31 May 2010

The Manifest Evil of Homophobia

 The Economist magazine has an article about the violent and oppressive repercussions of homophobia, especially in developing countries. Here are a few excerpts:
Some 80 countries criminalise consensual homosexual sex. Over half rely on “sodomy” laws left over from British colonialism. But many are trying to make their laws even more repressive. Last year, Burundi’s president, Pierre Nkurunziza, signed a law criminalising consensual gay sex, despite the Senate’s overwhelming rejection of the bill. A draconian bill proposed in Uganda would dole out jail sentences for failing to report gay people to the police and could impose the death penalty for gay sex if one of the participants is HIV-positive. In March Zimbabwe’s president, Robert Mugabe, who once described gay people as worse than dogs or pigs, ruled out constitutional changes outlawing discrimination based on sexual orientation.






This has, he argues, coincided with an influx of conservative Christians, mainly from America, who are eager to engage African clergy in their own domestic battle against homosexuality. David Bahati, the Ugandan MP who proposed its horrid bill, is a member of the Fellowship, a conservative American religious and political organisation. “Africa must seem an exciting place for evangelical Christians from places like America,” says Marc Epprecht, a Canadian academic who studies homosexuality in Africa. “They can make much bigger gains in their culture wars there than they can in their own countries.” Their ideas have found fertile ground. In May this year, George Kunda, Zambia’s vice-president, lambasted gay people, saying they undermined the country’s Christian values and that sadism and Satanism could be the result. 
The problem goes beyond Africa and is more than one of state-sponsored homophobia. In Iraq, for example, homosexuality is legal. But in 2009 Human Rights Watch described the persecution that men suspected of being gay there face, including kidnappings, rape, torture and extrajudicial killings. In the aftermath of the 2003 invasion, there has been a growing fear of the “feminisation” of Iraqi men. The Mahdi Army, a Shia militia, has played on these fears and, claiming to uphold religious values and morality, offered violent “solutions”. Members of the Iraqi security forces have also been accused of colluding in the violence. 
The most disturbing part of this to me are the religious justifications used for such outright targeted persecution. It seems that many religious groups, while not exactly condoning the violence of some governments and other groups, unwittingly lend justification to them through their spiritual "battle against homosexuality".

How will Baha'i's avoid falling into this trap? How will we uphold such principles as the unity of the human race, and the abolition of all prejudice, while also holding certain beliefs on sexuality that might be used by others as a pretext for persecution? Clearly we cannot be held responsible for the behavior of others, but it will be increasingly important as Baha'i's to champion the basic human rights of people everywhere, whether they be the Baha'i's imprisoned in Iran, or gay activists imprisoned in Uganda. I think part of this involves engaging this as a topic for discussion in our Baha'i communities in terms including socially constructed identity, biology, spirituality, human dignity/rights, and personal experience. We need to build up a deep reservoir of empathy. Otherwise, I fear many of us will mistake our spiritual beliefs with homophobic beliefs, the latter of which serves to dehumanize the other person. I thought Bryan's recent post was a thoughtful and brave way to get the conversation started. We need more of this.

*Update*
As recently reported in the NYT, american evangelicals stoking homophobia in Uganda in the name of "curing" homosexuality, leading to proposed legislation to hang homosexuals http://www.nytimes.com/2010/01/04/world/africa/04uganda.html?_r=1

28 comments:

  1. I also feel that it is important to clearly state that bahai teachings on sexual behaviour in no way condone persecution or social exclusion of homosexuals, and that such persecution and exclusion actually go against core bahai teachings.
    Warmest greetings, Martijn

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  2. I agree with what Martijn states, however there are so many examples of the opposite having happened. Bahais who are married, having their voting rights removed. In 1996 the NSA of the UK wrote a statement discriminating against any mention of homosexuality as a valid lifestyle and more recently the N.S.A. of Guyana petitioned against a proposal for equality for homosexuals their government was considering.

