The Question of Premarital Sex Rears Its Ugly Head!

Now, where were we?

Wow, that’s a lot of W’s, relatively speaking.

Anyway, right. I was deciding, via, “Should the Christian I Am Condemn the Sins of the Non-Christian I Used to Be?”, whether or not I should repent of the not-exactly-what-you-want-to-put-at-the-top-of-your-resume-when-you’re-applying-to-get-into-heaven things I did back in the years when I was but a shallow callow youth.

So. Sex and drugs. Reasonable ways for young people to find out who they are, or reason for Satan to chorkle and throw some more coal on the fire?

Well, I think we can all agree that drugs are bad. No one questions that. It’s not really immoral to get high, though. It’s also not immoral to jam a hot dog up each nostril and sink your head into a five-gallon vat of Hershey’s chocolate syrup. Not a brilliant thing to do, but not immoral. If someone wants to be a chocolate-covered weenie-face, that’s their business.

You know what is immoral? Making drugs, or selling them, or even kindly volunteering to share them with another. Anything anyone does to facilitate another person getting hooked on drugs—and especially a young person—is a bad, bad thing. But actually taking drugs? That’s just ignorance and weakness. And it’s no (particular) sin to be human.

As to sex.

I don’t like writing about sex, because I have a lot of Christian readers. And Christians are insane about sex. You know why? Because they’re human. And regardless of race, gender, or marital status, all humans are insane about sex.

Sex is an equal opportunity crazy-maker.

But you know that. If you’re human. Which you are. So you do.

The fact that we all know we’re absolutely out-of-control bonkers about sex—which is to say, basically, that when we’re actually doing it, we’re Not Exactly Ourselves (or so much ourselves that it’s … worse)—also makes us crazy. In every last sense of the word we’re crazy about sex. And since it’s the only thing in life that we cannot help but have overwhelm us, every single time—we’re crazy about the fact that sex makes us so crazy.

Now, we Christians have an extra layer of sex-craziness, because we’re supposed to be so spiritually fulfilled that we’ve essentially risen above being affected by sex and thoughts of sex in the same fully abandoned way that your typically partying pagan is. We’re above the obsessive animalism of sex. We’ve been delivered from our baser natures. Christ has made us deaf to the siren song of sex.

That’s our story, and we’re sticking to it.

And I barely want to try writing about … um, unsticking us. Talk about swan diving into quicksand.

I’ll tell you what, though. Not writing about sex—and particularly about premarital sex—has lately been a good deal on my mind. Because about two weeks ago I got an email from a young man asking me to do that very thing. (Oh: the other day someone wrote to suggest that I might sometimes fabricate the letters I share here. I don’t, ever. Not even a little.) This Christian kid wrote me to say that he was so frustrated at having to remain a virgin that in a lot of ways he was thinking about the wisdom of even remaining a Christian.

Here’s some of what this young man wrote me relative to his struggles with Christian sexual mores:

Like anyone who has ever been raised in the church, I’ve been to True Love Waits seminars. I certainly have been. I’ve also read all the purity books and been to guilt hell and back about things like lustful thoughts and whatnot. But I’m wondering whether this “true love waits” is all it’s cracked up to be.  I mean… is that what Jesus really says? What I mean is, doesn’t God want us to love people unconditionally?

As a 20-something red-blooded male, I have a nearly insuppressible desire for sex (which I’ve been taught to never, ever act upon – and so far I haven’t. The farthest I’ve gone is kiss a few girls here and there). Yet I honestly can’t help but feel like I’m missing out on the party because of archaic rules built up to support a social structure.

I read somewhere that 95% of individuals aren’t virgins on their wedding nights. So what, in all honesty, are my chances of finding someone compatible with me who is not only a Christian, but also a virgin? I mean… that’s miniscule odds!

I can’t help but feel like I’m being psychologically damaged by waiting so long … It is so frustrating! Am I really going to be a 30 or even 40-year old virgin?? I can’t do it!! I just can’t! If God’s not going to provide a way for me to be normal and healthy, what am I to do?!

In the end I often feel like I’ve adopted the moral and religious systems developed by wandering tribesmen 4,000+ years ago… I feel like I’m losing time and just not getting joy out of life… In other words, Christianity is making me miserable! I just want to be happy, but at every turn it seems like God wants to literally block me from good things. But if God doesn’t exist, than this becomes a non-issue and I can be much happier, you see?

Am I wrong on the sex subject? Can Christians have sex without marriage? With the wide range of birth-control available, I fail to see why this is a big deal nowadays … Everyone, pretty much literally everyone (95%, remember?) else doesn’t seem to think so ….

And so on. It was quite the long email!

Now what am I supposed to do with an email like this? What would you do with it?

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About John Shore

John Shore (who, fwiw, is straight) is the author of UNFAIR: Christians and the LGBT Question, and three other great books. He is founder of Unfundamentalist Christians (on Facebook here), and executive editor of the Unfundamentalist Christians group blog.  (In total John's two blogs receive some 250,000 views per month.) John is also co-founder of The NALT Christians Project, which was written about by TIME,  The Washington Post, and others. His website is JohnShore.com. John is a pastor ordained by The Progressive Christian Alliance. You're invited to like John's Facebook page. And don't forget to sign up for his mucho awesome monthly newsletter.

  • Ace

    The fact of the matter is, throughout most of history, men have NOT remained virgins until their wedding day. And society neither expected nor demanded this of them. Perhaps there were admonishions from the pulpits not to associate with "loose" women or prostitutes, but most would be falling on deaf ears. There have been few, if any social ramifications or real consequences to men having pre-marital sex.

    In fact, in most cases, the blame was (and is) almost universally pinned on the women they have sex with as "wicked temptresses" who "lead men astray". The practice of veiling and cloaking women that was practiced in most places through the middle ages, and is still so common in places like Afghanistan and Saudi Arabia come out of this same attitude – that women are "naturally wicked" or "dangerous" by simple virtue of being female, or that men are too stupid/animalistic to excercise any self-control around them unless they are covered head-to-toe in thick, concealing clothing.

    In one of the biggest examples of pernicious double-standards, women were, and in most places still are, expected and required to remain virgins until wed, and have suffered all kinds of negative consequences, including being stoned to death and other unpleasant executions. Unwed mothers find themselves forced into hiding by the families, or forced to have an abortion or give up their child*, or shoved off into forced labor like the Magdalene laundries in Ireland, and pretty much bereft of any chance at a normal life.

    *(Check out a book called "The Girls Who Went Away: The Hidden History of Women Who Surrendered Children for Adoption in the Decades Before Roe v. Wade" from the library if you want a depressing read)

    Of course most "traditional" societies, girls were married off by their families (usually their father's choice) at younger ages. Usually as soon as they hit puberty, or in some places even younger, and often to men much much older than themselves, all in the name of ensuring that the men were not getting used merchandise (because let's face it, societies that marry off children consider them property, not people).

    You can argue for Christian or moral purity all you want, but it has NEVER reflected what has gone on in practice, but rather some pie-in-the-sky ideal that doesn't exist.

    I have no practical advice for the person who sent the e-mail, unfortunately. Yes, I think it is better to wait until one is married, for both religious and other reasons, but we live in a world where this is not something most people seem to be capable of. The best advice I can offer is, don't do anything that won't let you easily look in the mirror the following morning.

  • A

    My view is this: God doesn't tell me not to do something because He wants me to be miserable. Sin is sin because it actively hurts us, our relationships with others, and our relationship with Him. He knows what is best for me a lot better than I do, and sex is definitely no exception. Although my body and my culture try to tell me otherwise, having sex before marriage would be harmful to me and my partner. Scientific studies have shown that couples who live together before marriage are less likely to ever actually get married, and those who do are more likely to divorce. I believe that God wants me to have really, really good sex… within the confines of a really, really good marriage. And I'm willing to wait for that because I know it will be better than anything I could have right now.

    That's not to say that it isn't *difficult* to put that into practice. As a 20-year old single female, I can tell your friend that women struggle with this just as much as guys do.

    • Argy-bargy

      Do you have any citations for the studies you refer to? I'd be interested to see those.

      • Tim

        Dr. Scott Stanley PhD University of Denver conducted a 5 year study on the effects of cohabitation prior to marriage, and its effect on divorce after marriage. He concluded that it statistically increased the chance of divorce. By how much, I don't know. I suppose you would have to email Stanley and ask for his paper.

        • Argy-bargy

          Well, the study I cited below, first, didn't find such a correlation and, second, when corrected for the number of sexual partners prior to cohabitation, did find a correlation between the number of partners and increased chances of divorce subsequent to cohabitation.

          • Argy-bargy

            My attempt at using italics is less than skillful.

          • berkshire

            Yeah, this makes a certain amount of sense to me. When I have seen people quote that stat about cohabitation (and they seem to do it a lot), for me it always raises the question of what other trait are they missing–a trait that informs the decision to cohabitate, and might also inform the decision to divorce. It seems to me that cohabitation itself wouldn’t necessarily be an indicator of an inability to stick with marriage. People choose to live together before marriage for a variety of reasons, and likewise choose to divorce for a variety of reasons. I’d want to know how the study was designed and what other traits they looked at, how they measured those traits, etc.

          • Susan

            Cohab statiatics

            A) The cohab stats that I've found are outdated.

            B) At the time of research (from stats I've found) the higher rate of divorce was attributed to: 1) false expectations of partners (males expecting marriage to mirror "living together" and females expectng the marriage to reflect a deeper commitment, thus a change in spousal behavior. e.g. less time w/ friends, more dedication to the union, etc) 2) the inherent lack of commitment in a trial "playing house" equates an overall lack of commitment in both partners, thus a higher liklihood of divorce

            As times have changed, the view of cohabitation has IMO changed – by society and by those who make the choice to live together.

            Also, people who have been divorced are 1) more likely to cohabitate and, according to "stats" 2) more likely to divorce again.

            Statistically speaking, stats have a high percentage of inaccurate assumptions.

          • Matthew Tweedell

            The thing is that, if the idea that the relationship might not be forever is given serious consideration, it often becomes a self-fulfilling prophesy.

    • Argy-bargy

      I have found this study, which tends to contradict what you're saying: http://www.ncfr.com/pdf/press_releases/PRESS%20RE… . The study found that the NUMBER of pre-marital sexual partners has more of a correlation with divorce rates than cohabitation. One conclusion is that the casualness that one approaches sex is perhaps a more significant sign that relationships can in turn be less permanent.

      • Mindy

        Exactly, Argy. As with most every decision we make in life, the answers are not always clear, black and white, cut and dried.

        But a casual attitude toward sex probably (note I am not speaking in absolutes here) indicates a casual attitude toward the permanency and sanctity of relationships in general.

        I do believe there is no "one-size-fits-all" answer, that teens must be taught the options and that the best lesson they can learn is that abstinence until maturity is key to protecting themselves and nurturing a healthy knowledge of and attitude toward sex.

  • Soulmentor

    One of the first thots that came to my mind was the young man's age. There's no indication except to read between the lines and the "kid" speaks in a way that seems to indicate he's been struggling with his question for a few years, so I'm thinking he's early 20's. (Good Lord, no wonder he's in agony!! I didn't make it past high school…..with the boys!!!)

    With his age in mind, I'm inclined to suggest he stop struggling and enjoy the GOD GIVEN gift of sex.

    He needs to keep in mind that sex wasn't invented by Christians and that the current attitudes he's struggling with are a relatively (historically) recent social development. There have always been and still are cultures and attitudes where sex is a delightfully fun thing to do and meant to be enjoyed and restraint is not a consideration. The world and humanity seem to not be destroyed yet as a result………of sexual activity anyway. That seems to be the least of our problems notwithstanding various religious hang-ups about it.

    All that said, I commend Kara (first comment) for her take on it. Absolutely right on. Enjoy your sexuality. LOVE your sexuality. Approach your sexuality and sexual behavior from a caring and loving internal thought process. If you are not exploiting or "using" someone carelessly or forcing a non-consensual activity, then go for it. And remember, you will make some mistakes, have some experiences you may later regret. All of life is like that. When that happens, forgive yourself, learn from it and move on. Anything you do, do with Love in your heart and you will minimize those life mistakes.

  • K_Huntington

    Tell him to suck it up, and get over it. Me and my wife were virgins when we married. It's not that hard. It's called a freaking right hand a tissue. I get so sick of reading about people who "can't make it" Jesus died on a freaking cross for you, and lord forbid you give up boinking a girl for him. Completely selfish.

    • Argy-bargy

      Jesus died on a freaking cross so that we might love one another better and show the compassion he showed us. Self-righteousness (especially when you really don't know anything about this young man's situation) sounds a bit selfish to me. Just saying.

    • Robert Meek

      Reap what we sow, remember? Hate, animosity? Not good.

    • Deb

      Amen!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    • DR

      Yes, it is just that easy to tell him to "suck it up and get over it". But that's not a euphemism for anything (though I can't quite be sure given I'm in the camp of technically saving oneself before marriage).

    • http://www.johnshore.wordpress.com John Shore

      Well, and the important thing is that it’s not like you have any anger issues around sex, or anything.

      Yikes, dude.

    • Diana A.

      And if you're never fortunate enough to get married? Or what if one's eagerness to have sex drives one into an ill-conceived marriage? (Yes, this has been known to happen, fairly often in fact.)

      In my own case, if I'd not had premarital sex, I'd still be a virgin @ 42 years of age. I know this because I've only had one boyfriend in my life and that was 20 years ago.

      To this day, I'm not sure how much I regret the incidents. I think I did it for all the wrong reasons and that I might have been better off refraining–but then there's that whole "still a virgin @ 42" thing. If I had refrained, I'd probably feel cheated since my personal Prince Charming has never made his way into my life.

  • https://questionablemotives.wordpress.com tildeb

    My advice is to follow your heart. Sexual congress is a natural extension of a deepening relationship to a new level and will feel right when it's right.

    Having lived in Europe, I can appreciate just how puritanical sexual mores are in NA. The evidence, as Mike points out, is that if we want mature and responsible and life-affirming sexual outcomes, we have to treat human sexuality as a subject of knowledge rather than some kind of religiously inspired shrouded form of spiritual oogity boogity.

    What's truly perverse is celibacy.

    • Mindy

      Good advice, tildeb.

      And the funny thing is, those "puritanical" mores are shown to be undone by people time and time and time again.

      It's not about the sex. It's about the maturity to handle the sex, whatever you decide. It's about being compassionate to the one you love.

    • DR

      I see your point and I don't disagree with most of it, but I've practiced celibacy and I've not experienced any perverse results, at least not that I know of. I've actually had a lot of freedom from fear of pregnancy and there is something pretty erotic about it.

      • https://questionablemotives.wordpress.com tildeb

        I meant the notion of taking a vow to never engage in sex, as in denying ourselves to be sexual. We are sexual creatures – even if we abstain for periods of time – but sometimes chocolate is exactly right.

        • Kara

          Not everyone is sexual. Celibacy is right for a very small number of people, but it should be their choice, not coerced by religious or moral teachings.

          http://www.asexuality.org

          • https://questionablemotives.wordpress.com tildeb

            Not everyone is born with two legs but we are still bipedal creatures. But I do agree that people have the choice to not have sex. To clarify my point even further, then: for those who are capable of experiencing sexuality, celibacy is perverse.

          • Kara

            I don't think so, but it's no skin off my nose. I can fully get behind the statement that for those who don't want to be celibate it's perverse. Beyond that, we'll have to disagree in peace.

          • DR

            No, not accurate (at least as one who's practiced celibacy fairly consistently). Denial of sex is not a denial of being sexual or even the experience of being sexual being.

          • Ace

            Celibacy by choice isn't perverse. There are plenty of people who for a whole host of reasons, prefer not to be in sexual relationships with others. Not all of them are impotent or "incapable" either.

            It is a personal choice. And it is the freedom to make that choice that matters, whether you choose to have sexual relationships or choose not to.

            Certainly forced celibacy is an abuse, but you are casting a lot of judgement on people for a personal choice for something that quite frankly isn't any of your business.

          • https://questionablemotives.wordpress.com tildeb

            Not being in a sexual relationship is not the same thing as taking a vow of celibacy to deny a central aspect of being human.

            As for your notion that I cast a lot of judgment, I find it ironic that you think commentary from an individual with an opinion of celibacy is outside of one's 'business' but that you allow various spokespeople who represent religious opinions to so neatly avoid exactly the same (and quite legitimate) criticism. As far as human sexuality is concerned, why should you grant these same folk any say on the matter whatsoever? Surely it's none of their business, either, and equally full of judgment.

            And let's not forget that maintaining a consistency of opinion is also a choice.

          • Ace

            Where did I allow other people to avoid criticism?

            I think I stated exactly such down here: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/2010/09/13/the-question-of-p

            People have no business commenting on others' private sexual natures unless it's a something destructive like pedophilia.

            I think you are confusing me with some of the other commenters here, bub.

          • https://questionablemotives.wordpress.com tildeb

            What I meant is that religious belief in no way justifies the ongoing commentary about sexual mores derived from it and I don't see you calling people on making unjustified comments based on those beliefs.

            The judgment I am casting is not on people but on the notion of celibacy based on honouring these religious mores. In this light, I hope you can understand why it is unfair to suggest that an individual should not comment because it is judgmental about other people but that the religious mores the do judge (without merit) seem to be protected from exactly that same criticism.

            In other words, if you think that people have no business commenting on others' private sexual natures, then surely you must also think that religious scripture, dogma, and associated interpretations have no business commenting on others' private sexual natures.

    • Tim

      Not wise to judge celibacy as perverse, tildeb. I am celibate because of spiritual and physiological constraint. Think a little bit before calling something perverse you may know absolutely nothing about.

      • http://www.facebook.com/unholyblackdeath William Ely

        Sex is a need. If you deprive yourself of it without filling that need in another way, it will harm your mental health. Intimacy with another person as well as the act of sexual release is just as much of a need as vitamins and minerals.

        • DR

          What is the citation or reference that lay out these consequences? Both you and tildeb have an abiding respect for data, so in the face of the anecdota a few of us have put up that speaks to the consequences of actually practicing celibacy in our lives, it would be good understand where you're getting your informaiton.

          • http://www.facebook.com/unholyblackdeath William Ely

            It was a tidbit I picked up in my Introduction To Psychology class. the textbook was called Psychology Ala Carte. I think most people take that course while getting their basic Associate degrees.

          • DR

            Ah, ok. Fair enough. Granted, snippets of online testimony from those who live a celibate life can have as much or as little weight as one wants it to have in this debate, but I assumed there was some kind of substantial set of data that would suggest I'm actually miserable and maladjusted. ;)

          • http://www.facebook.com/unholyblackdeath William Ely

            I could probably come up with valid links, but that takes time and I have to study. Why should I do the footwork for intellectually lazy people? If they did not bother going to college, why would they listen to me? The knowledge is there is they want it.

            I prefer the happy and healthy way myself, maybe I'm the crazy one.

          • DR

            Why should I do the footwork for intellectually lazy people? >>

            Oh I see. Well, if you're going to play this intellectual academic game, then William, let's play.

            So if I'm following this recent comment, those of us here with actual graduate degrees should take some random summary offered from a guy on the internet (who wants to see discussion of religion declared illegal to a certain age) – a guy who is referencing a basic Psych course offered at what appears to be a community college – at his word.

            And if we ask him for more information, he declares that us not simply swallowing up what his memory has regurgitated in the form of a textbook is just "crazy" and those who want more information won't "do the legwork" themselves are intellectually lazy.

            That makes sense!

          • http://www.facebook.com/unholyblackdeath William Ely

            I want child abuse stopped, there is a difference. That shit causes real harm. I don't want religion truly outlawed I was just trying to say that Mel is a result of such things. (That was before I realized just how young she really is, I thought she was an adult)

            As to the other, I meant that I have to pay to get my info, so why should I give it away for free just because it is asked for? I only come here for entertainment. Nothing is free in this world, especially not information. Besides, no one posts links to facts here, this is a Christian site.

            You want me to scour for links to support everything discussed here? Then fine, send me a check and I'll get right on it. People who have taken basic classes should already know the basic concepts I am referencing. I don't really expect anyone to care what I say anyway, that is why I am often so flippant. You guys are like my prime time TV and several of the posters here are more crazy than anything I've ever seen on reality shows.

            You are really taking everything I say today to heart. Why the sensitivity this evening? Usually only the crazies engage me. It really is more fun that way. Tonight you are taking the fun out of it for me. Why?

          • The Original Writer

            It's very simple, people. Don't feed the troll. This guy is an atheist – it says so on his Facebook profile… which is actually quite easy to find because his name links right to it! (If you want to visit him, just look up his last name in Hurst, Texas! =D. SURPRISE PARTY!!!)

            But yeah, what I'm saying is, there's no point in arguing with this guy. He's not going to come around and he's not going to offer anything of value in a context of something like this. He's just going to act high and mighty and tell us we're stupid for believing in God and then point to Russel's teapot or the FSM or some other such strawman-type nonsense.

            He said it himself – we're his entertainment. He gets his jollies by coming here to put people down, thus stroking his perceived intellectual ego. It's really his form of mental masturbation… which, yeah, super mature, right?

            Will should learn when to STFU though. Just out of plain old human decency. Until then, he's only capable of keeping around 89 people who are willing to associate with him online! (Apparently he must be a displeasure in real life as well!)

            Take a cue from Brown and less from Dawkins; learn how to be a decent human being, Will. And also when to gracefully STFU.

          • Mindy

            And you, dear Original (THE original writer? Like, God?), should be careful about condemning as well. Doesn't help. William adds a perspective that is helpful to read, even if he gets abrasive. We seem to be managing pretty well, so you dropping in to tell us to stop talking to him really helps . . . not.

            Not everyone who posts here is Christian – even some of us agnostic folk have worthwhile words now and again.

            Blasting someone for the number of FB friends?! Not cool.

          • Mindy

            Oh, and just to be clear, he did not say that "we" are his entertainment, he said he comes to the site for entertainment. BIG difference. You say that as if he comes here to make fun of all the little Jesus freaks. For all his abrasive attitude, I don't get that feeling. He's likes to argue. So do I. I come here for entertainment, too – and enlightenment, and maybe a healthy verbal squaring off now and again. It's good for the soul – helps you clarify your own beliefs as well as perhaps opening your mind to something new.

          • The Original Writer

            @William

            3 years?! GASP! Gonna tell me to get off yer lawn, while you're at it?

            Aaaaaaand next time you tell me to "go fuck [myself]" do it to my face. Don't hide behind a keyboard. You and your gang of 89 besties can meet me and my crew in the square for an old school b-boy dance off, broski broseph brohoshophat.

          • http://www.facebook.com/unholyblackdeath William Ely

            @Everyone – Look, I’m sorry for my tone this evening. My mood has been bad all day and I should have just refrained from posting a lot of this stuff. I do not apologize for taking my view, just for how I presented it.

            I did not intend for my posts to take on that tone, it just kind of happened.

            @The Original Writer – I have been reading and posting on this blog for 3 years now, so go fuck yourself. Every regular poster here knows I am an atheist. LOL, as to my Facebook page, so what? I only friend people I know and I never friend coworkers so my list stays small.

          • Mel

            @William Ely

            You say that I’m a result of such things?? What “things” are you referring to exactly? I have not been harmed in any way…and just so you know, I am an adult.

          • http://dianer.blogspot.com/ DR

            @ Original Writer:

            But yeah, what I’m saying is, there’s no point in arguing with this guy. He’s not going to come around and he’s not going to offer anything of value in a context of something like this.

            If you're inferring this is true because he is an atheist, you need to take a step back. There are several atheists here who offer some really substantiative points of view and I learn quite a bit from as a Christian. OK? Our goal isn't to "change" an atheist so she or he becomes fitting to speak to issues of sex and celibacy, they get a chair at the table of any conversation and their own point of view.

            Like you I've struggled with celibacy and some think its stupid. I just don't react to it. Allow the Williams of the world to help you grow up a little bit.

          • http://www.facebook.com/unholyblackdeath William Ely

            But as I said before (Why do you people refuse to read the entire post!) If you don't have sex, it must be replaced with something else. (intimacy, masturbation, touching, ect.) This is all basic common sense stuff really, I should not have to spell it out. Anyone with a degree should know this.

          • DR

            I don't read because I am a Christian and know everything already DUH! (I didn't see that, thank you for clarifying).

          • http://www.facebook.com/unholyblackdeath William Ely

            I was not referring to you specifically, sorry. I did not mean for that to sound as bad as it did, I am tired from a long day.

            But, seriously, this is all really basic, Freshman level stuff.

          • DR

            I was just messin' with you, but let's not pretend either one o us are on the websites where we pretend we're mental health professionals on the Internet, dude. One little snippet from a psychology class isn't conclusive.

          • http://www.facebook.com/unholyblackdeath William Ely

            You are right, but it is an intro class, which means it is only the basics. This stuff is pretty dependable for the most part. It is also a common sense issue. No sex or masturbation (I almost don't believe anyone abstains from both, they are lying most likely) would make a person at least mildly depressed and there is simply no reason for it. Some people even develop severe clinical depression if they are deprived from sexual release for an extended length of time.

          • DR

            Some people even develop severe clinical depression if they are deprived from sexual release for an extended length of time.>>>

            Is this from the same class?

          • http://www.facebook.com/unholyblackdeath William Ely

            That was from my Human Sexuality book. Different class, same field of study.

          • http://www.facebook.com/unholyblackdeath William Ely

            It is based on specific case studies, so it is not representative of everyone, as I said "some people"

          • Susan

            Well, if someone's never had sex or masturbated, and they are rather young, I don't think it's necessarily indicative of some huge underlying issue.

            Unrelated to my statement, but but related to yours… some people who are depressed tend to have a lax libido, and ironically, some (maybe most?) antidepressants can taper sex drive. How depressing is that?!

          • http://www.facebook.com/unholyblackdeath William Ely

            @susan Yes, young people are irrelevant. Everything I ever say is going to always be exclusively about adults. Children should always be left out of adult discussion. That really goes without saying IMO.

            I have never taken anti depressants, but are those not medications that get proscribed on a short term basis? It sounds pretty depressing.

          • Susan

            I'm not talking children, as I'm referring to someone who blogs here. She's an adult, but young. If she's never done either one, it doesn't mean she's a mess. She wants to have sex, but just feels a certain way right now about masturbation.

            As for antidepressants – I was prescribed one for a short time period, and it all but killed desire. A couple of friends were on two different anti-depressants- for more than a year, and it affected their sex drives. One eventually got off of hers, the other friend kept trying different ones until she finally found one that worked for her…and her husband.

            I guess it's a bit of a crap shoot when introducing chemicals into the body.

          • http://www.facebook.com/unholyblackdeath William Ely

            The person you are talking about most likely feels that way about sex and her body because she has been twisted by Christian guilt.

            It should be considered abuse to discuss religion with someone under 18. It only causes harm, no good comes out of it. It creates an entire set of grownup age children. No critical thinking and no idea about the nature of sex. She just cannot deal with it because she was not given the tools to deal with it. Sad.

          • Mel

            @William Ely

            First of all, you don’t believe that I don’t have sex or masturbate?? Seriously?? Are you that lacking in self-control that you can’t even comprehend somebody else refraining from something because they think it’s wrong? And just so you know, I’m not at all depressed. I have been very blessed in my life and I am so thankful for that. I have an amazing family, awesome friends, a God to turn to no matter what’s going on my life, I really couldn’t be happier, or ask for more.

            “Yes, young people are irrelevant. Everything I ever say is going to always be exclusively about adults. Children should always be left out of adult discussion. That really goes without saying IMO.” Wow…young people are irrelevant? Because your comments really prove that you are so mature (sarcasm). And as for your statement that children should always be left out adult discussion….a lot of people have already commented on that, but you should take somebody’s post and discuss it based on merit, not on how old the person is.

            “The person you are talking about most likely feels that way about sex and her body because she has been twisted by Christian guilt.” First, you can use my name, you don’t have to say “the person your are talking about” as if I won’t realize you’re talking about me. Second, exactly how do I feel about my body? Since apparently you know. And as for the way I feel about sex, it’s really ridiculous for you to say I have a problem because I’m saving myself for marriage. You SAID that you weren’t commenting on that, and yet you keep bringing up the way I feel about sex. Other than waiting until I’m married, I don’t really see how else you can disagree/bash how I feel. I’m not ashamed to talk about sex, and I’m not embarrassed about it. Sex is a gift from God, and I fully intend on accepting that gift…when I’m married. I have not been twisted by Christian guilt…if you read my initial comment I have a whole paragraph about why, even if I wasn’t a Christian, I would wait to have sex until I’m married.

            “It should be considered abuse to discuss religion with someone under 18. It only causes harm, no good comes out of it. It creates an entire set of grownup age children. No critical thinking and no idea about the nature of sex. She just cannot deal with it because she was not given the tools to deal with it. Sad.” For the umpteenth time, I’m 18. Even if I wasn’t, how can you say that there was not critical thinking evident in my posts? Just because my opinion differs from yours? If that’s the case, then once again, you’re acting like the child, not me. As for me having no idea about the nature of sex….I don’t really get how you can think that, but w/e, it seems like we’ve discussed that to no end. And lastly, I don’t really see how I can’t deal with it? You try to accuse me of so many things, and yet you can’t back up any of them….”sad”.

          • Susan

            Um…well said by someone who seems to be acting as if intimacy is lacking in his life.

            Don't know if you realize it or not, but you are coming across much like an arse.

            No need for the condescending attitude, is there?

          • http://www.facebook.com/unholyblackdeath William Ely

            No there is not,you are right. I am just grumpy right now.

          • DR

            I'm sure the data is there and I don't disagree with it. You do have a tendency of coming into the forum and declaring that things are "simple" then infer that others are stupid for not seeing the simplicity for it when for you? It could be simple because the element of spirituality isn't present. Which again, who cares you are entitled to your thoughts on any particular matter but coming on to a christian writer's blog and declaring a complex issue (for christians) simple and that it's stupid people don't see it that way is a dick move, William. I don't think anyone really cares if you offer a different perspective, but stop with the condescending posturing as you offer it. It's just noise.

          • http://www.facebook.com/unholyblackdeath William Ely

            I understand, I just get frustrated at times, because it really is simple. There is nothing complicated about it at all.

            Spirituality is just a word used to avoid thought. It is like plugging your fingers in your ears and yelling "LALALALALALA I can't hear you". Spirituality only exists in your head and cannot be used when discussing real world, non abstract subjects.

            I will try to lay off the condescending, I really did not mean it that way, it just came out wrong.

          • DR

            Spirituality is just a word used to avoid thought. It is like plugging your fingers in your ears and yelling “LALALALALALA I can’t hear you”. Spirituality only exists in your head and cannot be used when discussing real world, non abstract subjects.>>>

            dude, with all due respect? With statement like these you come across as an emotionally immature guy with some anger issues who needs to take them out online. Seriously. Someone needs to tell you the truth, and I like you so I'm going to. Take it or leave it, I don't really care to be honest but you seem to like to dish out the tough talk so let's see if you're open to receiving it.

            Take a page from tildeb. S/he really thinks what they say through – no emotion, just facts. No commentary or inflammatory rhetoric, though I'm sure the temptation is there. But in what tildeb writes, it's clear that there is a genuine desire to listen and speak to the actual idea. Any personal baggage felt regarding religion is deftly addressed or is not addressed all together so it's easier to take more seriously. Consider that example.

          • Tim

            @WIlliam

            I have plenty of intimate relationships that are non-sexual. You previously made comments that implied a person's choice to be sexually inactive was indicative of larger problems. So while I'm not having sex with anyone, I'm relieved to see that my non-sexual intimacy is a viable substitute IYO. Do you practice psychology professionally, dude, or do you just know enough to be dangerous? : D

          • http://www.facebook.com/unholyblackdeath William Ely

            No, I am just back in college working on my Bachelor's degree so its been on my mind a lot lately. It is just basic psychology that any college student would take. Nothing special, most people should already know it.

            It causes problems, not indicative of problems. Mild depression as I said is one possible. Of course, different people react differently, but there is a consequence, however small or large.

            Why is this so hard to grasp? It is simple, if you don't take care of your needs, you will be worse off than if you do. There is nothing complicated about what I am saying.

          • DR

            It should be considered abuse to discuss religion with someone under 18. It only causes harm, no good comes out of it.>>>

            This is just…stupid. It really is. You're so much smarter than this comment, I don't get it. You really are in a bad mood.

          • http://www.facebook.com/unholyblackdeath William Ely

            You think so? Telling children about this stuff is indeed abuse. There is no way around it. "Your body is sinful and dirty" "You are a worthless sinner who's only worth is to serve" "You will burn in a fiery pit for all eternity if you displease god" You must not live your life for you, but for god"

            It is abuse to teach kids any of the above. I will stand by that statement.

          • Susan

            William, you seem to be confusing religion with irresponsible parenting.

            Most religious people don't have sexual hangups or more issues than non-religious people.

            You are making a sweeping generalization.

          • http://www.facebook.com/unholyblackdeath William Ely

            Don't most Christian parents teach about putting god before yourself and if you displease god you will go to hell? I thought that was what made them Christian?

            I was mainly referring to the person we were discussing however.

          • http://www.facebook.com/unholyblackdeath William Ely

            If someone thinks unmarried sex is a moral issue, they have a hang up about sex right there. I think that this particular generalization is spot on.

          • Susan

            No on your two first questions.

            The last sentence – you're making two assumptions 1)about her, you don't really "know" her and 2) that what you perceive in her that is so distasteful is representative of all Christians.

            DR. is right. You are smarter than that!

            I wonder what your psychology class would make of these semi-anonymous postings?!

          • Susan

            That is not necessarily a religious issue.

          • http://www.facebook.com/unholyblackdeath William Ely

            I think I am being misunderstood here.

            To clarify my position: If you think that it is immoral to have sex without being married, you have a hang up with sex.

            If you pass this hang up on to your kids, it is abuse because it causes them a lot of problems in the sexual discovery part of their life.

            Is that more clear? This particular stance is purely my opinion, but I feel I have seen it enough times, in enough people to have a clear picture of how it works

          • http://www.facebook.com/unholyblackdeath William Ely

            My posting are in no way anonymous. I have my name, picture, email address and link to my Facebook profile.

          • Susan

            Well…maybe it actually is an issue that is more inclined to those who are religious. I have no stats to back that one up either way.

          • https://questionablemotives.wordpress.com tildeb

            Speaking of data sets (that are valid and informative), there is a correlation between higher incidents of negative outcomes from sexual behaviour of the more religious. To me, this raises the question of why?

            If a relationship with god is considered an important and meaningful benefit, then why the higher incidents of negative outcomes? Because I do not automatically assume that such a relationship with god is necessarily a net benefit in framing one's sexual behaviour, I can entertain the notion that perhaps such a relationship itself is a negative influence. I don't know if that's true, but at least I can give it serious consideration.

            When I look at what constitutes ethical sexual behaviour from biblical and qu'ranic references, and I try to square these offerings with what I have learned from various academic subjects to which I presume William E is referring, there is a rather remarkable difference in understanding the factors that motivate behaviours and the goals that are sought for their undertaking. These are quite different – sometimes diametrically opposed – and perhaps the answer to explaining why there is such a significant negative correlation rests in these differences… in which case the assumption that sexual behaviour is somehow improved by having a relationship with god may not be such a good idea after all.

            Is there valid and informative data to suggest otherwise?

          • Susan

            Well, hello tildeb–

            @ William—

            I keep falling behind here.

            No, I don't know of any significant research that suggests that Christians are less prone to sexual hangups. And actually your point about "motivation" is rather intriguing.

            Hypothetical 'for instance' – A does not have sex with B because A believes A is not emotionally ready. C does not have sex with B because "the Bible says it's wrong." Let's just say that perhaps one of the reasons the Bible doesn't promote casual sex is because of emotional immaturity. That being the case, A's choice is wise because of the insight shown, while C's choice MAY be inferred as legalistic and could set C up for less self-analysis and more "following of the rules" — which can lead to complications down the road. I know it's a crappy example, but – does it make sense?

          • Susan

            Wow. Just read my post and that was a rather stupid example…Nobody has to agree with me as I feel dumb enough at the moment.

            I will concede that religion CAN cause damage. Religion, to me, and neither of you will agree, is a man-made concoction, if you will. As a Christian, I am too far too familiar with the emotional issues it can cause, but I see the "it" as religion, not God or Jesus.

          • Susan

            Actually, I see the "it" as a host of variables that lend to an incorrect view of God or Jesus. John has many good articles about that, and here is one I like very much:

            http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/2010/08/11/is-the-devil-maki

            So, what do think about John Shore, who is a Christian. Do you think he's got sexual hang ups or is he an aberration of the "religious"?

          • https://questionablemotives.wordpress.com tildeb

            On the contrary, Susan, I think both religion and god are very much man-made "concoctions." The evidence is pretty overwhelming… just think how deeply geography (where we live) affects the religious beliefs we hold to be true and what we think our god's nature is (very much a reflection of our current moral values).

