Christian fundamentalists often use the Bible to promote discrimination against homosexuals and oppose gay marriage. They argue “God created Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve.”

They also justify their homophobia by citing other biblical teachings, such as Leviticus 20:13. It requires the death penalty for the “abomination” of homosexual behavior. Another verse is I Corinthians 6:9-10, which describes homosexuality as a “perversion” and says homosexuals will not possess the kingdom of God.

Due to the influence of such biblical teachings during the Dark Ages, homosexuals in Europe were subjected to the death penalty and other persecution for centuries. This was a major change from the attitude that had prevailed in ancient Greece and Rome. Those civilizations accepted and in some ways valued homosexual relationships.

Today’s fundamentalist leaders reflect a literal interpretation of the Bible in their hateful opposition to homosexuals.

Louis Sheldon, founder of the Traditional Values Coalition, was instrumental in the early 1990s in persuading California Gov. Pete Wilson to veto a bill that would have prohibited job discrimination against gays. Sheldon claims that homosexuality “is the most pernicious evil today. We must stop it before it spreads throughout the nation like a cancer.”

Pat Robertson, founder of the Christian Coalition, describes homosexuality as “antisocial” and dubs it a “sickness,” “pathology,” and “abomination.” He has accused homosexuals of wanting “to come into churches and disrupt church services and throw blood all around and try to give people AIDS and spit in the face of ministers. . . .”

Jerry Falwell denounces homosexuality as “a deliberately chosen moral perversion” and has called gays “brute beasts.” He once raised money by issuing a “Declaration of War” on homosexuality.

Greg Dixon, a former vice president of Falwell’s now-defunct Moral Majority, said in a sermon about homosexuals in the late 1970s: “I say either fry ’em or put them in the pen. Don’t unleash them on the human race.”

Some fundamentalist groups, such as the Christian Reconstructionists and the Christian Identity movement, continue to advocate the enactment of laws prescribing the death penalty for homosexuals. Because there are likely more than 10 million homosexuals in the U.S., those groups are in effect calling for a larger holocaust than Hitler’s extermination of the Jews.

The Religious Right’s scurrilous attacks on homosexuals are not helpful to solving the serious problem of the increasing number of hate crimes committed against gays. Nationwide, homosexuals constitute 30% of the victims of those crimes.

Nor does the hate-speech alleviate the equally terrible problem of the high suicide rate among gay teenagers. It’s much higher than the rate for heterosexual teens.

A similar problem exists in regard to male homosexuals between the ages of 18 and 27. Their rate of attempted suicide is 14 times that of heterosexuals.

The error made by fundamentalists on this subject – as on so many others – is to read the Bible with blinders on and fail to consider modern scientific knowledge. That knowledge leads Humanists to oppose all forms of discrimination against homosexuals.

Science tells us homosexual behavior has been recorded in every known human culture that has kept detailed enough records. And in nature, homosexual activity is seen among all known species of mammals.

To be so common in the world, homosexuality must be natural. This leads some to argue, as Peter McWilliams does in his book Ain’t Nobody’s Business If You Do, that God did create Adam and Steve, as well as Eve and Genevieve. It’s also a reason why the American Psychiatric Association considers homosexuality to be completely normal.

The same position has been taken by the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Counseling Association, the American Psychological Association, the National Association of School Psychologists, and the National Association of Social Workers. These groups do not consider homosexuality to be a mental disorder or as needing a “cure.”

Moreover, when morality is judged on the basis of the consequences of actions instead of the content of ancient scriptures, homosexuality can be moral. That is, homosexual behavior makes some consenting adults happy without hurting anyone. And when the harms caused by discrimination are considered, the same humanistic moral standard leads to the conclusion that opposing equal rights for gays is immoral.

By the same token, homosexual marriage is a personal matter harming no one and thus should be legal. Decisions about who to marry should be no one’s business except the couple’s. Many forget that the U.S. is supposed to be a free country and not a theocracy.

Besides, a homosexual couple can marry under current law if one of them undergoes a sex-change operation. It’s senseless to require this expensive and drastic action before the couple can obtain a marriage license – when they are happy the way they are.

Homophobia is also wrong because no correlation exists between homosexuality and character. Since there are good and bad persons in both the homosexual and heterosexual populations, judging people by their sexual orientation is ridiculous and unfair.

Even worse, such discrimination prevents highly qualified gays from holding jobs in which they could make important contributions. It thereby reduces efficiency and increases costs in both the private and public sectors.

For example, despite a shortage of foreign-language translators desperately needed for gathering intelligence about possible terrorist attacks, the U.S. military has discharged at least 322 of them solely because of their homosexuality.

They are in addition to thousands of other talented military personnel who were kicked out for the same reason. Only a warped ethical system could view discrimination against homosexuals as a higher priority than national security – particularly when gays serve in the military of other nations without causing problems.

As Sen. Barry Goldwater said in opposing discrimination against gays in the military: “You don’t have to be straight, you just have to shoot straight.” His view is consistent with the findings of a study by the Department of Defense in 1989. It concluded that gay recruits are “just as good or better” than heterosexual recruits.

Finally, the preponderance of scientific evidence indicates homosexuality is not a freely chosen characteristic but is, like race and gender, a product of genetics. Dr. John Money, a leading sexologist, writes that “homosexuality, like heterosexuality, is not a matter of preference, choice, or voluntary decision. It is a status, like being tall, dwarfed, or left-handed, and it is not changed by desire, incentive, will power, prayer, punishment, or other motivation to change.”

In his book The Gene: An Intimate History, biological scientist Siddhartha Mukherjee likewise states┬áthat studies of twins have provided “incontrovertible evidence that genes influenced homosexuality . . . almost as strongly as genes influence height.”

Throughout history, a literal interpretation of the Bible was used to oppose the rights of many different groups, and gays are current victims of the same mindset. This pattern has been repeated so often that the philosopher Bertrand Russell said “the Christian religion, as organized in its churches, has been and still is the principal enemy of moral progress in the world.”

To end this long practice of promoting ignorant, superstitious, and cruel ideas, religions must incorporate the findings of science into their teachings. As Martin Luther King Jr. said: “Science keeps religion from sinking into the valley of crippling irrationalism and paralyzing obscurantism.”

Homophobia is an irrationalism that is crippling not only to gays but to all of society.