Case study on homosexuality.
The arguments that homosexual behavior is morally wrong.
Much has been said about homosexual behavior. As with abortion, religious ethics come into play, though we did not concentrate on religious ethics in our investigations concerning abortion. We may touch on religious ethics as a start here.
A traditional position is that homosexual behavior is morally wrong because Biblical text indicates so. I shall leave it to you to discover the pertinent passages, (a little help here: take me to, What the Bible says about homosexuality) but I in doing so, take note of the entire list of behaviors that are said to be equally wrong. For example, fornication, lying and bad-mouthing one's parents are condemned with the same punishment. All things being considered, the general messages are that certain types of behavior are not to be tolerated, for they are considered to be wrong in the eyes of God. The proper question to ask is, "Why should such kinds of behavior be considered to be wrong by God?" Let us see if we can find some rational explanations to that question. (Much of the following is a rehash of the excellent work done by Professor Burton M. Leiser. See Liberty, Justice, and Morals (2nd edition)(Macmillan, 1979)).
1. Homosexual behavior is dangerous. There is no question that all sexual behavior can be hazardous to a person's health. Homosexual behavior occupies a higher level of risk, for the modes of transmission are more likely to inoculate the AIDS virus and other pathogens. Behavior that is dangerous to one's and other persons' health is wrong. Homosexual behavior, because it involves greater risk than heterosexual behavior, is wrong.
A response to the above argument is that heterosexual behavior without safety precautions is almost as dangerous. Homosexuals, using the same precautionary measures as heterosexuals, are in the same overall risk category. The main point is that irresponsible sexual activity is dangerous, but such behavior is dangerous equally to both heterosexuals and homosexuals who fail to use precautionary devices.
2. Homosexual behavior is a deviant form of social behavior. Homosexual behavior is morally wrong, for it is a deviant form of social behavior that can lead to unwanted social consequences.
A response is to clarify exactly what is meant by "deviant." If deviant is used to mean not the norm of social behavior, then homosexuality is indeed deviant. But, then, of course, are many other kinds of behavior. Oral sex among heterosexuals would also be counted as deviant behavior. Not having sexual intercourse until one is married would fall into the same category. Obviously, that homosexual behavior is within the "norm" of social activities does not make it immoral.
Perhaps, "deviant" is used to mean "pathological" such that the individuals who perform homosexual actions are doing something that harms not only themselves, but society as well. Thus, homosexuals are more prone to molest children, violently harm other persons or destroy the "family" and "family values." There is, further, an extreme argument that the world would cease to have humans in it were everyone to practice homosexual behavior.
With respect to the first argument, the facts seem to point out that homosexuals fall within the normal range of aggressive behavior as do heterosexuals. In other words, in terms of aggression and violence, the playing ground is level; heterosexuals and homosexuals are equally prone to aggression and violence. More study needs be done on both homosexuals and heterosexuals, but as a group, alcoholics seem to be more destructive to themselves and their families than homosexuals are. And, the majority of our society condones drinking. As for the argument that were everyone to practice homosexuality, there would be no humans in the world borders on absurdity. Even if everyone practiced homosexuality, women could still become pregnant through artificial insemination. So, the world would not be rid of mankind were homosexuality practiced. Oddly enough, the world could become barren of humans through certain religious beliefs. The Shakers forbid sex and did not encourage childbearing. As a religious sect, they were not persecuted or thought of as doing something morally wrong. Yet, we may wonder about the reasonableness of their beliefs inasmuch as their numbers have dwindled to around one hundred or less. They persist only through others joining up.
3. Homosexual behavior uses sex organs in unnatural ways. The body has organs and parts, each of which has specific purposes. The heart is for pumping blood. The liver for producing chemicals that enable food to be ingested and metabolized. The teeth are for biting and chewing, and so on. To use a part or organ for something other than its primary or natural purpose is to "violate nature." To violate nature is to do something wrong. Since homosexual behavior involves the use of sex organs for purposes other than their "natural" function, homosexual behavior is wrong.
The reply to this argument involves two points. The first is that bodily parts and organs have many functions, some of which are primary, some of which are secondary (and that depends on how we may look at those functions). For example, a model who uses her eyes to make a substantial amount of money may regard the painting and distortion of them to be of great value. And, no one would regard her as immoral for her use of her eyes to make money. A comic who sticks out his tongue to make children laugh is certainly not using it for its primary function, but no one would call such behavior immoral. The second point is that sex organs can be used to produce children, but they are also instruments of intense pleasure. To use them for this second purpose could not be determined to be unnatural or immoral. Why? Well, many persons would regard that the primary purpose of the sex organs is for pleasure, not for children. More persons have sex for pleasure than for children. The natural state of affairs is to use sex to produce pleasure rather than children. It is unfortunate, given population problems, that Mother Nature put sex and producing children in the same boat. If producing children involved an action other than sex (an action which had as a by-product, intense pain and nausea), I suspect that our population problems would never have occurred.
A further point. If homosexual behavior violates "nature," the nature about which we are speaking cannot be our physical world. Why? Because events that violate the laws of nature cannot occur, unless they are miracles. And, it looks to be the case that no one would want to call homosexual behavior miraculous.
4. Homosexual behavior is wrong because it is aesthetically displeasing to the majority of the population. Homosexual behavior, we may hear some persons say, is simply revolting. It is so revolting that it should not be condoned or permitted in society.
It may be the case that many, perhaps most, persons find homosexual behavior to be revolting, displeasing, upsetting or simply "nasty." However, there are many things and activities in the world that may be equally revolting, displeasing, upsetting or simply "nasty." And, these things and activities may be condoned by the general masses. Consider the violent scenes on television and in movies. No one seems to be making moves to rid the world of television shows that portray "freak" characteristics and abilities or persons, or movies that involve persons being chain-sawed to death. The television shows depict vulgarity at its apex. Worse, many movies portray suffering of innocent persons and brutal violence as entertainment. In terms of "revolting," homosexual behavior does not hold a candle to them.
There is a question that homosexual behavior is destructive or contraindicated with respect to marriage. The basis of the argument is that marriage is properly between a man and a woman, that is to say, this is what marriage means --its proper definition.
What is of interest here is that the definition is entirely arbitrary. Why should marriage be defined as between a man and a woman? Why not a man and many women or vice-versa or community marriages? That there is a religious backing to the original definition does not suffice. We have only to remember the perceived "duty" of Lot's children to prolong his gene pool. Of course, that had to do with incest, but the point is that more is needed than stipulated definitions, for here incest seems to be tolerated as a means to save the gene pool of an unmarried man. If it can be shown that homosexual marriage is harmful to the institution of marriage or that homosexual behavior is contradictory to the concept of marriage, then there could be reasons to not grant homosexual marriages. But, inasmuch as everything seems to be the same between two persons of the same sex as it seems to be with two persons of different sex,save of course gender, then there doesn't look to be any reason for denying a way of life to persons of the same sex that is allowed for different sexes.
5. Review. If it could be shown that unnecessary harm was produced by homosexual behavior or that it was intrinsically wrong, then there could be reasonable grounds for maintaining that it is morally wrong. As we have seen, the arguments attempting to reach such a position fall flat in the face of counter-examples and critical examination.
Take me to an interesting BBC article on religion and homosexuality: BBC on religon and homosexuality
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