Homosexuality v. Christianity

An atheist critique of the Christian response to homosexuality2012 is the centennial year of the birth of Alan Turing, a British cryptanalyst central to the project that decoded German Enigma messages during World War II and a pioneer in computer science.  Celebrations marking the event are planned, and the UK has issued an Alan Turing stamp.

Though you may not have heard of Turing, you have been touched by his work.  When a web form challenges you to read distorted text to make sure you’re not a computer program, you’re participating in a variant of the Turing Test.  When you use a modern PC, you’re using a Turing Machine.

Turing was convicted under an 1885 law against homosexuality and forced to undergo “chemical castration” by hormone treatments.  Details of his death are imprecise, but, despondent over the treatments, he apparently killed himself by cyanide poisoning.

This brilliant gay man was 41.

Gay suicides continue in our own day.  A 14-year-old boy killed himself last September in response to school bullying, just months after recording an “It Gets Better” video.

For those who wish for a day when sexual preference is as bothersome as hair color, things are improving.  Within the last month, Washington and Maryland enacted laws allowing same-sex marriage (though both laws will likely be challenged by referendums in November), bringing to eight the number of states with such laws.  The military’s Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy was repealed last fall.  A Pew Research poll shows that supporters of same-sex marriage in the U.S. have recently become greater in number than those who oppose it.  Archie Comics has even become gay friendly.

Can someone explain to me why same-sex marriage is an issue?  I don’t get it, and I’ve drunk the marriage Kool-Aid.  My wife and I have been married for over 30 years.  I got married the same week I graduated from college.  Two kids, no divorce, no adultery.  When a preacher or politician imagines himself speaking to the country on this issue, he puts me in the front row.  And I’m still waiting to hear a coherent argument for why same-sex marriage should bother me.

One of the most popular arguments is that this would redefine marriage.  Okay, but so what?  The definition of marriage hasn’t been a constant in the U.S.  Until Loving v. Virginia in 1967, marriage in 17 states meant the union of one man and one woman of the same race.  As I discussed in a previous post, the original 1959 conviction that prompted this landmark Supreme Court case was backed up with Christian justification.

Before that, marriage was redefined in 1890 to prohibit polygamy.  In that case, the Supreme Court made clear how a clash between religious precepts and the laws of the state is resolved:

However free the exercise of religion may be, it must be subordinate to the criminal laws of the country.

And the definition of marriage continues to be a moving target since not all states have the same rules.  Can you marry without parental approval at age 18?  Yes in most states; no in Mississippi, where you must be 21.  Is common law marriage recognized?  Yes for Alabama and Colorado; no for Alaska and Delaware.

The definition or marriage hasn’t even been constant within Christianity—the stories of Abraham, Jacob, David, Solomon and other patriarchs make clear that the biblical definition of marriage was the union of one man and one or more women.

Marriage evolves, and if anything is attacking marriage today, it’s not same-sex marriage but divorce.  Indeed, it’s odd that at a time when many Christian leaders are lamenting marriage’s reduced status within society, it dismisses a group that wants to embrace it.  There’s no fixed pie here, where you getting a bigger slice means I get a smaller one.

What’s behind this?  Is it the church’s obsession with sex?  Perhaps it fears sex as a powerful competitive force.  This reminds me of the Soviet Union suppressing Christianity because it was a powerful competitive force.

Actor and author Stephen Fry, in talking about the church and sex, likened sex to food.  He said, “The only people who are obsessed with food are anorexics and the morbidly obese.  And that, in erotic terms, is the [Christian] church.”

Let’s visit one elephant in the room that may be behind Christians’ objection to homosexuality.  Gay sex, to use clinical terminology, is icky.  My response: yes it is.  And I have a quick and effective solution.  If you don’t like gay sex, don’t have any.  It’s really pretty easy when you think about it.

But this sidesteps the bigger issue.  It’s not that gay sex is icky.  It’s that sex is icky.

