A bad argument for a good cause

January 6, 2020 • 8:30 am

I originally called this post “Lying for Jesus,” but that’s not quite accurate since the church that posted the sign below (seen on a walk in Hyde Park yesterday) may really believe in the virgin birth.  What bothers me about this sign is that it uses a delusion to prop up a good cause. (Actually, two delusions: the existence of a wonder-working Jesus figure, and the claim that he was sired by God). Also, it’s somewhat hypocritical since the Bible condemns homosexuality in other places.

Of course, this is cherry-picking scripture, for the Bible also contains homophobic phrases that have long been the basis for Christian opposition to gay behavior, gay marriage, and so on. To wit (all from the King James translation):

Thou shalt not lie with mankind, as with womankind: it is abomination. (Leviticus 18:22)

If a man also lie with mankind, as he lieth with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination: they shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them. (Leviticus 20:13)

For this cause God gave them up unto vile affections: for even their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature:And likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another; men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompence of their error which was meet. (Romans I:26-27)

Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind. Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God. (1 Corinthians 6:9-10). 

Knowing this, that the law is not made for a righteous man, but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and for sinners, for unholy and profane, for murderers of fathers and murderers of mothers, for manslayers, for whoremongers, for them that defile themselves with mankind, for menstealers, for liars, for perjured persons, and if there be any other thing that is contrary to sound doctrine (1 Timothy 19-10). 

It’s not smart for religionists to justify gay marriage—or homosexuality in general—using scripture. Although it’s well meaning, and the church above is on the right side of morality, this kind of scripture-based argument is hoist with its own petard.  What would Pastor Hill say if I quoted Leviticus to her?

59 thoughts on “A bad argument for a good cause

  1. The splits in various churches lately has always been about people’s behavior and to critically condemn others who see it differently. While I could care less how many times they break off and create different silos of religion I do wonder where they get the authority to demand their beliefs of others. This is the important danger of religion not all the other nonsense they follow. And that is the absolute key reason why religion must be separated from government. This is what we must concentrate on, not all the other stuff.

    1. And yet we currently have an AG that believes biblical authority trumps the Constitution and wants to make some version of Catholicism America’s new government.

          1. Not very well is my guess. I’ve thought about such things while watching the show. I doubt a US coup would follow the Gilead pattern because the new owners would want to keep the goodies, tourism and the rest of our economy. On the other hand, mass infertility would definitely change the calculus.

            1. With the direction some of the red states are going and with the new theocratic judges Trump is appointing, we may see a “test state” in the near future. 😱

  2. I have been told that the virgin birth is really about being free of original sin. Whatever that means. And, therefore means mrs clause, was not a “virgin”.

    1. You’re confusing the virgin birth with the doctrine of immaculate conception. Virgin Birth is about Mary being impregnated by the Holy Spirit without intercourse. Immaculate Conception claims Mary was free of original sin.

      1. Well, the argument was that Mrs. Claus was not a virgin but free from original sin. You are claiming that both are true and clearing up the confusion. I would bet that most Catholics conflate both, in other words immaculate conception = virgin birth.

        1. It would be interesting to find out how widely known the distinction is. It’s in the Catechism, but not referred to there as the immaculate conception. I’d imagine educated Catholics are aware of the difference.

    2. The Immaculate Conception is about Mary’s having herself been born without Original Sin.

      The Virgin Birth is about Mary’s giving birth to Jesus without ever having gotten down and dirty doing the horizontal slide with man.

        1. The origins of Jesus’ Y chromosome are unclear 🙂

          The possibility of DNA testing a blessed Roman Catholic communion wafer might shed some light on the subject.

  3. Churches, as other businesses, become acutely concerned when they realize that their customer base is eroding or in danger of such. Thus, they often revert to using gimmicks to reverse this trend. It is not surprising that in the liberal area of Hyde Park that this church would offer itself as gay friendly as a means of maintaining or increasing its membership. Since the Bible can be used to justify just about anything, cherry-picking passages that can be interpreted as gay friendly is to be expected. This is akin to car manufacturers touting the good features of its vehicles while ignoring their poor mileage and their threat to the environment.

    1. Thus, they [churches] often revert to using gimmicks to reverse this trend.

      Grifters gonna grift. The more fannies in the pews, the bigger the take when the plate gets passed.

  4. This drives me nuts. I continually get embroiled in argument with “faithful good guys” (believers who agree with me on social/political issues) about this use of bad reasons to support good things.

    If I had a dollar for every time one of them spouted off about how tRump supporters are not real Christians….

