Sceptics on Christians on Homosexuality

Today I spotted a (now inactive) comic called Cectic. Here’s how the author, Rudiz Muiznieks, describes his comic:

Cectic is the user manual for your brain, in comic-form. It was originally published every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, but real-life interceded, and as of November 2008 was only published (approximately) once every few weeks on Sundays. On January 24, 2009, Rudis announced that Cectic had come to an end.
Cectic is for skeptics. If you’re not amused, try Chick Publications, or Dan’s Pulpit (sent to me by a reader who referred to it as the Anti-Cectic).

The particular comic on this site that served as my introduction to Cectic was this one:

(Taken from http://cectic.com/146.html)

I was a little stunned at first. Not at the profundity of the point being made – anything but! I was stunned by the realisation that the author of the comic appears to genuinely think that he has scored a rhetorical point. Unfortunately, I’m fairly sure that many of the “sceptics” for whom Cectic is intended would have read this, smiled and nodded wisely, saying to themselves something like “Haha, yes, excellent point. You’ve really cornered those fundies on this one! Why don’t they see this?”

What irritates me further is the knowledge that Cectic isn’t alone. This breathtakingly shallow analysis is common – unless my experiences are atypical. So why do I take issue with it? Let me count the ways (OK there are only a few ways, but it was a short conversation!):

Firstly, the Christian in this discussion grants without hesitation that requirements that applied in the Old Testament, simply by virtue of being in the Old Testament, no longer apply today. He doesn’t make a rather obvious reply like “Wait, no we don’t believe that at all. Kidnapping is forbidden in the Old Testament but not the New Testament, yet we don’t think that’s OK. No, that is not the principle we hold to at all.” This would have stopped the other guy’s faulty analysis dead in its tracks, because its underlying principle would be rejected right from the start.

Secondly, the Christian accepts without hesitation the claim that the biblical case – the entire biblical case – that there is something wrong with homosexuality comes from the book of Leviticus. There’s no reference to the creation account, to the case of Sodom and Gomorrah, to the early chapters of Romans or to the first letter to the Corinthians, all of which contribute to the Christian understanding that is being criticised here. The fact is, absolutely nobody would grant that this claim about Leviticus being the only relevant source is correct. This is to say nothing of the way that it is assumed that in reality, Christians should regard nothing in the book of Leviticus as being of any value (not even “love your neighbour as yourself,” which is in Leviticus, right after the list of sexual sins, including homosexual acts).

Thirdly, the Christian in this comic says that Christian leaders and teachers (in this case his pastor) affirm that the above claims are in fact what Christians believe. But Christians believe neither of these two things. Further, it is suggested that the case is so absurd that Christians are likely to see it as silly, but continue to rely on it anyway on the basis of church authority.

There’s little (if any) point in actually interacting with people who think this way. It’s clear that they didn’t get to this point of view by honest observation or by actually making an effort to find out what other people really think, so it’s not like accuracy is regarded as particularly important by people who present stuff like this. Pointing out to people who present things like this that the representation is faulty at every step of the way is unlikely to be a productive enterprise. I suppose it’s (perhaps) revealing that this is the way a self-professed sceptic writes a “user manual for your brain.” What’s truly ironic is that it appears that this comic was presented to show that conservative Christians are the ones with shallow arguments that they haven’t really thought about.

Glenn Peoples

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15 thoughts on “Sceptics on Christians on Homosexuality

  1. The ironic thing about the comic and the website is probably that they’re not being skeptical at all, but just being plain ignorant. A skeptic would inquire further to find out the truth, not happy with shallow rhetoric.

  2. Anon, I know that self-professed sceptics (when it comes to being non-religious) like to think of their approach as questioning, enquring and so forth. In fact I’m fairly confident that by subjecting the “conservative Christian view” to this patheic critique, this sceptic was indeed being sceptical, as far as he could tell.

