Philosophy Professor Suspended for Anti-Gay Facebook Post (updated)


Jean Laberge, a professor of philosophy at Cégep du Vieux-Montréal since 1994, was suspended from his position at the end of January, reportedly for writing about his “disgust for homosexuals” on Facebook.

The CBC reports:

In the Jan. 15 post entitled “Am I homophobic?” Jean Laberge describes homosexuality as a “primitive reaction” that degrades male sexuality. “The mechanistic genital conception of sexuality is perfectly debilitating and intolerable on the moral level,” the post read, referring to homosexuality. Laberge concludes that he is not homophobic, arguing that his opposition is not based on an irrational fear but a reasoned moral opposition. The post has been since removed from Laberge’s Facebook page… Laberge is a professed Catholic and attributed his opinions to his faith.

In an interview, Laberge said, “I’ve always had an unease about homosexuality. But I haven’t declared war against homosexuals… I have the right to not prefer homosexuality and invite people to not choose that way.”

According to the CBC, Laberge says he does not discuss his views of homosexuality in his classes.

A more recent article on the story reveals that unspecified “new elements” have prompted an “extended investigation,” and reports that a spokesperson from Cégep said that Laberge will not be returning to work “for an undetermined amount of time.”

Comments welcome from those more knowledgeable about the case or about academic freedom practices in Quebec.

 

UPDATE (2/20/18): The Society for Academic Freedom and Scholarship has sent a letter to the Cégep du Vieux Montréal regarding the suspension of Professor Laberge:

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Kenny Easwaran
3 years ago

It may or may not be relevant that Cégep is an educational level that is earlier than traditional American and Canadian undergraduate university, though more advanced than high school. I’m not sure if it corresponds to something familiar in the United States context like community college.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/CEGEPReport

Michael Kremer
Michael Kremer
Reply to  Kenny Easwaran
3 years ago

It doesn’t really correspond to community college — it’s part of the public education system (though there are private colleges with the same function), more like grade 12 in the US + the first year of college — anyone wanting to go to University in Quebec will pass through CEGEP.Report

Michel
Michel
3 years ago

If he’s suspended, then it’s with pay and went through the union’s (FNEEQ) Labour Relations Committee. If it’s a normal suspension, then it follows two similar complaints within the last year, which he would have been given ample time to address. There would also have been 15 days’ notice. If it’s for reasons deemed prejudicial to the CEGEP, then it may all have happened quicker, but it would still have gone through the LRC.

The FNEEQ is a pretty powerful union, and CEGEPs are sticklers for proper procedure.Report

Christopher Hitchcock
3 years ago

A cégep in Quebec isn’t equivalent to a college or a university. In Quebec, instead of doing 12 years of primary and secondary education, plus four years of college, one does 11 years of primary/secondary, two years of cégep, and three years of college/university. So a cégep is somewhere between a high school and a junior college, for students who plan to continue on with university studies. I don’t know what the standards are for academic freedom at the cégep level, but they may be different from those for university professors. Report

Hey Nonny Mouse
Hey Nonny Mouse
3 years ago

The matter is complicated a lot by the fact that he said he has “disgust for homosexuals” rather than just saying that he has disgust for homosexual activity. Philosophers should be free to say that homosexual activity is immoral, but must still treat homosexaul students respectfully.

Even if it is right for Laberge to be suspended not that his comment is public knowledge, I do not like the idea that someone chose to advertise his Facebook comments in the first place. That verges on thought policing.Report

DocRPretired
DocRPretired
Reply to  Hey Nonny Mouse
3 years ago

Free speech ought to allow us to express opinions of any variety as long as they are an opinion and not a statement of fact that is false. Where did the idea of an open exchange of idea, no matter how odious, disappear into? Again, apart from slander, libel, false witness, etc…university professors ought to embrace the debate and react strongly against anyone’s odious opinion — rather than ban it and fire the speaker!Report

Joshua Reagan
Joshua Reagan
Reply to  Hey Nonny Mouse
3 years ago

I presume that few would be bothered by someone saying “Sexists disgust me.” Should we fire people who say that? Would saying that be evidence that one doesn’t treat traditionalists respectfully?Report

Daniel Kaufman
Reply to  Joshua Reagan
3 years ago

Apparently, to be employed at this institution requires that one not be a practicing, orthodox Christian, Jew, Muslim, etc. Or at least it requires that one shut up about it, even when one is not at work.

In a weird way it reminds me of the way in which we’ve gone about eliminating smoking, without actually making it illegal. We simply make smoking off limits everywhere, so while the product is legal, there’s nowhere you can actually use it, other than in your own house (and I could see that changing too, if one has children). I wonder if something similar will happen with this. We won’t make it illegal to be orthodox, but we’ll simply make it impossible to behave as an orthodox person anywhere other than in your own house … and perhaps not even there if one has children. Report

Derek Bowman
Derek Bowman
Reply to  Daniel Kaufman
3 years ago

I teach at a Catholic college, where very many of my colleagues would consider themselves (lower case) orthodox Christians. Far from thinking that such orthodoxy involves being ‘disgusted’ by homosexuals, most of them vehemently deny holding any such attitude and indeed take the essence of their faith to require love for such fellow sinners. I would think many of them would be rather offended at your slander against their religion. Report

Daniel Kaufman
Reply to  Derek Bowman
3 years ago

Way to say nothing that has anything to do with the substance of the point, just for the sake of being argumentative.

Replace ‘orthodox’ with ‘fundamentalist’. In a liberal society, people should be able to be the latter as well. The question here is not whether the man actually discriminated against anyone in his work. It’s as to whether he should be able to voice a view in his life outside of work, without being fired from his job.Report

Michel
Michel
Reply to  Daniel Kaufman
3 years ago

Actually, if you’re a practising Orthodox Christian, Muslim, or Jew, then you can’t be a public employee or use public services in the province. That is to say, you can, but only if you’re not wearing anything that covers your face (note: a judge has stayed this portion of the law until the government releases implementation guidelines), and, as long as you demonstrate religious neutrality in the exercise of your functions,

Thank you, Bill 62. If the PQ regains power in the near-future (which is highly likely), then you can expect a ban on all overt religious symbols to follow.Report

Daniel Kaufman
Reply to  Michel
3 years ago

I prefer a more liberal society. What you describe strikes me as pretty dangerous stuff.Report

Michel
Michel
Reply to  Daniel Kaufman
3 years ago

You, and ~14% of us in the province, apparently. We’ve been having this debate for over a decade now, and what counts as being decent and tolerant has somehow been eroded down to this malevolent nub.

There is no longer any political party in the province that opposes this kind of blatantly racist and oppressive religious neutrality agenda. (The Liberals were supposed to, but they’re the ones who drafted and passed Bill 62. Everyone else thinks it doesn’t go far enough.)Report

ajkreider
ajkreider
Reply to  Joshua Reagan
3 years ago

While I agree that this doesn’t appear to be the kind of thing people should be fired for, your counter-example isn’t especially convincing. Being sexist or a traditionalist is something one has some control over. And neither seems as central to one’s identity as one’s sexual orientation. Saying, say, “Black people disgust me”, or “Women disgust me” seem more analogous. And those would be really bad. That’s why Nonny mouse’s comment is on point.Report

Joshua Reagan
Joshua Reagan
Reply to  ajkreider
3 years ago

I don’t have all the details of the original incident, but for all I know Prof. Laberge used the word “homosexual” to refer to those who engage in homosexual sex acts, not those who merely have desires they don’t act upon. Generally that is how I use the word. Left-wing activists don’t like that, but thankfully they don’t have unilateral control of the English language yet.Report

JTD
JTD
Reply to  Joshua Reagan
3 years ago

When Laberge makes a public utterance he can stipulate that certain words he uses will have certain non-standard meanings. However, if he doesn’t do that then obviously the words he utters will be interpreted with their standard meanings and, given his carelessness, it would be right to hold him morally responsible for any wrong that follows from making an utterance with that meaning.Report

Joshua Reagan
Joshua Reagan
Reply to  ajkreider
3 years ago

By the way, it’s absurd to suggest that the homosexuality of a homosexual is more central to his identity than religion is to a traditional Christian. That’s simply false.Report

ajkreider
ajkreider
Reply to  Joshua Reagan
3 years ago

This is an interesting question. There are, for instance, lots of Christians who cease being Christians, and vice versa. I suppose some believe that the same thing can happen with as much ease regarding homosexuality. But this seems false. Some people have such fluid views of gender, but these are wildly controversial – as is trans-racialism.

