29 April 2015

Long war, decisive battle

It's understandable that the battle for gay marriage, and the broader struggle for social acceptance of homosexuality, is important to gay people and their families.  It's a matter of winning critical legal rights and an equal place in society after generations of being a despised and brutalized minority.  But why is this battle so important to the enemy?

For it is.  As I pointed out here, American fundamentalist Christianity has chosen to make the fight against gay rights something of existential significance, their "hill to die on".  Republicans in state after state push laws protecting the "religious freedom" to shun, exclude, and reject gay people.  Scott Lively wants to confront gays with "the threat of the mob" bearing "pitchforks and torches".  Leaders like James Dobson and Tony Perkins are threatening a new civil war or revolution.  Mike Huckabee says the US is "moving rapidly toward the criminalization of Christianity", and remember, this man is not some backwoods preacher in a swamp, he's a serious contender for the Republican Presidential nomination.  The Family Research Council has held 21 days of prayer seeking divine intervention in the Supreme Court (Good As You blog has covered this in depth).

Superficially this seems odd.  The Bible never quotes Jesus as mentioning homosexuality.  Gays have been gaining social acceptance for decades, and gay marriage has been legal in some states for years, with none of the supposed dire consequences materializing.  At most, a half-dozen merchants have been prosecuted for flagrant violations of established anti-discrimination laws.  Churches have not been forced to marry gay couples (and they won't be, just as they can still refuse to marry divorced people or mixed-race couples or anyone else they object to).  Hate speech like "homosexuality is a sin" has not been made illegal anywhere in the US, and the First Amendment guarantees that it can't be.  There is no sign of the religion professed by 83% of Americans being "criminalized".  By and large, the growing acceptance of gays has had no concrete effect on its opponents' lives at all.  So why are they so desperately invested in this battle?

I think the real issue is not just the fight for gay acceptance but the much broader, more fundamental, and harder-to-define struggle of which it is part.  I call this larger struggle "cultural de-Christianization", the process of rolling back and driving out an alien occupation of the Western mind.  This has been going on for at least four hundred years on many fronts, including the rise of science and the scientific world-view (notably the work of Galileo and Darwin), the rise of secular government, the decoupling of civil law from the Christian taboo system, the gradual re-sexualization of mass culture and the public space, the decline of fervent religious belief among populations in most Western countries, the equality of women, the acceptance of sexual relationships forbidden by the taboo system, and many other areas.  A comment I've seen with increasing frequency on right-wing sites over the last couple of years is that the US is becoming a "pagan" country.  And in a deep sense, it is.

The beginning of the Dark Ages was marked by the destruction of the remnants of the Classical civilization by Christianity (and by Islam, in the east and south of the old Classical world).  The wreckage of that pagan civilization, warped and polluted by Christian taboos and dogmas, eventually evolved into Western culture as we know it today (again, in the east and south, a parallel development happened under the "occupation" of Islam).  In their own twisted and shallow way, the fundamentalists know this -- and know that the war they thought they had won sixteen centuries ago is now being re-fought.

[This is, by the way, touching on my fundamental vision of the world -- I'll eventually have a lot more to say about it, but that's a matter for future posts.]

Well, one of the sharpest divides between the Judeo-Christian-Islamic taboo system and the Classical culture was their attitudes towards homosexuality.  In the three great cultures of the Classical world (Greek, Roman, and Persian), homosexuality was an unremarkable and ordinary part of human behavior; in Greece, bisexuality in males was even a social norm informally institutionalized by society, though same-sex marriage, in the formal sense, did not exist.  Judaism, Christianity, and Islam condemn homosexuality in the harshest terms, as a sin worthy of death, a penalty which is actually enforced today in several Muslim countries, as it was by Christian rulers during the Dark Ages.  For that matter, homosexuality was still brutally punished in much of Europe as recently as the 1950s and in much of the US until the Lawrence v. Texas decision in 2003.

This, I think, is the real reason the fundies are so agitated about the gay-rights battle -- losing that battle is a clear sign that they're losing the overall war.  Mass social acceptance of homosexuality, crowned by legal and broadly-accepted gay marriage, marks a shift of American culture from Christian to "pagan" on a deep level.

This was adumbrated back when some Christian denominations began debating the possibility of female clergy.  I remember conservative Christians arguing that the idea was dangerous because it was "pagan" in spirit, and they were right.  When you hear the word "priest" spoken in English, you think of a Catholic priest, but the word "priestess" evokes something pagan and ancient.  Priestesses existed in many pagan religions of the Classical world, but female clergy have not traditionally been part of Judaism, Christianity, or Islam.

But the present fight over homosexuality is far more fundamental.  Allowing female clergy has little impact outside the denomination that chooses to do it, but the new acceptance of homosexuality is sweeping the whole society.

