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First of all, let me say that I know this is a very delicate issue. In no way should my question be seen as an attempt to endorse negative attitudes towards the LGTB community. I am seeking objective, historical evidence; not speculation or personal opinion.

According to this Wikipedia article, "many forms of religion, including the Eastern faiths and Abrahamic faiths, do not support gay sex. Evangelical Christianity, Catholicism, Mormonism, Orthodox Judaism and Islam hold the view that gay sex is a sin and that its practice and acceptance in society weakens moral standards and undermines the family."

Moreover, according a 2009 report by the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association, 80 countries in the world consider homosexuality illegal, with five of them punishing homosexual acts with death.

It seems that the movement to push for the acceptance of LGTB rights is recent when compared to a relatively long history of religious and political entities holding negative attitudes towards homosexuality.

What are some of the historical reasons behind this?

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This is better asked on evolutionary psych or cultural anthro SE, except we don't have those. There is no historical event - it's merely a successful meme - successful in that the memetic systems adopting it survived and propagated in some environments. –  DVK Jan 14 '13 at 2:23
The question is legitimate to me, but I would try and be more specific, e.g. "How did a negative attitude towards homos. originate in Orthodox Judaism?" - rather than "What are some of the historical reasons behind this?". Consider also that a satisfactory historical answer could be "Because somebody wrote in the Bible". I feel your questions concerns more anthropology, as per @DVK. A Warm Welcome to h@se though! –  astabada Jan 14 '13 at 10:37
Concur with @astabada; I think the question is too broad - you're asking about multiple faiths(inter-related), multiple histories and multiple legal frameworks. The answer is almost by definition a book. I think the question would be more successful if it were narrowed. –  Mark C. Wallace Jan 14 '13 at 12:03
Concurring with @astabada above, the question should be 'Why did the writers of the Bible/Quran think homosexuality is a sin?' –  Arjun J Rao Jan 14 '13 at 12:09
@ArjunJRao That's more a theological question than a historical one. –  American Luke May 24 '13 at 16:37

2 Answers 2

Homosexual relationships do not lend themselves well to marriage, as discussed below. Therefore, they took place outside of marriage, and would be regarded as a form of "adultery," or at least "fornication."

The REAL sin of a homosexual relationship is that it cannot produce children BY DEFINITION. That' why until recent times, there was no suc thing as "gay marriage." And even if gays can marry (as today), there is no MATRIMONY (basically, "mother-making") involved.

Traditional societies were "all about" producing children, since most of them didn't live to adulthood. Any practice that stood in the way of producing children (homosexuality, birth control, masturbation), was therefore frowned upon until modern times.

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This is somewhat correct but simplistic. Pederasty was well regarded among Greeks and Arabs in different times, despite the same demographic considerations. –  DVK May 24 '13 at 19:22
Also, see the difference between the weight of the infraction between homosexuality and lesbianism in Judauism. One is a mortal sin, one is merely a frowned-upon violation of the norms of decency. Your last paragraph does NOT explain the duality –  DVK May 24 '13 at 19:25
"Any practice that stood in the way of producing children (homosexuality, birth control, masturbation), was therefore frowned upon until modern times." I guess then the ancient Egyptians, Greek and Romans don't fit in your definition of "traditional societies". –  Yannis Rizos Jun 24 '13 at 1:20
could be better by explaining the usefulness of children in the context of the family as an economic institution. –  Samuel Russell Jun 24 '13 at 3:19

Expanding Tom Au's answer:

"Homosexuality" as we know it is a product of 19th century medical science which ties together a sequence of sexual, emotional, family and social conducts and gives them a new name. We should remember that the conducts we think of as a behaviour "homosexuality" were not necessarily perceived of as a unitary conduct in past societies. That element of theory out of the way:

People who did not marry, and had property to transmit through marriage, would be disciplined by their family or society. This strongly incentivised marriage, and in many agricultural communities marriage was practiced as male to female only. The reasons for male to female only marriage are a combination of reproductive and property based. While he is incredibly out of date in this regard, Engels provides an engaging description of human marriage in Family, Private Property and the State. It is worth it to the extent that Engels notices that the family and marriage are conditioned by other social phenomena.

Marriage was an economic institution (oikos: household). It brought male, female or child labour into the household or established new households. There was, therefore, regulation over marriage and strong economic incentives towards marriage.

Sexual and emotional conduct outside of marriage was often perceived to threaten the system of marriage. In part this is because sexual conduct outside of marriage leads to children, and children can be used to form households. Emotional conduct outside of marriage has been perceived to lead to sexual conduct (even courtly romance notes this), and this can lead to the getting of children. And the getting of children can lead to non-ideal marriages from a property standpoint, or to other problems.

However, sometimes marriage can produce what we now analyse as "homosocial" situations. Monasteries. Warrior cults. Female household networks. Or the structure of the family (patriarchal absolutism say) gave certain people the power to configure permissible sexual expressions outside of marriage.

Also, it is worth noting that officially sanctioned violations of the cultural traditions above existed. Elites often displayed power by violating cultural norms that applied to others.

These complex configurations of gender and sexual expression, when expressed as a continuing culture, can be linked to property. But specific moments have more complex causes than simple one to one links.

The historical position of conducts like forming strong couple bonds, households, marriages, reproductive, economic or sexual relationships are bound up in property, family and gender. Some accounts of post-19th century homosexuality emphasise this in the connection between the "nuclear" family and imperialist capitalism.

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+1 for the bit about the word "homosexuality" as well as the baggage that came with it being a mid-19th century invention. President Buchanan, for instance, was almost certainly gay by the modern definition of the term but was not perceived as such because there did not exist a vocabulary to perceive people in this way. –  NotVonKaiser Jun 24 '13 at 19:33

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