Breaking Free

Question from Josh:
I’m making a big decision. For many years, I have been attracted to the same sex, but I have also been a church-goer all my life and a convinced born-again Christian since I was 9. I’m now 17 and have made the decision to stop fighting the “sin” and free myself from the guilt and restrictions of Bible Christianity.

My mom is a Christian and she is very strict when it comes to what I can and cannot do. I see nothing inherently wrong with homosexuality, and the fact that I’ve been attracted to men for so long shows me that it cannot be helped. I see that now!

My problem is that I’m still living at home right now and I’m probably going to end up going to a Bible college. Not that there’s anything bad about that. I can still get a good education, but the rules tend to be very strict. My mom would rather me not go to secular college, but she does say it’s up to me, and my dad couldn’t care less.

My question is: as I decide to switch over to homosexuality and release myself from the bounds of religion, how can I overcome the guilt that comes with going against what the Bible or Christianity says?

Answer by SmartLX:
The short answer is to hang in there. If it doesn’t quickly wear you down and drag you back to the church, post-religion guilt (I call it faithdrawal) will fade over time. The constant religious reinforcement to which you’ve subjected yourself for eight years is a big part of why you’ll feel guilty; when you’re not getting that anymore and you have a chance to think, you’ll be surprised how differently and how much less strongly you feel about it all.

Speaking of which, I wouldn’t recommend going to a Bible college.
– Depending on your major, being a Bible college degree might be a real liability when you’re going for a job. The most obvious examples are majors in areas with faith-fueled controversy, like biology or meteorology. (If you’re doing law it’s a double-edged sword; some firms might be wary but Liberty Counsel or the Alliance Defense Fund would welcome you.)
– Most everyone around you would be immersed in the kind of fundamentalist Christianity you’ve just chosen to escape. Besides the possibility of being sucked back in through peer pressure and propaganda, it can only be a distraction from your studies. Also, if word gets around that you’re leaning away from “Biblical Christianity”, there could be a general effort by your teachers and peers to re-convert you, avoid you or drive you out.
– Some Bible colleges expressly forbid homosexual orientation or activity, and even those that allow it generally frown upon it. You up for four years in the closet, or four years fending off “ex-gay” recruiters?

I can’t speak from experience, but I gather that starting to live openly as a gay man isn’t easy even without all the religious crap. You’re in for a tough time, but you’re going in with your eyes open so I reckon you’ll be all right.

The Nature of Being Gay

Question from Adam:
Hi there,

I’ve been an atheist all my life, but as you know just being an atheist does not guarantee a certain set of beliefs. As unpopular as it is, I’m an atheist who has been against homosexuality most of my life.

When I was younger, the concept just seemed gross and perverse. I had thoughts like “well if you would have sex with a guy (as a guy), why not have sex with a goat?” I further thought that it just didn’t make sense scientifically as it opposed the whole nature of evolution and procreation. I thought of it this way: “if everybody became homosexual, humans would stop reproducing and our species would die, it just isn’t right!”. Several years ago I joined an atheist group on Facebook and I mentioned that I didn’t agree with homosexuality. They all hated on me rather big time and claimed I was a christian trolling their site. I eventually left that site, as they were harassing me.

Let me make it clear that I have never harassed a person because of their homosexuality, and that I do have homosexual friends. Growing up I firmly believed that homosexuality was a choice. This was my major concern with it. Now that I’m in my late twenties, I’m both caring less about homosexuality in general, and also leaning towards the probability that it is not a choice for many.

Here is my real question. Since you seem to have a bunch of random knowledge, or a knack for researching subjects, I want to know your thoughts. If homosexuality is not a choice, then that means it would fall under the category of a mental disorder/condition, correct? Like ADHD? I honestly can’t get past this. Why hasn’t it ever been described as a mental condition/disorder/retardation when you look at what it really is if it is not a choice? I’m not saying that this means that people should look down on homosexuals. I’m just saying call it as it is. If it were clearly defined as a mental condition then I think homosexuality would stop getting hated on so much. My family has plenty of people with learning disabilities, so I can understand that people can just be born different. I just can’t understand why homosexuality (not by choice) isn’t classified as a mental condition resulting from irreversible brain chemistry.

My reasoning for it being a mental disorder is that it is a clearly a state of mind that effectively ends the couple’s blood line. our whole drive to procreate to continue our species gets screwed up. The sexual desire is there, but the target of the sexual desire gets swapped, leading to the impossibility of breeding through natural means. Yes, I know there are other options, and even ways to use their actual genetic material to reproduce without having heterosexual intercourse/impregnation. But that is not the issue I’m trying to address.

