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I'm addressing this question to Christians who believe that God is a utilitarian, that is, that God has designed His creation and attempts to guide His creatures with the aim of maximizing some divine utility function. As with the case of the laws of Physics, the full details and intricacies of God's utility function are probably unknown to us, but we can sort of intuit from experience that wellbeing and suffering are likely to play a crucial role in God's evaluation of utility. I already entertained this idea in a previous question, where some of the answers confirmed that this is the view of at least some Christians.

So, if we assume that God is a utilitarian, why is homosexuality suboptimal? Why would the existence of responsible homosexual monogamous marriages detract points from God's utility function? Why is the case in which only heterosexual couples exist optimal?

Note that we can extend this question to more convoluted alternatives, such as bisexuality or bisexual polyamory/polygamy, where biological reproduction is still viable because some of the relations are still heterosexual in nature, while others are not.

More details:

Regarding the question of whether God is a utilitarian, I found a relevant publication on this:

Is God a Utilitarian?
Published online by Cambridge University Press: 24 October 2008

Extract

In a well-known passage Mill defends his utilitarian theory against the objection that it is a godless doctrine. He argues,

If it be a true belief that God desires, above all things, the happiness of his creatures, and that this was his purpose in their creation, utility is not only not a godless doctrine, but more profoundly religious than any other. If it be meant that utilitarianism does not recognize the revealed will of God as the supreme law of morals, I answer that a utilitarian who believes in the perfect goodness and wisdom of God necessarily believes that whatever God has thought fit to reveal on the subject of morals must fulfil the requirements of utility in a supreme degree.

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    God commanded humans to "be fruitful and multiply", which is sort of hard for homosexuals? If you're going to look at it from a purely utilitarian standpoint, you don't need theology to tell you why homosexuality doesn't work; biology can do that quite nicely.
    – Matthew
    Apr 8, 2023 at 19:55
  • @Matthew good point. How about workarounds to that such as bisexual polygamy, where some of the couples are in fact heterosexual (solving the reproduction issue) but others are not? Why would that be suboptimal?
    – Mark
    Apr 8, 2023 at 19:58
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    How is that a work-around? A homosexual act is incapable of contributing to reproduction, period. That seems to fit the definition of "sub-optimal" quite nicely. Biologically, it's obvious that anything that does not involve everyone contributing their genes to the next generation is sub-optimal.
    – Matthew
    Apr 8, 2023 at 20:06
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    This question is based on philosophical and sociological reasoning not on Christian principles.
    – Nigel J
    Apr 8, 2023 at 20:11
  • @Matthew If God is optimizing the ratio of offspring per number of sexual intercourses, then even using contraceptives (e.g. condoms) and the Catholic alternative of natural family planning would be suboptimal. Masturbation would be suboptimal as well. Anything that doesn't produce offspring would be suboptimal, even in the context of a heterosexual couple. Are you sure that's what God is optimizing, without any nuances whatsoever?
    – Mark
    Apr 8, 2023 at 20:15

3 Answers 3

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We learn from Genesis that God wanted humanity to have "dominion over the earth" (ch1 v26), and for that end it was necessary for humanity to "increase and multiply" (v28). In other words, he needs children. Malachi makes it more specific, when he complains about the male-favouring custom of divorce; "And what does he desire? Godly offspring." (Malachi ch2 v15). This is important because the dominion over the earth was supposed to be "under God".

The Old Testament criticises a number of sexual behaviours, and the common factor in all of them (from divorce to fornication to prostitution) is that they get in the way of having godly children. In the case of homosexuality and bestiality, of course, they get in the way of having children at all. This impedes God's intention for the world in Genesis ch1.

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  • Hey Stephen. Thanks for your answer. Can you offer comments on bisexuality and bisexual polygamy/polyamory? Sexual reproduction is totally possible in the context of bisexual polyamory, right?
    – Mark
    Apr 8, 2023 at 20:31
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    Children, perhaps. But godly children? Apr 8, 2023 at 20:38
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God commanded humans to "be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it" (Genesis 1:28; the meaning of "subdue" isn't entirely clear and might range from watching over as might a steward to outright domination).

From a strictly utilitarian point of view, biology makes it clear that homosexual acts are not able to produce progeny. They are, by any reasonable definition, sub-optimal.

Strictly speaking, questions about "workarounds to that such as bisexual polygamy" are not relevant. The original question didn't ask about permissibility, but about optimality. Again, since a homosexual act is incapable of contributing to reproduction, it is sub-optimal.

What about contraception? Again, it is sub-optimal in any form, even "natural family planning".

