Belief, the State and same sex marriage

20 Sep

Following on from Stewart’s piece on Sheep yesterday about belief, I’d really like to know just why the state is involving itself in protecting the feelings of citizens who don’t “believe” in same-sex marriage, and who do “believe” that same-sex marriage will in some way destroy heterosexual marriage.

This latter claim seems so ludicrous it hardly warrants comment, except to say that from what I can see, heterosexuals do a first-class job of de-sanctifying the moral and ethical ideals of marriage all by themselves. Think domestic, intimate and partner violence. Think child sexual abuse. Think of the Kardashians. Enough said.

It was the government of former PM John Howard that in 2004 amended our Marriage Act of 1961 to read:

Marriage means the union of a man and a woman to the exclusion of all others, voluntarily entered into for life.
Certain unions are not marriages. A union solemnised in a foreign country between: (a) a man and another man; or (b) a woman and another woman; must not be recognised as a marriage in Australia.

These amendments were not based on research and reason, they were based on belief. A majority of politicians at that time and to the present day did not and do not “believe” a marriage can take place between same-sex couples. They are not required to offer any evidence to substantiate their beliefs. If I was boss of something, I wouldn’t accept belief as a valid basis from which to make public policy.

If there is one thing we should demand from our politicians it is that they do not enact laws based solely on “belief.”

Is it the state’s job to preserve and protect the feelings of believers? If the answer is yes then in order to remain consistent the state should immediately enact blasphemy laws to prevent any possibility of injuring the feelings of the religious among us.

If the state is in the business of preventing offence to believers on the matter of same-sex marriage, then there are a whole lot of citizens with strong beliefs in other areas who surely have the equal right to be protected from suffering offended feelings?

In this excellent piece on the movie that so wildly and widely offended some Muslims, Sarah Joseph reminds the reader that there is no human right not to be offended. Holding a belief about a spiritual leader, or same-sex marriage, does not entitle anyone to protection from the challenge of disagreement. We do have a human right to disbelieve without either being threatened with death, or being prevented by law from living arrangements available to others solely because of our sexual preference.

Opinions about the purpose of the state vary, but perhaps expectations that the state will give us security, peace, economic development, resolution of conflict, and social order via the rule of law are not overly ambitious.

Same sex relationships are not illegal. Homosexuality is no longer a criminal offence. Gays and lesbians may be as open about their relationships as are heterosexuals. So why, then, does the state consider it has the right to prevent them marrying if they so desire?

In his piece Stewart writes:

There is growing neurological evidence demonstrating that the way in which we make judgements and decisions is less rational than we like to think and is enormously complex. Decision-making is fraught precisely because of the way in which we draw on emotion and previous experience that generate preference, rather than examining the facts with any conviction. Stereotyping, racial bias, and misogyny are classic negative examples of this phenomenon. A convenient belief will trump facts any time.

Emotion, and previous experience that generates preference, rather than facts.

Politicians such as PM Julia Gillard and the rest who voted against same-sex marriage are entitled to their beliefs. They are not entitled to exploit their privilege in order to  impose their beliefs on the rest of us. As politicians, I expect them to make decisions based on facts, not personal beliefs. They need to produce research that tells me why marriage is only for heterosexuals. I need to see evidence that same-sex marriage is bad for society. I don’t care what Ms Gillard and the rest of them “believe,” anymore than I care that some radical Muslims “believe” I should be separated from my head for not respecting their prophet.

The problem is not same-sex marriage. The problem is politicians who have forgotten what they are supposed to be doing. This is a secular state. We ought not to be favouring one set of beliefs over another. I challenge Ms Gillard to supply proof of the dangerous consequences of same-sex marriage for our society to justify her political stand against it. A position she quite inexplicably and vehemently stated, on the very morning of her ascension to the office of Prime Minister.

Because “belief” just doesn’t cut it, and yes, gods can be mocked.

91 Responses to “Belief, the State and same sex marriage”

  1. zerograv1 September 20, 2012 at 10:16 am #

    Without opposing the message from your post, its a sad truth that all politicians bring their beliefs and thus affect our laws especially in the areas concerning individuals and groups personal behaviour. Drug legislation, the gay marriage issue, even tax exempt status for recognised religions all reflect the influence of “beliefs” in our legislation. Personally I do not believe it is the role of Government to even consider these personal and behavioural decisions and they lie outside the purvue of parliament except where it can be demonstrated that a greater public harm can be displayed eg allowing unfettered rioting is clearly undesirable and some kind of regulatory control is appropriate to allow police to remove a dangerous bomb wielding protestor for instance.

    The Gay Marriage issue is easily resolved. The churches generally wont support it, hence allow hetero marriages to those churches that only want to offer this service and allow the registry offices (Government) marriages to offer both gay and hetero marriage with all the rights and responsibilities others get. Deal done….and we can all move on to far more serious issues like the fact that 4 uranium waste sites within Australia have through fencing neglect allowed children to play in the tailings….yet no publicity of note or fines for the negligent have even been discussed. Gay marriage doesn’t concern me much and I think wastes far too much parliamentary and air time. Just do it (permit it) and stop spending taxpayers megabucks re-arguing a very old and somewhat tired issue.


  2. ann odyne September 20, 2012 at 10:16 am #

    Agree with every sentiment expressed so much better than I could have done.
    I’d vote for you JW, if you ever sunk to the level of standing (gee I’m disappointed in Malcolm T).
    A huge % of hetero parents have no official sanction, yet wail loudly for all the rights due to those who do. A huge % of sanctioned marriages are so brief that the vicar really needs to be saying “do you take this person, until you get bored and wander off?”

