“I Was Born This Way”: Soul Mates, Gay Genes, and Plato

Plato from The School of Athens by Raphael (1509)

It has been said that all of philosophy is a series of footnotes to Plato. Could we same the same about the homosexuality and same-sex marriage debate? You may ask, “What in the world does Plato have to do with homosexuality?” The answer may surprise you.

In his work Symposium, Plato explores an alternative explanation for the origin of mankind and gender. Rather than the normal assessment that mankind was created with two genders—male and female—Plato suggests a three-gender origin (male-male, female-female, and male-female) that explains both heterosexual and homosexual orientations. He writes:

In the first place, let me treat of the nature of man and what has happened to it; for the original human nature was not like the present, but different. The sexes were not two as they are now, but originally three in number; there was man, woman, and the union of the two, having a name corresponding to this double nature, which had once a real existence, but is now lost, and the word “Androgynous” is only preserved as a term of reproach.

Plato describes these humans as “terrible” in might and strength. These humans were two-sided (two faces, two sets of legs and arms, etc). After they waged a war against the gods, Zeus decided to humble mankind by cutting them in half. This effectively reduced mankind to the two genders we know today, but according to Plato, mankind longed for his original state. He states:

Each of us when separated, having one side only, like a flat fish, is but the indenture of a man, and he is always looking for his other half. Men who are a section of that double nature which was once called Androgynous are lovers of women; adulterers are generally of this breed, and also adulterous women who lust after men: the women who are a section of the woman do not care for men, but have female attachments; the female companions are of this sort. But they who are a section of the male follow the male. . . . And when one of them meets with his other half, the actual half of himself, whether he be a lover of youth or a lover of another sort, the pair are lost in an amazement of love and friendship and intimacy, and would not be out of the other’s sight, as I may say, even for a moment: these are the people who pass their whole lives together; yet they could not explain what they desire of one another.

Here in Plato’s Symposium, we see the origin of the idea of “soul-mates” which forms the basis for much of the argument promoting homosexuality. For example, proponents of same-sex marriage argue that it is unjust to deny marriage to individuals who love each other. They claim these homosexual relationships are as intimate as heterosexual relationships and should be legalized. However, such an argument is based not on science or tradition, but instead it is based on Plato’s concept of soul-mates. According to Plato, when two halves meet and recognize the unexplainable love they have for one another, they have no choice but to spend their whole lives together. Based on this logic, proponents of same-sex marriage claim it is against nature to deny marriage to such soul-mates.

No one today would agree with Plato’s “science” claiming that Zeus cut mankind in half and that we search the earth trying to find our soul-mate. However, this is basically the substance of the “I was born this way” argument. Proponents of homosexuality make a claim based on self-identified sexual preference and argue for rights of matrimony for individuals incapable of biologically reproducing themselves. They are merely two soul-mates professing undying love for one another.

When this argument moves into the scientific realm, many supporters of homosexuality propose that genetics are at work—they were born this way. However, this is illogical because it makes an emotional claim as the basis for a scientific declaration. Jumping from “I love this person” to “I was born this way” or “God made me this way” is a leap from emotions to science. However, science is never based on emotions.

Ultimately, this argument demonstrates the dichotomy between the Christian argument and the pagan argument regarding sexuality. In fact, those proponents of homosexuality who attempt to reinterpret Paul’s statements in Romans 1:26–27 regarding the “natural function” of men and women must also deny Plato’s influence on Roman culture regarding this issue. Paul was almost certainly aware of the discussion of sexual orientation from the ancient world’s most influential philosopher.

It is important to interact with the arguments of the homosexual agenda on many different levels. Not all will be swayed by a biblical argument. For some, philosophical discussions similar to the one above may prove more convincing. In either case, we need to be faithful to proclaim the truth and address this pressing issue in our culture.

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Plato, Symposium, Massachusetts Institute of Technology Internet Classics Archive, http://classics.mit.edu/Plato/symposium.html.

*I would like to thank a wonderful friend and mentor for his guidance on this particular argument. Although he remains unnamed, his influence and words are present in this article. Thanks.

8 comments

  1. Thanks for this, Evan. I’m curious if you’d be comfortable with the following suggestion along these lines: Wouldn’t it be acceptable biblically to agree that someone might be physically (use “genetically” if you wan”) predisposed to homosexuality without accepting the validity of the practice? In other words, someone can be “born with” predispositions to sinful behavior, but that does not make them any more acceptable. The Bible is clear that homosexual behavior is sin, whether or not someone is genetically predisposed to it.

    For example, I am physically predisposed to grumpiness. My grandfather was grumpy, my father struggles with grumpiness, and I find myself struggling with it often as well. I could say that I was “genetically” predisposed to grumpiness, but this does not excuse the sinful behavior!

    Likewise, we would probably agree that certain people might be more physically disposed toward (hetero) sexual sin than others, but again, this doesn’t make it right.

    Anyway, it’s a line of thinking I’ve been pondering for some years, and I was curious what you thought about it given your post today.

    1. Thanks for the comment, Scott. It is certainly a possibility that individuals may be predisposed to particular behaviors as a result of their genetic makeup. There seems to be some scientific evidence for this related to behaviors like alcoholism. In response to such predisposition, we would agree that we cannot condone such behavior.

      If a genetic marker were found for homosexuality (trust me, scientists have been looking but without any success), I would argue from a biblical standpoint that it is the result of the Fall. The behavior would still be sinful–just like alcoholism.

      The point of my article is that the homosexual agenda that drives the “I was born this way” argument is in keeping with Plato’s vision of soul-mates and not science.

      I’m not 100% certain you can blame your grumpiness on genetics, however. 🙂

  2. Great post! I have been digging into this topic recently due to all the media attention it has received. As Christ-followers, we always need to be prepared with answers to these difficult questions.

  3. One might say that what we call romantic (heterosexual) love is similarly an appeal to Plato, for some of his cut-in-half couples are male-female pairs. Let these separated halves meet on a Dallas street corner, they fall in love and have no choice but to get married. Yet who throws up her or his hands and says their instict and desire is unnatural and should be disallowed? Who calls us to be faithful in proclaiming the truth and addressing this pressing issue? Yet it seems to me many men who hanker after women claim they were born with these desires. And if this line of reasoning seems facetious, well, perhaps my point is that we each embrace our own set of givens and cart those along with us to any examination of issues, in any searching after truth.

    1. I actually argue that Plato’s understanding of soul-mates is false. How do you define “soul-mate” apart from Plato’s odd mythical understanding of human origin? The forming of some relationships may be emotional, but the bond of marriage must be much more than emotional. There has to be a purpose and goal beyond the emotional. This is why I argue in other places that marriage must be directed towards procreation (procreation not required, but directed towards it).

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