What The Fighting Over Gender Issues Is Really About

By Michael Sherrard

Do you have a hard time understanding how rational people can really think that genderless bathrooms are a good idea? Are you confused about what is happening culturally? Does it make any sense to you that corporations are applying political and economic pressure to reform our social sexuality? Well, here’s what’s going on.

The cultural battle over sexuality and gender comes down to one thing: a meaningful life. That is what all of the fighting is about, and it is why the battle contains such fury and vitriol. Each fight is part of a larger fight: How does one have a meaningful life? And this is what you must understand, the answer to the previous question is determined by your worldview.

A worldview is a set of beliefs that cause you to view life a certain way. We all have one. You cannot escape it. We each have beliefs that affect how we see life, form conclusions, and interpret our experiences.

I have a Christian worldview. I possess beliefs about reality. Among other things, I believe that God exists, the world is rational (i.e. knowable), and life has objective meaning and inherent value. My existence is the source of my meaning and value. Because I am made in God’s image, I have inestimable worth.

I live in a society, though, where nearly everyone else has a naturalistic worldview. Naturalism is a set of beliefs about reality. Naturalism holds, among other things, that God does not exist, the world is rational (though they cannot justify its rationality), and life has no inherent meaning or value. And that is a big deal. Did you catch it? Life has no inherent meaning or value. So what makes you and your life worth anything? That’s the big problem for the naturalist.

Naturalists have long recognized the consequences and problems that stem from their worldview. George Orwell noted this some time ago in his essay Notes on the Way. In it he writes about the necessity of cutting away the soul. You see according to naturalism, the self or soul does not exist. Put simply, you do not exist. “Man is not an individual, he is only a cell in an everlasting body” as Orwell says. The problem, though, is when you cut away the soul you find yourself in a very desolate world: existence void of meaning and value. Orwell saw this.

“For two hundred years we had sawed and sawed and sawed at the branch we were sitting on. And in the end, much more suddenly than anyone had foreseen, our efforts were rewarded, and down we came. But unfortunately there had been a little mistake. The thing at the bottom was not a bed of roses after all, it was a cesspool full of barbed wire.”

So how do Naturalists rescue themselves from this bleak dystopia? How do they find meaning in life? They manufacture it. French philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre was a pioneer in helping the naturalist out of their predicament. He espoused that existence preceded essence. This basically means that you are a blank slate, so make your life whatever you want. Because your existence has no inherent meaning or value, you can do whatever you want with it. Be a dragon. Become a woman. Marry your mother or computer. Define your life as you see fit. Your autonomous will is what gives your existence value and meaning. It is your dignity.

This is what the fight is over. In order to have a meaningful existence, you must have the complete freedom to form yourself according to your will and your will alone. So a threat to, say, the freedom of choosing your gender is a threat to the society that has embraced naturalism and needs to manufacture meaning and value through unfettered freedom of choice. For if you remove the ability to form your essence through choice, you remove any hope of a meaningful life.

Lets be clear about what is taking place here. Our society is collectively acting on the assumption that God does not exist and naturalism is true. They are fighting to form a society that reflects this belief. This is again why the fighting is so intense. It is a radical shift in our society. But I wonder if people are really aware of this. I wonder if we are prepared to declare in such a fashion that God is dead. Are we ready to officially replace the Christian worldview with a naturalistic one?

Well, here’s the thing, and this may shock you, we should be ready. We should abandon the Christian worldview if naturalism is true. But it’s not. Naturalism is a very weak worldview in terms of its explanatory power for reality, and it actually doesn’t offer a rational justification for believing in it. But that’s an article all by itself. Even so, I think we can examine just one aspect of the naturalist’s position and see why it’s something we can’t embrace.

According to naturalism, God does not exist. Therefore, form your own essence to give your existence meaning and value. But because God does not exist, the self cannot exist as the naturalist would readily concede. But if the self doesn’t exist, free will can’t exist. According to naturalists, I am a “cell in an everlasting body.” I am merely molecules in motion. Chemistry and physics dictate how I act, feel, and respond to this world. I am nothing more than a machine. Worse, I am a slave to my nature. Free moral agency is a huge problem for the naturalist. It is the very thing needed to have a meaningful existence, but it is the very thing that cannot exist if naturalism is true.

How anyone can hold to naturalism and a belief in free will is beyond me. It is the pinnacle of intellectual dishonesty. And for that, I cannot imagine how anyone can be a Naturalist. The most important thing about their worldview is not possible according to their worldview. And isn’t this the greatest form of irony. Because of their worldview, Naturalists must go to great lengths to manufacture freedom so that they can give meaning to their existence instead of embracing the Christian worldview that naturally contains both freedom and meaning.

