Homosexuality in world religions: Christianity, Islam, Judaism, Buddhism


Throughout virtually all of Christian history, homosexual relations have been viewed in Christianity as a sin, and its cause (as the cause of all sin in general) has been attributed to the corruption of human nature and its propensity to sin after the fall into sin. This view of homosexual relations is contained in the official position of the Catholic Church, the Orthodox local and Ancient Eastern Churches, and most Protestant Churches. Within Orthodoxy and especially Catholicism, there are theologians who challenge the official Church condemnation of homosexual relationships.

At present, there is no former unity of opinion among Protestant denominations on issues of homosexual behaviour and homosexual inclinations. Most Protestant churches (including the Seventh-day Adventist Church, most Baptist, Methodist, and Pentecostal churches) hold to the traditional Christian view of homosexual behaviour as one of the manifestations of the sinfulness of human nature. Some Protestant religious organizations in Western Europe, North America, and Oceania have declared that they do not recognize homosexual behaviour as sinful.


Homosexuality in Islam, according to the consensus of theologians, is forbidden. The basis for this decision is the Qur'anic parable of the people of LUT (Sodom and Gomorrah) who angered Allah because they used men instead of women for passion (al-A'RAF 7:81). However, Islam lacks a holistic concept of homosexuality that includes not only masculinity but also platonic relationships. Homosexuality is usually viewed in terms of its individual manifestations.

Some followers of liberal movements in Islam advocate a revision of traditional views and defend a modern reading of the Qur'an, including the treatment of homosexuality. They believe that homosexuality should not be regarded as a sin, oppose the legal persecution of homosexuals, and advocate their destigmatization in Islamic hamartiology and in society at large. According to their views, it is possible to be true Muslims and at the same time remain gay or lesbian.


The theme of homosexuality in Judaism dates back to the biblical book of Leviticus, which threatens the death penalty for a man who shall lie “with a man as with a woman.” The very severity of the Torah's proposed punishment may reflect the seriousness with which same-sex intercourse was taken in biblical times. The Talmudic lawgivers ruled that with the destruction of the Temple (in 70 CE), the Sanhedrin lost the right to impose the death penalty.

Historically, the prevailing view among adherents of Judaism has been that homosexual contact is sinful. Traditionally, the Torah text was interpreted as prohibiting all homosexual sexual activity. However, this view has recently been challenged in many “modernized” streams of Judaism (e.g., Reform Judaism, Reconstructionist Judaism, and Conservative Judaism, although the latter does not permit anal sex).


The classical tenets of Buddhism define homosexuality as improper sexual behaviour.

Homosexuality has been an integral part of Buddhist culture in Japan and China (especially according to Christian missionaries). Modern Buddhist teachers often call for tolerance and accommodation of homosexuals. Many teachers advocate allowing homosexual lay disciples to enter into same-sex relationships.

Regional differences

Attitudes toward homosexuality among believers can vary widely from country to country. The most intensive sociological research in this area has been conducted in the United States, where in recent years there has been a heated debate about attitudes toward homosexuality and, in particular, about the possibility or inadmissibility of same-sex marriage.


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