So, I’ve been blogging at stjebus.wordpress.com for a bit over 18 months. And while I enjoy the Stjebus branding, I think my blogging will be more successful if I blog under my own name. So that end, I’m moving my blog to aaronkcollett.wordpress.com. I’ll leave this site active with this post as the final post; if you use wordpress or email to follow me, please update your reader. Thanks very much, and I hope you all continue to read and enjoy my blog.
Debating the existence of God
I enjoy debating with people. I love to have conversations with my friends where we disagree, sometimes vehemently. But one thing I don’t like to debate is the existence of God.
I have no problem giving the reaons I don’t believe in God; the problem of evil, the lack of any evidence for or against such a creature, the fact that description of God and Gods are pretty clearly just human traits taken to a superlative extreme, etc. I have no problem explaining to myself and other people why I don’t believe in God.
The issue is that debating is inherently a persuasive form of communication. I can try to convince someone that LGBT people shouldn’t be oppressed. I can argue that the homeschool system in America desperately needs to be overhauled. I can even argue that universal healthcare doesn’t actually threaten one’s freedom. And I could convince someone of all those arguments. But I will never, ever, convince someone that God doesn’t exist.
The primary reason I won’t ever convince someone is that most people don’t believe in God because they’ve thought through all the logic of whether a deity exists or not. Most people believe in God because that’s what they’ve been taught. Trying to argue logically against something people have been taught literally from the cradle rarely works (for another example, see how hard it is to eliminate racism). Even I myself wasn’t simply convinced by someone else that God didn’t exist – I had to get there myself by looking at the evidence for myself.
Secondly, belief in God is related strongly to people’s core identity about themselves. It’s not just something that can be moved around easily. For example, I naturally have blonde hair. But having blond hair isn’t necessarily a core part of my identity, and I have no problem dying my hair a variety of color; and in fact, I do dye my hair, and continue to do so. I’m also right-handed, and if I lost my right hand, adjusting to being left-handed would be painful and frustrating. Right-handedness is a core part of who I am. The analogy isn’t exact, but imagine what it would take to convince you via an argument that you should cut off your right hand.
Finally, the fact of the matter is that the evidence for there being a god, and the evidence for there not being a god, are both incredibly circumstantial. In some cases, atheists and theists are using the exact same evidence.
So in general, I don’t like to debate the existence of God. Everyone gets worked up, nothing is accomplished, and for the most part, I just don’t do it. I’d much rather have conversations about how we treat each other than about the possibility that some sort of God exists.
Armor wearing, knightly marching
God’s armor, so called
protected ring, neatly breaking
Loins girt, holds up lies, no truth here
Righteous plate, just no
merely gives smiling face, hides grief
Feet shod, stomping on human face,
Peace through bullies’ arm
Faith as shield – protects from all thought
Salvations’ helmet, blocks vision
Truth, wielded as blade
“God’s” word, only known through pain
Standing firm, facing outward, strong
Protect the faith, stand!
Fiery arrows, I fear them not
Strike; pain from where did it come?
No enemy front;
Only friends behind; surely not?
Again, the unseen strike; from where?
Glance behind; just once
All smiles; blood on two naked blades
Why? What purpose is this assault?
Again, with smiles fixed,
We only the speak the truth, brother
Now surrounded, my allies all
Struck, over again
Blades stained with me, covered with pain
Left alone, at last pain subsides
Divine help? Not yet
Abusers tire of their cruel game
Remove the helmet, kick the shoes
Drop the cracked breastplate
Tear off the supposed armor
Free of metal weight and stuck joints
Finally can breathe
This beautiful freedom rings out
Abusers return, purpose clear
Fear returns with them
But now… oh, now I see clearly
Their armor once bright and shining
now rusted and dark
Rotting flesh desperately hid
Former allies strike out in hate
Freedom allows motion
Easily avoid hateful strike
Eyes clear, can see beyond armor
Swords stained with back wounds
Some even are self-inflicted
Never an enemy seen near
All wounds, given by friends, loved ones
As a child and a teenager, I was taught that non-Christians were immoral by default, because morals could only come from the Bible itself, and if you didn’t believe the entire Bible, you had no basis for any sort of moral code. So the choices were being a Christian exactly like my family/church/school, or being a hedonist/nihilist.
