In response to my fisking of his essay, BeastRabban has issued a rebuttal;
Cognitive Dissident, let's go through your reply:
Really? Name one "atheist polemic" that has made such a "deliberate appeal to the gay community." That's OK...I'll wait. (I say this with a fair amount of confidence, having read numerous recent atheist books--Comte-Sponville, Dawkins, Dennett, Harris, Hitchens, Onfray, and Stenger, to name a few--that featured no LGBT appeals of more than incidental significance.
Now this statement seems to be an admission that Dawkins, Dennett, Harris, Hitchens and co nevertheless have incidentally made appeals to the gay community. Now I didn't say that the appeal was blatant, extended, or whatever, only that it was there.
Which philosophies does he believe are fashionable? Neo-conservatism? The militia movement? Scientology? Moonies? Raelians? David Koresh? Jim Jones? Aum Shinrikyo? Freethought is on the rise, especially among the younger generations, but it is hardly "fashionable."
Sorry, this seems to be a bit muddled. You seem to assume that if I consider Nihilism fashionable, then I must consider any or all of the above. But in point of fact, I have come across expressions of Nihilism by members of the gay community in the press, as I've said, in the columns devoted to current opinion or trends. So, my comment still stands.
Now let's turn to the comments about Dawkins' statement about sexuality being 'wishy-washy'. Now these weren't mine - they Rod Liddle's, and I said so. If you watched the programme, you'd find that Dawkins agreed. Kant, Mill etc didn't come into it. Regarding Utilitarianism, one of the problems with it is that 'the greatest happiness for the greatest number' can lead to injustice. If the greatest number decide that homosexuality is evil, for example, and gays should be punished, then by that maxim punishing gays for being homosexual is morally right.
On what basis would tolerance be rejected? Without harm--or without a religion that claimed an offense against a supernatural deity--where would the justification for "intolerance and persecution" arise?
This really is just rhetoric. As I said, in the 19th century scientists did find naturalistic explanations for why homosexuality was evil, so you don't need religion to persecute gays.
." His supposition that "many" equals three is specious enough, but only one of his examples is an ideology: Freudianism; the other two are specific regimes, not ideologies. (This reduces his claim of "many" to one, and I don't even need to mention that the allegedly "vehemently antichristian" Nazis were actually very Christian...they were, however, vehemently anti-Semitic.)
Firstly, Nazism and Communism were ideologies long before they were regimes. Marxism may be different from 'Communism', but Communism, or Marxist-Leninism, was an ideology. The various pronouncements by its leaders were articulated as 'theses', for example. Hostility to homosexuals may not have been an integral part of that ideology, but nevertheless it found a place within it.
As for the Nazis being fervent Christians, this is a very tired old canard. As I said, Hitler hated Christianity. Read his Table Talk .
No, your theistic condemnations of and prohibitions against homosexuality (not to mention masturbation, sodomy, and premarital sex) require justification...which has been severely lacking. Neither homosexuality nor any other sexual activity between consenting adults need justify itself to you.
This is just a rant, an assertion without any supporting argument. The problem is, correct expressions of sexuality are always framed within a moral theory. In his Laws , for example, Plato discusses the problem of homosexuality as part of a general discussion of the problem of correct procreation, which also includes subjects like incest.
Then, at least from your viewpoint, they deserve temporal mistreatment and--when their deaths end the ill effects of your disapproval--eternal torture at the hands of your "loving" god.
You're imputing something to me that I never said. I said that homosexuality departed from the divinely mandated ideal. I did not say it merited punishment. Now in point of fact, I don't believe in persecuting nor prosecuting gays. In fact, I stated that I didn't want them to be persecuted. So you seem to be suggesting that I'm in favour of something that I'm not.
Now let's go back to your comments about Leviticus. Yes, it's there. However, there is no particular stress on homosexuality in the early Church. It was preached against as part of a general attitude that sex should only be within marriage, but as far as I know, there was no persecution of gays within the early church. The most you get is a comment by one of the Church fathers to close the doors to stop pederasts looking in at the boys. Even in the Middle Ages, while there is a lot of preaching against it, there are very few prosecutions. Now there are two ways of looking at this: either everyone was far more straight than usual; or it was well hidden; or it wasn't necessarily much of an issue. None of these are necessarily mutually exclusive.
As for gays going to hell - I don't know if they do or not. I make no judgment on it, except that a lot of the gays I know are probably better blokes than me, and I would suspect that they would still merit a reward in heaven for their virtues, regardless of their sexuality.
Here is my response:
I'll begin with an apology: I was not trying to impute all of religion's sanction for bigoted actions onto you as a person. My pronoun use was intended to indicate theists in general, not you in particular. I apologize for any unintentional insult due to my lack of clarity.
