraction but might also be 'brotherly love', as we cannot ask them we cannot be sure.

    LSV, interesting stuff, I have not seen that type of analysis before and it does seem a legitimate view. Not being in with the theological 'in crowd' I am not sure how much traction you will get. btw I have a similar reaction to the terms Divine Order, New World Order and the popes favourite Natural Order (which seems to me to be an attempt to subvert nature for divine)

  • Comment number 28.

    AboutFace (@ 25) -

    No answer to my question then.

    And to think that I am the one accused of being a 'bluffer'. If you want to talk in poker language then here's my bluff: show your cards, and then we can discuss this so-called philosophical and historical 'proof'. If you can't show your hand, then who is the *real* bluffer?

    Surely you must be able to present one argument from Hume, Gibbon or Moore? Come on then, let's see it, and then you will be in a position to expose me as a 'bluffer', if I really am one! You have made an extravagant claim with reference to these three people, so surely you must be up for defending your position? (You can, of course, fold your hand, if you're getting nervous. I will understand!)

    Or could it be that you are just another angry 'shouter'?

    Sorry, but I am not silenced or intimidated by shouting and foot stamping. Coherent arguments are more the kind of thing that could possibly shut me up, if that's what you want to do.

  • Comment number 29.

    MSCracker, how does the Catholic view of homosexuality differ from the Protestant? From what I remember there is virtually no difference in how they view homosexuality.

  • Comment number 30.

    Ooooh, get you "Logica". I gave you the source material and the titles of four books and two articles. You shouldn't need to read too far to start finding out something of the significance of these figures. And I'm sorry but I'm too long in the tooth to waste my time arguing with yet another one of your type on a bard like this because you're not up to it and you don't tend to be able to see when you're dispensed with, and it goes on and on to the benefit of no-one. Go and read a bit of what I suggested. There's a good troll.

  • Comment number 31.

    Dear RJB:You are correct that perhaps it is "best" to read encyclicals in full but I think you will find in the Catechism numerous quotes from several of the sources you mention & it is a simple way to find Catholic teaching on Sacred Scripture(even though the indexing seems a bit confusing).With the Catechism as a starting point one can read further.And should.
    God bless!

  • Comment number 32.

    AboutFace,

    You're a bit wide of the mark to describe LSV as a troll. As much as I think a lot of his opinions are deeply fawed, he's a reasonable debator (for the most part, ignoring the ad hominems).

    However, having said that, mind what you say, as he'll turn it around on you in no time at all ;^)

  • Comment number 33.

    peterm2:Many of Flannery O'Connor's writings are meant to startle or shock us out of the ordinary so that we can be more aware of grace.She also said something to the effect that many folks enter the Catholic Church by means the Church does not allow.Which I think might tie in with the above quote re. the Bible.

  • Comment number 34.

    Romejellybean,

    Sorry I overlooked your message. You say:

    "...gay people fragment and split at every opportunity". Straights don't? Do you think it would be reasonable of me to suggest that you agree with people just on the basis that they, like you, are straight? I'm not sure you're entirely right at all about gay rights being delayed by gay diversity.

    "You get annoyed at gay rights activists. Why dont you support them?"

    I think I qualified that statement. Gay rights activism doesn't annoy me, and I do support it, particularly the work of organisations like Stonewall. Self-appointed gay "spokespeople" or "representatives of the gay community" do annoy me. Those people have no right whatsoever to speak on my behalf or claim to "represent" me. I will grant that this is less of a problem now than it has been in the past and dodgy reporting has a lot to do with it.

    "Support Christians who are on your side, even if they dont have all the facts."

    I appreciate the generosity of spirit of moderate Christians. I do not however want their sympathy. And will not hesitate to point out what a large role they passively play in sustaining the culture in which gay people are attacked. It is somewhat hard to stomach when the problem attempts to masquerade as the solution.

  • Comment number 35.

    Wow!!!

    I've been awarded my first 'troll' medal on the internet! Hee hee!! After a couple of years and I won't tell you how many words (although I do know, and it's embarrassing) I've finally made it!

    I think congratulations are in order for Muggins.

    And there was me thinking I was going to have to plough through a bit of Hume this evening. Phew. Got out of that one!!

    Thanks, AboutFace. You're a pal!


    (P.S. I take it that 'TROLL' stands for: Truthful, Rational, Outstandingly Logical and Learned, 'cos I can't see any other reason for this award based on what I wrote on this thread!!)

  • Comment number 36.

    AboutFace- You're a bull in a China Shop ( no offence to Bulls ). Have you even read any other threads ? - such as the Homophobia kills. You might think you can spout with self righteous anger like the best of them, but do you know what I hope- that maybe just one person religiously inclined had a slight change in perception. A change that would allow them to show more tolerance towards a Gay couple than the Bulls. A change in perception that would allow one person to show neutrality to a Gay person in the street instead of a dirty look. Small changes I know, but vast in terms of how it affects individuals in our society.

    Dave, I think you're right we're pretty close in view points in many ways. I wonder if you can see my perception on something. The similarity between Gubio and AboutFace. The content might be different but there's an overwealming similarity in feel and approach. Almost like 2 sides of the same coin. I have a feeling Gubio is the type of person AboutFace is going to be fighting tooth & nail with over the next 40 yrs.

    AboutFace , you have a point about the Abrahamic faiths and their often poisonous approach to homosexuality, but stomping your feet as LSV says isn't going to change anything. We all have to live in this world and this is the reality we're born into. Perhaps if you realise the *them & us* really isn't so much a *them & us*, you'll diffuse some of that anger and find practical ways to combat prejudice and intolerance.

    BTW, the truth hurts.In the Catholic Church for example, it often is a case of Gay men being the biggest barricade to more open Gay men. You don't have to look very hard to find people who rail against Gays in visceral terms to find out later they've been outed.

  • Comment number 37.

    Ryan, I have a concern with statements like:

    "I believe sexuality is a spectrum- alot of people are in the middle and others at either end, just becuase some males inhabit the same end of the spectrum as some heterosexual females isn't meant to be derogatory."

    Maybe this is because I'm "receptive bisexually" as you put it, and just happen to have particular aesthetic leanings towards the female end of the spectrum, but I find it fairly convincing that the biological compulsion of sex is completely satisfied in the physical act itself. Everything outwith that is about emotion and value, which can be trained and adjusted by social pressures and internal feedback.

    Don't get me wrong; I'm sure there's a hormonal aspect to that aesthetic. But how can I say that this is anything other than an appreciation of the female form (extended to the whole sensory experience), and an aspect of my conscious agency (trained though it may be)? It wouldn't be pleasant for me to try to challenge this, since by that very aesthetic my actions and the objects of them would fall short, but that unpleasantness can't itself be taken as a reason to reject the possibility that if I were to work long and hard enough at it, I might change that aesthetic sense.

    It's a bit like when you first start drinking coffee. As a kid, this stuff tastes like mud, and the Yuck factor kicks in. You can't imagine why anyone would want to drink that stuff. One might say you're "naturally oriented" to dislike coffee, and that's fine and good. But it's socially acceptable, and it turns out coffee is great for getting stuff done at 2am, so you keep at it. And a few years later, your morning Costa Coffee trip is one of the most enjoyable parts of your day.

    I think it's an interesting project to try to pull sexual preference away from value theory, but I'm skeptical that it can really be achieved. Dawkins' arguments about thinking about humans as completely biologically egotistical make a lot of sense from a constructively scientific perspective, and it seems right to me that anything that conflicts with this is part of the more sociological and abstract explanations of value.

    Now, it's a long way from there to "correction", because that insists there's something objectively valuable about heterosexuality. While I do completely understand that homosexuals have been unduly victimised by this kind of mindset, I don't think that reaction to it is an appropriate reason to state that sexual preference is fixed or primitive. And I also understand that this's an unpopular thing to say. But screw popularity - people can dislike my suggestion all they want, but if it helps people out then it'll have done its job.

    I think it is a choice. It's a choice that is apt to be manipulated, and it's a choice that one makes unconsciously. Why is that a problem? People make all sorts of choices all the time that they don't know they're making. Do you shop at Asda or Sainsburys? Do you let the other guy out or keep driving? Do I keep sitting here posting or go and do something more worthwhile with my time?

    I say it's a good thing to recognise the choices one makes, weigh up the consequences that would arise from that choice, take responsibility for the choice and be proud in the decision that we take. Being homosexual is nothing to be ashamed of, or something that you ought to feel like you have to make excuse for in natural order, in that it appears to have no real negative consequences for everyone else. If society wants to try to put you down for a harmless choice you want to stand by, then don't be afraid to use the strength of your position to challenge that society right back again.

    In fact, that's the main reason why I want people to think that sexual preference is a choice. If homosexuality is just a natural phenomenon, then there's no challenge to the mainstream; things go on as they always did, in the understanding that there's simply this kind of quiet segregation between the two species of humanity. Some who thought they were in one turn out to be the other, and there's a bit of migration between the two populations. But if it's different, if sexual preference and the attitudes towards it really gets at something at the heart of the way we look at our own social value in our world, then this is a debate that needs to happen. Not just for your sake, but ours too.

  • Comment number 38.

    Dave, the Gubio guy was in Ireland's missal crisis thread, just in case you didn't know what I was on about :p

    Paul, I think it's a choice for many people at different points in the middle of the spectrum, that's why those who are coming from that perspective don't understand those at the other end, where it's not a choice.

    For those who have that choice and our motivated for whatever reason to be intolerant and prejudiced they can often confuse sex & sexuality and view them both as the same thing- opportunistic. They aren't. There is nothing opportunistic about a Gay man having the same hopes, dreams and aspirations as a heterosexual woman. And for some it really isn't a choice. Being Gay is difficult, it's something people have to learn to cope with. And tbh I'm fed up with AboutFace's attitude. I'm part of that spectrum too. I identify myself as Gay and am in a long term same sex relationship of nearly 7 yrs. I don't like the attitude of making sweeping generalisations. It's a human trait we all make and Gay people make it too- something AboutFace isn't self-aware enough to realise. It's all me , me, me, stomping your feet like a badly behaved Malone housewife

  • Comment number 39.

    Aboutface

    I take your point about well meaning but possibly ill informed or insensitive Christians. You also state that the bigots screaming homophobia from pulpits are not the problem.

    In my opinion they are.

    It is not insensitive or well meaning, but ill informed, religious people who are hanging pubescent boys by the neck in Iran. Nor is it such people who are spreading hatred in various African countries and attempting to have gay people executed.

    I think you should save your vitriol for the targets who deserve it and work at educating the others and keeping them on side.

  • Comment number 40.


    AboutFace in # 25 says: "Can you consider for a moment what it was that made homosexuality a matter of distaste? I will tell you. Abrahamic faith is what. That is not an often-enough asserted fact - and I use the term 'fact' advisedly". Leaving aside the clearly expressed views of the Dalai Lama, hardly a member of one of the Abrahamic faiths, this assertion raises an interesting point.

    If there actually were a personal God, involved in the world and seeking to order the lives of its intelligent inhabitants, a God who has revealed Himself and His will to us in His sacred scriptures, then this view might make some sense. I very much doubt, however, if AboutFace holds any such opinion.

    If, however, as Yeats said, "man made up the whole, Made lock, stock and barrel Out of his bitter soul" then we can hardly blame God. We need to look beyond the easy target of religion for the origins of homophobia. Fear or hatred whose origin is not properly understood cannot be successfully addressed. We need to ask are we living merely with a legacy or do the factors which excited the prejudice of the Biblical authors still exist in their raw form today and, if so, what are they and what do we do about them.

    On another point, people have spoken of sexuality as a spectrum suggesting some sort of continuum - I do not think it is anything like so simple as that given the variety and number of issues involved: you need to think quantum to approach the complexity. There will be those who experience biological or psychological limitations to choice, there are those who are capable of wide-ranging experimentation. Any attempt to define normative standards for sexual behaviour really should start with the understanding that, in another sense of the word, there is no such thing as normal.