To be clear, naturalism is the worldview that has brought us this battle. From it follows the fight we are currently in. Because God does not exist, life has no meaning other than what you manufacture through your autonomous will. A meaningful life is what hangs in the balance here. It is why the battle rages.

So what does this mean for us? Foremost, it means we must engage the root issue. We cannot merely address symptoms. We easily get sucked into arguments over bathroom policies and what not. And that is fine. We should engage in those conversations. But our efforts will not be fruitful if we are not addressing the heart of the issue. Genderless bathrooms flow from the naturalistic worldview.

Unfortunately, most people haven’t really thought about gender issues and such in a meaningful way. They haven’t recognized how naturalism is the worldview behind the fighting. They haven’t connected the dots. They’ve merely connected with sound bites.

You can help, though. You can help people think meaningfully about this important issue as you engage them in respectful conversation. As I’ve written in my book Relational Apologetics, I believe the best approach in most cases is to ask questions, listen, learn how to stay on topic, practice humility and point people at the right time toward a true understanding. Be gentle and respectful in your conversations, and many will come to see that Christianity still speaks reason in an age of naturalistic nonsense.

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Michael C. Sherrard is a pastor, the director of Ratio Christi College Prep, and the author of Relational Apologetics. Booking info and such can be found at michaelcsherrard.com.

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26 replies
  1. John B. Moore says:

    People don’t choose their gender. People merely come to know what their gender really is. Can you understand this distinction?

    Self-knowledge comes slowly. It takes maturity over time, especially when the society all around you is constantly telling you one thing, and you gradually realize that thing is wrong.

    Anyway, it’s not a choice. It’s a matter of self-knowledge.

    Reply
    • Beck says:

      Replace “self-knowledge” with delusion and I think you’d be on to something. It’s not helpful to tell mentally I’ll people their delusion is true and that’s why the suicide rates are relatively the same for trans people even if they live in accepting places like Sweden or they have the surgery. It doesn’t matter what you do for these people because it’s a mental illness, a mental illness that thankfully stops for some people but sadly its too late and they have already mutilated themselves.

      Reply
      • Andy Ryan says:

        You’re wrong, it has been several years since “gender dysphoria” was declassified as a mental disorder.

        studies show although the suicide attempt rate for transgender people is about 18 times higher than the general population, some factors greatly reduced the attempt rate. For example, when transgender people had affirming parents, the rate dropped by 57 percent. Access to legal documentation consistent with their gender identity dropped rates by 44 percent. Trans people who experienced low levels of anti-trans hate were 66 percent less likely to attempt suicide. And perhaps most importantly, the further along individuals were in their transitions — i.e. the closer they were to having a body and outward identity that matched their internal gender identity — the less likely they were to attempt suicide.

        Reply
        • Beck says:

          Just because it was removed doesn’t mean that it was right its obvious to me that the whole issue is politicised and the removal was due to that. There was a man in Canada that genuinely helped young people struggling with the mental disorder and he was unfairly persecuted (don’t remember the name now hopefully I can find the article). And just because they’re are certain things that reduce it doesn’t change the fact the suicide rate is ridiculously high, only comparable to persecuted Jews in NazigGermany and poland.

          Reply
          • Andy Ryan says:

            Right, so it’s your unqualified opinion vs the experts in the field. Guess we’ll leave it there…

          • Beck says:

            Just because I’m “unqualified” doesn’t mean I’m not smart enough to see that even they subtly admit there is something mentally wrong with them. They say “I’m a woman trapped in a man’s body”, you have a body and a mind. If you’re in a man’s body ( scientifically undeniable) then logically they are saying they have the mind of a woman and are trapped…a mental delusion.
            The help they need is mental not for a Dr. to start cutting off functional body parts and replace them with useless aesthetics. It’s America they can do what they want and pay lots of money to fuck their bodies up ,but don’t ask me to buy into a delusion. If someone says the radio is talking to them the best course of action is not to tell them that it is, the best thing to do is to get them help that will aid them to see reality.

          • Andy Ryan says:

            “then logically they are saying they have the mind of a woman and are trapped… a mental delusion”

            I don’t think you know what the word ‘logically’ means. Your conclusion doesn’t flow logically from the premise. You’ve not shown that it’s a delusion to have a woman’s mind and a man’s body. It comes down to your opinion, one not held by the genuine experts in the field.

            People used to class being gay as a mental illness – perhaps you still agree with that too. It’s no longer classified as such. People used to see it as a mental illness when black slaves tried to escape! Genuinely, it was seen as a mental illness. I guess it’s easy to make these judgments when you’re outside.

