November 24, 2005

Why We Hate Homosexuals So Much

As talk of decriminalizing homosexuality (to be more accurate, anal and oral sex between two men) sweeps through the Caribbean region and the resulting outrage ensues, I cannot help but ask myself, how come our people hate gays so much? Some would say, “We are islands that embrace Christian values and the bible says it is a sin.” However it is an oversimplified response. The most virulent homophobes are usually not Christian nor strict bible adherents. Dancehall artists famous for calling for violence against gays are certainly are no bible behaving saints. In fact most of us in general, do not abide by strict biblical law in everything, from eating pork to losing our temper to premarital sex to our Carnival revelry to gossip. They are just a drop in the bucket of biblical sins most of us are guilty of, yet we are very quick to quote scripture when it comes to homosexuals. Our “bible says so” explanation is more of a convenient excuse than anything else. In an effort to find out the root of our hatred and intolerance we need to dig deeper beneath the predictable reactions and religious arguments. We need to look at our history, our origins because our fear, shame and hate of gay people (men in particular) is far more universal a modern cultural phenomena among black people whether we are from the Caribbean, America or Africa. Therefore I must ask, what is our common experience? What is our common heritage?

An unbiased historical and anthropological look back will show us what our past feelings towards homosexuals were probably like when we were back in our indigenous tribes in West, Central and Southern Africa long before the arrival of the European colonialists. I know many Afrocentrics often deny that homosexuality was a feature of African cultures in ancient times. They love to spread the myth that homosexuality is primarily a modern phenomenon, a “white man’s disease”. Ironically, they have been unwittingly anglicanized to have this myopic view. Every great ancient civilization or culture has had homosexuals in it, whether tolerated or not. For two centuries at the height of the Han, China was ruled by ten openly bisexual emperors, whose names have been recorded in the official histories of the period by Sima Qian and Ban Gu. There is the legendary "nanshoku" loves recorded by
writers and shunga painters who immortalized "shudo," the love between samurai warriors in feudal Japan. There is an abundance of homoerotic art from ancient Rome, Greece, Inca and Mayan civilisations. French colonists have recorded accounts of the “bedarches” among the Native Americans and “fa’ faine” of the South Pacific. During the Islamic Renaissance, famous Iranian and Arab poets such as Hafiz i-Shirazi and Abu Nuwas wrote pages of homoerotic poetry. Therefore homosexuality and bisexuality are ubiquitous, existing in all cultures, and at all times in history. How come these Afrocentrists want us to believe that our mother land was somehow the exception to the rule? Simple, they are being dishonest and it begs the question: “Other races and cultures have owned up to gays in their history, why is it a source of shame and fear for our descendants of ancient African civilisations to do the same?”

The answer is we were taught to feel that shame and fear by the same colonial influences we now speak against. So deep is the indoctrination we cannot even look at our own Motherland honestly. Dictator Robert Mugabe is such a prime example of such a person. He accuses the British of bringing the “disease of perversion” to his country of Zimbabwe and refuses all attempts to foster tolerance and equal rights as colonial interference”. What Mugabe does not or chooses not to recognise is that that homosexuality existed in Zimbabwe long prior to European contact. We know this because the "San" people, a tribe indigenous to that country did rock paintings that date back many thousands of years which depict sexual acts between men. The Bantu-speaking peoples of the plateau country have also admitted to ethnographers that homosexuality has been traditionally present in their culture. In Nigeria, another place where advocacy for tolerance is dismissed as “European meddling”, the native Hausa people of northern Nigeria and the surrounding countries offer interesting examples of homosexuality among their people for thousands of years before British colonialism. They speak of, 'yan dauda, which is usually translated as "homosexual" or "transvestite" and 'dan dauda, which translates as a “homosexual wife." There are many stories among the Pangwe of Camaroon of men within their tribe who even when offered a large bride price, still prefer to court other men. The indigenous Igbo people of Nigeria allow “female husbands”, women who display more masculine tendencies are treated as men and allowed to hunt and to marry other women. On the Swahili coast and among many tribes in Lesotho romantic love or intimacy between women was allowed because the perception was that two women could not have sex and such interaction was non-threatening. That these behaviours existed prior to European contact is evidenced by the richness and number of these anthropological findings. Contrary to Mugabe's and other Afrocentrists' assertions, analysis of the old colonial court records shows intense prosecutions of homosexual behaviors among the indigenous peoples of the Shona, Ndebele, Xhosa, Basotho and Zulu by early colonialist courts.

