On why facts will win out over paranoia
More from Patrick Strudwick
The religious homophobes of Great Britain and Northern Ireland are not well. They are (as their leaders, preachers and spokesmen aptly and repeatedly demonstrate) suffering from a malaise that would surely be of concern to mental health professionals: paranoia.
In June, Dr Lisa Nolland, a lay minister and member of the ultra-conservative Anglican Mainstream, who works at a school in Bristol, said, “Legalising gay ‘marriage’ will make mandatory the teaching about gay relationships and gay sex,” including, she believes, “eating human faeces”. In the same month, Lord Maginnis, the former Ulster Unionist MP, warned that approving of gay relationships would be a “rung on the ladder” to bestiality.
And, of course, you cannot have escaped the Church of England’s recent statement, which warns that gay marriage represents “the greatest threat to the church in 500 years”.
To recap, showing respect to gay people will cause widespread animal penetration, the destruction of the Anglican church and lessons in how to gobble poo.
These are merely three recent examples, and all from this country. But while they are just a flicker in the epic saga that is God Versus Gays, they reveal far more than the church realises.
On the surface, it is HD clear that these anti-gay statements are delusional; free as they are of evidence or basis. They form the adult version of monsters under the bed – a kind of homophobic sci-fi in which gays come to destroy the world, wiping out civilization with our apparently abominable sex acts and MILITANT RIGHTS AGENDA.
We can posit theories about what causes this crazed terror: the homophobes’ own repressed gay feelings that they are reacting against (a phenomenon which is frequently used to illustrate the defense mechanism Freud called “reaction formation”). The anti-gay indoctrination imposed by the church, media and society. Or, plain ignorance; religious homophobes are so starved of contact with LGBT people that they are left flailing around in their mucky fear pits.
But much as it is vital we understand the processes involved in homophobic paranoia generally, when it comes to religious homophobic paranoia it is the function this state serves that really needs examining.
All the major religions denounce homosexuality in varying ways. But what function does this serve? Why would they continue banging on about it?
There is of course the sour reality that fear of the outsider unites a group: homophobia is their glue. And in poorer countries, religious leaders know they can gain personal power by whipping up anti-gay hatred. But the underlying motive is simple and fundamental: survival.
Faith is ipso facto irrational. How do you tell your followers that all the evidence contradicting this faith is nonsense? Obviously you can’t argue scientifically. What you have to do is foster a culture rich in myth, one that routinely denigrates evidence so that one’s followers denigrate it too. So when preachers tells people condoms have holes in them, when African pastors say that homosexuality is a “Western disease”, when children are told that God listens to their prayers and answers them, this provides vital practice in the business of make believe.
Start throwing facts around with reverence and people start to not only respect evidence but also learn how to differentiate between fact and fiction. The more myths, the more followers embrace them and shun data. So while homosexuality appears to be a prime focus of religious hate-mongering, it is in fact merely another building block in the culture of fairy tales.
It’s no coincidence that countries where women and gay people are more emancipated are also more secular and more educated. (These are also the wealthiest countries – of the 10 largest economies in the world, not one criminalises homosexuality.) The more you educate the more citizens question, and the more religion starts to wane. Gay people start coming out and demanding legal protection.
So the paranoia about homosexuality speaks of a much deeper anxiety: that if gay people are given equality due to the fact that there is nothing wrong with same-sex love, then what other myths will be questioned and repudiated? Where does is it all stop?
This existential angst leads to a petrifying picture for the paranoid religious homophobe: the rise of secularism and rational thought, millions who can no longer be controlled by unelected religious leaders, and then, finally, the Enlightenment’s stunning climax: an end to organised religion. Many – including me – would welcome this. But for now, we must endure the likes of Nolland and Maginnis and repeatedly fight back. In the end we will win because we have the most potent weapon of all: facts.