In their NSFW song “Loophole” Garfunkel and Oates give a full and hilarious skewering of self-servingly inconsistent, illogical, and arbitrary Christians.
My favorite line in it is actually the relatively mundane “so whatever people tell me that the Bible tells me, I will do”. Because that’s as telling as all the rest of the attitudes parodied in the song.
I do feel bad for the kids whose consciences have been so badly misled, manipulated, and indoctrinated into such warped ideas about sexuality that they feel the need to resort to these desperate rationalizations and hypocrisies in order to make room for what their bodies and minds know on a deeper level is good for them. But as Garfunkel and Oates deftly demonstrate by the end of the song, the whole absurd mindset of these kids with respect to sex is just a synecdoche for the whole capricious, selfish, self-righteous, and ad hoc way that evangelicals think about everything to do with theology and ethics. Transparent excuses for transparent contradictions are simply what thinking itself often amounts to for them.
Now, not all evangelicals can handle quite such contradictions as the ones in this song. In my days as an abstinent Christian teenager I would have seen any naked genital contact with any body part or any mutual masturbation or even any mutual nude touching, etc. all as sex, regardless of whatever other abstract theological contradictions I may have engaged in (which really are formally no worse, you sexually “innocent” but intellectually guilty believers who may be reading along).
Other kids go down a different, more rational, road and start reconciling their realization (whether it is explicit or merely implicit) that the sex they’re having isn’t such a bad thing after all and start to actually question the faith that was misleading them on the issue, rather than just compartmentalize their lives contradictorily. With a prediction made by their faith falsified, they naturally start to become doubters of that faith, whether through some conscious intellectual process or without even realizing it.
I am finding in the last couple years that at least a few Christian apologists love to pounce on this as evidence that the resultant deconversions that come from people who started to drift away from their faith when they started having sex were not actually rationally motivated. Disguising their self-righteous bias into an intellectual haughtiness they like to accuse these deconverts of using intellectual arguments as a fig leaf for moral weakness and overpowering lust.
Derek Rishmaway writes:
Keller illustrated the point by talking about a tactic, one that he admittedly said was almost too cruel to use, that an old college pastor associate of his used when catching up with college students who were home from school. He’d ask them to grab coffee with him to catch up on life. When he’d come to the state of their spiritual lives, they’d often hem and haw, talking about the difficulties and doubts now that they’d taken a little philosophy, or maybe a science class or two, and how it all started to shake the foundations. At that point, he’d look at them and ask one question, “So who have you been sleeping with?” Shocked, their faces would inevitably fall and say something along the lines of, “How did you know?” or a real conversation would ensue. Keller pointed out that it’s a pretty easy bet that when you have a kid coming home with questions about evolution or philosophy, or some such issue, the prior issue is a troubled conscience. Honestly, as a Millennial and college director myself, I’ve seen it with a number of my friends and students—the Bible unsurprisingly starts to become a lot more “doubtful” for some of them once they’d had sex.
And it makes sense, right? When you’re engaged in behavior you’ve been raised to believe is wrong, but is still pretty fun, more than that, powerfully enslaving, you want to find reasons to disbelieve your former moral convictions. As Keller pointed out, Aldous Huxley famously confessed in his work Ends and Means that he didn’t want there to be a God and meaning because it interfered with his sexual freedom. While most of our contemporaries haven’t worked it out quite as philosophically as Huxley has, they’re spiritually in much the same place.
Illicit sex is an idol in our generation that cannot be ignored, but must be dethroned if the worship of the true God is going to fill the Temple of His Church.
See that? People only question creationism and theism because sex has enslaved them as an idol. This younger generation worships sex. So the unanimous opinion of professional biologists in favor of evolution must be all libido driven. That 83% of professional philosophers who are non-theists? We’re all sex maniacs. There’s a well-hidden fact that this crack evangelical thinking is threatening to expose: biology and philosophy conferences are simply orgies. And when we return from them, we simply cannot face God anymore so we make up theories like evolution and start saying absurd things, like that the fantasies and visions of bronze age nomads are not epistemically reliable sources of knowledge claims.
And the gall of this reported professor insultingly intruding into his students’ sex lives as a response to arguments. I would never in a million years think of disrespectfully responding to a theistic student’s arguments with an equivalent like “let me guess, you’ve never gotten laid, right?” This is a disgusting and disingenuous dodge for his lack of support for his faith so that he can feel both self-righteous and intellectually superior to college kids in one smarmy gesture. Meanwhile, he probably thinks there’s nothing fishy at all about the intensive emotional brainwashing that many of those kids received since they were in the crib. He probably does not think that there is anything wrong with cultish Christian camps that isolate kids from their family and secular friends and hand them over to older people who fawn over them, work them up into emotional frenzies, and then tell them that the only possible way to have a good life is through total subjugation to “Jesus”. That’s not enslaving at all! Those 18 years growing up in churches giving exclusively theological answers to properly philosophical and scientific questions–that wasn’t limiting the kids minds at all! Teaching kids to plug up their ears and say “la la la faith” every time they hear a rational argument they don’t know what to do with? That’s not irrational at all!
Having sex gives them the “warped idea” that sex (even outside of marriage!) is good and starts making them irrationally doubt clear truths like that some human beings a couple thousand years ago mysteriously channelled supernatural wisdom that everyone must believe and no one can ever question despite there being no proof for any of it.
The truth is that when young people start finding out that life is not like so many actively manipulating adults drilled into their heads it would be they start to question more broadly what those people told them. The truth is when they find that what is really good for them, personally, ethically, and socially, is something that those cultish adults told them to fear as an “enslaving” power, they have damn good reason to start questioning those adults.
And the truth is that college students simultaneously forming religious doubts and simultaneously starting to have sex are quite often total coincidences. College students either start (or accelerate) having sex simply because it is the first time they are living away from home, among their peers, free from parental pressure and supervision, and surrounded by sexual opportunity. And they start doubting their religious beliefs because their minds are maturing and they’re finally encountering university level education about the natural sciences, social sciences, history, and philosophy, all from people utterly indifferent to whether this is going to interfere with their oh so delicate religious beliefs. These are usually probably just coincidences with serendipitous advantages for helping people see through the lies of their religious indoctrinations from multiple angles at once.
But, why deal with the difficulties of answering people’s serious intellectual challenges when you can try to guilt them and call their wholly natural need for sexual intimacy a sinful form of idolatry? It’s Christianity 101. If your choice is between thinking or emotionally manipulating and distorting reality so that a person turns against themselves and their own good, always start to work on the emotions. It’s only “almost” cruel to do so.
Finally, this makes my blood boil the most because I did sacrifice my sexuality on the altar of Christian “purity” and wasted my college education largely on theology and desperately trying to twist philosophy into an apologetics that could account for the abundance of absurdities I was brainwashed to cling to for dear life. And I still came out not believing. And I still get told I just didn’t “rely on my love of Jesus enough”. Because no matter how much you follow their impractical rules Christians will blame you for taking your very rational doubts to their very rational conclusions.
If you say you loved Jesus with all your heart, they will tell you your faith was emotionalism. If you say you were a virgin ’til you deconverted they’ll tell you you tried to save yourself by works. If you tell them you studied theology and defended the faith with every ounce of your mind and still found it intellectually bankrupt they’ll blame you for “relying on your own understanding”. They will say any fucking thing to you necessary to assure themselves that it’s your moral failing that was at fault and not the falsehood that they will assert in the teeth of all evidence, at all times, on pain of any fucking contradiction whatsoever. “Fuck me in the ass because I love Jesus” indeeeeed.