It may seem weird to many that so many people, from the Native Americans to the peoples of the South Pacific to Africa were permissive of homosexuality. However, we must keep in mind that among non-Abrahamic/Judeo/Christian cultures, homosexuality was usually tolerated and even celebrated because they simply had a moral code influenced by different values. First peoples revere nature for life’s lessons and in nature they found abundant examples of sexual anomalies (which modern science has now begun to understand) like hermaphrodites, same-gender sexual behaviour among animals even species that could physically change gender. Therefore to many indigenous tribes around the world, a man who manifested feminine traits was not seen as unnatural or immoral. Gay people were often seen as “twin-spirits” possessing both male and female souls and thus gifted with invaluable talent and insight as spiritual guides, healers, artists and craftsmen. The indigenous peoples often demonstrated an acute awareness and acceptance it took colonial societies years to achieve. On the other side of the world, the European people had long converted from their shamanistic earth religions by a powerful Roman Catholic Church which since the 1200s began to rule with an iron fist. They had a rather different view, one they would end up forcing upon our ancestors.

The history of the church in Europe reveals that there was once tolerance of homosexuality throughout the middle ages. Believe it or not, (though the Church tried to sweep it under the carpet) it is now publicly known that many of its priests and abbots prior to the 1200s were openly gay. Some even left us literature celebrating their gay lovers, among them Marbod, Bishop of Rennes (d. 1123 C.E.) and Saint Aelred whose poetry lives on to this day. However after a dismal loss in the Crusades the church began an intense legalistic campaign that would climax with the Inquisition and last until the 17th Century. Of course, this led to all kinds of repression. The first to feel it were the Jews and Muslims of Europe, then came all women practicing midwifery and traditional healing, all racial minorities and of course homosexuals. In the face of growing Islamic threat from the Mediterranean and Middle East and pagan invaders from Eastern Europe, Mongol and China, there was a zealous thrust to replenish diminished European armies and increase the population and power of the Church’s domain. It was at the Lateran III Council of 1179 the Church took its first official position to outlaw all forms of non-procreative sex. In the 1200's the writings of Thomas Aquinas, reinforced the new thinking of the Catholic Church that semen was thought to be life itself and must never be wasted. Early illustrations of sperm in those times depicted them as tiny human souls. Sex was for pleasure was sinful, even between a husband and wife and should only be used for reproduction. Any men caught in the act of anal or oral copulation were burned, this traditional punishment led to the derogatory term of “faggot”, which means a piece of wood for burning. This was the Europe that came to colonise Africa. Can you picture the culture shock European colonialists felt when they came upon our people?

Writings of Belgian, Dutch, French, Spanish and British colonists to the new worlds in Asia, Africa, North and South America are filled with their horror over the polygamous, sexually-liberated, minimally dressed people who because of their reverence for the earth regarded sex in general as a perfectly natural, life-affirming even spiritual. They could not believe many of the tribes didn’t view homosexuality with the same severe condemnation they did. Among the earliest references to this are some of the records of the Inquisition in Brazil. From the Denunciations of Bahia, (1591-1593): "Francisco Manicongo, a cobbler's apprentice is known among the slaves as a sodomite for 'performing the duties of a female' and for 'refusing to wear the men's clothes which the master gave him.' These passives are called jimbandaa in the language of Angola and the Congo, which means passive sodomite. The accuser claimed to have seen Francisco Manicongo "wearing a loincloth such as passive sodomites wear in his land of the Congo and immediately punished him." It’s funny how today we may see Europeans as sexually liberal when thousands of years ago, they were the prudes. They were the homophobes. Of course they were being immensely hypocritical (just like we are now after being indoctrinated by them) because the fact remains that while they were punishing what they saw as sexual deviancy in our various tribal cultures, homosexuality was still rampant in their own ranks. Europe had a great double standard with richer classes and royalty being excused from prosecution for homosexual acts while the plebs felt the full wrath of the iron fisted church. Indeed, among noted homosexuals was King James, the royal for whom a version of the bible was named. Added to this their racism led to their presumption they were innately and culturally superior to our people. They forced our ancestors to wear their impractical style of clothing in the boiling tropical heat, to cover the naked human body which they felt was shameful. They forced us to practice their form of religion and its moral code and laws. Our culture was condemned by foreigners too close-minded to understand it. They embarked upon a well-financed campaign to indoctrinate our people to feel violently ashamed, fearful and hateful of their own traditions and of each-other.

