Tradition, sides, and dogma

In my article "Love wins battle, war against dogma continues" (July 5, 2015), I argue that most arguments against same-sex marriage consist, at least in part, of an appeal to tradition. "It used to be this way, so it must continue to be this way," even if that way is arbitrary and discriminatory. To this, I got a retort from a conservative, nationalistic, theistic 'Murican.

This theist has an American flag as his profile picture, which to me is just as frighteningly dogmatic as people who pose with their precious guns. This tells me he is the kind of person who thinks "his people" is better than "the other" (I will write about this further down); in other words, he is a patriot, a nationalist. His wall cover is "Isaac and Rebekah found in Genesis 24," which he claims is "one of the greatest examples of monogamous marriage," although a friend of his disagreed on the basis that "she was his second wife," as if that invalidates love and marriage in some way. Ironically, among his favorite quotes, he has one that goes "Come, let us reason together" and one by Apostle Paul that says "Faith is the evidence of things unseen," which is the opposite of reason. All in all, it seems he is, indeed, a conservative, nationalistic, theistic 'Murican. Plenty of conservative, Christian Americans wear their religion and nationality on their sleeve; pride is a sin, yet so many conservative theists show excessive pride in their religiosity, nationality, and race.

The original Facebook post can be found here.

His comment, regarding same-sex marriage and my rebuttal of arguments that basically are just an appeal to tradition (or also a higher power), was that "this is not Legacy vs. Merit relationships. It never was! Both have existed since the most ancient of times. In other words, it is legacy and merit." He continued that if I think I will rid the world of "Legacy relationships," I should think again; he stated, "You can no more do that than straight people can rid the world of gays. Exchanging on hate for another achieves nothing." Then he dropped the mic, although that really only works if you have a foolproof argument.

I must admit that based on his comment, I had questions about where he stands on same-sex marriage. On the one hand, he seems to be saying that I cannot change people who think in terms of tradition, so therefore I should not hate them for spreading hate against others. On the other hand, he stated that traditional values have both "legacy" and merit, meaning he thinks traditional marriage is good because it has historical roots and objective value, even though there is no merit to discriminating against same-sex couples.

I disagree that regressive, conservative values have any merit, whatsoever; they are often dehumanizing and discriminatory, in the case of same-sex marriage toward same-sex couples. Marriage is an arbitrary concept invented by human beings, nothing more and nothing less. However, we have based our societies in large part around the concept of marriage, and it must thus be a universal human right, regardless of who wants to marry whom (with the exception of age restrictions). It is not hateful to oppose the oppression of LGBT, but what is necessary.

The only arguments of "merit" rather than tradition that conservative theists can muster is "God said so" and also "we will have sex with animals." Neither of these actually has any merit, of course. God's opinion on any issue is not more than his opinion (should he exist), and it must thus be criticized based on its own merit, not blindly accepted because "God said so." And marriage is still arbitrary, regardless of God's existence or not, so there is no excuse for discrimination. Appealing to a higher power, or "holiness" as an innate and important quality of something, is illogical, as I wrote in my last blog post:

Holiness is an arbitrary and dangerous concept invented by humans, or even God if it does turn out he exists, to keep people from questioning. "Holy" lets conservative theists hold on to archaic values; it is an important part of religion and it is what makes the Abrahamic religions conservative in their very nature. Holiness is a force for conservatism, the adherence to traditional values; it is not something that actually exists as a property of values, places, people, and things. However, even religious values have changed and do change, albeit slowly, much slower than other cultural values. (Love wins battle, war against dogma continues, July 5, 2015)

In addition to assigning authority specifically to God, theists seem to think anything is justified if it is done in the name of their faith. I have seen many say that religious freedom should mean someone whose faith says gays are bad should not have to deal with homosexual people. However, defending one's bigoted position with "it's my faith" is only an argument for why one's faith is bigoted. People's faith is, at least part of, their worldview, and it is one's worldview that makes one bigoted or not. Bigotry does not exist as an innate quality that defines inherently bad people; rather, it is taught, passed on through tradition and worldview, meaning "it's my faith" as a defense is about as solid as saying, "I'm a bigot so I should get to persecute whomsoever I want, because I have a right to be a bigot." My blog post "The first goddamn stone" (May 10, 2015) dealt with this issue:

