Tuesday, March 23, 2004

Coerced Conversion and Conquest?

The conventional wisdom about the Crusades today is that they were an attempt by the Catholic Church to conquer Muslim lands and forcibly convert Muslims to Christianity.

Pope Urban II's speech in 1095 -- which called the first Crusade -- gives a different picture:
    For your brethren who live in the east are in urgent need of your help, and you must hasten to give them the aid which has often been promised them. For, as the most of you have heard, the Turks and Arabs have attacked them and have conquered the territory of Romania [the Greek empire] as far west as the shore of the Mediterranean and the Hellespont, which is called the Arm of St. George. They have occupied more and more of the lands of those Christians, and have overcome them in seven battles. They have killed and captured many, and have destroyed the churches and devastated the empire. If you permit them to continue thus for awhile with impurity, the faithful of God will be much more widely attacked by them. On this account I, or rather the Lord, beseech you as Christ's heralds to publish this everywhere and to persuade all people of whatever rank, foot-soldiers and knights, poor and rich, to carry aid promptly to those Christians and to destroy that vile race from the lands of our friends.
Sounds like a defensive effort to me.

Sunday, March 07, 2004

SSM follow-up

When I posted last month, I referred to same-sex marriages, and got a few comments from folks who disagree with my take. One of them was a nice guy named Ben; we exchanged a few comments in the box, and then Ben asked if I wouldn't mind if he addressed my own comments on his blog, to which I agreed. My comments were,
    As to your questions... the crux of my position is that marriage is a union between a man and a woman in which they engage in reproductive-type sexual acts. The final clause indicates and implies that sexual activity has a two-fold purpose: the spiritual and physical union of the spouses, and the bearing and education of children. Sex, then, is for the good of the spouses and for the procreation of children. And marriage is recognized as a public institution b/c it provides a stable environment in which the children can be raised, thus ensuring furture generations of a culture/society (hence the state's interest).

    But if the procreative dimension is reduced or negated -- as it is in gay "marriages" -- then one of the essential purposes for marriage is negated as well. Not only that, but since the natural means of having children is impossible, one of the essential reasons why the state recognizes marriage (may *the* essential reason) is negated as well.

    Furthermore, if marriage is *only* about committed, consensual relationships, then why is polygamy and polyamory looked down upon and illegalized?

    What do you think?
Ben recently posted his response at his blog, and I'd like to respond to some of his comments.

Ben's first comment:
    Rubbish. By that logic the existence of married couples unwilling or unable to have children means that this "negation" of the essential "purposes" of marriage already exist in society. Conversely, many heterosexual couples have children without ever getting married. From an evolutionary perspective, the use of contraceptives is as "unnatural" as homosexual sex.
Ben, you've hit the nail on the head: contraception does negate one of the essential purposes of marriage... I completely agree! In fact, I think it's fair to say that a large part of the acceptance of homosexuality in the culture at large flows from this misunderstanding of the nature and purpose of sex. Now, before your eyes roll back into your head -- ;-) -- I'd like you to at least consider my position before dismissing it. So appealing to contraception doesn't do anything to rebut my argument, does it?

    I'd also be interested in knowing why any secular democratic state which equally recognises all faiths, and lack thereof (or rather, SHOULD), would include the loaded religious term "spiritual" in any definition of marriage. I don't recognise the "spiritual" side of anything. Should I be limited to "civil unions" as a result?
Note that I didn't appeal to any spiritual definition of marriage in my (brief) discussion of the state's interest in marriage: I said that "marriage is recognized as a public institution b/c it provides a stable environment in which the children can be raised, thus ensuring furture generations of a culture/society (hence the state's interest)," without any religious reference.

    What does that have to do with the price of tea in China? Polygamous heterosexual marriages are just as, if not more, geared towards procreation (the "essential reason" for marriage, as you put it), than monogamous heterosexual marriages. We're talking about gay marriage here, not polygamy. The issues are completely irrelevant to one another.
No, they aren't. If you want the public to accept gay marriage, then you need to give a reason, a principle, which accounts for why gay marriage is a good which society should recognize, but polygamous marriage is not (I'm presuming here that you are opposed to legalizing polygamy; correct me if I'm wrong). If gay marriage is a civil right, isn't polygamous marriage also a civil right?

    I think that the main problem people have with gay marriage is not the "erosion of society", or the "sanctity of marriage", or the "survival of the species", or any of that alarmist horseshit, but rather the anachronistic persistence of an general unwillingness to recognise the natural phenomenon of homosexuality, be it based upon religion, culture, ignorance, or otherwise.
First, note that this isn't my argument. Second, just because someone's tendency is involuntary doesn't mean that it's moral. We all have certain tendencies that we *rightly* avoid acting on, b/c we recognize that if we *did* act on them, we would actually end up *harming* our well-being, and others as well. If your argument is consistently applied, then it would be *impossible* to criticize anyone for anything, since pretty much everything we do is a result of an involuntary tendency.

Now, for Ben's questions...
    Do you believe that a person's sexuality has any bearing on their morality, intelligence, ability to form relationships, or otherwise live up to their full potential?
I'm not sure what you mean by this question, Ben. Can homosexuals be as smart or smarter than heterosexuals? Of course. Can they form loving relationships? Of course. Does that mean that a(n actively) homosexual relationship is a good? I don't think so, and I see no contradiction in say that with what I just stated.
    In your opinion, does a homosexual relationship differ in any objective way from a heterosexual relationship, when the gender of the two parties is ignored? (ie, is a homosexual relationship somehow less "serious" than, or in any other way disparate from, a heterosexual one, all things considered?)
But that's just it: I don't think the gender of the relationships *can* be ignored. I think our gender is an intrinsic part of who we are, and that you can't just set it aside. What do you think of this analogous question: In your opinion, does an adult incestous relationship differ in any objective way from a heterosexual relationship, when the biological identity of the two parties is ignored?
    Do you believe that it is ethical for there to exist inequalities in society towards an individual based upon any inherent characteristics established irrespective of that individual's free will?
Yes. I'll give you an example: parents have certain rights which their minor children do not have. But more to the point, marital laws as they exist today are not unjust: marriage is defined as a union between a man and a woman. That's simply what it is. If marriage were merely a sexual relationship between two consenting adults, then it would be unjust to deny gays such a union. But that's not what marriage is, and too often people beg that very question in asserting that marriage practices today are unjust.

I've been away for awhile, for the most part because I've been trying to drastically reduce my time on the Web during Lent. So far, so good... relatively speaking.

Since I posted last, I've seen The Passion of the Christ... three times. Once for a panel discussion for the local paper, and the other two times for showings I arranged for the parishioners in the area.

My word for the movie: Powerful. That best encapsulates for me what I think of the film. I don't think it's for everyone, but I do think it can be a powerful event for many.

I'm going to try to post on occasion as this holy season passes, but we'll see how it goes.