Bigotry, Part 1

Self-described Catholic blogger Brandon Vogt recently published Rebuttals to arguments for same-sex marriageHe tries to disprove 10 common same-sex-marriage arguments, but merely highlights the most common mistakes of his own camp. I’m addressing each of his 10 points in separate posts as a kind of back-to-basics review of our opposition.

On Saturday Brandon Vogt responded to one of my posts. I doubt he did his cause much good, but one thing he said stuck in my head: his belief that my post…

…is couched in a smug, condescending tone that makes fruitful dialogue more difficult.

If that’s true (and I can’t claim total innocence) then I’ve made a rhetorical error. I was actually reaching for a somewhat different tone.

Exasperation.

Vogt’s errors of logic and fact are so grievous that eventually a fair reader has to ask, What could make him write that? I wanted to do more than point out his logical flaws. I set to myself to conveying this sense of exasperated wonderment.

That’s why I changed the order of his points and left his examination of #8 for last:

8. Opposition to same-sex marriage is based on bigotry, homophobia and religious hatred.

Vogt worded this ambiguously. He could be trying to dispute either of these interpretations:

  • All opposition to same-sex marriage is based on bigotry, homophobia and religious hatred.
  • Some opposition to same-sex marriage is based on bigotry, homophobia and religious hatred.

I don’t know which version Vogt is taking issue with. I don’t agree with the first one myself, and I’ll address that in another post.

As for the second version, I hope Vogt’s not trying to deny it. Much of our opposition declares gay people to immoral, depraved, Hitler-enabling, America-hating purveyors of evil comparable to murderers and rapists, who reduce their children to trophies, cannot love them like straight parents can, cannot love their partners, are worthy of death, and are in the thrall of Satan, Satan, Satan, Satan, Satan.

And Satan.

Let’s see what Vogt has to say about this. 

First, bigotry. A quick visit to Facebook, Twitter or any online comment box confirms that for many people, support for traditional marriage is tantamount to bigotry.

He’s off to a good start — almost. But no one is called a bigot for their “support for traditional marriage.” Hell, I support what Vogt calls traditional marriage.* No, the bigotry card is thrown at those who opposes same-sex marriage, which ain’t the same thing. But I do agree some people throw it down awfully fast, so I’ll give him that much.

Immediately after this, however, Vogt stumbles badly:

This holds off-line, too. In November, Scottish Cardinal Keith O’Brien was pegged “Bigot of the Year” by a gay rights group for simply opposing same-sex marriage in public.

Really? I’ve encountered this “for simply”  line so many times that I now see it as shorthand for there’s so much more we’re not telling you.

For instance, Cardinal O’Brien opposes even civil unions, saying that:

…such relationships are harmful to the physical, mental, and spiritual well-being of those involved.

And he frets:

But when our politicians suggest jettisoning the established understanding of marriage and subverting its meaning they aren’t derided.

Instead, their attempt to redefine reality is given a polite hearing, their madness is indulged. Their proposal represents a grotesque subversion of a universally accepted human right.

Later, during the backlash, he said this:

Responding to accusations that his use of language, including the word “grotesque”, was inflammatory, he said: ”I am not saying it is grotesque, but perhaps to some people it might appear grotesque.”

Mm hmm. Compare that to his original quote.

Also, he dismissed promises that clergy wouldn’t have to perform same-sex weddings by comparing them to, well, to this:

Imagine for a moment that the Government had decided to legalise slavery but assured us that “no one will be forced to keep a slave”.

Would such worthless assurances calm our fury? Would they justify dismantling a fundamental human right? Or would they simply amount to weasel words masking a great wrong?

You can agree with the Cardinal or not. But you cannot truthfully claim the Cardinal was “simply opposing same-sex marriage in public.”

(Vogt did not provide his readers with links to the Cardinal’s statements.)

Vogt continues:

Second, homophobia. This refers to a fear of homosexuality, and the assumption is that people who oppose same-sex marriage do so because they’re irrationally afraid. But as this article shows, there are many good reasons to oppose same-sex marriage that have nothing to do with fear. Branding someone “homophobic” is typically used to end rational discussion.

This statement is self-refuting. Vogt’s own article is consistently irrational.

  • Does he really believe we allow elderly couples to marry because “it’s simply not worth the effort to restrict them”?
  • Does he not know that he should check “facts” before reporting them (like the 70% of African-Americans who allegedly voted for Prop 8; and he is incapable of seeing that Regnerus’ analysis of same-sex parenting did not actually report on same-sex parents)?
  • Has no one ever told him you can’t conclude that A caused B just because A happened before B (or in the case of his Netherlands examples, during the middle of B)?

