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Reflections on Ethics 51
Homosexuality, Choice, and Sin

by: Don Schumacher, Jr.

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First off I am going to start by saying that I am a homosexual and proud of it. With this in mind you can likely guess that I am going to have some bias in my discussion, but I will try to remain as impartial as possible.

The idea of homosexuality being a choice or an innate quality/trait is a very complicated matter. Nothing in this world is purely left up to choice or completely spelled out before you are born. Everything from the time we are born, or maybe even conceived, influences how we are going to act for the rest of our life: our environment, family, friends, culture, genetic makeup, everything. Over the course of our lives we refine our views and personalities based on this variety of influences. These things surely carry weight when we make choices, but they do not predetermine everything we do. For instance, you might love ice cream more than any other food in the world and have the opportunity to get a free ice cream, but maybe that day you just don’t feel like it or you already ate and are full so you decide not to take the offer; however, later that night when you are at home you decide to take out some ice cream and eat it. This shows that we do have a choice in everything, but that our predispositions do help to affect our decisions.

This conflict of inlaid traits, experiences, and choices works on all levels including your attraction to someone. No one knows for sure yet if our sexual orientation is determined by our genes, but most likely there is something that affects it in someway just like everything else. Following the argument in the previous paragraph you could have a predisposition (built up over time due to many different circumstances) to be gay, straight, bi, trans, or asexual; yet you could totally ignore those tendencies for whatever reason. However, using simple logic, if you have predispositions towards one end of a choice then, over time and after facing that choice several times, you are more likely to side with your inlaid feelings than not.

As an example, say that you are 20 years old and you have grown up thus far thinking that both men and women are extremely attractive in their own ways and right now you know of a man named Bob and a woman named Beth. You think that both of them have great personalities and that they both look really attractive. So which one do you pick to go out on a date with? No one can say which one you will pick for sure because there are so many conditions. Since you are equally attracted to both men and women you are most likely to have equal chances of choosing either one of them. However, the real question is if one of your choices would be innately wrong/evil/sinful for whatever reason (most likely because you picked the person that is the same sex as you).

Here we come to the question of what sin is. The Webster’s Dictionary has several definitions on sin and I will try to treat each evenly.

Sin: 1- an offense against religious or moral law; an action that is or is felt to be highly reprehensible; an often serious shortcoming, and
2- transgression of the law of God/gods; a vitiated state of human nature in which the self is estranged from God/gods.

In effect you can take the first definition to be a nonreligious viewpoint of sin and the second to be a purely religious version of sin. The first definition can be more easily explained as something done that was unlawful and most likely deserving as some kind of punishment; this definition is very practical to everyday life as well as governments because it helps to set up a structure around which we can correct wrongs that people commit. The second, likely the most widely used, definition is virtually the same as the first only with major religious overtones. It essentially states that sin is a direct violation of God/gods rules and that you have strayed away from the right path laid out by those rules. With the definition of sin clearly laid out I can continue my main discussion on homosexuality.

With respect to the first definition of sin (excluding the religious law since this is more under the second definition) I cannot think of any good reason why a morally just society should consider homosexuality a sin. I am almost positive that there is no moral law or code against going outside the narrow, classical mind-set of a male-female relationship, there is nothing morally wrong with it. Some people just find it offensive, creepy, weird, or just something they don’t like. You can also not say that it is a serious shortcoming because then that would essentially be discriminating which is defiantly not moral. So since homosexuality does not really fall under the first definition we have to look to the second definition to see why some think of it as a sin.

By glancing at the second definition it is easy to see why some would see homosexuality as a sin. Many of the major world religions see homosexuality as a sin because it goes directly against their religious doctrines, teachings, and scriptures. In the past homosexuals were often denied membership in these religions or excommunicated for simply stating that they liked members of the same sex. Today most of them have refined their views along the current definition of homosexuality which is described as “explicit erotic activity with another of the same sex.” This is essentially a loop hole so that they can say that they don’t hate the people, just the acts that they happen to perform as part of their lives. So essentially what most of these groups have started to suggest is that it is OK to be a homosexual just don’t do anything that would be considered homosexuality (in other words completely deny who you are). Although many of their doctrines and written laws contain parts that outrightly call homosexual acts sins, it is not a well-conceived view on the issue.

Within these religions it is very hard to voice concern over the issue because the doctrines are taken to be right from God/gods and that they are the Creator’s rules, and if those rules are broken they are clearly sins with respect to the second definition. So these people are justified in calling it a sin since it goes against their religious laws; however, the laws really only matter to homosexuals if they themselves believe and follow those religious laws. This is one of the reasons that I decided to leave Christianity because it does not leave much room for homosexual free choice.

Now this is getting back into the choice issue, but this time it is with explicit reference to religious views and choice. Many religious figures will state that homosexuality is a choice and has nothing to do with genetics or predispositions, but we saw earlier that it is really part of both. Remember that homosexuality is the actual carrying out of erotic acts with someone of the same sex, but also remember that being homosexual carries both predispositions and choices with it too (although the true extent of each has yet to be figured out). Here I am concerned more for the people who are in these religions because they believe in God/gods and most of the beliefs, but I feel that they are trapped into having to conform to the laws on homosexuality and hide their true selves. Yes, they have the choice to stay or to go, to hide or to be open, but really are they given much of a choice? Not really. If they stay they will never be able to act on their true feelings, they could never physically love another person or be loved by another person, and they would be forced to hide themselves. If they leave then they feel exiled and possibly betrayed, then how does that affect their opinion on God/gods that they held so dear before.

One of my friends talked to me once about this. He is a Baptist and he is very proud of his beliefs. He said that the problems facing homosexuals in the Christian faith can be looked at as a test from God, or more as a way to follow more directly in the path of Christ and follow his word. He said that it is an opportunity to strengthen your faith more than the average person. I found this as another loop hole in the belief structure. Why would God make things so complicated for some, and why would he have to test them about something that he ‘could’ have given them in the first place?

The point of all of this is that I myself have come to learn that all these issues do not pertain to me anymore since I do not follow the religious beliefs that ban me from being who I really am, and so then my homosexuality is no longer a sin by the definition of the word (not that it ever should have been in the first place). Yet, I still feel empathy for all the people that are stuck in this position and having great difficulties with it, and all for what? So that they can conform to the common notion that love is only meant for people who follow the ‘divine plan’ and stay heterosexual. It is not direct discrimination or harassment on them, but it still is discrimination and harassment in the long run.

Finally, yes this ended up being long, and sorry if I got biased at the end, the conclusion. Being a homosexual and homosexuality, as well as everything else in our lives, are influenced by external influences, internal influences, and choice (all not one of them). Each has its own important role to play. We might not have a choice to be who we are in the end, but we do have a choice to deny who we are or to accept it. That is our choice to make and ours alone, and whatever you choose to do you should not think of it as a sin. That is a word that the external world tries to shove onto you to make you feel bad for not doing what they want you to do. This does not pertain to all sins since some are actually based on well grounded moral standards, but it does apply to your sexuality. In the end, do not worry whether your sexuality and sexual preferences are sins or not, just worry about making the right choices in life with respect to your own personal intuitions. I hope everyone decides to accept who they are in the end and that they live better lives for it.

Good luck to all,
Don Schumacher, Jr.