            When we frame our sexuality through the religious filter of god-sanctioned behaviour and paint basic biological urges as anti-god (we come programmed to 'lust' by visual stimulation alone (as well as other sensory input) or, as the poet says, our eyes are the scouts of our hearts), we are creating a situation that is emotionally unresolvable.

            We happen to loathe unresolvable emotional conflicts and will go far out of our way to attempt to resolve if not the original emotional conflict then a pseudo-conflict that hearkens back to the original… think of the beaten wife syndrome of leaving the one who beats us only to hook up with the next guy who just so happens to beat us, or the guy raised by an alcoholic mother who just so happens to fall in love with a woman who turns out – surprise, surprise – to be an alcoholic. We crave resolution. (Thankfully, we can also learn how to develop and implement all kinds of methods to stop ourselves from giving in to these kinds of emotional urges.)

            But when we are inculcated as children (or the emotional equivalent) to believe that our instinctual lusty thoughts are crimes against god, we cannot resolve them. Ever. The best we can do is a holding pattern or become so god-soaked that we impose the fever of religious devotion in place of the fever of sexual urges.

            We know we have such sexual thoughts, and we believe god knows we know we have them. So we take it out on ourselves and feel unworthy of god's love, and once in a while give in to 'temptation'… usually when we are particularly vulnerable. This is a self-fulfilling prophecy of just how sinful we actually are and in need of – you guessed it – god's forgiveness in spite of our unworthiness (and often dealt with by seeking out more religious instruction). In a nutshell, we usually feel compelled to seek a closer emotionally dependent relationship (excuse my language) with our abuser. This is a very human way we try to find the means to affect change, to find some atonement, some forgiveness, some acceptance in spite of our 'fallen nature', to seek some journey to redemption… all for the benefit of our emotional longing to resolve the conflict. And when we don't find it (although many say they do), we impose a feeling of justified and lasting guilt on our sense of self.

            I suspect that's why how we deal with our sexuality plays such a central role in how we prescribe god's abiding interest in us and what we do with our gonads. Scripture is brimming with such directions.

            Now fly outwards to galaxies far, far away, and see the earth as the speck of dust it is in the cosmos and consider just how awesomely trivial are the masturbatory thoughts of an individual among billions on that speck of dust to the central creator of all. The arrogance to assume it matters to such a being, to my way of thinking, is profound. And profoundly disturbing. distur

          • Susan

            tildeb,

            Thank you for taking the time to elaborate.

            Your thoughts are excruciatingly logical and I cannot, at that moment, provide an appropriate, valid counter. However, the comment: 'when we are inculcated as children (or the emotional equivalent) to believe that our instinctual lusty thoughts are crimes against god, we cannot resolve them' is an assumption on your part – and weakens the point you are trying to make.

            Must go to bed, but look forward to learning more in the morning.

            Best, SH

          • https://questionablemotives.wordpress.com tildeb

            Not the best of examples, I'll grant you, but you make the point: the same action can be viewed different ways depending on motivation and goals… think of killing another person for profit or killing for self-defense or killing in the name of god. Each will come with different psychological and emotional effects on the instigator, which I think is your point.

          • Susan

            My goal here is to learn from this blog and those who share, so I simply have to get over the air-headed gene passed down to me from my mom that sometimes manifests in a horribly slow-witted, dumb-ass comment. Hopefully, others will be patient.

            “there is a correlation between higher incidents of negative outcomes from sexual behaviour of the more religious”

            To what kind of negative outcomes are you referring?

            “perhaps such a relationship itself [with God} is a negative influence

            Does your the study distinguish fundamental Christians versus moderate and liberal ones? Does it distinguish between those who came to the table with emotional imbalances vs. those that didn’t?

            That said, debate is not my forte. Sparring with an intellectual atheist? Well, let’s just say it’s reminiscent of the shame I used to feel as a kid when I was selected last (or very near last) to be play on in teams for gym class.

            “When I look at what constitutes ethical sexual behaviour from biblical and qu’ranic references, and I try to square these offerings with what I have learned from various academic subjects to which I presume William E is referring”

            What academic subjects have taught you about ethical sexual behavior?

            “Rather remarkable difference in understanding the factors that motivate behaviours and the goals that are sought for their undertaking.” Such as…what?

            I thank you in advance for any clarifications you can offer.

            Best

          • Mindy

            ::::standing and applauding::::::

            Thank you, tildeb, for this incredible post. Much important food for thought.

          • Mel

            @ Tildeb

            "we never learn anything from people with whom we are in full agreement"

            I just want to comment on that statement…I'm not going to address the rest of your comment. I want you to know that this statement is false. Jeanine and I so far have been in full agreement on everything discussed on John's blogs, however I have learned a lot from her. When I go on John's blog I immediately look for her name to see what she has to say about something because I almost ALWAYS learn something from her, and completely agree with it. Also, many people who attend a church agree with their pastors. But they attend church to learn from him/her. Because they are more educated on the topic.

          • http://fvthinker.blogspot.com Mike Burns

            I too stand and applaud Tildeb's post immediately above.

            If some of you have not read it thinking it is too long; go back and read it. Read it until you understand it and then thank him for posting it!!

          • Mindy

            @Mel, what you learn from Jeanine are more ways to express your shared beliefs. That is not the same thing as learning that expands your understanding of this life you are living, my friend.

            You are not willing to consider any point of view that differs from your very narrow vision of the world. If you don't mature out of that as you get older (which you most likely will), it will be sad, for you and for those with whom you will interact through life.

          • Susan

            @ Tildeb

            *standing, applauding, throwing roses & doing back flips*

            Many thanks for investing the time to respond so thoughtfully and thoroughly. I will be revisiting this post many times just to reflect on your words. Don’t know if my comprehension has taken a holiday, but I’d never have extrapolated the wealth of knowledge in this post from your previous. Hey – that means I’m learning, at least!

            Unfortunately for you, the precedence has been set, and I may ask for clarification in the future – if you don't mind.

            Glad you are here. So very.

            Susan

          • Mindy

            @Susan –

            Show-off.

            ;->

            signed,

            She-who-would-fracture-and-tear-the-majority-of-her-movable-body-parts-were-she-to-try-a-back-somersault-let-alone-a-back-flip-but-shares-your-enthusiasm-nonetheless

          • Susan

            @ Mindy -

            You funny lady!

            Seriously though – I do enjoy your posts.

          • Jeanine

            @Mel

            I think the fact that you are reading and interacting on this blog at all shows that you are not some narrow minded child. If you were only interested in being spoon fed the Bible, why would you spend your time here at all.

            I think it shows that you are courageous enough to venture out into the world and challenge yourself to see if what you have learned really is what you in fact believe.

          • Mindy

            @Jeanine – I hope you are right about Mel. I *hope* that her being here is not driven by a need to spoon feed her beliefs to a wider audience.

            I hope that she *is* challenged, that she does open her mind to learning.

            I in no way expect either of you, or any other dedicated Christian, to question your core beliefs about your faith. I can accept that through your faith, you believe absolutely and unwaveringly that God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit are the omnipotent Trinity. I can accept that you believe the Bible was and remains a divinely inspired text. Even as I don't agree, I don't have any problem understanding and accepting that those are your beliefs and that they will not waver through your entire lifetime. That's fine.

            What I do hope that you and Mel and others are challenged to consider is the possibility the the details are fuzzy. That gray areas exist and that something written over two thousand years ago is not only open to interpretation, but that we are SUPPOSED to reinterpret it and to grow away from that which no longer applies.

            That doesn't mean you should run out and have sex before marriage. It doesn't mean that you should eschew your core values. It means only that you consider, perhaps, that as we as a species continue to grow and learn, and we understand the world and ourselves in ways that humans did not then – because we have USED THE BRAINS GOD GAVE US TO BECOME BETTER VERSIONS OF OURSELVES. That two thousand years from now, if we haven't imploded by then, we will have figured out much more, and be better than we can possibly imagine now – in the way we treat each other and our bodies, in the way we care for the environment you believe God gave us, in the way interpret His messages.

            Looking at the world at large today, I sometimes find it hard to see glimpses of that – but they are there. I see examples of compassion and empathy, big and small, everyday, and I hold tight to those because they are what give me hope.

          • Argy-bargy

            @Mindy:

            I couldn't have said it better myself. In fact, I haven't. :-)

          • https://questionablemotives.wordpress.com tildeb

            Thanks for the kind words. Consideration of what I wrote – whether for or against or somewhere in the middle – is really all the thanks I hope to get. I'm just sorry it takes so many words and space to get the commentary across. Thanks for having the fortitude to read it all the way through.

          • https://questionablemotives.wordpress.com tildeb

            Sorry to butt in here, MT, but you write And their goal, which tradition (and Scripture itself in the Gospels) has passed down to us as being the plain simple intent of Scripture, was to encourage people to love one another.

            If only that were true…

          • Mindy

            Matthew, if I had that answer, I'd be amazing! And I'm not.

            I would imagine that the books of the Bible were written for a variety of reasons. Some were myths, stories,passed down to make sense of all that was not understood, particularly of nature. Some stories were family histories, the recording of the oral tradition. Some were fables, stories aimed at defining right vs. wrong and establishing behavioral guidelines. They likely contained elements of truth, embellished and polished as they were shared and recorded. That would be primarily the Old Testament.

            The New Testament is the story of an amazing prophet and teacher. But I imagine, as much of it was written decades and centuries after he lived, that it, too, is the recording of stories from the oral tradition, and the recording of such was done, in great part, to lay down rules. Religion is all about rules. To enforce rules, one must have both the authority to do so and the ability to impose consequences should said rules be broken. God the omnipotent says the rules are so? Well, who's more authoritative than that?! Eternal damnation in flames if you don't follow them? Talk about consequences!!

            So, I suppose my view of the New Testament is tainted with my own bit of worldly cynicism. I believe Jesus lived, I believe he was a prophet of peace, and I believe if all Christians truly lived as he taught – the simple version, like John describes in his new post – we'd all be a lot better off, and Christianity would shine as example to all how to live.

            As it is, it too often shines a light on hypocrisy, bigotry, greed and power – which is one of the reasons that this blog has appealed to me so very much – it has reassured me that thoughtful, kind and compassionate Christians really do exist, and probably in more abundance than I was starting to believe.

          • Argy-bargy

            …And even if someone does believe the Bible, many conclusions can be drawn as to the nature of Jesus.

            Just look at the church's history: Arianism, monarchism, Gnosticism….Eventually, only one conclusion was accepted by the powers-that-be of the time, and the others nearly squashed into oblivion. Fortunately, we didn't stop asking questions in the centuries since….

          • Mindy

            Ah, Mel, you are assuming that I take the Bible as factual. I think it's quite possible that Jesus-the-man had a keen sense of empathy. That his capacity for compassion was above the pale, and because of this, he become the go-to guy of his time for advice, for how to make what was wrong in someone's life right. And his advice centered around not putting yourself first. Put God first, and all else will fall into place. Basically, get out of your own head and quit being selfish or wallowing in self-pity, and go do only to others as you would have them do unto you. That's the nutshell of everything he said. This resonated with people and he developed a following, and he spent the balance of his life teaching this compassionate message, framing it around God. After he died, which may or may not have happened as the stories tell, his message lived on because it was hopeful. Because it was meaningful and helped human beings treat each other well, etc. So he remained a key character in the oral tradition of the time, and by the time the stories were written, they had taken on an other-worldly dimension. And it grew from there until, voila, we have a religion.

            No one was following Jesus around with a notepad, Mel, recording his every word. What the Bible says he said was attributed to him much later, so who knows if it is correct or not? The message of compassion remains the same, and that is, to me, all that is important.

            The rest of it has done more, as was so accurately described by tildeb above, to hurt people over the ages than help. Because religion as weapon has never gone away.

            Personally, I believe that if all human parents had spent more time over the ages instilling in their children a desire to do good because it is the right thing to do, and modeling the same, instead of teaching children to do good to avoid punishment (or wrath, as it were), we humans would have evolved further than we have in terms of making good choices and sound decisions. Corporate success would depend as much on employee satisfaction and intrinsic product value and positive environmental impact and helpful community involvement as it would on profits. CEOs and shareholders would be satisfied making really good livings and not wish they were on someone's top 100 richest whatever lists. Teachers would inspire by example instead of having to spend half their time disciplining because kids haven't been taught by their parents that being respectful is the right thing to do AND it makes your own life easier!

            Totally OT here, I know, but I personally believe that capitalism flies in the face of what Jesus taught, and I find it fascinating that our culture has been created on a bizarre mash-up of the two.

          • https://questionablemotives.wordpress.com tildeb

            Susan writes I simply have to get over the air-headed gene passed down to me from my mom that sometimes manifests in a horribly slow-witted, dumb-ass comment.

            Are you sure it’s from you mom?

            Just kidding, of course.

            An exchange of opinions and ideas and information and perspectives and reasons need not be ‘sparring’ although that’s a very typical take on expressing these debatable differences. The way I look at it is that we never learn anything from people with whom we are in full agreement; nor is it necessary that when one argument is better informed or expressed well mean that counter points are necessarily wrong. I try to think critically (I like to challenge assumptions) and inform my opinions with reasons that I think are the best available, but am quite willing to incorporate better reasons even it means changing my opinion when the opportunity arises. And usually the only way to find the reasons that inform opinions different from my own means ‘sparring’ as you call it. I have learned from many posters here – especially when our opinions differ.

            For the purposes of this post about human sexuality and role religious belief plays in its various expressions, I mention many negative outcomes correlated to higher levels of religiosity. This study is particularly compelling because if religious belief were a net benefit as many religious people assume and therefore claim, the numbers should be inverted. Specifically measured in this study were rates of mortality, teen pregnancy, STDs, and abortions in countries of relative prosperity but whose populations were divided on the basis of religiosity. All the outcomes were negatively correlated with higher rates of religiosity! That challenges our assumption about the net benefit of religion.

            There are reams of studies that reveal the same pattern. For whatever the causal reasons may turn out to be, the more religious people are, the higher the rates of these negative outcomes. Not all, of course, and I’ve mentioned in the above comment that we can learn strategies to implement that reduce our emotional urge to resolve the kinds of unresolvable emotional conflicts that religious belief imposes on us (and intentionally does so, I think). But the brute fact of higher negative rates for these unwanted outcomes reveals that religion is not a net benefit but quite possibly the cause of much unnecessary suffering. That’s an important finding.

            As for the academic subjects I’ve taken at various universities that taught me about ethical sexual behaviour, they are many: from child development, child psych, child lit, and more senior psych courses to biology and physics and neuroscience, from philosophy, anthropology, media studies, sociology to ethics, from religious studies to Western civilization, all are deeply affected by what we know about human sexuality. I synthesize my education, meaning that I incorporate and make connections between areas of knowledge and how they imprint and impact each other.

            So when I write about human sexuality, I am incorporating my understanding of the biological and psychological urges at work (what I call ‘natural’ meaning fully present as part of our physical beings without any evidential affect from any kind of supernatural forces) with the goals of those set forth in various religious ideologies (commonly called metaphysics, meaning beyond the physical reality in which we exist). If the religious goal is to improve human sexuality and reduce the negative outcomes often cited for this justification (let’s say to improve the human condition), then my question is “Does it work?”

            Does religious doctrine exercised through belief in god enhance and promote the human condition in general, and does religious doctrine through belief in god enhance and promote human sexuality specifically so as to produce better positive outcomes? And the answer I think can be known not by specific testimonials or bold assertions made by the devout but in meta-studies that correlate the two. And the effect is a general negative correlation regardless of which specific religion is involved but all of which include belief in god as the statistical entry point. The informed conclusion is that religious belief does not add any net benefit to the human condition in regards to expressions of human sexuality but in fact offers a net cost in human suffering. This is a rather remarkable difference in the bill of goods various religious spokespeople are trying to sell: that through belief in god we can express our sexuality to make a meaningful and positive difference in the quality of our lives. The opposite seems to be closer to the truth.

            So if we back up for a moment and come once again at how we should understand and express our sexuality, then seeking answers through religious belief offers us less than an even chance that we will benefit from doing so.

            So what’s the goal? If we wish to understand and express our sexuality so that we enhance our lives in meaningful and beneficial ways, then how should we do so? Now we turn to methods and means. Does religion offer us a means through its various methods to achieve our goal? Unlikely. What other delivery method is better? Well, that’s a different topic but what we do know is that religious instruction is likely to cause more harm than good, which I think is a point in need of expressing when the blog entry is about advising a person about how best to express his sexuality.

          • Mel

            @ Susan–it is not overly used. I was asking a sincere question so I don't see how it even matters whether or not it is overused. Also, I don't think that for that argument to work, it has to be directed at somebody who thinks the Bible is true. Mindy said she believes Jesus lived. Well, Jesus claimed to be the Son of God, so not trying to use a cliche, but seriously, either He's lying, or telling the truth.

            @a-b–I don't get how that answers my question. You believe the Bible to be true, correct? So do you agree that Jesus couldn't have just been a good prophet? If you don't agree, could you explain why not?

            @Mindy–As I said to Susan, I don't think whether or not you believe the Bible is relevant to my question. Jesus did say He was the Son of God, and if you believe that Jesus really did live, then taking the Bible out it, He still either lied, or told the truth.

          • Mindy

            Mel, stop being defensive and LISTEN. Read again what I wrote. The Bible was not written by Jesus himself. Nobody was folloing him around writing down every word he said – for crying out loud, at first, no one believed him or took him seriously, so were paying no heed to what he said! The Bible was by men, many years after Jesus died. I believe that the WRITERS SAID that Jesus said he was the son of God. That does not mean he ACTUALLY said it. And that doesn't mean they lied intentionally – perhaps Jesus was simply so inspiring with his message of compassion and caring about one another – like Ghandi, for example – that as the stories about him were passed on, they got bigger and better. Maybe people first said, "He was so amazing, as if he were the very embodiment of God!" Then the story was passed on to another generation and it became, "He was the amazing son of God!" etc. Maybe all the "miracles" were myths told to enshroud him divine mystery to make the stories that much more meaningful. I don't know.

            Maybe he really was the son of God and I'll find out after I die. I'm OK with that, too.

            Note that I am NOT saying that my example is how it DID happen, but that it COULD HAVE happened that way, hence I can easily believe that Jesus lived and was a great prophet and not a liar at all.

            And I can accept that you believe otherwise. You might climb out of your absolutes and acknowledge that yes, it could have happened that way. You don't think it did, you but you can see how I, as a non-Christian, might see that. Or, you can continue to insist that I'm absolutely wrong and then tell me, as you do every time, that this discussion is going nowhere and cut me off. That's OK, too.

          • https://questionablemotives.wordpress.com tildeb

            @Mel

            Black or white, eh? Have you considered that When Jesus supposedly said that he was the light he didn't actually glow like a light bulb? How can that be? Is he lying?

            We who use language often turn to metaphor and analogy to paint the meaning of our words to help create a picture of what we mean. Does it make any linguistic sense to pretend that all of us are either literalists or liars?

            Of course not, and you know it. Simple dichotomies to describe complex subjects with subtlety are rarely illuminating; they are often the handiest blunt tool of the unimaginative. But there I go using another metaphor. In your book that must make me a liar (oops, another metaphor).

          • Mel

            @ Mindy–I'm not being defensive at all. I asked you a question…that's all. I didn't realize that your comment about people not following Jesus around with a notebook was your way of saying that Jesus didn't necessarily say He was the Son of God. I get the point you were trying to make now. I just wasn't reading it right I guess. I do see how you, as a non-Christian can see it that way…and I don't mean that in a judgmental way at all, I really see that if you don't believe the Bible, you can draw that conclusion. I don't always say you are absolutely wrong. I've made a point of simply saying that I disagree with you, but as I said, I can see how you could draw the conclusion that you have. I don't think I have every "cut you off". There are certain conversations we've had where we just started talking in circles, so yes, I pointed out that the discussion was going nowhere. But that in no way was cutting you off, or dismissing your comments, I just didn't see how they could be discussed further. I'm sorry if you ever felt otherwise.

            @Tildeb–saying that things are black and white does not mean that I take everything literally. I realize that Jesus used metaphors a lot throughout the Bible. Another example of that is when He said "I am the door"…obviously He's not really a door. I have no problem with metaphors, and I understand when they are being used…I'm not stupid. However saying "I'm the Son of God" is not a metaphor. So don't put words in my mouth and say that I'm calling everybody a liar because they use metaphors…that's just ridiculous.

            @Tildeb–I was just curious, thanks for letting me know. You said "if you take on faith that the Bible is fact, then you have to accept what it says, no matter how vague, contradictory, and horrifying parts of it are." I do accept what it says…all of it. I also don't think it is ever contradictory. I'm not sure if you were trying to say that I don't believe all of it, or if you were just saying that that is a scary thing for you to do, but I just wanted to clear that up : ).

          • Argy-bargy

            Yeah, that was me you were responding to in the last paragraph, I know.

            No, I don't know if you believe all of the Bible, but I have surmised as much based on other statements you have made.

            I did not say or mean that believing that "is a scary thing for [me] to do…." In fact, I hope you didn't mean to sound condescending, but it did. It's not "scary" as in, I don't want to walk down this dark passageway because I don't know what I'll find. For me, the passageway is quite well lit, thank you. I find it horrifying that people might take a book saying that it is the truth as proof of that truth. Doing so just abrogated a great deal of responsibility for figuring things out for themselves. When in doubt, when backed into a corner, it is convenient for people to simply lean on the literal words of a book to justify behavior that human beings would never consider if they really thought it through. The Bible may illuminate but it isn't the light, and I think it is a huge cop-out when some people fall back on the "but it says so in the Bible!" type of old saw.

            This touches on fundamental issues of faith and knowledge. If you believe that the Bible is the full, inerrant, and final revelation of God, then…why listen to God at all?

            I believe that God is capable, desirous, and does reveal Himself to us every day. That is the only revelation that humankind really ever needs. The rest, as I quoted in another post, "is commentary."

          • Mel

            Oh! haha sorry about that, I must not have looked closely enough at the name. And no no no!! I definitely didn't mean to make it sound condescending. Sorry about that, I was trying to quote what you had put in your paragraph about it, and you said it scares you. I totally know what you meant! It didn't even cross my mind that you meant "I don’t want to walk down this dark passageway because I don’t know what I’ll find." Sorry that it came out wrong. Again, I was trying to quote what you said to clarify things, and I didn't do a very good job of it.

            Regarding your question, "If you believe that the Bible is the full, inerrant, and final revelation of God, then…why listen to God at all?" I listen to God because, as Jeanine so eloquently stated before, sometimes He speaks to me *through* scripture. If I had only the Bible, and not the Holy Spirit, I would be even more lost in this world than I already am. Although I have claimed to a black and white person, which I am regarding things that I have researched and come to a conclusion about, I also know that a lot of the Bible can be interpreted in different ways. A lot of it I wouldn't understand at all, except for the fact that the Holy Spirit shows it to me at random when I'm reading a verse that I may have already read so many times before. I'm not very good at explaining it, but what Jeanine said before along the same lines…that's what I'm trying to say. That's why I still have to listen to God even though I have His word in front of me.

          • Matthew Tweedell

            If you don’t mind my asking, Mindy, what do you think the works of the Bible were inspired in the spirit of? Which spirit is responsible for them? Ink didn’t merely fall at random on a parchment; the writing of text was performed by an animate being, moved by some sort of animating action within. Do you think the writers were guided by the Spirit of love and truth, or by something else like greed or self-righteousness? I just don’t see it as anything but what is Holy that led those scribes all those ages ago. Certainly they descriped some unholy crap going on, but that’s life—that’s the way reality really is—that’s Truth. And their goal, which tradition (and Scripture itself in the Gospels) has passed down to us as being the plain simple intent of Scripture, was to encourage people to love one another. If we’ve any concept that we label “divinity”, what other might it be than that?

          • Mel

            Thanks Jeanine. I’m glad that you understand why I’m here. I really do learn a lot from your posts. The way that you communicate what I’m always *trying* to say is so well done. And sometimes you say things that I’ve never even thought of before, and it is really encouraging.

            @Mindy- I have a question. You say that you believe Jesus lived, and that He was a prophet. I never really understood that point of view because the way I see it, He was either a liar, or the true Son of God. What kind of great prophet would claim to be the Son of God, when really he wasn’t? Could you explain your POV on that please?

          • Susan

            @ Mel,

            You can’t bring out the overly used: Either Jesus was crazy, a liar or who He claimed to be- the Son of God.

            For that argument to work, it must be used on someone who believes the Bible is accurate.

            The fact is, UNLESS someone believes the Bible, many conclusions can be drawn as to who Jesus was/is…

          • Argy-bargy

            @Mel:

            Do I think the Bible is correct? Do you mean all of it? No, definitely not. Some of it? Possibly…parts are inspired, no doubt about that, but is it the word of God? I’m not sure. Were the words attributed to to Jesus actually what Jesus said? I’m not sure, but I have my doubts that they all are true.

            Although I don’t particuarly believe this, it’s even possible that Jesus was a prophet, was crazy, but still was inspired to speak words God wanted him to speak. I’m just pointing that out logically. (Many prophets over the years have at least been called crazy in their time. Sometimes afterwards. Didn’t take away from the truth of their words.)

            Taking the Bible as proof that what it says is true is circular reasoning, and I don’t think God intended that for us. And I will not do that. He wants us to have faith in Him, not a book. Again, if you take on faith that the Bible is fact, then you have to accept what it says, no matter how vague, contradictory, and horrifying parts of it are. Frankly, that horrifies me. It’s practically bibliolatry.

            If you don’t take it on faith that the Bible is fact, or don’t believe it as fact, then pointing to words that Jesus said doesn’t prove anything.

            The truth, I suspect, is somewhere in between. Where, I couldn’t tell you with any degree of confidence at this point. It’s something I am still working on for myself.

        • Kara

          Bullshit. Sex-positive radical lesbian feminist here, calling bullshit.

          People being coerced to not have sex is bad. People denying their sexuality because they think they “should” is bad. People choosing not to have sex because they don’t want to is not bad.

          • https://questionablemotives.wordpress.com tildeb

            Thank you Kara. In my bumbling way that was what I was trying to say.

          • DR

            (Message received. Thanks for clarifying).

          • http://www.facebook.com/unholyblackdeath William Ely

            Intimacy is indeed a need (simple psychology, look it up) If one does not fulfill that need, there will be consequences. I'm not saying it is not the choice of the individual (obviously)

            If someone has no sex drive, then there is most likely larger problems at play.

          • DR

            Well said.

  • http://skerrib.blogspot.com skerrib

    Hmmmm…this is a tricky one. All through history we see all sorts of varied rules about what is and isn't appropriate with regard to sex, but I think when it comes down to it, God intends sex to be within the context of marriage. Really difficult to stick to, especially in our culture where we marry relatively old. In the ancient Jewish weddings it was the act of sex that made you married, hence "consummating" the relationship. I think we've sort of dumbed-down sex by reducing it to "just" an act…but I think at its best it is a level of vulnerability too great to share outside of the safety of marriage. I know lots of people will disagree with me and that's cool. But I do think it's a huge gift to our spouses, to save the most intimate part of ourselves for them alone.

    For those who choose to go ahead and have sex, I'm all for birth control and protection and all that, and I know that a whole lot of people go on their merry way with no trouble, but the potential consequences are pretty intense. I write this while nursing a sick baby and I am very thankful to have had the opportunity to plan for said baby and have him within a (fairly) healthy family relationship. I would go on, but my sickie is particularly needy today, so…

  • Robert Meek

    Lastly, but not least, as someone who lives with, amongst many other things HIV, every day of my life, why hasn't anyone pointed out STDs?

    Oh, wait, someone did say "safer sex" – know why it's now "safer" and not "safe"? Because it's not. Less likely to be exposed, yes, but things happen.

    Oh, and the it's "a level of vulnerability too great to share outside of the safety of marriage" comment is for the birds!

    My primary doctor and I were discussing this – many a woman has presumed she was "safe" in her marriage just because she had a marriage certificate, and many a woman has found her husband has brought it home to her, including HIV.

    Know what he said? "Lord, don't I know it! I have several patients just like that, right now!"

    So, go on, be blind, say that there is a "safety of marriage" factor.

    Tell that to all the women living with HIV/AIDS because their married spouses cheated on them behind their backs.

    http://www.avert.org/women-hiv-aids.htm

    • http://skerrib.blogspot.com skerrib

      I was talking about emotional safety. Commitment and whatnot.

      • http://none Don Rappe

        I knew you were and I think you make a good point.

    • Ace

      This is probably one of the MAJOR reasons I don't ever want to marry – the thought of putting that much love and trust in someone and have him go behind my back and not only betray me by cheating but also giving me an incurable, ultimately fatal illness… well you would probably find me in jail arrested for murder the next day.

      It's frightening how selfish AND careless some people can be with the life of their spouse.

      • http://www.johnshore.wordpress.com John Shore

        Of course, you could always not marry a cretin.

        • Ace

          It's really not so easy to tell the cretins from the non-cretins as you might like to believe.

          • Matthew Tweedell

            Sure it is. Look at the birth certificate. If it ain't written in Greek, you're in the clear. Of course, if it *is* Greek, that still doesn't mean they're necessarily from Crete. They could be lesbian. (There's another test for ruling out that one, but I won't bore with the details.)

          • https://questionablemotives.wordpress.com tildeb

            What's in a name? Remember, even Lesbia was the great love of the poet Catullus, not to mention that the heart and soul of Greek music and poetry comes from the Isle of Lesbos… I'm thinking specifically of Sapho and her crowd. So even the birth certificate in Greek may not be enough.

          • DR

            I've got a sure fire way of sussing out the cretins! I'm going to start asking all potential suitors if they'd be willing to sign a pre-nup. And I've also identified white men who wear hats other than baseball hats to be cretins. And tie dye. Or drive vans and are afraid of the water.

          • Susan

            A fondness for clowns is rather creepy, too. *involuntary shutter*

          • DR

            or muscle cars. :yawn:

            And the first time I really *do* it, do it? I need a good name. I can't imagine screaming out a name I don't like: "Melvin! MELVIN!" "DWAYNE!"

            Given my luck, there are a number of Melvins and Dwaynes reading this. Sorry. But chances are you've had more action than I have, so suck it. (that's not a euphemism for anything)

        • Argy-bargy

          Yes, there's always that….

      • https://questionablemotives.wordpress.com tildeb

        Ironically, Ace, one achieves the greatest freedom only in such a dedicated relationship. And the risks are part and parcel of the whole package that comes with no guarantees whatsoever. But hey… if you can't afford to lose then you can't afford to play, but you'll never, ever have a chance to win.

        • Ace

          You're assuming a whole lot of things in that statement, and you sound rather condescending and smug, to be blunt.

          Marriage is not ideal for everybody, for a whole lot of reasons.

          • Matthew Tweedell

            No, you're right, it's not.

            But Tildeb is also right, and profoundly so.

          • https://questionablemotives.wordpress.com tildeb

            Sorry, Ace; I didn't mean to be condescending or smug.

            I often hear people talk about the constraints of marriage because on the surface it looks to be so limited (Just one person? For life? That's it? – hence the rate of adultery and the deep sense of betrayal that goes with it). But at its best I think a good marriage is very liberating if not the ultimate liberation to be completely one's self even in the most intimate of ways.

            And the gambling reference I meant to be a justification for those who have suffered too much to try to dive back into another risky undertaking, with the caveat that if all we want out of relationships is to be safe, then that's all we'll ever get: safety rather than the kind of loving relationship that comes through the best kind of marriage.

            I meant nothing personal nor smug. I just tried to use a lot less words than usual! Sorry if I hit a nerve.

          • Ace

            Well I will accept your apology, though I do rather get fed up with people who are in relationships or married constantly harping on singles that they "need" to "find someone special" and that they must somehow be broken or messed up if they're not inclined to be attached at the hip to someone else 24/7.

            It gets old.

            Being married is fine. NOT being married is also fine, thanks.

          • http://www.facebook.com/unholyblackdeath William Ely

            Thank you for saying that! I too and sick of hearing about how I am somehow missing something because I refuse the notion of monogamy. So annoying!

          • Ace

            Seriously! Especially various family members.

            Also, the "When are you going to settle down with some nice man and have children? Don't you LIKE children?!?!" thing.

            Sure, I like children. OTHER PEOPLE'S children are great. *kof*

          • Diana A.

            Marriage, like so many other things, is a lot easier to get into than it is to get out of.

            And the pressure that is put on people–especially women–to marry somebody, anybody, just to prove that you can? Ick.

            When it comes to marriage (or sex, for that matter), I'm a big fan of "When in doubt, just say no."

          • http://www.facebook.com/unholyblackdeath William Ely

            I specifically avoid marriage because I am tired of it being hyped up so much and pushed on young people. I don't think marriage fits the modern lifestyle much. People need to be more flexible and how can you do that with a ball and chain to worry about?

            This is just my opinion, not claiming it applies to anyone else.

          • Matthew Tweedell

            Ball and chain? Dude, life is a ball and chain. A healthy, fun, supportive relationship makes dragging it around a hellava lot more bearable, IMO.

        • DR

          What a beautiful way of describing monogamy and the risk one takes in getting there. Very cool.

  • Freda

    GREAT post as always. I almost missed it because I was AWOL this weekend, and I'm so glad I saw it. I would LOVE to be one of those "perfect" Christians who married at age 17 and have been together ever since, never had sex before marriage, yada yada yada.

    I've been saved since I was 5, and yes, I really mean it. But I hit an agnostic point of my life for many years, and I've also lived with a guy (which I was told at the time was indicative of the fact that I wasn't a "real" B.A. Christian). Apparently if it's "repeat" sin, then you can't be a real Christian.

    Of course NO one tackles the "fat" sin: The sin of gluttony is a repeat sin which you can see sitting in the pews everywhere on a Sunday!!!

    • Freda

      …all that being said, I love the comment posted by Skerrib. I agree with him 100%.

    • Matthew Tweedell

      I agree, and it seems to me that the sin of gluttony is having a much worse impact health-wise on our society (by which I mean the US as a whole) than premarital sex.

  • AboundingJoy

    Sex before marriage complicates sex during marriage. Each person that you sleep with becomes a companion in your bed with each subsequent partner. Society glorifies sex as yet another way to indulge in the lusts of the flesh. The fact that 95% of all newly married folk aren't virgins is another indicator that we live in a world where lustful acts are considered moral. After all, don't we have the right to pursue happiness and all that? Each step towards independent pursuit of happiness is one giant leap away from God. We weren't created to be independent, but to be in relationship with God.

    Now, will you go to hell for having sex before you get married? Probably not. Will you experience sexual intimacy inside your marriage the way that God intended? Absolutely not.

    If abstinence feels like a burden, it's likely because you are trying to do it in your own power. As part of the collective 95% that didn't wait, let me tell you that I wish I had. I am encouraged by your perseverance thus far and believe that if you remain true, then God will bless you richly for it.

    • Mindy

      Your experience is such that you wish you'd waited. Fair enough. But to say that a person will not experience sexual intimacy inside their marriage "the way God intended" (what does that mean, exactly?), because s/he had sex before marriage is just silly.

      It's possible, of course. It's possible that your past history will stand in the way – depending on what the history was and how you've processed it since. Depends on your age. Depends on your personality and that of your spouse. Does your spouse tend to get petty and jealous and bring up past history? Well, yeah, then it might get in the way. If your spouse is grown-up and doesn't give in to his insecurities that way, then you'll likely be just fine. If you have a tendency not to accept your spouse for exactly who he is and compare him to past lovers, well, that's a problem you need to deal with. But it doesn't necessarily spell doom.

      Don't paint with such a broad brush. Some people have sex before marriage, learn a lot, teach each other in the marriage and build a very successful intimacy together. Just because you didn't doesn't mean others can't.

    • Matthew Tweedell

      Not to condone sexual immorality, but I'm absolutely confident that having sex prior to filling the legal paperwork and/or a minister’s saying the magic words need not lead to sexual intimacy in marriage any different from waiting until after. (God's law is not based on technicalities.)

      • Jeanine

        @ Matthew (God’s law is not based on technicalities.)

        I see something different in the scriptures; I see God being extremely concerned about the technicalities. He is a very detail oriented God. His instructions to Noah for building the ark, his instructions for the building of the temple and the procedure for offering of sacrifice, the construction of the ark of the covenant, how it should be transported, how to gather manna, how to observe the Passover, how to fasion the priests tunics, etc. The Old Testament is loaded with technicalities – the list is endless.

        There was also swift punishment for ignoring the technicalities. Aaron's two sons were struck dead for not sticking to the technicalities.

        Lev 10:1 Aaron's sons Nadab and Abihu took their censers, put fire in them and added incense; and they offered unauthorized fire before the LORD, contrary to his command. 2 So fire came out from the presence of the LORD and consumed them, and they died before the LORD.

        Moses could not enter the promised land because of a technicality; he struck the rock instead of speaking to the rock.

