Haha, not their sexuality, silly.
As we well know, sexuality is a matter of science and not faith, and until one of the for-profit ex-gay corporations produces undoctored penile plethysmograph results showing gay men becoming aroused no longer by men, but by women, we’ll just stick with the scientific consensus, okay?
But people can and do turn away from their religion-based bigotry. John Aravosis highlighted this blog post today:
“If you become a homosexual, I’ll kill you. If I become a homosexual, you’ll kill me.”
I had forgotten about those terrible words until a friend reminded me of it. We made that pact together in high school, when we were young evangelicals with a “zeal for Christ.” We were bible-toting, Jesus-shirt wearing, tract-giving, church-obsessed dumbasses. Like all dumbasses, we believed what we were told without skepticism. And, as extremists, we would go great lengths to win the approval of God and men.
Our friendly Baptist mega-church taught that homosexuality was an abominable sin. People were not born gay ‚Äî it was a lifestyle choice that was a result of their rebellion and hatred of God. It was “disgusting” and “unnatural.”
“God doesn’t hate the sinner,” we would say, “He only hates the sin.” But the distinction didn’t really matter, and God would send them to hell unless they repented of their evil homosexual ways.
We swallowed this whole. We never even thought to question it. The Bible said it, our leaders taught it, our parents believed it, and the congregation followed it.
My hatred of homosexuality finally subsided when I began questioning the Bible ‚Äî the ultimate source of my hatred. Without the Bible, there was no reason to hate homosexuality. It was a natural desire, and though I didn’t have that desire myself, I wouldn’t want to be persecuted if I did. It didn’t hurt anyone and in fact made people happy. It was not rational to oppose it.
Etc. Read it all. The piece struck me because I hear echoes of my former self in there. I was a young Evangelical with a “zeal for Christ.” I had a Bible full of underlined/highlighted verses, in which I thought I was analyzing and learning important things. I believed what the church and approved Christian writers told me without skepticism. And I was an extremist.
The difference is that, while the Evangelical fundamentalist lifestyle was indeed inflicted upon me (they prey upon the young, you see), I was actually a gay kid. So not only was I hearing and regurgitating the messages, but they were actually messages about me. If you weren’t raised in a Shi’a Presbyterian surrounding, you might not get this, but can you imagine the internal rending that occurs in that situation?
And indeed, if I may go all atheist on you for a second*, I’m actually worried about what my life would have been like if I hadn’t been gay. If I hadn’t had my inner gayness as an impetus to take a step back and actually reconsider my beliefs with an open, uncluttered mind, sans brainwashing, sans “this is the way it’s always been,” would something else have come along to cause me to reconsider? Bear in mind, I’m actually not making an argument for all to deconvert from Christianity. That’s my own path and it’s the right path for me. But all should deconvert from narrow minded, education-free Fundamentalism. As the writer of the above piece states, there is no rational, reality-based reason to hate gay people, or to “disapprove of homosexuality,” in Fundamentalist Newspeak. It only makes sense (and only to like-minded people) when you hide your bigotry in the pages of a religious text. Simply put, the reality of gay people doesn’t line up with the fantasy world painted by Christian fundamentalism.
Christian extremists like to pretend their anti-gay animus is shared by people of all faiths and no faith at all, but that’s mostly crap. Sure, you might find an atheist here and there who has an irrational hatred for large subsets of people, but that’s not the norm. Extreme hatred tends to spring from closed-off worlds, and fundamentalist religion is one of the darkest, most sheltered, most cut-off-from-reality worlds imaginable. A simple attachment to the real world pretty much forecloses the development of irrational hatred.
It’s a bit amazing to look back across the years and realize that I was not only “one of them,” but that I was absolutely sincere! I didn’t know any better. Current Fundamentalists don’t either.
But yes, they can change. And more and more do every single year. And unlike the mythical millions of “ex-gays,” you can meet atheists and agnostics and liberal, open-minded religious believers any day of the week, in any city, in any country.
*As if religious people ask permission…