Homosexuality remains controversial in the United States. Some people see homosexu­ality as a mortal sin, others argue that homosexuals are a “bad influence” on society and children (and, for example, believe they should not be parents or teachers), and still oth­ers defend homosexual rights and attack America’s whole view of sexuality.

Many other countries are much more tolerant of homosexuality than the United States, even other Western, predominantly Christian countries (such as Canada or parts of Europe). Western history has included many periods when homosexuality was gener­ally accepted. In fact, Gilbert Herdt, a prominent scholar of homosexuality, states that the modern American attitude is much harsher toward homosexuality than most other countries throughout most of history (Herdt, 1988). The history of social attitudes to­ward homosexuality can teach us something about our own attitudes today.

Homosexuality in History

Homosexuality has been viewed differently throughout history. Although there have been times when homosexuality has been accepted, there have also been times it has been scorned. The influence of the church has greatly affected societal tolerance and ac­ceptance of homosexuality.