        Numbers 20:7 Then the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, 8 "Take the rod; you and your brother Aaron gather the congregation together. Speak to the rock before their eyes, and it will yield its water; thus you shall bring water for them out of the rock, and give drink to the congregation and their animals." 9 So Moses took the rod from before the Lord as He commanded him. 10 And Moses and Aaron gathered the assembly together before the rock; and he said to them, "Hear now, you rebels! Must we bring water for you out of this rock?" 11 Then Moses lifted his hand and struck the rock twice with his rod; and water came out abundantly, and the congregation and their animals drank. 12 Then the Lord spoke to Moses and Aaron, "Because you did not believe Me, to hallow Me in the eyes of the children of Israel, therefore you shall not bring this assembly into the land which I have given them."

        In Chronicles 13, Uzza was struck dead because he reached out a hand to stabilize the ark of the covenant while it was being carried, because God had commanded that only the Levites could touch the ark.

        I think that seeking God in the very minutest details of our life honors Him. Our desire to wait until we have a signed marriage certificate is not some legalistic bondage; it is our chance to show God that our heart is depending on Him for everything – from the promise of our salvation down to the smallest detail of how we choose to live our life.

        I think that the greater commitment we have to seek God's heart for the details of how we should be walking through our life; the greater opportunity we have for coming to know Him intimately.

        Are you going to hell because you are a Christian and you lost your virginity before marriage? No, I don't think so. But like Moses, you may have lost your opportunity to enter into the Promised Land while you are still on this earth.

        I have ignored God's will many, many times and sought my own will; but if I could go back and change any one decision I have made, it would be the decision I made not to wait. I am thankful that I wasn't struck dead, but sorrowful that I lost out on His blessing.

        • Matthew Tweedell

          Oops… ignore everything before "As for all those detailed instructions…"

        • Matthew Tweedell

          I know of no reason to conclude that Hawking thinks no god is necessary. He says that the universe didn’t need a creator god, but why would the universe need anything? Needs, like values and meanings, are not inherent in material nature but imbued by the action of mind. It seems to me that Hawking has always been careful to respect his limitations in acting in his capacity as a scientist.

          Now, if we really want to consider my assertion, it had nothing to do with “intelligent origins”—I can’t really relate any meaning to such a term. Yet if we instead want to consider “intelligent origins”, then this can only be related to my assertion if understood as origins such that there is intelligence—the sort of origins that the presence of an intelligence implies—ours, specifically, being what I am interested in—whatever that all means.

          Let’s try it this way:

          In the Wall Street Journal article you linked to, Hawking and Mlodinow write: “Spontaneous creation is the reason there is something rather than nothing, why the universe exists, why we exist.”

          Given there is nothing, ergo we are.

          I think, therefore I am (such as thinks such as I do), therefore the world is (such as I am in it).

          “There was neither non-existence nor existence then”—neither was there anything, nor nothing—but that there would be we; worded beings, “the poets seeking in their heart with wisdom found the bond of existence and non-existence”. At the beginning, was the word (thanks to our common father, with whom that one was in the beginning).

          As for all those detailed instructions, how accurate did people have to get it? Within an eighth inch? A sixteenth? A 32nd? Nobody could get all of it consistently so accurate, even if they had the advantage of modern equipment. So does the Bible lie when it describes what was built and done with the same sort of precise terms as God’s instructions come in? Of course not, and neither did God really demand such freaking precision—not by a long shot; you’re just interpreting it as if he did. And otherwise, they were all doomed—we are all doomed: “the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.” (2 Cor. 3:6) Indeed the letters there but describe how the Spirit shall do it, how God will build it. “Unless the LORD builds the house, its builders labor in vain.” (Psalm 127:1)

          In the passage you cite from Leviticus, where the NIV has the word “unauthorized” in reference to their fire, a literal translation is “strange”, and it’s not “contrary to his commands”, but “which He had not commanded”. The traditional interpretation was that they were rather doing even more than was necessary, and their consequence — positive: that they “died before the LORD” was a beautiful way for them to go. Hellfire is the very Love of God as experienced by the wicked, but the righteous have a different state of experiencing it. The next verse after the ones that you quote: “Moses then said to Aaron, ‘This is what the Lord spoke of when he said: “Among those who approach me I will show myself holy; in the sight of all the people I will be honored.”‘” So this was not a judicial punishment; those who get so close to the Lord are used to make His power known. The Lord could best use Moses through his life and could best use Aaron’s eldest sons through their death. It is of the flesh to conclude death is bad, and therefore punitive. (Is that what acts of God like the earthquake in Haiti are too?) There is a midrash relating these events as an example of the first instance in Eccl. 7:15: “In this meaningless life of mine I have seen both of these: a righteous man perishing in his righteousness, and a wicked man living long in his wickedness.” Some have it that it was there act which actually brought down the heavenly fire (in contrast with that strange, or foreign, fire that could bring beforehand); yet they were consumed in the process: the Haggadah has it that they died in an attempt to put of corporeality. Your interpretation seems to go against those of such men as Philo and St. Jerome.

          Also, I don’t understand where you get the conclusion that Moses didn’t speak to the rock and that that’s why he was punished that way. And how was Aaron also guilty in this? It was Aaron did the talking before the people while it was Moses undertook performing the ritual. Yet both failed to honor the LORD before the children of Israel as they neglected to indicated that this was the LORD’s doing: Aaron said “we” and Moses physically struck the rock, twice (with the rod that God indeed intended to be part of the ritual, but without indicating in any way that it wasn’t just he busting the rock open). Moreover, God was speaking about the whole generation, who, before their children, quarreled over the matter (hence the naming of that place “Meribah”), rebelled (as noted in your quote, v. 10), rather than believing fully the Lord and setting a good example in following Him. Deuteronomy 1:34-37 makes this clear, where Moses says, “When the LORD heard what you said, he was angry and solemnly swore: ‘Not a man of this evil generation shall see the good land I swore to give your forefathers, except Caleb son of Jephunneh. He will see it, and I will give him and his descendants the land he set his feet on, because he followed the LORD wholeheartedly.’ Because of you the LORD became angry with me also and said, ‘You shall not enter it, either.’” This was since Moses had failed to inspire them to believe, letting credit for that which God had done fall on him and Aaron. It was a matter of the spirit of the people of Israel, not a ritual technicality.

          And that Uzza was struck down, that there was an outbreak of violence against him, speaks more to the legalistic barbarity of the tribes Israel—which had King David even concerned about the safety of maintaining the ark at the capital—than it does to the ways of the Lord.

          You’re right: I’m not going to hell because I lost my virginity before marriage, because I didn’t—not to say that really mattera though. Here’s what matters: Do you really know the Spirit? Or are you perhaps vainly chasing after letters in hollow words and deeds?

          • Jeanine

            I don't know what you are talking about. Most of what you wrote here doesn't even pertain to what I said.

          • Matthew Tweedell

            Umm… see comment below. (My bad.)

    • http://fvthinker.blogspot.com Mike Burns

      another indicator that we live in a world where lustful acts are considered moral.

      You are improperly conflating sex with morality. Sex is an inevitable natural act and it is a-moral. Morality has to do with how one conducts ones self, how one treats their parter, what risks they exposing their partner to, etc.. Sex is neither moral or immoral.

      • Mindy

        Thanks for making this point, Mike – very important.

  • Kelly

    While it has been touched upon in several of the previous posts, I believe the whole question of whether pre-marital sex is a sin comes down to what is really meant by the word fornication (which is clearly defined as a sin). In all the research I've done, the meaning of fornication is based on the original word "porneia". If my research is correct, the word porneia meant "prostituting one's self or consorting with prostitutes" – and nothing else.

    I became seriously involved in the subject because my girl friend (now my wife!!) was certain that fornication meant any sex outside of marriage and, indeed, that is the definition today but I don't believe it always was. And, btw, we're not in our 20's (north of 50) but as passionate as teenagers – but I digress.

    In one of his letters to the Corinthians (I don't recall the verse) Paul listed a littany of sexual deviation that was considered a sin. If fornication meant "sex outside of marriage" all he would have needed to say was fornication is a sin. Instead, he listed many things (all of which were outside of marriage) along with fornication and never said a word about prostitution which leads me right back to my belief that fornication = prostitution in biblical language.

    Further, Paul also said somewhere (forgive the Texas translation) that "if you're gonna have sex anyway ya might as well get hitched". Nothing else. To me that implies if you're in a commited relationship and having sex you, well, might as well get hitched – not that having sex outside of marriage is wrong.

    • Tim

      One should take into consideration, that in context with the culture at the time the word "porneia" was used, men and women were betrothed by their parents from birth and were wed out of familial obligation (usually before the girl was even through puberty). The man (never the woman, of course) was sometimes not sexually attracted to his betrothed (maybe because she was 11), and to satisfy his needs, would solicit the services of a prostitute. While there were male prostitutes, I'm not sure if they were for women, or for men. It's believed that pederasty was a commonplace practice for heterosexual Greek men (can't speak for Hebrew men) prior to and during marriage….ick! But overall, there were two modes of sexuality. Making babies within the aristocracy, or going to a prostitute for what was lacking in the marital bed. I suppose that is where the notion of fornication being sex outside of marriage came from. Prostitutes were seemingly the only game in town. No woman of good repute would be allowed to consort with a man prior to marriage.

  • Mindy

    Oh, and I was sincerely asking what you mean by intimacy "the way God intended." How does God define a successful marriage from the intimacy standpoint?

  • http://chrisandevie.com Jonesy

    Thanks for the sexy post. This has really helped me understand this quite a bit better:

    http://dl.dropbox.com/u/538337/Sexual_Detox_-_A_G

    don't let the subtitle fool you – "- guide for the married guy" is not 100% honest. Some really eye opening truth in what this guy says about humans and sexuality. I think the real problem is the marriageability clause in volume 69 of the western sociocultural book of law. Since when do you have to wait to get married til you are 26-35? Wasn't the mother of G-d like, 13 or something? is something so effed up with THAT? my great grandparents had tons of sex when they were 16 and 17 (after they got married). they were happily married for 60-ish years, and had 4 kiddies by the time they were 26-35.

  • http://www.barnmaven.com Barnmaven

    In my heathen, progressive episcopalian opinion, sex in and of itself is not a sin. I think its meant by God to be a way for two people who love one another to create more intimacy and more love and to experience a deeper bond emotionally and physically.

    Where sin might come in is if it is not mutually consensual, or if any aspect is harmful to either person. I'd rather see someone take care of their physical needs via masturbation than to expose themselves to the emptiness and possible dangers of one-night stands with people they don't truly know or care about and who dont' know or care about them.

    I've been single for more than a year now. It's been more than twice as long as that since I've had sex with anyone. I miss it, very much. But I've noticed that those feelings have diminished over time, simply because there isn't anyone I'm in love with or want to be with in that way. Its a blessing from God, really, because I'd hate to be walking around all the time feeling like I can't live another MINUTE without it. That's when I'd be more likely to make bad choices that end up hurting me, and I know that's not what God wants for my life.

    For the young person who is struggling with the overpowering urges of youthful sexuality, I would first ask if there is someone with whom they are in love and wanting to be intimate with. If that is the case, they should approach things prayerfully and carefully. If there is mutual attraction AND caring, I don't think its necessarily wrong. But if there is no other person that they are in love with, seeking sex with another person just for the sake of having sex can be a very lonely experience, it doesn't do anything to teach a young person about just how spiritual and intimate a sexual relationship can be. I'd rather see someone deal with their needs alone rather than risk spiritual, physical or emotional harm by being involved with the wrong person.

    • A'isha

      Beautiful answer!

  • Kara

    Felt like the ol’ blog was getting too quiet, John? *grin*

    I’m starting to sound like a broken record, but here’s what I would tell your letter-writer:

    Love God with everything you are. Love other people like you love yourself. Practice justice. Love mercy. Walk humbly with God.

    Don’t ever do anything in your sexual life (or any other part) that hurts or takes advantage of or abuses another person. Don’t be reckless or selfish. Be unfailingly considerate of anyone you have sex with, and be aware of how things might affect them. Practice safer sex.

    That done, I think you can go right ahead. Some people might feel led to wait until marriage. It doesn’t sound like you do. So treat it like anything else in life. Be caring and compassionate and Jesus-like in how you interact with people in all areas, and act in accordance with your convictions.

  • http://fvthinker.blogspot.com Mike Burns

    I would tell him that sex is not immoral. Tell him masturbation is not immoral. Tell him irresponsible sex is immoral. Studies have shown that sexual activity is affected almost not at all by abstinence efforts. Moreover; teaching ONLY abstinence for sex ‘education’ is immoral. By evolutionary design we [particularly males] seek sex. The mail brain goes very reptilian when … er… blood flow is diverted south. Good intentions mean little when one has a woody.

    I talked with my son from a pretty early age ( grade school) about sex. I certainly suggested that the best means of avoiding unwanted pregnancy and STDs was to not have sex. I told him about masturbation. But if he fails to remain abstinent…and virtually everybody fails at remaining abstinent…then be sure to use contraception. Of course this assumes everything is consensual.

    Of course there is a segment of readers here will get all freaky-deaky about the biblical entreaty against ‘spilling seed’. This seems pretty focused on making sure that we don’t waste any opportunity to breed more little Christians to make sure we maintain/achieve majority status. That is just primitive bulls**t. (All religious memes speak against this because it accelerates their propagation)

    Just so everyone knows…every healthy pubescent male who can reach his crotch masturbates, and it is not unique to humans either. (I don’t know about females. Anyone care to speak to that side of the gender fence?) So let us all just get over that, shall we. Especially in this climate of disease and overpopulation; it is far better to relieve some of that tension in the shower than to have that stress manifest itself in a more unhealthy way.

    • Tim

      The only thing I get freaky-deaky about, is the spiritual aspects of sex that so many Christians either ignore or haven't considered. When teen A and teen B connect tab A into slot B, they are doing more than just the wild thing or the horizontal mambo. They have, in a sense, become one flesh in a very real and psychological way. If contraception fails, they have become one flesh in a very real and physiological way. Adults, let alone kids, more often don't count the cost of the future psychological impact that their choices manifest. Consent is only a small spoonful of the meal that adults have to digest over time…possibly life. I believe teens are psychologically ill-equipped to effectively deal with the emotional baggage…no matter how mature or advanced they think they are.

      • http://www.barnmaven.com Barnmaven

        I agree, Tim. I will counsel my kids to wait until they are well into adulthood to have sex, but I will also be prepared to provide them with what they need to prevent STD and pregnancy should they make the choice to not listen to me.

        I wish I had waited longer to have sex, waited until I understood my own body and how to talk about what felt good and what didn't feel good, waited until I had someone who cared about me more than they cared about the sex. Wished I had waited for the right guy.

        • Tim

          Just make sure they know that there are no foolproof methods to prevent STDs and pregnancy. Current precautions only reduce risk they don't eliminate risk.

          • Jeanine

            30% of all women who have an abortion were using some form of birth control at the time of conception.

      • http://fvthinker.blogspot.com Mike Burns

        I agree 100%. I didn’t go into it with my first comment, but it is why I still promote abstinence first for my son. Despite what a teen may think about their maturity and emotional capacity, few (none?) would be prepared for the massive emotional payload that comes with such activity. I speak only from the pragmatic angle that, when prudence fails, make sure that nobody is hurt or that permanently altered.

        My mantra to my son: “If you bring another life into this world, then your life as you expected it is over. Your wants and needs are secondary until that child is independent.”

        • Tim

          Ok, Mr. Burns. Ignore my nasty demeanor downstream. You are obviously far more thoughtful than I previously judged. Forgive my prejudice.

          • http://fvthinker.blogspot.com Mike Burns

            Very gracious. Thank you.

        • http://fvthinker.blogspot.com Mike Burns

          errata: should have read “or that no one’s life is permanently altered.”

    • Kara

      Girls do, but there’s a cultural myth that “girls don’t” that ends up being a self-fulfilling prophecy for some people. There’s a whole culture of stigma and shame around female sexuality that complicates the question.

      So although it’s probably not as universal because of certain cultural narratives, girls definitely do too.

      • http://fvthinker.blogspot.com Mike Burns

        …there is that whole horseback riding thing that seem popular with girls!! :-)

        • http://www.barnmaven.com Barnmaven

          Mike, I've ridden horses my entire life and never once has there been a sexual element to the experience.

          In fact, to be quite blunt, one of the most important things about dressing for a trail ride is to make sure there are no seams placed in delicate parts…nothing about chafing feels good right there. NOTHING.

          All those myths about girls and horseback riding? Are myths. Sorry to burst your bubble! :)

          • Ace

            Yea, I've only been horseback riding a few times but I don't recall anything especially pleasurable about it, other than the general niceness of being outdoors and yayponies.

            I think that's just an urban myth.

          • http://fvthinker.blogspot.com Mike Burns

            Thanks. More mythology debunked!! :-)

          • http://pearloftheprairie.blogspot.com Pearloftheprairie

            You know what else never happens? Girls in Victoria's Secret undies having a pillow fight during a sleepover. Contrary to what my husband wants to believe.

          • http://fvthinker.blogspot.com Mike Burns

            Now THAT'S a disappointment!! At least all those Penthouse Forum letters are true!! …..right? :-)

      • http://fvthinker.blogspot.com Mike Burns

        Isn’t that “cultural stigma” religious in origin?

    • Mel

      Masturbation is wrong. I am a girl, I don't do it. Just to answer you question.

      • http://fvthinker.blogspot.com Mike Burns

        For it to be wrong, there has to be a victim. Who is the victim when one masturbates in private?

        • Mel

          There does not have to be a victim for something to be wrong. Our thoughts can be wrong…there is no victim when it remains in ONLY our thoughts, but they can still be wrong.

          • http://fvthinker.blogspot.com Mike Burns

            Thought crimes are the trademark of regimes like Lenin and Hussein.

          • Mel

            I don't know who they are. Maybe I should, and I'm just sounding really ignorant, but I can't really argue with whatever you were trying to prove with that comment, because I don't know what it was that you were trying to prove.

          • berkshire

            Perhaps you could use your computer to look up what he's talking about, and broaden your knowledge base and, hence, your world-view. You obviously have a computer, so clarity on this point is probably just a few clicks away.

            And while at it, try finding some books like Ehrman's "Misquoting Jesus" and Pagels "The Gnostic Gospels". They present very interesting scholarship on how the Bible as we know it came into being and the many influences upon it (besides God/Jesus). It may deepen your appreciation and understanding of the book that apparently guides your life to a great degree.

          • Tim

            Lenin, Hussein, and Jesus.

            "But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart." —Matthew 5:28

            Masturbation generally isn't a thoughtless or heartless endeavor. We (masturbators) fantasize, lust, and think of all kinds of lewd and lascivious things while treating our bodies like an amusement park.

          • http://www.facebook.com/unholyblackdeath William Ely

            Fantasy is both fun and healthy. A thought simply cannot be morally wrong. Actions can be wrong, thoughts cannot. Anyone who tries to convince you otherwise has an agenda to push and is trying to exert control over you. Total BS.

          • Mel

            We are talking about it from a Christian standpoint. If you don't believe in the Bible, then why are you commenting on something I said when I'm basing it on the Bible?

          • http://www.facebook.com/unholyblackdeath William Ely

            Sorry, I mean there is *no* valid way to support it.

          • Mel

            Of course you CAN comment on it. I just wonder why you do. You're not going to convince me that the Bible isn't the most solid evidence in the world, just like I'm not going to convince you that it is. The Bible is more than enough for me, so you calling it bull crap is only going to offend me. This conversation isn't going to go anywhere.

          • http://www.facebook.com/unholyblackdeath William Ely

            I am free to comment on any issue that strikes my fancy. What you said was utterly ridiculous. There is valid way to support it.

            Would you care to counter with something more solid than the Bible?

      • Susan

        You are saying that masturbation is wrong for you, right? I mean, you are not saying that on behalf of 1) the human race 2) females or me…or are you?

      • http://blueberrypancakesfordinner.wordpress.com blueberrypancakesfor

        no, dear heart, it is not.

      • Mel

        At this point, sure, I mean for me it is wrong. It is definitely wrong for me because my conscience tells me it's wrong, and the Bible says that whether or not something is TRULY wrong isn't always what matters….if your conscience tells you something is wrong, then it is without question wrong for you. As for whether it is wrong in general….I don't know. I believe that it is, but I'm not educated enough on the topic to be able to have a good conversation about it….I haven't looked for verses regarding such because I already know it's wrong for me, therefore I haven't felt the need to look up verses. So for now, before I have thoroughly educated myself on the topic, yes I was saying it was wrong FOR ME. I just wanted to put in my two cents because Mike Burns asked about girls, and I'm a girl so I put in my view of it.

        • Matthew Tweedell

          That is a mature and indeed very wise position to take.

        • Ace

          "….I haven’t looked for verses regarding such"

          Probably because there aren't any. Some interpret the story of Onan as against "spilling seed on the ground" (and thus against male masturbation) rather than against disobeying God's direct order, but there's nothing in the Bible regarding women masturbating, it's simply not addressed at all.

          • Ace

            (That said, if you aren't comfortable with it or feel guilty over it, then you're right – it probably ISN'T right for you. Only you can make you make that choice)

      • Mel

        I will say however, that the *way* somebody masturbates could definitely be wrong. I don't know how else can really be done and I guess that's why I think it's wrong. But if somebody is using a magazine for instance, or even an image that is their heads to masturbate, that's wrong without a doubt. Matthew 5:28 says, "But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart." Therefore the use of images, in the mind or physically there, to masturbate is without question wrong according to the Bible.

        • Matthew Tweedell

          Looking at a woman lustfully is not the same as imagining. It’s staring, which (if noticed) either embarrasses her or encourages her to promote herself as a sexual object—thus it harms her; it's disrespectful; and it's sinful. To be exact it is adultery: lust is a coveting of what isn’t ours (presently at least)—a possessing in the eye of what belongs to another in the world—which serves no purpose but to encourage us to try to take it anyway (again causing harm), and a sort of needless obsession with physical matter devoid of the love that gives the human spirit—an obsession that does harm to ourselves or, at the very least, diminishes the amount of benefit we could do.

          Anyhow, if no sexual outlet is available (or, rather, appropriate), jacking off occasionally is a great way for typical males at least actually to keep lust in check.

        • http://leap-of-fate.com Christy

          Mel, this presumes all people use images and not all do. And, my dear, there are endless ways….not just one.

          I'd love to write a book one day about all the things girls either unfortunately never learned from their mothers – particularly girls that grew up in religiously strict environments – and subsequently have had to navigate the world with misperceptions and no adequate information. From bikini waxes and personal hygiene to birth control and menstrual cycles to GYN exams and finding well fitting attractive underwear and demystifying the male and female body as well as debunking puritanical ideas about masturbation and sex in general – even married sex. And breast feeding, for God's sake, can we please de-sexualize that? It would be like the go-to big sister book for Fundamentalist girls. Human beings would be far less freaked out and fearful about life and each other if they at least started with proper information and confidence about their own bodies……rather than shamed into believing that what is normal about them is wrong.

          As a nurse, I can't tell you how many people have asked me if it's ok for virgin girls to use tampons. Seriously.

          Medically accurate, religiously sensitive yet insightful, unbiased information is sorely needed as evidenced by an acquaintance and his wife with children who recently divorced with the blessing of their minister because the husband was simply curious about and had requested oral sex from his wife and she found this revolting and perverted based on her assumptions about sex. Unfortunately, the minister agreed with the wife, rather than addressing the underlying and more pressing marital problem which was poor communication.

          Is chocolate cake bad? Is it a sin? Are we not indulging our natural cravings and pleasuring our taste buds? Because I have heard that some chocolate cake is better than sex.

          Masturbation is no different, as long as we are not coveting someone else's cake.

          • Scott Spencer-Wolff

            Christy – what a reasonable, intelligent, right-on post. Stop that! You'll get a reputation….:-)

          • berkshire

            Write that book.

        • Tim

          Bingo, Mel. There is your verse.

          TMI Disclaimer: CAUTION: THE FOLLOWING PERSONAL INFORMATION SHARED ONLY FOR THE PURPOSES OF HONEST HUMAN DISCOURSE.

          I guess I can't speak for other masturbators on this blog, but the way I had to control my sudden and embarrassing teen erections in public places, was to empty my head and heart of any sexual thought. I can't speak for women, but I don't know of any guys who wank it for no reason. For guys, it's a cardiorespiratory response to though, or a mental response to cardiorespiratory stimulus. But one without the other seems downright impossible… to be completely honest.

          I didn't understand it back when I was teen tent pants, but I was taking my thoughts captive. I didn't even know about Scripture, Jesus or the like. The principle was still a very real and valid one.

    • Scott Spencer-Wolff

      Great reply – couldn’t have put it any better. The long term psychological damage of the guilt organized religion lays on people over sex is well documented, and, completely unnecessary if people could elevate their conversations to this level.

      It would be nice if we structured sex in such a way that it was the natural and evolutionary progression of a relationship, but just because we don’t and we’ve made it a “forbidden fruit” it’s so MUCH more attractive. Just remind him to use protection…

      And, he’s 20 for goodness sake…old enough by a couple of years to end up in Iraq or Afghanistan. Please….

  • Mike

    Where does it say in the Bible to wait until you are married to have sex? I don’t think it actually does . . . . what it does say is “do no practice adultery,” which I interpret to mean “do not have sex with married people”. The Bible does say things like “your body is a temple, don’t use people, don’t take advantage of other people, be responsible, be careful, love people.”

    While all pre-marital sex isn’t always good, it’s not always bad. My father, a Christian, was pretty convinced that sex was an integral part of a good marriage, and that you better know what the heck you were getting into before marrying someone.

    • Robert Meek

      Go to http://www.biblegateway.com/ and look up "fornicate" http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fornication and you will have the answer to you question as to "where" does it say that in the Bible. It implies it by condemning fornication which is sex outside of marriage by a single unmarried consenting man & woman.

      Now, that said, FYI – I'm GAY.

      I'm merely answering a question about "where" – that's all. I'm not pushing it as "the thing to adhere to" at all.

    • Tim

      Jesus said that fornication was one of the sins that comes out of the human heart (Matt.18:19). Some translations say sexual immorality, King James says fornication…which is any sexual relations outside of marriage. It could be argued that pre-marital sex isn’t immoral if it kiss consensual. I say even with consent, we do ourselves unanticipated emotional and psychological harm. But hey…we’re adults.

      • Argy-bargy

        Actually, as I understand the issue, there is some dispute as to exactly what Jesus meant, and I think the passage you are looking for is in Matthew 19, actually:

        8Jesus replied, "Moses permitted you to divorce your wives because your hearts were hard. But it was not this way from the beginning. 9I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for marital unfaithfulness, and marries another woman commits adultery."

        10The disciples said to him, "If this is the situation between a husband and wife, it is better not to marry."

        11Jesus replied, "Not everyone can accept this word, but only those to whom it has been given. 12For some are eunuchs because they were born that way; others were made that way by men; and others have renounced marriage[c]because of the kingdom of heaven. The one who can accept this should accept it."

        The word used in the original Greek version (again, as I understand the issue, others who are more conversant with biblical exegesis please correct me if I have misstated any of this) is "porneia" which can be (and has been) translated in a number of ways, including fornication, unfaithfulness, adultery, and sexual immorality. The term has been used in terms of a Christian marrying a non-Christian, even in some texts.

        It's a little difficult to state unequivocally what Jesus said under these circumstances, in my opinion. Some things are pretty clear cut: I think a case could easily be made for adultery in this context. However, if one goes to the Leviticus laws of sexual purity, homosexuality is lumped in with incest and bestiality as a sexual perversion.

        From a biblical authority standpoint, I'm left confuzzled.

        • Tim

          No, actually, I meant Matthew 15:19. Because in my opinion, sexual immorality is a matter of the heart, which Jesus implies in this text as the source of unrighteousness. Jeremiah 17:9 states that the heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked. I have to realize my purview of deceit and desperation are seen differently. To the unbeliever, they sin with abandon. To the believer, we succumb to the accusations of God's adversary. No wonder why so many Christians cringe and live under so much guilt and condemnation. God doesn't want us to feel like caca. But He also doesn't want us to screw like bunnies.

          Understand that I believe the implications surrounding sex to be far deeper on a spiritual and emotional level as most people generally think. The truth is, even if our consensual partner says it's all good, we can't read their minds or spirits. If I can easily move on to another relationship and another sexual encounter, they might not. They might be stuck on me, but were too kindhearted to say. I have done something immoral. Even if it is a sin of omission.

          • Argy-bargy

            This is well put, I think, and gets to the answer given by Jesus to the Pharisees, that yes, there was a Mosaic legal mechanism, but it isn't what God intends for us. Similarly, in Matthew 5:28, Jesus gets to the heart of the matter: "But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart."

            It's the difference between the spirit of the matter and the letter of the matter. It is easy to point to the letter of what is or isn't allowed. Jesus deflates all of that by seeming to say, "Guess what, guys? You're not supposed to commit adultery, but you all have every time you've looked at a woman lustfully."

            With something so powerful as our sexual instinct–and I would go so far as to say sex is a basic human need–it is how we approach it in the spirit that probably means more than what legalism we live our life to.

            Maybe it's less about "Can't have!" than God wanting us to ask ourselves "Why do I want to have?"

          • https://questionablemotives.wordpress.com tildeb

            Time starts with a biblical quotation the the heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked. I have to realize my purview of deceit and desperation are seen differently. To the unbeliever, they sin with abandon. To the believer, we succumb to the accusations of God’s adversary

            Couple of things here:

            Is it any wonder so many young folk get so screwed up when they are told not to trust their own heart? Denying, disregarding, and minimizing how we feel is the root cause of all kinds of mental illnesses, obsessions, and addictions. This advice is not only atrociously misinformed but unhealthy, harmful, and downright dangerous. I would even go so far as to call it immoral.

            To the unbeliever, there is no such thing as 'sin'.

          • https://questionablemotives.wordpress.com tildeb

            Sorry, that should read as Tim of course.

          • http://fvthinker.blogspot.com Mike Burns

            Careful there Tildeb, a lot of people will think saying "there is no such thing as sin" as saying there is no such thing as morality.

          • http://fvthinker.blogspot.com Mike Burns

            Careful there Tildeb, a lot of people will think saying “there is no such thing as sin” is the same thing as saying there is no such thing as morality. (Sheesh I should proof read!)

          • https://questionablemotives.wordpress.com tildeb

            Hey, MB, I like to live on the edge!

            As for sin and morality, human constructs, both.

          • Tim

            I'm not saying no one should trust their heart. Some things out of the heart are true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent and worthy of praise (Philippians 4:8). BUT… it is also deceitful and beyond cure. I never meant to imply that ONLY bad comes out of the heart. But a person must "guard their heart, above all else, for it is the wellspring of life." (Proverbs 4:23)

            If the unbeliever has ever taken archery, they should know that "sin" means only to miss the mark. Perfection is the mark or bullseye that God demands. If the unbeliever says there is no such thing as sin, then they are basically saying there is no such thing as imperfection. It would be more accurate to say that while the unbeliever may believe in the notion or concept of sin, they don't believe there is any eternal consequence or penalty attached to it.

          • http://fvthinker.blogspot.com Mike Burns

            To this non-believer, 'sin' is the willful hurtful act as judged by the theoretical supernatural deity. No deity…no sin. Of course the holy books (IMHO) have gobs of hurtful acts that the purported god it toooootally OK with. Ironic.

          • Tim

            Would you say that if there is no God, there is no such thing as right or wrong? Perfection or imperfection? Both require a standard and a system of reward and punishment…in this life, at least, if not the next.

          • http://fvthinker.blogspot.com Mike Burns

            @Tim

            Would you say that if there is no God, there is no such thing as right or wrong?

            Of course not. At one level, this is just semantics. The term 'sin' seems strictly religious and would be defined as a wrong as defined/judged by whatever deity one subscribes to. Hence, since I find no evidence for a deity nor subscribe to any deistic/theistic belief system, I posit that I don't know 'sin'. This, in no way, suggests a non-believer does not know right and wrong.

            What too many erroneously assume is that there is no right and wrong without a deity to tell them what it is. I don't know if I have the energy to expound further in this venue. Suffice it to say that ethical frameworks exist outside of supernatural beliefs. The error is thinking that God is the framework for morality. The reality is that morality exists independently and humanity paints it with religion to try to explain it.

          • http://www.facebook.com/unholyblackdeath William Ely

            Well said, Mike. Morality comes from society, not from religion. It's a good thing too!

          • https://questionablemotives.wordpress.com tildeb

            Just a quibble, WE, but I think the case is much stronger that morality comes primarily from our biology.

            @MB, very nicely put is so few words.

          • Matthew Tweedell

            "If the unbeliever has ever taken archery, they should know that 'sin' means only to miss the mark."

            Sorry, Tim, but no, they really shouldn't, and it doesn't.

          • Jeanine

            What is it then Matthew?

          • Tim

            The Greek "hamartia" (sin) is/was used to also denote a mistake, accident, falling short, or missing the mark. I was mistaken (hamrtia) that the english word "sin" had such etymology. I was going off the Greek translation for sin. So yes, I was technically wrong. But that's what my archery teacher told me when I was an unbeliever.

          • Matthew Tweedell

            @Jeanine

            I'm sure you know what sin is.

            From it's etymological origin, the word denotes a fault in violation of the ultimate moral law that one recognizes.

            As it's defined biblically, one could write chapters on it.

            Perhaps we could sum it up thusly: "Anyone, then, who knows the good he ought to do and doesn't do it, sins." (James 4:17)

            @Tim

            That sense of the word was already archaic by the time of the NT, as I recall.

          • Tim

            @MT

            Strong's #266

          • Matthew Tweedell

            @Tim

            I found no mention of archery or arrows in the entries for this word in Thayer's Lexicon, Vine's Expository Dictionary, and Trench's Synonyms (all courtesy of blueletterbible.org). And even the more general (i.e. non-archery-specific) etymologically literal interpretation as "a missing of the mark", according to Vine, "is largely lost sight of in the NT." I think this may be a confusion of Classical Greek for Koine.

  • http://defyinggravity1992.wordpress.com defyinggravity1992

    I would assure him that he’s not alone. So often, in our “woe is me” attitude, we forget that there are others going through the same struggles to remain pure. In a culture of “need it want it gotta have it now” views on sex, he may be feeling all alone in this seemingly Herculean endeavor. However, it is important for him to connect to other Christian men who have had these same struggles… I know from personal experience with my close-knit circle of friends that having this support system (and, at times, “tell it like it is” squad) can really bolster your commitment to purity. Contrary to Mr. Burns’s post, not “virtually everybody” fails to remain abstinent. I know of at least seven girls my age and older who are walking the walk, as it were, and there are so many more in my extended circle, guys included. It really gives me hope, and I know if this young man had the same influences I do in my life, he would be encouraged to walk the path that seems straight and narrow with renewed enthusiasm.

    • Mindy

      But your tribe, if the Christian branch of my family is any indication, is likely a Christian tribe. My niece and nephew, who are are wonderful young people, are 22 and 19. I known my niece saved herself for marriage, which she entered last year. She ceremoniously turned over her promise ring to her father at her wedding reception.

      Knowing my nephew, who just entered the army, he is trying very hard to follow that path as well. Time will tell if he will succeed.

      My own teenager is younger, and we've had this conversation more than once. She's asked me, point blank, if I expect her to wait til she is married, and I have told her that I do not. I expect for her to wait until she is with someone she respects who respects her, someone she is loves and who also loves her, and SHE, and he, feel ready to take that leap. I expect her to be old enough to know that it is the right decision for both her and her partner. At 15, she's not there yet, and she knows it. She feels sorry for the couple of friends she has who have given in to boys and lost their virginity. She knows it has damaged them for the long-term.

      I am a date rape survivor, as a teen. I know the damage sex-before-you-are-ready, as well as forcible sex, can do to a girl. It can affect a lifetime. But that doesn't mean that abstinence until marriage is the answer, either. I don't want my daughters to suffer what I did, but I also don't want to present sex to them as something awful – because it absolutely shouldn't be. But because it is such an intense and intimate experience, being an adult first, with an intact sense of self, is a really, really good idea.

      • Tim

        My heart goes out to you, Mindy. Sex by force, even if it is psychological coercion is an unkind and damaging thing to do to another person.

        • Mindy

          Thanks, Tim. I would say it has affected my entire life more than any one thing. Finally, at 50, I'm getting comfortable saying that I am a rape survivor. It's taken over 30 years to be able to name it, process it, and stop letting it define who I am, to let go of the notion that somehow, I must've been at least partially to blame. Weird how our minds do that.

          • Mel

            That is horrible Mindy, I'm so sorry. I'm glad that you have come to the point where you know it was not in any way your fault, nobody should EVER feel that they were responsible when they were a victim of such an awful thing.

          • Susan

            Mindy,

            Yes, young minds, especially those that are engaging in behavior for which they are unready, can so easily be manipulated and rationalize the detestable acts.

            The person to whom I lost my virginity, whom I trusted and thought I was going to marry, damaged a part of my soul that I will never recover. However, what I have recovered is my self-respect.

            As someone posted on this blog, cretens are not as easy to spot as you'd think.

