Another great piece by Chicago Sun-Times columnist Neil Steinberg:

Ignorance is the great engine of human misery, the fertile field where its fruit, hatred, grows in all its awful forms, from the first human, crouching on a dark savannah, screeching terrified defiance at a shape silhouetted on the horizon, to Rep. Ronald Stephens, rising to his feet in the Illinois House, blaming "open homosexuality" for the fall of Rome. "If you look at the sociological history of societies that have failed," said Stephens (R-Greenville), "what are some of the commonalities? One of those is that open homosexuality becomes accepted."

A common idea: Mighty Rome toppled because it allowed those light in the togas to prance unchallenged through the Forum. We're on our way to ruin, too, not because of ascendant China or a collapse of political discourse, but because we allow gays and lesbians to live their lives with only moderate harassment.

That's funny. Not ha-ha funny, but ironic funny, and demands we shine a light down this well of ignorance.

First, the Roman Empire—even lopping off the first 700 years, from Rome's founding to Julius Caesar—lasted 500 years. We should only fall so quickly.

Second, such a swath of land—the empire stretched from Britain to Egypt—had, over half a millennium, various views toward homosexuality. Yes, at times Romans would chat about their catamite lovers with an ease strange to our ears. But other times they'd be put to death for it.

If tolerance didn't topple Rome, what did?

Let us consult Edward Gibbon, whose classic The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire isn't read in high schools, at least not Downstate, apparently, the way it once was. Gibbon puts the blame—and this really is too delicious—not on homosexuality, but on Christianity, which he says made the Roman population more worried about their place in heaven than about barbarians at the gate. "I have described the triumph of barbarism and religion," Gibbon concludes, famously, in his epigram.

Go read the whole thing.

And for what it's worth: Even if gay people were to blame for the fall of Rome—and I'm not saying we were—why would that be a problem for crazy fundy Christians? The Romans weren't particularly kind to Christians—the Romans fed Christians to lions and tigers and bears, remember?—so you would think that Christians would be grateful. The enemy of my enemy, right? And even with what little history I had in high school, I managed to arrive at Gibbon's conclusion as a sophomore back at St. Gregory the Great: the rise of Christianity correlated so strongly with the decline of Rome—at least the Western Empire—that the two had to be related somehow.

And if persecuting homosexuals makes a society rich and powerful—if it strengthens empires and brings God's favor—then why are the most intolerant places on earth such steaming shitholes? I mean, who do you think enjoys God's favor: tolerant, liberal, gay-marryin' Canada or intolerant, illiberal, gay-executin' Uganda?

Back to Steinberg:

This inversion—where gays are found culpable for something actually the fault of their oppressors—is par for the course. Look at gay adoption, long opposed by the faithful on the premise that gays shouldn't be allowed around children, even their own. Where did all these kids in need of adoption come from? Oh right, that would be from heterosexual couples who so completely failed their children that they were seized by the state.