Nearly Half of LGBT People Claim No Religion

As someone who has been criticized by the LGBT community for remaining in a religion—namely, Christianity—that does not want me, it’s not shocking to me that a new Pew Research poll shows nearly half of all LGBT people claim no religious affiliation.

The survey showed 48% of the LGBT population claims no religious affiliation, compared to 20% of the general public. Even among LGBT people who do embrace religion many are closeted or hiding in congregations with 33% saying “there is a conflict between their religious beliefs and their sexual orientation or gender identity.”

LGBT people find Muslims the most unfriendly of the religions, with Mormons, Catholics, and evangelical churches following. 53% found non-evangelical Protestant churches either the most friendly or neutral toward LGBT people.

The Catholic finding is the most—and least—surprising to me. Surprising because a recent Quinnipiac poll found 54% of Catholic laity support same-sex marriage, while just 38% oppose it. Of course, it’s not surprising that the Catholic Church appears unfriendly overall, since its leadership, even under the new Pope Francis, remains staunchly committed to Catholic doctrine declaring LGBT people “intrinsically disordered.” Those aren’t exactly welcoming words.

So, who can blame LGBT people for eschewing religion altogether when the overall message from many religions—aided by the media constantly turning to the most homophobic religious commentators when they cover the subject of God and gays—is that God doesn’t just hate them, but will send them to a fiery hell for all eternity?

Warm, fuzzy feelings for religion are not exactly fueled, either, by the likes of Pat Robertson, who keeps blaming the weather and natural disasters on the gays, or televangelist James Robison calling marriage equality a “satanic intent to take away freedom,” and “a cosmic battle between God and Satan” and “good and evil.” And really, how tiring does it get to be “loved” by religious folks who insist on saying that homosexuality is no worse a sin than thievery or alcoholism?

Honestly, I’m shocked the number of non-religious gays isn’t higher than 48% with all that religious “love” floating around.

Of course, much can be said for the progress of LGBT acceptance, especially within those non-evangelical mainline churches. Lutherans, Presbyterians, Episcopalians, the United Church of Christ, and Unitarians all welcome LGBT people not just in their pews, but in leadership roles and even in the pulpit. As Peter Montgomery has already pointed out, the religious presence at Washington, D.C.’s gay pride parade has increased this year, showing a willingness on the part of many religions to really love LGBT people as they are.

Judging from the survey, then, these kinds of huge doctrinal changes within denominations have been carried out by the minority of the minority—those 17% of LGBT people who are religiously affiliated and most involved in their faith communities. Who says it’s futile to be part of a club that doesn’t want you?

Candace Chellew-Hodge is the founder/editor of Whosoever: An Online Magazine for GLBT Christians and currently serves as the pastor of Jubilee! Circle in Columbia, S.C. She is also the author of Bulletproof Faith: A Spiritual Survival Guide for Gay and Lesbian Christians (Jossey-Bass, 2008)