In the previous post, I pointed out a few flaws with Christopher Hitchens’ argument against religion. Now I would like to mention a flaw in his Christian theology. He made the claim that the Bible encourages people to hate homosexuals. It would be easy just to discount this as ignorance of the text, as it certainly says no such thing, but that would miss the potentially bigger and more subtle problem here. Rather than be ignorant of the text, Hitchens may be using a definition of hate that makes the text say what he claims. This seems to be what the authors of this this web page did. As evidence supporting their claim that the late Jerry Falwell hated homosexuals, they quote him as saying, "God hates homosexuality." Now, this statement can easily be defended using scripture and I believe paints an accurate picture of God’s attitude towards homosexuality. Jerry Falwell was right. God does hate homosexuality. Of course, God also hates adultery and lying and gossiping. But He does not hate the individuals who practice these sins. Scripture is clear that God loves homosexuals and adulterers and liars and gossipers and wants the best for them.
Logically, it simply does not follow that because God does not approve of homosexuality that he hates those who practice it. However, that doesn’t keep people from trying to make it follow. Those who equate hating homosexuality with hating homosexuals try to coherently support their position, but, as we will see, it simply does not work. Here is their argument in a syllogism.
Premise 1: Denigrating certain characteristics of a person – those that are
unchosen and unchangeable like skin color – is hatred of that person.
For example, to say "blackness is abominable" is bigotry because skin
color is outside the realm of moral discourse and beyond value
judgments. To devalue these type of characteristics is to unjustly
devalue the person.
Premise 2: Homosexuality belongs in the same category of human characteristics as skin color.
Conclusion: Therefore, denigrating homosexuality is to unjustly devalue the whole person and should be labeled hateful bigotry.
The problem here is that premise 2 is completely false. Homosexuality does not belong in the same category as skin color. Here we could spend some time debating the psychological, biological and sociological arguments over whether homosexuality is unchosen and unchangeable. Perhaps another time. For now, let’s stick with the philosophical.
Homosexuality is a desire. It is an aspect of human intellectual and emotional life. Desires, as with other thoughts and emotions, can be controlled and changed. Therefore, they fall within the realm of moral discourse. We all know this to be true in many areas of our life. We label desires good or bad and work on changing the bad ones. Desires for too much food, too much nicotine, too much alcohol, adulterous sex, and pornography are quite common and powerful, but they are also rightly thought of as wrong and controlled and changed.
The only other option is to say that desires are completely determined and uncontrollable and outside the realm of moral discourse. However, if this is the case, then on what basis would gay activists condemn the desires of those who think homosexuality is immoral? What about those who have a desire to pass anti-gay laws? Aren’t those desires just part of who they are? Wouldn’t the activists be just as guilty of bigotry and hate as their opponents? The fact is, if desires are predetermined and uncontrollable, then moral discussion of just about anything is impossible. Everyone would have to be left to follow the desires of their own heart without judgment, whether that meant being gay or beating gays up.
Thankfully, that is not the truth of reality. Desires can be judged morally, and the desire to beat up homosexuals is wrong and should be changed. So should the desire to have sex with someone who is not your spouse. So should the desire to have sex with someone of the same gender.
One’s desires are not the sum of one’s identity. Just because God doesn’t approve of certain thoughts does not mean that he hates the people who think them. Desires can be changed and often should be. As such, it is easy to see how God can love the sin while hating the sinner. He loves who you are, but doesn’t approve of all you do or think. Hitchens needs to brush up on his theology or philosophy or both.