I want to thank all the people who have responded to my last blog. So far there are 60 comments listed, most of them very positive and in agreement with my view as expressed. I am sure that, deep down, most of the people in this country favor making gay marriage legal and it will soon come to pass as people overcome their discomfort with the idea. I enjoyed reading all your comments, including those that argued against my position.
I’d like to add one more thing to the debate, though, which is somewhat peripheral to the gay marriage issue but is often implied in discussions like this. It is, that while I have no objection to people choosing to have their personal morality prescribed by a religious authority, I do have a real problem with the idea that religious beliefs and morality are the same. This implies that people without religious beliefs have no access to moral reasoning and have no true moral compass.
On the contrary, I think that to rely purely on some religious text for one’s guidance on how to live a good life is to abrogate moral responsibility. Morality does not come from religion. Morality is derived from ethics which are immutable agreements about how we should treat each other. Those agreements have been crafted by intelligent human beings over centuries of evolution according to certain principles like fairness, tolerance, humility, respect, honesty, integrity, forgiveness, etc., and on spiritual values like compassion and love. Some religious have co-opted these principles into their teachings, but the ethical principles came first, not the other way around. We don’t need religion to teach us those principles.
Moreover, if we rely too much on religious teachings, we fail to develop a strong ethical and moral self. In fact, religious beliefs are often cited as a justification for acting in ways that are anything but moral or ethical. 9/11 is a case in point. The last words the guys flying those planes screamed was, “God is Great.”
That’s an extreme case, I know, but in essence it’s no different to denying happiness to a group of people on the basis of a belief prescribed by others who claim some moral authority over everyone else. It is no different to a group of people in Africa deciding that their religion justifies female circumcision and that one cannot create a law against it for that reason. A lot of immoral behavior becomes protected, even by law, if it is claimed to be part of one’s religious belief. And that is the road that the States are taking in deciding to ban gay marriage on religious grounds even though it goes against more than a few ethical principles.