The problem with all this is that asking about optimization is almost certainly the wrong question. What is "optimized" by beauty? What is "optimized" by eating food that tastes good rather than being maximally nutritious? Does a Christian sin by never marrying? (This would seem to contradict various passages in which celibacy is commended.) Does a Christian couple sin by not trying to crank out another kid at least every year?

To be honest, I sometimes get the impression from certain Roman Catholics that the answer to the latter is "yes!". Nevertheless, even taking a more reasonable stance that Christians as a whole ought to produce an average of, say, one-and-a-half children per person (i.e. more than replenishment rate, since less is obviously not "be[ing] fruitful and multiply[ing]"), what can we say of homosexuality?

Again, the first thing we can and must (if we are to respect biology at all) is that it can't contribute to this goal. From a utilitarian perspective, its value is highly questionable.

Should we argue for polygamy? Scripture, especially in the New Testament, slants heavily to treating anything other than monogamous marriage as adultery, nor is it hard to see that polygamy in any form offers significant challenges for a relationship. We live in a world where it's hard enough for two people to get along; adding a third, or fourth, or more is unlikely to improve matters. (Even in a monogamous marriage, a spouse might have to compete against his or her spouse's narcissism, but turning that competitor into a separate human adds all sorts of potential for things to go sideways.) Nor are homosexual acts without their own problems, some of which are, again, purely biological in nature. Moreover, God intended for males and females to complement each other, like opposite poles of a magnet. Two males, or two females, are far less likely to be able to obtain this intended synergy, nor are they biologically capable of coming together in the way God intended.

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  • "Strictly speaking, questions about "workarounds to that such as bisexual polygamy" are not relevant. The original question didn't ask about permissibility, but about optimality. Again, since a homosexual act is incapable of contributing to reproduction, it is sub-optimal." - I don't follow the argument here. Let's say X is part of a bisexual polyamorous/polygamous relationship. Let's say X is male. Let's say that Y is the only female in the relationship. Let's pretend that Y just got pregnant. That means that for the next 9 months no progeny can be produced in this particular relationship.
    – Mark
    Apr 8, 2023 at 21:36
  • If so, what's suboptimal about X and Z (two males) behaving as a homosexual couple during this 9-month period? Mathematically speaking, in both scenarios the offspring production rate is the same. In fact, for each hypothetical heterosexual scenario you propose, I can imagine a modified version in which homosexual interactions take place while women are pregnant, thus maintaining the number of offspring constant. I don't see the problem.
    – Mark
    Apr 8, 2023 at 21:36
  • @Mark, your entire argument (particularly, your first comment) is based on the undemonstrated presumption that an MMF (or MFF) relation is superior to an MF relation. Not only is that not demonstrated, you seem to have completely skipped over the paragraph where I argue the exact opposite.
    – Matthew
    Apr 10, 2023 at 14:34
  • I'm just using as a utility function U(state of affairs) = total number of progeny produced given this state of affairs, which is the function U you seemed to be implicitly using in the paragraph I was critiquing (since you never formalized the utility function underlying your reasoning). If we use this U as the utility function, then I don't follow the argument, since it's not hard to imagine for each state of affairs X where 'only MF relations exist', with its corresponding utility U(X), a modified version X' with U(X') = U(X), where at least some MMF or MFF relations exist as well.
    – Mark
    Apr 11, 2023 at 14:40
  • For instance imagine an X' where you take a single F and append it to a MF couple and get a MFF relation. It's not hard to imagine plenty of opportunities for both F's to love each other while maintaining the original number of reproductions in X. Of course, you may overcome this objection by proposing a different, more complex utility function U. In your last paragraph you kind of try to do that, but in a very speculative manner. Perhaps if you cited actual studies confirming the higher prevalence of the problems you indicate in MMF/MFF relations over MF relations your case would be stronger.
    – Mark
    Apr 11, 2023 at 14:48
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In a well-known passage Mill defends his utilitarian theory against the objection that it is a godless doctrine. He argues,

If it be a true belief that God desires, above all things, the happiness of his creatures, and that this was his purpose in their creation, utility is not only not a godless doctrine, but more profoundly religious than any other.

It’s worth pointing out that the meaning of “happiness” has changed over the centuries.

US Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy explained this often forgotten sense of happiness in his 2005 lecture at the National Conference on Citizenship. Kennedy notes that while in modern times there is a “hedonistic component” to the definition of happiness, for the framers of the Declaration of Independence “happiness meant that feeling of self-worth and dignity you acquire by contributing to your community and to its civic life.” In the context of the Declaration of Independence, happiness was about an individual’s contribution to society rather than pursuits of self-gratification. https://www.dictionary.com/e/happiness/

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