Every once in awhile I'll run across an article that will irritate me to no end.
I belong to a group called GOOD which sends out daily e-mails that update me on what good things are happening in the world.
One was about Prop 8 and how it got repealed.
Some well meaning person no doubt sought to then educate us on why homosexuality is wrong by posting this link.
Always up for a laugh I gave the article by Dennis Prager a read. I had figured I'd be reading an article about how being gay offends JHVH blah blah blah... And I got that but so much more. It was the so much more that I found irritating.
You can't really argue the premise that the bible/Torah is the divinely inspired word of God. It is not subject to falsifiability so it is a waste of time to argue as we cannot prove empirically that God did inspire the word or if it was just the creation of man.
I would begin be arguing that every single behavior that he lists in his fourth paragraph could be attributed to the fact that society actively sublimates their sexual behavior by making sex scarce and making people ashamed of their impulses. Anthropologists would tend to agree that natives that lived mostly naked were less prone to fetishistic behavior.
I'm also sure the gay community will fully appreciate how Mr. Prager blurs the line between pedophilia, rape, and homosexuality. And how he characterizes the male homosexual as incapable of establishing meaningful long-term relationships by painting them as serial monogamist-polygamists. Mr. Prager is mostly silent on the subject of lesbianism as the bible is mostly silent on the subject showing that like most guys God likes to watch two chicks get tender with one another or as Mr. Prager justifies it, lesbians have far fewer partners than their gay male compadres. Could it be that there is nothing more destructive in the universe than unrestrained cocks? To paraphrase CK Louis; do two guys touching dicks as God eats his breakfast cereal ruin His entire day?
Which also begs the question of why Judaism, Christianity and Islam became so popular. I would hazard to guess that through sexual repression it makes men channel there sexual frustrations into other less satisfying pursuits. By confining sexual release to within the bounds of holy matrimony you are setting up for a situation where men have to "prove" themselves worthy of the sacrament of marriage (ie distinguish themselves through riches, fame, glory). This tactic is no different than the first of Porter's five forces, raising the barrier to new entrants, in this case the barrier is marriage, and the new entrants are all of this men not worthy of marriage.
So where to stick these frustrated men who cannot find legitimate release that is acceptable to Muslim, Christian, and Jewish society? On the front lines of course. Hence the rapid an sustained growth of all the Abrahamic religions. You have available a legion of pissed off men looking for glory and to blow off a little bit of steam. 70 virgins in the afterlife for martyrdom? Sounds like good motivation to wage war to me. It is supremely ironic when Mr. Prager says that Judaism is adamant that men should get married and is equally worried when men do not channel their passions into marriage. Judeo-Christian religion is set up, by accident or design, to create these tensions and pressures and as the old saying goes, misery loves company. Nothing pisses off a culture more than all the sex it isn't having and could be having and it is being had by someone else (i.e. godless pagans aka the North American Indian anyone?)
The next bit of "evidence" to the supposed superiority of Judaism was the examples of Roman, Greek, Egyptian and Hindu gods being ascribed various sexual roles and how JHVH was in essence asexual. It is no surprise that ancient people's would project some of the same idiosyncratic tendencies that they themselves suffer from. JHVH was envisioned to be above all that and more perfect (debatable). I would also challenge the notion that JHVH was asexual as man was made in His image implying that God resembled a man.
Dennis then makes the leap that the rigid sexual control demonstrated by Judaism allowed society to progress. He takes the progress as proof positive that it was due to restricting sexual access. In science what you would do is a multi-variant linear regression to see if sexually repression was the independent variable that progression was dependent upon. I see no such analysis. I can say that when Rome collapsed it was a Christian empire. The Greeks did great work in mathematics, philosophy and logic back in the butt bandit era, Chinese invented gun powder without having to put their penis' in a vise.
In the next section Mr. Prager gets into the concept of Judaism inventing the concept of homosexuality and he quotes a passage about ancient sexual morality revolving around the penetrator and penetrated and how it conferred status to be the penetrator. Which leads me to the hypothesis that the originators of Judaism were most likely had the tendency to be catchers in the order of the day rather than pitchers. How to fix that? Establish an ideology that confine the pitching to a narrow range of targets during a narrow set of circumstances, shame and punish those that stray. Hence the lower status men remove themselves from whatever humiliation they were experiencing from the same sex interplay. Within Judaism they have changed the rules so they have the power and they will not be punished for their behavior but all others that do not submit and comply will be punished.
