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In case you ever wondered what a straw man is…

Rob Tisinai

February 20th, 2013

Technically, a straw man is “an informal fallacy based on misrepresentation of an opponent’s position.”

And boy do I have an example for you.

Gilles Bernheim, author of a new article against same-sex marriage, is the Chief Rabbi of France. That’s impressive. But just in case don’t you didn’t realize it, he spends the first 716 words of the article explaining how important he and his article are. Eventually, though, he gets to this (it’s long, but relish it):

The argument for marriage for all conceals a split between two existing visions of marriage. According to one worldview, which I share with a great number of people, both believers and nonbelievers, marriage is not only the recognition of a loving attachment. It is the institution that articulates the union between man and woman as part of the succession of generations. It is the establishment of a family—that is, a social cell that creates a set of parent–child relations among its members. Beyond the common life of two individuals, it organizes the life of a community consisting of descendants and ancestors. So understood, marriage is a fundamental act in the construction and the stability of individuals as well as of society.

According to another worldview, marriage is an obsolete and rigid institution, the absurd legacy of a traditional and alienating society. Is it not paradoxical to hear those who share this worldview raising their voices in favor of homosexual marriage? Why do those who reject marriage and prefer free unions demonstrate alongside activists in favor of homosexual marriage?

Whichever worldview you hold…

Yes! Because — obviously! — you must be holding one of these two views!

I can well understand how Bernheim is confused that we are fighting for marriage equality if we think marriage itself obsolete and absurd. It must baffle him that we spend time and money fighting for something he’s so certain we so despise. He must be flabbergasted that I and thousands of others have given up weekends to go knocking on door after door in unfamiliar neighborhoods to have personal chats with total strangers about the vital importance of marriage to our lives.

Why would we do this, when we give not one fig for marriage? It’s a paradox! Incomprehensible! Ridiculudicrous!

It’s every one of those things — to someone closing his eyes to what his opponents actually believe, to who they really are. Rabbi Bernheim characterizes us, tells us his characterization makes no sense…and then never bothers to wonder whether his characterization is true.

The irony is sad:  The good rabbi needs to understand that we are not his caricatures; that we are not made of straw; that if he pricks us, we do bleed.



February 20th, 2013 | LINK

And nothing in the first paragraph is actually an argument against same-sex marriage.

Priya Lynn
February 20th, 2013 | LINK

The bigots are rigidly holding on to their assertion that marriage was designed for procreation because its the only way they can create a pseudo justification for denying marriage to gays and lesbians.

There’s no evidence that marriage was ever designed or that it was intended for procreation when it first came about.

There was a time in human history when people didn’t know what caused pregnancy. I think its likely that marriage came to be sometime during this period. Long before people knew what caused pregnancy men and women were forming tight pair bonds out of a desire to be together, not to raise children. Its likely that the small groups they were in at some point chose to commemorate such decisions with some sort of group recognition that would be the beginnings of marriage. Pregnancy and children might happen before marriage, or after but initially marriage was about the joining of two people and any procreation was coincidental to that.

Ben In Oakland
February 20th, 2013 | LINK

Interesting that you shoud write that, Priya.

In the times of Welsh mythology and the Mabinogion– for those who aren’t up on their mythologies, that is the Welsh national epic, like the Kalevala and homer– this was indeed the case. The ancient welsh knew that virgins never gave birth, but they didn’t know that men and women together made babies. It’s right there in the mabinogion, and in fact its the basis for some of the plot lines.

Priya Lynn
February 20th, 2013 | LINK

Thanks for telling me that Ben. I’m going to make note of it.

February 20th, 2013 | LINK

“Gilles Bernheim, author of a new article against same-sex marriage, is the Chief Rabbi of France. That’s impressive.”

What’s impressive is that he thinks this matter to anyone. “Chief Rabbis” have no authority in liberal democracies (alas, in Israel, they have far too much authority over “civil” life). They are usually just the highest level from the Orthodox community (and in some places, there are multiple “chief” rabbis). The non-Orthodox don’t give a sh*t about a “chief” rabbi. Oddly, so many countries around the world have chief rabbis. Thankfully,

It has about as much meaning as Pat Robertson anointing himself “chief Protestant Minister”. And R. Bernheim contributes about as much to society (i.e., less than zero) as Robertson.

Come to think of it, bozos like Bernheim are as illegitimate as our favorite lunatic “Public Advocate of the U.S.”

Donny D.
February 21st, 2013 | LINK

His implicit notion that you hold one or the other of his presented view on marriage is the logical fallacy known as the false dilemma.

And his implicit statement that you must believe one idea about marriage or the other is an example of begging the question, yet another logical fallacy.

February 21st, 2013 | LINK

Yes to all of the above, and in addition, his view of marriage is pretty narrow and obviously based on procreation — just as one point, the relationships created by marriage include a lot more than parent-child. But if you’re locked into the Pentateuch, I guess you wouldn’t see that.

Regan DuCasse
February 21st, 2013 | LINK

It’s so hard to deal with anti gay people who in their heads they believe they are being deep, but could only impress people that aren’t.
No wonder they keep repeating the same simplistic, reductive memes over and over again.
Marriage, the rites and rituals are more about IDENTITY, and for knowing who the issue of the loins BELONG to, as much as what the loins themselves do.
I mean seriously, to hear all of the anti gay tell it, MATING is the highest spiritual calling, and heterosexuality is what makes it moral.
It’s VERY hard NOT to laugh at people who keep talking AT gay folks as if gay people think the stork brings babies or gay folks don’t know what man/woman sex IS.
Identity, more than just about anything is what has driven people mad in trying to forcefully maintain identity of all kinds.
That’s why the need for virgin marriage, and artificially enforced gender roles and dress.
And as we speak, the anti gay have NO concern for the extension of the entire of the species or that all children have a mother and a father and marriage be reserved for that.
No, they are retrograding the meaning of clans, and religious hierarchies and the uncharitable attitudes towards children with no identifiable tribes or bloodlines.
The children of gay adults, are the children they want the gov’t to give no value to.
And the children of biological, nuclear married parents, the preferential treatment to.
The only problem with that is, they can’t make those parents marry if they don’t want to.
Unmarried status, will be a way of identifying gay parents and couples.
They won’t be able to claim the title of husbands or wives.
And that’s a means of IDENTITY, that the anti gay are trying to hold on to like pit bulls, even though it’s not only theirs to claim.

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