April 25, 2015

Mail Bag – Is Heterosexuality More Moral Than Homosexuality? The Moral, Religious, and Political Question That Stumped Me for Two Weeks

(Even if you don’t care about the issue discussed in this mail bag edition, it might be useful to see how we approach problems around here because this is the same process we use for our investments.  It is probably the most revealing example of the thought process we bring to capital allocation than anything else I’ve written.)

Mail Bag Mail Box Questions

First, the usual caveat: I sincerely hate this issue (gay marriage) because I am so tired of talking about it or hearing about it on the news.  Marriage equality is inevitable so I wish we could just fast forward to the end of the culture wars so we can focus on important things like building high speed trains or figuring out how to solve the budgetary deficit without causing a massive deflationary depression.  But I’m a news and political junky.  You’re talking to the guy who skipped major parts of 4th grade to watch the Clinton impeachment trials on CSPAN.

In another five years, I imagine we’ll be at full equality; game, set, match.  Equality wins.  People can live their life without the American Taliban trying to shove their own version of Sharia law down their neighbors’ throats.  And I can stop thinking about it because you – the readers – will stop sending me questions about my beliefs.  After all, when was the last time I had to write a post about a black person getting sent to the back of a bus or a woman being denied the right to vote?  But we aren’t there, yet.  So this is germane to the zeitgeist.

The Question That Stumped Me

It takes a lot to stump me.  In the ten years I’ve been writing online, I have responded to more questions than I can even estimate – easily in the tens of thousands.  But well over 90% of questions posed have to do with investing, economics, finance, business, management, or entrepreneurship.  Sure, there is the occasional, “Let me get back to you, I want to check something.”  But very rarely do I have to reflect on a topic and run it through the full list of mental models and my five rules for serious conversation.  I got two such questions this week.  One of them, I can’t discuss since it was a private question about a specific situation that isn’t likely to be repeated by anyone on the blog so it doesn’t do any good to explain it.

The other was a conversation that happened in the comments section of one of the previous mail bag posts.  And the worst part is, it stumped me on a topic I hate more than almost any other except communism – gay rights.

Is Heterosexuality More Moral Than Homosexuality?

Mail Bag Mail IconThank you for standing up for gay marriage Joshua, it’s one of the many reasons I consider your writings always worthy of my time and attentions. It says a lot about your character that you’d stand up for what’s right, especially when you’re surrounded by people who are wrong (*gasp* I just referred to what some people consider a subjective opinion as right or wrong, such a cardinal sin…) It’s one thing to stand up for gay marriage in San Francisco, quite another to do it when you live in the Midwest. Do people automatically assume that you’re gay when you do so?

There’s an interesting implict assumption that is -sometimes- (not always) present in the argument you used, that gay people can’t change and therefore should be left to their own devices. Assuming for argument’s sake that it is possible to change your sexuality on a whim, is it more moral for gay people to become straight if they could do so without negative affect? Is it more moral for a bisexual man to marry a woman than another man? – Crabhooves

First, We Have to Define Morality and Understand What a Moral Action Is

You are asking about morality.  Words mean something so I have to identify what it is to be “moral”.  That means we need to frame the parameters.  A few hours ago, I sat down to my desk and wrote an essay called “What Is Morality?  Are Morals Relative to Circumstances?”.  There is no way you can understand my response without reading that essay first.  Take a moment to do it.  This article will still be here when you are done.  I’ll wait.

Before We Can Discuss the Morality of Homosexuality and Heterosexuality, We Need to Define Sexual Orientation and Sexual Behavior

Now that we have defined morality, we have to define sexual orientation.

  • Sexual behavior is what someone does.  If a man has sex with a woman, that is heterosexual behavior.
  • Sexual orientation is who you want to have sex with.  If a man sees another man and wants to sleep with him, his sexual orientation is homosexual.

There are two components to sexual orientation:

  • Sexual desire – Who you want to bed
  • Emotional desire – Who you want to kiss, grow old with, and cuddle next to on the couch

Martha Stewart Gay Wedding Jeremy HooperMost people are an integrated whole.  That is, you are either heterosexual or homosexual.  Most of the studies I’ve seen show that true bisexuality does exist but it is far more common in the female population (the current consensus, if there is one, has to do with the way the arousal mechanisms work, with female attraction being far more fluid than males, who tend to be hardwired based on visuals).  That is, when men were shown various pornographic images during brain scans, the arousal areas lit up based upon sexual orientation but far fewer men were truly bisexual.  Whatever causes men’s visual wiring resulted in an almost consistent binary outcome.  Women were far more complex.

That means that your sexual orientation is not determined by your sexual behavior.  A gay man could sleep with women his entire life and he is still a gay man who is having sex with women.  Likewise, a straight man could be in prison and engage in a homosexual act but it doesn’t change the fact that his sexual orientation is heterosexual.

Furthermore, sexual orientation is not just about sex.  If a man is unable to copulate due to medical issues or old age and he is heterosexual, he is likely to still desire a wife, a family, and the emotional connections of that.  After all, long before Viagra, old men still dated old women in nursing homes.

Virtually all people are either heterosexual, homosexual, or bisexual.  There are asexual people but they are a statistical anomaly when viewed as a percentage of the population and therefore not relevant to this particular discussion.