Again, Christian traditionalism just seems very different. Report

Joshua Reagan
Joshua Reagan
Reply to  ajkreider
3 years ago

It may seem different to you, but that’s hardly an argument I’m going to take seriously.

Plenty of people stop engaging in homosexual sex acts without becoming a different person or otherwise breaking identity. And if someone were to suddenly lose certain sexual desires that wouldn’t break identity either. So if your point is purely metaphysical then I have no idea what you’re talking about.

If you talking about relative importance in the life of a person, it’s obvious that the religion of many Christians is far more important to them then sexual preferences are to others. Certainly I would count my own religion as far more central (important, life-shaping) to my life than my heterosexuality.Report

Joshua Reagan
Joshua Reagan
Reply to  ajkreider
3 years ago

Sorry about the typos and misspellings. I ought to read through my posts more carefully before posting.Report

sahpa
sahpa
Reply to  ajkreider
3 years ago

This is totally unpersuasive. For one thing, the malleability of some feature of a person doesn’t directly indicate how central that feature is to the person’s identity–much of our identity is constructed, and centrally so, by contingent features of ourselves. So the mere fact, if it is a fact, that homosexuality is less contingent than Christianity shows just about nothing.

And also fluid views of gender are far from “wildly controversial”–in fact they will be standard within ten years, I’ll bet (if you doubt this, I recommend talking to more Millennials).

Finally, it’s far from obvious that people have control over being traditional any more than they have control over being homosexual. That’s just special pleading.Report

sahpa
sahpa
Reply to  ajkreider
3 years ago

The bottom line is that you *want* Christianity to be different.Report

Cam
Cam
Reply to  Hey Nonny Mouse
3 years ago

How does expressing disgust for persons automatically fail to show respect for them? Is there no such thing as a disgusting person? And if there is, how is it disrespectful to say, “You’re disgusting”?

Report

Joshua Reagan
Joshua Reagan
Reply to  Cam
3 years ago

It’s strong language. We should probably avoid using it unless it’s really warranted. Of course, it’s going to be impossible for everyone to agree about when it’s warranted, given the massive differences between the various moral communities.Report

Joshua Reagan
Joshua Reagan
Reply to  Joshua Reagan
3 years ago

By the way, I mean that we should avoid using it as a matter of courtesy. I don’t think it should be a firing offense.Report

Cam
Cam
Reply to  Joshua Reagan
3 years ago

I see your point. Perhaps what HNM is saying, then, is that Laberge failed to show due respect given the context of his language, but not by virtue of his language per se. That’s a more plausible claim to me.Report

Hey Nonny Mouse
Hey Nonny Mouse
Reply to  Cam
3 years ago

If you tell me I’m ugly, that’s disrespectful. The fact that I’m ugly is no justification, and makes it no less disrespectful to tell me that I am. Simlarly, you have every right to think me a disgusting person, bu if you tell me that, that’s disrespectful.Report

Joshua Reagan
Joshua Reagan
Reply to  Hey Nonny Mouse
3 years ago

It’s not always disrespectful. I might tell a friend he’s disgusting as a sort of wake-up call, to get him to rethink the way he’s living his life. In that context it’s actually a sign of respect.Report

Daniel Kaufman
Reply to  Hey Nonny Mouse
3 years ago

Should people not be permitted to be disrespectful in a liberal society? I would think they should.Report

ajkreider
ajkreider
3 years ago

This is for Joshua Reagan above.

I’m beginning to worry that your responses are mere sophistry. Hey Nonny Mouse made the distinction between homosexual behavior and being homosexual. The person in question seemed to be “disgusted” by the latter. In your last comment you focus on the behavior. But these are different things. Stopping engagement in homosexual behavior isn’t indicative of not being homosexual any more than not having heterosexual sex means one is not heterosexual, or that stopping praying or attending church means one is not Christian.

This is not to deny that one’s Christianity is not an important feature of one’s life. My giving up my Christian beliefs was perhaps the most emotionally shattering thing that happened to me. But I could do it (and did it). Homosexual people cannot, at least not in the same way. And so being “disgusted” by them is very different. Report

Joshua Reagan
Joshua Reagan
Reply to  ajkreider
3 years ago

“Stopping engagement in homosexual behavior isn’t indicative of not being homosexual any more than not having heterosexual sex means one is not heterosexual, or that stopping praying or attending church means one is not Christian.”

Argument needed.Report

Joshua Reagan
Joshua Reagan
Reply to  Joshua Reagan
3 years ago

Your response is really strange. “Use language the way I do, or… you’re a sophist (???)”

I really can’t make sense of your point.Report

ajkreider
ajkreider
Reply to  Joshua Reagan
3 years ago

Well, there’s this hypothetical argument:

1. Heterosexual people are only those who engage in heterosexual activity.
2. Joshua Reagan* engaged in no heterosexual activity in hiigh school.
———
3. Joshua Reagan was not heterosexual in high school.

I think this argument is unsound, because at least one of the premises (1) is false.

*This argument is not about any actual people. Any similarities are accidental.Report

Joshua Reagan
Joshua Reagan
Reply to  ajkreider
3 years ago

I use the word “homosexual” to refer to those who engage in homosexual acts by analogy with the way I use the word “liar” to refer to those who lie. I don’t want to ascribe “homosexuality” to those who aren’t guilty of sin. You may not like my use of the word, but it’s a standard use. It’s less in fashion among left-wing activists, but that’s because they’re trying to personalize the issue as a political tactic.

By the way, your premise 2 is true (glory to God). If you want to say that I wasn’t a heterosexual back then I promise my feelings won’t be hurt. You’re getting a bit hung up on definitional issues imo.Report

Hey Nonny Mouse
Hey Nonny Mouse
Reply to  Joshua Reagan
3 years ago

Joshua, could you point to a dictionary site that includes your useage under the definition of “homosexual”?Report

Joshua Reagan
Joshua Reagan
Reply to  Hey Nonny Mouse
3 years ago

I have no idea, never having looked it up in an online dictionary.
You can use google as well as I can. I’ll do you one better though (from my POV). 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 (NASB): “Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, will inherit the kingdom of God.”

The Greek word translated into English as “homosexual” here is ἀρσενοκοῖται. Hopefully that renders correctly and you can look that up too. Otherwise head here:

https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=1+corinthians+6&version=SBLGNTReport

Matt
Reply to  Joshua Reagan
3 years ago

but it’s a standard use.

