Sunday, November 19, 2006

Penguin tale upsets fundamentalists


The intensity, in certain circles, of antigay hostility is truly astounding. Now consider the following true story. Two male penguins at the Central Park Zoo in New York City (obviously liberal penguins) cared for a fertilized egg together and co-operated together to raise the chick. A completely true story.

A story book about this true incident was published and the fundamentalist crowd is apoplectic. Baptist Press is shrieking that the story book “has ignored an important fact -- the penguins long ago split up, with one of them going on to nest with the opposite sex.”

Ah, folks, did you notice we are talking about penguins here. They are birds. To crow (pardon the pun) that the penguins “split up” is about the silliest thing I ever heard. Two penguins of the same sex raised a chick and exhibited some homosexual behaviour. But the idea that a bird has a sexual orientation is a bit premature. Homosexual behaviour has been documented in many, many species. It is not unknown in the animal world any more than in the human world. But is it the same a human sexual orientation? That is not clear to me.

Presumably Baptist Press (who knew Baptist’s could read?) thinks there was a plot to cover up the “break up” of the penguins. (I honestly can’t believe I’m speaking about penguins “breaking up”.) BP reports: “Although the six-year relationship between Silo and Roy [the two male penguins] made headlines nationwide, the breakup was mentioned far less. The book was published before the two penguins split.”

And then they quote the fundamentalist Warren Throckmorton as saying that the penguin who left for a female was the “world’s first ex-gay penguin.” Throckmorton said: “"At times gay activists will use the animal kingdom to support the link between naturalism and human sexuality, and yet when Silo ... took up with a female penguin, the gay activists were downplaying the importance of that,. You can't have it both ways. It either means something or it doesn't."

It either means something or it doesn’t. Cut and dried, white and black. Typical fundamentalist thinking. It can mean something in one way but not in another way at the same time. Does it mean animals have sexual orientations? Not necessarily. But it does mean that homosexual behaviour, which is different from one’s sexual orientation, is not uncommon in the animal world. Fundamentalists used to claim that only sinful humans engaged in gay sex. And they claimed that proved homosexuality is unnatural -- a term they seem incapable of defining in a logical way.

Old Warren says: “"What we shouldn't do is commit the naturalistic fallacy that if it's natural then it's morally acceptable, I don't get my moral reasoning from watching the barnyard. I get my moral compass from other places. If I want to know what's moral, I go to church. I don't go to the barnyard."

As if church is a reliable place to learn about morality.

Whether or not penguins have gay sex does not address whether gay sex for humans is “moral” only whether it is natural. And natural means found in nature. Now Throckmorton’s fellow Bible addicts had proclaimed for decades that the alleged “absence” of homosexual conduct in the animal kingdom proved that “not even animals” would stoop “so low” as to engage in gay sex. So they were wrong. And now they turn the argument inside-out to attack people who support equal rights for gays.

As I said animal behaviour only tells us what is natural not what is moral. And equally it tells us what is natural and not what is immoral. But that claim was made by the Religious Right for decades until they were once again show to be ignorant of reality -- they delve in reality so little one can hardly blame them for being so woefully misinformed.

Now what would make homosexuality immoral? First, not that absurd collection of fairy tales called the Bible or the other absurd collection called the Qu’ran. Cloaking ancient bullshit with god talk doesn’t make it a source of rational morality.

I start with some certain presuppositions regarding my moral code. First, is one doing something that violates the life, liberty or property of another person? If the answer is yes then I say it is immoral and it ought to be a crime.

Next I ask if one is doing something that is inherently self-destructive? Consenting sexual activity between adults is not inherently self-destructive. Now there is a case to be made that indiscriminate sexual contact is inherently self-destructive but that is true no matter the genders of the partners. Something that is inherently self-destructive, is, I believe, immoral. But homosexuality is no more inherently destructive than heterosexuality.

My ethical values however go much deeper. I also ask whether or not one is treating their partner in a loving manner. There can be cases where a voluntary sexual encounter is inappropriate, even immoral, merely because one party has “used” the other in a manner that they have reasonable cause to believe will cause distress for the other. That to me is immoral although it is certainly not a crime and ought to remain outside the realm of the legal system.

But what amazes me is the inability of fundamentalists to see morality in a proper perspective. They seem to focus almost exclusively on the genitals. I have heard parents saying the most abominable, damaging things to their children. And good Christians just ignore this. But let two adults rub their genitals together and the fundamentalist explodes.

I remember one time I was in New York City’s Washington Square near the great arch. A young boy, I would guess around 14, was practicing his tennis serves by hitting the ball against the arch. His father was standing there “instructing” him. But this man was a monster. He would scream the most abusive things at this boy if he missed the ball. The man was psychotic in my opinion and I’m sure that the boy today has little to do with the creep.

