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January 9, 2004 [LINK]

Howard Dean on religion

Howard Dean "got religion" this week, and many people have noted the political expediency of this shift. Others have joked about the fact that he left the Episcopal Church over a dispute over land to be used for a bicycle path. What really intrigued me was Dean's revealing comments about the religious aspect of the morality of gay lifestyles. He said,

The overwhelming evidence is that there is very significant, substantial gentic component to it. From a religious point of view, if God had thought homosexuality is a sin, he would not have created gay people.

Two observations: First, to me, "thought" implies "opinion," which is a subjective, often malleable mental state that is inherent in beings with finite intelligence. The idea that an omniscient Supreme Being could have an "opinion" about something or other thus seems rather absurd, and trivializes the unchanging and eternal Divine Purpose. Second, if there is indeed an inherited "component" to gayness (as opposed to such a trait being genetically determined), then there must be a learned "component" as well, which implies that there is an element of choice and therefore a moral dimension. Many people have genetically-related behavioral predilections, some of which are regarded as totally harmless (such as left-handedness), and others of which are regarded as sociopathic (such as being prone to violence). The idea that individuals should resist certain compulsions or temptations is at the center of nearly all traditional codes of moral conduct, and because of all the potential dire consequences associated with it, sexuality cannot be divorced from morality. To my way of thinking, there is simply no basis for making a flat-out assertion that homosexual activity is, generally speaking, right or wrong. It depends... By the way, am I the first to wonder if Dean might have had second thoughts on his change of religious affiliation if he had known that Episcopalians in his state would choose a gay bishop? Has the Rev. Gene Robinson endorsed Dean yet?

Wesley Clark seems to have rebounded in the polls lately, perhaps because many Democrats are getting nervous about letting Dean drag the party down to a crushing defeat. I'm not one of those overconfident Republicans who are giddily hoping for a Dean nomination, however. The war on terror could start to go very bad, and Dean (or Clark) might actually win the election. In fact, it's very hard (for me, at least) to pay serious attention to primary campaigns that start so far in advance of the general election campaign. It would sure be nice if the primary campaign remains a real contest at least until March. The presidential nomination process is desperately in need of reform, as the current system tends to favor hardliners who pander to party zealots. Bring back the smoke-filled rooms, I say!

NOTE: This is a "post facto" blog post, taken from the pre-November 2004 archives.

Posted (or last updated or commented upon): 17 Sep 2010, 3: 57 PM

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