Abused victims turn their fear of punishment and hatred of the punisher inward. As is often the case, the new convert becomes more of an extremist zealot than the one who converted him, especially when there is much at stake for him to gain if he proves his utter devotion and dire consequences if he does not. Therefore we began to fear and hate our own deities, earth and ancestral spirits. We began to fear and hate our skin colour and features. As for the minorities who love people of the same gender for whom many tribes had a special place in their traditions, we began to hate them too. To make matters worse, the morally hypocritical Europeans, used anal rape during the slave trade as a means of humiliation and emasculation especially on mentally and physically strong black men to break their spirit. Paedophilia was rampant in the new slave based colonies because a culture of repression, injustice, violence and hypocrisy always breeds dysfunctional predatory behaviours. Many young African boys were sexually abused by their white masters and especially picked because they had no recourse. In addition, the family unit was split, black men kept in isolation from their women, they were housed together in cramped barracks and this as well led to many non-consensual releases of sexual frustration and the resulting anger and shame about it. All the ill-feelings created by this common experience among our people have been handed down, distilled, supplemented with religious belief from generation to generation down to this day. So now even after emancipation, even after the fight for civil rights, most black men’s impressions of homosexuality are related to either violent events stemming from being incarcerated, degraded or emasculated in some way. The systematic destruction of the black man’s worth as a man for hundreds of years; the resulting desperation to prove his manhood as well as the fear of being “soft” in tough, racist, poverty-stricken societies all have led to a culture of accepted homophobia, a common thread among all Afro-ethnic communities worldwide. Ironically when we feel we are lashing out against “Babylon system” by bashing our gay brothers and sisters, we are really lashing out at a part of our own African heritage which they represent. Colonial racism and homophobia go hand in hand. White racists who believe black people are supposed to be subhuman slaves and the bible justifies it also persecute gay people as well. Who would have thought that dancehall artist Buju Banton and David Duke Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan have something in common?

Today Europe and America continues to apologize for its contribution to slavery and oppression that imprisoned people like Nelson Mandela. They have long since condemned their old laws used to imprison gay people like Oscar Wilde as discriminatory and inhumane. Even the Catholic Church has acknowledged the atrocities of the Inquisition, forced conversion and slavery (although they still cling to the legislation formed during that time with regard to non-procreative sex) were wrong, unjustified and have attempted to be more compassionate towards homosexuals. However, we who live in the Caribbean and places like Zimbabwe cling to colonial fear and intolerance, claiming it as our own even when the nations that forced it upon us have long reconciled them to be unjust. So deep is that colonial wound that even when we try to “return to Mother Africa” we refuse to relinquish the homophobia inculcated in us by Europe. It would be a different story if our intolerance was helping us in some way, but unfortunately it is doing the exact opposite. Coretta Scott King, the widow of Martin Luther King, speaking four days before the 30th anniversary of her husband's assassination, said, "I still hear people say that I should not be talking about the rights of lesbian and gay people and I should stick to the issue of racial justice, but I hasten to remind them that Martin Luther King Jr. said, 'Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.’” Speaking before nearly 600 people at the Palmer House Hilton Hotel, she called on the civil rights community to join in the struggle against homophobia and anti-gay bias. "Homophobia is like racism and anti-Semitism and other forms of bigotry in that it seeks to dehumanize a large group of people, to deny their humanity, their dignity and personhood," King stated. "This sets the stage for further repression and violence that spreads all too easily to victimize the next minority group." ** We may be predisposed culturally to this form of hatred, but we do not have to let it run our lives. It’s time that we black people whether from the Caribbean, Americas or Africa emancipates ourselves from homophobia which is only another form of mental slavery.

