Traditionally, homosexuality was the subject to severe criticism and repulsion from the part of the society. The sexual intolerance persists in the contemporary society as well. This negative attitude toward homosexuality is shaped not only by the public opinion and modern culture but it is the result of a long-lasting criticism and condemnation of homosexuality by the major world’s religions. In this respect, it is worth mentioning that Christianity, Islam and Judaism were critical and even intolerant in relation to homosexuality, although the attitude of the three aforementioned religions to homosexuality varied, the general attitude of these world’s religions can be defined as negative. Therefore, the public opinion and the negative attitude of people to homosexuality is, to a significant extent, defined by the historical impact of religions on the philosophy, views and values of people. In such a context, Christianity, Islam and Judaism contributed consistently to the formation of anti-homosexual views in the society. As a result, societies with a different ethnic, cultural and religious background often have a common, but negative attitude to homosexuality.
First of all, it should be said that the attitude of Christianity, Islam and Judaism toward homosexuality is, to a significant extent, similar. At this point, it is worth mentioning the fact that all the three religions are Abrahamic religions and they have common roots. At the same time, the three religions emerged in the region of intersection of cultures that contributed to certain similarities between three religions. In this regard, the negative attitude to homosexuality may be viewed as one of the common points to Christianity, Islam and Judaism. On the other hand, in spite of the negative attitude to homosexuality, each religion has its specific attitude to homosexuality. To put it more precisely, Islam is the most radical in regard to homosexuality, whereas Judaism is the most liberal in regard to sexual life of people and homosexuality, although it is possible to trace the negative attitude of Judaists toward homosexuality. As for Christianity, it turns out to be in-between compared to the position of Islam and Judaism in regard to homosexuality.
In this respect, it is important to lay emphasis on the fact that the attitude of Christianity toward homosexuality is quite controversial. On the one hand, Christianity condemns homosexuality because it contradicts to fundamental Christian ethical norms and values. In fact, the general stance of Christianity on sexuality is highly restrictive. Celibacy is enforced for priests and bishops in many denominations. Homosexuality contradicts to the traditional Christian views on sexuality. Taking into consideration the overall restrictive view of Christianity on sexuality, homosexuality is definitely considered as an unnatural, sinful action or lifestyle. As a result, Christian has developed a negative attitude toward homosexuality.
On the other hand, in spite of the anti-homosexual doctrine of Christianity, homosexuality abounds in the priesthood at a higher rate than in the general population (Boswell, 1980). In other words, the reality contradicts to the Christian doctrine because priests do practice homosexuality, even though Christianity has a negative attitude toward homosexuality. Numerous cases of homosexuality among Christian priests are well-known to the public and they are subject to severe criticism, especially from the part of believers.
In such a way, it is obvious that Christianity has quite a controversial view on homosexuality. The doctrine of Christianity comes into clashes with homosexual practices spread among Christian priests. At the same time, Christianity is vulnerable to changes in its attitude toward homosexuality in the course of time. To put it more precisely, originally, in the early Christianity, the attitude of Christians and Christian doctrine in relation to homosexuality were negative. Homosexuality contradicted to Christian morals. However, in the Middle Ages, the attitude of Christianity to homosexuality proved to be highly controversial again because some specialists (Boswell, 1980) cite cases of same-sex marriages sanctioned by Christian priests. Therefore, it is possible to speak about certain tolerance to homosexuality in the Middle Ages. However, such tolerance was rather exceptional than normal, whereas the general attitude of Christians and Christianity persisted to be negative. In the later epochs, the negative attitude of Christianity to homosexuality grew even stronger. In recent years, the debate over homosexuality and the doctrine of Christianity concerning homosexuality resumed. The aforementioned cases of homosexuality among priests reveal the full controversy of the attitude of Christianity to homosexuality. In addition, the rise of the Civil Rights movement and growing concerns about human rights maintain the debate concerning the attitude of Christianity to homosexuality. Some specialists (Boswell, 1980) point out that some groups of Christian priests attempt to respect human rights and to develop a more tolerant attitude toward homosexuality, but these group are oppressed by the overwhelming majority who opposes to homosexuality and condemns it.