    As a practising Christian I recognise that the Church, that Christian faith, is important to many people who identify themselves as belonging somewhere in the LGBTTIQQ2S constituency. I believe it is incumbent on the Church to repudiate all prejudice and to begin a process of looking at what Christianity really has to say on the issue, something that should go far beyond shoe-horning people into necessarily monogamous committed life-long partnerships. We need a whole rethink of what we, as Christians, feel is important in the totality of how people interact with one another, a totality which spreads far beyond the narrow confines of intimate engagement.

  • Comment number 41.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 42.

    Parrhasios,

    When you said that sexuality is more complex than a spectrum and then use the term "LGBTTIQQ2S " I can see why there is a complexity.

    Sexuality is purely a measure of what you are attracted to and as a single characteristic it can be described as a spectrum. Of the "LGBTTIQQ2S " sexuality only relates to the LGB part. Q refers to a state of mind for those unsure of which label they want applied it does not mean their sexuality is or is not fixed it is just recognises a right not to be pigeon holed. the T and I have nothing to do with sexuality at all as they refer to gender with is completely non related to sexuality. T and I people can be anywhere on the sexuality spectrum. I know I seem to be splitting hairs but there are real disconnects between sexuality and gender identity which make a real single measurement spectrum impossible (which I think is what you were alluding to) but that does not mean that the individual characteristics (sexuality and gender) cannot be seen as separate and so measurable. It is possible to measure and plot a graph for sexuality based on physical experimentation. The result do not give 100% accuracy on an individual basis but when viewed from a larger population (statistically), the results definably resemble a spectrum.

    I will give you an example to attempt to show the non interdependence. A person (this is real) born physically a male grows up and is attracted to females. 'He' joins the armed forces and ends up in a fairly elite unit. All this time 'he' is struggling with gender identity. After leaving the forces the identity issue is finally confronted and the person is now post-op transgender. Her sexuality has not changed internally and she still is attracted to women. Externally she may have appeared to move from being a heterosexual to a homosexual but in reality who she was attracted to (sexuality) never varied. I have heard another like person describe herself now as a trasgendered lesbian.

    I do think you are right however in your 'attack' on the usage of the word normal, and I guess by extension the misuse of terms such as norms and normative which are more of a social construct as they attempt to ascribe 'values' or statistical movement. Many people confuse the word normal with most or majority when in reality it just means "it happens without direction". Gay people have always been around and as far as we can tell in roughly the same numbers. That means it is normal from a population perspective. It is the use the word has been put to which tries to impart a pejorative meaning.

    As I said before, the reason why the bible is such a poor resource to try and develop any sexual morality is that it does not address any of these issues and cannot be questioned as to what it really meant or what they were referring to. If it was not for the supernatural element of the bible and its adherents it would have been binned long ago because science has shown it's flaws in so many areas of interpretation, not just on sexuality.

  • Comment number 43.

    Dave (@ 42) -

    "...the reason why the bible is such a poor resource to try and develop any sexual morality is that it does not address any of these issues and cannot be questioned as to what it really meant or what they were referring to. If it was not for the supernatural element of the bible and its adherents it would have been binned long ago because science has shown it's flaws in so many areas of interpretation, not just on sexuality."

    I don't think the Bible should be treated as a kind of 'textbook' to obviate the need for people to think for themselves. Of course, there are very many Christians who do treat the Bible in this way, and think that it legislates on all sorts of issues. As I explained in a previous post (and thanks for your comments about it in post #27), there are Christians who look for this perfect 'divine order' in the Bible and then demand that life conform to this kind of biblical equivalent of 'Sharia' law.

    As someone who holds a very high view of the Bible, I have to say that this book (or rather library of books) does not display the characteristics of a textbook. I am frequently dismayed by Christians who seem to think that 'principles of application' can be found throughout every genre in the Bible, leading to some truly absurd conclusions.

    Let me give you an example, which relates to a moral issue, but nothing to do with sexuality. Yesterday I read a short article in a magazine called 'Idea' published by the 'Evangelical Alliance', which is a body set up to represent 'evangelical' opinion within the UK. The subject in question was gambling: "Should Christians be opposed to gambling?"

    The conclusion was that all gambling was sin, based on two verses from Proverbs. There is no clear prohibition on gambling in the Bible, but apparently these two verses sufficed: "He who tills his land will have plenty of bread, but he who follows frivolity will have poverty enough! A faithful man will abound in blessings, but he who hastens to be rich will not go unpunished." (Prov. 28:19-20)

    The crazy thing about this, is that these verses directly contradict what the writer said in the early part of her article. She was saying that... "...the high-risk strategy of bankers has been likened to gambling. The global credit crunch has caused devastation to people who lost houses, jobs and hope. In such an economic climate, gambling and lotteries seem like ways out of debt and hopelessness." In other words, she begins her article by stating (correctly) that many people are living in poverty as a result of factors beyond their control - especially the 'gambling' of bankers. These poor people have clearly not brought this state of affairs on themselves. But in order to discourage them from turning to gambling in their hopelessness, she then quotes Bible verses which effectually say that if you are poor, it's your own fault, because you haven't "tilled your land" and you haven't been 'faithful'!! Furthermore, she acknowledges that the bankers have 'gambled', yet it seems clear from what she is saying, that other people have reaped what they have sown - again this contradicts the verses from Proverbs, which, if they are a prohibition on gambling, would state that the gambler brings poverty on himself, not on other people.

    Whatever the rights and wrongs of gambling, the fact is that this is a completely perverse handling of the Bible. She picks at a few verses to condemn what she doesn't agree with, but fails to start with what the Bible is actually saying (looking at the context - i.e. the context of advising people who are already blessed with profitable work), and drawing positive conclusions.

    The same could be said of sexuality. Instead of saying "such and such is wrong, because these verses say so", why not start with a positive attitude to the Bible text, read what it says in context, and then draw conclusions accordingly? It is clear to me that the sexuality issue in the Bible is fairly complicated, as I explained earlier in this thread, and I think it is disturbing that the Bible is simply dismissed as a 'homophobic' book. The Bible cannot be condemned on the basis of some people's erroneous interpretations.

    The truth is that some people will find verses in the Bible to condemn almost anything - even drinking sherry at Christmas (as you mentioned on another thread). In fact, the same can be said of science. If 'nature' tells us that 'survival of the fittest' is the law of life, what is stopping someone from appealing to that to murder innocent people, who are considered sub-human and therefore polluting the gene pool? Because of such people, should we therefore 'bin' science?

    Certainly 'science' tells us nothing about the rights and wrongs of anything, since science is merely the study of nature, and such empirical evidence provides us with no moral framework at all. So let's not turn this debate into a justification for condemning the Bible, but rather seek to understand what the Bible is really saying.

  • Comment number 44.

    Well Dave, I'm sorry if I came across like a badly behaved Malone housewife. But when I see something that is misguided, misleading - or just plain wrong - then I will point it out, particularly when it pertains to me and particularly when it is a view that is apt to cause or prolong wider harm. I cannot bear lazy thought. And you will have noticed I am hostile to religion and religious people frankly, for the cause and maintenance of harm. It is not inoccuous. It is overarchingly egotistical and it has little to offer above the level of quelling fears in the individual. I make no apology for holding these views. They are not uninformed.

    Logica. Let's seek to understand what the Bible is really saying? Have we not acknowledged and do you not admit in saying the Bible can be used to condemn anything that that's because it can "mean" anything. I think if the Bible was saying any one thing we'd have figured it out since it's been around.

    And of your assertion that science has nothing to say about morality, there are arguments being advanced against that at the moment. They start from the position that if moral arguments are principally about wellbeing, then science has very much to say, or at least to offer to the debate. This is advancing particularly as neuroscience becomes more sophisticated. There are a series of talks on that subject here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jUxxZqynsBM&feature=related All the speakers are introduced there: Harris starts, feminist Patricia Smith, philosophers Simon Blackburn (who gives the most convincing argument against), Peter Singer and others. It's a pretty thoroughgoing set of presentations.

    This is a bad analogy: "If 'nature' tells us that 'survival of the fittest' is the law of life, what is stopping someone from appealing to that to murder innocent people, who are considered sub-human and therefore polluting the gene pool? Because of such people, should we therefore 'bin' science?"

    It is bad because "survival of the fittest" is a misapprehension of Darwinism and it isn't science. It wasn't even coined by Darwin. It is pseudoscience and as such it HAS been binned. I have to say I'd be glad to see bone-headed Bronze Age religion go the same way.

  • Comment number 45.

    Lazy thought- AboutFace that's one thing you can obviously handle about yourself then. You're just a prissy reactionary who came barging in attacking everyone. You're no different from a religious zealot, so self righteous in your indignation. Makes me wanna give up dealing with humanity

  • Comment number 46.

    I honestly 100% believe the western world wouldn't be so much better without religion. It's still got to process bone-headed personality types like you

  • Comment number 47.

    AboutFace (@ 44) -

    "This is a bad analogy: "If 'nature' tells us that 'survival of the fittest' is the law of life, what is stopping someone from appealing to that to murder innocent people, who are considered sub-human and therefore polluting the gene pool? Because of such people, should we therefore 'bin' science?"

    It is bad because "survival of the fittest" is a misapprehension of Darwinism and it isn't science. It wasn't even coined by Darwin. It is pseudoscience and as such it HAS been binned. I have to say I'd be glad to see bone-headed Bronze Age religion go the same way."


    Well, it would be useful if you read my post with just a little bit of comprehension (not asking much, is it?). I wasn't offering some kind of proof that 'survival of the fittest' was science; I was talking about how some people interpret science in order to justify their moral position (although I actually do think that a good case can be made for saying that this is part of Darwinism, but that is a discussion for another thread).

    I was rebutting the argument that the Bible should be binned, because some people interpret it in a particular way. I then made the point that the same argument could be applied to science. In other words, some people interpret science in a way that may indeed be erroneous. Because some people misinterpret science, does that mean we should bin science?

    This thread is about a discussion of the Bible and homosexuality. If you want to come on here with an 'atheist rant' ("bone-headed Bronze Age religion"), then fine, but don't think it's going to achieve anything or deter people who take a different point of view. No amount of ranting and insults will change people's view of God, Christianity and the Bible - in fact, it's more likely to confirm their beliefs (if the enemies of what they - and I - believe are so hung up, then they'll probably think that maybe it's because those beliefs are true!).

  • Comment number 48.



    Dave - # 42

    I actually used the terms sexuality and LGBTTIQQ2S in separate paragraphs addressing different issues. When I used the latter term I intended to encompass the range of diverse identities whose concerns a welcoming and faithful church would address. I am aware of the distinctions and sensitivities which populate the area. Having said that, let me simultaneously throw sensitivity into the wind and fat into the fire!

    When I read the overall thrust of your argument I am afraid I read a political rather than a scientific statement. I do not think our understanding of human sexuality, its causation and expression, is sufficiently robust to sustain the neat and absolute picture you obviously wish to paint. I understand why a gay activist would want to assert the things you do, I am just not sure they are actually justified. 

    Taking one example, gender identity and sexuality may well be separate issues for some people, they may well appear to be separate for others, but they are undoubtedly intimately connected in yet other cases. This is not, as I said, an area of clear boundaries and precise understandings.

    It is only possible to arrive at your overall conclusions, as your caveats show, when the evidential base is slewed by restriction and exclusion: one can only speak of human sexuality as a continuum if you restrict the objects of attraction to other adult human beings and exclude those influenced by paraphilias and fetishes. When we consider the non-linear nature of so many of the sexual behaviours we observe I have to question, not the potential usefulness, but the accuracy of the "spectrum" analogy even in this extremely limited application.