From Here, We Need to Use Decision Trees to Help Determine the Morality of Heterosexuality versus the Morality of Homosexuality

Martha Stewart Gay Wedding

Martha Stewart features gay weddings in her magazines and television shows, the first of which was the Connecticut wedding between blogger Jeremy Hooper and his husband Andrew Shulman. The question posed by the reader is – would they be acting any more “moral” by marrying women instead of each other? I say no. The entire idea is absurd.  What rational ends could possibly be achieved by forcing them to marry women?  They are going to be unhappy, the women are going to be unhappy, and there is no corresponding societal gain to offset that “cost” of personal unhappiness other than to make a few prejudiced people feel better about themselves.  (Image property of Martha Stewart Omnimedia)

At this point, we need to break out a useful tool called the decision tree.

First, we need to determine if there are any costs associated with either heterosexuality or homosexuality.

  • Costs of heterosexuality: Increased population, potential for out-of-wedlock births and teen pregnancy leading to higher social program expense and taxes
  • Costs of homosexuality: Lower population (recent trends in surrogacy and reproductive technology have changed this).

Some might argue that homosexuality has enormous costs such as AIDs or sexually transmitted disease.  This is incorrect because:

  • They are, in fact, costs of promiscuity not homosexuality
  • Lesbians have far lower rates of HIV, AIDs, and other STDs than any other group.  Unplanned pregnancy is virtually impossible in lesbian relationships.  I say “virtually” because it remains theoretically possible that in a world of 7 billion people, parthenogenesis could happen.  If we use this as a metric for morality, lesbian relationships would be the “most moral” of all.

Is Procreation a Necessary Requirement for Marriage?

Now, we need to determine whether procreation is a necessary part of heterosexual unions.  Or, as reader KansasKate put it:

Assuming for argument’s sake that it is possible to change your race on a whim, is it more moral for black people to become white if they could do so without negative affect? Is it more moral for a biracial man to marry a black woman than white woman?

Remember the movie “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner”? I feel certain that when it was made in the 1967, mixed-race marriages were still illegal in some states, and they were definitely viewed as immoral by many.

Do the same people who today see same-sex marriage as immoral also see mixed-race marriage in the same light? Are the people who today support (or at least don’t oppose) mixed-race marriages also willing to support (or at least not oppose) same-sex marriage?

As for the “moral imperative” of biological reproduction… I’m straight, my husband’s straight, and we’ve been married for over 25 years. We are child-free by choice. Does that make us any less married than a couple with 6 kids? Not legally. The judge who married us says we’re married. The State of Kansas says we’re married. The IRS says we’re married. Does it make our marriage less “moral”? One could argue the opposite — that people who, for whatever reason, choose not to have children should not be pressured into having them. Having children when one is not fully committed to caring for every aspect of their upbringing — that’s what I call selfish, wrong and perhaps even immoral.

But questions like these are sort of pointless without first defining what is meant by “moral” and, if that morality is based on Christianity, where does that leave those of us who are not christians? Are we to be forced into following a conservative interpretation (or any interpretation, for that matter) of christian dogma? And if so, would that not be prohibiting the free exercise of religion?

Kate sums up the question of morality in reproduction eloquently: Is she and her husband of 25 years “less married” than a comparable couple who has had six children?  Is she and her husband any less married than two teenagers forced into a shotgun wedding due to an unplanned pregnancy?  I’d say no.

Is my grandmother less married to her husband of 20 years because they don’t have any children together?  Of course not.  Would any of my aunts or uncles that suffered reproduction difficulty be any less married if they adopted rather than had biological children?  No.

Thus, procreation is not a necessary component of morality.

In fact, I would argue that reproduction can become immoral, such as a single woman who has 12 or more children, cannot support them, suffers from a drug habit, and constantly turns her children over to the State to exist on the taxpayers’ dime.

What Are the “Switching Costs” Involved?

Next, we have to examine “switching costs”.  If a heterosexual chose to behave like a homosexual or a homosexual chose to behave like a heterosexual, what are the consequences?

  • Lack of emotional fulfillment.  If a boy dreams of marrying Prince Charming and having kids, he’s never going to feel the same way about having a wife as he would having a husband
  • Lack of sexual fulfillment.  If a boy gets turned on by other boys, sex is going to be a chore.  Sex should never be a chore.

Over time, the emotional toll of maintaining behavior that is diametrically opposed to orientation is likely to be significant.

I would be inclined to say that it would be immoral to live in a manner that is inconsistent with your sexual orientation.  However, humans have free will.  If someone suffers emotional pain from religious beliefs that make them want to change, they may be more at peace by remaining celibate than they would be in a same-sex relationship.

But here is the catch: The question is complicated because Crabhooves, in his original message, asked whether or not it was moral for a gay person to become straight if they suffered no negative consequences.

If a heterosexual person could become homosexual and a homosexual person could become heterosexual without any consequences to their own personal happiness, and we have already determined that biological reproduction is not a necessary moral imperative for marriage, it is morally neutral.  Neither is morally preferable.

The Rules Change If Aliens Attack

Sarah Palin Shops at Saks

Say what you will about Sarah Palin but that woman can dress. I’ve never seen her look anything but flawless.

Now, in the previous essay, we talked about how it becomes a moral imperative to protect the human species in the event of a population crisis due to a global disaster.  If another “black death” occurred or mankind was obliterated down to a few thousand people due to a meteor strike, reproduction becomes a necessary moral act.  But reproduction is not tied to sexual orientation.  Gays and lesbians could reproduce just as quickly as heterosexuals and would likely be encouraged to do so.  That doesn’t require them to be in love with the person with whom they are copulating.

In other words, if the entire world except West Hollywood and San Francisco were wiped out, humanity would still survive because you would just have mixed-orientation couples reproducing and raising kids together.  Every family would very quickly look like the Duggars with 19 kids and counting.  Only with better music and clothes.

