(Update: I was bitter when I read this article. I have nothing against Christian people. They are portrayed as the most friendly of all in our Bollywood films. But the hordes of people on internet telling me that gay sex is sinful can’t escape my wrath. After a while, one has a sudden urge to stay silent no more and actual tell others your views on the subject. One comes out for this very reason, after all, since staying silent becomes a heavy baggage inside you. Sorry if someone is offended! But the comparison is there to note what I was taught about religion for so long in my life. it was all about justice and goodness of heart. Though these external influences have made Hindu people hardened too and I certainly I am NOT talking from their point of view(s). I am agnostic. So, with no further ado, read on.)
I am not religious by any means, but I am agnostic. That means I am constantly monitoring the theists and atheists in order to ascertain which basket may get my eggs. Personally, my theory in this regards is that Gods (plural) did exist as we exist today, but they were to us what we are to digital computers now: They created us just as we are creating them. In that sense, I want to see the existence of a God. But I can’t associate myself with any of the principal religions as they stand today, my views of a God being more of a geeky boy-next-door than a holy light. Moreover, homosexuality is deemed to be anti-religious. That is a pity because it doesn’t have to be. I have a certain problem with religion being equated to Christianity but I’ll take it up a little further along. Till then we’ll discuss how homosexuality became a sin. Long story short, it is what we chose to fight against. But there is still a longer story.
Bible teaches a thousand things and then some more, it seems. I am not really touched by Christianity in any sphere of my life, except maybe the online one, so don’t just take what I write here with a grain of salt, rather correct me actively so that I can form my views on better foundations. My research has revealed that the Ten Commandments don’t actually condemn homosexuality. Some Leviticus, though, said, “If a man has sexual relations with a man as one does with a woman, both of them have done what is detestable. They are to be put to death; their blood will be on their own heads.” Ouch. Even then, I remember women to have their hands cut off if they touch another man’s genitals or commit adultery. Bible is almost too cruel to be true; I am saying this as an outside observer. It is like saying: We shall show love and forgiveness to all human beings* [*conditions apply]. So if I just looked at a Bible, I would be able to say that Christianity doesn’t love gays.
But my observations on an actual religion is strikingly different. For me, a religion is always a manifestation of one’s belief in existence of a higher power; that power almost always plays a role in the morals that act as guiding principles of the man. By nature of being human, we try to find answers to questions beyond our capabilities. We are very practical organisms who believe more in a theory if it has less exceptions. So since birth, we attribute everything courtesy our parents to some God. The reason why wind blows, the reason why earthquakes occur and the reason sky is blue – it is God’s creation. Too balanced and intricate to be probabilistic. I believe the same, but until I see further proof for it, I only see the fact that we don’t need a magical force for it, only the four fundamental forces of physics to explain them all and more. Suddenly their is no need for Biblical theories of Noah. The fundamental problem of any religion is that they fill the void that science cannot explain but they do it by creating an artificial projection of an all-knowing God. When Science expands further, it leaves less space for religion to breathe. Unless the space of unanswered questions increases with time, religion has to push back to live since it is an institution that has been already formed. Moreover their adherents need surety of their genuineness; therefore, if science proves any religious view to be wrong or unnecessary, religious leaders just have to attack scientists to save their own skin.
But it is also the reason why Bible is seemed to be ridden with self-contradictions due to modifications along the way. Despite what people think, Bible was modified freely until a point in time when its copies were so many that if one tried to change it, immediately one could counter-check the modified version with the other copies. Thus, Christianity became to big to pace in step with the changed times. With time, the true Bible was lost leaving us with a twisted truth but since the twisted truth remained set in stone for many centuries, people had no way of knowing if it was actually genuine or not. They just took it to be true, for there was nothing to deny it. The time was still a changing. As people have become more literate and printing of bible has taken it out of the hands of the priests and into the hands of the general public, they can see it themselves and feel cheated. Decline of Christianity is a direct result of the modern views of the society. Christianity now no longer seems to reflect how people perceive God to be. Cruelty and discrimination violates people’s morality more than the God’s teachings and once they have broached their perfect God’s boundaries, they have, even if a little, disagreed with the prevalent organised religion. This is a loss for many; since they want to believe in God but the God that is thrown upon them is not the God they want to choose.