This turned out to be really frustrating for me. I didn’t want to be immoral. I also didn’t want to be a nihilist. Both of those options seemed to be just terrible. And while I did know, according to the church, I was being immoral by accepting LGBT people, that didn’t feel like I was being immoral. Quite the opposite, in fact; it felt much more moral than rejecting them. So with a moral quandary and new-found atheism/agnosticism, I was feeling a bit adrift.
So what’s a budding atheist to do? Well, I went to school. I tried to take classes that might give me a different view on what constitutes morals, and why we do what we do. And eventually, I had (part of) an answer.
Christians will tell you that morals come God. Depending on their exact background, they’ll put it differently, though. Some might say morals are from the Bible. Some might say God puts morals in us directly. Regardless, the idea is that religion is responsible for morals.
First of all, if God puts morals directly into humans, then one would expect all religions to have the same morals, or at least mostly the same morals. But that’s not what you see. There is some overlap: most religions bar some sort of murder, and most religions bar incest. But otherwise, religions run the gamut: The community is the most important, no, the individual is the most important. Doing good is best, no, not doing evil is best. Even murder and incest aren’t completely the same: some religions call it totally A-ok to kill people as long as their not in your group. And incest taboos range from very flexible to completely inflexible. With such a wide range across world religions, clearly God hasn’t placed morals within us.
Secondly, what about morals coming from the Bible? This again fails, because of all the blatantly immoral things that are condoned and sanctioned not only implicitly by the author of the text, but in-text by God as well. For example, God tells Abraham to sacrifice his son “as a test”. What a terrible, terrible test. God tells the Israelites on more than one occasion to murder every man, woman, child, and animal in a given nation-state; in other words, God commands genocide. Again, no reasonable argument can be made supporting genocide*.
What are we left with? Clearly God doesn’t place morals inside us, and just as clearly morals don’t come from the Bible. So where do they come from? That’s actually a pretty complex question, and really has two parts: The first part is where do morals come from in general, and the second is why do we have the morals that we do?
I can’t answer those questions with a huge degree of certainty. For that matter, I don’t think that anyone can answer it with real certainty. I can say, I have the morals I do because they seem be a pretty fair way to deal with other people.
My classes, as well as my interactions with people, have helped me to crystallize my morals into a fairly self-consistent framework. I’m not perfect, and I screw up and hurt people, but I do try. So what is the framework I’ve come to?
In general, my morals can be boiled down to two statements:
1. Try not to cause harm**.
2. Seek informed consent for anything you do to anyone else.
That’s it. Get consent, try not to hurt people. Those two things will get you a long way, and there’s no invisible man waiting to smite you if you trip up.
*I am aware of the theological argument that the rules for God are different by virtue of him being God; I just don’t consider it a reasonable argument.
**Yes, yes, don’t try, just do. It’s try here because sometimes, there is no way to avoid hurting someone. Not only that, sometimes, it’s out of my control entirely. That’s why it’s not a blanket “do no harm, ever”.
One of the consequences of being taught that everyone in the world hates you is you start believing that everyone hates you (crazy,right?). Because that was my starting place for interactions with people, it became a self-fulfilling prophecy. I would treat people as deserving of unending torture, which understandably turned them off from wanting to be around me. Then I would claim I was being persocuted because no one wanted to spend time with the bigoted Christian kid.
The group of people I believe I hurt the most were the LGBT people I came into contact with. I actually told people, to their faces, that they were going to be tortured forever because of who they loved. Even worse, I was self-righteous about it, and told myself I was being “loving”. Bullshit. I was being the very worst sort of bigot.
That’s not to say I didn’t hurt other people, too. I was an equal opportunity bigot. I even told other Christians they should be concerned about their salvation because they didn’t believe the same things as me.
