Warning: the following is a giant rant about Christians in a community college philosophy class in central Texas. If you are not in the mood to be mired in a massive pile of negativity, you may want to click your browser's back button.

I just got back from Ethics class, where the question of the day was, "Should same-sex marriage be allowed?" I wrote a blog post about this subject a few months ago; basically, I wholeheartedly support gay marriage because I have never heard any argument against it that holds any weight. To me, the default position is to allow an action, and a serious case must be proven to justify preventing the action.

Among my classmates, support for gay marriage was tenuous at best. Several people advocated gays being allowed to have civil unions, but recoiled from the usage of the word "marriage" based upon religious grounds. However, this support for civil unions was itself derogatory; the disdain for homosexuality hung so thickly in the air that I could have cut it with a knife. People asserted that gay parents are far inferior to straight parents, with one student even claiming that he would prefer for a state orphanage or foster care program to raise the child instead of gay parents. Of course, there was plenty of disgust intoned throughout all of the snide commentary.

Are you done rolling your eyes yet? Let's continue.

It was my turn to formulate a reply to the original question as to whether same-sex marriage should be allowed. I answered, "I think that same-sex marriage should be allowed because I have never heard any compelling argument against it." Now, as I am opposing prohibition and therefore arguing a double negative, I am necessarily rather immobilized in my position unless I have something to respond to. There is no specific reason to allow same-sex marriage; more accurately, there is no reason to prohibit it.

So I had what I consider to be the five most common arguments against same-sex marriage outlined in my notebook with a proper refutation for each:

  1. Religious/Theological argument: What about all the other prohibitions in the Bible? (shellfish consumption, working on the Sabbath, disabled people profaning the temple, etc.)
  2. Disgust: People find Brussels sprouts disgusting. Should we outlaw consumption of this odoriferous vegetable?
  3. Majority Opinion: Isn't this a case of a tyranny of the majority and a violation of a minority's civil rights?
  4. Parental Obligation: If voluntary parenthood by gays threatens the birth parents' obligation to their offspring, then shouldn't we outlaw all forms of adoption?
  5. Marriage for Purpose of Procreation (St. Thomas of Aquinas): What about disabled or infertile people? Do we need to inspect the reproductive systems of all applicants for marriage licenses? What about couples where the wife reaches menopause without producing children?

After stating my position that no arguments against same-sex marriage hold any weight, my plan was to quickly run through bases of the five most common arguments, and then quickly state the basis of each refutation. Now, every person that had gone before me had rambled on for about five minutes. I figured that I could easily blow through my list in that time period. However, my mistake was that I counted on not being interrupted. In hindsight, I never should have opened with the refutation of the religious argument. However, as I felt that it was weakest argument of the five, I thought that the religious objection to same-sex marriage would be the fastest to dismiss.

Oh my, if only I could properly describe the shitstorm that erupted when I starting spitting out Bible verses. Not verbatim, mind you, because I did not have my copy of the Bible with me and I refuse to memorize nonsense. Basically, I said that any argument against same-sex marriage that is rooted in Judeo-Christian theology is the result of cherry-picking from the Bible. I then elaborated by saying that if we are going to condemn homosexuality based upon passages from Exodus, Leviticus, and Deuteronomy, then we had also better stop eating shellfish, stop wearing blended fabrics, kill anyone who works on Sundays, and bar disabled people from entering any temple or church. My basic point: if we are going to disallow an action based upon a Biblical edict, then we must necessarily follow all Biblical prohibitions.

I know that this is a point which everyone on here understands. I mean, how is it not self-evident? Anyways, I said those three or four sentences and was ready to move onto my next point. I figured I had about four minutes left, so I would be able to fit everything in.

As my professor rolled his eyes while I finished up my list of unheeded Biblical prohibitions--for which I really cannot blame him, since the point is moronically simplistic--I was interrupted by someone claiming that I obviously hadn't read the Bible. I looked at them quizzically, and said, "All of this is in the Bible. How does what I have said show that I have not read it?" He then offered the example of Sodom and Gomorrah; I guess he wanted to show me that I had omitted one of the condemnations against homosexuality. I tried to explain that the story of Sodom and Gomorrah was just another example of an edict against homosexuality, and that it did not negate any of the other prohibitions that I had discussed. Unfortunately, I never really made my point as I found myself besieged on all sides by Biblical literalism.

