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Wayne Bessen

Moehler’s slippery slope

Karl Marx considered religion ‘the opium o the masses.’
If it were discovered that homosexuality had a biological basis, it would be morally acceptable for a mother to use a hormonal treatment patch to ensure her child was born heterosexual, Rev. Albert Mohler Jr., president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, suggested on his personal website.

“If a biological basis is found, and if a prenatal test is then developed and if a successful treatment to reverse the sexual orientation to heterosexual is ever developed, we would support its use as we should unapologetically support the use of any appropriate means to avoid sexual temptation and the inevitable effects of sin,” wrote Mohler.

His comments raised the ire of gay activists who accused him of promoting eugenics and abandoning moral principles on the sanctity of life.

But, in Mohler’s desire to root out homosexuality, he fails to consider an equally compelling question: If a biological or genetic basis for religious belief is discovered, would it also be morally acceptable to create a hormonal patch to eliminate fundamentalists, such as Mohler himself? Before you dismiss this question as hypothetical or academic, consider that research into the origins of spirituality is a robust field of inquiry. There are currently about a dozen studies that show shared personality traits among religious people, suggesting a genetic or biological basis.

In 2005, Laura Koenig, a psychology graduate student at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis, postulated a likely genetic link to spirituality by studying male fraternal and genetically identical twins.

Koenig demonstrated that the identical twins had a much greater likelihood of sharing analogous religious beliefs into adulthood than the fraternal twins who were about a third less similar than they were as children.

Mohler’s view on eliminating homosexuality is shortsighted, culturally myopic and leads us down a slippery slope. Once we allow prejudice and preferences to determine who lives, what moral basis would Mohler have to stop China, for example, from eliminating future political foes by eradicating those with religious inclinations in the womb? Karl Marx considered religion “the opium of the masses.” It is not a stretch to speculate that if the former Soviet Union possessed a hormonal patch to “cure” this addiction they may have used it.

In Mohler’s world, conservative Christians are a majority and considered a paragon of virtue. However, the late singer John Lennon is not the only person who has “imagined” a world without religion and its Inquisitions and suicide bombers. Indeed, there are prominent scholars and writers who consider religion to be little more than a psychological defect — much like the Southern Baptists now consider homosexuality.

Oxford evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins wrote in his best-selling book “The God Delusion” that, “Religious behavior may be a misfiring, an unfortunate byproduct of an underlying psychological propensity which in other circumstances is, or once was useful.”
If future scientists or world leaders conclude that religious behavior is no longer useful or even potentially harmful to the evolution of the species, religious expression could theoretically be diagnosed as dangerous and thus considered expendable.

This sounds far-fetched until you consider how drastically times and attitudes have changed in recent centuries. For example, Massachusetts, the onetime home of Puritanism and witch burnings, today marries same-sex couples. The Europe of brutal religious wars and the Crusades is now largely secular.

How painfully ironic it would be for Mohler to wake up in 20 years to find masses of potentially gay babies “corrected” in Kentucky, but an even larger number of future fundamentalists medically modified in California. If social conservatives doubt this could happen they ought to read their own websites, which are filled with examples of Christians who have been persecuted worldwide.

Mohler may look to the lab and gleefully envision a future without Elton John or Ellen DeGeneres. But there is also no shortage of people who would prefer a world without fundamentalists such as Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell. You simply cannot claim to respect the sanctity of life and then carve out a gay exception, unless you are prepared to surrender your moral authority when the exception becomes the person in the mirror. Perhaps, it is time for all of us to stop playing God and start accepting people exactly as God created them.

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