Dennis Prager
“Now wait just a minute. I never said that I make sense.”

At Crisis Magazine Dennis Prager has re-published an anti-gay essay that he originally published to the same orthodox Catholic outlet 25 years ago. It is titled: “Why Judaism (and then Christianity) Rejected Homosexuality.” Oh, do tell. According to Prager:

When Judaism demanded that all sexual activity be channeled into marriage, it changed the world. The Torah’s prohibition of non-marital sex quite simply made the creation of Western civilization possible.

The Torah does not prohibit premarital sex. The Torah even approves of non-marital sex with a concubine as a minor-wife. To be fair, the Torah does not approve of premarital sex either but Prager uses the word “prohibition” and that is false. As long as we are at it, the Torah clearly approves of polygamy, the murder of insolent children, the killing of brides who are not virgins and so on.

Moreover, the creation of Western Civilization encompasses the great works of non-Judaic and non-Christian peoples including many cultural and scientific developments from ancient Greece and then Rome, among others. Prager is very well educated. He knows all of this stuff. Some would even call Prager a Judaic scholar. He knows the Torah a hell of a lot better than I do. Prager is thus doing what miscreants have done for thousands of years. He is using religious texts to devalue and denigrate a disapproved minority. Shame on him.

Prager, by the way, is on his third marriage. Yet he claimed that same-sex marriage would lead to incest and polygamy. United States v. Windsor opened the flood gates to marriage equality and that was almost five years ago. Has there been a spike in incest that I am unaware of? Has the legal status of polygamy changed? My usual reaction to Prager is to wonder from whose ass he pulled out whatever he is asserting. As in:

It is probably impossible for us, who live thousands of years after Judaism began this process, to perceive the extent to which undisciplined sex can dominate man’s life and the life of society. Throughout the ancient world, and up to the recent past in many parts of the world, sexuality infused virtually all of society.

The above doesn’t even make sense. What is his point?

Here is another helping:

Among the consequences of the unchanneled sex drive is the sexualization of everything—including religion. Unless the sex drive is appropriately harnessed (not squelched—which leads to its own destructive consequences), higher religion could not have developed. Thus, the first thing Judaism did was to de-sexualize God: “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” by his will, not through any sexual behavior.

Are you kidding me? How would anyone chronicle this story in the alternative if sex were involved? That would require (I think) a goddess or, perhaps, some other force of nature having sex in order to create, … what exactly? The absence of sex in the creation narrative is not proof of intentionally de-sexualizing the deity. The unchanneled sex meme is strangely akin to the responsible procreation requirement made by Christians opposing marriage equality. Prager has a large inventory of asses.

I cannot cope with too much of this BS so let me skip to the gay stuff:

Inventing Homosexuality

The revolutionary nature of Judaism’s prohibiting all forms of non-marital sex was nowhere more radical, more challenging to the prevailing assumptions of mankind, than with regard to homosexuality. Indeed, Judaism may be said to have invented the notion of homosexuality, for in the ancient world sexuality was not divided between heterosexuality and homosexuality. That division was the Bible’s doing. Before the Bible, the world divided sexuality between penetrator (active partner) and penetrated (passive partner).

Prager is actually correct with respect to the division between passive and active partner. In ancient times when that involved homosexuality the penetrated was usually a young boy and the penetrators were not generally gay as we understand sexual orientation today. Homosexuality was socially acceptable as long as the aristocratic partner was the penetrator. Indeed these were upper class men who were married. What the Torah addresses is sex between men and boys which is the only form of homosexuality that was known in ancient times. In contrast if, for example, two soldiers were caught having sex in ancient Rome, both would be crucified.

To appreciate the extent of the revolution wrought by Judaism’s prohibiting homosexuality and demanding that all sexual interaction be male-female, it is first necessary to appreciate just how universally accepted, valued, and practiced homosexuality has been throughout the world.

How is any of that relevant to society today? There was no understanding of sexual orientation. Prager doesn’t approve of gay people and he is using religion as an excuse for his overt bigotry. So what else is new? Prager: Take a hike. One more quote from a very verbose piece (nearly 6,000 words):

Judaism cannot make peace with homosexuality because homosexuality denies many of Judaism’s most fundamental principles. It denies life, it denies God’s expressed desire that men and women cohabit, and it denies the root structure that Judaism wishes for all mankind, the family.

That expresses a logical fallacy. It presupposes that, if gay sex is prohibited, gay people will marry people of the opposite sex and crank out children. Gay men will create the kind of family that Prager approves of based on his interpretation of an ancient chronicle of dubious provenance. Rubbish.

Prager is well aware, for example, of the fact that, at the Second Temple, the priests found conflicting scrolls. The applicable scroll was determined by committee. Never mind that the Torah is an ancient document which should not be taken literally (lest we murder people who gather wood on the Sabbath and so on). The Jews were a persecuted people. Above all, the Torah is dedicated to respect for God and respect for human dignity. Prager is not going to rob me or any LGBT person of humanity. Never.

Prager’s choice of Crisis as the outlet for this condemnation of gay people means that he wanted an audience that would agree with him. And they do. That same audience would condemn Prager for his two divorces, opposes all forms of birth control and prohibits masturbation. Have at it Dennis.

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By David Cary Hart

Retired CEO. Formerly a W.E. Deming-trained quality-management consultant. Now just a cranky Jewish queer. Gay cis. He/Him/His.