Go with Gods

As old tensions make way for more religion in the community, godless gays can make peace with pious peers

We have certainly come a long way, baby. From stone tools to space stations to oil spills, there is no doubting our species’s technological evolution. When it comes to our devotion to gods, however, we’re relatively where we started: faithful.

I’m reminded of this with all the noise about the pope’s visit to Britain. Then there’s my mom, who recently rediscovered the Unitarian Universalists. And the newly formed Catholics for Equality. Religion infuses all.

It probably feels more so to me because I’m an atheist. That term may not be exactly accurate, but I can find none better. I have Taoist leanings, but nothing formal. ”Agnostic” fit for a time, but I’m more comfortable with the ”atheist” as I believe ever more strongly that humans make their gods, rather than vice versa.

As a gay person, I’m sure I’m not alone in being out of step with the faithful. Granted, there are plenty of devout LGBT people. That number is probably growing, too, as more mainstream sects welcome LGBT people. A gay person born 50 years in the future may have a hard time grasping that some Islamic societies executed people for being gay, citing religion. Or that the Mormon Church and Catholic Knights of Columbus poured millions into fighting marriage equality in California. Or even the Dalai Lama frowning on gay people doing what comes naturally.

For the L, G, B or T, chances are you’ve had to think about religion quite a bit, as it’s been used to call you an abomination, sinful, whatever. For some, finding a welcoming spiritual home can be even more powerful than those attacks. But not for me. Beyond the homophobia, I’m troubled by what I see as a common – though not universal – religious premise: I’m saved; you’re doomed.

It’s impossible for me to go along with that. Instead, I see a people who have always made gods for themselves, whether it’s the sun, deceased ancestors, guys in robes or whatever suits your fancy. Whatever god or gods are chosen, chances are the kids of those believers will end up holding the same faith as their parents. I’m guessing that’s more than coincidence. But when someone’s faith seems to have everything to do with family and geography, rather than a spiritual exploration of multiple faiths, what’s the value? I’m not saying such faith has no value – just not for me.

The important point, however, is not that I don’t have any religious devotion. What is important is that as our community becomes more religious, that might rub some of us the wrong way.

It shouldn’t, because we all have something in common – and this is for all humanity, not just the queer community: In what may be a cosmic cruelty or intelligent design or some other uncertainty, we are the only beings we know of who can contemplate their own mortality. Sure, other animals may mourn, and all of us seem to have a survival instinct. But as far as we can observe, we’re the only creatures to wonder what happens after we die. It’s an almost maddening paradox to have the capacity to obsess about our inevitable end, yet not have a means of exploring the ”beyond” before we get there. Believer or not, it’s a situation we all share, and we’re all doing the best we know how to get by under this particular pickle. I’ve even got to cut the likes of Fred Phelps a little slack, granting that he doesn’t think what he’s doing is evil, but that he genuinely believes he’s doing his god’s work. It may not make him more tolerable, but I have to respect his shared mortal existence.

I, like many gay people, have no god. But that doesn’t mean that I disrespect you for loving yours. As our LGBT rainbow adds more divine hues, I hope that the devout among us will extend me the same respect.

Follow Will O'Bryan on Twitter @wobryan.

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