    The Bible is a whole other issue! I believe it is an entirely human creation chronicling one (long) strand of humanity's search for meaning in existence. It is as profitable for what it shows us about how that quest can go horribly wrong and lead to the vilest results (a most important lesson to learn) as it is for its insights, often profound, into the human heart, the challenges its obsession with social justice still presents today, and the hope it offers in a bleak and unfriendly world.

  • Comment number 49.

    AboutFace,

    If you had really read the post which has been deleted you would have found it broadly supportive of you and btw (not to drop anyone in it) it was Ryan who called you a "badly behaved Malone housewife" not me.

    I have reread the post and can find no reason why it was bounced/reported.

    Parrhasios,

    I think you misunderstand me, I am not a gay activist, I am just a gay man discussing how I understand and how my interactions with gay and trans people result in my understanding. I don't have and agenda as such.

    But let me address the issue you raise. When you say,

    "Taking one example, gender identity and sexuality may well be separate issues for some people, they may well appear to be separate for others, but they are undoubtedly intimately connected in yet other cases. This is not, as I said, an area of clear boundaries and precise understandings."

    Actually it is clear. It may not be clear in some peoples perceptions but it is clear in terms of psychology, medicine and in most homosexuals and trans understanding. Sexuality and gender identity are separate things, a change in gender does not affect sexuality and to support your argument you would have to prove it does. Now if you want to suggest that sexuality and gender identity have to be taken into account together when discussing trans surgery then you are correct because the external view of the persons sexuality changes but not the internal and that does have an impact. Sexuality though is the internal attraction not the external perception.



  • Comment number 50.

    I've just watched the Piers Morgan interview with Joel Osteen (well, part of it anyway) and I find the answer that "homosexuality is a sin because the Bible says so" highly unsatisfactory, even if that is what the Bible actually says. The Bible itself actually commands us to "seek understanding" (Proverbs 4:7), and, as far as I am concerned, 'understanding' must involve trying to grasp why certain things are a sin.

    Firstly, I am not sure what he means by 'homosexuality' anyway. The orientation? The thoughts? The desires? The intimate relationship (how is that defined)? The sexual acts? Which sexual acts? etc etc.

    Certainly a very intimate relationship between two members of the same sex is not only not forbidden in scripture, but actually commended. Even if the relationship between David and Jonathan is understood to have no sexual component, there is no doubt that their friendship went way beyond the relationship of being merely 'best mates meeting up regularly to have a drink down the pub'! From the language used, their relationship was intimate at least on an emotional level (Jonathan loved David as he loved his own soul - 1 Samuel 20:17; "your love to me was wonderful, surpassing the love of women" - 2 Samuel 1:26).

    As for the sexual aspect, there are a number of verses which condemn this, but the only passage which can really be relevant for Christians today is Romans 1:26-27. The verses in Leviticus are problematic, since they have to be taken in the context of the whole law relevant to the social situation of the time. It is interesting that the Old Testament laws which concern general morality (e.g. murder, theft, respecting your parents, adultery) were affirmed by Jesus in the gospels (see Mark 10:19). It is clear from the teaching of the New Testament that the specific ceremonial laws have been superseded.

    But what about homosexual practice? The gospels are silent on this issue and the only reference is Romans 1:26-27, and if this is used to affirm the Old Testament prohibition, then it is clear that that prohibition has to be understood with a particular qualification. This is what the verses say:

    "For this reason God gave them up to vile passions. For even the women exchanged the natural use for what is against nature. Likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust for one another, men with men committing what is shameful, and receiving in themselves the penalty of their error which was due."

    The word 'natural' in these verses is subject to interpretation, and doesn't necessarily have to mean 'natural' in the sense of 'in accordance with biological nature'. This is proven by the use of the word (the same Greek word - 'phusis') in 1 Corinthians 11:14, which states that it is against nature for a man to have long hair (even though biological nature, when left to itself, would mean that long hair should be regarded as the norm - for obvious reasons!). Clearly 'nature' here means 'custom'.

    However, let's assume that 'nature' in Romans 1 is actually referring to biological nature, rather than custom. These verses are telling us that both the men and the women left the 'natural' use of the opposite sex and performed other acts, which we assume refer to homosexual acts. These acts are driven by 'vile passions' and are 'shameful'.

    The obvious reading of these verses indicate that these people were heterosexuals who then chose to become homosexuals. So how can this be relevant to people who have always regarded themselves as gay? The phrases "exchanged the natural use" and "leaving the natural use of the woman" suggest very clearly to me that these were people who were 'normally' heterosexuals. How can you 'leave' something if you are not already doing it? How can you 'exchange' something you don't already have? It doesn't make logical sense.

    Then we have to ask why heterosexuals choose to engage in homosexual activity. This is clearly what this passage is referring to.

    There is much more that I could say about Romans 1:26-27, and I have already written about this in various threads from February 2009 (here and here). These are just a few thoughts to underline the fact that the Bible is not as 'clear' as some people would like to think.

    AboutFace (@ 44) -

    "Logica. Let's seek to understand what the Bible is really saying? Have we not acknowledged and do you not admit in saying the Bible can be used to condemn anything that that's because it can "mean" anything. I think if the Bible was saying any one thing we'd have figured it out since it's been around."

    Actually what I was saying was that some Christians read the Bible like a textbook, instead of reading it with understanding, as I have tried to do with my contribution earlier in this post. To say that we should bin the Bible, because people have many different views about it, is frankly absurd. People may have many different views about what science is saying - whether justified or not. Should we therefore bin science?

    As for science providing us with a moral basis: please provide the scientific evidence that tells us whether, for example, an unborn child with a cleft lip should be aborted or not? Remember: I am asking for scientific (i.e. empirical) evidence and nothing else.

    The concept of 'wellbeing' is irrelevant, since that is a philosophical presupposition read into science, not an idea derived from science. But even if it were derived from science, then what about the 'wellbeing' of the unborn child? On what basis does 'science' decide between the wellbeing of the child and the wellbeing of the mother? I'd really love to see how 'science' can sort that one out!

  • Comment number 51.

    LSV

    Coincidentally, this week's gospel in the RC Church is the part of the sermon on the mount where Jesus states, "If your virtue goes no deeper than that of the Scribes and the Pharisees..." And then the series of, "You have heard how it was said.... but I say this to you....."

    It is obvious that the Law is important to Jesus, that he sees it as something precious, beautiful, God-given, etc... (Didnt the disciples on the road to Emmaus say, "Didnt our hearts burn within us as he explained the scriptures to us..")

    Jesus is repulsed that the Pharisees have taken this beautiful thing and crushed the living daylights out of it, taking it apart, concentrating on minutiae and applying it rigorously and mercilessly. Their emphasis is on getting through life NOT sinning whereas his vision is of people loving - with the pitfalls therein - and living life to the full. Responding to life generously.

    He takes six Phariseic prohibitions and deepens them, broadens them and turns them into the most virtuous of responses to human dilemmas.

    If we are to apply his vision to the 'dilemma' of homosexuality, he would advocate love, simply that. Love should be willing to go the extra mile for the other, to offer the other cheek, etc..

    I would also say that the boundaries are exactly the same for gay as they are for straight, dont hurt, dont exploit, dont act selfishly, etc.. etc... Genuine love between two people of whatever gender should be celebrated.

    And as for specific sexual acts and whether God approves or not, fifteen years ago Billy Connolly shed light on that one when he quoted God, "I never noticed, I was too busy with Bosnia at the time..."

  • Comment number 52.

    agree RJB - if more people worked on loving themselves and others (they are intimately linked BTW) and less on pointing out the sins of this or that action or person - the world might just begin to change!

  • Comment number 53.

    LSV,

    It's not for me to try and justify what the bible says, it would be hypocritical of me, but I agree that from a purely textual point of view what you have said is a perfectly sensible reflection of the texts. For those who use the same texts to call homosexuality a sin I would ask not why they think that but what motivation they have for trying to find a condemnation rather than a celebration from the texts. I think that makes sense.

    The reason I said the bible would have been binned is not because I believe it is not true or because I think that it was only applicable for a specific time but because we have learned through science that our interpretations of it have been flawed (I emphasise I said interpretations of it). What this shows is that over the last several thousand years of translation people have faithfully preserved the words as an academic exercise but have not paid the same attention to what was meant. We have no idea what the people writing this stuff actually meant. If we could ask them about homosexuality would they say "oh no - you misunderstand, that's not what we meant" or some other response. To me this is why bible literalism is flawed because it is only a modern day re-interpretation of a text where we do not know the original meaning or intent and we can never know. So in my view binning it or parts of it have merit. eg the ceremonial laws of leviticus which most people suggest are superceeded by the NT - why not just expunge them. Keep them in a historical context but not as part of the taught and quoted bits.

    This is why science is different to scriptural adherence, it is open to rebuke and change - in fact the possibility that our interpretation might be wrong, or even personal, is built into the scientific process. It also does not apply values (moral or other) so when we make decisions on abortion we are making non scientific value judgements, science only gives us the mechanics to acquire the data on which we base the decisions and to administer the result of that decision. The responsibility for those decisions lies with us not science.

  • Comment number 54.

    Dave, I didn't read the post that was removed and sorry about the Malone housewife mix-up.

    Logica, you said: "Certainly 'science' tells us nothing about the rights and wrongs of anything, since science is merely the study of nature, and such empirical evidence provides us with no moral framework at all."

    I disputed that. The reason why is that ultimately I think it is true that far from being irrelevant, thought about wellbeing - of the individual and for the 'greater good' - underpins moral precepts and the ethics built from them. If not that then what?

    You then straw-man me somewhat with this: "As for science providing us with a moral basis..." Your question would have been good if I had suggested science could "provide a moral basis". What I said is that science has very much to say about wellbeing, and if you accept that as motivation and reason for our having morality at all (and I think you must, because it has been the concern of every moral philosopher that ever was), then science has much to contribute to moral debates and to advancing new moral precepts. To exclude what science has to offer to moral debates would be the height of foolishness. Indeed, thankfully, it is already unthinkable because of the insights it brings to the table about us and the world around us.

    So you're rather barking up the wrong tree to demand that I "provide the scientific evidence that tells us whether, for example, an unborn child with a cleft lip should be aborted or not?". I think you know that though. I'm not saying go and ask a scientist if you should have an abortion. That's kind of ludicrous. However, philosophy works in tandem with science, so science takes its deservedly central place in for instance discussion of climate change, or population crisis, and physical and mental health. A man who had always been a good husband and father suffers a brain injury which causes him to lose all sense of empathy and remorse. He abuses his wife and eventually tries to kill her. Hey, maybe he actually does kill her. A few years ago he was looking at murder or attempted murder charges.

    But in a court a scientist can say that we've used an fMRI scanner, this man's brain was irreparably damaged in his accident. As attested, he had before this incident been a model husband. The change in him was immediate and stark. These situations occur quite frequently in reality. And it gives you a flavour of where science influences moral decisions. Should the man's crime still be treated in the same way as an abusive drunk? Is it prison or hospital he should be committed to?

    I chose neuroscience particularly because this is the area in which our expertise is moving along at a startling pace. Our knowledge of brains and what really makes us tick is becoming fuller all the time. It is a mistake to think that science and philosophy are two separate enterprises. People at the cutting edge of science are bound to philosophise. Philosophy is joined at the hip with science or else it would simply be irrelevant blowing in the wind. Neuroscience is exploding orthodoxies about free will and determinism in this field, to name but one. These issue too are integral to formulating moral positions.

    You should go and watch those seminars. They are very interesting and they are given by very high-calibre people who treat the issues thoroughly. The subject of the debate is "Can Science Tell us Right From Wrong?" They're each between 20 and 30 minutes long and they're pretty fascinating.

    I would also point you to this conference from June at the Edge Foundation called The New Science oF Morality. There are video presentations and essays here too which should give you a sense of how science is directly tackling human nature and thus morality.

    http://www.edge.org/3rd_culture/morality10/morality10_index.html

    From the introduction:

    "Scientists engaged in the scientific study of human nature are gaining sway over the scientists and others in disciplines that rely on studying social actions and human cultures independent from their biological foundation.

