Homosexuality and Religion

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Reader’s Question

I am a 17-year-old male living in Australia. I have recently informed a friend of mine about my homosexuality. He by no means (at least I believe) had any ill intentions against me, however I was highly disturbed when he commented that I had a “demon” inside me that required “cleansing” and he would “pray” every night for me. Over the next few days he even brought me books about experiences of supposed homosexual Christians, mainly experiences of people who “prayed to God” and even performed disturbing “rituals” to the point where they supposedly “cured” their “homosexuality”. Having an avid interest in psychology, it seemed to me that these were acts of severe repression (please correct me if I’m wrong!).

I understand that one is entitled to their own religious beliefs, however he has been pestering me about going to his church talks so that he could get rid of my “demonic behaviours”. Religion is a sensitive topic, but I can’t help but feel that he is somewhat deluded? Am I wrong?

Psychologist’s Reply

You are correct that religion is a sensitive topic and nowhere is that more evident than in confronting the topic of what one person believes to be a sin while another does not. This is at the heart of the so-called ‘culture wars’ and it seems you’re getting a lesson in that up close and personal.

One of the more challenging aspects of religiosity is that there are so many different interpretations of sacred texts and religious doctrine. Thus, what one religious group thinks is true is directly contrary to another’s beliefs. However, some people become so certain that their views are correct that they do not allow for flexibility or even sensitivity to others who do not share their perspectives. Unfortunately, it appears that this is true for your friend. If this is truly the case, then I wouldn’t bother arguing with him because it will not change his mind.

Scientists have done a lot of research on homosexuality and their conclusions have been that it is not something you can ‘cure’ or change. In fact, most psychiatric and psychological associations have deemed conversion therapy (also known as reparative therapy) unethical, as it tends to cause more harm than good and does not generally have the desired result of changing sexual orientation. Many of the people who initially claimed to have been ‘cured’ as a result of such therapies and rituals often admitted later that they did not work. Consequently, your friend’s beliefs about a cure are not empirically valid.

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There are a lot of reasons why people are so anti-homosexuality, so I will not venture a guess as to whether your friend or those people he cites as examples are repressed. Whatever his reasons though, it is important that you be assertive and not allow yourself to be pestered by his concerns. You can gently tell him that you appreciate how much he cares for you, but that you are fine with who you are and would like to continue the friendship in ways that are fun for both of you. If he is unable to do that, then perhaps you should reconsider just how good of a friend he is.

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