June 17, 2013

Great to See So Many LGBT Adults Losing Their Religion

Rainbow flag. Symbol of gay pride.
Rainbow flag. Symbol of gay pride. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
When I saw the title of Hemant Mehta's (Friendly Atheist) recent post, Pew Study Shows That 48% of LGBT Adults Are Non-Religious, I have to admit that I didn't have the most positive reaction. "Only 48%? That's not even a majority?" I wondered how LGBT adults could cling to ideologies which have been so instrumental in oppressing them and that even today seek to deny them one of the most fundamental human rights (i.e., marriage).

Moments later, I realized that this was unfair. Not every religious group has been openly hostile to the LGBT community. Some of the more liberal to moderate forms of Christianity, for example, have managed to be at least somewhat accepting. I was making a mistake by equating "religious" with "fundamentalist." And of course, many LGBT adults were probably indoctrinated in a religious tradition during their childhoods. So it is silly that I would be surprised that most would not still believe in what they were raised to believe. Overcoming years of indoctrination is not an easy task.

The truly encouraging thing about the Pew results Hemant shared was that 17% of the LGBT adults surveyed identified themselves as atheist or agnostic compared with only 6% of the general public. I often see the "religiously unaffiliated" label used in these surveys being misinterpreted by atheists. I suspect most religiously unaffiliated persons still believe in god(s). So it was nice to see 17% in the atheist/agnostic category.

Of the many LGBT individuals I have known over the years, I'd say roughly half of them were not religious. Many are atheists; many more explain that they just don't want anything to do with organized religion. Thus, my limited experience seems to fit the results of the survey quite well.

Hemant summarized the results by noting:
...the survey confirms that treatment and attitude toward the LGBT community is going to be a problem in the religious world for years to come. Young people are going to have to decide whether or not to support an institution that thinks gay and lesbian relationships are inferior to straight ones.
He mentions that one of the ways we atheists might be able to accelerate this process a bit is by making sure we welcome LGBT persons into our communities. That sounds good to me. I've long thought that atheists and LGBT persons were natural allies.

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