    I've far too many sad stories of gay Bahais being shunned, avoided, lied to and at best their sexuality treated as if it was a topic to be ignored. See: www.gaybahai.net

    Someone please show me some examples of where Bahai communities are not treating homosexuals as second class individuals. My gay friends would not join a religion which discriminates against them and I wouldn't blame them. And I have to keep secret who my gay Bahai friends are so they are not treated with prejudice by other Bahais.
    A way to help this situation is for Bahais first to try and talk about this. But I found Jason's article offensive. Titled, homosexuality it jumped straight into sex and immorality. Sexual orientation is not about having sex. It is about love, companionship and diversity. I take the view that the Bahai Faith is a religion for people of all orientations.

    Gays make up about 10% of our population, if you find that you are not aware of any gays in your Bahai community, then there's a 10% of the diversity of humanity that is missing.

    Martijn, I agree with you but we need more than statements we need deeds :)

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  3. In Uganda Baha'is are not merely failing to resist the persecution of homosexuals. In Uganda, Baha'is are part of the ironically named "rainbow coalition" of churches supporting the persecution.

    http://www.lifesitenews.com/ldn/2007/aug/07082103.html

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2007/sep/17/ugandangaysdemandfreedom

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  4. Most likely the reports in Uganda you mention are true Polychrysos, but it is not certain Bahais were actually involved because reporters often get things wrong (even the Guardian :) ) and I haven't been able to verify whether the reporter mentioned the Bahais because they were part of the 'rainbow coalition' which organized this hate march or whether it was just one Bahai involved or whether the Bahai community was an active participant. That's why I only referred to the sources I know 100% certain to be the case.

    However, for me, a much tougher issue is the day-to-day. That so many Bahais seem to have no problems with expressing what I consider very homophobic attitudes online. I'm not talking about this blog in particular. I mean that one only has to google the words 'Bahai' and 'homosexaulity' and there are the many statements by Bahais often with words such as it is wrong or it is immoral.

    btw, apologizies Jason, I meant the article by Bryan in my previous post.

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  5. "Someone please show me some examples of where Bahai communities are not treating homosexuals as second class individuals."

    You could try mine as an example, but one case doesn't prove anything.

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  6. I hope that the stories about the Uganda Baha'is are not true. But either way, it speaks to my point about the need for Baha'is everywhere to uphold the human rights of everyone, and to have this discussion.

    Thanks Sonja for the link. I think it is important to be able to share stories of peoples experience. Reality is complicated, and there are a lot of challenges and struggles that I've seen Baha'is face that don't make the Baha'i magazines. But if we can hear peoples stories and really build up empathy, that is a start.

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  7. Nothing will happen in the Faith until straight Baha'is stand up for the GLBT colleagues, family and friends... openly and forcefully. Sonja and Martijn are right, until the vast majority of communities behave as Bryan's does, and are free and open to say so nothing will or can happen. Compassion and science dictate that we must be inclusive, welcoming and loving to all people. But alas the Faith is nothing but an illusive dream, and a lie to many of us excluded because one last prejudice is allowed to flourish, and in some instances condoned... I have long asked what is better: a gay Baha'i or a gay non-Baha'i... Baha'is either because of their silence or active homophobia feel that the later is acceptable.

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  8. Barb Ruth-WrightJune 1, 2010 at 11:47 AM

    Regarding the view that Baha'i teaching in no way condones persecution or social exclusion of gays, this is a false statement. Loss of administrative rights, which is a constant threat hanging over the head of gay Baha'is who "step out of line" by having an open, loving, committed same-sex relationship, does amount to social exclusion within the Baha'i Community, preventing such Baha'is from attending Feasts and other Baha'i-only events, and they certainly are not considered as being eligible to represent the Faith officially in any public way.

    Barb

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  9. The Baha'i teachings- referencing Shoghi Effendi and the Uhj *are* homophobic. No amount of cognitive dissonance can redeem them. Baha'is asserting their own powers of conscience and moral reasoning and upholding the values of justice, equality, and reason for everyone is what's needed. Don't allow discrimination by your institutions.

