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A fundamental misunderstanding of the nature of sin October 22, 2010

Posted by Ezra Resnick in Equality, Ethics, Religion.
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Shmuley Boteach writes that extreme homophobia among the religious stems from a “fundamental misunderstanding of the nature of sin.” He distinguishes between moral transgressions and religious transgressions:

The mistake of so many well-meaning people of faith is to believe that homosexuality is a moral rather than a religious sin. A moral sin involves injury to an innocent party. But who is being harmed when two, unattached, consenting adults are in a relationship? Rather, homosexuality is akin to the prohibition of lighting fire on the Sabbath or eating bread during Passover. There is nothing immoral about it, but it violates the divine will.

One of the worst effects of religion is making people think that obedience to the purported word of God is as important as (or even more important than) the actual well-being of those around them. In this case, Boteach ignores the obvious fact that labeling gays “an abomination” does cause injury to innocent parties — and is therefore immoral by his own definition! What would he suggest we do when “divine will” conflicts with morality? After all, the Bible doesn’t merely frown upon homosexuality; it commands that homosexuals be executed. Just like women who are not virgins on their wedding night, or those who worship other gods. Would Boteach be willing to carry out such sentences?

The moment you admit that morality deals with preventing suffering, you must realize that even if we had good reason to believe that homosexuality violates God’s will, it wouldn’t matter. Boteach’s distinction is actually between norms for which there are good reasons — and hence can be derived rationally with no need for divine command — and those that are just arbitrary whim, which ought to be discarded the moment they cause someone harm. “Sin” does not exist; there ain’t no such thing as a victimless crime.

By the way, since Boteach concedes that no one is harmed by a relationship between consenting adults, does he support marriage equality for gays?

For the record, I am in favor of gay civil unions rather than marriage because I am against redefining marriage.

For the record, that’s bullshit. It’s no different from saying (in the 1950s) that marriage is defined as between two people of the same race, so interracial marriage is out. I know this may be hard for the orthodox to grasp, but if a legal definition is unjust, we can change it. The essence of marriage is a state-recognized union between people, and it should be available to all citizens equally. If you want to discriminate against someone, you need a better reason than because your imaginary friend said so.

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