By Dianne Skoll
LGBT Perspectives columnist
OTTAWA — I’ve noticed lately that a lot of negative rhetoric aimed at the LGBT community comes from religious groups. Whether it’s the Vatican being upset that gay and transgender people will be on hand for the pope’s White House visit or the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors (who knew???) holding a conference on “Transgender Confusion and Transformational Christianity” or a Muslim transgender woman being kicked out of the women’s section of an Arizona mosque or Christians in Tennessee rallying for “freedom” from the same-sex marriage ruling, it seems that religions and religious people have a really hard time with LGBT people.
Just what is going on?
I think that most people have a built-in ethical system, honed by millions of years of evolution. You don’t need to be religious to know that it’s wrong to murder someone, or that it’s wrong to kidnap someone or to cheat someone out of money. In fact, these instincts are so in-built that the only way mass atrocities such as the Holocaust or the Rwandan genocide can occur is for the leaders of the atrocities to dehumanize the victims; to blunt the built-in moral systems of their followers so that they no longer see the atrocities as hurting other people.
For most of human history, we haven’t had a clue how the Universe works. Even today, we have at best a glimmer of understanding. And because our brains have evolved to see patterns, we developed explanations for things that really might just have been random: Droughts, storms, eclipses, forest fires — these were all explained away as caused by spirits or other supernatural beings. Eventually our religions evolved into a sophisticated set of self-propagating myths and legends. In fact, “evolved” is probably exactly the right word because religions have adapted to the point where they have become huge, viral, self-sustaining systems.
Part of most religions is a belief in a supernatural creator. Most religions anthropomorphize this creator, endowing him (it’s always “him”) with human attributes such as mercy or anger or vengefulness.
And this is where the problem starts. Our built-in moral systems stop us from deliberately causing harm to other humans. By anthropomorphizing God, religions add a whole new category of prohibited behaviour: Actions that harm God, or “sin.” As a result, whole categories of human behaviour that are in fact completely harmless have been demonized by religions. And these behaviours include same-sex relationships and non-traditional gender expression.
Just think about it. We have an elaborate scaffolding of myths and legends that have evolved just as randomly as humans have, that are being used to demonize entire populations for behaviors that are utterly harmless.
This is an outrage.
We need to push back against religion, to show that it is no longer a force for moral good, to show that “freedom of religion” is not a right in the same league as freedom to be yourself, freedom from discrimination, and freedom to do things that hurt no one. We need to show the world that there is no moral justification for the anti-LGBT stance of many religions, and to demonstrate that religious leaders are not more qualified than anyone else to make pronouncements on morality.
It is time to take back the debate and change the rules so that logic and compassion rule rather than fear and superstition.
“Let harmlessness be the keynote of your life.” — Alice Bailey