    No where is this more apparent than in the field of moral psychology. Using babies, psychopaths, chimpanzees, fMRI scanners, web surveys, agent-based modeling, and ultimatum games, moral psychology has become a major convergence zone for research in the behavioral sciences.

    So what do we have to say? Are we moving toward consensus on some points? What are the most pressing questions for the next five years? And what do we have to offer a world in which so many global and national crises are caused or exacerbated by moral failures and moral conflicts? It seems like everyone is studying morality these days, reaching findings that complement each other more often than they clash."

    So clearly you're somewhat out of step to say science has nothing to say about morality. And to offer an apology and explain my harsh tone once again, it just rankles me when I see people making definite statements about this or that which are wrong. I am perhaps old fashioned and out of place for internet forums in thinking it incumbent on anyone offering opinion to have some knowledge of what they are opining about. And if you are going to make a statement as of fact, then have the fact straight. I don't think that's much to ask. I won't turn a blind eye to someone trotting out untruth for the sake of being "nice", which it appears is what some posters here want.

  • Comment number 55.

    On the gospels it depends what is meant by silent. Christ has plenty to say on marriage and lust. These things are not irrelevant.

    The bible casts permissible sexual relationships always within the bounds of marriage (after the creation order of male and female In Genesis 2); Christ in Matthew 19:3-9 (see also Mark 10:6-8) reaffirms the creation order and thus casts sexual purity within the same bounds.

    It also worth noting that the gospels are not opposed to the rest of the New Testament and vice versa. Nor is it the case that Christ's words are necessarily more important, or noteworthy, than Paul's or Peter's or John's.

    People are entitled to make the argument that this is the case. It's fairly old hat though. It also works both ways. In my experience people who position Jesus against, say, Paul do so because of the perceived gentleness and simplicity of Christ's message compared to that of Paul. But of all the figures in the New Testament it is Christ who speaks most on the doctrine of endless punishment for those who do not repent and believe. Christopher Hitchens in many of his debates with Christians rubbished the 'gentle Jesus meek and mild' thesis for this reason. I tend to agree with him.

    Also, homosexuality is condemned in 1 Corinthians 6:9 and 1 Timothy 1:8. Jude 7 refers to the Lot and his daughters episode in Sodom as sexual immorality and unnatural desire.

    Romans 1 is actually pretty clear. Natural is probably best understood as a reference to the created order of male and female (cf. 1 Cor 6:16-20, Eph 5:31-33 & Matt 19:3-9, Mark 10:6-8). Turning away from what is natural is turning away from this created norm; here Paul does not distinguish between 'gender' and 'orientation', and to read this distinction into the text is a massive anachronism. Rather Paul is operating within the creation framework where man and woman act as compliments, sexually and otherwise, of each other (cf. Genesis 1:18-25 & 1 Cor 11, Eph 5:31-33).

    In Romans 1:24 Paul writes 'God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonouring of their bodies among themselves' (ESV). This word impurity is also used in Romans 6:19 as an antonym of righteousness 'For just as you [Christians] once presented your members as slaves to impurity and to lawlessness leading to more lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness leading to sanctification.' (ESV). Further, in 2 Corinthians 12:21 the word is used again in conjunction with sexual immorality and sensuality (cf. Gal 5:19, Eph 4:19, Col 3:5).

    From here (v24) Paul moves to contrast homosexual affections and acts as rebellion (v25-27) against God and His creation (v19-23) and then goes on to widen the contrast in v28-31.

    I think I lasted 4 days without posting \0/

  • Comment number 56.

    I made a reference to Genesis 1:18-25 this should be Genesis 2:18-25.

  • Comment number 57.

    AboutFace (@ 54) -

    I am the first to say that philosophy and science work in tandem, and, as I have repeatedly emphasised on this blog, 'science' is not simply a synonym for 'the philosophy of naturalism / materialism'. One of my major concerns is the way these two are frequently conflated.

    Science and philosophy have to work together, because the scientific method is completely dependent on sound epistemology. But, then we have to ask the question: what informs our philosophical presuppositions? Culture? Basic human feelings? Tradition? Dare I say it: religion? And so on...

    I certainly believe in science (but not 'philosophical materialism', which is a different thing), and I thoroughly agree with some of the points you have made about scientific evidence, such as the brain scan example you gave to prove a case of diminished responsibility. It is possible to be a Christian and believe in science, since there is no contradiction between the Christian worldview and a belief in the study of nature, since we believe in a universe which is ordered, rational and comprehensible, and which also has a purpose. (In fact, I find it hard to understand how it's possible to do science without, in some way, buying into aspects of the Christian worldview - even if unconsciously. I certainly cannot see any logical connection between a belief in a mindless and purposeless universe and the rational study of nature; of course, many people will vehemently disagree with me on that point. Fair enough.)

    But coming back to the issue of the Bible: even if many people completely reject the Bible as having any relevance whatsoever, that is not a reason not to study it - even if only from an historical standpoint. Even Richard Dawkins has recommended the reading of the Bible (well the KJV anyway) - and not simply to mine for juicy quotes that make God look 'bad'. Even he has acknowledged the role of the Bible in the historical development of our society.

    My concern on this thread is to investigate what the Bible says concerning the question of homosexuality. It is not to try to prove that the Bible is true, but simply to refute the idea that we should simply dismiss it as a homophobic book. Just as it is wrong to use the Bible to condemn homosexuals, so I think it is wrong to use homosexuality to condemn Christianity. I think that it is possible for Christians and gays to come to an understanding (and, of course, there are many gay Christians anyway!).

    As a Christian myself, I refuse to get on this anti-gay bandwagon, and to regard opposition to homosexuality as a 'mark' of my spiritual commitment and identity.

    As for being nice on this blog: don't worry about that, as far as I am concerned. Any harshness will just be ignored, or, most probably, laughed off. Personally I would far rather that someone was 'harsh and honest' than 'nice and mealy-mouthed'.

    Andrew (@ 55) -

    I hope to respond to your post later today or tomorrow.

  • Comment number 58.

    So the question is: Is the Bible a good guide to moral or ethical living? Let's just call a spade a spade here and admit that it is not. By any objective standard it plainly is not. It is an artefact. I'm not saying "bin it", I'm not saying it's without value, but I am saying, "see it for what it is". For once. We can, and do, do better than the Bible.

  • Comment number 59.

    Andrew (@ 55) -

    "It also worth noting that the gospels are not opposed to the rest of the New Testament and vice versa. Nor is it the case that Christ's words are necessarily more important, or noteworthy, than Paul's or Peter's or John's."

    In one sense I would agree, but then we come up against the age old problem of hermeneutics: do we interpret verse A in the light of verse B, or verse B in the light of verse A? I think we need to look for statements in the New Testament which clearly are of an 'absolute' nature, which thereby offer us hermeneutical keys. I would suggest that one of these 'keys' is 1 Corinthians 2:2: "For I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified". Clearly everything that Paul wrote was orientated around Jesus Christ. Are we therefore to understand that Paul's words should be interpreted in the light of the words of Christ, or vice versa?

    "It also works both ways. In my experience people who position Jesus against, say, Paul do so because of the perceived gentleness and simplicity of Christ's message compared to that of Paul. But of all the figures in the New Testament it is Christ who speaks most on the doctrine of endless punishment for those who do not repent and believe."

    True, and I am certainly not disputing this. However, Jesus' words about hell have to be taken in context. While there are, indeed, general statements about sin (e.g. Mark 9:42-48), it is interesting that the people on the receiving end of His severest rebukes were the scribes and the Pharisees - see Matthew 23 ("sons of hell"; "how can you escape the condemnation of hell" etc). RJB makes a good point in post #51 concerning the Pharisees and how they move the law of God away from the love of God, and turn it into a crushing burden. I agree and I think it is a serious misinterpretation of the judgment of God, as expressed by Jesus in the gospels, to define evil without direct reference to the love of God, and simply define it in terms of a loveless and burdensome 'law' (I am not suggesting you are doing that; I am simply making a general point). The law of God hangs on the two greatest commandments - to love God and to love your neighbour (Matthew 22:34-40).

    Therefore, whatever Paul writes, it has to fit into the whole concept of righteousness which Jesus revealed and taught - a righteousness based on compassion, which then defines the nature of God's judgment.

    "The bible casts permissible sexual relationships always within the bounds of marriage (after the creation order of male and female In Genesis 2); Christ in Matthew 19:3-9 (see also Mark 10:6-8) reaffirms the creation order and thus casts sexual purity within the same bounds."

    Concerning 'creation order', see my post #14 on this thread. There is indeed a 'creation order' concerning marriage, since Jesus affirmed it (a point I made in that post), but it is highly questionable whether this 'order' should be regarded as an absolute principle, considering that the Bible departs from it - e.g. concerning celibacy. The creation account states clearly that "it is not good for man to be alone" in the context of a relationship with a woman (and this is clearly understood to be a sexual relationship). And yet Paul can write: "It is good for a man not to touch a woman" (1 Corinthians 7:1) - a clear contradiction of the idea of an absolute and imposed 'creation order'!

    "Also, homosexuality is condemned in 1 Corinthians 6:9 and 1 Timothy 1:8. Jude 7 refers to the Lot and his daughters episode in Sodom as sexual immorality and unnatural desire."

    That's highly debatable.

    1 Corinthians 6:9 - the phrase translated 'nor homosexuals, nor sodomites' in the NKJV ('nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind' in the KJV; 'nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders' in the NIV; 'the self indulgent, sodomites' in the New Jerusalem Bible; and I could go on...) is 'oute malakoi oute arsenokoitai' in the original Greek. Given the different attempts to translate these terms, it is difficult to see how a doctrine can be built on this verse.

    The Greek adjective 'malakos' means 'soft, tender, sickly, mild, gentle, delicate, effeminate, cowardly, careless, remiss, luxurious, wanton.' That is from my Langenscheidt dictionary of ancient Greek. I can't see homosexuality there.

    As for the word 'arsenokoites', that is simply given as 'pederast' in this dictionary. In other words, it appears to refer to homosexual paedophilia, not homosexuality in general.

    1 Timothy 1:10 - The word 'arsenokoites' is used here, so again probably referring to paedophiles.

    The reference in Jude to Sodom and Gomorrah is a general reference to sexual immorality, so I can't see how a strong case can be built on that reference.

    "Romans 1 is actually pretty clear."

    I love the way you phrase that! Is this an attempt at stifling any debate or alternative interpretation?

    Actually I quoted Romans 1:26-27 and drew out the logical implications of the very words used. I don't think I could have been any clearer.

    Furthermore, I provided evidence from Paul's writings (1 Corinthians 11:14) that 'phusis' (nature) can mean 'custom'. So it's possible it could mean that here. This is a perfectly legitimate position to take on the basis of Paul's use of Greek vocabulary.

    Romans 1:26-27 has to be understood in context. These acts were the result of idolatry (see Romans 1:23). Therefore it is a perfectly legitimate interpretation (being faithful to the immediate context) to conclude that these heterosexuals who were engaging in homosexual acts were doing so as part of the pagan religious worship of idols. Therefore the passage may not be making a general statement about homosexuality.

