In his attempt to overcome the ‘secularist’ charge and to prove he understands religion, Howard Dean said this week, “[f]rom a religious point of view, if God had thought homosexuality is a sin, he would not have created gay people.”
Let me start by noting that if this statement is typical of the quality of Dean’s thinking “from a religious point of view,” it’s not hard to figure out why Dean isn’t religious.
Even if he isn’t religious, he’s not an idiot, either, so his argument must have made sense according to his secular worldview. (Andrew Sullivan seems to think it’s compelling, too.)
By religious and secular standards, this argument is foolish, no matter that many otherwise-intelligent people have been hoodwinked by it. Too many people think that if they can only prove their behavior is biologically based, due to factors beyond their control, true to their innate identity, or “natural”, then their behavior is justified. But being “born that way” tells us nothing about whether a behavior is right or wrong.
For Christians, man’s nature has been contrary to God’s commandments since The Fall. The purpose of religion, by this view, is to redeem man from this fallen and degraded state.
For secularists, science has given no assurances that the evil acts of men do not stem from their natures. Indeed, the more we’ve studied genetics, the more we’ve realized that we enter the world with predispositions in every facet of life.
Dean and Sullivan believe homosexuals are innately predisposed to a point on the hetero-homosexuality continuum (though Sullivan, like most gay advocates, refuses to acknowledge the sexuality spectrum, preferring the rhetorical force of a simpler binary sexuality). I believe they’re right: there is probably a genetic component to sexual preference. But this fact doesn’t resolve the question of homosexuality’s morality. If it could, then Dean and Sullivan would have to either (1) believe that people do not have, and science will not find, innate predispositions toward behaviors Dean and Sullivan condemn, such as aggression, alcohol abuse, pedophilia, pederasty and incest; or (2) embrace those negative behaviors once they’re shown to be genetically based: once science shows that Ted Bundy was genetically predisposed to kill women, we’ll know that God doesn’t think killing women is a sin because He created Bundy and his predisposition.
People are born with predispositions toward all kinds of behaviors, both positive and negative; sexual preference is but one. Science sheds more light on this every year. But learning that our behaviors are natural tells us nothing about their morality. As society’s done for millenia, we must continue to demand that people refrain from acting on their negative predispositions.