            I feel your pain and understand the damage that can be done. Had I given more time to knowing this person platonically or had I dealt w/ my insecurities, I don't imagine I would've stuck around. Waiting on adulthood and true self-acceptance, I could've saved my heart from breaking. But, we live, learn and pass it on.

            Your posts often give me pause and I'm in awe of what a great mom you are. Your life is an example of integrity and I admire the way in which you are lovingly, authentically loving your kids.

            Your posts are illuminating and I'm so glad for the privilidge of recreiving you posts.

            Many thanks for participating in this blog!

          • Susan

            oops on spelling, etc. wrote right b/f I quickly nodded off.

    • http://fvthinker.blogspot.com Mike Burns

      Anecdotes are fun and affirming, but the statistics show that abstinence-only ‘education’ efforts are ineffective. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/04/13/AR2007041301003.html

      Indeed, the highest levels [markedly so] of teen pregnancy and sexually transmitted disease are in the highly religious bible-belt states. This should be a wake-up call that the conventional religious take on sex results in dysfunction.

      • Tim

        Statistics don’t mean that much when you get emotionally tangled, become jaded in relationships, and live a psychologically hobbled life because you let statistics make your sexual decisions.

        • http://fvthinker.blogspot.com Mike Burns

          All I am saying is that sex happens and always will happen religious teachings or not. So educate our children on all aspects so that little or no damage is done when it DOES happen. Statistics don’t make decisions…nature does.

          • Tim

            People make decisions. It's almost as fake to hide behind, "nature made me do it" as it is,"the devil made me do it".

          • http://fvthinker.blogspot.com Mike Burns

            Tim,

            You misunderstand the intent. I am in no way promoting "just do what feels good". You and I probably share nearly the same thoughts on exercising restraint in matters of teen sex. The electro-chemical torrent of emotion and sensation is something that is probably beyond the capacity of most (if not all) teens. I am ONLY saying that when prudent restraint fails…and it will fail…they should be prepared to mitigate the issues that are invariably stirred up.

          • Tim

            Indeed. Thanks for clarifying.

          • berkshire

            Well put.

          • berkshire

            I intended the "well put" to go beneath Tim's remark: "People make decisions. It’s almost as fake to hide behind, “nature made me do it” as it is,”the devil made me do it”." Couldn't agree more.

  • http://www.thirduse.com frank sonnek

    First, this bit of “christian” (note the quotes) morality is largely based on the meaning of that word “porneia” from which comes the english words pornography and fornication. Fornication means sex in thought and deed outside of marriage right? ok. Prove that.

    Secondly, set aside God when considering earthly morality. I am speaking to christians here (note no quotes around christian). Why?

    1) the only thing that differentiates a christian from a pagan is wholy invisible. It is faith in Christ. Some churches teach this as “faith alone” or “grace alone”. That is fully what those teachings mean. Exactly.

    2) secondly, God does care about morality. He wants us to be happy (really!) on earth, mind well to our own business , and stay out of the personal business, lives and property of others. He cares so much about this that he will make us do this if we refuse (that´s what police are for) and he promises lots of earthly blessings if we do the love he demands (“honor father and mother and you will have a long life he promises as just one example).

    3) If the ONLY thing that makes us a christian is alone and only visible faith, and this excludes morality yet God demands love (ie morality) of us for others then how to reconcile these two things?

    4) The line between christian and pagan cuts right down the middle of each christian. When we are born again in baptism we receive a NEW person within us. This is a new NEW, not a re-conditioned or merely reidentified or relabeled “new” us. so we are at the same time completely holy and without sin (1 john) according to christ in us we receive in water baptism, and at the same time that old pagan old adam that was us continues in us just as before with his same will that hates God.

    We live with that old adam same as pagans do. So therefore the same rules of morality apply. And the same methods of controling that old adam and making him outwardly moral also still fully apply to us as christians. There is no special law or morality that applies differently to christians than to pagans.

  • http://none Don Rappe

    I believe it's a good idea to decouple the idea of sin from sex. It doesn't seem helpful to me. It is important to know that for most hetero couples, meaningful sex will cause the people to bond, even if they didn't plan on it. "What God has joined …". I think it's designed by God to provide for the natural outcome of sex, which is children. How will my sexual bonding turn out? With betrayal? Sexual betrayal is more than just "missing the mark". Marriage does not seem to me to be a matter of laws or religious rules. It is two people plighting their troth to each other. Why would they want to do that?

    Don't misinterpret the scripture about masturbation. That whole story is about some tightwad who didn't want to share his inheritance with his brother's widow. Naturally enough, God smote him. Biblical marriages have always conformed to the general society of the time, with or without slave girl concubines, with or without polygamy. The commandment against adultery is interpreted in the bible for all these situations. Best to leave another man's woman alone. Then he won't be honor bound to smite you. A very good friend of mine married when she was 14 and bore 9 children, all good people and the youngest to celebrate as la quinceanyera this year. It is not about age, it is not about law, it is about love and honor. May God bless you.

  • Tim

    Great post, John. I especially think the point you made about sharing drugs was apropos. Maybe you didn’t intend it, but I believe that the parallel is serendipitous. At the time two people are sharing each other in the most intense and emotionally binding way, even if the act is consensual, most don’t have any notion what they are playing around with. It’s spiritual dynamite. While animals may boink like crazy in the grasslands and near mountain streams, man was given a dimension that our furry planet mates don’t possess with the execution of a few. I think God intended human sex for pleasure only. It was just Adam and Eve and by virtue of the Lord making Eve bone of Adam’s bone and her flesh of his flesh, they were the first marriage. I believe from the time of the fall, sex was tainted with imperfection and man’s mind became a bit addled about it. It seems to me that from the time man was bounced from Eden, his sex life has been more in sync with the furry ones than the one in whose image we were crafted.

    Boiled down, I don’t think we know enough about what we’re doing sexually to pretend we have the answers. I believe sex is a spiritual representation…a vague reflection… of the mysterious relationship God desires with us. And before everyone goes,”Eeeewwww!” realize I said spiritual, not physical. The relationship God desires is an eternal one. Forever. Humans don’t think in those measures, but I believe in our hearts, or minds, or spirits…somewhere inside of us, we DO yearn for an earthly oneness of flesh that completes us. If there is a unintended spiritual binding when we share sex, even consensually, I believe we unintentionally commit a tearing apart of something deep within us when move on to another relationship. We can do it and live, but then we can hit ourselves in the forehead with a ball peen hammer and live also. Neither do us much good in the long haul.

    • https://questionablemotives.wordpress.com tildeb

      I thought the story of Adam and Eve is to be understood strictly as a creation myth?

      • Robert Meek

        Not by creationists, Fundamentalists. Literal. Never listened to them? Lord have mercy, they are loud enough, how could ya miss 'em! ;)

        • https://questionablemotives.wordpress.com tildeb

          Oh, I've heard. But a literal Adam and Eve as founders of humanity is factually wrong.

          • Ace

            Hmm… there is a "Mitochodrial Eve" who is thought to have lived somewhere in east Africa around 100,000 years ago based on DNA studies… though if she thought fig leaves were fashionable and was fond of apples, nobody knows.

          • https://questionablemotives.wordpress.com tildeb

            From Jerry Coyne's post at WEIT:

            It’s simply not true that all of humanity’s DNA traces back to a pair of individuals who lived no more than 10,000 years ago; indeed, the different bits of our DNA trace back to different ancestors who lived at different times. What’s clear is that our ancestors were in a population of humans, some of whom left Africa around 60,000 years ago, and virtually all of modern human DNA comes from that population, which itself descended from African ancestors who split off about 6 million years ago from the ancestors of modern chimps.

          • http://fvthinker.blogspot.com Mike Burns

            ….and Mitochondrial/Scientific Eve and Scientific Adam (if I recall) were likely separated by some thousands of years. Cool stuff!!

          • http://none Don Rappe

            Myths are sacred stories. That's why we take them seriously. Nothing to do with mitochondria!

          • https://questionablemotives.wordpress.com tildeb

            Well, myths are certainly very important stories from which we are given signposts to our own life that are recognizable, as well as useful guidance on how best to live it. That the christian interpretation of the creation myths of Genesis is so life-denying (at least in this temporal world we now inhabit) tells us that the interpretation must be badly skewed. But I wander way off topic…

          • Don Gollahon

            This is all off-topic but since it was brought up, I thought I would share this:

            "Mother of All Humans Lived 6,000 Years Ago"
            http://www.icr.org/article/5657/

          • https://questionablemotives.wordpress.com tildeb

            Yes, this very much off topic, but please – for your sake – do not think for one moment that the Institute for Creation Research – whose sole reason for being is to deny on theological grounds the science of evolutionary biology in order to insert creationism as an alternative science into public education – offers us anything meaningful in scientific terms. Simply put, it doesn't.

          • https://questionablemotives.wordpress.com tildeb

            To quote even Wiki, Its work in the field of creation science has been thoroughly rejected by essentially all mainstream scientists [...]

      • Tim

        I don't regard it strictly as creation myth. Nor am I a young earth creationist, or a literalist. I have no idea of how long it's been since God brought all things into being. I believe some Scripture is meant literally, and some figuratively in allegory. Some, I obviously can't know which. But I do think we, the created, have scientifically proven up to now, that we are fallible creatures. Evolution or not, we are still the same base and oft mistaken beings we've been since history began recording us.. As fallible creatures our science is not omniscience. It is subject to correction because we are fallible. Seems to me when we propose to call the Bible myth, we have proposed to conclude that our human wisdom must reign preeminently over God's…and by that, we have made God and the cross of no effect.

        Who then reigns?

        The Bible (to me) is a fantastic and unbelievable testament of God written by men (supposedly) under the influence of God's indwelling Spirit. It is a living and mysterious thing. Not the physical book of printed pages, but the words that are read and heard effecting change in my life and in the lives of billions.

        Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God (Romans 10:17).

        • http://fvthinker.blogspot.com Mike Burns

          As fallible creatures our science is not omniscience. It is subject to correction because we are fallible.

          …and this "correction" is precisely why science gives us a leg up on discovery and real truth. Science is self correcting. We actually use objective evidence to discard that which we discover to be erroneous. Scripture ( or the"fantastic and unbelievable testament of God written by men " ) is subject only to subjective interpretation and re-interpretation. Like art, there is no right answer with scripture nor is there an objectively wrong interpretation. Hence, scientific inquiry lets us progress down the path of knowledge, while scripture keeps us tied to a post planted firmly in the early iron age like a dog pulling at its chain.

          • Tim

            Uh…that's YOUR interpretation.

          • http://fvthinker.blogspot.com Mike Burns

            Well, Tim, when you find some objective truth unique to any religious narrative, you let the world know. :-)

          • berkshire

            To think that anything the “scientific” community puts forth is pure and “objective” is deluded thinking. Empiricism is just another religion, frankly. I would suggest it’s as valid as any other, but no *more* valid than any other. Science is a tool, and as it presents itself to us, it is a tool that is put into the hands of humans–fallible humans, with agendas, both political and personal.

            The core of empiricism rests upon the premise that what we call “true” and what we call “real” ought to be confined to only that which is measurable. And often, our measurement tools are incomplete, inadequate, or we give them far more authority than they warrant. When scientists speak of “objectivity”, frequently they are *really* talking about intersubjective agreement.

            The Dalai Lama said this better than I ever could:

            “Within this model, many aspects of human existence, including values, creativity, and spirituality, as well as deeper metaphysical questions, lie outside the scope of scientific inquiry.

            Though there are areas of life and knowledge outside the domain of science, I have noticed that many people hold an assumption that the scientific view of the world should be the basis for all knowledge and all that is knowable. This is scientific materialism. Although I am not aware of a school of thought that explicitly propounds this notion, it seems to be a common unexamined presupposition. This view upholds a belief in an objective world, independent of the contingency of its observers. It assumes that the data being analyzed within an experiment are independent of the preconceptions, perceptions, and experience of the scientist analyzing them.

            Underlying this view is the assumption that, in the final analysis, matter, as it can be described by physics and as it is governed by the laws of physics, is all there is. Accordingly, this view would uphold that psychology can be reduced to biology, biology to chemistry, and chemistry to physics. My concern here is not so much to argue against this reductionist position (although I myself do not share it) but to draw attention to a vitally important point: that these ideas do not constitute scientific knowledge; rather they represent a philosophical, in fact a metaphysical, position. The view that all aspects of reality can be reduced to matter and its various particles is, to my mind, as much a metaphysical position as the view that an organizing intelligence created and controls reality. ”

            Needless, to say, I share H.H.’s view on this point.

            But, we were talking about sex, weren’t we?

          • Kara

            If you don't think there's a difference in claiming gravity exists from claiming that Jesus was divine, then I don't really know what to say.

            I'm a Christian. I also believe in science. They don't even address the same spheres. The scientific method isn't perfect, and we mess up, but there are ways to test the hypotheses that are put forth, generally speaking. Or to make rational inferences based on things we can test.

            Religious doctrine isn't something that can even be tested or proven, even if we all agreed on what scriptural text to use, the nature of that text, and the importance of factors other than that scripture.

            There's definitely a difference. They might both require some faith, but nowhere close to the same amounts.

          • https://questionablemotives.wordpress.com tildeb

            @Kara

            Thanks Kara. I'm late to this comment and like what you write but I just have to say more about it.

            @berkshire

            I think you're way, way off base with your argument (as is the Dalai Lama) in two really important ways.

            The first is the assertion that because science supposedly cannot answer some question, religion can. 'Goddidit' is not a meaningful answer but a poor substitute for "I don't know" masquerading as an answer.

            And this brings up the second point.

            The word game is tiring. You freely substitute 'empiricism' for science. Although related, they are not synonyms. Empiricism relies on the senses and, although a very important and fundamental way we come equipped to gain access to our physical environment, really doesn't equate with what science does and how it does it.

            Let's substitute something much closer in meaning to the scientific method, namely, methodological naturalism, which underlies all science and is avoided by religious inquiry. This is an understanding of epistemology, or how we can gain trustworthy knowledge of the natural world. The products of this investigation are practical applications of technologies, medicines, and new avenues of investigation. In other words, this methodology produces what works.

            The argument you weaved about materialism and the reliance on the senses as just another kind of religious faith and reductionism is an intentional misdirection from what science actually is, which is nothing remotely like the so-called knowledge gleamed from any kind of religion. In stark contrast, science using methodological naturalism is a well established and highly trustworthy method of gaining knowledge, which provides us with the means to establish explanations based on plausibility about how the universe and everything in it operates.

            There is NO OTHER METHOD yet known that is equally valid, in spite of your contrary assertion. And most assuredly there is no religion that offers us anything comparable. The explosion of knowledge gained over the last two hundred years in cultures that have embraced the scientific method is nothing short of remarkable and stands in stark and utter contrast to cultures that have remained mired to religious revelation and superstition for its worldly knowledge. Your assertion that science is empiricism, which is merely a religion of different kind you say, and that all religions are equally valid methods of inquiry is simply not true if what you are actually comparing is the knowledge we have derived from the scientific method with the knowledge derived from the metaphysics of religion. Metaphysics has yielded no applications, no practical knowledge, no testable hypothesis, no new avenues of research, and no foundation upon which to build new knowledge. Besides these few shortcomings, metaphysics has provided us with religions.

            You intentionally interpret MB's retort to mean that he is proposing that only objective knowledge is scientific. This is not what he means. What he means is that the result of scientific inquiry through methodological naturalism – real knowledge – is not subjective. There is an important difference here: a chemical reaction will be consistent no matter where it happens or who does it (factoring in local conditions). How we come to know these predictable and consistent results is not by appeals to the authority of bone-rattling, dress-wearing clergy who divine clues from the supernatural in the entrails of sacrificed animals, nor true because it has been written in some ancient book, nor held to be so by faith alone; we determine how this reaction comes to be by plausible explanations that successfully account for all the factors and criticisms over time and award this explanation the high title of a theory. The theory is valid not because we believe the explanation is true but because we have made the intellectual effort to determine that our theory is best explanation possible that produces knowledge that works consistently well and yields practical benefits that can be relied upon to remain as true tomorrow as they have been today and provide us a basis for determining how things were yesterday. And you trust your life to the products from this method of inquiry everyday not as a some equally valid way as any other to find out what's probablytrue, probably correct, probably right, but as the most trustworthy way to do so. Religion, by comparison, offers us no such pedigree.

            As far as the compatibility between different ways to know – what as I'm sure you know Stephen J. Gould called non-overlapping magesteria to describe this very conflict between the trustworthiness of knowledge from science compared to religion – pay heed to what Stephen Hawking says: science will win because it works.

          • Mindy

            @ Kara – are you *sure* you're "only" a teenager? You speak with wisdom beyond your years, m'dear. And I mean this in the best possible way.

            @ tildeb – THANK YOU. I was so gob-smacked by the "science is just another religion" comment that I was at a loss for a response. Yours is phenomenal, so I shall say no more.

          • Matthew Tweedell

            @Kara

            "If you don’t think there’s a difference in claiming gravity exists from claiming that Jesus was divine, then I don’t really know what to say."

            Ironically, each actually implied the other ultimately. But I don't expect you to understand this.

            “Religious doctrine isn’t something that can even be tested or proven….”

            Inherent in that are certain assumptions about the nature of religious doctrine, the nature of testing, and that of proofs, at least one which I think most people would disagree with.

            So I see little inherent difference but that divinity is inexpressible in mathematical formulae, while gravity, in one incomplete reduction or another, might be given precise formulation—this is simply due to its role as a tool for explaining certain things expressed numerically, while God functions as the means and explanation of things uncountable, without measure, even unseen.

            I would agree with you however that Berkshire is mistaken to compare empiricism to a religion. Perhaps it is more accurate to say that empiricism is a tool, while science is a religious practice performed utilizing it (in the belief that it might draw us nearer in communion with the God of Truth).

            @ Tildeb

            "Metaphysics has yielded no applications, no practical knowledge, no testable hypothesis, no new avenues of research, and no foundation upon which to build new knowledge."

            Excuse me, but the philosophy of science is metaphysical!!

            And just ask any religious leader if religion hasn't any applications or a whole host of Bible-believing Christians if it offers no hypotheses that are in some sense testable.

            Surely you understand that that quote from Hawking touches only any and all matters where religion might pretend to conflict science or ever attempt to halt its progress. Recognition of spirit and associated ritual behavior are intrinsically human and aren’t going to disappear; it is vital however that those be directed towards the appropriate channels (and not, for example, in the way of Nazism, Islamic extremism, and the like).

          • Kara

            @Mindy Thanks! I just try to say things that makes sense, and give arguments that would be persuasive to me if someone else gave them. That's all.

            @Matthew Ironically, each actually implied the other ultimately. But I don’t expect you to understand this.

            To quote Joe Pesci in My Cousin Vinny… I would love to hear this! Please, I am absolutely dying to hear how gravity implies Jesus' divinity and vice versa.

            Beyond that, nothing else you've said makes much sense. John tends to make jokes that you're on drugs, and while I don't know about that, I do know that your posts are often very difficult to follow, for me. Perhaps that's on me, not you, but I'm left not really knowing how to respond, since I get the feeling that we aren't operating from even basic common starting points.

          • Matthew Tweedell

            @Kara

            John makes those jokes when I start getting deeply mystical, such as perhaps when I hint of a deep connection between Jesus and gravitation. As for what that is, that would take a book. But suffice it to say that in a universe without the law of gravitation there could be no Son of Man, but in a universe without the Son of God, there could be no law of gravitation. Yet the only universe I could ever know—the only one that can exist in the sense that I do—has both: modern physics tells us the law of gravitation is sufficient to bring the universe into being; and metaphysics tells us that Logos Incarnate is sufficient to bring the law of gravitation into being. And as each is fully implicit in the other, I therefore conclude identity, within the context of this application (namely: seeking the Beginning, which also is the End—and the Lord is One; and my bong needs cleaning).

        • https://questionablemotives.wordpress.com tildeb

          We the created? 98.5% genome shared with chimps, about 50% with dogs, about 33% with daffodils, and so on. We are genetically linked to every critter on the planet today and can trace our lineage at least back to pre-Cambrian blood worms. We have brought forward exactly the genetic anomalies in exactly the same sequences in exactly the same portion of our DNA strand as other critters. If we were 'created' sometime in the past few thousand or even tens of thousands of years, then the 'creator' made it look exactly like we evolved from earlier species.

          Just because we can make mistakes in gaining our hard-earned knowledge does not mean we should chuck it in favour of holding fast to a myth that has zero evidence for it and overwhelming evidence against it. Nor am I in favour of chucking the myth because it is fiction: we can and do learn a great deal from myth without needing it to be factually true. The same goes for reading and learning about what Shakespeare wrote. But when someone suggests that the stories of Shakespeare or the bible must be true in order to be of value, then it's time for reviewing how we arrived at that faulty conclusion.

          @MB, you beat me to it. Well said.

          • berkshire

            This is a reply to a post way up top, where I couldn’t add any more replies. I sometimes write a lot here, but I don’t think ever quite this much. I did so because it infuriates me to have my words twisted, and to have assertions ascribed to me that I have not made, and to have what I said distorted. I will here try to more skillfully convey my main point, that I think was misunderstood by some folks.

            @ Tildeb: “The first is the assertion that because science supposedly cannot answer some question, religion can. ‘Goddidit’ is not a meaningful answer but a poor substitute for “I don’t know” masquerading as an answer.”

            NOWHERE did I make that assertion. Please don’t put words in my mouth. And to YOU, it might not be a meaningful answer, but for many people it is. For most things, it’s not my answer, but you potentially insult a great many people here by appointing yourself arbiter of what is and is not meaningful.

            I also never called them equal methods of inquiry—in fact, I didn’t bring up religious inquiry. Inquiry is sort of besides the point, at least in dealing with the core of my comment. I’ll explain in a moment.

            @Tildeb: “Let’s substitute something much closer in meaning to the scientific method, namely, methodological naturalism, which underlies all science and is avoided by religious inquiry. . . . . or how we can gain trustworthy knowledge of the natural world.”

            How seamlessly you shift to what you would like to discuss, rather than what I was actually discussing. This is fine for you to discuss, but you might start a separate thread. You are wrong about it being avoided by religious inquiry. Buddhism embraces this kind of inquiry wholeheartedly, and the Dalia Lama, whom I quoted earlier, is a great proponent of scientific inquiry, even as he is critical of it. As am I. Check your assumptions about what religions do or don’t engage in.

            It’s that phrase “trustworthy knowledge” which is the cornerstone of my original comment, which was about what we *choose* to deem trustworthy, not what is inherently, intrinsically trustworthy. Who decides what information is trustworthy? The scientist says it’s science. The religious person might say it’s science, too, or they might say it’s both, or that it’s simply “faith” or holy books one should trust. My original point is that whether you are in the “science” camp or the “religion” camp, you are making a choice, that is *subjective* about what to trust. Measurement or faith. I find science folks hate to acknowledge that subjectivity even more than religious folks, as it really shakes the ground they walk upon.

            And just note that I’m one of the “they” in the sciences. I spent years looking at the neural substrates of behavior in the field of circadian rhythms and sleep research. I’m not anti-science. I have just had an insiders view of how dogmatic and deluded scientists themselves can be. Your arguments have done little to alter that view, I’m afraid. But at least some of them know how to have respectful dialog.

            @Kara:” If you don’t think there’s a difference in claiming gravity exists from claiming that Jesus was divine, then I don’t really know what to say.”

            I didn’t mention Jesus, and I didn’t mention gravity. I am talking about what informs our notions of what constitutes “facts”, not the “facts” themselves. I would not make the assertion you state above. And, as a non-Christian, I make no assertions about Jesus’s divinity. I leave that to His followers, who have more information than I upon which to make that assertion.

            You can “measure” gravity. You can’t measure someone’s experience of the divine. What I am trying to point out is that we make a choice in privileging that which can be measured over that which can’t—it is a choice, a metaphysical assertion, as H.H. put it—to decide to value that information over other forms of information or knowledge, and the fervor with which the scientific community does this is often akin to the worst religious fundamentalism out there, with no acknowledgment of how much we don’t know, and how much we can’t know. I love my mother, but I can’t measure it. Does that mean it isn’t real? I also know that people subjected to trauma experience changes in their brains, but no one can yet tell me how this happens—they can show me the changes in neuropeptide secretion, and other downstream indicators, but they can’t show me the mechanism that allows that change to happen, the actual substrates in action. They also can’t show me the mechanism that fixes the problem, but we know for some people it appears to get “fixed”. We, in the sciences, accept on *faith* that trauma is causing the changes—we see a correlation which, by our own standards, does not satisfy an assertion of causation. Sciences relies on faith when it serves its own aims, and denies faith in a similarly convenient fashion.

            @tildeb: “just another kind of religious faith and reductionism is an intentional misdirection from what science actually is” PLEASE don’t make assertions about my intentions, and please don’t arrogantly claim to be the only person here who knows what science is. It makes it very hard to read what you write with an open mind, which I’m trying very hard to do. The tone of condescension and suspicion is clear, though, and it’s so typical. You go on to show that you have glossed over or failed to apprehend the main point of what I wrote, in favor of defending the validity of science—in this way you also illustrate a behavior akin to what the religious fanatic does. You go on to say: “which is nothing remotely like the so-called knowledge gleamed from any kind of religion. In stark contrast, science using methodological naturalism is a well established and highly trustworthy method of gaining knowledge, which provides us with the means to establish explanations based on plausibility about how the universe and everything in it operates.” I have never claimed they are the same kind of knowledge—the similarity I have tried to underline is that they both rest on a metaphysical foundation, which you yourself have said serves no useful purpose (perhaps because you do not recognize that your own worldview relies upon it, at its core). You are basically here making the argument that scientific method is trustworthy, because science says it is. That’s not a very scientific argument (even if I agree that there is a lot of reliable science out there, which I do). My original point was that there is a choice involved—a highly subjective, not remotely objective choice involved—in coming to the conclusion that *your* methods of arriving at “truth” are the most trustworthy, and that truth ultimately boils down to only that which we can measure and repeat. That is a philosophical position, not a scientific one. I am not saying anything about the quality or validity of that method, I’m merely asking people to stop pretending, as I said above, that “Measurement as King” is *objective*. Not questioning that you *can* measure things. I’m saying that the privileging of one kind of information over another is a subjective enterprise, always. It’s best if we admit this to ourselves.

            @tildeb”There is NO OTHER METHOD yet known that is equally valid, in spite of your contrary assertion.” Again, in your fervor, you have ascribed to me an assertion I didn’t make, about equal validity of methods of inquiry. I didn’t mention religious inquiry at all. I spoke about scientific method only. I said that each domain, science and religion, rest on subjective assumptions about the nature of what is real. And your saying your method is the most valid (even using all caps), doesn’t make it so. I’m sorry, but it doesn’t. I’m not a Christian, but I’m not arrogant enough to sit here and tell a Christian that the lens of his faith is not an equally valid way of framing his understanding of the world, even if I don’t share that same lens. I have enough sense, even after years in the sciences, to know that we’re each indeed looking through a lens. In fact, my work in the sciences is what made that so clear to me.

            @tideb: “The explosion of knowledge gained over the last two hundred years in cultures that have embraced the scientific method is nothing short of remarkable and stands in stark and utter contrast to cultures that have remained mired to religious revelation and superstition for its worldly knowledge.” You don’t seem to know much about Islam and Arab culture, then, which had a tradition of inquiry and innovation for much longer than the last 200 years. And no, I’m not a Muslim, either. I think you might want to examine many of your assumptions, about science, and about religion, and also read more carefully, as throughout your reply you have suggested many “assertions” by me that I didn’t make (you later went on to say I asserted that all systems of inquiry were equally valid. I didn’t mention systems of inquiry except to point out the need for measurement, or quantification, if you prefer, if privileged, is not an objective choice. I believe I did say that they are equally valid world views. Science is the only religion I know of that reduces inquiry to a ‘system’, except maybe some aspects of Buddhism. This does leave out a lot of things falling outside the realm of that system). You might ask yourself where else you might be making too many assumptions.

            @tildeb: “. . . simply not true if what you are actually comparing is the knowledge we have derived from the scientific method with the knowledge derived from the metaphysics of religion.”

            I’m not making that comparison. But I am saying there is a metaphysical underpinning to science just as there is in religion. Perhaps this is because they are all products of the human “mind” (whatever that is—maybe it’s a bunch of electricity passing through cells, maybe its God. I won’t sit here and claim to know).

            @tildeb: “You intentionally interpret MB’s retort to mean that he is proposing that only objective knowledge is scientific. This is not what he means.”

            Again, sir or madam, please stop making assertions about what I have intentionally or unintentionally done—you base such assertions on faith alone, not facts, which I suspect you would prefer to have done. It’s rude, and just foolish. I also don’t think you should make assumptions about what another commenter means. You display a fundamentalist’s zeal, yet again.

            @tildeb: “There is an important difference here: a chemical reaction will be consistent no matter where it happens or who does it (factoring in local conditions). How we come to know these predictable and consistent results is not by appeals to the authority of bone-rattling, dress-wearing clergy who divine clues from the supernatural in the entrails of sacrificed animals, nor true because it has been written in some ancient book, nor held to be so by faith alone; we determine how this reaction comes to be by plausible explanations that successfully account for all the factors and criticisms over time and award this explanation the high title of a theory. The theory is valid not because we believe the explanation is true but because we have made the intellectual effort to determine that our theory is best explanation possible that produces knowledge that works consistently well and yields practical benefits that can be relied upon to remain as true tomorrow as they have been today”

            Now here you just sound like an a-hole (sorry, but you do. You’re attacking me in the rudest and most disrespectful way possible, and I’m not even someone who puts my faith in clergy—dress wearing or otherwise—or bone rattlers. I’ve never done the entrails thing, either, though it sounds. . . . fascinating). who has made a whole host of assumptions about my belief system, based on nothing I actually wrote. And as to “as true tomorrow as they have been today”, I trust you’re knowledgeable enough to know that even scientific understanding evolves, and things we take for granted as true in one era are not always accepted as true in the next. That’s one of the coolest things about science, IMHO. We ask questions, they lead to *some* answers, which lead to more questions, and sometimes revision of previous answers. About chemistry, there might be more reliability, and I think I get what you’re trying to say, despite the aggressive way you say it, but physics and health sciences are changing all the time, too.

            As for Hawking’s “science will win”, this points to the problem of both scientific and religious zealots—they think we’re at war, in competition, or some such nonsense. Think how far the human spirit, and the sciences we explore could come if we didn’t have such a defensive, egoic posture when it came to such things. I’m not so interested in winning as I am in simply living and learning, and getting the most from this life.

            Again @ Kara: “I’m a Christian. I also believe in science. They don’t even address the same spheres.”

            I’m not a Christian, and I also accept a great deal of what science has to tell us. I have also worked in the “hard sciences” for years before becoming a therapist and entering the “social sciences”. Note that you even used ‘religious’ language to describe that you “believe in science”. Science is a tool, and in some respects, so is religion. I would suggest that in a fundamental way, they do address the same spheres: What is life? How did we get here? What made it all come into being? Who/what are we? What is our place in the world? I think the best science, and the best religious practice, addresses all of this.

            In this “debate” about the allegedly exclusive domains of science and religion, I think author Marilynne Robinson said it well: “The gladiators on both sides are inferior representatives of both sides”, and also “People on one side of the argument have claimed the authority of science, but they have not construed an argument that actually satisfies the standards of science” There is a great conversation with she and Jon Stewart here: http://www.thedailyshow.com/watch/thu-july-8-2010/marilynne-robinson

            I meant that they are equally valid religious points of view, in terms of my assertion that empiricism (and scientific methods, and what informs them) is a religion. I stand by that assertion, by the way. Kara’s response gets right to the point of what the Dalia Lama said—there is that focus on what can be measured. The main point of which is that we take that so much for granted, that what it measureable is the only thing that’s real or “true” or valid, it is so entrenched in our thinking in the western world, that we don’t even recognize it as a subjective assertion, which it is. It doesn’t mean it’s *wrong* or *right*, I just wish the scientific community would stop trying to tell me it’s “objective”, especially social scientists—puh-leeze. The deeper you go into science, the more it begins to rely on “faith”, including many theories we accept as dogma. And that’s fine, just stop pretending it’s something absolute when it really isn’t. I’m also saying the very idea that things need to be measured in order to be accepted is a philosophical assertion, not a scientific one.

            I’m not saying science is right or wrong. I’m not saying religion is right or wrong (in fact, I see them as much the same, as I indicated). I just wish science would be more honest with itself about what it can and can’t do, and be OK with admitting it doesn’t know everything, nor will it ever know everything, and “knowing” ain’t the be-all and end-all of human experience.

          • https://questionablemotives.wordpress.com tildeb

            The thrust of you argument is that science is really just another kind of religion and that's flat out wrong… if we use the same epistemology and the same ontology for both. I don't think you're doing that. I think you are using the same words to mean different things… words like 'faith'. Your description of science as empiricism is wrong and you have no excuse for sticking with this inadequate definition. Your insistence that science is the way YOU describe it to be to fit your apology that science as just another kind of religion are therefore as valid needs to be pointed out to you because that is the root of understanding why science is NOT just another kind of religion. By missing this point entirely – so busy as you are dealing with the various accusations that you have meant something you didn't specifically write – you miss the reason why we responded to you. To top it off, you show your entrenched bias by making the ridiculous assertion that science claims to know everything (oh right, you merely wrote I just wish science would be more honest with itself about what it can and can’t do, and be OK with admitting it doesn’t know everything… or that it will come to know everything (again, what you wrote was nor will it ever know everything…). Come on, B. This is just apologetic candyfloss with no substance.

            If we flip the point around for a moment, you cannot honestly think that love is NOT solely a biological process can you? Do you mean to suggest that an appreciation for the arts and humanities and the recognition of beauty and ability to experience awe come from somewhere other than strictly the human mind? Are you implying that the human mind itself is not completely a biological expression of what our brain does but is also some kind of conduit for a (presumably) supernatural infusion? And if so, by what means can you think that this is true? I mean, seriously… follow your thoughts to their conclusion and see where you end up. If it's in the nether world, then I think you've taken a wrong turn somewhere.

          • Matthew Tweedell

            I’m so glad to see you’ve conceded Berkshire’s point, saying, “If it’s in the nether world, then I think you’ve taken a wrong turn somewhere.”

            As the wise Australian Aborigine once said, “White man got no dreaming!”

            It’s sad really. And much suffering there has been and still harsh consequences to come on account of it.

          • Matthew Tweedell

            So many wise nuggets in there! That last clause itself is a meta-pearl, a string along which are strung gates to Wisdom in multiple dimensions.

            “Measurement or faith. I find science folks hate to acknowledge that subjectivity even more than religious folks, as it really shakes the ground they walk upon.”

            Yet it is so vital that they do. They great genius of Einstein, it seems to me, lies in his understanding that observation (or measurement) *is* subjective (the putting in of ones faith). And I do suggest that greater understanding of physics (and other areas—it’s already been rather helpful, e.g., in primatology) is yet to be had by bearing this in mind—scientists often like to detach themselves from the world of their observations, but observers cannot be in any real way separated from the universe they observe!

            But atheistic materialism tends towards a certain gnostic heresy: while Christian Gnostics hold spirit to be more real than corporal matter, they hold corporal matter to be more real than spirit; but this mistaken assumption that one might be known (the implication of the Greek root “gnos”) in isolation from the other is the defining trait and the fundamental(ist) error in both perspectives, allowing them to dismiss one of them as ultimately not worthy of an equally fundamental (metaphysical) place in reality.

            “And, as a non-Christian, I make no assertions about Jesus’s divinity. I leave that to His followers, who have more information than I upon which to make that assertion.”

            If only everyone could think like that! You pass no judgment on my claims about Jesus, and I’ll pass no judgment on whether your way might be in Him.

            “The tone of condescension and suspicion is clear, though, and it’s so typical.”

            True; and perhaps Tildeb would care to explain how that is so when we’ve no way to measure it. Yet he too, as I believe I’ve noted to him before and as you also point out, is wont to draw conclusions well outside the limits of the epistemology he claims to champion.

            “…you also illustrate a behavior akin to what the religious fanatic does. You go on to say: ‘which is nothing remotely like the so-called knowledge gleamed from any kind of religion. In stark contrast, science using methodological naturalism is a well established and highly trustworthy method of gaining knowledge, which provides us with the means to establish explanations based on plausibility about how the universe and everything in it operates.’”

            Let me translate what he said into another metaphysical mode and see just how fanatical it sounds: “…nothing remotely like the so-called revelations gleamed from any kind of science. In stark contrast, religion using the power of the Holy Spirit is a well established and highly trustworthy method of gaining revelation, which provides us with the means to a saving faith based on God’s manifest will for how the universe and everything in it operates.”

    • Tim

      Damn this iPad. I don’t favor the execution of animals.

      • Robert Meek

        Ouch! Don't pick on my Apple! It got enough bruising in the Garden! ;)

        Leave my Mac/Apple – stuff – alone! GGGGrrrrrrrrrrrrr!