No it’s not. (At best, it’s a non-standard use by a small sub-culture.) Report

Joshua Reagan
Joshua Reagan
Reply to  Matt
3 years ago

It would be more accurate to say a *standard* use within a subculture. Is it small? I’d say it’s bigger population-wise than academia.Report

Joshua Reagan
Joshua Reagan
Reply to  Matt
3 years ago

It’s nuts to me how much anxiety I’m apparently causing by refusing to use this word in a sufficiently politically correct way.Report

David Wallace
David Wallace
Reply to  Matt
3 years ago

I don’t think the alternate use is just an academic-subculture use. As this atheist outsider understands it, standard Catholic doctrine is that homosexuality per se is not a sin, but homosexual activity is. Here’s Cardinal Ratzinger, fairly clearly distinguishing between “the homosexual person” and “homosexual activity”:

“Although the particular inclination of the homosexual person is not a sin, it is a more or less strong tendency ordered toward an intrinsic moral evil; thus the inclination itself must be seen as an objective disorder. Therefore special concern and pastoral attention should be directed to those who have this condition, lest they be led to believe that the living out of this orientation in homosexual activity is a morally acceptable option. It is not.”Report

Joshua Reagan
Joshua Reagan
Reply to  Matt
3 years ago

My response was too obscure. I was trying to push back on Matt’s attempt to marginalize conservative Christianity as a small community. My point was that it’s larger than the academic community, and I presume that Matt doesn’t think the latter is marginal.Report

Matt
Reply to  Matt
3 years ago

It seems too embedded now to directly reply to Joshua Reagan, so I hope this ends up in the right spot, but I’m not trying to “marginalize” “conservative Christianity” by pointing out that Joshua Reagan (and maybe others) are using the term “homosexual” in an idiosyncratic and unusual way, if they, as a community, are using it the way he suggests. It’s also a way that would make a lot of normal statements into nonsense. It’s perfectly common and completely understandable for people to say things like, “I knew I was a homosexual long before I had any sexual experience”. And, everyone understands it. But, it would be nonsense if Joshua Reagan’s meaning were the normal one. That seems to be a good argument against it. Additionally, the idea that this is “causing anxiety” in others perhaps reflects something about Joshua Reagan, but is a completely confused way to understand the dispute, too. It looks like pretty much pure projection to me. Report

Joshua Reagan
Joshua Reagan
Reply to  Matt
3 years ago

Your argument isn’t very good.

You are correct that people say things like (B): “I knew I was a homosexual long before I had any sexual experience.” You argue that if the word means what I claim, I wouldn’t be able to make sense of B. This is wrong for a few reasons.

(1) Even on my use of the word there is a perfectly reasonable sense we can ascribe to B. Consider the following (C): “I knew I was a liar long before I had uttered falsehoods with an intention to deceive.” If someone told me C I would take them to be speaking in a slightly loose sense. Their meaning would be something like “I knew I was the sort of person who would tell lies frequently even before I did so.” By analogy, on my sense of the term “homosexual” someone might utter B as a way of expressing the analogous sentiment about being a person who engages in homosexual activity.

(2) Even though I use the word “homosexual” one way, I’m perfectly capable of making sense of claims in which the word is used in a different way. If someone in a philosophy department uttered B to me, I’d take them as (i) implicitly endorsing a theory of sexual identity that I don’t agree with, and (ii) claiming that they held such an identity even at a young age. I really don’t think it takes a ton of brainpower to recognize that different people have different theories of sexuality, identity, etc., and to take that into account when interpreting their claims.

(3) You are confusing falsehood with nonsense. A claim can be perfectly sensible and yet still be false.

Out of charity, I’m ascribing your poor reasoning to anxiety. If I’m wrong about that, then I am at a loss to understand how to make sense of your reply.Report

Matt
Reply to  Matt
3 years ago

In response to Joshua Reagan’s latest: If your definition is the best one, then many people (most, I think) either say things that are necessarily false, not merely empirically so (and so nonsense ) all the time, or else are speaking metaphorically, without realizing it. Neither one seems very plausible. Imagine asking most people, “when did you become heterosexual?” Most people will respond to that with a blank stare, one of incomprehension. If you tell them, “most people become heterosexual somewhere in their mid to late teens to early 20s”, they will, rightly, think you are joking. But that’s an implication (as noted above) of your view. That tells strongly against it. On the other hand, there’s an easy fix for you to talk about what you claim you’re interested in – say “homosexual behavior”. Now, taking that fix would pose a problem for the person whose rantings were the original subject of the post, given that that’s not what he said, and there’s no clear reason to think that’s what he meant to say, but it would at least save you from an implausible position.

(On a separate note, because I can no longer get posts to embed further, thanks to notsafegayphilosopher for his/her clarifications, which are appreciated.) Report

Joshua Reagan
Joshua Reagan
Reply to  Matt
3 years ago

Matt, a few things:

(1) You are now conflating necessary falsity with nonsense, and that is another error. Necessarily false claims have semantic content. It’s just that their content doesn’t correspond to reality in the right way, and so they’re false. On the standard meaning of “nonsense”, X is nonsensical only if X has no semantic content. Hence the saying, “not even false…”

Think of it this way. (B&~B) is “necessarily” false in the sense that it’s wrong on any assignment of values to B. But we put a negation on it, ~(B&~B), and the result is a logical truth. It would be strange if the result of negating nonsense is a necessary truth. I’d need to see some fleshed-out formal semantics to know how to make sense of that.

Classical derivation systems have logical rules that sanction “reductio ad absurdem” arguments, usually by way of “negation introduction” and “negation elimination”. To use these rules, you assume some sentence PHI and work to some C&~C. If that happens, you can apply ~-intro to discharge the assumption and derive ~PHI. It’s really important that C&~C have semantic content; the negation rules are good rules to have. Dropping them weakens the system quite a bit. Unless we’re going to revise classical logic we don’t want to say that necessarily false things are nonsense.

(2) You might be using the word “nonsense” in a non-standard way. If so, that’s okay, but then you should (i) give me your non-standard definition, and (ii) explain why I should adopt your definition over mine. Otherwise I’ll stick with my definition.

(3) You seem to be assuming that there are such things as analytic falsehoods, i.e., claims that are false in virtue of meaning alone. As you surely know this is a contentious doctrine that Quine rejects in his Two Dogmas. His argument there is not totally clear; but I agree with him that there is no substantive analytic/synthetic distinction, and hence that there are no analytic truths or falsehoods. I can imagine a context in which your use of the word “homosexual” would be apt, namely, one in which an alternative metaphysical picture about sexuality, identity, etc., is correct. If you want to put it this way, I can imagine “a possible world” in which your use is apt. Therefore, as I understand it, the claim B from my last response to you should count as contingently false, not necessarily false.

(4) The rest of your argument seems to amount to the claim that the majority of people don’t understand the word “homosexual” the way I do. Maybe so, but that’s not a very good argument that my use of the word is incorrect. It not infrequently happens that minorities are correct to disagree with the majority view on a contentious issue.Report

notsafegayphilosopher
notsafegayphilosopher
Reply to  Joshua Reagan
3 years ago

David Wallace: I don’t think that’s accurate, at least not as a description of Catholic sub-culture as a whole. There is, after all, a wide swath of Catholic sub-culture that insists that having romantic inclinations towards someone of the same sex is “intrinsically disordered”. On that way of thinking, “homosexuals” are defined by their “intrinsically disordered desires”, and “homosexual activity” by acting on them. Ratzinger was trying to finesse this in his own way, while still gesturing towards it, in the remark you quote.
Also, the entire ‘defense’ –such as it was– of the Murphy et al “discriminate against the gays” letter to the APA of 2009 was premised on the thought that they are not discriminating against “homosexuals” but only “homosexual activity”. Just look at the old “discussions” of it on the Leiter blog and the less savory venues.Report

Matt
Reply to  notsafegayphilosopher
3 years ago

Even if this is right of a sub-section of Catholics (it probably is), it doesn’t help Joshua Reagan’s strange understanding of the word (which is what the issue is here), and in fact undermines it, for if “homosexuality” intrinsically involved homosexual _acts_, then the distinction made here would be nonsensical. Report

Cam
Cam
Reply to  notsafegayphilosopher
3 years ago

“There is, after all, a wide swath of Catholic sub-culture that insists that having romantic inclinations towards someone of the same sex is ‘intrinsically disordered’.”

