The three major religions in the world—the Abrahamic religions—have issues with homophobia, in addition to many other horrific problems with their dogmatic doctrine. To claim all Christians, all Muslims, or all Jews (by faith, not just ethnicity) are homophobes would be bigoted, because while their religions' fundamental doctrines are, indeed, undeniably homophobic, the religions have been reformed and split into denominations and theists are individuals who are affected by a variety of factors, including their version of their religion and also non-religious factors. However, it is not bigoted to point out the doctrinal and even political issues these religions have regarding homosexuality. And there are, indeed, political consequences of faith.
What political consequences can religious beliefs have? Well, who can forget the Sodomite Suppression Act? Of course, the California lawyer who wants gays put to death is probably a fringe case, but there are also less extreme, though more troublesome cases of politically applied bigotry that stems from religion. Much bigotry can be collected under the collective banner of "religious freedom", and is also inspired by the misguided notion that an imaginary god's rules are more important than manmade rules and even common sense.
I am not speaking of actual religious freedom, defined as the right to choose one's religion, or irreligion, without any interference by the government. What I am speaking of is the right to practice one's religion at the expense of someone else, which is not a right anyone has. Likewise, while multiculturalism is a great thing, and cultural freedom is just as important as religious freedom, the freedom to practice one's culture does not allow for discrimination of other people. Human rights always supersede religious and cultural freedom, though religious and cultural freedom is also ensured amongst our human rights; this is why it is fundamentally wrong to oppose the very existence of Muslims, though it is certainly valid to criticize Islam (although, the criticism should be born out of rational thinking, not xenophobia).
Attempts to make faith more important than human rights, such as with the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, are bad political consequences of conservative religion. And it stems from conservative theists basically feeling oppressed because they have to deal with people who are different, even people who are considered sinful according to their faith. I do wonder, however, if this is only about LGBT, or if they would refuse to service anyone who eats shellfish, as well. Or someone getting remarried. Or non-whites. Or Christians who practice Christianity incorrectly. Or Muslims. Or atheists. Or women. Or... I think I made my point. Part of the problem is also the very nature of religion, the dogmatic belief in a supreme overlord which has the moral authority to rule over all of humankind; this can have the consequence that theists feel they are entitled to treat certain groups of people differently, because they are sinners. In many ways, in many places, the United States of America is borderline theocratic.
One cannot stress this issue enough, because it is not only about selling wedding cakes or providing birth control to women. (God forbid women have recreational sex, though. Right?) Recently, I also read that a doctor has after "much prayer" refused to see a baby only six days old, because she has two mothers. This is similar to refusing to sell wedding cakes to gay couples, except not providing medical care because of someone's sexual orientation is much more serious. With all due respect to people of faith and their right to believe, their beliefs do not give them the right to oppress another group of people (although I am not suggesting that most theists do); universal human rights far outweigh any doctrinal bigotry found in any religion, culture, or ideology.
The probability of religion
The three Abrahamic religions comprise most of the world's population. But all these people are divided by their faiths; if Christians are right, Muslims are wrong, and if Muslims are right, Christians are wrong. Then think of all the other religions that exist; one of those might be the right religion, which would mean most of the world's population believes in something entirely or partly wrong. Although, that presupposes one religion must be correct, which is an absurd thought; even if a metaphysical phenomenon did exist, there is no reason why the "right" religion, or the right version of the right religion, must exist today.
Not only are most theists wholly wrong about their faith if we assume one religion must be correct, but even if one does have the right religion, one may still be wrong. The Bible, written, transcribed, and translated by man countless times, has given rise to thousands upon thousands of different versions of Christianity (forty-one thousand, to be more precise), not all of which agree on the values they consider to be "objective" because their god subjectively decided it is so.
My point is this: To place more importance on arbitrary, discriminatory, religious rules than on logical, rational, and even scientific human rights, which say all people should be equal, regardless of faith, culture, skin color, gender, and sexual preferences, is not a practice that should exist in a civilized and free nation (and I know Americans love freedom). After all, what if one is wrong? What if God is not really a homophobe? This is, of course, an argument I shouldn't even have to make, because it should be self-evident that a deity's stance on any issue does not make that stance an objective truth or justified.