        I'll sic Miss FiFi Her Royal Poodleness on ya, all 12 pounds of her! :)

  • http://benhusmann.com Ben

    In my experience, those who wait tend to end up pretty self-righteous and are quick to pass judgement against others. The same is true for the non-masturbation set (which are often the same as the non-premarital set). The people I know who have been successful in either attempt have had little patience for the rest of us and think of themselves very highly. For at least one friend of mine, this attitude actually gets in the way of him having even non-sexual intimate relationships.

    • A'isha

      Imagine that…the same ones who stay celibate until marriage also NOT masturbating! How the heck does that work?? Cold showers all day, every day? Just saying…

      • Mindy

        And people wonder why those who claim this self-righteous feat are cranky . . . .

    • Matthew Tweedell

      I think Mindy's on to something. If it were just their sense of moral superiority at play, why wouldn't others act the same from their sense of moral superiority over arrogant prudes?

      Perhaps part of it is that there are two different ways we humans tend to lean to various degrees; there are two different species of chimpanzee with whom we share common ancestry: the Common Chimpanzee and the Bonobo Chimpanzee. Common chimps channel much of their aggression into making fights; Bonobos channel much of their aggression into making love. Different ways in which one might be roused. For example, new source of food—food fight or party time? Historically the human response in such situations has been to say “mine!” But I think we’re growing up know and learning to share. But this requires empathy and trust, and no better way to build it and prove it than by getting involved sexually. Replace food source with psychoactive substance, and voila, hippie counterculture is born.

      • http://benhusmann.com Ben

        I think it is a sense of moral superiority at play but it comes at such a great personal cost/pain that they simply must believe they are doing something Very Important. The reason it doesn't work the other way around is that not being an arrogant prude is so much more fun.

        • Matthew Tweedell

          It didn't cost me worth a darn. And while it's certainly more fun not being an arrogant prude, that's just a good reason not to be an arrogant prude; it's not inherently tied to one's personal sex life.

          I don't understand why they would do it at great personal pain and simply choose therefore to believe it's very important. We're allowed under God any action not forbidden in the laws of physics; whether a given action is wise or not is a whole other matter. We can't just arbitrarily make up our own wisdom though. It has to be well-reasoned. For any given matter, one's belief that the gain is worth the pain should never *increase* with increasing pain. To think like that is foolishness and is but the result of illusion—superstition—the Lie. Christians are to believe in the God of Truth and that Wisdom is the Way of righteousness, so they can’t use Christianity as an excuse (besides the fact that any sense of moral superiority is wholly opposed to the teaching of Christ).

  • http://www.facebook.com/unholyblackdeath William Ely

    I don't see what the big deal is. It's just sex. Is eating a big moral issue for you? Is drinking? Is using the restroom? it's all the same. It is a bodily function and a physiological need. You take care of it then you carry on.

    It is sad that such a big deal is made of it. All the melodrama and fake moral controversy takes much of the enjoyment away for so many people. Sex is enjoyable, just enjoy it, the rest is just bullshit.

    • Mel

      It is not JUST sex! And it is not FAKE moral controversy. I actually find that last comment very offensive. As you can see by the many verses I quoted, it is a moral issue. You cannot compare having sex to eating, and going to the washroom. When people have sex they become one…it is an emotional bond as well as a physical one.

      • Mindy

        I feel fairly certain that there is a middle ground here. I hesitate to comment much on this topic, as my own sexual experiences were screwed up (pun fully intended) from early on.

        I will say, though, that my reactions to it had far more to do with my own personal issues than the actual sex itself.

        We do make it too melodramatic, attach too much moral controversy to it. But I don't know anyone who finds it quite as casual as Mr. Ely does, either. It means connecting with another human being on the most intimate level, the level at which you relinquish control to the universe, and even though it is a totally normal physiological act, it does have a strong emotional component for most people as well.

        Mel, you are young. You believe masturbation is wrong, and while I vehemently disagree with you on that, you have every right not to engage in it. What happens, though, if you don't find the man of your dreams until you are, say, in your 30s? I wonder if you will still feel as strongly, if you will have ignored your own body for all those years? It's a healthy, normal activity for human beings. Truly it is. We are sexual beings, us humans, and to deprive yourself of that for no apparent reason is pointless. I understand if choose to remain a virgin til marriage, but there is nothing wrong with knowing your own body intimately, knowing what turns you on, etc. Many guys actually appreciate women who know what they want and can let their partners know.

        • Mel

          If I am in my thirties and I am still unmarried, I will feel just as strongly about it. I can say that so confidently because my personal circumstances don't make something wrong, right. I won't suddenly be like "oh well I thought it was wrong, but now it's just too much". Even if I never marry, my views will not change. Also, I am not "depriving" myself of anything for "no apparent reason". The reason is that it's wrong, and the Bible tells us not to do it. Also, I wouldn't say I am "depriving" myself of anything…even if it wasn't Biblically wrong, I wouldn't do it because I think it's gross. I don't want to please myself…

        • http://www.facebook.com/unholyblackdeath William Ely

          There's that melodrama I was talking about.

          • Tim

            Troll. Go back to your RPG.

          • DR

            He's not a troll, he's a great contributor here. Who cares if he thinks one way or the other about celibacy? He might be a bit of a dick sometimes (aren't we all), doesn't make him a troll.

          • Tim

            I'm not criticizing William for what he thinks about celibacy. His resentful demeanor and dismissive attitude toward youthful contributors seems intent on soliciting an emotional reaction. When he finally gets someone to pop, he seemingly revels in the moment and publicly marginalizes the person for giving him exactly what he was fishing for. In my book, that's a troll.

      • Scott Spencer-Wolff

        Sorry – got to weigh in on the side of "It's just sex" and you can quote verses until the cows come home, that doesn't make it a "moral" issue. Agree 100% with William Ely.

        ESPECIALLY considering how the OT cast of characters went around boinking each other with such regularity…Read Numbers 31:1-18 and tell me about morality. Or Genesis 30:1-11, or Genesis 30:14-16 – the list goes on and on…

        The bible tells us not to do lots of things, which you go merrily about doing. Deny yourself shrimp? PLEASE….And, stating that your "views will not change", from a psychological standpoint indicates not that you are strong in your faith, but that you have issues around sex, which therapy might be able to help. Are you actually listening to yourself? " Also, I wouldn’t say I am “depriving” myself of anything…even if it wasn’t Biblically wrong, I wouldn’t do it because I think it’s gross. I don’t want to please myself…"

        Sex, isn't "gross" and I'm deeply saddened by a worldview which would take such a wonderful gift as sex and make it into something "gross.."

        • Mel

          It's not sex that's gross. It's masturbation. Two completely different things.

          • Liz

            Mel, you are very young and, because of that, you are very confident in your beliefs. That is a normal part of being young. But part of the wisdom of growing older is listening to others' points of view. There are as many Christian viewpoints of sex as there are types of Christians. The specific type of Christianity you believe in or have been raised does not have all the answers about God….so as confident as you are now that, say, masturbation is some kind of sin is just as confident as people were 50 years ago who thought it was vile and sinful for women to wear pants. Just something to keep in mind. I myself was raised as a fundamentalist Baptist, and my Christian faith has grown significantly as I've opened myself up to the wisdom of other Christians.

          • Mel

            I'm seriously regretting putting my age on here. Before I did, people could have a conversation with me and take my opinion for my opinion, not my opinion because I'm young. It is not because I'm young that I am confident. I do listen to other people's point of view, hence commenting on these blogs. I put what I believe, then I listen to what others have to say about it. Young people can still have knowledge, and their opinions are still valid. I think that others should listen to them, and respect their opinions…not because they're young and don't know any better, but because their opinions have merit.

          • Tim

            Mel, I want to encourage you. My own dear niece…I call her Mel, short for Melanie. I'm a geezer (56) and I think your replies show a lot of thought, wisdom and conviction. Don't take people's opinions too much to heart. Opinions are like fingers…most people have at least 10 different ones regarding any one subject. Let the Spirit be your teacher and let the life of Christ and His word makes itself at home in you as you make yourself more and more at home in Him.

            All His love and blessing,

            Tim

          • Mel

            Thanks for this. I do take what people say to heart because I believe that MOST people are coming from the right place. William Ely is not one of those people which I have come to see through his immature comments. Which to me is quite ironic, because he's so against "children" discussing "adult" material, when he is the one acting like a child.

          • Tim

            @Mel

            In my opinion, people who cannot tolerate children are generally like children themselves. Familiarity breeds contempt. Contrarily, while I admit children can be exasperating, they are also a wonderful blessing and a window to God's heart. I never would have comprehended the depth of God's abiding love if not for the depth of the love I have for my kids. That love even extends out to include their friends. It's kind of infectious. It's amazing to know that manner of love the Father has given to us.

          • Diana A.

            It's true. There are just as many old arrogant people as there are young arrogant people.

          • Kara

            I agree with you on this, if not on masturbation. Age is a piss-poor reason to write off someone's opinions, and teenagers get treated like crap online. I'm sorry you're having to deal with age-bias, I know it can suck.

          • http://www.facebook.com/unholyblackdeath William Ely

            Only adults should be included in an adult conversation. Why should we value the opinion of a teenager?

            I was a teenager once and I was an idiot. Every teenager I know now is an idiot. They do not understand the issues and have not experienced enough of life to have anything of value to say. Why should it be any different?

          • Susan

            @ William – 1. dude when you have your own blog you can make your own rules 2. don't use yourself as a benchmark for all teenagers. 3. every teenager is an idiot, everyone who thinks it's not right for them to have sex before their married "has issues" – hell why not say all muslims are terrorists.

            You're not a jerk, so stop acting like one.

          • Kara

            I believe you may be projecting your own inability to engage respectfully and appropriately with the community you're addressing onto teenagers.

            You don't even offer evidence to back up your assertion, just opinion and anecdata. I really have nothing to reply to, because you haven't even made an argument.

          • http://www.facebook.com/unholyblackdeath William Ely

            Okay now, come on. I say you guys are not stupid so stop acting like it. You cannot seriously tell me that teenagers should be included in adult conversations and that their opinions should matter to anyone who is not their parents.

            Thinking sex is a moral issue is for sure a hang up.

            Lets be a little more honest here. Honesty is more important than not hurting someone's feelings.

          • Kara

            Still no argument for why it is you think teenagers are incapable of formulating and defending a cogent opinion, I see. Just a claim to believe otherwise makes one appear "stupid".

            Teenagers aren't a different species. If anyone, of any age, can make a good case for what the believe, then more power to them. If they can't make a good argument, cut down the argument, not the person making it.

            I don't agree with Mel at all, but I appreciate her participation and willingness to engage.

          • http://www.facebook.com/unholyblackdeath William Ely

            @Kara

            Teenagers are just children. I am an adult. That is all there is to it. When they hit 18 and head out into the world, then I will engage them. Otherwise, they have no value to me. I see nothing wrong with that. I am not obligated in any way to do otherwise. Their parents can deal with them, I don't have kids because I don't want to deal with them.

            You talk about engaging in a community, but you were just talking with another poster about the voices you hear in your head. How can anyone take you seriously after that? I mean really…voices?

          • Kara

            Your insistence on judging people solely by their age, an arbitrary factor beyond their control, instead of the merits of the opinions they put forth is absolutely baffling to me.

            I would be happy to discuss the nature of my belief in the Holy Spirit elsewhere (spoiler: I hear no voices in my head), but here, it serves only to shift the focus away from the fact that you have no logical argument to support your assertion that teenagers are unqualified to participate in a discussion like this one.

          • http://www.facebook.com/unholyblackdeath William Ely

            I have already answered it. Why do you keep asking me? They have not experienced enough of adult life to have anything to offer me. A child's world and an adult's world are not even close to the same thing. They cannot productively participate in a conversation about serious adult issues. Every minor emotional issue is a crisis to a teenager and I do wish to put up with it.

            I am not a parent and therefore not under obligation to humor them. Take this as my answer and stop asking me the same thing over and over.

          • Kara

            Asking you what? I've never posed a question to you in any of my comments. I've noted that you give no evidence for your opinions, just generalizations and stereotypes. That's not a question.

            When you say things like "They cannot productively participate in a conversation about serious adult issues," it's not unfair for me to note that what you're saying is not a fact, and that you have no proof of that.

            Some teenagers may lack the experience needed to properly engage with complex topics. So do some adults. But it is factually untrue to state that all teenagers lack the intelligence and ability to form a rational and valid argument.

            Since your statement cannot be backed up by facts, but only by sweeping generalizations, I can understand your frustration. Feel free not to respond. However, I'm not "asking you the same thing over and over". Just pointing out that you're acting like making an unfounded statement is equivalent to making an argument.

          • http://www.facebook.com/unholyblackdeath William Ely

            Children hold no value to me. That does not require anything to back it up. They annoy me in person and they annoy me even more online.

            It is not a scientific point, I do not feel the need to back it up with anything except my feeling on the subject.

            Kids annoy me and have nothing to offer me (There a third time I address this, please read it.)

            In having kids take part in a conversation, you are agreeing to teach them. I am not willing to do this. You may be willing to, but I do not babysit for free nor do I teach for free. They should stick with other children or their parents (or those who agree to teach them) until they have put in their time. Not a fact, just how I feel about it.

            I'm not sure why this is giving you such a hard time, but I suspect you are just jerking me around and I accept that.

            Now, unless you have something different to add, I'm moving on. This should have been a 2 post conversation, not sure why you wanted to stretch it out. So pointless.

          • Kara

            It's giving me a hard time because I'm seventeen, I guess. That would do it.

            I contribute here on a regular basis. I screw up sometimes; everyone does. But I do make a productive contribution here. When you say that I don't, and can't do so until I turn 18 in April, that pisses me off.

            Claiming that you don't need to back up claims denying my value as a human or my ability to engage in discussions online only proves to me that your opinion isn't worth considering. So, just as you seem to be, I'm done with this.

          • Mindy

            Kara, FWIW, your comments on this blog are mature, well-reasoned, and I'd never have guessed you are "only" 17. Both you and Mel show far more maturity in your posting than William.

            For whatever reason, he's apparently been subject to the rude and dumb end of the teen spectrum. Too bad for him, because he's missing out on the wonderful insight and fresh perspective and passion that teens possess. Sure, some are morons – but I know an awfully lot of moronic adults, who I fear will never know as much as a lot of the teens I know.

            I agree with some of what he's said, but he's as "absolute" as Mel, just down at the opposite end of the spectrum. And she is respectful in her comments in a way that seems to completely escape Mr. Ely, which is too bad, because the value in his comments gets lost in his hostility.

          • http://www.facebook.com/unholyblackdeath William Ely

            It is not hostile to tell the little ones to bug off. You should be up front about being underage. You have to put in your time like everyone else.

            In case anyone forgets, there are legal issues involved as well. Minors = accusations = jail

          • Mindy

            Um, William? May I just ask . . . WTF??

            You are talking like someone who's been down that "accusation" road before – or something.

            We're having a conversation. I was surprised at both Kara's age and Mel's age – but they have handled the conversations responsibly, and unless you were hitting on Kara and the rest of us missed it, your comment has little to no bearing on this discussion.

          • Mel

            haha thanks. I'm glad that everybody else seems to agree at least on this. William Ely is on his own.

          • Mel

            Also an FYI for William. Apparently he will engage with people who are 18….I'm 18. So even according to your standards I should be able to have a part in this conversation.

          • http://www.facebook.com/unholyblackdeath William Ely

            @Mindy – You guys should all know me well enough by now to know that I mostly speak in generalities, not specifics. When I was speaking of accusations, I meant that in general, it is better for adults to have zero interaction with minors. It is safer for the adults this way. Other people's kids are a liability that is not needed.

          • Mindy

            Actually, William, I'm a fairly new poster, and so, no, I don't know that you mostly speak in generalities. Will keep that in mind.

            As for adults having zero contact with minors, all I can say is – to each his own. In my world, that is entirely NOT possible, and even if it were, I wouldn't want it. Other people's kids can get all over my nerves, sure, but what I learn from them, the fun I have with them – I wouldn't trade it.

            Your opinion sounds grounded in either a very bad experience, or the belief that the news stories you read represent the norm. They don't.

            Now there's a surprise . . . !

          • http://www.facebook.com/unholyblackdeath William Ely

            Okay, I am sorry. You are just so naive about this topic that it is hard for me to take your comments seriously. You missed a developmental stage somewhere or you have been deceived about the issues by someone in your life. Whoever it was that gave you the silly ideas has done you an injustice. But whatever, I should not even care in the least.

            You said that there can be a wrong without a victim in an earlier and that is obviously false, so you have definitely been getting some bad info from somewhere.

            I can’t believe I am bothering with this…

          • http://dianer.blogspot.com/ DR

            Mel with all due respect, all of who we are shows up online. When you asked someone to stop commenting back to you, I had a sense you were young (though adults older than you would do the same thing).

            SImply put: people have been reacting to you and countering you and disagreeing with you when they believed you were older. And they still are. Now that we have more information about you, then more of you shows up like any of us. Regardless, if you're going to be here and you want to be taken seriously, then consider other's perspectives with the same weight that you want yours to be received. If you want to be treated as an adult, well that's how adults who really care about connecting with each other act.

            For example: Calling masturbation "gross" is certainly something you can do, but there's no idea or critical thought behind it. It's just sheer feeling, sheer opinion and this isn't your personal online journal so you're going to be dismissed if you take something that a lot of people do and find really normal and just say "ew – gross". That's not offering any ideas out there for others to connect with, listen to and debate. OK? So this isn't about your age entirely, it is about you stating how you feel, what you believe and expecting others to just be cool with it on your own terms. And I'm sure you'll say "But it's my opinion! I have the right to say it!" and of course you do. But *how* you say something is going to set you up to have a particular type of response. Don't rush in and blame others for treating you as someone who is immature if you're communicating in black and white "This is bad and this is good, this is gross and this isn't" type of offerings. That isn't responded to well when it's offered by anyone of any age.

          • Mel

            I believe most things to be black and white. I always have, and always will. That's what gets debates going. If everybody was like "ya, it could be this way, or it could be the other way" nobody would have a real discussion about it. I'm fine with people disagreeing with me, and I do listen to their opinions. Just because I don't suddenly change my mind, that doesn't mean that I don't consider their perspectives with the same weight that I want mine to be received. As far as this not being my personal online journal…I am fully aware of that. But opinions is exactly what this is about. You said that what I say is sheer opinion, but isn't that exactly what everybody's doing here? Sharing their opinions? All I'm saying is that saying things like "because you're so young" is not productive. It is also irrelevant…converse with me about my opinions based on merit, not based on my age.

          • http://dianer.blogspot.com/ DR

            I believe most things to be black and white. I always have, and always will. That’s what gets debates going.>>>

            But it's not how they continue, Mel and you seem to be proving that out. So far it seems like you've demonstrated a pattern of "If you don't appreciate my comment or like what I have to say then leave me alone or I'll leave you alone". Which is essentially feels like you're saying, "I am taking my toys and going home." I'm referencing two specific places where that's occurred. And I say that not to pick on you but to show you that you're contributing to your own problem in a fairly substantial way.

            I'm certainly not the internet cop, I frankly don't really care if you're here or not (sorry but that's the truth). There will be others who flow in and out who are interesting and provocative. But you're here slinging away and then implying others are creating problems for you. I just want you to be aware of perhaps, your own role. That's it!

          • https://questionablemotives.wordpress.com tildeb

            Mel writes I believe most things to be black and white. I always have, and always will.

            Still laughing at that one. Thanks, Mel.

            DR, solid advice.

            Ironic that Mel thinks her own 'sheer opinion' means sharing a worthwhile opinion (Eeeewww, gross!) but that it is okay to call other (biased) opinions not productive and irrelevant with instruction to base exchanges about her opinion only on merit.

            @Mel

            What is the merit of calling masturbation "gross"?

          • Mel

            First of all, can you explain how that's funny?

            Next, you are taking what I said out of context. It's not like I said "masturbation is gross and all of you who do it are disgusting". I was addressing a comment that Mindy made about me "depriving" myself. I said, "I wouldn’t say I am “depriving” myself of anything…even if it wasn’t Biblically wrong, I wouldn’t do it because I think it’s gross. I don’t want to please myself…" See? I'm talking about ME. I was letting her know that *I* am not depriving myself because *I* wouldn't do it regardless because *I* think it's gross. For me. End of story.

          • https://questionablemotives.wordpress.com tildeb

            That's very kind of you to say, Mindy. You're pretty eloquent yourself and its a real pleasure to read your well-crafted thoughts.

          • Mel

            @Tildeb–Thanks for taking the time to explain that to me. I would like to point out that when I say I'm a black and white kind of person, always have been and always will be. I mean about certain things. I realize that's not what I said, so I'm correcting it now. Gray areas are out there, I know that. I just mean that when I have researched something thoroughly, and come up with an opinion, most of the time I become black and white on it. However there are certain things I can't understand, and those are the things that have gray areas to me. I don't think it's fair to say that I either won't get married, or will end up divorcing just because I have strong opinions about things. As for the rest of your comment about masturbation…again, thanks for taking the time to explain it to me, but I really just can't agree. I don't know I guess, for me it's still wrong because even after reading your well thought out post, I feel like my conscience is telling me not to. So, I still won't do it. I still think that if somebody masturbates to images, it is wrong. I can't get around that verse in the Bible to mean anything else. But, if you are saying that images and fantasies are not always the case, I'll take your word for it. In which case this would be one of those gray areas. Again, not gray *for me* because I know *I* shouldn't do it. But gray as to whether or not it is morally wrong for others.

          • Matthew Tweedell

            @Mel

            But when you are married, your opinions on many matters must become truly yours, as opposed to thine. Not "I", but "we". And in the Spirit of God, you already should know that.

            Also, you don't seem to understand that images do not make anything connected with them right or wrong. Realities do. Those are but illusions. "Stop judging by mere appearances and make a right judgment." Unfortunately, the anti-Christ has been widely spreading that lie (and it goes far beyond sexual topics).

            Anyway, what you see and what you look at can be quite different. And I've already commented to you above about what I understand "lustfully" to mean and how (given that the concept of the single lady is foreign to the context) it's spiritually no different from adultery.

          • https://questionablemotives.wordpress.com tildeb

            @Mel

            “I always have and I always will” is itself a very black and white approach you use to justify a black and white approach to most things. I think that’s funny because it’s so… earnest in its naivety. Good luck with that approach in marriage, for example… and you might as well start looking for a divorce lawyer now. Or maybe you will learn it’s not such a good approach with a spouse early enough in your marriage to avoid sabotaging it, in which case your statement “always will” will have to be changed.

            You wrote (about a hundred feet up this thread) It’s not sex that’s gross. It’s masturbation. How do you know if it’s gross? Maybe it’s your attitude that gross? Maybe it’s your interpretation of coming to know your own body (excuse the pun) that grosses you out. Maybe it’s the fact that you might awaken sexual desires you never thought possible that is gross. For whatever your reasons may be, I think there may be better reasons for reviewing your opinion.

            It seems to me that many people assume sexuality is a body thing. It’s not, actually; it’s a brain thing. Sure our brain uses our bodies for all kinds of tasks and actions but that doesn’t mean the urge to, I don’t know, drink something is a product of our stomach or a product of our hand that reaches for some liquid. It’s all about the brain and how we interpret our impulses through exploring and expressing and meeting our desires. How many times, for example, have you eaten something only to recognize that that wasn’t what you really wanted: it was something else entirely. If you are like most people, you might meet an emotional impulse like being sad with eating, let’s say, ice cream or chocolate. We recognize a lack of something and fill it with whatever makes us feel better. This is identical to the emotional component of addiction – the chronic ‘filling’ of one’s self to a sense of emptiness or a missing part. What I’m trying to say (badly) is that how we interpret our original impulse will determine our response to it. That you associate the sense of something gross to masturbation is an expression of how you have interpreted its role. Your interpretation may be poor.

            I will mention only one specific point here: confidence in one’s sexuality (in all its facets) is very arousing to others. I mean the term ‘arousing’ in its physiological sense: increase in blood pressure and breathing, heightened awareness and attention, and so on. We tend to seek this confidence in those around us others when faced with any kind of stressful situation… think of the qualities in people we turn to in times of crisis and problem solving and when we attempt to achieve common goals or seek answers. We yield to confidence. Leadership is very much about projecting confidence plus the means to deliver the results to verify if that confidence is in fact justified. We hold the same esteem for leadership through confidence in our sexual encounters.

            So how do we become sexually confident? Well, most of us just muddle along and gain some knowledge through experience. But we come equipped through our remarkable brains to gain a vast store of sexual experience about ourselves without ever needing a partner in a way that is safe as well as private. That’s masturbation. We learn what activates the chemical cascade of euphoria in our brains that is part physical, part mental, and part emotional. The imaginings we create to help ourselves climax are incredibly complex and very revealing to what we find so deeply arousing. We learn our triggers – and they are many like physical stimulation (which is actually unnecessary), emotional stimulation (very important), and many kinds of imagined social situation that puts us someplace where our arousal is piqued. Only through many multiple experiences can we begin to identify to ourselves the common threads we need, the kind and type of triggers that float our boat. Knowing ourselves this way means that we can teach (or lead) our partners how to find them. And our partners can then add surprising and arousing depth and breadth to the shared experience that dwarfs what has heretofore only been imagined.

            But if we don’t do this self-revealing work first, we place an additional burden on our partners of sexual expectation that can pale quickly no matter how earnest we are in our desires to please the other. Many of us are taught to expect our partners to do this work on our behalf once we are legally bound together, but this expectation can seriously damage early relationships as well as self-confidence if the partner is unable to fulfill our unknown sexual desires. Soon, the exploration for sexual fulfillment between two people in love becomes synonymous with either assigning blame when it fails to materialize yet again or intentionally reducing the role of sexual intimacy in the relationship. Neither response adds real strength to the emotional bond but detracts significantly.

            The solution to this very common problem starts very early as we sexually mature if we feel that it’s perfectly natural and right to self-define our sexuality in the same way we may try to self-define our fashion sense and public persona. In other words, we are expected to self-explore as we move into adulthood in all other areas of life except sex. And in this case, religion plays a central role in trying to define for us what is and is not acceptable… to god, no less!

            In this sole regard, we are told in many ways that it is somehow dirty or wrong or against the wishes of god for us to come to know ourselves before marriage, and I think this unhealthy guilt-ridden burden is an attitude that is demeaning (especially to women through objectification) to our common humanity. Sexual repression is counterproductive to becoming a whole and healthy people and cannot help but to adversely affect our sexual confidence and leadership in attracting a suitable mate.

          • Mindy

            tildeb – That is, perhaps, the most effective explanation as to why masturbation is normal and healthy that I have ever read. Thank you for putting it into an eloquent and sensible framework.

            Between you and Susan, I am in awe of your patience and willingness to share so thoroughly and thoughtfully.

          • Kara

            I still think that if somebody masturbates to images, it is wrong. I can’t get around that verse in the Bible to mean anything else. But, if you are saying that images and fantasies are not always the case, I’ll take your word for it.

            Mel, I'm curious – Do you still think it's a sin if the "images" are purely mental, and aren't of real people? I can very readily understand why someone might see a problem with someone utilizing images of a real person for sexual gratification (objectifying the person, harm to your relationship with the person, etc.), but I wonder what you think about the use of mental fictions.

            I'm certainly not trying to get you to act against your convictions, or wear you down by splitting hairs, or anything similar. If you don't want to do something, don't let anyone else make you feel guilty for not doing it. Your sexuality is your own, just as much when you choose not to do something with it as it would be if you did.

            However, I am curious, as someone who doesn't believe the same way on these issues, as to where you're coming from, which is the only reason I ask.

          • Mel

            @ Matthew–I don't really know what you're saying I should already know. Or how it has to do with marriage. Could you explain in layman's terms please? As for the rest of your comment, I disagree with you on your definition of lust, I think we'll have to leave it at that.

            @Kara–I know you're not trying to convince me to do something I think is wrong. I'm totally fine with people asking me questions. Unfortunately, I can't really give you a good answer. For sure, as you said you can understand, I believe using an actual picture of an actual person is wrong. To me, that's lust and it can't be looked at any other way. As for imagining somebody that is not real, and just creating an image….I really don't know. One of my first comments regarding masturbation was saying that it is wrong for me, and I'm not really educated enough on the topic to have a real discussion about it. I wish I would have left it at that, because I really can't have a good conversation about it as I don't know much about it. Sorry for the crappy answer, but I guess what I'm trying to say is I don't know how I feel about that.

          • Kara

            @Mel

            An honest "I don't know" is a better answer than many, many complex ideas people put forth and try to defend. I was just curious, but I appreciate your candor in not making up a position if you don't have one.

          • Matthew Tweedell

            @Mel

            I didn't realize the terms I used were not commonly used among laymen (or at least Christian laity). I'll try to explain it a little better—I just hope that I don't end up making it even more confusing, yet at the same time don't explain it in such detail as to write volumes.

            Tildeb was touching upon a deep truth about being in a successful loving relationship, saying, "Good luck with [a very black-and-white] approach in marriage, for example…."

            Indeed, it applies equally well to one's relationship with God.

            You replied, "I don’t think it’s fair to say that I either won’t get married, or will end up divorcing just because I have strong opinions about things."

            I think you don’t yet understand that just as you have to submit your will and your judgments to those of God so that the Holy Spirit might dwell in you, in order to play a part in the body of Christ—since to be members of His body, to be unified in the Spirit, means to share one common will, that is our Lord's—so in a healthy marriage the partners struggle to surrender their own will and judgment and adopt one common to them both—that they are both happy at what makes either happy, each mourns the other's losses. For when God brings a man and a woman together (or some other combo), their souls are made complete in a certain special way—like how in Christ we are made whole—and they become one flesh. Joined together in a common spirit that is in essence the same in marriage as in Christ—this is what it is to be in Love (who God is).

            I've grown spiritually from just grocery shopping with my wife—learning how, among all thoughts and opinions, are one truth and one will—if we embrace them, paradise awaits; if not—hell. Therefore submit to one another, as Paul wrote to the Ephesians. Lose yourself in the moment (the old self that is–and what is that, after all?) and gain an eternity together.

            We know one sort of submission as children, but this is somewhat different from among adults. When we are children we submit due to the lack of our own opinion on the matter at hand; as we grow up, we (typically) establish our own ideas about things. This makes it harder to submit: We're inclined towards rebellion/conflict, as we gradually learn how to negotiate our differences in submission to something greater than both ourselves and the ones with whom we discuss them. So, we submit the self to the marital unit, and so do we submit ourselves to the Lord, in His Spirit and His Truth. In the absence of mutual submission to a common good (and no one is good except God alone) in our shared (objective) reality, communication quickly breaks down.

            How is it that you define lust (in the context of the Scripture you quote about it)? Frankly, it doesn't seem to me that you appropriately distinguishing lust from healthy sexual desire. Also, are we allowed just to have our own opinions on the meaning of words of Scripture? (This returns again to the first point: I believe we must answer in the negative; we should seek together in the Spirit of Truth to bridge our differences on such things, as a matter of principle, to allow us to unite in spirit, yet not imposing our own will or judgment over another’s conscience in matters of action.)

          • Mel

            Thank-you for clarifying. I define lust the same way that the world defines lust. The actual definition is "intense sexual desire or appetite." In the context of the scripture I was quoting, this is exactly what it means. When masturbating to an image, you are lusting for her. I agree that we should try to bridge gaps that people may have when it comes to interpretation of the Bible. That cannot always be the case, but in this particular case, do you see where I'm coming from now?

          • https://questionablemotives.wordpress.com tildeb

            @ MT

            There you go confusing the simple with the informed. It's so much easier if we can just believe that scripture says what it means and means what it it says without confusing the message with accurate details and excellent resource references.

          • Susan

            @ MT

            @ whomever happens upon this nested post

            Tildeb brings up a point that I've wanted to ask in a sincere manner.

            The Bible is the inspired word of God. What did that mean for those who didn't have it read/taught to them in their own language? What about those who read the Bible without having access to the context, historical details and literal translations that are so often found in Bible's today? What about those like Mindy who aren't taught by a cadre of linguists to illuminate the 'accurate' interpretations?

            Why would God make it so hard to understand what he wants to tel his followers. The infallability of His word means that it is infallable if you happen to have an expert on the context and exact interpretation? For if you don't, how is the message not being taught / interpreted in err?

            I know one purpose of the Holy Spirit is to illuminate scripture to individuals, but what about these little details (context, literal interpretation – as in original meaning) that can hold some in bondage – merely b/c they do not understand the original intent, etc?

          • https://questionablemotives.wordpress.com tildeb

            @ Susan

            That is an excellent critical question.

            Consider if you wanted to leave instructions and guidance for someone a hundred years from now and long after you are gone: how would you go about it to reduce exactly this problem you raise? Is this what we find in scripture?

            Now do a little thought experiment: imagine having so much power that you can implement any plan you want to a specific species made in your image. You also have the benefit of knowing exactly how everything is going to work out. You can encode DNA to spell out, "God here: just saying hihowru," form mountain ridges on the moon and again on Mars to say "I am the lord your god, creator of the universe, sending you a friendly reminder to keep me in mind." You can whisper in some mortal's ear the solution to a very sophisticated mathematical problem and get her to write it down to astound the world. You can create a biological switch in brains of critters that turn off pain receptors if they are being eaten alive and autograph the network in the shape of dendrites that spell out, "You're welcome. Brought to you by Me, the benevolent god." There are so many ways to make your presence unquestionably known and the meaning of your messages incontrovertible with a first commandment of "For My sake, be kind to children and nice to everyone else." Is this really so hard to do?

            If you can think of some of these examples, then why can't god actually implement some of them? Is he so unimaginative? Has he not the power? Does he really not care all that much? Does he think the writings of people in a time of high illiteracy in what will become an obscure language translated and interpreted by dozens of scribes with their own biases and agendas about happenings from many decades earlier will do the best job of getting his message clearly and succinctly out into the wider population? Really?

            The standby excuse is about free will, about you coming to god by a leap of faith. It sure would help if such a leap was based on something that made better sense than books filled with contrary and conflicting meanings that seem to be more accurate as societal reflections of nomad goat herders from the Iron Age with equivalent misogynistic moral sensibilities than the words of an omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent, benevolent god-that-is-love who wants Susan to write her own invitation to join him in an after-life get-together.

          • http://fvthinker.blogspot.com Mike Burns

            @Susan

            @Tildeb

            Re: Why God didn't provide a more reliable/useful/unambiguous record of his will than the Bible…

            This is little chance of winning a debate on this. To state the obvious; Doctrine and dogma in the religious meme have evolved to treat belief on insufficient evidence as a virtue. The more difficult it is to believe (due to inconsistencies, abhorrent actions, inaccuracies, contrary evidence, etc.) the better Christian/Muslim/Jew you are. I have heard it argued by a believer that the inconsistencies in his religious narrative make him MORE committed to his beliefs.

            Of course, from outside of the bubble, we see such doctrine to be entirely consistent with there simply being no deity behind the holy book of choice. We would, indeed, predict that doctrine would eventually HAVE to incorporate such evidence-averse aspects simply for it to survive as a concept.

          • Matthew Tweedell

            @Mel

            Why would you say that an image arouses more “intense sexual desire or appetite” than a healthy marital relationship? And how do you know how the world defines it? I mean, how many languages do you know?

            It seems to me that the term used in Mat. 5:28 refers specifically to seeking after things forbidden. This is what blueletterbible.org suggests for the Greek word here (epithymeō), and it is translated (in the KJV) as many times as “covet” as “lust”. Vine’s Expository Dictionary specifically refers it to desires that are evil. Also, Thayer’s Lexicon supports that understanding (as referring to that whose object is what we cannot have), while yours is supported by an arbitrary ruling regarding what makes sexual desire/appetite intense, in turn stemming from a definition in a language neither Jesus nor His evangelist were using.

          • https://questionablemotives.wordpress.com tildeb

            Hey, this is a christian blog, so I don’t aim on ‘winning’ any debate. What I do think is important is to recognize the importance of the question that Susan raises. My own two cents worth may or may not add anything to that consideration other than to let Susan know that many of us have struggled with exactly these kinds of questions and come to conclusions that make sense to us. That’s a process and one that can and should be supported. I will bet dollars to donuts that you’ve gone through the same process and it’s nice to know that it’s something we share with a great many people we can intellectually respect.

          • Matthew Tweedell

            @Susan (and everyone else)

            The infallibility of Scripture refers to the concept that, no matter in what self-consistent manner one interprets it, it tends always towards the spiritual edification of the reader. Whether an interpretation is in error or not—as long as it’s consistent (and before the atheists start to argue that it can’t be, I will go ahead and tell them that that’s *their* interpretation)—is relevant only to the somewhat different doctrine of Scriptural inerrancy.

            I think most believers agree, however, that it is the Holy Spirit which guides followers to the truth. So the Holy Spirit can reveal inerrant understanding of the icon of the Word. So too can He reveal inerrant understanding of other icons, of the world around us, and of ourselves. Yet no one sees the whole of Truth, but that of it that the Spirit wills. But the Word, Jesus Christ, has made Him known, in the Way that one needs for salvation, if one sincerely believes.