And to be fair in any social order it is not unreasonable to assume that not all men want to be catchers but because of the status associated with penetration not all men can be penetrators. Considering the status attachment to penetration it is also not unreasonable to assume that men of high status used the act of penetration as a tool of domination through rape hence it is easy to envision the need for a social order that confined sexual congress between the genders and sought to erase the status entitlements of penetration. You can count it as a partial success although I'm sure Mr. Prager takes little issue with the status entitlements that come from the penetration of the female, indeed it is stipulated that the female should be submissive to the male. Of course the bible does not explicitly OK the domination of the female through penetration and there are certain biological realities to accommodate procreative congress.
Mr. Prager would no doubt argue that as a "fundamental interaction" penetration between man and woman is not an act of domination but rather of love. The blind-spot in his argument that he sees that intercourse other than vaginal and same-sex interactions cannot be similarly driven by love and tenderness and that all such sex is seeking to dominate by default. Indeed he sees all sex that does not result in life or the potential of life, as death.
Where I agree with him is where he says that those that try to reconcile "immoral" sexual behavior with Judaism/Christianity should bear the onus of providing such proof. The Torah/Bible is very clear on where it stands and there is no compromise to be had.
Mr. Prager goes on to make an odd claim that Judaism both liberated people from their unrestrained sexual natures and made women less peripheral to the lives of men. I would argue that it imprisoned their sexuality and made them less happy for it and for women it enshrined their second class citizen status that endured in Judeo-Christian culture to this very day.
Mr. Prager makes the claim that the society most intolerant of homosexuality (Western Civilization) makes the greatest strides in the equality of women. While it is true that western civilization has made great strides in the pursuit of female equality, but if intolerance if homosexuality is the benchmark then you'd be hard pressed to find a more intolerant society than the middle east as no western nation I am aware of has the death penalty for being homosexual. And yet their women are among the most repressed in the world.
I find it laughable in the extreme when Mr. Prager makes the following statement:
"When male sexuality is not controlled, the consequences are considerably more destructive than when female sexuality is not controlled."
I find it laughable for two reasons:
He obviously has no concept of the history of patrilineal subjugation of the female which primarily rests on males controlling female reproductive biology through social and cultural means. Female sexuality has always been more repressed in general and repressed to the extreme in cultures subscribing to Abrahamic religions.
The second reason I find this laughable is one just has to look at the consequences of making sex scarce has on men, the level of unparalleled destruction of the earth and it's people from wars and exploitation. I am not making the case that there was no wars or aggression when sex was more freely available but the scale, scope and willingness to engage in wholesale slaughter has increased significantly. I would also argue that the adherence to an economic model that subscribes to a perpetual growth model is a partial result for the need to demonstrate ones worthiness for marriage and therefore ones worthiness for sex.
Mr. Prager only needs to contemplate that even with the social success of the Abrahamic religious models they have not stamped out homosexual behavior, indeed, even when the penalty is death. Why is that this behavior refuses to die out? Especially with it being self-limiting (i.e. does not generate children)? Of course the easy answer is to blame it on evil or flaws within human nature but there might be something to the comment from Mr. Prager's own words "Or one could argue that people are naturally (i.e., biologically) bisexual (and given the data I have seen on human sexuality, this may well be true)." So if it is true that people have a natural inclination towards bisexual behavior wouldn't that make Judaism prescriptions against homosexual acts counter to normal human behavior and therefore, unnatural?
Mr. Prager goes on to make the slippery slope argument against accepting the moral equivalence of per-marital sex (i.e. If we allow this then we open the door to incest, adultery, etc) thereby preventing any hope of meaningful relationships for those that are homosexual and indeed condemning them to sin by default for even if they remain celibate, that too is a sin in Judaism. A real damned if you do and damned if you don't scenario. Of course the third option is to marry the opposite sex but with that comes the expectations and demands of family and relations of a sexual nature that a homosexual would find abhorrent. How bad could it be? Consider if the roles were reverse and you as a heterosexual had to marry someone of the same sex. You might be persuaded to perform mechanically but there would be no love and you would duck your "marital" duties as often as possible. So perhaps the problem of the Abrahamic prescriptions against homosexuality boils down to the assumptions being made from a position of pure heterosexuality, a profound lack of empathy.