God's rights or human rights?
Scientifically, one can say that LGBT is not a choice, neither gender identity nor sexual orientations. Logically, one can also not find anything immoral about LGBT; it would be like saying it is immoral to be straight, for some inconceivable reason. To be different is not a sufficient enough cause for one's human rights to be taken away, and this should be clear. (I know John Gray believes that people whom he defines as "New Atheists", amongst whom I would likely find myself for being a vocal critic of religions, think morality is wholly defined by science and that science is liberal, so I would just like to point out that this is not the case. However, science can in some cases be used as an argument, and especially as a counterargument, when people say LGBT is a choice or that it is immoral because it is unnatural by their definition of the word. Shame on Mr. Gray for writing one of the most flawed articles I have ever read, for a variety of reasons.)
And yet there are theists who do believe the rules of their religion are more important than manmade laws and human rights. Because they have a "personal relationship" with the supreme overlord and creator of the universe. And this supreme overlord—artist of the very fabric of reality, engineer of time and space, architect of all the billions upon billions upon billions upon billions of stars and planets, designer of life in all its different shapes—cares about what we do while naked. And quite a few theists vote based on this; faith has a political impact.
It has, indeed, come to the point where conservative Christians consider themselves oppressed, because their religious freedom, their right to oppress using their faith, has been or is being taken away. Conservative Christians, and conservatives and chauvinistic nationalists of all kinds, see themselves as oppressed because they must live in a multicultural society. They must share their nation and freedom with people whom they consider immoral (like gays) and evil (like atheists and Muslims). Religious freedom does not give the right to oppress, but it gives the right to be or not be religious without facing discrimination; this means every tenet of every religion cannot be enforced on the rest of society, or even practiced. If you are a Christian who believes promiscuity is sinful, for example, then simply do not have sex; do NOT, however, take away fundamental human rights from those who do not agree with your beliefs. It is really that simple.
Many conservative Christians think "religious freedom" means they can do whatever they want under the guise of religion (and at the same time many of them claim Islam is an evil religion, which would make these conservative Christians hypocrites). That is not what religious freedom means, at all. Nor does multiculturalism mean one can do anything under the guise of cultural freedom. The United Nations has defined a set of human rights in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and they have also defined cultural rights and the importance of a multicultural society in the Universal Declaration on Cultural Diversity. However, in the latter document they have stated that the human rights in the former document can never be trumped by the cultures and religions in a multicultural society.
At the same time as there is a push for more "religious freedom", there is also a push against the freedom of LGBT persons (amongst others), in many shapes and forms. There is, of course, the direct consequence of this "religious freedom", which means LGBT, women, and such will be discriminated against in workplaces and be denied service at businesses, like bakeries and hospitals (though a hospital should not even be a business; universal healthcare and a welfare state are also very important, but not the topic of this article). Furthermore, conservative Christians complain that the LGBT "lifestyle" is "shoved down [their] throats" and that marriage is being redefined.
The redefinition of marriage is bigoted?
Conservative theists also show that they value their own freedom of religious expression more than any other expression, by complaining about fictional characters being gay. Recently on Facebook, Franklin Graham wrote, "Today the Marvel comic character Ice Man, from the 'X-Men' series, is coming out as gay. This is another attempt to indoctrinate our young people to accept this destructive lifestyle. God’s Word says homosexuality is a sin, and we are to be on guard against all sin. God calls us to repent, turn from our sins, and put our trust in His Son Jesus Christ who died and rose again to pay the penalty for sin." He and many other conservative Christians complain about sexuality, and especially homosexuality, being portrayed in media, as this "corrupts" and "indoctrinates" their children, or something. Personally, I would want my children to learn about sex, in the form of sexual orientations, relatively early, so as to avoid their becoming homophobes. Bring on the gays in media, I say!
