In 1776, Thomas Jefferson wrote: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed;”
Abraham Lincoln employed these words during his Gettysburg Address – as did Elizabeth Cady Stanton when fighting for women’s suffrage. Martin Luther King reached for Jefferson’s profound statement during his epic struggle for equal rights.
From Thomas Hobbes brilliant treatise, “The Leviathan”, came the founding principle of democracy. “Nature hath made men so equal in the faculties of body and mind as that, though there be found one man sometimes manifestly stronger in body or of quicker mind than another, yet when all is reckoned together the difference between man and man is not so considerable as that one man can thereupon claim to himself any benefit to which another may not pretend as well as he.”
It is the nature of humans to hold personal views regarding same-sex marriage, abortion and other “hot-button” issues – views formed by our past, our family dynamics, our religion, our education and so forth – as “self-evident truths.” But what is incomprehensible to me is that the most vehement flag-wavers among us tend to cavalierly disregard the words “that all men are created equal.” And they use the Bible to support their stance.
As a student of philosophy, this use of religion to defend the indefensible smacks of the argumentum ad verecundiam fallacy (the appeal to authority). While this is often (for the uninformed) an impressive way to buttress a line of thought, it becomes fallacious when one of the following happens: the authority is not an expert in the field in which one is speaking, or the allusion to authority masks the fact that experts may be divided down the middle on the subject (hello Tea Party).
I assume that those who find appealing to the “authority” of the Bible truly believe that the men who wrote that tome were authorities at the time. What I do not understand is how these same people can wave an American flag in one hand and a Bible in the other when proselytising about the evils of same-sex unions. One (logically) cancels out the other. “All men are created equal,” except for those whose life-styles we disagree with? No: an absolute cannot remain absolute when it is qualified.
Argumentum ad captandum refers to any baseless argument that may be used to win popular acceptance. (Literal translation: “for catching the common herd”). Apparently the “social conservatives” of the Tea Party are embracing the knee-jerk “family first” mentality of ignorance while ignoring the fact that a family is, by definition, a group that is affiliated by co-residence, consanguinity or affinity. This includes men and women in any established configuration.
With a male/female divorce rate in America that is estimated at 50%, I fail to see the compelling logic behind the “traditional family first” argument. Apparently the biblical notion of “family” is no longer the norm – and no longer the litmus test of a strong society. With well over half a million children in foster care facilities, to deny same-sex couples the right to adopt is tantamount to wilful social failure. To deny them the rights and freedoms enjoyed by heterosexual couples flies in the face of our most cherished and much-vaunted precepts.
“All men are created equal.” America must decide whether or not that statement is true and worthy of proving by its laws – or the country must accept that it is built upon a fallacy. It is not so much a matter of personal opinion or religion as it is one of truth and logic.