(Seriously, I like the Duggars.  I really, really do.  But sometimes I wish Michelle Duggar would just get on a plane, treat herself to a Bergdorf Goodman trip, and take a page out of Sarah Palin’s stylebook.  (Say what you will about Palin, but that woman knows how dress.  She may not be able to tell you which newspapers she reads but she knows Saks and Neiman Marcus.  Any woman would be lucky to look half as good as she does.))

That means reproduction becomes a moral imperative but heterosexuality does not.  Elton John has a kid.  Ricky Martin has a kid.  Their sexual orientation was not an impediment to their reproduction.

The Bottom Line – The Answer To Your Question

If a man is perfectly bisexual – that is he is 50% attracted to men and 50% attracted to women – and he has a choice to fall in love and date either gender, is one choice more moral than the other?


It comes down to the person with whom he wants to spend his life.  It is, frankly, none of society’s damn business.  Nor is it the business of the United States government.  Sexual orientation is an ingrained trait that is just like left handedness.  It is not chosen.  Sexual behavior in regards to which gender a person sleeps with has no negative consequences in and of itself and, in fact, behaving in a way that is inconsistent with orientation can have significant detrimental effects on a person’s mental health; harm comes from manifestations of that behavior (e.g., not remaining in a monogamous relationship, not using a condom, etc.)

That means that a gay couple is in no way morally superior or inferior to a straight couple any more than a blond is morally superior to a brunette or a white person is morally superior to a black person.  The entire notion is absurd.

Take This One Off the Charlie Munger “Too Hard” Pile

Now … I don’t want to think this hard for a long time.  This took far too much energy to work through given my schedule.  But at least now I can cross that off the “too hard” pile Charlie Munger talks about and I followed the five rules for serious conversation.


1 Most of what people call moral is nothing more than pure, unadulterated, learned hatred no different than Germans were taught to hate Jews or Romans were taught to persecute Christians.  It is borne of fear, misunderstanding, and prejudice.  It’s entirely cultural, not religious (after all, the Bible calls people who herd animals abominations because they are unclean and says it is an abomination to eat food after three days because it is no longer fit for consumption). That means there is a sin shelf life on your Thanksgiving day leftovers and you don’t see anyone worrying about that, anymore.

  • crabhooves

    I’m honoured that I managed to stump Joshua Kennon for two whole weeks! I’ll confess that I was a bit anxious, maybe worried is the better word that you’d lapse into layer after layer of abstraction and then find a tiny detail that is enough for you to declare that heterosexuality is slightly more moral. Humans, in my experience, aren’t good at fine distinctions so a tiny smidgen like that would filter through to “Heterosexuality is more moral”.

    It just occured to me that in the event of a mass instinction gays and lesbians might even be better at repopulating our species than bisexuals or heterosexuals (especially if there was a skewed gender ratio).Our reproduction would be separate to our love, so we would be able to be cold, discerning and mathematical about it. If Joe had 4 children with Jane, but then she was unable ot have more, he could easily move onto the next woman and enhance our reproductive capability, but a heterosexual man might have fallen deeply in love with Jane and be unwilling to sleep with another woman, thus styming our future as a species.

    I’ll have to remember that the next time some internet genius tells me that gays will spell the end of humanity. You know…because homosexuality a choice, which would imply they could choose it at a moments notice, but funnily enough I’ve never heard of someone making said choice or acknowledging their ability to do so.

    Anyway, my thanks for writing this out, I hope that any additional mental acuity you gained offset the trouble of thinking so hard about it!

    P.S You didn’t answer a relatively simple question, assuming you skipped over it for the sake of brevity and not because you find it too personal (my apologies if you do) but do people assume you’re gay when you stand up for gay marriage?

    • http://www.joshuakennon.com Joshua Kennon

      In answer to your question, a bit of both; brevity because I had to split this response into two essays that totaled 3,000 to 4,000 words to work out my thoughts and too personal because my family, as I have said on the blog before, is uncomfortable with me discussing anything about my personal life and wants me to follow Buffett’s rule about commenting (you simply don’t respond because if you say “no comment” but then deny certain allegations then “no comment” becomes confirmation). They were the ones behind the dozens of posts that were pulled six months ago if you recall. My parents don’t even like it if I put up pictures where I ate dinner.

      But, even though I will probably end up taking the response down, I am sitting here with a cup of coffee, under a giant blanket, and about to go to work for the day so I’ll comment before they see it.

      No, not really.

      The topic has become such a common political topic in the states that even Republicans like Megan McCain, daughter of Republican Presidential nominee John McCain, supports it.

      It depends less on geographic area than it does on age; e.g., years ago, when it was first used as a wedge issue in the United States Presidential Election of 2004, my younger brother made an off-handed comment about his best friend, “I wouldn’t care if he were gay. It’s not like I want to have sex with him.”

      Everyone under 35 in the room just nodded and agreed. This was followed by our grandmother, looking aghast, asking, “Caleb …. you do like girls, right?” (When I first wrote about supporting marriage equality, she asked me the same thing. Another, older person I know told me they were concerned I “no longer loved Jesus because” we are supposed to hate gay people, basically.)

      There is some geographic component. For example, if I were to oppose marriage equality, virtually all of my friends in New York and New Jersey would stop speaking to me. And a few in Texas, too. But it isn’t about location, gender, sexual orientation, or anything … it is age. Pure and simple. Folks 35 and under – we just don’t get the big deal. Older generations, generally speaking, are convinced that it will be the end of civilization.