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  10. Baha'i laws instruct me not to drink alcohol. If a Baha'i were drinking heavily, I would have no problem with an LSA eventually revoking that persons administrative rights assuming proper procedures were taken before doing so. I see no problem with also believing that it is wrong for society at large, or the government, to persecute someone because they choose to drink alcohol. To support such behavior or actions by the government would be supporting injustice.

    Why is it so difficult for people to believe the same thing about those who engage in homosexual behaviour? The removal of administrative rights is not the same as engaging in or condoning societal or governmental persecution.

    But let us not be confused...believing in justice for homosexuals is not the same as supporting issues like homosexual marriage. We have to learn to seperate support for justice and freedom from persecution from support for political issues like marriage.

    David

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  11. David,

    A Baha'i's administrative rights should not be removed for drinking heavily, as you suggest. Removal of rights is supposed to be only in very flagrant cases involving some kind of public scandal and damaging the image of the Baha'i Faith in a public way. Short of that, the act of breaking one of the laws doesn't warrant removal, according to guidelines.

    This is an important distinction, since it applies equally to homosexuality, and anyone struggling with it are supposed to be supported, counseled and accepted. This is what the authoritative writings of the Faith say. This is very important, since you suggest that "those who engage in homosexual behaviour" should be expelled from the Faith, but Shoghi Effendi advised against that action unless there is a flagrant and public disregard for the teachings of the Faith.

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  12. What the Baha'i guidance says:

    "The general basis for the deprivation of voting rights is of course gross immorality and open opposition to the administrative functions of the Faith, and disregard for the laws of personal status; and even then it is the duty of the National Assembly, before exercising this sanction, to confer with the individuals involved in a loving manner to help them overcome the problems; second, to warn them that they must desist; three, to issue further warning of the original warnings are not followed; and finally, if there seems no other way to handle the matter, then a person may be deprived of voting rights.

    "The Guardian however, wishes the National Assemblies to be very cautious in using this sanction, because it might be abused, and then lose its efficacy. It should be used only when there seems no other way to solve the problem. "Answering specifically the questions you raise, if a person is deprived of his voting rights, he may not contribute to the Local or National Funds; he may not attend Nineteen Day Feasts. Of course, not attending the Nineteen Day Feasts, he can take no part in consultation. While it is not forbidden for the friends to associate with the individual, yet their association should be on a formal basis.

    "So far as the individual who has been deprived of his voting rights, teaching the Cause, he is of course free to do this, as every individual has been encouraged by Bahá'u'lláh to teach the Cause."

    (From a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to the National Spiritual Assembly of South America, March 7, 1955)

    "As he already told you in a previous communication he feels that your Assembly should not deprive people of their voting rights unless the matter is really very grave; this is a very heavy sanction, and can embitter the heart if lightly imposed, and also make people thing we unduly resort to pressure of a strong nature. The friends must be nursed and assisted, for they are still most immature spiritually, and their 'sins' are those of immaturity! Their hearts are loyal to the Cause, and this is the most important thing."

    (From a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to the National Spiritual Assembly of India and Burma, August 2, 1946)

    "In the case of a believer who continues to take alcoholic drinks the Assembly should decide whether the offence is flagrant, and, if it is, should try to help him to understand the importance of obeying the Bahá'í law. If he does not respond he must be repeatedly warned and, if this is unsuccessful, he is subject to loss of his voting rights. In the case of an alcoholic who is trying to overcome his weakness the Assembly must show especial patience, and may have to suggest professional counselling and assistance. If the offence is not flagrant, the Assembly need take no action at all."

    (From a letter written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice to a National Spiritual Assembly, September 26, 1978)

    "If the voting rights have been removed justifiably it is generally sufficient for the believer to take the necessary actions to have them restored; his application for restoration and compliance with the requirements of Bahá'í law are sufficient evidence of repentance."

