Religious texts

Neither the Bible nor the Koran have much, if anything, to say about the sexuality of lesbians or women as a whole - should we be surprised? The situation for men is rather different.

The main negative references in the Bible are in Leviticus, in the Sodom and Gomorrah bit and in the writings of St. Paul. Leviticus is always good for a laugh. It lists 642 ethical and ritual laws such as:

You must not:
harvest the corners of a field
shave or get a haircut
wear clothes of a mixed textile blend
have a tattoo
eat shrimps

You must:
kill adulterers
kill a child which curses its parents (3 cheers for Leviticus)
permit slavery
observe the Feast of Trumpets ....
 
This was the period when God was "a vengeful god" and went around doing a lot of smiting. These days, 641 of the laws are ignored. Can you guess which topic the religious fundamentalists still cling to?

The Old Testament was written in ancient Hebrew and by the time people got around to translating it into other languages, the meaning of lots of words had changed. The sin of the men of Sodom had nothing to do with gay sex, but everything to do with the way they treated their guests. The confusion stems from a mistranslation of the Hebrew word which means to "know". In the New Testament it could mean having sex with someone and when you wrongly carry that meaning back into the Old Testament you get the well-known, but false, interpretation that Sodom was destroyed because its men folk were gay. The men of Sodom were punished because they treated their guests like slaves. This interpretation of the events is mentioned in several other parts of the Bible.

The vigorous condemnation of gay men in the Koran stems from the fact that the Koran takes over - lock, stock and mistranslation - the Sodom and Gomorrah story from the Bible. Let us also remember that in this story, Lot offered his daughters to the men of Sodom. Later on Lot had sex with his daughters ... and Lot was supposed to be the good man who was spared. Is this an example of what it means to be Christian or Muslim?

St. Paul, of course, wrote in Ancient Greek. His translators talk about "unnatural acts" between men i.e. it's unnatural and therefore bad. How natural is playing the piano? How natural is an iPod or a DVD? If you have appendicitis, the natural thing is to die, but we generally prefer the unnatural process of being anaesthetised, cut open, having the appendix removed and being sewn up again.

St. Paul actually uses the words "para physin", which can translate as unnatural. It can also translate as "unusual" i.e. being different, but not "wrong", like having red hair or being left-handed. In one description St. Paul refers to God acting "para physin". One can't have it both ways. Was St. Paul saying that God was acting unnaturally and was therefore bad?

If you look for it, you can find references in the Bible that make out that women, black people and the disabled are inferior too.

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