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Bigotry, Part 1

Rob Tisinai

February 12th, 2013

Self-described Catholic blogger Brandon Vogt recently published Rebuttals to arguments for same-sex marriageHe tries to disprove 10 common same-sex-marriage arguments, but merely highlights the most common mistakes of his own camp. I’m addressing each of his 10 points in separate posts as a kind of back-to-basics review of our opposition.

On Saturday Brandon Vogt responded to one of my posts. I doubt he did his cause much good, but one thing he said stuck in my head: his belief that my post…

…is couched in a smug, condescending tone that makes fruitful dialogue more difficult.

If that’s true (and I can’t claim total innocence) then I’ve made a rhetorical error. I was actually reaching for a somewhat different tone.

Exasperation.

Vogt’s errors of logic and fact are so grievous that eventually a fair reader has to ask, What could make him write that? I wanted to do more than point out his logical flaws. I set to myself to conveying this sense of exasperated wonderment.

That’s why I changed the order of his points and left his examination of #8 for last:

8. Opposition to same-sex marriage is based on bigotry, homophobia and religious hatred.

Vogt worded this ambiguously. He could be trying to dispute either of these interpretations:

  • All opposition to same-sex marriage is based on bigotry, homophobia and religious hatred.
  • Some opposition to same-sex marriage is based on bigotry, homophobia and religious hatred.

I don’t know which version Vogt is taking issue with. I don’t agree with the first one myself, and I’ll address that in another post.

As for the second version, I hope Vogt’s not trying to deny it. Much of our opposition declares gay people to immoral, depraved, Hitler-enabling, America-hating purveyors of evil comparable to murderers and rapists, who reduce their children to trophies, cannot love them like straight parents can, cannot love their partners, are worthy of death, and are in the thrall of Satan, Satan, Satan, Satan, Satan.

And Satan.

Let’s see what Vogt has to say about this. 

First, bigotry. A quick visit to Facebook, Twitter or any online comment box confirms that for many people, support for traditional marriage is tantamount to bigotry.

He’s off to a good start — almost. But no one is called a bigot for their “support for traditional marriage.” Hell, I support what Vogt calls traditional marriage.* No, the bigotry card is thrown at those who opposes same-sex marriage, which ain’t the same thing. But I do agree some people throw it down awfully fast, so I’ll give him that much.

Immediately after this, however, Vogt stumbles badly:

This holds off-line, too. In November, Scottish Cardinal Keith O’Brien was pegged “Bigot of the Year” by a gay rights group for simply opposing same-sex marriage in public.

Really? I’ve encountered this “for simply”  line so many times that I now see it as shorthand for there’s so much more we’re not telling you.

For instance, Cardinal O’Brien opposes even civil unions, saying that:

…such relationships are harmful to the physical, mental, and spiritual well-being of those involved.

And he frets:

But when our politicians suggest jettisoning the established understanding of marriage and subverting its meaning they aren’t derided.

Instead, their attempt to redefine reality is given a polite hearing, their madness is indulged. Their proposal represents a grotesque subversion of a universally accepted human right.

Later, during the backlash, he said this:

Responding to accusations that his use of language, including the word “grotesque”, was inflammatory, he said: “I am not saying it is grotesque, but perhaps to some people it might appear grotesque.”

Mm hmm. Compare that to his original quote.

Also, he dismissed promises that clergy wouldn’t have to perform same-sex weddings by comparing them to, well, to this:

Imagine for a moment that the Government had decided to legalise slavery but assured us that “no one will be forced to keep a slave”.

Would such worthless assurances calm our fury? Would they justify dismantling a fundamental human right? Or would they simply amount to weasel words masking a great wrong?

You can agree with the Cardinal or not. But you cannot truthfully claim the Cardinal was “simply opposing same-sex marriage in public.”

(Vogt did not provide his readers with links to the Cardinal’s statements.)

Vogt continues:

Second, homophobia. This refers to a fear of homosexuality, and the assumption is that people who oppose same-sex marriage do so because they’re irrationally afraid. But as this article shows, there are many good reasons to oppose same-sex marriage that have nothing to do with fear. Branding someone “homophobic” is typically used to end rational discussion.

