Social Question

ro_in_motion's avatar

Do hermaphrodites disprove some Christians' interpretation that God is against gays?

Asked by ro_in_motion (2238 points ) April 18th, 2012

Here’s today’s fun experiment:

Hermaphroditic humans can have both sets of functional sex organs. I have heard Christians claim that God doesn’t make mistakes. I have also heard them claim that God prohibits gay sex. Do you see the problem yet?

I view ‘sex’ as ‘sex’ without the need for modifiers. Christians, among others, differentiate. Here’s the catch: a hermaphrodite is incapable of having ‘heterosexual’ sex with someone without, automatically, having ‘gay’ sex at the very same time.

How do people with deeply held beliefs in religion-based sexual discrimination answer this dilemma?

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37 Answers

ragingloli's avatar

I have heard christians say that things like that are punishment from god for “sins committed in the womb”.
Worry not, religionists will always find a way to rationalise/ignore things that contradict their dogma.

Blackberry's avatar

This where the phenomenon known as spontaneous human combustion comes in.

ro_in_motion's avatar

I really want to hear theological explanations. It’s a very simple question that goes to the heart of how we need to drop the sex and gender binary.

ragingloli's avatar

”[about a girl being born with mental disabilities]

This girl is like a leper so what she needs to do is try and find god

if she really believes she can be healed from this state, she will be healed from this state

Most afflictions like this are caused by sins committed while still inside the womb. If she can repent for what she does god will embrace her and make her as human as you or me but if she chooses not to she’ll always be like this

god tests every one of us [emphasis added]”

- theSAVED, Penny Arcade [1/14/2007 12:00:00 AM]

Charles's avatar

I asked my pastor what (I am supposed) to think he told me I am supposed to treat gay people as human abomination so, therefore, I treat gays as human abomination. It says so in the Bible. The Bible says it, I believe it, that settles it.

6rant6's avatar

__@Charles, That’d be the First Church of Trolls?__

Aethelflaed's avatar

Intersex people (not, hermaphrodites, intersex people) do not have a full, working set of both male and female genitals.

”“Intersex” is a general term used for a variety of conditions in which a person is born with a reproductive or sexual anatomy that doesn’t seem to fit the typical definitions of female or male. For example, a person might be born appearing to be female on the outside, but having mostly male-typical anatomy on the inside. Or a person may be born with genitals that seem to be in-between the usual male and female types—for example, a girl may be born with a noticeably large clitoris, or lacking a vaginal opening, or a boy may be born with a notably small penis, or with a scrotum that is divided so that it has formed more like labia. Or a person may be born with mosaic genetics, so that some of her cells have XX chromosomes and some of them have XY.” (Intersex Society of North America)

In general, pretty much everyone who isn’t cisgender and heterosexual but is deeply Christian with a literalist interpretation has some issues with the Bible. It causes a lot of angst for people trying to reconcile their faith with other aspects of themselves.

Hawaii_Jake's avatar

I imagine a very conservative Christian believing the Bible to be the inerrant word of God would point to something in Leviticus and say the baby needed to be saved and then not have sex at all. They would wish the child away from their sight so as not to be reminded that the physical world is a messy place, and if God makes everything, then He’s got a lot of explaining to do. They would run from the issue basically.

ro_in_motion's avatar

@Charles I am not asking about gay sex. Please ask your pastor, if you will, the question I posed.

If appears you believe in Bible inerrancy. Why? What proof do you base this on?

Jenniehowell's avatar

Well apparently at whatever church @Charles attends they’ve not heard of the golden rule or treating their neighbor as themselves or if they have heard of it they have been falsely taught that Jesus requires that rule to be most important of all commandments second only to recognizing & loving the Lord before all others. @Charles though your comment is off topic I will take the time to address it so that perhaps you may be motivated to seek guidance from the scripture rather than a man who claims to know it but acts as a false teacher instead.

