Back when I first started using the internet, it was a very different looking creature than it is today. Web sites were relatively sparse compared to their modern counterparts, with many companies having no net exposure whatsoever. One of the more dominant areas of the internet was something called usenet (more popularly known as newsgroups).
Each newsgroup was dedicated to certain subjects, within which many people asserted their views. Some were sparsely populated with few contributors. Others were positively heaving with content. Whilst searching for a subject which held some interest to me, a newsgroup called alt.atheism caught my attention and became a group which I regularly read and contributed to.
It was populated, unsurprisingly, by atheists talking about all sorts of aspects of an atheistic life – mainly the problems involved living within a religious family and a religious community… as, mostly, the posters were American.
As well as atheists, there were a number of non-atheists; nearly all of whom were Christians. The reason for their attendance can easily be given. Time and again, a new Christian would appear, preaching and proselytising to the un-saved, purveying a kindly, “thoughtful” Christian representation of the strengths of relinquishing the atheistic mindset. Every single one of them quickly became less friendly when their repeated points were repeatedly disputed.
Mostly, American atheists are born-again, having rejected long-ingrained Christian tutelage. As such, they’re often well-versed in Biblical chapters and verses and able to counter any nonsense put their way… and the same nonsense was repeated often – and disputed just as quickly. Christians would then take one of two paths; they’d give up entirely, or they’d hang around, bordering on the edges of their sanity as they repeatedly made claims that even they knew were crap. Poor things.
I always wondered why someone would participate in a newsgroup which was contrary to their own beliefs. I mean, I despise brussel sprouts (along with several other vegetables… just ask any of my family) yet couldn’t see any reason to search out alt.BrusselSproutsLovers in order to tell them just how ridiculously wrong they were and to preach to them about the evils of their favourite vegetable.
Curious to try reversing this experience, I sought out a newsgroup populated by British Christians. I didn’t go to preach the atheistic mindset or to disavow Christianity. I was very open from the outset that I was an atheist with an interest in religion and its influence on British society. I also made it clear from the outset that I would at no point try and convert anyone there if they allowed me the same courtesy. The vast majority (with, I think, 1 or 2 exceptions) accepted this and civil conversation was had by all. So civil that, come the New Year, during their self-asserted head-nod to the Queen’s New Year appointments, I was awarded a New Year honour for “Services to atheism”. Which was sweet.
Anyway, during their many conversations, the subject that came up far more often than any other (I had imagined would be covered) was the subject of homosexuality. Some were severely dismissive and judgemental of homosexuality and homosexuals. Others were far more open to the idea of embracing all people into Christianity – regardless of their involvement in same-sex relationships. 2000 years after the life and death of their lord and saviour, who never mentioned homosexuality, I was more than a little confused about why it should be such a contentious issue.
This confusion returned (relatively) recently after a couple of notable news stories hit the headlines.
A relationship counsellor who refused to offer sex therapy to gay couples has lost his unfair dismissal appeal. Gary MacFarlane, 47, from Bristol, was sacked by marriage guidance service Relate after he said he could not do anything to promote gay sex. - BBC News
He alleged Relate had refused to accommodate his Christian beliefs.
A gay couple were turned away from a Berkshire guest house by the owner who said it was “against her convictions” for two men to share a bed.
Susanne and Francis Wilkinson would not allow a gay couple to stay together in one of their rooms ‘because it was against their Christian beliefs’. Her husband Francis… said it was a question of living by their faith. ‘We live according to our values and our Christian beliefs. We are not homophobic,’ he said. - BBC News
Why highlight the above recent examples of homosexuality conflicting with Christian beliefs? Well, as I said above, Jesus Christ – Christianity’s base, home and avower of everything it means to be a Christian – said not a single word about homosexuality. Not once… ever… even in passing.
So where does homophobia get a Biblical mention? In the Old Testament. The OT, to clarify, was the grounds of a pre-Jesus Jewish world which gave birth to the Jewish prophet. Jesus was said to have given his followers a new covenant… which is given in the New Testament. The NT gives no mention of homosexuality on the grounds of Jesus’s words, beliefs or teachings. The closest the NT gets towards such a position come in a few brief letters from Saul of Tarsus (later known as St Paul) amongst some of which were included the word “sodomites” in a category of bad people.
