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Books: Gay and Having Faith

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/* 2006-04-10 -- Edited to remove a color tag that caused difficult viewing in some forum themes. */

The following are books on being gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender. Several are also about being gay and Christian.

I would really like people to include books they have read and found useful, including being gay and Jewish, or other faiths.

My intention is to provide a list of books on being gay, as well as books that might help shed light on being gay and having faith, not any particular religion.

NOTE: Listing a book here does not mean you agree with everything it says, just that you found it somewhat useful.

The following were recommended to me and on my list to read. I am currently reading the first two.

"Stranger at the Gate: To Be Gay and Christian in America"

Mel White;

"What the Bible Really Says About Homosexuality"

by Daniel A. Helminiak

"Listening to the Spirit: A Handbook for Discernment"

William O. Paulsell;

"Anything but Straight: Unmasking the Scandals and Lies Behind the Ex-Gay Myth"

Wayne R. Besen;

"Coming Out As Sacrament"

Chris Glaser;

"Coming Out Spiritually: The Next Step"

Christian De La Huerta;

"Listening Spirit: A Handbook for Discernment"

William Paulsell, ed.

ISBN 0-8272-2131-2

Chalice Press

"Two Teenagers in Twenty: Writings by Gay & Lesbian Youth"

by Ann Heron

"Is It a Choice - Revised edition : Answers to 300 of the Most Frequently Asked Questions About Gays and Lesbian People"

by Eric Marcus

"The Children Are Free: Reexamining the Biblical Evidence on Same-sex Relationships"

by Rev. Jeff Miner, John Tyler Connoley, David Squire

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I think including a topic on religion in the forums is good and may open some debate on how so many good and decent gay people have suffered over the years since they thought their souls would be sent to the eternal fires of hell for being homosexual.

I am actually an atheist (not an agnostic or skeptic) but a true dyed-in-the-wool atheist. Like many people I was raised in a religion practicing family (Roman Catholic), but started questioning the teachings of my church when I was about 12 years old. As I moved into my teens I quickly moved into the athiest camp.

I'm personally not opposed to what a person believes or if they practice a religion - I just don't happen to practice one or to be a believer.

Different religious sects handle the issue of homosexuality a bit differently, from all out damnation to borderline tolerance. I know many gays who migrated to the Unitarian church since Unitarians seem nonjudgmental in this area.

The Catholic church will accept a gay and even allow them to practice their faith (offering them redemption as long as they remain celibate - how fun!!!). The main stream Christian churches have differing policies, but one only has to look at the controversary stirred up with the election of a gay episcopal bishop to see that toleration in even the mainstream religions has a long way to go.

Of course when we get into serious fundmentalist based Christian religions the gloves come off and there is no bones about their views on homosexuality. (although the "love the sinner hate the sin" has often been one of their "code" phrases). The voters in those 11 states in the last election that voted down gay marriage were lobbied hard by the forces of organized religion - most notably fundmentalist Christians.

But hey gays aren't the only ones that have been knocked around by organized religion. In the pre civil war era when there was still slavery, some Christian doctrine questioned if the black african slaves even had souls - there were some who taught, preached and wrote that they didn't. And of course we can't forget the "Christians" (for that's what they were) who were killed by their own people for being accused of being witches - not only in Salem which is well known in the US but also all across Catholic Europe in the middle ages.

And the Inquisition had lots of fun terrifying and torturing European Jews into converting to Christianity.

Wars have even been fought and many killed over the way they made the sign of the cross (left to right or right to left). And what has been the fuel that has kept the fire burining in the Middle East???

If a gay person wants to believe in something like a god or even a giant stuffed rabbit floating in the heavens directing mankind I say fine, just don't ask me to believe or put a gun to my head and kill me or burn me at the stake if I don't believe (or especially if someone does believe, but don't follow your particular sect - which happens so often). Eg. ONLY the Catholics, or the Christian Fundamentalists or the Muslums will get to heaven because THEY have the "TRUE" religion or the correct "formula" for salvation.

I just feel sorry for the decent gay people out there who do struggle with trying to reconcile their orientation with the faith they try to practice. Too many still feel they are walking a tightrope between salvation and damnation. Is it any wonder why Prosac and Zoloft are making the drug companies even richer???

