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Knowledge Issues and Gay Marriage
Knowledge Issues and Gay Marriage
The first amendment to our Bill of Rights in the United States Constitution states, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” Yet we have a problem with this in our country. The subject of gay marriage in the United States is a very important, if sometimes controversial, topic. However, the motivating reasons behind the majority, if not all, of the arguments against same-sex marriage are religious reasons, based on the teachings of the Christian bible. But I ask you: how reliable is the bible itself? And how can we be sure the bible’s meanings are still clear, after two thousand years have passed and it has been translated so many times? Furthermore, why should people who do not share the same religious beliefs be affected by those of the majority of the Christian nation? Also, our constitution protects all the rights of the people. So is marriage a right that all people are entitled to in this country? I’m on the side of the gay people in this one, because I personally have friends who are gay, and I know that they deserve every right and liberty that I have, regardless of their sexuality.
Let’s examine some of the knowledge issues behind the bible teachings themselves that have shaped America’s opinions against homosexuals. First off, how reliable is the bible as a source of guidelines for living our lives? The book was written thousands of years ago, by people whose stories cannot be corroborated and whose accounts cannot always be proven to be true by historical evidence. Christian believers might argue that the bible is the word of God, and therefore cannot be questioned. But when it includes evil taking the form of a talking snake, knowledge being contained in an apple, a virgin giving birth, people rising from the dead, people living for centuries, and people living for three days in the belly of a whale, how can skeptical people believe everything it contains?
Furthermore, the moral codes people followed back then have been shaped and changed in society over the centuries and even millennia that have passed since the bible was written, and people today do not even feel the same about everyday topics as the people back then did. Today, we even have differences among countries and cultures as to the ethical set of guidelines we live by. Yet the churches would have us believe and follow what is in the bible without a doubt as to its validity or its relate-ability to today’s world. I personally take issue with this.
To further my point, there are many teachings of the bible that most people ignore completely on a day to day basis. There are passages in the bible that stake shellfish, anything without fins or scales, as an abomination. It makes very clear that we are not to eat of the flesh of shellfish. Yet we eat lobster, crab, shrimp, and clams all the time without a second thought. Why is this? Perhaps back then they thought that evil spirits lurked in shellfish, because people could not cook them properly and were often getting sick. But in today’s society, we know better. We know there are no adverse effects to eating shellfish, or at least not anymore due to modern techniques of preparing food.
The bible also teaches against divorce. Surely that was an important lesson to obey, but we tossed that one out the window a long time ago. We know that sometimes people just aren’t right for each other, and don’t quite realize it until they are forced to live with each other as a married couple for some time.
So then why the delay on disregarding the teaching that homosexuals are wrong? Why do we pay attention to the part about homosexuals and not the parts about divorce and shellfish? Are we still clinging to some hope of validity left in the holy teachings? Surely after African-Americans won their freedom, and women the right to vote, and the various other social revolutions that have happened in the last few centuries, we would adhere to the constitutional guarantee that all people are created equal and have the same inalienable rights. So why not the gay people? Do we still believe the bible to be valid in every way, shape, and form with today’s advanced knowledge and social equality?
Added to that, the bible has been adapted and translated many times by many different people into many different languages. This means that a lot of the literal meaning behind the passages in the bible has been lost in translation. The passages that stake homosexuality as ‘dirty’ may not have meant ‘unholy’ or ‘sacrilegious,’ but merely that the act of homosexual sex is, itself, a dirty and unclean act. The bible may not have even condemned the homosexual at all. We may have just taken it this way due to the changes in meaning that have occurred over the last two thousand years, both due to translation errors and the evolution of words and language itself.
So can we really say with any certainty that the bible teaches that gays are wrong, bad, and not God’s people? The meaning of the bible may have been severely altered through time. And even if it does have this message, that gays are not children of God, or that they’re sinners, or whatever it is, can we really allow the majority of the Christian nation’s religious beliefs to dictate such an important facet of the lives of people who may not even belong to the Christian faith? Why should an atheist gay couple be affected by Christian beliefs and teachings?