    Slightly off topic but I have to wail myself, that in the end, everything in our society comes down to the almighty dollar, and with that in mind, we need ‘our’ God-obsessed government to also legislate that insurance companies MUST begin to now pay out on Acts Of God damage claims.


  3. Ray (novelactivist) September 20, 2012 at 10:26 am #

    The politicians showed their loyalty to the church.


  4. Sam Jandwich September 20, 2012 at 11:14 am #

    Ironic that this is happening on the same day that the NSW parliament is making a quite moving and sincere apology to people affected by forced adoption practices from the not-too-distant past, and its compelling descriptions and acknowledgements of the emotional security associated with the relationships we have with those closest to us as being perhaps the most fundamental of rights, and something that the state should never seek to undermine for any reason…much less any contemporary belief in what is right.


  5. silkworm September 20, 2012 at 11:24 am #

    Knowing that Abbott was not allowing a conscience vote, Gillard could have ordered her party to pass the legislation. Then it would have been up to the Independents as to whether the legislation would pass or not. She knew that the Independents would not pass it. As it turned out, Tony Windsor opposed the legislation. If Gillard had ordered Labor MPs to pass the legislation, the focus would have fallen too heavily on Windsor, and may have threatened the stability of the minority government. So in effect, Abbott had wedged Gillard on this issue.

    If Abbott is rolled by Turnbull in the next few days or weeks, there is still time for the same-sex marriage issue to be revisited before the 2013 election.


    • Ray (novelactivist) September 20, 2012 at 11:37 am #

      No, Abbott has not wedged Gillard. This is real simple. The Church, in the broad sense, has long understood that to influence politics they need loyal believers on all sides of politics. There are conservative Christians in both major parties (they have even attempted to influence the Greens through Christians who have joined that party – but not very successfully). It is the conservative Christians who have successfully manipulated this outcome. Abbott is a conservative Catholic and he used his authority as leader to force a unified vote. The conservative Christians in the Labor party (long a hold out of activist Catholicism) control the right faction, and the right faction controls several MPs, including the PM, who pushed for a conscience vote to allow conservative Christians to block the passage of this legislation.

      And thus the Church has played both sides expertly.


      • Hypocritophobe September 20, 2012 at 12:02 pm #

        So why is it that the Christian infiltrators have less influence and members in the Greens?
        Does this not reflect that the Greens are in fact more secular?



        • Ray September 20, 2012 at 6:25 pm #

          Or more principled and less cynical


          • Di Pearton September 24, 2012 at 8:05 pm #

            The Christians in the Greens, and there are many, including Quakers, are progressive and small ‘l’ liberal, interested in social reform, the ‘Christian Left’.


            • Hypocritophobe September 24, 2012 at 8:46 pm #

              Interesting, DP.
              Would you care to ‘out’ a few of the more ‘high profile’ Christian greens?
              Because I think there would be closer to diddly, than ‘many’.
              In fact it sounds more like wishful thinking.


              • Di Pearton September 24, 2012 at 10:39 pm #

                I don’t know any high profile, but I am a member of the Greens. I don’t know why I would want to wish that there were Christians in the party. I don’t care about anyone’s belief in God. As an atheist, I am more concerned about their belief in humanity.


                • Hypocritophobe September 24, 2012 at 10:41 pm #

                  I guess it’s more hearsay than data,then.


                  • Di Pearton September 25, 2012 at 7:15 am #

                    Yes,they are people I meet at Greens functions. I have no evidence that they are Christians, other than that they say they are. I tend to believe them.


                    • Hypocritophobe September 25, 2012 at 9:21 am #

                      Sorry, but that’s a bit different to,
                      “The Christians in the Greens, and there are many”.


      • Ray (novelactivist) September 20, 2012 at 12:24 pm #

        In fact, they were so successful in their backroom manipulation that the parties switched their traditional procedural positions. The Liberal party traditional allows a conscience vote, but this time insisted on party solidarity. The Labor party traditionally demands party solidarity but this time allowed a conscience vote.

        They did everything they could to block it – and it worked.

        Screw the public.


        • ann odyne September 20, 2012 at 1:12 pm #

          ‘screw The Public’ until election time, so how do I phrase my disappointment to my LAB Fed MP who will be after my vote again?
          My not-so-inner bogan wants to fling open electoral office door, scream “you broke little Kenny’s heart you bastards!” and run away, but that will not help the cause.


          • Ray (novelactivist) September 20, 2012 at 2:18 pm #

            Screw the public during election time too. How else do you think they got elected in the first place? Did they say, “vote for me as ‘your’ representative, except when it comes to matters of faith and conscience, in which case, screw you.”

            The worst of the lot were the Labor politicians who said their electorate wanted them to vote against same sex marriage. Meaning they asked the more conservative coalition voters who didn’t vote for them anyway – when it was likely that the majority of Labor party voters wanted them to vote in favour.

            What all of this means is make sure you find out about your representatives position on matters of faith BEFORE you vote and tell them you are electing them to represent you, not their fucking church.


    • Sam Jandwich September 20, 2012 at 4:38 pm #

      Maybe this would be a good time for Abbott to start selling his arse.


      • Hypocritophobe September 20, 2012 at 5:04 pm #

        Where from?
        The carpark at the Church car boot sale?


        • Di Pearton September 25, 2012 at 4:55 pm #

          No, it is not a bit different. There are many that I have met, so I assume there are others. For God(?)’s sake why do you find this so hard to believe? Wasn’t Christ the first fecking socialist?


