Religion influences many aspects of people’s lives and thoughts. It may influence the way they dress, the foods they eat, how they use their money, and their beliefs regarding contemporary issues. People’s views on homosexuality, for example whether it is moral or not, or whether it should be legal by law, are also heavily influenced by religion. Different religions provide different opinions regarding the topic, and some are considerably more influential than others.
The religion of Islam generally has an intolerant attitude towards gay and lesbian love. In the Qur’an, Lut says to his people, ‘Do ye commit lewdness such as no people in creation committed before you? For ye practise your lusts on men in preference to women’. This is a clear message to Muslims reading the Qur’an that being gay is wrong, and should be against the law. And so, even today, scenes such as a man being thrown off a skyscraper because of his sexuality are common in Iraq and Syria where the extremist Islamic group ISIS is gaining power. In Saudi Arabia, a school textbook reads ‘[Homosexuality] is a vile perversion that goes against sound nature, and is one of the most corrupting and hideous sins.’ More moderate Muslims living in developed countries are also comparatively homophobic. Not one of 500 Muslims interviewed in a poll in the UK believed homosexual acts were morally acceptable, and even though British Muslims make up just 2% of the population, they commit 25% of the nation’s homophobic crimes. * [SEE FIRST LINK] This shows that the decided attitude of Islam towards homosexuality has affected many Muslims around the world.
Christianity’s teachings also have an often negative view of homosexuality. The Bible describes a time when ‘men committed indecent acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their perversion’. This extract calls homosexuality ‘indecent’, and refers to a punishment for it. However, Christians today vary hugely in their interpretations of texts similar to this. Some may use passages like this one as a reason for regarding homosexuality as morally wrong, while others may have no strong feelings on the topic. The relative ambiguity of the passages in the Bible means that many gays and lesbians can reconcile their religion and their sexuality. In fact, 10 million Americans identified themselves as both homosexual and Christian in the 2010 census and, in a recent vote; the Roman Catholic country of Ireland legalized Gay Marriage, with 62% of voters voting for it. The reason for the relatively liberal Christian attitude towards homosexuality today, despite the negative teachings, could be because Christianity is a generally less imposing religion than Islam, or because of the underlying Christian message of ‘love thy neighbour’, or most probably because most Christians live in more developed countries, where trustworthy information comes from a range of sources, not just religion. Therefore, although many may cite Christianity as their reason for whatever view they have of homosexuality, the religion’s negative stance is less influential in many ways.
Hinduism, on the other hand, has, traditionally, a much more favourable view of the topic. The ancient idea of a third gender, present in Hindu philosophy, is the gender of people who feel they have both male and female attributes. In Sanskrit texts, this third sex describes what we would know today as homosexuals, transgenders and bisexual individuals. Contemporary Hindu society formally acknowledges relationships between male and ‘third gender’ males, as a variation of male – female relationships. It does not acknowledge gay relationships; however these do thrive within Hindu men’s spaces and are not seen as ‘different’ as they are in the West. It is even considered as a more or less universal aspect of manhood, though a not socially desirable one. In the Vedas, a passage reads, ‘perversity / diversity is what nature is all about, and what seems un-natural is also natural.’ This has been taken by many to mean Hinduism has a positive attitude towards the topic. However, homosexuality is rarely discussed openly in Hindu society today, possibly because India only legalised it in 2009 due to old British laws in place. Sexual minorities in India and other Hindu countries also often face severe discrimination against them, especially if they live in rural areas or are in one of the lower castes. Often, same-sex couples will marry in traditional Hindu style, as many Hindu priests believe that love is the result of attachment from previous births, and does not discriminate between genders. If couples do not have the blessing of a priest or of their families, joint suicides are becoming increasingly more common. This stems from the Hindu belief that if they die together, they will be reunited in their next life. And so, Hinduism influences strongly many people’s views on homosexuality.
These three religions and the way they influence attitudes to homosexuality in different ways are interesting to write about. However, it should be stressed that many, many other things can influence opinions on this topic, and there is no evidence to show that religion is a main contributor at all. Does anyone have any thoughts?
I think this is worth thinking about, even if my writing is a bit clunky in this post. Sorry!
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