Stop Casting ‘Religious Freedom’ Stones


Every so often we see news reports from faraway places like Pakistan, where some Muslim tribal elders have condemned someone, usually a woman, to be stoned to death. Quite rightly, we’re incensed, because civilized folks don’t stone people. Those Muslims are so heathenish and backward with their stonings and jihads and holding grudges from the 15th century. Their god isn’t Our God.

But what is a religious freedom law that allows American citizens to discriminate against fellow citizens in the name of their religion? It’s the legalized stoning of people’s souls based on an outdated interpretation of ancient scripture. Uh oh, we have a lot more in common with backward Muslims than we thought.

Conservative, according to my Shorter Oxford English Dictionary, Fifth Edition, means “characterized by a tendency to preserve or keep intact and unchanged.” Conservative religion can be a positive force, offering the comfort of rituals and the guidance of traditions in a world that often spins us around with the force of a Tilt-A-Whirl ride. However, a conservative religion ultimately dooms itself to become a dead religion—to burn out—when its tenets and precepts derive from hate. If your religion comes at the expense of other people’s ability to live their lives with happiness and kindness, it’s time to upgrade.

I understand there are supposed to be some Bible verses that condemn homosexuality as a big, bad sin, using words like ‘abnormal’ and ‘unnatural’. I’m not a biblical scholar, so I’m not going to parse verses. However, I’ll offer two thoughts:

  1. Context counts with the Bible. I always go back to the Creation story. When handing down the Bible to the scribes, God knew there were no geologists on standby. A savvy thinker, God put the literal truth of the Creation story in terms that people of the times could understand, nimbly sidestepping dinosaurs and the Mesozoic Era. Many such literal truths in the Bible are buried within the dross of the times.
  2. ‘Unnatural’ isn’t one-size-fits-all. In other words, what is unnatural and abnormal for me isn’t always the same as what is unnatural and abnormal for you. Being gay is unnatural for a heterosexual man or woman, but no one is asking heterosexuals to become gay. So why are some heterosexuals asking gay men and women to become straight—to do what is unnatural and abnormal for them—or risk discrimination and ostracism? (No, I’m not greenlighting horrors. ‘Abnormal’ is different from wrong. Some sexual acts are wrong for everyone because no consent is asked for, or can be given, e.g., rape, pedophilia, and bestiality.)

Pulling out individual Bible verses to support our personal opinions of hate and discrimination ignores the one overriding truth of the Bible, which is the same foundational truth of all major world religions: God is Love. Going even further to attempt to codify our hate as law—well, talk about abominations.

Caralyn Davis lives in Asheville, N.C. She works as a freelance writer/editor and is a student in the Great Smokies Writing Program at the University of North Carolina-Asheville. Her creative nonfiction has appeared in Superstition Review. Her fiction has appeared in The Doctor T.J. Eckleburg Review, Monkeybicycle, Relief Journal, Deep South, The Drum, and other publications.