There is a book out there you may want to read Charles that will open your eyes it’s called “Is the Homosexual my Neighbor?” there are a multitude of versions by different authors and I’m sure all of them would be eye opening for you to read.

In the mean time, I’ll pray that you are blessed with the deductive reasoning skills in which to decipher the difference between a false prophet/teacher/preacher and one who actually knows what he is talking about.

There are a plethora of things throughout the bible that teach only to treat others with love and to live by example. In Matthew it speaks of how to tell the difference between false prophets and real ones stating by their fruits you shall know them. It goes further to actually describe what exactly the fruit of the spirit is & when researching the original language of the bible those texts are quite enlightening.

Even Jesus advised his followers to beware of false prophets and Jesus himself when asked what was the most important commandment he instructed his followers that the most important commandment was to love the Lord with all your heart and after that no other commandment came before the commandment that you should love your neighbor as yourself. When asked who in fact can be considered a neighbor Jesus told a story of how the priests and other men of the cloth passed by a man in need because they had judgments about his worthiness in the eyes of God & that only a Samaritan treated the man in need as his neighbor because he showed compassion and empathy for him and cared for him without judgment or attempts to correct him. Jesus then instructs his followers to show mercy on all people rather than judging them and told them that was the only way they could abide by the most important commandments of loving god and loving your neighbor as yourself. (Luke 10).

The fact that your pastor actually instructs you to treat people in a way that is different than what Christ himself instructed should be an indicator that your pastor is failing to prove himself as a real and true pastor or he’d A – know that rule; B- abide by the definition of a pastor that can be found in the book of Timothy & C – abide by the definition of change a person goes through automatically when they are “called” to serve the Lord that can be found in the book of Acts.

Charles I’d recommend that you abide by what the bible teaches in 1 Thessalonians when it asks you to decipher between falsities and realities by requiring those who tell you something to “prove all things” & in Matthew when Jesus instructs how to determine a false prophet & what the definition of the fruit of the spirit is. True prophets reflect Jesus & those who do not… well… they are in fact not actually called to the cloth as they so claim.

Jenniehowell's avatar

@ro_in_motion I’m not completely sure the answer to your question but I think if it were to be investigated down to the detailed degree of biblical scripture and language of the time that scripture was written – people who are hermaphrodite would fall under the various definitions & umbrellas of the way a Eunuch was described and defined in biblical times/cultures and in the bible itself.

Eunuchs are mentioned throughout the bible and are sometimes referred to as those who were literally castrated in order to serve a particular role in society & in other times they are referred to strictly to men incapable of sexual intercourse &/or reproduction, through either birth defect or castration etc. Jesus in Matthew 19 refers to these people who fall under this category when he is instructing his disciples on the valid reasons for divorce.

Jesus replied, “Not everyone can accept this word, but only those to whom it has been given. 12 For there are eunuchs who were born that way, and there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by others—and there are those who choose to live like eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. The one who can accept this should accept it.

He instructs his disciples to try and accept the fact that not all people will choose marriage in the same way that is commonly accepted or recognized due to being rendered incapable of sexual reproduction either by being made that way, or by being born that way or by choosing to live that way for their own spiritual path. There is a reason he uses Eunuchs as his example for this lesson rather than any other example he could have chosen. I would argue that if one were to study the various languages of the time they’d find that the definition of Eunuch was not nearly so clear cut (no pun intended) as it is today.

downtide's avatar

Your initial premise is wrong. It is impossible for humans to have both sets of functional genitalia, because whether male or female they’re created from the same tissue. Testicles or ovaries, not both. Penis or clitoris, not both. Scrotum or labia, not both.

An intersexed person is someone who has genitalia that are ambiguous – somewhere inbetween male and female. Intersexed people are usually assigned a gender at birth and undergo surgery in infancy to make their genitalia appear normal for that gender – usually female because the surgery is easier. So even an intersexed person has a gender, unles they choose later in life to denounce or change it.