At the time, Bible would have reflected their society the most; that is why people flocked to it at its inception. But Science has adapted better and that is why it seems to be Science vs Bible. When Science has proved that Universe is billions of years old, trying to teach students that it is 6000 years old is a disservice to them. Most of them should be flabbergasted when they learn that the history of the earth is richer than that and that the rest of the world believes it too, they scorn their teachers and the Bible becomes a collateral damage. A percentage may always go on believing till they live out their lives that the earth was nothing even 7000 years ago but those who defected would never come back. Christianity set itself in a trap when they made it a battle of my preachings vs their preachings. It itself set the way for it to be set in stone as compared to the option of being a living, breathing book that could be changed with the time; there is only so much reinterpretation of words that you could give it to a book.
How is Homosexuality related to all this critique of (read: blabber on) Christianity. I was just trying to show that Bible is too inflexible to be a reference book of morals for 2.2 billion followers. I tend to see it critically because I happen to be one of the target in their blind firing. When I hear from strangers that homosexuals should be executed, doesn’t it make me flinch? Agreed, I don’t know Christians who are tolerant to my orientation, no more than the Christians who seem to be after my head. And there are churches who open their arms to anyone with no qualms about my orientation. But I would personally feel ashamed to be associated with the name itself; since I know the majority my community doesn’t see eye to eye with me. But I was not born with a Christian tag that I might want to defend if I could. The liberal people who still follow a liberal church, might do it because they are just eliminating the offending clauses and embracing selectively the rest that doesn’t flares their ethical conscience. And the name itself; when society forces you to be a Christian by birth, you might be more comfortable in saying that you are a Christian rather than a Radical Faerie.
Since I read so many sites that propose me to be celibate, be an ex-gay, or just marry, I may safely say that Homosexuality seems to be anti-Christianity. But not necessarily anti-religion. I am talking about Hinduism: a religion that didn’t get its name until people who didn’t follow it reached here and called us Hindus. This means there is no central authority that asks them what to do and what not. polytheism is a distinguishing feature of this religion, the myths and folklores of numerous Gods abounds every nook and cranny of this country. In a small temple in my home itself, I can count at least 20 deities. And in the books that are kept in the lower shelf (upper shelf being full of various idols and framed photographs of various Goddesses and Gods) tell me so many names that my head spins. They contain fascinating stories of common people who had faith as well as various battles of Devas (good Gods) vs Asuras (bad Gods). They are just a tiny bucket of what exists out there. My mother chose to follow these ones only, and nobody minds it. As I have seen it, a practising Hindu has a respect and faith in all deities – he/she would bow his/her head in front of all – but selects a few ceremonies to be big and important according to the culture of the surroundings and his/her own childhood and family rites.
I am not trying to pitch one religion against another. No. But if I were to choose a religion over another, I would really choose to follow Hinduism because by its very nature has it been very flexible and accommodating. Particularly I have not seen homosexuality to be cast in a bad light anyhow. And though the ‘hijra’ community is a very impoverished and outcast, it does exist with mentions in old Vedas and Puranas. Another fact that I learnt today is that in fact they are just one of the many third gender communities in India and they are not even the largest, the largest being Aravanis in the South. The latter don’t practise castration; hijras do. Now I understand why the southern state of Tamil Nadu is so supportive of transgender issues, much ahead of the rest of India; the numbers just seem to support it.
