You all just love writing me about this topic, don’t you? Wow. Okay. I’m going to use it as a way to explain how I process business strategy and investing decisions, too, though because, frankly, that is what I’m in the mood to talk about right now and I can introduce you to the idea of decision trees in analytical thinking. This is how we approach nearly every problem around here. Decision trees rock.
This message was sent by a reader named Snowflake, who was talking about one of the most popular individual posts on the site, my essay, The Morality of Homosexuality: Is Heterosexuality More Moral Than Homosexuality? in which I concluded that there is absolutely no difference between gay and straight relationships. She wanted to know how I approached answering that question. It’s an inquiry about the process I use to think about problems.
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.
An Introduction to Decision Tree Theory
It took two weeks to think about my response in the article you are asking me about for several reasons:
- I am an incredibly busy man,
- I don’t answer questions of this nature unless I run them through the full gamut of mental models and rational checklists, and
- 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 were divorced and later remarried. According to Mark 10:8-12, divorce is completely unjustified and an abomination unto God with the only exception being a husband, who can send his wife away in a divorce, if she cheats (but not the other way around – see Matthew 5:31). He can beat you, treat you terribly, be cruel, withhold money, and belittle you in public and there are no scriptural grounds for divorce. He could even hit your children. 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’t 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 “providing children a mother and a father”. 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.