It is more than a wide swath of Catholic sub-culture; it is really the Catholic Church that insists that. But even so, why would that mean “‘homosexuals’ are defined by their ‘intrinsically disordered desires'”? A labels B’s inclination x ‘intrinsically disordered’ and that means A now has to define B by x? I don’t follow.Report

notsafegayphilosopher
notsafegayphilosopher
Reply to  notsafegayphilosopher
3 years ago

Matt–I didn’t think it helped Joshua Reagan– I thought precisely that it undermined his claim that his quite peculiar understanding of “homosexual” was some kind of common Christian conception.
Cam– I don’t understand what you mean to be claiming. Ime, gay folk and queers of all sorts don’t refer to themselves (ourselves) as “homosexual” in the first place [“homosexual” is not quite a slur, but it is a word that, as a matter of fact, is almost never used by people who are either gay/queer themselves, or in favor of lbgtq equality] Second, of course gay folk don’t identify with “their intrinsically disordered desires”– that’s not the relevant description under which. The relevant description under which is “romantic and/or sexual attraction (exclusively, in the case of gay folk) to persons of the same sex”. Report

Cam
Cam
Reply to  notsafegayphilosopher
3 years ago

“Cam . . . . Ime, gay folk and queers of all sorts don’t refer to themselves (ourselves) as “homosexual” in the first place.”

I never used the term ‘homosexual’. I quoted your mention of the term.Report

C.W.
3 years ago

The frustration around your position, Joshua Reagan, stems from your defining away a crucial fact about homosexual people: they are the way they are whether they have ever engaged in homosexual acts or not. It is something deep in them, in their sexuality, that radiates into their personality in variegated subtle ways and makes them what they are. It is often something obvious about them even in childhood. It is also what makes such a person tragic if they believe fully in Christian doctrine and see their urges as sinful, what can make such a person legitimately become suicidal if this idea of the wrongness of their orientation is drilled into them. There is thus a potential harm involved in believing in your position. Their sexual orientation is as much a gift of God as anyone else’s, and ancient ethical mores about sexuality inscribed into ancient texts must be recognized as being of a kind with restrictions on eating shellfish rather than with mortal sins like murder, etc… Where is your argument? It seems rather like you are seeing the facts as you think they must be based on Biblical commitments. What happens when an ancient text runs up against the facts of life? I hope you can see why people nowadays have such a strong reaction against this position on homosexuality. It feels more of a kind with young Earth creationism. It is difficult to comprehend what such an argument would be when it opposes a fact of life. How can it not descend into a spiral of rationalizations and verbal tricks? I am not accusing you of this, but I feel you will be naturally pushed in this direction in your philosophy by the facts pressing against you. Defining it away is not good enough. It is a fact of life. Source: the testimony of any actual homosexual person, their families, those who know them best, the considered view as to the best explanation of human sexuality by modern scientists, etc… (and I list testimony first as a source purposefully – it seems to me to be the best and most sensible source on this subject.) Report

Joshua Reagan
Joshua Reagan
Reply to  C.W.
3 years ago

If your anthropological and metaphysical claims are correct, then of course many of my stated views are wrong and my vocabulary is inapt. I don’t accept those claims, however, because they’re inconsistent with what I believe to be true: (traditional) Christianity. If Christianity is correct, then what’s *actually* unhealthy and harmful is sin, and you should instead adopt my views and corresponding vocabulary.

Y’all want me to change my views and vocab? All you have to do is convince me that my metaphysical views are wrong. It’s that simple. That would require (at least) a series of discussions that are too complex for blog comments, so I really don’t know what you expect. Anonymous second-hand anecdote certainly isn’t going to sway me!

In any case, however, it shouldn’t be so hard for philosophers to understand that different people may have systematically different takes on evidence, and correspondingly distinct reflective equilibria.Report

Arthur Greeves
Arthur Greeves
Reply to  Joshua Reagan
3 years ago

“I don’t accept those claims, however, because they’re inconsistent with what I believe to be true: (traditional) Christianity.”

I’m a traditional Christian, and I’m bisexual (or if you like, “attracted to both sexes”), and I don’t believe what you’re saying about homosexuality being merely an activity that has no reality beyond the actions. Either this is merely a matter of semantics, and everyone is agreeing, or your beliefs are not entailed by orthodox Christian teaching.Report

Joshua Reagan
Joshua Reagan
Reply to  Arthur Greeves
3 years ago

(1) No, this isn’t simply a matter of “semantics”. If it were, no one would be bothered by my definition. They would likely just think it’s weird and move on. They’re bothered by my definition because it challenges their (almost religiously held) theory of identity, according to which homosexuality is an inextricable feature of the homosexual person. They seem to believe something like: it’s an essential part of their identity, so asking them to suppress it or resist it is somehow denying their personhood in some deep way. This theory of identity is utterly false if Christianity is correct.

(2) Nowhere did I claim that homosexuality is an activity with no reality beyond the actions. I do not believe that. According to Christian theology, sin is not merely an action, but also an outward manifestation of our fallen state. This fallen state—sometimes called a “state of sin”, or more simply just “sin”—is deeply influential and it has multifarious effects on each of us. This fallen state is *not*, however, an essential part of our identity. If it were then there could be no redemption from sin, but we would be under its power forever.

(3) There is salvation from sin through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. When one receives faith and is baptized, one is metaphysically transformed. After this transformation, one is empowered to resist sin for the first time, and also to pursue holiness. Sin isn’t utterly removed from one’s life however, and the struggle for holiness may indeed be very difficult. But the initial transformation makes it possible to resist sin and grow spiritually.

(4) God created us so that we could be conformed to the image of Christ. That is the “telos” or ideal end of each of us. What is healthy and good for each of us is to defeat utterly the power of sin in our lives and to become godly. This means resisting sin in every way we can, through God’s grace. This process of spiritual growth is sanctification or “theosis”; you are called to be sanctified, god-like. If you persevere, then your faith will be counted unto you as righteousness and you will be saved.

(5) In eternity, sin will be utterly eradicated, and the saints will no longer be under sin’s dominion. In this way God rescues the saints from their former spiritual slavery. Every legacy of the fall will pass away, including all habitual temptations. If you are reckoned among the saints in that day, then you will be transformed so that you will no longer have unholy urges, but will instead find perfect peace in God’s presence. You will then finally be exactly who God called you to be.

(6) If I use the word “homosexual” in the sense described in (1) or in the sense described by others here, then I would be leading others astray by implicitly endorsing (or at least condoning) a false theory of identity. You are not called to be a “bisexual”. You are called to be a child of God, wholly sanctified. I preach hope, not despair.