We’ve seen other examples, so many others, enough to make us ask What could make him write that? When reason gives way to irrationality, all we can do is wonder at the cause. Vogt says, “Branding someone ‘homophobic’ is typically used to end rational discussion.” Often, though, it’s a recognition that rational discussion has already ended.

Moving on:

Third, religious hatred. Some people disagree with same-sex marriage solely for religious reasons. But, again, as this article demonstrates, one can disagree for other reasons, without appealing to the Bible, divine revelation or any religious authority. You don’t need religious teachings to understand, analyze and discuss the purpose of marriage or its effects on the common good.

But Vogt’s article doesn’t demonstrate good non-religious arguments against same-sex marriage. Meanwhile, SatanSatanSatanSatanSatan. And Satan.

Vogt’s tactic in his last paragraph is desperate, sad, and increasingly common:

If these accusations were all true, it would mean that the overwhelming majority of people throughout time — who by and large supported traditional marriage — would likewise be homophobic, intolerant bigots. That would include the most profound thinkers in many different traditions: Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, Musonius Rufus, Xenophanes, Plutarch, St. Thomas Aquinas, Immanuel Kant and Mahatma Gandhi. Most people would reject such an absurdity.

This is just one appeal to authority, layered over another, layered over another. First, it’s quite possible the majority of people throughout time have in fact been homophobic intolerant bigots. Or, to put it more mildly, have been profoundly misinformed about the nature of gay people and their relationships. In fact, I think it’s likely.

It’s appalling that Vogt even attempts this approach. Just a few paragraphs later, in his #10, he admonishes us not to base our moral views on popular opinion. It’s ridiculous — wait, no, sorry — it’s irrational for him to advise us otherwise here.

His next appeal to authority is a list of great thinkers. I’m not sure how many of them actually opposed same-sex marriage, but I don’t care. I’m not going to surrender my moral reasoning to their opinion just because he says they say so, no matter how big their brains are, because that would be literally irrational.

Speaking of brains, did you know Aristotle thought the brain was a secondary organ whose main purpose was to cool the blood? The man was smarter than me, but he could still be wrong.

Meanwhile, here are a few more facts about Vogt’s Profound Moral Thinkers.

  • Aquinas thought women were intellectually inferior to men.
  • Aristotle wrote, “the male is by nature superior, and the female inferior; and the one rules, and the other is ruled; this principle, of necessity, extends to all mankind.”
  • And according to Kant, “The Negroes of Africa have by nature no feeling that rises above the trifling.”

I bet “most people” would not think it absurd to call one or more of these beliefs intolerant and bigoted. That’s his third appeal to authority, by the way. We don’t evaluate moral views based on popularity, remember?

But I’ve just made an important distinction: The difference between an intolerant bigot and a person who hold an intolerant, bigoted belief. I think there’s a difference. No one achieves moral perfection, and it’s insidious — corrupting, even — to act as if there’s no middle ground between perfection and damnation.

I’ll dig into that in my next post, which is about whether all opposition to same-sex marriage is rooted in bigotry, and whether everyone who holds a bigoted belief must be dismissed as an irredeemable bigot.

 

* For the record, I would like Vogt, or (any traditional marriage supporter) to point to a single year in U.S. history when his ideal tradition was a legal reality.

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20 comments to Bigotry, Part 1

  • 1
    Hugo says:

    Hello Rob ,
    I’ve been enjoying your posts for a long time now.
    I have just read your exchange of comments with Vogt.
    He insists in claiming that procreation is the primary goal of marriage.
    However the traditional catholic marriage vows are all about promises to take care of each other. They never mention children.
    Although to be fair one of the valid reasons for marriage annulment (declaring that the marriage was never valid), is the unwillingness to have children
    Also, I went to catholic school and we were explicitly told that marriage exists for procreation, NOT companionship.
    The Catholic Church might tolerate childless marriages, as long it is not by choice.
    Just playing devil’s advocate here.

  • 2
    Marcus says:

    It’s a surprise to hear the argument about Aristotle, Gandhi etc. from a Christian. One of the good things about the Christian religion is that it owns up to the fact that everybody, no matter how nice or smart, sins (read: is wrong).

    Oh, and “the overwhelming majority of people throughout time” didn’t believe in his Jesus, either.

  • 3
    Scot Colford says:

    Wait? Plato? Who wrote Symposium? I know, makes no lick of difference because you make the essential point that an appeal to authority is a logical fallacy, but still, it struck me as a pretty uninformed appeal. Maybe I’m missing something?

  • 4
    Spunky says:

    Rob,
     
    As always, it’s been a pleasure watching you tear down Vogt’s arguments. I also enjoyed reading your replies to each other on BTB; I wonder how much he’ll claim you misunderstand in his next response.
     