References: Homosexuality and Civilization by Louis Crompton, Christianity, Social Tolerance, and Homosexuality- Gay People in Western Europe from the Beginning of the Christian Era to the Fourteenth Century by John Boswell, Male Colors: The Construction of Homosexuality in Tokugawa Japan by Gary P. Leupp, Changing Ones : Third and Fourth Genders in Native North America by Will Roscoe “Boy-Wives and Female-Husbands- Studies in African-American Homosexualities” by Will Roscoe and Stephen O Murray , ** Chicago Defender, April 1, 1998, front page.


ziggystardust73 said...

this was such an exhilirating piece to read... thank you!

Martin Bebow said...

I agree that homophobia is wrong. But I am also religious and all major religions (not just Judeo/Christian/Islamic) forbid 'sexual misconduct', a term frequently found in Buddhist scripture. So although the tendency to homosexuality is found in all cultures, all of the major religions attempt to control the expression of sex. That is what religion is about - guiding man's behaviour.

Richard said...

Martin Bebow is engaging in circular argument when he claims that the term "sexual misconduct" found in Buddhist writings represents a condemnation of homosexual behavior. He is the one who sees homosexuality as "misconduct". The Buddha himself, to the best of my knowledge (and I've read quite a lot of the Pali Canon, though by no means all of it) never referred to homosexuality. Most Buddhist writers that I've read view the term "sexual misconduct" as referring to sexual behavior that is unfeeling, abusive, and dishonest - behavior that is at least as common among heterosexual people as it is among homosexuals. And contrariwise, homosexual relationships can be caring, loving, honest and faithful; I am quite certain that the Buddha would approve of any relationship that exemplified those qualities, regardless of gender.

The monotheistic religions are another story entirely; persecution of homosexuals in those religions, to my mind, says more about their proclivity to persecute than it does about their distaste for non-procreative sex. If it's not homosexuals, it's any other handy minority on whom those God-ridden people can wreak their Creator's vengeance.

is what i do

Martin Bebow said...


There are three forms of sexual misconduct that are well understood to all religions: adultry, fornication and sodomy. The interpretation of sexual misconduct as that which is unfeeling or abusive is very much a modern interpretation. I'm sure the Buddha would expect his followers to refrain from abusiveness in all situations including sexual. But sexual behaviour has always had special considerations attached to it because sex is what produces future generations. Only religion gives an authoritative restraint on human behaviour and the attempt to redefine sexual misconduct as being uncaring is clearly an attempt to weaken those restraints.

Richard said...

Martin said: "There are three forms of sexual misconduct that are well understood to all religions: adultry, fornication and sodomy."

Martin, with all due respect, that is just not so. Those may be "well understood" by monotheist religions, but there is simply nothing in the most fundamental Buddhist scripture that pays any attention at all to such things. Nor is there any such in the Laws of Manu or the long passages on the dharma in the Hindu Mahabharata. Buddhist monks and nuns were expected to observe celibacy. Lay people were expected to behave well, in ways that did not hurt others. And though the Buddha was well aware and spoke in many teachings about the disruptive effect that women have on a man's meditative state, and the dangers of sensual pleasure in general, he never singled any particular sexual act out for special blame.

In both Hindu and Buddhist traditions, it was accepted that men would have sexual partners outside of marriage (relationships that you would define as "adulterous"). Except for the fact that sexual desire itself led to foolish behavior and loss of mindfulness, such relationships were no different than any others.

And when you get away from the "major" religions, as Jessica demonstrated at some length in her original post, you can find many examples of spiritual traditions that gave explicit sanction to behavior that you would call "sodomy". Even within Christianity, John Boswell's controversial but generally well-reviewed book "Same-Sex Unions in Premodern Europe" made a persuasive case that the medieval church was quite tolerant of homosexual unions.

I'm sorry, my friend, but your comment reflects a typically narrow-minded Christian assumption that the way that most modern Christian churchmen see the world is identical with the "religious" way to see the world. It isn't. It is homophobic, prudish, intolerant, and repressed, which are unhealthy ways to be and which do not conduce to the well-being of individuals or of society.

is what i do

Richard said...

