As social acceptance for homosexuality grows, so do the number of religion-based organizations seeking to consider gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgender people not as sinners, but as members. Dignity Detroit helps Catholic queers connect with God. MCC Detroit is part of the Universal Fellowship of Metropolitan Community Churches, a group founded to welcome gays to Christianity. Jewish LGBT people have the Jewish Gay Network of Michigan. Affirmations LGBT community center also offers faith-based support groups and discussion.
But for those in the gay community who believe that morals and ethics are part of human nature and not something bestowed upon humans by a deity, there is a new group called GLBT Atheists and Friends.
Chuck Kesner founded the group earlier this year to give people an alternative place for gay people to talk about morality without the dogma of a church. “It’s not something that comes up in conversation, and people are reluctant to talk about being atheist,” Kesner said. “To society, being atheist is just as bad as being gay. We’re a minority in a minority.”
“I guess in the society in which we live, church is a pretty important thing to people in our community,” he added. “Churches are becoming more and more prevalent, but I think of why anyone would want to be part of a group that doesn’t want them. If you don’t have these kinds of values you kind of feel left out.
“I want people to feel comfortable talking about ethics without being pressured.”
Kesner is an active member of The Detroit Area Atheist Meet Up, which has over 300 members. The group was created to connect local atheists for conversation and companionship.
“Atheists cross all lines,” he explained. “There are Republicans, Democrats, Libertarians and people with different backgrounds.”
He says meeting another gay atheist in the Detroit Meet Up group made him realize there wasn’t a place where people could talk about being both atheist and gay. So with no LGBT-based subset to speak of, Kesner decided to start a group of his own.
The group began meeting in spring and has already grown to about a dozen members. They meet at Five15, Media, Mojo and More in downtown Royal Oak on the first Sunday of each month at 2 p.m.
“This summer, we stood on Fourth and Main to hand out info and let people know that we’re average citizens,” Kesner said. “People are generally accepting, but there are always fundamentalists who argue.”
“We’re not trying to change anybody’s mind,” he added. “It’s a personal choice how you want to see the world. I choose to look at life scientifically. I can have ethics and values and not believe in a higher power.”
And apparently, so can some other Detroit-area LGBTs.