Of course this line of argument presupposes that homosexuality is not a choice and has a basis in biology which Mr. Prager does not recognize even though the literature supports a biological basis for homosexuality. As I have stated before in this blog, if homosexual behavior does not have a biological basis and is a choice, I cannot understand why anyone would choose a lifestyle that western civilization finds so offensive, and indeed puts their very well being in jeopardy when it would be so easy to flip a switch and "conform". Perhaps Mr. Prager could explain that to me.
Mr. Prager then makes the argument that homosexuality is an illness of the mind by first casting doubt on psychiatry's apparent inability to keep homosexuality in the DSM as a deviant illness, writing it off to political pressure (ie. social pressure). I would observe that this wouldn't be an issue if homosexuality was still listed in the DSM, indeed Mr. Prager would probably use that as additional evidence to support his argument, the fact that he doesn't agree that it has been delisted, he attacks psychiatry's morals and judgement history. He doesn't attack the decision, he attacks the institution.
Then he frames the debate by posing the question: Assuming there is such a thing as normal, is it normal for a man to be incapable of making love to a woman (or vice versa)?
He then confines the possible answers to three:
1. Most Homosexuals can make love to a woman, but they find such an act repulsive or simply prefer making love to men.
2. Yes, it is normal.
3. No, it is not normal.
He says that if the first answer is correct then we would have to acknowledge that homosexuality is by and large a choice.
The second answer for Mr. Prager is a non-starter and he rejects it outright.
The third answer is what Mr. Prager subscribes to based on the reasoning that men are designed to make love to women and compares it to an eye. Eyes are designed to see, thus even if the majority were blind, blindness cannot be considered the normal function of the eye. Thus homosexuality is not normal, not based on it's minority status, but based on design, and as such, is unhealthy and should be considered an illness.
Let's examine his question in the context of what he has written on the subject. Normal would encompass a range of sexual behaviour, as he himself has stated that from the data he has observed humans are generally some mixture of bisexual. And there would be a range of behaviors. Of course when he uses "normal" in the question, he is referring to its ordinary meaning in the context of his essay, normal being the equivalent of heterosexual acts. He is clever in his phrasing because for the vast majority of men and women, they could indeed mechanically perform the sexual act. His choice of the phrase "making love" rather than the more proper phrase "engage in sexual intercourse" implies that men and women should be able to ascribe to the Judeo-Christian ideal of sexual interaction. It boils down to a semantic trick. Men generally, no matter what their leaning can engage in sexual congress with females, it is rare the man who cannot perform with women. He is targeting the extremes of homosexuality, of which, are rare, but consider also, pure heterosexuality is equally rare. Thus his question is framed to cast homosexuality as an extreme, or if it is not an extreme then reduces it to a trivial choice.
Reverse the question: Is it normal for a man to be incapable of making love to a man (or a woman to a woman)?
Look at how the first answer changes:
1. Most Heterosexual men(women) can make love to a man(woman), but they find such an act repulsive or simply prefer making love to the opposite sex.
Given that the data Mr. Prager has reviewed that lends creedence to the fact that humans are varying degrees bisexual, gives lie to his original question.
Answer two is still a non-starter because of his implied definition of normal (being equivalent to heterosexual acts).
Answer three is the default because of the implied definition of normal.
With answer one Mr. Prager seems to get the idea of "choice" and "preference" mixed up. Although similar concepts, they are not equivalent. Choice is immediate, preference is long-term and ingrained. You can choose counter to your preference, for a time. A strongly heterosexual man can choose a male relationship, but he will not be happy and eventually his heterosexual nature will reassert itself. Vice versa, a strongly homosexual male can choose a heterosexual relationship but eventually his nature will reassert itself.
With answer three Mr. Prager seems to think that there is only one kind of sexual interaction. Man is designed to procreate with a woman this is true, but Mr. Prager is confusing procreation with sex. As demonstrated throughout history, one can have sex and not procreate. Of course this argument is a non-starter for Mr. Prager as he seems to acknowledge only sex for procreation and only within marriage.
I would finally point out the irony in the aspersions Mr. Prager heaps upon the area of psychiatry accusing them of caving to political and social pressure, when in next section he praises Judaisms counter-culture beginnings when it stood up and told the ancient world that it was wrong in its interpretation of human sexuality. Judiasm started from a minority position (as a religion), but through social and political pressure has managed become the basis of the dominate religions today and has also, as a side "benefit", repressed the homosexual minority. So is it any wonder after 3000 years of persecution by the various Abrahamic religions that LGBT are banding together to exert their own changes through social and political pressure?