          • Hypocritophobe September 25, 2012 at 5:12 pm #

            You seem to have lost your way and posted in the wrong hole???????
            I accept that there are Christians in the greens.No argument.I question the slant of the word many you placed on your ‘anecdotal’ observations.
            So for fecks sake show me how the ‘many’ (in the greens) translates into ‘more’ pro rata than the current crop of the big 2 failed parties?


            • Di Pearton September 25, 2012 at 6:38 pm #

              The thread wouldn’t let me reply in the right post, and that’s probably best. I do not have access to baptism certificates nor do I care. I care only that the Greens’ policies are compassionate and progressive, and on the whole I am comfortable with them.


              • Hypocritophobe September 25, 2012 at 6:39 pm #

                Bless you.


                • Di Pearton September 25, 2012 at 7:05 pm #

                  LOL, Cheers!


  6. drunkslag September 20, 2012 at 11:33 am #

    My biases might be on display here, but I honestly think the argument against same-sex marriage lacks intellectual depth, and opponents have shown a lack of integrity by using discredited arguments. Although I hold a certain belief concerning abortion, I can acknowledge that there is a reasonable debate on both sides concerning the ethics of abortion. No one can say that on same-sex marriage.
    “Belief” is all they have: there is no rational, logical argument against marriage equality. I’d prefer it if opponents admit that it is just their personal religious beliefs instead of pretending their arguments have a basis in logic or evidence.
    I’m convinced supporters of marriage equality have won the argument but lost the vote.


    • paul walter September 20, 2012 at 11:58 am #

      As demonstrated in the utter guff talked by Sen.Bernardi in the Senate. Has anyone heard a politician make quite so much a fool of themself before this?


      • Hypocritophobe September 20, 2012 at 12:11 pm #

        Not since Pauline Hanson.
        She comes across as a moderate compared to the way Bernardi exposed what his belief system had been suppressing.
        Remember what his main role was.Who the ‘main man’ is.
        I doubt Bernardi is alone in his views,but the lid will now be placed on the topic.At least out in the open air it will.

        The religious are obsessed with sex.
        Look at the child abuse epidemics/cover ups, within their walls.


        • helvityni September 20, 2012 at 3:30 pm #

          I remember a time when Bernardi used to write articles on the old Unleashed (the Drum), now they have Peter Reith’s weeklies…
          I always found Bernardi revolting but his views on homosexuality take the cake…he makes Pauline look like a sweetie pie, well better not overdo it, almost…


    • Hypocritophobe September 20, 2012 at 12:05 pm #

      “I’d prefer it if opponents admit that it is just their personal religious beliefs instead of pretending their arguments have a basis in logic or evidence.”

      Wouldn’t we all.

      In fact what would we call deliberately hiding that belief system,or Trojan Horsing people and policy into government?

      (Careful, some words are deemed illegal)


  7. everyonesabc September 20, 2012 at 4:17 pm #

    Parliament has let Gay Australian’s down, we would not dream of passing a bill that would stop say black and white people marrying, yet we do say this for homosexuals because they are different in a way that religion dictates is bad. The irony of a secular country jumping to the dog whistling of religions on an issue that you rightly point out has never been proven to be detrimental to society.

    I too don’t understand the Prime Minister’s stance, she has been able to exercise her free will not to marry or to believe in God, both things that are not common in Australian PMs. So why she votes against giving a minority equal rights is simply beyond me. Some say it is because she does not believe in marriage. Well that’s fine, she obviously doesn’t she has not participated in it herself, but that is beside the point. Unless she banns marriage so that civil unions are all that we have or even no legal recognition of personal relationships between lovers, she has voted to continue discrimination based on sexuality.

    In a secular society, Government should make laws that are humanist not religious. Again, where is the evidence it will be the undoing of society and why should it matter that some (not all) people who are religious get to have a bigger say in this than those it actually effects. Gay people are living as married couples now, how could formal recognition of this possibly effect anyone but those involved.

    Those who don’t care how this effects Gay people I assume either forget or don’t care what being singled out as different does to people. This really does single them out as not legitimate enough to have themselves and their families recognised as heterosexual couples do. How is this not discrimination?

    Finally, 64% of the submissions received by the Parliamentary Committee received into the Bill were in favour of it. Ergo, HOR has let Australia’s down and gone against the findings of a public attitude test. What is the point of doing them if the majority is ignored. I get when its in the greater good and it entrenches human rights but not when it defies them and singles out legitimate members of our society as too different to be treat the same.

    Just wrong.


  8. hudsongodfrey September 20, 2012 at 4:43 pm #

    I’m really annoyed at Gillard and the Labor members over this for having squibbed their responsibility to vote the party policy as endorsed by the ALP national conference. They’ve just shot their own democratic credentials out the window by doing this. And its a shame.

    Hope lies with the States perhaps? Tasmania seems set to act to reform marriage in that State.

    On a slight technical point I don’t think that the government are actually denying anyone the right to marry in the sense that ceremonial commitments might be entered into, just that the state does not recognise these alongside heterosexual unions and de facto relationships. That the government has nothing to say about the ceremonial services or spiritual ramifications thereof is precisely the counterpoint to the churches’ concerns that it somehow erodes their tradition for civil society to have same sex unions.

    The moral points about discrimination and how it harms the social institution of marriage are no less valid or demanding of a response affirming the need to change it.

    In my view the strongest reason and perhaps the only one for the churches to resist the rationality favouring same sex marriage is because there’s is a tradition that values a certain essence of irrationality. That which they call God, and which they feel bound to act upon for no real other reason than because as they see it acting purely and only upon evidence obviates the need of their traditional practice. And in that they may be right.