I just read your post on opinions/beliefs not being a choice. No matter how hard I try I can’t stop believing this.

Please let me know what your opinions are on this. Thank you!

Answer by SmartLX:
Yes, belief is not a choice, but being convinced otherwise isn’t a choice either. You may still come around.

It’s an awkward thing to be “against” homosexuality, practically speaking. One can find the idea physically unappealing, but how exactly does one oppose it? If, as current medical evidence suggests, homosexuality is pre-determined before birth and there’s no way to deliberately change a person’s sexuality one way or the other, then there’s no possible way to have there be fewer gays in the world – short of killing them, which you wouldn’t advocate. Preventing gay marriage and adoption wouldn’t have any effect, except to punish certain people for nothing of their own doing. Self-declared opponents of homosexuality are essentially powerless, unless they have enough political clout to drive it underground by outlawing it altogether. No one’s saying you have to like the idea of gay sex, but that’s not really being against it; you’re just averse to it. That’s fine, I’m averse to licorice. Yuk, I’ll have a chocolate instead. Easy.

If everyone were homosexual, humans would die out, but not everyone is homosexual. Genetic homosexuality is apparently not a guarantee, it’s a tendency, and not a very strong one. When the genes create enough probability to create a just a sprinkling of gays in each generation, they’re almost guaranteed not to breed, so they’re available to help raise other people’s kids. In many of the 400+ animal species where homosexual behaviour has been observed, that’s exactly what happens. The gay male mammal becomes the “cool uncle” figure, for example: because he doesn’t want to fight the alpha male for the females he happily remains a beta, and the whole social group prospers. A gay “streak” can actually benefit a gene pool, so you might think of the gay sex as a by-product of that.

Until very recently, homosexuality was classified as a mental disorder by doctors everywhere. Medical reference books such as the DSM eventually stopped calling it that after researchers such as Alfred Kinsey established (among other things) that sexuality is a spectrum, not a binary choice, and it’s not unusual even for “straight” people to entertain a few gay thoughts. Full-blown homosexuality isn’t debilitating, it’s just different. Gay people don’t need to be made to seem or feel inferior by slapping them with the label “disorder”. It’s definitely not a retardation, because it’s not a progression from gay to straight that’s been somehow retarded (literally, slowed down or stopped). Heterochromia isn’t a choice either, but it’s not referred to as anything but a “difference”.

As you say, you know gay people, and you even like some gay people. Maybe you don’t like what they do in private, but I don’t like that my wife watches Neighbours and I still married her. Homosexual desire is far less of a choice than watching that horrible show, so don’t hold it against the people who feel it. It might even be the result of an evolutionary group survival strategy, so it’s not necessarily a pointless or destructive phenomenon. They’re here, they’re queer, get used to it.

So I Have This Friend…

Question from Chris:
I have a friend who I just found out does not approve of equality for homosexuals, doesn’t believe in the majority of science (mainly evolution and plate tectonics), and also makes really ignorant and pretentious comments about stuff he clearly knows nothing about. I see him everyday, at least twice, and have a raging deisre inside me to say something back to him, what do I do?

Answer by SmartLX:
The obvious answer would be to actually say something back to him. You didn’t say why you haven’t done it already; care to comment and elaborate?

Generally speaking, if you want to challenge someone’s position on something, attack the position and not the person. You say this person is largely ignorant of the things he discusses; well, the simplest antidote to that is education. See how he reacts to a bit of evidence, there’s plenty around. Let us know if you want a bit of guidance in your own research.

I can be much more specific if you are, so go ahead and say what’s going on and what you need. From what you’ve said so far, I doubt your friend would read this site and find your writings. That said, you could even encourage him to write in with his own questions and/or challenges. If you warn us first, we can erase your stuff so he won’t see it. Just let us know how we can help.

Mosaic Law

“Of course, easily the most direct orders against homosexual sex are in the same part of Leviticus.”

Question from Anonymous:

I’m an atheist. I recently told a gay-hater about this and his response was that “It came from the Mosaic Law which is no longer in effect.”

What’s the right response to this?

Keep up the good work!

Mosaic Law, taken in this case to mean a large set of Old Testament laws including the one in the link, is widely regarded by Christians who care about this sort of thing to have been contradicted many times and therefore superseded by the teachings of Jesus. A good example is the substitution of “turn the other cheek” for “an eye for an eye”. This rationale is often given for not following the really destructive laws in Leviticus.

