Religion, Secularism and LGBT+ rights – in collaboration with AUR and ASUR

The ongoing conflict between the LGBTQ+ community and certain religious groups is an old tale by now, seemingly an endless one. But what are the roots of these differences? Where exactly does the problem lie and how can we resolve it for both sides? These questions are often met with hate and even violence – on Tuesday night, they were met with dialogue.
Organised in partnership with ASUR, the Romanian Secular-Humanist Association, and AUR, the Romanian Humanist Association, SFG offered a workshop on the topic on November 15, led by Humanist Ariel Pontes. No discussion can flourish without a bit of basic information though, which is why the workshop was supported by a presentation first covering the basics of LGBTQ+ vocabulary and secular ethics.
The audience was then challenged with the well-known trolley-problem, an imaginary ethical dilemma facing the viewer with a choice: They can either allow a train to run over five people or change the train’s direction to another track, saving the five people but killing one other person on that track in the process.
This problem was discussed with a wide range of concerns – wouldn’t changing the track turn a bystander into an active participant? Can we treat humans as tools, as casualties? And are the two options presented really the only ones? A few jokes lightened up the mood, however, it soon became clear that no religion on its own was able to offer a perfect solution to the dilemma.
This led the discussion to the secularist point of view, which states that LGBTQ+ people do not cause harm to anyone with their existence, but receive a lot of it, not just personally, but also in terms of legal recognition. That statement caused a bit of discussion. Members of the audience criticized the ways of secularism for seeking a universal truth for everybody, as it can differ for person to person. Some stated that their universal truth is that a man should only be with a woman. It was also mentioned that LGBTQ+ life in fact can cause harm, as a lot of opposing people feel very uncomfortable with them.
To cater to those dissatisfied with secularism, the topic was then discussed from a religious point of view by citing both pro- and con-LGBTQ+ bible verses. This led to the question of whether homosexuality is a natural occurrence.
While most in the audience eventually agreed that it is, it begged the question of whether something „natural“ is equivalent to something good and tolerable. One point brought up was that murder and rape are both perfectly natural things for humans. The conclusion was that the word „natural“ might apply to LGBTQ+ people, however, it is sort of an empty word, neither inherently good nor bad.
But if the word “natural” has no relevance for moral decisions, then what does? Some relied on logic, others said that they get their morality from God – hence their concerns. For example, people were worried whether it is possible children could turn gay by spending time with LGBTQ+ people. However, the audience agreed that everybody had a set of morals in their life, no matter where they get it from – and that these morals should lead to something good.
One word that dominated the night was „acceptance“, and that came from both sides. Accept different truths, accept kindness, accept us. In the end, some formerly opposed people even admitted that while they will need time to adjust emotionally, the evening has convinced them rationally. The night ended with the conclusion that faith is not based on hate, but on something good. It is possible to accept LGBTQ+ people while staying true to one’s religion, and even if one cannot bring yourself to do that, it is still possible to live with them and be in favor of their rights.
Instead of violence, we had an exchange. Instead of hate, we searched for common ground. Instead of insults, we had a night of understanding. And if that is possible, it can only get better.

Lena Gibbels

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