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Simon BennettSexuality is not a matter of choice.

One’s sexual orientation is decided by nature. Punishing someone for something they have no control over is perverse. So why do so many hold homophobic views, and why do some, like the Orlando nightclub shooter Omar Mateen, act on those views?

In my opinion, religion is heavily implicated in homophobia and homophobic attacks. Many religions are intolerant of sexual diversity. Daesh’s (ISIS) perverted take on Islam calls for homosexuals to be killed. Some evangelical churches are no better. Following the nightclub murders, Pastor Roger Jimenez of Sacramento’s Verity Baptist Church said this: “Are you sad that 50 pedophiles were killed today? Um no, I think that’s great! I think that helps society. I think Orlando, Florida, is a little safer tonight. I wish the government would round them all up, put them up against a firing wall, put a firing squad in front of them, and blow their brains out.”

I have some advice for Pastor Jimenez. First, engage your brain before opening your mouth. Second, all religious texts are works of fiction. They are inventions. Consequently, not a single word should be given credence. This applies especially to homophobic and misogynistic tracts. Third, there is no evidence for the existence of a Deity. Those, like Pastor Jimenez, who believe in deities should be marginalised as oddballs. Irrationality is the enemy of social progress. Religion is just another superstition. Science is Truth.

How should civilised people react to the Daesh-inspired murders in Orlando? Simple: by carrying on with our happy, interesting and fulfilling lives. That would really annoy the resentful, intolerant, misogynistic, homophobic bigots who support Daesh.

Make no mistake: supporters of Daesh and other fundamentalist sects, including some Evangelical Christian sects, despise those of us who celebrate the natural diversity and joy of the human race.

British Labour MP and Shadow Foreign Secretary Hilary Benn’s widely-praised analysis of Daesh merits reproduction: “We are here faced by fascists. Not just their calculated brutality, but their belief that they are superior to every single one of us . . . . They hold us in contempt. They hold our values in contempt. They hold our belief in tolerance and decency in contempt. They hold our democracy . . .  in contempt. And what we know about fascists is that they need to be defeated . . . . My view, Mr Speaker, is that we must now confront this evil.”

I could not have put it better myself.

Dr Simon Bennett is Director of the Civil Safety and Security Unit (CSSU) at the University of Leicester in England. This column was originally published in the Leicester Mercury.

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