In this respect, Islam is more radical in its attitude toward homosexuality. As the matter of fact, Islam traditionally condemned homosexuality and homosexual practices were considered to be the violation of Islamic laws, norms and standards. The traditional Islamic set of values promotes the traditional family life and sexuality, being not an absolute taboo for Muslims, mainly concerns with sexual relationships between men and women. Even Qu’ran develops certain regulations concerning the sexual life of people but its main point is the promotion of moral, respectful sexual relations between men and women (Brown, 1996). As for homosexuality, it has always stood apart from the fundamental Islamic concepts of sexuality. In other words, homosexuality has always been beyond the margins of the truly Islamic lifestyle. In terms of human rights, Islam traditionally denies representatives of homosexual community of basic human rights (Dahlen, 2003). At the same time, such intolerance is determined not only by human rights considerations but this negative attitude toward homosexuality is grounded on the historical traditions of Islam. The long-lasting condemnation of homosexuality by Islam naturally contributed to the formation of a strongly negative attitude of Islam and Muslims toward homosexuality.
As for Judaism, it should be said that this religious movement is more tolerant toward sexuality compared to Islam and Christianity. In fact, Judaism admits certain liberties in the sexual life of people but, similarly to Christianity and Islam, Judaism admits such liberties in regard to the relationship between men and women solely. As for the same-sex relationships, the general attitude of Judaists is quite negative (Brown, 1996). At the same time, Judaism is not as radical toward homosexuality as Islam. At any rate, Judaism similarly to Christianity tends to take into consideration human rights and attempts to reconsider the concept of homosexuality and its attitude toward this concept. Nevertheless, unlike Christianity, Judaism does not maintain celibacy.
In fact, specialists (Greenberg, 2005) stress that, according to Judaist norms, a man who has no wife is doomed to an existence without joy, without blessing, without experiencing life’s true goodness, without Torah, without protection and without peace. In such a way, indirectly Judaism welcomes sexual relationships between men and women. On the other hand, Judaism stresses that homosexuality is unacceptable because it is only through the relationships, including sexual relationships, between men and women, Judaists can reach the life’s true goodness and other benefits mentioned above. Consequently, Judaism maintains the negative attitude of Islam and Christianity to homosexuality, although Judaist attitude is not as radical as that of Islam.
Furthermore, homosexual practices are unnatural for Judaist community and Judaism has never promoted the idea of the possibility of same-sex marriages. In this regard, Judaism is very conservative and Judaist doctrine is anti-homosexual as it is in Christianity and Islam. In addition, Judaism is not vulnerable to such scandals related to homosexuality as Christianity is. Therefore, Judaism maintains the traditionalist anti-homosexual doctrine and this religion is not going to revise it.
Thus, taking into account all above mentioned, it is possible to conclude that the major world’s religions, including Christianity, Islam and Judaism, have a negative attitude toward homosexuality. In this respect, it should be said that Islam is the most radical in its negative attitude to homosexuality because traditionally Islam rejected homosexuality as immoral and contradicting to Islamic norms and lifestyle. In addition, Islam does not consider the possibility of observation of human rights of homosexuals. Christianity also stands on the anti-homosexual ground. However, the position of Christianity is extremely controversial. On the one hand, Christian doctrine denies homosexuality as sinful and unacceptable in terms of Christian morals. On the other hand, the real life reveals numerous cases of homosexual relationships between Christian priests. As for Judaism, this religion is more tolerant in regard to sexual life of people but Judaism recognizes only the sexual relationship between men and women, whereas homosexuality is denied as well as is the case of homosexuality in Christianity and Islam. Consequently, all the three religions have a negative attitude to homosexuality because of historical traditions and basic moral norms of Christianity, Islam and Judaism.
Boswell, J. (1980). Christianity, Social Tolerance and Homosexuality. University of Chicago Press.
Brown, Daniel W. (1996). Rethinking traditions in modern Islamic thought. Cambridge University Press.
Dahlen, Ashk (2003). Islamic Law, Epistemology and Modernity, Routledge.
Greenberg, Steven. (2005). Wrestling with God & Men: Homosexuality in the Jewish Tradition. Madison, Wisconsin: University of Wisconsin Press.