It is homophobic to have a homophobic belief. It is misogynistic to have a misogynistic belief. It is racist to have a racist belief. It is bigoted to act on one's faith if one's faith is bigoted. Religion has enjoyed its protected seat on the pedestal long enough, and "you can't insult someone's faith" should no longer be a valid counterargument to criticism. Too many people have been hit by too many stones. (The first goddamn stone, May 10, 2015)

The second argument I mentioned conservatives use is basically that we will have sex with animals if same-sex marriage is allowed, which is quite ignorant and deluded. The fear that change begets change until something horrible happens, sort of like the straw-man argument that free healthcare is bad because it apparently leads to Nazism and genocide, is simply irrational. Same-sex marriage will not lead to bestiality, because bestiality is not dependent on the law; the reason most people do not have sex with animals is not the law. (However, I will say this: If anyone can come up with a valid argument against bestiality on a moral basis, other than consent issues, I would like to see it.)

Let's get back to what my theistic critic actually wrote, though: I disagree that my criticizing conservative ideologies and traditional religions, indeed religion in and of itself, is to "exchange on hate". My argument is not based on hatred against Christians, or Muslims, or Jews, or any people; I know there are theists both progressive and conservative. My argument is only based on the conservative and destructive nature of religion, at the hands of those indoctrinated into accepting traditional values. Progressive theists need not feel insulted much in the same way as every man does not need to feel personally insulted by criticism of patriarchic structures; I am criticizing religions as systems of belief, worldviews, or ideologies as well as those theists who lean more toward the side of tradition than that of reason. There is no hate coming from my side; the hatred is coming from the conservative camp, which wants to strip people of human rights based only on sexual orientation, race, gender, place of birth, etcetera.

It is also quite ignorant to claim that the world cannot be rid of "Legacy relationships," or in other words tradition, as I understand it. Perhaps humans will always adhere to a set of traditions, in one sense or another, but old traditions can be eliminated or changed. Indeed, even the most conservative of Christians would be considered progressive by ancient standards, because even religions, which dogmatically adhere to traditional values on the basis of "holiness" and such, have changed and do change.

The last thing I want to bring up is what I mentioned early on: the us-versus-them thinking. While there is nothing that says any culture must be equal to all other cultures, the reasons why people hate other cultures are often arbitrary, like fashion, language, and harmless customs, rather than an analysis of freedom, equality, and human rights. This arbitrary thinking is what creates the us-versus-them thinking; instead of objectively measuring what one culture does right and what it does wrong, all people with ties to a culture which simply is different are dehumanized, demonized, and made into monsters, and all aspects of a culture are viewed as bad just because some aspects truly are.

Just like all people of the "other" culture are grouped together, so that they are seen as collectively guilty for any of their culture's transgressions, whether these transgressions are valid or just harmless, arbitrary differences, the people who judge "the others" not seldom think they speak for their own culture and everyone in it; especially conservatives do this, it seems, and almost always with the use of the no-true-Scotsman fallacy. For example, conservative Americans have defined what it means to be "American" and "patriotic" (as if patriotism, or at least their idea of patriotism, is a good thing), and they speak about "taking back their country." In this sense, subcultures and dissenting opinions within one overarching super culture are seen as "the other". Thus, some Americans have convinced themselves that they speak for all Americans, or at least all "true" Americans. Any debate regarding any issue turns into a battle of sides rather than the issue itself; people drink the Kool-Aid, so to speak, or believe what they are told by the authority figures on their side.

