Philosophy Now|June/July 2020
In this article I will not discuss religious criticisms proposed against homosexuality. Rather, I will consider the upshot of these criticisms – what religious believers often recommend that a gay person do as a practical matter. And while there are many different criticisms religious people offer against same-sex relations, most agree on what the moral response should be, which is either to marry from the other sex or to lead a life of chastity. I will say that the first option, marrying someone of the other sex, is not psychologically possible for most gay men or women, and therefore cannot be morally expected of them. The second supposed solution, chastity, may be possible provided special conditions (which I’ll mention), but is not practically feasible for most gay men or women, and therefore also cannot be morally expected of them. I’ll be using Christianity as a case in point, but what I have to say could be extended across many religions.
The argument is as follows:
1. What is not practically feasible is not morally obligatory.
2. An action that depends on what is psychologically impossible, or depends upon the intercession of grace or extraordinary means of support, falls outside of what is practically feasible, since the first is not something the person can do, and the second is not realizable by natural or ordinary means alone.
3. The conservative Christian solution to homosexuality for gay men and women requires doing what is psychologically impossible, or possible only through supernatural help or extraordinary support.
4. Therefore, the conservative Christian solution to homosexuality is not morally obligatory.
The spirit of this argument is that it is not realistic (or humane) to expect a whole class of human beings, from birth to death, to not seek happiness in a meaningful love relationship, and therefore the conservative Christian solution concerning homosexuality is not morally persuasive.
The Unworkability of the Christian Response
The conservative Christian answer for the gay person is to marry the other sex or live alone. The first option is not as recommended as the second, since these Christians acknowledge “there is ample evidence that marriage is not a cure for same-sex attractions” (‘Homosexuality and Hope’, Diamond et al, 2018, para. 31). But both options are unviable; and if so, they cannot be genuinely offered as moral advice.
Marrying the Other Sex Isn’t Feasible
The conservative Christian may recognize that marriage will probably not eliminate same-sex attraction. This does indicate the impracticality of that solution; but the person putting it forward does not necessarily see that if this solution is impracticable, then it cannot be morally expected of someone.
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