“Hate the Sin, Love the Sinner”

A few weeks ago I went to a fundraising dinner with my parents, for the charity they both work for. Two people I know from my local pub were also there, parents of one of my mum’s co-workers, and there’s a bit of history here. Let’s call them Dave and Sharon. They’re both Jehovah’s Witnesses, and about 9 months ago, Dave added me on Facebook. I often post stories related to gay rights issues on my Facebook profile, among other things, and on one of these stories Dave said something to the effect of “it’s unnatural, it should be banned.” Unsurprisingly he got torn apart by people who objected to what he’d said, I chimed in and said I didn’t agree, and within a couple of days Dave had deleted me from his friends. He soon had a conversation in the pub with my dad where he said that’s what I was into, ‘all that gay stuff’, presumably implying that I must be gay. If I’d been there I would have noted that since (I presume) Dave didn’t believe in slavery, and he believed women should have the vote, he must be a black woman by his logic. But I wasn’t, so I didn’t.

Anyway back to the dinner a couple of weeks ago, I considered that all over, and Dave and Sharon were sitting next to me at the table. After a while, Sharon said that Dave had got quite a lot of stick from my friends on Facebook, and then there was a pause. I don’t know what they wanted me to say but I wasn’t surprised and I thought he deserved it. She went on, “it’s not the people, it’s what they do that’s the problem. We believe it’s wrong.” Another pause, as if as soon as the word ‘belief’ had come up, I was supposed to back off because that’s sacred. Anyone who knows me will know that that’s not how I work.

Anyway some examples came up and they talked about a gay mutual friend, who they referred to as a very nice man. It all reeked to me of the “hate the sin, love the sinner” rubbish I’d been taught in school. I say rubbish not because it’s a bad idea, indeed this idea has probably protected a lot of people from harm, but because it doesn’t make any sense. They obviously consider homosexuality (or at least sodomy) a sin*. Let’s say it’s as bad a sin as theft** – I do know Christians who say all sins are equal but I find that idea ridiculous. Now would Dave and Sharon have said “he’s a very nice man, except that every Friday night he unapologetically goes out and burgles houses”? Of course not! If he regularly does something that they consider wrong, and he shows no remorse for it, then clearly in their opinion he shouldn’t be a very nice man. And if they really do hate the sin and love the sinner, then why all the discrimination? It’s a load of tosh. These aren’t the kind of people you’re going to convince any time soon, so I bit my tongue and changed the subject.

* On a complete tangent, I can’t recall any part of the Bible that condemns female homosexuality. Indeed IIRC, Queen Victoria didn’t make lesbianism illegal because she didn’t believe it existed. You’d think all these Bible literalists would at least legalise gay marriage for lesbians.

** On another tangent, homosexuality is only condemned in a few passages in the Bible, along with masturbation, planting two different crops in the same furrow, wearing garments made of two different cloths, being an unruly child, etc. In fact honouring your father and mother even made it into the 10 Commandments, why is it that Bible literalists are so intent on stopping gay marriage and they aren’t going mental about all the people disrespecting their parents? If all sins are equal, why focus so much on this one?  The answer’s simple, because it fits into their own bigotry and ideology.


12 Responses to “Hate the Sin, Love the Sinner”

  1. garicgymro says:

    I agree with you that there’s something a little odd about the whole hate-the-sin-and-love-the-sinner thing, and I like your point about theft. And Dave and Sharon sound fairly awful—or are they very nice people, except that they unapologetically go out and patronise gay people?;) That said, there are other comparisons you could make that make it sound a bit less ridiculous. It’s often struck me that a lot of Christians view homosexuality much as the broader population view drug abuse: “He’s a lovely man, but he just doesn’t understand the damage those drugs are doing to himself and the people around him”.

    Of course, some Christians seem to think homosexuality is akin to burning babies alive, and far worse than theft, while others, as you mention, see all sins as equal. To the extent that “hate the sin and love the sinner” makes sense for that latter group, I guess it’s about seeing all sin as like a disease from which people can be saved. And, to be fair, that’s not all that far from the views of quite a few atheists.

  2. grammarking says:

    There are of course other ways of looking at it, but how do you hate the sin and love the sinner when the sin is part of who the sinner is? It doesn’t really make sense to me, but then it’s a long time since I had to think like a Christian.