    (Letter from the Universal House of Justice, dated September 21, 1976, to a National Spiritual Assembly)

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  13. Bryan,

    Perhaps I was not clear with my point. I absolutly understand that administrative rights are not taken away without taking extensive measures to counsel the person in question and hopefully convince them to bring themselves back into compliance with Baha'i Laws.

    I was trying to point out that there is no conflict between fighting against social and governmental persecution of homosexuals and also believing from a religious perspective that homosexual activity is wrong. The morality of homosexual acts is an entirely different issue than the persecution of those who engage in such acts.

    David

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  14. This is a fallacious argument predicated upon a false assumption. See:

    http://www.boxturtlebulletin.com/2010/06/02/23191

    'With each passing day, more people get to know their gay family, neighbors, friends and coworkers. And claims that “they’re not really gay, they’re just choosing aberrant behavior” are so far from their experiences that they fall on deaf ears.'

    The argument that 'homosexual attraction is likely a congenital disorder that influences behavior' is merely an assertion with no basis in fact and completely unfalsifiable.

    Same-sex civil marriage is now legal in the Netherlands, Belgium, Spain, Canada, Norway, Sweden, South Africa and Portugal, with many other countries prepared to adopt it. All *accredited* American medical and psychological institutions agree there is no medical, psychological, or even social reason to believe that sexual conduct between persons of the same sex is immoral or unhealthy. These accredited institutions are the American Medical Association, the American Psychiatric Association, the American Psychological Association, the American Psychoanalytic Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics as well as the National Association of Social Workers to name but a few. Only religious dogmatists think it immoral.

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  15. See
    http://www.krysalis.net/homosexuality.htm
    For an article about the congenital predisposition to homosexuality and how it is an aberration. There are numerous others if you look for them indicating that it is congenital and not genetic, meaning it isn't hereditary.

    The psychiatric and psychological organizations are coming up with value-based conclusions and they are relying on their personal values. If I shared their values, I may come to a very similar conclusion as they have, except they're ignoring that gay men have a higher incidence of STDs, depression, suicide, anal cancer, homelessness, substance abuse, prostitution, eating disorders, and other undesirable traits. Besides those, though, they are approaching it from a self-centered point of view, both in ignoring societal results and in focusing on sexual satisfaction as an inalienable right.

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  16. 'The psychiatric and psychological organizations are coming up with value-based conclusions and they are relying on their personal values.'

    LOL!

    An assertion is not evidence. Your theories and related claims (employing circular reasoning) are completely unsubstantiated. They are lies. See:

    http://www.boxturtlebulletin.com/category/converstion-reparative-therapy

    Your religious dogmatism is such that it does not permit you to revise your theology and ideology in the light of science and reason. It constitutes an appeal to its own conservative religious echo chamber. This is unfortunate but ultimately unimportant. How sad for the Faith. I have no further contributions to make to this 'discussion.'

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  17. Unfortunately, discussion - by its nature - will be very limited between Baha'is and those who are pro same-sex marriage. Each side has good, rational arguments for their position, but in the end Baha'is will be firm in their position of homosexual intercourse as being immoral, as this is what our authoritative Writings delineate, whether outsiders perceive this as irrational dogmatics or trust in the transcendent vision of the Divine. Those who support same-sex marriage will likely continue to do so, seeing this as necessary social acceptance and legal rights for two adults who consensually choose - and/or are more inclined (whatever the source [biological, social, or both]) - to be socially and physically committed to one another. It's important for these discussions to take place so each can understand the other's side a bit better; yet the Baha'i's focus on trusting that God knows whats best and healthiest for the human creation, and the other's focus on sexual liaison types as a human right, will mean that in the end we will probably have to agree to disagree in the end.

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  18. "It's important for these discussions to take place so each can understand the other's side a bit better; yet the Baha'i's focus on trusting that God knows whats best and healthiest for the human creation, and the other's focus on sexual liaison types as a human right, will mean that in the end we will probably have to agree to disagree in the end."

    This is the best comment I've seen in this thread yet.

