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Gay Bishop Comes Up With the Worst Argument to Support Same-Sex Marriage

An atheist says Bishop Gene Robinson's new book, "God Believes in Love" has some major flaws.

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The reasons outlined in Bishop Robinson's book for why he's a Christian are that: a) he was raised a Christian; b) he had good experiences with his religious upbringing; and c) at a young age he experienced an altered state of consciousness in which he thought he perceived the presence of Jesus. With all due respect... really? That's his argument? On that basis, he's basing not only his personal life and private decisions, but his public arguments for how everyone else should vote and pass laws and live their lives? I'm sorry to be snarky, but: Strange women lying in ponds distributing swords is no basis for a system of government. And neither is a vague ecstatic feeling of the presence of God on the part of an impressionable young man.

I suspect that even Bishop Robinson realizes this. The bulk of his book makes an entirely secular case for same-sex marriage: out of its eleven chapters, only three (including one really short one) focus on the question of what God does or doesn't think, and in the rest of the book, religion rarely even comes into play. And his secular arguments for same-sex marriage are generally quite strong: clear, straightforward, well-reasoned, down-to-earth, and grounded in reality and basic human ethics. I don't agree with all of them -- I don't love his privileging of marriage and other normative relationship models, to the point of throwing less-conventional sexual and romantic relationships under the bus -- but on the whole, his book makes good, clear secular arguments for same-sex marriage.

But his religious case for same-sex marriage is a hot mess. It's contorted, confusing, self-contradictory, poorly reasoned, willfully blind, and blatantly self-serving. He argues that a Christian view of marriage (or indeed anything) has to prioritize Scripture over all other concerns, that "first, and always first, is the Scripture itself"... and then argues that the Scriptural views of marriage are inconsistent and often reprehensible, and don't have to be followed. Shouldn't be followed. He repeatedly points out the dangers of interpreting Scripture based on one's own biases and desires... and then proceeds to do exactly that. At length. Even I think he's conveniently cherry-picking the bits that serve the conclusion he wants to come to. And I'm on his side.

Now, some will argue that, as a pure matter of Machiavellian strategy, we should make a case for same-sex marriage that religious believers can accept. Some will argue that, as a pure matter of strategy, "God doesn't hate gay people, God loves gay people," is an easier sell than, "Who cares what God thinks? You have no way of knowing what God thinks, so keep your arguments focused on the reality we actually know exists." Some will argue that most people aren't atheists or agnostics, or even believers who understand that their beliefs are pretty uncertain... so if we want to shift public opinion towards acceptance of same-sex marriage, we need to convince believers that God is on board.

But when we make a religious case for same-sex marriage -- heck, when we make a religious case for any matter of public policy -- we're conceding that public policy should be based on religion. And that means we're conceding the idea that policy and law should be decided, not on the basis of solid evidence and sound reasoning and basic human compassion, but on personal faith. We're conceding that if the Bible really does condemn homosexuality, then homosexuality must be bad. And we're conceding that "I have no good reason to think this, I just do" is an acceptable argument in political discourse.

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