A lot of the stuff in the bible seems to center around the definition of sin, what it actually means to be a sinner. And a big theme found consistently throughout the bible is that sin requires understanding. It’s not merely doing x bad thing, it’s doing x bad thing with eyes wide open.
In the adam and eve story they were capable of doing things considered sinful and shameful before they ate from the apple, being naked, conspiring against’s god’s decree and so on – but they were only capable of sin when they understood the difference between right and wrong and had a choice. A virus can kill a million people, but it is not capable of “sin” because it lacks understanding.
This concept is found in legal theory and philosophy to this day, every crime has two elements in determining the guilt of a defendant, actus reus, the physical act of committing the crime, and mens rea, the “guilty mind”. The person when they commit the crime must understand that what they are doing is wrong in order to be found guilty.
This idea is found throughout scripture, from the adam and eve story to christ’s words on the cross, “forgive them father, for they know not what they do”.
He also said to the pharisees after curing a blind man “If you were blind, you would not be guilty of sin; but now that you claim you can see, your guilt remains.”
So we see that “sin” in both a secular legal framework and a christian framework is dynamic, it’s not simply the act itself but the thought behind the action. So if someone honestly in their heart of hearts doesn’t think being gay is sinful and gets married to a person of the same gender then even if we grant that it is a guilty act, without a guilty mind there is no sin. Any more than adam and eve tromping around the garden nekkid was sinful before they understood it was wrong (within the context of the society for which the story was written that is, I’m not meaning to get into the morality of nudity which actually changes drastically depending on the culture).
So I posit that there are two types of morality we ought to be concerned with – one is a sort of practical morality, ie protecting people from harm, helping the poor etc, and the other is an appeal to peoples’ conscience to try to enrich our understanding of morality and thus (from a secular and religious perspective) raise the bar a bit higher. But with the understanding that moral rules which don’t have intrinsic bad consequences (ie victimless “crimes” such as masturbation) are sinful or not depending on the conscience of the person engaging in them. Remember when Jesus said “judge not lest ye be judged” he didn’t say we would be judged by his standards, but by our own standard of judgement. By our own conscience.
This is why I think the moralism and judging the living crap out of people who don’t share your values is a waste of time, both from a secular and christian perspective. Gay people and pot smokers and people who fuck on the first date are all going to be judged by their own yardstick according to jesus, not yours. So why moralize to them?
I think it would be nice if we had a society where the only time people were condemned sharply for their actions is when their actions actually did harm. Of course drinking, drugs, promiscuity etc do do actual harm but rather than moralizing we should be simply warning people. Especially young people to whom “don’t” means “do twice”.