Imagine you’ve just met someone at a party, and he soon turns the conversation to his particular sexual turn-ons.  You’d probably find the conversation very uncomfortable.

Another example: explain in detail the mechanics of sex to a six-year-old.  The child would be disgusted whether you describe gay or straight sex.  Sex is disgusting; it’s just that we are drawn to our preferred brand of sex because the passion overrides the disgust.  We typically don’t have the passion to override the disgust from our inner six-year-old for other brands.

When I read a diatribe against homosexuality or same-sex marriage written by some politician or pastor, I wonder: with all the problems in the world—disease, poverty, famine, natural disasters, the economy, and so on—this is near the top of your list of things that keep you up at night?  Seriously?  You can’t find something else to worry about?  Sorry, but same-sex marriage doesn’t affect my marriage—or yours—one bit.

There’s far too little love in the world as it is.  It’s unthinkable—nay, reprehensible—to stand in the way of what love can be found.

Photo credit: San Diego Shooter

Related posts:

Related links:

  • Heartstrong: “Hope & help for gay, lesbian, bisexual & transgender students from religious educational institutions”
  • “Church says no interracial couples allowed,” CNEWS, 11/30/11.
  • Rob Boston, “Trouble In Riverdale: Religious Right Groups Blast Gay Friendly ‘Archie’ Comic Books,” Talk to Action, 1/13/12.

23 thoughts on “Homosexuality v. Christianity

  1. Pingback: Homosexuality v. Christianity | Galileo Unchained « Secularity

  2. I find it interesting that some of the most heartfelt opposition to gay marriage comes from black people, who (you’d think) should be more sympathetic than most to a fellow discriminated-against minority group. Same deal with Mormons, who have seen far more than their share of persecution, yet seem perfectly happy to be on the “dishing it out” side.
    Meanwhile, I can’t think of a single atheist I know who doesn’t just say “Of COURSE gay people should be able to get married. Why is this even an issue?”

    • In the Pew poll link above, black Protestants nudged slightly in the more-favorable direction (unlike white evangelicals who oppose it more and who nudged slightly in the wrong direction). Perhaps a small ray of hope here.

      The dramatic change was in white Catholics: 49% approved of same-sex marriage in 2010 but 57% in 2011.

    • Same deal with Mormons, who have seen far more than their share of persecution, yet seem perfectly happy to be on the “dishing it out” side.

      Interesting point. It’s amazing what religion can do.

      Reminds me of a Steven Weinberg quote: With or without religion, good people can behave well and bad people can do evil; but for good people to do evil — that takes religion.

      • It also reminds me of how the Bible records that the Israelites were freed from slavery under the Egyptians, and then just a few pages later God allows the Israelites to own slaves themselves.

        • Some apologist out there is bound to make the claim that Biblical slavery was different than the African slave trade, so I’ll remind them that the Bible clearly states that foreign slaves were PROPERTY and were PERPETUALLY slaves:

          Leviticus 25:44-46 Your male and female slaves are to come from the nations around you; from them you may buy slaves. You may also buy some of the temporary residents living among you and members of their clans born in your country, and they will become your property. You can bequeath them to your children as inherited property and can make them slaves for life,…

  3. You missed the boat on why Christians disapprove of same sex marriage. It isn’t the “marriage” per say but the act of homosexuality which is denounced in the Bible numerous times. Yes it existed back then, yes it will always exist, but the question is – what does the Bible say about homosexual relations period. Go ahead and get married it is the homosexual acts that are referred to as “sin” in the Bible. I am not the final judge – one must truthfully talk to God (the one and only) about this.

    • Go ahead and get married it is the homosexual acts that are referred to as “sin” in the Bible.

      Good point. This is the true reason Christians oppose gay marriage.

      It’s refreshing to have someone come right out and say it without hiding it under a pile of rationalizations.

  4. I don’t get it.
    Religious people used to complain that gays were promiscuous.
    Now that they want to become monogamous they shout no, no, no, they can’t possibly be like “us”.

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