The Religious Opposition to Homosexuality

Why do you think homosexuality should be discouraged?The most recent Pew study on gay marriage and homosexuality further confirms what I have been saying for some time now: overwhelmingly, the only opposition to gay marriage is based on religious reasons. I am bringing this up because of my firm opinion that as a secular society (and yes, we are a secular society founded on religious freedom, no matter what the revisionists tell you), we should base not base our laws on religious beliefs or sectarian doctrinal concerns. As a strong supporter of the separation of church and state (as established by both the Free Exercise and Establishment clauses in the Constitution), I believe that we should not be legislating doctrine. Here’s how Pew words the relationship between opposition to homosexuality and religion:

The religious basis for opposition to homosexuality is seen clearly in the reasons people give for saying it should be discouraged by society. By far the most frequently cited factors –mentioned by roughly half (52%) of those who say homosexuality should be discouraged – are moral objections to homosexuality, that it conflicts with religious beliefs, or that it goes against the Bible. No more than about one-in-ten cite any other reasons as to why homosexuality should be discouraged by society.

With the seemingly unprecedented major shift in public opinion on the topic, it is time that we take an informed and detailed look at the evidence. The majority of those who oppose homosexuality and gay marriage cite religious reasons and most of the other reasons cited, even by the small minorities that cite them can likely also be traced back to religious teachings. That our country’s law on this matter is only supported by religious opposition should be more than enough to tell us that these laws are no longer viable, if we truly wish to be a land of authentic religious freedom.

I just continue to be struck by such a strong relationship between one’s religious beliefs and their support or opposition to gay marriage.

Similarly, those who say religion is very important in their lives are only half as likely to support gay marriage as those who place less importance on religion (36% favor vs. 72% favor).

There are loads of us for whom religion is very important who also support gay marriage and we have made great strides in not allowing white Evangelical Protestants speak for all of ‘religion’ or all of ‘Christianity’ in this country, but this study makes clear that we still have work to do. For even the language of the study shows the degree to which religious opponents to equality have been winning the conversation: the question was asked, for instance, whether it is a ‘sin’ to engage in homosexual behavior. The fact that those who attend services weekly or more are more than twice as likely to say ‘yes’ to this (67% to 24%) says a lot about the teachings in our religious institutions and our understanding of ‘sin’ from a theological, sociological, and anthropological view.

For me and for many of you that I know, the story is the opposite of the one that this study seems to tell; that is, it is precisely because of our religious convictions that we support equality and gay marriage. So keep supporting organizations like the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty and Americans United and soon we can make equality a reality for all, while in the process helping to change the conversation about the “religion’s” view on gay marriage.


4 thoughts on “The Religious Opposition to Homosexuality

  1. Hi Thomas, how does Pew go about getting these numbers? I never get polled, or is it something that I have to seek out and do? I feel that the numbers are a bit deceiving because surely there must be more folks out there like you and I. I recently was made to feel as if I would be condemned for supporting gay marriage, however I am lucky to have found a church that focuses on God’s love and acceptance of all people, less on politics, and more on what Xians, (all of which are imperfect) should be about; and that is being the love of Christ to all, even ourselves. Thanks for frustrating me with these numbers and your words, for I needed to be frustrated as it makes me become more thoughtful and focused on educating both myself and others.


    1. I’m not exactly sure how they choose who gets polled and who doesn’t. It does seem like there are more people like us, but this is also the group we’ve put ourselves in, so we tend to see more people like us than people who aren’t like us, I think.

  2. I wish Pew– with lots of other organisations and persons of faith– would change the language of their question. One may discourage same sex orientation (“homosexuality”) like one may discourage dominant-handedness or eye colour or birthmarks.

    People and organisations, like Pew and religious denominations, keep a myth alive. What is that myth? Myth: Human sexual orientation– sexuality– is about physical, genital, orgasmic activity/behaviour.

    Orientation is not about any such behaviour, real or imagined (a lot is imagined!), or activity (some imagine that those who are different are much more “active” than those who are opposite sex oriented).

    Orientation is about the state of one’s being.

    Orientation is not equal to and may not be equal to activity or behaviour. Young people who have yet to ever engage in physical, genital, orgasmic activity have a given sexual orientation. Older people who stopped engaging in physical, genital, orgasmic activity after the death of their partner or spouse have a given sexual orientation. Those who choose to live as a celibate person, for whatever reason, for any amount of time (years or decades) have a given sexual orientation.

    So, to attempt to “discourage” homosexuality is like the attempt to stop a person from breathing.

    Clearly, sexual orientation is not related to the Bible, theology, religion or faith. It is related to biology and psychology. Marriage has to do with anthropology and sociology.

    The biblical record knows nothing of the biology or psychology or human sexual orientation and only reports some ancient Near and Middle Eastern anthropological and sociological patterns of male and female rôle assignment (from a largely, patriarchal milieu).

    David Dean, former president, UF Campus Ministry Cooperative

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