Often it is assumed that if everyone believed one religion was “true” or “correct” in a particular society that all things would be alright. Everyone would get along and there would be no fighting, no killing, no bad things happening. Often atheists and others that do not consider themselves theist will disagree with this claim citing historic religious groups and homogenous cults that still ended in bloodshed or implosion. However, this post isn’t about some hypothetical religious utopia or social experiment. This post is about a small African country called Uganda.
As many may know, Uganda has attempted to pass a strict anti-homosexuality bill that would charge homosexuals, those that are HIV positive, and those that are outside the country but from Uganda, be with punishments up to and including capital punishment. Now this may seem like something that is borne out of fear or hatred, or that somehow homosexuality was destroying Uganda, and the only way to stop it was to create harsh punishments for homosexual activity. It is none of these things that has driven Uganda to adopt a harsh stance, rather it is our old adversary and age old rival to reason: religion, and specifically Christianity.
You see, Uganda has one of the largest populations of Christians on the entire African continent. Now, this is not to say that the more Christians there are, the more homosexual persecution there is just because there are more Christians, no not at all (Though that DOES seem to be the case). However, it is from this large population that such laws gain support. Uganda is still technically a developing country; it is rife with violence, infrastructure is not completely developed across the entire country, governments are somewhat stable but not permanent and still localized in many areas, and religious superstition runs rampant. It can be seen from the large Christian support base within Uganda that this law has come to pass and gained in support.
This places Christians in the world around, and specifically in the United States, in quite the predicament. Here we can see an undeveloped country that does not have a centralized and effective education system living under the de facto rules and regulations of a Christian authority tripping over itself in the Human Rights department specifically because of its Christianity. But in the United States, Christians don’t really want to persecute homosexuals, right? Not the sane ones, right? They are all for inclusion and discussion and openness- or are they? These people in Uganda are simply doing as Christianity instructs them to do, listening to the bishops and the pastors and following the rule of the Bible. Hell, even many American missionaries working in Uganda are supporting this law and its consequences. So how does Christianity as a whole, both home and abroad, reconcile the fact that its teachings has directly caused a government and by proxy, a large group of people to persecute people based simply on their sexual preference with government sanctioned DEATH?
The answer is it can’t. We’ve seen many high ranking religious figures denounce such behavior both in Europe and in the United States. However, we’ve seen Ugandan religious figures just as vehemently defend such laws as not only the word of their god but also what’s best for Uganda. Imagine being told by your parents to go wash the car and then being grounded for….washing the car. How do you reconcile yourself to a set of beliefs that, when not tempered by reason and education, cause absolute destruction for people? How can Christians claim inclusiveness and understanding when their basic scripture-based beliefs are actually put into practice with horrific results? Either you support persecuting homosexuals and subscribe to the fundamental Christian dogma, or you do not subscribe, and choose not to support persecution. This is a huge problem for Christianity and one that will not diminish as these countries develop, but will grow!
As education and development comes to these superstitious and religious heavy countries we will see increasing friction with the modern world. To these countries we can point to and say “Ah, here is a country that truly lives by their religious code and look- it’s killing and hurting people”. When they want to join the international stage the question won’t be are they ready financially, but are they ready socially? And organized religion will be there with its lips to these countries’ ears caught red handed guiding these horrible actions and enforcing ignorance to further its own ends.