But you can’t be a true hermaphrodite unless you are a mollusc.

ro_in_motion's avatar

@Jenniehowell Thank you for a well-researched and reasoned answer! :)

I have on’y two commandments in my life:
1. Do good
2. You will screw up #1 so change yourself and fix the pain you caused.
Rinse and repeat. :)

You also bring up a great point that I think a lot of ‘bible inerrancy’ proponents miss. There is an enormous amount of controversy over how to translate words in the bible. It’s a fascinating field and, for me, makes it impossible to believe in inerrancy just from that.

Although history is replete with examples of people, gods and statues have both sets of organs, the occurrence is incredibly rare. It’s entirely conceivable that the people in Jesus’s area have never heard of it. Your quote seems to suggest that the eunuchs chose to be that way to be closer to God. It doesn’t prohibit them from not doing otherwise.

ro_in_motion's avatar

A collection of errata and notes detailing that I was wrong, wrong, wrong:

Yes, I should have said intersex – at the very least in the deck. I used hermaphrodite as I assumed more people would understand the question. I should have used Intersex instead and explained. That’s entirely my bad.

@downtide Yes, many/most intersex people have ambiguous genitalia. I’ve been off googling my little heart out to see if what I proposed is real. [I’ve seen one (both vagina with depth and a penis that could get erect) but I hate anecdotal evidence so won’t offer that here.]

So, here are my results and conclusions:

From NYTimes: “True Gonadal Intersex . Here the person must have both ovarian and testicular tissue. This might be in the same gonad (an ovotestis), or the person might have one ovary and one testis. No note is made of have both sets of developed genitalia. link

The Straight Dope gives only a mild nod to the possibility: Functioning ovaries and functioning testes, however, plus functioning everything else — well, I suppose I can propose one far-fetched scenario where it could possibly happen’. link

Encylopedia also goes with the ‘extremely rare’ classification: True hermaphrodites are born with both ovaries and testicles. They also have mixed male and female external genitals. This condition is extremely rare. link

Having looked at this (and about 5 other sites with some claim to being science-based) I will certainly concede that the type I am talking about (has functional vagina and penis) is so rare as to be non-existent.

Let me add an aside: The horror story of parents and/or doctors who ‘choose’ a baby’s sex or gender still occurs today. As the intersex condition gets more coverage, it’s now possible for doctors and parents to not make this incredibly personal decision. These good folk wait for the child to decide which, if either, they wish to pick. Hopefully, there will come a time when parents and doctors simply won’t be allowed to make that decision for someone unless there’s a pressing need to make that decision.

Too Long, Didn’t Read:

Search and replace ‘hermaphrodite’ with ‘intersex’.
For nearly all statistical reasons, there are not people walking around with both a penis and a vagina.
However, the question still stands even with these two incredibly major changes.

Mia culpa, mia maxima culpa

Jenniehowell's avatar

@downtide what about the hyena? Though the female hyena is in fact female they have a functioning penis in many cases. They are not necessarily hermaphrodite but I’m assuming that the common idea of someone being born with a penis and additionally a hole of some sort where a sex organ of another could be inserted is a concept that isn’t that difficult to jump to. The technical definition of hermaphrodite may not necessarily be achieved but it seems that the common and less technical definition may in fact be possible. I’m just making guesses but figured I’d comment.

ro_in_motion's avatar

On a separate note: I found the following on a religious site: “The Bible does not specifically mention hermaphroditism anywhere. However hermaphroditism, like blindness, is considered an affliction or disorder. God created specific male and female genders. Any resulting sicknesses result from the consequence of sin and evil in the world.”

http://creationwiki.org/Hermaphrodite

Jenniehowell's avatar

@ro_in_motion yes the quote doesn’t speak against either choice – it only asks that the followers of Jesus try to accept someone’s choice as their own and not judge it & suggests the same about anyone whether they were made that way, born that way or choose that way.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

“Hermaphroditic humans can have both sets of functional sex organs. I have heard Christians claim that God doesn’t make mistakes. I have also heard them claim that God prohibits gay sex. Do you see the problem yet?”

