Working With Religion (to Prolong LGBT Oppression)

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I’ve long been, well, bothered by the LGBT movement’s embrace of religion. There isn’t an anti-gay idea that doesn’t come from religion. I’m of the perspective that all religious ideas are bad. Why is the movement so eager to work with the groups who originated those bad ideas? Well, 1) because many in the movement still want to be part of those groups, and 2) because the stigma of being an atheist is worse than the stigma of being queer.

It’s called religious privilege. Religious privilege is what lets bad ideas be considered anyway. I’d rather see all faith-based beliefs dismissed outright for their lack of intellectual foundation. Then, none of the bad ideas could make much impact on society. Unfortunately, the LGBT movement would rather try to benefit from religious privilege. (Even NGLTF has stepped up the “multi-faith” programming this year at Creating Change, “multi-faith” of course still being exclusive of nonbelievers.)

Just think about it for a second, though. Let’s say you’re Catholic. If you want Catholicism to be respected and to have your Catholic beliefs catered to, then you have to also respect the Baptists. And the Methodists. And the Lutherans. And even the Jews, and the Muslims, and the Hindus. And so on. Because your freedom to enjoy the archaic and morbid rituals of Catholicism depends on all beliefs being respected. That’s religious privilege; it cuts across all faiths. It’s catering to faith, respecting beliefs on their face without requiring an explanation beyond “It’s how I was raised” or “The Bible says so.”

Hemant (of Friendly Atheist) wrote something today that I really liked:

When it comes to Christianity’s treatment of homosexuals, I’m not always sure what I want.

Usually, it’s an easy call — I want Christians to accept gay people as they are, without trying to change them, and stop getting in the way of equal rights.

But part of me wants them to keep being intolerant. The more they keep up their bigotry, the easier it is for people to walk away from them.

That’s purely selfish of me, though. For the sake of my gay friends, it’d be much better if anyone claiming to be a Christian did a better job telling other Christians that homosexuality wasn’t a sin, gay people deserve the right to get married, and the church is on the wrong side of this issue.

If they condemned their own church leaders for being bigots and urged others to leave the church as a result, even better.

But I’m not holding out hope that a lot of Christians, even the young ones, will ever get that sort of courage. I know a handful of Christians who are LGBT-friendly and brave enough to speak out publicly on the matter, but they’re a rare breed. They need more Christians to join them.

Even the “non-jerky” Christians seem to have a hard time saying there’s nothing wrong with homosexuality. I’ve talked to two Christians recently who have told me how angry and upset they are about the church’s stance on homosexuality… but when I ask them if they would vote for gay marriage, they go silent.

It’s pathetic.

Here is the worst aspect of this problem: The more we convince religious groups to look supportive, the easier it will be for them to hide their nonsupport. (How do you think they got the horrid idea that “Love the sinner, Hate the sin” was compassionate?) Those Christians who make nice with us homosexuals still don’t want to prosper. And guess what? We can’t ever change Leviticus or Romans, so as long as that book full of wicked stories is “unerrant truth,” it doesn’t matter how many MCC’s or UU’s we have. There are always going to be people (and a lot of them) who can’t think outside a Biblical context, and they are always going to push back against us gays.

Unfortunately, as Hemant points out, these efforts to work with religion will make it harder to identify the individuals who are still working against us! Are people who allow our oppression to persist through inaction less to blame than those who actively perpetuate the oppression? I don’t see much difference. The question shouldn’t be how nice they are about their anti-gay beliefs, but how much power those beliefs have, and if members of our community keep trying to hold onto that same power (religious privilege), it just empowers our oppressors to persist.

In other words, by helping some churches be more LGBT-friendly, we’re just helping other churches continue not to be, and ultimately, our only net gain is the chance to still be spiritual ourselves. Well, I’m certainly not joining that bandwagon. What’s worse is the book still doesn’t change, just which verses you read and how you read them! Talk about cognitive dissonance.

That’s why I so proudly identify as an atheist. I think just about every atheist blog I read covers LGBT issues pretty regularly, and most of the bloggers are straight! There is such a sincerity to their activism and support. It’s unflinching, crystal clear. There is no doubt about the nature of sexual orientation and no hesitancy in supporting the LGBT community. And without a spirituality of their own to try and reconcile, it’s truly selfless support and honest concern.