    And if Dave and Sharon discovered (hypothetically) that I was a drug abuser, they wouldn’t associate with me at all. It seems to me that this whole ‘hate the sin, love the sinner’ idea is designed to justify a principle which they already hold, that being the disapproval of homosexuality, and the unwillingness to do anything about it, especially in front of their faces.

  3. garicgymro says:

    But you might as well say, how do you hate drug abuse and love the abuser when the abuse is part of the abuser?*

    I agree, however, that this position is often little thought out, superficial, and hypocritically observed. It is not, however, exclusive to Christians or even theists, and I think there are very reasonable (though subtler) positions on morality that have much in common with it: if you are prepared to believe that evil-doers are capable of reform, that people can change, and that we should make some effort to make better people of criminals, then this must involve the conceptual separation of the individual from their behaviour. It needn’t (and shouldn’t) be as simplistic as the position you rightly criticise, but I think there’s something important that’s common to both.

    *I should, of course, stress in passing that I’m not comparing homosexuality to drug abuse, and I’m not even saying that drug use is wrong

  4. Marc says:


    As a Christian maybe I could comment.

    All sin is sin. Therefore I am as sinful as a drug abusing, homosexual, fornicating, dunkard… The only difference is that I am a repenting sinner and therefore saved by grace.

    Loving the sinner and hating the sin is a practice that I try to work at as an individual and also something that we as a church (Niddrie Community Church – niddrie.org) practice. All are welcome and all treated with respect but all are urged to repent and become a repenting sinner.

  5. Elio PENEASY says:

    Bigotry, ideology and lacking rationality; altogether= not much culture.

  6. grammarking says:

    I did. It’s a load of bollocks.

  7. Padraig's Ghost says:

    “A rustic walks into a bar. There he sees an attractive young woman sitting at the bar. He approches the young women. She rebukes his advances and explains she is a lesbian. He says I don’t understand what that is. She explains what it is that lesbians do. He says heck I must be a lesbian, cause I like to do that stuff with women too!”

    Homosexuality is generally regarded as sin. Does the secular rationalist ever stop and think why this was codified? In traditional Christian Catholic thought, heterosexuals practicing sodomy between male and female is still the same sin as if it were practiced between homosexuals. Homosexuality in theory is not the sin in of itself, but the selfish sexual act outside of coitus sexual intercourse. Can homosexuals have a loving relationship? Yes. Is homosexuality inherently evil? No. However, the sexual acts of sodomy are inherently evil in the physical manifestion of the homosexual relationship. Is homosexuality unhealthy for one physically and mentally? A solid case can be made for this conclusion in the high degree of mental illness, substace abuse, and sexually transmitted disease in male and female homosexual populations! These factors cannot be explained away simply because or the so called tyrany of the larger heterosexual world. Promiscuity and sodomy are sins and will remain so. Again, as many have said before “hate the sin, love the sinner”. My civil libertarian side says: A) it is your business with what you do with other adults (with in reason…), but like any behavior their are consequenses along with rights and responsibilties. B)My Christian side says live and let live and God will judge us all in the next life. I will not judge you, for I will be judged too!

    Padraig’s Ghost,
    A Great Sinner

    • grammarking says:

      “Homosexuality is generally regarded as sin.”
      That’s not true actually, the Buddhist texts don’t forbid homosexuality at all, and Hindus have a long history of accepting homosexuals, it was really only British law that made it illegal in India. The Sikhs have no position on it, and neither do Bahai’s. Pagan traditions have never had a problem with it. It’s really just the Abrahamic religions that explicitly condemn homosexuality, and they’re all based on the ravings of one desert tribe.

      I’d also like to see the data from which you conclude that mental health issues can’t be explained by discrimination against them. As far as I know that’s precisely the reason for it.