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Dear JamieofIcaria

(Good story, by the way)

You raise some really good points in your posting, and actually I agree with a lot of them. I was raised a Catholic, too, though in me it 'took', and I've done an awful lot of thinking over the years about how to reconcile the two.

In all religious debates, one has to be really careful not to simply heap on to all who believe in a particular religious system today all the unpleasant things that all who share the basic theories have done to others in the past. This form of argument is done far too much these days; in philosophy it's called the 'ad hominem' argument; X can't be true, because look what wankers A & B were who shared the same beliefs. In Catholic terms, Catholicism is bollocks because Mary Tudor of England burnt Protestants, witches were burnt in Germany, and Richard the Lionheart went on the crusades. That's the same as saying that atheism is bollocks because Stalin butchered millions of his own people; I wouldn't want to make that argument, simply because it is a weak one, in both regards. As human beings are concerned, whatever they believe, you simply can't rely on people to be sensible even with regard to their own beliefs. Human nature is fundamentally unreliable. The ad hominem argument doesn't work.

Now clearly there are many people who are both gay and who believe in God; I am one. And I have never burnt anyone, nor do I even remotely wish to do so. Especially not you (and especially if you keep on writing)

:D

In fact, (can of worms here??) I hate the whole capital punishment thing from beginning to end. It's one reason why I'm glad to live in Europe.

I can only speak for Catholic theology. You're right in saying that Catholics have no problem with a person 'being' gay. That's where (as far as I can see) we differ from fundamentalist Protestants (feel free to differ, guys; I want to learn if I'm wrong). Thus, a Catholic could never say those appalling words 'God hates fags' and still claim to be a Catholic. We believe it is what you DO that makes a difference. Hence your point, which you make very clearly.

And here's where I really do agree with you. What comes next is not articulated clearly in Catholic theology. OK, so we're gay, it's not our 'fault'. What happens if you actually dare to do something about it; i.e. have sex with another man? Ow, ow, ow!

This is not consistent. It is a clear principle in Catholic theology that what you cannot help is not your fault, and therefore is not a sin.

But how often do you hear this said?

Oh, I've gone on long enough; sorry, brothers (and interested sisters).

Lots of love.

Nick Turner

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For the pope to say that "it's ok to be gay, as long as you never act on it" is a cop out--just a way to look accepting and not BE accepting. Did they seriously think that anyone with half a brain would accept being placed in such a double bind? Oh puh-leeeze....

AJ

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Good topic. I wish I could get more people to reccomend books to talk about on my gay lesbian site at bella online. I have asked for books to be reviewed by my readers but people seem to be scared to suggest a book for it to turn out to offend someone or be a bad read to someone. I love to explore this topic and many others over there. So if you have any other books by or about gay people, feel free to email me directly at neonjase@macomb.com and suggest the to me.

I also welcome you to read my articles, join my forum, and also my newsletter as well.

my group is located at bellaonline.com

http://gaylesbiannews.bellaonline.com

Jase ;0)

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I'm somewhat of a newly "converted" agnostic, myself. As for my religious background...well, I'll just say that about 90% of "Fistfights with Flashlights" is true.

Anyway, yeah, this is a good idea for a thread. I don't really have anything to recommend, though, since most of the books I was raised on were more of the "if you listen to secular music or read anything on the bestseller list, you're going to hell" variety.

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Nick et al.,

Yes, I?m familiar with the ad hominem argument and it?s not my intention to make one or even to attack or mock anyone?s individual religious beliefs, I just point out a few historical events and milestones as a point of reference. In many ways I feel that some atheists have created as much of a ?religion? as the traditional organized religions that exist, and I abhor that just as much as I do the other side of the coin.

Faith is a ?virtue? as the saying goes and I place that term in a much different category then any religious doctrine promulgated by a ?church? and it?s hierarchy especially one that feels they have the ?inside track? to salvation or communication with a specific deity.

I can?t deny your mention of the sins of Stalin and others of his ilk, but he was a totalitarian dictator not an atheist? as many dictators do, he created his very own religion where he was the reigning deity of his universe. He didn?t believe in the traditional god(s), but he sure believed in the god STALIN. I always get a bit nervous when a ruler or leader of a country starts putting pictures and statures of themselves throughout a country (especially when it becomes a decree, fiat, or requirement ? e.g. their picture in every classroom of every school, or their statue in every public square of every village, town or city).

I personally stared religion in the face many years ago and made a conscious decision concerning it regarding my own thoughts and beliefs. I don?t ask anyone to follow me in that decision, nor do I desire to send atheist ?missionaries? into the countryside to ?convert? the masses. Although I do have a specific set of points regarding religion I am personally concerned about some of which are:

1. I don?t think people should be converted to ANYTHING (religious or secular) at the point of a sword.

2. I think there should be TRUE freedom of religion? and that means ALL religions even the ones we may not agree with (as long as a religion isn?t violating natural law ? involving things like human sacrifice.

3. I think secularism can also be a religion and those espousing it have to be just as careful in promulgating their belief?s as formal organized religions should be.

But I guess the issue I am most concerned about as far as this forum goes centers around those homosexuals who sincerely believe in a deity, religion, or faith system and are oppressed or made to feel ?condemned? by the very system they so long to be a part of. Over the years I have met many gay individuals who wanted desperately to participate in the religion of their heritage and yet still follow their sexual orientation. Their pain, hurt and suffering was very real and I certainly do not discount it or mock it.

I may personally give a rat?s a** about religion, but I truly feel for any person who is exiled from something they want to belong to and be a part of ? especially when that belonging is critical to who they are. Yeah it?s easy for someone like me to say ?screw?um? regarding an organized religious group because I don?t care, but I?m not the person who is suffering because of the conflicts they feel in relation to the faith they are trying to practice and I truly sympathize with people who suffer no matter what the reason.

I wish all of you who struggle with this issue eventual peace and contentment. I?m not asking you to all become atheists. Unlike many on both sides of this debate I only want you in my camp if you TRULY come to believe as I do ON YOUR OWN after much though and inner reflection without a gun pointed to your head or through some kind of trickery or coercion. Its NOT my job to convince you? it?s up to you to come to your own conclusions. And I sincerely hope that you find the reconciliation, and acceptance you desire (no matter if it?s a personal reconciliation or one within an organized religion).

Oh and thanx for the nice comment on TSOI...

Regards,

Jamie

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Dear Jamie et al

Yes, I agree with almost every word of what you write, Jamie. I want to think some more about your point two, though your caveat about some religions having objectionable practices probably takes care of what niggles.

I see you live in Europe, as I do. So you will know that the stance of the Church vis-a-vis homosexuality is not nearly so homophobic as it seems to be in the States. I read about all these pulpit rants Stateside, and I can honestly say that I have never heard one in Europe. Sure, there are those documents and declarations from on high that tell us to put our dicks away, but its okay for us to love another guy chastely, but in practice, I have seen far less real homophobia among Christians than among, say, football supporters. Priests, catechists &c all know about the Church's official teaching, sure, but they apply it with a light and gentle hand in my experience. Perhaps some of those reading have had other experiences: I can only speak of my own.

This suggests to me that homophobia is not the result of a religious attitude fundamentally, but is a 'naturally occurring' or secular prejudice, for which people who believe various religions adduce different arguments drawn from their bible or koran or vedas or whatever to support. People use their religion, therefore to provide support for their own prejudices or desires. This goes as much for crusaders, conqustadores and terrorists as it does for homophobes.

On another different, but related subject; if the fight between Bush and Kerry had been fought in Europe, there is not the slightest doubt that Kerry would have won a landslide.

Very best wishes,

Nick

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Yes Nick it's true, attitudes on homosexuality in Western Europe are different then they are in the USA. As someone who has a foot on both continents so to speak I always notice a difference when I'm in the US as far as attitudes regarding gays. Western Europe is much more secular, something I enjoy.

I guess the biggest issue and worry I have concerning Europe and religion is the increasing immigration issue and specifically the religious ideas that are flowing in because of it. The rise of Islam in Western Europe has been and will continue to be a growing political and cultural issue in Europe... but then I'm sure I don't have to tell you that.

And of course your quite right in pointing out that homophobia isn't only the pervue of religious institutions and their members. Since this thread was begin addressing religion and religious views vis vis homosexuality, I kinda have focused on that issue, but an unbeliever can be just as homophibic as a believer.