    • Marilyn September 20, 2012 at 6:25 pm #

      Well they went against the adopted party platform on refugees, WEst Papua and other issues because Gillard is a flat out racist and bigot.


      • Hypocritophobe September 20, 2012 at 6:30 pm #

        You need to be your own person to have,let alone enact, such beliefs.
        She has no power, is no leader.


      • hudsongodfrey September 20, 2012 at 6:38 pm #

        Sure but I can see how that vote on implementing the Houston report was a more closely run thing wherein the votes of Greens and independents in both housed also played a crucial role.

        With this as Ray has pointed out a view held by a majority of the electorate and from within the ALP was subverted by a cowardly act of political expedience. Labor allowed a conscience vote while the Liberals did not. In direct contradiction to their established party discipline the two major parties have deliberately conspired here to countermand the will of the people.

        It can only be hoped that the price of that behaviour reflects the gravity of what they’ve done here.


        • Marilyn September 20, 2012 at 8:34 pm #

          The HOuston report was a sick hoax that breaks the refugee convention and 800 years of laws to appease racist fuckwits.


          • hudsongodfrey September 20, 2012 at 8:46 pm #

            Still got that Tourettes I see!

            Did you even read what I wrote?

            Your irritation with the Houston report has very little to do with the same sex marriage bill. But you had half a point about the ALP’s repeated failure to deliver progressive policies at a level we’d like so I’m halfway inclined to agree with you.

            Their attitude to the Same Sex marriage bill has been a disappointment.

            That’s the half the article is actually about.


            • Marilyn September 21, 2012 at 3:33 pm #

              Now they are betraying single parents and the unemployed, so what is the difference between the ALP and the LNP these days?


              • hudsongodfrey September 21, 2012 at 3:43 pm #

                Apart from Carbon Tax, Mining Super Profits Tax, Disability Insurance, Industrial relations….

                What’ve the Romans ever done for us?


                • doug quixote September 21, 2012 at 7:18 pm #

                  Add in education and health funding, and the expectation that many thousand of front line public service jobs will be axed – centrelink and medicare queues will be stretching down the street at a suburb near you.

                  I told Marilyn recently that her opinions were quite good for someone with a full frontal lobotomy, but I got no reply. She may agree 🙂


                  • hudsongodfrey September 21, 2012 at 10:31 pm #

                    I’m not sure what you meant about public service jobs?

                    The only thing I know about Medicare is that my days of queuing seem to be over ever since they streamlined and computerised the refund system.

                    It may not seem like it sometimes given the jibes I’ve exchanged about her tourettes like spattering of expletives but I think Marilyn”s intellect is the one thing that does deserve a little more respect than your remark suggests. We may not agree about the extent of Labor’s malaise but I sense her pain at it comes from a place of greater caring than either of we two cynics can muster. Maybe we might envy her idealism if not her command of nuanced verbage.


                    • doug quixote September 21, 2012 at 10:48 pm #

                      Were you not responding to the difference between ALP and LNP?

                      Whether it is your crack about Tourette’s (“which was once considered a rare and bizarre syndrome, most often associated with the exclamation of obscene words or socially inappropriate and derogatory remarks (coprolalia)” ; or my crack about lobotomy – Marilyn is a very special case. Her obsession with one or two issues sends me around the twist.


                    • hudsongodfrey September 21, 2012 at 11:23 pm #

                      Yeah but it seems to me like the funding could be a positive while the decimation of the Public service, depending on your point of view, is usually a negative when cuts are driven too deep and too fast. So who were you claiming is or would be doing what to whom? That’s all I wanted to clear up?

                      On the other thing, well we’re always telling the BACWA loonies to chill out and try live and let live. Maybe we can do likewise ourselves when it comes to matters of opinion we know we aren’t going to find common ground about.

                      I’d see the irony if you decided to ignore me after that last thought, but I am genuinely interested in where we were going with the first question.


                    • doug quixote September 22, 2012 at 12:02 am #

                      Ignore you? How could you think such a thing – O, ok when time is pressing . . .

                      I would have thought it was self-evident as to who was going to be cutting what – the new Liberal State governments are reminding us of the template which all conservative bean-counting governments favour when they want to be seen to do something. It is a point of difference with ALP governments, is it not? Expect cuts right across the board if the voters are so benighted as to elect Abbott and his rag-tag Koalition : “the Koala mask has slipped from the cane toad face”. LOL


                    • Hypocritophobe September 22, 2012 at 2:39 pm #

                      Well I guess if ‘only’ one of these men is harmed or persecuted on return,Bowen,Gillard,Parliament and all Australians are culpable,are they not?



                    • hudsongodfrey September 22, 2012 at 3:41 pm #

                      It is concerning there’s little doubt about that. Concerning because Bowen chooses to make an announcement and claims that he wants to release footage of it. And concerning because we really don’t know what the situation in Sri Lanka currently is for these people.

                      It does however appear to be their choice though I’m not sure whether you’d call it a freely made one, or whether we ought to allow it if indeed there’s a reasonable suspicion that it is something tantamount to suicide. Though I will say that to go that far on a basic assumption is perhaps a bridge too far until we know at least enough about it quite apart from government spin in order to be able to make better informed comments.


  9. Hypocritophobe September 20, 2012 at 9:22 pm #

    Turds of a feather,stick together?

    Jim Mallice and Gorey Bernardi, stick to the coalition agenda,even if the others don’t.(Oh so that’s what back pedalling in shit sounds like!)

