I'm not one of those who say that religion cannot do good. In the UK there is a history of churches working to help the poor and oppressed, forming and supporting communities that were of benefit to those included. But now mainstream faiths are stuck in a reactionary rut when it comes to equality, and their resistance to moral progress results in real suffering, suffering that can and should be avoided.
The matter of equality I am talking about here is homosexuality: sexual attraction and love between two consenting adults of the same sex.
Love and sexuality is a core part of the lives of most people. Their romantic and sexual relationships help define who they are and form an important way that they bond with others in society. Rejection of the validity of same-sex relationships is a strong factor in excluding people from participating in the rituals and institutions that, for most people, help them to be accepted as full and equal members of society.
The refusal to allow same-sex religious marriage denies many people the right to fully engage with their religious beliefs. Some may share the belief that the appropriate place for sexual activity is between loving couples within marriage, but the denial of marriage for such people forces them to choose between celibacy and what they consider to be sinful fornication - a choice that heterosexuals don't have to make. And so, homosexual believers are not only labelled as sexually disabled by their religions but also told that the only sexual relationships they could ever have is sinful.
Just imagine what this can do to youngsters. Those entering the confusing time of puberty and with their first feelings of love and desire are being told by their religious culture that they are lesser people, that they haven't grown up fully in the way that God wants, that their loves can never be blessed, that their sexuality is forever sinful. This can do great psychological harm both directly and indirectly, because being labelled as inferior by their culture makes such youngsters easy targets for bullies. Bullying of homosexual youngsters happens on an epidemic scale in the UK, and associated with that bully are both depression and suicides. Religions should not be providing the basis for bullying and misery of youngsters. They should be preaching virtues, the virtues of love and equality, and they should be preaching against prejudice with all their power.
Religions can claim the inferiority of same-sex relationships in many ways. One of those is naturalness, and yet homosexuality is widespread in nature, just like heterosexuality. But then so is killing and suffering. Naturalness should never be a criterion for what is good, and moral. Another way is based on Bible texts, but that has no solid foundation as modern Christianity rejects much that is in the Bible as outdated and irrelevant. Yet another way is to point out that homosexuality cannot give rise to children, and yet there are no fertility tests necessary for heterosexual weddings, and many couples are married when their is no possibility of children being produced. Same-sex couples are said by some to be inappropriate situations for children to be raised, even if acquired by adoption. The evidence is against this, but, anyway, the question of adoption is not relevant to the question of marriage.
Christians should consider the words of Jesus: "Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these." Don't hold back youngsters from Jesus (or Mohammed, or the Buddha) because of who they will love and desire. Let them know that they are fully loved in all respects, and the Church will, if they want it, provide the same foundation for their loving sexual relationships as it does for those who love the opposite sex.
In the play "8", a dramatisation of the fight for equality against California's Proposition 8, a mother points out that little girls don't dream of civil partnerships. They don't - they dream of marriage, with all its ceremony and its acceptance. Let their dreams not be in vain. Let couples who love each other share fully in your culture whatever that culture may be.