Humanism and the Gay Community

By Niose, David A. | The Humanist, May-June 2006 | Go to article overview

Humanism and the Gay Community


Niose, David A., The Humanist


MANY HUMANISTS are somewhat puzzled by gays and lesbians who attempt to assimilate into traditional religious environments. With unambiguous biblical language reflecting archaic attitudes towards homosexuality and prescribing capital punishment as the remedy for it, conservative religion, in particular, would seem to have little appeal for gays. Moreover, traditional religions in general have tended historically to scorn homosexuality or, at best, tolerate it, while the naturalistic, reason-based worldview of Humanism sees homosexuality in its accurate perspective--as a natural orientation that should be accepted as part of the ordinary social order.

Of course, reasons for clinging to traditional religion are complex, usually deeply rooted in psychology and family tradition. Few of us, if we were selecting our religious beliefs in a vacuum, would turn to the ancient dogmas of parents and ancestors. But many tend to feel an affinity for traditional religion chiefly because humans don't make their choices in a vacuum. Heritage weighs heavily and people sometimes maintain bonds with outdated institutions even when rational thinking would dictate otherwise.

Hence, for such reasons, some gays and lesbians attempt to maintain ties with the religions of their forebears. In doing so, they often find that their lifestyle is berated by those religious institutions, and they are made to feel, if not unwanted, not fully accepted. At best, they find support from the more open-minded within the religious community, but this rarely puts them in a position of being esteemed and fully accepted.

The existential reality is that many gays and lesbians simply avoid organized religion altogether. But, unfortunately, few go the next step and openly identify as Humanists, and this failure to assert Humanist identification only strengthens the religious right. Gays and lesbians concerned about the influence of religious conservatism should recognize that the growth of Humanism as a vibrant force in the United States is the religious right's worst nightmare. Religious extremists such as Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson frequently attack Humanism because they realize that it is a genuine threat to their worldview. And if we examine the basic tenets of Humanism we can see why.

First, a Humanist looks at the world from a natural, as opposed to supernatural, viewpoint. …

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