      To put it more starkly, almost all of the older people in my life, both friends and family, oppose marriage equality. Almost all of the people 35 and younger I know support it. This is true from Democrats and Republicans, Christians and non-religious types, gay and straight.

      But you also have to realize: I exist in a bubble. I’m surrounded by other highly educated, successful, financially well-off people who got to where they are because they think independently. So my social network might not be the best indicator of the broader culture. We are, by definition, “the elite” (or as one of my friends put it, “the top of the bell curve”).

      But generally speaking, it is an age thing followed by an education-level thing. If you are older, you think any support is suspect. If you are younger, you think it is just the right thing to do.

      Judging by your question, though, I’d assume it must not be the same way in Australia. Then again, you probably haven’t had it talked about on your television stations non-stop for the past 8 years.

  • Renee@ya

    What a powerful and selfless mindset and message!!!! I stumbled upon your site while doing a research paper for an Ethics class. At first, I was thinking, “Great, another “money mogul” that thinks he has an opinion on the plight of the gay community.” ,but after reading your post and referencing the other post that you inserted, I am very impressed.
    It is so refreshing to encounter an article by a non-member(gay humor) that actually has a backbone to it. This is not your typical “leave the poor gays alone, they can’t help it” speech. Your post is inteligent, philisophical, socially responsible, and above all, it is moral.
    Thank you for your educated and eloquent contribution to a battle that is very difficult to describe and even harder to put into words.

    • Joshua Kennon

      I appreciate the kind words, Renee. Given that you said you enjoy the way I attack and process problems and concepts, you might want to read more about the so-called mental model approach that Charlie Munger talks about in his famous speech, The Psychology of Human Misjudgment. This is the entire framework through which I write, think, and conduct my life.

      Munger basically argues that to understand the world, and a problem, there are about 100 “big ideas” in science, psychology, math, biology, physics, etc. that explain most things. He warns, though, that once you start studying them, you begin to realize how blind you have been your entire life. I can’t imagine thinking about any issue without going through the checklist of models that I’ve built up since I first started using that framework to run my life and companies.

      You suddenly become aware of things like Goldovsky Errors, the existence of which is absolutely baffling. When an organization adds people and less work gets done, you realize it is because of a mental model called social loafing. When you can’t find the solution to a problem, if you are aware of the so-called Drunkard’s search mental model, you can often discover the reason you are unable to think of anything new.

      Just this past year or two, I realized that even though the average American lives far better than they did 25 years ago, the anger caused by the bottom income earners is the result of a mental model called the revolution of satisfied expectations that illustrates in psychology people don’t measure their success in life by their absolute standard of living but by their relative position, which is completely irrational. They aren’t angry about their lives, but by the fact that the rich have gotten a bigger share of pie, even though everyone is better off once you adjust for increased life expectancy, access to information, and a host of other factors.

      Mental models force people to think about problems rationally to come to the best solution for humanity regardless of dogma, creed, religion, or background.

      Start studying metal models and within a few years, it can revolutionize how you see the world, how you think about almost every issue that affects humanity, and how you conduct your own life. It is absolutely liberating in a way that nothing else I’ve ever read has been.

  • Russell

    Sometimes to achieve a particular goal one must analyze the hindrances which affect getting to the the end product and thereby save them-selfs from unnecessary stress strive and wars wherever possible. 

    Black people no longer sit to the back of the bus and  women vote. The position on abortion would always be divided even if laws are established for or against it. The reason being that everyone has a fundamental view on LIFE. Racism has not stopped because black people sit on buses, and many men still think the “womans place is in the house”. What has happen is that their independent fights/wars allowed for public or “in public” tolerance of their causes and the implementation of laws  to enforce such tolerances. It should be noted that sometimes the masses are more affected by emotional attachment to the status quo than by an actual practical solution which could be attained through analysis and evaluation of the matter at hand.In modern society the actual wedding appears to be of more importance than the marriage which in many cases end before the paper to which the signatures are affixed yellows. Yet the WORD marriage is held scared to the masses and the meaning being the “legal union of a man and woman” usually with “SEX” involved. The contract element of marriage however is quite simple, it allows for two people to be financially paired making each person the other persons “next of kin”.It is my opinion that this contract element should be afforded to any two persons (sexually involved or not) who wish to be financially paired, and allow the other the rights of being their next of kin (two unmarried brothers, two business partners, two lifelong friends, a gay couple, two fishing or hunting buddies, life long best friends, an unmarried brother and sister who wish to protect their assets from other siblings).Call the union “Kinnage” or something, but let gays get on with their lives while being tolerated by the public and protected by the related laws, leave the so called sacred (WORD) “marriage” to it’s divine protectors and this may prove to be a benefit way beyond the gay community.Remember the racist would remain racist, the chauvinist would remain chauvinist and the homophobic would remain homophobic but they would be enforced by law to show respect and tolerance in public and just like persons who exhibit racial behavior publicly they would be frowned upon by the generally public.Enough is enough, to many wars have been fought over religion, color, ethnicity, oil, water, boundaries, wealth, food and every other difference of opinion or choice. It is time to stop fighting over silly things that could be practically solved if all sides would make an effort to accommodate each other and coexist. We all in some way or the other believe in some kind or type of higher order, we should also accept that there would always be differences in opinion of what is right and what is wrong. What is publicly accepted as moral today was totally immoral in a past era. It’s time mankind learn to live together, focus all this energy to issues that would benefit us all and leave the judging to GOD.RUSSELL(Russell is a heterosexual male, late forties who thinks the world has a lot more to gain from LOVE & UNITY than from hate & devision and if we can apply engineering to solve physical problems we must be able to apply reason to solve world problems without fights/wars.)  GOD BLESS          