The term is intersex as far as people with ambiguous genital go. They are not hermaphrodites and they do NOT have both sets of functional sex organs.. c. elegans worms are hermaphroditic in the biological sense, not humans..they may have a mix of genital, chromosomal or hormonal markers that is outside the current dichotomy of the binary sex categorization, but as far as function (ovaries to produce eggs and testicles to produce sperm), that doesn’t happen, to be factually correct. Whether Christian thought around mistakes of God or not makes any sense is another question. If you don’t subscribe to religion as an explanation of anything having to do with humans, then I simply don’t explain away intersex people using that method.

bkcunningham's avatar

@Simone_De_Beauvoir, I followed you up to, “If you don’t subscribe to religion as an explanation of anything having to do with humans, then I simply don’t explain away intersex people using that method.” Can you please rephrase that in a way that someone as simple minded as me could understand?

Hawaii_Jake's avatar

@Simone_De_Beauvoir : I believe you should read @ro_in_motion‘s response to @downtide. In it, @ro_in_motion, retracts some of the details of the question and the use of the term hermaphrodite in the title.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@bkcunningham Why do you say you’re simple-minded?

Anyway, I meant it in terms of lenses…like, what lens do you use to view society, what’s your framework, your paradigm? If your paradigm includes god, then you can ask questions about god and mistakes he (it) makes. If your paradigm doesn’t include god, then you just don’t utilize anything people say god says as an explanation of anything. My paradigm doesn’t include god so I don’t argue about abortion or evolution or intersex people or ‘them dirty gays’ keeping god in mind.

bkcunningham's avatar

Thank you, @Simone_De_Beauvoir. Now when I read that sentence, it makes perfect sense. I don’t understand why someone who is has come to a place in their life where they are comfortable with their beliefs, aren’t imposing those beliefs on others or causing harm to another; would seek out answers to questions from others with a different belief system. I could understand trying to stop someone with a belief system that injures someone or seeks to change someone. But why, if you are comfortable would you want to pressure someone else for answers?

EDIT: That obviously isn’t directed at you. It is just what I thought of studying your response and the sentence I can now understand.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@bkcunningham I don’t think the OP was doing that. Are you saying if I don’t have god as my framework then I shouldn’t answer a q that assumes such a framework?

bkcunningham's avatar

Noooo. I’m saying if you don’t have God as your framework, why question others who do if they aren’t causing you harm?

bkcunningham's avatar

If they aren’t harming you, it would just seem like you are acting like a little child poking them for the sake of getting a fight started or to get them going. I say live and let live. If you aren’t causing me harm, why do I want to jab you and make you explain your life or beliefs to me?

I’m not talking about a discussion where you are really interested or trying to understand and it is a mutal agreement for furthering your education or enlightenment on either or all behalfs. If the discussion with this person gets to a point that you don’t agree, and there is still no harm caused, and it is one of those things where you agree to disagree, that is fine with me.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

Actually, if someone is going to say that both I and those closest to me (queer people, intersex people and trans people) are a mistake, I have every right to question their assertions. It’s not about starting a fight, it’s about standing up for what one feels is just. That’s what we all do. See, that’s the tricky thing about beliefs. I may not share yours but they can and do directly affect me. Negatively. In many ways. (not yours, specifically) Do you then expect me to say ‘ah, well’ and let it go? What if my entire life, my belief system has been nothing but laughed at or made fun of or called PC (by people who have no clue what that is) or what have you. Hell, forget life, stick to Fluther, that’s how it is here too. So, here’s what…if my every belief is questioned because they’re just so damn uncomfortable…I think I have every right to question that of the normative faction of society, as well. When queer people are devalued and people use god as a reason, that’s inexcusable. Or do you think that’s okay?