  8. Padraig's Ghost says:

    I am sorry Grammarking, I am not a Buddhist, nor am I a Hindu, nor am I Sikh, nor am I a Bahai, nor am I a pagan. I am a Roman Catholic. I don’t condemn anyone here. Sodomy commited by males or females with the same or opposite sex is still regarded as a sin in the Roman Catholic church. This remains a fact within the church. This statement by me does not mean I condemn them personally. This fact remains dispite the evils visited on the innocent by some members of the homosexual clergy and the the leadership failed to bring them before civil justice and to rid the church of their evil. As to the facts regarding homosexuality and the unhappy state of affairs with the individual finding that they are of such a peruasion, well their are still many sad people who are homosexual and suffer because of it. We cannot explain it all away with the tyrany of the majority notion. As to Chirstianity, the founding Christian concepts may be from the Abrahamic Religions, but the concept of the Christ is most definitely “Transedental” in it’s idea. This is definitely an “Eastern Religion” idea. See the works of Joseph Campbell for more understanding of this. I recommend “The Hero with the Thousand Faces”, and “Transformations of the Myth Though Time”. Once again a “Secular Rationalist” has proven themselves to be small minded and narrow in the scope of their ability to ascertain and focus on facts. They are to busy trying to justify their preconceived notion of an abject reality. In any other sense this would be called a prejudiced view. This is why Psychology and Sociology are pseudosciences. Anthropology on the other hand at least tries to follow scientific thought and practice. You folks are too busy trying to justify you preconceived notions and not trying to observe reality and then draw a hypothosis. The philosophy of secular rationalism and the practice of nudging the masses along with an homosexual friendly Eco-Communitarian Fabian Socialist world view will not lead to a better world! In any event have a Happy and Prosperous New Year…

  9. grammarking says:

    This has to be one of the most disjointed comments I’ve ever got, but ironically even though it’s disjointed you still posted it in one big horrible block of text…

    “I am sorry Grammarking, I am not a Buddhist… I am a Roman Catholic.”
    Ok that’s fine, but when you said ‘homosexuality is generally regarded as sin… did you ever stop and think why that is?’, that kind of implies that you’re saying it’s so widely regarded as sin that there must be a good reason behind it. I showed that that isn’t the case. And who was talking about the Catholic Church anyway? The people in the post are JW’s.

    “This remains a fact within the church.”
    And is that all you need? Don’t you ever think for yourself? Do you still think contraception and masturbation are sins too? Just shows how out of date Church teachings are. Funny how even though you implied you were going to explain why homosexuality is wrong, you actually didn’t, you just said that’s what the Church says.

    “… the concept of the Christ is most definitely “Transedental” in it’s idea…. See the works of Joseph Campbell for more understanding of this. I recommend “The Hero with the Thousand Faces””
    So what are you saying, that in some perverse way every religion is Christian? That would be a gross misrepresentation of what Campbell says. According to Campbell, Christ has something in common with a lot of other myths, in that he’s something that has a supernatural adventure of sorts and achieves a big victory. That has nothing to do at all with what we were talking about – that really only Abrahamic religions condemn homosexuality.

    “Once again a “Secular Rationalist” has proven themselves to be small minded and narrow in the scope of their ability to ascertain and focus on facts.”
    Really? What facts are those? Because it seems to me that you’re the one lacking focus, your comments are all over the place, and largely irrelevant to the topic at hand.

    “This is why Psychology and Sociology are pseudosciences.” Psychology is not psuedoscience. It makes testable claims. Sociology is a social science. You clearly have no idea what you’re talking about.

    “The philosophy of secular rationalism and the practice of nudging the masses along with an homosexual friendly Eco-Communitarian Fabian Socialist world view will not lead to a better world!”
    But blindly following the Roman Catholic Church apparently will.

  10. Padraig's Ghost says:

    Jesuit Founder Loyola, along with Cardinal Ximénez, Cardinal Biggles, and Cardinal Fang are bringing back “The Spanish Inquisition”. No one expects the “The Spanish Inquisition”! Cadinal Fang fetch the comfy chair… You place to much “faith” in your propositional logic skills and fail to realize when you are being cranked up for sport! Lighten up dude – before you blow a gasket! Please, remember this phrase when dealing with pinhead theology, “My Karma ran over my Dogma” After all it is only a blog. Prehaps Thoreau said it best; Men say they know many things, The arts and sciences, and a thousand appliances, but the only thing anyone knows is the wind that blows”. And so it is with my “religous belief” and you “worship at the altar of scientific human knowledge”. By the way, have a Happy Easter!

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