There are battles which foreshadow the outcome of a war even if the war's end is still a long way off.  Stalingrad and Midway were examples.  After those battles, years of hard fighting remained, but it was pretty much a foregone conclusion which side was going to win.  In the war to roll back Christianity's mental occupation of the West, the fight for gay rights is such a battle.

10 Comments:

Blogger Shaw Kenawe said...

Let me add that here in Massachusetts the legalization of marriage equality has had no negative impact on hetero marriages. I remind the doomsday hysterics on the Christian right that Massachusetts has one of the lowest, if not THE lowest, rates of divorce in the country. So thousands of hetero marriages were not destroyed because of gay marriage.

I also remind the hysterics on the Christian right that thousands and thousands of their fellow Christians support equality of marriage, as do thousands of Jewish and other religious sects (But not Muslims).

So the fundies have that in common with Muslims.

Also remember on the religious/nonreligious continuum here are the top three:

Christian
Muslim
Nones



29 April, 2015 06:17  
Blogger Rosa Rubicondior said...

Is this de-Christianization or the continuing post-Enlightenment process of civilising Christianity by teaching it Humanism?

30 April, 2015 00:43  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

Shaw: Naturally so. If you think of any given heterosexual couple considering whether to get divorced (or whether to get married in the first place), it's hard to see how the fact of gays being allowed to marry or not would impact their decision at all.

If religious fanatics were capable of being swayed by empirical evidence, they wouldn't be religious fanatics.

I'm not sure I understand your "top three" point.

Rosa: I don't think that Christianity (or Islam) can be made civilized. The Bible (and Koran) still say what they have always said. The Western world has become more humane and civilized over the last 400 years because the belief in Christianity and willingness to enforce its taboos has grown weaker. So, yes, it is de-Christianization. The development of humanism and the Enlightenment (revival of pre-Christian Classical thinking, largely) have involved a lot of infiltration of these non-Christian ideas into the minds of millions of individual Christians, but that doesn't mean Christianity is becoming civilized, it means it's becoming diluted with non-Christian concepts and thus becoming weaker.

In the long run I hope to see Christianity and Islam die out entirely from human minds. As long as they exist, they will be a threat, because the Bible and Koran and the dogmas and taboos they imply will not change.

30 April, 2015 02:58  
Blogger Shaw Kenawe said...

"In the long run I hope to see Christianity and Islam die out..."


That was the point of my listing Christianity, Islam, and Nones.

The "Nones," nonbelievers, are the number 3 group and gaining.

30 April, 2015 05:42  
Anonymous Bacopa said...

It's pretty clear what the end game is: The complete exclusion of all women from the public sphere, except for a few upper class Serena Joy types.

They hate marriage equality because it REALLY DOES destroy traditional marriage. But traditional marriage has been on the ropes when they made Queen Anne's husband a consort prince so things wouldn't turn out like what happened with her older sister.

Coverture was not done away with until the late 60's in the US. That was the destruction of traditional marriage.

Marriage equality is simply the recognition of affection-based relationships that have been the destruction of traditional property transfer marriages have been on the wane for the last 300 years.

01 May, 2015 18:30  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

Shaw: I see -- ranked by numbers of "adherents".

Bacopa: That too. It's startling how those who yammer the most about the threat of SharĂ®'ah law coming to the US are the ones advocating a society that looks so much like it.

Real traditional marriage disappeared when polygamy was outlawed.

02 May, 2015 05:38  
Blogger Kevin Robbins said...


This was adumbrated back when some Christian denominations began debating the possibility of female clergy. I remember conservative Christians arguing that the idea was dangerous because it was "pagan" in spirit, and they were right.

I believe it was early Christian in spirit as well. This is why the forerunners of these conservative Christians we have today kept the gnostic writings out of the Bible and wrote epistles under Paul's name that were pro-slave and anti-woman.

Enjoyed the post and I hope you're right that the fundamentalists are on the run. They give seekers for Truth a bad name.

30 December, 2015 11:43  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

Kevin: Thanks!

I'm not aware of any early Christians (or Muslims or Jews) having had priestesses -- so I continue to regard this as a fundamentally pagan concept. And certainly the anti-gay taboos are right there in the sacred texts. As to what was written by Paul (assuming he existed) and what was written by others using his name, who can know?

30 December, 2015 16:50  
Anonymous pluky said...

Deborah, Book of Judges
Priscilla, Acts and Romans
Lastly, Rabi'a al-'Adawiyya

30 December, 2015 17:57  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

Pluky: None of those were priestesses or members of the clergy, and Deborah was an Old Testament figure and thus likely mythical. Any religion will have a few women in some kind of notable role, but it remains the case that priestesses, as a normative feature of religion, are pagan and not Abrahamic. Anyway, the post is about the taboo on homosexuality.

31 December, 2015 04:58  

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