At first when you hear this abuse you are taken aback. My first thought was one of disbelief. Did I actually hear what I thought I heard? He was now quiet and I ignored it. Then there was another vile outburst at the child. I turned to watch. And then another. I had enough now. The park was filled with people and they all pretended they didn’t hear a thing. This was child abuse. It may not have been physical, though I am convinced that the man was not beyond that, but it was severe abuse.

I lost my temper and went after the bastard. I started screaming at him. He seemed horrified that anyone would say to him anything remotely similar to the way he was treating his young son. The boy was shaking and trying to tell me: “No, it’s my fault. It’s my fault. Don’t yell at him.” At that point I knew this kid had been abused his entire life and had accepted the lie that he was responsible for his treatment. I wanted to smack this father right then and there. I told him off and walked away because I was on the verge of assault.

A few seconds later I heard this mindless fuck scream again at the boy and turned to go back. A man who had witnessed my intervention however decided he would say something. And he was now letting this father have it as well.

Now if public surveys are anything to go by the overwhelming majority of people in that park were Christians. Yet it took a godless atheist to stand up for a child who was being terribly abused. The others just ignored it and only after I said something did another person step in.

But what do you think would have happened it these people stumbled across two individuals rubbing their genitals. Outrage. Now I’m not saying it is appropriate to have sex in public view. But I am saying the Christians have a disproportionate view of what it means to be moral.

Even if I assume, and I don’t, that homosexuality is “immoral” it would be so far down the list of moral crimes as to warrant almost no attention at all. A man who mistreats his wife bothers me a lot more than two individuals fo the same sex loving one another. There are so many “sins” rooted in hatred and contempt for others. Yet these get ignored.

We have Christianists endorsing the use of torture by the US government. We have the use of torture ordered by a self-proclaimed “Christian” president. And most fundamentalists are saying nothing about it and those who do speak out are endorsing it! Let two men kiss each other good bye in public and watch how the Christians respond. The kiss offends them. Torture doesn’t.

All around us we have people inflicting emotional, and often physical, pain on others. And the fundamentalists are in the forefront of inflicting such pain. They intentionally say things which are meant to hurt people. And to me anyone that intentionally tries to inflict emotional pain on others is immoral. And that immorality is of a far more serious nature than any two adults voluntarily touching one another in way intended to give pleasure.

What sort of warped values must one have to spend so much time attacking people for bringing pleasure to one another while ignoring those who inflict pain, discomfort and abuse?

15 Comments:

Blogger David said...

The answer is simple really:

The penguins were bisexual.

November 19, 2006

 
Blogger beepbeepitsme said...

RE: fundamentalists

Top 10 Signs You're A Christian Fundamentalist
http://beepbeepitsme.blogspot.com/2006/11/top-10-signs-youre-christian_20.html

November 19, 2006

 
Blogger Publius II said...

Interesting story. I'd be interested to see a little more about these penguins. Under your definition of "natural" then yes, homosexual behavior would be natural. But as you pointed out, moral and natural are two different things.

For once I agree with you on your opinion of the how the Church seems to call out sexual immorality over other sins that are just as destructive, if not more so. Your example of the abusive father is a good one. I also agree with you that there should be no distinguishing between hetero- and homo-sexual immorality. They are both equally immoral, regardless of what "level" of immorality they are assigned (for lack of a better term).

Of course I must take issue with this though:

Now what would make homosexuality immoral? First, not that absurd collection of fairy tales called the Bible or the other absurd collection called the Qu’ran. Cloaking ancient bullshit with god talk doesn’t make it a source of rational morality.

What makes the Bible a rational source of morality is its source. If in fact the Bible is the written communication to mankind from the God Who created us and Who is there, then it absolutely would follow rationally that it is absolutely a rational guide and source for morality. There is too much uniqueness about the Scriptures to discard it simply as man-made "fairy tales" as you say.

If on the other hand you do choose to discard it and believe that there is no God who is there, and that He has not spoken, then you would be correct in your assumption that you can simply define morality however you wish.

But therein lies the problem. If you study the Bible, you find a heaping mountain of evidence that indicates that it cannot be simply man-made fairy tales, and it cannot be explained away. So given that fact, how can we be so arrogant to assume otherwise?

November 20, 2006

 
Blogger luggage79 said...

Hey Publius,
what "heaping mountain of evidence" are you referring to? Care to elaborate?
Plus, slightly off the topic coming back to an earlier post: the nutcase working for BA who wanted to wear her cross on the outside got slammed. There seems to be reason left in this world :-)

November 20, 2006

 
Blogger Publius II said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

November 20, 2006

 
Blogger CLS said...

Trolling for converts, PUblius?

November 20, 2006

 
Blogger GodlessZone said...

Publius: If you wish to go fishing for converts to your Calvinism you are free to do so but not here. Please do not post solicitations to people to email you directly so you can push fundamentalism at them.

