Bigotry, Part 1
February 12th, 2013
Self-described Catholic blogger Brandon Vogt recently published Rebuttals to arguments for same-sex marriage. He 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.
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.
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.)
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.
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.
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.