This statement is self-refuting. Vogt’s own article is consistently irrational.

  • Does he really believe we allow elderly couples to marry because “it’s simply not worth the effort to restrict them”?
  • Does he not know that he should check “facts” before reporting them (like the 70% of African-Americans who allegedly voted for Prop 8; and he is incapable of seeing that Regnerus’ analysis of same-sex parenting did not actually report on same-sex parents)?
  • Has no one ever told him you can’t conclude that A caused B just because A happened before B (or in the case of his Netherlands examples, during the middle of B)?

Ee seen other examples, so many others, enough to make us ask What could make him write that? When reason gives way to irrationality, all we can do is wonder at the cause. Vogt says, “Branding someone ‘homophobic’ is typically used to end rational discussion.” Often, though, it’s a recognition that rational discussion has already ended.

Moving on:

Third, religious hatred. Some people disagree with same-sex marriage solely for religious reasons. But, again, as this article demonstrates, one can disagree for other reasons, without appealing to the Bible, divine revelation or any religious authority. You don’t need religious teachings to understand, analyze and discuss the purpose of marriage or its effects on the common good.

But Vogt’s article doesn’t demonstrate good non-religious arguments against same-sex marriage. Meanwhile, SatanSatanSatanSatanSatan. And Satan.

Vogt’s tactic in his last paragraph is desperate, sad, and increasingly common:

If these accusations were all true, it would mean that the overwhelming majority of people throughout time — who by and large supported traditional marriage — would likewise be homophobic, intolerant bigots. That would include the most profound thinkers in many different traditions: Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, Musonius Rufus, Xenophanes, Plutarch, St. Thomas Aquinas, Immanuel Kant and Mahatma Gandhi. Most people would reject such an absurdity.

This is just one appeal to authority, layered over another, layered over another. First, it’s quite possible the majority of people throughout time have in fact been homophobic intolerant bigots. Or, to put it more mildly, have been profoundly misinformed about the nature of gay people and their relationships. In fact, I think it’s likely.

It’s appalling that Vogt even attempts this approach. Just a few paragraphs later, in his #10, he admonishes us not to base our moral views on popular opinion. It’s ridiculous — wait, no, sorry — it’s irrational for him to advise us otherwise here.

His next appeal to authority is a list of great thinkers. I’m not sure how many of them actually opposed same-sex marriage, but I don’t care. I’m not going to surrender my moral reasoning to their opinion just because he says they say so, no matter how big their brains are, because that would be literally irrational.

Speaking of brains, did you know Aristotle thought the brain was a secondary organ whose main purpose was to cool the blood? The man was smarter than me, but he could still be wrong.

Meanwhile, here are a few more facts about Vogt’s Profound Moral Thinkers.

  • Aquinas thought women were intellectually inferior to men.
  • Aristotle wrote, “the male is by nature superior, and the female inferior; and the one rules, and the other is ruled; this principle, of necessity, extends to all mankind.”
  • And according to Kant, “The Negroes of Africa have by nature no feeling that rises above the trifling.”

I bet “most people” would not think it absurd to call one or more of these beliefs intolerant and bigoted. That’s his third appeal to authority, by the way. We don’t evaluate moral views based on popularity, remember?

But I’ve just made an important distinction: The difference between an intolerant bigot and a person who hold an intolerant, bigoted belief. I think there’s a difference. No one achieves moral perfection, and it’s insidious — corrupting, even — to act as if there’s no middle ground between perfection and damnation.

I’ll dig into that in my next post, which is about whether all opposition to same-sex marriage is rooted in bigotry, and whether everyone who holds a bigoted belief must be dismissed as an irredeemable bigot.

 

* For the record, I would like Vogt, or (any traditional marriage supporter) to point to a single year in U.S. history when his ideal tradition was a legal reality.

