going to punish them, aren’t you?
GOD: Why do you
to engage in homosexual behaviour is wrong, of course.
THE APPEAL TO THE
God gently rubbed
his chin and looked quizzically at Jarvis.
GOD: Wrong? Is it
JARVIS: Yes. You
say so yourself in The Bible.
GOD: Ah. The Bible.
JARVIS: Yes. Look
right here. “Thou shalt not lie with mankind, as with
womankind: it is an abomination.” Leviticus 18.22
GOD: Well, I may
have been a little hasty. I’m not sure about that bit
JARVIS: Not sure?
You’re God! You don’t make mistakes!
GOD: Perhaps I am
not the real God. Perhaps I’m merely a dream God –
a figment of your imagination.
GOD: Also, why do
you assume The Bible is one hundred percent reliable?
JARVIS: You mean
GOD: I didn’t
say that. But look, if you plan entirely to base your morality
on the contents of just one book, you had better be sure it
is the right book. And you had better be sure to what extent
it can be relied upon, hadn’t you?
The Lord pointed
to The Bible lying in Jarvis’s lap.
GOD: Flip forward
a couple of pages. Scan down a bit. That’s it. Leviticus
11.7-8 What does it say?
the swine, though he divide the hoof; he is unclean to you.
Of their flesh shall ye not eat.”
GOD: Ever eaten
a bacon sandwich? Then you have sinned! Now a little further
shall ye eat of all that are in the waters: whatsoever hath
fins and scales in the waters, in the seas, and in the rivers
them shall ye eat. And all that have not fins and scales. .
GOD: “. .
. ye shall not eat of their flesh.” Didn’t your
last meal include moules marinière? Why aren’t
you Christians out boycotting seafood restaurants and warning
of the perils of lobster thermidor?
Jarvis turned a
GOD: If you read
over the page from the passage about homosexuality, you will
discover that it’s also wrong to wear a jacket made from
a linen/wool mix.
JARVIS: I hadn’t
noticed that bit before.
GOD: Further on
it says it’s sinful to lend money for interest. Yet you
condemn not one of these things, do you?
GOD: But you confidently
cite that particular passage of Leviticus to justify your condemnation
of homosexuality. It seems you are picking and choosing.
Jarvis: But surely you no longer mean those other passages about
seafood, jackets and lending money to apply? They’re outdated,
God looked sternly
GOD: The word of
God? Outdated? Okay, I don’t blame you for failing to
condemn those who wear jackets made from a linen/wool mix. But
you’re using your own sense of right and wrong, your own
moral criteria, to decide which passages of The Bible to accept
and which to reject, aren’t you?
JARVIS: Yes, I guess
GOD: Indeed, it’s
because the morality of The Bible does generally fit in with
what you already think about right and wrong that you are prepared
to accept The Bible as my word, isn’t it? If The Bible
recommended stealing, lying and killing, you would hardly be
likely to take it as My word, would you?
JARVIS: I guess
GOD: Then I think
you should be honest. Rather than picking those bits of The
Bible you like and rejecting the rest, and then claiming that
your particular selection has my divine stamp of approval, I
think you should just say that you think homosexuality is wrong
and leave me out of it.
JARVIS: Very well.
GOD: Right, so if
you believe homosexuality is wrong, can you explain to me why
it’s wrong? Why do these men deserve punishment?
Jarvis looked out
at the assembled crowd and scratched his head.
JARVIS: I didn’t
say you should punish them. Perhaps they should be forgiven.
But they have sinned. I can give you a number of reasons why.
GOD: What reasons?
JARVIS: The first
is that homosexuality is unnatural.
GOD: Ah. That’s
perhaps the most commonly held justification for condemning
homosexual acts. But in what sense is homosexuality unnatural?
JARVIS: Well, most
people aren’t actively homosexual. So homosexuality is
an aberration from the norm.
GOD: In a sense.
But then most men don’t have red hair. So red hair is
also, as you put it, an aberration from the norm. Yet there
is nothing unnatural about red hair, is there?
JARVIS: True. What
I mean is that homosexual acts are unnatural because they are
not what nature intended.
GOD: Not what nature
intended? Hmm. Again, you need to clarify. Do you mean that
homosexual acts run against those tendencies that nature has
instilled in man, those that come most naturally to him?
