A pastor from an Alliance Church in Alberta has recently been in touch with me to declare his disagreement with my project here. I think many of his concerns are interesting. One among them is that the Harm Hypothesis is unsubstantiated here on my blog.
The current state of the Harm Hypothesis is thus: The Alliance Church harms folks who have homosexual dispositions.
For some who have survived growing up in an anti-gay church, this idea is obviously true.
While I agree that I have not yet shown enough evidence to prove the claim, I have, I think, provided context and given enough evidence to warrant further investigation. It is, in short, a reasonable idea that bears consideration.
That said, I get that for people who see the world from a very different paradigm, this can be very jarring. Presumably, church leaders from within the Alliance Church, see their doctrine as ethical. How startling, then, for some atheist (me) to come along and suggest that the doctrine is not ethical; that it is harmful to our communities.
I have made earlier attempts to provide the various premises that might be required for such an argument as the Harm Hypothesis.
In recent conversation with the pastor from Alberta, I made the following formulation of the argument.
Premise 1: the Alliance Church doctrine and practice recognizes homosexual behaviour as sinful.
Premise 2: the Alliance Church doctrine and practice discourages its members, especially its young people, to not sin.
Premise 3: empirical evidence shows that members of our society, especially children, who are discouraged from having a healthy relationship to their community and their sexuality or behaviour or orientation, especially as it relates to homosexuality and gender, are socially and psychologically harmed.
Premise 4: churches that frame their member’s homosexual behaviours as a sin, are discouraging their healthy relationship to their community, behaviour and being.
Conclusion: the Alliance Church is therefore harming its members who have homosexual behaviours or orientation.
This is not yet quite the best formulation of the argument, I think. Nonetheless it provides a helpful insight into where I’m coming from and the overall idea.
Premise 1 is not controversial. No one I’ve spoken to from within the Alliance Church denies this. Similarly so, Premise 2.
Almost all of the heavy lifting needs to be done for Premise 3 and 4. Although these seem right to me, I understand that these claims require more evidence, and a better formulation. This is why I’ve been trying to follow the scientific and cultural debate in regard to “conversion therapies” and the claim that someone ought to be discouraged from having homosexual behaviours.
Indeed, there is a growing amount of evidence that this is harmful.