Now on to our disagreement:
You claimed "one of the most noticeable features of recent atheist polemic is its deliberate appeal to the gay community." I noted no such appeal after reading many such polemics, but you have still not provided even a single example. After going through some of my notes, the following are examples of what I called "incidental" references to homosexuality:
"Maybe in the future, if more of us brights will just come forward and calmly announce that of course we no longer believe in any of those Gods, it will be possible to elect an atheist to some office higher than senator. We now have Jewish and female senators and homosexual members of Congress, so the future looks bright." (Daniel Dennett, Breaking the Spell, p. 245)
"Faith drives a wedge between ethics and suffering. Where certain actions cause no suffering at all, religious dogmatists still maintain that they are evil and worthy of punishment (sodomy, marijuana use, homosexuality, the killing of blastocysts, etc.). And yet, where suffering and death are found in abundance their causes are often deemed to be good (withholding funds for family planning in the third world, prosecuting nonviolent drug offenders, preventing stem-cell research, etc). This inversion of priorities not only victimizes innocent people and squanders scarce resources; it completely falsifies our ethics." (Sam Harris, The End of Faith, pp. 168-9)
"The attitude of the 'American Taliban' toward homosexuality epitomizes their religious absolutism." (Richard Dawkins, The God Delusion, p. 327)
One could hardly write about the problems caused by revealed religion without at least mentioning its animosity toward homosexuality as one aspect of its general fear and/or hatred of non-procreative sex. However, I did not notice--or make note of, which would be equally surprising--any "deliberate appeal" to the LGBT community; I assume you have stronger examples to support your original assertion.
Your utilitarian example is still predicated--at least by Mill's definition--on some sort of harm. Absent any harm to others due to gay "sinfulness," which can be easily alleged but has yet to be demonstrated, this falls in the realm of "tyranny of the majority."
Depending on which sources are emphasized, Hitler's different sentiments about Christianity at different times to various public and private audiences can give differing impressions. (I am aware of Table Talk, but there are numerous--and obvious--counter-examples: Hitler's many public pro-Christian exhortations and his 1941 claim that "I am now as before a Catholic and will always remain so.") His personal beliefs--whatever they actually were--do not change the fact that his regime (or ideology, if you prefer) relied upon the German people's Catholic and Lutheran beliefs (especially their religiously motivated anti-Semitism) in order to support and carry out his hideous "Final Solution." Richard Dawkins makes a related point in The God Delusion:
"Either Hitler's professions of Christianity were sincere, or he faked his Christianity in order to win--successfully--co-operation from German Christians and the Catholic Church. In either case, the evils of Hitler's regime can hardly be held up as flowing from atheism." (p. 277)
Naturalistic fallacies may support homophobia, but the facts do not. I would hardly use Plato (or even the nineteenth century) as a guide, as the concept of sexual orientation barely existed before the late 1800s. Without said concept, same-sex attraction was often considered a disorder (a la Freud) or a perversion of "natural" heterosexuality. Our increasing understanding of sexual orientation, especially over the past few decades, makes such suppositions increasingly untenable. You say that "correct expressions of sexuality are always framed within a moral theory," but a moral theory that does not fit the facts--whether rooted in theism or not--is itself in need of correction.
I am not an expert on either Freud or his psychoanalytic method, but this sentiment of his to a mother of a gay son (dated 9 April 1935) seems especially germane (scans of page 1 and page 2 courtesy of The Library of Congress):
"Homosexuality is assuredly no advantage, but it is nothing to be ashamed of, no vice, no degradation, it cannot be classified as an illness; we consider it to be a variation of the sexual function produced by a certain arrest of sexual development. Many highly respectable individuals of ancient and modern times have been homosexuals, several of the greatest men among them (Plato, Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, etc.). It is a great injustice to persecute homosexuality as a crime, and cruelty too."
Freud, Sigmund, "Letter to an American mother", American Journal of Psychiatry, 107 (1951): p. 787
This "arrested development" thesis would be unsupportable if expressed today, but was moderately progressive for its time. Again, removing homophobia's supporting bulwark of religion leads would-be bigots in search of an alternative support for anti-gay animus. Nothing of comparable strength, and certainly nothing derived from disbelief, has filled this void.
Here we get to my main objection to your thesis: In and of itself, atheism is merely the absence of theistic belief. As such, it has no particular stance on any number of issues, including politics, civil rights, and sexual propriety. Particular theisms, and here I am most familiar with Christianity, do have a number of definite stances regarding death by stoning for homosexuality and other abominations, eternal punishment for sinners, etc. (The fact that the Bible is contradictory, especially between Testaments, makes this situation worse, at least for literalists and fundamentalists. Without an extra-biblical system of ethics, Christianity would have no way to discard the worst elements of its violent and prejudicial heritage.) Atheism is not a panacea for gay rights, but it does have the advantage of removing several rather large impediments; it is thus capable of greater respect for diversity than was present among ancient kings, their tribes, and their scribes.