JARVIS: Yes, I suppose
GOD: I see. But
now what about cleanliness? Cleanliness is next to Godliness,
they say. Yet it hardly comes naturally to most human beings
does it? Children seem positively fond of dirt. Man, for the
most part, is pretty filthy, and doesn’t much mind being
so. Your human obsession with hygiene is a very modern development.
But then, by your own reasoning, cleanliness is morally wrong.
JARVIS: Oh dear.
GOD: Indeed, much
that comes naturally to man is immoral. But he also seems naturally
inclined towards greed, avarice, selfishness, infidelity and
aggression. Humans have to struggle to control these natural
inclinations. In fact it’s only those who succeed in thwarting
these repugnant natural tendencies that are considered virtuous.
Yet you would now reverse this and say that these tendencies,
being natural, are good and what runs against them bad! Let
me introduce you to someone.
felt another person sitting close by. He turned to his right
and saw a bald, serious-looking man dressed in a dark suit.
GOD: This is John
Stuart Mill, who lived from 1806 to 1873. Mill here didn’t
always give me a good press. In fact meeting me came as something
of a surprise to you, didn’t it Mill?
Mill smiled nervously.
GOD: But he does
has something interesting to say about what is natural. Don’t
to nature, has no connection whatever with right and wrong….To
illustrate this point, let us consider the phrase by which the
greatest intensity of condemnatory feeling is conveyed in connection
with the idea of nature – the word unnatural. That a thing
is unnatural, in any precise meaning which can be attached to
the word, is no argument for its being blameable; since the
most criminal actions are to a being like man, not more unnatural
than most of the virtues.
No sooner had Mill
finished speaking than he vanished in a puff of smoke.
GOD: A fine mind,
that Mill. So what do you say now?
Jarvis looked a
little irritated. He remained convinced that there is something
unnatural about homosexuality, something that makes it morally
wrong. But he was struggling very hard to identify exactly what
this unnatural and immoral feature is. Then, after a few minutes,
Jarvis had an idea.
JARVIS: I have it!
The penis has a specific function, doesn’t it? It’s
designed for procreation: for the production of children. Homosexual
activity is thus a misuse of that particular body part. One
is using a body part contrary to the way nature intended.
GOD: I see. But
then most sexual activity is morally wrong. For most sexual
activity – even heterosexual activity – involves
the thwarting of the procreative natural function. Masturbation
is sinful: it cannot result in the production of children. Oral
sex is sinful. The use of any sort of contraceptive device is
sinful. Is that what you believe?
certainly what many Catholics believe, isn’t it?
GOD: True. But look,
if the justification for considering all these sorts of sexual
activity sinful is that they involve using body parts contrary
to their “natural” function, then what about, say,
wearing earrings? It hardly looks like a “natural”
use of the ears, does it, hanging lumps of metal off them? Yet
it’s not considered sinful. No doubt you would deny that
wearing earrings involves, as you said, using a body part “contrary
to its basic, essential function”. But why?
GOD: And in any
case, the question remains: Why is it wrong to use a body part
contrary to its basic natural function? I just don’t see
why it follows that if something comes unnaturally to us, or
to a part of our body, then it’s wrong.
Jarvis was struggling
to answer God’s question adequately. So he decides to
try a different tack.
JARVIS: Okay. Suppose
I accept that Mill is correct. Morality has nothing to do with
what’s “natural” or “unnatural”.
Still there’s another much more obvious and better reason
for condemning homosexual practices. I hope you won’t
be offended if I speak frankly.
GOD: Be as frank
as you like.
JARVIS: Very well.
Homosexuality is dirty, isn’t it? Sodomy – placing
ones penis in someone else’s anus – means that it
is probable that one will come into contact with faeces.
GOD: What you say
about sodomy is true. But does this show that all homosexual
acts are wrong? No, it doesn’t. There are plenty of active
homosexuals who don’t practise sodomy. You can’t
condemn them, can you?
GOD: Also, there
are heterosexual couples that practise sodomy, aren’t
JARVIS: There are?
GOD: Take my word
for it. But in any case, just because an activity is dirty doesn’t
make it wrong.
JARVIS: Why not?
a keen gardener, aren’t you?