            Though I guess we could just be equivocating between ‘disorder’ and ‘illness’. But a disorder is more along the lines of having a broken leg.

            “to start cutting off functional body parts”

            At least they’re old enough to decide for themselves. Contrast with the huge numbers of parents cutting off their sons’ foreskins when the kids are only a few days old. That’s a functional body part too, that never grows back. And the boys have no choice in the matter whatsoever.

          • Beck says:

            So are you saying its a body disorder?… That seems like a strecth…
            I am very confused why you bring up circumcision. Not only am I not circumcised myself, but I don’t plan to cicumcise my male children.
            To me it seems you ignore the bulk of my statements, ignore the obvious mental reason for the “disorder”(again, do you insist it’s a body problem), make the baseless claim that the majority is right, and then insinuate I’m pro circumcision.

          • Andy Ryan says:

            “To me it seems you ignore the bulk of my statements”

            Beck, your whole post was only a few lines long so there wasn’t much to ignore, let alone a ‘bulk’ of statements!

            “make the baseless claim that the majority is right”

            I’ve no idea what the ‘majority’ believe, Beck – I’m talking about the experts in the field of mental health. Your answer to that is that you know better than them because you’re ‘smart’ enough.

            Gender dysmorphia strikes me as this: There’s a mental component to being a man and being a woman. I don’t believe that the only differences to men and women are physical. Are you one of those people who thinks that the only reason boys tend to like playing with soldiers/cars/guns etc is because we bring them up that way, and likewise for girls liking dollies, playing nurses and with make-up? I’m guessing not, but correct me if you are.

            Now, if you’re with me on that idea, I’ll move on to the next part.

            So for most people that mental aspect to being a man goes in the body of a man, and likewise for women. Now is it impossible that with some people it doesn’t match up?

            Bear in mind that some people are born missing limbs, or with extra fingers, or without hair etc. This is not to say that gender dysmorphia is comparable with those things, I’m just establishing that not everyone is born fitting the set norm.

            Given that, it doesn’t seem in any way a stretch that a man’s mind could be born in a woman’s body. I wouldn’t call it a mental illness. You can call it a body disorder if you want. But if it WAS the case that you had, say, a woman’s mind in a man’s body, I wouldn’t necessarily think that counselling or other mental therapies would cure the problem.

          • Beck says:

            My position is simple. Just because some cases of mental disorders cant be fixed by therapy doesn’t mean mutilating people’s bodies is the way to go. Some people don’t think their limbs belong to them and want them amputated, the course of action shouldn’t be to say “they identify as being born without limbs” and cut them all off.

          • Andy Ryan says:

            “Some people don’t think their limbs belong to them and want them amputated”

            Sure, but you’ve not shown this is remotely similar to that, and you’ve not addressed the point that I made. I guess you could say that your idea of what it is carries as much weight as mine. For now though, as far as mental health experts are concerned this is nothing like the people who want limbs amputated.

          • Beck says:

            You throw the word “expert” around like it’s some be all end all of trump cards, but not all “experts” everywhere agree. If you opened your mind to the probability that the removal was based on political reasons and all similar illnesses/delusions are treated completely differently you would realize that body mutilation is not the best course of action.

          • Andy Ryan says:

            So now you’ve got conspiracy theories, Beck! Sometimes the ‘experts’ are in fact ‘the experts’, Beck. You’re claiming to know better than them. Perhaps you do, but I’ve no reason to think so. I suspect you’re ‘reasoning’ is based on religious bias rather than a genuine greater expertise or knowledge of the subject. So I guess we are at an impasse. Thanks for the conversation.

          • Beck says:

            Ofcourse I disagree with your baseless assumptions concerning my motives, what I “know”, and my”conspiracy theory” concerning “experts”. However, it is always a pleasure dialoguing with you.

        • Brian Hunt says:

          Andy, there is a saying among scientists and statisticians: Correlation is not causation. So while studies may find mathematical associations among variables, this cannot be interpreted as demonstrating a causal link.

          Reply
          • Andy Ryan says:

            Thanks Brian. Does that mean you reject there being any causal link in higher rates of suicide among transgender people? If so, you’d reject Beck’s comment that “it doesn’t change the fact the suicide rate is ridiculously high” as having no significance either.

            Either we’re looking at the stats and discussing causal links or we’re not. If Beck’s initial comment is ‘admissible’ then so is my reply to it.