November 20, 2006

 
Blogger luggage79 said...

shit, and I was really waiting for that "mountain of evidence" to convince me that the bible is true :-) :-) :-)
Publius, can't you just put the mountain on here without me e-mailing you?
Or maybe a little hill?

November 20, 2006

 
Blogger Publius II said...

She asked a direct question. I would think that I would be entitled to answer it for her. Are you that afraid of ideas?

November 21, 2006

 
Blogger luggage79 said...

Don't try to use me here, Publius. If you cannot answer my question without preaching, that is none of my business.

November 21, 2006

 
Blogger GodlessZone said...

Publius, Luggage79 did ask a direct question. Your sermon was not to offer evidence in any form at all. You merely started preaching about sinners needing salvation and how they need to find Jesus. That was not an answer that was a sermon. It evaded the question and used the question as an excuse to push fundamentalist religion. If you wish to call that a fear of ideas I don't mind. You are entitled to your own beliefs no matter how far off they are. I note that I know of no fundamentalist church that will turn over the pulpit to rationalists to spout their anti-gospel. Are you say they are afraid of ideas? Or is it only when atheists refuse to give a forum to fundamentalists that this accusation is trouted out?

November 21, 2006

 
Blogger Publius II said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

November 21, 2006

 
Blogger Publius II said...

Actually NGZ, you should check out a man named Ravi Zacharias, who is well a known apologist out of Atlanta. He, and many others that I can name if you sincerely are interested in it, make a habit of turning over the pulpit to anyone who would like to intellectually challenge the biblical philosophies and world views. www.rzim.org

And I did not offer any comments whatsoever pertaining to luggage's question. I provided my email so that the question could be answered outside of your website, in an attempt to respect your wishes.

If you are talking about my response to her comment in the other thread about the belief in hell as being "sadistic" then that's another matter. Had you not deleted a good bit of that comment, you could see that I made no such statement about sinners needing Jesus. I simply made 2 points: first that I (or anyone else I know) do not hate anyone we believe is going to hell, which are unbelievers - and secondly that the reason for hell's existence makes logical sense. But you seem to be so nonsensically offended by the use of biblical words and phrases to explain those two points that you flippantly dismissed my comments without bothering to think about what was being said. Disagree with me. Reason with me. But at least give me the courtesy to explain my thoughts and beliefs when they are being challenged on this blog.

Lastly, if I lay out my reasons as briefly as possible for believing in the authenticity of the bible as God's Word, will you allow it and allow for further discussion on the matter, or will you simply delete it and dismiss my ideas out of spite?

November 21, 2006

 
Blogger GodlessZone said...

Zacharias may do so on occassion but those are the excpetions not the rule. A general statement is true even if there are some exceptions. Now surely you are not saying this is common practice in fundamentalist churches?

Regarding Luggage's question. You say you "did not offer any comments" only "provide my email". This is false. You first offered a sermon which I then deleted parts of because it was in violation of the no preaching policy. Then you asked her to email you directly so that you could preach privately via emai to her (I see no reason you wouldn't continue to do privately what you did publicly). Either way you were using my blog to find an audience to preach your gospel.

In regards to laying out your reasons for believing the nonsense in the Bible are you asking me to give you blog space for ths? It surely doesn't fit in the comments section as it stands since comments are about the blog post not about any topic in question. If I post something on that topic you can respond and you can say why you think the post I made is wrong using standard evidence procedures. If the argument is that not all Christians believe X then it is not pertinent as "all Christians" don't believe anything. If you want to argue an alternative theology that is merely a restatement of the first problem only in a different form. If you want to offer factual evidence, not theological belief, then we can consider it. But merely offering theology offers us nothing but your own imagination.

November 21, 2006

 
Blogger Publius II said...

Zacharias may do so on occassion but those are the excpetions not the rule. A general statement is true even if there are some exceptions. Now surely you are not saying this is common practice in fundamentalist churches?

It depends on how you define "fundamentalist churches." This is quickly becoming common practice in certain sects of the evangelical church. The church leadership is constantly struggling to get the word out that to embrace a Christian faith does not mean we must abandon the intellect, which seems to be the overall opinion over the last 80 years or so.

"Regarding Luggage's question. You say you "did not offer any comments" only "provide my email". This is false."

No it is NOT false, sir. The "sermon" you claim I offered was in response to her comments about hell in the other conversation. The direct question here in THIS conversation was asked about the evidence concerning scripture, to which I simply provided my email address, knowing full well that you would not allow such evidence to be presented on your blog space.

"If you want to offer factual evidence, not theological belief, then we can consider it. But merely offering theology offers us nothing but your own imagination.

What I would like to offer, would be the factual evidence, as well as the logical and rational conclusions derived from that evidence. If this is acceptable to you then I will proceed to do so.

November 21, 2006

 

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