(7) Jesus experienced temptations that were particular to Him when he fasted in the wilderness for 40 days. Satan tempted Him with many things, including dominion over all the world, if only He would rebel against the Father and bend His knee to Satan. Christ’s temptation was a function of His particular context and mission: being God-incarnate as man, to rescue all of us from sin. But the temptation or even urge to rebel against God wasn’t some essential feature of His identity. He resisted it, and that is why we call Him “Savior”, and not “rebel”. So I will never ascribe the term “homosexual” to those who, through God’s grace, persevere in resisting sin.Report

Arthur Greeves
Arthur Greeves
Reply to  Joshua Reagan
3 years ago

I agree with much of what you write about sin, forgiveness, and theology. But I think you fail to disambiguate “gay” or “homosexual” in its two separate meanings: (1) attracted to the same sex essentially, in a way that can never change because it is part of a person’s essence, and (2) attracted to the same sex as a matter of fact — and a fact that is better not avoided. I would not, and could not as a Christian, subscribe to #1. But I have tried to deny #2, and I think it’s a terrible, terrible mistake. Mind you, it needn’t be proclaimed publicly to all comers — that makes it sound like an essential trait. But it is a reality in my life and in many people’s lives, and trying to avoid that by not giving it a name is unnecessary and dangerous, in my experience.Report

Joshua Reagan
Joshua Reagan
Reply to  Arthur Greeves
3 years ago

I agree in part. I don’t think you should pretend not to have that temptation. However, I think it’s a mistake to take on that particular theory-laden label (and even more of a mistake for “homosexuality”, which is condemned in mainstream English translations of the Bible). Consider that large portions of academia are hard at work producing ideological vocabulary as a way of shaping the debate, so that it’s difficult for people even to understand what the Christian stance even is.Report

Arthur Greeves
Arthur Greeves
Reply to  Arthur Greeves
3 years ago

You mean MIStranslations of the Bible. Every single translation that says “homosexuality” is condemned is running counter to Christian orthodoxy. Christianity does not condemn inclinations, even if it says some inclinations are inclinations toward sin. The Greek word is “arsenokoitai”, which is an ACTIVE PARTICIPLE. It means “the people who are lying down with men”. It’s clearly talking about an activity. Thus “homosexual offenders” (in some translations) is fine. But “homosexuals” is a terrible translation.

Is this just semantics? If you say so, I will agree, and simply assert that when talking to non-Christians, we should use terms evangelistically.Report

Joshua Reagan
Joshua Reagan
Reply to  Arthur Greeves
3 years ago

It’s question-begging in this context to call them mis-translations. The whole point of this debate is that I told people I use the word “homosexuality” in a different way, i.e., as meaning essentially ἀρσενοκοῖται. (I explicitly cited this word earlier in the thread.) It’s only a bad translation if I’m wrong about the use of the word “homosexual”.

I use the word the way I do because (I believe) it maps to the concept that better carves nature at its joints. This isn’t about semantics per se, this is about speaking accurately. Giving up control of vocabulary to those hostile to Christianity seems to me like an extremely bad idea.Report

Arthur Greeves
Arthur Greeves
Reply to  Arthur Greeves
3 years ago

I don’t think I was clear on what you agreed and disagreed about. But anyway, I think the war of language you’re trying to fight was lost long, long ago — maybe with Freud. What does carrying it on now do? It unnecessarily alienates and confuses children who grow up deeply attracted to the same sex. The culture tells these kids they are gay. Period. Christians can either say, “You’re gay and we love you”, or “you cannot be who you are”. They should say the former, and then say, “But sex isn’t going to get you flourishing”.

I care about those kids far more than I care about carving nature at its joints. If you have any suggestions how you can follow your language path without these kids being collateral damage, let me know.Report

Joshua Reagan
Joshua Reagan
Reply to  Arthur Greeves
3 years ago

“The culture tells these kids they are gay.”

The falsehoods taught by “culture” are so numerous that the set of them can’t be put in a 1-to-1 relationship with any subset of the natural numbers. Uncountably infinite. Our message needs to be that culture is wrong. We need people to know clearly that Christians have a totally different vocabulary, and that to learn what Christians actually believe they’re going to have to learn that vocabulary. We must be spiritual aliens in this world, not be conformed to it.Report

Arthur Greeves
Arthur Greeves
Reply to  Arthur Greeves
3 years ago

You have not given a plan for what to do about the child who (like me when I was 10) became utterly horrified that I was gay. How does the Christian church show him love? “You cannot be gay” is not helpful to this boy. What would you say to him? How can the Church as a whole communicate with him?

This is not an idle question. This is a huge reason why gay marriage exists today as a norm: because Christians never figured out how to love kids who grew up with attractions to the same sex.Report

Joshua Reagan
Joshua Reagan
Reply to  Arthur Greeves
3 years ago

You explanation of recent cultural history strikes me as tendentious.

We live in a tragic, fallen world, and best answer I have is we need to be both loving and honest. Knowing how to strike the right balance is surely a highly contextual matter. But throwing up the white flag on vocabulary from the outset seems like a disastrous idea that will cause far more harm than good. I don’t see how it’s loving to fill children’s minds with confused concepts and cultural falsehoods (or to fail to challenge such concepts and falsehoods). That will leave them utterly unable to understand the Gospel and leave them far worse off than they’d be on the alternative.

I think we’re probably at an impasse and Justin is probably about ready to ban me anyway, so that’ll do it for me. Have a good night.Report

Arthur Greeves
Arthur Greeves
Reply to  Arthur Greeves
3 years ago

I really think it’s clear you haven’t thought about the situation of a child in this situation. You say:

“We live in a tragic, fallen world, and best answer I have is we need to be both loving and honest. Knowing how to strike the right balance is surely a highly contextual matter.”

I think you are assuming that the child would talk to their parents about their attractions? That is about as likely as a cat barking, unless the parents have already made it clear that there is nothing awful or evil or terrible about the attractions. Do you have practical suggestions about how to communicate that? I suppose you haven’t.

Have a good night — whatever else you’ve been at this thread, you’ve been brave.Report

Cam
Cam
Reply to  C.W.
3 years ago

“Their sexual orientation is as much a gift of God as anyone else’s”

I’ve never understood this view. Why would God give homosexual inclinations to people with reproductive cells?Report

JT
JT
Reply to  Cam
3 years ago

Right. So, assuming you’re religious, either (noninclusive) you’re understanding of God’ intentions is mistaken, or God just liked to fuck some people over (so not benevolent), or God was capable of making it otherwise (so not omnipotent). You’re move, Sherlock.Report

Joshua Reagan
Joshua Reagan
Reply to  JT
3 years ago

It really is too bad that I’m a backward religious yokel and am therefore incapable of making brilliant arguments like this one.Report

JT
JT
Reply to  Joshua Reagan
3 years ago

Brilliant? I guess–it’s pretty standard problem of evil stuff. Do they not have this where you’re from? That really would be too bad.Report

Joshua Reagan
Joshua Reagan
Reply to  JT
3 years ago

Professor, I know the problem of evil. I’ve worked on the problem of evil. I wrote a masters thesis on the problem of evil. What you wrote, professor, is not the problem of evil. (Apologies to Sen. Bentsen.)Report

JT
JT
Reply to  JT
3 years ago

Sure. Say no more.Report

Cam
Cam
Reply to  JT
3 years ago

Why is it relevant if I’m religious?
Why be upset that I don’t understand someone?
And why the nasty tone? (All because of a question?)Report

JT
JT
Reply to  Cam
3 years ago

The religious assumption was just to narrow the target–the problem of evil obviously doesn’t touch those who aren’t engaged in the business of denouncing things as evil because God said so. (I should’ve been even more specific, since I don’t think it applies to many of those who subscribe to nonliteral/nonfundamentlist readings of their preferred holy texts. In fact, some of them are people I deeply admire.)

I also tapped that out on my phone drunk, so that’s part of the reason for the tone (and the typos and misformulations). However, in the sober light of day I would probably still sing the same tune, because the question you so naively ask has been posed time and time again under the guise of reasonable discourse in order to bully and demean people I care about for being unnatural (and/or depraved) in some (non)sense, a conclusion that has in turn been used by more brutish types to justify (or at least, motivate) subjecting them to physical violence and socio-economic marginalisation. None of this is a secret. But you wouldn’t know anything about that, would you?Report

Cam
Cam
Reply to  JT
3 years ago

So you’re really attacking my question because I’m just trying to “bully and demean people [you] care about for being unnatural (and/or depraved)”?

