The Irish Referendum on same sex-marriage: Divine guidance, democracy and the psychological virus.
Gai Eaton died in 2010 at the age of eighty-nine leaving behind a body of work that continues to inspire Muslims and all seekers of truth from around the world. In seeking to understand the recent Irish Referendum result on same sex-marriage (the country voted overwhelming in favour of same-sex marriage) I found considerable insight in the following passage from Gai Eaton’s book Remembering God: Reflections on Islam:
The general principle that the laws and customs which govern the community can only be binding if they are derived from the revelation and from the Prophet’s example remains as valid now as it ever was. In the Islamic view, man can no more make laws for himself than he can be judge and jury in his own case. When he attempts to do so he is prompted only by “caprice”, and there can be no lasting stability when the wind of public opinion – constantly changing direction – governs legislation. “If the truth were in accordance with their likes and dislikes,” says the Quran, “then indeed the heavens and the earth and all the beings therein would have been corrupted.” Our likes and dislikes are by nature capricious, and the Prophet is reported to have said that Paradise is surrounded by things we dislike, hell by things that we like; this is to be expected in view of the human tendency to choose the lowest rather than the highest when deprived of divine guidance. Christians who still accept the doctrine of Original Sin are likely to agree. Secularism takes the opposite view.
The democratic legislator, if he wishes to be re-elected, must go with the tide of public opinion, and public opinion is governed by personal, subjective feelings; in effect by likes and dislikes. This tide is, in itself, mysterious, and there are those who have suggested that there is a kind of “psychological virus” which spreads through a whole society. It certainly seems as though we “catch” opinions in the way we catch influenza. How else can one account for the fact that one generation will completely reverse the opinions – that is to say the “feelings” – of the previous generation, approving what was formerly condemned and condemning what was previously approved? Homosexuality is a case in point. When I was young homosexuals were sent to prison, but the general opinion was that they ought to be shot or castrated. Today disapproval of sexual deviation – even if this is based on unalterable religious principles – is described as “homophobia”. Can one really believe that millions of people, “thinking for themselves” as they are commanded to do in the modern age, have come independently to almost identical opinions in this matter? That would be an extraordinary co-incidence. In whatever terms we define the wind which drives such changes in the zeitgeist, there can be no stability in a legal system which responds from day to day only to passing fancies.
Gai Eaton, Remembering God: Reflections on Islam, 75-76.
Gai Eaton’s son Leo replied to my post on Facebook. Here is his comment – and my response: