Is there a dominant atheist view on gay rights?

I haven’t talked to many atheists on this subject before, but I’ve come across more atheist than theist supporters of gay rights. From what little I know about atheism, it seems to me that most atheists would not be in favor of gay rights because (again, from my very limited understanding):

1. Most atheists (I don’t want to stereotype) don’t believe in free will. So, according to that idea, homosexuality can’t be a choice.

2. I assume that most atheists believe that homosexuality can or will be able to be explained scientifically.

3. Homosexuality goes against natural selection, which, as I understand, is very important to atheism.

So to me it seems that most atheists would want to eliminate homosexuality to help people in the same way that they want to eliminate religion to help people. But really, I have no idea. Is there a majority opinion of atheists concerning gay rights? Also, do most atheists view homosexuality more of as a medical handicap?

Please correct any of my imperfect assumptions if they’re wrong. I want to be very open to new ideas and to be able to accurately look at both atheistic and theistic points of view, rather than be bigoted.

Feel free to share any personal or general thoughts that are relevant to atheism and gay rights.

Posted: September 18th 2011

Tauriq Moosa www

Firstly, there is a difference between attitudes to homosexuality and gay rights. One could ‘feel’ that a homosexual act is disgusting, but still support gay rights. Just as I feel that writing books defending creationism is a waste of time, I’ll still support someone’s right to do so.

Secondly, there is no atheist majority on anything aside from the lack of belief in god. There’s no consensus on attitudes, politics, or morals in what broadly constitutes the atheist community.

Thirdly, I don’t understand what the point of free will has to do with the moral implications for homosexuality. You say that you’d assume most of us would be against gay rights because homosexuality is not a choice and is explained scientifically. But this makes no sense. What does it matter whether one ‘chooses’ to be gay or is (as it is in reality) born gay? Why should we support it if they have no choice, but not support gay rights if they, hypothetically, did choose? So to clarify. It is explained scientifically as not a choice but something innate. But this tells us nothing about what our moral responsibility is toward defending or opposing the rights of gay people. Does someone having blue eyes mean we should lock them up and prevent them marrying light-eyed people? Of course not. It’s a random and horrible conclusion to reach based on a natural property of the person – this is the same for gay people. But even hypothetically, if they chose to be gay, it still doesn’t have an impact on whether we should defend or oppose gay rights (by we, I mean anyone not specifically atheists since, as I said, there’s no consensus on politics or morals).

Fourth, you claim that homosexuality goes ‘against’ natural selection. I’m not well versed in evolution to speak on this, but I’m sure that you rather mean propagation of the species (or genes) instead of ‘natural selection’. Natural selection is simply a process that occurs in nature, where characteristics are selected, through a sequence of random mutation, environment, etc., that allows for descent with modification and therefore better-adapted offspring. I think you’re referring to spreading genes. Yet who says spreading genes is a good thing? You make a large assumption that ‘we’ invest some kind of moral obligation on this natural process. Predation, cancers and earthquakes are natural, too, but we don’t want those continuing. Everytime you wear a condom you go against your genes, against the creation process. I, for example, think it is immoral to create new offspring and, if you want to be a parent, you should adopt. Furthermore, as was pointed out, homosexuality occurs in the so-called Animal Kingdom, too. Again, this doesn’t make it right or wrong, by definition, it simply is. Furthermore, all of this can be understood as separate from whether one ought to support or oppose gay rights since this point concerns homosexuality alone.

Just to conclude, homosexuality is not a medical handicap. To have that attitude is the same as having the opinion that women are less intelligent than men. Gay people are constantly treated with disrespect, for no good reason. All the attempts at justifying homosexuality as something ‘off’ or ‘unnatural’ or ‘bad’ will fail, as you’ve seen. And furthermore, even if you DO find something about all gay people or homosexuality that makes them uniquely different to heterosexual people (aside from their sexual preferences which really shouldn’t concern you), you still need to make a case for gay rights. Defending gay rights is incredibly important, since they are normal people like me who, for no good reason, constantly find themselves oppressed for who they choose to engage with sexually – something that doesn’t concern anyone other than the gay people themselves.

Posted: November 23rd 2011

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Dave Hitt www

I have yet to meet an atheist who was against human rights, and that includes gay humans. I’d be surprised if there weren’t a few out there, but they would be a very, very, very tiny minority of atheists.

Posted: October 24th 2011

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bitbutter www

1. Most atheists (I don’t want to stereotype) don’t believe in free will. So, according to that idea, homosexuality can’t be a choice.

Lack of belief in (radical, libertarian) free will doesn’t mean lack of belief in choices. Physical determinism can be described as the idea that humans are very complex machines, machines that make choices in the same sense that computer programs make choices based on inputs. In other words the belief that a person couldn’t have chosen differently in any given situation does not mean that word choice is meaningless—it describes a process of coming to a decision.

3. Homosexuality goes against natural selection, which, as I understand, is very important to atheism.

Natural selection is important to genes (metaphorically speaking), not to atheists, at least not in the way you’re implying.