When I realized I no longer believed in God, I slowly started to examine things I’d taken for granted. It was slow because I’d been steeped in patriarchy and Christianity for so long, I actually could not see some of the places I was being awful. It took an awful shock to actually be able to see my own blind spots.
When I started college at UCCS, I was employed by the Scribe, the school newspaper. At this point I was calling myself an agnostic leaning toward atheism. I was still super naive. I met the managing editor of the Scribe, a wonderful woman named Cat. In one of our first conversations, it came up in passing she had a female partner. I was floored. I had never even considered the possibility I might work for an LGBT person. It was a huge relief when I realized it didn’t have to be an issue for me any more! It was like a great weight had been taken off my shoulders – there was absolutely no reason why I had to be freaked out or nervous when dealing with someone who was in a same-sex relationship. In fact, it actually made my interactions with everyone easier when I didn’t always have to think about that.
I had a choice once I discovered how many blind spots I really had. I could either wallow in guilt, or I could do something about it. I decided that wallowing in guilt was counter-productive, so I started to try to make up for my previous awfulness. In a lot of ways, I believe I have; however, I don’t believe I’ll ever completely make up for being so awful to so many people.
Today, I’m an LGBT Ally, a feminist, and what the Right sneeringly calls a “Social Justice Warrior”. I can’t say I agree with all LGBT allies, or all feminists, or all SJWs. But I do make the effort to listen to viewpoints different than mine, and respect those decisions and stances others take. My atheism has made me a better person.
“I’m an atheist.” Even now, after being an atheist for several years, those words are still difficult to say. Everything I was taught was that atheists were evil. Atheists hated God, hated Christians, and were knowingly following the devil. Satan was their God!
“I’m an atheist.” In a lot of ways, I was very, very lucky. I have friends who grew up in a similar circle as I did, and were subjected to horrific abuse. The only difference between me and them was my mother, who managed to avoid caving to the “beatings will continue until morale improves” crowd. And make no mistake, that school of thought was there, all around me. Books I was given at my private Christian school espoused the same teachings as the Gothards, Duggars, and Jeubs. I am convinced that people that I went to high school with were given regular beatings. I myself was spanked growing up, though I was lucky enough to come through it without being abused. I know others were not so lucky. I was steeped in patriarchy. I was even told by one person, after my stepfather died, “You’re the man of the house now, you have to take care of your mother.” I was 10. And everyone knows that 10-year-old boys pre-empt mothers when it comes to “ruling the house.”
And even though I was spanked, and at this point, I disagree with the entire philosophy behind spanking, I don’t feel I was abused. I was never isolated or put down. I was never beaten until I stopped crying. In short, I was very, very lucky, because I could have easily been another horror story from inside evangelical Christianity.
“I’m an atheist.” The first cracks in my Christianity started to appear when I was 16. I’d gotten my first job at the Wendy’s in Woodland Park, which was super exciting. Since I did not have a car, I got a ride into town with my stepfather, three hours before my shift started. Fortunately, there was a little hole-in-the-wall coffee shop in the same shopping center as the Wendy’s, so I waited there to begin my shift.
My mind was blown from the people I met there. All my life, I had been told that non-Christians hated Christians, that they would shun me, that they would try to get me to turn to the devil. None of it was true – in fact, the people I met at the coffee shop treated me way better than I’d ever been treated by my Christian friends. I kept expecting the other shoe to drop, and for them to reveal they’d been lying the whole time, but they never did. And not one of them ever judged me for not being exactly like them. In contrast, I’d been judged by every Christian I’d ever met for one thing or another: liking sci-fi, liking fantasy, even being better at memorizing verses. These atheists, pagans, Buddhists and others never said any negative thing about or to me, even though they knew I believed they were going to hell and told them so. In other words, they payed my hatefulness with kindness. They acted more like Jesus than any of my other Christian friends.
