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Gillard on gay marriage

July 5, 2010

Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard recently announced she was not religious and did not believe in God. She also recently stated that she thought that the marriage act shouldn’t be changed – that marriage should remain exclusively between a man and a woman. This prompted an interesting letter in the Melbourne Age on Saturday….

Please explain, PM

MS GILLARD, why do you believe that marriage is exclusively between a man and woman (The Age, 1/7). By your own admission, you are not religious, so you cannot refer to the Bible, Torah, Koran or any other religious text to back up your beliefs. Can you please explain your reasoning?

I thought this was an excellent letter and I think it simultaneously highlights two things. One, that Gillard’s position on ‘gay marriage’ is perhaps based more on political expediency rather than any sense of moral obligation. Secondly and more importantly it highlights the difficulties atheists have in ‘doing ethics’. The letter writer (Elizabeth Long) rightly asked Gillard, ‘why’ does she believe this position, a position often adopted by those with religious persuasions. Without reference to God there should be no rational reason for rejecting gay marriage.

Yet there is a savage irony here, as any atheist ethical position is ultimately unassailable. As an unbeliever, Gillard can believe any ethical position she wants and no-one can criticise her as being ‘wrong to herself’. If she holds no meta-ethical framework, no belief in God or an ultimate ethical authority, then she can believe what she wants without explanation or reasoning! So in the end I think Elizabeth Long’s question has no answer. Gillard can provide no ultimate reasoning for her position and ultimately nor does she need to.

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From → Comment, Ethics

One Comment
  1. Mike permalink

    I don’t understand why theists feel atheists have a hard time of ethics. I can’t imagine how anyone has trouble seeing how much a god just distracts from ethics rather than sets them.

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