I'd like to make an additional comment, in response to Martin's claim in his first post that "guiding man's behavior" is what religion is about. That also is not entirely true; it's not quite false, either, but it is misleading and reductionist. While most religions that I know in some moderate depth do offer some such guidance, that is not usually what the religions are "about". Hinduism, for example, is explicit and excruciatingly detailed in describing how to behave with regard to the preparation of the ritual sacrifice, but it is much looser and less presecriptive with regard to day-by-day behavior. And the Buddha, while he set down exacting guidelines for the behavior of monks and nuns, was much more general with his advice for lay people, focusing on those behaviors (generosity, loving-kindness, honesty, abstinence from alcohol, choosing good companions, observing one's family obligations) that resulted in lives free of stress and ready to pursue the meditative wisdom that lead to equanimity and release from suffering. The kind of minutely prescriptive morality that characterizes Judaism, Christianity, and Islam had almost no place in Hinduism and Buddhism, and was even less important in Taoism and those Buddhist traditions influenced or cross-fertilized by Taoism.

Martin Bebow said...


Hinduism covers such a wide range of beliefs and practices that practically any form of behaviour can be justified from it. I want to concentrate on the continual use of the term 'sexual misconduct' in the Buddhist scripture. You say it refers to behaviour that is 'unfeeling, abusive and dishonest'. This cannot be what 'sexual misconduct' is refering to since it can be applied to any behaviour. There was something specific that was being intended by the continual use of this phrase. A consistent view of a religious perspective on sex is one that acknowledges the importance of chastity in thought and deed. To be pure in heart is a prerequisite to approaching God. Certainly the Buddha would agree with this as you yourself admit (and of course He doesn't refer to any specific sex act. He would not talk about such things in detail because it would be beneath His dignity to do so.) So what does it mean for a person to be chaste? You eat to nourish the body and not to harm it. You can enjoy the food as you eat it but the enjoyment cannot supercede the need to nourish the body. You have sex to procreate. You can enjoy the sex but that enjoyment must not supercede the need to procreate. Everything has its natural use and to use them for other purposes is either useless from a religious perspective or harmful (but mostly harmful because it distracts from man's higher purposes.) This is not a narrow Christian view (I am not a Christian.) It is rational and consistent with all religious teachings as found in the great Scriptures (the Bible, the Quran, the Bhagavad Gita etc.)

Richard said...

Martin, you are hung up on god. You say, "To be pure in heart is a prerequisite to approaching God. Certainly the Buddha would agree with this..." The Buddha would have no idea in the world what you are talking about (well, he would, of course, but he would consider the topic "unskillful"—not worth spending time on.) Buddhism, at its most basic level, is a non-theistic discipline. There are gods, but they are in the background, in realms of their own, and they have little or nothing to do with affairs in our human realm. Even in their own realms, the gods are evanescent beings like humans, subject to birth, aging, disease and death; they are not beings of any particular power, and they have no role—none, nada, zilch; no role at all, in any Buddhist scripture—as either arbiters or paragons of morality.

The Buddha, when he was asked about the sort of metaphysical things you're so focussed on, simply refused to answer. His position, time after time, was that he only had one subject: that was suffering (dukkha), the cause of suffering, the way to end suffering, and the practice of that way.

The Buddha's concern with sex was that it was a particularly strong impetus for the arising of mental fermentations (asava), the qualities that increase our suffering and keep us in ignorance, bound to the endless round of becoming. Chastity was the ideal, and it was a requirement for monks and nuns, not because it brought them closer to God, but because it kept them better protected from the clinging to material things that is the root cause of suffering. In the same way, poverty was an ideal, and a requirement for monks and nuns; so was refraining from idle speech. But the Buddha was well aware that even the best intentioned lay person could not be expected to practice such difficult restraint. So instead of requiring that the layman own nothing but a pair of robes and an alms bowl, he said that the lay person must not take what's not given. Instead of requiring every follower to refrain from all idle speech, the lay follower simply had to accept the vow to refrain from speech that was deceitful or divisive. And instead of chastity, the lay follower simply took the vow to avoid sexual misconduct. And what the Buddha meant, specifically, by that, is never addressed. But it's clear from all of the scriptures that he did not mean abstinence from non-procreational sex. Indeed, the desire for children is just as much of a trap—just as illusory and just as productive of mental fermentations—as the desire for orgasm.