    If Romans 1:26-27 is a blanket condemnation of homosexuality, then we have to accept that this passage is condemning particular acts (which I won't spell out, but I am sure you know what they are). I say this, because of the wording in verse 27: "committing what is shameful". It is a fact that these same sexual acts can be performed by heterosexuals on each other (again I don't wish to elaborate). Even the most fundamentalist interpretation of Romans 1:26-27 does not condemn a 'homosexual orientation' per se. So if a Christian is barred from high office in the Church on account of his or her homosexuality, then it can only be on the basis of sexual practice. The problem is, as I have explained, the particular sexual acts associated with homosexuality can also be performed by heterosexuals. Thus, to be morally consistent, all heterosexuals who perform these acts within their marriages should be barred from high office in the Church. The trouble is... we cannot police what people do in the privacy of their bedrooms (and what sane person with a scintilla of decency and humanity would actually want to?!). Therefore the campaign against gays is totally lopsided. Because a couple are gay, it is assumed that they engage in certain acts on account of being of the same sex. But we cannot make the same assumption with regard to a heterosexual couple. Therefore, the heterosexual couple can hide their 'sin' (if indeed these acts are sinful) behind their heterosexuality. The only way, therefore, to take a consistent moral position is to police the private bedroom activities of every church leader and his or her partner!

    Frankly, the more I think about this issue and reflect on the text of the Bible carefully, the more of a mess the contemporary Christian response seems to be.

    Perhaps we should just cut through the Gordian Knot of Pharisaical legalism with the love, grace and compassion of God. That approach seems much more in keeping with the way of Jesus Christ.

  • Comment number 60.



    Dave, (#49), we all have agendas! I do, however, apologise for suggesting you might be an activist. You post here extensively about gay issues and rights, I can indeed only applaud your frequent and obviously heart-felt attacks on positions of prejudice or ignorance; you have mentioned your work with an HIV charity; you are a powerful advocate for equality and understanding; a clear desire to educate and persuade informs your contributions. I should not, of-course, have mistaken any of these things for activism. ;-)

    I don't generally disagree too much with most of what you say but I really have to take issue with your contention that "It may not be clear in some peoples perceptions but it is clear in terms of psychology, medicine and in most homosexuals and trans understanding. Sexuality and gender identity are separate things".

    It may be clear in most LGB/T understanding but it is absolutely without foundation to say that it is clear in psychology and medicine. It is anything but clear! Understanding of the complex mix of factors (biological, psychological, and social) which influence the whole area of gender identity and sexuality is increasing but still fearfully rudimentary and devoid of consensus. 

    I repeat my earlier assertion, your suggestion that one of the most complex areas in human behaviour is essentially simple and capable of neat distinctions and clear demarcation is political not scientific. I wouldn't really worry too much about it, however, but for one thing: the potentially devastating impact on the individual of asserting an absolute where none exists. 

    I would like you to consider the following statement made by a health-care consumer in another politicised but totally unrelated area of medicine: "Even in the depths of my confusion, I began to sense a gap emerging between these theoretical extremities and my own far more contradictory experience. Yet I couldn't determine where theoretical extremity ended and individual experience began". Think carefully about it, especially the latter sentence, do you see the horror of the situation and the dangers of your position?

    May I ask you a question? You have said you oppose therapies designed to attempt to modify a person's sexual orientation, but you do not appear to oppose treatments (including radical surgery) to modify aspects of a person's gender presentation? On what grounds do you distinguish between the two? Is there room for an individual, case by case, approach or can we be proscriptive about a whole class of problem?

  • Comment number 61.

    If I could chip in here, since Dave isn't around just now. I think that LGBT is an odd categorisation. I think it is a fallacious categorisation. The "T" is a superfluous and irrelevant addition to the nexus. I would go so far as to suggest that it is the lumping of homosexuality along with gender identity issues which is political. I do not see how these things can possibly be assigned to the same category of understanding because there is a huge weight of evidence now that homosexuality is nascent - organic - whereas "gender dysphoria" is quite a new thing. If homosexuality and gender dysphoria are "problems" as you say in the last sentence of your posting above, they are certainly not of the same "class", to use your term again.

    Psychology took a rocky road towards being recognised as a science and whether or not it really is is still a contentious topic. As it progressed it left a lot of detritus in its wake, but that detritus became lodged in wider discourse. It was a genie out of a bottle. Instances of this across pretty much any subject in human experience are called memes these days, which are: "ideas or beliefs that are transmitted from one person or group of people to another. The concept comes from an analogy: as genes transmit biological information, memes can be said to transmit idea and belief information".

    For me to say: I am a male who is at base sexually attracted to other males, who on a more complex level gravitates to males at an emotional level, who finds "spiritual" peace with male, and not female lovers; that is a very different thing to saying: "I am a male and over the course of my life I have come to perceive myself as really a female, but I still like women."

    Most males with this "gender dysphoria" remain attracted to females as far as I am aware. This is plainly a psychological issue. Some people think they're the messiah. Some guys think they're girls. We haven't got to the bottom of any of this really.

    But psychiatry has inserted this meme about "gender dysphoria" into wider discourse and also attached it to homosexuality and there it remains, long after psychiatry itself has drawn the proper distinction between the two conditions. The latter, as has been shown, is indeed organic. There are physiological differences between "exclusively gay" and "exclusively straight" men (I'm saying gay men here because that is probematised culturally far more than any such "transgression" by women, and in any case female same-sex attraction does seem to be a whole different kettle of, ummm, fish). There is indeed a "spectrum" of sexuality. But homosexuality among males has nothing to do with gender issues in the gay men who find attraction to whatever degree in other men. This might range from mere appreciation of physical beauty to as I have said a more "real", visceral, emotional attraction of the kind which forms the basis of the equivalent heterosexual love.

    And this brings me neatly to why homosexuality is seen as a threat. Our (modern) conception of the "ideal unit" for human flourishing is the family. To admit that there are other forms of human relationship which are not based on procreation and the cheapest way to produce labour (which is what the family is all about in terms of economics) is deeply unsettling. That should be the concern of gay people, and gay advocacy should be mindful of these issues. We need to be gracious in this.

    But at the same time there is "niceness" in play here in a political argument in which we have allowed ourselves to be categorised along with people with serious gender issues. Speaking as a gay man I think a clear line should be drawn here, as the "science" of psychiatry did long ago. I think the meme it planted should be rooted out. (And I hope my scepticism about pychology-as-science is plain here, because psychology is increasingly being confounded by real advances in neuroscience which is empirical to the extent that it has given rise to a situation where some involved in the wider field of brain science are even beginning to proffer that science, far from being a detached, cold observer of life, might even be able to contribute something to moral philosophy.)

    The question about therapies here don't belong in the same category either. "Therapies" which purportedly "un-gay" a gay man are exclusively carried out by religious people with vested interests in un-gaying gay men. That is plain. A religious person is concerned with the salvation of his own soul first, and that of others next (basically). Their motivation is not toward science or the well-being of that person in this world so much as the upholding of the set of beliefs and values which come along with whatever religion they have chosen or been indoctrinated into by which to interpret a universal human feeling which is common to all cultures and at all times. Well-meaning or not, that is not objective. It has also been shown that people who undergo these so-called "therapies" emerge much more distressed than they were when they go in. That is why they are illegal - and yes, they ARE illegal. The law reflects the fact that homosexuality simply is not a "disorder".

    Radical surgery for gender reassignment is a very different matter. In the first instance that occurs to me now: When we give someone with gender dysphoria a course of hormones followed by months of counselling followed by fashioning some sort of vagina from what used to be their penis, we are not intervening to tell that man he is a man. Get on with it. We have taken up a cost-benefit analysis of whether this man could better flourish if he was administered this course of "treatment". We are not saying: "You are not a man who likes other men - you really like women."

    We are saying: "You are a man who believes he is a woman. Hey! That's ok! We'll make you into a woman then."

    Now I hope I've been clear enough as to why these two "problems" are not of the same category. And in the spirit of parsimony and straight talking with which I rudely stuck my oar in here, I don't mind, particularly, if the NHS, by my contribution to national insurance, pays for a man who feels like he's a woman wants to undergo radical surgery to make him feel better. Even if he wants to disrobe himself of his frock at night and still slink into bed with another woman. But I would point - I would wag my pointing finger - at the ethical decision made in choosing to "treat" this man. One: "Are you happier now as a woman?" "Yes, I'm ever so much happier now as a woman."

    And two: "Are you straight now you've undergone this un-gaying, Christian therapy?" "No, now I'm completely screwed up and God help the next therapist that gets hold of me, because I don't even believe my pastor any more."

    And finally, of the whole darned lot. The only thing that keeps this pretty insignificant question bouncing around is people who cannot let go of an illogical, ascetic teaching from a long bygone era who are intent on insisting, like every other person in history who has undergone some sort of spiritual experience, that they way they saw it was just soooo rrrright!

    There are more pressing questions we could be applying ourselves to.

  • Comment number 62.

    Parrhasios,

    You are correct, we all have agendas, I think what I meant was that me discussing such issues is not some part of some premeditated plan or part of an activist strategy which I do as part of a wider plan.

    Apart from that I think AboutFace has said everything I would. I understand that you club all these things together as they are naturally grouped culturally insofar as they are the areas the church seems to have most problem with and society has significant prejudicial issues with. I think what AF and I are saying is that within that grouping there are several issues which are not interdependent as AF describes in terms of gender identity and sexuality.

    You mentioned paraphillias and fetishes, and perhaps this illustrates the point differently. Take any paraphilia or fetish and show where it is dependant on sexuality. There are none that I am aware of. Show me where the attraction to leather is different or dependant on being gay or straight (or in fact on gender).

    Perhaps the problem here is language. When you describe sexuality you seem to throw a much wider net than I, AF or indeed psychologists do.

    Dealing with differences with gender reassignment surgery and sexuality realignment therapies is difficult to verbalise but I will try (may AF will help as he seems to see things in a similar way)

    Gender reassignment is to align the physical attribute of a person to match the internal gender identity on the basis that the person is being damaged by the psychological conflict formed by their internal identity and external appearance and behaviours. It is on the basis that the gender identity cannot be changed psychologically and although the surgery is major it is the only option available to resolve the conflict. Gender identity has never been changed and the damage caused by the conflict has not been successfully managed psychologically.

    The similarity in the scenarios is that gender identity and sexuality are internally fixed characteristics (how this occurs is not fully understood but it is at least agreed by the main psychology governing bodies).

    Sexuality realignment therapies are really a misnomer as they do not change sexuality (even they no longer cling to that one). What they do is change peoples behaviours to enable them to have a sexual relationship with members of the opposite sex and attempt to bury (by shame and prayer) the feelings generated by their sexuality. It is essentially no different than the countless gay people who through peer pressure and shame entered into opposite sex relationships, married, had kids and then when it all got too much burst out of the closet with all the attended collateral damage (spouse kids etc).

    These therapies actually create the same types of psychological conflicts which the gender realignment surgery seeks to redress. These conflicts can manifest in depression, drug misuse, domestic violence, control freakery and suicide. There are cases where they seem to have been successful (from a behavioural point of view) but the number of cases of long term behavioural change with no attendant psychological issues are are very low and almost statistically irrelevant. (Remember the head of the ex-gay ministry who was found taking a rent boy on his holidays to Europe, it really worked for him).

    Similar conflict arises when society/churches create a conflict with internal sexuality by making people think they are wrong or sinners. It is the main contributing factor recognised for the high depression and suicide rates among (particularly young) homosexuals. Sexuality realignment simply reinforces this conflict and makes the problem worse so the resultant psychological problems are magnified. This is why these therapies are banned in the UK and USA by all the professional organizations)

    The only treatment supported by the psychology bodies is to help people come to terms with their internal sexuality and help to build their self esteem and confidence so that these external pressures have little or no traction on their health and to ensure that the conflicts are minimised..

    It is a huge area though.

  • Comment number 63.

    Given religions & peoples pre-occupation with sex and the sex lives of others it's amazing we manage to do anything else. Lucky that the media aren't quite as sex obsessed as the Church or we'd never get TV shows like Antiques Roadshow :p

  • Comment number 64.

    @Andrew:
    I agree with the Bible being pretty clear on this.There are any number of subjects Our Lord did not address directly in scripture.Jesus didn't mention drunk driving or cruelty to animals either.That doesn't suggest His approval.
    Not that these are akin to homosexuality, but where's the common sense reading of scripture?

