On the answer to this question depends the future of marriage and the family.
In his new book, Making Gay Okay: How Rationalizing Homosexual Behavior Is Changing Everything, Robert Reilly poses this question: “Is sodomy reasonable?” He believes this question can only be answered by enquiring into the Nature of sexual acts. He frames his arguments rejecting homosexual behavior, not persons, and same-sex marriage in terms of reason, Nature and the teleology of sex.
Reilly’s thesis is that there are “two fundamental views of reality.” One views things as having a Nature that is teleological or ordered to “ends that inhere in their essence and make them what they are” and have “inbuilt purposes.” The other view sees things as having no Nature or ends in themselves, “but only what we make them to be according to our wills and desires.” The former view leads to the “primacy of reason,” and the latter inclines to the “primacy of will” which allows for anything.
“This is what the same-sex marriage debate is really about - the Nature of reality itself,” writes Reilly. “Since the meaning of our lives is dependent upon the Nature of reality, it too hangs in the balance.”
Robert Reilly, who has served at Defense and the White House, was director of the Voice of America and a music critic of some note. He is also the author of The Closing of the Muslim Mind: How Intellectual Suicide Created the Modern Islamist Crisis (2010) in which he described the abandonment of reason as the root cause of many distortions found in some branches of Islam today. In his new book, he revisits this issue in the context of Western confusion over the ends and purposes of human sexuality.
For Reilly, a confirmed Aristotelian, “The homosexual movement shares in the larger rationalization of the sexual revolution and is invested in its spread. The acceptance of each variant of sexual misbehavior reinforces the others.” The desire to rationalize these behaviors becomes an engine for revolutionary change throughout society. “As a moral act, sodomy should be normative. If it is normative, it should be taught in our schools as a standard. If it is a standard, it should be enforced.”
Franklin Kameny, an early “gay” leader, who was honored by President Obama at the White House in 2009, believes that “morality is a matter of personal opinion and individual belief on which any American citizen may hold any view he wishes and upon which the government has no power or authority to have any view at all….homosexuality is not only not immoral, but is affirmatively moral.” Prior to his White House appearance, Kameny had published a letter in which he wrote, “If bestiality with consenting animals provides happiness to some people, let them pursue their happiness. This is Americanism in action.”
Thus, argues Reilly, any preexisting rational end constitutes a limitation on human freedom and necessitates denial of those ends which actually inhere in things. “Things being without ends in themselves, have only the purposes we choose for them.” Misnaming things leads to moral and political disorder. This is so because, with the denial of Nature, then justice is reduced to whatever is willed rather than what is reasonable.
“Those who wish to base their freedom upon the supposed purposelessness of things, which obtains in the absence of Nature, should face the consequences of this view,” says Reilly. “What seems unmitigated freedom is, in fact, the foundation of tyranny.”
The rationalization of homosexual behavior extends to the campaign against AIDS, a worthy cause in and of itself. It often communicates a misleading message that “everyone is at risk.” While this is literally true, as Reilly notes, the homosexual act is the single greatest risk factor in contracting the disease. Citing the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Riley writes that 94.9 percent of HIV diagnoses among teenage boys (13-19 years old) were linked to male-to-male sex; 94.1 percent of the cases among young men ages 20 to 24 were from “gay” sex.
Reilly invokes Aristotle for the proposition that “Men start revolutionary changes for reasons connected with their private lives.” The necessity of self-justification “requires complicity of the whole culture, holdouts cannot be tolerated, because they are potential rebukes…These latter are labeled homophobes, though it is they who become the objects of hatred.” Consider the abuse various photographers and bakers have been subjected to for resisting participation in same-sex weddings.
Making Gay Okay offers an extended discussion of those philosophic opposites, Aristotle and Jean-Jacques Rousseau, the latter justifying libertine behavior but also absolute dependency on the state. For Aristotle the status and meaning of Nature is decisive, intelligible and a guide for proper ordering of human behavior. For Rousseau, man is not a rational political animal; and society, in any form, is alien and alienating. Aristotle views the family as fundamental. Rousseau views it as artificial and enslaving.
Aristotle sees happiness as “an activity of soul in accord with virtue.” Rousseau is profoundly anti-teleological and believes that the individual “suffices to oneself, like God.”
Reilly believes that these two philosophers embody the age-old debate over the nature of Nature, human beings and their sexuality.
Reilly debunks the view that the ancient Greeks were universally accepting of homosexual relationships between mature adults. It was practiced, especially in the context of certain kinds of mentoring relationships (I use the term guardedly) between adult males and male adolescents in the upper classes. Yet, even in these cases, young males were expected to marry and start a family as they reached maturity. Nothing like same-sex marriages were ever sanctioned.