Comments

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Priya Lynn
February 12th, 2013 | LINK

I would say that for the overwhelming majority of people throughout time it probably never occurred to them that some people might want to enter into a same sex marriage so its dishonest to say they all “supported traditional marriage”(opposed same sex marriage).

“But I’ve just made an important distinction: The difference between an intolerant bigot and a person who hold an intolerant, bigoted belief. I think there’s a difference.”.

Sure there’s a difference, just like there’s a difference between Bernie Madoff and the 10 year old who steals some candy from the corner store. But just as its accurate to call both of those people theives its accurate to call everyone who opposes marriage equality a bigot – no one is denying there is not a great variation in the degree of bigotry amongst anti-gay bigots.

“I’ll dig into that in my next post, which is about whether all opposition to same-sex marriage is rooted in bigotry, and whether everyone who holds a bigoted belief must be dismissed as an irredeemable bigot.”.

That’s a bit of a straw man. I consider all who oppose marriage equality bigots but I don’t think any of them are irredeemable.

Rob Tisinai
February 12th, 2013 | LINK

Priya, if you don’t mind, let’s hold off on that until the post is up.

Priya Lynn
February 12th, 2013 | LINK

My first comment was in regards to Vogt’s statement “If these accusations were all true, it would mean that the overwhelming majority of people throughout time — who by and large supported traditional marriage — would likewise be homophobic, intolerant bigots.”.

Rob Tisinai
February 12th, 2013 | LINK

Okay

MattNYC
February 12th, 2013 | LINK

I’m not sure which is twisted into a bigger pretzel: his stunning logical conflicts or my brain trying to even grasp what he’s trying to say.

I realize he is not claiming to speak for anyone besides himself, but if THIS is among the strongest — most “rational” — approach to opposing marriage equality, methinks we have already won the battle and maybe the war.

Are we sure he doesn’t play tennis with Scalia?

Timothy Kincaid
February 12th, 2013 | LINK

I especially like your asterisk… and I’d add my own.

As Vogt no doubt considers the definitions of marriage espoused by his church to be based not only on tradition but on the authority of God, I would like Vogt, or (any “biblical marriage” supporter) to point to a single Biblical hero for whom their marriage fit his ideal.

John
February 12th, 2013 | LINK

Timothy, your response to and dissection of Vogt’s arguments is pretty much devastating, you basically unraveled him line by line.

You trained in philosophy or logic by any chance?

gsingjane
February 12th, 2013 | LINK

Yes, and I guess to make the point completely obvious, it’s like saying, “what was Aquinas’ response to the possibility of nuclear warfare?” or “what did Gandhi think about global warming?” The answer is, we can’t possibly know (we might have some clues from their writings, but that’s all) because those were not issues with which these people were confronted in their day. As I understand it, although there have always been people who are primarily attracted to those of the same sex, the entire status or category of “gay” was not even something acknowledged or recognized until about 100 years ago. So it’s exactly like asking, “what did Plato make of the internet?” – i.e., a ridiculous question, and one whose answer couldn’t be less relevant.

Richard Rush
February 12th, 2013 | LINK

Speaking of “Satan. Satan, Satan, Satan, Satan. And Satan.” . . .

The older I get the more I believe that Satan has a much higher sense of human decency and moral values than God.

And how did Hell come into being? Did Satan create it as a gift to God because he knew that God wanted a horrible place to send people who commit behavioral infractions and/or thought-crimes? Did God outsource Hell’s creation to Satan? And if so, why? In any event it seems that Satan must be working under a maintenance contract for God to assure that the hellfire continues to burn properly, and that it’s size is continually expanded to accommodate the exponentially growing number of people that God sends there.

Hell represents quite an interesting symbiotic relationship between God and Satan. If God stopped sending people there, I imagine that Satan would just close it down and demolish it.

CPT_Doom
February 12th, 2013 | LINK

It is also important to note that, until relatively recently, the vast majority of people held bigoted and intolerant views of both divorced people and unwed mothers. Until WWII, for example, divorced women could not be invited into the Royal Box at Ascot.