    Personally I don’t believe for one nano-second that the influence of the ACL is diluted, or will be in the near future.
    Our community is too bigoted, too selfish and too immature and our pollies are too gutless to risk re-embracing the terminally ill ‘fair go’, which Howard et all, clubbed into an unrecognisable bloodied lump,like a baby fur seal with their stolen One Nation party plan.
    Couple this with a media adept (mono-skilled) at obediently prosecuting one sided mantras,3 word slogans and corporate mayhem, and you have a political diet fit for zombies.
    The current condition of Australia’s political landscape has locked in knuckle dragging for at least another generation, and with enough dedication there’s a pretty good chance we could be hosting the Redneck Olympics in perpetuity.
    Will the real Australia please stand up?


    Oh that’s right, not quite total silence.We still had a little media scrum today as Abbott usurped the misery of terrorist victims to bully our PM into a corner,so he can grab the agenda, and refocus us plebs away from the spotlight of scrutiny on this “man” (sic) with no policy,no vision and no idea.


    • hudsongodfrey September 20, 2012 at 11:05 pm #

      It isn’t the influence of the ACL that you have to worry about but rather the balance of socially conservative voters in marginal seats. Mainly I suspect in Queensland and a few semi-rural boroughs further South.

      In politics the less sense that it makes the surer you can be that the cause is political… but I could be wrong.


      • Hypocritophobe September 20, 2012 at 11:21 pm #

        “the balance of socially conservative voters in marginal seats.”

        And then we have apathy.A nice bookend for ignorance and self interest.


        • hudsongodfrey September 21, 2012 at 8:49 am #

          Yes I think you’re probably right there Hypo. If we want to argue “live and let live”, or “if you’re not gay then you don’t have to marry a gay person”, then what is liable to emerge is “I’m not gay so why should I be involved in changing this…”

          I’ve tried as best I can to argue it from the perspective of saying that straights benefit from inclusiveness too, but your common or garden religious objector is completely closed to any such possibility.


  10. Hypocritophobe September 20, 2012 at 11:14 pm #

    Why do the photos of food ,by Steve at the Pub, look so much like this as per


    Gerhardt Grimmelmann of Twitter(as in the character who has been trying to corner JW) of late?
    You will note that Grimmelmann

    likes role playing.


    Here’s another interesting coincidence.

    Grimm’s Fairy tales?


  11. Hypocritophobe September 20, 2012 at 11:16 pm #

    JW Can you please check your NPFS spam area for clogged up (delayed) posts waiting to load?
    Keep getting silly messages.


  12. Trev September 20, 2012 at 11:51 pm #

    I’m sorry to divert the conversation away from one important issue to another, but politicians really believe that they have the right to vote according to their consciences. That’s a very difficult perception to deal with. I remember writing to my Federal member (who was later to become Foreign Minister) a number of years ago, pointing out that if the great majority of Australians agreed with voluntary euthanasia, then it was logical to assume that a majority in his own electorate would feel the same. His reply was along the lines that he “didn’t know the percentages of people in his electorate who would feel as I do on this issue”. He also reiterated that I should “let him vote according to his own beliefs in the matter”.


    • paul walter September 21, 2012 at 4:13 am #

      Trev, a sweet post that.
      It is theoretically correct and a balm to this reader’s wounded sensibilities.
      It is course dependant on the proviso that they actually have one ( a conscience).
      It made fascinating reading observing who did or didn’t vote for the measure in the House, then the Senate. Looking at the nays, you see two groups the ones who are militant, actually have a real problem with gays and perhaps sex in general and the pragmatists, who don’t really have the same self defining problem with these issues, but, “anything for a quiet life”, avoided it.
      Its a similar issue to the Republic Debate, Things have changed to the point where the monarchy is irrelevant, but we just haven’t been quite and able ready to abandon a relic and move forward into reality.
      So, so many other pressing issues requiring of attention in a blocked queue while parliament and the nation get their collective knickers in a knot over gay marriage.


    • Jennifer Wilson September 21, 2012 at 6:42 am #

      Yes, that’s what I mean, Trev. They aren’t there to vote according to their own beliefs, they are elected to represent the people who put them there. They have a conflict of interest.


      • Sam Jandwich September 21, 2012 at 9:59 am #

        Bu, bu but but… I have to say I don’t quite agree with this.

        If we are to accept Stewart’s very sensible proposition that “There is growing neurological evidence demonstrating that the way in which we make judgements and decisions is less rational than we like to think and is enormously complex”, then to elect a person as our representative is to vote for an individual, who may well subscribe to some sort of platform (which they will normally stick to if they know what’s good for them), but who is nonetheless liable to change their minds/give in to populism/flip out at any time, and what’s more is perfectly entitled to do so, if we are to respect their individuality.

        It’s almost like a marriage – you make your choice, and you stick by it, until you can bring yourself to realise that you’d be better off alone or with someone else. But it takes time, and absolute certainty is hard to arrive at. .


        • hudsongodfrey September 21, 2012 at 10:37 am #

          At least part of what I’m aware of in terms of what Stewart mentioned would be research about emotional intelligence. That is to say that the emotional side of the brain fires up well ahead of the centres for rationality in terms of how choices are processed. This comes from neurological work with things like MRI imaging technologies that image brain activity. What they think is happening is that we more or less emotionally prefer a particular choice ahead of rationalising why we ought go with that impulse or reject it. But we’re more than capable of rejecting certain impulses once we’re able to recognise them.