And not that I am deeply versed with either religion though much more exposed to practical Hinduism, but Hinduism just seems to be more consistent with my beliefs. They have a belief that time had no beginning and would have no end. I have a similar belief, meaning that even if Big Bang Theory took place, something had to exist before it, something that we can’t predict. The world may not have existed before it as we know it but Time itself has to exist. I don’t deny that God didn’t play an important role in their philosophies, but there were many sects which focused more on scientific methods. Moreover, their tales are better tales: more governed by morals and less by competition, as in the Abrahamic religions. Even in the Ramayana, supposed to be the guide to a conduct of a man, shows a flaw in its protagonist Ram when he doubts his wife on two different occasions and asks her to give agni-pariksha where she would have to sit in fire and live it out to prove she is pure. She complied once but the second she was asked to do the same, she couldn’t live with the shame of it and the outrage she felt as a woman. She them calls upon the earth, her mother, to open and goes back into it just like she came. This is Ramayana but then there is Mahabharata, whose staying power can never be under-reported. If you want to start its journey, you can start with its eponymous TV show which telecast in the 1990′s. Or read it yourself in its all abridged glory since the real one is in Sanskrit and too poetic to be of a modern taste. As a small but stellar example in the very same epic, Yudhishthira who always spoke the truth, just once told an ambiguous sentence to his enemy during the war. Before then his chariot always rode six inches above the ground, but his half-truth leads his chariot to drop to ground just like everybody else. How it symbolises the plane we fall from by the error of our ways! Moreover it is emphasised time and again that Gods are not immortal; they too have a lifetime. Actually it depends on whom you ask. Vedas say that at the start of one cycle of a (very, very, extremely) long time period, Brahman (the Ultimate God) creates some lesser Gods and assimilates them into itself again at the end of it. So there are gods and then there is God. I, a believer that our Gods were just human-like forms just equipped with advanced enough technology to create us, certainly support this view to a degree. It seems like philosophers of old had too much time to spend on creating a logical definition of God and a hierarchy of them along with the numerous stories. Mostly, as I read through the sects in Hinduism, it seems like they were really excellent philosophers who could argue on the minutest of points, but like all philosophers it didn’t matter what they were arguing upon as long as everything was consistent.
If I hadn’t digressed, I would have more properly emphasized that Hinduism is not homophobic. But just as importantly, it doesn’t necessarily means its followers aren’t too. To say that we are the same India through all these centuries would be patently false. After all, we lived through 150 years of colonial era. And 500 years of Arab conquers and rules before it. Our culture has embraced it as well as suffered it all.
But many modern self-proclaimed “Hindu” leaders just don’t know their own history. They think in terms of East vs West and falsely believe that booze, sex and independent women are Western imports. Yes they are in a way, since today’s Indian culture is very hypocrite and oppressive to most through its caste systems and practices as horrific as burning of widows (Sati). So many people who were exposed to Western society saw the contrast and sought change and not because they somehow met Indians of the long past and together decided that modern India had become corrupted. But many leaders say it is not Indian culture; in that sense they are being extremely restrictive of their views. Madira (booze) was frequently cited to be enjoyed by Indian Gods in heaven. Similarly Kamasutra and Gargi are emphatic rebuttals of the latter. It is just a matter of selectivity. Indian history being very ancient, can find references for any general statement and put it as “proof” that such and such practice was the actual Hindu practice. So it becomes a matter of selectivity by the general public most of which today is, sadly, homophobic or, worse, homo-ignorant. If I might try to tell my mother today that I am gay, the first thing that would cross her wouldn’t be that I am a girl but that I might be a hijra. Anything that deviates from the strictly male and female hierarchies come under the fluid part in-between corresponding to hijras. And hijras demand to be known as a third gender alongside the traditional male and female genders. It is genuine too because the gender they are arguing for is an equal social status. After all, male and female genders are also as much social constructs as they are anatomical sexes.
Thus, though Hinduism embraces Homosexuality in a way that Christianity can’t; it is still true that USA is without exception a safer place to be openly gay compared to India. All that I have learnt from history is that we do what we want to do. Religion is just as easy a way to mask your error of ways as it is make others guilty of their own sins. But in its best form, the reason people still believe in God, is the fact that the good that happens in their life makes them optimistic that there is always a roof above their heads, a monumental figure which would protect them from the evils of the world. That bliss and optimism is easily why religion in one from or the other, would always pervade human beings because what we know is still a drop in the ocean of what we don’t know. As the bubble of our knowledge grows, the ways in which we know our bounds of knowledge grows too, and stakes to believe in a greater God keep getting higher and higher.
PS – Do read this article. It is one that cropped up in my research and seems objective as well as scathing in its view of monotheism. Yet, I wouldn’t recommend anyone to convert to some other religion because I am surely not some disguised Hindu pushing you discreetly towards Hinduism, and this article just a personal monologue and enlightening process trying to see through the two religions – one, among whose believers I live, and the other, that influences the very people I live among. I pointed this article to show a debate that is ongoing and is trying Christianity to adapt according to the times it thrives in and may die in.