Academic journal article Ife Psychologia

Religious Commitment and Prejudicial Attitudes toward Homosexuals in Ghana

Academic journal article Ife Psychologia

Religious Commitment and Prejudicial Attitudes toward Homosexuals in Ghana

Article excerpt

This research was supported by a scholarship from the UG-Carnegie NGAA Project.

Introduction

The issue of homosexuality has been a topic of passionate discussion in Ghana recently. With the numerous local radio stations discussing different angles to the issue, it became increasingly obvious that the majority of Ghanaians are unaccepting of homosexuality. Reasons often given are that it is foreign to our culture, morally wrong and is against the nation's major religions (i.e. Christianity, Islam, and Traditional Religion). According to the 2012 Win-Gallup International's Global Index of Religiousity and Atheism, Ghana is the first among the top 10 religious populations of the world with 96%. Religion in Ghana is not only important because of the number of citizens that claim religious adherence but also because of its intense manifestation in the daily lives of the people and the extent of the impact of its ideas (Atiemo, 2013). Religious beliefs are therefore not a matter of purely personal concern but are always part of the issues debated on in public. Matters such as politics, the economy, health and education, and of course homosexuality, are therefore subjects of religious discourse. As Gyekye (2003) aptly put it, the African heritage is intensely religious and therefore all the actions and thoughts of an African have a religious meaning and are inspired or influenced by a religious point of view.

Belonging to a particular religion requires a certain level of commitment in order to establish constant ties with the Supreme Being (Gyekye, 2003). Religious commitment is the degree to which a person adheres to his or her religious values, beliefs, and practices and uses them in daily living (Worthington, 1988). Having certain beliefs inform the kind of attitude one will have regarding certain issues and this will in turn affect how one behaves. Does this therefore mean that Ghanaians are not accepting of homosexuals because of their religious commitment? The available evidence points to the fact that high religiousity and being affiliated to Pentecostal churches are related to negative attitudes toward homosexuals (Anarfi & GyasiGyamerah, 2014). Being affiliated to a particular religion or religious denomination and being highly religious however do not mean having religious commitment considering the definition noted earlier.

Although Ghanaians were found to be the most religious (Win-Gallup International, 2012), the specific questions asked shows that they may not necessarily be committed to their religion. For example, participants were asked to indicate whether they were religious persons or atheists. Gyekye (2003) posited that in the traditional African society, there are no atheists or agnostics. It is therefore not surprising that most Ghanaians would say they are religious. The basis for their assertion is basically their belief in the Supreme Being (God) since for the African, having a conception of God as the creator of the universe and humankind is natural (Gyekye, 2003).

The Structure of Prejudicial Attitudes

Anecdotal evidence that Ghanaians have negative attitudes toward homosexuals has been confirmed by available literature (e.g. Anarfi & Gyasi-Gyamerah, 2014; Owusu, Anarfi, & Tenkorang, 2013). An attitude is an overall evaluation of a stimulus object or an attitude object (Haddock & Maio, 2008). The multicomponent model of attitude postulated by Zanna and Rempel (1988) posit that, an attitude has three components, including the affective, cognitive, and behavioural components. For the purposes of this study, the affective and cognitive components were of interest. The affective component refers to feelings or emotions associated with an attitude object (Haddock & Maio, 2008). These feelings or emotions, known as affective responses, influence attitudes in a number of ways, the primary way being due to the affective reactions that are aroused in an individual after s/he is exposed to the attitude object. …

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