The precariousness of morality and heterosexuality
I imagine that for a very long time (probably since the time there were atheists and homosexuals), certain theists and certain heterosexuals have had questions. Questions that seem so baffling as to be jokes, but which the questioners insist — through their attitudes and expressions while proffering these questions — are completely serious.
“How can atheists be moral without god? What’s stopping you from killing or raping if there is no eternal punishment for your actions?”
It’s tough to address these question, but the reason it’s tough is not because we’re at a loss for answers…but because we know that for someone to ask this question, this means that they have a very different — and very scary — basis for morality. See, this question doesn’t say something (dis)turbing about atheists (to whom it is directed)…it implies something far more shocking about the people who ask it.
I would like to believe that all it implies is that people aren’t very introspective or aware, and so they don’t understand that the reasons they give for being moral are not accurate. I would like to believe that everyone recognizes and acts because of the primacy of day-to-day consequences with other conscious beings rather than because of the fear of an uncertain eternal time-out in flames.
That’s what I would like to believe.
But the alternative is more (dis)quieting, and I can’t rule it out. The alternative is that, for these people who ask this question, morality for them is so precarious as to require enforcement through eternal punishment and rewarding…and that but for the fear of God, they might do terrible things.
This isn’t the case for most of the accused, but the possibility is that it could be the case for the accuser.
OK, I admit, without god, I suppose I cannot accept as immoral certain things that many people’s god view as quite immoral. I cannot accept all the doom and gloom that comes up whenever people suggest — how audaciously! — that homosexuals should have rights and equality.
But that does make me wonder…as accusations of amorality says less about the accused than for the accuser, I wonder if the same can be said of those wary or critical of the acceptance of homosexuality and gay rights in society. How many times do people argue that if homosexuality is accepted, then the youth may be more likely to “experiment” with “the gay lifestyle” and perhaps — gasp — to choose it!?
When people talk about heterosexuality being so fragile, so precarious, I wonder if they are not talking about themselves. I’m not a scientist or anything, but why are there so many vocally anti-gay pastors and politicians who later get caught doing something really gay? Again, not saying anything conclusive about it, or about the study that showed that homophobic men respond ahem *down there* to gay male porn, but that seems like a strange story to keep happening over and over again.
Again, these kinds of fears and concerns say nothing about the accused…but they may say something about the accuser…they may say that the accused and the accuser speak from different vantage points. When some people insist that homosexuality is “chosen” and that, without societal prohibitions and (dis)approval, it would become more popular, do they say it because heterosexuality for them is a constant struggle to maintain and which they might not have sought had society not pushed it strongly?
Do they really fear that they themselves might have been tempted to “experiment” when they were younger only if society hadn’t been there to suppress the notion?
…Don’t they feel that, maybe, the thing that would have stopped them from “experimenting” would be realizing that they are absolutely not attracted to the same sex?
In this above characterization, I really haven’t gone into the deeply-held implications of inferiority held about same-sex relationships. But let us say that someone were attracted to both sexes equally. Those who begin with an assumption of the precariousness of heterosexuality often argue that we should do whatever we can to ensure that these “impressionable” bisexuals pick the right sex (that is, the opposite sex) over the wrong one.
But one day we need to recognize that it is not a loss if someone has a committed relationship to someone of the same sex. It is not a “compromise” whose existence we grudgingly accept for those who just can’t “handle” acting straight and whose frequency we hope to minimize. If we want to target hookup culture, then fine. If we want to target a culture that says it’s fine to race to get into someone else’s pants with no inclination of ever getting into a relationship, then fine. But should we make this our target, we should recognize that this target reaches across all lines — gay, straight, bisexual, or anything else — and does not preclude our recognizing true compansionship, whenever it is found across all lines.