That’s an appeal to motive (ad hominem), no?Report

J.T.
J.T.
Reply to  JT
3 years ago

Yeah, you asked what was with my tone. As I explained, I took that tone because I thought your question was posted in bad faith. So, sure, it’s ad hominem in a sense, but not in the fallacious one.Report

Cam
Cam
Reply to  JT
3 years ago

J.T.: “So, sure, it’s ad hominem in a sense, but not in the fallacious one.”

Then you’re saying my putative bad faith is relevant to my point? I don’t understand why.

I also don’t understand why your reason for dismissing my question is free of another kind of genetic fallacy. You say, e.g.: “the question you so naively ask has been posed time and time again under the guise of reasonable discourse in order to bully and demean people I care about for being unnatural (and/or depraved) in some (non)sense.”

You’re relying on what you take to be the historical origin of my question to dismiss my question, no? And that isn’t fallacious either?Report

Matt
Reply to  Cam
3 years ago
Daniel Kaufman
3 years ago

Re: the seemingly endless go-around between Joshua Reagan and his interlocutors, two things seem to me to be quite obvious and for those for whom they are not, require some comment or argument:

1. The relevant issue here is whether a person should be able to hold a teaching job, even if he or she holds views about gays, lesbians, or what have you, that are deemed by many to be offensive and expresses them in his or her private life, when there is no evidence of discriminatory behavior at work. In a liberal society, the answer has to be “Yes.”

2. On the non-relevant question — the rightness or wrongness of homosexual activity / relationships — after millennia of discourse on the subject, there remain no credible secular arguments as to the wrongness of such activities/relationships, and what religious arguments there may be, while legitimately informing private conscience, have no legitimate place in the making of public or institutional policy, save for in the narrow band of parochial institutions that receive some exemption from the civically liberal ethos that governs the rest of our society.

Short version: The gentleman in question has every right to hold whatever atavistic views he may have on gay and lesbian people, their lives, and their romantic activities, and has the right to express those views while not at work, *and keep his teaching job*, so long as he does not discriminate in the conducting of his work-related duties.

Report

Joshua Reagan
Joshua Reagan
Reply to  Daniel Kaufman
3 years ago

“what religious arguments there may be, while legitimately informing private conscience, have no legitimate place in the making of public or institutional policy, save for in the narrow band of parochial institutions that receive some exemption from the civically liberal ethos that governs the rest of our society.”

I’ve heard this claim countless times in my life, but never once have I heard anything close to a sound argument for it. Anyone want to suggest some papers or books? (If we assume all religions are false then it’s probably a safe conclusion, but I’m wondering about an argument that doesn’t depend on that premise.)Report

Daniel Kaufman
Reply to  Joshua Reagan
3 years ago

Um, this is just the classical liberal ethos on which virtually every modern democracy is based, including our own (i.e. That if the US)Report

Joshua Reagan
Joshua Reagan
Reply to  Daniel Kaufman
3 years ago

Yes, that sounds right to me. Is there an argument for it?Report

Captain Obvioius
Captain Obvioius
Reply to  Joshua Reagan
3 years ago

How’s this.

1. Not all religions (including the absence of religion) involve the acceptance of only true claims. [I hope this one is obviously true.]

2. Public deliberation rarely convinces people that they have the wrong religion. [Do I need to defend that?]

3. Therefore, public deliberation will rarely result in consensus regarding the contested propositions alluded to in 1.

4. Therefore, if we want to reach consensus in our public deliberations, we are well served by finding a method that avoids having to reach consensus regarding those contested propositions.

5. Public policy making requires reaching consensus.

etc. etc.Report

Joshua Reagan
Joshua Reagan
Reply to  Captain Obvioius
3 years ago

It’s a start, but one might have questions about how much consensus is really necessary. China doesn’t have as much as the US; what if they’re right? Maybe only a consensus among a ruling elite is necessary, etc.

I’m after big fish here, a rather comprehensive, thoroughgoing argument. I’m hoping a liberal cheerleader will say “read this passage from Locke, or this chapter from Mill, etc., that should get you started.” There’s a ton of literature out there and I’m hoping fans will direct me to the best of it.Report

Daniel Kaufman
Reply to  Joshua Reagan
3 years ago

There are a number of arguments that feed into it, which one finds in the classical liberal literature from Locke to Mill to Rawls.

All of these can be disputed, philosophically, of course, but such disputes are entirely academic, insofar as they are the basis on which the societies we actually live in rest. In short, you can dispute the liberal consensus, but you are still bound by it, insofar as it informs law as well as public mores.Report

Joshua Reagan
Joshua Reagan
Reply to  Daniel Kaufman
3 years ago

I don’t think that an honest search for the truth is merely academic. If Locke, Mill, and Rawls are wrong then we may have a duty to dismantle the liberal institutions their work inspired.

Honestly, I’m a little surprised at you. You have a lot to say about the intolerance of the illiberal left, because they’re threatening to undermine liberal institutions and norms. What if they’re right though? Wouldn’t it make sense to have arguments readily available so you could combat the decline of liberalism?Report

Owen Schaefer
Owen Schaefer
Reply to  Daniel Kaufman
3 years ago

I’m not so sure that a robust commitment to publicly accessible reasons as the basis of policy is really at the core of modern liberal democracies. Protection of religious practices and discourse, separation of Church and State, certainly, but the idea that religious arguments have no place in policymaking is a distinct notion.

Public reason is an old idea, sure, that can be traced to Hobbes, Locke, Mill and other Classical Liberals, but I don’t think it had as much political penetration as other aspects of liberalism. It’s certainly not part of the US Constitution, nor is it brought up in the Federalist papers, and politics is replete with substantive appeals to comprehensive, parochial doctrines. (secular reasoning in courts and executive enforcement of existing laws are a different story, but we’re talking about policymaking and public discourse at present)

Modern philosophical engagement on the concept seems to be focused Rawls’s work in Political Liberalism and other developments from the 1990s onwards. Not only are Rawlsian approaches hotly debated in the literature, I daresay that his work has not had massive influence in politics since then.

Joshua, if you’re interested in those arguments concerning public reason, the SEP page on public reason will be an excellent starting point: https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/public-reason . If you want primary sources, Rawls’s Political Liberalism is probably the core text here, as well as The Idea of Public Reason Revisited, though of course the recent literature on the topic is vast and ever-growing.

A nice summary of how Rawls’s modern concept draws on Classical Liberal ideas is Ivison’s “The Secret History of Public Reason: Hobbes to Rawls”, though that piece left me thinking that public reason is really a more modern concept. We can see traces of it in Hobbes and Locke, but not a full and robust explication – in comparison with the clarity of their prescriptions concerning the structure & role of government itself, and in comparison with the directness of Rawls’s work.Report

Joshua Reagan
Joshua Reagan
Reply to  Owen Schaefer
3 years ago

This is exactly the sort of thing I was looking for, thanks!Report

akreider
akreider
Reply to  Joshua Reagan
3 years ago

I think you put the burden of proof in the wrong place. There’s no need to assume that all religions are false. Religious arguments are, on the whole, arguments from authority, and where they are not, the non-religious bits do all the work. The only assumption needed then is that the epistemic authority of religious texts/practice has not been established. And since it hasn’t been established, we can ignore religious arguments in policy making decisions (at least, until such authority is established). The short version: It’s not the claim that religions are false, it’s that there’s no good reason to think that they are true.Report

Joshua Reagan
Joshua Reagan
Reply to  akreider
3 years ago

Fair enough (ignoring many things I’m tempted to nitpick), but you realize that this argument will only be convincing to unbelievers, right? Believers take their beliefs to be established, and so they’ll just deny that premise.

