LGBs and atheism
I just finished reading a two-volume set on atheism and secularity. There were a number of interesting findings in the books. I’ll probably post about a few more of them. But I’ll start with this one from p. 98:
Whereas 62 percent of heterosexual respondents are believers, only 42 percent of LGB respondents are believers. The LGB respondents are more likely to be atheists than were heterosexuals: only 2.5 percent of the heterosexual respondents claim they do not believe in God, compared to 5.6 percent of the LGB respondents. Whereas 4 percent of the heterosexual respondents are agnostics, 12 percent of LGB respondents are. Thus, according to the GSS data, GLB people are nearly three times more likely than heterosexuals to respond to the GOD question in an atheistic or agnostic way. (Source:Linneman, Thomas J., and Margaret A. Clendenen. 2010. Sexuality and the Secular. Pp. 89-112 in Atheism and Secularity: Volume 1 – Issues, Concepts, and Definitions, vol. 1, edited by Phil Zuckerman. Santa Barbara, CA: Praeger.)
I’ve long suspected this was the case but have not been able to find much data on this. Since we have a number of LGB readers, what are you thoughts on this? (Of course, I’d like non-LGB readers to comment as well.)
Being gay, my only comment is that I wish I could find and interact with some of the other atheists. My experience is that a lot of LGBT folks have turned their backs on Christianity but not on believing some crazy, made up stuff…hardly what I’d call atheism.
For me it’s because of constant lies about homosexuality from the pulpit. Lies such as: gay people only care about sex, gay people are all depraved, gay people are incapable of loving, gay people choose to be gay, gay people are predators, you can be gay-converted, etc. As a gay person, I knew all that wasn’t true and if that wasn’t true, what else were they saying that wasn’t true? Was any of it true?
Being gay taught me that religious leaders can be dead wrong and once I understood that, it all unravelled from there.
As with most heterosexual white men, it took me a very long time to understand the hurt and the pain that institutionalized prejudice brings upon minority groups such as women and homosexuals.
Part of the difficulty is the fortunate position of not having to suffer such prejudice, but a large part is due to the widespread social acceptance of bigoted language and negative stereotypes.
I had been an Atheist for quite some time until I decided to remove myself from the main body of the Church. Unlike many ex-Mormons, I had never had a personal problem, or had never been offended, or even had a hard time “following the commandments”. Nevertheless, the increasing hateful rhetoric, mostly geared towards homosexuals, though not exclusively, nauseated me to a point where I could no longer bear to be associated with such institutionalized bigotry!
Now, I can only imagine growing up as a gay teenager and hearing all of this homophobic rhetoric (to which, as a non-gay teen, I had been completely deaf) from both leaders and members alike. After years or decades of such psychological abuse, it would be only natural for them to develop revulsive feelings towards organized religion.
It naturally makes it even harder when other Christian churches share the same “values”, and for a Mormon it’s hard to contemplate joining those few Christian churches which do embrace more tolerante world-views because of the “apostasy” training inculcated from all those childhood First Vision pageantries.
Overall, I am always impressed with those LGBs who *do* maintain some degree of religious participation and even more so within the LDS tradition. Typically, I try to encourage them because having them present will (might) encourage future LDS to be more tolerant and accepting. But I understand how painful and frustrating it must be on them.
I am willing to wager that in the future, when Christians and Mormons are more accepting of LGBs, this “atheist trend” will buckle.
I’m an out and proud ex-Mormon, gay, atheist (or gaytheist as some friends call me.) Even if I wasn’t gay, I suspect I’d still have left the church and would still identify as an atheist. I just ask too many questions about the world and can’t accept conclusions without objective, verifiable evidence.
I’m not sure why it’s “impressive” for LGB’s to maintain their religious participation any more than it’s impressive for an abused spouse to stick around to encourage their abusive spouse to be more tolerant and accepting. Seems like crazy-thinking to me.
When people believe in God, they also tend to believe in a “Kingdom of God,” which includes angels and a bunch of other mythological/supernatural things, as well as notions about how humans relate to God (“prophesies” and “miracles”), etc.
Did the book saying anything about deists, those who might believe in God, but see no reason to believe in all that other stuff? In many ways, I think deists are basically like agnostics who might have just been raised on the idea of God, and when they see the natural order of things or they are in dire straits, they think “God,” rather than worrying about resolving the God question. I have met a lot of LGBT people who fall into this category.
I would think that as more faiths accept gays in fellowship, there will be more religious gays — not just deists, but those who accept the mythology of their given communities.
No mention of deists. The way the question is worded in the GSS would allow me to single out agnostics and those who believe in a higher power (the second is kind of like a deist), but a clear definition of deist is not presented in the response options. If you’re interested, I could try to parse those out on my own.
Secular and atheist people, for the most part, don’t judge LBG’s the way religious people do. Why should we? We don’t believe the holy books or the religious authorities that tell us we should judge LGB friends and family. But religious people are told what to think, and how to act towards LGB’s.
I would also venture a guess that atheists and secular types are a bit more informed of the biology of sexuality; we’re OK with the idea that there may be genetic or environmental factors associated with our sexuality. Being “born that way” doesn’t destroy our theology, like it does some religious people.
Once I learned for myself that Mormonism was not true, I have had no interest in joining or having anything to do with any religion. Convert, BYU grad, returned missionary and subject of aversion therapy at BYU–I have had all the crap I want from the Mormon Church for one lifetime. Although many people believe in religion and I respect their right to free exercise of conscience, I have no use for it personally. I may still have some sort of belief in God, in spite of my brush with Mormonism. Never again. Mormonism? Nothing but hateful nonsense.
My loss of faith had nothing to do with my orientation. I gradually lost faith, and had to reject Christianity as a natural result of that. I couldn’t very well follow the “son of god” if I didn’t believe in god. Before that I merely ignored the “clobber passages” the way many modern Christians ignore parts they consider irrelevant or inconvenient (prohibitions against pork and shellfish, Thou Shalt Not Lie, Thou Shalt Not Commit Adultery, God hates divorce, etc). Essentially I was the typical Cafeteria Christian, except I considered my beliefs my own rather than something I should use to try to impress on others.
I suspect many LGBT people do turn away from organized religion, and ultimately, faith, as a result of the virulent homophobia they encounter. If one is forced to question and reject one portion of a belief system for the purposes of sheer survival, that can cause them to question and reject the rest.
My wife is not an atheist (she describes herself as an “atheist leaning agnostic”) but she rather fits into this group. She was raised Catholic with all of the trimmings (Catholic school, church every week no matter where they were or how sick anybody was). But she could not reconcile the anti-gay rhetoric the church taught with everything else she had been brought up to believe. So ultimately she ended up rejecting it all. I may be able to convince her to tell the story in more detail….