The conservative Christian culture of hate that perpetuates the oppression of LGBT persons is the destructive lifestyle, if anything. It is the indoctrination of children to believe in religions, and especially those with more fundamental and conservative aspects, that is the problem here. How acceptance of people with sexual preferences different from one's own or the norm can be seen as evil propaganda is beyond my comprehension. But I don't believe in an evil, totalitarian overlord whose morals are so backwards he should be able to see his own arse, now do I? Sometimes, I wonder if conservative Christians even have a moral compass to point south, or if they, indeed, are dependent on an ancient text, written, transcribed, translated, and changed by man, to provide them with moral examples.
As mentioned before, conservative Christians often complain that marriage is being "redefined" by including same-sex relationships. This comes with the notions that marriage is owned by certain denominations of certain religious groups, that the religious teachings they know actually reflect the reality of God (should he exist), and that God's disdain of gays somehow justifies his and their bigotry. The dogmatic belief that anything is justified if God is behind it has political and social consequences; it fuels the hatred of LGBT that stems from the same xenophobic pool of bigotry as the hate of foreigners and anyone who is different. The dogmatic belief that God makes the objective rules that must never change is nothing to celebrate.
Of course, this comes with a fair bit of hypocrisy. As has been said countless times before, even the most conservative Christians do not follow all the fundamentalist rules of their religion, and marriage has been redefined many times throughout history. The modern definition of marriage to which conservative Christians (and, indeed, everyone) adheres is not the same as the Biblical version. It is also worth noting that marriage is not an invention of Christianity, but even if it were, the patent expired long ago.
One does not find polygamy in many Christian denominations, anymore. One also does not find sexual slavery, or the forced marriage between a rapist and his victim. One can get divorced and remarried. Marriage has already been redefined many times, so if these Christians are so worried about a redefinition, one wonders why they embrace other redefinitions of God's perfect word. And yet certain traditional beliefs have remained and are defended in the face of hypocrisy. Why should one accept some claims, while rejecting others?
Some theists manage to argue against themselves. I saw one comment on Facebook recently that she was "taught that marriage is between a man and a woman." This illustrates my point beautifully; marriage is manmade and we are taught what it is. It is a human concept, and like all human concepts, it is subject to change and interpretation. Another theist, Mad Chapo on Twitter, argued that people define social terms, such as marriage, which is a man and woman union (EXTRA TRUTH button was applied). It is, indeed, humans who define terms like marriage, which also means even theists who make this argument cannot deny that their bigoted definition is subjective.
I have seen the "redefinition" of marriage be equated with bigotry toward Christians. I had a conversation with a dogmatic, conservative Christian a while back, on Twitter, and he basically said that equality is bigoted, amongst other things. He also said it was the left that was pro-slavery and anti-civil rights, while at the same time arguing why equal rights are bad. Delusional and dogmatic beliefs can make people rewrite history, such as white supremacists claiming the Holocaust never happened, strangely while at the same time advocating for many of the practices of Nazism. Likewise, this person tried to glorify conservatism by giving it liberal attributes, while at the same time slandering liberalism.
This conservative Christian argued that because liberals like the distinction between bisexual, homosexual, transgender, and so on, Christians should get to keep the definition of marriage they like, i.e. that it is between a man and a woman. He also paraphrased me as saying, "Slavery, Ghetto plantation, racism, misogyny, you name it, totally cool as long as you're for Socialist front groups." Socialism had not been mentioned in the conversation prior and was non-consequential to the conversation, but I will admit I have some socialist tendencies. The difference is I do not think that is a bad thing. Furthermore, the leap from "LGBT deserve equal rights" to "I am pro-slavery" is quite irrational; as for racism, misogyny, and such, those are conservative traits, not liberal. Tolerance and equality define liberalism and the left.
