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Supporting Civil Rights for Atheists and the Separation of Church and State
The Persistent Christian Hostility Toward Our LGBT Community
Homosexuals are brute beasts...part of a vile and satanic system that will be utterly annihilated, and there will be a celebration in heaven. - Jerry Falwell
The attitude towards Homosexuals and homosexuality by some very powerful and influential people, both past and present, is atrocious. The fact that this attitude is borne from religion, particularly the Abrahamic religions, and is supported by hundreds of millions of individuals is terrifying to homosexuals and horrifying to anyone who has an ounce of understanding about human biology, genetics and the animal kingdom in general.
Yes, there still exists some debate amongst the scientific community as to the origin of sexual orientation, but scientists do not insult, discriminate, injure or kill each other for disagreeing. They just keep on researching. Religionists do not offer the same courtesy. The reason why verbal and physical attacks against homosexuals are defined as hate crimes is for the same reason similar attacks against other particular people groups are. You cannot just simply change who you are and you should definitely not ever have to live in fear of your safety or life because of it.
So, nature or nurture?
The question on the table is whether or not people born as homosexuals, heterosexuals or bisexuals. The search for a definitive answer needs to remain within the bounds of the sciences, and not within the pages of the bible or the Koran. The scientific community recognizes that genetics play a significant role in determining sexual orientation, that one's sexual orientation is natural. This is known as the "argument from nature." Those who believe that human sexuality is determined by personal experiences is known as the "argument from nurture."
Let's get a little perspective on the veracity of these two arguments. The nature argument is based on the latest, most advanced, cutting edge science. The nurture argument is based on a twenty-three-hundred-year-old philosophical belief known as Tabula Rosa, put forth by Aristotle, which suggests that personality and behavioral traits are entirely learned and that all of us start off in this world with a clean, blank slate with respect to personality. Latest science vs. ancient philosophy. Let's examine this a little deeper.
First, some information from science. The argument from nature is being accepted more readily in the scientific community due to the increasing evidence that sexual orientation develops before birth. Here are just a few examples of those who support that homosexuality is genetically dispositional:
- Author and respected geneticist Matt Ridley states that, "Nobody in science now believes that sexual orientation is caused by events in adolescence...Homosexuality is an early, probably prenatal and irreversible preference."
- The Royal College of Psychiatrists stated, “Despite almost a century of psychoanalytic and psychological speculation, there is no substantive evidence to support the suggestion that the nature of parenting or early childhood experiences play any role in the formation of a person's fundamental heterosexual or homosexual orientation. It would appear that sexual orientation is biological in nature, determined by a complex interplay of genetic factors and the early uterine environment. Sexual orientation is therefore not a choice"
- Frederick L. Whitam, PhD, Professor in the Department of Sociology at Arizona State University, said, "During the past 30 years, a strong body of evidence has emerged to suggest that sexual orientation is biological. During this same time period, not a single bit of scientific evidence suggests that sexual orientation is learned has appeared."
- The Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance stated, "We recommend following the lead of most physical and mental health professionals, and consider homosexual orientation to be normal, natural, unchosen and fixed."
- Kenneth M. Cohen, PhD, Lecturer in Human Development at Cornell University, wrote, "Recent scans of the human genome reveal that some gay males share a genetic marker for homosexuality on the X chromosome. One avenue through which genes regulate homo eroticism is by instructing the brain to develop in a sex-atypical manner."
The argument from nurture is not exclusively one of religious origin, but it is the only argument that is supported by those who view homosexuality as aberrant, sinful and reject scientific biological influences for homosexuality. They believe sexuality can be changed, altered or suppressed. This has led to the advent of "gay rehabilitation programs" which science has debunked due to the devastating tolls these programs take. These programs have resulted in some horrific "treatments" which include:
- Aversion therapy, whereby gay men are shown pictures of naked men and simultaneously shocked with electricity
- Brain surgery in the form of frontal lobotomies
- Castration, both physical and chemical
- Intravenous infusion of animal-organ extracts
- Intravenous infusion of cocaine, estrogen and testosterone
- Gay men being forced to masturbate and then shown pictures of women just before orgasm
There are a host of other horrific and experimental invasions, including the Reparative Therapy that is "practiced" by the Bachmanns. In per-apartheid South Africa homosexual men who could not be "cured" were chemically castrated or given sex change operations which resulted in an abundant and excessively extreme rate of fatalities.
The Anti-Homosexuality Bill that was on the table in Uganda (and keeps creeping up) had introduced the death penalty for homosexuals, those who had previous convictions of homosexuality and those who tested HIV positive. In fact, it provided the same penalty for Ugandan Nationals who engaged in homosexual relations outside of Uganda, asserting that they may be extradited back to Uganda for punishment. There were even provisions for punishment in this bill for companies, media organizations, or entities that support LBGT rights.
Like most forms of bigotry, hatred and discrimination against the LGBT community, the Uganda bill was borne out of Fundamental Christianity. Scott Lively and Rick Warren have a history of missionary involvement in Uganda and these two individuals, along with other Christian Fundamentalists, were influential in the shaping of public policy in Uganda. Richard A. Cohen, a Christian "conversion therapist" stated in his book an untrue and damaging statement that up to forty-percent of homosexuals are directly linked to child molestation. This book given to prominent Ugandans.
The prevalence of crimes against non-heterosexuals has been well documented by the US Government. According to FBI hate crime statistics, there were 7,163 reported hate crimes in 2005. 14.2% of them were based on sexual orientation. Most were violent in nature. In the US, 75% of students have no state laws to protect them from harassment and discrimination in school, based on their sexual orientation. In public high schools, 97% of students report regularly hearing homophobic remarks from their peers.
For more than twenty-five years, mental health practitioners and researchers have recognized that homosexuality is not a mental illness. Moreover, they are highly critical of attempts to change sexual orientation. These professional associations include:
- The American Academy of Pediatrics
- The American Counseling Association
- The American Psychiatric Association
- The American Psychological Association
- The National Association of School Psychologists
- The National Association of Social Workers.
These are not fringe groups. They represent about half-million health and mental health professionals supporting homosexuality not being a mental disorder. The American Psychiatric Association rejected reparative therapy as ineffective and destructive, risking depression, anxiety and destructive behavior.
While I strongly favor the argument of sexual orientation from nature, the debate needs to remain within the bounds of science. The inclusion of religious tenets, doctrines and dogmas only furthers to incite discrimination against homosexuals, including physical attacks that sometimes even result in murder.
One of the aspects of the Atheist movement is our desire for unreserved participation in all aspects of American life without discrimination. Our homosexual neighbors deserve nothing less and any discrimination levied against the LGBT community needs to be relegated to the same status as racial discrimination, and not just on paper. Religious doctrines that spew hatred and intolerance toward homosexuality should be treated just as those doctrines that advocate slavery and the belief that black people are an inferior people group.
Those who openly preach for the denigration and biblical murder of homosexuals should be arrested and imprisoned.
Al Stefanelli - Georgia State Director, American Atheists, Inc.