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Christianity's Persecution of Gays: Historical Bigotry

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The present dispute over Gay rights legislation and same sex marriage is only one of the latest incidents in the Judaeo-Christian religion's history of
persecuting Gays and Lesbians.  The question that arises is whether
Christianity can be reformed of this bigotry or whether it is an
intrinsic part of this religion.  To answer this question, we must go
back and examine the historical record.

When we examine the Old Testament, the anti-sexual erotophobic nature
of the Judaeo-Christian tradition becomes immediately clear.  The God
of the Hebrews, in contrast to the gods of all the other ancient
religions, is never reported to have engaged in sex with goddesses or
humans.  It might be objected that a monotheistic religion by its
very nature cannot have other divinities for the God to have sex
with, but when the oldest portions of the Old Testament were written
the religion of the Hebrews was not monotheistic.

Like all their neighbors, the ancient Hebrews believed that their god
was supreme in the territory they controlled, not that he was the
sole god.  If they were victorious or defeated in battle with
neighboring people, it meant that their god had been victorious over
or defeated by the neighboring god.  Yet the mythologies of all the
surrounding peoples attributed full sex lives to their gods, while
the Hebrew god was never portrayed as having any sexual experience
whatsoever.  This is a clear sign that the Hebrews, in contrast to
all their neighbors, believed that there was something wrong with
sex, so it would be sacrilegious to attribute it to the deity.

The myth of original sin in the Garden of Eden is another example of
Judaeo-Christian erotophobia.  The phallic symbolism of the serpent
and the "forbidden fruit" is quite clear.  But if this symbolism is
not enough to convince, we also learn that after they ate the
forbidden fruit, Adam and Eve were ashamed of their nakedness and
covered themselves with fig leaves.

Furthermore, the punishment for the original sin also is sexual, for
the myth has God saying to Eve in Genesis 4:16:  "I will greatly
multiply thy sorrow and thy conception.  In sorrow thou shall bring
forth children.  And thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall
rule over thee."

Because of the above passage in the Biblical myth, many Christians in
the past opposed all medical efforts to facilitate painless
childbirth, and some still use it to argue against equal rights for
women.

This erotophobic attitude of the ancient Hebrews was intensified to
an even greater extreme in Christianity.  There is no sex in the
Christian heaven and Christian mythology claims that when God became
incarnate in human form, he was born of a virgin without the aid of
sex.

Paul intensified Christian erotophobia even further when he stated in
I Corinthians 7: 8-9:  "I say therefore to the unmarried and widows,
it is good for them to abide even as I.   But if they cannot contain,
let them marry: for it is better to marry than to burn."

It is instructive, while examining the connection between the
religious mythology of a culture and its sexual mores, to look at an
offshoot of the Judaeo-Christian tradition where the erotophobia has
been attenuated.  Muslim law prescribes death for Gays.  Yet in most
Islamic countries this law is seldom enforced and sexual relations
between members of the same sex are viewed to be as normal a part of
life as heterosexual relations.  This is especially the case in
Morocco.  C.A. Tripp points out in The Homosexual Matrix that "A
number of sex researchers from Havelock Ellis to Kinsey have
estimated that homosexual activity outnumbers heterosexual activity
in Arabic countries."

   The recent press coverage of Islamic fundamentalism may give the impression that Islam is even worse than Christianity when it comes to anti Gay bigotry.  Yet the law calling for the death penalty is seldom enforced, especially since several witnesses are required for a conviction.  Even in Afghanistan, where rural women will often run and hide in their houses if a strange man approaches their village, local warlords would often select youths to be their concubines.  The youth's family would say he was working for the local warlord so it was not talked about openly, but everyone knew what the family meant when they said their son was working for the local warlord.

And when we look at Islamic religious mythology, we find an
attenuation of Judaeo-Christian erotophobia.  There is sex in the
Muslim heaven.  Sura LII, 20-24 of the Koran promises that in
paradise one can enjoy "houris with large eyes," while the pleasures
of Gay sex are promised in Sura LXXVI, 19, where one may
enjoy "immortal ephebes, whom you might take for separate pearls."

Almost all authorities are agreed that virtually all the cultures of
the ancient world accepted Gays and Lesbians.  These authorities
include Hans Licht, Sexual Life in Ancient Greece; Edward
Westermarck, The Origin and Development of Moral Ideas; Wainwright
Churchill, Homosexual Behavior Among Males; and C.C. Ford and F. A.
Beach, Patterns of Sexual Behavior.

These authorities report acceptance of Gays and Lesbians among the
Greeks, Germans, Scandinavians, Egyptians, Etruscans, Cretans,
Carthaginians, Sumerians, Chinese and Japanese.  In India, the
penalty was only a ritual of self-cleansing in water instead of the
Christian penalty of death by fire.  Ford and Beach report that in a
recent survey of anthropological data, 49 out of 76, or 64 percent of
the cultures for which information was available, accepted some form
of Gay or Lesbian sex.

In a study of 193 world cultures, P. Hoch and J. Zubin reported in
Psychosexual Development in Health and Disease that 28 percent of the
cultures totally accepted male Gays, 58 percent partially accepted
them, and only 14 percent rejected Gays.  The corresponding figures
for Lesbians were 10 percent, 79 percent and 11 percent.  It is no
wonder then that psychologist Wardell B. Pomeroy stated in his
essay "Homosexuality", printed in The Same Sex, that Western culture
is almost unique not only in its rejection of Gays and Lesbians but
in the prescriptions, the anxieties and the rigidities with which it
has surrounded sex in general.

D.J. West states in Homosexuality;  "for a perfect example of a
homosexually oriented civilization none can compare with classical
Greece.  When Plato wrote so sublimely of the emotions and
aspirations of love he was describing what we would call
perversion."  The pre-Christian Romans had only one law dealing with
Gays, the Lex Scautinia, and it only prohibited sex between a
freeborn youth and a slave.  By the time of the Empire, even this was
not enforced.

However, there was an increasing asceticism in the last centuries of
the ancient world as people turned from the increasing hardships of
this world to the joys of an imaginary better world.  Christianity,
as a fusion between Hebrew religion and Greek philosophy, combined
the worst aspects of the erotophobia in both.  Although the first
Christian emperor, Constantine, did not pass any laws against Gays,
his successor, Constantius issued a decree in 342 A.D. calling for
Gays to be beheaded.  The penalty of burning alive was first decreed
by Valentinian II on August 6, 390 A.D.  The practice of burning gays
alive continued in Europe until the latter part of the 18th century.

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http://www.halfhillviews.greatnow.com

DOB -- September 20, 1940. Became active in civil rights and peace movements in 1962. Active in socialist and antiwar movements -- 1963-69. Active in Gay Liberation from 1969 to present.

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