New AND column out

Online here. The topic is JFK’s statement that he believed in “in an America that is officially neither Catholic, Protestant nor Jewish” where religious rules were not the basis for political policy. And how far we’ve come from there in the wrong direction.
Of course, by singling out JFK’s statement, I’m giving the past more credit than it deserves. When JFK ran for president, America, to a large extent saw itself as a Protestant nation; several court decisions rationalized explicitly Protestant school prayer and Bible readings on the grounds that teaching Protestant Christianity was the same as teaching them to be American. JFK was an outlier back in his day——but I still see a lot more support in the mainstream for making America an officially Christian nation than I remember in the past.
Speaking of theocracy, this Jesuit argument proves I’m still capable of finding opposition to gay marriage funny. The argument? Well, if we colonized space and we populated an entire planet with gays, the colony wouldn’t last, would it? So … well, something (summed up here as the Stoner argument against gay marriage——one of several interesting links in this slacktivist post).
Possibly the author thought this would be more compelling than simply asserting “Well, if everyone were gay, humanity would die out.” It’s obvious we’re not headed for a 100 percent homosexual world, so perhaps he figured a hypothetical space colony of all gays would work better. I’m thinking not.
It’s also possible he’s trying some counterpart to the “ticking bomb” school of justifying torture. This approach starts by arguing that if NYC were about to be detonated by a nuclear bomb and the one man who could tell us where to find it was refusing to talk, well, wouldn’t torture be justified?
You say yes? Well, then you admit torture isn’t wrong, if we have a need. So the point is, which situations is torture warranted in: Let’s discuss where we’re going to allow it.
This is not a hypothetical construct. Supreme Court Judge Antonin Scalia stated in one interview that as the government uses torture in terrorism cases, there’s no reason to assume it’s unconstitutional to do it in non-terrorism criminal cases——the only issue us under what circumstances.
So perhaps the author of the space-colonization post is trying the same approach: He’s come up with a situation in which homosexuality definitely has a harmful result on society at large, hasn’t he? So if you admit homosexuality can be harmful, maybe you should start wondering how harmful it is in the real world. Or maybe he’s just desperate to find some non-religious argument that shows homosexuality is a Bad Idea——I notice the argument works just as well against gays in general as against married gays (and for that matter, against using birth control). Or maybe he was stuck for a post; not being a mind-reader, I can’t say.
I will say that like the ticking-bomb rationalization this is a lousy argument. It’s always possible to come up with some situation in which something right is wrong or something wrong is right, but that doesn’t mean it has real-world application. One blogger a few years ago came up with a scenario where the only way to save Earth from aliens is by torturing a child to death; does it follow that anyone who says “Yes, torture the kid” must therefore accept that torturing kids is okay? I don’t think so. I could reasonably conjecture that a planet entirely populated by Catholic priests and nuns would die out if they all remained true to their vows, but I don’t think that’s an argument against priestly celebrity.
I’d give the guy an A for effort, but I’m not sure he was even trying.

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