    It's not that one side or the other is casting aside moral reasoning. It's that we're working from different foundations. And so long as those fundamental difference remain, there can be little hope that either side will take up the viewpoint of the other.

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  19. Hi
    I am not a B'hai, but I have long been drawn to most of what I hear about the B'hai faith. Sadly, because I am who I am, a very happily married bisexual lesbian, married to a woman, I have not come closer to the B'hai faith due to the Authoritative writings on homosexuality which are part of the foundation of your religion. In fact, because I am an interfaith type of person, B'hais have often approached me to tell me about your faith. That's how I discovered that the climate isn't comfortable for me as a gay person, so I respectfully have not pursued being a B'hai. I appreciate what Daniel wrote...it does seem that with the particular teachings that you inherited from your founder, there's not a lot you can do to change your point of view on this unless eventually your religion might be willing to question those precepts. I do appreciate that this discussion is attempting to distinguish between the horrendous laws or Uganda or the hate crimes that are perptrated against GLBT people and differences of opinion or faith about moral issues. I hope this kind of forum continues and expands in the B'hai community. I'm pretty sure it will, since GBLT people are not going away. We've been around the whole time! I am writing really because I feel I have a perspective that even your founder may not have had. I have been in relationships with both men and woman, and for me, there is really no difference! If I choose to blame and separate from a partner, whether male or female, I end up unhappy and unhealthy. If I include spirit/god/ knowledge of myself as a child of god or goddess, and if I realize that I'm projecting and move away from blame, I am happy and healthy and have a good and healthy relationship. The sexual part is only a small part of what makes a good relationship work, as I'm sure you all know. Rather than trust some teaching that felt divinely inspired to someone a long time ago, I choose to trust my heart, my body and my intelligence to tell me whether I am happy and healthy. I wish happiness and healthiness to all. In Love, Kathleen

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  20. Mr. Pschaida and Mr. Cat,

    I didn't think that I'd get involved in this discussion, but this is really too much. Mr. Pschaida seems to be saying that there is a gap, perhaps unbridgeable, between the truth of revelation and purely human reason.

    "Baha'is will be firm in their position of homosexual intercourse as being immoral, as this is what our authoritative Writings delineate, whether outsiders perceive this as irrational dogmatics or trust in the transcendent vision of the Divine... The focus of the Baha'is on trusting that God knows whats best and healthiest for the human creation, and the focus of others on sexual liaison types as a human right, will mean that in the end we will probably have to agree to disagree in the end."

    You probably don't care what I think about this attitude, but I can't help adding that this seems very different from what Baha'u'llah and Abdu'l-Baha both taught concerning the relationship between religion and common sense. Baha'u'llah says time and again that truth is one. He says that people don't have to choose between divine wisdom and human intelligence. He denies that the gap you describe exists. And Abdu'l-Baha is even more explicit. He doesn't just say that religion ultimately agrees with the findings of science and reason. He even demands that religion be tested against them. And he says that if a religious doctrine can't pass this test, it must be rejected. (The following is not a single quotation, but a series of statements the Master made on the subject at various times.)

    "Religion must be reasonable. If it does not square with reason, it is superstition and without foundation. It is like a mirage, which deceives man by leading him to think it is a body of water. God has endowed man with reason that he may perceive what is true. If we insist that such and such a subject is not to be reasoned out and tested according to the established logical modes of the intellect, what is the use of the reason which God has given man? If a question be found contrary to reason, faith and belief in it are impossible. What the intelligence of man cannot understand, religion must not accept."