  • Snowflake

    If it all made such perfect sense, why would it take two weeks to sort this out?  I’d like to know the thoughts that were swirling around in your mind as you contemplated this.  Perhaps some of your questioning thoughts were of God and religion.  Well, if so, I know of a few of those thoughts. I am a “complex female” heterosexual woman and I’ll tell you why I haven’t acted on any of those “other” feelings. I don’t because  I really do believe that  God wouldn’t want me to. Why?  Because it isn’t a part of his plan for us. I konw that we all feel incredibly powerful from time-to-time, but it is not our plan, it is God’s plan. Here on this earth we get to make a lot of decisions on our own.  One decision might be to start an incredible life with a woman, but at death that would be the end of it because it wouldn’t be a part of God’s plan.  I don’t want that. I want to build something that will be part of his plan and will last beyond this life. 

    I think it is all about looking past the moment and realizing that there is something bigger than ourselves.  Probably a little out there for most people, but I am sure you will grasp what I am talking about. 
    P.S. I enjoy reading your posts.  Thanks for your hard work and advice.

    • Joshua Kennon

      1. It took two weeks because 1.) I am an incredibly busy man, 2.) I don’t answer questions of this nature unless I run them through the full gamut of mental models and rational checklists, and 3.) I thought the seriousness of the question deserved my undivided attention so I wasn’t going to simply spout off an answer. The original poster deserved more respect than that.

      As for the thoughts swirling through my head and how I ultimately arrived at my conclusion, this explanation should help:

      I use an important business tool for most of my major thought experiments, philosophical debates, and investing decisions. It is called a decision tree. By mapping out individual “forks in the road” and then detailing the options for each fork until you reach a logical end to the branch of the tree, you can create a visual representation of the choices available to you. The biggest and most important factor in creating decision trees is to be cold, calculating, and detached so as not to introduce bias. You should endeavor to accurately reflect all available real-world choices based upon evidence and not dogma.

      Based upon the question presented, I immediately drew out a decision tree based upon three options: You are either completely heterosexual, completely homosexual, or bisexual and can have feelings and sexual attraction to both genders. (I specifically excluded asexual people, who do exist, since it had no bearing on the discussion and would have taken up space unnecessarily.) Virtually everyone falls into one of those three categories and you’ve likely known which one since you first hit puberty and began developing sexual and romantic feelings.

      At that point, you choose which applies to you and follow the branch. From here, you are presented with the only three options available to most people: End up with a spouse of the same gender, end up with a spouse of the opposite gender, or end up alone and celibate. This process continues until you reach the end of a particular branch. The only way to live a happy, fulfilled life is to end up in a green box though, for a small minority of people, an orange box may be tolerable.

      My decision tree analysis indicates that there are 12 possible outcomes for a person based upon their sexual orientation. Of these, four (4) are ideal, intellectually consistent successes (green boxes), seven (7) are intolerable, irrational, and disastrous outcomes (red boxes) that will eventually lead to misery, and one (1) is somewhere between the two (orange box) that can possibly be tolerated by some people and will make others incredibly unhappy.

      I ultimately concluded that I do not believe gay people go to hell and that there is absolutely no justifiable moral disapprobation. Why? Because the entirety of the arguments against same sex equality come down to religion. In Western civilization, the dominant religious texts (the Bible) contains laws that prohibit and ban the following, though we completely ignore these:

      Chili Bowl Haircuts … and Shaving (Leviticus 19:27)
      Football or Other Sports Involving a Pigskin (Leviticus 11:8)
      Tattoos. (Leviticus 19:28)
      Rayon, Polyester, or Other Blended Fabrics. (Leviticus 19:19)
      Divorce. (Mark 10:8-12)
      Allowing Anyone Without Testicles to Attend Church. (Deuteronomy 23:1)
      Wearing Gold, Silver, or Jewelry. (1 Timothy 2:9)
      Shellfish. (Leviticus 11:10)
      A Slave Disobeying His Master. (Ephesians 6:5)
      Eating Fat. (Leviticus 3:17)
      Associating with Women Who Are on Their Periods (Leviticus 15:19-20)
      Gossip. (Leviticus 19:16)
      Women Wearing Pants. (Deuteronomy 22:5)
      Planting Two Types of Crops in a Field. (Leviticus 19:19)
      Handicapped People Are Banned from God’s Altar. (Leviticus 21:17-18)
      You Can Take Any Hot Woman You Want as a Wife. All You Have to Do Is Rape Her. (Deuteronomy 22:28-29)

      Some particularly daft people attempt to separate the two into “moral law” and “ceremonial law” but then completely ignore all other moral laws dealing with sex and relationships.

      For example, I have several members of my family who was divorced and later remarried. According to Mark 10:8-12, divorce is completely unjustified and an abomination unto God. There are no exceptions listed even if your husband treats you terribly, beats you, or is cruel. Of course, we reject this as absurd today but that is the moral law of the Bible. Yet, according to Deuteronomy 23:12, the child(ren) of this family member who were born during the second marriage are forbidden from entering the Church even though the parents were married at the time of birth since they are (a) bastard(s) in the eyes of God. In fact, even their children are banned until the 10th generation. I don’t buy it. I don’t believe it. Virtually no one does today.

