I have had acquaintances over the years who claimed that their moral positions were derived from reason. I have long believed that moral propositions are ultimately arbitrary or predicated on unprovable metaphysical assumptions. The moral scheme to which I adhere, not as well as I might like, is derived from the teachings of Jesus to love God and my neighbor. This is my belief, and I cannot necessarily defend it with reason. I can point out what a wonderful world it would be if everyone lived according to these teachings, but this would be based on my personal preferences about the ideal world. I cannot reason my way to the Kingdom of Heaven. Of course, this may be due to some flaw in my capacity to reason.
I have also had acquaintances who claimed that their moral positions were derived from the literal reading of Scripture, and most of these folks have called themselves Christians. Their Christianity bears little resemblance to mine, being concerned in the main with individual righteousness and judging others. They also advocate war, nationalism, and a powerful state, all of which I find incompatible with the teachings of Jesus. They would post the Ten Commandments in the public square, whereas I would rather post the Sermon on the Mount. Ultimately, my acquaintances of this ilk were vulnerable to manipulation by crafty legalistic preachers, and they seem to pick and choose the verses that they count as important. They’ll eat pork chops and scallops and wear blended clothing, but they have problems with homosexuality and sorcery.
When I consider homosexuality, I find that the commandment to love my neighbor prevents me from condemning homosexuals. I am moved to be open and affirming rather than insisting that homosexuals deny their nature or conceal their relationships. Yet, I am reminded from time to time that Paul disapproved of homosexuality and that the Old Testament condemns it. Paul had a lot of peeves, and I don’t reckon that even he considered his letters Scripture when he was writing them. That some Bishops decided to include them in the canon several centuries later does not in my view elevate them to holy writ. Paul’s writings are useful and instructive but hardly on a par with the teachings of Jesus. And the Old Testament passages about homosexuality don’t seem to me to carry any special weight. You won’t find me sacrificing animals or treating my wife as unclean when she menstruates. I also don’t expect my brother to marry my widow after I die. Why, unless I had some independent hang up about homosexuality, would I pick out the Old Testament passages about it and afford them special significance?
I have known folks who claim that their hatred of homosexuality stems from reason. In support of this, they claim that it is “unnatural”. Since it occurs in nature with some considerable frequency, I dispute this characterization. It is true that homosexuality does not lead to reproduction, but neither does celibacy, and I don’t know anyone who condemns celibacy. Ultimately, this moral reasoning depends on the metaphysical assumptions that “natural” is good and that reproduction is always desirable. It also depends on the assumption that the moralizer has a legitimate interest in whether his conspecifics reproduce. It is not outrageous that folks might harbor such beliefs, but they are deluding themselves if they think that they have come to them through reason.
As a libertarian, I reckon that my conspecifics are free to hate whomever they please and to make each other miserable as long as they do so peaceably. I’d rather folks minded their own business and promoted one another’s happiness, but that’s a tall order.