GOD: Well, gardening
is a pretty dirty activity, isn’t it? Particularly where
you live. There is rarely a day you spend in the garden that
doesn’t result in you immersing your hands in cat faeces,
Jarvis: I guess
that’s true. You are right. Gardening is dirty, but it’s
not immoral. So I can’t really use the alleged dirtiness
of sodomy to justify my morally condemning it, can I?
catching on, my boy.
Jarvis now tried
a different tack.
JARVIS: To engage
in homosexual activity is unhealthy. That’s why it’s
JARVIS: Yes. Take
HIV for example. HIV is an infection that results in AIDS. AIDS
kills millions of people. And it is through homosexual activity
that HIV is spread. Correct?
GOD: You are partially
correct. HIV can be spread through all forms of penetrative
sex. Indeed, many heterosexuals are infected too.
GOD: Also, homosexuals
may practise safe sex. Heterosexuals too. Practise safe sex
and the risks are pretty low.
JARVIS: Hmm. Also
true, I guess.
GOD: Perhaps it’s
true that homosexual acts are more likely to pass on the disease
than are heterosexual acts, even if they are of the comparatively
“safe” variety. But does that make it wrong? If
it were found that drinking wine is similarly a bit less healthy
than drinking beer, we wouldn’t morally condemn those
wine drinkers who refused to switch to beer, would we?
Jarvis: I guess not.
JARVIS: But what
of homosexuals who prey on innocent young men? That’s
wrong, isn’t it?
GOD: But it’s
no less wrong when men seek to seduce innocent and impressionable
young women, surely?
JARVIS: Well, yes,
that is wrong too. But what the homosexual seducer does is more
JARVIS: Well, because
the young man involved may then end up adopting a homosexual
lifestyle himself. He may be corrupted.
assuming, I think, that homosexuals tend to be made, not born.
That’s contentious, is it not?
JARVIS: Well, isn’t
it plausible that some men who would, other things being equal,
go on to have only heterosexual sexual relationships may have
a tendency towards homosexuality that, given the wrong sort
of experience at an impressionable age, may result in them then
pursuing homosexual liaisons later in life?
not implausible. But notice that you’re begging the question.
If there’s nothing morally wrong with homosexuality, then
what difference does it make if a young man does end up engaging
in homosexual acts? Why insist that this young man is corrupted?
JARVIS: Well, homosexuals
live miserable lives. In many societies they continue to be
vilified. So, as a result of his early homosexual experience,
this young man may end up having an unhappy life. The homosexual
who initiates the young man into this life must know this. So
what the initiator does is wrong.
GOD: Perhaps. But
even if what you say is true, is the blame for the young man’s
misery to be pinned primarily on the homosexual who initiates
God pointed an accusatory
finger at Jarvis.
it be more appropriate to blame people like you for making homosexuals
miserable by vilifying them?
bother to answer God’s question. Instead, he pointed out
something about male homosexuals that does appear to be true.
JARVIS: Male homosexuals
tend to be rather more promiscuous than heterosexuals.
Doesn’t that, at least, make them worthy of your moral
GOD: This, at best,
would give me reason to condemn those homosexuals that were
promiscuous. It would not justify my condemning homosexual acts
per se. In fact there are many homosexual couples that remain
faithful throughout their lives. And plenty of heterosexuals
are promiscuous too.
JARVIS: True. But
homosexuals tend to be more promiscuous.
GOD: In fact, there’s
a scientific explanation for that. Males seem naturally much
more disposed towards having no-strings sex than do females.
Ask heterosexual men if they would accept the offer of no-risk,
no-strings sex with an attractive stranger of the opposite sex
and over 90% say “yes.” Ask heterosexual women the
same question and the vast majority say “no.”
GOD: Yes. So you
see, in heterosexual relationships, women act as a natural brake
on the male’s impulse to have sex fairly indiscriminately.
For male homosexuals this brake is missing. It is unsuprising,
then, that they tend to be more promiscuous than are heterosexual
males. It’s not that they are any less moral. It’s
just that they have more opportunity to do what most men, whatever
their sexual persuasion, would do given the opportunity.
you admit that male homosexuals do tend to be more promiscuous,
and promiscuity is not to be encouraged. So male homosexuality
is not to be encouraged, surely.