            Salvation and a good life in service to God do not hinge upon proper understanding of Scripture (or stained glass windows made to illustrate its lessons to the illiterate masses), and what of it we understand, we understand as we are ready to understand. Indeed, Church Tradition affirms there are manifold levels of truth to the Scripture. What church Tradition does not universally affirm, however, is what exactly constitutes the Scripture. But that’s ok; there can be many ways to draw an icon yet still being inspired by the Holy Spirit and resulting in an object sacred and worthy of veneration, “useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness” (2 Tim. 3:16)—which was typically done in the local vernacular, to explain what was actually written down originally in a language even the clergy rarely understood, but the interpretation of which was passed down to them in Church Tradition.

            You see, prior to and outside of the Protestant innovation of “sola scriptura”, you weren’t supposed to interpret it yourself, but to conform to the traditional interpretation of the Church, which generally is what preserved sufficient knowledge for any of us today who seek to interpret in the context of the ancients’ understanding of their world and their words.

            But it’s not really all so difficult: I knew the answer before seeking the evidence I was sure would be able to support it, because I know Jesus, and it’s His words we’re discussing. As John suggests in his most recent post today, one need never open the Bible necessarily to be led by the Spirit of Love—the Spirit of Truth—the Holy Spirit of God.

      • http://www.facebook.com/unholyblackdeath William Ely

        Mel, your hangups with sex are serious. You should really seek professional help. I'm not even kidding.

        • Mel

          Ya I should seek professional help because I want to save myself until marriage….that makes sense (eye roll).

          • http://www.facebook.com/unholyblackdeath William Ely

            You know very well that that is not what I meant. I'm going to assume that you are not that dumb..

            I refer to the general way you refer to sex. Judging by your various comments, you have so many different hang ups about sexual issues that it would take a professional to wade through it all.

          • Mel

            So if you are not referring to me saving myself for marriage, what are the "so many different hang ups about sexual issues" that I have? I have a problem with masturbation…you don't agree, so according to you that's one issue, what are the others since apparently there are so many?

          • http://www.facebook.com/unholyblackdeath William Ely

            I have to be in class soon, so I'm short on time.

            Dude, you said earlier that even THINKING about sex is wrong. that is the sign of something not right in your mind. That's all I will say on it, because arguing with you would be like bashing my head into a brick wall. You don't need to worry about what I think anyway. It''s your life, do your thing. I only intended to comment, not debate.

          • Mel

            The types of comments you have left actually show that you do want to debate. So, if you don't maybe make your comments a little less judgmental. What I actually said was the *way* you think about it could be wrong. I supported this with the verse that says if you look at a woman lustfully you have already committed adultery with her in your heart.

          • http://www.facebook.com/unholyblackdeath William Ely

            I meant that I would not want to debate with you specifically. You are a obviously not up to a grown up conversation. How old are you anyway?

            You are confused. Sex and issues surrounding sex are a large part of being an adult. If you purposefully ignore a large part of what it means to be an adult, then are you really fully matured? That is actually an interesting question that I will ponder myself.

          • DR

            It's fascinating that Mel – the 18 year old – had the maturity to allow you the last word. And prior to that, the class and tact to simply maintain her point of view. While you? You're the one insisting she doesn't have the maturity to discuss this issue and yet? You're the one getting personal with her and you can't even stick to the topic at hand!

            Oh irony. You are so delicious.

          • http://www.facebook.com/unholyblackdeath William Ely

            @DR about sticking to the topic.

            It is very hard to stick to a topic when you folks always clump them together. For instance spirituality has no business in the same category as sex. That is creepy on so many levels and it also purposefully complicates the issue to the point where it cannot even be discussed with a serious face.

            That could be why so many people have issues with this sort of thing. If you find the sex/spirituality thing so complicated, there is a solution: Separate the the two into the two separate issues they really are. Stop pretending like spirituality applies to everything and you will find a simpler, easier and more enjoyable life before you.

            I’m not saying you should give up religion, just keep it where it belongs.

          • http://dianer.blogspot.com/ DR

            @ William:

            I missed your last comment addressed to me about the sex and spirituality not being compatible.

            With all due respect, I've no idea why you'd imagine you have the authority to dictate when the line of sex ends and spirituality begins. Particularly for religious people. It doesn't even make sense. No one here that's reasonable seems to be dictating what lens you as an Atheist should be viewing sex through – that you'd flip the coin and suggest the reverse – that sex and spirituality (for a Christian! On a Christian blog!) is "ridiculous" to mix leads me to believe you're not quite as intellectually savvy as you want others to believe. It's just not even a rational idea.

          • http://www.facebook.com/unholyblackdeath William Ely

            You said that it is not a simple topic for Christians. I was pointing out that it is indeed a simple topic, it is just that you confuse things by combining two unrelated issues. It is creepy and kind of perverse to mix religion and sex. Not to mention unnecessary. The two are simply not related.

            I'm not sure how keeping the supernatural out of conversations about sex seems irrational to you, but obviously you live in a totally different world than I do.

          • http://dianer.blogspot.com/ DR

            You said that it is not a simple topic for Christians. I was pointing out that it is indeed a simple topic,

            it is just that you confuse things by combining two unrelated issues.>>>

            This is perhaps one of the most ignorant things I've ever read on this forum. And from a Lbertarian! You're so much smarter than this, I don't get it.

            And while I think a part of you is here to just stir the pot a little or take out your own hostility regarding religion (which is fine to do, who cares it's fun), you reveal so much about yourself as a result, a hostility and need to control what Christians do and don't do, believe and don't believe that is disconcerting.

            The part of you that is exactly what you have expressed that you hate about Christians seems to be what you have been most frequently expressing. For you to claim that there is an absolute and universal on what things like sex are, and what they should be to everyone according to your own belief system, is exactly what Christians do regarding morality more often than not. You're just the other side of the coin.

            It's one thing to just simply state your perspective that for you as an atheist, sex is "insert your experience here and as a result of said experience, It is creepy and kind of perverse to mix religion and sex. Not to mention unnecessary." That's fine. Who cares, I will still live my life, you'll still live yours. And if this was the Atheist club? Then that would seem like an obvious conclusion.

            But it's not. It's a Christian blog where lots of different beliefs show up and everyone is throwing in their two cents about what they believe and more importantly, why. You stepping in and just crapping on everyone else's belief system – even when it comes to things like sex – says way more about your own intolerance and lack of control than it does anyone else's.

            "I’m not sure how keeping the supernatural out of conversations about sex seems irrational to you, but obviously you live in a totally different world than I do."

            With all due respect, William? Duh. We do, we are both people who take our beliefs quite seriously, it would appear that most people here do. And if said beliefs aren't impacting our behaviors and our lifestyle and our relationships? Then they are bullshit. So of course it makes sense that for a Christian, sex would be something within the boundaries of obedience, faithfulness, love, respect and how all of that is determined via Christ. Newsflash – you as an Atheist have a lot of interesting things to say, but you certainly don't get the last word on what a Christian believes about sex and why they believe it and how it benefits them to do so. It's like you rushing in and telling a Vegan who doesn't eat meat for ethical reasons is stupid because animals don't feel much pain and instead, they should eat meat because they have incisors and it's creepy that they mix love for animals with nutrition.

            Simply put? It's none of your fucking business why someone else believes what they do – you do you, let other people do them. The end. Wake up.

          • http://www.facebook.com/unholyblackdeath William Ely

            Its more like telling someone to stop hitting themselves with a hammer. I feel like I should, even though I know it’s not my business and it won’t do any good. If you want to unnecessarily complicate your life and willingly take on hang ups about sex, fine, be my guest. I won’t say another word about it. This thread has already cost me far more time than the topic is worth.

        • Argy-bargy

          Well, I have to say that this sort of comment is not very helpful. I'd prefer that we find a way to disagree without resorting to judgments like these. I do not agree with Mel's views on sex. I do not agree with Mel's entire approach to sex and masturbation. Without really knowing Mel, I cannot say whether Mel's views are based on physiological or psychological differences that are pathological. I do believe that Mel has valid, spiritual, and moral reasons for these beliefs and approach to sex. They are not mine, and I question the austerity of her beliefs. However, some of us have deeply held beliefs that we hold to even in the face of opposition or even ridicule. I find that I have a very stubborn opposition to capital punishment on moral grounds, and I would oppose it even if it is found to truly deter crime. I don't agree with Mel, but I have to admire the courage of her conviction.

          • http://www.facebook.com/unholyblackdeath William Ely

            Terrorists have convictions too, so what? Having strong beliefs is not automatically a positive and admirable thing. I judge by the merit of a person's ideas, not by how stubbornly they cling to them.

          • Argy-bargy

            Uh…the conviction to murder innocents is, I think it is safe to say, a lot less defensible than a choice to remain celibate until marriage for religious reasons. I agree that we should all examine the merits of ideas, just that Mel's idea is one that she has chosen for herself. Like I said above, I don't agree with Mel on several grounds, but she's entitled, and in my opinion, admired for the courage of this conviction. At the very least, she shouldn't be vilified for it. Perhaps defending name-calling is a stubbornly-held belief?

          • http://www.facebook.com/unholyblackdeath William Ely

            Come on goober, you people really cannot mean the things that come out of your mouths. People just are not that stupid. I refuse to believe it.

            I was obviously being a smart ass. Convictions do not automatically get respect is what I obviously meant. Come on now, hold yourself to a higher standard in future comments towards me.

          • Mel

            Thank-you. I agree that people should be able to have a conversation about something they disagree on without saying things like "you need professional help" or "I’m going to assume that you are not that dumb". Since you seem mature enough to have this conversation without resorting to such things, do you mind sharing why you disagree with me? The whole masturbation thing, I said before that I'm not really educated enough on the topic to have a real discussion about it, so I would prefer that we not discuss that. It's wrong for me because my conscience tells me it is, and I think that should be the end of that. However, you say that you disagree with my whole approach to sex…could you explain?

          • Argy-bargy

            Well, there are several reasons. You premise that your beliefs stem from numerous biblical passages, and you certainly rely on the authority of the bible as an encompassing guide . I cannot agree with that underpinning since I do not believe that the bible as a whole can be considered an authoritative guide to life. There are portions that can only be described as inspired, and in the beliefs of many, divinely so, but I certainly do not view the bible as either infallible, or even largely correct. Too many things to cover in this forum, but I've studied too much of how the bible actually came together that I have grave doubts about it serving, as a whole, as an authoritative guided to me.

            We probably disagree on that point, and so probably ends a common point of reference. I respect your choice to rely on scripture as an authority for your life, but it is not my choice. Personally, I see that fundamental approach as approaching bibliolatry. God gave me a mind and a conscience. I exercise them frequently and intensely. I will not abrogate my God-given faculties to a book, no matter who supposedly wrote it and who they supposedly cite or quote. On the question of sex alone, there are too many things I find contradictory or outright repugnant, that I question how a loving God could have ordained them. Lumping homosexuals in with those who practice bestiality and incest is one example, particularly since the bible ordains that they be put to death. Mosaic law permitting divorces, only to have Jesus say, "Well, Moses only said that because God knew you were hard-hearted" is another astonishing reversal. Why weren't we clued into this before??

            That being said, there are many things I do agree with, and at the very least, there are many passages, concepts, and sayings of Jesus to give me pause and to seriously reflect on why I believe what I do, and whether I should believe what I do.

            For myself, sex is too important a thing to engage in casually. However, I do not believe (and my life would be hypocrisy if I asserted otherwise) that I need to be married to engage in it. However, I would not engage in it unless I was in a loving, caring, and safe relationship with someone. I fall in love too easily, and I get hurt too easily to treat sex otherwise. That is a choice I have made. (And one that I frequently rue, given that I have been celibate since my divorce, and question why I remain so–I had sex in my life at one time–now it's gone.) Others may find different points on the continuum that works for them morally, spiritually, religiously, or psychologically. I cannot judge them for a well-considered position, just as I cannot judge you for yours.

            Everything I have seen, empirical studies, my own experience, the experiences of those I care about and who I respect as moral, principled people, tells me that sex itself is not bad. It's how we use it and what we use it for that counts. Masturbation particularly is a perfectly normal, healthy thing to engage in. It provides a release that would otherwise not be available, especially for a celibate. It does not lead to further immoral behavior. It is not a slippery slope. An unhealthy preoccupation with sex and uncontrolled lust can lead to immoral behavior. Lust (not sexual desire) is one of the most powerful forces affecting us. You have to ask yourself whether not engaging in masturbation, for example, would lead you more to lust than if you did have the release of masturbation. If you simply aren't interested enough in sex to see masturbation as a welcome solution or release, that is just you. It is not wrong for you to be that way, as long as you are otherwise healthy.

            Another thing only you can explore and decide, is whether your views on sex might interfere in a healthy sexual relationship once you do get married. There are tremendous shame issues associated with sex, and they, more than any other attitude towards sex, leads to deep problems in relationships, even ones where there are no sexual relations!

            I guess with all of this is I'm saying that there are no absolutes. The only God of Absolutes is the Father. I try not to deal with them since I am poorly equipped to do so. I am not infallible, omniscient, or omnipotent, and so engaging in absolutes would, again, abrogate what God has created me to do: consider the consequences of my choices, find a way to live my life that pleases Him, not just me, but live my life in an open way, open to the possibilities and choices He has given me, to enjoy this world and this body He has given me, informed by the conscience He has endowed me with.

            I do not believe that you would find your moral or spiritual life falling apart if you masturbated. I believe God created us to do that, pure and simple.

          • Mel

            Well, I still disagree with you, but thanks for sharing your opinion.

          • Argy-bargy

            No worries. God bless you, whatever you decide to do or not to do.

          • Jeanine

            I'm with you Mel.

            @A-b 'God gave me a mind and a conscience. I exercise them frequently and intensely. I will not abrogate my God-given faculties to a book, no matter who supposedly wrote it and who they supposedly cite or quote.'

            I actually understand why an athiest or an agnostic would not think the Bible is God's Word to us, but I really have a lot of trouble understanding why A-b and so many others who believe in God think this way about the Bible. They believe in God as the creator of everything. If He can make the universe in all of its complexity; is it so inconceivable that He could give us a book to explain Himself to us? And if He is able to save your soul from death; isn't it possible that he can use certain souls throughout time to write down His Word and preserve it unchanged?

            Why is it so outlandish to believe that God loves us enough to communicate with us in the form of scripture – so we are not left bankrupt of any knowledge of Him?

            And why did Jesus say "I am the Word?'

            I believe the Bible has validated itself to me through science, prophecy, archeology, revelation, and in its corrospondance with reality as it exists. I am a student of the Bible and find it fascinating; always opening up new understanding for me about the Father. But, I guess for me, this is not a leap of faith. I just expect a loving God to use language (a human form of communication) to communicate with me. And He does.

          • Argy-bargy

            Jeanine, I think the replies are too nested, so it's not letting me reply to your post directly.

            "Why is it so outlandish to believe that God loves us enough to communicate with us in the form of scripture – so we are not left bankrupt of any knowledge of Him?

            And why did Jesus say “I am the Word?’"

            It is no less outlandish to believe that He does or did. I think it would be outlandish to think that a loving God would only leave us a book written in fallible, human-created words so as not to leave us bankrupt of any knowledge of Him. He gave us minds. Consciences. The indwelling of the Holy Spirit.

            And, by the way, if you are a student of the Bible you know that how some books came to be in the canon had to do as much with politics or a majority vote of scholars, didn't you? You know that in the Greek, Jesus said "I am the Logos" which can be translated in a number of ways, not just "Word?" Again, our fallible words may not adequately explain what is the ineffable.

            Only God speaking to us through our hearts can truly do that, don't you think?

          • Jeanine

            @ A-b

            How do you know that you have the "indwelling of the Holy Spirit?"

            And how do you know that this 'Holy Spirit' exists and we can be indwelt by Him?

          • Argy-bargy

            How do you know? I hope not just because the bible told you it does/will.

          • Matthew Tweedell

            Wow. Argy! your responses are killer!

          • Jeanine

            Maybe his responses are 'killer', but he didn't answer my question, did he?

          • Jeanine

            I am just trying to figure out where all of you Christians are coming from. I have the Holy Spirit and you say that you have the Holy Spirit. And I am trying to get a handle on why He would tell you one thing and tell me exactly the opposite.

            So who is this Holy Spirit of yours? How do you know when He is speaking to you? How can you confirm that it is Him and not your own will or thoughts? Why do you trust it? Why do think you can rely upon it?

            Honestly, I am really trying to understand. What you all are saying does not line up with the Holy Spirit who has taught me, convicted me and comforted me for years.

          • Jeanine

            I mean,

            Either I have Him

            OR

            You have Him

            OR

            Neither of us has Him

            OR

            We both have Him and he has no idea what he thinks is right or wrong.

            So tell me about your experience with the Holy Spirit.

          • Argy-bargy

            I don't mean to have 'killer' responses, Jeanine. It's not about knocking an argument out of the park. I'm just trying to point out that necessarily our knowledge of God comes from more than words on a page. Many of those words seem to speak truths, but the contradictions also abound, and a debate about that would be too long for this forum. I don't intend on you abandoning the bible if you believe that it is the literal word of God. I'm certainly not trying to be snarky or condescending. I'm just pointing out that inside all of us is something that is ineffable, vibrant, phenomenal, and…frankly, more real than anything around us. Our senses can be tricked, but this..thing? It moves inside us. It moves us. I guess I know that better than anything else I know.

            If there is a loving God, He would want to communicate with us. Not that He can't do so through a book, but it follows from the above, that He should be able to do so through this spark, this spirit, this soul connection. He wouldn't want to consign his only revelation to human words on a page from languages and sources we can't even read anymore. Call it what you want and many call it by different names. Regardless of creed or lack thereof, it's there inside each and every one of us. I don't need a book to tell me it's there, although that book and many other things have helped me understand it a bit better.

            But in the darkest part of the night, when I can't read a book or talk to anyone else, what is there, able to speak to me? I know it's in you, too. That's why we're all His children.

          • Argy-bargy

            …And to answer your post I just saw, we think it tells us different things. Maybe it does. Maybe it does because it is what I need to know at that time to fulfill some purpose I couldn't possibly understand. Maybe we deceive ourselves sometimes, letting our selfish desires supplant that voice, but it isn't really a voice, is it?

            I don't think our consciences differ that much. I think our answers may differ for a variety of reasons. Maybe they're supposed to. Maybe one of the things we're supposed to understand is that we have to bridge the differences somehow. We're supposed to learn to choose between all of these warring notions of what God is and He wants for us.

            If this all sounds mystical, yes I guess it is. Again, it isn't something that most of us can easily put into words, is it? And if we did, they're our human words, not in the language that only God can truly speak.

          • Jeanine

            And you are sure, that even though we both hear this spirit telling us different things that he is the same one?There is no chance that there are other spirits that speak to us, other than God?

            You see, when the Spirit speaks to me it is probably 95% of the time that He uses the Word of God. I will be reading along through a passage I've read 100 times before, and suddenly, the words will like leap off the page into my heart. I will see a truth in them that I never saw before. He expands my knowledge of Him; and it corrosponds to what he has said all through time about himself in his Word. I begin to read other passages that begin to confirm that truth. And often times, I will step out in faith and act on it; and it will make all the difference in the world to my situation.

            I know it is more than just words on a page, because it meets me where I am – it speaks to my situation in time.

            There are often times where I will struggle with verses and passages. I can't come up with what God is getting at in them and I'll just pray about it and put it out of my mind. Sometimes only a day or two later, I'll read something or hear someone speak, or be talking to another Christian who will answer that question for me without my even asking them. That is the Spirit teaching me. It is really not mystical at all. It is really just like having somebody really teach you something and answer your questions.

            Some things, you are right, I really struggle to understand. I'll read lots of different writers, etc. and search a long time. And then, Bingo, my heart will leap when I hear something and I'll say to myself – that is it! But when I go back to the Word – there it was in the Word all of the time. I just never saw it.

            I don't know, listening to that unverifiable voice sounds too risky to me, because I know we have an enemy in this world and I have met him face to face. He is nobody that I want to toy around with.

            I feel very safe and secure in the arms of Jesus, led by his Spirit through the Word and prayer.

          • Kara

            Jeanine,

            There have been major disagreements between Christians over doctrine for thousands of years. Unless you believe that everyone through history who agreed with you was hearing the Holy Spirit, and everyone who disagreed with you was not hearing the Holy Spirit… I don't know what to tell you.

            Your Holy Spirit allows you to believe that I'm a sinner because I'm openly, happily gay. It's difficult for me to understand that, because the Holy Spirit tells me something that contradicts that.

            But even though I don't understand how the wonderful Holy Spirit that I experience could tell anyone that I'm sinning by loving, I still believe you are a true Christian, seeking God with all your heart just like I am.

            Perhaps the point is for us to consider other people's perspectives. Perhaps some hear what we want to hear, or let our own personal biases get in the way.

            No matter what the answer is, it isn't simple. But I recognize that we both have the Holy Spirit, even if we don't agree on doctrine.

          • Matthew Tweedell

            @Argy-bargy

            Yes! If we didn't bridge divides, God would not exist. Yet He does, so we're destined to have differences to be bridging.

            @Jeanine

            Perhaps you just spend much of your time spent looking for God searching in Scripture. Seek and you will find; it doesn't matter where. You don't want to listen to an unverifiable voice, so you interpret an unverifiable reading. As for myself, I prefer verification.

          • http://fvthinker.blogspot.com Mike Burns

            @Jeanine

            "I am trying to get a handle on why He would tell you one thing and tell me exactly the opposite"

            What an utterly important and clarifying point you highlight here Jeanine. How is it that an all powerful and all knowing entity [in the Christian God] speaks to people so inconsistently and ambiguously.

            Methinks that this would be entirely consistent with none of you actually hearing from ANY actual Holy Spirit! I'm just sayin'! :-)

          • Mel

            Thanks for sharing Jeanine. I'm just getting a chance to read all of this now, but you and I seem to be on the same page about everything we talk about :)

          • Jeanine

            @MT 'You don’t want to listen to an unverifiable voice, so you interpret an unverifiable reading. As for myself, I prefer verification.'

            MT, I can see how you might have problems with interpretation; because you almost always read something into my statements that I never said.

            I think in my statement I very clearly described how the Holy Spirit verifies interpretations of scripture and teaches God's children. It is only your opinion that I am not really learning anything.

          • Jeanine

            @MB

            'Methinks that this would be entirely consistent with none of you actually hearing from ANY actual Holy Spirit! I’m just sayin’!'

            No doubt you would, and I agree with you. I do not think that the Holy Spirit (given the fact He is Holy – meaning perfectly righteous) would treat any two human beings differently in terms of Truth.

          • Mindy

            @Jeanine – so how do you explain that believers "hear" different truths from said Spirit?

            You are hearing the Spirit correctly, and they are all hearing something else and mistakenly thinking it is the Spirit, hence are wrong and misguided? Perhaps Satan in disguise, giving misleading messages?

            Because that is what it *seems* like you are saying. That OBVIOUSLY, this perfect Spirit would not give two different humans two different, apparently contradictory messages, and since you KNOW that you are hearing the messages correctly, everyone else must be wrong. Not hearing the correct Spirit, not hearing the Spirit correctly, not interpretation said Spirit's messages correctly, or just not very good Christians.

            Can you clarify, please?

          • Matthew Tweedell

            @Jeanine

            Wait. Where did I express any opinion that aren't really learning anything?

            Seriously.

            You said said specifically, "listening to that unverifiable voice sounds too risky to me".

            I then pointed out that your interpretation of scripture is unverifiable, as it is self-contained between a voice of unverifiable origin and a text of unverifiable origin. And when compared with verified interpretation—at which I have much skill and intuition, thank you very much—it fails.

            What am I reading into your statement, Jeanine?

          • Jeanine

            @ Kara (way up above somewhere)

            'There have been major disagreements between Christians over doctrine for thousands of years.'

            I agree with you; the institution of the church as it has developed through the centuries has undergone many changes. However, these changes were based on interpretation of 'scripture'. Battling and contending over what scripture means.

            I do believe that through all of this debate, the Lord Jesus Christ has been building His church – and that there have been saints all through the ages that understood the message of the Gospel plainly.

            This new attitude that has arisen over the last century where the Bible has become just a book, and not the Word of God at all – and that the Holy Spirit has no connection to this book, goes against what Christ and the early disciples taught.

          • Susan

            @ Jeanine (& whomever has some valuable input…)

            This is not a reflection on you at all and my assumption may be completely wrong, but…

            I think I understand, at least in part, what you are saying.

            When I was growing up and into early adulthood, I was taught that the Bible is the ineffable word of God. There was a constant effort to not just “read” the Bible, but truly engage in Bible study to allow the holy spirit to reveal how the text applied to our lives in this day and age. The purpose of the holy spirit is to serve as a conduit from the Father to us. It is through the holy spirit that we can become more like Christ. Doing “the best we can” is not what is asked of us; rather we are asked to trust the spirit to transform us through the renewing of our mind – by reflecting on God and his word.

            The holy spirit also gives us a “spirit of discernment” – the ability to intuit sources that are ‘of God’ vs. those that are ‘not of God.’ Satan would never come in an obvious form, his influence would not present itself as something that would repulse us. He (it, whatever) is a brilliant salesman. He’s a smooth talker, knows each individual’s weaknesses and how to manipulate them so he can appear to be God, or of God. Whatever the slickest, most cunning way he can lead us away from God, get our focus off of God, or even better, trick us into thinking we are following God – that’s the way he’ll approach us. Again. And again. And again.

            As I write this, my chest is tightening because memories of the oppression I felt – the fear, the confusion, the constant necessity to “be on guard” the never-at-peace lifestyle was suffocating. Granted, this is only my experience and mine alone. It’s tainted no doubt by my own baggage, psychological makeup, etc.

            To me, that was not living. It was combat – “spiritual warfare” is what it was referred to back then. For me, it was an incessant battling of a black and white world, one that existed in my head.

            But I believe there is far more room for grey. I’ve learned a lot over the last few years that leads me to believe God is bigger than any parameters I use to define Him. He can work in me, use me for good, and meet me where I am today. I may be wrong, I may come across as f*cked up, but I’ve just revealed a lot of crap

            That being said, I don’t think it is wise to dismiss the Bible as irrelevant. If we do that, and trust completely on “our feelings” we’re simply making it easy to “forget” God, maybe create our own god. Feelings aren’t always trustworthy – if they were why are there so many therapists in such high demand? Why do we need them to help us separate dysfunctional feelings from reality? Belief, like love may have feelings associated with it, but feelings are fickle. People aren’t married for decades because they feel so in love. A friend remarked to me that sometimes she rolls over in bed, looks at her husband and says to herself, “what was I thinking” – of course she was not being serious, but her point was that love is an act of commitment. The commitment is what holds the marriage together during tough times. So, what of belief (Christianity)? If the Bible is taken out of the equation entirely, doesn’t that mean, in essence we’re writing our own book?

            I don’t have answers, but lots of questions. I may come across as a bit f*cked up. Oh well. Authenticity and vulnerability are not always wrapped in red ribbons.

          • Susan

            @Tildeb –

            Good point. The interpretation of a feeling may be what is flawed.

            Playing editor after one has clicked on "submit" – that's just mean ;-)

          • https://questionablemotives.wordpress.com tildeb

            And that's what our brain does: interpret everything.

            As for playing editor, I never said I was nice!

          • https://questionablemotives.wordpress.com tildeb

            Susan, I have a quibble with you when you write Feelings aren’t always trustworthy – if they were why are there so many therapists in such high demand? Why do we need them to help us separate dysfunctional feelings from reality? Belief, like love may have feelings associated with it, but feelings are fickle.

            I think feelings are ALWAYS trustworthy. Where we run into trouble is how we interpret these feelings, and therein lies the route of therapy for interpretative skills that don’t help but hinder us.

            I adored your brilliant observation that love is an act of commitment with one tiny change: substitute ‘exercise’ for ‘act’ and I think you hit the emotional nail on its linguistic head. And because I cannot leave a perfectly good sentence alone, I would add ‘and appreciation.’

          • Jeanine

            @ Susan

            I really appreciate what you said here; and I understand it completely. When I first came to Christ I was just excited to be alive; but the more I studied scripture, the more I felt the burdens and fears you are talking about. What you say you felt – I was there myself at one point.

            Have you ever read the Screwtape Letters by CS Lewis? They are letters written from one demon to another, where they are trying to keep their target person from knowing the Lord. To me it is an absolutely fascinating angle. It describes the 'spiritual warfare' that you are talking about, and sometimes it is so subtle. But the thing I love about it, is that at the very last moment, just when you think the devil's schemes are going to work; God shows up very easily and turns the target person back in the right direction. And it almost seems as if the person is obliviuos to all that is going on in the spiritual realm.

            Anyways, I work at my computer so I usually have a Pastor's sermon playing in the background. I know, what a nut….. right? I can't help it, I am just always hungry to know more about who God is. But I listen to maybe 30 different teachers, all with different styles and opinions.

            One day I heard this guy Paul Washer talking (and he is quite different from many Pastors, almost kind of depressing). But he said something that really changed the battle for me; He said that we depend too much on our ability to hear God and to do what is right, instead of depending on God's ability to lead.

            I don't think that means that we do nothing; I just think that means that He is the one really fighting the battle – trust in Him to carry you through it. So instead of worrying, I do my best with what I understand – and the rest of the time I just praise Him for what he has done for me and what he is doing for me.

            Praise is really the thing that got me out of that fearful spot. Reflect on God, Jesus and his promises. When I Praise Him he is so near that there is no place for fear.

            Well, that is just how it happened with me. Thanks so much for sharing.

          • Susan

            @ Jeanine,

            Thank you for sharing your experience and suggestions.

            Where I am, now, is a very different place than you are spiritually for various reasons. Your relationship with Christ and your belief system is great for you, I don't want to judge; however, where my spiritual journey is leading – well, it's hard to explain, and I'm not sure you would understand. Suffice it to say it is personal. I'm definitely a work in progress, some might even say a piece of work! ;-)

            Peace,

            Susan

          • Jeanine

            @ Mindy

            It is so odd how people on here love to read between the lines of what I wrote and heap on me all types of things I never said or even meant to say.

            I think I spoke very clearly that the Holy Spirit teaches me predominantly through the use of scripture. My confidence does not come from my own ability to 'hear', it comes from the Spirit's ability to open up His scriptures to me.

            I was simply asking A-b, where does his confidence in the Spirit come from? He and I were having an honest dialogue back and forth; and you just want to pounce on somebody who trusts the Bible as God's Word.

          • Mindy

            No pouncing, Jeanine. Perhaps, if you keep getting misunderstood and people keep attributing things to you that you didn't mean, it *might* have something to do with your presentation rather than a whole bunch of us not reading correctly?

            And you didn't answer my question.

          • Argy-bargy

            Jeanine:

            I can't put into words how I feel more "confident in the spirit." I wish I could explain…even for myself! All I know is that my internal life is far richer and real, for want of a better word, than what I perceive with my senses. I can't possibly know for sure that the voice that speaks to me without words is: (a) my own internal neurological processes, (b) the voice of God, (c) the voice of someone other than myself or God, or (d) something I haven't considered until now.

            I make the leap of faith to determine that some of the profundity of what I experience internally and think I hear is far more than what this puny mortal can come up with on his own…the source must be greater than me.

            You'd appreciate that quote from John 14:10: "Don't you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me? The words I say to you are not just my own. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work."

            The idea that Jesus wanted to convey, I believe, is one that we don't have to rely on a bible to believe: Is the rightness, the wisdom of that spiritual "voice" consistent? Then, that is more likely to be the voice of the spirit. Does it clearly contradict itself? Then it can't be. Does it move my heart to live the ultimate law I believe that God set down for us? If so, then it must come from God or what God has put inside me to listen to and guide me.

            The great rabbi, Hillel, had this story ascribed to him: When someone came to him, asking Hillel to teach him the entire Torah while standing on one foot, Hillel replied, "What is hateful to you, do not do to your neighbor: that is the whole Torah, while the rest is commentary; go and learn it."

            God writes on our hearts. It's not that He can't write on a book (although I categorically deny that the entire bible is divinely inspired, much less the literal word of God), but ultimately, we can deceived by words. I choose to believe He cannot deceive us. But learning the language that God really uses, that leads understanding, discernment, wisdom, experience, we cannot and must not relegate to the imperfection of words.

            His revelation is not just something that can be written in a book. The revelation is written in our souls every time He chooses to do so.

            If indisputable proof emerged tomorrow that the bible was ultimately some fantastic forgery, what would we have left? If we base our belief on that book, we are missing what God wants us to believe, His voice inside us. Don't rely too much on that book.

          • Jeanine

            @A-b

            'All I know is that my internal life is far richer and real, for want of a better word, than what I perceive with my senses'.

            This statement is really the heart of it, right? The sense that there is this supernatural, spiritual reality that exists and is far more real than the things we can touch.

            Hillel's comment about the Torah is very similar to a comment Christ made.

            Matthew 35:35

            One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: 36 "Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?" 37 Jesus replied: " 'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments."

            Hillel's view of the Torah is comparable to this second law. But, it is really based on the first and greatest commandment – according to Christ.

            I want to know and love the one true God. If He is the source of love, then how can I love my brother really, without tapping into the source?

            I guess I am asking, do you think Jesus just came to teach us about how to love our brother or do you think he is the source of that love?

          • Argy-bargy

            I believe that he came to teach, including a demonstration of how that has to be if we truly love each other.

            I believe that the source of that and all love is the Father, the one true God.

          • Jeanine

            Do you believe in Satan?

          • Argy-bargy

            I don't think we need the devil to explain evil, or temptation, for that matter. Humankind takes care of that quite well enough on its own, sad to say.

          • Argy-bargy

            I don’t know if I do. I think that the belief in devils and demons (and perhaps angels for that matter) is to border on the hopelessly superstitious. And superstition, as opposed to a genuine, considered leap of faith, is as dangerous as…well, as witch burnings.

  • Susan

    Dear writer,

    I can relate to this statement of yours completely:

    [… In other words, Christianity is making me miserable! I just want to be happy, but at every turn it seems like God wants to literally block me from good things.]

    For years I felt as though God made the rules harder for me than He did for others. Life was very legalistic – very black and white. Although I accepted Him as my savior, put my faith in Him, it still seemed like I was in a constant battle and could never relax or truly enjoy life. The ‘all or nothing’ approach drove me away from Christianity. What I’m learning is that my view of God was very flawed. My parents, family dynamics, psychological makeup and lack of self-worth, the guilt of my religion and fear-based dogma shaped God into something I resented.

    [I can’t help but feel like I’m being psychologically damaged by waiting so long … It is so frustrating! Am I really going to be a 30 or even 40-year old virgin?? I can’t do it!! I just can’t! If God’s not going to provide a way for me to be normal and healthy, what am I to do?!]

    I can assure you the act of NOT having sex will NOT psychologically damage you at this stage in the game. However, the anxiety/anger you feel with regard to waiting until you’re 30 or 40 is only compounding any resentment you already have – you’re pissed off at God for withholding your ability for future sex, which is a non-issue right now.

    I tend to think that you are posing your question here, a somewhat liberal & safe place, for permission to have sex. I may have done the same thing, so I’m not judging. But, no one here can say what is right for you, in my opinion. Forgive me if I’m making a wrong assumption.

    If you dismiss Christianity or God because of the sex issue, I feel sure that you won’t really be denouncing your faith; rather, you will be rebelling. You can’t be angry at a God you don’t believe in. And, right now you are frustrated and angry – understandably so. If you rebel, you are only burying your faith, and the feelings will resurface in some other facet of your life and in other relationships.

    Some things to consider:

    1. Understand your beliefs about God – why do you think he wants to deny you pleasure? That is something that has more to do with you than Him.

    2. Must your beliefs be so black and white? It seems you are dismissing some possible “grey” areas – masturbating (if you haven’t) or waiting until you meet someone with whom you want to share the experience and then seek clarity? It sounds as though you’ve suppressed all sexuality, and my fear is – if you jump into sex, you risk hurting another person and possibly yourself. I’m not saying these grey areas are OKAY for you, but since you didn’t mention them, I don’t know if you’ve considered them at all.

    3. Are you emotionally mature enough to even have sex? What do you think it means to be emotionally mature enough to have sex?

    Losing your virginity is not something you can undo. Hurting another person is not something you can undo. You CAN hold off for a while and try to determine the answers to the above questions (and maybe others). Waiting will not hurt anybody. Not waiting may.

    If you are having a struggle not just about sex, but also faith and you haven’t indicated a concern about the effects of having sex – on you, or a partner, it just seems like you should give yourself some time to reflect on these things first.

    Wishing you all the best.

    • Diana A.

      Good answer!

      • Susan

        Wow. Thanks for that Diana!

    • Mel

      @ Susan

      “Losing your virginity is not something you can undo.”