I won't get into the gory details, but let's just say that I spent the next ten minutes refuting creationism, young-earth theory, and all other sorts of nonsensical Biblical literalism. My head wanted to explode. I was unspeakably frustrated that I was unable to progress to what I considered the real arguments about same-sex marriage, namely the issues of tyranny of the majority and marriage as exclusively procreative.

Finally, the professor calls an end to the debate that had erupted, and the original interrupter is allowed make one final statement. "We have to leave out the Bible arguments because you," he said as he pointed across the room at one of the students touting creationism, "are cherry-picking verses against same-sex marriage, and you," he continued, pointing at me, "are cherry-picking verses that are for it."

Wait, what? I'm cherry-picking verses from the Bible that support gay marriage? Really? Because the only passages that I directly referenced had nothing to do with same-sex marriage.

Naturally, I could see that this student obviously had no idea what cherry-picking meant as an overall concept. So, of course, I immediately protested, "But I am not cherry-picking, that's not--"

But the professor culled the debate and I was not allowed to reply before he launched into his lecture on the subject. I was infuriated. First, I was irritated that I had not been allowed the standard five minutes to explain my points when the students before me had all freely rambled on with their opinions. But even more infuriating was the blatant misrepresentation of me as a cherry-picker which was allowed to stand.

This happens every class. People ramble on with their opinions, saying all sorts of things that I consider illogical, offensive, and generally devoid of any serious consideration of the subject matter. But I never interrupt anyone because it is a philosophy class, and an inherent part of philosophy is listening to other people's opinions. I write down all my arguments in concise, outlined notes so that when it is my turn to speak, I express my points clearly and strongly. Yet I am never allowed to go more than one sentence without being interrupted and sidetracked by some criticism so moronic that I am often stunned as to how to respond. Like the reference to Sodom and Gomorrah; his reference of a specific edict in the Bible condemning sodomy only proved my point further, yet I had to backtrack so far to then prove that point. It is unspeakably frustrating as I end up constantly stumbling for words because I am literally stunned by the complete lack of logic, coherence, and facts in others' objections. (Yeah, I had to argue against the assertion that the Bible had invented marriage. When I tried to explain that the Egyptians and Sumerians both practiced marriage and had predated the Bible, I was told, "Yeah? What Bible are you reading? Cause mine says, 'In the beginning.'" Wow. Just wow.)

Anyways, I apologize for this monument to bitching and moaning. But the process was cathartic, and I think that I may survive another day in central Texas because of it. On the plus side, I was able to draw upon the rage generated by being silenced in class and finally capture the necessary violence for the end of the Rachmaninoff prelude that I have been working on.

In the end, I suppose that being a godless liberal Yankee at a central Texas community college will only help to build my character, right? "What doesn't kill you only makes you stronger" sounds find to me; I'm willing to sustain myself with idioms.

Views: 147

Comment by Mario Rodgers on March 4, 2010 at 5:40pm
I'd lodge a complaint for a biased teacher. But considering where you are, I doubt you'd get results.
Comment by Lindsey on March 4, 2010 at 8:28pm
Better find some sort of outlet for your frustration. Things like this are probably going to happen to you quite a bit.
Comment by John Nguyen on March 4, 2010 at 10:16pm
I dunno. From his characterization of the professor, it sounds like he wasn't on the fundies' sides. I may have just misread it, but correct me if I'm wrong.

Besides, if this sort of thing is typical in most of his classes, I can completely understand the professor's lack of open and immediate criticism for the students. It takes a lot in a person to keep going even when you know that what you're doing is ultimately, hopelessly futile. I don't think I would even try after a while of those kinds of students. Thank Odin for the northeast.