This Christian called me a bigot because I am for equal marriage rights, and said that it is not an equal rights issue; he said marriage is between a man and a woman and it is my "bigoted demand to have that changed." He thinks his religious rights trump other people's human rights; he feels that he is being persecuted and oppressed because of his beliefs, and the people who are against his religious freedom are the bigots; he thinks he owns marriage, as if it is purely a religious concept, and he denies LGBT people their religious freedom, as if his anti-gay version of Christianity has authority over all Christians.
The phobia of change
Following this conversation (and being blocked by that particular conservative Christian), Mad Chapo, a Muslim, jumped in and continued the discussion. He said that a legal union is legally the same as marriage, so there should be no problem. He went on that I want to normalize my "lifestyle" even if "that will have to change the thousands of years old social terms." Here, he assumed I am gay, because I want equality for LGBT. I am not gay, but standing up for LGBT rights should not have to entail being LGBT oneself; it should only have to entail being a fellow human being. At any rate, he then said "the million dollar question" is if homosexuality is a choice or not. I will assume we all know it is not a choice.
Again, there are theists—of course not all of them (perhaps not even most, but even so enough)—who believe they own the concept of marriage and that their religious freedom gives them the right to discriminate. They then suggest a patronizing "solution", i.e. creating a separate folder in which to put gay couples—a legal union rather than marriage. This is hypocritical because straights are allowed to get divorced and remarry, and even atheists can marry, if they are straight; not many conservative theists, in the west, at least, will see this as a controversial issue that infringes on their religious rights.
Why a mere legal union, a separate term, is not good enough is simply a matter of principle. LGBT, or anyone for that matter, should not be treated as second-class citizens. The definition of marriage is arbitrary, manmade, and subject to change, and it should change if its definition discriminates against a group of people.
Ancient customs do not trump human rights; it is the dogmatic fear of change that plagues the conservative theist's mind that oppresses LGBT. Even though the American lifestyle is not especially Biblical, conservative Christians will not mind that, but any change to their contemporary world is scary: the conservative mindset is basically a phobia of change. The argument that something must continue to be because it has always been does not hold water; very old, discriminatory customs SHOULD be changed. Every push for equality is met with the same resistance, the same dogmatic fear of a brave new world one might not recognize.
To be or not to be gay
Mad Chapo went on that there is no evidence that one is born gay, that it is a choice, and that this would "change the whole game." I would disagree. Any rational, informed person knows LGBT is not a choice or merely a "lifestyle". Mad Chapo even got the suggestion that he should try to be gay for a month and see how it goes. I have conversed with plenty of confused individuals, who hold strong and corrosive religious beliefs, which blind them from seeing that LGBT is not merely a choice. Of course, bigotry toward LGBT does not merely stem from religion, but rather a variety of factors, of which religion certainly is part.
One person I have conversed with is John Pratt on Twitter. He is religious, though not a Christian or Muslim; his religion is called Falun Gong or Falun Dafa, and he makes very weird claims, including that all religions are true and the only reason they are contradictory is so they do not mix, except in modern times, religions are corrupt, because equality is bad and homosexuals are unnatural. It seems like he legitimately believes in this crap. John is also rather confused about the nature of LGBT, and rejects the notion that it is not a choice. He has said things like, "Coming out is a courageous leap into a pile of dung," and that "homos who make out with each other" makes him want to throw up, and my all-time-favorite one: "Homo men can hang out with your wife as a 'friend', then suddenly become bisexual and sleep with her."
Obviously, John has some corrosive beliefs about LGBT, and he is also a misogynist (based on many tweets). It seems he thinks if one is gay, one can just change one's sexual orientation, suddenly, and this automatically means said gay person can sleep with a straight person's partner. Strangely, a lot of people try to justify their hatred of LGBT by saying it is a choice, as if that makes it immoral, since one could just be a "normal" straight person; this willful ignorance is often combined with religious reasons for why it is immoral, because then LGBT choose to be immoral and can be dismissed as evil sinners.