“Socrates and Plato were unambiguous in their condemnation of homosexual acts as unnatural,” states Reilly citing several passages from their works. Moreover, Aristotle described “sex between males” as one of the “diseased things” mentioned in his Nicomachean Ethics. The family, a pre-political institution, is at the core of the polity; and chastity is a crucial political principle necessary for its preservation.
The extent of the injustice of the redefinition of marriage is made manifest in its impact on children. “What is owed to children by right or Nature becomes optional by convention,” writes Robert Reilly. In effect, same-sex marriages result in marriages broken by design, especially in the cases in which children are bred with the outside assistance of a person of the other gender for the benefit of the same-sex “parents.”
Regarding the physical effects of “sodomitical behavior” (anal intercourse), Reilly presents the clinical evidence unsparingly. He also provides a very useful appendix, “Disease and Mortality.” He believes that ignorance or denial of the evidence “is one of the most remarkable barometers of the strength of the rationalization that insists this behavior is normal or normative.” It is not just the individual act of sodomy which is problematic but also its frequency. Such episodes are 13 times more frequent for homosexuals as for heterosexuals with 12 times as many different partners. A 1987 study of nearly 5,000 homosexual men found that “a significant majority of these men - 69 to 83 percent - reported having 50 or more lifetime sexual partners, and over 80 percent had engaged in anal intercourse with at least some of their partners in the previous two years.
A study presented to the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in 2000 indicated a 37-fold increase in the incidence of anal cancer among homosexuals with HIV compared to the general population. Add to this list rectal prolapse, various and sundry sexually transmitted diseases, drug abuse and substantially reduced life expectancy of active homosexuals. While it is true that the death rate from HIV was nine times greater in 1990 than in 2010, anal intercourse still carries the highest transmission risk than any other sexual activity. More recent data from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) confirm that homosexual, bisexual and other men who have sex with men are over 44 times more likely than other men to contract HIV, and over 40 times more likely than women to contract HIV. They are also 46 times more likely to contract syphilis than other men and 71 percent more likely than women.
Reilly questions whether any kind of same-sex marriage or partnership can be truly spousal rather than promiscuous. He fears that their recognition, legally and morally, will actually transform or redefine the concept of marriage away from one of monogamy and fidelity to something so very flexible to the point of being unrecognizable.
“What is the point of insisting on homosexual marriage when promiscuity prevails?” Reilly answers his own question: “to complete the rationalization of their misbehavior, they must sacramentalize it.”
Making Gay Okay also provides an account of the slow devolution of American law from one guided by natural law and Blackstone to that of secular irrationalism. From abortion to sodomy to homosexual marriage, and even a recent case allowing polygamy in Utah, the courts have executed a decided shift from Aristotle and Nature to a post-modern deconstruction of anything like public morality. The “supreme irony” is that the abandonment of Nature, reason, and an objective sexual morality contradicts the “Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God,” those self-evident truths set out in the Declaration of Independence. All of this, argues Reilly, is leading to the “loss of objective reality -- a loss that is transforming the right to life into death (abortion), liberty into license, and the pursuit of happiness into hedonism.”
Spreading the word
The second part of Reilly’s book looks at the march of homosexual ideology through America’s institutions - psychiatry, elementary and secondary education, the military, the Boy Scouts, and, remarkably, diplomacy and foreign policy. Most Americans may not realize that their embassies around the world are outposts of neo-colonialism preaching the “gay rights” gospel to the great unwashed in Muslim lands and elsewhere. In Pakistan, Kenya, El Salvador and elsewhere local populations have expressed outrage at American presumption in trampling on what have been social norms universally recognized by all the great religions.
“If we wish to make ourselves not only irrelevant, but an object of derision in the Muslim world and in other parts of the globe, all we have to do is openly promote the rationalization of homosexual behavior, which is explicitly taught as inherently immoral by Islam and, in fact, by every minority religion in those Muslim-majority countries, including Christianity and Judaism,” says the former director of the Voice of America. “If we wish to make this part of American public diplomacy, as we have been doing, we can surrender the idea that the United States is promoting democracy in those countries, because they are already responding, ‘If this is democracy, we don’t want it, thank you; we would rather keep our faith and morals.’”
Robert Reilly has written an illuminating book, a frontal assault on elite opinion that hopes to dictate social outcomes to the American people in disregard of their constitution, culture, and moral sensibilities. He has distilled the fundamental issues at the heart of the current debate over sexual morality.
G. Tracy Mehan, III, was assistant administrator for water at the US EPA under President George W. Bush. He is a consultant and an adjunct professor at George Mason University School of Law and Contributor to The American Spectator’s website, Spectator.org.