    The fact is, this type of hasty shallowness is surprisingly common coming from those who feel the need to point out that they are sceptics.

  3. “This type of hasty shallowness” indeed! In actual fact this cartoon does not present an unrealistic conversation. You assume that most people have well thought out and consistent belief systems – if only.

    Besides which there is a case to be answered here even if it is a strwman version of both sides of the debate.

    As for “the entire biblical case – that there is something wrong with homosexuality”… is a pretty weak case when you get down to it. A few verses out of context blown way out of all proportion.

  4. Max, you might hold the opinion that the biblical case is a weak one, but that’s not the point (I think it’s a prettty compelling one, but that’s also not the point). The point is that this guy apparently thought that he had debunked the conservative Christian view with an absurd argument like this!

  5. Woland’s Cat, I wouldn’t presume to answer that with a comment, just because the answer would need to be substantial. Perhaps I’ll have to do a decent length blog on it, or a podcast episode.

  6. I don’t think it is a case of debunking an intellectual conservative Christian… it is more about the sort of conversations which you actually hear people having… I actually *have* heard this logic being used by people (on both sides). It is funny precisely because some people do think this way. I doubt it is intended to critique the view of the intellectual elite.

  7. “Perhaps I’ll have to do a decent length blog on it, or a podcast episode” – I would love to see what you think is so compelling…

  8. I always felt that leviticus (and other old testament laws) was the lynch pin of the homosexuality issue having heard many counterpoints to other scriptures. Genesis one for example I think does not make a strong statement against homosexuality, but it goes a very far way in pointing out how sacred sexuality is with male and female representing the image of God. But it’s no abomination to be single or married to many women. It’s in the law that we have it spelled out clearly that that this mode of sexuality is an affront to the divine image in Genesis.

    The Old testament isn’t followed here, we do not see it as a straightfoward dictation of morals as we are not going to respond to homosexuality with capital punishment, but we can learn from the mandate of capital punishment indicating the deep value of sexuality and the terrible profaining and insult to the value with sexual perversion such as homosexuality. We can learn the same from the “horrible law” on stoning the offspring who struck their parents or cursed them, that this is a very sacred relationship that goes to the heart of the value of life itself, to the heart of our reflection of the image of God and can be deeply profaned.

  9. Am I missing something, or does Acts 15 explain the apparent contradiction?

    It was clearly established by the early church that ceremonial laws for the Jews need not be followed, but that sexual immorality (which would have meant the Jewish laws from Leviticus in that context) was still wrong.

    Then there’s Romans, where Paul makes it clear that Homosexuality is pretty clearly condemned in chapter 1.

  10. . . . Then there’s Romans, where Paul makes it clear that Homosexuality is pretty clearly condemned in chapter 1. . . .

    Homosexuality, or indulgence in homosexual activity?

    I’m a scientist, a doctor, and a non-Christian theist. It seems pretty clear to me that homosexuality itself is a condition (like being tall, fair-skinned or intelligent) attached to an individual; probably at birth and probably (like height, skin colour, physical gender and intelligence) by God.

    There can be nothing whatever morally wrong, therefore, with homosexuality.

    Homosexual activity is a different matter. My own feeling is that it involves promiscuity since it occurs outside marriage — but, noting also the general lack of severe condemnation of promiscuity by (for instance) Jesus of Nazareth, that it’s a relatively trivial offence and, for sure, far less objectionable than its loud condemnation by this authority and that.

    (A bit like unscriptural feeding on blood, you know.)

    Martin Woodhouse

  11. Martin, there’s the issue: I think a big part of the problem is that the biblical passages in question pick out certain actions and lifestyles, and then plenty of Christians say that it refers to “homosexuality,” which is neither an action nor a lifestyle. Well, to be fair it can be a lifestyle (e.g. if a person just decides to live that way), but you know what I mean.

    We all have our “cross to bear” when it comes to the inclinations and impulses we find ourselves with. The way we act on them is the issue.

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