          Absolute certainty is a tautology, and certainty is probably an illusion. Certainty without evidence is a good description of religion. And certainty by proxy is a good description of some marriages.

          This hasn’t changed since the time when Socrates said “I know nothing except for the fact of my ignorance”. Mind you it seems that old Socrates may not have chosen to marry….


    • hudsongodfrey September 21, 2012 at 9:00 am #

      Hello Trev,

      It’s not a distraction you’re raising so much as quite a good insight into what I think is the real problem. It may be cynical, but I don’t regard a politician’s conscience as being a matter of personal belief so much as a reflection of his political instincts. When it comes to a conscience vote then most of the time they’re going to vote the way that they think the majority of elector in their seat will approve.

      So what we may have and what Labor are contending with in some sense is the number of seats where the majority are against gay marriage, and perhaps a number of members who have been influenced by the churches’ lobbying. We know from widely accepted polling that the majority of Australians do support gay marriage, the figure seems to hover around 66%. The problem is that these supporters aren’t in Queensland or any number of other marginal seats. Ironically many are probably in Liberal held seats because there are probably no shortage of people who are economically conservative but socially progressive.


  13. paul walter September 21, 2012 at 5:01 am #

    As an after thought, a qualifier. What if I suggest that the puritan impulse is not originally derived from or always comprised of bad intentions.
    Is there a fair impulse, at least initially or some times involved, that seeks to have people’s attention drawn back from self preoccupation and self indulgence to a concern with much that needs to be attended to in an outside world of real suffering? I think Marilyn is partly driven by this impulse, for example.
    Is life really a life long party for some to be paid for by the suffering of others?
    Crayfish is great but even I’d have indigestion eventually after constantly consuming vast amounts of it; you get jaded.
    I’d eventually plead with you to remove the crayfish and be humbly grateful of the Quick Eze you finally provided after I Iowered my self to begging for relief, conclude that I am fortunate to live in a world where I can have even a taste of cray, and what’s more be provided through the generosity of another, the relief of Quick Eze when I overdid it and instead hope others have their taste also, while I’m recovering.
    So yes, I hope gays have their moment in the sun and who am I, with all my faults, to hope for, let alone demand, tolerance for one such as I from the world in return.
    I am as bad as the worst puritan when it comes to getting high on that most potent of narcotics, self righteousness, judgemental with hedonists some times, puritans who get “up” themselves and gays begging for a moment’s peace and acceptance.
    Sorry for that long digression, I some times over indulge when it comes to a rant on public affairs.
    I hope I become more tolerant when others when they also write windy rubbish whilst on line.


    • hudsongodfrey September 21, 2012 at 10:23 am #

      A wise person once explained that too much of anything is bad for you….that’s what too much means.

      Otherwise I think what is lacking among the righteous moralisers of this world is a sense of empathy that would gain them perspective on the multitudinous real possibilities that often exist in the world of making choices about human well-being. When Sam Harris describes it in terms of a moral landscape with multiple peaks and valleys, that topology is shaped by circumstance. We have to allow that not everyone is climbing towards the same peak or even via the same route on any given slope.

      People have and need psychological mechanisms to shut out some of the suffering of others lest the burden of unfiltered empathy weigh so heavily as to become completely unbearable. No one person can solve the problems of the world. But I see a lot of people’s understanding fails them in that when faced with the sort of complexity that confounds a single clear solution. They declare the problem insoluble or give some vague response, often with some kind of spiritual aspect. The idea that human fruition depends on cumulative independent decisions favouring individual perspectives on well-being lacks appeal because there seems to be no guarantee of success.

      Yet we say we say we value freedom. Does it really elude us that the choices people make with respect to their own well-being represent the freedom we desire? Maybe it doesn’t because that kind of personal choice bears responsibility, and I’m afraid that a lot of people seem to prefer a moral code that gives them freedom from that responsibility. Maybe they wouldn’t admit it but I think we’re all familiar with how righteous they can be about it.

      Perhaps even the righteous have a right to their point of view, but it seems obvious that if it fails to see the moral landscape for what it really is then their relationship with the realities of other people’s choices is subverted by whatever ideology they’ve chosen to adopt in lieu of the evidence for reality. It would make a profound difference to the world were it not so, and although I really don’t know if we’re even capable of adopting such a perspective without it simply morphing into yet another lazy ideology, if process of ongoing change seems inevitable then at least we can bend towards improving things.


      • zerograv1 September 21, 2012 at 11:54 am #

        Just a question, when you use the word righteous, do you mean that in the religious sense (as in “this is my morality therefore I’m right”) Scientific (as in evidence based fact) or both?


        • hudsongodfrey September 21, 2012 at 2:12 pm #

          I was using the word righteous mainly in the sense that I suppose might be better described as self righteous or collectively self righteous. Someone who always thinks they are right is considered to be self-righteous. These type of people always feel they are correct or that there must be some kind of authoritative absolute truth. The religious kind of righteousness is in my view is an example of collective self righteousness because once people suspend their critical faculties in relation to the articles of their faith then obviously they’re vested in something that usually isn’t amenable to reason.

          A properly scientific discipline will not admit certainty. For a theory to become accepted as a fact then it has to be falsifiable There is therefore always some chance not matter how small that it could be disproved in the light of some new evidence or scientific discovery. Otherwise progress might well be impossible.

          In terms of what I tried to articulate I’m critical of “righteous” people for often somewhat dispassionately applying moral codes to situations where their appreciation of the situation is quite faulty from the perspective of those affected. There’s a kind of determinism behind the idea of fixed moral codes that ultimately either robs individuals of moral agency or condemns them to fail in perpetuity in the eyes of the righteous.