The original word used (in Greek) wasn’t the known word for homosexuals. It was a reference to the un-godly inhabitants of the city of Sodom – and the perversities they followed… which consisted of a lot more than anal sex, which the word is associated with in modernity. Even so, St Paul was a follower of Jesus who never met Jesus, so it would be contentious (to say the least) to say that St Paul knew Jesus’s beliefs better than Jesus did. And Jesus had no (known) views on homosexuality.
If modern Christians are to claim that homosexuality is contrary to their Christian beliefs, I would suggest that they learn their beliefs a good deal better than they currently have. If they disavow homosexuals, they are either (Orthodox) Jews or Paulians. They sure as hell aren’t Christians. As with many other obtuse bigotories which are backed up by religious claims, religion is merely being used to lay claim to non-religious, pre-existing bigotry. Such bigotry should have no protection under the name of religion… especially when that religion doesn’t back up that bigotry.
Bad non-Christians claiming to be Christians.
B&B owner Susanne Wilkinson deserves to be sued for illegally refusing to accept a gay couple as guests and Gary MacFarlane fully deserved to be sacked. Having an occupation which involves dealing with the public doesn’t allow you to pick and choose which public you deal with.
If you’re curious about the OT references to homosexuality, here’s the primary reference from the King James Version of the bible:-
Thou shalt not lie with mankind, as with womankind: it is abomination. - Leviticus 18:22
This reference comes from Leviticus chapter 18. Leviticus (in the biblical OT) forms a part of the Jewish Torah. Its purpose was to purport the civil expectations of the Jewish people as they settled in Palestine following the exodus from Egypt. A large section is dedicated to the foods which can and cannot be eaten (kosher and non-kosher). A section which, most interestingly, Christians ignore. Later, a full section (chapter 18) covers the sexual proclivities of a good Jew.
No men are allowed to see their kin naked: their father, mother, step-mother, sister, step-sister, grand-daughter, step-sister (again), paternal aunt, maternal aunt, paternal uncle, paternal aunt (by marriage), daughter-in-law and sister-in-law.
Family aside, the author explores his sexual imagination to find other taboos. They include; no menage a trois with a mother and daughter combo. No menage a trois with a woman and her granddaughter. No menage a trois with your wife and her sister. And no getting jiggy with a menstruating woman.
All of these (somewhat interesting) combinations are rounded-off with a clear statement that having sex with your neighbour’s wife is strictly verboten. How many sexually non-perverse Christians (having refrained from incest and freaky threesomes) have found themselves scuppered by that last little zinger? All as bad as each other, apparently. Yahweh said so.
The next reference is more than a little obscure; none of your seed should pass through the fire to Molech. I’d like to see how many Hail Marys that would produce… and how many priests would know what the hell had just been confessed.
The next command returns us to more familiar grounds… sex with men is an abomination. As is the last sexual demand; bestiality is forbidden to both men and women. It isn’t an abomination, though… it is merely a “confusion”. Confusing to the poor beast, certainly. As a related aside, it is curious (to say the least) that the Levitican list of sexual abominations does not include paedophelia.
In biblical terms, the word “abomination” is an interesting one. In the OT, it appears a somewhat magnificent 146 times, with Leviticus (16 times), Deuteronomy (17 times), Proverbs (21 times) and Ezekiel (46 times) taking the lion’s share for its appearance. The NT mentions it a mere 6 times… 3 of which are in the fire ‘n’ brimstone of Revelations. None of those appearances relate to homosexuality. It seems that the God of Jesus is much less judgemental than the Yahweh of pre-Jesus Judaism.
Christians (and non-Christians) take note.
And (for a final emphasis) shut the fuck up about homosexuality contravening your Christian beliefs, you lying fuckwads. (It’s OK. Swearing isn’t anti-Christian – I’ll explain why in another post.)
P.S. If it really, really contravenes your religious views (despite all of the above) then you are utterly false in those views if you don’t execute the required prosecution for homosexual activity:-
If a man also lie with mankind, as he lieth with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination: they shall surely be put to death. Their blood shall be upon them. – Leviticus 20:13
So you can’t make the complaint about gay people if you don’t also kill them.
P.P.S. None of any of the above applies to women. It seems like God would like to watch. Which, if nothing else, proves that God is male.