bkcunningham's avatar

By saying you or anyone is a mistake because of your physical attributes or personal preferences – (and you aren’t causing anyone harm or imposing your beliefs on me, @Simone_De_Beauvoir) – that would be doing you harm and isn’t okay. Harm doesn’t have to be physical. I try to do no harm in my life. Have I and do I make mistakes? Yes.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@bkcunningham Okay, so then let’s say people do say that, not you. Would you still have me not question their belief systems? Forget queers, think of women. It’s clear in the three holy texts of the Western portion of the world that women are considered as less than men. People who believe in Christianity, Islam and Judaism account for most of the world. Do all of them think men and women aren’t equal? No. Do most of them think that and use religion as a reason? Hell to the fuck yes. So, if that is true, is it really possible for someone like me (forget that I don’t believe in usefullness of gender for a minute) who’s a feminist NOT to question the very incestuous relationship between religion and patriarchy? And can people really respond to me by saying ‘you can’t touch this, this is my beliefs, that’s special, religious stuff is special, trust me.’? (p.s. eastern religions aren’t any better…Confucius said and I quote, “One hundred women aren’t worth a single testicle” – charming chap)

bkcunningham's avatar

@Simone_De_Beauvoir, do you really believe that women are considered less than men by the majority of people in the world? I suppose I am really nieve. I don’t believe that. But to your point of being able to question someone’s beliefs when they cause you harm, of course you can. I would stand with you to fight them tooth and nail.

I’ve really always tried to listen to you and see things from a different view because of things you said that made me research and learn more about things that were foreign to my life. I don’t always agree with you. I know you wouldn’t want me or anyone to always agree with you. Maybe it is because of our circle of friends and where we live, but sometimes it seems like you are tilting at windmills to me. Please, don’t take that as if I’m demeaning you or your causes. I’m just being honest. I’m proud that you stand up for yourself and for others. You’ve always been nothing but kind and considerate of me here. I hope I always show you the same respect.

I’m open to being shown, in the real sense, not philosophically, how the majority of the world consider women as less than men.

Dutchess_III's avatar

No. Yes. Depends.

Jenniehowell's avatar

@bkcunningham I’ll chime in on the women considered less than men by the majority of the people in the world and answer that as a yes. Were that not the case then many countries would not have laws against women, there would not be riots and so forth with regard to women voting, there would not be permissions that had to be granted in order for a woman to leave her own home, women would not have a long plethora of things listed off in which they get abused for at the levels they do, organizations such as VDAY wouldn’t have a need to exist, the human sex trafficking industry would not be nearly as successful as it is, rape cases & so forth would be much much lower, misogyny would not be so rampant among conservatives in America (& nearly every other country) to the point where freedoms and rights were removed, in America women would make equal money for equal work rather than getting paid 77 cents on every white male dollar. etc. etc. the list could go on forever.

bkcunningham's avatar

There are several things I’d like to ask you about your list, @JennieHowell, but the one thing I’m curious about for now is where are people rioting for women to vote? The Sikh in Bristol?

Dr_Lawrence's avatar

Any belief system that promotes hatred or abuse of others on account of congenital anomalies would be one I would suggest should be discredited and its teaching ignored and widely repudiated.

Jenniehowell's avatar

@bkcunningham the first thing that comes to mind as it relates to riots (or protest may be the more accurate word) as it relates to women and voting was something I read about a long time ago (but in the last decade – 2005 I think) regarding the parliament in Kuwait working toward things that would actually finally give women the same political rights as men. At that time there were noisy street rallies by women and the cabinet had approved a bill to allow women to vote and stand in elections but it was delayed in parliament by strong Islamist bloc. At that time in 2005 Kuwaiti women could serve as diplomats, run businesses, and work at all levels in industry, but could not vote or stand in elections.

Paradox25's avatar

I’ve debated against some of the most dogmatic religionists about this very issue and basically the most common defenses used on their part is that ‘God’ doesn’t make mistakes and that he deliberately created them for whatever reasons. The other most common defense is that hermaphrodites have a physical disability, which is different from having a sexual preference.

Nullo's avatar

I always got the impression that it was specifically indulging in gayness that God didn’t like. All of the prohibitions are against the actions.

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