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September 09, 2015

Gay Marriage: The Fallacies in the Conservatives' Claim of Religious Persecution

Religious conservatives often claim that legal acceptance of same-sex marriage is proof that they are being persecuted for their beliefs. But this couldn't be further from the truth.

by Alvin Steviro

When millions of people were celebrating the news that that US Supreme Court had legalized same-sex marriage, the same information was viewed from a totally contradictory perspective in a church I regularly attend every week.
From what I recall, the sermon did not associate anything positive to the legal protection of gay people who live in the country thousands of miles away. The legalization of gay marriage is unfortunately rather seen by this conservative church as another proof that the world is declining and that Christians are getting persecuted more and more.
Had I not left my faith one or two months ago, I would see such sermon as a spiritual war drum beating its sound, calling Christians to participate in a noble cause of defending their faith (by not supporting the legalization). Now I only see this as another form of unnecessarily rigid constructed notion that judges others through a pair of lens that turns everything into black or white.
What I find intriguing about this circumstance is that both the religious conservatives (in this case the Christians) and gay people feel that they are alienated. Conservative Christians see themselves as a weakened herd of sheeps that are being persecuted as more people no longer have faith in what they firmly believe in (that Eros can only happen between a man and a woman).
They imply that with the greater acceptance of the LGBT (lesbians, gay, bisexual and transgender) community, a huge threat is looming against Christianity.  On the other hand, homosexuals have received so much pressure from many groups of society, including those who use their religion to label them as “sinful”.
Since both groups (conservative Christians and homosexuals) feel that they are vulnerable, an ideal and fair condition would – in an oversimplified sense – persuade both parties to understand and forgive each other. However, the reality tells that the condition is just unfair, and, personally, I believe that more self-introspection should come from the religious conservatives.
First of all, a clash between the (Christian) conservatives and same-sex couples is simply not a fair fight since people who root for conservative religion have two “cheat codes”. These are the name of “God” and countless references to obsolete interpretations on verses of the holy book.
Proclaim that homosexuality is sinful, and that is an entirely subjective opinion. Now tell people that God says that homosexuality is sinful, and that becomes dogma. Subsequently, add that God says in the holy book that homosexuality is sinful, and that becomes “the truth”.
I am not arguing that every religious teaching that contains the name of God or refers to the scripture is plain ridiculous. What I am trying to say is that the name of God and a holy book have such a strong socio-cultural force that can influence our minds to believe in something, even if it effectively kills what another part of our hearts says. Once tenets are put above all else, the chance to have an empathy for the suffering of same-sex couples who cannot celebrate their love is very likely to be eradicated.
Another reason why people from the religious side should do more introspection is that the threats they are experiencing is far less significant than what same-sex couples (along with their bisexual, transgender, and queer friends) have experienced throughout history. Simply put, anti-gay people on the religious side do not suffer as much as homosexuals do. When we think about what sorts of danger religious people face, it is no more than ideological “threats”. The (secularization of a) world that is growing more accepting of same-sex couples is merely an opposing view to conservative Christians’ teachings. The threat is still within the realm of IDEAS.

On the other side, same-sex couples have been harassed, punished, or even murdered for their sexuality. Google “Violence against LGBT people”, and it is very likely that you will find a Wikipedia article that show the role religious biases play in so many cases of brutality.
Since thousands of years ago, homosexual couples were burned alive by devout Christians as “punishments” for their acts. Although not as severe as it was in the past, the persecution of same-sex couples by Christians still persists. It is not difficult to find proofs from the Internet. With a couple of clicks on a search engine you will find religious people (often Christians) holding signs that say “God hates fags”, “Fags die, God laughs”, “God hates you”, “You’re going to hell”, “Homosexuals are possessed by demons”, and “Fags doom nations”. And, yes, these people are serious. So much hatred for just a mere ideological “threat”.
I believe that if conservative Christians (and religious people) take a moment to retreat, they should find that the hatred they are channeling through the persecutions for homosexuals is simply an act of injustice. With the imbalance of power and amount of persecution, it would be wise that people who still believe in God simply refers back to the notion of love and contemplate on it. Religions always teach their followers to live peacefully with others, and Christianity, in particular, teaches its follower to “love thy enemies”.
With some introspective spirit they can hopefully realize the hatred and the injustice that their perspective has bred. I personally hope that they find love in their teachings again and – with the legalization of same-sex marriage in the US – celebrate that this time love actually wins.
Alvin Steviro is currently an IELTS teacher who is struggling to be rich. Being an INFP, he has a profound love for psychological thrillers and reflective music, absolute hatred for Five Night at Freddy’s, and a love-hate relationship with Nietzsche.