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Philip Hensher

Philip Hensher: This hatred will not defeat love

On the one hand, there are those who struggle to save the rainforests, with all their diversity, complexity and life. On the other, there are those who fight to oppress and erase that familiar and omnipresent human quirk known as homosexuality.

You and I have no difficulty distinguishing between these two. For Pope Benedict, with that gift for yoking the most heterogeneous ideas by violence together, as Dr Johnson said, they seem very similar. His aim, to erase an ordinary variation of human nature, will never be accomplished. Homosexuality is recorded in every human society since records began. What he can and will accomplish is to make the lives of millions of ordinary people more difficult and frightening.

Most religious people of Pope Benedict's sort hate and fear us, for reasons which are not, really, biblical, but rooted deep in some very peculiar psychology. Jesus said nothing about homosexuality, though he said a great deal about love. The Bible's other prohibitions are book-ended by similar prohibitions against the eating of shellfish, or the exact circumstances in which daughters may be sold into slavery. This one has been picked out, and built up in ways which can only be described as obsessive.

These days, people of my sort live open, happy lives. Some of us have been exiled from our birth families by fear and bigotry; many have found new families. I am not a religious person, but I can see that the birth of Jesus is a message of love, and love continues to be the main purpose of Christmas. Pope Benedict has used His feast of love to send, worldwide, a message of hatred. From him, and his church, we expect nothing more.