“I’m an atheist.” After I moved out on my own, I stayed with the Christian faith. I even attended and graduated from a local Bible school (calling it a college would be vastly overstating).But the cracks were starting to deepen, and I desperately wanted my doubts to cease. So I papered over the cracks by doubling down on all the things I knew to be true: gay people were going to hell, everyone hated Christians, and I was a member of a persocuted minority. I turned into the very worst sort of Christian: I spewed hatefulness under the guise of “loving people.” I was miserable, and I hurt a lot of people.
“I am an atheist.” Despite the long build-up to becoming an atheist, there was not really one huge moment when I realized I was an atheist. I just eventually realized I hadn’t believe in God for quite a while. It was very anti-climactic. What wasn’t climactic was when I started to realize how much my religious upbringing had skewed my ethics and morals. Without “approved by God” and “Not approved by God” boxes, I had no idea how someone came up with a moral code. Of course, that was only because I’d been taught that those boxes were the only way to divide actions. Eventually I learned how to have an ethical framework and stick to it because it works, rather than because I’ll be struck down by a psychopath in the sky.
“I am an atheist.”
This story came up on my Facebook news feed yesterday morning. While I understand some of what the author is frustrated with, quite a bit of what she had to say is simply bad science, bad medicine, and actually dangerous. So I’m going to respond to as much of it as I can.
First of all, a disclaimer: I am a childless male, and thus have never been a part of any birthing process except my own, which I fortunately do not remember. I am also not a medical professional. However, the lack of personal experience regarding either the medical profession or the birthing process does not keep me from recognizing bad science and logical fallacies, any more than not being an alien keeps people from writing science fiction. I am also aware that I am giving “free publicity” as it were, to the author, but I don’t believe that all press is good press, so I don’t mind.
“I had a baby…at home…on the bedroom floor.“
Isn’t that…unsanitary? I mean, really. I walk on my floor, and my shoes are not something I want anywhere near bodily processes that are extremely susceptible to infection.
“Really? Having a vaginal birth without unnecessary medical testing and intervention, the way women have been giving birth since the beginning of time (save the last 200 years), puts my baby at risk?”
Yes, really. See, “natural” does not mean “safe”. Tornadoes and hurricanes are natural; let the folks from Florida, Louisiana, and Oklahoma tell you how safe those are. Volcanoes are natural; rattlesnakes are natural. Pregnancy is emphatically not safe – before the advent of those “unnecessary medical testing and interventions” you talk about, maternal death rate was something like 1 percent per birth – and if that sounds low, that’s twice the risk of a kidney transplant and only half the risk of a triple bypass heart surgery.
“So I did what any educated, normal, determined person would do:
I chose my bedroom floor.”
No. No. No. Those words do not mean what you clearly think they mean. Choosing your bedroom floor over a clean hospital is not something an educated person does. It’s not something a normal person does. I’ll give you determined, but determined for what? You voluntarily chose to give birth in an non-sterile environment. Seriously, the advent of a sterile environment for birthing mothers was one of the very first changes made to the way medicine dealt with birth, and just doing that saved countless lives.”
What used to be a sacred, respected, safe process carried out by a woman, her closest confidants, and midwife has turned into a 3-ring circus complete with flashing lights, ring-side seats, popcorn, and enough technology to re-wire a circuit. What used to be an event where women were engaged, connected, and present is now a detached process with intervention and discombobulation….Blood is taken, pee is collected in a cup, there are ultrasounds, monthly appointments, bi-weekly, than weekly appointments, flu shots, vaccinations, gestational diabetes testing, group b strep and genetic testing.”
Seriously, I can’t stress how much you’re wrong about giving birth being safe before medical science started getting beyond bleeding and leeches. All those “processes” you’re railing against are for the purposes of reducing your chances of dying while trying to bring a baby into the world. I understand that all the stuff to do is overwhelming, but you can’t seriously claim those tests are just boondoggles – they’re actually checking on the health of the baby, and your health.
