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Religious Tolerance logo


An essay donated by Gary Miles

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We need a cure for homophobia. This article examines key arguments based on common misconceptions.

bulletHomosexuality is unnatural and runs counter to the reproduction of species. The latest estimate shows 450 species where same sex mating and courtship occurs. A gay pride for animals would include butch bison, gay gorillas and lesbian chimpanzees. Parrots, seals, macaques and dolphins are just a few of the species proud to parade.

Some biologists now accept that sex is not always about reproduction (the replication of genes) but has an important social role. In fact non-human animals are less concerned with procreation than we think. Same sex mating promotes bonds between individuals.

Bonobos live in small female centered groups. Lesbian sex plays a vital role in bonobo society. Social ties founded on homosexuality make for a peaceful, cooperative group and a safe secure environment in which to raise their young.

So homosexuality doesn’t pose any threat to heterosexual reproduction but, in many species, augments it.
bulletHomosexuality is condemned in scripture. Other times and cultures lacked our word for homosexuality, which wasn’t even coined until the 1800s, but there were plenty of euphemisms - like the “Passion of the Cut Sleeve” and the “Pleasures of the Bitten Peach” both from China.

A brief look at history establishes that irrational hatred is not the only response to variations in sexuality.

In ancient Greece homosexuality followed a different pattern from our own. Relationships between adult males were frowned upon but a relationship between an adult male and a youth was considered vital for the youth’s education. 1 In some states homosexual Eros played an important role in organizing the military. Homosexuality inspired bravery and made the Theban army invincible.

So what does the Bible say about homosexuality? A mere four passages in the Bible are singled out by Christians to justify homophobia.

It may come as a surprise but the sin committed in Sodom and Gomorrah had nothing to do with sexual orientation. In the legend of Sodom and Gomorrah two angels visit the city and are invited to spend the night with Abraham’s nephew Lot. In Genesis 19 the men of Sodom gather outside Lot’s house and threaten to rape the male visitors (mass rape was a way of humiliating strangers). But the threatened rape is not the cause of Sodom’s downfall. Earlier in Genesis 18 God had already revealed his plan to destroy Sodom because of the people’s wickedness: God’s decision is made before the threatened rape. So the real sin of Sodom was inhospitality. In the words of the prophet Ezekiel “They did not help the poor and needy”.

In fact, Ezekiel, Jesus and the Talmudists never identify sodomy as the sin of the Sodomites. Only later around 390 CE do the church fathers Augustine and St John Chrysostom make sodomy the cause of Sodom’s destruction.

In the New Testament, in Romans 1, the apostle Paul rants against idolaters accusing them of all kinds of vice and debauchery beginning with homosexuality. 2 But why did Paul oppose homosexuality? Did he associate it with a rival religion?

The roots of Paul’s hostility may be found in the Old Testament. Tribal solidarity is important for a persecuted people and in the Old Testament we see the Jews maintaining their separateness from neighboring tribes. One tribe, the Canaanites, practiced temple prostitution.

The Canaanites worshiped rival gods and this worship involved having sex with the temple prostitute. The temple prostitute could be a priest or a priestess: same sex or a woman. In 1611 The King James Bible translated “cult prostitute” as “sodomite”. However, it is now understood that Leviticus, Deuteronomy and Romans 1 are discussing idolatry: having sex with the temple prostitute.

Leviticus condemns many things that are widely accepted today. Eating shellfish. Wearing mixed fabric. So why aren’t modern Christians trying to get seafood restaurants closed down?
bulletHomosexuality is a psychiatric disorder that can be cured. In America the Ex Gay movement claims to be able to cure homosexuality through a combination of prayer and therapy. The success rate of the Ex Gay movement is abysmal and failure to change has led to many confused “Still Gays” committing suicide. Celibate gay men are claimed to have left the homosexual lifestyle.

In 1991 The World Health Organization removed homosexuality from its list of illnesses. No reputable psychiatrist now regards homosexuality as a disorder; rather it is viewed as part of the natural spectrum of human sexuality.
bulletGay men use their genitalia for functions they weren’t designed for. Do you wear glasses? To equate natural with good is a fallacy. We constantly use parts of our body for functions they weren’t designed for. After all, did nature give us ears so that some of us could wear earrings?
bulletGay men are corrupters of youth. This is a myth. This argument presumes that all gay men have sex with minors and ignores the fact that straight men also have sex with under aged girls. The fear of corruption only makes sense if sexual orientation is a choice: if homosexuals are made not born. But even if some homosexuals were made, the development of a homosexual orientation would only be morally wrong if homosexuality itself was morally wrong. Something no one has been able to prove.
bulletIf we accept homosexuality then why not accept other sexual taboos? This is the slippery slope argument. If we accept homosexuality then why not accept incest, polygamy and bestiality? This argument is scraping the bottom of the barrel. As there is nothing to connect homosexuality with incest, polygamy and bestiality other than the fact that they have all been traditionally off limits. Remember inter racial marriage was also considered taboo but its acceptance hasn’t led to the collapse of society and a sexual free for all.
bulletHomosexuality is a threat to the nuclear family. This argument suggests that the nuclear family is so weak that it can’t coexist with an alternative life style. Changes in society effecting how we live, where we live and whom we live with, also have a bearing on the nuclear family and the question of its continuing survival. Many of these changes have little to do with homosexuality and are more to do with increased freedom and opportunity.

I hope rethinking our attitudes in the light of history and science will lead to a cure for homophobia.

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  1. Age based relationships were the norm in ancient Greece and I can’t resist a description of the Intercrural Position (the gay missionary position of ancient Greece). The active older partner and the passive younger partner stand face to face. To avoid penetration the older partner thrusts his penis between the thighs of the youth. The youth must be post-puberty and should not accept payment for sex. He is deemed to be granting a favor to the active older partner and is not meant to obtain any enjoyment from the act. The upright position and avoidance of penetration differs from anal sex.
  2. ”For this cause God gave them up unto vile affections: for even their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature: and likewise also the men: leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another; men with men working that which is unseemly.” Romans 1: 26-27. God gave them up unto vile affections because they were idolaters.

    Romans can be interpreted in two different ways. The traditional interpretation is that Paul condemns homosexuality. Another interpretation holds that Paul is talking about heterosexual men experimenting with gay sex. There are also different interpretations of “natural”. Natural could mean according to nature’s laws or according to one’s nature.

    It is important to remember that in Paul’s Christianity there could be no tolerance for other faiths. Anyone not a Jew or a Christian had abandoned the true faith for idol worship.

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For further information

I recommend the following books/websites:

bulletJoan Roughgarden, "Evolution’s Rainbow: Divedrsity, Gender and Sexuality in Nature and People." University of California Press, (2005). Read reviews or order this book safely from Amazon.com online book store. Written by a leading ecologist. Roughgarden shows us that nature is queer.
bulletLouis Crompton, "Homosexuality and Civilization" Read reviews or order this book The best one volume history of homosexuality.
bulletPaul Halsall. "Homosexual Eros in Early Greece" at: http://www.rockhawk.com/
bullet"Homosexuality and the Bible" Metropolitan Community Church, San Diego CA, at: http://www.freeingthespirit.org/ Those are not very Ex Gays
bulletPaul Varnell at: http://www.indegayforum.org/ Varnell’s analysis of Dr Spitzer’s study of 274 Ex Gays.
bulletJohn Corvino, "First Gays Then Polygamists?," at: http://www.indegayforum.org/

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Originally posted: 2006-JAN-14
Latest update: 2006-JAN-14
Author: Gary Miles

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