In attacking the Scottish Episcopal Church for its acceptance of same-sex marriage, your correspondent Peter George undoubtedly has certain passages of the Bible on his side (Gazette, August 10).
Whether any reasonable person in the 21st century should take these passages as representing the will of God is another matter.
To be sure, there does not seem to be anything in the Bible concerning same-sex marriage as such (the texts that Mr George lists at the end of his letter have nothing to do with it), but explicit disapproval of homosexuality is not difficult to find.
Male homosexuality is condemned in particularly lurid terms in Leviticus 20, though only as one in a long list of practices, including adultery, cursing one’s father or mother, and being a wizard. And there are many, many more prohibitions in the surrounding chapters.
Some of these may seem laughable nowadays, such as those concerning dress (do not wear a garment made of a mixture of wool and linen) or men’s hairstyles (“Ye shall not round the corners of your heads, neither shalt thou mar the corners of thy beard.”) (Leviticus 19).
Others are anything but laughable, such as the prohibition of people with any of a wide range of physical disabilities from approaching the altar of God (Leviticus 21).
I am sure the Scottish Episcopal bishops have no regard for these prohibitions either.
Lesbianism is not similarly forbidden in the Old Testament, but it is treated with disapproval in the New Testament, in what is surely one of the strangest pieces of reasoning that even St Paul wrote.
His argument seems to be that God made both women and men homosexual as a punishment for worshipping idols.
In Paul’s colourful language, these people “changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and fourfooted beasts, and creeping things. . . For this cause God gave them up unto vile affections: for even their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature: and likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another. . . “ (The full argument - if that is the word for it - can be found in Romans 1, 23-32.)
And by the way, Paul is not enthusiastic about marriage between a man and a woman either - see I Corinthians, 7.
Surely we cannot honestly regard these bizarre writings from thousands of years ago as revealing the mind of God, or as having anything to tell us about how we should live our lives today.
It is depressing to think of how much unnecessary and pointless suffering they must have caused over the centuries.
We should be pleased that even some of the churches are coming to acknowledge this.