Steve
February 13th, 2013 | LINK

@Richard Rush
Satan only killed like six people in the Old Testament. And most of those were in a running bet with God, whose kill count is in the millions.

Marci Wyzdyx
February 13th, 2013 | LINK

I’ve acquired interesting bits of information over the decades; the writings of Greek philosophers like Plato and Aristotle survived because Muslims preserved them. The Christian monks who hand-copied ancient texts discarded anything that was at odds with their religious beliefs. Vogt’s argument citing great thinkers of the past is flawed because no one whose philosophy was at odds with his church is likely to be available to quote. Only a few fragments exist of the poetry of Sappho, for instance.

Ben In Oakland
February 13th, 2013 | LINK

I really have wanted to write a lot of stuff on this, because the subject irks me so much. It’s all sleight of hand, subtle changes of subject that make it sound like we’re not talking about what we are in fact talking about, and vice versa.

A lot of these arguments boil down to nothing more than an argument from tradition, the weakest of all possible arguments. It’s as if there is not room for anything new in the world, even if perhaps it isn’t so new? It’s as if Vogt finds it impossible to believe that we could maybe be better informed, more compassionate, more educated, less prejudiced, more tolerant, more understanding, less confused, less stupid and far more enlightened than our remote ancestors?

Impossible. There is no such thing as progress. It’s a liberal myth.

As for the rest of it. It’s one thing to believe that homosexuality is a sin. Absolutely your right as a Christian. I have no real problem with it, other than that I think it’s stupid, absuive, wrongheaded and a misapplication of mistranslated Scripture. But hey! Your belief, your life.

It’s quite another thing when you then take up time inventing all kinds of stories about me to tell yourself, when these stories have no actual basis in fact, logic, or experience. And really– have NO BASIS WHATSOEVER IN THE SCRIPTURE THAT YOU’RE QUOTING ME. When you do make up the crap, that is what makes you a prejudiced person. You don’t know me, or anything about me. You only know what you told yourself about me, and can’t be bothered to correct it.

And its quite another thing entirely when you use the crap you made up to justify harming me, making my life as difficult, expensive, unpleasant, and dangerous as possible, foment political campaigns to do this, insist that god hates me, convince other people to harm me and tell lies about me, disadvantage me, vilify me, criminalize me, and label me as a threat to marriage, family, children, faith, liberty, god, holiness, and western civilization itself– such as it is.

And all to no benefit for yourself, just the satisfaction that you have confirmed an ancient, durable, vicious prejudice. Unless of course you’re politically connected, in which case you can also make a lot of money at it.

That’s what makes you a prejudiced bigot.

Hunter
February 14th, 2013 | LINK

Ben: Re: the argument from “tradition” — my response to that is generally on the order of “If the Founders had been so enamored of tradition, our national anthem would be ‘God Save the Queen’.” Even the courts have rejected tradition as grounds for maintaining discrimination.

The problem in dealing with Vogt’s “arguments” and those of the other anti-gay voices is that when you look at them closely, in the words of Gertrude Stein, there’s no there there: they’re the same old catch phrases and buzzwords, pretty much free of substance, and depending on the audience, masked by rhetoric that sounds reasonable; they rely heavily on insinuation (Tony Perkins and the “child molesters” mantra) and rhetorical tricks. When challenged, they change the subject. And of course, they rail about the “emotional tone” — Vogt’s comment about Rob’s “smug, condescending tone” just says to me that he has no substantive response, and is “simply” another guise of the “hateful rhetoric from the left” response.

Rob — Keep up the good work — I no longer have the energy to dissect these characters, and I’m glad you’re doing it.

Ben in Oakland
February 14th, 2013 | LINK

Hunter, I absolutely agree. All of vogt’s arguments about marriage being for children and procreation. That whole argument exists only inside of his own head.

And on and on and on.

Priya Lynn
February 14th, 2013 | LINK

Hunter said “Ben: Re: the argument from “tradition” — my response to that is generally on the order of “If the Founders had been so enamored of tradition, our national anthem would be ‘God Save the Queen’.”.

Ooooo, that’s a good one! Way to go Hunter.

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