Religion is typically a controversial topic for most, but it's an especially controversial issue for gay people, because of what religion often says about sexual orientation. This is a significant topic for me because, as the owner of a successful gay dating website (OneGoodLove.com), and as the friend of many gay men in relationships, I've seen firsthand how people's religious beliefs affect their lives -- and trust me, it's not a pretty picture.
When your religious beliefs say that you are sinning simply because of whom you love, it can be a crushing blow to your self-esteem and happiness. I am a huge evangelist when it comes to being happy. I post happy photos of myself constantly on Instagram and Facebook to show friends that I'm having a good time. I know the mere mention of this may make you (or them) want to slap me, but my intentions are good. I am not trying to brag about my life; rather, I am trying to inspire others to join me in having a happy life too.
So it is hard for me to watch close friends and others struggle with the issue of religion and gay dating. I can hardly imagine how it feels to be told your whole life that being gay is wrong, a sin and a barrier blocking your way to heaven, only to realize that you are indeed gay and the object of so much misplaced hatred in the world. I was raised without religion, although I don't consider myself an atheist today. I'm embarrassed to even admit my first religious lesson. I was at a friend's family's dinner, and they were praying. I asked my friend, "What the hell was that?" That's how uneducated about religion I was.
Growing up with friends of all kinds of religions, I considered their belief systems something that has influenced them in a positive way. I respect all religions even if I haven't taken the time to understand them.
My advice to my friends and others struggling with gay dating and religion would be to understand that the Bible was written in a vastly different time period and is not always meant to be interpreted literally. My advice would be to simply be a good person and trust that you will be loved by God on that basis alone.
It seems unfortunate to me that so many LGBT people have abandoned their beliefs because their church (or temple, or mosque, etc.) stood so firmly against who they are. It's especially sad considering that religion's main purpose is to provide guidance and happiness. On the other hand, there are progressive churches doing a great job serving the LGBT community -- performing wedding services, or even just giving general support. I hope one day the controversy over gay dating and religion will be a thing of the past, but until then, we need to help each other get through the struggle.
Part of that is simply getting the conversation going. So you tell me, readers: How does one deal with religion conflicting with sexual orientation? Must a person's religious beliefs be modified or abandoned if he or she wants to be a happy gay person? I especially want to hear from you if you've dealt with this yourself. Your answer could lead to salvation for all your gay and lesbian brothers and sisters out there. You might even save someone's life.