What is even worse, many people, mostly conservatives as always, think they can speak for not only cultures and ideologies, which at least have doctrine (and dogma) in common, but also races and sexual orientations, which do not have any doctrine (or dogma) in common. The theist wrote that I can no more rid the world of tradition than straight people can rid the world of gays; the way this sentence reads, it seems he thinks that it is "straight" to oppose homosexuality, that all straight people want to rid the world of homosexuality. It seems he thinks he is speaking for straight people by opposing homosexuality, as if equality is a war of one side versus the other side, "straight versus gay", so that if one side wins the other side loses.

That is not how it works in reality, though. Equality for LGBT may not benefit me as an individual, but it also does not hurt me and does benefit many other people; thus, if "gays win", it does not mean I lose because I am straight. My being straight also does not mean I oppose LGBT, as straight is not a worldview, ideology, or opinion. I am very pro-LGBT, as no one should be persecuted for living the way they want to live or have to live (as LGBT is no choice), if they harm no one else. I see plenty of conservatives speak about what white people want, what men want, and apparently what straight people want, as if all straight, white men share an ideology and are on the same side; this is, simply put, ignorant, if not downright stupid.

A while back, I found an article in which a conservative man, called Captain Capitalism, complained about Mad Max: Fury Road being "feminist propaganda" when it was supposed to be a "guy flick", because it had a strong, female character and men apparently do not like that; he thought he could speak for all men (and any man who disagrees is obviously not a "true" man and has been brainwashed by the "feminist propaganda"). I had this to say:

This is hands down one of the dumbest things I've read in a while. How sad some people are, so afraid of change in their conservative bubble of dogma. So afraid of change, in fact, that a film with a strong female character or a plot that doesn't revolve entirely around a testosterone-fueled man leading the charge through explosions (a "guy flick") must be leftist, feminist propaganda, pushing the dangerous idea that women are equal to men in regards to "physique, strength, and logic" (logic is not this guy's strong suit).

Question: Does anyone seriously believe there really are "chick flicks" and "guy flicks" anymore? As if women can't enjoy action and men can't enjoy emotion?

Anyway, thank you, "Captain Capitalism", for speaking for "real" men and women who are so insecure in themselves that they need to seek refuge in already established gender roles. Really. Fuck you. (Facebook, May 18, 2015)

The original Facebook post can be found here.

With worldviews or ideologies, like religions, traditions, doctrine, and dogma are shared, which means there are things to criticize (or praise). Even so, however, actual theists will be shaped not only by their religion, but other factors, as well; this means even theists who share traditions, doctrine, and dogma will not all be the same or agree on every issue. Why, then, would skin color, gender, or sexual orientation suggest common ground in more significant ways than the "truth" that is drilled into one's head as a child? Skin color, gender, sexual orientation, etcetera are often relevant in regards to worldviews (white supremacy, fascism) and they affect how one is treated by the world (non-whites, women, and LGBT being three very valid examples of mistreatment), but there is no inherent doctrine or dogma tied to them. Therefore, one cannot assume to speak for everyone who shares one characteristic, like sexual orientation or gender or skin color; it is, indeed, illogical to do so, and it requires quite the hubris.

The last thing I will say is this: Progress has been made regarding many issues, even if we compare what we are now to what we were not very long ago at all. One major victory in America is that same-sex marriage is now the law of the land. So, obviously, the world can be rid of ancient traditions and traditional values, even though my theistic critic does not think so, and may be uncomfortable with a changing world. That's because conservatives are like fish on land: They can't quite tell how they ended up there, but it is a world they find uncomfortable, as they splash around erratically, and soon enough they are gone, which is when the next fish will follow and throw its dying tantrum, as well. The fight against those who oppose progress will continue, but it is nice to know that a major blow was struck very recently.

This is a follow-up to my article "Love wins battle, war against dogma continues". Be sure to read that article, as well!

Update (July 14, 2015): Either very late on July 13 or very early on July 14 (for Americans), 2015, my theistic critic responded, claiming it is dogmatic to want change. Read more in my second follow-up blog post, "The epitome of dogma" (July 14, 2015). His comment can be seen in the image below.

Patrick Hall

Author of speculative fiction. Blogger of thoughts. Devout atheist. Scary leftist. Awkward introvert. Proud great ape. Amazon: