Atheism and the persecution of homosexuals, also known as atheism and discrimination against homosexuals, is one common criticism of atheism, as militant atheists have often persecuted those belonging to the LGBTQ community. Atheist states, as well as atheistic organizations, have historically persecuted homosexuals and have engaged in discrimination against them.
In the atheistic communist state of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR), "a person could end up in prison for being openly gay." This policy was enforced after 1934, and went hand in hand with the Soviet Union's official doctrine of militant atheism, which led to the persecution of Christians in the USSR.
Sexual intercourse between been [muzhelozhstvo] is subject to imprisonment for up to five years. Muzhelozhstvo, carried out with the use of physical force, threats, or in relation to an underage person, or by using the dependent position of the victim, is subject to up to eight years' imprisonment. —Article 121.1 of the Criminal Code of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics
As such, homosexual members of the intelligentsia often suppressed their homosexuality and married women. The oppression of homosexuals in the atheist state of the USSR was noted by human rights organizations such as Amnesty International. Soviet homosexuals, in the 1970s and 1980s, attempted to establish the Gay Laboratory (Gei-laboratoriia), which sought to "examine the implications for Russians of the ideals of gay liberation and to consider the new threat that AIDS posed to same-sex love in Soviet conditions" but under "pressure from KGB surveillance and threats, the group disbanded in 1984". Since 1934, homosexuality was illegal, "punishable by imprisonment for up to eight years". As a result, "were mass arrests of homosexuals; some were sent to prison or the labor camps, others were exiled or executed." After the collapse of the Soviet Union, homosexuality and homosexual acts are no longer illegal in Russia as they were during the previous Soviet régime.
In the formerly atheist state of Cuba, "in the 1960s and 1970s, the Castro regime persecuted openly gay Cubans". A major element in Cuba's anti-gay policies was the fact that the "government adopted the Stalinist position, practiced in the Soviet Union, that homosexuality is a form of bourgeois decadence." As such, "Cuba sent openly gay men to labor camps without charge or trial", with Fidel Castro admitting to committing these crimes against humanity. Unidades Militares de Ayuda a la Production (UMAP) camps included both homosexuals, as well as the religious, who were tortured and incarcerated.
Although Chinese literature cites homosexual practice since ancient times as one that was fairly tolerated, after the Chinese Communist Party, which officially espouses atheism, came to power in 1949, homosexuality was deemed a sexual crime and then classified as an abnormal (buzhengchang) mental illness. Under the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution, homosexuals experienced punishment that ranged from "labor under surveillance to imprisonment for years". Moreover, atheistic communist officials "when queried by foreign visitors, until recently simply denied that homosexuality existed in China".
In 2018, China's atheist leaders caused Weibo (Chinese equivalent of Twitter) to ban homosexuality oriented content.
In December 2013, Chris Stedman of the Religion News Service, reported that "Dave Muscato, the Public Relations Director for American Atheists, made a problematic and offensive comment about LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender) activists." Muscato, who worked closely with David Silverman, stated that:
There are different types of atheist activists and we are not the kind that you seem to wish that we were or want us to be. I talk about this in a talk I give about atheism activism, where I say that, as an example, there are (generalizing) two types of LGBTQ activists: the kind that wear suits & ties and run for office and give speeches, and the kind who dress up in chaps and ride on parade floats. The suit-and-tie atheists say to the assless-chaps activists, “Stop doing that. You’re making us look bad. We’re trying to accomplish something here in terms of public acceptance.” But that is not the right way to look at it, I think. The assless-chaps activists say, “This is who we are and this is what we believe. If the public won’t accept that, they need to change, not me.”
Stedman, who holds that organization as being representative of atheists in the United States, criticized American Atheists, stating "Muscato’s comments are a deeply problematic instance of this equation. His words invoke a blatantly uninformed characterization of LGBTQ activists. He erases the diversity of LGBTQ activists, offering instead a caricature (that, for starters, feels very gay male-centric). My first experiences as an activist were in LGBTQ organizations, and I can say without hesitation that framing LGBTQ activists as either “the kind that wear suit & ties” or 'the kind who dress up in chaps and ride on parade floats' does not begin to reflect the thoughtfulness and diversity found within the LGBTQ community."
Atheist and homosexual Chris Stedman and anti-homosexuality disparagement by online atheists
The atheist and homosexual Chris Stedman in a Washington Post article entitled I’m an atheist, but I had to walk away from the toxic side of online atheism wrote:
|“||A number of prominent atheist bloggers criticized my interview, saying I was awful and suggesting I was allying with O’Reilly. The comments were worse. Anonymous posters ridiculed me, saying I should decline future television invitations because I was too “effeminate,” my physical appearance made atheists seem “like freaks” and my “obvious homosexuality” made me an ineffectual voice for atheists.||”|
- Pickett, Brent L. (9 February 2009). The A to Z of Homosexuality. Scarecrow Press. ISBN 9780810870727. Retrieved on 28 April 2014. “Fidel Castro's regime denounced homosexuality and established Committees for the Defense of the Revolution, which patrolled neighborhoods and invaded private space.”
- Demchenko, Elena (2009). Religion and Identity of Soviet Jewish Immigrants in the United States. ProQuest. ISBN 9781109121865. Retrieved on 28 April 2014. “The USSR declared itself the first atheist state in the world that discouraged any religion and persecuted those who tried to contradict the Marxist ideology.”
- Shiraev, Eric (2014-03-04). A History of Psychology. SAGE Publications. ISBN 9781452276595. Retrieved on 25 April 2014. “In the Soviet Union before 1990, a person could end up in prison for being openly gay.”
- Rutledge, Leigh W. (1987). The Gay Book of Lists. Alyson Publications. ISBN 9781555831202. Retrieved on 28 April 2014. “However, in 1934, Stalin made them illegal again, punishable by imprisonment for up to eight years. There were mass arrests of homosexuals; some were sent to prison or the labor camps, others were exiled or executed.”
- Turgeon, Lynn (1989). State & Discrimination: The Other Side of the Cold War (in English). M.E. Sharpe. ISBN 9780765621733. Retrieved on 25 April 2014. “Homosexual acts between consenting males only became illegal in early 1934. To this day, some of these acts are punishable by five years' imprisonment. A highly publicized case occurred in 1974, when the celebrated Georgian movie director, Sergei Paradzhanov, was sentenced to six years' imprisonment for practicing homosexuality and incitement to suicide. Historical, there has been extensive discrimination in the USSR on both religious and political grounds. Religious persecution and the pursuit of atheistic educational policies by the state were especially great before World War II and, particularly, after a resolution of April 8, 1929, "On Religious Cults."”
- Essig, Laurie (1999). Queer in Russia: A Story of Sex, Self, and the Other. Duke University Press. ISBN 9780822323464. Retrieved on 28 April 2014. “As long as the Soviet Union existed, the law against male homosexuality, in one form or another, would remain in effect. The 1987 version of the Criminal Code's Article I2I.I read: "Sexual intercourse between been [muzhelozhstvo] is subject to imprisonment for up to five years. Muzhelozhstvo, carried out with the use of physical force, threats, or in relation to an underage person, or by using the dependent position of the victim, is subject to up to eight years' imprisonment.”
- Mezey, Susan Gluck (27 March 2007). Queers in Court: Gay Rights Law and Public Policy. Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 19. ISBN 9780742568525. Retrieved on 25 April 2014. “During the 1930s, when homosexuals were persecuted in the Soviet Union, and he was advised to repress his homosexuality, he married.”
- Healey, Dan (15 October 2001). Homosexual Desire in Revolutionary Russia: The Regulation of Sexual and Gender Dissent. University of Chicago Press. ISBN 9780226322339. Retrieved on 25 April 2014. “In the West, organizations monitoring political dissidence such as Amnesty International then regarded the oppression of homosexuals as irrelevant to their mandates. Nonetheless, by the late 1970s and early 1980s, a handful of Soviet homosexuals employed the techniques of the wider dissident movement to challenge their society's persecution of same-sex love. The short-lived "Gay Laboratory" (Gei-laboratoriia), a group of about thirty men and women appeared in Leningrad in 1983 under the leadership of Aleksandr Zaremba, and with contacts with Finnish lesbian and gay organizations and the International Gay Association. The Gay Laboratory sought to examine the implications for Russians of the ideals of gay liberation and to consider the new threat that AIDS posed to same-sex love in Soviet conditions. Under pressure from KGB surveillance and threats, the group disbanded in 1984 as members either emigrated or fell silent.”
- Nazworth, Napp (22 November 2013). What You Hear About Gays in Russia Is 'Largely False,' Expert Says. The Christian Post. Retrieved on 25 April 2014. “Homosexuality and homosexual acts are not illegal in Russia, Ruse explained, like they were during the previous Soviet regime. Gays in Russia live without fear of reprisal from their government. An Internet search of "gay Moscow" reveals a few dozen bars and nightclubs that cater to an openly gay clientele. And, popular Russian television shows feature openly gay characters.”
- Chapman, Thomas E. (2007). Constructing the Moral Landscape Through Antidiscrimination Law: Discourse, Debate, and Dialogue of Sexual Citizenship in Three Florida Communities. ProQuest. ISBN 9780549469575. Retrieved on 25 April 2014. “Among the so-called "unwanted" were as many as 3,000 openly homosexual Cubans. At various points in the 1960s and 1970s, the Castro regime persecuted openly gay Cubans, despite the progressive thrust of the ideas of the Communist Revolution, which did substantially improve the conditions of other oppressed minority groups such as women and blacks.”
- Chapman, Thomas E. (2007). Constructing the Moral Landscape Through Antidiscrimination Law: Discourse, Debate, and Dialogue of Sexual Citizenship in Three Florida Communities. ProQuest. ISBN 9780549469575. Retrieved on 25 April 2014. “Another element contributing to Cuba's past anti-gay policies was for a time, the government adopted the Stalinist position, practiced in the Soviet Union, that homosexuality is a form of bourgeois decadence.”
- Darlington, Shasta (31 August 2010). Castro admits 'injustice' for gays and lesbians during revolution - CNN.com. CNN. Retrieved on 25 April 2014. “Former Cuban leader Fidel Castro said he acknowledges the persecution of gays and lesbians during the Revolution in his country, according to a newspaper interview published Tuesday. Throughout the 1960s and '70s, Cuba sent openly gay men to labor camps without charge or trial. "They were moments of great injustice, great injustice!" Castro told journalist Carmen Lira Saade from the Mexican daily La Jornada. "If someone is responsible, it's me."”
- Berenschot, Denis Jorge (January 2005). Performing Cuba: (Re)writing Gender Identity and Exile Across Genres. Peter Lang. ISBN 9780820474403. Retrieved on 25 April 2014. “Similar problems are recounted in Senel Paz's shorty story when Diego lists the problems he has with the Castroist regime. This list read as a topography of all the coercive strategies of the militarist authoritarian moral codes of the regime. They included persecution of homosexuals, religious people, torture and incarceration in the UMAP camps.”
- ΓΙΩΡΓΟΣ ΜΑΣΤΟΡΑΣ (12 January 2013). Ρατσιστής και εναντίον των ομοφυλοφίλων ο Τσε Γκεβάρα (Greek). Χρυσή Αυγή. Retrieved on 28 April 2014. “Ο περισσότερος κόσμος, όμως, δεν γνωρίζει και κάποιες άλλες σκέψεις και απόψεις του Αργεντίνου επαναστάτη, τις οποίες οι καπηλευτές των αγώνων του (ασχέτως του αν συμφωνεί ή διαφωνεί κάποιος με τα όσα ενστερνιζόταν, αγωνίστηκε για τα όσα πίστευε και το πλήρωσε με την ζωή του) αποκρύπτουν επιμελώς. Δεν γνωρίζει π.χ. ότι είχε εντελώς αρνητική άποψη για τους ομοφυλόφιλους και υποστήριξε χωρίς την παραμικρή ένσταση τα στρατόπεδα «επανεκπαίδευσης» που είχε στήσει γι’ αυτούς ο Κάστρο. Όπως, επίσης, δεν γνωρίζει τις αρνητικές και απαξιωτικές αναφορές προς του μαύρους.”
- (2 June 2003) The Mental Health Professions and Homosexuality: International Perspectives. CRC Press. ISBN 9780789020598. Retrieved on 25 April 2014. “Homosexuality was widespread, recognized and fairly tolerated, although not entirely accepted, in ancient China.”
- (27 August 2011) Deep China: The Moral Life of the Person. University of California Press. ISBN 9780520950511. Retrieved on 25 April 2014. “Chinese literature citing homosexuality dates back to ancient times. After the Chinese Communist Party took over the country in 1949, homosexuality was deemed a sexual crime until 1997 and then classified as a mental disorder until 2001.”
- (6 December 2012) The Price of Freedom Denied: Religious Persecution and Conflict in the Twenty-First Century. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 9781139492416. Retrieved on 25 April 2014. “Atheism had long been the official doctrine of the Chinese Communist Party, but this new form of militant atheism made every effort to eradicate religion completely.”
- Crompton, Louis (2006). Homosexuality and Civilization. Harvard University Press. ISBN 9780674030060. Retrieved on 25 April 2014. “In Chinese history and literature, until the end of the Imperial age and the triumph of Marxism, men who loved men were depicted as good or bad, sympathetic or self-seeking, honest or dishonest, talented or undistinguished, but not set apart as a race to be humiliated, denounced, or extirpated. Under Communist rule, however, there has been a radical change. Chinese Communist officials, when queried by foreign visitors, until recently simply denied that homosexuality existed in China, the theory being that under a socialist economy social ills such as prostitution and homosexuality would vanish.”
