Religion affects our lives, directly and indirectly, in many ways. A new study published in the Journal of Homosexuality has investigated how a person’s and a country’s religious orientation impacts their attitude towards gay people. The findings showed that the more religious a person or country is, the more hostile it generally is towards homosexuals. The smallest effect was on Buddhists.

Religious people seem to dislike homosexuals more than non-religious, though Buddhists expressed this the least. Image via Wikipedia.

The relationship between religion and homosexuality has varied greatly across time and place, within and between different religions and regarding different types of homosexuality. Religious fundamentalism has been found to correlate positively with anti-homosexual bias, though some adherents of many religions view the two sexual orientations positively, and some religious denominations may bless same-sex marriages and support LGBT rights. It seems that too often in the modern world, religion and homophobia often seem to go hand in hand – especially in Christianity or Islam. The need for such a study is easy to understand.

“This high level of cross-country variance leads us to the fundamental question: How can the varying degrees of homonegativity be explained? In focusing primarily on religion and religiosity as determinants of homonegativity, this article takes a specific perspective, while well-known determinants of homonegativity such as age or education are controlled for,” researchers Sebastian Jackle and George Wenzelberger wrote in their study.

Their study analyzed 79 countries and assessed their homonegativity, especially in relation to their religiosity, but also to socioeconomic status; the status was also found to be a factor, with students and people from urban areas displaying less homonegativity, while housewives and people from rural areas showed opposite trends. But religion was found to be just as important.

The more religious people were, the more they felt like God was an important factor in their life, the more they disliked homosexuals. Those who practice Islam expressed the most homonegativity, while Buddhists expressed the least.

“The results indicate that there are clear differences in levels of homonegativity among the followers of the individual religions: Muslims make up the homonegative end of the scale, whereas Buddhists and atheists are on the other extreme,” Jackle and Wenzelberger wrote in the study.

“Regarding religiosity, we find that religious people are, in general, more homonegative,” they added. “This effect is, however, conditioned by religious affiliation. More concretely, the religiosity of a Muslim affects his or her attitudes toward homosexuals more negatively than would the religiosity of a Buddhist.”

The study seems to be broad and rigorous, the issue I have with it is that it relies on self-reporting. The validity of the answers may have been compromised by some people answering what they think is acceptable, and not how they actually feel.

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