    You may not care much about what I think personally, but for what it's worth I agree with Abdu'l-Baha. I will only follow a religious teaching that CAN be tested according to the strictures of human reason. Like Abdu'l-Baha I have no use for the line of thinking that says 'I follow divine law, and you follow common sense, and we'll just have to agree to disagree.' Anyone who cares to know what I think about all of this is welcome to look at my story, *The Emperor's New Clothes*, at the link below. But otherwise, I've said my piece.

    http://snipurl.com/x4dab

    Brendan Cook

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  21. Brendan,

    I don't want to speak for Bryan, but I think what he was attempting to do in his essay on homosexuality was to present a reasonable case for the Baha'i position, without the use of the sacred texts to bolster the argument. Now it is open for discussion whether he succeeded or not, that is the point, but it seems to me that pursuasive arguments can be made either way. Again, this is before resorting to the Baha'i texts. So I don't think this fits the criteria of dogmatism that Abdu'l Baha was referring to. As Mr. Cat pointed out, it becomes a matter of moral reasoning, and deciding what the core foundation of that reasoning should be. If the fundamental assumption is teological and spiritual, that will produce different outcomes than if it is not. If the core foundation is that Baha'u'llah is a manifestation of God for today, who outlined a clear line of authority to the UHJ, then that will produce differenct outcomes. That is not to say that Baha'is shouldn't be wary of the hermetically sealed reasoning of "because God says so". That would make us no different than fundamentalist Christians who deny the theory of evolution. So it presents an intersting and important challenge for Baha's to engage on the level of rational discourse without abandoning their fundamental source of moral reasoning, which of course must be taken on faith.

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  22. Jason,

    You don't have to speak for Bryan, because I wasn't addressing him. I wasn't directly addressing the case he makes about homosexuality and the Baha'i Faith. I was addressing what Daniel said, which is that those who follow faith and those who follow reason will have to agree to disagree. For what it's worth, I don't think that you and I are that far apart either. You're willing to concede, which is all I ask, that Baha'is, and indeed the followers of all religions, should be careful not to separate religious authority from common sense. That doesn't mean you and I will agree on everything, but at least we're committed to seeking agreement. My point was that you close the door on this when you 'agree to disagree'.

    Brendan

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  23. Yes, truth is one and science and religion must agree.

    There are some things that I think this requires of us. First, we must recognize that scientific research, and inquiry into the Word of God are both ongoing projects. Bad science cannot be used to support religious positions at the expense of better science. But because science and religion are never complete, it's dangerous to invoke either one as absolutes.

    Also, if science is as value neutral as most say it is, then it can't at the same time be invoked to prove a moral point. Either it's purely descriptive or it's not. Science should be invoked to shoot down erroneous descriptions of the world presented in religious discourse. But moral questions, by their nature, are outside of its domain.

    I'm not sure I stand 100% by everything I've just written. After all, there are some very big issues at work here. But what I think is most important is that debates about the Baha'i position on homosexuality cannot remain limited to narrow discussions of homosexuality itself. There are much broader philosophical issues at play. Brendan, you are right to point out that the relation between science and religion is one of them. Also at issue is the role of the Manifestation of God in shaping human affairs and the status of human rights discourse invoked against the mainstream Baha'i position. So long as these deeper conflicts are unaddressed then the board is rigged for stalemate.

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  24. Mr. Cat,

    Two things. You are right that science is an ongoing process. At the same time, I hope you won't make this a license, as certain Baha'is have done, to reject inconvenient scientific findings. I have sometimes discussed the conflict over homosexuality only to hear this in response:

    "Scientific opinions are always changing, but religious truth is fixed and certain. Therefore we can expect that in time, new theories will emerge which will validate what our religion has always taught."

    If one does this -- I'm not sure if you do -- the agreement of science and religion is no longer a problem. If science supports what you believe, good, and if not, it will change. And in any case, it isn't merely 'science' which must be brought to bear on religious questions. What is need is logic, reason, and simple common sense.

    But this is relatively minor. You do the most to undermine science when you say that it's "value neutral [and] ...can't be invoked to prove a moral point." If this were true, then we really would have to regard science as irrelevant. If facts were value neutral, you'd be right that "moral questions... are outside [the scientific] domain."

    But are facts really value neutral? You can say that "most" feel this way. And I can say that Aristotle and Aquinas both feel differently. But rather than cite authority, why not consider our own lives? Why not consider how many times moral questions have turned on facts.