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Well, I go away for a while, and look what happens! -- A potentially explosive topic is handled... with intelligent, civil discussion. I'm very, very glad to see that. I'm a little surprised, but encouraged, to see agreement from such differing viewpoints. It's good to see participation by several religious (or non-religious) beliefs.

If anyone has books or videos that they've found helpful, I hope you'll post them.

Regarding exclusion of gays from their faith heritage, I'd like to point out that works both ways. Not only can we be excluded by our fellow believers, but we can even, perhaps more unfortunately, exclude ourselves because of our own doubts and insecurities, or because we don't feel comfortable ourselves, whether others have made us feel unwelcome or not.

I am learning that there are many grouips of clergy and laity within various brands of Christianity, as well as within Judaism and Islam, who support inclusion and acceptance of GLBT members.

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I thought I'd weigh in with my own personal beliefs and opinions to see how many of you I can offend :p

I am a Christian insofar as I follow Christ's teachings. I have a personal relationship with God, and no man has the right to tell me what that relationship is or should be.

Mainstream Christianity has, in my view, created and elitist organization that has perverted those teachings to gain and maintain control over the masses using fear, uncertainty and doubt. Just like most fanatics (and I chose that word specifically), they take what they want out of context to support the views they espouse, and use the media to do it, be it television, radio, or print. The people take this message to heart because they are, and again this is my opinion, brainwashed into believeing what is put forth by endless repetition. If one is told by a person considered credible that gays are evil hundreds of times a week, then one will begin to believe it.

I come to my beliefs from my own experiences and nothing else. A foundation of knowledge was laid by attending a non-denominational church for a short duration, but they did nothing to convince me God exists. I came to that belief on my own. What works for me may or may not work for someone else. It's not my job to make that decision for them. If someone shares my belief, then God be with them. If not, then that is their prerogative, and I won't attempt to force my beliefs on them. And really, who has the time?

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i just had to throw my two cents in.

i was raised in a religious jewish household (egalitarian conservative for those of you that know what that means) and attended services every week. we kept kosher, i had a bat mitzvah at 13, and though i am not as observant now as i was then, i still whole heartedly believe in my religion and have a strong faith in god.

i've learned a lot in reading these conversations about christianity and its attitudes. many of those attitudes are completely foreign to me and it amazes me that people could actually preach such stuff. now, i know that the old testament (jews call it the torah) has a lot of wrathful, vengeful stuff in it that's pretty awful, but one of the things that most mainstream (there are crazies in every religion) jews believe is that the torah is meant to be taken figuratively, not literally. sure there are some jews that think that we should stay in the 18th century, and they are more than welcome to do so... just don't make me join them. judaism acknowledges that the world changes and evolves and, as members of the human race, we must evolve as well. so our religion evolves, adjusts to new developments. it's how we've lasted over 5,000 years.

one of the things i find really interesting in looking at christianity is its version of the bible. there are so many translation errors (or maybe they changed things on purpose?)... the first and foremost being the story of adam and eve. but the one that is most controversial, especially for this board is the story of sodom and g'morah. when i found out at age 14 that christians used that story as proof of "the evil of homosexuality," i was shocked. let me tell you right now, i've read the whole story in hebrew, the language it was originally written in, and it does not say that homosexuality is wrong. it says that promiscuity, rape, gambling, and prostitution are wrong, that fathers selling their daughters into sex slavery is wrong. those are the reasons that sodom and g'morah were burned, not because men were having sex with each other. i don't know where the translation error happened, but damn is it a big one.

we always had gay couples at our synagouge. one of my father's employees (he's the head of a social service agency) is a very "out" lesbian and her and her partner were at services every week. they even had a commitment ceremony that our rabbi officiated over. the general attitude i grew up around was that what they did in bed was their business, we should simply appreciate them as people and enjoy their company.

the jewish community has always had a "live and let live" attitude, partially because so often the people around us tend to want to kill us, we understand what it is like to be a persecuted minority. we would never wish that fate on anyone. the laissez faire attitude also extends to religion. i totally agree with the others in this coversation who have said that no one should force any other person into any kind of belief or non-belief. if you want to believe in something, that is your right and who am i to tell you that you are wrong? it is your own personal decision. what may be right for me could be horrible for you. as long as you don't hurt anyone, i say believe whatever you like.

religion should be about love, community, and guidance. it should not breed hatred.

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