  14. Anonymous September 21, 2012 at 12:32 pm #

    620 reported.
    How many not?

    Royal Commission now!


    • hudsongodfrey September 21, 2012 at 11:34 pm #

      Say we took the 620 seriously even while withholding judgement as to whether that well can be considered to have run dry or not. I think there’s an admission of something there that it seems the church believes it can get away with revealing without fear of recourse. Or not too much anyway. I’m not entirely sure we shouldn’t use the opportunity this presents to make sure that they don’t enjoy quite the level of indemnity that they might expect. Certainly dealing with ought to be taken out of their hands entirely.


  15. doug quixote September 22, 2012 at 7:48 am #

    I sometimes like to look at the references the so-called Christians make in their posters. The poster in Jennifer’s photo at the bottom of her article is a good one, where the poster writers misquote and take a phrase out of context. Galatians 6:7 is in the middle of Paul’s moderate and, for his time, sensible homily in which he says “God is not mocked” meaning that he cannot BE mocked, and says soon after “let us do good unto all men” .

    Mind you, I don’t believe any of it, but that they can’t even quote their own scriptures properly says quite a bit about them. They pervert their own scriptures, and then come out with the self-righteous claptrap based on their misreadings and misunderstandings.

    One may reasonably suppose that the Islamists do the same, with the consequences being much more bloody, stuck as they are in the 8th century. Christians haven’t burnt anyone at the stake for heresy for a few hundred years; we can’t say the same for the Islamists.


    • Hypocritophobe September 22, 2012 at 1:13 pm #

      Mock God?

      Religion is mockery.Mockery of humanity.
      It has no relevant place in a mature civilisation which is based on egalitarian principles.
      If (very BIG if) we need a default till we walk freely,Buddhism would be my choice.
      And there are many who would/do argue that Buddhism is a lifestyle,more than a religion.


      • doug quixote September 22, 2012 at 6:01 pm #

        Interesting that you should say that, Hypo. Buddhists are generally very mild mannered types, but they have apparently been provoked enough by the Muslims in SE Asia to do some killing of their own.

        It seems Buddhists don’t actually believe in a deity, good bad or indifferent. Sounds like a good start to me.


        • hudsongodfrey September 22, 2012 at 6:21 pm #

          Interesting you should mention it on the day when Big Think posted this….

          Not sure I’m buying this lock stock and barrel but it’s an interesting spin on the subject nonetheless.


          • Hypocritophobe September 22, 2012 at 7:28 pm #

            Easier to sell, than mainstream religion,which requires putting your mind and independence on the back byrner so it can be administrated by a tool claiming a hotline to god.


            • hudsongodfrey September 22, 2012 at 9:01 pm #

              Well whenever I’ve met Buddhists who are in the least bit serious then I’m told a certain amount about the kind of beliefs that I can no more credit than I can talking snakes etc….

              But yes if you just take the emphasis on meditation and enlightenment as inclusive of the kind of reason one might alternatively refer to as living an examined life then it seems more attractive to me.

              Yet I think the interesting part is that it seems by the same token to be the exact opposite of other theistic beliefs which tend to advocate that belief in the least credible articles of faith is likely to obtain the most merit for their devotees. I will say that on close examination Buddhism tends to emphasise transcendence as well. But it is differs from other religions that tend to actively contain doctrines almost deliberately designed to confound belief for the clear purpose of having devotees nail their flag to the mast to the point where failing to defend the faith must result in a severe loss of face.

              And it is peculiar to the Abrahamic religions that many of these doctrines tend to involve sexuality. A core reason why I think the Christian churches are so hell bent on stopping same sex marriage. I may have said it before, but what you’re taking away from them in eroding the definition of marriage they adhere to is permission to believe in something on faith rather than on ethical reasoning. In bringing the discussion back to the core topic here I think we’re all bound to wonder where the Buddhists are in the gay marriage debate…to whit….



              • Hypocritophobe September 22, 2012 at 9:10 pm #

                The bit I meant was easier to sell was the concept the guy in the clip was talking about.
                Endless possibilities of love/tolerance etc, without having to control everything in the world from grass roots to politics, and use any layers of deception to do so.Throw in the hate for opposing religions,in the case of most mainstream ones.


                • doug quixote September 22, 2012 at 10:55 pm #

                  Some people seem to need religion, just as some seem to need nicotine, and others seem to need heroin, whilst others seem to need gambling.

                  Buddhism is probably one of the least offensive cultural/psychological crutches; if those who need religion all got hooked on it, the world would at very least be a more peaceful place.


                  • Hypocritophobe September 22, 2012 at 11:37 pm #

                    Your last paragraph brings us back to what I said up front.
                    If we need a crutch Buddhism seems a lot less damaging than the rest.
                    Not needing one would obviously be better.
                    And as you successfully paraphrased (reminded us) DQ,
                    religion is the opiate of the masses.
                    Buddhism may just be the methadone they need.


                • hudsongodfrey September 23, 2012 at 10:31 am #

                  Yes the thing I may have lifted from Sam Harris elsewhere in my comments about a moral landscape with multiple peaks and valleys really works for most branches of Buddhism just fine. And I’d even go so far as the say the the Dalai Lama seems rather uniquely among religious leaders to be very accepting of science, and has publicly said so.

                  I think though that one of the things we don’t see here in our Western infatuation with Buddhism is that in Asia it is practised mostly in a rather superstitious vein that seems contradictory to the positives we’re more familiar with. And there are reportedly some problems with children in the care of monks which we’re only too familiar with.

