The Burning House Analogy

It has been proposed by many that those who criticise Christians (or theists in general) for their opposition to homosexuality do so based on a misunderstanding of their position. One frequently invoked analogy is that of a burning house, and goes something like this:

Suppose that you are walking past a house and realise that it is on fire. A friend of yours who you care about deeply is leaning out the window, but does not seem to realise the great peril he is in. You point out that the house is burning and that he is in grave danger of losing his life, but he doesn’t listen to you. Should you then simply walk away, respecting his choice? Of course not, argues the theist, to do so would be morally indefensible.

I would suggest the following, slightly more accurate version of the same analogy:

Suppose that you were leaning out the window of your house and noticed a complete stranger waving their hands at you frantically. They run over and tell you that your house is on fire, and that you must immediately climb out of the window to save yourself. The subsequent scramble to the ground might be difficult and dangerous, but it is surely preferable to dying. Understandably concerned, you check your entire house and are unable to find any evidence at all that it is actually on fire. You return to the window and point this out to the stranger, at which point he informs you that the fire is actually a special kind of fire, which you need to believe certain things to see. Furthermore, it will have no effect on you at all in the present, but will horribly burn you twenty years later if you don’t cimb out the window.

Ask yourself this: in these circumstances, would you be more likely to do what the stranger tells you, or would you be more likely to think that they’re insane and ignore them?

What I’m trying to say with this is that, firstly, it is not obvious to non-Christians that Christians actually do love and care deeply for their well-being (the vast majority of Christians on Earth are complete strangers to me) and, secondly, that the supposed ‘danger’ of being homosexual is similarly not obvious to those who do not accept the Bible as a moral authority. The ‘burning house analogy’ is a failure.


2 Responses to “The Burning House Analogy”

  1. 1 Zack December 19, 2008 at 7:45 pm

    I like how you handle the analogy very well. Mind if I use your alternative analogy should I get into a conversation with someone who uses the first analogy? (I will give you full credit, though)

  2. 2 augustine December 19, 2008 at 7:54 pm

    Of course not, use it however you like. You may consider it ‘open source’, so feel free to alter it any way you want ;) No need for credit either, although it would be great to get some new readers from elsewhere.

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