Should sincere religious beliefs trump equal rights for gays, lesbians and bisexuals?
Comparing our reaction towards race, criminal behavior, gender & homosexuality:
This essay asks the question: "Is it homophobia if you act on your religious beliefs when they tell you that homosexuals should be discriminated against, or even that same-sex sexual behavior should be criminalized?"
Unfortunately, we don't have any pat answers or paths to resolve this question.
Schools in North America generally teach that racism is evil. Discrimination on the basis of skin color is considered immoral by a large percentage of North Americans. On the other hand, there is strong public support for discrimination in the form of incarceration in very unpleasant circumstances of rapists, murderers and other persons found guilty of serious crimes.
Between these two extremes are discrimination, oppression, and rejection of individuals based on their gender and sexual orientation. Some would argue that sexism and homophobia 1 are immoral; others would argue that discrimination against women and against sexual minorities are justified on religious grounds.
How people view the "homosexual issue:"
Much of the media, and almost all mental health organizations, gay-lesbian-bisexual-transsexual groups, liberal religious groups, human rights groups etc. view the "homosexual issue" in terms of granting equal rights for those with a homosexual or bisexual orientation. They generally view those minority orientations as unchosen and fixed, which are normal and natural for a minority of adults. Homosexuals and bisexuals are seen as another oppressed minority group, like many African-Americans, Native Americans, and religious minorities.
Most religious conservatives, particularly those from monotheistic faiths like Christianity, Judaism, Islam, and Sikhism, portray the homosexual issue in terms of sexual behavior, which they regard as immoral, chosen and changeable. They generally view it as abnormal, unnatural, and disordered behavior -- a lifestyle which is hated by God. They feel that homosexuals should not be given equal rights. They should be actively discriminated against in areas such as adoption, same-sex marriage, medical insurance, pensions, etc. Some feel that they should be imprisoned.
Resolving the religion vs. homosexuality issue:
Unfortunately, in debates, sermons, articles, books etc., people rarely describe their fundamental beliefs. Instead, they usually deal with conclusions that they have derived from those beliefs. Thus, dialogue between those with opposing beliefs is almost impossible. Debate deals with too high a level of abstraction; fundamentals are generally neglected. Discussion often degenerates into mutual hatred.
My personal experience on various bulletin boards has shown that people who post messages hold onto their beliefs with incredible tenacity. I don't recall ever observing in a discussion that actually changed one person's beliefs on sexual orientation.
Polls do show a marked increase in toleration and acceptance of homosexuality and bisexuality among high school and university students when compared to their parents and grandparents. We suspect that much of this has been caused largely by gays and lesbians coming out of the closet at school. Perhaps only time will cure the homosexual issue.
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