Pushback against Biblical Literalism Directed at Homosexuals

John Corvino provides some pushback to biblical literalists on the subject of homosexuality:


And Marc Ambinder recently wrote a moving reflection on how difficult it still is for young gay teens:

Since moving to Los Angeles, I’ve met a lot of younger gay men who have been kicked out of abusive households. The most heartbreaking of the stories was told to me by a talented young clothing designer. Upon learning he was gay, he was severely beaten, given $500, driven to the airport, had a one-way plane ticket bought in his name, and was abandoned.  


No: 2007.

He was 16. […] 

Parents who abuse children are abominable. But parents of gay children can get away with it more, because there’s a stigma, […]

Nothing will change until it becomes shameful not to treat your gay child with respect and decency.

This is the problem with biblical literalism directed at homosexuals. If homosexuality is sinful and shameful, it provides social and religious cover for heterosexuals to abuse gay, lesbian, and transgendered people (“I can act this way toward gay, lesbian, and transgendered people because the Bible tells me so”).

About Santi Tafarella

I teach writing and literature at Antelope Valley College in California.
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4 Responses to Pushback against Biblical Literalism Directed at Homosexuals

  1. Great post. I have been working on the theory of mind that we view the universe through the lens of a simulation of it running in our brains. It is not a perfect simulation and it allows us to adjust all our rules for the world and how it works by giving preference to information source etc. In this case, giving preference to the holy text as prime source of truth allows humans to be very cruel to one another. It’s not until they have a personal ‘trauma’ where they are forced to change the rules for the simulation in their head.

    • Santi Tafarella says:

      With your representational theory of the brain, would it include the following?

      What, for example, if our perception of the color green is our brain’s way of representing to consciousness a particular aspect of the electromagnetic energy coming our way? In other words, just as there are no necessary links between signifieds (things) and their signifiers (words), maybe there are no necessary links between our experience of green and the actual nature of photons qua photons. The experience of colors is part of a language for survival–a syntax–that our brains use to translate the world into chunks that are comprehensible to us (green leaves, red firetrucks, etc.). The whole universe is a material language to us that we become more adept at interpreting and using (just as human verbal language is something we’re born with). We don’t experience the world as it is, but as our species has chopped it up in our evolved brains and turned it into a representational language that serves our survival.

      In the case of the Bible, perhaps it functions like the color green. It gives people a shortcut for processing information, for seeing the world through Bible-colored glasses. And if you take off the glasses, you lose orientation to the world (as you would if you lost the symbol green in your language or green in your experience of qualia).


      • Yes, it does, though I’ve used slightly different terminology. Green is a label for an aspect of an object in the simulation. A visual identifier which functions no more than ‘hard’ or ‘soft’.

        Where your example uses ‘bible glasses’ I see this more as a set of rules for how the simulation works. When god is removed from the rules sets the simulation breaks because there is no more cause/effect for many things. This is why believers often jump to ridiculous conclusions about morals etc. for non-believers. In the believer’s simulation morals come from god and without god they will have no moral compass. Even though their simulation does not work that way, it is how it is experienced for them. They will have morals without god, but they won’t understand where they come from until they learn new rules for moral behaviors.

        How it is experienced varies from human to human, but each of us experience our simulation as reality. For believers, god providing all morality is experienced in varying degrees because the simulation exposes non-belief ethics rules in varying levels according to experience and thought etc.

        This underlies objective values as false by definition. The best that can be achieved is universal values through shared experience and knowledge. If an external force were to define moral behavior in the simulation then morality would cause synchronous behaviors which is what we don’t see.

        Obviously I can go on and on.

      • Alan says:

        Speaking specifically to theory of mind, I would suggest that the above is greatly over simplified. To me, it seems we are constantly running dozens of simultaneous semi-independent scenarios involving all animated objects within our perception and of persons or pets in our memory. And we do a really good job (most of the time) keeping the real acts distinguished from those just imagined (though spirit entities seem to have a somewhat special role that is not held as quite real and not quite imaginary either). Most of these scenarios are very low fidelity, sub-conscious and just looking for problems: Planes, trains or automobiles – birds, busses or bicycles – is anything going to hit me or intersect my projected path? Is anything or anyone ‘looking’ at me, or showing any intention towards me that I should react to? Is there anything/anyone in my perception or close by in my memory that I should try and intercept or any potential that should be sought out or avoided?
        Other humans, particularly humans we know well, get far higher fidelity models and scenarios (the highest fidelity are for ourselves, of course). All of our dreams, hopes and fears are worked into these simulations: How should I react to my boss, my mate, etc. under such and such a condition.
        We remember (somewhat) all real and imagined encounters and use those memories to plan for future encounters. We likewise use our memories to create stories to tell our children and acquaintances to try and mold the simulations they run – to influence their actions and decisions.

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