Of course, easily the most direct orders against homosexual sex are in the same part of Leviticus. Some apologists give quite complex reasons why certain parts of Mosaic Law should continue to be upheld, while others just drop the whole thing and rely on other parts of the Bible, such as Romans 1 in the New Testament, when condemning homosexuality.

The most straightforward response to your “gay-hater” is to move out of the Old Testament altogether and quote some apparent silliness from the New Testament instead. This article, though not very carefully written (see the typo in its title), has some good examples. This will maintain your original point while avoiding his grounds for dismissal.

Keep us posted via comments, if you like.


Same-Sex Marriage

“Since it does appear that the secular arguments presented by the anti-SSM movement have little value, the only reasons left are the Scriptural ones they are so eager to keep in the background.”

Fundamentalists of most major religions are against same-sex marriage on religious principle; they believe it is against the will of their deities. However, is there any merit to the other, non-scriptural arguments they present to outsiders?

I felt like weighing in on this issue after seeing the campaign and site by the National Organization for Marriage in the US.

The lobbies and congregations that make up the Christian Right have realised that those who are less religious than they are (i.e. the majority) will not accept the dogmatic arguments from Scripture with which they have convinced themselves, and are using broader approaches. This is reasonable, and is the best way for religious organisations to pursue their interests in a secular society, if the replacement arguments are actually valid. If not, it’s a form of deception.

I’m about to summarise the non-Scriptural arguments against same-sex marriage (SSM) by paraphrasing the site above. I’m doing my best not to create any straw men with this approach, but if I do so anyway, tell me off.

1. Same-sex marriages deprive children of either a mother or a father.

This is true, but that mother or father is replaced with either another father or another mother. In principle, the number of adults caring for the children is the same, and the proportion of men and women raising the children depends very little on the parents themselves. Children without mothers for example can have aunts, grandmothers, big sisters, cousins, nannies, friends of the parents and so on.

In practice, no significant difference in development, social life or even sexual tendency has been found between children with same-sex parents and children with different-sex parents. Anti-SSM literature appears to focus entirely on studies of children of single parents, who are missing a mother or father for very different reasons. Such research, while important, is irrelevant to the issue of the gender of existing parents.

2. Public and legal acceptance of same-sex marriage will reduce religious freedom. Believers, churches and religious charities such as the Salvation Army will be unable to practice unless they endorse same-sex marriage.

Individual religious freedom and that of churches will be unaffected. It’s already illegal in the USA to discriminate against homosexuals, but the right of evangelical Christians and their pastors to believe, announce and advertise that homosexuality is sinful is protected by free speech and, importantly, “freedom of religion”.

What will be curtailed is individual freedom to discriminate in practical ways, as has already happened with progress in racial equality and gay rights. The central example is the staff at artificial insemination clinics and adoption agencies: some of them don’t want to be forced to give kids to gay couples. If their reasons for this are religious, their faith is about to conflict with their current jobs, but they are free to find work elsewhere in their respective industries. If instead their reason actually is reason 1 above, it’s not a good reason.

Finally, religious charities and other organisations have nothing additional to worry about. They’re already in trouble if they discriminate against gays. I don’t see why they would discriminate against children of gay couples, because
a. the kids’ upbringing isn’t the kids’ fault, and
b. if they really think same-sex parents are worse, they would conclude that the kids need more help.

3. If we change the definition of marriage, what’s to stop us from changing it further to allow polygamy, marriage to animals, underage marriages, etcetera? (Paraphrased from a point on the site’s .pdf handout, Why Marriage Matters. To be fair, these guys only mentioned polygamy.)

There is indeed an extremely small minority which would like marriage to be further expanded in these ways. Some, like those in the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, go ahead and practice polygamy without looking for endorsement. Many others have less formal “open marriages”.

The difference is in the practical benefits of each change. Once same-sex marriage is allowed, every adult will be allowed to marry a consenting adult of their choice, with whom they can have a happy intimate relationship, and raise a family in accordance with their common human desires. This gives everyone an ability that was once only available to some, and so negates a now-arbitrary piece of discrimination.

Other changes to marriage do not confer similar benefits, and carry additional drawbacks. Polygamy does not extend the chance for marriage and a family to anyone who doesn’t already have it. Underage marriage and marriage to animals are cruel to the partner who is unable to consent.

This is why it most benefits humanity to extend marriage so far and no further, and why no one need be afraid that the floodgates will open, so to speak.

Since it does appear that the secular arguments presented by the anti-SSM movement have little value, the only reasons left are the Scriptural ones they are so eager to keep in the background. Once those are the remaining line of defense, they have no place in the political sphere, at least in a country which has declared church and state separate. For the rest of the world, though, it’s a bit muckier.