“You’ll waddle into the hospital when you are one centimeter dilated because you felt the first twinge of pain – you weren’t told that laboring at your house is much more comfortable. Then you’ll be subjected to your first vaginal “frisk” of many, as if pap smears weren’t uncomfortable enough.”
Again, there’s a sanitation issue. Now, I’m not against home births in general – I understand they can be way more comfortable than a hospital visit, not to mention cheaper because really, the American medical industry is really, really expensive.
And you know where babies come from, right? So those “vaginal frisks”, while understandably uncomfortable, seem like they’re in the right place. After all, you don’t want your OBGYN saying, “Well, I see you’re in labor. I’m going to go ahead and start with an eye, ear, nose and throat check, and we’ll see how we feel from there, all right?” Of course not.
“If you were lucky enough to avoid the embarrassingly high 33% c-section rate in this country, you’re probably in the cold, uninviting, delivery room waiting for someone to tell you when and how hard to push.”
Yeah, the c-section percentage is this country is pretty high, for a variety of possible reasons, including insurance pressure, unwillingness to offer vaginal birth in subsequent pregnancies, and a cavalier attitude toward surgery in general. But hopefully that’s changing. But really, if you do need a c-section, it’s way better to be in a place where that can be done, rather than a hospital drive away, right?
“Your man? He’s probably munchin’ on some chips tuned into the t.v. detached from you because you’re detached from the process. Hey, at least somebody get’s to eat right?”
Sounds like you married a douchebag. This is not really an argument against medical intervention in birthing, it’s really an argument against having children with people who are assholes.
(From later in the article)”Your man meat wasn’t binging on chips. He was holding you because you needed him. You needed each other and it was a moment you shared together.”
Putting aside the condescending way you refer to your partner, are you actually saying men aren’t involved in the birthing process unless it’s at home? Do men have an asshole switch that only activates within range of a qualifying hospital? I don’t even know what you’re really trying to get at here.
All this amounts to a strawman of the medical industry in the US – which is impressive, considering the industry isn’t exactly the picture of generosity and integrity without the strawmanning. Obviously you have a solution, right?
“If you choose a natural birth (whether at home or at a center) you will establish care with a midwife who will work with you throughout your entire pregnancy. You’ll build a relationship with her and she’ll answer all your questions, lessen your fears, and calm your concerns. There’s no pressure, minimized testing (that you can easily opt out of without a speech), and the freedom to birth without confines preferably in the comfort of your own home.”
Ok, so as I said before, I don’t really have an issue with homebirths in general, but they do raise the risk of infections for both the mother and the child. And why is a doctor not qualified to “answer questions, lessen fears, and calm concerns”?
“Your midwife will be there doing what she does best, watching and waiting.“
Not going to lie, I laughed at this. The midwife does watching and waiting best? Well, hell, I can do that. That must mean I’m qualified as a midwife…or midhusband…or something.
“No medical intervention was needed and the emergency plan a good midwife always has in place can remain on the dusty shelf because it’s rarely ever used. ”
Ok, this is some sort of crazy idealistic world you live in, but again, all the “medical intervention”? It saves countless lives due to the fact it reduces not only maternal death, but also the baby’s death.
“ I say “employ” because your doctor (or midwife) works for you and like any boss, you call the shots. “
Gah. While technically this may be true, demanding that your doctor support you in doing things that are dangerous for you and your baby is a good way to not have a doctor anymore – as you found out when your doctor wouldn’t support you in your “natural birth” kick after you had an ectopic pregnancy.
“Your birth plan should be respected and revered as holy.”
What. Just….revered as holy? When it’s putting you and your baby at risk? When you clearly don’t know the first thing about medicine? Let me be clear – having a well-thought out, realistic plan is good. Slapping a plan together with your non-medical background is worse than having no plan at all.
Home births are not necessarily bad, as I’ve said – from what I understand, it can be a lot more comfortable than a hospital stay, as long as everything goes right. A midwife who’s job description is “watch and wait” sounds like a security camera, and pre-natal tests and care aren’t simply “something to do”, they can actually help doctors catch things happening to you and your baby before anything bad actually happens.
