Homosexuality in the World's Religions

Homosexuality is generally defined as sexual interest in and attraction to members of one's own sex. In different eras, cultures, and religions, homosexual behaviour has been variously approved, tolerated, punished, or banned.

Homosexuality was not uncommon in ancient cultures, though the forms and views of homosexual behavior vary significantly. In most of Africa, Asia, and Latin America, both the subject and the behaviour are considered taboo, with some slight exception made in urban areas.

The ancient Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans were generally accepting of homosexual behavior within certain contexts. Hinduism and Buddhism tend to view homosexuality primarily from the standpoint of its karmic effects, with varying conclusions.

Jewish, Christian, Sikh and Muslim cultures have generally perceived homosexual behaviour as sinful. Many Jewish and Christian leaders, however, have gone to great lengths to make clear that it is the homosexual acts and not the homosexual individuals or their "orientation" that is condemned.

Some liberal strands of both mainstream Protestant Christianity and Reform Judaism advocate, on theological as well as social grounds, the full acceptance of homosexuals and their relationships.

The following chart compares the views of homosexuality in world religions, past and present, in regard to homosexual orientation and homosexual relations. Note that, even if homosexuality is regarded as a sin or negative act, many religions stress that it should not be singled out as though it is necessarily worse than other sins.

Religion Views of Homosexual Orientation View of Homosexual Acts Quotes
Ancient Greeks No conception of "homosexuality" versus "heterosexualty." Same-sex desires not categorized separately from other sexual desires. Not generally condemned and often idealized and romanticized. But the social status of the partners and the playing of the passive role were important considerations. "The noble lover of beauty engages in love wherever he sees excellence and splendid natural endowment without regard for any difference in physiological detail." -Plutarch, Dialogue on Love 146
Ancient Romans No conception of "homosexuality" versus "heterosexualty." Homosexual desires were irrelevant; only the acts were regulated. Similar to Greece under the Republic, but more negative under the Empire, in which male prostitution and pederasty were illegal and passive partners in adult relationships lost many civil rights.  
Buddhism Varies: Unnatural (Dalai Lama), a karmic punishment (SE Asian countries), an alternative. Not generally condemned in itself. Unlawful for monks, who must be celibate regardless of orientation. For other Buddhists, "sexual misconduct" is prohibited under the Third Precept, which depends on the circumstances and the results. "Where there is mutual consent, where adultery is not involved and where the sexual act is an expression of love, respect, loyalty and warmth, it would not be breaking the third Precept." -BuddhaNet
Christianity Orientation/attraction not generally considered sinful in itself, though some see it as a purposeful perversion. Some accept it as a natural alternative, while others regard it as a non-chosen mental disorder akin to alcoholism. Traditionally considered sinful. Many Christians and denominations continue to uphold this belief, while others have reconsidered it or in the process of doing so. "A man shall not lie with another man as with a woman; it is an abomination." -Leviticus 18:22

"Men committed indecent acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their perversion." -Romans 1:27
Hinduism Not generally condemned in itself. Some ancient texts and temples depict it as one of many sexual inclinations, while Vedanta discourages homosexual desires as lustful and/or distracting. Condemned by most Hindu cultures, though not often for religious reasons. The teachings of Vedanta, which emphasize liberation from the material world to the spiritual, allow only heterosexual sex, within marriage and for purposes of procreation. "...in all things connected with love, everybody should act according to the custom of his country and his own inclination." Kama Sutra IX

"O son of Kunti, the pleasures that are born out of sensory contacts are sources of pain. They certainly are transient, having a beginning and an end. The intelligent man is wise enough not to indulge in them." (Bhagavad Gita 5.22)
Islam Not generally condemned. Sinful and punishable under Islamic law. "We also sent Lut: He said to his people: Do ye commit lewdness such as no people in creation (ever) committed before you? For ye practice your lusts on men in preference to women: ye are indeed a people transgressing beyond bounds." -Qur'an 7:80-81
Jehovah's Witnesses Orientation/attraction not necessarily sinful in itself. Sinful. Those with homosexual inclinations must abstain from all homosexual behavior. "Christians do not make homosexuals, or anyone else, the target of ill will, ridicule, or harassment. True Christians view their fellow humans as potential disciples of Christ, treating them in a respectful and dignified manner." - Awake! Dec. 8, 1997 .
Judaism Orthodox: Condemned as rebellion against God.
Conservative: Neither condemned nor affirmed.
Reform: Generally accepted as alternative.
Orthodox: Strongly condemned.
Conservative: Violation of Jewish law, disqualifies from Jewish marriage and religious leadership. Reform: Approved in context of committed relationship; civil marriage supported, but generally not religious marriage.
"A man shall not lie with another man as with a woman; it is an abomination." -Leviticus 18:22
Mormonism Called "same-gender attraction." Less serious than homosexual acts, but should be resisted. Considered a serious sin. Heterosexual marriage is required for entry into the most desirable forms of afterlife. "We all seem to have susceptibilities to one disorder or another, but whatever our susceptibilities, we have the will and the power to control our thoughts and our actions." -Dallin H. Oaks
New Age Accepted as alternative. Accepted within bounds of general ethics.  
Sikhism Generally considered a manifestation of Lust, one of the "Five Thieves" or vices. A minority consider it an acceptable alternative. Generally condemned in light of its association with Lust and the value of family life. But a minority believe the Sikh value of universal equality supports acceptance of homosexual relations. "Sikhism is a very tolerant religion and seeks to find the truth rather than adhere rigidly to rules. Homosexuality is not specifically banned in any of the writings of the Gurus, but they do stress that God has intended people to live as man and wife, or to be celibate, with no deviation from this design." -Ethnicity Online
Wicca Accepted as alternative. Accepted within bounds of general ethics. "All acts of Love and Pleasure are Her rituals." -The Charge of the Goddess
Religion Views of Homosexual Orientation View of Homosexual Acts Quotes

Article Info

TitleHomosexuality in the World's Religions
Short URLrlft.co/1119
UpdatedNovember 19, 2015
MLA Citation“Homosexuality in the World's Religions.” ReligionFacts.com. 19 Nov. 2015. Web. Accessed 26 Oct. 2016. <www.religionfacts.com/homosexuality>