You deny my assertion that the term "sexual misconduct" refers to conduct that is abusive or dishonest, because those terms can apply to any behavior. But that's exactly the point. Right action is action that's not abusive or dishonest; right speech is speech that's not abusive or dishonest; right livelihood is livelihood that's not abusive or dishonest. And the kind of sex that's appropriate to the life of a lay Buddhist is sex that's not abusive or dishonest. It's the harm we do to others, and the deceptions we practice, that creates the kind of negative karmic feedback that makes us miserable, leads to unhappiness and an increase in suffering, and, in classic Buddhist doctrine, leads to rebirth in a bad destination.

And if we decide to avoid abusive and dishonest behavior and instead practice loving kindness (metta), cultivate equanimity, seek to experience joy rather than sensual pleasure, it is not because the Buddha commands us to do that, and it's not even to gain rebirth in the realms of the gods; it's simply because that behavior, on examination, makes good sense. It's behavior that will make us happy in the long run, lead to the development of good friends, produce a sense of fulfillment, and enable us to face the difficulties of this world and our inevitable end without fear.

And the Buddha, by the way, was not at all concerned with his "dignity". He spoke quite naturally of blood and pus, piss and shit; if there had been some good reason to talk about anal sex or oral sex, the Buddha would have found a way to talk about that too. But there simply isn't. Kindness and honesty are the key. Who we have sex with unimportant, as long as the sexual relationship is characterised by kindness and honesty.

Finally, with regard to your rather intolerant dismissal of Hinduism, I would counter with the claim that Hinduism accepts the enormous diversity of human experience and counsels its followers on ways to live well within that diversity, rather than trying to force all sorts of different people to behave in ways that seem "natural" or consistent with a "higher purpose" as that purpose has been historically conceived by a bunch of old men who have deliberately alienated themselves from nature and have systematically repressed and denied their own human impulses.

Martin Bebow said...


intolerant dismissal of Hinduism? I have not only the highest regard for Hinduism but have had a lifelong facination with India. I love Krishna as I love all of the great religious teachers. I especially loved reading the Mahabharata which I think one of the most entertaining and instructive books I've ever read. I thought you might mention my reference to God and the Buddha. What you say is correct to a point. The Buddha did refuse to discuss ontological matters because at the time of His appearance India was riven by dissension on these matters. He rightly recognized that talking about such things would not lead to the higher states that religion is concerned with. But this does not mean He didn't believe in God. Here is a quotation that strongly supports the view that He implicitly supports a belief in a transcendent reality (God):

the noble disciple possesses unwavering faith in the Buddha thus: 'The Blessed One is an Arahat, the Fully Enlightened One, perfect in knowledge and conduct, the Happy One, the knower of the world, the paramount trainer of beings, the teacher of gods and men, the Enlightened One, the Blessed One.'

So the Buddha is not simply a man who has a particular viewpoint. He has 'perfect' knowledge and is the 'paramount' trainer of gods and men. As for you interpretation of sexual misconduct I don't think I have anything else to say. What is it really that you are trying to do? You admit that chastity is the goal but you seem to be trying to justify the introduction of an unchaste behaviour into religious orthodoxy. Why not just strive for the ideal rather than bother trying to justify the non-ideal.

Richard said...

Martin, you're not paying attention. There is a world of difference between "God" with a capital 'G' and "gods", like the gods in the ritual, idiomatic formula you quote. Those exact words, in that exact form, are present in hundreds of suttas, and, as I explained in my last post, the term "gods" in that formula, as a translation of the Pali "deva", has nothing in common with the term "God" that you use in the phrase "believe in God". The entire essence of your God is that he is One; He does, as you explicitly claim, "transcend Reality". The devas of Buddhist mythology were many, almost infinite in number, and they did not, in any way, transcend reality; they were, quite explicitly, subject to the same reality that men are—the reality of birth, aging, and death; the reality of suffering; the reality of kammic consequences. (The very term "deva", by the way, is cognate not with the English word "god" but with the word "devil".)

You will not find, anywhere in the Pali Canon (the oldest and most probably authentic layer of Buddhist scripture) any statement in which the Buddha expresses any recognition whatsoever of a transcendent deity of the sort that your God represents.