What it boils down to is this: women’s bodies are not magical. They don’t magically get manuals or mystical knowledge because they are pregnant. Doctors study the human body, and kind of know what’s going on. Pretending you have more knowledge and skill than they do is fairly arrogant, and puts you in danger. And while you have the right to do that, you probably shouldn’t encourage other people to put themselves in danger.
I’ve heard some variation of this more times than I can count: “Why are you even commenting? Just ignore what you don’t agree with.” Or “It’s the internet, nothing you say matters.” Or, “Facebook debates are never resolved.”
There’s a sense that online debates are pointless and time-wasting. That anything done online is somehow less real than something done offline. But I think that attitude misses something really important.
It can seem that Internet debates are never resolved, and that’s true, they’re not. But neither are debates offline. It can seem like debates are won/lost offline, but in reality, they almost always end with A) One party giving up or B) Both parties agreeing to disagree. There are some exceptions to that, just like there are some exceptions to internet debates being resolved.
The reason people think offline debates accomplish anything is that people are far more likely to concede the argument or simply walk away when they are face-to-face. There’s much made of how anonymity brings out the worst in everyone, but it also lets you have deeper debates and conversations because of that same anonymity. I’m unlikely to talk to anyone who is willing to say outright to my face, “God doesn’t love you because you’re not a Christian”, but I’ve had that said to me online. While that seems monstrous (and it is), it’s much easier to argue against a clearly defined problem than one that is hidden by the courtesies of a face-to-face argument.
The other reason online arguments are important is that you’re not really arguing to convince the other person. You’re really arguing for anyone reading the comments and not saying anything. If you’re attacking the person for no reason, or your “reasoning” is “Well, I just don’t like it”, then your position looks really weak (and arguably, it is). A corollary is that often, online debates are about correcting ignorance as much as defending a position. If someone believes there are no transitional fossils, that’s easy to fix. Here, let me fix it for you: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_transitional_fossils. Now, I’ve corrected some ignorance, or at least tried to. That’s way more important than actually winning the fight, because correcting the ignorance wins all the next fights, too.
So remember, it’s not bad to argue on the internet. It’s actually important.
There are spoilers here. If you haven’t seen the movie, see it before reading this post. Again, I’m spoiling the movie right here.
So, I saw Frozen a couple of days ago, and I must admit, my expectations were not high. It’s a Disney movie, the main characters are sister-princesses; I was not expecting to like it. However, my expectations were dashed – many of the things I expected from a Disney movie (blatant racism, sexism, etc.) were missing or subverted.
Let’s get the unfortunate things out of the way first, however. Frozen did have some Disney problems.
The primary problem was the absolute lack of people of color in this movie. As in, there were none that I saw. Now, I understand that not every movie has to have a main character who is a person of color, but can’t you animate some black or brown people even in the background? It’s not terribly difficult, since you’re animating the white folks anyway.
On to happier things, however, because Frozen had some other things going on that were really, really good.
Quick, what’s the first thing that comes to mind when you hear “Disney magical transformation”? Is it Beauty and the Beast? Maybe it’s The Black Cauldron, or Princess and the Frog. Either way, magic in Disney is almost always a bad thing. There’s exceptions – the forest witch in The Princess and the Frog, for example, and I’m pretty sure King Triton has some “good” magic. It’s rare, however, and transformational magic is always bad. Ursula changes Ariel’s legs, the voodoo man in Princess and the Frog, the unnamed witch in Beauty and the Beast. It seems that Disney has decided that any change to the way you were born is absolutely evil, and building things with magic is right out.
Except Frozen has the very first magical building sequence I’ve ever seen that was presented in a 100 percent positive light. Elsa flexes her powers for the first time and magics up an ice castle while singing about how she’s totally the most awesomest person in the world who doesn’t need anyone else (it’s actually “Let it Go”, the most popular song from the movie, but whatever). Throughout the scene, I was expecting a turn to evil in her appearance – because magic building is bad, remember? Except it never happened. Elsa never gets turned into an evil sorceress, even though that’s normally the path Disney has their female magic-users take. Greatly impressive subversion there, Disney.