I’m looking for an argument that would convince a believer of Prof. Kaufman’s claim. (Or, I suppose, an argument that would convince me to become an unbeliever….)Report

ajkreider
ajkreider
Reply to  Joshua Reagan
3 years ago

I don’t know the particulars of your belief, of course, but the vast majority of believers I know did not come by their belief through reason. As a result, their belief or unbelief is not susceptible to good reasons – this may even be the point of faith, some will say. The idea, if this is indeed your idea, that we should have arguments at the ready that will convince the religious, before we can reasonably determine policy, is a fool’s errand.

I say this in full recognition that we all accept some things without good reason. Report

Joshua Reagan
Joshua Reagan
Reply to  ajkreider
3 years ago

I just want to know if Prof. Kaufman’s claim is one of those things being accepted without good reason.

If not, what are your favorite arguments for it? Feel free to cite classics (Locke, etc.). I’ve haven’t found the arguments of that era to be convincing in the past, but I’m willing to try again if others recommend it.Report

JTD
JTD
Reply to  Daniel Kaufman
3 years ago

Daniel Kaufman, I agree with your (1) and (2) but I would also add that most of the religious arguments that are offered look terrible even from the internal perspective of those with the religious beliefs. For example, those who appeal to the authority of a holy text generally disregard other prohibitions in those holy texts that are presented in a similar way and with a similar emphasis to the prohibitions against homosexuality. I have seen some attempts to explain why we can disregard many of these prohibitions but must take seriously the ones against homosexuality and they have all been very obviously exegetically unsound (in fact they have all looked like desperate straw clutching). Likewise, those who appeal to the authority of church tradition (as is common in the Catholic church) generally are happy to ignore centuries of church tradition on other important and related questions such as divorce.

Once one has made these observations one can look for a diagnosis and the best diagnosis–the best explanation of the phenomena of religious people peddling arguments on this topic that are terrible even by their own standards–is that a deep personal disgust towards homosexuality is driving them rather than a commitment to reason to the truth from their religious starting principles. They are in effect using their religion as a tool to come up with ad hoc justifications for their prejudices rather than putting their religion first and being willing to consistently follow it wherever it leads (note there is no circumstantial ad hominem here because the diagnosis is only coming after we have established that their arguments are unsound).

Among religious opponents of homosexuality there are some exceptions to this criticism but they appear to be very rare. For example, perhaps there is a Christian out there who, on biblical grounds is disgusted by homosexuality and is similarly disgusted by disabled people entering places of worship or men touching women when they are menstruating. Such a person strikes me as batshit crazy and yet possessing far more intellectual integrity than the pick-and-choose Christian. Likewise, perhaps there are Catholics who, after consulting the moral wisdom of the church forefathers, is disgusted by homosexuals and similarly disgusted by divorcees. Again, their views are hard to stomach but I can at least respect them for their intellectual integrity. Report

Arthur Greeves
Arthur Greeves
Reply to  JTD
3 years ago

“Likewise, those who appeal to the authority of church tradition (as is common in the Catholic church) generally are happy to ignore centuries of church tradition on other important and related questions such as divorce.”

Could you explain this comment? Has the Catholic Church ever changed its teaching on divorce? That would be news to me.Report

Derek Bowman
Derek Bowman
Reply to  Arthur Greeves
3 years ago

The Catholic Church hasn’t changed its teaching, but some Catholics who might use the Church’s stance to justify expressing their disgust for homosexuals do not usually express the same level of disgust for divorcees. This suggests that, for those people, the disgust has its roots in something rather apart from the doctrines of their religion. Report

Arthur Greeves
Arthur Greeves
Reply to  Derek Bowman
3 years ago

You simply don’t know the Catholic people I know. None of them express disgust for gay people OR for divorcees. They do express disgust for certain actions, among them the action of initiating a divorce.

I do agree that there are a number of Catholics out here that have homophobic attitudes, though. Trust me, as a bisexual man, I’ve put up with a fair share of flack from these people — mostly for my attempts to convince them that gay youth need something more from the Church than simply the insistence “gay sex is bad”. There are far more Catholics, however, who are truly conflicted about how to best love gay people, but have a genuine belief that (a) God forbids homosexual activity, and (b) this is because these actions are not good for the people who want to engage in them. Perhaps the best comparison would be something like pica: no one thinks people should drink laundry detergent, but people also don’t hate those who want to.

The idea that all Christian opposition to homosexual activity is based on homophobia is simply false.Report

Derek Bowman
Derek Bowman
Reply to  Arthur Greeves
3 years ago

Yes, I know many Catholics who fit your description above, which is why I said “some” and why (in an earlier comment) I resisted the idea that the expression of disgust from the original story was somehow essential to traditional religion. Report

Arthur Greeves
Arthur Greeves
Reply to  Arthur Greeves
3 years ago

In that earlier comment, I took it that you were saying that none of these people would say what Jean Laberge said. But I don’t see why Laberge’s statements are an “expression of disgust”. I haven’t read all he said, but let’s look at one excerpt:

“The mechanistic genital conception of sexuality is perfectly debilitating and intolerable on the moral level.”

I think this statement is ignorant, but not homophobic. It’s ignorant because it presumes that homosexuality is about mechanistic genital sexuality, not about deep interpersonal romance and attraction. But it doesn’t express disgust.Report

David Mathers
David Mathers
Reply to  JTD
3 years ago

‘Once one has made these observations one can look for a diagnosis and the best diagnosis–the best explanation of the phenomena of religious people peddling arguments on this topic that are terrible even by their own standards–is that a deep personal disgust towards homosexuality is driving them rather than a commitment to reason to the truth from their religious starting principles. ‘

Another analysis is that what’s going on here is, in many cases, simply tribalism. Being against gays is identified with their religion, and so they are against them. Of course, this doesn’t explain why prohibitions on homosexuality ever remained popular enough to be identified with the religions in the first place, when, as you say, many other traditional prohibitions have been taken far less seriously for quite a bit longer, by quite a bit more believers. And there, I think your explanation in terms of a disgust reaction to homosexuality is plausible, though of course all this is a priori sociology, so we should be a little cautious about it. But it’s a mistake I think, to think of all Christian (or Muslim, or Jewish etc.) homophobia as motivated by some deep-seated individual feelings about gay people, rather than a desire to show loyalty to ‘team Christian'(/Catholic/Evangelical.) (I use the pejorative homophobia rather than a more neutral framing here quite intentionally, since in my view the public shame now attached to such views is well-deserved.) Report

JTD
JTD
Reply to  David Mathers
3 years ago

David, I agree that your tribalism hypothesis has prima facie plausibility and needs to be carefully considered. I think it very likely explains some religious opposition. However, there is a good reason for thinking it doesn’t do that well at explaining a lot of Christian and Jewish opposition.

Recent opinion polling of Christian populations in Western and Latin Americian countries (but not opinion polling of Christians in Eastern Europe and Africa) has shown that in most of those countries a majority of Christians are accepting of homosexuals. Furthermore, it has shown that in most of the major denominations in those countries a majority are in favour. Thus, to take the US as an example, a 2015 poll found that 70% of Catholics, 66% of mainline Protestant, and 62% of Orthodox Christians said homosexuality should be accepted by society. But then if you belong to these denominations tribalism would push you to accept homosexuality. Yet a significant percentage of the Christians in these denominations are not accepting of homosexuality and tribalism cannot explain that.