With regard to chastity, also, there is nothing in Buddhism with the freight of moralizing that that term carries. The Buddhist ideal, and a requirement for monks and nuns, is celibacy, which is quite a bit different from chastity. And, like homelessness and abstention from unnecessary speech, it was an ideal that the Buddha did not expect his lay followers to accept. What he did expect from them is abstention from sexual misconduct, a term which is never explained in detail. If it means "chastity" to you, that's fine; be chaste and you will be, no doubt, innocent of sexual misconduct. But a south sea islander, or a noble youth of the Buddha's time, or a Congo forest pygmy (see Colin Turnbull's book "The Forest People"), or any one of the Pandavas, heroes of the Mahabharata, or a free-thinking young person, gay or straight, in New York or San Francisco or Paris or Rio, all of whom behave in ways that any God-fearing person would consider "unchaste", might still be considered by the Buddha to be equally free of sexual misconduct.

You keep wanting to bring morality into the story. Morality is a religious concept, which has nothing to do with Buddhism. Good conduct, on the other hand, i.e. conduct based on generosity, kindness, and restraint, has everything to do with Buddhism. Because such behavior, as an inevitable result of kammic causality, leads to equanimity, joy, wisdom, and rebirth in a good destination; the path to enlightenment begins with good behavior. God has nothing to do with it. Nothing at all.

Richard said...

By the way, Martin, if you like the Mahabharata, you might enjoy my retelling of the tale. It is still, as it was when I wrote that 15 years ago, the best story I know.

Martin Bebow said...


You are basically saying that there is this great divide between the eastern religions and the Judeo/Christian/Islamic religions. That the latter emphasize moral conduct while the former do not. This I maintain is a false distinction. You also missed the point of my quotation. I was not referring to the god reference. I was referring to the Buddha's claim to a perfect and paramount station with relation to other men. How could he make such a claim? It strongly implies a transcendent reality to which the Buddha has special access. He also claims in many places that he is just one of a long line of Buddhas stretching back into the past and forward into the future. Krishna also claimed that whenever goodness declines in the world He returns to restore the balance. The two elements that distinguish a religion is faith and moral behaviour. Buddhism and Hinduism both follow that pattern (my quotation shows that faith is of prime immportance in Buddha's teaching.) I may have other quotations later. I will check out your Mahabharata.

Martin Bebow said...

With regard to the distinction between celibacy and chastity. Yes they are separate concepts. But why do monks need to be celibate? It's because it is much easier to give up something addictive like sex completely than it is to use it moderately (i.e. for its intended purpose.) Drugs, for example, have a purpose in relieving pain, but when used for other purposes becomes addictive. I know about sexual addiction and this is why the subject of chastity is so important to me. The whole thrust of the Buddha is to enable people to arrange their lives so that they live moderately and without any attachments (whether they are monks or not. there is not one law for monks and another for lay people. Lay people just have more worldly concerns to deal with.) This is so that they are then able to focus on an attempt to achieve a greater spirtual freedom. This is true for all religions. The old men you spoke of perviously are not the founders of the great religions (Jesus was 30.) They are the corrupt popes who come later and distort the pure teachings.

Martin Bebow said...


This has been an interesting exchange but I will be gone for a week so don't expect any posts next week. Also I should have said there is only one teaching rather than one law. Of course monks have a distinct set of rules that they live by.

Anigav, Snaibsel said...

Great article, :)

Alex said...

I am a homosexual receiving persecution from my dad right now, because we are Jamaican it is expected that I uphold my countries staunch conservative beliefs and curse homosexuality. I cannot do that and because of this I am being put through hell by my father who supposedly loves me so much. I'm going to share this article with my only other gay friend, it was a very educative and liberating article for me.

Jessica said...

Hey Alex,

Hang in there. I truly understand what you are going through. I was raised in a staunch Evangelical home and my father was very controlling and sometimes abusive, especially after I came out at 15.

Sometimes, until you get stronger, financially independent and able to leave, you may have to play along (remember it is THEM making you lie and giving you no other choice). I played along with the religious charade for as long as I could, until I could find outside support, employment and a place to live. Then I left immediately. Packed up whatever I could and severed all ties. It was extremely painful but it was worth it.

I hope you find the bravery to do what you must to be happy and healthy.