Saturday, July 17, 2010

If Andrew Sullivan Wants To Do It, It Must Not Be A Sin, Ctd.

It's time for another episode in the long-running series, "If Andrew Sullivan wants to do it, it must not be a sin!"

Andrew's latest examination of quaint, outdated, restrictive Christianist beliefs delves into the question of monogamy.

Yes, that's right, even though he is now married, he seeks to justify the promiscuous lifestyle he desires. Perhaps in restrospect, all those Christianists weren't so silly, thinking that "marriage equality" might pose a threat to traditional mores.

The jist of his argument is that there is no evolutionary basis for monogamy. Might there be other behaviors whose prohibition would appear to have no evolutionary basis? For instance, if I am starving, would it not benefit me to kill and eat my neighbor? If someone else's property would make me happy, should I not steal it and then lie about the theft? If I am able to control another person, why should I not force him to labor for me, to preserve my own energy? Since children are generally free of disease, shouldn't I have sex with them instead of other adults?

Whether or not you are an adherent of any religion, all of these seem abhorrent and disturbing. The notion that because monogamy is "unnatural", it is to be disdained, is equally so.

The foundations of modern-day civilization are based on an ethic of striving for moral purity, whatever its origins. To undermine the value of such an ethic is to invite the destruction of society as we know it.

I suppose one could argue that it's only sex, and if Andrew's husband is OK with an "open relationship," it is none of my business. I just wish that he would refrain from propagating his novel philosophies on his website, where many unhappy spouses will undoubtedly grasp them as an excuse to justify their own infidelity.

Edit: a commenter has requested links to the relevant Sullivan posts, this one contains links to several of them.


EDH said...

Your post needs a link or a cited quote from Sullivan.

peter hoh said...

Sullivan aired a debate about the topic. Nearly all of those links go to what other people wrote.

Sullivan's own writing on the topic hardly sounds like an endorsement of infidelity:

Somehow, we have to find a balance between what is natural and what is moral. This isn't easy. I find the attempt to separate them completely unpersuasive - but I agree with my reader that there's a lot of cherry-picking going on in the conflation of the two as well.

For me, original sin becomes much more comprehensible through a Darwinian prism. Our DNA is full of things - violence, selfishness, abuse, hatred - that are perfectly "natural" from an evolutionary point of view, but desperately in need of restraint when combined with humankind's formidable pre-frontal cortex and its increasing capacity to inflict damage of planet-wounding proportions. We are neither beasts nor angels, but as time goes on and our capacity for damage increases, we'd better try reaching for the angels more persistently.

Our task is not to deny our nature, but to channel it, with God's help, and through practice, to better ends.

Omaha1 said...

Here is a quote from one of Andrew's posts today, concerning an article by Ross Douthat:

"I'd like to start a response by saying that he has conceded many secular points: that the life-long, monogamous heterosexual nuclear family is not natural and it is not the default definition of marriage in world history. Abandoning these defunct arguments - defunct because they are transparently untrue - is a helpful throat-clearing for which I'm most grateful."

Characterizing the ideal of monogamous marriage as unnatural and a "defunct argument" does not appear to me to be a robust defense of same.

peter hoh said...

Your original post does not claim that Sullivan fails to offer a robust defense of monogamy. Rather, you claim that he is arguing against monogamy. For this, you cite his airing of opinions that differ from his own.

It would make as much sense for me to claim that you are claiming that monogamy is a quaint, outdated notion.

Omaha1 said...

Peter, I am striving to understand your viewpoint. However, I am left wondering why Andrew, from his position of influence, would be motivated to air this "debate" if he did not feel that the value of monogamy was questionable. Is not the lack of a robust defense at least somewhat equivalent to an argument against? Perhaps there is a difference in degree, but when he says that "our task is not to deny our nature," I perceive an attempt to rationalize behavior that he wishes to engage in, or has already engaged in.

What do you think is Andrew's view of the value of monogamy, given his writings on the subject?