GOD: Your argument
rests on the assumption that promiscuity is itself a bad thing.
But is it?
GOD: Can you explain
to me why you think it is?
EACH OTHER AS MEANS, NOT ENDS
JARVIS: Well, take
for example those bathhouses in San Francisco. You know, the
ones in which homosexual orgies are supposed to have taken place.
Men having sex with complete strangers at the drop of a hat.
These men would be treating other men not as ends in themselves,
but merely as a means to an end, that end being their own immediate
sexual gratification. Now that is morally wrong, surely. It
was the philosopher Kant (1724-1804) who said: “Act so
that you treat humanity, whether in your own person or in that
of another, always as an end and never as a means only.”
And that is quite right, isn’t it? One ought to treat
others as ends in themselves, rather than as the means by which
one might obtain a quick sexual thrill. That, surely, is why
such promiscuous behaviour is wrong.
GOD: An ingenious
argument, I admit. But not persuasive. Let me conjure up for
you another philosopher, Lord Quinton (1925- ), who has something
interesting to say on this matter.
A figure began to
materialize to Jarvis’s right. First some hands appeared;
then a nose. Finally, there was Anthony Quinton standing before
him (Quinton, incidentally, bears an uncanny resemblance to
GOD: Ah. Lord Quinton.
My friend Jarvis just suggested that it is wrong to use another
person not as an end in themselves, but merely as a means to
sexual pleasure. Homosexuals are less likely to enter into lasting,
monogamous sexual relationships. They are, perhaps, more likely
to engage in casual sex with a complete stranger, on a whim.
Is it that a problem, morally?
QUINTON: It is certainly
true that long-term, morally and personally profound relationships
are less common among homosexuals. How much does that matter?
If I regularly play tennis with someone but do not see him except
on the tennis court and at the health juice bar afterwards,
if, in other words, I am interested in him only as a tennis
partner, am I ignoring his status as an end in himself? More
to the point, if I pick up different opponents every time I
go to the courts, on a purely casual basis, am I acting immorally?
JARVIS: But hang
on. Sex is not like tennis is it? Sex is a much more important
part of life, surely.
for a minute number of people sex is a more important part of
life than tennis. A life in which it is merely a source of short-term
gratification and not an inseparable part of a whole shared
life is to that extent trivialized. But triviality is not a
moral offence; it is, rather, a missed opportunity and one which,
in fact, many homosexuals do not miss.
God waved his hand
and Lord Quinton began to dissolve into tendrils of cloud. As
the last wisps drifted away, God looked intently at Jarvis.
GOD: So you see,
it may be true that some homosexuals use each other as means
to an end and not as ends in themselves. But, as Quinton just
explained, it’s difficult to see why there is anything
morally wrong with that. It may also be true that some homosexuals
miss out on the kind of deeper connection that can be made only
within a stable, lasting and sexually exclusive relationship.
However, as Quinton also just explained, this is surely not
a reason morally to condemn them.
his head. He now felt very confused.
JARVIS: But I felt
sure that you would condemn homosexuality.
GOD: If two consenting
adult males want to enter into a sexual relationship, why not?
So far you have not given me a single convincing reason why
such activity demands my condemnation. Homosexual sex does no
harm to others. Nor does it appear to do much obvious harm to
the individuals involved. Why shouldn’t people engage
in it if that is what they want?
Jarvis: You say
that homosexuality does no harm to others. But perhaps it does.
Perhaps it has a corrosive effect on society as a whole. For
doesn’t it eat away at the institution that lies at the
heart of any civilized society: the family?
GOD: Why do you
JARVIS: Well, for
a start, if everyone was exclusively homosexual, then there
would be no families, would there? The human race would die
GOD: Does that make
homosexuality wrong? I think not. For, similarly, if every man
became a Catholic Priest, that too would mean the end of the
family. Yet there’s nothing immoral about being a Catholic
Priest, I hope?
JARVIS: No. But
look, societies that fail to condemn homosexuality crumble.
Once homosexuality is considered a morally acceptable alternative
to heterosexuality, the result must be the breakdown of the
family. And the family is the glue that binds society together,
is it not?
