Foreign Cults and Unnatural Vice

Ockham’s Beard ponders why Christianity is against homosexuality. He quotes a long passage from Edvard Westermarck (who was Finnish, homosexual, and Darwinian) on how Christianity inherited the antagonism from the Jews. But why were the Jews against it? Read on …

For the Hebrews, says Westermarck:

Unnatural sins are not allowed to defile the land of the Lord: whosoever shall commit such abominations shall be put to death. The enormous abhorrence of them expressed in this law had a very specific reason, namely, the Hebrews’ hatred of a foreign cult.

Unnatural vice was the sin of a people who was not the Lord’s people, the Canaanites, who thereby polluted their land, so that he visited their guilt and the land spued out its inhabitants. We know that sodomy entered as an element into their religion: besides female prostitutes there were make prostitutes, or qedēshīm, attached to their temples.

The sodomitic acts committed with the latter seem, like the connections with the female temple prostitutes, to have had in view to transfer blessings to the worshippers; in Morocco supernatural benefits are to this day expected not only from heterosexual, but also from homosexual intercourse with a holy person.

The Hebrew conception of homosexuality passed into Christianity. The notion that sodomy is a form of sacrilege was here strengthened by the habits of the gentiles, among whom St. Paul found the abominations of Sodom rampant.

During the Middle Ages heretics were accused of unnatural vice as a matter of course. Indeed, so closely was sodomy associated with heresy that the same name was applied to both. Thus the French bougre (from the Latin Bulgarus, Bulgarian), as also its English synonym, was originally a name given to the sect of heretics who came from Bulgaria in the eleventh century and was afterwards applied to other heretics, but at the same time it became the regular expression for a person guilty of unnatural intercourse.

In mediaeval laws sodomy was also repeatedly mentioned together with heresy, and the punishment was the same for both. It thus remained a religious offence of the first order. And in this fact and its connection with Hebrew ideas we find the answer to the problem we set out to solve.

Like suicide, the kind of sexual perversion of which I have now spoken has been stigmatized as a crime of the greatest magnitude on account of its relation to specific religious beliefs. It is interesting to notice that in one other religion, besides Hebrewism and Christianity, it has been looked upon with the same abhorrence, namely Zoroastrianism, and there also as a practice of infidels, of Turanian shamanists. (Ethical Relativity pp. 195-196)

In short, the Jews were against homosexuality because their enemies the Caananites practiced it. The Jewish ban on homosexuality served as a group-solidarity marker: it arose from their “hatred of a foreign cult”. Few have been better than the Jews at maintaining group solidarity over the eons. The Christians then adopted the Jewish approach associating it with infidels.

A neat explanation from Westermarck, and a reminder that he may well be a underrated thinker.


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One response to “Foreign Cults and Unnatural Vice

  1. Pingback: Unnatural Vice and Economics | Breviosity

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