      Most people believe that way today, too, and will readily admit it is so. But they will still insist that they are living in accordance with the Bible when they are not. I think those rules are ridiculous and absurd. Therefore:

      Just as I reject that handicapped people can’t enter God’s presence,
      Just as I reject that a wife who is beaten can’t divorce her husband,
      Just as I reject that it is an abomination for women to wear pants,
      Just as I reject a slave should willingly submit to his master,
      Just as I reject that department stores are creating sin en masse as a result of adding spandex to non-iron shirts,
      Just as I reject that a farmer can’t grow multiple crops,
      Just as I reject that I am forbidden to shave,
      Just as I reject that a woman can wear a diamond necklace,
      Just as I reject it is a sin to eat fat in your meals,
      Just as I reject it is an abomination to have shellfish at Red Lobster,
      Just as I reject the idea of banning women who are on their periods to isolation,
      I absolutely reject that a gay relationship is an abomination or somehow inherently less equal than a straight relationship.

      Therefore, my choice on the decision tree chart for the “Do you thinks gays are going to burn in hell?” is a “no” and I proceeded along the path branch in accordance to that conclusion.

      From here, I built other decision trees that dealt with common secular arguments against same sex marriage and relationships, including that it is about “children”.

      After going through the entire vast collection of inter-related decision trees, I could not come up with a single legitimate argument for consenting adults who want to share their lives together to be forbidden to do so. None. Not one. It is all built upon irrational prejudice and hatred, no different than what was taught to those who despised blacks and Jews in the name of God.

    • Joshua Kennon
  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1435107704 Paul Hawkins

    If a man is perfectly bisexual – that is he is 50% attracted to men and 50% attracted to women – and he has a choice to fall in love and date either gender, is one choice more moral than the other?


    You can’t be serious. Look – A MAN having sexual intercourse with another MAN is IMMORAL. There is not natural or legitimate reason for a man to be sticking his PENIS in the ANUS of another man. To categorize this as anything but 100% immoral is contrived, convoluted and inaccurate. WAKE UP. Homosexuality is IMMORAL. It is the very definition of IMMORAL.

    • Joshua Kennon

      This study by the University of Georgia seems relevant to you. It found that men who most aggressively react to homosexuality show high rates of sexual arousal at gay images, measured by blood flow to the penis. For various social and religious reasons, they repress themselves. In many cases, the men sat there and argued that they were not aroused by the images while they were fully erect.

      Healthy, normal straight men don’t have a problem with gays. Repressed gays have a problem with gay people. That is what the demonstrable, scientific facts show in a controlled study that measured blood flow and autonomic response, which cannot be controlled.

      That is called cognitive dissonance.

      And why are relationships solely about sex? When you see a 65-year old married couple, do you immediately think about them banging each other at the bingo hall in the back room? Why would you do the same thing for a gay couple? If that is the case, you may have sexual addiction issues.

      • Michael Starke

        *laughs* This guy is an a**hat. The funny thing is that he was so forgettable that I had forgotten him. Sadly, I think he may be the reason that I found your site to begin with… So if you enjoy (or do not enjoy) my company, he is at least partly to thank/blame.

        (What follows is conjecture, but the details, my fuzzy memory, and timeline seem to agree)

        He had commented on an article by Joss Whedon on Mitt Romney about three months ago, and as I have done frequently in the past, I checked his previous comments in Disqus before deciding whether he was worth responding to. I believe that I “link surfed” from there to your site. I don’t recall if this specific article was where I landed, but landed I did.

        • http://www.joshuakennon.com/ Joshua Kennon

          I had completely forgotten about this poster. It’s funny to see how readers find the site. You never know which connections or inroads bring them into its orbit.

          His server activity was so weird. He would obsessively click and reload a handful of pages on the topic even though they are so small as a percentage of content, coming back to read them over and over again.

          Thanks to him, Joss Whedon, and Mitt Romney, you’re here. I’m glad for it. He did us all a service.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1435107704 Paul Hawkins

    Also – Placing a newborn child in the custody of TWO men so that they may act as the child’s “Mother and Father” is also IMMORAL and just plain WRONG on so many levels.

    • Joshua Kennon

      You are approaching the world through a revealed knowledge and not rational analysis basis. Saying things like “immoral” or “wrong” are meaningless unless you can show harm. There is no harm.

      Microwaving cats is wrong because it harms an innocent cat.

      But let’s follow your line of reasoning. We’ll force all gays to marry women.

      1. They are going to miserable
      2. Their wives aren’t going to have the husband, lover, and friend they deserve
      3. Their children aren’t going to be able to say that they were “proceeding in life by a great love story”, which is often an indicator of the happiness of home life.

      Who, exactly, wins? The husband is miserable. The wife is miserable. The kids aren’t wanted. What good could possibly come of this?

      The fantastic news: My generation overwhelmingly supports gay rights by a factor of 80 out of 100. Nate Silver predicts the tipping point has been reached and the final stages of acceptance will fall in place by 2016, as older voters continue to die off and younger citizens reach 18 years old.

      Not for nothing, but your posts remind me of hearing the 90+ year olds at the Knights of Columbus talk about their great grandchildren having the audacity to date “those n*gg*rs”. It’s all bluster and ignorance. You can’t put the genie back in the civil rights bottle. You lost.

      • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1435107704 Paul Hawkins

        Who suggested that we “force” all gays to marry women? I never suggested such nonsense. Gays don’t need to get married. Period. If two homosexuals fall in “love”, then they live together, and love together is a committed, monogamous relationship. It can be a beautiful thing, but it is not a “marriage”. To call it that would be a travesty and inauthentic at best. SMH. Get real.

