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The Relation of Religion and Homosexuality

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The churches’ view on homosexuality has been a hot topic of discussion for much of recorded history. Because of some verses in the Old Testament of the Bible that paint homosexuality to be a sin, it has been widely accepted in Christianity that homosexuals are living a life of sin, as with many other religions, mostly Abrahamic. Abrahamic religions refer to Christianity, Judaism, and Islam, because in all of these religions, God presented himself to Abraham, a profit, beginning the process of what would later come, salvation. This paper will discuss the perceived cause of and acceptance of homosexuality because of this perception, the negative impacts from the church that have affected many homosexuals, religious people’s views on homosexuals and their parenting ability, and finally, the allowance of homosexual individuals in the church.

Many people have an opinion on homosexuality and if it is, in fact, natural or a choice. Religion can have an impact on this opinion, as stated in attribution theory. This theory was developed in 1944 by Heider and furthered in 1979 and 1985 by Weiner. Attribution theory states that “individuals work to predict and control their environment by attributing others’ behaviors as the result of internal or external factors.” In a study done by Andrew Whitehead and Joseph Baker, and another study done by Whitehead, results show that people who see homosexuality as a choice are far less likely to support same sex marriage. This makes sense, because why would someone choose to go directly against God’s orders? It would make sense that followers of that religion would be quick to demonize and even cast out people who did so whether it be homosexuality or another sin. As people attended more church and prayed more often, they were less likely to see homosexuality as natural, therefore less likely to be accepting of it. This was only studied in Christianity, however, so other religions cannot be accounted for. It is troubling that people who attend church more are less likely to accept homosexuals for who they are. Church is supposed to be a love and freedom, and the fact that this is the narrative in many churches is unnerving. There are many other factors that play into whether someone is more or less likely to believe that the etiology of homosexuality, such as, views on science and its credibility, political affiliation, gender, economic standpoint, education level, etc. One of the most striking, however, are those who believe in science. About 94% of those who have a positive affect towards science see homosexuality as innate.

Whether it was because they attended church themselves or were the victim of some malicious act at the hands of a religious person, many homosexuals have had negative experiences that can be drawn back to the church. One thing that is particularly interesting and harmful, is internalized homonegativity. Internalized homonegativity is “a unique [experience] to non-heterosexual individuals who direct internalized negative attitudes towards homosexual orientation in themselves as well as towards homosexuality in general.” One of many reasons that internalized homonegativity is so harmful, is because most gay men experience it at one point or another. It has been linked to negative impacts on mental and sexual health, “internalized shame, low self-esteem, disordered eating, depression, psychological distress, negative body image, isolation,” and many other, negative side-effects. After learning the last statistic, this becomes even more startling. Along with internalized homonegativity, comes cognitive dissonance. Cognitive dissonance is experiencing conflicting attitudes, beliefs, thoughts, etc. Many religious homosexual men experience cognitive dissonance because their religion tells them that their sexuality is bad and should be ignored. This cognitive dissonance can be combatted by either discarding certain belief sets, or deciding that no matter what your religion says, your sexuality is valid. Either one of these processes can be very hard and time-consuming. Even so, about 50% of homosexual men were still able to make one of these changes, while about 50% of gay men were not. Pikria Meladze and Jac Brown found that many homosexual men with Abrahamic faiths experience more homonegativity than homosexual men with newer, more progressive faiths like Buddhism, Wicca, etc, or no religion at all (2015). The fact that something as trivial as who someone is attracted to could bring this much negativity into their life, mostly from others’ thoughts, opinions, words, etc. is very troubling. Furthermore, the fact that others’ thoughts, opinions, words, etc. could affect someone in such a deep way is just as troubling. This shows that religious leaders need to take a bigger step in being allies for homosexuals, rather than a group that demonizes and casts them out.

Another long-seeded debate revolving around the LGTBQ+ community: are they fit to be parents? Should they be allowed to adopt? Research has shown that about one third of Americans would consider a same-sex couple without children a family, and about 60% of Americans see same-sex couples with children as a family. How do these statistic change when religion is thrown into the mix? Well, people who consider themselves Catholic are more likely to believe that same-sex couples are able to their opposite sex couple counterparts. As with many of these statistics, church attendance can have an effect on people’s opinions on LGBTQ parenting. Unsurprisingly, Whitehead found that church attendance is negatively associated with people holding the idea that same-sex couples are fit to be parents (2017). A negative association between variables means that as one increases, the other decreases, and vice-versa. So, as one attends church more, they are less likely to see LGBTQ members as fit for parenthood. Surprisingly, though, unlike many of the statistics listed in a previous paragraph, prayer has no significant association with believing that same-sex couples can be as good of parents as opposite-sex couples. How people see the bible can have an effect on this as well. Most people fall into three categories: people who see the bible as inspired, or should be interpreted, people who see it as a book of fables, and people who see it as literal. People who see the bible as a book that should be interpreted individual are more likely than those who think it should be read literally to believe that LGBTQ couples are just as fit as heterosexual couples to be parents. However, those who see the bible as a book of fables are more likely than those who think it should individually interpreted to see same-sex couples as fit to become parents as opposite sex couples. How does one’s sexuality affect their ability to parent? It doesn’t seem to. There can be bad opposite-sex couples when it comes to parenting, just like there can be bad same-sex couples when it comes to parenting. However, I just do not think that this would be because of either couple’s sexual orientation, but rather, something inside them, or even something from their past could make it that way.

Should members of the LGBTQ community be able to be members of a church? That varies from church to church. Similarly, churches allowing women to be clergymen varies from church to church. Andrew Whitehead looked into if there is any correlation between churches allowing women as clergymen and their allowance of LGBTQ individuals as members and leaders. Many churches, about 37%, allow LGBTQ individuals to be members in their church. About 19% allow LGBTQ members have leadership positions. About 47% of churches allow women to be clergymen, while only about 8% of churches actually have women serving as head clergy. There is no passage in the bible that states that women or homosexuals cannot be head clergy, so that only leaves homophobia and misogyny as a reason for excluding these groups from either leadership positions or membership in a church. Many will say things like “well, you cannot have someone who is living a life of sin to hold a leadership position!” but, according to the bible, we are “ALL sinners and fall short of the glory of god. So, who then, can hold positions of leadership? Whitehead found that the congregations that allow women to be head clergy are more likely to allow homosexual membership in their church; this likeliness almost doubles from those churches who do not allow women as clergy! Furthermore, churches become thrice as likely to accept LGBTQ members as clergy when they allow women as clergy. This shows that as churches become more progressive in allowing women as clergy, they also become more progressive in letting homosexuals be clergy.

Some churches find any way they can to condemn, demonize, and cast out members of the LGBTQ community from their services. This is very saddening considering that church and religion is supposed to be about love and acceptance, no matter what you do in life. Many LGBTQ members have to avoid coming out to avoid being cast out from their church, or decided to do so anyway, and had to leave the church they loved. Do churches condemn pre-marital sex, wearing of more than one fabric, eating shrimp, divorce, and hatred of another person, which are all spelled out as sin in the bible, the same way? No, and they should not.

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