Meanwhile, I can’t help but feel that there are so many in the LGBT community too eager to still be part of their faith (regardless of how recklessly contradictory it might be). Catholics for Equality. A multi-faith mini-conference at Creating Change. The idea we need to defend Islam. It’s a constant effort to make nice with no effort to educate, no concern for dismantling that religious privilege.

And while they’re busy helping defend the groups that oppress us, they are simultaneously ostracizing people like me.

There’s a sad irony to it. While most religious groups are condemning gay people, many gay people are condemning nonreligious people. Besides being obviously irrational, it’s also just disappointingly selfish.

Faith is irrational. Faith protects homophobia. Therefore, gay people reject embrace faith.


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There are 5 Comments to "Working With Religion (to Prolong LGBT Oppression)"

  • Joe G. says:

    I think what we’re seeing is part of a recent historical process. That is, at one time, the lgbt community was highly antagonistic to religion (although there was some acceptance and embracing “alternative spiritualites”) back in the 1970’s & early ’80’s. The pendulum slowly but surely swung towards embracing religion as one more venue for acceptance of & for queers. This seemed to pick up steam during the 1990’s & 2000 aughts. I see it as the continuing mainstreaming of the movement. The idea that people would marry and have kids while living the suburbs AND whilst going to church with the family was absolutely foreign about 30 years ago (plus, there was that whole AIDS thing just starting up).

    I was one of those religious gays that bemoaned being rejected by those anti-religious queers (back in the 1990’s), but am now much more sympathetic to your POV. I think western religions in particular have inherent aspects to them that are anti-woman, anti-sex, and by extension anti-blgt. You have to throw out an awful lot of both bath water and baby to get anything that isn’t somehow connected to those “anti” features. And at that point, why bother (except for cultural reasons such as celebrating Xmas)? That’s my conclusion anyway, fwiw…

  • ZackFord says:

    RIght on, Joe. Besides, I know I like pretty lights and exchanging gifts just as much without baby Jesus as I did with.

  • Buffy says:

    I’m not fond of religion. However I recognize the fact that the overwhelming majority of Americans are religious. To ignore them would be essentially suicidal. So I take allies where I can find them, even within the “faith based” world.

    That doesn’t mean I don’t call people out where I see problems. I take issue with people who claim they support us but refuse (for whatever reason) to speak out against the bigotry espoused by others who share their faith. If they’re not actively fighting against bigotry they’re nearly as bad as those who are endorsing it. And I don’t buy any of the excuses (“It’s not my job to fight other Christians!!!” ; “How can I denounce his deeply held beliefs?”; ” They’re not real Christians!!!” ). If someone wants to be taken seriously as an ally they have to act like one. Their “faith” doesn’t give them a free pass.

  • Demand Equality says:

    As long as LGBT people perpetutate the lie that a bronze age god created the univrerse 6000 years ago and scooped a human up from a clod of shit, they will continue holding back our equality. In that same book of bullshit is the crap about a man lying with a man should be killed, along with the justifications for slavery and denying women equal rights. As long as LGBT people perpetutate the even more dangerous lie that the bronze age god sent an angel to fuck a virgin who popped out the bastard son of the bronze age god killed by Jews and died for the sins of the hundreds of millions of Christians who enslaved, tortured and murdered hundreds of millions of people for 2010 years and today beat up children, kick LGBT people out of the military, kill LGBT Ugandans, all in the name of the bastard son of the bronze age god, we will never have equal rights. It is time for LGBT people to stop perpetuating the bastard son of the bronze age god bullshit because no bronze age god sent an angel to fuck a virgin, the bastard son of the bronze age god does not exist and did not die for anyone’s sins. You are either part of the solution or you are aiding and abetting the Final Leviticus Solution to the Homosexual Problem and Constantine’s First Solution to the Jewish Problem. Pick a side- pick the truth.

    • ZackFord says:

      Well, that’s certainly a valid point of view… sounds like you really needed to get that out! I’m sure there are some folks who will have some pretty strong reactions to that, so I just want to encourage readers to consider the content and not just be rattled by the way it’s presented.

      I certainly share the sentiment of DE’s comment… What does it say that the ongoing reinforcement of faith triggers such anger?

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