GOD: You seem to
be suggesting that homosexuality is like some sort of disease
that will inevitably eat away at the vitals of society unless
strongly dealt with.
JARVIS: Yes, I am.
GOD: But why must
a society that tolerates homosexuality crumble? Actually, it
seems to me that societies tolerant of homosexuality thrive
just as much if not more than intolerant ones. And why do you
believe homosexuality is a threat to the family? Why can’t
we have both strong families and tolerance? You really have
made no case for any of these conclusions, have you?
GOD: In fact, it
seems to me that your attitude towards homosexuals is driven
less by reason and more by emotion: by feelings of disgust and
JARVIS: I do have
strong feelings about them, yes. They do revolt me. And shouldn’t
society take into account the strong moral convictions of the
great many who have such feelings?
GOD: But it’s
clear, isn’t it, that morality isn’t simply a matter
of emotion? Just because most people feel that something is
disgusting or abhorrent doesn’t make it wrong. After all,
plenty of people feel strongly about the moral inferiority of
Jews. Plenty feel similarly about blacks. Plenty feel sickened
by foreigners. Yet all these feelings are without justification.
That kind of “them and us” sentiment on which “they”
are held to be dirty, nasty and immoral comes very naturally
to you humans. Perhaps you should be more vigilant, more on
your guard against letting such feelings get a grip. As Ronald
Dworkin points out, you certainly shouldn’t mistake such
feelings for moral conviction. Isn’t that right, Ronald?
figure started to take form next to Jarvis and began to speak.
DWORKIN: If I base
my view about homosexuals on a personal emotional reaction (‘they
make me sick’) you would reject [it]. We distinguish moral
positions from emotional reactions, not because moral positions
are supposed to be unemotional or dispassionate – quite
the reverse is true – but because the moral position is
supposed to justify the emotional reaction, and not vice versa.
If a man is unable to produce such reasons, we do not deny the
fact of his emotional involvement, which may have important
social or political consequences, but we do not take this involvement
as demonstrating his moral conviction. Indeed, it is just this
sort of position – a severe emotional reaction to a practice
or a situation for which one cannot account – that we
tend to describe, in lay terms, as phobias or an obsession.
Jarvis looked uncomfortable.
GOD: See? You’re
in the grip of a phobia or obsession.
JARVIS: Oh dear.
GOD: Having said
all that, let’s get on with the judging.
God reached forward
and pressed a small red button on his armrest. Immediately,
the hall was bathed in an eerie red light and the air filled
with the deafening “Parp! Parp! Parp!” of a claxon.
Jarvis noticed that over on the left of the hall a number of
doors had sprung open and little horned creatures with long
tails were pouring out. These devil-creatures immediately began
to prod the assembled homosexuals back in the direction of the
doorways with their spiked forks. Many of these unfortunate
men were now holding each other and whimpering.
right. You all burn.
Jarvis: In hell?
GOD: I’m afraid
so. They didn’t follow instructions. Couldn’t be
clearer. You pointed out one of the relevant passages yourself.
Homosexuality is an abomination. I razed Sodom to ground, didn’t
JARVIS: But a minute
ago you said . . .
GOD: I have been
testing you. I have pretended to be a bleeding-heart liberal
in order to establish your commitment to The Bible. I do tests.
Don’t you remember Isaac and Abraham – Genesis 23?
Jarvis: But what
about forgiveness? Aren’t you going to allow them into
God pointed to the
men being herded about by the devil-creatures
GOD: Let them into
heaven? How can I?
JARVIS: But I thought
you said . . .
GOD: There you go,
thinking again. It’s all in the book: The book you hold
in your hands. Take a look at Corinthians, 1, 6:9-11. It says
very clearly that ‘abusers of themselves with mankind
. . . shall not inherit the Kingdom of God. Such were some of
you, but ye are washed . . . ye are justified in the name of
the Lord Jesus.’ Now these men are not ‘washed’
are they? They don’t repent. In fact, they flaunt their
activities proudly before us. That one even has a ‘Gay
There was indeed
a worried looking man standing at the front with a slightly
droopy cardboard placard.
all very clear: they go to hell.
GOD: Rules are rules.
So who’s next? Ah yes, the lobster eaters. Come on down!
At this Jarvis woke
up, his bed soaked in sweat.