        • esbee says:

          thank god they have declassified gender dysphoria as a mental disorder. that means there is hope for me. i have gender dishorsia…I have always thought inside I am a horse. played horse all the time, tried to eat grass and hay, ran and moved like a horse, neighed like a horse (and real horses answered) for all my child years I desired to be part of the herd. but teachers told me to grow up. parents told me something was wrong with me. then one day some kids called me a horse’s ass and I said YES, I am half way there!

          Reply
    • Kalmaro says:

      You’re right, people cannot choose their gender, because that is set in stone the moment they are born. It’s not something you can really change.

      Reply
      • toby says:

        It depends on how you use the word gender. They aren’t necessarily synonymous. Sex is the biological parts you’re born with. Gender is a social idea of man and woman.

        Reply
  2. Andy Ryan says:

    Nothing this article shows that the gender debate is linked in any way to naturalism or religion. It’s no different to pro-slavers 150 or so years ago claiming that abolitionism was an ‘atheist philosophy’, or anti-miscegenation proponents 50 years ago saying that mixed marriage was against God. Those people lost the argument then, and we’re seeing the same thing happen now.

    It seems that when people can’t make a genuine case against an idea they don’t like, they try to link it to atheism or some other philosophy they believe people despise, in an effort to ‘poison the well’. It might fool people for a bit, even a while, but eventually most people see through it.

    Reply
  3. toby says:

    But because God does not exist, the self cannot exist as the naturalist would readily concede.
    I don’t concede that.

    I am merely molecules in motion.
    I love the offhanded way supernaturalists dismiss literally EVERYTHING we see and experience with “merely”.

    Chemistry and physics dictate how I act, feel, and respond to this world.
    Does it not? Can I not make you aggravated by slowly increasing the temperature of the room you’re in? If I slipped you mickey—a la bill cosby—are you not effected by it? If you got a traumatic brain injury would you not be effected?

    I am nothing more than a machine.
    You fully agree with this. You believe this about 99.99999999999999999….of the universe, but specially plead that you’re somehow not part of it.

    Worse, I am a slave to my nature.
    Define “nature”.

    Free moral agency is a huge problem for the naturalist. It is the very thing needed to have a meaningful existence, but it is the very thing that cannot exist if naturalism is true.
    It’s an equally huge problem for the supernaturalist who can’t prove that such things exist, only assert a formulation that could be incorrect.

    How anyone can hold to naturalism and a belief in free will is beyond me.
    Could you describe for me a situation in which a choice is made with no previous external input? If you have a choice between A or B your choice is either based on previous reasons or is random. Are you arguing that free will is random? If A is based on your allergy to peanuts and the fact that if you chose A you’d suffocate and B is pistachios, which give you no problems . . . do you really think you’re making a free choice?

    Reply
    • Kalmaro says:

      Hey Toby, I have a question for you.

      A lot of your points I can’t say I agree with but I’m most interested in your first point. You said you don’t agree that a naturalist cannot justify the existence of ‘self’. Would you mind explaining your position?

      Reply
      • toby says:

        If there is no soul and therefore my brain and mind are one and the same then my experiences that I perceive are unique to my body. What happens in my head is not connected with what happens in anyone’s head unless there is a sharing of information via whatever form of communication and senses. That’s about all the notion of “self” one needs.

        Reply
  4. DonnyT says:

    Christians seem to say a lot that gender identity is some kind of choice one makes when they hit puberty or adolescence. It is a choice, but is no more a choice than someone straight choosing their identity. Do you really think, if it were a choice, they would continue in the harsh rebuke from all corners of society? Would they continue to be anathemas in their families and among their peers? Why do they struggle against all odds to be who they truly feel they are? Some kind of arbitrary decision? Not so. It’s the wiring in their brains that develops in the fetus which becomes permanent as they mature. This has been shown conclusive in animal studies and is widely accepted in the scientific community across the board. When the hormones testosterone and estrogen get somehow discombobulated in development, the result can be feminine males and masculine females. Look at the amount of toxic endocrine disrupting chemicals we live with and put in our food. Plastics leach EDC’s into our skin and into the air. GMO soy contain estrogen mimicking compounds and it’s in virtually every item in the supermarket. Dioxins, atrazine, pthalates, mercury in vaccines, the list goes on. If you want to look at the real issue, this is it. This is why gender ambiguity will continue to rise, because every biologist knows it but is too politically correct to call it what it is and thus will never be addressed.

    Reply
  5. Stan says:

    May I ask a question. If people are born with with a physical Identity of male and a mental identity of a female why is it ok to change the physical but you find it reprehensible to change the mental? They are both changes to the way a person is born. Does the Pseudoscience of Psychiatry carry more weight than the natural science of evolution or random mutation? The question that no one has yet to answer is why one change is superior to the other!

    Reply

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