Isn’t it in our constitution, in our first amendment, that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof?” Doesn’t being Christian, or Mormon, or Jewish, or atheist all have to do with the free exercise of religion? Isn’t it wrong for anyone’s religion, or lack of one, to affect anyone else’s life, via laws? By allowing a popular vote on the laws regarding gay marriage, we are allowing religious beliefs in society to control prejudices and channel them into this form of discrimination.
So another valid and relevant knowledge issue with this topic is whether allowing a popular vote to control the laws is allowing religion to establish the laws, as is prohibited in our first amendment. One could argue that if one were to follow this reasoning, then everything that is ever voted for by the popular vote is influenced by the religious beliefs of the people, and therefore the laws are unconstitutional. And I can see where this side is coming from.
But on the other hand, religion plays a larger role in laws against gay marriage than any state interest does. In fact, I can’t even come up with a good reason why the United States government would make a law banning gay marriage in the interest of the people. Seeing no legitimate reason, I assume the only reason is religious. And being an atheist myself, I would not tolerate having my personal rights infringed upon because the majority of America is religious and believes a certain way, causing them to make a law that affects me personally.
Furthermore, can we still even relate the bible’s teachings to today’s society, knowing and believing everything that we know and believe today? We know that all humans are essentially the same, with the same organs, the same mental capabilities, and the same ability to love or fear. There are some differences between all of us, obviously, with our appearance, personality, and personal capacities to achieve. But we know that no human being is superior above others in any way, shape, or form.
And we, here in America, believe, as is stated in our constitution, that all men have the same inalienable rights. Amendment Fourteen states that “No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.” Protecting the privileges, rights, and liberties of the people in our country would appear to be our ultimate goal in establishing the Bill of Rights itself.
So here’s a knowledge issue for you: are we abridging the rights of gay people by restricting their right to marry? Surely it’s a privilege, a right, a liberty that should be guaranteed to all who live in our country, protected by our constitution. But did our founding fathers have in mind the quandary of homosexual marriage when writing that all men have the inalienable right to pursuit of happiness? Isn’t getting married an active pursuit of happiness? So why aren’t all men and women allowed the same liberties?
One could take either side of this argument. One could argue that we aren’t stepping on gay people’s rights at all, according to our constitution, because marriage is not a right, or a privilege, or a liberty that should be guaranteed to all. I fail to understand their side of it, perhaps, but I can at least acknowledge that there is another side.
However, I would argue that marriage is a right. It is a civil binding of two people in the eyes of God, if you so believe, and on paper that will affect both of them for the rest of their lives. Marriage is two people swearing an oath of fidelity and love; that they will care for each other for the rest of their days, in sickness and in health. It is something so rooted in our society that almost every aspect of our working and personal lives is affected by being married. It is something that almost everyone looks forward to achieving someday. Everyone wants to find the one person whom they can love unconditionally and who will love them in return. If you went out and asked a few random people on the street if marriage was a right that everyone was entitled to, they would probably say yes.
So is marriage a right that everyone in America is entitled to? This is the question that will have to be answered before one can move on to analyzing the laws that prohibit it for the minority of our population that is unlucky enough to be so discriminated against by society.
This begs the question of who else are we targeting or will we target for this kind of legal discrimination? In the past, it has been African-Americans, who were forced to serve as slaves. It has been women, who were subservient to men, could not get jobs, could not vote, and were expected to stay at home and raise the children. It has been prisoners, who had little to no rights in a legal system that could do practically anything it wanted to them. Now, I would argue that it’s homosexuals, who are not being offered the same liberties as other Americans. The issue of marriage is surely just as important as slavery and voting rights?
Discrimination against minorities—or even the entire female population—seems to be a trend in American society. When and where will it end? In today’s world we are also targeting the rights of illegal immigrants in our country. Who will it be next? When will total social justice be achieved, if it is even possible? What could this precedent mean for future generations who are too different to be accepted by the norm? Who will go against religious teachings next in a way that sparks discrimination, made final by laws passed via the national majority? How far will we take the idea of the popular vote before we realize that it is not always an effective method for achieving social equality?
Sometimes, we can only wonder.