Gay marriage, religion, and absolute truth

I usually try to avoid commenting on every flavor-of-the-week news story, but I thought that I would make an exception for some of the recent events taking place in our society. With the US Supreme Court finally legalizing gay marriage in the United States, an important milestone was reached in separating the secular nature of society from its other aspects, often derived from religious visions of morality, often tied to specific beliefs. I think it is an important development, and am very glad that we as a society are finally learning to separate the inherent human rights from individually held beliefs.

Most religions have teachings with one implication – if you do not follow their rules, something bad will happen to you, in this life or in the next. Some call it hell; to others, it is lack of spiritual progression, or some other effect most people would consider undesirable. It is a rare religion that would not condemn anyone who would lead others to stray from its teachings, for wouldn’t such people lead the righteous into harm?

But herein is the dilemma. If we accept that there is one objective truth that explains the universe, the humanity, and the moral guidance we should follow, how do we know what it is? If such truth exists, then only one belief can get it right – everyone else got it wrong. Considering how many beliefs there are, and how vehemently their adherents disagree with each other, what are the chances that any individual belief got it all correctly? And if there is an overwhelming possibility that any given understanding of the universe has at least some incorrect parts, wouldn’t forcing that belief’s rules on non-believers go against the key tenet of most beliefs: do not lead others astray, do not lead them into spiritual harm?

This brings me to gay marriage. If the key argument against it is based on belief that it is an immoral choice, and therefore goes against religiously-prescribed morality, then this argument is extremely arrogant. Those who make it assume that they have the knowledge of the universal truth, and do not account for possibility that they are wrong, and that by pushing their interpretation of truth on the society as a whole, they might be doing spiritual or physical harm to the rest of the society.

Imagine a group of school children given access to a gym and playing field with every sporting accessory you can think of. Now, imagine telling them that in a month’s time, they will participate in an athletic competition, and that they will suffer severe punishment if they lose – and then, leave, without telling them what competition they will be participating in, what sport they will be playing, or who their opponent might be.

Should the children start kicking the ball and practicing their soccer skills? Should they shoot hoops and try to form a basketball team? Or, perhaps, should they practice freestyle swimming instead? What if the competition is an individual table tennis tournament – would the kid who tries to form a hockey team be harming their chances of winning, even if he thinks he is doing the right thing?

I make no pretense of knowing what the absolute truth is; my ethics and morals as a person, as a writer, and as a musician are my own. I am just happy that more people in this country are able to enjoy the rights the rest of us already have, and in the end, this is all that matters.

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