- Weibo to ban gay, violent content from platform, Reuters, APRIL 14, 2018
- Stedman, Chris (13 December 2013). Does American Atheists agree with this offensive LGBTQ comment?. Religion News Service. Retrieved on 25 April 2014.
- Lakey, Tony (13 December 2013). Aiming higher than billboards: Problems in atheist advertising. Columbia. Retrieved on 25 April 2014. “Hi Tony! Thanks for your article. I just want to point out a correction: - The Times Square board, too, did not cost our organization anything. I also want you to know that, as the “marines” of the atheist movement, it is our position that nobody needs Christ during Christmas because, not to put too fine a point on it, but Jesus is dead. Many people *believe* they need Christ during Christmas but that’s exactly our point. Some Christians, especially Bill O’Reilly and Sarah Palin, are trying to say that the entire winter season belongs to Christianity, starting the day after Thanksgiving and ending on December 26th. There is no reason that other Americans can’t celebrate this time of year also, considering that this time has of year has been celebrated for thousands of years before Christianity came along and appropriated it. While part of our mission is mutual sympathy, understanding, and interdependence of all people, that doesn’t mean pussyfooting around what we think. Part of our mission is also “to develop and propagate a social philosophy in which humankind is central and must itself be the source of strength, progress, and ideals for the well-being and happiness of humanity.” Telling people that it’s okay to believe nonsense, like they NEED a fictional zombie in order to enjoy a holiday (which is obviously false considering many people who don’t even believe in that enjoy it, too), does not fit with our aims and purposes. The reason for the season, for EVERYONE, is axial tilt. That is the bottom line. Americans celebrate this in all sorts of ways: Some make up religions about it, some celebrate it entirely secularly, but to say that the reason for the season is Jesus for some people is false and that’s exactly what we’re saying: The reason for calling the holiday Christmas may be Jesus for Christians, but the season belongs to everyone. Part of our mission is raising the public profile & awareness about atheism. That is, we want people to know that there are lots of atheists out there, that atheism is a subject that Americans care about and donate to support, etc. We are certainly open to suggestions if you have ideas about other ways to do this besides billboards. But we do them for the same reason that any organization (including the orgs that have billboards with messages more similar to the kind you’re talking about) put up billboards: They work. I’m not sure that I understand why you seem to be simultaneously saying billboards are a waste of money and, also, here is a suggestion for how you should word your billboards if you want to say a different message. As an aside, you can fit 5, *maybe* 7 words on a billboard. Your suggest is about 4-5 times longer than that. I know you didn’t mean your suggestion as a final-draft wording but it’s just something to keep in mind for future criticisms :) We do have members who are believers but that is not our audience and while we won’t turn away donations from people who agree with our aims and principles, our target market for membership promotion is not believers. It is atheists, especially closeted atheists (afraid to come out) or people who don’t believe but go through the motions because they are not yet convinced that there is an activism need for them to be more vocal about it (reaching that critical mass of people willing to publicly call themselves “atheist” in order to reach a level of public acceptance of the term). I just want to be clear here because Tony and I know each other and he’s already aware that I don’t mean this in a bad way or anything, but there are different types of atheist activists and we are not the kind that you seem to wish that we were or want us to be. I talk about this in a talk I give about atheism activism, where I say that, as an example, there are (generalizing) two types of LGBTQ activists: the kind that wear suits & ties and run for office and give speeches, and the kind who dress up in chaps and ride on parade floats. The suit-and-tie atheists say to the assless-chaps activists, “Stop doing that. You’re making us look bad. We’re trying to accomplish something here in terms of public acceptance.” But that is not the right way to look at it, I think. The assless-chaps activists say, “This is who we are and this is what we believe. If the public won’t accept that, they need to change, not me.” I hope this helps :) Keep up the writing, Tony! - Dave Muscato, PR Director, American Atheists (908) 276-7300 x7 firstname.lastname@example.org”
- I’m an atheist, but I had to walk away from the toxic side of online atheism by Chris Stedman, Washington Post, 2017
- The communist roots of Russian homophobia by Angela MacLeod Irons (National Post)
- Homosexuals and Atheism: An Uneasy Alliance (Beastrabban)
- 'Mama Wu' unlikely hero for homosexuals in China by Steven Jiang (CNN)
- Socialism Has Killed More Gays Than... (Louder with Crowder)