Religion as the enemy

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A recent news story reported that a young gay man who wanted to take his boyfriend to the school prom was thrown out of his home by his parents. It all but leaped out at the reader that the parents were “Christians” who had imbibed Christian anti-gay prejudice.

Conservative Christian groups, such as the Christian Coalition, conservative preachers and the Vatican, regularly oppose all efforts to treat gays equally. The conservative Catholic League even blamed gays for the Catholic child sexual abuse scandal, pointing out that most victims were male.

In Israel, the one country where Jews are a majority, the main agitators against gay equality, even gay parades, are Orthodox Jewish groups.

No one need fear saying the obvious: Religion, particularly in its more conservative forms, is the enemy of gay people.

Even at the individual level, religion can harm gays. It saps the fragile self-esteem of young gays and lesbians, who are repeatedly told they are sinners and bound for an imaginary hell. It holds out false hope that they can change through prayer and abstinence, that celibacy is possible and can be achieved through sufficient piety and resolve.

And anti-gay religion can tacitly encourage harassment and violence against gays by teaching people that they are bad people and so need not be treated well.

It would not be so bad if religions enforced their anti-gay doctrines only on their own members and adherents. But no! They want the various laws and strictures to apply to everyone, whether or not they are adherents of the religion.

In one widely cited but misunderstood Biblical passage, Jesus supposedly said, “Compel them to come in.” So compulsion of everyone via the law is easily justified.

What should we do in this situation?

First, if you belong to or contribute to a homophobic church, stop. Switch to a gay-friendly religion. Homosexuality cannot be changed, bur religions can.

Tell your priest, minister, or imam that you are leaving and why. Contribute to gay friendly churches and gay advocacy groups, such as the International Gay and Lesbian Association.

I am not much of a demonstrator, but if you have that temperament, feel free to picket notably homophobic churches and appearances by homophobic ministers.

I used to urge people to write a letter to the local newspaper. In small towns those do get read. But in large cities, especially, it seems more useful to start a blog on the topic, or add relevant items to your existing blog.

This seems the modern way to communicate information among the young and I think it is the young we need to reach, before their views have curdled into prejudice.

It seems unlikely that we can have much impact on long-standing religions, particularly abroad. But perhaps we can encourage local gays to be more assertive. And in the U.S., we can assist the slow growth of tolerance and acceptance of gays by shaming homophobic religions.

I run into a lot of people – especially gays – who tell me they are not religious but they are “spiritual.” I am not sure what this means (nor, often, are they), but I think it means they have put aside the severe religion doctrines they were brought up with.

To the extent this includes casting off anti-gay doctrines, this is a gain and should be encouraged.

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