Christianity is known for traditionally teaching that homosexuality is wrong and therefore a sin.
This past weekend Richard Swinburne—a famous Christian philosopher—argued that homosexuality is wrong. He argued this in his keynote address he was invited to give at the Midwest Society of Christian Philosophers.
Doesn’t seem all that controversial, right?
However, Swinburne’s arguments triggered some of the other philosophers participating in the conference, and they let it be known online afterwards. One of them was Michael Rea, a Notre Dame philosopher and president of the society, who issued an apology on Facebook expressing his “regret regarding the hurt caused by the recent Midwest meeting of the Society for Christian Philosophers.”
Another philosopher present—J. Edward Hackett of the University of Akron—referred to the talk in the title of his blog post as “Richard Swinburne’s Toxic Lecture on Christian Morality.”
As far as I know, there is no recording or transcript of Swinburne’s address, but from the gist of the angry responses, he presented a version of the following argument that was summarized by The Philosophy Dispatch last year:
1) Homosexuality is a preventable disability.
Swinburne contends that homosexuality is a disability because a homosexual can’t enter into a loving relationship in which the love is procreative. Furthermore, he holds that the scientific consensus is that both genetics AND social factors work together to produce homosexuality, and that trying to reduce the latter will also reduce the number of people who act out on homosexual inclinations.
2) Disabilities ought to be prevented and cured.
3) From (1) and (2), it follows that homosexuality ought to be prevented and cured.
Listen, I’m not one who thinks that EVERY topic is worthwhile discussing. And I think it’s appropriate to react with some anger to certain arguments, say, if someone was trying to argue that it’s morally right to sexually exploit small children or exterminate an entire race of people.
But the question is: In an academic context, does arguing that homosexuality is morally wrong from a Christian, natural law perspective currently fall into this category? After all, up until 1973, the American Psychiatric Association still defined homosexuality as a mental disease. The largest Christian group in the world—the Roman Catholic Church—still teaches that homosexual acts are “intrinsically disordered”. And 37% of Americans still oppose same-sex marriage. You may think they are wrong—and they may very well be—but I’m not sure we’re yet at the point where all argument on the subject should be quashed.
My further question is this: In a room full of philosophers, why can’t those who disagree with him simply seek to refute his argument? Why the need to personally denounce him online after the conference?