  5. Looking at the bible is like looking in a mirror for most religious folks — they somehow see a reflection of their own beliefs. To my knowledge, there is nothing in the bible that specifically condones homosexuality, and (as Jerry pointed out) much that condemns it. The same is true of slavery — many provisions of the bible explicitly and implicitly sanction slavery, and none that condemn it. It is clear that the moral code of folks who oppose slavery and who have no problem with homosexuality is not a function of the bible.

    1. The abolitionist movement in the North prior to the Civil War was led by ardently religious evangelicals. Certainly, the found something in the bible to justify their views. Of course, at the same time, evangelicals in the South used the same book to justify slavery.

      1. Yes, there is lots of fluff in the New Testament about loving your neighbor as yourself that could inspire someone to oppose slavery, but I stand by my statement that there is no provision in the Old Testament or the New Testament that specifically condemns slavery, and many provisions that condone it. Again, history has proven that people see in the bible what they want to see. The same people who condemn homosexuality today have no problem eating shellfish.

      2. It seems to depend today, on which evangelicals you are talking about. I believe the Lutheran Evangelicals are good with homosexuals and even same sex marriage while the Presbyterians are not. The Methodist are currently looking at a split.

    1. Funny? As in they intend it as a joke? I think you’re dead wrong. I’ve had too many arguments with well-meaning Christians making “funny” comments like this. They are not seeking laughter.

  6. > What would Pastor Hill say if I quoted Leviticus to her?

    Probably one or more of the typical theist responses when cognitive dissonance rears its ugly head:

    It’s a mistranslation: you have to read it in the original language.

    It’s allegorical; a metaphor.

    ${Deity}’s ways are not our ways; you cannot hope to understand the mind of ${Deity} (but I can).

    Etc. ad nauseum

  7. Perhaps atheists should be in favor of such signs as they signify the gradual dilution of religion’s hold on the country. Far better that religion adjust to secular culture than the other way around.

    1. I disagree. The use of bad reasoning in support of a good cause legitimizes bad reasoning on the other side as well.

      1. Allowing religion to dilute itself within seems preferable to forcing religionists to take up arms against atheists. I’m not suggesting atheists shouldn’t do battle with religion but when religion shows signs of weakening, we shouldn’t intervene.

        I see a parallel in US politics. Support for Trump seems to be greater than it would otherwise be because of the perceived need to choose your team and defend it to the end. Trump knows that forcing voters to pick a side helps him far more than allowing them to think clearly and objectively about the issues.

        1. I don’t think that this sort of thing is a sign of religion “weakening” in any way. It is just an indication that religious faith is no useful guide, as able to lead one to one side of a moral issue as it is to lead you to the other.

          The problem is faith. When you accept faith-based “reasons” for supporting a good cause you have given up your right to criticize faith-based justifications for bad things as well.

  8. Telling people that they have got their own religion wrong is usually pointless and sometimes incoherent, given that there is no truth of the matter on any theological proposition and it’s all, ultimately, a question of what self-declared believers declare that they believe.

  9. When the fine structure constant was starting to become an important part of quantum electrodynamics (ca. 1947), Hebrew scholars poured over the Torah to declare that 137 (inverse of the alpha ~ 137) is in the Torah.

    In 60 years, alpha has been precisely determined to 1/137.035999084(21). I am told they’ve numerical got that number in the Torah as well.

    I am guessing you can get any finite number from the Torah if you looked hard enough.

  10. I have always believed in God, but not organized religions for the mere fact they all say one thing and then do another thing that is against the scriptures. But the Pastor is on the right track. For me homosexuality is wrong, but I am not going to judge others for what they believe in.

    1. Wrong how?

      I mean, the sight of two grown men even cuddling still gives me a touch of the willies, but the way I see it, that’s my issue to deal with, not theirs.

      Some people get the willies watching me slurp down raw oysters. That doesn’t make it wrong (though Leviticus forbids shellfish, too.)

      1. If there is something wrong with the oyster it will let you know soon enough. You won’t need Leviticus for clarification.

          1. You’re not the first:

            “He was a bold man that first ate an oyster.”

            — Jonathan Swift, Dialogue 2, Polite Conversation (1738)

    2. I don’t know of any homosexual who “believes” in homosexuality; they are simply homosexuals. Do you “believe” in heterosexuality? No, you’re simply a heterosexual.

  11. She would tell you, Professor Coyne, that the New Testament makes the OLd one irrelevant. At least, that’s the absurd answer when I ask Christians about Leviticus. Then I quote the NT at them where Jesus himself says that not one word of the prophets shall be wiped away until God’s Kingdom has come to pass. Then they tell me I don’t understand the Bible.

  12. ‘turned out okay’?

    What, became a raving apocalyptic maniac with a God fetish? Who ended up being executed for preaching sedition?

    If that’s ‘turned out okay’ then I certainly wouldn’t want any kid of mine to end up that way.


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