      I once heard somebody say that a way to look at it is “I can have what you have whenever I want, but you can NEVER have what I have”

  • peet

    Philosopher Immanuel Kant theorized that a lot of our struggles as human beings is a result of the fact that our PHYSICAL puberty (the point at which we can reproduce) arrives at ages 12-15, and our SOCIAL puberty (the point at which we can hold a job and support a family) arrives at ages 21-30.

    At some point, we all have to live in that gap between 15-21: horny and unemployable.

    Wish I had an answer for THAT.

    But as for sex before marriage? I waited all the way until….until a girl told me she wanted to have sex with me. I have no comments on the particulars of my life, only to say I have been married for 20 years, and happily so, and would only recommend the following guidelines for ANYONE interested in a sexual relationship:

    Happy relationships are committed, monogamous, and public.. If you aren't willing to be in a public relationship with one person for the long-haul, then you aren't ready to have sex no matter what your genitalia are telling you.

    • Susan

      So well put…Thank you for sharing!

  • http://www.shadsie.deviantart.com Shadsie

    Stopping by…

    The craziness people and society have about sex bothers me – although it cannot be helped. I get it from "another perspective."

    I'm in my thirties, engaged and living with someone – but *still a virgin.* I'm not proud of it, and I learned long ago that I had no right to act like I was high-and-mighty over my status. For me, it's not about resisting temptation, but about a lack of desire.

    A lot of people don't think that aesexuals exist, but we do.

    And it feels weird for me to live in a world that seems to be all about sex. I make it clear to people when the subject comes up that, yes, I am a freak. (I think the "lacking libido" might actually be due to a particular health condition that I suffer). I just resent it when people act like I *should* be having sex when I really don't want to and am not sure if it would be "the right thing" if I did want it.

    • Ace

      You aren't a "freak" – that is a horrible way to think about it.

      Not everyone has the same sexual needs or wants. Regardless of the reasons, that doesn't make you a "freak" – just a person who doesn't want a sexual relationship. There's nothing "wrong" with that, if you are happy the way you are, no one has the right to tell you that you need to change.

      I really get fed up with people casting judgement on other people's sexuality (or their own in a negative way). Except in cases of things that are truly destructive like pedophilia, I don't think anyone has any right to judge another person that way, because you ultimately just get things like the brutal murder of Matthew Shepard.

    • http://fvthinker.blogspot.com Mike Burns

      If there is "a particular health issue", it would be good to know regardless of its effect on libido. If it is, for instance, a hormone imbalance, it could have other long term health consequences and prophylactic treatment may be in order. If you are engaged to be married to someone with a more 'typical' libido, then that seems a recipe for problems down the line. You had be be absolutely sure your fiancée knows the whole score.

      Just out of curiosity (don't answer if you don't care to…no problem); is it just the 'desire' for sex that is lacking? …or do you not feel the pleasure of (or achieve) orgasm? I feel creepy just asking, but I am a [non-medical] diagnostician as part of my work. I am curious to know where in the chain things appear atypical. If you can't feel the physical sensation, then I suppose there would be no drive to seek it out.

      • http://www.shadsie.deviantart.com Shadsie

        Since this is the Internet and you're all strangers I won't have to face down day to day anyway…

        Um… I've done "self-love." Sensation is there, so I don't think I have a problem there. My fiance' isn't really interested, either. We're weird – like, "this is what happens when two aesexual nerds who just like spending time together fall in love." He constantly tells me that the thing he is most interested in with me is my *mind.* If people could have marriages of pure mind, that's what we'd have.

        Pretty much the only thing that's preventing us from being legally married is… complex money issues which I do not want to get into here.

        As for my health issue… Um. It's mental. I'm bipolar. I've heard that some bipolars are characterized by having bouts of high sexual activity / desire, but there are some that are just "none" – I'm apparently one of the "nones." It's like I transfer any of my baby-making energy into making art, I guess. I don't want children, I have novels and paintings.

        It's just when I've talked about stuff like this to some people, I've sometimes been treated like I'm not human because I'm an adult virgin – or like I'm not "supposed" to be as happy with it as I am.

        • Ace

          "It’s just when I’ve talked about stuff like this to some people, I’ve sometimes been treated like I’m not human because I’m an adult virgin – or like I’m not “supposed” to be as happy with it as I am."

          I've noticed that attitude – apparently after a certain age, you are not supposed to be a virgin anymore and it's SO WEIRD or something if youa re, even if you are a woman and not married, but you know if you DO have sex outside of marriage, then you're still a slutty slut slut.

          It makes no sense.

          But that's American culture for you.

          • http://www.shadsie.deviantart.com Shadsie

            Something that makes me feel better about the whole issue – something that I think is wise… actually comes from a bit of popular fiction.

            At the urging of people who said it was good, I decided to watch a long-cancled but cult-classic science fiction series: "Firefly." If your'e a proud geek, you've probably heard of it, if not, it's a science-fiction western thing about the crew of an independant ship that survive by piracy. Among the characters is a woman who rents she ship's attatched shuttle – and she's basically a high-class prostitute.

            There was one episode that featured her being hired out by a wealthy jerk to "make a man" out of his awkward adult son. The morning after, the young man gives her thanks but tells her that he doesn't feel any different than before she took his virginity.

            She tells him that "virgin and non-virgin" are just states and one doesn't "become a man" by losing one's viriginty but by owning oneself / standing up for oneself / being honorable – something like that.

            I just thought it was totally beautiful and something I hope that the portions of the audience watching it for the sexiness got a little of that message.

      • http://www.shadsie.deviantart.com Shadsie

        To add something I forgot:

        We've been together for five years. This was because my guy rescued me from a bad family situation. We know each other's atypical-ness well. He's also seen me through things that basically, for me, is epitome of love.

        Giving a woman diamonds is not love. PIcking her up from a mental health clinic after she's had a meltdown – now that's love.

        • http://fvthinker.blogspot.com Mike Burns

          PIcking her up from a mental health clinic after she’s had a meltdown – now that’s love.

          It might also be LUV. Good luck to you both.

  • Don Gollahon

    After reading most of the posts, here are some thoughts I've had:

    One thought about the idea of adultery that runs through my mind is that since it is having sex with another person's spouse then couldn't having sex at any time with someone that is not your spouse be considered adultery since that other person may become married to someone else and not you? Even if it is between two unmarried people deeply in love with each other who plan on getting married someday, they still are not guaranteed they will be married so it is risking adultery at best.

    A personal example of this is that I came within 2 weeks of my wedding day and she broke up with me. I was totally devastated but I am so glad we never had intercourse. That was 32 years ago. I did get married 2 years later, at the age of 25, and was a virgin on my wedding day. I'm glad I waited. I'm glad my wife is the only person I have ever had sex with. I'm glad we learned "how to do it" ;-) over the years together. It's been fun. It's been exciting.

    Abstaining from sex until the proper time can teach you much. It can build character as you learn to control your appetites. A big thing, with guys anyway, is it can help you learn to look at women as more than sexual objects. You learn to value them for more than beauty and pleasure, but as a relational and spiritual person. You learn what love is as opposed to lust.

    My wife was not a virgin when we got married though. She was 21. I will never forget her telling me a few nights into our honeymoon that she had never had someone care about how SHE felt! Thank you God for helping me restrain myself until I was married! Thank You for helping me learn to value my wife's feelings more than my own!

    Yes, you should wait until marriage, as God planned it, to have sex. But if you haven't you should forgive yourself and your partner! My wife and I had many talks before marriage about our past lives and experiences. There were no surprises. We vowed up front to be totally honest and open with each other. We've been that way ever since. We had both been hurt before too many times by not being real so we were determined to be who we really were to each other.

    God will honor truth. He will honor and bless repentance and forgiveness. He will bless your relationship when you put Him first. He created you. He knows what makes you tick and how you are are supposed to work. Trust Him.

  • A’isha

    From personal experience whenever a relationship has become sexual, my emotional attachment has always increased greatly. Then when the relationship ends, as they do, I’m still emotionally attached and it hurts more and is harder to get over. It doesn’t matter whether I was the one to end it or the other person was. It also seems that I’ve left a part of myself with past lovers. I don’t know if that’s really a bad thing, it just is. I don’t regret having sex except when I was too drunk or high that I don’t remember their names. Guess that’s the other part of John’s post. :) And one time of sex outside of marriage did give me two wonderful children, so how can I regret that? But after living a couple different lives now I think that it’s better not to be promiscuous. Not that it’s wrong to have sex, just not good to sleep with lots of people. For me personally, it seems healthier emotionally to keep sex in a committed relationship.

  • Christine

    Well, God never said life was gonna be easy. He never said following him would be easy. In fact sometimes being a Christian and missing out on stuff sucks arse. But the alternative of eternity sucking arse doesn't really make me too happy either. So I will stick with the Jesus jazz.

    With the whole sex thing, I have wondered that. I am divorced so most recent issue has been "what about sex AFTER marriage? Already not a virgin so hey, let's have at it. But then again, that isn't out of love for the other, that is pure old lusting going on right there. Same with the young man. Sounds like there isn't a woman on the scene who he wants to spend his life with, so who is he having sex with and why? And is it very loving? And with the odd's on STD's out there I would say better safe than sorry.

    Following Jesus is….hard! No one ever said any different.

  • Mel

    I’m actually really interested to see how people respond to my post. I’ve read through all the comments, and although I will be repeating some of what people have already said, I also have some new things to say too. First of all, addressing the letter-writer. PLEASE wait until marriage to have sex. Take out, for now, whether or not it is morally wrong. Your wife will appreciate the fact that you waited. Too many people today give into temptation, and then regret it after. I want you to know that there are a lot of Christian women out there who are also waiting. Like “A”, I have a large group of friends who have chosen to wait for sex until they are married. I cannot make it clear enough how important it it. I am waiting until I get married to have sex, and I can’t even imagine the hurt I would feel if my husband didn’t do the same for me. You really won’t regret waiting. I can say this because although I haven’t married yet, and therefore have not had sex, my best friend has. She waited until she was married and she said that it was the most amazing thing ever. She said that it wouldn’t have been the same if her, or or her husband had had sex before. She said that it was something special that they could share together…only them with each other. Seriously, I can’t express it properly in text, but hearing her talk about, seeing the look in her eyes, the whole experience I just….wow, I could never question that waiting is the best choice again. Regarding your comment about you feeling like you’re missing out because all of your non-Christian friend are having sex and loving it, please read Psalm 37. I know that some people don’t like when you say to read a passage from the Bible but then don’t put it there, only put the verse…but really this whole chapter would be helpful, and it’s too long to type. Just a sneak peak though for their sake…”Do not fret because of evil men or be envious of those who do wrong; for like the grass they will soon wither, like green plants they will soon die away. Trust in the Lord and do good; dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture. Delight yourself in the LORD and he will give you the desires of your heart” That last verse (Delight yourself….) is one of my favourite verses in the whole Bible. I know that you said you have been to True Love Waits seminars, but I also would like to suggest that you read “When God Writes Your Love Story” by Eric and Leslie Ludy. It isn’t like the seminars, but it has the same message. It is a really inspirational book, and it talks about sexual immorality in part of it. It makes the point really clear that the absolute BEST sex is that which takes place in marriage, that which waits for marriage.

    So, that was addressing the letter-writer. The rest of this is just about this topic in general. For those who do not think the Bible is enough, I will leave God out of this paragraph that still talks about why sex should wait until marriage. First, if you waited until you were married to have sex, but found out that the person you are going to marry, or have married didn’t wouldn’t you be hurt? Maybe others have a different view on this, but I would feel like I wasn’t good enough. I would feel like my fiancee/husband didn’t think I would be worth it. I just really think it wouldn’t be as special. And if you would feel that way, then that means that the other person could feel that way too. Which means that if it’s on the other end, if you had sex before marriage, you could really hurt your husband/wife. Is it really worth it? Pleasure in the moment…is it really worth letting down your husband/wife???

    In this paragraph, for those interested, I will be talking about waiting until marriage to have sex with regards to Christianity. 1 Corinthians 6:18 says, “Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a man commits are outside his body, but he who sins sexually sins against his own body.” This verse makes it pretty clear to me, but there are many others (Acts 15:20, 1 Corinthians 6:13, 2 Corinthians 12:21, 1 Thessalonians 4:3, Jude 7). Here are two more that I think are the most clear… Galations 5:19 says, “The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, *impurity* and debauchery”, and finally Ephesians 5:3, “But among you there must not be even a *hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity*, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people.” The *’s are the specific parts of these verses that I think are abundantly clear that they are talking about sex before marriage. The verses that I put in brackets mostly just say “sexual immorality” which I believe to include sex before marriage, but I know that some people believe it is up to interpretation what that means. HOWEVER, the ones that I quoted here say impurity which, hense a “purity ring”, means no sex before marriage. If you feel inclined to disagree with that, the next one says not even a HINT of sexual immorality or ANY KIND of impurity. That sounds pretty clear to me.

    Needless to say, I am 100% against sex before marriage for religious, and personal reasons. I agree with “A” when she said something like I believe that God wants me to have amazing sex, and I believe He wants it to be within an amazing marriage.

    • http://none Don Rappe

      For what it's worth, my wife and I were virgins when we married 45 years ago. Yes, the sex was good and got better as we got better at it. I had had the good fortune of years earlier being loaned a book that explained a little about a woman's body and how they might or might not like to be touched and I am decent at book learning. Still, my personal experience was due to being awkward around women, more than a high character. I would have married her whether or not she were still a virgin. I believe this is just one aspect of marriage, probably not the most important one. Nevertheless it is important, and kind of nice for us.

      • Mel

        I'm not saying that you wouldn't have married her if she had had sex before, but for me anyways, I would be hurt.

    • Matthew Tweedell

      Purity/promise rings (my personal thoughts aside) are a completely new phenomenon and cannot be used to sustain your conclusion about the meaning of impurity as used in New Testament Greek. What it refers to are certain sexual relations understood by Judaic culture as "unclean". Having sex with close relations or when a woman is menstruating was thought "impure" in this sense (though the former is "pure" when breeding pure-breds—as you see, the socio-linguistic context is quite important). What made a man and woman married at the time but that they'd had sex?

      By the way, is there such a thing as "the absolute BEST sex"?

  • John Murphy

    I would tell the young man to stop being such a half-hearted creature.

    “If we consider the unblushing promises of reward and the staggering nature of the rewards promised in the Gospels, it would seem that Our Lord finds our desire not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, we are like ignorant children who want to continue making mud pies in a slum because we cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a vacation at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.”

    C. S. Lewis

  • Liz

    I wish Christian teenagers didn't still face the guilt I did as a Christian teen …. parents are so terrified of their children's sexuality that they, themselves, forget that they (at least about 90% of them) weren't virgins when they got married. And so here's a great kid like the one who originally raised this question, thinking that Christianity itself isn't worth it because of the version of the Bible he's been taught. My advice to him, apart from some of the excellent advice others have given, is this: realize that your parents' strict interpretation of the Bible and how it applies to your life is not how other Christians interpret it. I have told my kids that if they decide to hold onto their virginity until marriage, that's their choice and can be a very very wise decision. If they don't – then join the human race.

    • Argy-bargy

      Liz, I think this an excellent distinction worth making. Sex does not equal sexuality. The former is only part of the latter, and the latter must be discussed since it deals with such wider issues. It is part of who we are, from a remarkably early age. We can't just pretend that sexuality doesn't exist.

  • Mindy

    Just saw this article. A pretty blatant example of how screwed up our culture can be about sex.

    http://www.lemondrop.com/2010/09/14/ines-sainz-se

    That grown men would treat her that way, that anyone would discuss her clothing, that she feels it necessary to bare her cleavage in the first place, that she wouldn't have reported it if another female reporter hadn't asked her about it and encouraged her to – - it's all askew. None of it should be an issue – - – and yet we can't let go.

  • Matthew Tweedell

    @Mindy

    "Absolutes simply don’t exist." So are absolutes absolutely nonexistent? Not so simply so. (However, morally, though there is an absolute, human fallibility interferes with stating any universals.)

    We’re gonna embark on a bit of a tangent now:

    No, the Good Book isn't magical, but the Spirit that inspired it is out of this world!

    "It either IS the literal word of God, or it isn’t. I don’t get how you can have it both ways."

    Yet what does it mean to be literal? Biblical scholars typically understand biblical literalism as the historical-grammatical method of interpreting the normal sense of a text, in light of such aspects as literary genre, idiom, textual context, and socio-linguistic context.

    The literal meaning should technically be that which the writer expressed, but the word "literal" is popularly understood in English to imply something somehow concrete. Obviously, that’s not a feasible way of interpreting any sense whatsoever out of much of the writings of the prophets, among others. But it is important to get a literal sense of the Biblical text, as the writers of much of the Bible were aware of much of what was written before, and so, when understood literally, we may spot allusions within the text that separately might seem to be referring concretely to completely different things. But word-for-word substitution cannot build in the minds of modern English speakers that concept that was in the mind of the author, for a number of reasons (anyone who knows multiple languages should understand why).

    So, we want to paint on the canvas of our mind that literary picture in the mind of the author which we accept as the glimpse of the ineffable landscape overlooking the peak of Mt. God, with phenomena at various heights of emergence from the material world, absent any element from the Abyss of the Evil One, things from the Most Simple to the Most Complex (and the two are One), from concrete to metaphorical, physical to metaphysical, placed in relation one to another.

    But the question remains: of which author do we speak. The historical-grammatical method assumes the first to set a given book in its given form. There are two other approaches worth noting here: the historical-critical method assumes the writers of original sources, and Church Tradition assumes God. It is traditional interpretation that people are usually referring to when they speak of biblical infallibility or biblical inerrancy, and it’s not always literally literal.

    • Mindy

      You're right, Matthew, FOR THE MOST PART, life contains no absolutes. We are absolutely all born. We absolutely all die. Those two, I'll give you. Anything else . . .

      And as I stated before, I am not a Biblical scholar, so as much as your tangent is a . . . tangent, I can't join you there for a good debate. I believe it is an historical document, nothing more, nothing less. I am well aware that Christians believe otherwise. I am also well aware that among Christians, from scholars to lay people, debates have raged on for centuries as to what it all means, so TO ME, taking any part of the Bible as literal fact outside of its historical context makes no sense.

      People who use the Bible as their defining guide to life, even when it flies in the face of the lives right in front of them, baffle me. People who say that "premarital sex is bad because the Bible says so," excluding any evidence to the contrary or any personal experience – well, I don't get it. People who justify "holy war" by the Bible – don't get it. People who continue to insist that homosexuality is a choice and therefore a sin even when they do not knowingly know a single gay person – I have to call that out as bigotry because I know differently. I KNOW differently – not opinion, fact.

      I don't know many people who say that the murder of another human being is acceptable. But I know many who would say that the murder of a human out of rage or during a robbery is a far cry different than the murder of human being by a parent protecting the life of his/her child. The only people I know who would say that those two cases are the same – because it is, after all, a black and white world – are people who subscribe to religious texts, with no exceptions.

      Life is not that simple.

      • Mel

        First of all, you can say my name since it's clear you are talking about me in that last part. Second, when I said that premarital sex was wrong, I had more to say about it than just what the Bible says. For some reason people are choosing to ignore it, but I had three paragraphs in my original post. One addressed to the letter-reader, one addressed to everybody about why I think it's wrong without using the Bible, and the last addressed to everybody about why I think it's wrong USING the Bible. That middle paragraph is apparently one you must have skipped since you don't think I can argue anything without using the Bible. Also, yes, I will continue to say that homosexuality is a sin? Are we really going to bring that up again? And just an FYI, I realized after I put that I don't know anybody who is a homosexual, that I was mistaken. Not too long ago I found out that two of my friends are bisexual. I forgot because a) they aren't my CLOSE friends, and b) they don't display homosexual behavior in front of me. And you can't say that you KNOW differently as a fact because as far as I can tell, you aren't gay. In your opinion, based on homosexuals you know, it isn't a choice, but that is not fact. And I'm not saying that if you were gay you would know it as a fact, I'm just saying since you aren't you most definitely can't. As for the murder thing. I'm pretty sure I've said something along these lines before, but, I'm not saying that in the moment I wouldn't think it was different. If I was protecting my child, who knows what I would do, I'll never know unless I actually have to deal with it. Murdering out of pure rage, seems worse. However as I said before, when you ask for God's forgiveness he isn't going to look at what you did and decide if what you did was just too horrible to be forgiven. He's going to look at your heart and the sincerity of your asking for forgiveness. Therefore, I think that every sin is equal in God's eyes.

        • Mindy

          Mel, I was not talking about "just you," or I'd have used your name. You are not the only one here who appears to make most decisions based primarily, if not solely, on the Bible.

          As for the whole gay issue, Mel, you are wrong on this one. Sorry, but you just are. Nothing I say is going to sway you, I realize that. But you are wrong. And yes, I know it IS fact, because the gay people I know are mature adults with whom I've talked at length about their paths of self-discovery. You are expressing an OPINION about something you know very little about. I have researched it, discussed it at length, and have fairly wide personal knowledge of it, even though no, I am not gay myself. I am also not a minority, but I racism is wrong, even though back when segregation was being defended, many Bible passages were used to justify that heinous wrong – it's all part of the same pot of bigotry. And I most definitely CAN know it. Hopefully, someday, you'll understand.

          I will echo what DR posted to you – when you announce yourself as a black-and-white thinker then defend it by saying "that is how debates are started," you are presenting yourself as an immature thinker. Young or not. Believe me, there are adults who still think that way, and it is much less forgivable in them. Engaging in a real debate, a real discussion, means that you are not only willing to share your thoughts, you are willing to LISTEN. You are willing to accept that you might not know everything there is to know about everything, and willing to acknowledge that by learning from others, your perspective might change, your ideas might expand, your mind might open.

          I thought as you did at your age. I can remember very clearly debating political issues with my dad and being ABSOLUTELY CERTAIN that what I believed was correct, no exceptions. I based it on my (very limited) political experience – in Civics class. My dad, who OBVIOUSLY was clueless, perhaps because he was so old as to have settled into senility, seemed to think that all the years he'd lived longer than me gave him some bizarre right to think he knew more than I did! The audacity of the man!

          But I couldn't listen to him, because as a young person, my certainty outweighed my reason. It wasn't until years later that I could clearly see just how much I had to learn.

          DR is right, though. You can't just toss your opinions out there and then act insulted when people call you on them. If you keep taking your toys and going home, eventually, no one will want to play.

          Kara, the other resident teen here, seems as strong in her beliefs as you are in yours. The beliefs are different, definitely, but the bigger difference is that Kara doesn't feign hurt feelings when someone disagrees. Makes it much easier to carry on a real discussion, rather than just reading a litany of someone's beliefs.

          • Mel

            How can you say I don't listen? Again, just because I don't change my mind that means I don't listen? The fact that I reply to every post that is directed at me shows that I listen. And I don't know everything about everything. I never claimed to. There are certain issues which I feel strongly about, just like you do. There's nothing wrong with that. I'm not insulted when people call me out on them at all. I expect that when I post something, some people will disagree, and some people will agree, and we'll get a conversation going. The only time I get insulted is when people start name-calling. Whether it's about me, or the Bible I expect people to engage in a conversation and still be mindful of people's feelings and beliefs. That's what I try to do, and so I expect it from others. About the Kara thing…again, I don't get offended simply because somebody disagrees with me.

          • Mindy

            Mel, you have acted insulted plenty when someone disagrees with you. I’m sorry that at this moment, I don’t have the time to start paging through comments to find examples, but just in the last couple of days you got miffed when someone talked about the Bible in a way you didn’t feel was respectful enough. You stop a discussion when *you* decide it has become circular, even as others might have more to say or ask you to consider. It’s not just me, Mel.

            As far as not listening . . . Revisiting the issue of the LGBT community (yes, THAT again). You have had more than one poster offer you ACTUAL EVIDENCE that homosexuality is not a choice. From personal knowledge of the actual lives of several actual people, to linked research, to comments about additional research, more than of us has tried to show you WHY we believe what we do and why that belief, IN THIS CASE, trumps the Bible. You, OTOH, have admitted to sort of knowing one or two girls who may have said that they are bisexual – but you don’t know them well. You are basing your position solely on the Bible and ignoring the reality that has been presented to you. Because the Bible says so, as someone else pointed out, you might as well have put your fingers in your ears and and said NANANANANANANANAAAA, refusing to listen.

            I once believed as you did. Ick! That is just . . . wrong! Why would anyone choose that?! Because I’d never met anyone whom I knew was gay. Of course I had, but back then, no one admitted such a thing.

            So it is frustrating for those of us who have come to understand the reality through KNOWING to try to share that understanding, only to hear otherwise intelligent people justify their bigotry based on the Bible – when they have no real world experience AT ALL on which to base their thoughts.

            I’ve tried to explain to you WHY the Old Testament would have been against it, in historical terms. Others have asked you point-blank about depriving fellow human beings of the joy of finding their soulmates and spending their lives together, and you can’t answer it with anything other than “the Bible says it’s a sin so it is.” The Bible also tells us to kill gay people and stone adulterers – but we know better than to do such things. Not even the most devout Christians live by every word of the book.

            I know It is easier to just take that “law” for its word and dismiss the identities of an entire segment of the human population because you don’t want to think about it.

            You know killing is wrong, and adultery is wrong, and stealing is wrong, and rape is wrong – because someone is hurt, or someone dies. And even though you don’t know any killers, and you’ve never killed anyone, you still know it’s wrong – because there is a VICTIM. You understand that death is permanent and devastating to those left behind, so you don’t have to experience knowing a murderer to know it is wrong.

            Well, love is as permanent a part of humanity as death, and you are denying that to people who deserve love as much as you or I or anyone else. Most of the “laws” of the Bible make sense because they protect people from becoming victims. This one, though, actually creates the victims.

            But you aren’t willing to even consider that maybe, just maybe, you are wrong about this.

            Which is why I said that you don’t listen. Maybe what I should have said is that you listen, but you don’t really hear? Or that you are unwilling to acknowledge that life experience changes perspective, that perhaps you are not done understanding our world and everything in it just yet? Hell, I’m not done yet – none of us are.

            What I do know is what I’ve already learned along the way, and some of what I’ve learned is that what I used to believe was wrong.

            This particular issue isn’t about disagreements. Whether or not the Bible is factual is a disagreement. Whether or not premarital sex is a good idea or a bad one, whether or not Jesus is the son of God, those are disagreement – we can have opinions about those things and they will differ based on our faith and our beliefs. We can’t prove or disprove any those questions, but we can discuss how we arrived at our opinions. Sometimes, someone learns something that begins to change their opinion. If we don’t make sense, getting called on it will either help us learn to clarify better, or it might help us see that perhaps we were wrong after all, perhaps we hadn’t considered that particular side of the issue.

            We can have opinions about whether straight people experimenting with gay sex is right or wrong. We can have opinions about whether gay sex could ever be appealing to us personally. We can have opinions about promiscuity – straight or gay. But we cannot have opinions about whether or not it is a choice to be gay or lesbian, because it is not – and that is a known, proven fact. You can’t have an opinion about a knowable fact. It is, or it isn’t. So when you keep insisting that you will never-ever-never change your mind on such a thing, I begin to feel as if I am bashing my head against the proverbial brick wall.

            You think it’s no big deal – oh no, not the gay thing again. But for me, it is a hugely important cultural issue about which I am passionate, and I will bring it up and I will address it – because it affects everything from equal civil rights to preventing suicide rates in teens to simply accepting our fellow human beings without asking them to pretend to be something they are not.

          • Mel

            You're right. When somebody says something disrespectful about the Bible, I'm offended… I'm pretty sure I already said that. Disagreeing is fine, commenting is fine, being rude and disrespectful,not fine. Also, I don't think that I stop a discussion when it becomes circular. I state when I believe it has got to the point where we are repeating ourselves, but every time you comment, I comment back. I can't stop a discussion even if I wanted to because if you have more to say, you'll say it. You can't truthfully say that I stop discussions because, again, I always reply when somebody has something else to say.

            Another poster did not give me *actual evidence* that being gay is not a choice. As I pointed out to that person, I read through that article, and it kept saying that it has not been proven, just that there is promise for it to one day be proven. Please stop calling me a bigot. I'm tolerant of other people's beliefs that are different from my own, which I have shown through being respectful of yours. That is actually the opposite of bigotry, so please find another word.

            The Bible does not tell us to kill gay people and stone adulterers. Actually, when a woman was going to be stoned for committing adultery, Jesus said that he who was without sin could throw the first stone.

            You say that this law of the Bible (against homosexuality) creates victims. I know you don't agree, but people can hate the sin and not the sinner Victimizing somebody because they are gay IS wrong…I don't think anybody would disagree with you on that.

            Now you're telling me what I can and can't have an opinion about? Who is trying to be controlling now? As I said before, I have *not* been given factual evidence that proves homosexuality is not a choice. So, yes, I can have an opinion about it, and I do.

            I don't think that it is not a big deal. I think it is an important issue, and I am passionate about it too. The reason I asked why you were bringing it up again is because it seemed like we were just repeating ourselves over and over again. We finally moved on, and then you're bringing it up again, only to repeat what you've already said. If you have something new to add, of course I would like to hear it. But we clearly aren't going to agree on the topic, so I just don't see the point in bringing it up again. Of course, I can't control whether you do or don't continue to talk about it, but do you see what I mean? You say it's a choice, I say it's not. You say you found evidence, I read it and show that it isn't *evidence*. You say that because of personal experience, you know it isn't. I say that personal experience doesn't make something wrong, right. Then we start at the beginning again where you say, it's not wrong, because it's not a choice. And we continue in that circle until we decide to drop it.

          • Mindy

            Fair enough. Until I have time to go back and find the research I've read, I will not mention it again.

          • Mel

            Thank you. Again, I'm totally open to you sharing new ideas. I'm actually interested in reading what you have read so that I can become more educated on the topic. So, if you do find it, please post a link to it here. I'm not saying that I'll change my mind…I really do know that I won't. But I'd also like to hear it from other people's point of view.

        • http://fvthinker.blogspot.com Mike Burns

          @Mel

          "In your opinion, based on homosexuals you know, it isn’t a choice, but that is not fact.

          Actually, Mel, it is a fact that homosexuality is not a choice. There are studies that well document that genetic/epigenetic forces determine sexual preference. Reference: http://discovermagazine.com/2007/jun/born-gay

          An excerpt from that article (and consistent with other similar studies):

          William Reiner, a psychiatrist at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center, explored the question of environmental influences on sexuality with a group that had been surgically shifted from boys to girls. These boys had been born with certain genital deformities; because it is easier to fashion a vagina than a penis, the boys were surgically made into girls at birth. In many cases they were raised as girls, kept in the dark about the surgery, and thought themselves female long into adulthood. Invariably, Reiner found that the faux females ended up being attracted to women. If societal nudging was what made men gay, at least one of these boys should have grown up to be attracted to men. There is no documented case of that happening. [emphasis mine]

          I will weigh in on the matter of Mel's age too.

          Mel…It seems like you are getting beat up, but you aren't really. The human brain isn't even fully developed until [something like] the mid-twenties. It is well documented that human reasoning is still a work in progress until then (IF then!). http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/tee

          The reality is that your perception of your own mind seems complete and well rounded. But through some of what you demonstrate here (I believe 'X' and I will ALWAYS believe 'X') clearly betrays where you are developmentally. Unfortunately, a teen brain is not a good arbiter on the development of a teen brain. My take on it (as a former child and present parent) is that between ages 13-20, you accumulate knowledge and start to feel like you know as much as anybody. After that, you start to realize just how much you DON'T know…and that begets intellectual maturity. Most every adult has gone through it and I empathize with where you are at (my son is 18). It's just a reality that, in an adult's hindsight, we can take what you say with a grain of salt. Even if you didn't state your age; you already had given away your level of intellect. I have every confidence that you will make the same developmental trip that most adults make and look back on some of what you said here with bemusement.

          • Mindy

            Thanks for those links, Mike – I have read/seen both of those, among much other research. I am fascinated by teen brain development. My daughter is 15, so we're still in throes of her showing incredible maturity one moment, then reverting to her toddler-self the next. Some days, I can hardly keep up . . . . .

          • Mel

            Wow…I just read through that WHOLE article waiting to see how they were going to "prove" that homosexuality isn't a choice…they never did. Maybe you should read your own sources before citing them as proof. Throughout the whole article they kept saying that there was *potential* in one day finding the "gay gene". They constantly said that it HASN'T been proven yet. So you saying, "Actually, Mel, it is a fact that homosexuality is not a choice" just shows that you didn't read through the article yourself.

            Okay, so my brain isn't fully developed…that means that I can't have an intelligent conversation until it is (NOT). I am fully aware that my mind is not complete. That there are a million things out there that I have no idea about, and that I can still learn about things I do know about. As for the "I believe X and I will always believe X", that does not apply to everything. I'm not saying I have all the answers already at 18 and therefore have nothing else to learn. There are certain topics that I know I won't change my mind about because the Bible is very clear on them. However, there are a bazillion other things that down the road, I could have a different view on. There are a lot of things that I have not been introduced to yet that I will discover later in life, and also form an opinion about. I also realize that people who are older than me, have had more life experience than me, and therefore can speak from that experience as opposed to speculation like I have to. It doesn't mean that I always have to agree with them. So, because I'm young you take what I say with a grain of salt? When are people going to learn that just because kids don't know everything, that doesn't mean they don't know *anything*?? Seriously, it's ridiculous. Also, just because your son is 18, please don't act like you know me. Everybody is different. Girls mature faster than boys, so your son being 18 actually has no relevance. Can we PLEASE drop the comments on my age. Agree or disagree with my comment, and have a discussion about it….stop bringing my age into everything!

          • Mindy

            Susan, thank you for a much more reasonable and patient response than my own. Mel, give Susan's comment some thought. As for me, I apologize for taking out frustrations with a cultural issue on you specifically.

          • Mel

            I will give her comment some thought. As I said before, I like to hear other people's point of view. Thank you for the apology. I understand that this is where you can voice everything that you've been thinking about with regards to this issue. I do the same thing. Sometimes I think you take it too far, so that is why I'm accepting your apology. However, for the most part, I don't think you owe me an apology simply for stating your opinion strongly. I'm fine with that. I respect that you have a firm belief in something important.

          • Susan

            Mindy -

            Once again, I wish I read what I was going to post prior to posting, but….

            I understand your passion about this particular issue. I have friends that are gay. Most say they were born that way, a couple, who were raped said they couldn't be sure that the abuse DIDN'T affect them in such a way as to shape their homosexuality.

            These same friends have done everything they could to "be straight" even marrying. To me, that is not only extremely sad, it is wrong b/c they are not being authentic and it's even more sad b/c society tells them to hide it. My friends have been Christians who have begged God to deliver them from homosexuality because they are so ashamed of who they are. They believe they are an abomination in God's eyes, and that's just not right. My friends from high school… now that they've come out and share their heartbreaking stories, it just rips up my insides….trying to imagine being 10, 12, 15, 18 begging, pleading God to change you and nothing changing. I can't imagine the lonliness and complete disconnect they must've felt to everyone else.

            Calling it sin, to me, is like saying schizophrenia is a sin. Telling someone to "stop being gay b/c it's wrong" is like telling a schizophrenic that he's choosing to hear those voices in his head. Why do I choose schizophrenia to compare it to? B/c schizophrenics are very likely to commit suicide, and the majority of homosexuals I know have entertained the idea.

            As a whole, Christians do NOT convey Jesus to homosexuals. That is why so many do in fact turn away from Christianity. Not b/c of Christ, but b/c of his followers.

            Ghand revealed a great insight when he said, and I'm paraphrasing – the best thing about Christianity – Christ; the worst thing – Christians. "They are so unlike your Christ."

          • Mel

            Sorry, but you lost me at the end there with all the repeating, and staring mid-sentence. However, I will comment on the beginning of you post. I would talk to my bisexual friends about this except for a) we aren't that close, and it would probably be more than uncomfortable, and b) if you see how angry people get here….people who don't even know me and yet they get so defensive and angry when they hear that my opinion is different than their own…I can only imagine how defensive someone who is actually gay would get. How angry they would be that I question their sexuality. Plus, I really don't want to hurt anybody's feelings, and I feel like if I discussed this with a homosexual, feelings would get hurt.

            As for intersexuals…I don't know. I never claimed to know everything. I know that there can be gray areas regarding some things. This topic is one which I'm not familiar enough with to have a discussion about. Just like with masturbation, I can acknowledge when I'm not educated enough on a topic to have a real, intelligent conversation about it.

          • Susan

            Mel,

            Yeah – I'm so sorry about the repeat pastings, my keyboard must've stuck and I just didn't realize how many times I pasted the same thing and didn't notice it until it was too late.

            Sure, I can see that it would be hard to discuss this with casual friends, but there are others with whom you can talk. Some first steps to consider? Look into these resources – both are about strong Christians who felt completely lost on what to do after discovering a family member was gay.

