Tuesday, August 10, 2010

If the Right Wants Marriage To Be Defined Religiously - So Be It

If we thought that the debate over gay marriage was bad before the Proposition 8 ruling, it is nothing compared to the furor that we have seen coming from the Religious Right over the past few days. From Chuck Colson to Tony Perkins we have seen those on the Right say that an unelected judge in California cannot define what marriage is,  because God himself has defined it. Thus, good Christians will stand up for the definition of marriage given to mankind by God in the Bible. Fair enough, im not going to argue with people saying "God says something" even though that should automatically give us pause; Instead I am going to point out that by arguing that "marriage" is a religious institution defined by the Bible and God, those who use this argument are shooting themselves in the foot. 

Any first grader growing up in America today knows that religion is built upon what is known as Faith. Faith is the key element of religious belief, for without any sort of Faith, religion would just be science - rational and objective science. In the Christian Tradition - which will be the group that this post is directed towards, since not many other religious groups have voiced as virulent an opposition to the Prop 8 decision - Faith is defined as " the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen." (Hebrews 11:1). Thus religion is built upon a conviction and a hope/assurance of things that cannot be definitively proven or seen. This leads to Websters definition of Faith, which is the understanding of most people...
"An unquestioning belief that does not require proof or evidence."
Now where am I going with this. Well first, we have established two things. 

1. The main opposition from the Religious Right on the issue of  gay marriage is that they believe that God instituted marriage between one man and one woman. 

2. Christian belief structure is built upon Faith. - Most Christians would not argue this, for if they did, then they would have to claim that Christianity was rationally provable, something that they cannot do, because that would destroy the whole foundation of Christianity. 

So if they believe that God defined marriage in the Bible between one man and one woman; it is just that, a belief. It is as Hebrews and Websters says, not provable, and not something that we know for sure!! Even I can claim that I ascribe to another divinely inspired book which might say that marriage is only between two people of the same sex, thus making every heterosexual couples marriage invalid, and because I believe its true then it is...for me at least. 

You see this is the problem with basing a definition of something off of a religious belief, no matter what religious belief it is. What one person may believe, another one might not. So therefore whose definition is correct? Is it the person who has the most people believing what he believes? Is it the person who only believes it individually? Thus, in order for there to be an established definition of marriage for government to go by, there has to be some other arguments involved. Not just "God said it was so" arguments.  Using the God said so arguments undermines the position of those against gay marriage, for one can just say, and many have, that they are just trying to push their belief system upon people who don't believe the way that they do. This my friends, is a failing argument in a pluralistic democratic society.

Later I will address another argument against gay marriage - that being the historical argument of marriage. So stay tuned!! And please feel free to comment.


  1. I disagree with the common perspective of faith in this culture that it can only be in what is unsure/unproven. The concept is self-defeating, as Douglas Adams humorously illustrated, that if something were to conclusively evince the object of faith, that faith would disappear in a puff of logic. Besides, if faith were ONLY in something unseen, then the concept of heaven in which one sees God and lives without sin as the New Testament describes is also self-contradictory.

    However, the concept of the Greek word pistis, which is translated "faith," including in Hebrews 11, is firm persuasion, conviction, belief and reliance - it does not at all exclude evidence or proof. Your logical error in interpreting Hebrews 11:1 is to take it as a limiting definition, that faith can only exist in the unseen. On the contrary, filling in what we cannot see is only one aspect of faith. This sense of faith, as persuasion, conviction, etc., applies to my persuasion that the sun will rise tomorrow, that the chairs I sit in will hold me, that my friend of ten years is telling me the truth ... one may say that I have faith in all those things, for which of course I have convincing evidence. In fact, The Complete Word Study Dictionary: New Testament says Hebrews 11:1 "means that persuasion is not the outcome of imagination but is based on fact, such as the reality of the resurrection of Christ (1 Cor 15), and as such it becomes the basis of realistic hope" and of 2 Cor 5:7, "that which appears before us may not be what it seems to be, while faith is something which stands on proof arrived at inductively." Faith is not what we choose to fill in the gaps left by science and reason; rather, in its complete form it is conviction of a worldview of an objective reality that encompasses the seen and the unseen.

    I initially came to believe in the Bible because the wisest people I've ever known rely upon it. I continued to believe it because its teaching resonates with all I observe in nature, history, and life in general. I cannot disbelieve it now, because I know the Author personally, and have found Him to be trustworthy. The evidence and reason are there every step of the way. They support but do not restrict my faith.

  2. Wow, I just noticed the date on this post - somebody linked it on FB just today, which is how I came across it. So your blog is getting around two years after posting!


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