    Only a few years ago, there was a debate in the United States over the morality of invading Iraq. And while both sides were bitterly divided, there was a surprising consensus on one point. A large number of people on both sides agreed that the morality of the invasion hinged upon the factual question of whether Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction. This is why supporters of the war were embarrassed when they failed to discover significant stocks of nerve gas, anthrax, or fissionable nuclear material. The fact that the Iraqi dictator did not possess WMDs was anything but value neutral. It changed the moral arithmetic of the situation.

    And the same is true in a more recent case. As we see the entire Gulf of Mexico poisoned for decades by British Petroleum, it's easy to see how simple facts can have enormous moral significance. It's easy to see, at least in retrospect, that the morality of drilling in the Gulf depended on certain factual questions. Can drilling platforms be devised with failsafe mechanisms to prevent an accident? In the event of an accident, does technology exist to block the gushing oil thousands of feet below the surface? In order to decide whether it is moral to drill for oil in the Gulf of Mexico, you must know the answers to these questions. You must know the facts.

    And so I find it hard to see how anyone can say that the facts revealed by science are value neutral. The case that Aristotle made more than twenty-three centuries ago is obviously correct (no wonder Baha'u'llah speaks so well of him). And you can obviously see why this would be relevant to the question of homosexuality. If we want to ask whether homosexual relationships are moral, we need to understand the facts. If it were a fact that homosexuality was psychologically unhealthy (this myth was decisive debunked in the 70's) that would definitely influence the answer. It would also make a difference if the current pope and his circle were correct that homosexuality is connected to pedophilia. But since this is also untrue, this also affects the debate over the morality of the homosexual lifestyle. I could go on, but you get the idea. I simply don't see how you can dismiss the relevance of modern science to homosexuality with the declaration that "science is as value neutral as most say it is."

    Brendan

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  25. What I was thinking of when I mentioned the value neutrality of science was the rejection of Aristotle's teleological universe enacted in Galileo's foundation of modern experimental science. Before then science asked the question of towards what things aimed. Science looked for the essential purpose of things, and not just relations of cause and effect within bare matter as is the mode of modern science. Ethics, on the other hand, still asks the question of towards what we should aim, individually and collectively.

    Science is, of course, hugely relevant to the question of homosexuality. Ethical inquiry takes place within a concrete world and can't be abstracted from it. Scientific knowledge is needed if ethical inquiry is to be informed about the situation it's called to address. But so long as science proceeds, as it has for half a millenium, as a matter of disinterested description, then it can only play a supporting role in ethical decisions. It cannot make them itself.

    The case of the Iraq war is an interesting case. In 2002 the Bush administration proposed the doctrine of pre-emptive war, a relative novelty for modern international relations. It was, first and foremost, an doctrine of ethics. It proposed that in light of the extreme destructive power of WMD, even the slim chance that they would be acquired and used was sufficient basis for just war. But the war wasn't sold on that basis. Instead, there was a barrage of references to supposed facts which tried to reduce the choice to go to war to either accepting the consequences or willfully ignoring obvious facts. It turns out the facts were completely wrong. But the doctrine of pre-emptive war lives on in many quarters of the foreign policy establishment. This is because there are many who were convinced purely on philosophical grounds and were only secondarily interested in the empirical conclusions of intelligence agencies.

    With that said, scientists at the moment aren't piling up a lot of research showing the destructive consequences of homosexual relationships. In fact, their research seems be pushing the body of knowledge in the opposite direction. That's certainly food for thought and it needs to be taken seriously.

    Brendan, I'm glad you've brought up the relation of science and religion. It seems to me more and more that this is the central issue at play here, and that the way forward must go through this territory.

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  26. Mr. Cat,

    It seems that we agree on a great deal. I'm glad to hear that you think modern science should be considered here. But I still think you're underestimating the ethical significance of facts. You still want to imply a separation between abstract principle and the concrete moral situation.