    I would add that he did acknowledge his unfortunate wording in point #6:
     
    “Of course infertile opposite-sex couples can still legitimately marry. My point was merely to show that even if someone accepted the false position that infertile couples should be denied marriage, which is implied in the question ‘If same-sex couples can’t marry because they can’t reproduce, why can infertile couples marry?’, it is not practically enforceable.”
     
    So at least he’s trying to single out gay marriages as illegitimate, rather than the marriages of all infertile couples. I guess that’s better than the alternative?

  • 5
    robtish says:

    Spunky, where did you find that quote where hd acknowledgex his unfortunate wording in point #6? I don’t see that.

  • 6
    robtish says:

    Never mind, Spunky, I see it in his comments section. Here’s the problem.

    The position that infertile couples should be denied the right to marry IS NOT IMPLIED the question ‘If same-sex couples can’t marry because they can’t reproduce, why can infertile couples marry?’ Rather, we’re asking why it’s not implied by his reasoning about same-sex couples. So he got that wrong.

    If his answer to “Why do we let infertile couples marry” is to say “Of course infertile couples can marry,” then it looks like he doesn’t understand the word “why” at all.

     

  • 7
    NastyAlaskan says:

    Vogt says, “Branding someone ‘homophobic’ is typically used to end rational discussion.” Often, though, it’s a recognition that rational discussion has already ended.

     
    Brilliant.  I hope Vogt reads that sentence ten times before replying.

  • 8

    [...] Yesterday I wrote our opponents love to claim they’re persecuted simply for opposing same-sex marriage — claiming it so falsely and frequently, I’ve now learned to interpret simply as code for there’s so much we’re not telling you. [...]

  • 9

    [...] Yesterday I wrote our opponents love to claim they’re persecuted simply for opposing same-sex marriage — claiming it so falsely and frequently, I’ve now learned to interpret simply as code for there’s so much we’re not telling you. [...]

  • 10
    Spunky says:

    Rob,
     
    I can’t disagree with you there. He never does specifically explain why the marriages of infertile couples are legitimate (?). Quite a problem, indeed.
     
    He does address this question in his responses to you on BTB by simply repeating the talking points of George et al. [On a side note, it's amazing how many people use the phrase "oriented toward procreation" as not just a means to an end, but an end itself (Chairm, Dr. Morse, and Brandon Vogt, to name a few).] Unfortunately for him, you are well-versed in this sort of language. My favorite part of the debate on BTB was when he referred you to “What is Marriage?” to have a better idea of what he was talking about, not realizing that you knew exactly what he was talking about.

  • 11
    robtish says:

    Spunky, I have to confess I enjoyed that moment too.

  • 12
    Deeelaaach says:

    I for one have never considered your posts to be smug or condescending.  I have always considered them to be written in a rational, explanatory tone, and yes, I do detect exasperation at times. 
    Regargdless, tone is something that one can bring to the discussion – by the reader as well as the writer.  Vogt, as well as any other reader, might interpret such a tone where one is not intended, as you pointed out. 
    I only read two blogs regularly, and yours is one of them.  I read other blogs occasionally, but yours is one that I’m always checking for new posts, mostly checking daily.  I’d check more often but my health is poor.  I can’t tell you why I read yours because I don’t know for sure.  But I can say that I have found your posts to be intelligent, well thought out and reasonably argued.  I’ve been reading it for a few years now, and I have found the tone to be consistent.  Of course I must admit that may be my own interpretation (see above) and my own opinion. 

  • 13
    Neil says:

    I’d hate to be a bug but do you still plan on posting the second part of this topic?

  • 14
    robtish says:

    I do. It’s called Error, Bigotry, and Bigots, but it’s slow going.

  • 15
    Neil says:

    Alright, thanks for the response.  I look forward to reading it when it’s finished.

  • 16

    I’m looking forward to “Error Bigotry and Bigots” whenever you finish it. Thanks for this terrific series.

  • 17

    [...] and see where it goes.  Specifically, I want to explore that bit I wrote a few weeks ago (in Bigotry, Part 1) where I made a [...]

  • 18

    [...] and see where it goes.  Specifically, I want to explore that bit I wrote a few weeks ago (in Bigotry, Part 1) where I made a [...]

  • 19

    [...] of Scotland made the news into two completely different, shocking but not entirely surprising ways. First, he opposed same-sex marriage in the UK, calling it grotesque, analogizing it to slavery, and [...]

  • 20

    [...] of Scotland made the news into two completely different, shocking but not entirely surprising ways. First, he opposed same-sex marriage in the UK, calling it grotesque, analogizing it to slavery, and [...]

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