This brings me to that with which I disagree the most strongly of what Mad Chapo said: If homosexuality were a choice, it would change the whole game. It would not, because there is no logical way to see LGBT as something immoral. Consensual sex between any adult individuals, unless it directly harms someone else, like cheating, is a matter of bodily autonomy, a right to one's own body. A promiscuous lifestyle (because LGBT is associated with promiscuity, even in a debate about marriage equality) may have a higher risk of contracting sexually transmitted diseases, but this is a risk promiscuous individuals choose for themselves. It would be immoral to have unprotected sex if one knows one has a disease like HIV, but that is another issue altogether. In fact, people's sex lives are inconsequential to equality for LGBT, because it has to do with equal rights for people with certain sexual orientations, not a judgment of people who are considered to have "bad" sexual practices.
I told Mad Chapo that there are religious people who are gay; their religious freedom is just as important as straight theists' religious freedom. Continuing with the same tired and invalid arguments conservative theists often use, Mad Chapo said they are involved in what they know is a sinful action, and then he named sodomy. Let's just clear up this confusion: homosexuality and sodomy are not the same thing, so even from a theological perspective, this argument falls short. To be gay, one must not practice sodomy, and straight couples can also practice sodomy. Furthermore, this ignores bisexual and lesbian women in same-sex relationships; not only are they the group that contracts the least amount of sexually transmitted diseases, but they are also incapable of sodomy (except with a strap-on, of course). I will say it again: equality for LGBT has nothing to do with the sexual practices of LGBT individuals.
Mad Chapo also provides a good example of the kind of arguments many conservative theists use: "It is a sin." Theists who assume their holy book is the infallible word of their infallible god may be impossible to persuade, for the simple fact that they do believe in the infallible word of the infallible god who has the moral authority to be humanity's dictator. Any rational theist will know their holy books are products of a different time, by humans with political agendas, and these books will as such not reflect the perfect word of their god. As I have said, the dogmatic belief that God has the right to dictate what is right and wrong is corrosive; when this belief exists, one need only say something is a sin to justify one's position in one's own mind and the eyes of likeminded individuals. Saying something is a sin, and not providing a logical argument for why it is, indeed, immoral, is not a valid argument; it is arbitrary and quite often bigoted.
Mad Chapo wondered why I care about marriage equality, since marriage is arbitrarily defined. Arbitrary is not the same as meaningless, though. Marriage is an arbitrary concept invented by human beings, but much of our society is also based on this concept and it is a good way to solidify both love and a relationship. A large part of the population shouldn't be excluded or treated differently because of their sexual orientation or the parts between their legs. It does not matter if the "LGBT lifestyle" is one with a higher risk than a good, white, straight Christian lifestyle, or a good, Middle Eastern, straight Muslim lifestyle; this does not affect anyone but themselves and no one's rights should be taken away because of the way they use their own bodies. Can you imagine what would happen if we were to say no people who drink alcohol may get married, because drinking is a high-risk lifestyle? Of course, we do similar things, like throwing people, especially minorities, in jail for doing recreational drugs like cannabis.
Morality and purpose
Mad Chapo said we all commit sins, but we shouldn't normalize it because we love doing it, referring to sodomy again. No coherent argument as to why sodomy is relevant to marriage equality or why sodomy is even immoral was provided, except that God said so. Mad Chapo also complained that atheists have no "objective morality" (as if theists do) and that means nothing is immoral from an atheist's point of view. To clear this up, it is not true that atheists have no sense of morality; morality is subjective, but that does not mean it has absolutely no basis one might arguably call objective (in a looser sense than theists use the word). In a summarized version (I have written about this before), I theorize my morality stems from my cognitive capabilities allowing me to be empathic and a consideration of the consequences of an action and the intent of the person doing it. I believe that, while there is no objective morality, one can speak of objective harm, in a sense. Killing someone is to objectively harm them (unless, of course, they wanted their life to end), but doing so is not necessarily immoral, as one might kill in self-defense; consequences and intent matter.