  • Comment number 65.

    Mscracker,

    I found your statement at the top of this thread very revealing. You wrote: "If I shared the same outlook, I'm not sure I would bother with Scripture to begin with.There are plenty of self-help books out there that will make me feel better about myself & reinforce my perceptions of the world."

    This is precisely what I had thought many religious people use their holy books for. It's not a very honourable or spiritual thing to be doing now, is it? The "outlook" you are attacking is that dreadful one of intellectual honesty. It's terrible. It brings biblical literalists out in rashes and sweats. Keeps bursting bubbles it does. Down with intellectual honesty!

    We want our bubbles left intact, thankyou very much! My self-help book makes me feel better about myself and everywhere I look brainy people are saying it's trash.

    Harrumph!

  • Comment number 66.

    For those who claim that the Bible (clearly) condemns homosexuality, I have this question: how do you define 'homosexuality'?

    What is it precisely that the Bible condemns, in your opinion?

    And then once you have given your answer, let's see whether this prohibition can be applied with moral consistency, taking into account other moral prohibitions in the Bible.

  • Comment number 67.

    LSV #59

    I'm going to be busy for the next few days I'll try and respond when I can.

  • Comment number 68.


    Dave you are correct when you say it is a huge area - had we but world enough and time... I am somewhat surprised to read, however, that you and AF see things in the same way - I hadn't actually considered you a confused and muddied thinker given to ill-considered self-contradiction, but, hey, whatever...

    AF you put me in a serious quandary: I never know whether, as a deeply religious person, to be slightly relieved when I see someone anti-religious and claiming scientific objectivity act in an exact parallel with Christian fundamentalists, selecting and isolating research which supports a preconceived viewpoint and arguing therefrom with neither knowledge nor thought, or, somewhat disappointed at yet another demonstration that human frailties are, after all, indeed universal.

    What I am contesting with both of you is the use of crude generalisations so let me start, AF, with your views on religious people. You say "A religious person is concerned with the salvation of his own soul first, and that of others next (basically)" - this religious person is far from convinced even of the existence of such a thing as a soul. I have no beliefs at all and my values assert the worth and dignity of every human being and the absolute validity of all life-choices which do not bring harm to others. From a religious point of view I have no ideas or concerns about sex whatsoever; from a moral point of view I consider any sexual activity entirely proper and blameless which has the full, informed, and meaningful consent of all the parties involved or potentially affected. You have taken the specific beliefs and attitudes of a subset and applied them, with no more base than prejudice, to the whole set. This is a process observable throughout your argument.

    Now, to the meat...

    The slightest sensitivity to context, the least ability to read intelligently, would have allowed you to see that my last paragraph in post # 60 referred to unwanted conditions. Homosexuality is not a problem - unwanted homosexuality undoubtedly is however you construe the nature of that problem. Now I don't know how the term 'class' drifted into my mind, sometimes words just pop up out of nowhere, on the other hand some remote association with ICD-10 F66.1 might just have surfaced: "Egodystonic sexual orientation: The gender identity or sexual preference (heterosexual, homosexual, bisexual, or prepubertal) is not in doubt, but the individual wishes it were different because of associated psychological and behavioural disorders, and may seek treatment in order to change it". You may also care to note the extraordinary coincidence of the two areas it just happens to lump together.

    I do not argue that gender identity and sexuality are never entirely separate issues, you, however, both seem to suggest that they areinvariably distinct. That is simply not the case. It has been shown, for example, that between one-third and two-thirds of boys with gender identity disorder of childhood will go on to claim homosexual orientation post-adolescence while rarely developing adult transsexualism. Erotic stimulation in adulthood is recognised as a possible transitional feature in the development of a transsexual identity. There is no agreement that gender identity is fixed and life-long. The issue is simply not as clear-cut as you wish to pretend and when you try to make a complex issue of this nature simple people invariably get hurt.

    The implications of what Dave suggests is that the terms 'sexuality' and 'sexual attraction' can only properly be used of the orientation of adult humans as described on a continuum from heterosexual through bisexual to homosexual. I suggest this is an arbitrary, inaccurate, and unhelpful formulation whose effect is to create a new 'normal', a revised baseline out-with which lies the deviant and therefore unacceptable. If some of the neuroscience which AF praises is correct we will probably come to understand that sexual attraction is no more than a construct glossing acquired or inherited knowledge of / direction towards reliable sources of sexual gratification. Being attracted to men, being attracted to women, neither of these is in essence different from being attracted to pain, or being attracted to children - all you are describing is your knowledge of what is, for you, the reliable source of personal gratification, so, when Dave says that in many paraphilias gender is simply not an issue, he is actually making the point I have been labouring all along with regard to the inadequacy of the spectrum analogy.

    It is too late at this hour, I fear, to address now the issues you have raised surrounding therapies: the fault was mine in how I phrased my question but neither of you seem to have seen the issue in the context I intended. I am away for a couple of days but I will try to re-frame it on my return.


  • Comment number 69.

    I probably shouldn't be commenting so late, but hey :P
    Truely heartbreaking reading mscracker post 64. My feeling is that while post 55 shows an ability to "read" Holy text, post 59 shows an ability to "understand" Holy text and is in-keeping with christianity seen with the heart as well as the mind.

    Human sacrifice in a cultural and religious sense: alive and kicking. Islamic extremists sacrifice infidels in word and (sometimes) deed and so do westerners with those who are different. It's a stress reaction- people offload onto someone else they feel is somehow weaker - singled out because they generate a safe bet consensus of opinion within the pack. If western religious conservatives condemn homosexuality then they cannot condemn another faith (Islam) for doing the same to them.Islamic religious extremists don't view you or Christianity as any worthier of respect-however pious.

    This is a human thing- nothing remotely spiritual or Godly about it. Power, control, pecking order. Maybe those who wrote texts in the Bible- all mere mortals like you and I (except for those words of Christ) are no different.

    I think it's safe to say a persons sexuality is as individual as they are. How someone reaches a certain place becomes a secondary factor or perhaps even inconsequential compared to how a person copes with this arrived position
    This is where I personally feel the line should be drawn & offer unquestioning support, as human beings capable of accepting difference.
    That a person can love and be loved is what's important and I mean Love in an all encompassing sense. If people offered this support , it's easier to work out who is unhappy with their sexuality and allow them to search options if they so wish. It also allows people, who arrive at this postion and are content,the freedom to find happiness & love with the same sex in a dignified way . To live their lives openly as accepted, fully franchised, productive members of society.

    The real crux of the issue is whatever a society's tolerance level, these issues never go away. It's either underground / hidden or it's open and accepted. It never disappears. In the past people just led double lives. The same as they do now in Saudi and Iran and other conservative societies. What we might get is a semblance of a society all doing the same thing- like cyborgs, but that isn't the reality behind the white picket fence.If we were all the same it would be like the Stepford wives. Perhaps any refound religious conservatism would lead to other past behaviours reflected in society. I wonder how a Tea Party'esque religious (white) governing elite in America would handle certain issues relating to immigration, hispanics and blacks. You can bet if Gays are on the menu, other minority groups will be next.

  • Comment number 70.

    Guys

    This appeared on NCR yesterday. Might shed some light on the discussion taking place on this thread.

    http://ncronline.org/news/people/symposium-controversial-exhibit-explore-gay-identity

  • Comment number 71.

    @ 65. AboutFace : You know, I actually agree some with you some on your points.I think intellectual honesty's a pretty important thing.Rather than attack it, I think it's a better idea to be honest & be done with scripture if one is not really convicted it is divinely inspired.
    Otherwise it becomes something like a menu in a Chinese restaurant where one picks an item from column "A", another from column "B", etc.
    We can pick away at the fabric until it all unravels.With freedom of religion, one is perfectly able to do that,though.But then, as you suggest, we're left with a kind of antiquated self help book.And human nature being what it is, we tend to remove all that is prickly & challenging & there's little integrity left in the fabric.

  • Comment number 72.

    I guess this is all a decadent and rather middle-class debate. Considering events like this in the world
    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-12474021

    When more of us could be better occupied like this guy...
    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/toan-lam/an-angel-in-queens-new-yo_b_248571.html

  • Comment number 73.

    Saw the programme on being gay in Uganda last night - awful - the amount of homophobia was extreme. This largely comes from pastors and ministers preaching to people from a young age on homosexuality based on the bible, so people are indoctrinated to want to hate and kill people who are gay. It is ludicrous, ridiculous, evil and obscene that people use words in a book written 2000 ish yrs ago to justify this behaviour and claim it is God's will or way. It has nothing to do with love and nothing to do with God. Anybody who uses such texts to justify such behaviour or indeed any non-acceptance of a fellow human being is just perpetuating evil in the world and are far far away from God or Christ and one would be justifed in asking what is the true source of these writings if they can be used to perpetuate evil??
    Lack of awareness, ignorance and fear unfortunately allow people to be indoctrinated away from the ways of love, of CHrist and of God.

  • Comment number 74.

    Perhaps mscracker, when you say "Otherwise it becomes something like a menu in a Chinese restaurant where one picks an item from column "A", another from column "B", etc.
    We can pick away at the fabric until it all unravels.With freedom of religion, one is perfectly able to do that,though.But then, as you suggest, we're left with a kind of antiquated self help book.And human nature being what it is, we tend to remove all that is prickly & challenging & there's little integrity left in the fabric."

    You could start by setting a good example of faithful adherence to Scripture & scriptural integrity by following the points Natman makes in Post 26. Perhaps by challenging what you yourself find prickly you won't feel such a double standard when challenging others to maintain scriptural integrity. Hey who cares if you break your state laws- you've got biblical laws right? That should show all those pesky liberals what for

  • Comment number 75.

    Dear Ryan,
    That might apply if we were still under the Old Covenant, not the New.
    But you're quite right about challenging what we each find "prickly" in our Faith. We all can fall short.I certainly do.Often.

  • Comment number 76.

    No one should rule out the possibility of ditching God altogether. A recent guest on Sunday Sequence, Dan Barker, did this. He was a self-confessed God botherer, but has come to realise that religion is a delusion of the mind. He still reads the Bible for its interesting stories. Some habits have just got to be broken.

  • Comment number 77.

    Newlach -

    "No one should rule out the possibility of ditching God altogether."

    Of course no one should rule out any possibility. But there are those who, having considered such a possibility, conclude - on the basis of reason - that that is a dead-end. I am all for considering possibilities, but I am also a great believer in 'not throwing the baby out with the bathwater'. If others want to conflate things that should not be conflated, that is up to them.

    I am sure Mr Barker had his reasons for reaching a different conclusion than I have, and he is entitled to his opinion. Good. Freedom of conscience is a great thing. I am also entitled to my opinion, and thus I will continue to include God in my analysis of the issues raised in this blog, since, in my view, without God nothing makes sense at all.

  • Comment number 78.

    Parrhasios,

    So, I'm “a confused and muddied thinker given to ill-considered self-contradiction”? Speaking of “muddied thought”, I've never seen self-contradiction which was well considered (bonk), but anyway, I would like you to show by means of quoting me where I contradicted myself, if you wouldn't mind. Where was it that I appeared confused? You must have had something particular in mind when you said that and this has been our only exchange, so it should be easy to provide.

    In any case this is pretty marvellous stuff coming from a “deeply religious” Christian who doubts the existence of his own soul (I'll use the sexist pronoun for convenience here so sorry if you're a girl), who invokes the chalk of a Buddhist monk in response to criticism of his cheese religion, and who takes his screen name from the son of the Greek god Zeus (either that or, irony of ironies, he's taken it from the humanist scholar).

    Marvellous indeed, given your monumentally self-contradictory proffering that while you are in your words a "deeply religious Christian" you don't have a soul. I'm sure you thought you had done a clever bit of chicanery there, but I'm sorry, I see it for what it is, which is your attempt to slide out of an argument on a fair point by suggesting that I've got the wrong end of the stick about what you believe.