    You're right that the Iraq War was about more than whether Saddam Hussein had WMDs. There were quite a few people who would have opposed a pre-emptive war even if they were certain the Iraqi dictator had nerve gas or a nuclear bomb. But if you look at it closely, you'll see that a morally serious person must base even their opposition to pre-emptive war on facts: the fact that many soldiers and civilians will die, the fact that aggression by one nation will encourage aggression by others. Of course you can always argue that pre-emptive war is simply wrong from a spiritual perspective and leave it at that, but don't expect anyone to take you seriously. If you want to make the case that an invasion is unethical, you need to provide reasons, you need to provide facts. And it's the same in a debate over any other issue, including gay marriage. You must submit your beliefs to what Abdu'l-Baha calls "the established logical modes of the intellect."

    Brendan

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  27. According to the religions, lust is evil. This was the central teaching of Buddha, and a basic teaching of Hinduism/Yoga.

    Homosexuality has no natural purpose in nature. It is pure lust.

    Homosexuality has always been understood to be evil.
    You can't take all human wisdom and turn it upside down.

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  28. While moderating I accidentally deleted this comment by SKG Blogger:

    Largest Bahá'í populations (as of 2010) in countries with a national population ≥200,000:

    India 1,897,651 X
    United States 512,864
    Kenya 422,782 X
    Vietnam 388,802
    Congo, Democratic Republic of the 282,916
    Philippines 275,069
    Iran 251,127 X
    Zambia 241,112 X
    South Africa 238,532
    Bolivia 215,359
    Tanzania 190,419 X
    Venezuela 169,811
    Uganda 95,098 X
    Chad 94,499 X
    Pakistan 87,259 X
    Burma (Myanmar) 78,915 X
    Colombia 70,504
    Malaysia 67,549 X
    Thailand 65,096
    Papua New Guinea 59,898 X


    Countries with the greatest proportion of Bahá'ís (as of 2010) with a national population ≥200,000:

    Belize 2.5% (repealed really recently so no X)
    Bolivia 2.2%
    Zambia 1.8% X
    Mauritius 1.8% X
    Guyana 1.6% X
    Vanuatu 1.4%
    Barbados 1.2% X
    Trinidad and Tobago 1.2% X
    Panama 1.2%
    Kenya 1.0% X
    Lesotho 0.9%
    Papua New Guinea 0.9% X
    Réunion 0.9%
    Chad 0.9%
    Botswana 0.8% X
    Gambia 0.8% X
    Suriname 0.8%
    Congo, Republic of the 0.6%
    Solomon Islands 0.6% X
    Venezuela 0.6%

    The above 40 (unless repeats) countries represent countries with high numbers or percentage of Baha'is. What is the state of LGBT rights in these countries? How do Baha'is feel about it there? Examples: NSAs in Guyana and the UK opposing a gender equality amendment because it may lead to LGBT rights in 1999 and supporting Section 28 staying as law in 1996. Also, the Office for the Advancement of Women wanting to ban LGBT artists like Lady Gaga from Malaysia.

    I put an X next to each country where homosexuality is illegal. Currently, 72 countries of so have them. Some countries have gotten rid of the laws since the article like Belize as an example.

    Religion and politics is involved in the laws regarding LGBT people. Religious opposition involves a certain amount of maneuvering when the public doesn't support their platform, so they have a gradualist ice rollback plan in those countries, but in other countries the plan is much more anti-LGBT. Evangelicals in America versus the same evangelicals in Uganda is an example. Evangelicals talk about religious liberty in America, but it's a farce for eventually turning America into Uganda.

    Also, an an ex-Bahai'i Buddhist Julian Curtis Lee's logic is flawed and false. First, he makes an appeal to "human wisdom" and if its traditional, it must be true. Second, he singles out a sexual orientation as being pure lust while all sexuality and orientation as equally lustful. Third, he erroneously says all religions say someone wihout proof. Fourth, Buddha never called stuff evil. He warned against unskillful versus skillful stuff, but never used good versus evil language.

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