If you haven’t been following the battle between Bill O’Reilly and the rest of the right over the question of whether or not anti-same-sex marriage folks should stop thumping the Bible, you’re in for a treat. Will Saletan describes it here, but in sum, O’Reilly chastised anti-gay activists for advancing really poor “because I said God said so” arguments. Specifically, he said:
The compelling argument is on the side of homosexuals: … ‘We’re Americans. We just want to be treated like everybody else.’ That’s a compelling argument. And to deny that, you’ve got to have a very strong argument on the other side. And the other side hasn’t been able to do anything but thump the Bible.
The ritualized outrage was predictable. Rush Limbaugh wailed and moaned. Other right wing talk thugs followed. Laura Inagraham tried to make the peace, and I’ll let Saletan describe that:
The sniping and smearing finally got to O’Reilly. Last night, he invited fellow talker Laura Ingraham onto his show to hash it out. “When you say you can’t cite the Bible,” she told him, “that’s disrespectful to people who really try to live their lives according to the Bible.” O’Reilly replied that it’s fine to live your life that way—you just can’t cite Scripture to settle policy disputes. Ingraham asked O’Reilly why he had used the word “thump.” He answered that he classifies people as Bible thumpers when “all they do is say, ‘I object to gay marriage because God objects to it.’ ”
Saletan explains to the right the problems with appealing to authority, but really, he needn’t bother. As much as they may squeal bloody murder about this, they know that O’Reilly is right. By and large, the opponents of gay rights have tried to keep their arguments secular. Canvassers supporting Prop 8 were specifically instructed to only trot out the “God said so” line after carefully trying to tease out the voter’s religious beliefs. They know people don’t like having a bunch of pissy Christians lecture them on how God sees marriage as a duty and not as something you do for yourself. They really did try to come up with secular arguments: That marriage is “for” procreation, that some ill-defined horrible thing would happen if same-sex marriage is legalized, and that same-sex marriage would somehow ruin it for straight people. All those arguments were swiftly dismantled by supporters of same-sex marriage.
“God said so” is what comes out of them when they’re under fire and they have no arguments left. It’s may be how they rationalize their bigotry to themselves, but they really do know better than to play that hand first in public. It’s a reaction born out of frustration, nothing more. So when O’Reilly attacks it, I imagine that they feel like he’s trying to take away the only thing they have left. Thus, the lashing out and freaking out at him for saying something they already know is true and already agree with.
Not that I have anything but warm feelings about this. It’s good to see conservatives turn on each other because they feel themselves losing the argument.