Don't hesitate to keep posting rants here. They're good for the psyche.
Comment by Shine on March 4, 2010 at 10:34pm
Hey all, thanks for reading my ridiculously long rant. I wrote it immediately when I returned home from school, and I didn't realize just how long it was until I went to proofread it later!

I know that my teacher is Christian, but I feel that it may be unfair for me to present him as biased. He does a good job of letting people speak their opinions, but sometimes I think that the almost lets too much opinion fly. Sometimes I wish that he would regulate the flow of debate a bit more. I'm a soft-spoken person by nature, and if I am interrupted I get flustered very easily. Some of the students are very aggressive, and I sometimes wonder if I am in a room full of Bill O'Reilly clones. I guess I just wish that the professor would stop people when they rudely cut someone off; I think that the rules of polite, respectful debate should be enforced.

I am so appreciative of being able to rant on a TA blog!
Comment by Velogiraptor on March 4, 2010 at 11:15pm
Well, it sounds like you go to class with the typical brainwashed Texas masses. I too live in Texas and when i moved here, people wouldn't stop asking me if I'd found a church yet. It's a forgone conclusion, and nobody is able to break free of the bull that they've been fed. Your points were well outlined and it's a shame you didn't get to make them all, but I fear you'd have been assaulted on religious grounds no matter which one you lead in with. Way to stand up for the oppressed minority in TX. I can't even 'come out' at work as an atheist because I'm reasonably certain it wouldn't end well.
Comment by Michel-san on March 4, 2010 at 11:35pm
Same-sex marriage is too advanced a subject for the rest of your class. They should start with something more basic like should ethics come from a book someone found, and if so how to deal with contradictions.
Comment by wisp on March 5, 2010 at 2:52am
As another fairly soft-spoken, shy individual, I often find myself in a similar position. I am opinionated, but willing to listen to other people's evidence and give it a fair shot. However, others often refuse to grant me the same respect, and launch into belligerent, aggressive debating tactics which ultimately make me feel ashamed to have even said anything in the first place.

If I found myself in your situation, I'd make it a point to contact the professor and discuss the bias that seems to exist in the class. There's no reason that you should have to put up with other students interrupting you every time you try to make a point; that's not the mark of a well-led class.
Comment by Shine on March 5, 2010 at 6:40am
Good ideas, all. I think that I will say something after class next time I get ridiculously interrupted and cut-off; it would be more productive to at least mention something to the teacher rather than sit and stew. At the very least, the whole experience is at least forcing me to be more forceful in my debate style, although this is not necessarily something that I really want. I hate debates that are determined by who is the more "forceful" speaker; I prefer to rely upon the strength of my ideas. Still, I guess the reality is that there are plenty of Bill O'Reillys out there who make it necessary to be able to respond in a similar manner.

The funniest part is that I'm not even "out" as an atheist in the class. No one has asked what religion I am, and I don't make a habit of going around advertising things that I don't do. I don't play tennis or square dance, and I never mention either of those. If someone asked, I would respond truthfully. But I hesitate to volunteer that information because I really do want to promote a positive view of non-religious people. Unfortunately, I think that I have pissed enough people off with my ideas that if I were to mention that I do not believe in any religion, I will do no justice to the positive perception of atheists. :(
Comment by Jason Wagner on March 5, 2010 at 8:38am
I dealt with a similar situation in my Philosophy 101 class. People were taking god with a lowercase g to mean God with an uppercase G and most class periods degenerated into a verse slug fest because they were too fucking stupid to understand that the philosophers we were discussing existed before the bible was written.

My next philosophy class was by Dr. Lee Carter who is by far the most brilliant man I've ever met and he took control of his classroom and informed people quite plainly when they were being ignorant in his class. IF the professor isn't willing to call bullshit on students you're really fighting a lost cause. You need the prof to stand up and say, "This isn't Sunday school, this is college... we don't allow logical fallacies in here."
Comment by Skycomet the Fallen Angel on March 5, 2010 at 12:31pm

-hee hee... we'll see here EXACTLY what God thinks is "natural" in marriage! lol-


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