        • http://www.joshuakennon.com/ Joshua Kennon

          In that case, you’re simply a bigot (in the actual Merriam-Webster definition of the word, not as an ad hominem). To the 81 out of 100 people in our age demographic who disagree with you, your views are just as offensive as our great grandparents generation who – without any sense of self-awareness – referred to blacks as n*****rs and disowned their children if they were to marry someone of a different race. The flavor may have changed, but it’s the same underlying stupidity driven by irrational cultural indoctrination founded on no facts and no logic.

          To quote one of the current Supreme Court justices, your position comes down to nothing more than the nursery rhyme, “I do not like thee, Doctor Fell, The reason why – I cannot tell;”. Your position is prejudice for the sake of prejudice based upon a tautology.

          We’re already at the point that you have zero chance of moving up almost all Fortune 500 companies, universities, and significant cultural institutions if you hold your views, as no one in polite society will tolerate that nonsense, nor risk having someone working for them that does. Looking at the data, within a 4-6 year window, the fight is over. You lost. Move on. You are not harmed in any way, shape, or form if a gay woman wants to marry her girlfriend and form a new legal household unit with all the rights and responsibilities of that decision.

          (P.S. I don’t believe you were advocating for forcing heterosexual marriage on gays, I was utilizing a form of debate known as reductio ad absurdum. When your position is taken to its logical extreme, which is what many advocates of banning marriage equality do, especially those who argue for it on religious grounds, it demonstrates the fallacy of the position on the harm principle of morality.)

        • joel

          I appreciate your argument and thought process. Being a Christian, I don’t agree with it, but I can respect it, as I respect all people gay or straight. My question is, where does your morality come from? Mine, like “Snowflake” comes from my conscience, which has been influenced by my faith. As a fellow younger person, I’d like to know where yours comes from. Many thanks,

        • http://www.joshuakennon.com/ Joshua Kennon

          That’s a great question. There are two parts to the answer.

          As to “what is moral”: A couple of years ago, when the blog was much smaller, some readers and I had a very long discussion about it that led me to writing a post that described where I had ultimately ended up the definition of morality. You can read it here.

          It’s a harder standard than conscious alone because conscious can be influenced by irrational cultural prejudice, superstitious beliefs, and a host of other factors. Thus, you have to “train” your conscious to comply with morality. For example, in parts of the world, there are people who truly believe they are doing the right thing, and are morally convicted in a very real way, when they stone their daughters or sisters to death after the woman was raped. They are behaving in ways that their society, their religion, and their government approve. That doesn’t change the fact they are wrong.

          There is actually a fascinating book on the topic called The Righteous Mind – Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion that looks at the neuroscience of what is happening. Concepts of being against murder, or theft, are born out of self-interest, empathy, and an intellectual understanding of incentive systems and cause and effect. But there is another neuronetwork in the human body, tied to the gut, that involves “rapid, effortless moral judgments and decisions”, which we call intuition. The problem is that intuition can be programmed by society and be twisted (e.g., opposition to equal rights, hatred of Jews in World War II, subjugation of women). It examines how, in certain areas of the world, a widow eating certain types of food causes an instant, physical, feeling of revulsion and moral failure to people in her culture. Wearing certain clothes; shaking someone’s hand the wrong way; politely declining a gift, a woman showing ankel a couple of centuries ago here in the United States … Conscious is a neurological phenomenon that consists of a network of learned behaviors based on the survival code you were given growing up. When a devout, yet illiterate Muslim living in Afghanistan murders people who burn a copy of the Koran, their moral outrage is real. Their conscious is really convicting them, but it is, nevertheless, wrong. There must be a restraint, a guideline, a rational basis for conscious to exist, otherwise mankind can justify anything it wants on utilitarian grounds or outcome-oriented objectives.

          As to “where does morality derive its source of authority”, I have my own, personal, religious reasons, but they cannot serve as a rational basis for our discussion so I would defer to the equally as sufficient themes of great thinkers like Cicero and Descartes in that man is uniquely a rational animal with the ability to reason, observe, conclude, and discerne, elevating humanity as special, in both magnificent and horrific ways depending on how we use that freedom of choice. Thus, given the intrinsic possibility of humanity’s glory, by merely being born, one is entitled to the full rights and responsibilities of being a requisite member of mankind; rights that are fundamental, inalienable, and non-negotiable. This belief leads to some interesting conclusions. Like Christopher Hitchens, for example, I tend to fall very heavily toward the pro-life side of the spectrum because I think the scientific evidence is overwhelming that the point of viability, with a heartbeat, brain waves, pain sensors, et cetera, at which a child could survive outside of the womb means that child should be instantly endowed with the full spectrum of inalienable human rights.

        • James

          Educate me if i am wrong.

          Lets define “Sexual orientation: Sexual orientation is an enduring personal quality that inclines people to feel romantic or sexual attraction (or a combination of these) to persons of the opposite sex or gender, the same sex or gender, or to both sexes or more than one gender – Wikipedia.

          Sexual orientation is who you want to have sex with. If a man sees another man and wants to sleep with him, his sexual orientation is homosexual.- You said this

          Now lets take isolated issues.

          1) Why is it a class 3 misdemeanor to masturbate in public?

          2) Why can i not allow my 4 year old watch porn?

          4) why is it still illegal for men to sleep with animals. If i am sexually attracted to an animal, is this not my orientation. Shouldn’t i have rights too.