Natural selection is:

the nonrandom process by which biologic traits become more or less common in a population as a function of differential reproduction of their bearers.

The fact that some people choose not to have biological children doesn’t stop, slow or 'go against’ the process of natural selection.

An atheist need not feel positively about the idea of creating as many new humans as possible. And in the event that he did, he may not value this goal more highly than all others—for instance he may be more concerned about maximising the well being of the living.

Posted: October 6th 2011

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flagellant www

I am inclined to agree that homosexuality is inherent in some people and I further think that what consenting adults do in bed is nothing to do with me. This covers bisexuality and intersex, too.

I can’t agree that that homosexuality has much to do with natural selection. Although heterosexuality has a procreative function, such is the progress of civilization, that sexual relationships between couples have very little to do with procreation; it is much more to do with expression of affection and/or mutual enjoyment for the participants. The number of times couples engage in sex together bears no relationship to their number of offspring.

As for homosexuality being a matter of freewill, like heterosexuality, having the feeling and the inclination is rather different from practising: people of all ‘persuasions’ remain celibate for one reason or another.

Sexuality is a very complex subject and short pronouncements about it are likely to be oversimplistic. Besides homosexuality , there are various types of minority sexuality, including transexualism and intersexualism . Why not read a bit more about the subject?

I think you will find that your presumption that ‘..atheists would not be in favor of gay rights…’ is not supported by the majority of replies you get on this site. We tend to be more liberal and less prescriptive in our views than the general run of the populace. My particular attitude is that homosexuality is OK – I don’t object to it but, speaking purely for myself, it isn’t for me.

Posted: October 6th 2011

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I’m going to skip #1 and #2, and go directly to #3.

First off, natural selection has nothing to do with atheism. Atheists are just people who lack god-belief.

Second, I don’t understand why you would think that homosexuality would go against natural selection. Homosexuality can only have come natural selection, and it’s pretty common in the animal kingdom, so there’s a perfectly reasonable explanation there.

As for what I think about gay rights, if two consenting adults want to have sex, I don’t think it’s any of my business what their sexes are.

Posted: October 2nd 2011

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Mike the Infidel www

“3. Homosexuality goes against natural selection, which, as I understand, is very important to atheism.”

Promoting natural selection has nothing to do with atheism. We understand that it’s a reality of the world in which we live. That doesn’t mean we think “survival of the fittest” is some sort of moral commandment.

By the way, if it “went against natural selection,” it wouldn’t exist, by definition. Every trait which exists today has survived the filter of natural selection.

Most atheists view homosexuality as a perfectly valid form of human sexuality, just like heterosexuality, bisexuality, asexuality, and so on. We recognize that religion has a tendency to say that normal things are abnormal and should be fixed – especially when it comes to anything related to sex. It’s like cosmetics companies: they first have to convince you that there’s something wrong with the way you look before they can sell you something to fix it. Homosexuality is not a medical handicap and doesn’t need to be “fixed.”

Posted: October 1st 2011

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Galen Rose www

I’m sure you will receive adequate answers to all parts of your question from other responders, so I will concentrate on just one part. You wrote, “So to me it seems that most atheists would want to eliminate homosexuality to help people in the same way that they want to eliminate religion to help people.”

We only want to “eliminate” things that are harmful to people. Homosexuality in itself is not harmful to people. It is society’s response to it that is often harmful to the personal freedoms and self esteem of homosexuals. Absent these considerations and I believe the vast majority of homosexuals would be just fine with being homosexual.

And let me add that according to the Kinsey surveys on human sexuality, we all exist on a continuum of sexual gender preference. There aren’t just gays and straights, there are also many gradations in between.

Posted: October 1st 2011

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SmartLX www

You’re right about free will, and that homosexuality isn’t a choice (which is backed up by medical research). Since it isn’t a choice, and can’t be deliberately changed, that means there’s no more cause to discriminate against gays than there is to discriminate against black people, or women. A major reason why the whole ex-gay movement exists is to convince people that homosexuality is a choice, in order to rob gays of this equivalency. (The movement has failed in this.)

Homosexuality has been explained scientifically, to an extent: it happens when the part of the brain which governs sexual attraction develops more in the manner you would expect to see in a member of the opposite sex. Put simply, a man develops a female’s mate-radar and thus desires men, or vice versa.

The action of natural selection is not something to be followed, or preserved. It is simply an explanation for how life has developed and diversified over time. Homosexuality is a common phenomenon in the animal kingdom (of which we are a part), which further demonstrates that it isn’t a conscious choice. Gay animals (not to labour the point, but including humans) tend to personally reproduce less, but their presence among their kindred may have historically had other benefits which prevented homosexual tendency from rapidly dying out. Perhaps gay, childless uncles and aunts make good protectors of vulnerable hatchlings and cubs.

If it were even possible to eliminate homosexuality, the idea would be a moral battleground similar to if a drug were developed that could turn black people white. Fortunately, homosexuality cannot be “cured” and people are stuck with it, so the rest of us have to learn to live with it and tolerance in general increases as a result.

Posted: October 1st 2011

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