Immortality is also not needed for morality. The fact that we will not live forever does not mean life is pointless; the fact that we have no greater purpose does not mean life is without meaning. We create our own meaning and enjoy the life we are given; we may even, indeed, give our lives meaning, by adopting a cause, producing art, feeling the feels, or inventing religions. Theists are taught that they need immortality and a god for their lives to have meaning. Thus, they struggle with the fact that atheists are happy people, enjoying living just as much as any religious person. This is one of the reasons why I despise religion, even though religious freedom is important: children are indoctrinated into believing, and it is almost never a conscious decision; religions indoctrinate and this is a form of mental child abuse.
Mad Chapo also provided quite the odd and irrelevant argument that men and women use different bathrooms, because they are different; he said they have "separate rooms but equal tools." This is not entirely true: in public, restrooms may be separate, for safety, privacy, and ease of use (although, women are not seldom raped in women's restrooms); at home, however, I use the same bathroom as women. This was apparently an argument for excluding LGBT from marriage, as "we want to keep the unique" because male-female relationships are unique. Only what is between the legs differs, though, not the love or the purpose marriage would have. We cannot deny that there are certain differences between men and women and that it takes a man and a woman to procreate, but this is irrelevant to a debate about equal rights.
He said that from a social point of view, marriage is "a contract to regulate the obligations and responsibility attended upon procreation." This is a falsehood: marriage is not at all about procreation; marriage makes it easier to raise a child together and the primary, biological purpose of our reproductive organs is to reproduce, but neither the purpose of marriage nor the full extent of the human experience is to reproduce.
Again, I would like to mention the hypocrisy of these theists, as they would not argue against a marriage between two straight people who will never have children, for biological or personal reasons. Only when the possibility of pregnancy is taken out of the picture entirely do these theists see it as a problem—or just a lame argument to further their bigoted agenda. Most people would probably view marriage as love, or a solidification of their love and team, because a couple is a team, after all. Children never have to enter the equation, even though they often do.
In addition, Mad Chapo strayed from the "God makes the rules" argument and defines marriage purely in legal terms. Thus, he agrees that marriage is, indeed, an arbitrary invention by humankind; there is no reason why the concept of marriage cannot change. In fact, few cultures and religions do remain the same; the very idea of multiculturalism and the fact that we have many religions and worldviews is because we continually change. Even if one is a conservative with a dogmatic phobia of change, one cannot stop change and there is no logical reason to do so even if one could.
The politics of faith
Ultimately, the conversation derailed into an argumentation about "religious homos" and theology. He said if there are LGBT who are religious, then this is a matter for theists, and atheists like me should not be in the debate. We do not live in a theocracy, though (well, I don't), and theology is bent in all kinds of directions; it does not justify the abuse of nonbelievers or believers who disagree. Even if an ancient religious text says homosexuality (or sodomy, because those are apparently the same) is sinful, this does not give the right to discriminate against homosexuals.
I informed Mad Chapo that religious texts are construed differently by different people, and he has no right to force his interpretation on anyone else, especially not if said interpretation is discriminatory. I also said that if religious texts say homosexuality is immoral, that is a testament to the irrationality of those texts, not the supposed immorality of homosexuals. I also mentioned that theists commit many sins mentioned in various holy texts, but they pick and choose the ones they are told to pick and choose. Bigotry against homosexuality happens to be one of the things that has been selectively preserved in some denominations of some religions.
Mad Chapo then asked a question I think is of great interest here: How can one exclude one's beliefs from one's decision making, from politics? This does not have a clear answer, and the fact is that many do vote according to their religious beliefs. There are, of course, theists who believe they should not push their beliefs on others, even if they disagree with their lifestyle, but there are plenty of people who vote as they believe Jesus and Muhammad would have voted. Religions are not just benign identities; they are ideological.
In the end, the argument between conservative theists and everyone else, including liberal theists, is that the left is giving human rights, while the right takes them away. If one believes it is immoral to have sex or marry the same gender, then one should simply do neither, but one cannot push one's religious teachings on others. In addition, while one is free to believe whatever one happens to believe, even that homosexuality is immoral, one is not free to believe this without being called on it. Freedom of religion does not mean one's faith cannot be questioned or criticized, especially not when it has political consequences.