About Rationally Speaking

Rationally Speaking is a blog maintained by Prof. Massimo Pigliucci, a philosopher at the City University of New York. The blog reflects the Enlightenment figure Marquis de Condorcet's idea of what a public intellectual (yes, we know, that's such a bad word) ought to be: someone who devotes himself to "the tracking down of prejudices in the hiding places where priests, the schools, the government, and all long-established institutions had gathered and protected them." You're welcome. Please notice that the contents of this blog can be reprinted under the standard Creative Commons license.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

God tells Midwest to approve gay marriage

No, I haven’t suddenly lost my mind and turned this blog into the Onion. But it seems to me that the “logical” consequence of a certain kind of “reasoning” common within fundamentalist religious circles would have to be that this past week’s floods in the American Midwest carry one clear message from the Almighty: the locals better shape up and approve gay marriage.

You see, as soon as California finally allowed gays to marry, and even went as far as extending the right to people who are not state residents (unlike Massachusetts, the only other state in the Union to allow gay marriages) a number of nuts from the religious right warned of dire consequences. According to the LA Times, “a smattering of protesters” at one ceremony were carrying signs like “Homo Sex Is Sin!” and warnings have been flying around the internet that God will punish the entire state of California for this unspeakable crime against Him (as usual, this raises the obvious question of how moral God really is for meting out collective punishment to begin with, but that’s another story).

Well, so far nothing has happened to California, but the Midwest has been hit by some of the worst flooding since records have been kept. And we all remember how many fundamentalist preachers interpreted Katrina has God’s punishment against the Big Easy. So, logic demands that those same preachers put two and two together and accept that God has apparently changed His mind about gay marriage. Here is the reasoning, spelled out for those who might not have taken logic 101:

P1: If God doesn’t like X, then God sends natural disaster
against the community that has done X.

P2: California has done X, and no disaster has ensued.

C: Therefore, God approves of X.

(P here stands for Premise, C for Conclusion.) This is known in logic as modus tollens, and it’s pretty hard to argue against. But of course I’m kidding, since I am actually assuming that religious zealots are interested at all (or familiar with) logic. A bad assumption if there ever was one.

More broadly, what is it about fundamentalists thinking that God is so darn concerned with their petty affairs? I mean, atheists are usually accused of arrogance for rejecting God, but listen to what one Rocky Twyman, from Washington DC, had to say recently as reported by the Chicago Tribune, referring to the ongoing problem of high gas prices: “Our pockets are empty, but we're going to hold on to God!” And he means that literally. See, Mr. Twyman started a group called Pray at the Pump, which is bent on continuing to pray for lower gasoline prices “until God tells us to stop.” (How exactly such command would be issued is not specified in the interview.) Twyman’s group, in its astoundingly narrow minded view of the world, managed to (unwittingly, one hopes) insult the civil liberties movement by modifying one of their historical phrases: “We Shall Overcome, We'll have lower gas prices.”

Do I need to add that, as usual, nothing fails like prayer? When the movement started, gas prices were at an average of $3.53 per gallon. At the time Mr. Twyman was interviewed the price had gone up to $3.97. This has not deterred Mirrine Thorne of Northwest Washington, who according to the same article said “Nobody else is doing anything, God is going to do something.”

The point is that even if there is a God (and that makes just about as much sense as saying “if there is a Santa Claus...”), it is unbelievably self-centered and arrogant of some people to think that the Creator of the Universe (which is a big, big place to take care of) has nothing better to do than worry about gas prices or gay marriages. But of course that is much of the point of believing in God to begin with: if there is no Big Guy in the sky looking out for us, then we are really responsible for our own actions, and that’s one of the scariest thoughts that ever crossed the human mind.


  1. Sadly, what people in the Midwest will most likely get out of this is that they are not opposing gay marriage vigorously enough.

    Their "logic" goes more like this:

    God doesn't like it when people do X.

    I don't do X, but I know somebody who does.

    Therefore, I must become a complete pain in the ass, and tell anybody doing X that they are going to Hell.

  2. Now, now, Massimo,
    I think you are jumping to a skeptical conclusion a little too quikly. The people of California will be punished for approving of gay marriage by a massive earthquake that will happen eventually. Mark my words, for I am a prophet.
    But in the meantime, just to remind Californians that they are not off the hook, there will be continueing wild fires, and mud slides, and any number of other disasters that I am not allowed to divulge at this time.

  3. See what I mean, I didn't even need to check the news, but I knew God would be punishing California with wildfires, and started not by jackass smokers, but LIGHTNING!!


    SACRAMENTO, Calif. - Hundreds of wildfires sparked by lightning flared Sunday across the heart of wine country and remote forests in Northern California, the latest batch of destructive blazes in the bone-dry state.

  4. I like the original theory. Presumably many gays headed for CA to get married. God waited for them to leave before punishing the midwest.

    As a side message he was telling the gay community to head west and get married.

  5. "...if there is no Big Guy in the sky looking out for us, then we are really responsible for our own actions..."

    You old determinist - you can't believe that :)

  6. MP, I agree that the signs are there but the Xtians are ignoring them. Locally, the roof of a Catholic church was hit by lightning and set afire during a service. Now lightning being one of God's preferred methods of sending a message to mortals, you would think that the priest and parishoners would see this as a message from God that they are doing something wrong. Nope. They just thanked God that the firemen came and put out the fire. Irrationality on top of irrationality. Why do we bother?

  7. I hate to be the spelling Nazi, but there are a couple of mistakes in your post that are bothering me.

    In the second paragraph "meeting out" should be spelled "meting out". In the last paragraph "Santa Clause" should be spelled "Santa Claus". Other than that, this is a fine post. :)

  8. instinct,

    thanks, spelling mistakes corrected!

  9. It didn't take long. Here it is:

    Iowa punished by god
    at scienceblogs.

  10. "...if there is no Big Guy in the sky looking out for us, then we are really responsible for our own actions, and that’s one of the scariest thoughts that ever crossed the human mind."

    I am completely agree. All humans want not to be orphans.


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