Religion and being gay (2/2)
By what measure would you judge a person? By whether they are gay or straight, or by how they treat other people and how they live their lives? Condemning someone because of their sexuality is distraction from what matters about a person.
I think that sexuality is morally neutral. This means that being heterosexual, homosexual or bisexual is neither good nor bad. They are naturally occuring variations, like eye colour. Any values we attribute to sexuality are just that: values we attribute. In other words, being gay isn't good or bad but people can choose to see it either way. To put it another way: if you grew up in a world where being either gay or straight were equally celebrated, would you still feel bad about being gay or think it fundamentally wrong?
I believe that if there is a God who created all things, it logically follows that he created gay people too. I cannot believe that any god – being a good, loving, infinitely wise entity - would create gay people with the expectation that they should be unhappy, lonely and repressed, and spend their lives in denial of who they are so that they might be tolerated by others and welcomed into heaven by him.
Religious bigotry is fundamentally a human rights issue. Homosexual people deserve the same rights as heterosexual people, in worship and beyond.
Will I go to Hell for being gay?
When you imagine Hell you probably think of a terrifyingly dark place where the souls of bad people get sent after their bodies die. Once there, they are eternally punished for the sins they committed in life. It's pretty scary to think about eternal suffering, fiery caverns and Satan. That's why so many books, horror films and video games use imagery like this, and why it's so frightening to be told you might go there.
Who do you think deserves to go to a place like Hell? By what measure would you decide? Perhaps Hell seems too cruel and awful for anyone. Maybe you imagine only truly evil people going to Hell; people who wilfully hurt and killed others. Do you think all gay people should be sent to hell, even if they've lead a good life? Do you think that you deserve to go to Hell for being attracted to the same sex?
I don't think God created gay people so that he could condemn them for doing what comes naturally to them, and then pack them off to Hell at the end of their lives. That would mean God was cruel. Surely God would have put you here to be a good person, to make a positive difference to the lives of others, and to be measured by your actions. I think he'd want you to enjoy both your life and the afterlife, along with everyone else.
Don't be frightened about going to Hell. Nobody even knows if there is an afterlife, let alone a Heaven or Hell. Don't be bullied into behaving the way other people want you to by their grim forecast for the hereafter. Live your life well by your own judgement, and do your best in all the things you do. You know if you're a good person or not, and it's got nothing to do with who you fall in love with.
If there is a judgement at the end of your life it won't be based on whether you've loved a man or a woman, because neither is inherently sinful. Being gay isn't sinful. Sex and love are not sinful. These are completely natural and wonderful parts of life that our bodies and minds were designed to experience. Professionals outside of the church generally agree that being gay is a natural form of sexuality. It’s the moral values that some groups apply to homosexuality that determines whether it is perceived as bad or good within the community. If a child was raised in an environment where nobody told him or her that homosexuality was wrong, would they become a homophobic adult?
How can I have God in my life if I'm gay?
- Different perspective
You might not like some of the things your friends, family and church say to you about God and religion. Their outlook might seem unloving, negative and exclusive toward homosexuals. Focus on the beliefs, values and concepts that you feel are right and good, those that represent God, and not those skewed by bigotry and the agenda of individuals. Challenge the ideas that are presented to you and explore your own.
- Do your own research
Research religious topics yourself to get closer to the facts rather than the interpretations of your peers. Make up your own mind about the messages in the Bible. Keep an open mind while you do so. Consider what the Bible would be like if it were written today with our modern outlook and progress in equality. Perhaps it would vary, depending on who wrote it.
- Worship at home
Living with your parents or being in a small commuity means that you might have to attend a church whose message isn't right for you. It's unrealistic to refuse to attend if you are under a certain age, but this doesn't mean you can't worship at home. Say what you want to say to God in private and explore your own ideas. Forge your own relationship with God that isn't based on fear.
- Like-minded followers
If you are able, try to find a church or worship group that welcomes gay people. You could try meeting other gay followers through a college or university group or society, or even start your own. See Gay Christian Network.