          Lets also define HUMAN RIGHTS.

          The basic rights and freedoms to which all humans are entitled, often held to include the RIGHT TO LIFE and LIBERTY, FREEDOM OF THOUGHT AND EXPRESSION, and equality before the law.

          sleeping with Animals does not hurt my neighbor. But would you want your kids to sleep with Animals so that the govt can cut down on its budget so as not to feed thousands of unborn children each year?

          Please do not post links written by other people to my questions. let your arguments come from a logical and objective point of view. YOUR POINT OF VIEW. You do not have to roll around for another two weeks.

          Do not also come up with a whimsical retort to evade the questions. Just be truthful.

          If you do happen to answer my questions, Ask yourself, what standard of belief system or ideology are you basing your answers on.

          While you ponder on this. I love gay people but i do not like what they do. I can not force my beliefs on them so let them not force theirs on mine. Do not call me a bigot because my beliefs do not accept their life style. Do not try to force their way of life on me. I do not have to accept it. We all have some standard where we measure our morals. Who told you that killing someone is wrong. yes it hurts someone else but who says it has to be wrong? What makes you think that the guy who likes to marry 14 year old children is doing something wrong. Mind you this is a practice in some African countries. Who are you to say that he is wrong. if you can not accept his way of life, why force him to accept yours. Is that not hypocrisy?

          Before now, The gay community was hidden. no one really cared about what they did it in their closets. now they have boldly come out to shove it down our throats. Its not by force is it?

          Thank you.

        • http://www.joshuakennon.com/ Joshua Kennon

          If you are really, truly interested, every one of your questions has been addressed in-depth in other essays on the site as readers and I discussed these complex issues with all of their nuance. Directly. No obfuscation. Crystal clear.

          Four or five years ago, I would have engaged in a new conversation on the topic but as I went to respond, I was struck with the realization: It is February of 2014. Society is beyond this except in a few demographics, which will reach the minority by 2016 at which point they will have died off.

          Sexual and romantic orientation are not just about sex; they are equally about emotional fulfillment as well, which is why 90 year olds still get married even though the age of physical contact has largely passed. They aren’t doing it out of lust. Love, and orientation, is about who you want to come home to every day; who you want to grow old with as you go through life; who you want to raise your children with as they become adults; who you want to go on vacation with as you take time away from the world; who you want to be entirely, unreservedly yourself around so they know even the bad parts of you. It’s who you want to play board games with on a cold winter day, or fall asleep next to as you watch Christmas movies with the grandkids running around the floor. It’s who you want making medical decisions for you when you’re dying, or who you want to inherit your property when you’re gone. It’s who you want to have spousal protection in court in case you ever break the law. It’s who you want to have the right to sign on your behalf in certain legal situations. It’s who you want to get custody of your kids if you are incapacitated. It’s life. To reduce sexual orientation to nothing more than copulation makes you sound ignorant; as if man exists for no other reason than to breed like monkeys, seeking no purpose or fulfillment in life.

          Forcing someone to marry a person they can’t love without reservation, that they can’t give themselves to entirely, does exactly that; it turns man into an animal. It’s utterly barbaric and based in a logical fallacy called “appeal to tradition” that causes people to feel as if something is valuable simply because it is old. Not to mention it’s fundamentally unfair to the other spouse. What woman wants to wake up after 50 years to discover her husband never really loved her like she thought? Sure, he can love her, and be faithful to her, but true romantic love is very different than the love you have for your parents, or friends, or children. Why should she have to suffer that kind of hurt to appease your irrational beliefs? Would you be find if you found out at the end of your life your wife married you out of a sense of duty, not because she actually wanted to spend the rest of her life with you? If that wouldn’t devastate you on a fundamental level, I’d argue you have an emotional chip missing in your wiring.

          On a final note, you say:

          I love gay people but i do not like what they do. I can not force my beliefs on them so let them not force theirs on mine. Do not call me a bigot because my beliefs do not accept their life style. Do not try to force their way of life on me. I do not have to accept it.

          Yes, you are a bigot. You are no different than the racist white people in the 1960’s who said things like, “I love black people – I let them in my home, watch my children, and clean my toilet. I’m friends with lots of black people. But they don’t have to shove this civil rights thing down our throats. Why can’t they just be happy with how things are? It’s been this way for thousands of years. Even the Bible says in the New Testament they should willingly, and happily, submit.”

          You have an irrational belief that demands other people sacrifice the single most important human relationship in life – the person with whom you form a family unit, as family is the foundation of civilization – and then have the audacity or self-delusion to say you aren’t a bigot. That attitude simply doesn’t work in the United States, anymore. I wouldn’t want to work with you. I wouldn’t want my companies to work with you. I don’t know very many people in the upper echelons of society who would want to work with you. You’d have no chance of working your way up any of the major S&P 500 companies, which set the tone of the entire business culture of the country. You’d have no chance at working at a mainstream university. A super, super majority of those under 30 years old view you no different than members of the KKK. And they’re absolutely right.

          Don’t fool yourself. Make no mistake, you are a bigot. You may not like hearing it, but it’s true. Your grandchildren will be humiliated by your attitude, just like my generation cringes when their grandparents say things like, “I’d be able to live with any mistakes you made, just don’t ever bring a black girl home.” Just like slavery and women getting the right to vote before it, the civilized world has settled this matter, as have virtually all Western superpowers. A few weeks ago, the Federal court system finally certified sexual orientation as a suspect class along with race and gender in the Abbott Labs case, so the game is now over.