A few bloggers have taken me to task for some comments I made here on this story as I wondered aloud how many of these gay-bashing gays we have to find before my hypothesis that their gayness drives their rabid anti-gayness.
The comment was made somewhat tongue in cheek, since we can’t exactly get any sort of reasonable sample with a group so motivated to lie. That leaves us with analyzing the behavior.
Obviously we can’t treat frothing at the mouth opposition to something as an indication of secretly supporting or participating in it. That’s catch-22. After all, some issues deserve frothing at the mouth opposition, and therein lies the rub. It’s not that anti-gay crusaders are so adamant about their views, but that their views are so horribly, embarrassingly, poorly supported by anything remotely resembling logic or evidence. As political issues go, nothing brings out “teh stupid” like gay marriage. Just like with the IDers, for whom the suspicion of a nonscientific agenda is warranted by their nonscientific approach, the complete irrationality of the anti-gay crusaders cries out for an explanation.
Overcompensation isn’t exactly an absurd hypothesis. Imagine what it must be like to be raised in an environment where what you are is depicted as sinful, where you are told your natural attractions are evil. Is it such a stretch to suggest those who are more moved by their theological institutions than their own instinct and modern science, might develop a strong sense of self hatred, and deal with this by speaking out louder and stronger than anyone else on the issue? They are kin to those called cowards who volunteer for the most dangerous missions to dispel that notion.
Let's also not get bogged down with the either-or fallacy. Correlation runs anywhere from 1.00 to 0.00. Proof that some X aren’t correlated with Y doesn’t imply the correlation carries little weight. It only implies the correlation is less than 1.00. Views may differ, but I am talking about causation. I hypothesize that rabid, frothing-at-the-mouth opposition to something, in the absence of a solid evidence supporting the position does often arise from a personal battle with that same issue. Look at the people involved with MADD. Are we going to be shocked when we learn those who have suffered the most from drunk driving would be the most rabidly against it? What makes anyone think closeted gays, who think themselves suffering from what they see as their inherent sinfulness, wouldn't react similarly? Some think that Fred Phelps would be Exhibit A of my theory, and I agree. Count me among the believers that Fred‘s loafers are a bit lighter than he lets on.
Finally, yes, I would suggest that rabidly anti-atheists also reveal subconscious insecurities about their views. Again, in the absense of a solid logical evidence-based position, what else should we think? An insistence that others do and think as you do are telltale signs of personal insecurities on those issues. Just think about those issues where you are most secure in your views. Does this lead you to rabidly attack those that differ with you? If you are anything like me, mostly not. Even in cases where resistence is easiest, say for a murderer’s chosen hobby, the average person’s hatred is an order of magnitude lower than Fred Phelps’ for “homos”.
Now some might play Devil's advocate and claim the same could be said for rabid atheists. For the recently reborn-agains, who can be as bad as ex-smokers (I once had recently deconverted friend who would argue with people who said "God bless you" when he sneezed), and for obvious reasons, this might be the case. But generally, atheists for the most part don’t talk much about god at all unless someone else brings it up first. It's not as if we meet every week singing “Hail Reason, God is dead!”. This accusation by some believers is just another evasion of the deafening lack of evidence for their gods.
The bottom line is this: this difference between a revolutionary and a zealot is the intellectual goods. There's nothing wrong with rabid exuberance for a position if you are right. If, however, your position is devoid of anything science would recognize as evidence, or philosophy would recognize as sound reasoning, then it's not only fair, but downright intellectually mandated, to suspect other psychological factors at play.