            There is a movie and a book (so probably a website) about a mother who's son was gay, she was a devout Christian and could not reconcile her son's life. After he committed suicide, she came across his diary and began a journey to learn about the son she turned away. (True story)

            here's a link to the book at amazon,
            http://www.amazon.com/Prayers-Bobby-Mothers-Comin

            Google his or his mother's name: Bobby Griffith, Mary Griffith

            A documentary, which I'll admit has some flaws, but also offers great insight is called, "For the Bible Tells Me So" – a link to the website: http://www.forthebibletellsmeso.org/indexd.htm

            There is much more out there if you want to learn more.

            Also, through the years of being a Christian with gay friends, I've gone with them to support groups and talked to psychologists about it. Being gay is not really a choice, thus choosing to "become straight" is not a viable solution. It is a temporary lapse into lving a lie. No one I talked to indicated a true success in "straighting' somebody.

            Again, just food for thought.

            Thanks for considering these thoughts.

          • Susan

            @ Mel

            @ Mindy

            Here's a repost minus all the extraneous "gunk."

            Hi Mel,

            There is a link within the resarch M provided that shows some interesting data, and there is much more out there. Many factors can lead to homosexuality lifestyles, so while some may “choose” homosexuality, most do not. Not knowing any homosexuals yourself, not researching the issue, or talking to pshychiatrists, you have not tapped into resources that provide observations, anecdotal and empirical studies which strongly indicate your views are misguided at best.

            Why don’t you talk to your friends who are bisexuals about this? Or do a little research on your own? Test your black and white theories.

            An excellent way to learn more about a topic, especially one that you are “against” is to go about disproving your assertion as if it is an assignment given to you in debate class. Use as many sources as you can to come up with data that builds your argument in support of homosexuality not being a choice or not being a behavior that can be “changed.” This will, at the very least broaden your perspective and create a deeper compassion for others that are not like you. It can even serve to strengthen your own position.

            Homosexuals aside, how do you think God handles intersexuals – those born with both female and male genetalia. At birth they are often assigned a gender. What if that doctor performs surgery to assign it a specific gender. And, what if, because science just doesn’t know enough about intersexuals, the doctor assigns the wrong gender. A child has the penis removed and the vagina is surgically enhanced because the nature of such a procedure is easier. How does God… how do you….judge the morality of that person’s living out their sexual orientation? Granted, intersex is not extremely common, but it’s not totally uncommon. The smallest percentage I’ve found is .1% of all births result in ambivalent sexual organs. (Wikipedia, and studies within that listing…)

            My point – There is grey out there. Your beliefs don’t cover all the realities of this world.

            Just food for thought

          • http://fvthinker.blogspot.com Mike Burns

            OK Mel,

            Seriously?!?!? How can you not recognize the Reiner study (summarized in my quote above) as being about the most definitive type of test on nature/nurture/choice? To put it bluntly; even a teenager should be able to figure out that this sort of empirical evidence kicks the c**p out of “because the bible says so”.

          • Mel

            Did you read the entire article? I don't care if you *think* it's evidence…the article even said that they have not found actual proof yet.

          • Kara

            There's a difference between not yet know what the cause is, and knowing that it's not a choice.

            I don't know if I'm gay because of genetics or because of hormone-balances in-utero, or what. But I know that I absolutely did not choose to be gay. Why, why why would a Southern Baptist choose to be gay?

            I spent countless nights praying to be straight. That God would "fix" me. I tried to have crushes on guys. But the reality is, Mel, I am gay. No choice. Just reality.

          • http://fvthinker.blogspot.com Mike Burns

            There is a difference between proving some factor determining gender preference and proving a specific factor determining gender preference. Evidence proves there is some physiological factor determining gender preference and that it is not choice. The fact that we haven't proven a specific physiological characteristic in no way gives credence to the religious dogma on the matter.

          • Susan

            Mike,

            Some info, though I've not had time to peruse these and cross-reference with other research findings:

            Adolescents who were rejected by their families for being LGBT were 8.4 times more likely to report having attempted suicide.

            • "Family Rejection as a Predictor of Negative Health Outcomes" -2009, San Francisco State University, Dr. Caitlin Ryan

            For every ‘completed’ suicide by any teen, it is estimated that 100 to 200 attempts are made

            • Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance Survey, 2003

          • https://questionablemotives.wordpress.com tildeb

            Maybe a another way to think of this is: when did you 'choose' to be attracted to men?

          • Matthew Tweedell

            @Mike

            What religious dogma? In what bible does it say that sexual orientation is a choice? Heck, even truly abhorrent sexual behavior cannot be read as being a choice: it's to be understood that God hardened people's hearts, to His own ends, giving them over to their demons.

            @Tildeb

            Excellent way to put it. I was thinking to point out something like that back when Mel said that Mindy couldn't possibly know for a fact that being homosexual isn't a choice since she isn't homosexual. I'm male, but I can know for a fact that being female isn't choice one makes since I know that being male wasn't a choice that I have made.

          • http://fvthinker.blogspot.com Mike Burns

            @Matthew Tweedell

            What religious dogma?

            Thanks for pointing this out. I improperly conflated the 'religious right' with 'religious teaching'. There is nothing biblically that says gender preference is a choice, but the religious right that don't know jack about the evidence gets up on a soap box and says it is a choice.

          • https://questionablemotives.wordpress.com tildeb

            @Susan

            Aren't those terrible facts that lie behind the stats? And so much unnecessary suffering for all.

            @Matthew

            Great minds…!

            @MB

            I always have trouble wrapping my head around the unpleasant fact hat pronouncements from the pulpit seem carry influence. What on earth can any religion have to say about human sexuality? That's like asking a priest to comment on the religion's diagnosis about specific small engine troubles…. AND MANY PEOPLE PAY ATTENTION TO THE ANSWER!

          • Matthew Tweedell

            @Mike Burns: I was jumping on that more to make a point to Bible-believers than to pick on what you said, just FYI.

            Perhaps we're viewing this the wrong way anyway. God only knows what it would really mean for something to be a "choice" anyway. Isn't the very wiring of brains, molding of minds, developing of our (non-literal) hearts, done according to immutable natural law (even if "random" events are involved, we don't get to choose whether Schrodinger’s cat lives or dies), on the basis of chemistry, biology, genetics, etc., over a given history, under given conditions? So what is it to choose then? It is a very, very useful subjective concept, but that doesn't give it any clear, testable objective sense.

            Perhaps what we have to consider (and this touches upon tildeb's question as well) is whether homosexual desire is an angel or a demon. The way to tell the difference is this: Is it on the side of Love?

            I don't think we can make any general pronouncements there, just as with premarital sex, or any other general category of sexual behavior/desire or lack thereof.

          • Susan

            @Tildeb

            Needless suffering, indeed. I can’t imagine feeling that my life was an abomination to God, my parents, myself. The teen years are difficult enough to navigate. For teen homosexuals – it should not be surprising that the rate of suicide far exceeds that of heterosexual teens.

            Statistics are easy to dismiss unless a face, a story, a life or a death is attached to them.

            Carl Walker Hoover, 11, hanged himself

            Jaheem Herrera, 11, hanged himself

            Justin Aaberg, 15, hanged himself

            Billy Lucas, 15, hanged himself

            Bobby Griffith 20, jumped off an overpass into traffic

            Bobby Griffith was brought up by a loving, devoutly Christian family. His mother found out about his homosexuality through her other straight son. Mary knew that homosexuality was "an abomination to God." For years, she practiced “tough” love, trusted that God would heal him of his sickness and had him engage in endless activities to revert him to what God would find acceptable – straight. Bobby was told that he had to repent or God would damn him to hell. Mary told her son, “You can’t love God and be gay.” After four years, he took his life.

            Shortly after his death, Mary found a journal Bobby had been keeping. It relayed his shame, his efforts and hope to “being cured” his sincere desire to please God, his utter self-hatred for being gay and the inner anguish that was part of his daily life. Mary committed herself to learning about homosexuality and where it all went wrong.

            Mary didn’t lose her religion, but has a new spiritual awareness. She reread the Bible with fresh eyes, and found a very different God from the one she worshiped at Walnut Creek Presbyterian. She sought out secular books about homosexuality. She concluded that there was nothing wrong with Bobby, that "he was the kind of person God wanted him to be…an equal, lovable valuable part of God's creation."

            She says now, "I helped instill false guilt in an innocent child's conscience."

            Her story was made into a book then movie, “Prayers for Bobby.” I highly recommend it.

            For more on her story and other info: http://www.pflagdc.org/education/griffith.php

            I do not think the adage "hate the sin and love the sinner" applies here. Same with the concept that homosexuality is a choice. IMO, the only undisputable choice is whether to love the person or to not love them.

          • Susan

            @ Mel (Don't know if you read the second post I sent but it relates to Kara's situation perfectly…)

            @ Kara

            Kara,

            I've quite a few gay/lesbian friends that prayed, pleaded, begged God to make them "normal" ~ it simply breaks my heart and I am so sorry for the shame that has been heaped on you. I cannot imagine what hell you've had to live through because of intolerance and 'well-intentioned' Christians.

            Thank you so much for being here, on this blog, and for sharing your life with us.

            You are a blessing.

          • http://fvthinker.blogspot.com Mike Burns

            Is anyone else familiar with studies of the suicide rates of homosexual teens? I seem to recall the highest incidence being amongst teens of conservative religious parents. While it wouldn't surprise me, I am unable to locate the relevant study/-ies.

            It is heart wrenching to think of those struggling teens (like being teenage isn't hard enough) thinking they are evil or being rejected by their parents. It's would be obscene.

          • Mel

            Hi Susan. I hadn't seen all of these responses until now, after reading your comment on the other post saying that you didn't know if I had seen this comment. I would like to make it clear that I, in no way condone the way that homosexuals are treated. I don't just listen to statistics and pass them by, although hearing a specific story, of course makes it more real. However, every time I hear a statistic of any kind regarding suicide, it breaks my heart. People are mean. To think that somebody was so cruel to another that they committed suicide is just horrible. Regardless of whether or not you agree with what they do, there is no justification in treating somebody like that. If I have ever come across as being judgmental on this topic, or rude, or mean, I really apologize. I'm really trying to make it clear that I don't have anything against the person. I know that some people have a hard time understanding how I can separate a big part of somebody from them, but I do. I don't know what else I can say, I just hope you know that's truly how I feel.

            @Kara–nothing I have said regarding homosexuality has been directed at you. I actually only found out that you were gay from the post above. I don't want to make this personal, so I don't want to talk about your specific situation. Please don't take offense to anything I have said. I don't think of you as a bad person, or any worse than me, or anything else that people have been saying. Please believe me. I don't want to hurt anybody's feelings.

          • Kara

            @Mel – Sorry, I just saw this.

            Look, you personally cannot say or do anything that will hurt me personally. And your intentions and my interpretation have little-to-nothing to do with it.

            You believe that my gayness, because I don't feel guilty about it, diminishes my morality. I derive this from your belief that homosexuality is a sin. If you don't believe it is, ignore this. It's logical to assume that you believe this to be true in general. (That is, a person who is happily gay is less moral than someone who is the same in every other way, but straight.)

            Unless you believe gayness tends to confer on people some other sort of moral advantage, then I have to conclude that you think gay people, as a group, are less moral than non-gay people. (Assuming that gay and non-gay people tend to lie, cheat, steal, etc. at the same rates.)

            And you're not the only one who believes this. Gay = sin is a very widespread belief in the US today.

            So it's certainly not personal, or about you and me. It's about straight people, especially religious straight people, collectively marginalizing and oppressing people for being like me. That is the problem here, not any individual.

            My feelings aren't hurt. But I'm not going to temper the reality of my experience to allow anyone to leave their beliefs unchallenged, especially when the systematic application of those beliefs has done me real damage. (And when there are viable, logical, biblical alternatives of interpretation.) I can't make you change your mind, but I'd love to make you stop and think about the human cost of an abstract belief.

          • https://questionablemotives.wordpress.com tildeb

            I have a brother who does parenting seminars and says much the same thing about brain development of adolescents. It drives me nuts (sorry, Mike, but I feel the need to vent a bit… just realize that I am probably transferring my fraternal frustrations on to you).

            Brain development about reaching adulthood is often presented in the same way humourist Stephen Leacock recalled being award a PhD – the academic equivalent of being pronounced full… and equally worthy of the comeback, "Full of what?"

            There is a world of difference between understanding the 'developing' brain – which we incorrectly infer to mean that it is less than but building towards something whole – and understanding the 'specializing' brain – which we correctly infer to mean that is undergoing changes in efficiencies and complexities.

            There is absolutely nothing less than about the adolescent brain. In many ways, the younger brain is far superior to the older: consider for a moment its ability to learn new languages or heal from damage as but two rather significant advantages. There are many. When we pretend that the adolescent brain is somehow less than that adult one, we are insulting and belittling adolescents themselves as if they were suffering from a developmental deficiency. This is simply not true.

            Even some very young brains are much more highly specialized and superior in efficiency and complexity in certain activities than older brains subject to intensive training of longer duration: think child prodigies in music compared to the adult who continues to take music lessons for decades in spite of overwhelming evidence that he or she is really bad at that instrument.

            What we're really talking about is sophistication. When we learn, we grow our brains in very specific ways. When we sleep, we dismantle unused or underused neural networks and connections. The adolescent brain is busier doing these activities than the brains that have already undergone a longer period of specialization; the more specialized bits of the brain can do the same tasks faster and easier than brain bits that have not undergone the same specialization. In addition, we can accomplish more processing and building and scaffolding with higher specialization in very particular activities than a brain that is not yet as specialized. Think of a skilled trades person doing the same job with a higher degree of efficiency than the weekend home handyman.

            But here is where many of us go off the tracks: higher specialization in some processing in no way carries over to other processes. Each one must be built up. Just because a blind person has developed a specialized ability to hear more than someone who has not dedicated that time and effort into developing the neural network to do so does not mean the blind person can perceive any better than anyone else. In the same way, just because an adult has specialized certain organizational processes does not mean they can think any better. Only in the very specific use of specialized processes can we fairly compare and contrast, and when we do so we discover that higher specialization carries with it both benefits and drawbacks. In other words, there is no way to determine if the adolescent brain is superior or inferior compared to the adult brain except by specific processing comparisons. And when we do that, we find age alone has nothing to do with it: it's based on how much time and effort and learning that has been spent on the specialization.

            Of course the advantage goes to the older person simply because he or she has had more time to develop specific and comparable specializations, but that age alone in no way reveals any deficit in the adolescent's normal development.

            I say what I say, think what I think, believe what I believe, because I have collected what to me are the best reasons to hold them. Exactly the same is true for Mel. It has nothing to do with age per se but a level of intellectual sophistication. The more she thinks and hears and learns about issues, the more she will realize that the richness of understanding is enhanced by appreciating subtleties of differences (I sincerely hope). But to suggest that it's her brain that is responsible for that lack today I must take issue with. Her brain is fine. (Sophistication is a learned process regardless of age.)

            Sorry to rant on your point, MB, but the issue continues throughout life: the more we use our brains in significantly different ways, the greater our overall brain health. Increasing our specialization, in stark contrast, does not. And this may surprise many people. The 'development' model of the brain, I think, continues to do us a disservice in our understanding of how to use our brains through learning for maximum and lasting benefit.

            See? Now I really do feel better. Thanks, MB.

          • Mindy

            Tildeb, I am also a student of brain development – as the parent of adolescents, it has helped me immensely in understanding the perspective of my children.

            You are absolutely correct in all that you say – and I hope I have not implied in any way that I believe Mel or Kara or their brains are in any way deficient!

            What I will say, though – and this is not directed at either of them – is that there *are* segments of the brain that are not yet fully developed until somewhere in the early 20s, and those areas have to do with to do with impulse control and risk management.

            The way that I understand it is that during the mid-teens, the rate of growth of brain connectivity, new and refined synapses, rivals that of the toddler brain. These are the two most rapid growth phases in brain development.

            Unfortunately, I have to go right now – can't expand on this. But the repercussions of this rapid growth are an enormous part of what makes parenting teens such an <> challenge. And a delight. And makes BEING a teen such a challenge as well. I'll try to come back to this, but right now, work calls.

          • Mindy

            Weird. Between those little brackets I had the word "ahem." Not sure why it didn't show up. ??

          • Kara

            Perhaps I'm biased, or maybe it's just my underdeveloped brain*, but I tend to take these studies with a grain of salt. Conclusions drawn about human development are always, always, always influenced by the societies in which they're made.

            Our society has a concept of adolescence. This is a modern concept; one that's only existed in it's current form for less than a century.

            Also, while I'm disclosing things so that people can understand the point of view from which I'm operating, I'm a Junior in college; I started a few months after I turned 15. So I've had years and years and years of being told I was too young to do the things I've been doing. Or that I just hadn't had enough time. Or that my brain couldn't possibly do X, Y, Z. So I'm relatively defensive on the topic, just because people have been dead wrong about my age and the supposed difference it makes so many times in my life.

            Yes, I've had less time to develop a knowledge base. But how you use your time and your individual ability and drive to collect knowledge bear just as much on the situation as time. I can't help my age. I didn't choose it anymore than I chose my hair color or to be gay. And it's frustrating to feel continually defined and limited by it.

            *This is a joke, not intended to be mean or to indicate hurt feelings, because I don't have any. Most everyone here has been wonderful about my age, I just wanted to share where I'm coming from on the issue.

          • Argy-bargy

            I understand your frustration at being pigeon-holed. Being, oh, maybe twice your age at least, I'm sure the shoe is on the other foot sometime when it comes to me. It's interesting that you bring up sexual orientation and hair color. Those don't change. Your age will.

            It's actually a wonderful development. As the saying goes, "Youth is wasted on the young." No, it's not. We just don't appreciate things at the time. I'm sure my 40-something bellyaching will make my 80-something parents chuckle (and it has). I don't see how it could be any different than it is right now. But then, I get older, and the perspective sets in.

            I think it might have been Einstein once who, when asked why there is such a thing as time, he responded, "So everything doesn't happen at once!"

            We all get caught up in what happened in the past. What's going to happen to me in the future. I, personally, have a particularly hard time living in the present, but that's when things are most satisfying to me when I try.

            I'm very impressed with your perspective and insight at your age. I can't wait to see how things turn out for you when you're older.

            (This goes for The Original Writer, too!)

          • Argy-bargy

            Uh, this was directed at Kara, if it wasn't clear.

          • https://questionablemotives.wordpress.com tildeb

            Why doesn’t that surprise me, Kara?

            I have a child that was/is an asynchronous learner, so I know the logical progression of brain development looks like a fine model and makes really good sense… right up until a child refuses to play along. The first writing utensil was a pencil and used by fine motor movement drawing in exacting detail a very complicated tile floor pattern by use of the first two fingers and thumb.

            Just out of curiosity, Kara, and if you don’t mind answering, at what age did you learn to ride a bike? Swim? (I have a theory)

          • Kara

            Sorry for the late reply; I haven't had internet this afternoon.

            @tildeb I'm pretty sure I learned to swim and ride a bike without training wheels the summer when I was six. I'm not positive, though. I might have been swimming before that, and just done it a lot more that summer. (My memories of anything that happened in the 90's are sketchy at best, sorry.)

            @A-B I see what you're saying about the fact that my age will eventually change, unlike those other things, but from where I'm at right now, they all seem equally arbitrary and irrelevant to most everything, despite the attention others want to call to them. My age will change, but my date of birth is still unchosen.

            Thanks for the lovely comments, everyone!

          • https://questionablemotives.wordpress.com tildeb

            I think what you're referring to, Mindy, is myelin growth associated with what we call the 'mature' brain. Indeed, once the dopamine levels have achieved stability, myelin growth seems to be the next stage. Before then, a host of factors can affect this 'maturation'. But of course, another term for 'mature' could be 'inability to easily develop'.

  • Mindy

    Oh, my – so many interesting responses, so many comments racing through my brain, and so little time to type them all out.

    I can’t get into the Bible-verse dueling, as I am not a Bible scholar. I will say that I am quite put off by any literal adherence to ancient texts. I say that because there are too many passages I’ve seen quoted that NO ONE in civilized society would consider taking literally – and I don’t understand how one can take only part of it literally. It either IS the literal word of God, or it isn’t. I don’t get how you can have it both ways.

    That being said, I don’t mean to disrespect it. I don’t believe it is a magical book, but even if I did, I’d have no trouble accepting the fact that it contains many valuable lessons about right and wrong. Many invaluable glimpses into the realm of the time. But the books were written during a specific period in history, and all of its teachings, in order to be valuable, must be examined through a lens of historical perspective, remembering that it was written in time when MAN (who did the writing) had many aspects of humanity yet to understand. Which we still do, but on a different plane altogether.

    The Bible was written in time when procreation was still crucial to the survival of the species. Men had many wives – because one man could impregnate many women in the time one woman could bring one new heir to term. No point in having sex during menstruation, as it was believed conception could not take place. And no gay people. Without procreation, no point in getting together. Don’t shack up with blood relatives, because the result of that union would not likely survive, or if it did, would be not be “normal.” And so forth, and so on. Don’t sleep with other men’s women because, well, that starts battles, if not wars, and then people die and that certainly doesn’t do much for procreation, now does it?!

    So much of what makes us human was not yet fully understood; even now we still have much to learn. but we certainly have a much greater understanding of our physiology now. As happens throughout history, the sexual pendulum swings from one extreme to the other. Our puritanical history is revisited every couple of generations; and when sexuality is verboten for a long while, the cultural pendulum will swing in the other direction. As in all things, it hopefully will return to the middle for most people. While some will remain chaste-by-religion or upbringing, or celibate-by-choice or celibate by medicine or ill health, some will be wildly promiscuous either because they are able to completely separate the physical from the emotional, or because they are searching for an intimacy they can’t find any where else. And most, hopefully, will find their own ways of healthy incorporation of the physical into their emotional connections.

    As I stated in another post, my history is bit murky in this area, so I hesitate to toss out advice. I will say, though, that what I endured when I was younger was a direct result of boys being raised in a restrictive environment, one in which all sex was bad and was not to be discussed. Given the opportunity to live outside that environment, said boys had no sense of self-control, no ability to empathize with a fellow human being, no impulse control, and absolutely no clue as to the depth of the consequences of their actions. What happened to me has affected me for over 30 years, but I imagine they don’t remember it even happened. Don’t know, don’t really care – but because sex was not something that was put into a healthy perspective, it wreaked havoc in the life of this teenaged girl.

    And the way I have viewed it, the way I have processed and learned has changed dramatically over the years. The conversations I have had with many, many women about sexuality and our bodies and body image have proven to me that what William Ely has said here is not far from the truth – that not teaching our children openly about sex, or attaching any kind of shame to it – is wrong. It is damning and dangerous, because it leaves our children ill-equipped to deal with their feelings when they arise. It leaves our children without the right words, it leaves our children uninformed and unable to self-advocate effectively if they find themselves in a difficult situation. Absolutes simply don’t exist. Our perspectives do change over time and with life experience, and what is right for a person right now, regardless of who says it’s right or why you think it’s right, might not be right for you a year down the road, or five years down the road, or ten. And you cannot know now what you’ll feel then, no matter how old you are.

    I imagine Mel will immediately feel that she is being singled out because I know she’s young. I know she regrets giving away her age – but to that, I say this: I am so, so glad to know how old you are, Mel, because it puts all that you say in a context that makes sense. If you spoke in absolutes, as you do, as a 30- or 40-yr.-old, I’d be infuriated. As an 18-yr.-old it makes sense – and I do not mean that in a dismissive way at all. You have those strong convictions because you are young, and that is good. Even though I don’t agree with you on a lot of things, I would sooo much rather talk to an young person with convictions than one who doesn’t care. I’d much rather hear a young person share her beliefs passionately about a variety of topics rather than listen to her ramble on about everything she doesn’t like in life, but can’t articulate a single idea about making it better. Just because I am glad I know your age, I do not dismiss or disrespect what you say. I disagree, yes. But that is my prerogative, and shouldn’t be taken as a slight.

    All that being said, I’ve chuckled to myself more than once reading your posts. I’ve wondered who you’d be if, for instance, you’d grown up in my house instead of where you are. My teenager is a proud agnostic who doesn’t call herself an atheist because to her, that is simply another religion, insisting something is true that cannot be proven or disproven. She doesn’t believe in God, but she acknowledges that it is possible something exists that we simply haven’t been able to prove yet. One of her best friends is an openly gay boy. She and I (and my 12-yr.-old) have had many conversations about sex, and I differentiate for them sex and intimacy – but we’ve also talked a lot about sex being the end result of intimacy, and because that is a very grown-up emotional connection, sex is best saved for adulthood. Youngest still thinks it’s all weird and generally disgusting, but she knows those feelings will change eventually. ;-> They both have very healthy attitudes about it, and agree that they will wait til they are grown up to decide. My oldest has had one “serious” boyfriend, and they never even came close. But she will stand up for her LGBT friends, even when they aren’t there -and when some kid says, “Oh, that’s so gay!” as an insult, she will call them on it, and make sure they know how hurtful those words can be.

    I’ll continue reading, fascinated, by the discussion.

    • Mel

      Well, I do still regret stating my age. I don't think it has anything to do with what I say, and I know without a doubt that when I'm thirty or forty I will still feel strongly about what I believe. I would like to be spoken to as an adult so that every comment doesn't say something like "because you're young" or "you're young so…". Anyways, thanks for what you said. It's nice to know that you can still have a conversation with me, since apparently some people (William Ely) can't handle that. Thank-you for respecting my comments as well. I totally understand that respecting what somebody says, and agreeing with what they say are entirely different things. I enjoy hearing what people have to say, it gets me thinking about what I really believe, and why I believe it.

      • Mindy

        Mel, all I can say is that I would love to “meet” you again when you ARE 30 or 40, and hear your perspective then.

        I don’t believe every comment is going to be couched in the “because you’re so young” sentiment, but that fact is, a lot of how you feel IS because you are so young. You won’t believe that until you’re not so young anymore, and that’s OK. But just because you don’t believe it doesn’t make it any less true.

  • http://fvthinker.blogspot.com Mike Burns

    [I am taking the liberty of putting this at the end because of the awkward over-nesting of a thread above]

    @Mel

    You said (several times)

    Well, Jesus claimed to be the Son of God, so not trying to use a cliche, but seriously, either He’s lying, or telling the truth.

    This is a completely legitimate question. I look at it this way….

    There were contemporaries of Jesus (and many many predecessors) who also claimed to be the messiah or incarnation of God. They too performed [purported] miracles such as curing the sick and turning water into wine. They too had devoted followers. Some of them too were born of a virgin. Some of them were crucified.

    What would you think of these other messiahs? How would you describe them? Were they crazy? Were they lying? Were they deluded?

    • Mel

      @ Mike–thank you for addressing my question as a legitimate one. Who exactly are you talking about? I have never even heard of others turning water into wine, being born of a virgin, and being crucified. Anyways, without knowing what you're talking about I can't say too much about it. But yes, I would say they were deluded based on what you've said here. The point I was trying to make was that, and Mindy showed me this is only relevant to people who believe the Bible, He couldn't have just been a good prophet. Because He claimed to be the Son of God, He either was, or He was lying. No "good prophet" would claim to BE the Son of God, if he was just a prophet….he would just claim to be a prophet. Do you see what I mean? Thanks for commenting though, and I would like to hear about these people who apparently also turned water into wine, were born of virgins, etc.

      • http://fvthinker.blogspot.com Mike Burns

        Do a little research on the characters of Mithras, Dionysus, Attis, Osiris, and Orpheus for starters. As you dig into ancient pagan religions, you find that, in the Mediterranean, there were common expectations of what a 'god-man' would be like. There is a whole lineage of these characters that were, effectively built out of the same god-man tool kit. That tool kit was filled with features like virgin births, miracles, salvation, three kings/wise men, crucifixions, solstices, monotheism, 'prophesies', resurrections, and parlor tricks like water-to-wine.

        If you look at Jesus in context of ALL the Mediterranean god-men, we find little or nothing to distinguish him from all that preceded. Jesus was a new god in the same way the first Honda Accord was a new car. (AND NO…I AM NO COMPARING JESUS TO A JAPANESE CAR. JUST OLD THINGS TO NEW THINGS. Last time I used that analogy I got blocked from this site.)

        So, by bringing up those other pre-Christian god-men, it falls to your camp to justify why you can claim delusion for them yet claim divine truth for Jesus when there is almost no difference amongst the lot.

        • Mel

          Thanks for the reply. I will do some research on those men, and if I find anything worth posting about, I will.

        • Matthew Tweedell

          You have failed to give the name of any other who could contend for the title of the Jewish Messiah. In fact, these speak more of myth than man. Christ Jesus is equally fully man and fully God. That's quite a different matter, one seemingly quite foolish in classical thought (both for Jews & Gentiles). Anyway, there's only one such real being, whatever we might call Him. We find Him where the true Spirit of all divinity is embodied, and that would not appear to be in any of the others, as far as I understand.

          • http://fvthinker.blogspot.com Mike Burns

            Does it really matter that Jesus' claims were? Anyone can claim anything. In fact, I claim to be the messiah of zip code 60174…so there!! Amusingly; I quickly found a list of Jewish Messiah Claimants. I link it here only for amusement. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jewish_messianic_cla

            There is one character whose name escapes me (not in the list above). A contemporary of Jesus performing the same miracles in the same region. They might have even met. At one point, the smart money would have been on this other character to become the most popular. I want to say Josephus, but he was an historian (I think). If I find the name, I will post it here.

            My only point is the era (and long before and up until the Enlightenment) was awash in messiahs and miracles. Give me a good reason that you can say the others were false and Jesus was legit.

          • Argy-bargy

            Simon Magus?

          • Matthew Tweedell

            I was about to say exactly the same thing, A-b.

          • Matthew Tweedell

            Who was "long before" Christ?

            As for a good reason: the resurrection.

            But I don't really care how many resurrected "Messiahs" you claim. If someone is resurrected unto everlasting life, that would imply that we should be able to find him alive today. Well, I've found Jesus; the others, as far as I know are nowhere to be found.

            But I don't really care how many claims of living resurrected human beings' you find. I know there's only one eternally Begotten of our heavenly Father, and the typical English name for Him happens to be Jesus Christ.

          • http://fvthinker.blogspot.com Mike Burns

            But I don’t really care how many claims of living resurrected human beings’ you find.

            Thanks for being so forthright with your statement Matthew.

            It leads me to a more focused question for the believers represented here and following this [unprecedentedly long] thread. (Mel: Please jump in here if you would)

            Q: What one discovery or piece of knowledge would lead you to discard your Christian beliefs?

          • Matthew Tweedell

            I too believe it can't happen, because I believe Jesus Christ really is the Lord of the worlds. What's your reason? And what can *actually happen*, Mike, that would cause you to believe?

          • http://fvthinker.blogspot.com Mike Burns

            @MT & all

            In lieu of getting very verbose; here are two videos that reasonably well describe what would be convincing, compelling, and unconvincing evidence:

            http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_rqUsC2KsiI

            http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4qmcOG-na4E&NR

            The point being that, on the premise that there is no supernatural actor, the religious meme has constructed itself to guarantee that it is not amenable to any evidence.

          • Matthew Tweedell

            There’s no point b.s.-ing with me, Mr. Burns. Everything given in your links that would count as "one discovery or piece of knowledge" that would convert an atheist would be evidence of a claimant for the title of God acting outside the natural means—exactly the sort evidence that I too require. No wonder you had to pass on answering the question about what your reason is to dismiss my answer as not something that "can actually happen", so that you could turn around and also claim to expect what we know (or, perhaps more precisely, have good reason to believe) won't happen, while seeming less like a hypocrite in doing so.

          • http://fvthinker.blogspot.com Mike Burns

            the discovery of a Being that defied natural law and communicated the claim that He/She/It was God (or a god) but was not Jesus Christ.

            Ahem….

            OK. Let me restate my question.

            What one discovery or piece of knowledge that can actually happen would lead you to discard your Christian beliefs?

            I, as a non-theist, could come up with a long list of things that could get me to accept the Christian narrative as true (or at least probably true). More generally; I could come up with another long list that would make me discard much of my materialist outlook.

          • http://fvthinker.blogspot.com Mike Burns

            @Matthew Tweedell

            You earlier "I don't really care" response led me to ask just what level of rigor you (and other believers) use when determining true or false. Far, far, far too often (as you have exhibited) you have framed your belief in a way that it would be impossible to attain contrary evidence. It would seem that monotheism is a brilliantly developed meme with a highly evolved immune system.

            From the outside, your position is I will stop believing in my non-existent deity when you show me another non-existent deity. You (at least in your earlier response) have discarded the possibility that there is no deity at all. Sorry, but this is the type of thinking that we must protect our children from. Our children need to know that it is not meritorious or virtuous to believe something on insufficient evidence.

            The list in the video is a very reasonable list of the broad evidence that would easily convert an atheist. The believer, typically, doesn't even consider the option that they might be wrong about the supernatural. I merely wanted to make it clear that the non-believer has a reasonable standard for evidence while the believer has discarded those reasonable standards.

          • Mindy

            Mike, I think you have reached the proverbial brick wall with the side of your skull. MT being the brick wall, your reasoned responses being the side of your skull. I don't consider myself an atheist, as I am open to the existence of a power we do not yet understand. I think any theist with the ability to reason with an open mind will understand your point, even if they disagree with you. I imagine that most have not really thought about what it would be that would cause them to stop believing, so this is probably a very difficult question to answer. But your point is clear and you are merely being toyed with – which I'm sure you already know.

            I just don't want you to crack your skull. :)

          • Matthew Tweedell

            I well know that there is a deity. Many others and I bear witness to a real sufficiency of reason for belief. The way it is is that I will stop believing that the deity that I know exists is of the nature the evidence has convinced me of when you show me sufficient evidence that there’s a deity different from that.

            Sorry, but yours is the type of thinking that we must protect our children from. Our children need to know that it is not meritorious or virtuous to deny what has sufficient evidence. Far, far, far too often (as you have exhibited) you have framed your disbelief in a way that it would be impossible to attain contrary evidence. You effectively have discarded the possibility that there is a deity at all.

            I merely wanted to make it clear that you utterly distort the nature of divinity—looking for what you would say can't happen—while you claim it is believers who have discarded reasonable standards! At least I’m not a hypocrite about it. Your “very broad and reasonable list” could convert me as well. But you didn’t ask for a “broad and reasonable list”; you asked for one discovery, and I gave a “broad and reasonable” answer!

            But now you and Mindy are spoiling what could otherwise be a legitimate point about the nature of many people’s beliefs. Instead of speaking with one voice with me on that, however, you want to push against me and call it a wall. You aren’t interested in resolving differences. No, some of you are perhaps afraid that reason might crack your skull and engage rather just to entertain your own lump of flesh until it rots.

          • Matthew Tweedell

            For me, for instance, the discovery of a Being that defied natural law and communicated the claim that He/She/It was God (or a god) but was not Jesus Christ.

          • Matthew Tweedell

            (That was supposed to be a reply @Mike Burns.)

          • Mel

            I agree. I read through these, and it does talk more about myth than man.

    • Susan

      Hi Mike,

      With regard to the research above, have you ever heard of Dr. Money and his nature vs. nurture theory? The theory was based on twin boys, one whose penis was burned at the age of 1 1/2. He was raised as a girl, and despite the utter hell the whole family had gone through, Money continued to falsely publish the success of the experiement. (I’ll bet you’re quite familiar, so I won’t go on…)

      This travesty, which ended in tragedy, was horrifying and recently has made me think about hermaphrodites, other surgeries after birth or during infancy where a sex is assigned. I’m just curious if you happen to know of valid studies that estimate how many gender assignments occur at birth or during infancy, and if there is any research regarding the brain map of hermaphrodites. If you don’t – no worries. Sorry to butt in. But, since you brought up the other study, I just thought maybe you’d have a bit of info?

      Thanks.

      Susan

      • http://fvthinker.blogspot.com Mike Burns

        I don’t know if I was specifically familiar with the Dr. Money case…but it does sound quite familiar. I suppose MOST of these types of cases would be quite similar. I certainly have never heard of a good outcome from such cosmetic surgery. It wasn’t that long ago I saw a documentary on one of those boy-raised-as-a-girl cases. The subject didn’t know he was a boy until [I think] late-teens or early twenties. He was a frustrated mess until he knew the truth and could [sort-of] put the pieces back together.

        Neither am I familiar with any brain imaging data on transsexuals, hermaphrodites, or intersex individuals. There may be some, but I am just unfamiliar with any.

        …and what the hell WERE those electrical circumcision devices that they could cause so much damage?!?! I would highly recommend that you do NOT google “Electrical Circumcision”

        • Susan

          I will bet that the documentary you saw was about this very case. David Reimer was born a male twin in 1965. His penis was cauterized, so he became Brenda. His parents finally broke the news about his true sexual identity during his teens. He ultimately had a sexual 'reassignment and married. He weny public b/c of Dr. Money's false publications. Ultimately his twin committed suicide A few years later he did as well..

          So sad…

  • kate

    why would you buy a car without test driving it? sex is in the top 3 things that married couples or any couple fights about. we're animals, whether you like it or not, we're designed to have sex, there's a reason it feels good


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