    Now, I've seen this done on finer points of theology, and it is a staple of the Christian reportoire when they're being debated squarely to respond that their opponent "just don't geddit", but I've never seen anyone with quite the neck it takes (not to mention disdain for their opponent's intelligence) to try it with the soul. You left me aghast.

    I don't think it unreasonable to say that the concept of the soul in Christianity is one of its main props - so great a pillar in fact that without it the whole edifice collapses. You might as well say "I'm a deeply religious Christian but I don't believe in God".

    There are differing concepts of the soul in the different sects, but my friend, you stand alone among Christians if you don't think you have one. In fact, on principle, it debars you from calling yourself a Christian. What an absolute howler. It takes the notion of "cafeteria Christianity" to a whole new level. I think it was simply tactically convenient for you. And it wreaks of moral cowardice.

    And aside of this, you trot out the most tired old canards about atheists, which you presume I am, and you do this while scolding Dave and myself for making "crude generalisations". I said that the Abrahamic faiths are chiefly what makes homosexuality a matter of distaste, you say this means I "blame God" and imply that homophobia is all part of his great plan.

    Puh-lease.

    Then you come off with the one about atheists being fundamentalists too. Do give over. Or come up with something other than a knee-jerk, point-ducking platitude.

    You conflate sexuality with gender and push the point even when coherent and considered arguments have been made demonstrating why you're wrong, and then you trot out some quote from a Wikipedia about ex-gay therapies as follows:

    "Egodystonic sexual orientation: The gender identity or sexual preference (heterosexual, homosexual, bisexual, or prepubertal) is not in doubt, but the individual wishes it were different because of associated psychological and behavioural disorders, and may seek treatment in order to change it". You may also care to note the extraordinary coincidence of the two areas it just happens to lump together."

    Quite frankly, you are cheating at this. You are being dishonest. Or else stupid. Those are the only two pleas you can make here.

    Egodystonic sexual orientation is, to quote the same article you lifted that from: "characterized by perceiving a sexual orientation or experiencing an attraction that is at odds with one's idealized self-image, causing anxiety and a desire to change one's orientation or become more comfortable with one's sexual orientation."

    In other words it the condition of being distressed about one's sexuality, and ex-gayers thrive on that distress, not content with often holding attitudes which caused it in the first place.

    Your quote does nothing for your attempt to conflate sexuality with gender either, as my stress in the following part of it makes clear: "The gender identity OR sexual preference". EITHER/OR. Do you see?

    And apart from that, you quite neglected even to point out the spoiler at the top of your Wikipedia article, that: "This article may be unbalanced towards certain viewpoints. Please improve the article by adding information on neglected viewpoints, or discuss the issue on the talk page."

    I could go on but I don't think you're worth the bother. You're going to have to do better than that if you take me on buddy.

    "A confused and muddied thinker given to ill-considered self-contradiction".

    Guffaw! Now you just bring me that quote where I'm all confused and contradict myself. I can't wait.

  • Comment number 79.

    Eunice,

    I don't often agree with you (nothing wrong with that btw), but chalk one up for the meeting of minds list on post #73

  • Comment number 80.

    AboutFace,I think you should give Parrhasios some space. Have you read any of his other posts? Or is it a case of as soon as someone says they are religious/spiritual it's like a red flag to a bull? I don't think you do Parrhasios justice with that reply. Many with a spiritual nature could do well to follow Parrhasios' approach- where nothing is put on such a high pedestal it can't be questioned or doubted. It's precisely the opposite attitude where people are so intransigent, so sure of themselves and what they believe that causes so many of the problems. If more people had the humility to express that we don't know anything for sure, the world would be easier for all of us to live in. Not even Dave is an Atheist, I remember reading he once said he was Agnostic until provoked lol

  • Comment number 81.

    LSV #59

    There is indeed a 'creation order' concerning marriage, since Jesus affirmed it (a point I made in that post), but it is highly questionable whether this 'order' should be regarded as an absolute principle, considering that the Bible departs from it - e.g. concerning celibacy.

    I agree, it isn't an absolute principle in the sense that every man and woman must be married. The extent of it's relevance is the identification of man and woman as sexual compliments.

    When Paul encourages celibacy he does so advisedly; if you cannot refrain from sex you should get married precisely because sex outside of marriage is sinful.

    That's highly debatable.

    True enough, it is debatable .

    1 Corinthians 6:9 - the phrase translated... is 'oute malakoi oute arsenokoitai' in the original Greek. Given the different attempts to translate these terms, it is difficult to see how a doctrine can be built on this verse.

    This might be the case if this was the only place on which the doctrine was built. As it is, it provides corroborating evidence of an unqualified condemnation of homosexuality in the Pauline corpus and the New Testament generally.

    The Greek adjective 'malakos' means 'soft, tender, sickly, mild, gentle, delicate, effeminate, cowardly, careless, remiss, luxurious, wanton.' That is from my Langenscheidt dictionary of ancient Greek. I can't see homosexuality there.

    In this case you probably need to move beyond the dictionary.

    The ESV translates this verse as; Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality,  After homosexuality a note is provided The two Greek terms [oute malakoi oute arsenokoitai'] translated by this phrase refer to the passive and active partners in consensual homosexual acts. Other versions interpret the two words separately.

    The vice list follows from a warning, namely that those who practice [make a practice] of such sins will not inherit the Kingdom of God. The word malakoi itself appears between adultery and arsenokoitai (which, as defended below, refers to homosexual sex), so it would seem more than a little absurd that the word as used here would not refer to some kind of sexual sin.

    As noted, the ESV renders the two words (malakoi and arsenokoitai) with the words 'men who practice homosexuality' with a double referent to the passive and active partners respectively. It seems likely, then, that malakoi here refers to, how should I put this, a 'queen'.

    As for the word 'arsenokoites', that is simply given as 'pederast' in this dictionary. In other words, it appears to refer to homosexual paedophilia, not homosexuality in general.

    Arseno-koit-es is a neologism which appears for the first time here (and then in 1 Timothy1:10).

    According to Robert Gagnon, reproducing an argument from David F. Wright, this word is a combination, probably by Hellenistic Jews, of two words from the Septuagint translation (LXX) of Leviticus 18:22 & 20:13.

    Meta arsenos ou koimethese koiten gynaikeian (18:22)

    hos an koimethe meta arsenos koiten gynaikos (20:13)

    The Greek for male is arsen, lying is koite and 'es' is a masculine suffix.

    Literally this means 'men who lie with males'.

    The reference in Jude to Sodom and Gomorrah is a general reference to sexual immorality, so I can't see how a strong case can be built on that reference.

    And at least part of that sexual immorality is male on male sex. Again, these verses don't sit in isolation, they are part of a consistent biblical witness.

    Actually I quoted Romans 1:26-27 and drew out the logical implications of the very words used. I don't think I could have been any clearer.

    Not exactly; you framed your interpretation in orientation language, which, as I explained, would not have occurred to Paul, who quite clearly would not have distinguished between gender and sexual orientation. This is something that is being read back into the text.

    His frame of reference for sexual relations was male/female rooted in the creation account, and I gave examples of where he made reference to and used this language ( more on this below).

    Furthermore, I provided evidence from Paul's writings (1 Corinthians 11:14) that 'phusis' (nature) can mean 'custom'. So it's possible it could mean that here. This is a perfectly legitimate position to take on the basis of Paul's use of Greek vocabulary.

    I'm not sure it is perfectly legitimate; Paul often uses the same word in different ways throughout his letters, whether custom is legitimate here, or 1 Corinthians 11:14, requires exegesis and not assertion.

    For instance, Thomas Schreiner in his Romans commentary writes;

    The word [phusis] does not invariably refer to divine intention in Paul (cf. Rom. 2:14, 27; 11:21, 24 [3 times]; Gal. 2:15; 4:8; Eph. 2:3)*. At least two pieces of evidence, however, indicate that an argument from the created order is constructed in Rom. 1:26-27. First, Paul selected the unusual words (thelys, female) and (arsen, male) rather than (gyne, woman) and (aner, man), respectively. In doing so he drew on the creation account of Genesis, which uses the same words (Gen: 127 LXX; cf. Matt 19:4; Mark 10:6). These words emphasize the sexual distinctiveness of male and female (Moo, 1991; 109), suggesting that sexual relations with the same sex violate the distinctions that God intended in the creation of man and woman.

    *The use of 1 Cor. 11:14 is in the midst of a difficult passage. Paul's intention in this text is likely to preserve created distinctions between men and women as well (Fee 1987; 491-530; Schreiner 1991a: 137pg 94 BECNT Romans

    The second reason he gives is concerning the use of the phrase 'contrary to nature' and it's usage in Stoic and Hellenistic Jewish literature which saw homosexual relations as a violation of nature.

    In addition to this, the context speaks against mere 'custom'. For one Paul backgrounds his remarks on homosexuality with God as revealed in creation, he is not referencing the social or cultic customs of Israel or even the ANE as such but a normative created order. He is contrasting the unrighteousness that comes from suppressing the truth (v18-32) with the righteousness of God (v17).

    Romans 1:26-27 has to be understood in context. These acts were the result of idolatry (see Romans 1:23). Therefore it is a perfectly legitimate interpretation (being faithful to the immediate context) to conclude that these heterosexuals who were engaging in homosexual acts were doing so as part of the pagan religious worship of idols. Therefore the passage may not be making a general statement about homosexuality.

    I agree about idolatry but not with the conclusion.

    In v18-32 it is likely Paul has gentiles in mind. These 14 verses appear in a larger section which runs to 3:20. In chapter 2 he switches focus from gentiles to Jews, demonstrating that they too are sinners. And then to conclude in chapter 3 that all have sinned and are justly subject to the wrath of God.

    Now it might be true that Paul is here referring to a particular group but the language used concerning the sinfulness of their engaging in homosexual acts is decidedly universal. These people are thinking, desiring, acting against the divine intentions for human sexuality, and as such all that indulge and engage in homosexuality are committing the same offence.

    Also, v28-32 supports a general intent with respect to morality. It is a vice list that includes evil, covetousness, malice, envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness, gossip, slander, hating god, insolence, haughtiness, boasting, inventing evil, disobedience, foolishness, faithlessness, heartlessness and ruthlessness.

    If Romans 1:26-27 is a blanket condemnation of homosexuality, then we have to accept that this passage is condemning particular acts (which I won't spell out, but I am sure you know what they are). I say this, because of the wording in verse 27: "committing what is shameful". It is a fact that these same sexual acts can be performed by heterosexuals on each other (again I don't wish to elaborate).

    Not necessarily; the sinfulness of the act(s) could easily be explained by the participants being of the same sex.

    Even the most fundamentalist interpretation of Romans 1:26-27 does not condemn a 'homosexual orientation' per se.

    A 'fundamentalist interpretation' is neither here nor there; what matters is faithfulness to the text.

  • Comment number 82.

    Andrew -

    Thanks for your post, which has given me plenty of 'food for thought' and which offers a decent intellectual challenge. I hope to respond, but it may not be until the weekend.

  • Comment number 83.

    "Faithfulness to the text"- How is that read- with Your mind? your heart? your spirit? I can read something-disagree, but understand /or at least give them the benefit of the doubt that they knew no better within the context of the time - like you do regarding many points made in Post 26 with the application of conservative consensus to disregard certain parts of Bible. I wonder how independently minded you are to dislocate yourself from the consensus. Instead of seeking the truth in your heart and spirit perhaps others read your truth as being as changeable as the times. If you were the same person who held on to the conservative consensus of the age, your beliefs would be different with each age. Then how faithful are you being to the text? It looks to me you are more faithful to the safety of other peoples opinions and a culturally religious view.
    "If a man knows not what harbour he seeks, any wind is the right wind".


    I guess your wind is the prevailing one we see in Christianity, maybe if that wind was different, your views would be too.