Let’s talk about the ending. There are two main female characters in this film (making it pass the Bechdel test handily within the first couple minutes. Good again!) and one of them isn’t paired off with a man at the end of the movie. I was floored. Elsie doesn’t fall in love! With anyone! Her character arc is all about learning to accept her powers and just be herself, and she does it without the help of a
penis man. That’s actually tough to find in any movie, let alone a Disney feature!
Let’s talk about villains for a minute. Villains are exceptionally difficult characters to write. In Disney films, this usually means a one-dimensional villain with little more motivation that “Evil gives me lulz”. So you get someone like Gaston, who is the reason that we can describe a “cartoonishly evil villain” and have other people know what we’re talking about. In Frozen, though, there’s not really a villain for about three-quarters of the movie. There’s an old dude who basically exemplifies privilege and creepiness, but otherwise the central conflict is Queen Elsa’s burgeoning powers. At the point that Princess Anya comes back home, however, Hans, the love interest, gives the most unexpected villain turn I have ever seen. Not only did they subvert the “Prince Charming” love interest, they did it while subverting the idea of a “True Love’s kiss”. I could not believe it. Disney just avoided a True Love’s kiss scenario (twice!) and had the characters hang a lampshade on the idea to boot. While giving us a villain who is well-written enough to make us love him for the first part of the movie and then loathe him entirely for the last bit.
So, I hope you enjoyed my ranting about Frozen – if you agree with me, or disagree with me, please say something in comments, either here or on Facebook. I would love to hear what you all thought about it.
Ok, so raise your hand if you’ve ever heard this one before: “Well, if we let the gays get married, what’s to stop people from marrying two people? Ten? We’ll have to let people marry their dogs. Their toasters. Themselves!”
I’m not even exaggerating – those are all arguments I’ve actually seen for not allowing gay marriage. So here we go: in general, gay marriage opponents are making religious arguments. And in this religious argument, you have two boxes. One box says “This kind of sex is allowed” and the other box says “This kind of sex is not allowed”. The problem (aside from box-based rule #34) is that what goes into the boxes is arbitrary, and not even consistent. Sex with a sibling is A-OK if the boxes are set in Mesopotamia in 2500 B.C.E., but move the boxes into the present, and incest magically moves boxes (don’t panic, I’m not suggesting incest be legalized. Probably – see below).
Marriage equality doesn’t accept that dichotomy, though. We don’t have a box that says “Allowed” and a box that says “Forbidden”. Our boxes say “Consensual” and “Non-Consensual”. That’s for everyone involved. “Informed” is assumed. Please don’t make me explain why uninformed consent isn’t consent. So if you’re married, your spouse is involved in sexual decisions you make – that’s why cheating goes in the Non-Consensual box. Guess what? Polygamy goes in the Consensual box as long as everyone involved is a consenting adult.
Let’s use this to check some of the other slippery slope examples, shall we? Pedophilia: children aren’t capable of making informed consent. Non-consensual. Beastiality? Animals are incapable of making informed consent. Gay marriage? Adults, consenting. Consensual. Toasters? incapable. Non-Consensual. Yourself? BZZT!! Syntax error, try again. Incest is actually a bit trickier here. What if the siblings are consenting adults? At first blush, you’d toss it right into the consensual box, but incest can cause harm, not only to the people involved, but to any children that might result from the union. That’s one that, for me, goes in the “Ew, icky, don’t want to think about” box until people who are actually being persecuted for their sexuality get justice. Then we can approach that: sorry, incest advocates, just keep waiting.
So please, stop using that silly slippery slope argument. It doesn’t make you look good. At all.
By the way, you can all put your hands down from the question I started with.
EDIT: (Also, I got the box analogy from Fred Clark, the Slacktivist)