Comment: Does religion breed homophobia?
There is no debate about the acceptance of homosexuality in Britain. It is useless to try and create a religious one, argues Balaji Ravichandran.
So, the Sexual Orientations Regulations, which outlaw discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation when accessing goods and services, will finally come to effect this April.
It seems like only yesterday that anti-gay lobbies took to the streets to hold a torch-lit demonstration protesting these same regulations.
Funnily enough, religious groups that otherwise go head-to-head on great many issues stood united in their opposition to homosexuality.
Thankfully, their opposition was in vain.
Unlike the United States, religious fundamentalists are a minority in the UK, but just as vociferous.
Indeed, it would be hardly surprising if a majority of Britons actually support this law, much as they did the introduction of civil partnerships to same-sex couples throughout the country.
The argument goes that if you’re serving the public, your own personal prejudices (or, if you want to call spade a spade, bigotry) cannot, and should not, influence your service.
That in effect is what the Catholic adoption agencies warned they would do. They demanded an exemption from allowing gay couples to adopt, otherwise they would close down the agencies.
Well, if they want an exemption, then good for them-but don’t expect tax-payers money to be put into your agencies if you’re not going to serve the public; nor should you expect subsidies from the government which lives on the taxes paid by law-abiding citizens.
Anyway, the matter, for now, seems settled. No exemptions.
But the larger question remains.
Can religion ever be allowed to have a say in how matters relating to the public are conducted?
The answer is, obviously not. If the word civilisation is to mean anything, then it is that matters of blind faith should never be allowed to take precedence over the importance of science, debate and consensus in deciding arguments over moral philosophy and societal conduct.
When I interviewed Richard Dawkins last year for the BMJ, he gently put it to me – although his latest attack on religion in The God Delusion is anything but gentle – that should one derives his or her morals from scriptures, it is perfectly possible to derive both moral and (very) immoral principles from them.
There is no reason why the latter should not masquerade as former. I’m not familiar with any religious scriptures.
So, I cannot argue about this. However, the following comment has been around the internet for ages, and it illustrates my point elegantly.
“When someone tries to defend homosexual equality, Leviticus 18:22 clearly states it to be an abomination. End of debate.
“I do need some advice, however, regarding some of the other specific laws in the Bible and how to follow them.
“When I burn a bull on the altar as a sacrifice, I know it creates a pleasing odour for the Lord (Leviticus 1:9).
“The problem is my neighbours. They claim the odour is not pleasing to them. Should I smite them?
“I know that I am allowed no contact with a woman while she is in her period of menstrual cleanliness (Leviticus 15:19-24).
“The problem is, how do I tell? I have tried asking, but most women take offence.
“Most of my male friends get their hair trimmed, including the hair around their temples, even though this is expressly forbidden by Leviticus 19:27. How should they die?”
The examples are numerous.
I presume these questions are quite valid. If you take a few words from the Bible literally, the onus is on the religious to follow the rest of the Bible literally. For sure, no one does that.
The case is therefore clear. Religion can have no role in deciding over matters of the law.
It is a pity that there are still laws against blasphemy in homo-tolerant countries like Britain.
If some polls are to be believed, an overwhelming majority would actually agree with me in Britain and Western Europe. Which brings me to the principal argument of this article-on homosexuality itself.
Homosexuality, though recently coined, is a horrible term, I must say, for a practice as ancient as humanity itself. Semantics aside, it makes a lot of people uncomfortable.
Within the confines of their minds, “normality” often equals “majority,” and they are predisposed to believing in such a thing as normality itself, when science makes a convincing case otherwise.
Unfortunately, science is far from providing definite answers as to the evolutionary benefits, and biological origins of homosexuality.
Suffice it to say that all evidence points to a genetic/biological origin, which ought to satisfy the dogmatic who still subscribe to the meaningless nature v nurture debate.
The problem though is that, though nature is what is likely to be the determining factor in the genesis of sexual orientation (as it is in most other aspects of biology), that wouldn’t prevent homophobes from arguing that homosexuality is, to put it mildly, “abnormal.”
After all, there are several single-gene and complex-gene disorders, and that doesn’t prevent them from still being labelled “disorders.”
This argument therefore questions the legitimacy of basing the moral principles underlying sexual orientation on the nature v/s nurture debate.
That sexuality is an intimate and private affair to human beings is undeniable. Private matters should remain exactly that.
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What happens between two consenting adults within the privacy of their bedrooms should be of no business to anybody else except the parties concerned.
Oddly enough, many in countries like India equate homosexuality with vices like paedophilia, bestiality, and child abuse. What monstrosity!
Were it not for the pressure from gay rights activist, they argue, homosexuality would still be treated as abnormal. Muddle-headed thinking indeed, as the very concept of consent, and of individual will is lost in this argument.
Where a mentally sound adult consents to something related to the most private affairs of his life, a child or an animal simply cannot. Whatever happened to common sense.
The conclusions are clear. There is no case for a legislative interference in people’s sexual lives-from secular governments anyway. After all, governments should be secular. That a majority of the governments in the world do so is a shame for humanity. What’s worse, people are often put to death for it in the Middle East and South Asia.
Life comes but once. Why make it hell for others and for ourselves, in the name of something which promises to guarantee a sense of existence beyond this life, but is nothing more than a mass delusion (in other words, an opiate of the masses)? Whatever happened to “live, and let live.”