                  In fact I’d put it that if Christianity were new and exotic to us and all we saw was the positive spin on it in terms of how it is marketed then I think we can see from the behaviour of devotees themselves that the package can be alluring. I’m currently finding this with a good number of my Asian friends who seem to be turning Christian because they’re looking for that alternative kind of experience of belief.

                  As I said I think the interesting thing is that Buddhism comes to the question of spirituality from a different approach that nevertheless speaks to a human tendency to find transcendence in the unexplained numinous corners of our experience. There may be something that needs to be understood about that basic aspect of our consciousness even if we’re better informed than to posit an anthropomorphic deity.


          • doug quixote September 22, 2012 at 10:50 pm #

            Far better is the Penn Jillette clip alongside it. What they purport to believe is indeed “Batshit Crazy”.


            • hudsongodfrey September 23, 2012 at 10:14 am #

              Yep they’ve reposted the one last week that is essentially what I posted here a few months back. Its very good the way he describes that missing connection between belief and acting on it in the case of the woman who killed her children claiming god told her to do that. If even the staunchest of born again bible belt Christians accepts there are only two verdicts, guilty or insanity, then something’s going on that really doesn’t make any sense to the rest of us. When we’re left wondering how they claimed to believe in the talking snake or the Abraham and Isaac story, but not her’s.

              And the answer I think is the same one that I alluded to earlier beliefs in ancient myths have no consequences, whereas the real world possibility of allowing people to blame god for their homicidal acts is very consequential. The difference in being permitted to be allowed to believe in certainty without evidence through buying into an inconsequential mythology seems defensible, because it is a victimless pursuit. Just don’t try telling any of us that when it comes to murder cases, we may like the thought of god in the background but we’re locking up the killers and nut jobs just the same.


              • doug quixote September 23, 2012 at 3:20 pm #

                An alternative possibility is that they all asked God whether he told her to do that; one may suppose he did not say “Yes I Did.”


                • zerograv1 September 25, 2012 at 12:04 am #

                  I think it was Rita Rudner that made the observation that when someone speaks to God we call it prayer, but when God speaks to someone we call it schizophrenia….not sure where this fits in your discussion though


                  • doug quixote September 25, 2012 at 12:36 am #

                    True; it didn’t end well for Joan of Arc.

                    One red herring is as good as another, zero. But check out the Penn Jillette clip.


                  • helvityni September 25, 2012 at 8:21 am #

                    Zero, when people start talking to themselves, asking the questions and answering them,what do you call them? Delusional…?


                    • Hypocritophobe September 25, 2012 at 10:08 am #

                      “Zero, when people start talking to themselves, asking the questions and answering them,what do you call them? ”



                    • helvityni September 25, 2012 at 10:34 am #

                      Hypo, when they ask the questions under one name ,and reply to themselves under another, I call it trolling…
                      I don’t have any time for that kind of blogging, it’s totally dishonest, to me anyhow.
                      It’s also bullying, replying to someone else using two or three pseudos to make it seem like you are one of many like-minded, when of course you are only one.


                  • hudsongodfrey September 25, 2012 at 10:36 am #

                    Napoleon was just telling me that the other day 😉


                • hudsongodfrey September 25, 2012 at 10:37 am #

                  It was that dastardly snake what done it!


                  • Hypocritophobe September 25, 2012 at 10:56 am #

                    You mean,Crafty Carson Carpetbag?


                    • hudsongodfrey September 25, 2012 at 11:47 am #

                      A cultural reference too far perhaps. I had to look that one up in order to find it 🙂 Thanks for making me feel young.


  16. Hypocritophobe September 25, 2012 at 10:43 am #

    I agree with the uncool multiple pseudos.The ABC is rife with it.
    They could easily deal with it,IF they wanted to,but I sense they are happy to have numbers and conflict.

    Damon Young’s articles get bombarded with nutter/s.
    I avoid the Drum etc,nowadays.

    But my ‘bloggers’ answer was a way of injecting ‘potential’ humour!


    • helvityni September 25, 2012 at 10:55 am #

      I know Hypo, but I also realised that my post wasn’t very clear.
      I so wish there was more humour, and less nastiness on these blogs 🙂


      • Hypocritophobe September 25, 2012 at 11:01 am #

        But your main point about the delusional stuff is serious and sad at the same time.
        “God made me do it”, is probably just raw psychosis.
        Fishing for answers in a mind lacking in balanced, mature,humane, appraisal faculties.


  17. Hypocritophobe September 25, 2012 at 5:18 pm #

    This copy of the my same post is for DP if she does not stumble over the same reply,I posted to her post at.

    Di Pearton September 25, 2012 at 4:55 pm #

    No, it is not a bit different. There are many that I have met, so I assume there are others. For God(?)’s sake why do you find this so hard to believe? Wasn’t Christ the first fecking socialist?

    You seem to have lost your way and posted in the wrong hole???????
    I accept that there are Christians in the greens.No argument.I question the slant of the word ‘many’ you placed on your ‘anecdotal’ observations.
    So for fecks sake show me how the ‘many’ translates into ‘more’ pro rata than the current crop of the big 2 failed parties?

    There are some,no doubt, about it, including Milne who is apparently a practising Catholic.
    Go figure.



  1. Belief, the State and same sex marriage | Flash Politics & Society News | - September 20, 2012

    […] Following on from Stewart’s piece on Sheep yesterday about belief, I’d really like to know just why the state is involving itself in protecting the feelings of citizens who don’t “believe” in same-sex marriage, and who do “believe” that same-sex…  […]


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