Conversation with Master Buddha and TMichael: Gay Marriage
TM: I’ve been reading news accounts of the battle between those who favor gay marriage being sanctioned under law and those who oppose it. Some oppose it on religious grounds and some on biological grounds in that it doesn’t facilitate pro-creation naturally. What is your view on the religious grounds for or against gay marriage?
Master Buddha: If a man and a woman have sexual intercourse, there is a probability pregnancy will result, and a second probability that child birth will follow. This is commonly known and understood in modern society. That wasn’t always the case—many centuries ago it was a mystery how offspring were conceived by the vast majority of human population. There arose from the mystery many superstitions around conception and child birth. Conception and child birth require the engagement of male and female contributing each their part. This is a biologic fact. It doesn’t require a social bond to be successful. As a matter of modern fact, it doesn’t require that they ever physically engage in person (artificial insemination).
TM: Ok, I’m with you so far. Creating babies follows sex between a man and a woman, or by artificial means. A long time ago, and I hope a very long time ago, people didn’t quite make the connection and so developed superstitious beliefs around baby-making.
Master Buddha: So, by biologic fact a gay male marriage cannot produce offspring between the two partners, but can enlist a female outside the marriage to perform that role. The same of course then for two female partners. This means that gay couples are capable of producing offspring by proxy of a third partner if they so desire. This is the same for heterosexual couples who are unable to conceive a child. It merely accommodates the biologic fact.
TM: If it’s a biologic fact, then how does it become a religious issue or even a social concern?
Master Buddha: I’m pulling this apart for you, because it can get very tangled. At some point in human history there was a shift in social belief that the chief role of marriage between a man and woman was to create offspring. To ensure that their offspring would not just be running around in reckless abandon they also created social convention around the single-family household and the early beginnings of property rights. The child belonged to the parents and the household and was subject to their supervision and responsibility, and they together as a household subject to the larger society and community.
TM: You’re saying it was a social evolution, not a religious one. Is that correct?
Master Buddha: It is difficult to separate religion from social, because religion is a social enterprise. This is why this subject is so impossible for some people to intellectually grasp. I will continue now to explain.
Religion is a social enterprise, which means that humans have created religions and formed into social sects in order to propagate their religious beliefs and social tenets.
TM: Hold on a second, almost all religious people will say that religions were created by God, or Gods through prophets or enlightened intermediaries (present company included), and that they are followers of that particular religious teaching. God laid the foundation and they followed his word to build on it.
Master Buddha: Please refer to other conversations we’ve had on the subject of truth and how it is convoluted with faith and a state of not knowing everything. Humans will posit truth on a great many things, but that doesn’t make it true. It is merely their belief in what is true. Let’s assume for a moment that religions were founded on direct expression of truth from God or Gods. Humans, as you suggest, interpret that and build on it to make it a social belief system. The filter applied is still of human origin, and therefore subject to the ignorance of humanity.
TM: I don’t mean to stray from our topic, but this seems important to clear up, because so much of what follows is dependent upon this point. You’re saying that religions are social institutions and are birthed and propagated as social tenets, not the word of God.
Master Buddha: I don’t wish to belabor the point of origin of religious beliefs, and so for our discussion I said we could assume that religions spring from the word of God or Gods. Humans the take that word and add to it their interpretations and filter it into social conventions by which they live. That means that religions become social entities imbued with human constructs of socialized behavior. May we continue?
TM: Yes, but maybe we have to come back to this at some point.
Master Buddha: The great problem for humanity in building laws that govern society is that they cannot separate social convention from religious teachings. Gay marriage as it relates to law must pass through the filters of social convention, which is conditioned by religious beliefs. So you can easily see the conundrum. And this provokes a challenge to the truths held by those who believe that the word of God prohibits such human relations.
For them the syllogism flows like this:
God has said that the purpose of a man|woman relationship is to create babies and form single-family households and rear their offspring.
Gay couples cannot create babies directly.
Therefore, gay marriage is not sanctioned by God, and must be excluded from human options.
For religious believers, denying this logic is tantamount to denying the word of God. It will then undermine a society based upon the word of God and eventually lead to the ruin of society. How it reconciles with many other words of God in which it produces conflict and contradiction is inconvenient, but doesn’t cause their belief to waver. They must default to the only intellectual escape possible, which is that God is mysterious and knows more than humankind, and so it isn’t the place of humanity to question this contradiction. It is for humanity to follow the things that are clear as well as the things that aren’t without fail. God will sort it out later.
TM: Yes, I believe you’ve stated that correctly according to what they believe. But is that correct?
Master Buddha: The question is presented incorrectly. Let me re-frame it. What is the role of religion for humanity and what is the role of social convention in creating laws that govern human behavior?
TM: So, you won’t just come right out with an answer to settle the question will you?
Master Buddha: I’m taking an approach that will help you understand the issue and formulate an answer. As we have stated previously in these conversations, the role of religion is to represent spiritual theories for individuals to ponder in an effort to expand their imaginations and range of possibilities for living a better life. Religions form from spiritual ideas and concepts, that in the pure state apply to an individual. Religions become social institutions because they are comprised of like-minded individuals. The purpose of which is to share and discuss the spiritual idea and concepts.
Humans have taken religions in this social form and expanded them into governance entities. Therein lies the problem. It sets up massive conflicts between different religions and between members of society who subscribe to those different religious beliefs. The only way for a system of religious-dominant laws to work without constant and violent conflict is too segregate inhabitants by religion and assign each to their own geographic place. Since that isn’t practical today, you must have a different way. Democratic societies have created a separation of religion and government. Ideally, this should work in a pluralistic religious society. But, it doesn’t work as perfectly as intended, because those who are aligned with religious beliefs that have been interpreted to guide their daily lives in an integrated society, immediately come in conflict with behaviors they find inconsistent with their beliefs. The resulting dissonance cries for resolution. They seek to alter laws to remove the dissonance.
TM: I can see why you’re not so popular with Christians and Muslims. From what I observe both religious groups would love for everyone to line up with them to rule the world according to their beliefs. In that scenario they could outlaw all the behaviors inconsistent with their beliefs and presumably find the harmony in governance.
Master Buddha: Well, secretly all religious groups wish for that scenario, but some are more vocal than others.
TM: Years ago when I visited Nepal and spent some time in Kathmandu, I noticed the incredible non-hostile melding of Hindus, Buddhists, Muslims and Christians. But back to our topic. How do we bring this conversation to a conclusion?
Master Buddha: Gay marriage could only be subject to religious scrutiny within a purely religious context. Religious context is confined to individuals and their peers for introspection. Social institutions that are erected for governance must take into consideration that there are many types of life styles and it is the responsibility of government to create laws that promote harmony among the differences while removing violence. The fact that gays must seek legal sanction within your laws informs us that the separation between government and religion is not yet a reality.
TM: Will it ever be?
Master Buddha: It’s possible of course, but only when people representing religions surrender to living peacefully with others with different beliefs and abstain from their agendas of hegemony in thought and behavior.
TM © 2015