Homosexuality and religion are often regarded as two contradictory concepts. There are conflicting views of diverse religions about homosexuality. Due to which the members of the LGBTQ community are generally excluded from religious places of worship such as churches, synagogue, and mosque. However, there are many gay, lesbians, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) who identify themselves as part of a specific faith community and also embrace their sexual orientation. These individuals are not willing to waive their belonging to a particular faith. They want to be part of religious ceremonies and gatherings and demand inclusion in the religious practices and places of worship. The advocacy of these individuals has led to some positive developments in different areas to welcome the members of the LGBTQ+ community in places of worship. This article will explore the views of some of the major world religions about homosexuality.
In the Christian community, there are great divisions regarding the position of the LGBTQ community. Many churches are welcoming the Christian members of the LGBTQ community and giving the message of inclusion. The proponents of the inclusion of the LGBTQ community argue that God has created every individual human being in his image. Therefore, all human beings including the members of the LGBTQ community are the children of God and entitled to dignity and respect. They quote “For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.” (Psalm 139:113-14). God is the creator of all and He has created everyone in its best design, the members of the LGBTQ community are a creation of God and God did not make a mistake in creating them. Therefore, they are entitled to equal rights and equal treatment in religious practices.
The proponents of the inclusion of LGBTQ Christians argue that in Christianity marriage involves procreation, however, the New Testament explains marriage as a lifelong commitment to a partner. Marriage is also compared to the relationship between Jesus Christ and the Church. Therefore, the lifelong commitment between gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, and queer deserve equal respect and dignity as the relationship between a heterosexual couples. They argue that Genesis has described human beings as relational and sexuality is a significant part of it. Therefore, to condemn the LGBTQ sexual orientation is contradictory to the teachings of Genesis. However, opponents argue that homosexuality is repugnant to the teaching of Christianity. They argue that in Christianity the marriage is between a male and a female for the sole purpose of procreation. To support their argument they quote the book of Leviticus which states “If a man lies with a male as with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination; they shall surely be put to death”. (Leviticus 20:13). They argue that marriage between a homosexual couples is contradictory to the intention of God, which is procreation.
Orthodox Judaism is based on fixed gender roles. According to the traditions and Jewish laws, marriage is a sacred institution that is a means to maintain human life on earth. Therefore, marriage is associated with procreation. Similarly, in the orthodox Jewish synagogue, there are separate religious duties and separate spaces for men and women during worship. Therefore, the position of the members of the LGBTQ+ community is challenging for religious authorities such as Rabbi. The general Jewish belief is that homosexuality is contrary to Jewish law and the concept of marriage. However, discrimination and disrespect of the members of the LGBTQ community have been condemned by Jewish institutions. In 2010, more than 150 Orthodox rabbis and educators signed a declaration for the inclusion of LGBTQ Jews in their community. Similarly, organizations like Eshel are working to support LGBTQ Jews. The efforts of these institutions have resulted in a change of attitude towards the LGBTQ Jews and many synagogues are welcoming the gay, lesbian, transgender, bisexual, and queer.
In contemporary times, a large number of Muslim LGBTQ individuals are coming out. These individuals are embracing their religious and sexual identities and want to maintain both identities. The position of the LGBTQ+ community in Islam is contestable. The majority of Islamic scholars argue that homosexuality is against the teachings of Islam. In Islam, sexual intercourse is permissible between married couples only. Sexual intercourse outside marriage is considered as Zina (adultery), which is punishable. Therefore, any physical interaction other than a married couple is considered a sin in Islam. According to a majority of Muslim scholars, marriage is permissible between males and females for procreation and the aspect of pleasure is a modern concept. Therefore, homosexuality is considered haram i.e. prohibited in Islam. Numerous Muslim countries have imposed penal consequences including capital punishment for homosexuality. However, the opponents argue that there is no explicit ruling against the LGBTQ+ community in the primary sources of Islam. They argue that sexual orientation is not a voluntary choice of any individual but it is the way Allah Almighty has created them. Therefore prejudice, discrimination, and exclusion of the members of the LGBTQ+ community are contrary to the Islamic principles which promote love, compassion, and respect for fellow human beings.
The Holy Scriptures of Hinduism do not distinguish between heterosexual and homosexual but they have mentioned procreative sexual acts and non-procreative sexual acts. The former is encouraged for all and the latter are discouraged especially for the Brahmans and the priests. Therefore, some of the Hindu temples and religious authorities considered homosexuality against their religious beliefs. However, the proponents of the LGBTQ+ community argue that there is no explicit prohibition of homosexuality in their religion. The Vedas refer to the third sex for having divine powers and insights. They also refer to the gender fluidity of Hindu deities to substantiate their argument. Therefore, there are positive developments in different countries such as India which has legalized same-sex marriages, and different religious institutions and places of worship are welcoming the members of the LGBTQ community.
There is a diverse interpretation of the teachings of Holy Scriptures related to homosexuality and the position of the LGBTQ community is still a controversial topic in the majority of world religions. There are arguments both in favor and against homosexual acts. However, all the major world religions have recognized the dignity of human beings without any discrimination. Although, there are some positive developments, and different places of worship are welcoming the members of the LGBTQ community and giving the message of inclusion. Whereas, in other faith communities the members of the LGBTQ+ community face prejudice, isolation, discrimination, and penal consequences. It is the duty of the faith community in particular and society in general to upheld human dignity and promotes an inclusive society in which every individual human being is entitled to equal treatment and respect. Then only we will make our world a better place to live in.