  • Comment number 84.

    Post 83 was to Andrew

  • Comment number 85.

    Ryan,

    I believe I've already said in this very thread that yes, I am hostile to religion. You seem to be demanding "niceness" from me again. I don't think I said anything to P that wasn't justified.

    I do not think religiosity should be confused with spirituality either, for the simple reason that some of the most hardline religious people are about as far from spiritual as it's possible to get. Religiosity and spirituality are, like sexuality and gender, two different things.

    I'm glad to see Uganda mentioned above too, but I would hasten to point out that the issue of homophobic prejudice is all too real closer to home. A detailed study by the Schools Health Education Unit found that in Britain today, 70 percent of gay children get bullied, 41 percent get beaten up, and 17 percent get told at some point in their childhood that they are going to be killed. Figures like these come up in study after study.

    Jonathan Reynolds was a 15-year old boy from Bridgend in South Wales. He was constantly being abused as a "fa**ot" and a "p**f". So, after sitting a GCSE that was later graded an A, he went to a railway track near his school and texted his sister the following:

    "Tell everyone that this is for anybody who eva said anything bad about me, see I do have feelings too. Blame the people who were horrible and injust to me, see I do have feeling too. Blame the people who were horrible and injust to me. This is because of them, I am human just like them. None of you blame yourself, mum, dad, Sam and the rest of the family. This is not because of you."

    And then the train killed him.

    Now I don't know about you, but I have to fight back tears reading that. And you want to know why I'm hostile to religious morons who are at the front of the queue shouting about a gay "agenda" any time any attempt to help gay children and tell them they're not freaks is made.

    Call it a red rag if you want but I think I'm justified in being angry.

  • Comment number 86.

    Yes you fight back tears because it's upsetting and should never have happened.Problem is we are all guilty of selective empathy. Perhaps the same people who would hang a black person from a tree or kill a gay person would shed a tear over an abortion. Humanity is the issue here. Religion is the excuse. If it wasn't religion it would be something else and someone else getting hurt. The only way humanity can move forward is to try and understand those that aren't as close to our Tribe or Pack and ask others to do the same. The sooner we work towards seeing what we have in common with each other the better.

  • Comment number 87.

    Oh shucks, Ryan.

    Sometimes I do wonder if all this getting your pantaloons in a twist is cutting off the circulation to your brain.

    You've had a go at this a few times now, and every time you go there I take it as a cop out.

    Dismissing what I have said because it comes to 'conservative' conclusions is just intellectually dishonest. Which is ironic because this is exactly what you are accusing me of.

    If you think my arguments are flawed - and they could well be - then show me how they are flawed.

    like you do regarding many points made in Post 26 with the application of conservative consensus to disregard certain parts of Bible.

    Yeah I read this post a few days ago and laughed. I also read your follow up to mrs.cracker, and you know I laughed again. I think it's called the blind leading the blind.

    As I pointed out in our joyous conversation a few weeks ago this kind of thing just won't cut it.

    When Christians quote Leviticus on homosexuality they are routinely responded to by critics with other verses from Leviticus on food, clothes etc in an attempt to show that the Christian is being inconsistent in calling for obedience to one law and not another. I have argued that since Christians understand the Old Testament through the New, and in ways which they think allows them to quote Leviticus on homosexuality without falling into this inconsistency then the only way to show they are being inconsistent is to refute how they understand the Old Testament in the New. I have provided two opposing examples of this, the threefold division of the law in chapter 19 of the Westminster Confession and latterly, and briefly, New Covenant Theology.

    (Incidentally if you want to know more about the threefold division of law a new book has just been released on this very subject called 'from the finger of god' by Philip Ross)

  • Comment number 88.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 89.

    "Selective empathy"? Just use your imagination for what I might say to you in response to that.

  • Comment number 90.

    Ah and here we are- If extremes were circular we have AboutFace and Andrew holding hands ;)

    Andrew, I question your ability to think for yourself

    You are as faithful to the text as the age in which you live, no more, no less.
    I found it interesting a while back you needed reassurance I wasn't asking you whether any of your views stand outside the conservative consensus.

    To me,you lack the imagination and the confidence to question your belief in the same way LSV or Peter does.

    In saying that, you have put alot of effort into researching homosexuality in the Bible. I wonder whether you believe the words you copy and paste or whether they hold sway precisely because Religious authority say it's one part of the Bible still open for debate- now some other bits of the Bible are off the menu

    You are a foot soldier. You obey authority rather than question it- even if this religious authority is wrong in its approach. Reminds me of Mccamely's attitude to Catholicism- there to enforce the status quo. Perhaps in your mind,you gravitate to this authority because this is where the percieved power base is - historically it has been at least here in Norn Iron- Conservative Protestantism. Yet the mainland often points to the extremes in Northern Ireland as being a reason why society can't come to peace with its identity. If all sides were less extreme maybe less people would clamour for divided education, divided communities. If people didn't use the Bible to separate ,maybe less people in Northern Ireland/the rest of the World would be killed. Maybe Religion wouldn't be used to treat another human being as untermensch- not worthy of being treated with the same rights as another.

    I question how your musings realistically improve society here.It's clear you offer nothing to bring society forward. You don't advance Christianity, you polarise it. It amazes me how you lack the humility needed to even question what is written is any more valid than any other religious book

  • Comment number 91.

    Using the mind to solve these problems will not work - it just polarises as people defend their position, insist their way is the only way and will not lead to any form of unity or unification in understanding. We have to change the lens we look through and feel with the heart. It is clear to anyone with love in their heart that all people are created equal - that condemnation of homosexuals is not 'God's will' but comes from the heartless minds of people: whether that is in this century or written in the bible 2000yrs ago. As I said above it is ridiculous, ludicrous, obscene and evil that people are using a text written 2000 yrs ago to justify such heartless and cruel behaviour to their fellow human beings - for whatever reason - not just homosexuality.

    Dave 79 - when it comes to people and equality we prob agree on more than you think! And for me it is more a meeting of hearts than minds though I know what you mean and appreciate what you are saying. I'm not just being pedantic however. The distinction between mind and heart is an important one. It's why I say there are some atheists/agnostics who are closer to God (though I appreciate they wouldn't see it that way) than some christians because they recognise the equality of humanity and accept people as they are and see through the lies in the religious teachings re homosexuality etc - and that comes from love in their hearts. The mind is heartless and loveless on its own and thus can be used to justify all sorts of horrendous stuff and can go on and on in intellectual masturbation over different interpretations of this text or that text - when we can know so much more by just feeling with the heart , with love.

  • Comment number 92.

    Andrew

    When Jesus stated that, "not one dot, not one iota will be removed from the Law until it has fulfilled its purpose", you really took him seriously, didnt you?

    And now that you have "studied" every dot and iota, are you a more loving, forgiving, accepting, understanding person? Doesnt sound like it.

    One of the great truths which was gifted to us by the theology of liberation was that God speaks to us most powerfully in historical praxis - not an ancient book. When a group of people are disenfranchised, have their land stolen from them, are tortured, put in jail or murdered, I dont need to consult a book to find out who the bad guys are!

    You have used the Bible, not to justify a moral stance, but to try to legitimize your own prejudice. When I read posts like your one above I get an inkling of the utter frustration Jesus had in his dealings with the Pharisees. Impenetrable self righteousness.

  • Comment number 93.

    Well said RJB!

  • Comment number 94.

    You know what? I can at least respect Andrew for his obvious intelligence. It's just a terrible shame it's wasted on the Bible. Self-indulgence masquerading as virtue is what I would call that. I think an argument could be made that such a person is, in so applying their good mind, acting unethically. But that would require that we treat the Bible and the god it describes objectively and properly in the light of the knowledge we now have - that is the knowledge that renders the god of the Bible out. That's not to say there's no god, but only that god as misapprehended by man in the Bible is just plain wrong. And we have better moral codes than are proffered by the Bible, so it only has value as an artefact.

    But, while I respect Andrew, this sort of thing makes me want to throw up frankly:

    Eunice: "Using the mind to solve these problems will not work - it just polarises as people defend their position, insist their way is the only way and will not lead to any form of unity or unification in understanding. We have to change the lens we look through and feel with the heart."

    Now, anyone with the least bit of education knows that this is fluff. Pure fluff. And not only that, it is the kind of fluff that is apt to put us on the road to hell. The mind, used with some degree of civility, which one can train oneself in, is all we've got and it is our highest faculty. I may seem rigid in my views, but that is perhaps because I have taken more care in arriving at them, and been thorough in that process, and fortunately have had some training in how to think. I am very, very open to being convinced, and I can change my mind radically. And I can admit - indeed it actually pleases me - when someone shows me where I'm wrong. Because put quite simply then I learn, and I can think of no more suitable response to the person who shows me why I'm wrong than gratitude.

    Having said that, I don't think I've come across a blog which is supposed to appeal to the higher minded where so much trite, platitudinous, self-righteous, mindless guff is posted. And reading down through the posts I don't think I've ever seen so many instances of the use the of the "to be" - the word "is", so many times.

    People who have a bit of cop on and the slightest bit of education check themselves closely when they catch themselves saying anything "-is". I know I certainly do and it is a good exercise. "Is" it really? How sure are you of that? But on this blog it's everywhere. Peppered all through the thing. It is abused. And people take great umbridge when you offer reasons why whatever it is they're on about actually "is not".

    That is a lack of civility. It is a lack of thought (or at least right thought - rigorous thought). That is the heart speaking. That is the passions speaking. And trusted they are what lead us to destroy ourselves. It is all in our hands. That seems to frighten some people. Perhaps such people should wonder whether they are not simply frightened of themselves. Because I believe deeply that essentially we are good. We are born good. We tend to want to do good and be seen as good. It's just not ever that simple. We have an intrinsic moral sense and this is proven. This is one of the reasons the notion of "original sin" is so repugnant to me.

    Education and travel are the two most valuable and effective routes to encouraging civility and training oneself in thought. For the life of me I don't see why these things are not compulsory. Particularly here in Northern Ireland where there is such a homogeneously mediocre culture and society shot through with guff. I grew up here and there are things about the place and people that I love, but it makes me almost ill when I look at it squarely.

    "Are wee country". "We're not Brazil we're Norn Ireland". Football slogans they may be but to me those little slogans say we know we're awful and we don't care. Middle finger.

    It's pathetic. In the truest sense of the word, really pathetic.

  • Comment number 95.

    LOL @ AboutFace, You and Andrew, great minds eh? :P
    Going back to the Red Flag and Bull analogy. You're the Bull. You're full of yourself. If Religion is your red flag then this place is going to do nothing for your temper lol. You really should think of your health- you're not going to be doing your anger management any good and you're also not doing Gay causes any good. In fact you're just going to make alot of moderate people rather hostile instead

  • Comment number 96.

    AboutFace "Education and travel are the two most valuable and effective routes to encouraging civility and training oneself in thought"

    You should try it ;)

  • Comment number 97.

    I'm wondering why the other subject matter in the book under discussion isn't mentioned? The title is about "Sex & Desire" which covers alot of territory.

  • Comment number 98.

    AboutFace (@ 94) -

    "This is one of the reasons the notion of "original sin" is so repugnant to me."

    Oh, we agree on something at last!

  • Comment number 99.

    You Ryan, are so far one of the chief offenders in posting the aforementioned trite, platitudinous, self-righteous, mindless guff. And since November I've been saving money to get the hell out of here. I've only been back five years and I think that's probably at least two too many. I will not be here when you're enjoying your next grey summer.

  • Comment number 100.

    Aboutface: it may all be fluff to you, as it was to me when I was also ignorant of the difference between intelligence of the mind and the wisdom of the heart - and the latter does not concern emotions. Of course the mind is important - but there is much more to thinking and where thoughts come from/arise than most care to know or realise. So by all means - if it works for you, carry on with your heartless ways.

 

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