Sophistry in America


"And you shall not lie sexually with your neighbor’s wife...You shall not lie with a male as with a woman; it is an abomination. And you shall not lie with any is perversion."
Leviticus 18:20-23

In my article “Sophistry in Ancient Athens,” I wrote about the distinction between an argument being merely clever vs. an argument actually being logical. I described the way Athens in the fifth century BC was inundated with teachers known as Sophists who prided themselves on their ability to prove absurd propositions. Their arguments were clever and even persuasive, but they were also illogical.

The spirit of sophistry was not limited to ancient Athens. Contemporary America has its own industry of sophists who specialize in churning out clever-sounding arguments which lack the rigors of logical demonstration. Modern America, no less than contemporary Athens, contains many who are gullible enough to believe the latest sophisms. Sadly, such gullible persons can even include the President himself.

That was what flashed through my head on 20 July when I read that President Obama had backed Sen. Feinstein’s bill to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). For many years the homosexual lobby has been incensed by this Act, which was passed by President Clinton in 1996. DOMA mandates that the federal government can only recognize a union between one man and one woman as being "marriage." DOMA also restricts marriage benefits to married couples. (To learn more about DOMA and its history, read my other article "Doma and the Definition of Marriage.")

Closer examination
What has been interesting about the gay lobby’s crusade against DOMA is that it has rested on a number of clever-sounding arguments which, upon closer examination, turn out to be either completely false or utterly illogical.

Consider the argument that DOMA interferes with the rights of states by mandating a federal definition of marriage. The problem with this bit of sophistry is that it is simply false. What DOMA actually does is to preserve the rights of states by prohibiting one state from redefining marriage for the other 49.

There is nothing in DOMA that prevents one state from calling a same-sex union “marriage” if it wants to, but no single state can demand that such unions be recognized on the federal level and hence by other states. At least, no single state can yet demand that. This will change if DOMA is overturned.

This is a crucial point that has generally been overlooked. The homosexual lobby has been selling the campaign against DOMA as being one of freedom, tolerance, and States’ rights. Sadly, our President has bought into this rhetoric. In reality, however, the shoe is actually on the other foot. It is DOMA which preserves freedom, tolerance and States’ rights. If Sen. Feinstein’s bill to overturn DOMA is passed, that freedom will be in jeopardy.

I am reminded of something that S. T. Karnick has pointed out in his 2008 article “The Tyranny of the Minority: How the Forced Recognition of Same-Sex ‘Marriage’ Undermines a Free Society.

The issue, it’s important to remember, is not whether society will allow homosexuals to “marry.” They may already do so, in any church or other sanctioning body that is willing to perform the ceremony. There are, in fact, many organizations willing to do so...Same-sex couples, or any other combination of people, animals, and inanimate objects, can and do “marry” in this way. What the law in most states currently does not do, however, is force third parties—individuals, businesses, institutions, and so on—to recognize these “marriages” and treat them as if they were exactly the same as traditional marriages. Nor does it forbid anyone to do so....

In short, individuals, organizations, and institutions in most states are currently free to treat same-sex unions as marriages, or not....But this freedom is precisely what the advocates of same-sex “marriage” want to destroy; they want to use the government’s power to force everyone to recognize same-sex unions as marriages whether they want to or not.

An assault on freedom
The freedom that individuals, organizations and institutions in most states currently have to treat same-sex unions as marriages or to not, will evaporate as soon as DOMA is overturned. It would almost certainly set America on an itinerary whereby any single state could hold the rest of America to ransom – a point that Bill Clinton astutely realized when he signed DOMA into law in 1996.

I wish I could say that the sophisms stop there. But they do not. Consider another popular argument that the gay-rights community has been using. We keep hearing that DOMA is unjust because it denies to same-sex couples the rights that the government gives to married couples. The President’s own comments show he has bought into this reasoning, and that it was one of the primary reasons he is prepared to back Senator Feinstein’s bill to remove the law from the books.

On the surface, this argument is appealing. America has a long history of denying legal rights to certain unprivileged groups, and no one wants to return to the days when Blacks could not vote or Indians could not own land. By crafting the argument in these terms, it seems almost like an instance of racism to deny to a minority group (i.e., same-sex couples) the legal rights that others (i.e, heterosexual couples) are granted by the law.

It is certainly true that the Defense of Marriage Act denies to same-sex couples many of the rights afforded to married couples. However, the fallacy arises when we assume that this makes the Act unjust, or that this makes it equivalent to the kind of discrimination mentioned above.

Think about it for a moment: If we accept that the principle of equal protection under the law means that same-sex couples should be entitled to the same rights as married couples (including the right to call their union a “marriage”), then in order to be logically consistent we would have to say that a definition of marriage that includes both heterosexual and same-sex unions, yet excludes unions with animals or multiple partners, is also failing to provide equal protection under the law. Indeed, as I pointed out in my earlier article on DOMA, if someone is bisexual, then in order for their sexuality to be fully expressed, their “marriage” must include a minimum of at least one person from each sex. At least, that is where the argument against “discrimination based on sexual orientation” could go. In my earlier article I also went on to observe that

any new definition of marriage that Obama may wish to proffer opens the door to an endless series of redefinition in the years to come. This is because what is true of the word marriage is true of any noun: to define a word as one thing is necessarily to exclude that word as being some other thing. A noun that can mean anything is a noun that can mean nothing.

Consequently, if we say that it is unconstitutional for the word “marriage” to exclude anyone or anything, then we are beginning a process whereby the word must necessarily be eventually emptied of all content.

Suffice to say, if DOMA were set aside, then not only would a union between one man and one woman no longer have a monopoly on the term “marriage,” but in principle any definition of marriage (even one broadened to encompass homosexual unions) could eventually be challenged as unconstitutional by an extension of the same logic.

In short, the word “marriage” must finally come to cover anything we could possibly imagine. However, to do that would render the term incoherent, and that is something that not even the homosexuality community wishes to see happen.

This type of argument is called a reductio ad absurdum, which is Latin for “reduction to the absurd.” Once we say that the rights of marriage should not be withheld from same-sex couples, there is no logical reason why these other consequences should not follow.

Do these things concern you? Do you want to fight to protect a traditional and Biblical understanding of marriage? If you do, then visit and sign the Manhattan Declaration.

BookFor more insight into this topic, read my article ‘DOMA and the Definition of Marriage’ and The Tyranny of the Minority: How the Forced Recognition of Same-Sex ‘Marriage’ Undermines a Free Society.You might also like to purchase the book, Why Homosexual Marriage is Wrong, by Jerry Hillenburg, available from our online store.


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