You might reply that perhaps the minorities in each denomination exhibit a more narrow form of tribalism. For example, perhaps the Catholics who are unaccepting of homsexuality but tolerate divorce are like this because they exhibit tribalism toward a conservative brand of Catholicism that is strongly opposed to homosexuallity but accepting of divorce. However, I find the causal direction of this claim implausible. Different ‘brands’ of Catholicism tend to be fluid and people tend to jump around between them. In any particular diocese there are usually multiple brands available. Furthermore, it is the controversial social issues like homosexuality, or refugees that tend to be the ‘selling point’ of the different brands. Thus, it is more plausible to think that a Catholic joins a conservative brand of their religion because they are attracted to the position that brand takes on the controversial social issue rather then thinking that they belong to that brand for other reasons and then, because of tribalism, form their opinions on social issues by looking at what those in their brand generally endorse.

These points also appear to apply to Jewish tribalism, as in most Jewish populations around the world the majority is accepting of homosexuality. However, they do appear to apply to the Islamic world as in most Muslim populations the majority is firmly unaccepting of homosexuality. Thus, I accept that the tribalism explanation is much more plausible there.Report

Arthur Greeves
Arthur Greeves
Reply to  JTD
3 years ago

Where are these Catholics that are homophobic but tolerate divorce? I have been a Catholic all my life, but I haven’t met them. Or rather, they have died out. There were once a decent number like that, but these days they are exceptionally rare. I would say that around 30% of Catholics oppose homosexual activity, and that same 30% oppose divorce, except in the most extreme of cases. (And technically, the Church does not oppose civil divorce as a response to a very bad — e.g. abusive — marriage. It just opposes remarriage in such cases.)Report

JTD
JTD
Reply to  Arthur Greeves
3 years ago

My anecdotal experience is very different from yours. But perhaps we actually agree because you are thinking of their personal morality whereas I am thinking of their public morality. For I agree that most of the Catholics who oppose homosexual activity also hold that divorce is morally wrong and think that the Church should not recognize it. The double standard I find common is that most of these Catholics want the state to prohibit same-sex marriage for everyone (including all non-Catholics and all secular marriages) whereas they do not say that they want the state to prohibit no-fault divorce for everyone (including all non-Catholics and all secular marriages). Furthermore, making a distinction between moral disapproval and disgust, I have found that many of the Catholics who are opposed to homosexuality exhibit disgust (either openly or privately) towards homosexuals but that very few of them exhibit disgust towards divorcees.Report

Daniel Kaufman
3 years ago

Joshua Reagan wrote:

I’ve haven’t found the arguments of that era to be convincing in the past, but I’m willing to try again if others recommend it.

= = =

And the point I have been trying to make is that the fact that you find them unconvincing is irrelevant to the fact that they are the current framework under which our society operates. This discussion was *supposed* to be about the OP, and thus, about whether or not this man was wrongfully suspended from his job, for his religious views, which he articulated in the conduct of his personal life. It is precisely the classical liberal consensus we all live under that explains why this suspension was wrong, but it is also that classical liberal consensus that would explain why it would be wrong for him to deploy his private religious convictions about gay people in the classroom or at least, in classrooms other than those that one finds in exempted parochial institutions.

This consensus cannot be dislodged by the arguments of individuals, as they are built into our very system of law. To dislodge them in the US would require substantial amendment of the Constitution, which is not going to happen.

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Joshua Reagan
Joshua Reagan
Reply to  Daniel Kaufman
3 years ago

I have doubts about a number of things you’ve written here, but I want to set those doubts aside to focus on just one thing.

It may be the case that I’m not going to dislodge anything. OK, conceded. But *you* made a claim in this discussion. I just want to know whether your claim is true and good. Is that really an unreasonable thing to ask?Report

Daniel Kaufman
Reply to  Joshua Reagan
3 years ago

Josh: Which claim in particular are you asking about?Report

Joshua Reagan
Joshua Reagan
Reply to  Daniel Kaufman
3 years ago

This one:

“what religious arguments there may be, while legitimately informing private conscience, have no legitimate place in the making of public or institutional policy, save for in the narrow band of parochial institutions that receive some exemption from the civically liberal ethos that governs the rest of our society.”

To show my cards a bit, I’m a Christian and it’s not clear to me why I should accept this. I think my beliefs are true, and I think true claims have a legitimate place in the public sphere.

I’m just wondering if there is some literature out there which bears on this, and which would be useful to someone like me. But at this point if you’d prefer to give your favorite arguments for the liberal political project more generally, I’d be interested in that too.Report

Daniel Kaufman
Reply to  Joshua Reagan
3 years ago

You should accept it if only to protect yourself. The fortunes of your religion may fall, while those of others rise. Would you like to be at the mercy of their parochial convictions? So long as you live in a pluralistic, multicultural society, that may come to pass.

The liberal consensus protects everyone, especially the religious.

As for the value of a multiplicity of voices and practices, I think the arguments Mill gives in On Liberty are damned good and have aged well. That both progressives and reactionaries chafe against it makes me all the more convinced that it’s right.Report

Joshua Reagan
Joshua Reagan
Reply to  Daniel Kaufman
3 years ago

“You should accept it if only to protect yourself. The fortunes of your religion may fall, while those of others rise. Would you like to be at the mercy of their parochial convictions? So long as you live in a pluralistic, multicultural society, that may come to pass.”

This strikes me as pretty naive, if for no other reason than that lately the liberal project seems to be a bit unhealthy and trending in the wrong direction. But in any case, thank you for your recommendation.Report

Daniel Kaufman
3 years ago

Joshua Reagan wrote:

Honestly, I’m a little surprised at you. You have a lot to say about the intolerance of the illiberal left, because they’re threatening to undermine liberal institutions and norms. What if they’re right though? Wouldn’t it make sense to have arguments readily available so you could combat the decline of liberalism?

= = =

Who said I don’t have the arguments? That’s not what this discussion thread is about. It’s about the OP; that is, about whether or not this man was wrongly suspended for voicing his views outside of the classroom.Report

Daniel Kaufman
3 years ago

Joshua Reagan wrote:

“That strikes me as pretty naive…”

Sorry you feel that way. It strikes me as common sense; a matter of prudence. Try living somewhere where there is a dominant religion hostile to your own, with no liberal consensus and you may see the wisdom of the point.

You are right that the liberal consensus is falling apart in favor of progressive and reactionary movements. It is an incredibly dangerous moment in our polity, and all the more reason to make the case for liberalism as strongly and frequently as possible.Report

Joshua Reagan
Joshua Reagan
Reply to  Daniel Kaufman
3 years ago

In case it’s not clear why I think this is naive: “Christians, when you have political power you should set your convictions aside and rule from a liberal point of view. We pinky-promise that when you’re not in the majority we won’t abuse our power over you.” If a radical left gives us reason to think that the pinky-promise isn’t going to hold up, is it really prudent to go down with the liberal ship? If I’m going to be a martyr (whether in a metaphorical sense or otherwise) it’ll be for Christianity, not liberalism.Report

Daniel Kaufman
Reply to  Joshua Reagan
3 years ago

If that’s your calculus, then fine. I think it’s pretty stupid. And shortsighted.Report

Joshua Reagan
Joshua Reagan
Reply to  Daniel Kaufman
3 years ago

Why does it matter? As you pointed out earlier in the thread, I’m not going to be able to “dislodge” anything anyway. I’m just one guy with essentially no political power and who just wants to learn whatever is true and do whatever is good. There really aren’t strong prudential reasons for me to be sentimental about liberalism. (If you know of more principled, non-prudential arguments for liberalism, I’d probably be more interested in that.)Report